Vlog #15


This video was spur of the moment. Photographer friend Pete DeMarco and I decided at the last minute to go out and try to shoot a seascape at a local beach here in Penang. While waiting for the sun to drop we started chatting about the camera he uses, the Sony a7ii. One thing led to another, and this video was born.

The Sony a7ii is a very cool, mirrorless camera. It is full frame and-and yet small, as a mirrorless camera should be. But what intrigues me is it can use apps. Go figure! In this episode, we look at the Smooth Refection app. Pete demonstrates how to use the app, and its effects.

This week’s tip is about geotagging your photos with the Fujifilm Camera Remote app.

Please subscribe to my video channel and my newsletter. We are about to announce a new photo workshop, and newsletter subscribers get the first option to signup. Only after the first 24 hours has past will we release it to the public. Our last workshop sold out in less than one hour!

Smooth Refection App: http://dtrekker.com/sony_smooth

Fujifilm Camera Remote App on iTunes: http://dtrekker.com/fuji-remote

Fujifilm Camera Remote App on Google Play: http://dtrekker.com/Fuji_Remote_Android

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Pete DeMarco’s links:

Website: http://www.thenomadwithin.com/

FaceBook: https://www.facebook.com/PeteDeMarcoPhotography/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/petedemarco/

Matt Brandon Vlog 13: Photographing Iconic Scenes

In this video I look at my struggle to photograph the iconic Tak Bat, alms giving ceremony that takes place every morning in Luang Prabang, Laos. The inherent problem with photographing something that has been photographed millions of times is there is very little chance of making a unique photo.

In this video, I explore my struggles at photographing an event that has been happening every day for who knows how long? This was not an easy task, and frankly, one that I think I failed at. But we learn from our failure, and this is why I am sharing the experience. The big difficulty is the culturally sensitive limitations that are put on the visitor during the Tak Bat, and rightly so. Here are just a few are:

  • Keep your head below that of the monks.
  • Don’t touch a monk.
  • Don’t use flash
  • Keep a distance from the monks.
  • Be respectful of the devotees.
  • And a few more.


This was my first time to watch this event. We choose to go out where there were not tourists. It was an area that my host knew and had relationships with the devotees. We check with the devotees if we could sit where we sat. They granted us permission. Honestly, I was extremely tempted to use flash, but I resisted and did not use it. Granted, I did push the boundaries on proximity to the monks and in looking back, I probably wouldn’t do that again. But in my defense, we asked, and we got the locals devotees approved. I sat on the ground, so I was never above even the smallest monk. I say all to help you understand the extent we went to be both culturally sensitive and still get the photo.

In this video, I also give photographers a quick tip on how to better view your vertical (portrait) images on the back of your camera’s LCD.

Below are the images that appear in this week’s video.


Here I was literally sitting in a drainage culvert to get this angle.


This was close to what I imagined. But without using a flash, the morning clouds proved why too bright and overpowered the scene. My attempt to burn in some sky was useless and did more harm than good.


By switching locations and shooting across from the procession I focused on the devotees rather than the monks. This was better but I don’t like her hand in front of her eyes.


This is perhaps the best image as I manage to arrange all the element close to what I want.


Later that same day we stumbled on a gathering of monks. It was like a school assembly.


Children get bored with assemblies no matter what the culture.


This photo is my favorite image of the trip. So much emotion and life in this photo.


Here is one of those images that you see a setting and you wait for someone or something to enter the frame. That is just what I did here.


Early the next day we went back out to my host’s neighborhood and saw a group of local monks leaving the local Wat (temple). Knowing they would return in 30 minutes or so I set up across the street and got this.



Interestingly enough, this image was taken at the precise moment the florescent light in the archway was going off. Thus the yellow glow and the lack of light. It also gave it the best look and feel. The only real issue I have with either of these photos is that I have lost the story. These pictures don’t tell the story of the Tak Bat. These are just images of monks walking through a gate in the early morning.


Kuang Si Falls, another location that is practically impossible to get a unique photo of.


Downriver of the falls is this water wheel. I used off camera flash to light the wheel. Alou acted as my VALS (Voice Activated Light Stand).



Matt Brandon Vlog 12: Fujifilm GFX Review and more.

Currently, I am in Laos, once again. If you recall, I was in Laos back in late November shooting my first ever video for a client. I shot the whole video on the X-T2. I was amazed at the quality. The learning curve to use the X-T2 for shooting basic video was surprisingly short. Not that I know everything, not at all. It just seems more intuitive than when I had my Canon 5D MKIII. But, this post is not about the X-T2. It is, however about the video posted above, the Fujifilm GFX medium format camera first look.

Piet Van den Eynde had a chance to use the Fuji GFX in the field in India. In this video, I speak with Piet about his thoughts and impressions of this new ground breaking camera.

I am not going to reiterate all the information in the video. You can watch it. I will, however, give you the links to the products and the video we shot.

You can visit Piet’s blog to see the GFX’s specs on paper, so to speak. Even more exciting he shows you the actual images this beast can make: Visit his blog HERE.

GFX Challenges Video

Product Links:

GFX Medium Format Camera

GF110mmF2 R LM WR

GF63mmF2.8 R WR

GF32-64mmF4 R LM WR

f-Stop Loka UL

SMDV SpeedBox Review

SMDV BRiHT-360 Compact Monolight

WD My Passport Pro 3TB
WD My Passport Pro 2TB

Lastolite Non-Rotating Extending Handle

3 Legged Thing Albert Tripod

Sirui P-324S Carbon Photo/Video Monopod

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Matt Brandon Video Log #11

Once again I attempt to start my VLOG. In this episode I talk about what I want to accomplish in these The new reboot of my video log. A small rant blog comments, a look at the Fujifilm X-T2, being a photographer and dyslexic/ADD and more.

