Saturday, 7 March 2009

Girlie Portrait Postures 1 to 10

Next time you do portraits for ladies, young and older alike, you may try the handy, no-learning-required postures no. 1 to 10 as demonstrated in the video (posture no. 9 is demonstrated at the end of it).  What fun!

Selected Excellence: Chess Player


Today let's admire a good photo by Hugo Poon from Hong Kong.

By Hugo Poon: "who's winning, who's winning!" This man kept crying rather arrogantly. Yes, he "won" eventually, but a little inconsistent with his confident words were his voice that was tense and his move that's indecisive. On the contrary, the "loser" remained so calm and swift (you can see his left hand)...

Something about myelf. I took up photography in April 2005 when I got a little photo machine, the Fuji F10; quite to my surprise, what started off as a leisure time hobby has evolved very soon into an important part of my life... Taking photos is so enjoyable when it succeeds in capturing the moments as my eyes see something and my heart feels it too. In such mood, I seldom feel interested in planned, arranged or manipulated photographs... Always learning, experimenting, seeking inspirations and having fun in sharing. And as always, your comments and advice would be highly appreciated.

By Nevin: What I like best about this photo is how the dim light does justice to the intense atmosphere at the decisive moment of the Chinese chess game. I just held my breath when I first saw this photo, as if I were actually there waiting the old man to shout "check". The photo must be shot through the crowd but the darken sides rightly bring the viewers' attention to the old man. The only palm of the other player on the lower right as against the fuller image of the winner on the upper left says much about how the game had been going.

The photo was taken with Fujifilm F100 at ISO 400. It handles the high ISO image nicely.

(Published with courtesy and copyright of Hugo Poon)

Friday, 6 March 2009

Herd Behaviour

Herb Behaviour is a powerful phenomenon. This morning when I climbed out of a subway, I was met by a large flock of people surrounding two middle-aged women in uniform against the railings. I was absolutely puzzled and curious about it. In a few seconds, I was pointing to the scene with my GX200 on the customised MY2 mode in which I set the camera at ISO 400 and snap focusing. R0013600a_(Medium) Before I could realise what was going on, the throng flooded towards one of the middle-aged ladies. Some gossips were overheard, "Just one dollar. Cheap that is really." The comments turned some heads, including mine. "Coupons to be given? Cash bailouts like that in New York I saw on TV the other day?"

R0013599a_(Medium) A van had arrived without my knowledge. I was probably too engrossed in the in-camera auto-leveler to get the horizontal level right. What an idiotic perfectionist! Big piles of papers were unloaded from the van at this moment. People started grabbing them. R0013596a_(Medium) "One each, one for each," the ladies in uniform ordered, "Don't take more than one copy." Actually, the papers were free copies of a tabloid." R0013598a_(Medium) R0013597a_(Medium)
Among the crowd were not only eldery people fond of free stuff but young office ladies thrusting in for a copy, without minding the etiquette of being a nice lady.
"What the heck!" I murmured to myself. And guess what? I turned my GX200 off and grab one copy of the tabloid too, fearing that there were some grander, free stuff not to be missed in it.
What a herd behaviour! It is contiagious. So, what was inside the tabloid?
NOTHING!!! Absolutely NOTHING! Just a tabloid! My holy cow! What were the people thinking? Didn't they have other better things to do? Speaking of herd behaviour.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Flash Photography and Effects

(Middle-of-the-Roader: I am trying to be sarcastic with the title. Certainly, the man is doing anything but middle-of-the-road. He is very much in the harm's way and can be run over by vehicles whisking past him at any moment, which is exactly my message in this photo. I have walked past this road junction for a couple of times and seen jay-walkers like this man and impatient drivers competing for passage. I managed to take this photo with some luck because the passers-by in the foreground left a light trail to give a better spatial and time reference to the man. I handheld the GX200 and dragged the shutter to a slow speed without blurring the man, which I am going to explain why)

Flash photography, to me, wanders a bit into a territory of its own. There are different needs and reasons for using a flash, usually when the environmental light is not enough and a high ISO setup is not desirable. It is something that takes practices to master.

Let's focus on a dimly lit setting. There the exposure is mainly made at the burst of flash light and the safe shutter speed becomes less relevant for a steady image. This means that a static subject will less likely appear blurry even if the shutter is dragged to half the safe speed because its impression on the film or CCD is made at the split second of flashing. So, the exposure combo is rather controlled by the flash output and the aperture. To dial the aperture is to control the reach of the flash light, while tweaking the flash is to tune the duration of flashing, hence controlling the output. In fact, tweaking the flash cannot make the flash light go farther. It can only control the intensity of flash light in the foreground.

