Snap Shots: Sharpen your focussing skills - even with AutoFocus
by Harry Flashman
Though I have been sorely tempted from time to time, I
do not use an AutoFocus (AF) camera. There are a couple of reasons for
this, more than just the expense of totally changing my Nikon system, but
one of them is the fact that even the most modern AF systems are slower
focussing than me and my manual focus ring, and the second is that by the
very act of focussing it reminds me just who or what is the ‘hero’ -
the subject that has to be pin sharp.
get this with pre-focus, not Auto-focus!
However, since most new cameras are AF, the following
tips will try and ensure that you do get the sharp prints that you think
you’re going to get from the expensive AF feature.
There are unfortunately many situations where the magic
AF eye just cannot work properly. If there is no contrast in the scene,
then the AF will not work. If you are trying to focus in a “low light”
situation then the AF will “hunt” constantly looking for a bright
area. When trying to shoot through glass or wire mesh the AF can become
totally confused. No, while AF is now almost 100 percent universal, it
still is not 100 percent foolproof.
One of the reasons for this is quite simple. The
camera’s magic eye doesn’t know exactly what subject(s) you want to be
in focus and picked the wrong one! The focussing area for the AF system is
a small circle or square in the middle of the viewfinder, so if you are
taking a picture of two people two metres away, the camera may just focus
on the trees in the far distance that it can see between your two
subjects. Those trees are two km away, so you get back a print with the
background sharp and the two people in the foreground as soft fuzzy blobs.
What you have to do is use the “hold-focus”
(sometimes called “focus lock”) facility in your camera. To use this
facility, compose the people the way you want them, but then turn the
camera so that one person is now directly in the middle of the viewfinder.
Gently push the shutter release half way down and the AF will “fix” on
the subject. Generally you will get a “beep” or a green light in the
viewfinder to let you know that the camera has fixed its focus. It will
now hold that focus until you either fully depress the shutter release, or
you take your finger off the button. So keeping your finger on the button,
recompose the picture in the viewfinder and shoot. The people are now in
focus, and the background soft and fuzzy, instead of the other way round.
So what should you do in the other situations when the
AF is in trouble? Simple answer is to turn it off, and focus manually!
Sometimes, in the poor light it is possible to shine a torch on the
subject, get the AF fixed on the subject and then turn off your torch and
go from there. But this is only when you cannot turn the AF off!
Another focussing problem is when photographing a
moving subject. When say, for example, you are attempting to shoot a
subject coming rapidly towards you, the AF is unable to “keep up” with
the constantly moving target. The answer here is to manually focus at the
point where you want to get the photograph and then wait for the subject
to reach that point. As it gets level with the predetermined point, trip
the shutter and you have it. A sharply focussed action photograph.
Another super tip from the photographic studios of the glamour
photographers - when making a portrait shot, focus on the eyes, nowhere
else. I know it is easier to focus on the collar for example, but you run
the risk of the shot going “soft” around the eyes. Very, very
carefully focus on the eyelid margins and you will have a super shot, no
matter how shallow your depth of field may be.
Modern Medicine: The sins
of the fathers!
by Dr. Iain Corness, Consultant
One problem of being an orphan is that it leaves the person
with no idea as to what ailments are going to befall them. Heredity is one of
the ‘clues’ to your health in the future, and what you can do to enjoy a
long, lively and healthy one.
With the increasing research into genetics, we are able to
map out likely futures and can predict such ailments as diabetes, epilepsy and
other neurological problems like Huntington’s Chorea and Alzheimer’s
Disease, some cancers such as breast, ovarian, lower bowel, prostate, skin and
testicular, heart attacks, blood pressure problems, certain blood diseases like
Sickle Cell Anaemia and so the list goes on.
However, you do not need to have multi-million baht
examinations done on your DNA to see where you are headed, all you need to do is
to start asking the older family members about your inheritance. Not the money -
your genetic inheritance in the health stakes.
