Saturday, 3 January 2009

ISO 1600, Pre-focus and Shoot

IMG_5583 (Small)(I probably like this best.  The smile is sweet, the gaze sparkling and the light pleasing)

This is the first weekend in  2009.  A few days ago I borrowed a Canon 450D and did some candid shots.  Surely, a compact can do serious portraits.  But the DSLR is still undeniably something that a compact cannot match for now at least in terms of high ISO performance and the focusing speed. 

The photos were done by pre-focusing the camera on a 200mm lens at ISO 1600, except for the colour ones in which the girl was less active.  The two girls were playing peekaboo with each other and with the camera.  The light was just right so that I could manage to get catchlights in their twinkling eyes.  Have a nice weekend.  Enjoy!

IMG_5605 (Small) IMG_5615 (Small) IMG_5620 (Small) IMG_5616 (Small) IMG_5619 (Small)

IMG_5588 (Small)  IMG_5621 (Small)

Friday, 2 January 2009

Tripod and iPod

R0011379 (Medium)(City in Posters: The streets of Hong Kong are covered with posters from the time shops are closed until they open the next day. Poster companies send their workers to stick posters on nearly every available space on the street wall during those hours. I hope to take more for this topic. These posters are posted on the gate of a bank. It was a Staurday )

Do you use a tripod with your camera?

When the GX200 first saw the light of the world, there was a common comment that Ricoh was making this camera as what a camera should be like: if you shoot in high ISOs, the images would be noisy; if you don't prefer the noise, use a tripod and sho0t in lower ISOs.

(My mini-tripod) IMG_5833 (Small) An excuse of not, the comment has some truth in it. A camera with a tripod comes naturally to me as the earbuds with an iPod. Surely, no user wishes to forsake the portability of a compact. So, I usually carry a tripod with me, a mini-tripod, because there are chances when a tripod will work wonder to a shot.

Take for example, the "City in Posters" [first photor in this post] was taken at four stops down the safety shutter speed which is beyond the effect of the anti-shake magic. When taking the photo, I was on the street whereIMG_5825 (Small) there was no flat surface to rest the camera on. Even if there were one, it might not be at the desirable height. So, the tripod came handy. I simply fixed the camera on the tripod and steady it on my belly, activated 2-sec self-timer, pressed the shutter and held my breath. (This is how I rested it on my belly)

R0011493 (Medium) (Symphony of Light: The Victoria Harbour is one of my favorite themes. I would rather use a tripod than risk a blurred handheld shot at a high ISO.)

For night shots as the above one, I would prefer a camera on a tripod to shooting in high ISOs even with a good high-ISO performer. Surely, good high ISO IQ is sometimes useful depending on your photographing style. To me, the ISOs are most useful when I need a fast shutter speed in a dimly lit environment like shooting candid photos of a restless kid in a coach. For that matter, GX200 may not do the trick. In that case,R0012115 (Medium) following the advice of Cristi, I am now used to shooting B&W at ISO 1600. The noise appears with a grainy character of a film image which I like.

(Kid Kidding: This was a candid shot at ISO 1600 in B&W straight out of the GX200)

IMG_5829 (Small) The tripod can afford me some other advantages. I have found it more easy to steady a shot by holding the tripod with the camera attached to itIMG_5827 (Small).

When the tripod is held in a horizontal position, I can easily shot a photo over the edge from a high position like a footbridge.

R0010822 (Small)(Lines and Patterns: This was shot with the GX200 on my tripod held in a horizontal position over the edge of a footbridge. That gave me a fuller play to compose at an angle which would not be as good otherwise)

If you are now convinced to buy a mini-tripod, mind that it should be easily attached and detached from the camera. An extra note is when you attach a camera on a tripod and rest it on a surface, find a less windy location or else the camera may be blown over.

IMG_5831 (Small) IMG_5839 (Small)(The one on the left is my present tripod which I can just twist to attach or detach from the camera. The one on the right was my old tripod which I found it troublesome to turn the tiny dial for attaching and detaching while steadying the tripod when another hand to prevent it from turning)

Thursday, 1 January 2009

Bread, Hong Kong Style

R0011569 (Medium)(Assorted Bread: These are the bread in the special, traditional Hong Kong style. You may find them in some old bread shops and also modern bakeries. I once saw some mouse wrist-rests in the shapes of these bread in Tsim Sha Tsui East)

This is the start of a new year, a time when we usually celebrate with an eating binge. So this first post is about some special local food: Hong Kong-style bread. Let me introduce them to you one by one:

dan kuenCalled "Dan Kuen" in Cantonese (literally, egg roll), they are one of the favorite gifts which you can buy for the host on a casual visit, especially during the afternoon tea time. Children just love them. For adults, take them with tea (with milk).

bo law bao These are the favourite of all time, called the Bo Law Bao (literally, pineapple bun). They have crispy toppings and soft meat. You may either eat them this way or, as most locals do, have it in the "Bao Law Yau" style (literally, pineapple butter) in which the bun is sevred with a thick slice of heart-disease-casuing butter in it. Bao Law Yau must definitely go with a cup of rich tea with milk.

gei mei bao Next, "Gei Mei Bao" (literally, hen tail bun). They are stuffed with coconut paste. A favorite for people who have an appetite for sweet buns, they are best eaten with a cup of mild Chinese tea, in my opinion, to water down the sweetness.

hup toh so "Hup To So" (literally, walnut puff) is an old time Chinese delicacy. It is crispy and a little bit hard. Chinese tea is the right companion to these Hup To So. Now, I am really hungry .