If you manage to follow so far, you can make use of the shutter speed to give some special visual effects on your image in flash photography. To put it simply, the shutter speed is now the tool to control how the light trails appear in the image, adding in a sense of dynamics and time to the two dimensional photo.

First, find a place with dim environmental light so that dragging the shutter speed would not give rise to much blurry subjects in the image. Then, drag the shutter speed to suit your intention. Now, turn on the flash to the second curtain slow sync. Lastly, at the desired moment, take the picture. Experiment with a number of shots, and tweak the aperture and flash so that the flash light reaches the right distance and the lighting on the foreground is complimentary.

R0011531a (Medium) (This is another example showing how the safe shutter speed is less relevant in steadying the subjects in flash photography. Also, this photo shows that dragging the shutter speed with the flash on can determine how extended a trail the passers-by leave in a dimly lit setting. The light trail in the foreground is more intense than the first photo partly because the aperture is wider here)

Some tips about dragging the shutter speed: to stop a passer-by walking at a normal speed across, drag the shutter to 1/30 will freeze the action; walkikng towards, make it 1/20. For a running person across the scene, freeze the action at about 1/125 or less; running towards, make it 1/80. Starting from those standards, tweak the speed slower to blur the moving subject for the desired effect.

IMG_5773a (Medium) (Leaving Satisfied: This shot was taken at a school children gathering. I found it a good idea to set up the camera at waist level at the exit way to take candid pictures of children leaving. I needn't cue them for attention or beg for smiles. They were all so satisfied that the smiles were given natrually)

Remember to turn the flash to 2nd curtain slow sync unless you want to show a clearer moving subject before the action takes place like the photo above. As regards tweaking the flash, normally slow syncing does justice to a scene without adjustment. When turning the flash to M-mode, you will certainly want to tweak it.

There are some other interesting ways to use this simple technique, if you can call this technique. I hope to show how later.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

CX1: Official Sample Shots


In case you haven't seen them, click here for the full-size official sample shots (ISO 100, unfortunately).

Bless You

R0012855 (Small)
(Bless You: The two disoriented tourists were finding their way. I came across them, pre-focused and waited for this decisive moment to arise. The image in the poster seems to be blessing the lost men. And the baffled facial expression and his body language added a sense of contrast in the photo)

Yesterday, I gave a tip on backing up data from your blog with Blogspot. Unless you believe in blessing or luck, it is advisable for Google users to back up their data with other Google's online applications. Here are some more tips:

Using Gmail? Forward your important e-mail to another address.

If you saved your documents in Google Docs, you may find Syncplicity useful for directing them to your vault.

Some people rely on Google Calendar for reminding them of daily events. If you're one of them, try synchronising Google Calendar with your Microsoft Outlook Calendar.

This is important for photographers if you store photos to Google's online Picasa Web Albums: back up your photos by going to "Tools" and then click on "Backup Pictures." As an aside, don't post your photos to Facebook. If you are not aware of it, Facebook may still revise its terms of use to the similar effect of its previous controversial amendments, which stipulates that it owns the rights of your photos even if you cancel your Facebook account.

Now, if you use Google Reader, find "Manage subscriptions" in the lower left corner and click on it, after which click on "Import/Export" and then on "Export your subscriptions as an OPML file".

For your iGoogle homepage, back up the settings in iGoogle Settings by click on "Export iGoogle settings to your computer". It will produce an XML file containing the data for restoring your iGoogle account in case of need.

I hope these tips are useful to you. Surely, there are those like some disoriented tourists being more conservative in trusting other people's tips for directions. Use my tips as you please.

Talking about disoriented tourists, I have a habit of helping whoever of them I come across on the street. Most would welcome the help, with the more adpet travellers politely refusing any advice. Asking for the rihgt directions on a foreign land require tremendous good judgement from you. You know, for unknown reasons, people tend to give you contradictory advices for the same destination for which you ask for the direction. So, on top of the confusing map, you have to judge the mixed counsels while say something polite even when you are skeptical.

Once I met a very skeptical lady with her teenage children stopping by a road junction and looking up a map. I offered her help.

"We are going to the harbour," the lady said, "Shall we go that way?"

Since she was pointing to exactly the opposite direction, I shook my head and said, "Lady, you would be going the wrong way in that case. The harbour is on the other direction."