Have you ever wondered why the questionnaire for life
insurance asks whether any close member of your family has ever suffered from
diabetes, epilepsy and other ailments and then also asks you to write down how
old your parents or brothers and sisters were when they died, and what they died
from? All that they, the insurance company, is doing is finding out the relative
likelihood (or ‘risk’) of your succumbing early to an easily identifiable
disease. This does not need a postgraduate Masters degree in rocket science. It
needs a cursory application of family history.
If either of your parents had diabetes, your elder brother
has diabetes, your younger brother has diabetes and your cousin has diabetes,
what are the odds on your getting (or already having) diabetes? Again this is
not rocket science. The answer is pretty damn high! And yet, I see families like
this where the individual members are totally surprised and amazed when they
fall ill, go to hospital, and diabetes is diagnosed.
It does not really take very much time over a family lunch to
begin to enquire about one’s forebears. After five minutes it will be obvious
if there is some kind of common medical thread running through your family. That
thread may not necessarily be life threatening, but could be something like
arthritis for example.
Look at it this way - your future is being displayed by your
family’s past. This could be considered frightening, when your father, his
brother and your grandfather all died very early from heart attacks. Or, this
could be considered as life saving, if it pushes you towards looking at you own
cardiac health and overcoming an apparently disastrous medical history.
This is an advantage that you get if you are not an orphan.
You know what to look for before it becomes a problem. Going back to the family
with diabetes, what should the younger members do? Well, if it were me, I would
be having my blood sugar checked at least once a year from the age of 20. Any
time I had reason to visit the doctor in between, I would also ask to have the
level checked. We are talking about a very inexpensive test that could literally
save you millions of baht in the future, as well as giving you a better quality
of life, and a longer one.
Ask around the dinner table today and plan to check your
medical future tomorrow. It’s called a ‘Check-up’!
Horsin’ Around : Siam Polo Park in Pattaya
by Willi Netzer
The sport of the kings, or the king of the sports like
some may say, has arrived in Pattaya. Located 3 km off the Siam Country
Club Rd, you can find it by following the signs shortly after reaching Map
action at Siam Polo Park.
There are 60 something horses or ponies, all imported
from Argentina, kept in nicely set up stables with plenty of paddocks. The
polo field is well layed out, with the clubhouses on one side, ideally
located to watch the games.
Most activities are on the weekends, so exercising the
horses and some practicing takes place during the week. Tournaments are
held throughout the year. A big international event will take place at the
end of this month.
for the ball.
At least half the players are from Thailand; Vichai
Raksriaksorn from King Power Duty Free to name one. He is also one of the
main sponsors, along with Harald Link from B. Grimm. There are several
other expatriate players, some with their own horses, and we cannot forget
a number of professional players from Argentina guaranteeing high
standards. Interesting to mention: there are also a growing number of
female players hitting the ball.
Hitting the ball is the name of the game and each
player has a horse to get there. Polo is a team game, each side having 4
players, and there are 2 goals at the end of both sides. The ball, 2 1/2
inches in diameter, is made of plastic; the sticks are made of rattan with
a mallet like end traditionally made of willow wood.
The game is played very fast, so the play time has to
be divided into 6 periods of 7 minutes, called chukkas. Horses are usually
changed after each chukka.
Each side has 4 players. No. 1 is the fast-forward. He
has the most scoring opportunities. Many times it could be the sponsor of
a team, called the patron. No. 2 has the same function, but might be more
skilled. No. 3 will be most likely the captain of the team. He is probably
the most vocal player, but also the most skilled. Finally, there is the
No. 4, who defends the goal. He could be the player with the best striking
power, sending the ball well forward, and it is not infrequent to score as
well. If I remember right, I believe Prince Charles of England was playing
in this position quite a number of times.
Continued next week...
Heart to Heart with Hillary
After reading your wonderful words of wisdom from afar, and cottoning onto the
fact that you are a connosuer (sic) of champagne and chocolates, I am hoping
you can also help me from afar. I am dating a wonderful young lady and just
want to know what champagne I should buy to woo her, and whether dark chocolate
or milk chocolate would be best.
