Saturday, 5 December 2009

A Fish Story

R1149389 (Medium)^I did several shots for this shop.  The composition of this shot ticks because, to me, the lines of fish are eye-catching and the two people just rightly balance the "weight"  of the boxes of the goods sold.

If you wonder why selling the fish necessitates hooking them up (animal abuse?), it's because you don't know about the delicacy among people in Southern China including Hong Kong.

These are salted fish made with several kinds of fish, the best being the King Salmon.  They are not expensive in absolute term but are costly.  Sheung Wan and Tai O are two of the local places famous for selling salted fish.  If you have no wish to buy any but fancy a taste, try the Baked Eggplant and Salted Fish Casserole* which is served in most Chinese restaurants and fast food shops in Hong Kong.

However tasty salted fish it may be, the food is cancerogenic if consumed too much.

This is the fish story, which is not a fish story.

*The Chinese name is 魚香茄子煲

Friday, 4 December 2009

Genius Loci*

* Taken from Latin, the word literally means the "spirit of a place" which is based on the concept that cities have a deep underlying spirit arising from climate and cultural aspects.

R0016478 (Medium) ^I like this shot for the lady's mannish smoking gesture and sober gaze in face of the wide array of making-you-drop items sold in the night market.

Ricoh cameras are known for rendering its black-and-white shots with likable tones. For sure, in the digital era, it is worth considering the strategy of whether shooting B&W images straight out of the camera or colour images to be converted into B&W.

The reason, as I once wrote, is that "a straight digital B&W photo gives you an image with only 256 scales of grey while a colour photo can afford a much wider range of colours, hence more information, to be post-processed for the best B&W conversion result."

R0016470 (Medium)^What I like about this shot is that the racks of diversified shoes, boots and wellies suggest why the two shoppers are so puzzled even though the viewers can't see what the ladies are choosing. It is like an indirect speech narrated to the viewers, thus putting them in a more distant position of audience to the chanllenge of shopping which they are actually familiar with. Hence, the story-nature of the photo is enriched.

That said, it is a cogent argument that a photographer needs to see the scene in black and white on the LCD screen to sense the pulse of which exposure combo works. (But we didn't have this consideration in the film era, did we?) So the answer hedges on your individual preference and photographic style.

But there is an occasion giving the photographer some leaning towards shooting in black and white.

R0016464 (Medium)^A same shot in colour could be much less tasteful because a black and white image forces you to take an overall focus on the setting.

If you go on a holiday trip, you will get a fresh eye for photographs in the places you visit. It is a good idea to use black and white to capture the exotic atmosphere, the reason being that black and white images exemplify exoticism better by focusing the viewers' attention on the characters of your subjects, or the physical/ psychological status of a person and an environment.

Coupled your fresh eye with the B&W perspective, you can end up in more keepers from the any single holiday trip than you would have thought.

R0016472 (Medium)^Hong Kong has quite a number of atmospheric night markets opening late into the night in the old areas. The goods sold by the stalls are always fascinating even to the locals.

B&W photography is, if you ask me, not simply shedding colours from the images. The photographer has to be aware of the layers of black, white and grey and tones. It is with these special ingredients that the photos can communicate with the viewers in a way more powerful than colour images, and even relaying to them the moments of the souls of the place and the people.

That the photo also needs a good story, effective composition and exposure is a point which should not require making.

R0016466 (Medium)^Two tourists…and…

As the saying goes, there are two sides to every coin. If you're using a serious compact with lenses attached with a lens filter, like my GX200 with its TC-1 conversion lens, the capability afforded to you therefore to play with the light and colours is simply too tempting to resist for shooting in colour.

R0016469 (Medium)^…er… a local guide and a local guy.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

The Soul and Body of Photography

letsplay (Medium)^Monkeys and Monkey Bars: Instead of photographing the subjects, I shot their shadows which told of their action in a more intriguing way with the rhythmic shadows.

It is almost a cliché to say that light is the soul of photography. If light is the soul, a shadow is the body.

Taken together, they are the tools for photographers to draw the pictures, much like a brush to a painter, a carver to a sculptor or a musical instrument to a musician.

But light and shadows are more than just tools. They are also the important factors in a composition.