She was extremely puzzled and frowned to me, "Are you sure? The map says the other way," her voice sounded really doubtful of me.

"Are you a local?" was her next question for me. I was quite surprised and a bit offended to hear it.

"Lady, I have been leaving here all of my life and that has been quite long," I said emphatically, which maybe I shouldn't, and pointed to the sky, "Look, the sun is setting on the diection which is the West. The East is on your back."

She looked at the sky and I went on, "So, you know that the South is on your left hand side and the north on the right. The harbour is by the southern Kowloon which is where I pointed the way to you."

Maybe she said thank you but I didn't quite hear it. She is a rare case, I can swear in my honour.

Monday, 2 March 2009

In Case of Falling Down

R0013247 (Small) (Without Precaution: An interesting thing about Hong Kong is that it is a target-oriented, modern city. Cities which are target-oriented, or economy-oriented to be exact, falling relatively behind in civil rights are common in this part of the world. So, there is seldom any question in, say, the Chinese provinces for an infrastructure project be steamrolled before an environmental impact assessment is completed. A modern city, in the contrary, runs under the guidance of laws. Want to build a Jackie Chan Museum?* Sorry, you have to go through the formalities and there is no jumping the steps. Hong Kong is an epitome of both. The law is upheld for big things whereas achieving the target is paramount for small things. A case in point is shown by the regular cleaning of the air-con components to protect people’s well-being which, sarcastically, was done by the cleaner freely without any precautionary measure like a safety belt around his waist)

Probably no one feels that an accident could happen or the cleaning man may fall down.

Don’t sneer at them cos we could be equally unwise.

Google users, have you ever felt that the Google system could fall down? Just in case the Blogspot system falls down, what will happen to you?

For those who like me uses Blogspot to write a blog, it would be catastrophic. Data could be lost. The worst of all is that the effort spent on the blog could be evapourated.

So, it is a good idea to back up data from our Blogspot site regularly. A proven way to get data back from the claws of Blogspot is to do it by Blogger Backup.

If we don’t back up our data from the blog and think that no accident will happen, we are equally unwise.

R0013246 (Small) (It is unbelievably to me that the cleaner was not required to take any safety precaution despite the fact that the cleaning was done for the Spaghetti House, which is a local big chain food store, situated in a commercial building in Tsim Sha Tsui, the very heart of Hong Kong’s tourist ghetto)

* Recently, Jackie Chan, the international Kungfu movie star, vented on the Hong Kong government for not having speeded up the formalities for a plan to build a museum in his name. He threated, as quoted in the newspaper, to sell the plan to the Singaporean government.

Sunday, 1 March 2009

A Real Hero

R0013205 (Medium)(Grip On Reality: This photo was taken on my way to work.  I was walking past trucks parking on a cul-de-sac when the ropes caught my attention.  The light was right, the colour was right and the criss-crossing pattern was perfect and I held up my GX200.  People passing by checked me out and wondered what could be made out of such a boring scene.  To me, the fun in photography is that the photographer makes something interesting out of what is not obvious to most at the scene.  The ropes tied in knots somehow reminded people I know who are in the grip of the recession)

You must have also known a friend or two, or even yourself, being baffled by the spiral downturn of the economy.   Bank went bankrupt and the rich was faced with a shrinking wealth.  A friend of mine has just had his salary cut by over 10% and some of his colleagues started to be shed.

But, wait.

Was this done really for the sake of continuing the business? Or is there a factor or greed in it?  I wonder whether the company will go broke quickly without a cut in the payroll.  Forward planning is right for every business.  But, how about backward looking too?  How about using the money earned in the good years to keep the business going, or, better still, to keep the employee at ease in this fnancial climate?

Bosses, you cannot be the only one who wins.

Lots of bosses say they value their employees.  Some even mean it.

And then there's Leonard Abess Jr.

A Heart-Warming Act

After selling a majority stake in Miami-based City National Bancshares last November, all he did was take $60 million of the proceeds -- $60 million out of his own pocket -- and hand it to his tellers, bookkeepers, clerks, everyone on the payroll. All 399 workers on the staff received bonuses, and he even tracked down 72 former employees so they could share in the windfall.

For longtime employees, the bonus -- based on years of service -- amounted to tens of thousands of dollars, and in some cases, more than $100,000.

At a time when financial titans are being paraded before Congress to explain how they blew billions on executives' bonuses even as they received a taxpayer bailout, the big-hearted banker's selfless deed stands out.

