Saturday, 29 August 2009

Grand Style of Pampering

R0010448 (Medium)^The silhouette of the waiter holding the tea set in all meticulosity of posture is reminiscent of the olden, if not golden, days of the colonial Hong Kong when high tea was a very British privilege.  Photography-wise, the different levels of grey certainly add a spatial feeling to the otherwise flat scene.

Hong Kong is not named one of the ten world-lifetime travel destinations for no reason.  While maybe Macau boosts the oldness, Singapore the cleanliness, Shanghai the novelty, Japan the  electronicism, Hong Kong is all of them combined with the complements of some pristine countryside hiking trails and, of course, the breathtaking beauty of buildings aglow with lights against the mountains and fronting the Victoria Harbour at night.

The fading glimpses of the presence of anything typical of the British could be the gem of any trip to this place.

R0010467 (Medium)^Scantly clad holidaymakers are working enthusiastically on their skin cancer on the sundeck.  In Australia, people are more wisely aware of the sunburnt and skin cancer hazards under the sun.  Just because there is an opening in the ozone layer there above doesn’t mean that the Aussies are therefore more cautious.  They are just wiser about the nature I think.

For the more adventurous, head to the MacLehose Trail, which consists a dozen of hiking tails favourite to the longest serving British governor to Hong Kong, Sir Crawford Murray MacLehose.  He himself was an enthusiastic hiker.  Kudos to this past-time of his, there are a large piece of land in Hong Kong established as the Country Parks where the MacLehose Trail runs across.

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^The fiddler on the mezzanine floor in the Grand Hyatt Hong Kong hotel plays music every afternoon.  He makes the sheet music come alive and dancing around the dining place.  He looks like nearing the age of 70.  But you've to go there and see how swift and graceful his finger movement is.

For those prefer pampering yourselves, look for the right restaurants and hotel.   For that matter, I would suggest one place which satisfies both wishes.  It is the Grand Hyatt Hong Kong.   Its location aside, which earned the praise as a "world-famous prestige" property by New York Times, the service is so meticulous that it could meet the imperial standards, which are associated with the time when the British called the shots in all aspects of life in Hong Kong

R0010454 (Medium)>The musician playing the double bass teams up with the fiddle to grace the place with great light classical music.

As I read from a autobiography of which the British author lived his childhood in Hong Kong, even a low-ranking officer  in the navy supply department was  housed by the colonial government in a big house and had the money to employ a family of servants.  People from GB used to get the best everything in Hong Kong.  They were made the, rightly or wrongly, the top echelons of the society and served with the highest standards.

Now if you get a chance to stay in the hotel, you will feel very welcomed and somewhat colonial as, to take for example, every staffer from the green bell boys to the sophisticated Eurasian managers coming along will be like sticking themselves on the wall to make way for your passage, adding to you an after-you gesture and kowtow.

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<The Grand Club dinning room commands an exclusive 180° panoramic view to the Victoria Harbour

The best of it is the high tea.  It is not exactly in the British fashion but you can taste the great food while imaging that you are the colonial shot-caller in the old days.  After all, this hotel was where Bill Clinton stayed during his presidential visit to Hong Kong.  The present Chinese president Hu also stayed in this hotel during his first visit to Hong Kong.

And the best place for high tea in Grand Hyatt Hong Kong?  At the Grand Club on the 30th floor of course (they call it the cocktail).  If you are staying in or upgraded to the room on the 30th floor, you have free admission to the unlimited food and drinks there.

Friday, 28 August 2009

Old Teahouse

R0011104 (Medium) (Medium) ^All kinds of tea leaves in the glass jars.  The far side on the wall is an old-styled clock.  The restaurant is not air-conditioned, which is rarely found these days.  The composition uses the customers in the background to complement the message of the tea leaf jars.

Some weeks ago the Macau series was interrupted by an influx of news regarding the unveiling of new compact cameras.  Today the topic carries on.

Among the many old places worthy of a visit in Macau (by the way, if you are new to us, Macau is a special administrative region under the sovereignty of China and is an hour of catamaran ride from Hong Kong), the old teahouse is certainly an eye opener to gweilos and gweipos, as well as the young locals.

Lung Wah Restaurant of Macau is the most sensational one.

Going to any of these Chinese restaurant is generally known as Hui (go to) Yum Cha.  The Cha (tea) is the largest element here.  By the way, Yum Cha is primarily a Cantonese (southern China) culture.