R0011811 (Medium) ^A Long Working Day: Hopefully the theme is somewhat echoed and enhanced by the long shadows suggesting the day was closing. In fact, it was taken on a winter morning.

Having known the ABCs of light and shadows:

- The light coming sideway gives subjects a richer three-dimensional quality and the light coming from behind is best for putting the subjects in silhouettes, especially when the sun is low, or putting your own shadow in the picture;

- Shadows cast by environmental elements can enrich the setting and patterns in the composition;

- The intensity and shapes of shadows tell of the time and season;

- The orderly, or sometimes disorderly for that matter, arrangements of shadows give images a sense of rhythm;

you may accentuate a photographic theme, the subject and the environmental setting by means of the shadows of different quality.

Next time you photograph, pay attention to the shadows in addition to, if not instead of, the main subjects.

R0018262 (Medium) ^Legs, Pedestal and Railings: After taking the pictures, I kept asking myself what interested me about the scene. It can be the patterned shadows and the peep of the lady's legs which are in contrast to the coarse pedestals. This picture can also be as boring as those of the fellow which were challenging to the common sense about proper photos in his write-up of the ISO 1600 shots of GRD III. I just find the rhythm soothing to me on that windy autumn morning.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

For Downloading GRD3 and GF1 Firmware

R0017238 (Small)

- For GF-1 and Lens as at 25 Nov (Download here; accept the agreement at the page bottom there)

- For GRD III as at 1 Dec (download here) -

The following enhanced features are added to the GRD III (For details, read this PDF document):

1 [The GF-1 Flash unit compatibility]The camera now supports the optional flash, GF-1. This update allows TTL-auto flash control with the GF-1.* During interval shooting, any external flash unit will not fire.

2 [Date List] in playback with 81 frames view in the playback mode, clicking the thumbnail button changes a list grouping pictures by date.

3 [Page List] in playback in thumbnail view (20 frames, 81 frames, or Date List), you can switch the view between the image selection screen and the paging screen.

4 [Menu Page Advance]You can switch pages by using the zoom button in the Shooting menu, in the Setup menu, or in the "Edit My setting" menu with selected an item.

5 [Snap Focus Distance]The [1.5m] option has been added in the Snap Focus Distance in the shooting menu.

6 [ADJ. Direct ISO control]The ADJ. Direct ISO control has been added in the shooting menu. With this option [On], you can use the ADJ. lever to change the ISO sensitivity value when the camera is in a shooting mode.

The following phenomenon is modified:
- If you have registered the following settings to a My setting, and then if you switch between My1 and My2 with an Fn button for instance, the AF mode will not be reflected correctly.
Setting registration example:
MY1 : AF(Spot)/MF in an Fn button
MY2 : AF(Mult)/MF in an Fn button

The following feature is changed:

- During interval shooting, the external flash unit will not fire. Use the built-in flash.

The Show is On

R0011198 (Large)
^Click the photo to check out the colours, which I like best for it.

This is the show performed by the Flying Troupe in Hong Kong Ocean Park, an attraction which also fascinates me.

I'm less verbose today for you to enjoy the show.

R0011204 (Medium) R0011206 (Medium) R0011207 (Medium) R0011214 (Medium)  R0011199 (Large)

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

When Cheating Doesn't Matter

R0010039 (Medium) ^To me, dragging the shutter speed to blur motion of secondary subject is a sure-fire way to give street shots a sense of impromptu with a rather journalistic charm to it.

China is as famous as notorious for many things. Cheating is among one of them. I have bags of stories about cheating concerning the nation.

Walk on the streets in China and you'll see the physical evidence. Here are some.

Mark the well arranged sheet displaying photocopies of newspaper clippings in the first photos which was taken in the street of Shenzhen, the booming town neighbouring Hong Kong. In essence, the clippings told of how bad blind children suffered in China, faintly hinting curious people stopping by to donate money to this child whose blindness was without any clue for me to tell for sure.

I doubted if I was too mean to think it this way until I saw another younger boy at the next road junction.

R0010043 (Medium)^For a similar street shot in Hong Kong, such a slow shutter speed would have blurred all the motion regardless of the directions the people are going.

