Echo Park Rising 2019 was like a small SXSW with no blatant corporate sponsoring or open bars. The line up was diverse, ranging from Thrash in a barbershop to Soundclound rappers doing acoustic sets on a patio. The majority of the party stretched along a mile of Sunset Boulevard and came out strong for four days straight.
In contrast to my first Lightwaves series, where I camped out on the sea cliffs outside of Skagastrond and did my best to keep my balance from the high winds, this set is defined more by calmer waters.
The original series was shot with a 16mm f/2.8. Since I had sold that lens in NYC for rent, I had to make due with a 15mm f/4.5 (which has also been flipped for rent). This switch influenced a remarkable change in how I could shoot these photographs. Much slower, but much warmer tones. This resulted in aiming to make the rocks and surroundings appear illuminated by the water rather than a mash of color from the waves.
The rocky shores of Vernazza, Manarola, and Corniglia very much helped establish a similar mood to what I shot in Iceland. The waves weren’t as dramatic but the setting helped me deliver what I wanted when I was able to position the camera just right and wasn’t nearly breaking my hand slipping on slick rock.
The annoyingly calm waters of Koh Phi Phi gave me a lot of trouble. Not only was the weather far too calm to get the shots I really wanted, but I had to wait hours for the tide to come in a little stronger and sneak onto resort beaches. The worst part of the experience was the crabs, sea slugs, and what appeared to be multiple prehistoric creatures crawling all over the rocks I needed to station myself on. I repeatedly voiced my apologies to the little dudes for ruining their nap much like I frequently apologized to possible elves hanging around the cliffs in Skagastrond when I had to take a leak. I truly meant no disrespect.
Koh Phi Phi
The monkeys of Lopburi menacingly lurking, the history of Ayutthuya, the overcrowded markets, and the terror and beauty of Hellfire Pass. The middle of Thailand is a busy and varied.
Lopburi is pure monkey anarchy that is partially tamed by the two scheduled feedings everyday that quell the casual theft and battery the monkeys are prone to. Ayutthuya was the seat of Siam before the Burmese army rendered it obsolete in the 18th century. The terror of what happened to the Allied prisoners of war at Hellfire Pass is felt through the silence allowed now that the area is a protected park.
The markets a few hours outside of Bangkok are a clusterfuck of annoying tourists. Arriving early is key as by 10-11am Damnoen Saduak is a traffic jam. Though, an hour earlier it’s a peaceful walk through vendors setting up shop and the wonderful smells of noodles and chopped fruit. The railway market at Maeklong is overrun by GoPro strapped onlookers waiting for the train to pass through, while their litter is thoughtlessly piled at the end of the shops. Just up the road from Maeklong is the gem of Amphawa. The canal is wide enough to accompany tourists on boats, ample room on the side streets, plus there’s a sweet upcycle shop that had a St Edward’s shirt prominently on display.
Trains and Busses
The south is a little bit of a different world. Much more clear water, remarkably warmer, and much higher prices. At times, the tourists or expatriates seem to outnumber the local population.
The old town in Phuket City still feels colonial and has more in common architecturally with Havana than the cities in northward in the country. The rest of the province is partially mountainous and outlined by sandy beaches that are littered with colorful plant life and plastic bottles.
Koh Phi Phi is this exquisite, biconcave island in the middle of the Andaman Sea. The majority of services are located on the isthmus between the two limestone peaks. The island is so small that the service workers live right outside of, and between, the pricier resorts. A quick walk around the corner takes you from a these resorts to a local neighborhood where discarded sports bar signs rest and picture frames hang from windows. Tourists are charged 30 baht (~$1) when arriving at the island to aid in clean up and trash reduction efforts. Even as trash is collected and shipped off the island, large build ups of water bottles and other trash are still present from the mass amount of tourism the island receives.
Koh Phi Phi
Just outside of the old city in Chiang Rai are the White And Blue temples along with the Black House. Each of the complexes are beautiful artistic representations of temples and faith. The Black House explores death, while the White Temple explores random pop culture references, like a painting of Angry Birds flying into the twin towers.
A scenic, four-hour bus ride away is Chiang Mai, which does much more to feed the appetites for Mauy Thai and drag shows. The city provides a wealth of ruins and temples both inside the old city walls to the looming Doi Suthep.
Elephant Nature Park, an hour and a half long drive north of Chiang Mai, is a reserve for elephants who have previously been abused through the local tourist and logging activities. A full day tour only amounts to a few hours being guided around the grounds but sponsors a peaceful existence for these giant creatures that have seen the hell that the hands of men can bring.