The first thing after being seated is Hoi Cha (start a tea) or Hoi Wei (start a table), which means picking your favourite tea for the drinking bouts throughout the meal.  The common choices are Jasmine and Po Lei.   I said drinking bouts because time and again my overseas friends excused for not being able to take the frequently replenished tea anymore, which to the Chinese is what Yum Cha is very much about.

R0011103 (Medium) (Medium) ^An interesting sight is given by the contrast of the old teapot cabinet and the large Google Earth image printout saying "You Are Here".  The contrast was the reason why I picked this scene to give viewers some reference about the picture, and hopefully a greater interest.

In an old restaurant like Lung Wah, serving tea is done in an old fashion way.  On the corner of the dinning room next to the cashier which seated the friendly, middle-aged boss is an extensive cabinet where all the drinking utensils were placed.  The bamboo food cases containing steaming hot dim sums were piled up at another corner adjacent to the staircase. 

In the modern context, this setting speaks for untidiness and poor hygiene.  The tea leaves were put in the teapots by the old waitress in bare hands.  It is not uncommon for customers to go over to the cabinet and add tea leaves themselves in the tea pot though.  Food was self-served by picking the bamboo food cases holding your favourite food.

R0011100 (Medium) (Medium) ^Two customers are chatting over their cups of tea.  In case you wonder how, this photo was exposed by centre-metering the windows.

It doesn't matter whether you arrive at Lung Wah sooner or later because, first, they didn't seem to have lots of customers on the day of my visit and, second, there were only four choices of dim sums and you would not ever miss the better food which would sell out quicker.

Actually, the main purpose for a tourist going there is more of taking photos and admiring the quality of oldness to it, which is yet to be completed with the common sight of such restaurants in the old days: spittoons.

If you're in Hong Kong and fancy a trip to the like of Lung Wah, the Hong Kong equivalent should be Tak Yu Restaurant in Yaumatei, which probably still provides spittoons to customers; Lung Mun Restaurant in Wah Chai which is not as primitive; there is a mid-hill open-air Yum cha place in Tsuen Wah which you'll need a local to take you there.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Tricks for Impressionist-like Photos

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Yesterday we talked about some easy, practical tricks for photos with a watercolour or Chinese painting feel.

If you hope to do some impressionist landscape photos, here are the tricks.

The timing should be when the environmental light is like half an hour before sunset. The sky is less bright with the crimson starting to grow over everything.

It would be great if you can shoot at a place where there are lightings from buildings which would enable you to give light tracks on the final images. The best in Hong Kong is to shoot the sunset with the Victoria Harbour in the background. By the way, Hong Kong with the Victoria Harbour has been recommended by Nat Geo as one of the ten places in the world to visit in a lifetime.

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Now, find the scene you think great for a landscape photo. Meter the middle tone of the brighter areas. If the sun is visible, the middle tone is right underneath the sun, which is the same for shooting a sunset scene. You should spot-meter it without including the sun by activating the spot-metering function of the camera.

Then, stop down the exposure combo if you hope for an image with a motley of richer sky colours. But the shutter should be around 1/4 or less in terms of a 24mm focal length. I assume that this wide focal length is preferred for a landscape works.

Press the shutter to shoot the photo, and briefly pan the lens horizontally. As far as I am concerned, panning vertically makes the final image less desirable.

If you bother to PP the photo, adjust the hue of it as I did to the first photo.

Voila!

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Tricks on Painting-like Photos

R0017082 (Medium) ^Sea View: A view to the west side of the Victoria Harbour of Hong Kong.  The exposure is down three to four stops.

Inspired by Leo Wong for his Chinese-painting-style photographs, I have been reading some literature on the subject and practised a bit.

To give a photo a watercolour or Chinese-ink effect, there are some tricks which are intuitive to anyone with a camera, with or without manual controls.  The following photo was taken with a CX1

R0010247 (Medium)^Melancholy: A lone lamp post standing aloof between the setting sun and some wild grasses 

One prominent characteristic of such paintings is the melange of colours in some degree.

To give this feeling to a photo, the photographer has to find a way to somehow cut down the contrast.

So the best time to shoot these photos are on an overcast day and/or at dusk or dawn.

R0017017 (Medium)^Gung-ho: Midstream goods vessels berthing and still operating at dusk

To work around an inopportune time and weather, use a filter slightly tinted in whatever colour which gives the lens a effect of a sunglasses to you.  Kudos to the smallness of a serious compact, you may simply hold the camera in one hand and place a sunglasses in front of the lens with another.  Otherwise, follow my suit and suit through the tinted windows in a bus, just as I did to Gung-ho.

