Happy new year to you all! We are already in 2009 in Hong Kong. May we all take even better pictures and enjoy a greater life in the new year.
(Rain and Tear: Late last night, the van I rode back home tore onto the road in the rain but at the red traffic light the driver still dutifully stopped the car, giving me a chance to take a shot of the medley of colours reflected on the windows full of raindrops. There was not enough light so I simply defocused the shot a bit)
An OZ (Australian) friend of mine who took almost five years to travel around the world commented badly on China for its people. She was annoyed by the sly quality of the people she met during her China leg of the trip. Opinionated her comments might be, but there is some truth in it.
I have made regular trips to the Mainland China for some years. There are certainly good people I have met. But a large portion of the people can be summed up into two categories: the-without-morals and the-without-hopes.
(Believe It or Better Not: Two youngsters with their hair dyed in golden colour are selling self-proclaimed medicine for skin problems. News about fake foodstuff and medicine in China are galore. The government ad in the background, “Be a Civilized Citizen, Build a Civilized City”, speaks volumes for the general situation)
It is not that only China has the-without-morals. There are surely a great number of them in the more advanced countries, but in finer attire and with fancier titles for probably even more voracious ulterior motives. The moral dissonance in China is more deafening because there seems to be scant advancement for a fairer and more open society to compensate its fast-tracked economic development. So, people tend to take chances to cheat. It has grown to be kind of a moral plague. It is contagious too: sights of very mature Caucasian men holding the hands of fledgling Chinese women (usually with a great body) have become more common in China. This is not intended in any way about age discrimination. But something is fishy about it nonetheless.
(Agricultural Past: Some twenty years ago, he was probably transporting the goods on a bike or an oxcart. China used to be a big agricultural country. After 30 years of economic reforms, it has jumped to become the fourth largest world economy)
(Traffic Police: The policeman is on duty at a busy road junction. China is already one of biggest world economies and on the rise probably as another superpower. More should be done to improve its governance and government. Without a more fair and open system, a huge economy as China is now could dent the world economy if anything serious about it goes wrong)
Nevin is probably coming back tonight. So, where have you been celebrating the Christmas holiday? Feeling a bit down to be back to work? Here are some more photos of the holiday in Hong Kong to reinforce your holiday mood.
(Stop in the Name of Bus: Nathan Road, the lifeline of Kowloon Peninsula, was partially cordoned off from traffic during the holdiay at night when people were crowding the area near the Victoria Harbour for celebration)
Wouter Brandsma is no stranger among Ricoh camera users. His works are highly regarded by fellow "Ricohans". Located in Holland, Wouter has published many intruguing photos and useful articles on his GX100 and 200. We are in the process of translating one of his articles in Chinese, as a way to better introduce him to the Chinese speaking community. This photo caught Nevin's eye because of the emotional charge in it. The man in a beret is a war veteran having taken part in the real battle. It was also because of the feeling of action, rendered in an emotional way by a typical upper-left-to-lower-right diagonal pattern.
By Wouter Brandsma: The photograph was made at the 64th commemoration of operation Market Garden. See the full story with more photographs here. The RAW file was processed in Adobe Lightroom and converted to B&W.
I really like to use a compact camera since one can easily can blend in with the public. These cameras are very silent, especially in combination with the snap mode or manual focussing. The wide angle lens is superb of the GX200 and I almost never use 50mm or above.
(For further reading on Operation Market Garden, read this)
All photos are taken at Nevin's place...shhhhh...while he is away. His place is warmly aglow with the early sunshine in the morning.
(From top to bottom: a table lamp, clock from Santorini, plant and shadow, crystal ceiling light, a curtain)
May we wish you and your family a Merry Christmas full of love and joy. Christmas is a season of receiving and giving love, especially when this year lots of people are suffering from the financial downturn. If you are lucky enough to be spared a job, we are joyful for you. Even if you not, don't lose heart. You are not alone and this will pass. Hang on, just hang on.
For those who are more lucky at this point of time, may we call upon you to share your love with your family, the people around you and those who are in need. Donate money to a charity fund or do a voluteer work. We are no empty talker. Take Nevin for example, he has been doing voluteer work for two non-profit-making bodies for a good course. He does it on top of his job, family, a tight schedule to practice guitar and manage this site. Whenever and whatever we can afford, lend a helping hand. It will mean a lot to the needy. He knows it intimately because some people helped him out when he was almost driven to despair.
Enjoy you holiday. Again, Merry Christmas to you!
With warmest regards,
Nevin and Co-editor GX GARNERINGS
The immediate family and the closer relatives of the deceased are required to wear some insignias (a while or blue cotton flower or a black swatch) on the chest to mark their mourning for 49 days during which they should refrain from taking part in any celebration. The funeral is officially ended on the seventh day after the burial when some more paper offerings are burnt.
(Passers-by Passing by: Life is an interesting phe-nomenon. Where is this phenomeno leading us?)
Good morning. Morning is a time for exercising. Here in Hong Kong, you will bump into people having morning Tai Chi session in alomst any park. Even some gweilos and gweipos (literally, male and female foreigners ; previously offensive terms but now playful among even the expats) do Tai Chi with local masters in Chater Garden at Central for some mornings. The Hong Kong Tourism Board has partnered with some parties to offer free Tai Chi class to tourists. You may check this out for whether the classes are still available. Otherwise, show up in any park and ask the local Tai Chi exercisers for permission to join.
