Saturday, 13 December 2008

Morning Has Broken

Saturday.  The leaves have been awaken at the first ray of sun.  Good morning from Hong Kong!

R0011128 (Medium) R0011125 (Medium) R0011126 (Medium)

Friday, 12 December 2008

Acquired-gears-In-Deficiency Syndrome

R0011608 (Medium)

Let me be straightforward: How many cameras do you own?

The Sydrome

I own several, including a Ricoh, two Minoltas (the 7000i not working now), three Olys (one film P&S, two free bank gifts), a Polaroid and some PC124343 (Medium)lens, flashes and accessories. As those gears are acquired over a period of almost two decades, I am at a relatively early stage of what I call the Acquired-gears-In-Deficiency Syndrome, or AgIDS. Personal encounters and forum browsing show that 99.9% of the photographer population is infected:

"How did you do the motion look in a photo? I can’t do it with my 450D." (Is the dial on my friend’s 450D glued to P mode?)

"I own a LX3 and have just ordered a G10." (Does he know that LX3 can actually take photos? A typical terminal case.)

"How do you spot-meter?" (But the user is talking about his high-end DSLR!)

A novice using an expensive camera asked: "Why does the LCD of my GRDII flicker when pointing to the TV? Is that normal?" (That’s not normal in any sense!)

"I’ve being using GX200 for some months and just found that there is a snapshot mode!" (This is a near terminal case.)

"I am new to photography and am hoping to buy the 4D. Any suggestion?" (Okay, you wish to buy gears which outgrows your skills at the moment so that they can last longer. Well, the other day I saw a motorist on an expensive, high-powered two-wheeled Harley with a Learner’s License on it. I gasped: First of all, is it a manageable learning tool for a novice?)

The Cure R0011619 (Small)Unfortunately, the sickness is incurable. The only way to make the infected feel less painful is to continue the endless hunting and buying. So, here comes the question:


(Keep shopping)

ANSWERS: If you buy stuff online:

1)try this:

2)try pre-ordering with dealers

If you buy at a shop:

3) Cheap prices make strange bedfellows: Some locals in the online community arrange meetups to do the purchase together; or as I did, ask if you could join forces with prospective buyers in the office

4) Come to Hong Kong or go to Shenzhen: Take for example, a grey market G10 is selling for HK$2,740 (around US$343). A proper one with a one-year-warranty is selling for about HK$3,000; a proper GX200 for HK$3,470 (some two weeks ago; now is with a 15% Christmas discount). If you know your way, go to Huaqianglu in Shenzhen (China’s city at Hong Kong’s doorstep). I bought a Light Sphere at a very, very low price there.

R0011622 (Medium)

5) Talk till they drop: Bargain your way out until the sales people drop the price. I have some experience in bargaining in the context of Hong Kong. Give me some time to write them. I will include some useful Cantonese to make you sound like a local when you shop here. You may also see if my tactics suit where you live. Until tomorrow.

(Shop till you drop)

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Important Note from the Editor: A Call for Charity Subscription


Who will shelter them from the chill of night Who will comfort them shine a warming light Who will kiss soft cheeks show them it's alright Who will guide young minds teach them wrong from right

Children crying who will end their plight Children dying Who will hold them tight

The Children ~ Robert Hermann

Dear readers,

A personal friend of mine has just written to me in his capacity as Ambassador of the LivingHope Children Foundation (LHCF) to appeal for donations. I have his permission to publish his letter here so that more innocent children can receive help:


(For donation: Please click banner below)

topJust a short description of LHCF and my relation with the organisation. I have been visiting the orphanages at Bejing and Shijiachuang from time to time since 2006. As an ambassador of LHCF, I feel an urge to tell you about what we do in the hope that you may make contribution as well. Our vision is to provide a home where they (the children) do not have a home and hope where they do not have hope. Our mission is to advance the welfare, education, and employment opportunities of orphans and disadvantaged children in Asia (our initial focus is China). We set up warm and loving orphanages or "homes” for orphans, abandoned children, and in some cases, children with special needs. For your information, all our directors, advisors, ambassadors travel to china on our own financial means, not from charity funds.

LivingHope Children Foundation is a registered charitable non-profit organization, which can be searched from Hong Kong Government Inland Revenue Department’s website.

Be a cheerful giver : )

Merry Christmas to you and your family

Warm Regards, Philip Chang Ambassador of LHCF


Every penny counts. Thank you.


Dragon and Marriage

R0011049 (Medium)

In an exhibition of embroidery I visited some weeks ago, apart from the tiger theme, there was a theme on dragon.  To the Chinese, the dragon not only symbolizes bravery, power and prestige but is also esteemed as an auspicious creature.  In the Ancient Book of Changes the dragon conjures up the highest aspiration and perfection, full of life and enthusiasm, soaring into the clouds, mysterious and lofty.