Two other tricks also helps.  First, stop down the EV.  Second, defocus the scene.  Check out again the second photo in this post where these two tricks were used.

Photographs and Painting

early spring1980[4]^Early Spring by Leo Wong

Some weeks ago, we introduced three renowned Hong Kong Chinese photographers and their works.  Those posts are worth revisiting and the links are attached as follows:

1) Fou-li Tchan On Pictorial Photography

2) Hing-fook KAN Good Photos are not by Chance

3) Leo Wong on Artistic Concepts of Photography

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Meaningless Photos, Cameras and Propositions

Tap dancing...at Iowa State College, Ames, Iowa.^Tap dancing at Iowa State College, Ames, wartime Iowa.

What is the meaning of this photo?  To show the legs, the ladies' steps in tune or the glossy wood floor?

The meaning of photos, or "meaningless photos" to be exact, is an mind-boggling proposition repeatedly put forward by a fellow photographer at dpreview forum in a bellicose vein.  Or I should say a mind-expanding proposition?

That fellow photographer obviously mistakes that there are some photographs which should be categorised as meaningless like a photo of an old man sitting on a bench.

This could be an observation too well thought out of the box, and of mind.  I emailed the test to SY, the promising young photographer from Taiwan, asking him, "What is the meaning of photo to you?"

His answer came like a swift dart aimed straight at the red heart of the dartboard, "You've to ask yourself.  Meanings are different from one person to another", which was what I had in mind.

If someone ever again points at your photo and says that it is meaningless, ignore it, sneer at it and let it be said and forgotten.  A photo may have weaknesses, but the meaning of it is specific to the photographers and special to some viewers.

So don't be deterred to take photos of any theme and meaning specific to you.  Lawrence Lai, Hong Kong's top photographer in selling his works on the Peak and in Singapore, humbly (and rightly) says that a lot many other photographers take better works than he.  One of the secret in his success is that he believes in his artistic talent and the outcomes of it.  I have personally met him, seen his non-commercial works and can testify that any one of you can be as successful in terms of your works.

Instead, avoid using cameras with meaningless functions, not least if you're just into photography.  Those silly inventions will only serve to distract you.  I hope the like of the following features will not venture into the territory of serious compacts, namely, projector function (Nikon's if I'm not mistaken), self-shutter-activation-at-smiling-faces (Sony's), both-side-LCD-screens (Samsung's), cartoonisation (Casio) and you name it.

These functions remind me of a friend of mine who was approached by an inventor with a guitar which let the player played different cords at a press of the buttons attached on it instead of by the proper way.  It will just strip the player off the skills in playing a real guitar.

That's really should be called meaningless, much in the same measure as the meaningless-photo proposition.

(The non-copyrighted photo is extracted from the Congress Library, USA)

Monday, 24 August 2009

CX2's Debut in HK

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CX2 was shown in Hong Kong two days ago. Some product shots are posted here.

Launching and Pricing of GRDIII + Accessories

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Ricoh has just launched  in Hong Kong GRDIII last Saturday.  The street price can be lower than the GRDII at its launch.

GR3_black_backGR3_black_left_open GR3_black_top GR3_Lens

The camera is going to hit the selves in shops before the end of August.  The official price is HK$5,000 (in Hong Kong price, same below; use the currency converter at left).  The street price is usually 5% to 8% less plus free gifts.

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For those who are interested in the camera, the official pricing of the accessories:

IMG_4700Optical viewfinder GV-2 (28mm#)  $2,400

Leather soft case (for GV-2) GC-4* $1,100

Optical viewfinder GV-1 (21/28mm#) $2,400

Wide angle conversion lens GW-2* (21mm#) $1,500

Hood and adapter GH-2 $800

Soft case GC-3* $400

Neck strap GS-1 $200

Neck strap ST-2 $200

Cable switch GA-1 $300IMG_4704

Rechargeable battery DB-65 $330

Battery charger BJ-6 $300

GR camera bag GB-1 $3,380

External TTL flash GF-1 (2009 Fall)

*New

Read the  brief description of the accessories here.

For those who are interested in this unique serious compact sporting a fast f1.9 prime lens, be sure to check out the series of posts offering links tooption_g2 some useful reviews and sample shots at ricohforum.com.  If you're wondering how does it compare to those on your wish list, the comparative shots Nevin garnered are here.

Try it on at stores if a chance affords you, and you will know why the GRD and GX series have been so praised for their ergonomics.

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