Saturday, 28 February 2009

Selected Excellence: Lie and Loneliness


Today, our regular section about SY Hsu has a monologue given by Hsu himself about his more sentimental view on photography.

By SY Hsu (edited by Nevin):


We all see consequences happen in our lives. Every choice brings a different result whether you like it or not. It is hard to tell if it will be positive or negative until life's end.

"That’s the reason why I take photos," I said.

Photography is a large part of my life.  Like an animal searching for its quarry, my desire for photography guides me to struggle to survive. I scream in silent darkness, shout at secret moments, stand in a quiet world; and I am like every part of me wanting to find the perfect attachment, every single picture framing a moment of my life.  While I am trying hard to construct my own pictures, I am buried in my own creations.

There, interestingly, I have found my loneliness.

"If you can understand, that’s because you are aware of loneliness ," I said.


By Nevin: There is a cure for the loneliness of a photographer who is a bachelor, which is love.  Unfortunately,  life is so guided by chances that one can get the cure or not at all only by chance.  When the chance in life allows Hsu to only carry a torch for the one giving him butterflies in his stomach, he may well think that love does not really conquer all.

sony f828_019

His dream of love is masked behind the hazy glass panel, which also hides the story of a secret admirer yet to be told.

(Publish with courtesy and copyright of SY Hsu; all photos by Hsu)

Friday, 27 February 2009

Why CMOS for CX1 and Sample Shots

(A link to the sample shot pages is at the end of this post)

Ricoh’s CX1 is not a serious compact. But it features some really exciting serious functions which tickle many photographers’ fancy. But the CX1 uses a CMOS sensor instead of a CCD. What are the possible reasons?

cx1_a (Small) cx1_b (Small)

Over the course of development of digital imaging sensors, the CCD (Charge Coupled Device) had had an advantage over the CMOS (Complementary Metal-Oxide Semiconductor) sensor in terms of image quality. When Sony’s DSC-R1 saw the light of the market in 2005, both technologies fared much closer in IQ as far as sensors of larger sizes are concerned. The R1 is powered by a CMOS sensor. But in the small sensor battlefield, the CCD still did a better job in reproducing images then. But owing to the cheaper cost of CMOS, we have seen most mobile phone manufacturers using CMOS for the built-in camera function. On the other hand, the production of significant small sensor cameras with a CMOS has been few and far between because of the IQ issue.

So, if Ricoh chose CMOS for the CX1, r1it may mean that CMOS sensors perform comparably with the CCDs even in the small sensor arena and at a lower price. Ricoh’s touting of the high IQ delivered by CX1 gives some credence in this guess.

Provided that this is correct, Ricoh’s choice of the CMOS gives CX1 other advantages, which include lower power consumption and a higher transfer speed.

For power consumption, take Sony’s R1 for example, its engineer revealed that its CMOS senor had a power consumption of 200mW while a CCD of the same size consumed 10 times more power to 2W. We will probably see the CX1 with a good power efficiency with the DB-70 battery.

s5As regards the transfer speed, the CMOS in R1 affords 4-channel transfer of data for 10mp images but, in comparison, the CCD in Fujifilm FinePix S5pro retains a slower design with 1-channel transfer of data for 6mp images on account of reduced IQ otherwise. It is no wonder than CX1 can do 4fps at the maximum pixel size in continuous mode, in comparison with the 3.5fps by LX3 and 0.7fps by G10. The higher transfer speed may also be a factor enabling the CX1 to achieve a wider dynamic range in images by taking shots of the same scene with different exposure preferences.

If the advanced features of CX1 claimed by Ricoh, like higher dynamic range shots and multi-pattern white balance, do as good in real life as on paper, this is a something which tickles the fancy of many, not least because it also boasts a sensor with a fewer pixel count and a lens with a useful 28-200mm focal length. For those who wish to steal a peek on the sample shots by CX1, go here. (Samples are at reduced size and, regrettably, at ISO 100)

(Various sources for reference including Japan’s DIGITAL CAMERA)

