Saturday, 18 July 2009

Hey Mister, Mind Your Kids

The importance of the captioned utterance of annoyance is where you hear or say it.

When this was spoken, I was startled by the lady taking photos of her kid at a hotel swimming pool and aggreviated by the kids of the Mister who, rightly so, were left to kick, jump and run on the shallow side of the pool.

Naturally, the water splashed on her Canon P&S camera with the lens fully extended, uncovered in whatever way. I said "naturally" because that was a POOL! So the lady fretted and fussed about the children and hinted the Mister to stop'em to apparently no avail.

The Mister gave the lady an unfriendly glance and said and did nothing. There I was startled the unreasonable ego of her. A swimming pool is for swimming in the first place. She had probably no sense about this nor knowledge about the availability of some all-weather tough camera.

This brings us to a not-so-new-yet-not-so-old tough camera (forgive me, this is not a serious compact to be in line with this blog's theme): the Canon Powershot D10

This digital camera is engineered to endure almost wherever you go to produce the kind of awe-inspiring images that will earn your respect without fretting about water splashes and whatsoever. The PowerShot D10 and it is no ordinary digital camera is waterproof down to 33 feet (so the lady could have even dived to the pool bottom to shoot!), meaning suitable for even scuba diving, snorkeling or surfing.

Also it's freezeproof and can withstand extremes of temperature from 14-104°F, transcending the extreme sports of shooting next to a swimming pool to befit even snowboarding, mountaineering and more.

Then, it's shockproof for 4 feet!

This camera is recommended because partly of the inspiration from the lady's aggreviance, and partly of Canon's proven track records in its P&Ss. These special features are complemented by the DIGIC 4 sensor. So the IQ will be agreeable, to say the least.

Control-wise, there is no surprise, which is best for the general consumers. Main features of the D10 include:

-A selection of unique accessories available such as customized straps and interchangeable faceplates.

-DIGIC 4 Image Processor has evolved Face Detection Technology that tracks the faces of moving subjects and lets the shooter enter the frame seamlessly with the Face Detection Self-Timer.

-12.1 Megapixels, plus 3x Optical Zoom lens with Optical Image Stabilizer.

-Blink Detection alerts a shooter after a shot has been taken that a subject has closed eyes. (Does it work for fish? ...Hey, fish don't blink, idiot!)

-Smart AUTO intelligently selects the proper settings for the camera based on 18 predefined shooting situations.

Nevin asked me to write it light for the Saturday post. So here you are. And here goes a video review of the D10:

Friday, 17 July 2009

Win a Lensbaby


Now that we photographers are going to have the weekend all by ourselves (which for some unknown reason reminds me of this ear candy) without the tiring weekday works, this is time to pursue our true photographic identity (just like Batman after dark) and flex our photographic muscles.

Burrard-Lucas photography has announced its second photography contest which offers over $2,000 in prizes. The contest is themed on "Mysterious Places". The first thing springs to mind is what the excellent digital marco function of my GX200 may afford to produce on this theme.

There are going to be 12 winners. The prizes on offer are:

Prizes 1x Overall Winner: Lensbaby Composer + Optic Swap SystemSmugMug Pro Account (1 year) + $50 print credits($565 total value)

1x Peoples Choice Winner: Lensbaby Muse with Double Glass Optic + SmugMug Pro Account (1 year) + $50 print credits($350 total value)

2x Runners up: Lensbaby Muse with Plastic Optic + SmugMug Pro Account (1 year)($250 value per person)

8x Highly Commended: $25 Gift Certificate to + SmugMug Power Account (1 year)($85 value per person)

The "Peoples' Choice" winner will be selected by public vote at the end of the contest.

Dates and Rules

The deadline for entry is 31st October 2009. Peoples Choice prize voting will run from 7th-14th November 2009. All winners will be announced on 16th November 2009. The rules for entries are:

-The contest is open to participants worldwide, aged 18 or over on the closing date. -There is no entry fee. -You must be the photographer and owner of the copyright for any image entered. -Entrants can submit a maximum of three images to this contest.

