Saturday, 9 May 2009

Selected Excellence: Selling Seafood

P1010370 (Medium)(The point of interest is the sort of mirrored images of the two heads as the foreground leading to the focal point, which is the fisherman on the junk selling seafood.  The photo would be even more intriguing if the fisherman had looked up.  But the picture is good in its own right.  Well done, Chris)

Again, Christopher Guy sent us some photos he had taken on his Sai Kung trip.  The one posted above is a very interesting photo.  Chris uses a LX3 and the images looks undoubtedly crisper than those of GX200.

As the shoot was not planned, any photographer could not afford a missed chance by waiting for the decisive moment to press the camera shutter.  So Guy certainly did a great shot in terms of the composition.

P1010359 (Medium) Of course,no photo is without room for improvement. With the benefit of hindsight, the connection of the subjects in the photo will be better with the fisherman facing towards the lens.  And if the camera could be pointed from further over the heads, the viewers may probably see the woman on the right holding money in her fist, adding a additional dimension to the story of the scene.  But of course, these are all arm-chaired advice.  Surely, Guy had all these in mind or the circumstances prevented him from implementing some better ideas for the photos.

(Junks along the pier in Sai Kung Town)

Guy wrote that he told the photos in the Sai Kung main town.  Sai Kung is not only a great place to go on a photographic trip when you visit Hong Kong.  It is actually dubbed the "Leisure Garden of Hong Kong" because it is where most of the scenic primitive countryside parks sit astride the hills, mountains and waters.

Sai Kung Town began its development as a market place about a hundred years ago when the area became a convenient gathering place for fishermen and villagers. Nowadays, Sai Kung Town is a mecca for seafood lovers, locals and tourist alike. On summer nights, a lot of people hire Kaitos or Sampan to catch cuttle-fish, a popular pastime for local residents.

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(A fisherman delivers the seafood
to customers ashore)
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Visitors can easily hire sampans and junks for leisurely trips through the beautiful island-dotted inland sea of Port Shelter or stroll around the regional market center of Sai Kung Town. You may wish to explore the back lanes, feast on seafood, visit the Tin Hau Temple and enjoy different delicacies at western style pubs and restaurants.

The hiking trails on the ridges fronting the beautiful Sai Kung sea are definitely highly recommended.  A great number of Japanese hikers haing organised regular hiking trips said that they were highly impressed by the scenic trails.  I hiked in Sia Kung for a couple of times and can testify to their impression.

Again, thank you, Chris

(Published with courtesy and copyright of Chris Guy)

Friday, 8 May 2009

Bamboo Luck Charm

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(This worker is climbing up the bamboo scaffold to the eighth floor.  He is buckled up with a safety harness to the fall prevention gears.  The scaffold is tied to the building at regular intervals) 

Bamboo scaffolds may look like monkey bars of a huge magnitude. But as perilous as weather-beaten, bamboo scaffolds are not fun filled either in hot or cold weather. Up on a scaffold , the scorching heat of the sun or the chill blown from the north is sharply felt. It is, however, the danger which really makes bamboo scaffolds off-putting to those other than the daredevils.

R0012552 (Medium) All the bamboo sticks used for building a scaffold are not the same. There are new bamboo sticks and old. The tradition of the trade is to use the old sticks only unless a ritual to charm the new sticks is perform-ed. Call it super-stitious or not, new bamboo sticks have to be smoked by joss sticks for 24 hours before the luck charm turns potent. After that, the new bamboo sticks are believed to be accident-proof.

R0014981 (Medium) (The worker is moving the bamboo sticks one by one from a side road to the bustling Nathan Road)R0014980 (Medium)

Surely, to play safe, the luck charm has to be reinforced by other formations of a bamboo scaffold. These formations include suitable R0014985 (Medium)means of access such as gangway, stairs and ladder from the building or ground level to the scaffold, platform of a catch fan or a receptacle to be covered with galvanized zinc sheet for tapping falling objects. Steel brackets shall also be provided for supporting the standard of scaffold at about six floor intervals and horizontally at about every 3 metres. Mild steel bars or similar materials called putlogs are required to tie any structure to maintain the bamboo scaffold in its position on every floor. Then there is the working platform restricted at a minimum  of 400mm R0014987 (Medium)wide to be closely boarded by planks. The edges of working platform shall be protected by not less than 2 horizontal bamboo members of the scaffold at intervals between 750mm to 900mm and suitable toe-boards with not less than 200mm high.