The boy in this second photo was at the age of probably seven. He tried to play blind by keeping his eyeballs rolled up. But he was way too young to keep doing the trick. I saw him apparently look at me at some points of time. And his Erhu movements did not quite match the playback of the recorded music through the speaker.

Then I crossed the road and saw this:

R0010044 (Medium)

A mother was searching for food in the rubbish bin with her child sleeping on her thigh, using a tiny cardboard as his mat. I was so grieved by the sight that I gave the lady 30 Chinese Renminbi, which is the amount for a proper lunch.

Leaving the sad scene I walked for another five minutes until a suspicion struck me. I returned and observed the lady at a distance. There I noticed a man in white shirt and black pants monitoring nearby the lady and the boy. He reminded of the men in similar clothes standing nearby the two "blind" boys.

I observed the lady for some minutes, finding her not picking a bit of food into her mouth. Then with a mix of indignation and unknown courage, I went up to her and took the picture. As you can see in the picture, the boy was cueing the lady about me photographing them.

Hurriedly, the lady picked up some food from the bin and ate it. I stepped closer and peered into the bin only to find just a foam lunch box with food in it which I was sure somebody bought and placed therein. There was not a tiny bit of rubbish in the bin!

The next thing I did was to verbally warn the lady not to take advantage of the boy and people's kindness to cheat money. I didn't stay for another minute there because I was sane: the man was watching.

And what is my second guess? The boys could have been kidnapped from their real parents to help the nasty gangsters to cheat. A guess, but a fair one cos there have been quite a number of news about kidnapped children in China.

When cheating doesn't matter.... (a deep sigh)

Monday, 30 November 2009

Illusions of Mountains, Waters and Guildelines

R0018600 (Medium)^The photo was taken at midday when the low winter sun shone almost 45 degree into the window. The sunlight was on a fairly high ka level, whitewashing everything on earth which was the least flattering to a photographer. That is exactly when the WB Correction function of GX200 comes in handy, allowing the user to counterbalance the undesirable light source. Here the WB was corrected to cyan.

The few pictures here give you a real sense of how densely built Hong Kong is. This is a view from a high point on Kowloon (actually the height of almost 40th floor). The ranges in the background are the mountains on Hong Kong Island. People living in Hong Kong may feel nothing special about the mountains and the harbour. But they do the populated Hong Kong a big favour.

R0018602 (Medium) ^Here you actually see the old Mongkok/ Yaumatei area cramped with pre-WWII buildings and newer concrete towers, donning the area with a hap-hazard kind of development outlook. Paradoxically, it is the untidiness which adds a interestingly tipsy quality to the place on street level, especially when at night you feel really tipsy bumping into a hooker or two in this notorious red light district.

With the mountains clustering as the backdrops and the harbour breaking the land, Hong Kong looks much less jam-packed with buildings as it actually is.

The illusion works quite well, doesn't it? But we can't live on an illusion. Something must be done about the crampy building style in Hong Kong.

R0018604 (Medium)^People living lower than 30th or 40th floor can't enjoy much of a view beyond the farcades of the buildings flanking theirs.

Actually, there is an Urban Design Guildelines for Hong Kong issued by the government. One of the guiding principle to preserve what it calls the view corridors to the harbour and the mountains is restricting the height of buildings. Sadly, in the Hong Kong context, the principle is set out in a sarcastic way.

It is fine that the government has designated some vantage points from which the stripes of land stretch towards the harbour and the mountains are the view corridors. But this is simply turned into a joke as the Guidelines state that areas within the view corridors may have allowable heights ranging between 30 to 40 storeys (boo!) in the waterfront and above 60 sotreys (boo! boo!) inland! Areas outside the view corridors could have no height restrictions (boo! boo! boo!).

As if these are not enough to sink the lands of Hong Kong, the government allows super skyscrappers to be built in what it calls high rise nodes, as what you can see at the southern and western tips of the Kowloon peninsula fronting the harbour and most of the waterfront areas on the Hong Kong Island !

I gather that high rise node is a fancy name to cover up some policy slips which make it possible for the super skyscrappers to exist.

Now, we have another illusion (of the guidelines) to make the first illusion (afforded by the mountains and the waters) as long as can be. That's truly illusory.