Covering the Anti-Coup Protests in Thailand with the Nikon DF By Lee Craker

Anti-Coup d'état protest, Bangkok, Thailand

Covering the Anti-Coup Protests in Thailand with the Nikon DF

By Lee Craker

Covering the Anti-Coup Protests in Thailand with the Nikon Df

On the 25th of May, 2014 I covered the Anti-Coup demonstrations in central Bangkok Thailand. Thailand had experienced a Coup D’état 3 days earlier, and this was one of the first gatherings of people to show disapproval of the coup.

Using the Nikon Df on an important journalism assignment was literally a last-minute decision. I had arrived in Bangkok on the 23rd to teach a street photography workshop, and in my camera bag for the trip I chose 2 bodies and two lenses. I travel to Bangkok from my home in rural Thailand by public van to avoid the insane traffic in Bangkok and traveling light is a necessity. I chose my workhorse D3s and the Df as bodies, and a Nikkor 24-70 f/2.8 along with the Nikkor 28-300 f/3.5-5.6 for lenses. The Nikkor 28-300 has all but replaced my Nikkor 70-200, it is a sharp capable lens, but that is another story for another day.

On the 24th, the day of my workshop I chose the D3s to shoot with as we were starting before sunrise and I wanted to have a fast focusing body for the morning darkness. I ended up carrying the D3s and the 28-300 lens for about 8 hours that day. I need to explain I am 62 years old and have been a professional for many years. Carrying two pro bodies and lenses has taken a toll on my body. After a day of carrying the D3s for 10 hours, I have had it. My back is sore and my neck is also feeling the pain of the heavy body. So on the morning of the 25th I decided to shoot with the Nikon Df for the day. For the reasons stated above, these days I carry one camera and one lens for fast moving assignments. I’ll leave carrying a bag of equipment that you may or may not need to the younger, stronger guys. I’ll rely on a good camera, experience, and maybe a little luck to get the job done.

I had two concerns in choosing the Df for this assignment. 1) Would it focus fast enough in critical situations? and 2) If it got knocked around would it hold up? As for #1, the Nikon Df does not focus as fast as the lightning fast D3s, but it did focus fast enough. I also knew that I did not have 9FPS available to me and on this particular day I never needed a rapid-fire machine gun of a camera. My other concern was durability. When in tight situations, when I was being shoved around by the crowd, I protected my camera as if I was carrying my Leica and had no problems at all. This is another distinct advantage of carrying one camera, it is in your hands and not at your side so it suffers much less abuse.

I have to report that the Nikon Df did a fantastic job on the 25th. It did everything I needed it to. Except for me being out of position, I did not miss any shots or walk away feeling I would have done any better job with any other camera. After this experience I am not afraid to use the Df as a journalism camera, when I need to.

One of the reports I filed is here:

The following are some shots I made with the Nikon Df at the anti-coup protests in Bangkok, Thailand, May 25, 2014

Anti-Coup d'état, Bangkok, Thailand

Anti-Coup d'état protest, Bangkok, Thailand

Anti-Coup d'état, Bangkok, Thailand

Anti-Coup d'état, Bangkok, Thailand

Anti-Coup d'état, Bangkok, Thailand

Anti-Coup d'état protest, Bangkok, Thailand

Anti-Coup d'état protest, Bangkok, Thailand


News Images:

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  1. Your picture don’t tell the truth in my country(Thailand) .You just funny for take picture

  2. As images, they are great. As journalism, they are terrible.

    Mr Craker has mentally applied a western-liberalism stereotype and then used his photography skills to find and manipulate images that match that stereotype. The images have nothing to do with what’s actually going on in Thailand.

    • Peter, you obviously don’t have a clue. These images are not manipulated they were taken of real life situation. The restraint o f both the protesters and the police speak volumes about the Thai people!

      • Nope, I don’t have a clue. I have only lived in Thailand for 25 years and have friends on all sides of the debate.

        Manipulation is a matter of definition. The photographer could have chosen to present the soldier photos in the bright natural colours as captured or as dark, moody, high-contrast “1984” style images. He chose the latter because it suits his assertion of repression.

        • I have to agree with Peter. I am an American who has lived in 6 countries. The last 6 years have been in China and I have spent the last 5 months in Bangkok. These photos portray one aspect of many political actions in play in the Kingdom of Thailand. The protests that occurred after the coup by the army which is sworn to the crown was a result of the political parties corruption and violent infighting. The army stepped in, ostensibly not by its’ own directive, as General Prayuth Chan-ocha was “blessed” by the King a few days after the coup was declared. There were months of planning and consultation that must have occurred. This was no Bolivian State of Siege and what has resulted is calm and the removal of private army caches of weapons in the provinces. In my view the world news has not portrayed events with respect to the context the Kingdom and politics of Thailand. The photos are good for what they portray which are a small group of anti-coup protestors in central Bangkok. The protests were much larger and violent during the democratic party infighting that occurred when the PDRC under Suthep shut down Bangkok. Life is normal even during the “coup” unless you frequent government buildings or known protest sites. Everything else is as the Thai’s would say is “same same”. I have photographed during the original PRDC protests on my iphone and RX and during the coup and the photos are very different. I may submit them, given I have the time, and that they are accepted.