Major Specifications

Effective Pixels: Approximately 9.29 million pixels Image Sensor: 1/2.3-inch CMOS (total pixels: approx. 10.29 million pixels) Focal length: f=4.95-35.4 mm (equivalent to 28-200 mm) F-aperture: F3.3 (Wide) - F5.2 (Telephoto) Focus Mode: Multi AF (contrast AF method) / Spot AF (contrast AF method) / Multi-Target AF / Manual Focus / Fixed Focus (Snap) / Infinity (AF auxiliary light) Shutter Speed: 8, 4, 2, 1 - 1/2000 sec. Continuous Shooting: approx. 4 frames/sec. (F3456, F3:2, F1:1 shooting time; shooting speed after 60 pictures is approx. 3 frames/sec.) Exposure Metering Mode: Multi (256 segments), Center Weighted Light Metering, Spot Manual Exposure Compensation: +/-2.0EV (1/3EV Steps), Auto Bracket Function (-0.5EV, ±0, +0.5EV) Flash compensation: +/-2.0EV (1/3EV Steps) Monitor: 3.0-inch Transparent LCD (approx. 920,000 dots) Weight: Approx. 180 g (excluding battery, SD memory card, strap), Accessories approx. 23 g (battery, strap)

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Baked Potatoes and the Turkish Man

Hong Kong is very much a gastronomic city whose sensational street food is as famous as the haute cuisine in the Michelin starred restaurants here. For greater fun, however, you have to go local. In the course of taking photos for the contest themed on people who sell things, I ran into an interesting story of baked potatoes. The story takes place in Mong Kok, an eater's mecca jam-packed with kiosks and shops offering choices of local food exotic and weird alike.

R0012685 (Small)

The baked potato is hardly a novelty in Hong Kong. Go in almost any western cuisine restaurant and you can order any baked potato prepared to your choice. The interesting thing is that the dish has seemingly returned to its old style: street food. Originated in England as revealed by historians, baked potatoes were sold by peddlers on the street as early as in the eighteenth century. The food became an instant hit and turned into a famed dish in England soon. As many as ten tonnes of potatoes were sold by the peddlers each day. AsR0013350 (Small) time wore on, the recipe was passed onto other countries and baked potatoes have taken on different varieties since then. In Mong Kok, food kiosks selling potato food have sprung up in recent months. The Ireland's Potato on Dundas Street has seen queues of hungry customers for some months. The newest addition is the tiny Big Potato. What makes it stand out from the others? R0013347 (Small)

It is the Turkish owner, Mr Frehat. The young man is married to a Hong Kong lady. Moving and living here give him one problem: homesickness. His solution? He runs a kiosk selling baked potatoes home-style. To save costs, he cannot but make do with Chinese white potatoes. The compromise is compensated by an unique four-level oven Frehat managed to ship R0013331 (Small)from Turkey. The oven is shaped like a doll house with a tiny chimney on top which will carry away the hot steam to make the baked potatoes dry and crispy. Frehat's Big Potato is in a space of just 30 square metres. It does not offer any seat for customers. People simply buy food and go. The draws are his baked potatoes which come in many flavours and styles, like the Seafood, Classics, Tuna, Chicken Meat, Mexican and Russian. Of course, he sells Lahmacnn (Turkish pizza) too.

Come to Mong Kok. Buy some curry fish balls and the stinky deep-fried tofus, and Frehat's baked potato. Take a bite of each and then you should now why Hong Kong is famous for its street food.

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Tourist Attraction – Police Photocall

R0012994 (Medium)

Over the meetup with Tom and Yuan Yuan, fellow bloggers and photographers from London last week, we walked by some policemen being on duty. Cameras were pointed to the policemen at once. I held up my GX200, they the GRD II and my friend a LX3. Click, click, click.

We nodded a knowing smile to each other when powering off the cameras. As we all know, the British government has proposed a ban on photographing police being on duty. We quoted Cristi for his recent post about this and joked that tourists being able to photograph police without offending the law could be an attraction for Britons.

R0013187 (Medium) Police is a dream job for all boys at some point of time in their childhood. The traffic police on their vrooming motor bikes won my especial admi- ration because of a Japanese TV programme about some superheros I saw at a very young age. Fact is, I still like those superheros but only for reason of nostagia. When I incidentially bumped into a video of an opening probably filmed in Thailand, I was attracted to it like a cat to its fish.

R0013185 (Medium) (Oops, you are bugged!)

R0013276 (Medium) I know some people working in the Hong Kong Police Force: a macho guy once worked in the Special Duties Unit formed in 1973 and later enhanced by Britain’s Special Air Service, and another in the marine police. You may not know that civilian staff in the Police Force can also assume very high ranking posts. Take for example, a senior psychologist may assume the post title of Chief Superintendent.

R0013278 (Medium)(This photo was taken at the flower market I took the Londoners to during the meetup. After this shot we even saw a Thailand crew filming a pretty Thai star)

The most unbelievable rumour I heard about the Police Force was that in a report room, someone dressed as a diver, walked by a trouble-making villain filing a complaint against a crime operation and bashed him on his head with some soft diving equipment. The villain, of course, lodged another complaint about the diver. What came next was that his complaints were nullified altogether on suspicion of his hallucination.