-Please keep digital manipulation such as cloning and compositing to a minimum; your photograph should faithfully represent the scene as you saw it. HDR images are allowed.

-Submitted images should be a minimum of 1024 pixels along the long edge. -Images must not include a watermark or border. -You will retain copyright of your entries at all times and will always be credited alongside your picture.

-By entering this competition, you grant us a non-exclusive licence to display your photograph in connection with this contest. This may include syndication of the 12 winning photographs by the media (but only in connection with this contest). Winners will always be informed if their photographs are syndicated and will always be credited next to their image.

-Under no-circumstance will we use submitted images for commercial gain unless it has been agreed on a case by case basis with the photographer.

They put down fair rules for this contest. Some contest organisers will retain the perpetual right to use your images without paying you by way of the rules (in which case you should submit the photos at the mimial size as requested to limit the usefulness for commercial purpose).

You can enter online here. Good luck!

More About the Prizes

Lensbaby Lensbaby makes selective focus SLR lenses which work on Canon, Nikon, Sony, Olympus, and Pentax cameras.

The Lensbaby Composer is the prefect travel companion; it is compact, lightweight and full of creative potential! Based on a unique and innovative ball and socket configuration, the Composer delivers smooth selective focus photography with unparalleled ease. Photographers simply tilt the lens to a desired angle and then focus with a focusing ring. The result is an area of sharp focus (the "Sweet Spot") that can be moved around the frame. Click here to find out more about the Composer.

The Lensbaby Muse is an easy to use lens that opens up a new realm of fun in focusing! Squeeze the Muse to focus, and bend your "Sweet Spot" around the frame. Click here to find out more about the Muse.

The new Lensbaby Optic Swap System gives you the freedom to break the rules and express your vision even further. The system works with all of Lensbaby's new lenses and includes Double Glass, Single Glass, Plastic, and Pinhole / Zoneplate Optics. Each optic has its own unique look and feel. Click here for a comparison of different optics.

SmugMug SmugMug offers you everything you need to kick start your online presence! From displaying photos on your own personal website through to printing and selling your work, Smugmug provides an easy to use, customizable and fully featured solution. Features of both pro and power accounts include unlimited storage and bandwidth, customisable themes and web addresses, video hosting, password protected galleries, dedicated support and much more! Pro accounts also allow you to make a profit by setting your own prices for print and digital download purchases - exactly what you need to get your online photography business up and running!

Click here for an overview of SmugMug's services. Click here for a description of SmugMug's Pro service. Click here for a full listing of SmugMug account features.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

GX200 Firmware

Ricoh has just released another firmware (here for downloading) to address the following problems:
•With the combination of the following conditions, it will not properly appear the image in the position display window that is shown when you playback with enlarged.- [Auto Rotate] ON- There are both horizontal and vertical images in a camera- Playback enlarged images with the ADJ. lever. •When using long time exposure, the orientation information (horizontal or vertical) of the image may not be recorded correctly.

Modern City, Ancient Trade

R0013835 (Large)^Up the ladder to the truck from where the scaffolders climbed
to work on a height of the fourth floor.

Legend has it that the inventor of bamboo scaffolding was Youchao (literally Have Shelter), a legendary character in ancient China who built the first tree house in human history (Oops, I had thought that it was Tarzar's parents). Scaffolding is an old trade indeed.

R0013838 (Medium)^The scaffolder is without a safety helmet, which is apparently against the law.

The bamboo scaffolding is as aesthetic as technical which we learned in two old posts here and here. Not all scaffolding is built with the same method. Whenever I find the bamboo scaffolders erect the huge masterpieces in a day or two, I cannot but exclaim with utmost admiration.

