This week’s part of our #ProCameraTravel campaign is an interview with Lars Wibranski, who solely used his iPhone and ProCamera 8 to document his latest trip to Thailand.
Hello Lars, please tell us a little bit about yourself
Sure. I am based in Mannheim, Germany, and this is where I live and work as a freelance communications designer. I am 45 years of age, like to stay on the move, enjoy contact with people, traveling and cooking.
Creative work plays an essential role in my life, which also reflects in my job. Be it computer, camera or craft work – these are things I am deeply interested in.
You just came back from a trip throughout Thailand. Why did you choose Thailand? What is it about that country that fascinates you?
As long as I can remember, I was fascinated by Asia and Southeast Asia. Thailand is a country with a very diverse culture, landscape and population. Traveling there is uncomplicated, and almost everything is easily accessible.
The Northwest is mountainous (Himalayan offshoots) and relatively cold, compared to the rest of the country. Various indigenous groups are living in forested regions with a characteristic dry jungle. Because of extensive cave systems, there is a lot to discover in this area. For many tourists, the onward journey following the Golden Triangle to Laos, is a favored travel route.
Central Thailand offers various ancient ruin cities, and national parks.
Bangkok is by far Thailand’s biggest metropolis (10-12 million inhabitants), which more and more attracts people even from rural regions. It’s a city that never sleeps and that is always good for a surprise.
The South of the country is characterized by beautiful beaches and islands. Although it’s a bit touristy and overflown at times, you should still be able to discover a wonderful seashore or an island.
Another aspect of Thailand that I really like, is the people: They are very polite, courteous, and always willing to help. By now some Thais have become good friends of mine and I have visited their families.
What places/regions can you recommend?
I’ve been to Thailand three times now, and I can recommend the Northeast of the country to anybody who is interested in nature and likes to travel away from mass tourism. Beautiful landscapes, caves, waterfalls… My favorite spot in the North is the Guesthouse Cave Lodge, which lies in the midst of nature. The Northwest in general is not as touristy, either. Places like Nong Khai, idyllically situated by the Mekong, still are fairly unknown.
Another insider’s tip is the island Koh Jum, which sticks out with particularly splendid beaches.
Who really wants to find the heart of Thai culture should travel off the beaten tracks. If you are open to it, this is where it is easy to get in contact with the locals and their culture. Knowing at least some Thai words is useful in those situations, as English isn’t understood everywhere in the rural regions.
Why was the iPhone your camera of choice on that trip?
The iPhone is a very good travel companion. I really enjoyed having such a handy, simple, and multifunctional gadget. The decisive factor was the combination of the iPhone’s hardware (good lens) and the professional features of ProCamera, on the software side of things. That sealed the deal for me. Looking back at the journey and the photos, I have to say that the HDR feature is a favorite of mine. Another benefit of using a smartphone, is the capability to instantly send photos back home to family and friends. In Thailand, it’s very easy and inexpensive to buy prepaid sim cards (available in every SevenEleven)…
On top of that, nearly every Café and Guesthouse offers free W-Lan. This was a good opportunity for me to search for local travel information and book a room for the next night. Downloading maps for offline usage (e.g. citymaps2go) put me in a position to roam through new places and never get lost. When I was not sure about the way back, I could always have a look at my iPhone. That provided me with freedom and security – and it was way less conspicuous than big folding maps.
What really surprised me, was the fact, that I even started reading books on my smartphone. It’s super convenient to have everything on-hand when traveling.
Which generation iPhone did you use at that time?
An iPhone 5s.
What challenges did you face using an iPhone as your only camera?
A big challenge for me was the relatively short battery runtime. I charged the iPhone no less than one or two times a day. Charging my phone, when taking a break in a Café, became a daily routine for me. To be on the safe side, I highly recommend using a power bank to gain additional battery life.
When shooting a lot, the memory space of your phone may become an issue. I resolved it by uploading entire sets of photos to my Dropbox from time to time.
Having no optical zoom was a pity sometimes, but it also was a welcome challenge. Over time I really got accustomed to the lens resp. the focal length.
From past experience, I was used to just leave my smartphone in the pocket at nighttime. With the Night Camera mode in ProCamera, that is something I’m about to change. In the future I will give it a try from time to time, to see how those nightly captures turn out. The „blue hour“, the twilight period after the sun has set, generally is a great time to shoot.
How did you first get in contact with mobile photography?
I have to admit that it was ProCamera that brought me to mobile photography. I was really surprised when I saw the first photos taken with the app, especially the HDR captures. With my photographs, I want to collect interesting motifs, strange scenes, compositions and structures – rather than the typical holiday moments. It’s the ordinary, the everyday things, in foreign cultures, that interests me the most.
Now that you are back home in Germany, what do you like to photograph here?
When photographing I am not committed to a specific theme or subject. But most of the time I find myself shooting architecture, landscape and street. I like to find abstract compositions, patterns and structures.
As you journey, how did people react, when you were shooting with your smartphone?
It’s unobtrusive, and especially the iPhone is very popular in Thailand. Therefore you don’t attract a lot of attention.
Outside the urban areas, people are really open to tourists and oftentimes don’t mind a quick smartphone photo, when you ask them.
Did you utilize any other apps oder gadgets on your journey?
I solely used ProCamera on this trip. Before the trip, I had a look at some other pieces of software, but I always came back to ProCamera. I enjoy the user-friendliness, the ease of use, the intuitive handling and the various features. It’s great being able to quickly and easily shoot a scene, but still know, that you are able to set up things manually, when needed.
For underwater photos, I used a waterproof housing.
What features of ProCamera were the most important ones for you on this trip?
In a lot of situations, I switched to vividHDR in ProCamera with which I was able to achieve very good results. Particularly the rendition of shiny gold tones, that can be found on many temples in Thailand, was spectacular.
Being able to separately set focus and exposure is something I don’t want to miss.
When using my iPhone underwater, in that special housing, the white balance and tint adjustment was a crucial factor.
For me, like many others, underwater photography is something totally new. You have to tell us more about it soon! Thanks for the interview.
Sure, I would be happy to do so. My pleasure.