R0011062 (Medium)(A tradition new bed made ready for the newly-weds.  The character on the drape is "Double Happiness")

The last but most interesting theme was marriage.  In the Chinese tradition, the new bed is of great importance in a wedding.  On the auspicious day selected according to the lunar calendar, which is a couple of days preceding the wedding, the new bed is moved to the right position by a man of good luck.  The position must be calculated to match the Eight Diagrams figures for the bride's and groom's dates of birth.  The bed is forbidded to be placed vis-a-vis the sharp angles of tables or cabinets.

Afterwards, the bed sheets are arranged by a lady with a big extended family.  She puts on the bed wedding sweets, dried lychees, red beans, green beans and two red packets.

When the bed is set, no one is allowed on it, especially widows and divorcees.  Babies are of exception, however, for fecundity reason.

GRDII, GX200, R8 and G600: Good Design Award 2008

To keep it on record, and just in case you haven't heard about it and wish to know the long and short of it, here you are:

The Good Design Award of Japan is one of the world's three prestigious industrial design awards, the other two being Germany's IF and Red Dot Award. GRDII won the highest Gold Award while GX200, R8 and G600 won the Good Design Award. There are a total of 29 photographic tools given the award for 2008, among which four are Ricoh's. award
That was really an achievement. Well done, Ricoh's designers. Next time, when you carry around your Ricoh camera, there is another feature to boost about: the design. (Yes, unrelated to photography. This is something on top of photography)

In parallel, GX200 and R8 have won a GQ Select Design Award given to 10 digital items by a GQ Magazine in Taiwan.

GRDII: Gold Good Design Award
(Among the Best 15 selected from 3,023 entries)

Designer's Comment:
We want the GR series, which has earned a broad base of supporters since launch, to remain an effective tool for expressive photographers. For this reason, we think it's important that each generation retain the aspects that people have grown familiar with while incorporating new features and refinements in the details, for easier and more enjoyable shooting, so that we can offer an increasingly polished instrument. Avoiding unfounded updates, ensuring key elements remain intact, and taking a hard look at the aspects to refine are elements in an orthodox approach to refining products, and they are essential for successful product development.

Jury's verdict:
In the digital camera market, where new products appear in rapid section, this series has always aimed for long-lived design with the high-end amateur users in mind. Ricoh doesn't want its cameras to become mere commodities. I appreciate Ricoh's effort to lengthen the life of their products from an industrial designing standpoint.

Off Topic (OT): Science Journal Uses Brothel Ad for Cover

Pardon me for being off topic but this is definitely eye-opening: A respected German research institute wanted Chinese classical texts to adorn its journal, something beautiful and elegant, to illustrate a special report on China. Instead, it got a racy flyer extolling the lusty details of stripping housewives in a brothel.
The characters go like this:
We pay dearly to hire the ladies to serve daytime guests
Two popular pimps (KK and Ga Mei) joins forces to offer you young ladies
There are northern ladies with gorgeous movements
Also are there young housewives with hot bodies
All charming things are to serve you right away
The news report from the Independent is here.
(Read through to the last paragraph for a tip on tattooing next time in Hong Kong:) )

Just Released: GX200 Firmware v.1.20

This version of firmware modifies the following phenomenon: When you playback a 1:1 image in the playback mode, the small window may not move to the right edge in the position display window that is shown in the right corner in the LCD.
Unfortunately, Ricoh has not rectified the problem with RAW images which show a dataless black stripe in certain post-processing programmes.
The firmware can be downloaded here:

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Let There Be Light

R0011391 (Medium) (Nature's Dialogue: This was shot in Nathan Road, the main thoroughfare in Kowloon, Hong Kong. I turned on the marco for this one. Some passers-by mocked me with their mystified looks about what photos could be made out of a modest roadside flower. This shot is only possible in autumn. During any other time of the year, the sun would have been too high or strong for this.)

A friend of mine who runs a unique boutique hotel in Bali travelled to Hong Kong for several times. She was badly impressed by the sultry summer weather here. Poor thing, it couldn’t be more wrong: summer is absolutely not the season to visit Hong Kong, except maybe for business.

R0011003 (Medium) (Sitting Out: The low rising autumn sun in the morning brings out interesting shapes and shadows. The man left immediately after this shot, probably having found my shooting annoying.)

For the best season to visit Hong Kong, don’t look beyond late October to late January. The cool and breezy autumn weather starts around late October. This is the season to do anything and everything outdoors. The best part is: the low hanging sun leaves a trail of abundant, gorgeous autumn light on earth in the daytime. Taking photos during those months will yield a higher percentage of good results.

