Saturday, 14 February 2009

The Split Second She is in Focus

R0012862 (Small) (SHE: When I took this photo, the song SHE from the movie Notting Hill sprang to mind. I risked being caught taking this photo because I actually remained stationary three or four metres behind this girl for a while. She just walked and paused, back and fro, seemingly looking for someone. I got my GX200 ready for the split second when she turned her head, and took a few photos of her without her notice. This is the one I like best)

This is the Valentine’s Day. First up, may I wish you and your loved one sweetness in love forever. May love be spread to the people around you.

I picked some Chinese lines for the photo, as you see on the upper left side of it, which were written by an ancient poet, Xin Qiji (1140-1207). These famous lines are mostly quoted for people searching for love, for which I did a translation:

I seek out her In an assiduous quest When I turn my head in a split second It occurs to me She is where dim light is shed Away, away from the rest

Xin was not just a poet. He joined the army to fight for his country and was later made by the imperial emperor a high-ranking official equivalent to what we call governor of a state today. There is a cultural aspect about adding a poem in an image. The history of Chinese paintings is actually a history of how to present poems as images and use poems to decipher images. If you see an exhibition of ancient Chinese paintings, there is probably no works without any poem on it.

If you are still seeking the right one, may I wish you every success in your seaching! Happy Valentine’s Day.

R0012868 (Small)(Fancy a French Kiss: I had stood outside the store so long for the decisive moment that a shop assistant kept peeking from the store at what I was up to. Having found that people shunned my GX200, I pre-focused, held it down and only raised it up speedily to the girl coming along my way. Her gaze back at the posters and the shy gesture make this photo to my liking)

Learn from Press Photos


Results of 2009 World Press Photo Contest has been anounced. The winners gallery can be viewed here.  When compact camera users are having their cameras with them most of the time, I should actually call them amateur photography journalists.  There are a lot to be learnt from the winners in the way they got ready for the decisive moment, composed the photo and presented the message.

The following image is the Press Photo of the Year 2008. It was not taken in a war zone. But the war-wrecked smell of the scene speaks volumes for the grave economic crisis the US is facing.


Friday, 13 February 2009

Mutation (On Reflections #5)

R0011484 (Medium)

This is the last instalment on the reflections series. You may also check out instalments 1, 2, 3 and 4.

By mutation, I mean other creative ways to use reflections. Reflections can be real, and can be fake too. Let me give you some tips I have in stock.

First, do post processing. Making post-processed reflections in the photos can give some intriguing abstract results. The photo above is made possible by using a rather full-fledged free software called Photoscape. It offers a wide array of effects like illusions and reflections. I used both to come up with another photo:

R0011557 (Medium)  (2) More interesting results can be seen here by Paul.

Second, reflections can be faked by asking your model to mimic, say, a mannequin in a display window, a real person nearby or a mugshot on a magazine cover.

F1000031 (Medium)

(Taken with Minolta Dynax 7)

Otherwise, look for a wet surface. I am not speaking of real mirrored reflections here. But a wet surface can also do wonders to a photo. Take for example, walk around town at night and see if you’re lucky enough to be there after it showered or the workers washed the street. The reflections of lights on the wet street surface add colours to an otherwise usual image. For sure, the best known way of doing this is a landscape shot over waters. I hope that this series offer some useful pointers to you in doing more interesting photos. Enjoy photography! It will give your life-long fun.

R0012963 (Small)

R0011491 (Medium)

GR Photo Exhibition in Japan


If you are in Tokyo, or going there this weekend, spare some time to go to “The Independent GR” photo exhibition.  Admission is free.  For information in English (with a link to map there), go here. The exhibition lasts until 17:00 hours on February 14 (Tokyo time).

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Mirrored Dimensions (On Reflections #4)

Yesterday, we stopped at the suggestion of a photo assignment for which you may consider making use of mirrors to convey the theme.

Let me take for example an on-going photo assignment about urban renewal I am working on for hobby. Like any big city in the world, Hong Kong is facing a tremendous pressure to renew old areas. The balance is, however, so skewed towards the commercial value of renewal projects that almost anything old has been bulldozed. The genius loci of old areas are fast disappearing. There is an outcry for heritage preservation in its totality, not haphazard retention of some fabric of the areas to be renewed. In parallel, people call for a better pedestrian environment in the old areas. So, I came up with some photos including the two below, in which mirrors are used to convey my messages.