(Classical Mailboxes: These tin mailboxes were characteristic of the 1970s when the general domestic buildings in Hong Kong did not have a place for mailboxes. I took this shot on the ground floor of a tenement building)
Some weeks ago, I published a post about the tenement buildings in Hong Kong. Most of these old buildings remain in Mongkok, Yaumatei and Shumshuipo on the Kowloon side, with some declared as monuments in Wanchai and Sheung Wan on the Hong Kong Island. Let’s get down (or up?) to the nitty-gritty of these buildings.
In most cases, these tenement buildings are closely packed together from wall to wall, making it possible for residential units to have front and back windows only. Most of them are still poorly managed. There is no proper place even for mailboxes. The communal electrical and TV cables are lined casually in the common areas as you see in the photos below. (Letters are frequently stolen)
A large number of them are of three to four stories while those built in the 1960s have as many stories as eight and, for later ones, higher. But, sorry, you’ve got to walk up the stairs for no lifts are provided, which is, well, the second most appalling fact. What topping the list of appalling facts is: there was no flashing toilet in tenement buildings at first!
This is going to be filthy, mark you: The back section on each floor of a tenement building was used to be a communal kitchen next to which there was a “toilet” where tenants got rid of their waste in a round, wooden “Si Taup” (literally, faeces tower) of 2.5 feet in height. The “Si Taup” has a top opening of 2 feet in diameter. It is covered with a lid when not in use.
(Fire hazard is severe)
The lack of flashing toilet gave rise to the profession of what was known as “Ye Heung Fu” (literally, nightly fragrant ladies) who cleared away the human wastes in containers in which the tenants empty the Si Taup at mid-night. The colloquial term “Ye Heung” is still used as a euphemism for human faeces, and "Si Taup" is playful equivalence of "toilet". (From a higher angle)
A previous discussion on compacts for portraits triggered off the a photographer to say that street shots photograph was for wimps, quoting Norman Parkinson's 'Wimps make bad photographers'. This thought-provoking comment made me write something to share my views on street photography, which is in the process.
Until then, I wish to illustrate an important question first. Let me start by showing you some portrait works of SW Kuo from Taiwan. He wrote to me that there were much left to be desired in the following shots but was brave enough to let me publish them. Typical oriental politeness. My salute to Kuo. He uses a DP1. Despite its CCD of a larger size, I consider the DP1 compact enough to be relevant to the contents of this site. (A portrait taken with Minolta 7000i in my greener days)If we compare Kuo's works with Ye Li's (here and here), also a DP1 user, there is an obvious conclusion which should not be required making: What matters is not the camera or the genre or some bigwig's beliefs but SKILL! Street shots need skill too, just that different genres requires slightly different skills. Maybe some of us really need some excellent street shots to change our (mis-)conception about street shots. We should carry on this discussion on street shots when my writing is done. Some tips on street shots will also be offered.Now, Kuo's portraits and his comments on the DP1. (Note: if you visit Kuo's blog, you will notice that his photographic skill is growing. Congrats, Kuo)
By SW Kuo: Sigma DP1 is my shooting tool on top of my Canons. I was in touch with Sigma when I first used its lenses which I think give a big bang for the bucks. However, this Sigma DP1 is expensive in comparison with other compacts, with a sluggish speed in focusing, data writing and reading, and a slower than desirable lens. So, what on earth was I thinking when I started craving for it?
(This shot was done at a portrait shootout organised by a local photography club. I like the exposure of this image. The model was in a pinkish long dress. The exposure does justice to the pinkish colour so that it does not become whitish. The model has a cute face in a sexy posture)
As a matter fact, I was curious about the Sigma SD14, especially for its Foveon X3 CCD. After the enlightenment of the Sigma DP1, I can safely say that Sigma boasts the unbeatable CCD with its Foveon X3 in the market at present. Of course, prejudice is personal. No understanding will be complete without using the camera itself.
I have been using DP1 for almost six months. I am amazed by the quality colours, details, texture it gives to the images with a APS-size CCD. However, ergonomics-wise, there are improvements to be made. Another point to note is that the RAW files give the best results only with the proprietary Sigma Photo Pro. DP1 is one of the best shooting tools though. I hope that Sigma will be able to improve the ergonomics of heir to DP1 to make it more enjoyable for photographers.
If you're interested, Kuo's flickr page is here.
The following photos were done during the shootout with Cristi, a Ricoh camera user from London. He lent me his GRD which was set to the B&W setting at ISO 1600. As a GX200 user, I found myself fumbling for the zoom button without success. As I shoot primarily in colours and seldom shoot in such a low night situation, I was quite unaccustomed to the setting until almost ten shutter clicks or so. After the shootout, I agreed with Cristi that the ISO1600 was exceptionally useful in such a situation for B&W; he simply skipped ISO 400/800. The noise gives a wonderful film-like grainy look to the images which I like a lot.
A brief note about the Temple Street night market: it starts from Yaumatei to Jordon. If you walk leisurely without stopping, it will take you some 30 minutes to finish it. The lesser known facts about the market are the porn shops alongside the walkway and the Nepalese / Thai shops selling exotic Asian items. Look for them not on the main market aisle but along the walkway on both sides of the street. If you try to take photos involving the porn shops, please be forewarned that they are mostly operated by gangsters.