R0013822 (Large)^A scaffolder earns around HK$1,000 a day which is not much
because they do not have work on a daily basis.

R0013828 (Large)The best part showing courage and skills is none other than their swift movements of drifting effortlessly from one corner to another on the scaffolds, which always amazes me like what windowing shopping a well-stocked confectionary would be to a young child.

<- The scaffolding is built upon a sidewalk next to Nathan Road, the thoroughfare of the Kowloon Penisular. The area under a scaffolding is seldom cordoned off, which speak volumns for the technical sturdiness of it. As an aside, Nathan was one of British viceroy to Hong Kong. Most of the old streets are named after the top echelon officials in the Hong Kong British colonial government, of which the Chinese names were sometimes translated in a obnoxious word-play way. This could make another topic.

Ground-breaking Camera Function


Canon has come up with a new USB transmission protocol betweent the camera and the lens ...

... NOT

Actually, this is a 2GB USB memory device worth of HK$220 which Canon is giving out to buyers of its laser printers for free. The cheapest laser printer costs a wee bit over HK$800. If you are considering a printer and crave for this giveaway, read here.

Well, it is a promotion for Hong Kong Canon only.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Leo Wong on Artistic Concepts of Photography

Today's post features Leo K.K. Wong (1932- ), the last of the three masters of photography for this masters series.

autumn fantasy1983
^Autumn Fantasy 1983

Much like Alfred Stieglitz (1864-1946), the American modern photography reformist who pioneered straight photography in the 1920s and devoted to establishing photography as an independent art form like painting and sculpture, Leo K. K. Wong, a seasoned photographer of Hong Kong, was already a breath of fresh air in the local pictorial photography scene in his early years. Wong pursued typical pictorial aesthetics during earlier days but later became deeply influenced by the spirit of Chinese calligraphy and painting. This resulted in an evolution from the representational to the abstract as he began studying the intrinsic qualities of photography. He was the first to show a new way to further explore Hong Kong pictorial photography that has gradually evolved into a new standard.

Wong has lots of insights in photography under his belts. First, let's see what he has to say about photography

In His Own Words

The world of artistic photography has traditionally always been divided into two conflicting camps: pictorial and realistic representation. Many people hold the opinion that salon photography is a form of aestheticism that focuses on gaieties with no regard for society and life. This is not true. We amateur photographers have increasingly taken inspiration from Hong Kong's urban development and social changes over the years. Indeed, there are many excellent photos that stand witness. Unlike press and documentary photography, our photos have a more subjective perspective. Greater attention is given to composition and artistic conception. For years, these works have earned high acclaim and recognition at international salons.

A sharpened sensitivity is an essential attribute for the photographer. This sense can locate beauty. The subjects in many of my works are common to others. However I can sense their beauty. Unlike technology, this "responding to beauty" can only be perceived spontaneously and never put in words. And it takes time to cultivate. In my 40 years of photographic pursuits, I have often put down my camera to enjoy music, Chinese painting and western arts. These arts are rich sources of inspiration which I can blend into photography.

the dream of spring1999^The Dream of Spring 1999

In the ten years between 1984 and 1994, I barely took any photographs and dedicated most of my time to studying Chinese painting and Chinese literary classics. Such artistic cultivation helped me establish my own theory of aesthetics, and contributed immensely to my future artistic creation. During that decade, I was most attracted and influenced by a Chinese master whose works are characterized by consummate use of colour and light, as well as personal expressiveness through the combination of individual, powerful brushwork and simple concepts.