''I retired seven years ago, and all of a sudden I get this wonderful letter and phone call,'' said Evelyn J. Budde, who spent 43 years at City National Bank of Florida, rising to vice president.

''I was shocked,'' said William Perry. In 43 ½ years at City National, he climbed from janitor to vice president. Like many longtime City National employees, he forged an unbreakable bond with the bank that continued into retirement. Perry returns regularly for the annual employees' dinner.

Abess didn't publicize what he had done. He didn't even show up at the bank to bask in his employees' gratitude on the day the bonus envelopes were distributed. He was inundated with letters soon afterward.

Asked later what motivated him, Abess said he had long dreamed of a way to reward employees. He had been thinking of creating an employee stock option plan before he decided to sell the bank.

''Those people who joined me and stayed with me at the bank with no promise of equity -- I always thought some day I'm going to surprise them,'' he said. "I sure as heck don't need [the money].''

R0013132 (Medium)(A Way Out: When you have trillions of dollars and give away 60 million, it means a lot to lots of people and at the same time does not make you less healthy.  But when you earn 60 million less and cut the payroll at the first instance, it shatters the hopes of many.  The business world does not run on charity, but just try to give a way out to the common people in bad times)


In exchange for an 83 percent stake in the business, the Spanish bank Caja Madrid paid $927 million in November. Abess retained a minority share and is still the board chairman and chief executive officer at City National.

Even before the sale, Abess wasn't hurting for money. He bought his 11.8-acre, $23 million estate in Miami's Cliff Hammocks neighborhood from actor Sylvester Stallone in 1999.

Abess' father, Leonard L. Abess, founded City National in 1946 with Baron de Hirsch Meyer as one of the first postwar commercial banks in the region. Abess Jr. started his career in the bank's print shop, which made forms and documents. Working his way up the ladder gave him an appreciation for the role that employees play in the success of an enterprise.

''I saw that if the president doesn't come to work, it's not a big deal,'' he said. ``But if the tellers don't show up, it's a serious problem.''

Many people presume that Abess inherited the bank from his father, but he didn't.

In fact, in true Miami fashion, the bank has a colorful history. City National was sold in the early 1980s to an investment group that, in turn, resold it to Colombian coffee magnate Alberto Duque.

The dapper and charming Duque was the toast of Miami -- until he was convicted of bilking two dozen Miami banks out of about $108 million in connection with his coffee business.

Duque went to federal prison -- he eventually fled the country from a halfway house -- and City National went on the block in bankruptcy court.

In 1985, the younger Abess bought majority control in the bankruptcy proceedings for $21 million -- all of it borrowed, he says -- and he later acquired the rest from about 200 investors for about $6 million. Under his hand, the bank grew from $400 million in assets and seven offices to $2.75 billion in assets and 18 offices.

Sharing the wealth with staffers came naturally. Abess and his wife, Jayne, have long been big contributors to local organizations, such as the Greater Miami Jewish Federation and Mount Sinai Medical Center. In 2006, the Abesses gave $5 million to the University of Miami to promote environmental studies.

But he also wanted to reach out to his staff. ''I wonder if I did enough,'' he recently mused.

''I knew some of these people since I was 7 years old. I didn't feel right getting the money myself,'' said Abess, who was concerned that their 401(k) plans had taken a beating in the downdraft on Wall Street last year.


To prepare employees, Abess made an online video just before the merger was completed and explained in it that a windfall was coming soon. He also wanted to make sure that people realized it was a one-time bonus -- and certainly not severance pay or a nudge for them to move on.

Three days later, about 2 p.m. Nov. 7, a Friday, a handful of senior employees fanned out throughout the bank's offices to dole out vouchers that detailed the sums deposited in their payroll accounts. A handful of senior executives got separate payouts.

''We expected a bonus, but the type we received -- our mouths are still open,'' said Carleatha E. Barbary, a 39-year veteran who runs the One Biscayne Tower branch.

Geneva Lawson, a 72-year-old safety-deposit clerk who has spent 51 years with City National, including a stint as Abess' boss in the print shop, plans to buy a new car -- and to save a bit.

Workers were provided with financial counseling and special high-rate certificates of deposit at City National.

''It was like a lottery, only better,'' Virginia C. Dunn, managing senior vice president, said of the gift. "Because it came from someone's heart.''

In this tight time for everyone, the world needs more like examples.

The good act of Leonard Abess Jr. was recognised by President Obama in Congress.

(With materials quoted from Miamiherald)