The Gentleman Suitor
Dear Gentleman Suitor,
The first thing you have to do is attend to your spelling, my Petal. If you
want to be a “connoisseur” of champagne, then learn to spell it! However,
in your side of the world, my favourite champagne Veuve Cliquot (French and
vintage, darling, vintage) is not too expensive, though the Grande Dame should
be only brought out for very special occasions. Regarding the chocolate, you
won’t go wrong with milk chocolate selections, though the white chocolate can
be quite special. But it is a presentation box, my Gentleman friend, not a
Since I come to Thailand many times a year, I am thinking about buying a bar,
rather than spending my money in somebody else’s bar. Is this possible and do
you think it is a good idea? I have a Thai girlfriend who could look after it
for me while I am away and the idea of sitting at my own bar, drinking my own
beer is very attractive. Is it possible?
Dear Bar Fly,
I think this is an excellent idea for your Thai girlfriend but not for you.
Like any business venture, unless you have experience, then starting a new
venture, in Thailand in particular, is very hazardous. Your experience seems to
be in sitting on the wrong side of the bar, not the business side that has the
cash register. There is also a small matter of work permits in this country,
and ‘bar owner’ is not one of those skills that the Thai government is
looking for in foreign arrivals. You may as well just give all your money to
your girlfriend and let her buy you beers while you are over here. The money
might last longer. The way to make a small fortune out of owning a bar in
Thailand is to start with a large fortune. Forget it, Bar Fly.
During high season my boyfriend tells me that there are many visiting ladies
out sunning themselves around the swimming pool of the hotel where he work.
Many of the (big) ladies are wearing nothing on their top. Thai woman are very
shy, but the visitor do not care about local custom. This make embarrassing for
Thai women. What should be done to stop this custom?
It is all a question of cost, little Noi. As you say, the foreign tourists are
large and to buy the top for a swimsuit is very pricey, as it takes so much
material, so they make do with just the bottoms. You have to remember that it
is very expensive for them to come out here for their holidays, so they have to
save money somewhere. Don’t worry, Noi, they will all be gone soon. I know
that topless sunbathing is the custom overseas, so forgive them. I am sure your
boyfriend is not complaining.
Most of the letters you get are from men who are whining about what has
happened to them with girls from in the bar scene. Has the simple fact escaped
them that there is another side to living in Thailand? Surely they must see
that there is a big difference between that side and the other side? If they
stopped to look past the end of their noses they would see that there are some
truly wonderful girls out there. I have been married to my Thai wife for ten
years now and we have a partnership and mutual trust. This works very well and
I have never felt at any time that I am being ripped off. Adjustments have to
be made (by both the people) but that is normal in any marriage. My wife came
from a respectable family and had a good job before she settled down to be a
wife and mother to our two lovely girls. Why don’t some of these men who
write in with complaints spend more time to look for the “good” girls?
Happily Married to a Thai lady
Dear Happily Married to a Thai lady,
I thank you for your letter, as it is easy for the casual reader to think that
there is nothing but disaster in any relationship with a Thai lady. You are
correct, people with problems do tend to write in to a problems column, rather
than those who do not. It is always good to show that there is another side to
the coin. Unfortunately, the ‘professional’ ladies are the ones that the
newcomers meet, who are then swept off their feet in the rush to the gold shop,
the motorcycle dealers and the real estate agents. These men would not go
looking for their life’s partner in a bar in their own country, so why do
they do so here? Laziness and easy availability is the answer. Congratulations
again on writing in and 10 years of marital (not ‘martial’) bliss.
A Slice of Thai History: Taksin the Great and the Thonburi Period 1767-1782
by Duncan steam
Taksin spent the first seven years of his reign
re-establishing control over the rest of Thailand. His two chief
lieutenants in these endeavours were Chaophraya Chakri and his brother
In May 1768, an attack against Phitsanulok was
unsuccessful, but a move against Prince Teppipat in Phimai saw that area
come under Taksin’s control.
In 1769, Taksin launched an expedition into Cambodia to
remove the threat of a Thai prince who had hoped to establish a
government-in-exile in the country. The campaign was successful and Taksin
annexed the provinces of Siem Reap and Battambang. The following year,
Thai forces were in action against Vietnamese troops in Cambodia.