R0010992 (Medium) A good example is the best sermon: Cristi, a photographer from London now having great fun shooting with his GRDII and GX200 around Hong Kong, has picked the right season to go on a photo trip here. I am sure that he is enjoying himself a lot.

(Light Walk: The gorgeous light walks by all places and all the colours awake.)

All parts of the world are not created equal. Hong Kong is a sub-tropical weather. For countries farther away from the equator, you should check out the season when the sun hangs low in the sky.

R0010989 (Medium) (Small)

(Playful Light: The playful light in the street was waving to the camera with its reflection. I didn’t expect to see this most beautiful white colour reflection to be in such a form and on the ground.)

For Hong Kong in autumn, the light is most playful for two hours starting from 7:30 a.m. when you can see interesting crisp colours, geometry, shapes and shades; most illuminating around noon when clear colours and soft shadows make a good theme; and most romantic within the two hours before and after sunset when you should watch out for the epiphany of wondrous sky colours. The sunset is so romantic that you will wish to kiss your loved ones right away.

R0011395 (Medium)Come to Hong Kong to take photos in the right season. Don’t bring along your well-stocked camera bag, but bring a serious compact on a wide lens. Buy one if you haven’t got any. You won't regret.

(Sunset Silhouette: The autumn sky is cloudless on some days, and with numerous tiny heaps of low clouds on other days. Look for the days with low clouds. They will make for a great sunset scene.)

Sunset Lookout Location Map


Just in case you're wondering the exact location of Hong Kong's best sunset lookout point in town, the first location is the corridor between Harbour City and Salisbury Road and the second is the top of the Harbour City as shown on the above map of Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

When the Rule of Sun Coming to an End


Sunset is a very popular theme for photography. Where is the best place to shoot sunset in the place you live? If you live in Santorini of Greece (hope the rioting subsides soon), it should be Oia. I was given a memorable sunset trip there. The bus trip on a bumpy ridge access to the site was memorable in itself because a young European lady almost sat on my thigh throughout the trip on the crowded bus. When I reached the sunset site through an old-village-converted shopping alley, the hill was dotted with anxious watchers from the top to the base.

R0010272 (Medium) (Medium)If you come to Hong Kong, take a boat ride to the Lautau Island for the best sunset (and sunrise too) lookout on the second highest mountain, the Lautau Peak (934m). Visitors tight on time should head to the West Kowloon Cultural District site, or the more easily accessible Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront.

(Sunset at the Gold Coast Beach, the New Territories, Hong Kong)

Sunset Rule

Okay, now we are at the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront. But where exactly?

Wait for a second, and stop searching for your map and camera. First, how do you expose for a sunset scene?

R0011397 (Medium) (The sun disappeared from the scene at this western side of Hong Kong)

As the rule of the sun is loosing up, the sunset rule of exposure takes hold; that is, in the film era. The sunset rule says: When you point the camera to a sunset scene, spot-meter the area right above the sun. But don’t include the sun! Of course, to make the scene darker (i.e. see more of the sunset colours), you can stop down by one stop (or EV -1).

In the digital era, photographers can simply try and err on the LCD display. But that’s not the way to do photography properly. When a result is achieved in a photo, it should be done by intention, not by chance. So, now that you know, next time meter the area right above the sun when exposing for a sunset scene.

Best Sunset Lookout

R0010960_2 (Medium)Okay, at the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront, there are two good locations to shot a sunset scene. First, it is the area to the right of the bus terminus near the flag posts. Second, it is the top floor of the Harbour City. The first location is very accessible. For the second location, don’t tell this to the world: go in the Marco Polo Hong Kong Hotel and take the lift to the sixth floor. Get out of the lift, walk through the hotel corridor towards the glass doors and there you are. Beware of cars!

(Shot at the top floor of the Ocean Terminal carpark)

Monday, 8 December 2008

Hong Kong Phallus

R0011490 (Medium) (Hong Kong Phallus: A statue of red, inflamed male genital erects in silence and solemnity, probably on the blink of ejaculation, on the harbour front echoing the tallest building, International Financial Centre [IFC] building on the Hong Kong Island. The IFC on the Hong Kong Island is like Yao Ming standing incompatibly among the beauty pageant contestants.)

At the sight of the giant phallus, for a second of two, I stood speechless. Then I whispered, “What the (s)ell!”

