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IN THE PICTURE #65: KHUN JEREMY
In this feature called ‘In the Picture‘ we ask great photographers from all over the world to share their 10 most favorite Thailand photos with our readers. See Thailand through the lens of the photographer, read the background stories and learn more about the land of smiles.
One day we came across some very nice photos on Flickr. We did not hesitate for a moment and sent the photographer a message if he wanted to participate in our column. Obviously, his answer was a resounding YES. Because below you can see some of his own favorite images shot! Thanks Khun Jeremy, forever young our friend!
Hello Khun Jeremy, could you please introduce yourself to our readers?
My name is Jeremy and being the senior almost everywhere I go in Thailand these days I’m very politely referred to as ‘Khun’ Jeremy, which beats being called ‘uncle’ in Singapore. I originate from a small rural town in Lincolnshire, England, but prefer to regard myself as a citizen of earth having spent more than half my life away from my birth place. If it were the same place as I grew up in I may well have gone home long ago but have since discovered places that are not so dissimilar to the places I remember from my childhood, namely the farming communities in the north of Thailand which are as lovely as anything my memory cares to serve up these days.
My passion for photography is relatively new picking up my first full frame camera in 2016 and only then because my wife could not find anyone capable of taking pictures of her cakes for her Phuket based coffee shop at the time. It didn’t look so difficult after all. Months later I was still trying but whilst giving it more thought I duly remembered I had been taking pictures in my head for most of my life anyway, certainly since my first acquired skill as a child with a paint brush, the kind that paints canvasses that is, and that maybe I should apply the same principles. Unfortunately my skills with a paint brush disappeared when a love of music forced me into a life of bad hair cuts and motor way cafes for over a decade and sadly never returned. But then my passion for art never left me and I believe it’s really about having visionary dreams and connecting with those in moments of glorious light we all encounter throughout our lives. There are no limits to our creativity when there is love attached and a camera is simply another way to express this.
I’m currently residing in Chiang Mai, Chiang Dao to be more specific, a Covid 19 refugee unable to return to my home in the south of Thailand but I am not so unhappy given my passion for this area and have decided that I may as well build a small farm house on a piece of land my wife and I have been growing our vegetables on for the past few years. If we finish before the current sanctions are lifted we may very well stay here to live out our intended self sufficient lifestyle.
Keep your spirits high and the very best for 2022!
Ya Nui Beach, Phuket
Ya Nui Beach on the southern tip of Phuket has long been a favourite of mine and even more so whenever heavy storms are predicted for the Andaman coast. On this particular day, however, I barely managed to even get onto the beach such was the force of the driving rain and at one point I even had to retire back to my car with my clothing drenched through to the skin.
Eventually my patience paid off though and a brief interval in the rain coincided with a shaft of sunlight on the beach allowing me to capture the turquoise color of the sea along with the rather ominous dark rain cloud on the far side of the bay.
Chiang Rai valleys
A few years ago I was shown a tip to help improve the quality of multi-shot panos and although the technique never really worked out I was, however, completely hooked on creating very wide panos specifically for print. It took a bit of practice to understand the mechanics and how to avoid ‘boomerang’ images but eventually it became a preferred way to capture my landscapes.
Of all the places in Thailand where I most love to create these panos, Chiang Rai is probably my favourite with its endless sweeping valleys and mist covered mountains in the distance. If you drive past this particular scene looking towards Mae Sui at any other time of the day you probably wouldn’t give it a 2nd glance but through my many trips there I have become familiar with how the light changes across the valleys as the sun squeezes the last of its direct light between the mountains. If I only had enough room for one large pano on my walls it would most likely be this one.
What is your favorite destination in Thailand?
It really depends on the time of year, the landscape can change considerably with seasonal changes particularly in the north but if you pin me down to a specific location I would be happy to be in the Doi Chang area of Chiang Rai with its swirling mist and amazing views during the cooler months of December and January.
Which place / destination in Thailand is still on your wish list to visit?
Always the undiscovered! I cannot resist driving down unexplored dirt tracks in my old 1989 4×4 Pajero, I’ve come across some amazing places and found the view of the monastery overlooking Khun Pae in this way. My wife always has a list destinations on her wishlist and I simply go with the flow most of the time.
I had been sitting on the roof of my truck one evening, camera poised, complaining to myself about the lack of clouds given the beautiful evening light at the time when I spotted this small hut just further up an adjacent hill. It seemed deserted although it had clearly been a bit of drinking den at some point with many ‘empties’ littered about, so it was only in desperation for something of interest to include within the frame that I finally ventured up the hill.
