Saturday, 15 August 2009

A Dozen of Bugging Questions to Photographers

R0010156 (Medium)^A shot which testifies to the ability of CX1's Marco ability.  The focusing is swift.  The mantis kept fighting the lens with his powerful forelimbs.

A day without the hustle in the office is best for reflections in private.  As a photographer, I have just come up with some questions which could bug us like forever:

1) Just bought the dream camera only to find that the rumour has been circulating about the new version which is to be released in a month or two.

2) Got the camera but the battery is dead.

3) The battery is not dead but remained in the charger and you've got the camera at the shooting scene.

4) The shuttle is released bu the memory card is full and it is just 11 in the morning.

5) Your friend help you take the photo of you but he or she presses a fingerpringt on the lens/ sneezes at the camera/ somehow makes it malfunction/ drop it and you still say, "Don't worry, it's okay"

R0010157 (Medium) ^The kids went after the mantis, which was soon to be picked and released on a tree trunk.

6) Your friend's restless young child has got your expensive camera from the table and run around but you've to remain polite and pretend okay.

7) You're framing a scene and your in-laws keep hurrying you up, "Press the shutter, hurry up.  Press it.  Press it.  You're too slow."

8) The setting requires you to put the camera on a tripod and someone with you keeps saying, "Do you have to be this serious?"

9) You're not sure about which camera and what accessories to bring with you and just put them all in the bag.  Your wife/ partner/ girlfriend sneers at you in front of your friends, "I've absolutely no idea why he carries his whole shebang with him.  He's not a pro afterall."

10)A friend who is an empty barrel on photography has bought his young son an E-P1 as a toy and blow to you how good and cheap it is.

RIMG0099 (Medium)^This boy seemingly not older than 13 was toying with the E-P1 around a swimming pool, pressing the shutter causally as it went with the ostentatious Click Click Click!

11)You shoot in a shopping mall with a cheapy P&S and the security people still come over to tell you that you've to apply for shooting in the mall as if you were making a movie.

12)A brief photographic opportunity presents itself but a man just stops and stands in front of you talking to his cellphone.

Friday, 14 August 2009

Chowder of Culture and Heritage

R0011205 (Large)^The Senado Square is in a trianglar layout typical to the time-honoured western culture as can be seen in the ancient Greek and Roman city sites. There was a religious purpose in making the piazza triangular in layout because in the old western culture, triangles were taken to be a device which stored mystical powers. Here the photo expresses the curves and patterns of the piazza instead.

The oldness of Macau is best epitomised by its heritage sites. If you are new to this series of posts, Macau is a small town once a Portuguese colony and now a special administrative region of China's sovereignty. It is situated at the estuary of the Pearl River south of China, and is just some 45 minutes ride on a catamaran from Hong Kong.

R0011229 (Large)^The Ruins of St. Paul's in the background is ubiquituous on postcards about Macau's places. The ruins compose of the facade of what was originally the Church of Mater Dei built in 1602 - 1640, destroyed by fire in 1835, and the ruins of St. Paul's College stood adjacent ot he Church.

The must-go destinations are within Macau's Historic Centre, which encompasses architectural legacies interwoven in the midst of the original urban fabric including streetscapes and piazzas. These major urban squares and streetscapes provide the linkage for a succession of over twenty architectural monuments, giving the place an aura of some European land.

R0011125 (Large)^Taipan House Museum, once the residence for high-ranking Portuguese officials in Macau. Construciton in the background is for new casinos. Macau is now infested with casinos in the busiest parts of the town.

In 2005, the Historic Centre of Macau was inscribed as a World Heritage Site, making it the 31st site in China to be granted the same status.

R0011193 (Large)^The inside of the Leal Senado (Loyal Senate) Building completed in 1784, which used to be Macau's first municipal chamber. The view from this angel tells of another western cultural element which is symmetry. The occident idea of symmetry has a huge influence on many aspects of the western society from building to music. The oriental version of the idea is balance instead. Balance can be achieved without symmetry, observeable in the way the eastern way of dealing with people and matters which tend to be not equally fair but mutually beneficial.

World Heritage is the designation for places around the world which are of outstanding universal value to humanity and as such, have acoording to the Convention Concerning Protection of the World Culture and Natural Heritage been inscribed on the World Heritage List by the World Heritage Committee to be protected for the future generations to appreciate and enjoy.

R0011196 (Large)^The patterns on the wall of teh Leal Senado Building remind me of those on the bluish-white porcelain vessels which the imperial Chinese dynasties sold to the Middle East in the ancient times. In those days, the Chinese procelain makers mimicked the favourite drawings from the Middle East, which resemble most to the flower patterns on the edges in the photo above.