In recent years, I have taken pleasure in connecting with nature. Using various photographic techniques, I endeavour to portray fleeing impressions of nature and my personal feelings. My aim is to communicate the ever revolving contrasts of nature: movement and stillness, prosperity and decline, fullness and emptiness. As for whether I can successfully transform fleeting impulsive movements of nature into enduring photos that are as beautiful as poetry, and to transform materials forms into spiritual ones, both artistic cultivation and a creative mind are decisive.

burden of life1971
^Burden of Life 1971

Early Street Shots

In 1966, Wong studied photography under master photographer S. F. Dan (1906-1987) where he came to understand the importance of composition and innovative ideas. He was greatly inspired by Tchan Fou-li's artistic view on juxtaposing documentary and pictorial elements. In the early years, Wong insisted upon presenting social life subjects within pictorial compositions. Works from that period depict the bustling Wong Tai Sin (a Hong Kong district; literally Yellow Big Deity) market in Market Place the life of Lau Fau Shan (a Hong Kong place; literally Flowing Floating Mountain) fishermen in Burden of Life and the Tai Po (a Hong Kong place) street scene in Monkey Show.


< Tearful 1969

All these photos successfully record glimpses of life in Hong Kong from the 1960s and 1970s. Although Wong often gives up signature landmarks for more elegant compositions, these monochrome works are precious images that bear witness to the social changes and remain outstanding examples of pictorial photographs of the time. In 1975, Wong won the gold award (human emotions) at the Mental Health Week exhibition with Tearful of 1969. This photo captures the grievance of his little daughter replete with teardrops and pursed lips. The innocent facial expression and inner feelings of the child are vividly portrayed.

Black-and-White Photography

Black-and-white photography is discerning about light and shadow, and tonal gradation, whereas colour photography demands colour contrast and matching. It is not easy for photographers to satisfy both sets of requirements. Wong is nevertheless capable of creating black-and-white photos with moving tones and rich details, as well as brilliant colour works. Early Spring taken in China exemplify the masterly effect wrought by harmonious colours. Autumn Fantasy (the first photo in this post) in 1983 is his first work achieved by means of multiple exposures. The same objects were captured with different focal lengths; the light, colour and objects blend perfectly as one. It creates an overall illusive effect of fleeting light. This photo transcends the prevailing stereotype of salon photography execution.

market place1966
^Market Place 1966

Wong believes that photographers must appreciate painting, calligraphy and music to sharpen their aesthetic perception. His Lotus series contains blooming summer lotus blossoms as well as withered winter ones. Whatever form the blossoms may take, they always express his personal response to beauty. Multiple exposures lead to a series of optical effects in the lotus pond. Delicate nuances of light and colour, coupled with harmonious and coordinated tonal gradation, piece together a unique artistic conception. Wong successfully expresses the beauty of nature's light, colours, lines and form with photographic qualities.

monkey show 1972
^Monkey Show 1972

Nature Photography

In the late 1990s, Wong infused his photography with a strong passion for nature. Using different photographic techniques, he hoped to eternalise the momentary beauty of nature and express his emotions with vistas of various seasons and times of day. His finds depicting hazy beauty a viable mode of expression to take the work from representational to abstract art and that multiple exposure is the best technique for this purpose. It is quite common for pictorial photographers to do multiple exposures yet Wong is bold enough to do so up to 9 times in one photo. Such skill is truly incredible. Multiple exposures create overlapping images creating the illusion that objects are full of movement. Viewers can sense the energy of life in a serene and natural scene.

early spring1980
^Early Spring 1980

In addition, Wong also loves to create hazy and illusive conceptions with reflex lens. His favourite 250mm reflex lenses have very short depths of field. When light falls on objects outside the depth of field, small light rings are formed. Dreaming of Spring is one such example. The flowering peaches in the background are diffused into a series of hazy red halos, whereas the blossoms in the foreground are vague and sometimes half concealed.

In recent years, Wong has been fond of photographing flowering plum and cotton trees. These subjects are captured with long focal length lenses so that scenic details are enlarged and trivial elements omitted. Resonance of Plum Blossom is a fine example in which the simple and clean composition is offset by dazzling and mystical light and arrangements of colour. Flowers captured with the telephoto lens are like adorning red ink strokes in Chinese ink paintings, while twisted branches resemble the unrestrained effect of ink splashing. These photographic works are bursting with the abstract tone of modern Chinese ink painting.

