Saturday, 30 October 2010


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Autumn is here.  We have the best weather in a year.  Everything looks clear and full of life.

Friday, 29 October 2010


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This hopefully satisfactory one was achieved after several trial shots.  With the clustering of the sampans in a disorderly way, the photographer had to think hard and walk the scene for a desirable composition.  _SAM2338 (Medium) In fact, the distractions were the myriad of fishing boats in various sizes and shapes around the bay.  Leaving out those unrelated subjects without reducing the points of interest, which the trial shot at left failed, is a bit of a challenge.  Another chanllenge was the reflective surface of the water body which could upstage the the main subject.

Here the most captivating element, or the main subject, in the photographer's eye is the connected curves of the boats' edges.  First, to do away with the reflection, the shot was taken from a lower angle on the shore.  A lower angle also allowed more sampans to be included.

Then, the lens was zoomed to cut out the desired scene.  But a space was left in the foreground to give the queue a softer ending with the mirrored image of the nearest sampan.  That space also serves another aesthetic purpose: lau ba, or emptying. 

Lau ba is an aesthetic instrument in Chinese painting.  A painting with emptied space smoothens the flow of the picture as a whole and gives viewers a breathing room to think.  So, in the first shot, the space is also meant to heighten the sense of the water flowing around the sampans which hopefully echoes the flowing lines of their curved edges.  The flow of the picture overall hinges on the water and the main subject, the curves.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Wait a Minute

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This shot was taken with the Samsung EX1 at ISO 400.  The image is largely clean and nothing can be disapproved of in terms of noise.  Undoubtedly, at a larger image size the noise will show.

Wait a minute!  Noise?  This is at ISO400!  If this was a film photo, there would be no bickering about noise whatsoever.

Such a noise-issue platitude speaks volumes for the quantum leap in digital camera technology in a short space of time.  Back three or four years ago, we would have heaped praises on such a noise level at ISO400.  Not now, thanks to the quick-paced technological advancement.  The once strange bedfellow -- digital camera -- has radically disrupted our habits and mindsets in doing photography, as well as the old rules of thumb.  Our years of insights about the good and bad in photography can largely be washed down the drain too.

That's good 'cos we can all learn again, with much sophisticated tools and a greater room for creativity!

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

What Makes a Winning Image

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Today's two images show the high ISO images produced by the Samsung EX1.  The likeable in-camera vignetting effect aside, the nicely balanced noise adds a great film-like quality to the final images.  They are as good as the GRD III's in my opinion, if not better.

The reason to show the two photos -- there is something in them I really wish to show you -- sort of echos a recent post on Mike's TheOnlinePhotographer featuring a disturbing winning photo of a British photo contest.  It is disturbing because the photo is a very casual, and actually awful, shot which no one would even think about it otherwise.  Long story short, Mike later concludes from his experience that as judges of past photo contests, he would pick the ones as winners in which there was something he really wished to show the viewers. 

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Talking about that "man on the grass" winning photo, a similar story immediately sprang to mind: this year's Hong Kong Ricoh Photo Contest.  Since GX Garnerings had asked readers to vote for the winners as a show of support (well, lots of us are Ricoh camera fans), we hoped to follow up and bring back the news of the result for the voters.  But when we went over to the organiser's page, what we found were comments of frustrated participants to protest against the result.

The result poses a challenge to the usual understanding of what makes a winning image.  Surely, there are rules for different contests.  In this case, maybe the rule just overrode photographic considerations.  But for those who agree with the conclusion of "something in an image the judge really wants to show viewers" as the judging criteria, the "man on the grass" shot and the winning trios really shed new light on the matter.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Comparative ISO Shots: G12 vs P7000

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Recently, Canon and Nikon have done something to the G12 and P7000 that women in sitcoms dread the most: wearing clothes of the same colour and similar design!

But deep inside, how different are they?  It is time to return to the boxing ring of comparative ISO shots.  Last time, the P6000 was defeated out and out by the G10 and actually by all others.  Has Nikon learned any new tricks to do justice to its brandname this time?

Since the Sony a55 is now known for producing nicely balanced useable high ISO images, references shots taken with the a55 are linked to give a yardstick.  A55 has a bigger APS-C sensor instead of the tiny ones of the duo; of course we know it


0.6s f2.8
1001/2s f2.80.66s f2.8 ISO 100
2001/5s f2.8 1/3s f2.8 ISO 200
4001/10s f2.8 1/6s f2.8 ISO 400
8001/15s f2.8 1/13 f2.8 ISO 800
16001/30s f2.8 1/27s f2.8 ISO 1600
32001/60s f2.8 1/48s f2.8 ISO 3200
HI1/143s f2.8 ISO 6400
ISO 12800

Monday, 25 October 2010

When You Have Heat-evil

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The old building, probably over 50-year old as evidenced in the then characteristic way of showing the owning company's name (literally, "Have Remember Unite" on top-floor) and its trade ("suckling pigs" and "BBQ meat" on the other floors) on the facades, houses a traditional herbal tea store on the ground floor. 

The Chinese traditional medical theory has a set of self-justifying, codified logic to explain illnesses of the human body.  It believes that when either the Qi (vital energy) circulating through our internal organs is blocked or the Jin Yi (liquid, inclusive of blood and bodily fluid) is lost from the human body, the balance of yi-yang is upset and therefore illnesses take place.  The causes are manifold and the syndromes are manifested in exactly eight forms, known as the eight principal syndromes.  One of the syndromes is the manifestation of the heat-evil. 

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The big greenish Chinese characters say, "Leung Cha" or herbal tea.  From the wooden fittings of the store, it is safe to say that it has as old an history as the old building itself.

Heat-evil is most rampant from the hot mid-summer to especially the dry winter.  This evil causes symptoms of yang and heat in nature, such as fever, noisy breathing, local redness, swelling, heat and pain, constipation and so on.  If the symptoms are mild, no worry because a cup of the Chinese herbal tea will do wonder.  This is why the Chinese herbal tea stores have survived for so long in history in the local market.

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The best-selling herbal teas during the hot and dry seasons are, therefore, those which neutralise or expel the heat-evil attacking the body.  As seen from the picture above, these may include the (left to right) hemp seed drink or "Fo Ma Yan", prunella spike drink or "Ha Fu Tso" and mori with chrysanthemum drink or "Ha Song Gu".

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The hemp seed drink is for relieving constipation, the prunella spike drink for smoothing out liver-heat and the mori with chrysanthemum drink is for curing heat-related symptoms in the eyes and breathing organs.  Where to find one?  Check out the shops flanking the ladies' market and the Temple Street night market.  There are some in Wan Chai too.


(Note: As always, transliteration is in Cantonese used in Hong Kong)

Sunday, 24 October 2010

The Needy

SAM_7620 (Large)This is Sunday.  A family day.  Help the needy if you can.