GRDIII Hong Kong Launch Day

Ricoh's GRDIII is to be launched in Hong Kong on 21 August 2009, just the right time before the school summer holiday ends and most people gradually return to the normal busy life with the appetite for spending suppressed.

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Firecrakers, Fishermen and Circus

R0011133 (Large)^The intriguing combination of colours of the facade of this rundown firecracker workshop and the street furniture was what caught my eye for this shot.

The best about Macau is its oldness, the essence I look for around the city which I travel to. The three old thing about Macau which spring to mind are firecrackers, fishermen and circus (actually the Chinese wedding ceremony)

Unlike Hong Kong where firecrackers was banned since the colonial era, Macau citizens are still free to enjoy firecraker fun in the Chinese New Year. In the old days, the lighting of firecrackers was almost all year round. It is no wonder that Macau had a quite history in producing firecrakers.

R0011243 (Large)^A model setting which shows the yard of a firecracker workshop in Macau.

The lighting of firecrackers was not restricted to Chinese New ear. Whenever a new shop or business opened, the front of the building was decorated with bamboo scaffolding covered in paper flowers and characters propitiating good fortune. Long strings of firecrackers suspended from roof to pavement would be lit, the street soon filling with choking smoke and the continuous cacophony of explosions. If the building was over five storeys high, they could last an hour. At only one event were firecrackers not let off – funerals.

R0011240 (Large) ^A model setting showing a sampan berthed at a quay in Macau with some lifting facility at the stern to haul catches and other heavy items

As Macau, like Hong Kong, was a fishing port. It has a long history as such too. In the old days, the fishing boats sailed to the open seas for weeks before returning with their catches, probably at night.

Imagine the night haul landed – green and blue-backed crabs and azure lobsters, sea bass with electric-blue scales and black lines, gold and black mottled grouper, thin, silver needlefish, octopi that slid their tentacles across the quayside, squid, sea cucumbers, long-spined sea urchins, eels, rays and sharks ranging in length from a few feet to such as it took four men to lift them, their eyes sunken and their mouths bloody. Everything was up for sale as edible and somen joslted to buy the entire catch. Even the seaweed snagged in the nets was for sale.

R0011241 (Large)^Fishermen wearing a typical Chinese peaked shade at the quayside

Usually in a fishing in southern China, three types of vessels predominated in the bay. The smallest and most numerous were sampans, ranging from little more than skiffs to boats about fifteen feet long.

R0011242 (Large) ^Fishermen doing fishing along the harbourfront

Constructed of wood, the sampans were propelled by a single stern oar, although some had a short mast with a square-rigged sail. Most had arched canvas awnings that ran their length, beneath which lived a complete family. There was even a place for charcoal cooking stove. The majority of sampan dwellers were fishing folk who cast gill nets or fished with sleek, long-necked cormorants.

R0011245 (Large)^A model showing the traditional wedding procession

Since Macau has not developed economically until recent years with the controversial blossoming of gambling houses, it has preserved a lot many old Chinese ways of doing things. One of these which no longer exists, howeverm is the wedding procession.

When a wedding procession came, it was like the circus had come to town. The initial indications of the approaching wedding procession were the muted sounds of Chinese music. Soon, two parallel lines of people appeared, in the near front of which would be a palanguin between four perspiring carriers. The four sides and the roof were decorated in blinding red as the bride was sitting in it and red denoted goodness in the Chinese culture.

R0011246 (Large) ^A Chinese band is in the procession

Just around the palanquin walked a small classical Chinese band of several musicians. They wore red uniforms and the music played was brassily loud with the brasswind instruments high-pitched and the small gong cracked. The bride would be carried to meet the parents-in-law, a ceremony called Gall Mun, literally Into the Door.

(Some illustrations are adopted from a novel "Gweilo")

Pany GF1: Date of Reckoning

A piece of unconfirmed news from Japanese sites has it that the GF1 will be released on 1 September. The price is still yet to be released.
From the silhouette we can safely say that the camera looks quite the same as what has been circulating on the Internet about it.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Reality Check of Macau

    macau2nevin (Custom) (Medium)

 ^Largo do Senado (Senado Square), the unmistakable landmark of Macau, has been the town's urban centre for centuries. The square is surrounded by neo-classical buildings in pastel colour, giving the place a consistent and harmonious Mediterranean character

We got a glimpse of Macau yesterday. The town is worthy of introducing to our readers, through words and most importantly some more photos by, this time, a GX100.