          • Hello Jess, Greg and Peter, Thanks for the comments and conversation. I did not get into the events of May 25th, or my style in making images of soldiers, which I have done for years, because this is a camera blog and thus limited my discussion to the Nikon Df. Since the comments are leading well beyond that I’ll say a few shote words. The photographs of May 25th are NOT a statement of current events in Thailand, which are complicated, they are photos of a small protest gathering on the 25th of May in central Bangkok. Actually on that day there was not allot of drama, so I made a few shots of the situation and then concentrated on documenting individuals. (my work is posted here: ) In particular the soldiers. I have an affinity for soldiers having made thousands of images of soldiers in the last few years, and was honored by having some of my Warrior portraits on display at the Imperial War Museum in London My treatment of soldiers photographically is to usually show them as warriors, which most soldiers see themselves as, tough, duty bound, hard when needed. I very much liked the soldiers on this day, they were disciplined, and courteous while doing what they were instructed to do, and much like soldiers I have photographer in Iraq. I also like and respect the Thai people, on this day they made their voices heard and then after a few hours left without any drama. Thailand is calm, it is a peaceful country, and I enjoy living here. Thai politics can be heated and many people get emotional, but on the whole, Thailand is not a place where there is much violence, and aside from one or two non violent pushing matches, there was no violence on May 25th at all.

          • Thanks Lee, for that clarification. I apologise if my initial comments were a bit harsh. It’s just that I’ve become tired of foreign journalists sensationalising what’s happening in Thailand and boiling down a very complex situation to “democracy verses dictatorship”. There wasn’t much democracy before and there’s not much dictatorship now. When I saw your first image, I lumped you into the “sensationalist media” bucket. I realise now that your appreciation of the situation is much deeper.

            I just took a look through some of your other galleries on your website. You have some excellent work. I love some of the people shots in markets. We share some similar interests:

  3. The title shot is prize-winning. The decision to go with black and white is inspired.

    I love my Leica but it would have been tough to focus under these conditions and a wide-aperture Summilux or Summicron, used wide, would not have got all subjects and their relationships effectively.

  4. Today is D-Day. You can thank the American government for helping liberate Europe today. Too many lazy thoughts translated into words in this thread. I’m going to do my best to be a little more patient and understanding today.

  5. Thank you all very much for the many the kind words. It is very humbling to read such nice words and the comments here are inspiring. What I do as a photographer is make images to share with others and when people like the work it lights a fire under me. When I read these posts I want to shoot more, and make a more powerful statement. So you see your, comments are so valuable, they inspire the photographer, and I believe this is an important part of the process, because I do shoot for me yes, but more importantly I shoot for you, so you can share the experience and (hopefully) understand what is going on. So I owe all of you a huge thank you, I am very grateful. – Lee

  6. Americans should not travel outside of USA. The word hates Americans and wishes them dead. And with your DF you are asking for it. Get out, come back to America, we have plenty of poor people to photograph with strong pictures.

    • ???….are you being sarcastic or serious? If you are being serious Steve I know it’s your site but as a request please delete this type of talk on your site. I’m not American and it doesn’t matter where we are from. This is about people from all over the world who enjoy photography.

    • To the contrary, way too many Americans have never been abroad. Go out there, travel the world, learn about it first hand. It`s way better and different than Fox TV portraits it.
      I assume you know that the percentage of passport holders is among the lowest in the USA when compared to any other so called first world country.

    • I have traveled much of the world, and hopefully will see much more as time goes on. I have to disagree, Everywhere I have been I have been shown much kindness. Even in countries that disagree with American political views are aware that the American people are not the American government and have extended their hands in warm friendship to me. I encourage everyone to travel. Especially young people. The more you travel the more you realize that we are all the same. Cultures are different but we are all human. We all share that which makes us human. I agree there is much to document in America, and I encourage people to do so, and will applaud their efforts. For me however, I will always want to see what is on the other side of that mountain, to explore and taste the joy of adventure and the wonderful variety of culture in the world.

  7. Mr Craker,

    You sure know how to deliver the goods. These are impressive images. Very nicely done.

  8. I read this article on my phone yesterday and had to log onto the computer today to see it again large size.

    It has to be one of if not the best I’ve read/seen. It is intersestingly written, concise and has the right mix of passion and gear but most of all it has these pro-level photojournalistic images. Very strong work indeed.

    It is no surprise the Df produces this quality of result, what is interesting is how well it performed in the hectic circumstances. Fantastic camera and more importantly great in the right hands.

