Saturday, 22 May 2010

Life Without Hassles

_SAM2205 (Medium)A make-shift shrine clinging around one of the oldest trees on Cheung Chau

Probably like any other small islands in and out of Hong Kong (recently very interested in this isle), Cheung Chau is filled with anything but hassles.  This statement proves to be absolutely true as I strolled around the island in the morning.

The residents seemed to go on their morning excursions for whatever errands at half the walking pace of the city people.  No traffic noise could be heard but the bikers dinging the bells and birds chirping on the balconies.  It was so quite that some barely audible chit-chatting wafted to my ears from afar.  I moved along what was left for the lane I was in before it ended at a turn to the left, joining to the middle of another lane.

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I entered another lane to find a man on the ground floor talking to an old lady who was on the balcony on the first floor.  They were having a discussion of a very important matter to the stomach: where to have a yumcha.  I was amused as I moved on between them.

Not long afterwards, I came to another big piece of coarse concrete which served as a shrine.  This crude structure was typical of what could be easily spotted all over the island.  Talking about "filling with nothing but", it is certain that Cheung Chau is replete with shrines big or small.
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Just took place yesterday, the Buns Festival was related to worshipping a god, the North King.  When the holiday-makers hurried to take the next outbound ferry after watching the fanciful parade, there was actually the first climax of the day.  It was the parade team leaders racing back to the North King Temple.  The traditional belief has it that the first team arriving there will be blessed for the whole year.  As I was thinking about this, I ran into a peddler selling homemade candies on his colourfully decorated kiosk.

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I like this island a lot.  Culturally, it is unique.  Environmentally, it is so very different from the other parts of Hong Kong.  Cheung Chau is simply in a world of its own.  It is sort of backward.  But this backwardness is exactly what every busy urbanite in the fast moving cities should cherish and savour more just to bring back peace to their hearts.

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On my way back to my B&B accommodation, I passed through a bakery.  The scene of the cakes being sold on the trays without covers would be unimaginable in the city.  So I pointed the NX10 to the cakes, taking the perspective to show the greatest sense of depth and waking for the passers-by (here a bike) to give some reference of proportion and balance the composition, and shot the picture.

_SAM2161 (Medium)Wait for the next lot of photos from my Cheung Chau-NX10 trip.

Friday, 21 May 2010

Exoticism

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A poster and a T-shirt depicting one of the celebration activities on the Cheung Chau Bun Festival today: the Piu Sik parade.  The big characters say, Peaceful.

After having been to Cheung Chau for so many times, I still find it surprising on every new visit.  The explanation may lie in the stark contrast of it to the urban areas in every noticeable way.  The community is more closely bonded together as everyone seems to know others he or she runs into on the street which can be told from their friendly greetings.

_SAM2024 (Medium) A typical lane on Cheung Chau

Oh, I shouldn't say "street".  "Lane" is the proper word for what crisscrossing the island is a labyrinth of narrow lanes where every sort of daily activities take place.  This I think is one of the main source of Cheung Chau's exoticism that delights the visitors.

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The Cheung Chau community is probably as old as human activities were recorded in Hong Kong.  For example, the Bun Festival can be traced back to the middle of the Qing Dynasty roughly 200 years ago.   First, it was a three-day worshipping to the Chinese deity Pak Dei (North King) to curse away the plague ramping on the island.  The tradition has been carried on to become today's yearly celebrative party for the whole island.

Some island residents told me that it has never rained on the Festival day because the heavens bless the island for reason of the "cleaning Tai Ping Tei" done beforehand.  Tai Ping means "peaceful" while Dei is "ground".   Simply put, the folks believe that the massive cleaning operation on the island brings good luck.  Fact is, as you can imagine, it was initially for the benefit of public health and hygiene which was pretty much why the Festival first took place in the imperial days.

 _SAM2151 (Medium)The facade of the Cheung Chau Theatre

In such a place as old as great grandpas, there are not just old traditions.  I ventured into the maze of lanes with the NX10 and _SAM2144 (Medium)stumbled into some deserted aged buildings.  One of them which held my interest most was the Cheung Chau Theatre, now turned into four external walls without a roof.