I had no idea until recently that there is now a better thing than the Victoria Harbour to flaunt about Hong Kong to visitors: the shock given by the Hong Kong Phallus (commonly known as penis) erecting solemnly on the waterfront promenade

The hellish phallus is a challenge to my belief of decades: If there is one thing to flaunt to allure visitors to Hong Kong, it must be the beauty of the Victoria Harbour:

R0011354 (Medium)(Harbour Glitters: A view to the Victoria Harbour at night from Tsim Sha Tsui East along the waterfront promenade which leads to the Ocean Terminal shopping arcade in Tsim Sha Tsui proper. The brighter spot and the one less so in the sky are Venus and Jupiter that would make up the cosmic smiley with the moon a few days later. This was taken with the GX200 on a tripod.)

The discovery was made the week before the last when I had a chance to stroll along the promenade by the Victoria Harbour on a breezy evening. The best view to the harbour can be caught along my route starting from Tsim Sha Tsui East along the waterfront promenade on an autumn evening around 5:30 p.m. when the sun is going low over the sea level. R0011350 (Medium) (The promenade starts from Tsim Sha Tsui East and snakes around the coast of the southern tip of the Kowloon to a cruise terminus at the Ocean Centre) Rarely seen sky hues embroidered all things on earth as the sun was setting low in autumn, while the harbour gradually became aglow with a motley of neon shades when the sky grew darker. There were the best of both the natural and artificial colours.

It is especially so from Christmas time to the Chinese New Year in February when most commercial buildings are adorned with festive decorations lined with light bulbs. A great season to take photos even for some photo contest.

(Nathan Road decorated with colours)

R0011536 (Medium)So, along the promenade having great fun taking photos of passers-by, the Victoria Harbour and the vessels big or small, I was awestruck by the surreal vista revealing before my eyes: first, the less glittering lower buildings on the left side of the Hong Kong Island, then the brighter modern ones in the middle and finally the futuristic skyscrapers winkling in colourful light bulbs. They blended with the reflections in the waters to play a symphony of colours. Then, in some half an hour, when I came to a darker section of the promenade, a huge, red tainted thing in the shape of something embarrassing to say caught my gaze.

It was standing there alone, next to nothing, on a piece of land away from the more lively and illuminated sections. I was afraid but unsure if the thing was actually on fire. When I walked closer, I found that the red thing was actually lighted by some red flashlights. Puzzled with curiosity, I stuck my head beyond the cordon of two layers of flower pots with some plants of no names.

R0011482 (Medium)(Man-made Trees in glaring blue lights for Christmas)

“Oh, my!” I was awestruck in disbelief this time.

For a second of two, I stood speechless. Then I whispered, “What the sell!”

The red thing was an oversized statute in the shape of the torch used for the Beijing Olympics torch relay. Why is it erected on a harbour-front location than in a sports stadium? Why is it cordoned off with two layers of flower pots? Why is it illuminated with red flashlights (you know, the torch is basically red in colour and the shape is, pardon me, so similar to an erected phallus)?

R0011539 (Medium) (Small)(Festive Colours: Decorative lights are everywhere in Hong Kong from Christmas time to the Chinese New Year in February. The tradition of adoring buildings with decorative lights was left by the British. Will the Hong Kong phallus surrounded by flower pots be the heritage for the generations to come? )

My explanation is: Hong Kong is drifting towards the oriental influence of China, which is a common query thrown to me whenever I meet someone from outside Hong Kong. A professor in Beijing once told me that the mainland Chinese (Chinese living in the mainland of China) had a culture to flaunt anything big in prominent places. This is fine because there are also countless big statues in London or Paris. But the governments do not cordoned them off, at least not with two layers of china clay flower pots. If it is to be cordoned off, do it probably. This dutiful, half-hearted, obstentious and window-dressing way of doing things is a common sight in China which is being adopted by the Hong Kong government to a wider extent.

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Selected Excellence: The Summer Ocean

Similar to the first set, this second set of works by Ye Li from Shanghai, China, also features photos taken with a Canon 5D along with a  DP1.  Just in case you're interested to know the comparative size of their sensors, read here.

(Courtesy and copyright of Ye Li.  Taken with Canon 5D and DP1)

Again, can you tell for sure which was taken with which camera?

080808sety4_1 080808sety4_5080808sety4_7

The clue is in the unique strength of the different sensors.


The anwser: Ye Li said that photos with a shallow DOF was taken with the 5D while those with an extensive DOF with DP1.  But he didn't specify which is which.  He just quite can't tell it without looking at the EXIF.  Yes, DP1 has a bigger sensor than your G10, LX3, GX200 or GRD1/2.  But, hopefull, having seen the works by Ye Li, Mark and Mitch, you are now quite convinced and tempted to use your serious compact for some works more serious than street shots.  Just do it!

The link to Ye Li's wonderful works is here.

Model: Sweet Sety