Vn19 Assignment Notebook

Q: What are the exact dates?
A: January 12 to 22, 2019.

Q: What’s the cost?
A: Due to Santana’s long history with Glen, our per-person first-in pricing for this 11-day Cycling Cruise on the Mekong starts at $5695. Premium stateroom categories cost more. Lowest pricing in every category is limited to the first few rooms. Booking early is easy and RISK FREE.

Q: What’s “Early-In” Pricing?
A: To manage the risk of chartering entire cruise ships, couples who commit early are rewarded with discounts of up to $1,600 per stateroom. Lowest pricing in every category is limited to the first few rooms. Booking early is easy and RISK FREE.

Q: What about tipping?
A: Jan and I don’t accept tips. Our comprehensive “cruise extras” fee of $450 per person covers port fees and a long list of off-ship activities, admissions, and guides. Shipboard gratuities of $150 per person includes valet bike handling and a wash-and-fold laundry.

Q: Are some staterooms better than others?
A: Certainly. All of the Indochine II’s staterooms are identically spacious (~193 square foot) floor plans with scenic (~43 square foot) walk-out balconies. The rooms are air-conditioned and soundproofed. The comfortable euro-king bed can be remade into a pair of full-width twins. Rooms on the top deck provide better views over docks and levees.

Q: Upper Deck Balcony vs Upper Deck Terrace?
A: Four of the Upper Deck Staterooms at the corners of the ship have an additional large window. In addition to the (~43 square foot) private balcony they have a large (~63 square foot) Terrace to enjoy.

Q: What’s the next step?
A: To lock-in availability and the lowest pricing on a RISK-FREE basis, reserve your space through our PayPal portal. PayPal’s secure website is open 24 hours per day, accepts all major credit cards, and automatically adjusts for remaining stateroom availability. Reserving your spot is RISK-FREE and has many advantages. In each category the prime location staterooms will be assigned in the same order as the time stamp of your booking. Second, early-in pricing is limited to the first few rooms in each category. Most important, and a near-immediate sell-out of this first time event is anticipated.

Q: What’s the Risk-Free Booking Policy?
A: When you use your credit card and book through PayPal, we’ll give you 14 risk-free days to think it over and clear your schedule. If you change your mind, send an email to within 14 days to cancel the PayPal transaction and obtain a full refund.

Q: When do we need to decide on the PreTour?
A: We won’t need your PreTour decision until next fall, and we’ll send you the information on flight dates just before tickets go on sale with your favorite airlines.

Q: What if we change our minds after 14 days?
A: Because full-boat charters are binding, non-cancelable contracts, Jan and I will only enter into this charter based on your confirmed-through-PayPal commitment. In effect, we undertake a huge risk by guaranteeing full payment on your behalf. After entering into this obligation, we cannot afford for you to back out—for any reason. This is no different than the clear written policy that existed for all except one of Santana’s prior chartered-ship cruises (this Mekong charter will be our 32nd). While preparing for our 2009 Danube event I neglected to include the following proviso. That’s the year a group of friends, after verbally agreeing to pay in full and then stringing Jan along for many months, decided to cancel their plans. Lesson learned! Here it is (again) in writing:

Santana’s acceptance of your registration and non-refundable deposit for this event is subsequent to your agreement to pay the remaining balance in full. While Santana allows limited refunds on rallies and tours, Santana’s cruises are non-cancelable and non-transferable. When the possibility of paying yet not attending is unacceptable, Jan and I recommend Travel Guard trip insurance. For the past 20 years hundreds of our clients have relied on Travel Guard coverage without complaint. An informative application will be mailed with your invoice; and further information is available online.

Q: Have you ever relaxed your refund policy?
A: Jan and I have willingly resold a number of fully prepaid staterooms for a fee of $500 per person—which was waived when a vacating couple found someone to take their place. When there has been more than one pending resell request, those who paid-in-full earliest had their space resold next. Using this non-guaranteed method (which is grossly inferior to trip insurance) Jan and I have cheerfully refunded over $250,000 in otherwise non-refundable and non-transferable cruise fares.