Since the pancake lens of the NX10 was not as wide as I liked it to be, I, standing in front of the theatre, couldn't get a full frontal picture of it.  So I walked the scene to find the best spot  and ended up in where I took the photo above.  I included in the shot a part of the stone parapet next to me to show a sense of depth as well as to balance the preponderance of the theatre building on the left of image.  It echoes the roughness of the place too.  Also, to give the viewers into the right spatial perspective, I waited until someone walked by before pressing the shutter release.  In fact I got several shots but like this one best because the passer-by was obviously an aged person which complements the oldness the image tries to capture.

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The rusty gate of the theatre which shuts visitors out.  I like the colour.

Half an hour later, I was back to the promenade fronting the bay dotted by vessels of all sorts.  Suddenly, the siren went off behind me.  Turning my head over the shoulder, I was sort of amused to see the somewhat flattened ambulance swishing past me.  Apart from the emergency vehicles, Cheung Chau is free of road traffic.  There are lots of bike traffic of course.  Bike is the major transportation on the island.
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The four Chinese characters say, "Been Here" which is the most popular phrase of graffiti by locals at the particular place they visit for the first time and probably will not come back for many a year.  "Been Here" is the name of an eatery.

Stay tuned for more about my NX10 photographic trip to Cheung Chau.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

World's First F1.8 Digital Camera: Samsung EX1

Samsung released its EX1/TL500 in Hong Kong two days ago. Here is the press release revealing some nitty-gritty of it.
(18th May 2010, Hong Kong) Samsung Electronics, a leading brand in consumer electronics and information technology, today announced the launch of a series new digital camera, among which is Samsung EX1 -- the world's first F1.8 compact digital camera which supports full manual control. The new Samsung EX1 is equipped with the outstanding F1.8 Schneider Lens and 1/1.7-inch 10 mega-pixel CCD, which is definitely a breakthrough in the market of digital imaging.
Mr. Alex Chung, Director of the Consumer Electronics Team of Samsung Electronics Hong Kong Co. Ltd, commented, "The new Samsung EX1 digital camera has marked a new milestone for digital imaging technology. Besides the industry-leading F1.8 lens, EX1 also stresses the importance of the operating experience, which devotes for delivering prosumer shooting experience to the users with a compact digital camera."
The New Samsung F1.8 lens EX1 Digital Camera An Ideal Companion for Stylish Users Ultra Wide F1.8 Lens Capturing the Enchantment in the Darkness
Samsung today demonstrated another revolutionary achievement in digital imaging technology -- EX1 digital camera. EX1 is equipped with the high quality German Schneider lens with 24mm ultra wide angle, as well as the world's first extra large F1.8 aperture which is long awaited. With the superior lens, users can easily take vivid and natural photo in the darkness and can have a bigger room for adjusting the depth of field in order to highlight the subject.
Wider Scenery with Ultra Wide 24mm Angle
EX1 is equipped with F1.8 lens, which the lens does not only cover the common shooting angle, but also covers 24mm ultra wide angle, which allows users to capture wider scenery within a short distance. A coating has been specially added to the superior lens, which does not only help to reduce aberration and restore the true color of the picture, but also reduce glare and ghosting.
Perfect Image with 1/1.7-inch 10 Mega-pixel CCD Image Sensor
EX1 features a large-sized 1/1.7-inch 10 mega-pixel CCD image sensor with the high sensitivity ISO 3200. With the newly developed DRIMe III image processor, the noise in the picture which took in dim environment can be reduced tremendously. The EX1 is definitely an ideal companion for stylish users which delivers a convenient shooting experience and perfect image at the same time.
A Free Shooting Style Delivered by the 3-inch Rotating AMOLED Display
To further enhance the shooting experience, EX1 features a 3-inch rotating AMOLED display, which provides a high contrast ratio to deliver sharp and vivid colors. The AMOLED LCD minimizes the effect from reflection in the day time and reduces the difficulty of confirming focus the subjects under sunshine. With the rotating design, users can fully manage any shooting angles and take unique and artistic picture with high or low angle support; shooting with EX1 will become a joyful experience without constraint.
Newly Added Dual Dial and Front Wheel Key Design Break the Boundary