A lovely old hut like this with such beautiful surroundings is like finding ‘gold dust’ for me and had there been anyone inside I would have been more than willing to drive the mile or two to the nearest 711 to compensate the occupant with yet another bottle of scotch for my presence. As luck would have it, I had the place to myself with all its charm and of course a grandstand view of the Chiang Dao mountain along with it.
I was quite certain whilst sitting in my truck one evening in Chiang Dao whilst looking down one of my favourite stone farm roads in the area, that there was no reason to stay any longer, the light had been quite uninteresting for most of the day and the impending rain wasn’t going to inspire me much either given the grey atmosphere.
But as often happens, and I really should know better by now, within a matter of minutes an entire scene can change with only the slightest movement of the clouds. You really do have to question how a seemingly impossible change can not only go the way you had pined for but even better than the scene you had already imagined moments earlier! I have since learned to trust my own misjudgment.
Which place / destination do you recommend our readers to visit and why?
If you are an adventurous type then it’s hard to beat time spent in a rain forest, the smells and sounds are wonderfully evocative, and the Khao Sok National Park in particular will not disappoint. If you are less adventurous and don’t want to stray too far from the coast then a driving trip through Phang Nga and Krabi at dawn is also a wonderful experience.
Where do you like to eat?
A difficult question to answer in a few short lines given that Thailand’s cuisine is one of its greatest charms but almost anywhere with a queue is usually a safe bet as long as I don’t have to do the queuing part myself. Thankfully my wife is fanatical when it comes to great Thai food and always has the next meal planned in advance.
I’m without doubt a morning person, I relish in the fact that most are unwilling to rise at a time when nature is at its best and I most often get it all to myself. So imagine my frustration after having trekked for over an hour in the dark only to discover someone else had not only beaten me to a desired spot, they had also placed their tent in the only place where it was possible to get an uninterrupted view of the Khun Pae valley!
I have to remind myself at times like this that there is always a reason for life’s hurdles and after walking to the next hill I discovered an even better view of the same valley. The mist wasn’t quite how I had hoped it to be but I didn’t mind borrowing this gentlemen’s bonfire to soften the first rays of light as they gently passed over the distant mountains and into the valley below. Besides, smoke can quite often emit a pink glow when backlit and I don’t think any tog would complain about that!
I have a passion for really good coffee matched only by my creative desire to capture interesting light and I quite often make a habit of following up on my semi-nocturnal rises to chase the light with a visit to the nearest coffee shop straight after if only to collect my thoughts and check on whether I’ve left a lens cap or filter behind! On this particular occasion, despite the excellent coffee being very close by, the scene that eventually unfolded before me blew my mind like no other occasion. In fact I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed such beautiful back lit rising mist on any previous occasion in my life.
What intrigued me the most at the time, however, was where on earth were all the other photographers that had graced the side of the road during the blazing red sunrise an hour earlier!?! I’m quite sure this event does repeat from time to time but all my return trips to Khao Kho in Phetchabun so far have failed to see the same conditions, which I suppose makes this capture all the more special.
Tip us a nice coffee shop or bar where our readers can drop by.
So you want to capture a breathtaking view at dawn and as soon as you pack your camera away around 7 am you only want to walk 5 minutes to the most perfectly placed coffee shop in Thailand…welcome to Pino Latte Restaurant and Caffe in Phetchabun!
There is a similar delight in the Doi Chang area when you are finished capturing the mist covered valleys by driving to the Doi Chaang farm shop around 8 am, they have two beautiful La Marzocco semi-automatics and really know how to use them. If you are in Chiang Rai city then check out Chivit Thamma Da Coffee House, Bistro & Bar, a beautiful location on the river but don’t be deceived by the back street route, you will not be disappointed when you arrive.
My regular coffee place in Phuket is of course Asterisk Espresso, there is no beautiful view just darn good coffee!
What is your favorite Thai dish?
Forgive me, I’m not good with food – as long as the bowl is clean, it doesn’t contain meat and I don’t have to cook it I will most likely eat it.
This young lady, most likely in her 70s, made one of the strongest impressions on me for a person of her age by not only rowing herself to the far island without the smallest break in momentum but she was also stood up for the entire length of the journey! Given the beauty of the area, a small fishing village called Sam Chong Tai in Phang Nga Bay, and that most of the families in the village most likely spend their entire lives here, I can quite believe she has been doing this for decades.
I, however, have only discovered the place very recently but have no doubt I will continue to visit whenever I have the opportunity, the place never fails to take my breath away each time I sit on this pier and marvel at the wonderful dawn atmosphere across the bay.
I’m inexplicably attracted to simple wooden boats despite not actually owning one, they represent a sense of freedom away from crowded environments with barely any codes of conduct except maybe not to drown oneself.
