Saturday, 22 January 2011

Graffiti Hong Kong Style

RIMG4432L(Camera: Ricoh A12 28mm)

Among the many creative ways to put up an ad for free in Hong Kong, writing or stamping ads on the external walls of buildings is probably unique in Hong Kong. Interestingly, as if ruled by an unspoken agreement, these ads on the walls are invariably about plumbing, disinfestation and household appliances repair services. The most well known of them is the plumber's ad. An example is the one close to the right margin of the above image.  The two big Chinese characters say, "Clearing Blocked-Drains"

The plumber's ad is so ubiquitous that, if you know Chinese, you may have the impression that Hong Kong has tons of blocked drains. Does this make the plumber's ad famous?

Nope. It is because of one person, Stephen Chow.

An actor, screenwriter, film director and producer, Stephen has produced numerous blockbuster comedy movies which won him several movie awards and grossed great proceeds in Hong Kong, China and from most Chinese speaking communities.  It is he who gave birth to a special genre of acting called "mo lei tou" (or silly-billy). The comparable English equivalent may be Austin Powers. 
                (Stephen Chow>)

His movies have been so popular in China that students learn by rote the dialogue lines in some of them. The author has a Beijing friend who is now a professor in children's education. She once recited the lines to the author which lasted for over a minute.

So in one of his movies, a scene showing the plumber's ad somehow arouse the interest of the audience in China. With millions of millions of population, the plumber's ad attracted much attention and lots of discussions.

These graffiti kind of ads proliferate in old districts like Sheung Wan, Yau Ma Tei and Kwun Tong.  Take the MTR train to there.

Friday, 21 January 2011

28mm Arena: DP1x vs GF2 vs GXR A12 28mm


The battles between camera makers over the mirror-less camera market share have heated up much over the past twelve months.  The war has become a full-scale one where brand-name makers compete over every aspect from camera size to optical performance of the lenses. The high velocity of the production of new cameras and lenses may be taken to mean that this market segment has grown to an sufficiently large size for a wider array of lenses. This is a good news especially for photographers who have a penchant for prime lenses.

The prime lenses have perfectly utilised the small size of these mirror-less machines. Two of the makers, Sigma and Ricoh, have produced their niche market mirror-less cameras fitted with a 28mm prime lens. DCwatch has published a comparison review for the DP1x, GF2 and GXR A12 28mm. If you are unsure about whether to choose the DP1x or GXR A12 28mm, or if the 28mm prime lens is tickling your fancy, go here for the Googlish translation. There are plenty of side-by-side shots for your close examination.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

He Is Here

R0014541aL (Camera: Ricoh GXR A12 28mm)

It's not the armour that makes the curiosity, but the man inside. This guy appeared in the busy pedestrian precinct  in Mongkok.  He walked to and fro, stopping to the cheering of the curious bystanders.

R0014543L  R0014539L R0014540L

People were excited for the photo opportunity. When the flocks grew larger, the Iron Man guy would turn to people asking for a hand, "Could you give me a hand? The LED lights on the palm are running out of batteries. Could you get him new ones?" He kept asking this same kind-of-humourous question to people after each "photo session" on the street. But this is not the weirdest thing about him.


He was spotted driving his (or rental?) BMW coupe in this costume! The following two shots were found on the Facebook. Wonder the police would stop him for dangerous driving if detected. Welcome to Hong Kong!

163739_485498528756_753073756_6029264_2114273_n 168172_485498548756_753073756_6029265_1496371_n

Lower Deck

SAM_2561L (Camera: Samsung WB600 @ Lower deck of Star Ferry)

Probably no comparable international city can boost about cheaper public transport fares compared to Hong Kong. Take for example the ferry crossing the Victoria Harbour. For as cheap as two Hong Kong dollars, you can enjoy a breezy trip between Central and Tsim Sha Tsui and the fantastic view of the harbour. If the trip is too short to you, take the Wahchai-to-Tsimshatsui route for just 50 cents more. Actually, the ferry ride was voted the "Top 10 Most Exciting Ferry Rides” in a 2009 poll held by the Society of American Travel Writers.

There are two decks in a ferry.  Head to the cheaper lower deck cos it will definitely give you a more sensory experience. The seats are more cramped. The air is filled with the foul smell of diesel wafting through the humming of engines which are exposed before your eyes through the middle void. It is closer to the water level; so close that sometimes the droplets will be blown onto your face -- so mind your camera when shooting near the railing.

The best time to take a ferry ride is in the early morning (real refreshing and brighten up your day), just before sunset (the crimson sky!) or between 8 to 8:15 at night when the nightly laser show (Symphony of Lights) is staged.

Just as the cheaper lower deck is preferred to the upper deck, sometimes a cheaper camera can do a better job. This shot could not have been done with the Sony a55 which the author was holding in the other hand. With the small 50mm lens, it still attracted attention which was the thing least needed for this shot. The possibility to do one-hand operation with the tiny Samsung WB600 was really handy in this situation. The lens was zoomed to the maximum for determining the exposure, and then the shot was taken on the LOMO mode.

Just the next second the man turned away his face. Waiting, timing and decisiveness are undoubtedly the crucial elements in photography.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Old-style Street-side Delicacies

DSC00640L (Camera: Sony a55)

Stir-fry chestnuts and baked sweet potatoes are two of the most loved old-style delicacies among the locals. Nowadays the sight of hawkers selling these choice foods is few and far between, let alone one who sell both.  But look, here is one in Wai Chai near Li Chit Street (dubbed "Toys Street" for the numerous toys shops flanking the open market).

The gigantic wok and stirrer is iconic of a stir-fry-chestnut hawker.  The wok is filled with dark grit, and sugar which prevents bursting of chestnut shells. A variant to do this cate is by roasting in the unmistakable metal roller.  But the chestnuts will not be as crispy or sweet-smelling.

Now the surprise! Their well thought-out cart is actually designed as a mobile oven! It has a rarely seen drawer in which the raw sweet potatoes go. The baking starts when the drawer-tray is closed. Sure enough, this creative design is new.

When you have a chance in town, visit this couple in Wai Chai and try the steaming hot chestnuts and sweet potatoes combo -- the real delicacies in this freezing weather.

Monday, 17 January 2011

Impression in a Corridor

R1230995L (Camera: Ricoh GX200)

No more to add in addition to the title. Enjoy!

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Rest In Peace

DSC00639L (Camera: Sony A55)

What a peaceful mind this guy had to have as he managed to ignore the traffic and indulge in the sunlight and his iPhone in this armchair miraculously appeared on the sidewalk along the busy Queen's Road on Hong Kong Island!

This is Sunday.  Find yourself some peace of mind.