Macau to Hong Kong is like what Hawaii to US or the less populated cities to UK where people go there on vacation. It is located some 45 minutes ride on a catamaran from Hong Kong and has been a quieter small town until recent years when the gambling industry there is picking up and overtkaing the scale of Las Vegas

 

macau1nevin (Custom) (Medium)

^A woman walking up the stairs to the second floor of the Edificio do Leal Senado (Leal Senado building) smacked of a very Portuguese taste

Fishermen from the China costal town Fujian and Guangdong were the first known settlers in Macau, when it was known as Ou Mun in English/ Portuguese (literally Trading Gate), because of its location at the estuary of the Pearl River running from Guangzhou (aka Canton)

 

macau3nevin (Custom) (Medium)

^Macau consists of several small islands connected by bridges

In the early 1550s the Portuguese reached and took Ou Mum, which the locals then also called A Ma Gao (place of A Ma) in honour ofthe Goddess of Seafarers, whose temple stood at the entrance to the sheltered Inner Harbour. The Portuguese adopted the name, which gradually changed into the name Macau, for which rumour has it that the Cantonese original came from the local vuglar expression comparable to "What the fxxx" in English.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Why Did the Winners Win?

image

^Grand Prize: Fifteen of August Street
Prize: Ricoh GRDII and a trophy

Hong Kong's official dealer for Ricoh, Laikok, has given out the final verdict on the winning entries of its 2nd Ricoh Photo Contest Hong Kong/ Macau. This year the contest was themed on the new faces of Macau.

image ^First Runner-up: New Face of an Old City through the Lens
Prize: Ricoh CX1 and a trophy

Sometimes, probably much like me, you may wonder in what way the winners manage to win with their photos. Here I have quite a lot of question marks.

image^Second Runner-up: Evolution
Prize: Ricoh R10 and a trophy

The clue, comparable to a debate competition, lies in the adjudicators. A local professor who have trained up the debate teams of different universities to win in a matter of consecutive years confided to the audience on a talk that he taught the team members to study the background of the adjudicators and debate in a way relevant to them.

Some Recommendable Honourable Mentions

image ^The West Bay Bridge / Construction and Reconstruction

A renowed artist-designer in this part of the world whom I am acquainted with said to me that when it came to competitions, what mattered most was the taste of the adjudicators. He himself has won numerous awards in the design industry and once voted the Most Outstanding Young Person of Hong Kong.

The best photos do not always win, that is to say.

image ^The City of Dreams / In Blossom

So, the pointers from these observations are, firstly, to win a photo contest, know your adjudicators. The most convenient and practical way is through studying the past winning photos of the same competition.

image
^Beware of Pick-Bucket

The second thing is to make your photo stand out in composition so that the image is visually captivating. Also, you make post-process the photo to tune the colours attractive. The point is to attract the adjudicators to pick your photo among the hundreds of entries.

The third thing is to give your photo a proper and smart title. Surely, your photo will never win if it isn't a good photo and isn't conveying the prescripted theme. Otherwise, these three pointers could maximise the chance of your entry to get into the final in a photo contest.

Before we start off to photograph for a photo contest, paying attention to these pointers will stand us in good stead.

Of course, there are the category of you-never-know finalists. So, the professor and my friend are very right: it is the adjudicator who counts. Some example follows below.

Honourable Mentions in an Intersting Way

image ^Stick Together in Macau on a Rainy Day

image ^A White Bird

image^A Modern Building in a World Heritage Setting

image^The Never Fading Blue Sky

image
^The Eldery and a Child

Monday, 10 August 2009

Much Ado About Expensive Compact Cameras

RIMG0212 (Large) ^This photo was taken with a favorite composition of mine by using the foreground and background to sandwich the primary subject, highlighting it.

With much ado about the gossips over the past week surrounding the E-P2, GZ-1 and Pany's GF-1, I've still got the deja vu feelings of the April Fools’ Day. These wolf-crying-style calculated leakages by the manufacturers could lose its appeal when running to the excess. Or could they?

The most traffic you can see on almost any photographic sites and blogs is on the days when a leakage is cooked up or a new camera review is made. Yes, we photographers, mostly men, are overly obsessed about every single new camera, much like most women are excited at the sight of a new handbag or high heels even though there are already dozens of them in the shoe cabinets at home.

Some months ago, a poll was put up in this blog gauging the number of cameras most readers have. The result was 6 cameras on average.

6 cameras! What are we going to do with all 6 of them. We can pick them each on a daily basis, in the fashion of the emperor chosing different concubines for one night and the other.

We don't really need so many camera. However, having seen the logic in this arguement, I just bought the CX1. Why is the frenzy?

If this is not about the number of camers or our "lust" for it, there must be another explanation for the phenomenon. Probably, the answer lies in the impeccably all-round camera which each photographer dreams of.

Will this dream ever materialises? That's the question. For those who think positively, please raise your hand.