By July 1770, Taksin had regained control of
Phitsanulok and subdued Nakhon Si Thammarat in the south and Fang and
Uttaradit in the north. In three years, the wily Taksin had managed to
regain most of the land held by the former kingdom of Ayutthaya.
In 1772, the Tay Son rebellion began in Vietnam and as
the ruling Nguyen clan began withdrawing forces to attempt to quell the
uprising, Thai troops were able to advance deep into Cambodian territory.
They occupied Phnom Penh and later burnt the city.
Taksin attempted to further secure his borders by
moving against the Burmese holding Chiang Mai in 1774. The Thais managed
to take the city and force the Burmese to retreat, but an incursion across
the border into Burma itself was turned back in 1775. Indeed, the Burmese
counter-attacked and were able to re-occupy Chiang Mai and advance as far
Fighting continued into 1776, and it wasn’t until
September that Taksin was again able to force the Burmese to retire.
Chiang Mai was re-occupied but had been so devastated and denuded of
population that it was virtually abandoned for over a decade.
In 1778, Chaophraya Chakri led an army of around 20,000
men into Laos from Khorat while his brother Chaophraya Surasi took 10,000
troops and swept into the southern Lao state of Champassak. The two
columns eventually combined and went on to take Vientiane and Luang
Prabang. The fabled Emerald Buddha as well as the sacred Phra Bang were
removed from Laos and brought to Thonburi. The Phra Bang was returned to
Laos in 1781, but the Emerald Buddha has remained in Thailand ever since.
Elsewhere in the world that year, France declared war
on Britain and sent forces to support the American colonists in their war
of independence. The author Francois-Marie Arouet, better known to the
world simply as Voltaire, died in Paris at the age of 83. The French
government also set up state control of brothels, making medical
inspection of prostitutes compulsory.
Taksin played at kingmaker in 1779 when he placed a
seven-year-old prince named Eng on the Cambodian throne. Baen, a pro-Thai
official, was installed as chief minister by the Thais.
Unfortunately, as the years wore on, Taksin became more
despotic and appeared to go insane, venting his wrath against monks and
thereby alienating the powerful sangha. According to some sources, Taksin
began to believe he was the reincarnation of the Lord Buddha and retired
to a monastery. His bouts of arbitrary and wanton cruelty saw him
degenerate to such an extent that a nobleman named Phrya San organised a
revolution in March 1782.
It is at this point the tale becomes confusing. Most
sources appear to believe the coup took place while Chaophraya Chakri, the
commander of the army, was away with the bulk of the Thai military, in
Cambodia. Upon receiving news of the coup, he rushed back to Thonburi to
confront the coup leaders. They offered him the throne.
Another source suggests Chaophraya Chakri returned from
Cambodia and presided over an inquiry into Taksin’s behaviour and let
court officials determine the appropriate punishment.
Whatever the truth, he accepted, and thus began the
Chakri dynasty that rules Thailand to this day.
The fate of the 48-year-old King Taksin is also a
source of speculation. The generally accepted theory is that he was
executed in the customary royal way: his hands and feet were shackled with
gold restraints, he was sewn into a velvet sack so that no royal blood
would touch the ground, and then beaten to death with a sandalwood club.
In 1785, King Rama I (Chaophraya Chakri) had Taksin’s remains cremated
at a temple in Bangkok.
However, there are claims the insane monarch was
secretly sent to a palace near Nakhon Si Thammarat where he lived on until
1825, which would have made him an unlikely 91. It is suggested a
substitute was put to death in his place.
In 1921, a tomb and family shrine in southern China
gained some notoriety when it was claimed that it contained clothes
belonging to King Taksin.
Despite his fall from grace, Taksin’s earlier
outstanding achievements saw him given the appellation ‘the Great’,
thereby joining Naresuan, Narai, Chulalongkorn (Rama V) and Bhumibol
Adulyadej (Rama IX) as the only Thai monarchs accorded such a title.
Personal Directions: Good training is a necessary ingredient
by Christina Dodd
Following on from my story last week and to how “a
little bit of training can go a long way,” I would like to fill you in on
an experience I had just recently that really does highlight this point.