Resonance2006 ^Resonance of Plum Blossom 2006

Wong conducts dialogues with landscapes through his photography. He experiences the ever-changing life force of nature. His works echo the messages conveyed by Japanese landscape photographer Shinzo Maeda (1922-1998) whose poetic natural landscapes deeply touch the hearts of viewers. While the works of both photographers bear witness to the harmonious encounter between the self and the natural environment, Wong's photos particularly resonate with a rich charm found in Chinese paintings. His landscape photographs are simplistically composed while interpreting abstract beauty with photographic qualities. He has opened up a creative path full of individualistic style.

(Published with photos and info from Hong Kong Heritage Museum; with info rearranged)

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Hing-fook KAN "Good Photos are not by Chance"

The second master of photography from Hong Kong for this week is Hing-fook Kan (1921- ). Let's learn from this respectable senior.

water palette1953^Water Palette 1953

In 1861, British portrait photographer Jabez Hughes (1819-1884) classified photography into three categories: mechanical, art and high art. In his view, high art photography served a loftier purpose than art photography through its ability to instruct, purify and ennoble. This function of promoting culture and refinement stressed by Hughes became a spiritual goal for artists who pursued pictorial photography of the time, including KAN Hing Fook.

In His Own Words

First of all, let's hear some pointers from Kan about photography:

"Throughout my photographic career, works that stand the test of time, that allow me to savour them anew, are few and far between. The majority of my past best works no longer satisfy me. There will be no room for improvement if one only clings to past successes and forgoes innovation, the essence of artistic creation.

"To perfect a photographic theme, good planning and detailed prior study are essential. Never get complacent about a few photographs that have gained admiration. The way to achieve a memorable photo is to keep on reviewing past works.

"Let me focus on the water lily, my favorite subject from the 1940s, which I have now been photographing for more than 60 years. I could always select some of those pictures as being amongst the best, yet in time, they would lose their distinction. Therefore, I always explore appropriate photographic techniques to suit my creative thoughts. Life is But a Dream is a photo so motivated.

"To capture the best images of birds in flight. I travelled to many places around the world. No successful work is produced by chance. A photographer should know why and what to shoot properly, interpreting the subject and trying relentlessly to attain it.

"A painter may be able to figure out what he knows and likes in his paintings. It is not as difficult now as it was in the past. Photographers today are no longer limited by the mechanics of the camera and darkroom techniques. The invention of digital technology has widened my creative mind. Now I can achieve a similar effect on photographic paper as a painter does on canvas. It is a sure bet that the use of digital equipment holds the future for photography.”

gateway to freedom1950
^Gateway to Freedom 1950

Pursuit of Perfection

Kan, a master pictorialist of Hong Kong, has been active in this city's photography circles for more than 70 years, during which time he has brought enjoyment and enlightenment to the public through pictorial photography. Whether documentary images of social scenes or landscape photos, the works of Kan reflect his incessant pursuit of perfection in content and form, spirit and presentation. Kan firmly believes that the picture-like "beauty" in photographic works can convey "the best" of life. To create a perfect photo, he has grown accustomed to travelling the Mainland and other parts of the world. As a man of great perseverance and dedication, he is a photographer who continues to inspire with outstanding works.