Bamboo scaffolding is a job perilous, weatherworn and much more specialized than what meets the eye.

(Watching them climbing down the scaffold through the screen on my GX200, I was reminded of kids coming down from the monkey bars)

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Bamboo Magic

P3281546 (Medium) (Reflection of buildings with the on on the right scaffolded.  This is not taken with the GX200 but a very primitive Oly digital point-and-shooter)

R0010506 (Medium) The sight of buildings encased in bamboo structures is always absorbing. These bamboo structures crisscross to form the scaffold, eventually hiding under a vast piece of green nylon mesh for safety purpose. Whenever gushes of wind bring the mesh leaning against the scaffold, the shadowy vertical and horizontal patterns of the skinny bamboos conjure up a remote memory of pictures showing gigantic warships of old kingdoms in full sail to the uncharted waters. In the hearts of the people ashore cheering for the ships, the puzzlement tightened its grip as the vessels vanishing on the horizon, “Will they be gone forever?”

R0010510 (Large) In like manner, the bewilderment flashes across the minds of many culture lovers time and again, “Will this ancient practical art be made redundant one day? Will it be totally gone one day?”

R0010508 (Medium) Some old tales have it that the technique bamboo scaffolding was invented by Yaochaoshi, an ancient Chinese who built the first tree house in history. Since the word “shi” (literally, last name) in ancient names of the Chinese history usually refers to a clan instead of a person, the technique probably underwent some forms of evolvement among the Yaochao clan before it became a mature skill to pass down the generations.

At a glance, the bamboo scaffolds are unanimous in forms. A closer look easily reveals the contrary. In fact, there are different setups of bamboo scaffolds to cater for specific works sites.

R0015053 (Medium)For working at height, only double-row bamboo scaffold is allowed. Bamboo scaffolds for works on slopes require sloping catch fan be erected at a level close to the first floor and at not more than 15 metres vertical intervals to give minimum horizontal protection R0015054 (Medium)coverage of 1500mm. Large catch fan shall be erected at specific location to protect the public and or workers underneath. There are also the special scaffold of height exceeding 15 metres which must be designed by an engineer.

(This set of photos show how the workers move up
bamboo sticks to build the scaffold from height)

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

The White House

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(The White House Teahouse dons an exceptionally rare retro outlook which has a sleepy quality to it.  The old-styled Chinese characters goes perfectly with the window grille.  The small octagonal fitting hanging on the grille is a feng shui mirror for dispelling bad luck)

A true tourist's attraction in its own right and sparsely known even among locals, the White House Teahouse (pronounced as Pak Kun Bing Suck in Cantonese) heaves into sight at the corner of the sidewalk leading to the Kowloon City Pier nearby.  With a history of 50 years, it occupies the place of great-granddad in the family tree of the local chachangtangs (literally tea meal house, previously discussed here and here).

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(The teahouse occupies the whole premises around the corner on the ground floor of the outworn tenement building)

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The old teahouse is situated on the ground floor of a tenement building in Tokwanwan (literally Earth Melon Bay).   During the better days that it saw, numerous manufacturing workshops clustered around the neighbourhood and factories on some levels of the tenement building sitting atop.

The hanging fans, dusty windows, period floor tiles, rottening wooden benches suggest that the teahouse is way past its hayday.  But the history and unique atmosphere are so well retained inside that it has been a popular filming location.

A chance to dine in it will be an experience of a lifetime provided that the eater is not as mature in age.  Although it was not a dining tour at the time of taking the photos, there are some tips for the must-eats.  First thing first, the Si Mut milk tea which is the all-mighty tonic offered in actually all chachangtang.  Then, try the rice with deep-fried chicken leg in black pepper sauce.  Don't forget the omellette with ham slices.  You will wish to come back.

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Of corse, bring your camera.  This time I would recommend bringing along a DSLR in addition to a serious compact like the GX200 which cannot easily achieve a shallow depth of field.  For these old places, you would definitely need a shallow depth of field to highlight some special features in the teahouse. 

R0013108 (Medium)(This is the door to the teahouse, to the right of which breads are sold)

Oh, you have got to try the breads of special Hong Kong style which was introduced to readers here.  And look, the breads are sold in almost the old fashioned way except for the lids.  In the days of yesteryear, breads were sold right in those baking trays with not the lids on but big, black joyful flies hovering around.

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(There were just a few eaters in the teahouse at the time I took the pictures.  The eater seemed barely moving and the waiters walked as slowly as could be.  It was so quite in the restaurant that the atmosphere was sort of ghosty)

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Flags of All Nations*

R0014646 (Medium)(Washing are hung right next to a road.  It makes for a good philosophical question: Are the clothes drying here already washed or are they to be cleaned after the drying?)