R0012706 (Medium) (A Jigsaw of Urban Renewal)

I took the photo “Jigsaw of Urban Renewal” outside a new sky-high commercial tower in a neighbourhood undergoing renewal. The jigsaw-like Reflections in the mirrors of the commercial tower are images of the surrounding old domestic buildings. Apart from creating traffic problems, the renewal projects give rise to discontentment of the residents nearby on the resettlement arrangement and social debates on preserving the local character. The jigsaw of urban renewal is how to put what where to make the picture right. I try to use the mirrored images and the word play to convey this message. (Some may wish to know that a “jigsaw” also means a complicated situation)

R0010650 (Small)(One Way or Another)

The other day I was on the same photo assignment. This time I hoped to take some photos depicting the croweded pedestrian environment in the shopping districts located in older urban areas, which is another issue to be dealt with in urban renewal. I picked Mongkok (literally, Bustling Corner) in Kowloon. There I went to a shoppers’ mecca. The main roads flanked by shops in old buildings were parked with vehicles on both sides. As the sidewalks were really crowded, some passers-by just walked on the roads instead.

The most thought-provoking photo I took for the theme is the one above, “One Way of Another”. After walking the scene, I stopped by a truck and pointed my GX200 to its mirrors. The shop signs and ice-cream van on the far side of the photo give viewers an idea that it is a shopping area. The glimpses of the passers-by walking past the cars say how they steer forwards one way or another. Once again, the reflections in the mirrors add a visually interesting dimension to bring out the message.

Hopefully, these two examples illustrate some aspects of how mirrors can be used to better convey a photographic theme.

G10 Leather Bag for HK$300

Further to my previous post about the G10 leather case, a local user in Hong Kong is selling his for a bargain price of HK$300 (approx. US$ 38).  If you’re interested, read here.  Mark that the user doesn’t mention if the price includes the leather neck strap in the package.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

A Point of Interest (On Reflections #3)

Reflection is a point of interest in its own right, especially for symmetric images. The penchant for symmetry seems to be in our genes. It attracts our eyes to symmetric facial features of people considered beautiful and handsome. The same can be speak of photos. Verging on a cliché, a scene with the mirrored images on the waters has never lost its appeal to viewers.

R0010316 (Medium)  (A Kaleidoscope of Trees: Taken in Mai Po Marshes, Hong Kong)

Symmetric images make the most appearances in architecture and landscape photography. Such images may connote a feeling of majesty, tranquillity or what you intend to convey by how you mirror a particular scene in composition.

R0010326 (Small)(A Remote Village: Mai Po Marshes, Hong Kong)

A reflection is the point of interest not only for the lure of symmetry. A reflection is intriguing for it can also add an enriched visual dimension to the theme of an image. I like to make use of mirrored images to fascinate viewers. It is a great way to make them pause, look and think about messages in the photos.

R0012769 (Small)(I Spy Something in There)

In the photo "I Spy", The boys is being playful with the mirror in checking out his oral cavity. I was ready with my GX200 and captured this image at the moment the reflection of fingers appeared in the mirror. Now, click open the photo. Cover the eight-fingers palm in the image and then uncover it. You should see how the mirrored image makes the point of interest more intriguing. The palm with eight fingers enriches the playful tone of the image and echoes the fun holding the boy's interest.

Taking about mirror, it is the most readily available source of reflection. Walk on the street and there are mirrors galore. Give yourself an outdoor photo assignment. When you are on the street, walk the scene and try to make use of a mirror to convey your messages in the photos. Let me give some examples of mine and continue the discussion tomorrow.

Lumix LX3 Photo Contest


For LX3 users who are interested in winning some tailor-made accessory, here is a photo contest exclusively for the LX3 community.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Downside Up (On Reflections #2)

R0010511 (Small) (Bamboo Poles: The first thing heaving into sight when I turned to this street was the stack of bamboo poles which blocked part of the road. Looking up, I noticed that a bamboo scaffolding was being built for the building undergoing refurbishment. How to tell the story was the question I had to solve. The scene was too wide to be covered by my GX200's 24mm lens and too contrasty to be reproduced in the final image. After walking the scene, I paused by a car and calculated that using the reflection of the building on the windscreen was the best solution. Now, from the image, viewers see the bamboo poles blocking the road section between the car and the shops and being used for making the scaffolding. This is the story I wished to convey)

There is a story about the story of an American missionary which took place in Brazil. One day, the missionary attended a meeting in a Brazilian church which posted a big map of the world upside down on the wall. The puzzled missionary made a well-intentioned enquiry to the church leader and the answer given to him was a revolutionary one, "That's your usual way of interpreting the world map. Who says that the orientation looks right only with the US is on top and Brazil at the bottom? If you fly to the space and look, there are lots of ways to see the right orientations of the world. And we're just putting the downside up, not the upside down."