In order to enhance the operating experience, EX1 has newly added the dual dial design. Without entering into the menu, users can directly adjust different shooting mode, including Program AE, Shutter Priority AE, Aperture Priority, etc with one of the dial, and to adjust the drive mode, including Single image, Continuous shooting, etc with another. And EX1 also features the professional front wheel commonly found in DSLR, which ensures users can adjust the exposure directly. Users would not miss any valuable memories by simplifying the sophisticated operation of EX1.
Ultra Fast DRIMe III image processor and Smart Range Delivering Perfection
To further enhance the image quality, EX1 is equipped with DRIMe III image processor, which greatly boosts the algorithm power which is capable of processing massive and complex image data in a shorter time span, which can deliver sharp and vivid image with the compact body. EX1 also features Smart Filter, which allows users to take photos with special effect, including miniature, fish eye and vignetting.
Specifications
Image Sensor Type : 1/1.7″ (Approx. 1.09cm) High Sensitive CCD Effective Pixel: Approx. 10 Mega pixel Total Pixel: Approx. 10 Mega pixel
Lens:
Focal Length 24-72mm, 3x Compact Lens, Lens cap, Wide Convertor
F No. 1.8-2.4
Digital Zoom Still Image mode : 1.0X ~ 4.0X Play mode : 1.0X ~ 11.4X (depends on image size)
Image Stabilization: Dual IS (OIS + DIS) * OIS (Optical Image Stabilization,3 stop, DIS (Digital Image Stabilization)
Display Type: AMOLED featuring 3.0" (7.62cm), VGA, Rotating
Focusing Type: TTL Auto Focus (Center AF, Multi AF, Selection AF, Tracking AF, Face Detection AF, Smart Face Recognition AF)
Range Normal : 40cm ~ Infinity (Wide), 80cm ~ Infinity (Tele) Macro : 1cm~40cm (Wide), 50cm ~ 80cm (Tele) Auto Macro : 5cm~Infinity (Wide), 50cm~ Infinity (Tele) Manual : 5cm ~ Infinity (Wide), 50cm ~ Infinity (Tele)
Shutter Speed Auto : 1/8 ~ 1/1,500 sec., Program : 1 ~ 1/1,500 sec., Manual Mode : 16 ~ 1/1,500 sec. Night : 8 ~ 1/1,500 sec., Fireworks : 2 sec.
Exposure Control: Program AE, Shutter Priority AE, Aperture Priority AE, Manual Exposure Metering Multi, Spot, Center-weighted
Compensation: ±2EV (1/3EV steps) ISO Equivalent: Auto, 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200 (Fullsize)
Flash Modes:
Auto, Auto & Red-eye reduction, Fill-in flash, Slow sync, Flash Off, Red-eye fix, Manual
Range: Wide : 0.3m ~ 5.2m, Tele : 0.5m ~ 2.5m (ISO AUTO) * Flash EVC : ±1EV (1/2 steps) Recharging Time: Approx. 4 sec.
Sharpness: 5 steps White Balance: Auto WB, Daylight, Cloudy, Fluorescent_H, Fluorescent_L, Tungsten, Custom, K
Shooting Mode Dial : Smart Auto, Program, Aperture Priority, Manual, Shutter Priority, Dual IS, Scene, Movie
Scene: Beauty Shot, Frame Guide, Night, Portrait, Children, Landscape, Close-up, Text, Sunset, Dawn, Backlight, Firework, Beach & Snow
Movie capture button: Dual Mode Dial -- Drive(2), Timer(2), BRK
Self timer : Off, 10 sec., 2 sec., Double(10 sec., 2 sec.), Motion Timer, Remote Controller
Effect: Photo Style Selector : Normal, Soft, Vivid, Forest, Retro, Cool, Calm, Classic, Negative, Custom RGB
Image Adjust : Sharpness, Contrast, Saturation Smart Filter : Nomal, Miniature, Vignetting, Fish-eye
Edit: Resize, Rotate, Photo Style Selector, Image Adjust * Photo Style Selector : Normal, Soft, Vivid, Forest, Retro, Cool, Calm, Classic, Negative, Custom RGB * Image Adjust : Off, ACB, Red-eye Fix, Face Retouch, Brightness, Contrast, Saturation, Add Noise
Image Replay Single image, Thumbnails, Multi Slide show, Movie Clip, Smart Album Voice Recording Voice Recording (max. 10 hours) Voice Memo in Still Image (max. 10 sec.) With Stereo Recording
Date Imprinting: DD/MM/YY -----------------
Movie Clip Recording Modes : Smart Scene Detection (Landscape, Blue Sky, Natural Green, Sunset Sky), Movie
Format : H.264 (MPEG-4. AVC) (Max. Recording time : 20min.) Size : 640×480 (30FPS,15FPS), 320×240 (30FPS,15FPS)
Frame Rate : 30 FPS, 15FPS Voice(On/Off/Zoom Mute) OIS(On/Off)
Effect Photo Style Selector : Normal, Soft, Vivid, Forest, Retro, Cool, Calm, Classic, Negative, Custom RGB
Edit: Pause during recording, Still Image Capture, Time Trimming -----------------
Storage
Media Internal memory: 22MB External memory: SD Card SDHC (up to 8GB guaranteed)
File Format Still Image : JPEG, DCF, EXIF 2.21, DPOF 1.1, PictBridge 1.0 Movie Clip : Container : MP4, Video : H.264, Audio : AAC
Image Size 10M : 3648 x 2736 pixels, 7MW : 3648 ×2052 pixels, 8M : 3264×2448 pixels, 5M : 2592×1944 pixels, 3M : 2048×1536 pixels, 2MW : 1920×1080 pixels, 1M : 1024×768 pixels
Interface Digital Output Connector USB 2.0 Audio Microphone : Mono Internal Speaker : Mono Video Out AV : NTSC, PAL (user selectable) HDMI 1.3a : NTSC, PAL (user selectable) (HDMI Type D Built-in)
DC power input 20pin Power Source Rechargeable battery : SLB-11A (1,130mAh) Connector Type : 20pin Adaptor : SAC-48, USB/Charging Cable : CB34U05, AV Cable : SCC-AV34 Cradle : SCC-HD2
Physical Specification Dimension (WxHxD): 114.4 x 64.6 x 30 mm Weight: 356g without battery and memory card
Operating Temperature 0 ~ 40 °C Operating Humidity 5 ~ 85%
Suggested Retail Price HK $3,990

