Thailand Close Up
Traveling is an excuse to look at the world with new eyes. What’s different? What’s the same? It’s easy to get distracted by the big differences such as language, architecture, or dress. Training ourselves or our kids to look for the little interesting details is a challenge.
What sort of little detail?
Maybe it’s the way people wait for a bus or how they talk to each other on the bus. Perhaps neighborhoods are laid out in a foreign way or people use inside and outside spaces in new ways. For me, all those little contrasts are almost more exciting than all the new food.
Zooming in with a camera lens is a fun way to prompt yourself or your kids to notice small details – a piece of window trim, an unusual insect, or a new food. Focusing on the details is a bit like “living in the moment” but instead of zooming in on one small piece of time, you can focus in on one small piece of space.
On a recent trip to Thailand, I tried to capture the essence of my visit in a series of close-up shots. Zooming in doesn’t require a fancy camera or a lot of extra time. I used only my cell phone and didn’t wait for special lighting or just the right angle. I also added far away images to my repertoire of possibilities – a texture, a repeating pattern, a distant detail. In the end, the collection captures my experience pretty well. More importantly, the process of taking them really helped me enjoy the trip. Sometimes I caught myself looking around, sort of desperate to force a close up shot. Other times, I there was so much I wanted to capture it was hard to stop.
That was Bangkok. What did I leave out that you would have included? Any mysteries you don’t recognize? Short photo descriptions are at the bottom, just in case. In this set, I tried to balance modern glitz, traditional tourist sites, and real life.
And that was in and around Hua Hin on a mostly wet couple of days – a park, a beach, a market, and a local temple. It’s quieter than the big city, but growing fast and full of growing pains.
Traveling with kids? Give them a zoom in “assignment” next trip and see what they come up with: a series of 8 close-up shots that capture the back-seat of the car on a long weekend drive or a dozen close-ups of a week in Morocco. Ask them to zoom in on new textures. Only food. Only things that are alive. Only things that are blue. Your kids “on assignment” will probably open your eyes to details you wouldn’t otherwise have noticed. As a side benefit, it’ll keep them busy and engaged in a whole bunch of different places.
Check out Cape Cod close up if you’re interested in more.
First set of photos (in order): door at the Royal Palace, mall, dragon body at the Royal Palace, flowers for sale at the Erawan Shrine, sky scrapers, new mosaic flower at Wat Po, old mosaic flower at Wat Po, orange flowers for sale on the street, cartoon character on a public service message, orchid, roof corner in the Royal Palace compound, sautéed pumpkin vines, used incense and candles at the Erawan Shrine, Wat Po spires at night, stone statue in the Royal Palace compound.
Second set of photos (not in order, to test your skills): sand, finer sand, shell detail, barnacles on a shell, Thai flag in the rain, water in a water lily leaf, water lily flower, small tropical plant, forest floor, sweet shrimp for sale in a market, sand and shells, rickety swinging bridge from below, orange cloth wrapped around a tree in the rain, lichen, hair on a Buddha, dried and sugared cantaloupe, detail on a temple door, coconut crème crepe.
E. Ashley Steel is the co-author of “Family on the Loose: The Art of Traveling with Kids”, co-curator of www.familyontheloose.com, and the Traveling with Kids editor for Wandering Educators.
All photos courtesy and copyright E. Ashley Steel