R0010511_ud (Small)(Downside Up or Upside Down? -- When I checked out the photo at home, an idea struck me. Since the reflection showed an inverted image of the building. So I rotated it upward with a PP software to make the orientation "right". The rotated image seems more engaging. Is it downside up or upside down? The emphasis becomes more on the building than on the bamboo poles. This is a different story, a more interesting one to me)

An intriguing aspect of reflections is that they challenges our ordinary perception of things with a novel way of presentation. Such images are artistically more inspiring and less restrained by rules of composition like the golden rule and the rule of thirds. Use a puddle, a car top or any reflective surface to accentuate your viewpoint on a particular theme in the image. You may even rotate a symmetrical reflection to create an illusion, depending on what and how you hope to express.

R0012970(Custom) (Mirage: This image gives a striking new look at the dull, common city scene which is two passers-by chatting on a street. The legs are cut and placed upside down at the bottom of the photo while the bodies are at the right "orientation" on the upper third. I half squatted with my GX200 to wait for the right moment for this shot)

To me, these images combining truth and falsity in the composition are suited to express associative themes. My favourite one is the inspiration of an ancient Chinese philosopher Zhuang Zi from his dream in which he morphed into a butterfly. After he waked up, he wondered if he was actually a butterfly having a dream of himself turned into a human being or the other way round. One of his philosophical inspirations from the dream is that people cannot perceive truth and falsity if a delusion is real enough.

So, for the world is round and the gravity sticks everything to its place, I take a new look in this previously published photo at the pond with the fish swimming above the reflection:
R0011956 (Small)

And are we in fact walking head down and legs up with the reflection on top of us?

R0010838 (Small)

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Baring at a Newspaper Kiosk

R0010886 (Medium) While London is literally snowed under and Melbourne is almost well done, Hong Kong is turning warmer. The other day I walked past this newspaper kiosk, the man was baring his upper body.

I could understand why. He had been working there for over three hours when I took this picture around 8:30 p.m. in the morning. I know it because I once worked at a newspaper kiosk.

When I was a student, I had done many different summer jobs, which are probably things of the past. It is even more so under this inclement economic climate. I was eleven when I worked part-time at a newspaper kiosk in a summer vacation.

I had to get up at 5 o'clock every morning, too early for a youngster of my age indeed. After a quick breakfast, I went to the kiosk where the kiosk people had already unloaded their share of the newspapers from the delivery van. I was spared the unloading part because of my young age. Now when I arrived, people were sorting pages of the newspapers to make them in the right order. I would simply squat and help with the sorting for half an hour. Then kiosk attendents would carry the load of newspapers and magazines to their respective kiosks. There was a strict number of every sale item for each kiosk. Take my kiosk for example, I would be given two copies of a porn newspaper to sate the thirst of two regular customers who were seemingly site workers.

By six in the morning, I had to get the kiosk ready. People were already waiting for newspapers. Until I finished my part-time shift at one in the afternoon, I would be sitting with Mr Boredom at the kiosk and ocassionaly read the newspapers and magazines. If people had digital cameras then, someone would have taken a photo of Nevin baring his upper body.

It was absolutely hot sitting under the sun for so many hours.

Credit Card Redemption: GRDII !!


HSBC is offering its Hong Kong credit card customer the GRD2 for redemption at a price of HK$3,200 or 800,000 reward points. The local dealer for Ricoh cut the price of GRD II to HK$3,900 for Christmas.

In a previous discussion in December 2008, I gathered the possibilty of the price cut as a way to shed the stock of GRDII:

"Around nine months before the release of GX200, HSBC offered its local VISA card customers an approximately 30% off the price of GX100…. Some informed GRDII users commented that the release cycle of GRD model was two years. GRDII was released in October 2007. The cycle for GRDII will come to an end in ten months."

Interestingly, and a good news too, the dealer is giving a 40% discount off the original price of GRDII. The guess above is fairly close I think.

This is a real good deal for anyone (HSBC credit card customers) who finds the GRDII his or her cup of tea. Otherwise, if you can afford to wait, the GRDIII will see the light of the market this summer.