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Video Blog #10 Photo Interview with Fernando Gros and more…



Yes, it is true, this is a video blog post. I know you thought it was dead and gone. Well it was only sick. 😉  I have tried breathed into it new life. Well, I least I hopes to.

This Sunday I am off to Ladakh, India for a two week workshop. After Ladakh the group heads to Srinagar, Kashmir. Then in February, 2015 I head back to Rajasthan. The question begs answering are photo workshop worth it? Are they worth the time and the financial investment? So this issue we will look at the benefits of photo workshops. To do this I have an interview with Fernando Gros from FernandoGros.com. Continue reading

Lessons from a Photowalk

Here I thought through the image I was seeing and knew I wanted to meter off the highlights.


This past weekend I took a group of 10 expats around Georgetown, Penang for a photowalk. We had the whole range of gear present,  Nikons, Canons, Pentax and even a few of point and shoots. They were all hobbyists wanting to become better photographers. On these walks I always seem give the same advice. I thought I would share these two short bits of wisdom that I seem to repeat. They are closely related, in fact you can’t do the second bit of advice without doing the first. Here they are:

  1. Slow down
  2. Be intentional

Slow Down

Speed is like a death blow to a good photograph. Many folks see the shot, so they quickly, without thinking raise their camera and ‘snap’ it. Only to find later their ISO was too high or too low or their shutter speed was too fast or too slow. I would say that this comes from shooting a point and shoot, except that speed hurts even the point and shoot photograph. When in fact you don’t compose. I have said it in these pages before: slow down. I was going to say, “Unless you are a sports shooter you should slow down.” But even sports photographers slow down to plan what they are going to shoot. They have a good idea about what is going to happen next, and they prepare both mentally, and with their gear. Everyone has to take time to compose the image. Scan your viewfinder and take note of your settings. What ISO are you shooting? What is your shutter speed and aperture? What mode is your camera set to: aperture priority, shutter priority, program? Look at your scene and see what it is you are going to photograph. Is it really a visual scene and worth shooting? If you are trying to capture something more than an “I was here” photo, ask yourself, is there something here worth photographing? Just because you see something different, doesn’t mean you need to photograph it. Is the light good? Is it back lit or is the subject in direct sunlight? There are many more questions worth considering here.

Don’t freak out! These questions become more and more intuitive the more and more you shoot. But here is the catch—they don’t become intuitive if you don’t keep asking them. Which leads me to the second point, which I can’t repeat enough.


When everyone else was shooting the same subject, this man was watching us. Don’t always shoot the obvious.

Be intentional

Ansel Adams said it best, “You don’t take a photograph, you make it,” and that really is the underlying point of slowing down. If you are trying to become a better photographer you need to slow down and be intentional about what you shoot. More often than not I see photographers walk up to the subject, raise the camera and ‘snap’ a few frames off and then move on. They look more like they are ticking off a list rather than making a photograph. Be creative. Look for new angles. Get low, get high, shoot super wide, look for the fine details in a scene that others might be missing. You are not a 5 foot post that can’t change your position. Your foot is not anchored to the ground–so move! I always tell my students, “zoom with your feet.” Meaning, move!

Here is an exercise to try. For one full day of shooting, try never to shoot a subject from the position you first encounter it. Most of the time this means if you walk up to your subject then you can not photograph that subject from the same position, you have to squat or move to the side or stand on a chair. Related to this is, don’t shoot the obvious. If everyone is shooting the man selling sun glasses, why not try photographing the people watching the other photographers?

Find the details that no one else is shooting. Be original.

The whole point is if you slow down and start being intentional when making your photos you will be forced to use that other camera: your brain. Once you tap into that camera you will be amazed at what you both see for the first time and how well you compose and capture that moment.

By the way, we still have about five spaces left on our Rajasthan workshop and several spaces left on the Thaipusam workshop with Gavin Gough and myself. Why don’t you join us?

Merry Christmas from our family to yours

Today is Christmas day. We had a wonderful time with family over the past few days. A classic Christmas in many ways – shopping, eating and reminiscing. A big treat for me was borrowing a friend’s 8mm projector and viewing family films from way back. I mean way back. The oldest was from 1950 in Paris, but most were from the 60’s and showed a little crew cut Matt running around shooting people with his army gun (violent little guy!). I have been amazed how much things have changed and yet how many things have remained the same. These days we use an iPhone to record images of the family opening presents, not a Super 8 camera. We view the movies on our computers and not on a screen with the images thrown up by a projector. Yet, the images are the same. Family gathering together to share love and faith. We still read the Christmas story from Luke chapter 2 and we still sing the same carols we sang 50 plus years ago. Christmas is still a religious holiday for our family. It is still about the Christ child and God’s love for mankind. It is still about love and hope, about sacrifice and giving. It is a happy holiday.

From our family to yours, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Matt, Alou and Jessie too.

Vlog #9: A long way home.

Here is your latest installment of my video blog. We are up to number nine. This week I share with you my travel plans – I think this is a record for for me. The longest actual flight time, as in time in the air, I have logged in one trip – and a few other little observations.

If the quality seems a tad different, it is because I did this one with the Fuji FinePix X100. I wanted to see if I could make a vlog post with it as it will be the only camera I take on this trip back home. It was a bear to focus without being able to use my monitor. It is really a two man operation when doing video of myself. I would love to be able to tether it to my Apple monitor or my computer.

This just in, PhotoShelter, the photographic gallery, storage and eCommerce site just featured me on their blog today. Check it out, it is titled, “Give The Gift Of Photography: Prints For Everyone On Your List“. Plus lightstalking.com list my article on The Photo Essay as one of the 16 Unmissable Travel Photography Resources for Photographers.