Over the holidays I found a new carwash facility in our
area. As you know, there are so many of these places around, but it is
really quite difficult to find one that outshines another. They are all
relatively cheap, provide reasonably quick service and clean your car -
that’s it in a nutshell. All most people want is to have their car washed
with the inside vacuumed and of course - someone else to do it! Most people
regard this as a fairly routine activity and don’t attach a lot of
seriousness to the level of service and performance.
But this place really caught my attention. It wasn’t a
flashy franchise with a catchy name and a hundred cars in the queue. It was
a small operation with good equipment set on a fairly large area of land off
the beaten track. There were a few very ordinary chairs and seats placed
around a fridge with the usual dinks for sale and the daily papers scattered
here and there. The operation looked well-organized and seemed to be running
quite smoothly. So I thought to myself, let’s see how we go with this
outfit and how well they work on my car - which by the way I must say has
seen a lot of miles and a lot of years!
Usually when I drive into a carwash they take one look at
my car and adopt a less than enthusiastic attitude to cleaning it. I have
found this in many places because most people love to work on bright and
shiny new or newer cars. With second-hand or older cars there is no real
attraction and I’m sure a lot of the staff in these shops wonder why
owners of older cars take the trouble.
Anyway, I took a seat and let the show begin. The young
crew that was assigned to my car took a completely different attitude to it
than any other carwash I had been to before. They almost caressed it after
the big hosing episode and began to delicately and lovingly go over her
inside and out. Nothing was a problem, nothing seemed to be too much
trouble. Every little inch and half inch that could be cleaned and polished
was given the treatment. The boot interior was left in pristine condition
and the contents rearranged much better than I had done. I was amazed to see
such attention to detail and such dedication to doing nothing but the best
for my car!
During all this activity, which by the way seemed similar
to being in the audience at a silent movie, I noticed the faces on each of
the staff. They all looked happy and contented; enjoying what they were
doing. You could see that each of them held a certain level of pride in
completing each of their specific duties and areas of responsibility on the
car. No-one joked around and wasted time or effort. The whole focus was on
getting the job done and in doing so, giving the car that is being cleaned
the respect it deserved - even though it was an old car.
You may think I’m going a bit far with this point, but
I think it is very pertinent to the way we all approach the tasks we
undertake in life. Giving the task the respect that is due to it - it is
fundamental to succeeding in the completion of that task and coming away
with a true sense of achievement and pride.
I was so pleased to have come across these young people
who were almost whistling whilst they were working. It was obvious that they
had been given some very good training and direction in the work they were
doing. Each had a role, each had a task to complete. Their tools were
prepared and ready. They had all they needed at hand to be efficient. There
was a beginning, a middle and an end to the procedure.
The owner of the establishment was there to observe and
ensure the final product was to my satisfaction. He was a polished young man
in every way and allowed his staff to get on with the job without any
interference from him. It was obvious that he was able to do this because he
had laid the groundwork with the excellent training he had provided them.
The foundations for success had been put in place.
This kind of experience always inspires me and restores
my faith in people and their ability to excel. People at all levels can do
so well in the fields they choose to work in. No matter how simple or
mundane those fields may appear to others, that is not the point. As humans
we can excel if we are motivated and given encouragement and the right kind
of training. With this set of ingredients we can embrace a task and come out
on top. We can enjoy what we do and at the same time, have pride in doing
These young kids who were washing my car were putting
every ounce of effort in to doing their job. They had been given very basic
and very good training that allowed them to work together as a team. They
performed like clockwork. Nothing missed a beat and the end result was
excellent. My car was gleaming inside and out. So too were the faces on the
staff at the end of the job.
A little bit of training goes a long way. But think about
what happens when it is more than just a little bit. Think of what can be
achieved with dedicated, committed, sound and professional training. People
have the most incredible abilities and given the right kind of support and
training, they can really surprise you.
For those of you would like a presentation on our
training or life-coaching services, or any of our other professional and
life skills programs, please contact me at Christina.dodd@asiatraining
Until next time, have a tremendous week!