To Kan, it is more gratifying to travel great distances for a great photo with enchanting scenery than to win a photographic award. Since the 1960s, he has travelled across China and other parts of the world to capture beautiful natural vistas. He is not dissuaded by any obstacles encountered along the way towards achieving these ends. Despite injury and even a traffic accident, he fearlessly continues his quest. Kan has visited remote mountain regions and rural villages in search of new subjects. Often lasting from dawn to dusk, a typical day's search may not bear fruit, but he never complains. Kan does not believe that outstanding photographic works materialize by chance. He believes that it is imperative to make repeated trials and studies until one finds a context for a breakthrough that culminates in capturing a good shot. To create truly excellent works, photographers must make endless attempts.

herding in spring1998 ^Herding in Spring 1988

Artistic Influences

Kan began his photographic career in 1938. With no guidance from any mentor, he found his own way and direction. It was a time when the variety magazine The Companion Pictorial regularly ran features on renowned Chinese photographers which included their photographic theories as well as examples of their art photography. Kan was greatly influenced and motivated by these masters in particular. In 1942, Kan studied western painting in the Shanghai Fine Art Academy under master painter Liu Haisu (1896-1994) and the great sculptor, Zhang Chongren (1907-1998). Liu's revolutionary east-meets-west approach deeply impacted the young Kan. These Chinese and Western art elements nurtured Kan's creative thinking and subsequently appeared in his photographic art. Such influences can readily be observed in Kan's works where his subjects are expressed by means of his unique pictorial composition and individual style.

Kan's early relationship with art budded in his teens. He studied Western arts and was fascinated by the Impressionist school of Western Europe which advocated the study of how light and shadow affect colours, and the expression of momentary scenes where the inherent interplay of change amongst these elements is visible. Kan was inspired by Impressionist paintings and sought reference from their discipline of artistic treatment and execution. In so doing, he found elements suitable for application to photography.

vestiages of van Gogh's Rhyme1999^Vestiages of van Gogh's Ryhme 1999

For example, Vincent van Gogh was an expert in using strong colours and brushstrokes to express personal feelings. In this vein, Kan has attempted to infuse his photographic works with such characteristics and succeeded in creating photos enriched with strong objective sentiments through the ingenious use of colour and variations in gradation. In The Inherited Rhyme of van Gogh of 1999, one sees the artistic concept is derived from the painting Wheatfield with Crows by van Gogh. The photo purposefully strengthens the expression of colours, and the gradation of the sky recalls van Gogh's powerful brushstrokes that come together to strongly impact the viewer.

Another work, Life is But a Dream, is inspired by the celebrated Water-Lily Pond series by Claude Monet. Juxtaposition of light and colours generates a highly creative mood. The lotus pond, buffeted by the strong winds of the rainstorm, presents a dynamic scene. Kan used a slow shutter speed to catch the violent movements of the flowers transforming them into colour blocks much like those objects seen in abstract paintings. The result elevates the viewer to an insightful dimension where self existence is temporarily forgotten.

life is but a dream1998 ^Life is But a Dream 1998

Exemplary Works of Kan

Since arriving in Hong Kong from Shanghai as a businessman in 1948, Kan's photographic pursuit has never faltered or been interrupted. His early monochrome portraits were taken in Hong Kong and Macau. Most of these depict the hardships faced by the working classes and their call for peace and social stability. Kan expressed his love and concern for society through the language of photography. While reflecting everyday life in Hong Kong in the early years, his works have also contributed significantly to the local photographic scene by inspiring in others to excel in art expression. In works like Gateway to Freedom and The Temple Step, Kan captures moments of joy in common frugal life. In these photos, the characters march towards the sun conveying a message that people should pursue a bright and decent future. As photographs with strong backlighting, they both convey a bold effect that sharply delineates the contours of the subjects like paper-cut silhouettes. At the same time, their projected shadows suggest a sense of space and depth. Works like these illustrate Kan's serious effort in studying the expression of light and shadow. Such bold and innovative lighting techniques encouraged many photographers of the time.


Many landscape photos taken by Kan in the 1950s became world class salon masterpieces. Among them, Hermitage was rated best photograph of the year by the Photographic Society of Hong Kong. An aerial shot, this photograph is rich in monochrome gradation and attracts viewers with a special charm akin to that of a Chinese painting. The interplay between spaces and hills generates serial changes of illusion and reality resulting in a rhythmic vitality. Hills appear as if made by ink dyeing, with objects from far and near differentiated by intense and pale tones that create a distant aspect. His magnificent portrayal of mountains enables viewers to know how grand the Huangshan is. With a clever use of composition, Kan presents three of Huangshan's natural wonders: a sea of clouds, wonderful pines and strangely shaped rocks.