Well, that is only a rumor, believe it or not.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

So You Want Some Strawberry?

The theme for the February photo contest of Ricohforum is ladies/men behind the counter. So I had been looking for the right scene. The other day when I had a chance to stroll along an open market with the GX200, I came across this strawberry kiosk which had exactly what I had been looking for to make my submission.

R0013265 (small)
(I could not resist putting the pig head chop on the shade. So I kept this for fun and picked the first photo below for the contest. This one is hilarious)

Since most contestants submitted photos of such men and women with interesting facial features of some sort, I planned to take a photo of the subject without showing his or her face. An image with a simple message and a sense of humour was what I had in mind.

A composition technique in photography immediately sprang to mind: superimpositing objects in composition.

Why Superimposition?

Photography is basically a planar art form to reflect a three dimensional world, meaning that the spatial relationship between objects in a photo is weak. In general, therefore, any defective crossing of one object over another should be avoided in your composition. But there is no rule without an exception.Superimposing objects in a photo can give a lasting impact on viewers. What may be dull and common otherwise is expressed in a lively, uncommon way to give a more intriguing and thought-provoking image. The new take on any usual scene can easily draw attention of viewers, challenging them to use imagination and associative power to interpret the image. Therefore, this technique is best for revealing what is more to the image than meets the eye.

Why the Lady?

The strawberry lady's head with the superimposed shade is not just hilarious to me. It actually reminds me of the masked face of a suspect in the news report, or the shaded face of a person-in-the-know being interviewed on TV for some insider's information. On coniditon of anonymity, to put it simply. But our curiosity urges us to steal a peek of the face behind. These are exactly the appeal, allusion and sense of secrecy I hope to put in the image.

What gives? You may ask.

The lady committed no criminal offence.  But she was lying. This is the harvest time of strawberry in Japan. The topnotch ones are being sold in big supermarkets here, in exactly the same package as you see in the photo. But there the lady was leading her customers to believe the same about the strawberry she was selling. 

So, this is how she succeeded in misleading the customers appeared in the photo above:

R0013266 (small)

"Check it out, Mister. The strawberry is as good as you can get from Japan. Two boxes for just fifteen dollars."

Well, in fact, these are at best third-rated produce from goodness knows where. The real ones are sold in big supermarket at much dearer a price which is one box for a hundred and twenty eight dollars.

R0013263 (Small)



Evey sensible person had some reasonable doubt about the cheap price for the strawberry of a size of a golf ball. So the lady pressed on, "Hey, fresh from Japan. You've got to taste'em. This is so cheap and you'll have nothing to lose. Buy'em, taste some and say for yourselves."

While saying so, the lady was already ready to put the boxes into a plastic bag.


R0013264 (Small)

Most men, I think, are not good at making strong refusal at this stage to, for one thing, ease the siege of embarrass-ment. So, there she won. Two boxes of strawberry the size of a golf ball for fifteen dollars.

Monday, 23 February 2009

Going Home

This series of photos is taken at the same place where I did this. What make this series different is that I stood at the other side of the stairs to face the setting sun and expose for the highlights. To see the photos in colour, click open them.

R0013159a (Medium)

(This photo is defocused but gives a taint of sweetness to the image with the couples leaving the subway)

R0013168 (Medium) R0013160 (Medium)(The difficult thing about this series is not the technical part. The position I stood was quite windy and below the top of the staircase. So I had to check out ladies wearing skirts... so that I could aviod any upskirt shots. I didn't hope to get caught by the police. I like both photos, especially the one with the golden outlines)

R0013166 (Medium)

R0013161 (Medium)(Another thing is that I had to stand really close to the side. It was a time people going home. And the exit of the subway was so narrow that I was very much standing in the way of people going past. I like the one with the daddy holding his son. Sweet!)

R0013176 (Medium) R0013179 (Medium)(These two young men gave the same posture when leaving the subway. They were hanging their head. Were they having specific worries? Or were those just the blues out of the uncertainties of life facing the young men in this economic doldrums? I wish them all the best)

R0013174 (Medium) R0013175 (Medium)(Goodness knows for how long I had stood there. It could be some 20 minutes I guess. The photos cannot really tell the awesome colours of the scene. I became more engrossed in admiring the scene through the LCD than taking pictures by this time)

R0013169 (Medium) R0013164 (Medium)R0013177 (Medium)R0013172a (Medium)(I have tried other locations but this is the best one. I should probably go back for another series)