hup toh dan goThese are called "Hup To Dan Go" (literally, walnut cake). They are best for young children for snacks with some cold milk.

tae zi dan go "Tae Zi Dan Go" (literally, raisin cake) is no special cake in its apperance or taste. As the name suggests, they are cakes with some raisins in it. When I was a kid, my Mum bought me these for snacks. Guess what? I would take all the raisins and just half the cake. The other half: threw away in secret.

lai wong bo law bao Lastly, "Lai Wong Po Law Bao" (literally, egg yolk paste pineapple bun). Oh, the name "pineapple bun" doesn't mean that there are pineapple meat. It is so called just because the crispy topping look like the skin of a pineapple. This egg yolk paste pineapple bun is a variance of the original pineapple bun, with a lining of egg yolk paste around the crispy toppings.

Wednesday, 31 December 2008

2009 is Here!

R0011958 (Small)

R0012173 (Small)

Dear all,

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.


Windows to the Soul

(Keeping an Eye: This man in a suit, looking aimlessly into the distance, was heard having an animated argument over the cellphone on the footbridge as I walked past him. A footbridge in China can be a busy place to walk on because there are lots of selling and other activities on them. Some years ago, I was warned to be vigilant on a footbridge in China because thievery was more rampant up there. The warning has tested to be not really true.)

Some years ago, I read a story titled, "Compassion is in the Eyes" which is about Thomas Jefferson giving a horse ride to an old-timer. The old-timer thanked him for his help by saying something that Jefferson felt heart-warming, "I looked into the eyes of the other riders and immediately saw there was no concern for my situation. It would have been useless even to ask them for a ride. But when I looked into your eyes, kindness and compassion were evident. I knew, then and there, that your gentle spirit would welcome the opportunity to give me assistance in my time of need."

A Chinese saying goes, "Yanjing shi linghun zhi chuan", or, literally, eyes are the windows to the soul.

R0011974 (Small)
(Up and Down: It was at the end of lunchtime when I took this shot. This young lady must have taken her lunch, and was probably walking with her friends back to the workplace. There was not much interaction between the passers-by, not just about this lady and her friends but most people I walked past before and after this shot. I think she was casting a rather blank gaze upon the road ahead)

I am not sure how ordinary or typical some of the people I met on the street are. But as far as my experience goes, a lot of them lack sparks in their eyes. That was just my vague impression until I reviewed the street shots which, thanks to the handiness of my GX200, I was able to take during the China trip. The eyes of the subjects seem to be filled with uncertainty. Maybe it was just a coincidence. Maybe calling them the-without-hopes is going too far, but the expression in their eyes can betray the amount of hope they see.

R0011968 (Small)
(The Bicyclist: This middle-aged man was not waiting to cross a road or for whatever. He just walked slowly with the bike to one direction and look over to another direction. The enlarged original image showed that he was wearing a puzzled expression on his face with a pair of puzzling eyes)

Last night, I took the trouble to check out the expression in the passers-by's eyes on the street. I was not sure if I saw the same worrying gaze in the Hongkongers.

To those who do not see much hope, I wish them more, better hopes in the new year. To all the Chinese people, I wish you all a brighter future to come.  And, to you, a Happy New Year!

Tuesday, 30 December 2008


R0012128 (Small)(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.


R0011971 (Small)(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.


R0011975 (Small) (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)


R0011970 (Small)(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)

Soothsaying the GRD III, Again

The January issue of China's Popular Photography quotes the price for GRDII at RMB 3,500 and GX200 at RMB 3,200. I was around the Guangdong province in China during the last few days. The prices for the two cameras I saw in a big digitial store were RMB 3,980 and RMB 3,780 respectively.

So, the 30% price drop for GRD II is not just for Hong Kong. It is suspicious to me if the cut is to simply change tact on account of the economic downturn as told by the Ricoh distributor here. The prelude to GRD III has begun IMO. Ricoh is shedding the GRD II stock at a very low price. This is an unfortunate tactic, if my guess is right, because if I were a GRD user, I would be concerned about my future investment in Ricoh cameras. A 30% drop in value is a lot for a relatively expensive camera within such a short perio of time, not to mention the ever dropping price of the GX200 at least in this part of the world. In just six months, the GX200 is selling for around US$120 less here. Not a wise move to cultivate loyality maybe.

But on the other hand, I am glad that the Ricoh distributors are generous, friendly and helpful. Just yesterday, a GX200 user in Malaysia was returned a new GX200 for his old one which had got dust on the lens.

Sunday, 28 December 2008

Reinforcing Your Holiday Mood

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.

R0011891 (Small)(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)

R0011882 (Small)(The Mongkok Mob: I was amazed to see the street jampacked with people after a cup of coffee in Starbucks. For some seconds, I dared not walk to the crowd)

R0011894 (Small)(Great Shot or Not: The family was checking out photos on the camera)

R0011893 (Small)(Multitasking: Walk-checking photos is like drunk-driving a car. Both are dangerous thing to yourselves and other people)

R0011887 (Small)(Human Trafficking: Roads were turned into pedestrian precincts. There is something about this tiny city -- it has atmosphere!)

R0011888 (Small)(Look Alive: The dad was walking steps ahead of the mum holding the baby. Okay, tell me, why didn't he hold he baby and let the lady push the pram? Man, come on!)

R0011901 (Small)(River of Pedestrians: Hope to see you in Hong Kong the next Christmas!)