Another famous work, Water Palette in 1953 (the first photo here), is a photo of scenic Tolo Harbour in Shatin, Hong Kong. Swept by a soft breeze, the sea undulates along elegant rhythmic lines. Illuminated by sunlight coming from the opposite direction, gradation is distinctive and orderly. It is amazing to note that this particular scene lasted just half a minute! It takes a remarkably quick-handed photographer to capture such moments in their full glory. Illustrating the verve and charm of interaction between light and shadow and as a testament to Kan's mature photographic skills, this photo won the gold award at the 8th International Salon organised by the Photographic Society of Hong Kong. It made headline news in Hong Kong photographic circles because that was the first time the gold award had ever gone to a Chinese photographer then.

startled2000^Startled 2000

More Tips from Kan

Kan's black-and-white photos are meticulously composed so that viewers can sense the beauty of natural landscapes. His artistic appeal can be compared to the Californian Yosemite National Park series by renowned US landscape photographer, Ansel Adams (1902-1984). Works by both masters focus on the tonal variation of black-and-white gradation while possessing subtle yet profound artistic comprehension. Both artists capture the grandeur and splendour of nature with acute observation and perfect photographic skills, and present them in highly captivating photos.

In photographic presentation, Kan has always been innovative and open to new approaches. In the wake of advances in digital technology, he began using computer techniques to strengthen the visual impact of his work in the 1990s. This has widened the creative scope of his art photography considerably. In Herding in Spring and Startled, taken on the Yunnan plateau and in Yellowstone National Park, respectively, Kan felt the actual natural landscapes were a little desolate and that the compositions were too simple, so he cut and pasted the images of shepherd girls, sheep and egrets from other sources into the photos for added vitality. After synthesising these images, he carefully adjusted the overall colours and gradations to make the subjects appear natural. Working with computer software in this way, Kan has been able to create perfect landscapes and to fully express personal emotions through various objects.

the temple step1955^The Temple Step 1955

Kan feels that photographic art must be pursued with feverish enthusiasm. Just like the Impressionist painters, he himself is also a passionate artist. Now approaching his nineties, Kan’s love for and dedication to photography are as keen as ever. He continues to move us with great commitment and perseverance. He combines Western and Chinese painting theories and applies them in his photographic works. Kan has dedicated his life to influencing people through a photographic ideal that blends beauty and perfection. For half a century, his artistic works have influenced local and overseas photography enthusiasts alike. Indeed, he has written an important page in the history of photography in Hong Kong.

(Photos and info from Hong Kong Heritage Museum with info rearranged)

Monday, 13 July 2009

Fou-li Tchan On Pictorial Photography

This week, we are going to learn from three local masters of photography by looking at their pursuit in creative artistic photography. Today, let's meet with Fou-li TCHAN.

ex73_5en ^Life is But a Dream 1996

An Account of Tchan and His Works

Tchan was born in a Guangdong Province in 1916 and graduated from the Guangdong Provincial Second Normal School in 1934. Influenced by his father who loved painting and music, Tchan greatly enjoyed Chinese painting and classical Chinese poetry. His sound knowledge of literature and art provided a solid basis for his launch into photography. In 1944, Tchan immigrated to Vietnam to run a business where his interest in photography blossomed. He acquired sophisticated darkroom techniques of film development, colour temperature and gradation control. In the early years, he was also impressed by the creative ideas and style of Lang Jingshan (1892-1995), a first generation master photographer in China. These resulted in photos which resembled Chinese paintings. The composition is attractive in its expression and emulation of the atmosphere found in Chinese painting. The rich black-and-white gradation reinforces the ambience and similarity to those visual effects found in the Chinese ink painting (scroll down to see the last photo).