Q: How are staterooms assigned?
A: In any category all rooms are identical. Using the PayPal timestamp, those who reserve earliest get staterooms closest to the prime areas of the ship, which Bill and Jan both prefer. If friends desire a pair of adjacent staterooms the timestamp of the first reservation determines the location of both rooms. In short, we will not take requests for specific room numbers. Those who book early obtain prime positioning.

Q: How do we get to and from the tour?
A: You fly into Ho Chi Minh City’s SGN International Airport and return from Siem Reap’s REP International Airport. Further details will be provided in Event Update Emails.

Q: Are rental bikes available?
A: Yes, a sturdy lightweight rental bike with upright bars and controls can be rented for $300. If you own a nice road bike that fits, bringing bringing it with you is relatively easy and inexpensive. We’ll send full instructions on flying with your bike in an Event Update Email.

Q: I’m a single passenger… If I go solo, what’s the cost? Can you help me find a roommate? 
A: Yes & Yes. The Single Supplement is only 50% of the second passenger fare. Pam can help you find a roommate if you’d like, simply send her an email with your phone number and she’ll be happy to give you a call.

Q: What if we have more questions?
A: The easiest way to get any further info is by phoning Jan McCready, who is happy to answer your questions.

Toll Free number(800) 334-6136 ext. 116
Overseas callers+1 (909) 596-7570
If you get the recording, please leave a phone number. Jan will return calls ASAP — even over the Holidays.

Q: I can’t get PayPal to process my payment, can you help?
A: The easiest way to get help with PayPal is be emailing Matt, who is happy to answer your questions. Be sure to provide him with a phone number to call you at if you need more in depth help.

A simple lighting setup with speedlights & white seamless backdrop

A question on the Tangents forum asked about setting up and using two SB-910 speedlights against white seamless. It’s a topic we’ve covered in a previous article – a simple lighting setup for studio photography – but it might be good to revisit this again.

The article on that simple lighting setup with two speedlights, explained our choice of camera and flash settings in detail, so we’ll only briefly cover it this time. Still, a different explanation from a different angle might trigger new ideas and questions.

The pull-back shot of the setup we used during a personal workshop at my studio. Before we jumped into using the studio gear, I wanted to show that with a minimalist setup using speedlights, we could accomplish similar results (sans the higher output and fast recycling of the studio gear.)

The shoot-though umbrella acts as a “light bomb” (as I’ve heard this described elsewhere.) This floods the place with light, as light is scattered all around and bounced off the walls. Setting the flash to full manual output – (TTL wouldn’t make sense here) – we metered the light as f/5.6 for where she was standing.

Then we added the background light. You can see this speedlight on the light-stand to the left of the white backdrop. I used a black foamie thing to flag the light so there was no light directly spilling on her from the speedlight itself. The white backdrop does reflect a lot of light back.

A battery pack on both speedlights mean the recycling time isn’t too bad. With the main speedlight dumping full output, it does take a few seconds to recycle – this just gets slower and slower as you keep shooting, unless you have a battery pack there to help.

  • camera settings:  1/125 @ f/5.6 @ 200 ISO

Metering for the light on the white seamless backdrop, was done via the camera’s histogram . We dialed the power up until the histogram completely bunched up on the right-hand side of the histogram. This ensured that the white seamless would be rendered as pure white for most of the background.

Using just one speedlight for the background does mean that the background isn’t evenly lit from left-to-right. You can see in the top-most photograph that there are areas in the background which isn’t pure white. So this would need some work in Photoshop to get that background the way you want to … or, you could use another speedlight on the right. There is a certain limitation in paring the equipment down to a minimum – as in this example, you may have to correct a few things afterwards in Photoshop to achieve the ideal.


A video tutorial to help you with flash photography

If you like learning by seeing best, then this video tutorial will help you with understanding flash photography techniques and concepts. While not quite hands-on, this is as close as we can get to personal instruction. Check out these and other video tutorials and online photography workshops.


Related articles


Photo gear (or equivalents) used in this photo session


A little bit of homework

Using Photoshop, what would be the simplest ways of removing the less-than-white areas in the background, turning it into white?


Filed Under: Anastasia, off-camera flash, studio photographyTagged With: lighting setup, photography lighting setup


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