  9. People, Angst, forced Puppets is what I see, from both sides…
    The photos are strong, love the ipad shot and the tough soldier look…

  10. Great stuff. The sinister faces of the military portray the menace a coup has for joe public.
    And the iPads show the typical Facebook generation with the usual stuff even during a sensitive time such as this.
    Brilliant camera too

  11. Great shots.
    But when you see people in the crowd pressed up against the riot police using iPads (!) to take pictures (photo #1), well, it seems that we are too delicate with our more capable equipment.

    Best regards

  12. This is some of the best photography I have ever seen-I don’t know how he does this with Nikon. The sharpness looks like Leica 50mm Summilux asph!

    • Can’t believe this was done with nikon? Some of the best photographs and some of the most beautiful and iconic have been shot with Nikon and not Leica and relatively there’s not much difference to the end viewer in regards sharpness or anything which could differentiate .
      Nikon is the classic photojournalist in camera, seen any of don mccullin’s shots?

    • And as an added benefit, the Nikon will work while the Leica is endlessly in the shop for REPAIR. Thats why professional journalists use Nikon.

    • “I don’t know how he does this with Nikon.”


      Yeah, how ’bout that, eh?

      More famous photojournalism has been shot with Nikon cameras than any other brand over the past half-century. Fact.

      The main reason for this is that when the F arrived in 1959 it was unequivocally the best SLR in the world in terms of lens quality, lens selection, system capability, and durability.

      Leica never made an SLR that could touch the F series cameras, and completely missed the shifting tide that saw photojournalists embrace SLRs over rangefinders.

    • Tell that to Steve McCurry and his colleagues at Magnum or Nat Geo, haha.

      I think this site (and others) breeds the idea that nothing comes close to Leica IQ. But the fact is that most photojournalists, wildlife photographers, landscape shooters, etc. shoot Nikon or Canon. Their top lenses are some of the best glass ever made. Leica lenses are incredible, but manual focus is for hobbyists who have the luxury of missing the occasional shot.

      • Correction: This site does NOT in ANY WAY breed an idea that Leica is superior to others. My last two “Camera’s of the Year” were Olympus and Sony and I gave a RAVE review of the Df (when most attacked me for doing so). Never has a Leica made my camera of the year. If you want to get technical, a Leica M with a 50 APO will beat the IQ of a Df for sharpness across the frame or overall pop, no matter the lens used. BUT it doesn’t matter as only photo geeks will notice, not the real photo viewing public. They could care less what camera or lens was used as long as the work stands on its own, and Lee’s does 100%. The Nikon Df is a sweet camera.

        • True, I have been a Nikon shooter for decades and don’t own a single Leica product. Steve, you have a great blog and I bought by Df largely based on your review. No regrets, it is a fantastic tool. Sony, Olympus, Leica, Nikon… it’s all good!

        • Thank you Steve. One of the reasons I chose to write Steve and share is Mr. Huff is unbiased, and totally honest in his opinions. I’m not a real gear head so I rely on this site and others when I need something new, and I’m grateful to Steve for taking huge amounts of his time to do the research so I don’t have to. I firmly believe that a camera and lens are just tools to record an idea, a vision, and make a statement. For me it has much to do with familiarity of the equipment so I can use the camera intuitively, without having to worry too much about the process. When I talk to people about my work I talk about the images, and many times cannot even remember what equipment was used. I felt what was happening May 25th was important, and what did not happen (violence) was also important. The equipment used by those of us that were there to capture the event – not so much. Thanks again – Lee

        • Sorry, what I said wasn’t fair or correct. You’re right that you are pretty balanced when it comes to brands and systems.

          For what it’s worth, I have bought several cameras and lenses based on your reviews and I have been very happy with everything, particularly with my X100 that I haven’t even bothered to upgrade because I am so satisfied with it!

      • Today it’s 25 years since Tankman, Tienanmen Square. IIRC, Nikon FE2, telelens, severely cropped shot captured hanging out of a hotel room window. A great little camera, as there are many others, of other brands as well of course.

    • Ignorance and prejudice will prevail, as always.

      Great images Lee, you seem to have caught the emotion of the whole thing. Thanks for sharing!

    • It’s not the brand of camera that makes a great photo. We should all know this by now. Nikon, Leica, Olympus, Pentax, Canon etc, who really cares?

  13. The photo of the woman flipping the military off (first in the sequence) is really interesting. It’s awkward in the sense that the “tourists” with their tablets are recording the situation, but aren’t taking the situation very seriously. There’s a military cameraman – taking photos for who knows what reason (is he documenting the peaceful response of his fellow soldiers? Will the photos later be used to prosecute those protesting?). The older woman pushing against the shield. Lots of stories in this image – love it.

  14. Excellent images, particularly the penultimate shot (also your title shot) of the stand-off between the troops and the people, which was very powerful and evocative of classic reportage photography.

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