I will be the one who stay my hand. How come?

RIMG0213 (Large)

In the film era, several hundred bucks (bucks, I mean US dollars) could buy you a real good camera. Take for example, for the money I spent on the then state-of-the-art Minolta Dynax 7 film camera plus a quality 24-105mm lens, I can get a E-P1 with the pencake. Not that I am saying the Minolta gear has an edge over the E-P1 (but it does), but that the return of the investment is now shorter.

"Shorter" is in the sense of the life cycle of the camera, of which the arguement shall not require making.

Well, do I miss the point that the camera of today is about technology which is destined to be expensive and short-lived? No. Certianly photographers are paying for technology rather than a light box of yore. But in the good old days, the focus of the photographic gear was heavily on the essence of photography: optical quality, focusing speed, brightness of the viewfinder, ergonomics, etcetra, etcetra.

Nowadays, the focus is half on the same points but half on marketing. The preponderance of marketing is seemingly taking over the other half. Take the E-P1 for example, the calculated steps of leakages prior to the sales was hugely successful. The stop-motion ad conjured up the primitive lust of photographers to own a camera with history and supposedly the treasurbale quality of its historical predecessor.

Honestly, the E-P1 charges not cheaply. It just seems that most of us have been used to the short life cycle of digital cameras and the high prices the manufacturers charge us for them. They do deliver great novel features unbeliveable in the film era. But first things first, we are talking about photography. So, adequate focusing speed, a viewable LCD or a decent viewfinder should be made available in the E-P1 for the price level it is on.

As far as that is concerned, there are many photographers tolerating the E-P1. There are testers approving it too. Yes, Oly deserves praises for pioneering into the new territory of photographic tools. Yes, just because the camera perform poorly on some check boxes one thing, doesn't mean that we cannot work around them. But, wait, are we saying that we pay dearly for a thing which we work around for what should be fitted therein?

And no, you don't have to try one before you can understand how odd it is for a serious camera to be handicapped in this way.

RIMG0217 (Large)Now rethink the preponderance of marketing: if the handicapped features are to be added to the rumoured E-P2, shouldn't we feel funny?

Or duped.

For any expensive cameras, what gives when those much needed features are withheld at the material time, provided that they are technically possible with the price asked for? Turn our eyes away from photographic tools and to technology-heavy items from whatyoucallit-POD to computers. The marketing departments are the winners who plan ahead what to offer and withhold in the matter of years. What and when we should get is planned.

If I'm asked, that's where the saving grace of the old serious film cameras (SLR) with technology breakthroughs coming much slower and less revolutionary (but I don't really regret the advent of the digital era). For the new features they'd got, they put them in the film cameras to lure buyers and shift loyalty because the customers' investment on the camera was made at a wider interval of time and on the lenses over a much longer period. And once the loyalty was there, a steady stream of income received for lenses and accessories was ensured.

With the quantum speed of modern digital technology, there are more marketing calculations and holding-backs, on top of that for the profit margins with every penny invested in the fast-outdated technology.

So, the chance of having an all-round dream camera comes true is slim, to say the least.

Okay, do I miss that point again that this is all about technology in one small body than an empty light box? No.

Don't be content with what you are told. I don't know how the manufacuturers can cut back a wee bit profit margins to make things happen like a retro-looking, expensive camera which really auto-focuses in a decent speed, has a essential built-in flash and even a viewfinder (which is essential for photography especially under the bright sky). And, oh, with a less plastic body.

But I do know that they can when I look at the profit margins of my business friends are making. Not exactly comparable. But comparable somewhat.

Back to the 6-camera on average phenomenon. Except for the shopaholics, we always wish for a better camera and therefore keep on buying new ones. In the film era, a good, expensive camera can last many years (like nine years as my Minolta D7 does up to now) since it was just a box. In the digital era, since the same lasts shorter and the technology is coming faster and cheaper, photographers have to ask for full-fledged cameras, especially serious compacts when they are willing to and in fact already pay dearly for them.

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PS: For the record, the M4/3 has a near APS-C size sensor. But it is a wee bit smaller in fact.

Sunday, 9 August 2009

The Reason to Buy Wide-Angle Lenses

While considering to burn some more money to further my GX200 system built-up in addition to the VF-1, I was shown a new reason to buy the wide-angel converter.

But the converter has got to give a fish-eye verison in this case:

omax3_01

Print

omax2_01

If you haven't come across these photos before, they are ads produced by Publicis India for Omax, which appeal to the photographers for neither the lens' optical quality nor lightness.  But this could be effective.

Absolutely not for this new reason, I am close to a deal for the converter.

This is Sunday.  Have a nice day.