*Check out the last photo to learn why

For any place as populated as in Hong Kong, a backyard at home is a luxurious dream.  For those living in an apartment, the vexation of hanging out the washing at the right time to catch the sunlight can be readily understood and actually felt.

Not being quite found in any non-Chinese places, hanging clothes in the street to dry on a bright sunny day are ubiquituous in Hong Kong and China.  That effectively solves the problem of lacking space for drying the washing.

  R0014641 (Medium)(All sorts of drying linens including a bedsheet and a tablecloth)

Of course, there is the cheating invention called the drying machine to accompany the washing machine.  But the general wisdom is that drying under the sun is free, effective and, to make the arguement invincible, environmentally friendly.

So maybe for these reasons, hanging washing in the street has been made a juggernaut defying the risks of clothes being dirtied or stolen and the owners fined for HK$2,000 if caught.

R0015170 (Medium) (The post on the tree reads, "Hong Kong Government Warning: Hanging washing is prohibited and clothes found will be removed".  The photo shows the power of civil disobedience)

For sure, people into this very particular habit are mostly in their 70s.  It is not a surprise because they are just carrying on this old habit prevalent in their younger days.

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Contrary to the belief of the government, these washing in the street are quite a sight to adorn the otherwise boring streetscape in some quieter corners near residential blocks where the hanging is more rampant.  They add a sronger sense of a residential neighbourhood.  And this old habit reminds us of the existence of the old generations among us both of which are to be treasured. 

This is the true local character of Hong Kong.

R0014927 (Medium) (For the colourful scenes these washing make, they are also known in a rather gracious term, "flags of all nations")

Monday, 4 May 2009

Space Ship

R0015419 (Medium)(The ferry, the boat and the space tracking ship)

Oops, the title should be "Space Tracking Ship", Yuanwang 6 (literally Far View 6) which is China's state-of-the-art vessel visiting Hong Kong.

R0015417 (Medium)The purpose of building ocean-going space tracking ships in China is to perform maritime tracking and control duties for satellites and manned spacecrafts. Being the latest and most advanced space tracking ship of China, Yuanwang-6 is equipped with and makes use of the new and high technologies of maritime meteorology, electro-nics, mechanics, optics, communication and computing for its missions. Yuanwang-6 successfully performed maritime tracking and remote control of "Shenzhou 7" spacecraft during a mission jointly carried out by other ships of the "Yuanwang" fleet in September 2008.

R0015423 (Medium)(The pilothouse with some ball shaped scanners on top)

Yangwang 6 have a displacement tonnage of 25,000 tons when fully loaded, with a crew of about 470 and a length of about 190 meters (620 ft) and a top speed of 20 knots (37 km/h).  The vessel is bristling with satellite dishes and scanners.  The ball shaped equipment sitting atop the pilothouse are a doppler weather radar and some antenna for various purposes.

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Yangwang 6 is unmistakeable for its three satellite dishes.  They are quite a sight.  The one on the left is called Unified S-Band Antenna, and the other two are communication antennae.  According to the authoritative US intelligence website, its predecessors relayed 212 remote orders to China's previous manned spacecraft.  Those older models had in their time also monitored an intercontinental ballistic missile test and satellite launches.

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There is a dome shaped structure between the dishes.  It is a theodolite, which is an optical instrument consisting of a small mounted telescope rotatable in horizontal and vertical planes for measuring angles in surveying, meteorology and navigation.

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The space tracking ship can withstand strong wind of a strength to force 12.  With a capability of a non-stop voyage up to 18,000 sea miles (33,336km), the vessel can effectively go on a voyage for a consecutive 38 days at top speed

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R0015432 (Medium)Yuanwang 6's visit is meant to mark the 60 anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China.  This is of course much welcomed by photographers for a chance to take photos of a rather different theme.

The visit will last for a few days, accompanied by some exhibition and public talks for free.

(The football shaped small satellite communication antenna with a GPS upper-air sounding system next to it.  I would say that the antenna is a golf ball and the tall building the golf cue)

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Wow, What Fun!

R0014025 (Medium) (It always pays off for photographers to be observant, with a stealthy and responsive camera.  This scene of the patrons reading the menu was noticed in a restaurant.  Once again, the GX200 did a good job.  So was I.  I guess so :))

This is Sunday.  Have some fun!