For many it’s also a way of life and this young lady exemplified this by throwing off her apron in the restaurant I was sitting in at the time and within minutes passing by me and headed out to sea. I can only presume she either saw me sitting in anticipation of a passing boat or suddenly remembered they were clean out of prawns!
What is your favorite accommodation in Thailand?
I can’t say I have a favourite, if I can find a comfortable bed for the night I really don’t mind where I stay these days, even my Pajero’s rooftop tent is good enough if I’m alone! I was very impressed with one particular homestay, however, in a beautiful farm area close to the Op Luang National Park – ขุนแปะ มีนากระท่อมน้อย.. I don’t know the English translation but Google will find this place (here).
The host was extremely charming and made considerable effort to make my family comfortable and even took us to a nearby peak so we could sit under the stars around a log fire and roast marshmallows. It sounds a bit cheesy when written down but trust me, the area is quite beautiful and I’ve captured some of my favourite images as a result of that visit.
Do you have a (travel) tip that might come in handy in Thailand?
I quite understand when traveling from cooler climates that Thailand’s beaches can be extremely attractive but for a real Thai culture experience I would always recommend visiting the countryside, there are thousands of pretty home stays throughout Thailand which are so much cheaper than those in the main tourist areas. Agoda and Booking.com have made this ridiculously easy to do these days. I was staying in Ban Yailee organic farm in Ngai very close to the Chiang Dao mountain on one occasion when a young couple turned up on a scooter after riding 80 kilometers from Chiang Mai. I can’t tell you how much I admired them and of course they had a delightful time exploring the area.
Is there a Thai phrase or word our readers need to learn?
Khao Jai, Mai Khao Jai and Mai Pen Rai have rescued me countless times… understand, don’t understand, no problem.
Image no 5, Dawn Bonfires, wasn’t actually a planned capture at the time, the monastery high on the hill just to the right was the shot I was after. I discovered it by accident the day before after driving a fair distance along a narrow muddy track and being unable to find a place to turn around again. Whilst contemplating my ineptitude for having taken such a ridiculous route in the first place I eventually came across a gate with enough room behind it to reverse into and it was at this point I saw the monastery in the distance. A quick check on my compass indicated it was slightly to the right of the sunrise and might possibly catch the light on the left side if I timed it right. So a plan was made.
It wasn’t until the next morning, however, when I looked at it though my long lens that I noticed it was surrounded with bamboo scaffolding…*SIGH!*. Thankfully, the light catching the inside of the mountains just behind was glorious enough although since then I’ve actually grown to like the scaffolding with it adding a bit of intrigue to the scene.
What type / brand of camera do you use?
The smallest and cheapest one I could find when I first began was the Sony A6000 and I haven’t really moved on much since then although I now use two full frame versions, the A7rii and the A7iii. I rarely change the settings, both have the focus deactivated on the shutter and I always use manual focus. My bagged lenses are the 24-70 f2.8, 16-35 f4 and 70-200 f4. My favorite lens of all though is a 35 mm F1.4 but I only get this out for special occasions. I was also given a tip by a phenomenal photographer called Charlie Waite a few years ago, to always keep a step ladder handy and to this day I have relied on this simple practice to gain elevation although standing on the roof of my Pajero is often good enough!
Where can our readers find your work / photos?
I’m a sad case when it comes to social media I’m afraid, I grew up to the sounds of conversation and laughter in tea shops but I acknowledge Flickr as a great way to share a creative passion with likeminded people –https://www.flickr.com/photos/khunj/.
Last question, who should we also ask our ‘In the Picture’ feature?
Weerapong Chaipuck is a very talented photographer and love his back lit scenes. Vichaya Chatikavanij is also another great Thai photographer, his work is superbly well balanced but then he is a professional!
Mae Pam Farm
There haven’t been many occasions where I’ve had a gut feeling about a particular location and been rewarded for my efforts, and the tiny village of Mae Pam in Chiang Mai is one of those places. What makes this place special is that the local farm fields are very close to the surrounding peaks and the sun doesn’t actually reach the floor of the valley for more than an hour after sunrise.
I first came across the fields whilst camping on one of the peaks on the west side of the valley and it was during dinner the night before when the temperature had plummeted considerably when it occurred to me that there might be mist in the valley the next morning. I was unfamiliar with the layout of the area having arrived quite late but I suspected I would have enough time to make the trek down into the village at dawn and walk the rice field borders to the other side of the valley before the sunrise came over the peaks on the east side.
It’s not a place where you can just turn up at any time of course, the farm fields are generally quite active and any photographic opportunities are also dependent on the current crops as well as the cooler nights which usually occur between November and January.