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Locals' Hands-on with Samsung EX1

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Curious?  The Googlish versions are here and here.

Focus of the Week: Cheung Chau

_SAM1878 (Medium)The bow of a boat is sacred.  Don't step on it or prepared to be cursed.

Cheung Chau is one of Hong Kong's several hundreds of islands. As its name suggested, literally "Long Island", it comprises of two vegetated headland connected by a long strip of sandy beaches and land.  Most of its activities are conducted on that long strip.

It is a marine cultivators' community made up by a handsome amount of the remaining fishermen in Hong Kong. So when the ferry approaches it through the opening of the bluestone breakwater, the first things heaving into sight are the fishing boats of different sizes and sorts dotting the bay.

 _SAM1879 (Medium)Playing mahjong during the leisure hours.

I took the NX10 to Cheung Chau to spend a few days there.  If I am to recommend one island for a photographic trip to Hong Kong, this island is certainly the answer.
 _SAM1884 (Medium)A walla-walla

Despite the island is far from big, it has quite a number of attractions which are accessible by walking, bikes or, I will prefer, a walla-walla.  Walla-wallas are taxis on the waters.  The onomatopoetic nickname was given by the European passengers as the engine of the vessel was noisy.  Probably the outlook of these walla-wallas has not changed much for decades.

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Apart from the attractions, simply wandering around the narrow lanes on the island will also have you immersed in an exotic kind of moods.  There are just too many novel things for photography.  This week I will write more about the island and post more photos too, of course.

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And this week is very special for Cheung Chau because the yearly traditional Cheung Chau Bun Festival will be on this Friday.  There will be lots to see.  If you're here in Hong Kong, you don't want to miss it:

Monday, 17 May 2010

Learning from NG Photographers' Commentary

When I first learned photography, in many of the photography books I read revealed the secret of an effective jump-start – learning from the masters.  The world renowned National Geographic photographers are some of the great contemporary masters.

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There are many more great photos you can learn from on NG's website.  A webpage I recommend is here where the photographer comments on the best photos he picked.  A great way to boast our photographic skills.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Orientations?!

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Give me a map and a compass instead.

This is Sunday, a rest day to reorient ourselves for the next chaotic working week.