ex73_1en ^ War and Peace 1951

In 1955, Tchan moved to Hong Kong as a businessman. Shooting as an amateur photographer at the time, his photography was influenced by western realism in the way that he focused on depicting the lives of ordinary people. Although shot in various countries such as Vietnam, all reveal compassion and sympathy for the unfortunate masses. These photographs burst with local colours and the spirit of life. In the early 1960s, Tchan advocated a new approach of "portraying the real object in collaboration with the skill of pictorial depiction" for capturing subjects from everyday life. Portraits from this era truly and most successfully exemplify the marriage of art and real-life subject matter.

image^Cheerful Rain 1958

In 1962, he wrote an essay titled "Chinese Pictorial Painting and Landscape Photography" in which he advocated that it was essential to learn from Chinese painting when shooting landscape photographs. Furthermore, he argued that the use of monochromes in black-and-white photos is very similar to the way in which three-dimensional textures and forms are represented with varied ink intensity in Chinese painting. He said that it was only when the colours of objects were simplified and refined that their essences and qualities could be conveyed. As for composition, Tchan thinks that the spaces created in landscape photos can enhance the spatial feeling of solidness and emptiness much like the commensurate types of spaces do in Chinese painting. By shooting spectacular panoramic mountain views with wide-angle lenses and then cropping them to a longitudinal composition, he infused lyricism and poetry into the resulting photographs of these majestic mountains. A sense of depth created by means of multiple perspectives and the spiritual feeling evoked by the use of ink gradation in Chinese painting are thus created.

image ^Anticipation 1960

In the early 1980s, he was committed to finding a way to lift his ethnic photographic style to a higher level. Promoting a "composite-style of photography and painting", he asked many renowned Chinese painters to adorn his photos with supplementary brushstrokes. In addition to juxtaposing photography with painting, Tchan's photographic style has undergone another significant change since 1980. Influenced by the east-meets-west fusion favoured by Chinese painters of the 20th century, Tchan attempted to merge western painting composition with Chinese pictorial aesthetics.

^ Wrestling 1967

To Tchan, blending eastern and western cultures and creating photographic works with the poetic quality of Chinese painting has been a lifelong aspiration. Tchan is the founder of the Chinese Photographic Association of Hong Kong, a body composed mainly of Chinese members. He has placed significant effort in promoting Chinese poetic photography and has also published photographic magazines like Photoart, Photo Pictorial and China Tourism all of which have effectively popularised photography. He has been instrumental in promoting the development of tourism in China through photography and has creatively pushed local pictorial photography to be ethnically rich. He has made a far-reaching historical impact on Chinese photography and his masterly style has earned great admiration among viewers from the Mainland and overseas alike.


< Misty Mountains

Photography in Tchan's Own Words

I began studying photography in the 1940s. After settling in Hong Kong in the 1950s, my early photographs took a mainly documentary approach. In this way, I was able to express my concern about the lives and fate of the working class. My aspirations and ambitions at that time were to establish an ethnical rich photographic style.

When shooting pictures, we photographers tend to place equal emphasis on composition and the subject's context. I try to avoid putting all my effort into capturing the beauty of a subject so as to no miss the importance of the subject's surroundings. I aim to achieve this by forming visual features through the use of harmonious colours and apparent lines to accentuate the nature of the subjects. My principle of practice is "to portray the real object in collaboration with the skill of pictorial depiction". A mix of realistic and pictorial elements in photographs allows me to strive for the ideal effect of enriching the connotation and beauty of the photo itself.

(Published with photos and information from Hong Kong Heritage Museum; information rearranged)

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Speed Racers

R0016130a (Large)

These fruit traders are pushing their cartful of boxes of fruits along the road leading to the highway where the sliding flyover joins.  What are they thinking really?

Have a nice Sunday.