Saturday, 3 March 2012

Time Stuck in Mist

L1010121L (Leica D-Lux 5)

The mist has turned Hong Kong into a sleepy town for a week, which is good because most human activities need to slow down a bit under the inconvenient weather. As in the case of my friends coming from afar, people visiting Hong Kong will find one common thing about this city: Hong Kong is  forever crazily busy. As with all bustling big cities, the busyness is kind of like scrambling an egg, it can't be reverted back to where it was. How great we have a chance to let time get stuck in the mist!

L1010059LWhen one looks out through the windows, the first thing jumps to the face is the dump air.  It feels like the humidity is at 100%.  Wet walls, wet floors! With the inertia in the atmosphere, the first thing springing to mind is watching a movie in bed with a can of beer in one hand and with the other hand digging in the foil bag for chips.

If Saturday has a personality, she must be a very romantic lady to spend time with – at least when the day is misty.

Friday, 2 March 2012

Education for Street Photographers

I'd slack off a bit and let you enjoy this educational video about street photography. If you haven't ever tried some of their shooting strategies (not in those funny dresses though) as a street photographer, go and try any that suits your style. Anyone so wishes may send me your results to my email box and I'll post them on GXG, maybe with comments. Anyway, I will show you mine next week.

Stationed in Hong Kong, Kai is the most entertaining presenter of camera reviews on this planet.  If there are lives on other stars, then he'll the best out of this planet too.  His lively, hilarious and somewhat tart (he commented the NEX7 as "brilliantly alright") style just dwarfs that of those boring camera reviewers who give technical-ish lectures on what a camera can do in video clips that sucks with sound recording that also sucks.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

The Impossibly Ludicrous Signs of Times

L1010131L (Leica D-Lux 5; multi-exposure)

Most of you have probably read the blog post of Tim de Lisle, Chief Editor of Intelligent Life, where he sort of bemoaned the overly post-processed images used in magazines. At the end of the post, Tim wrote, "But the shot is at least trying to reflect real life. It’s a curious sign of the times that this has become something to shout about."

If such a light subject for moaning is called a curious sign of the times, then how should we call the recent political scandals developing in Hong Kong? Maybe "the impossibly ludicrous signs of the times"?

For the purpose of education, the following are the billing, the scenario and some supplements from today's local English newspaper, South China Morning Post, about the scandals:

Characters:

1. Tung Chee-hwa, helmsman of the 1st term government after 1997

2.Donald, helmsman of the 2nd and 3rd term government after 1997

3.CY, convenor of the helmsman's de facto cabinet since 1997 until recently, and now the CE hopeful for the 4th term government

4.Henry, born to a local tycoon and turned to be the former Financial Secretary in early 2000s, later the Chief Secretary and now the CE hopeful for the 4th term government

What happened?

In a nutshell, our government leaders in the past, present and future are either involved in suspected indictable criminal offences, conflict of interest, covering up the conflict and impropriety to the verge of bribery.

DSC05072L(Song A55; I ran into Long Hair, lawmaker with an international fame for his long hair and Che Guevara T-shirt, and folks from his political party protesting against the corruption allegations swirling around the present CE. The prop shows the Chinese character "greedy")

Lines from today’s newspaper

Tung Chee-hwa covered up CY's failure to declare his alleged interest and the fairness of the contest's adjudication process.

(Lawmakers decided to invoke special powers to investigate the) possible conflict of interest surrounding CY's role on the judging panel of a arts hub design competition in 2001.

The allegations of impropriety currently swirling around Chief Executive Donald (in a nutshell, he is linked to accepting “benefits” from tycoons some of whom have been allegedly benefited from his policy decisions)…. As things stand, people with clout are seemingly able to flout the law with impunity, and this can no longer be tolerated.

Henry's illegal basement of over 2,000 sq ft sparked public outrage when it was exposed by a newspaper last month. The revelations came after five officials, including the chief executive Donald himself, were found last year to have had illegal structures built at their homes. Despite such non-compliance, the government told lawmakers yesterday that Donald will not request officials report to him after inspection. (And so far the public prosecutor, who is the secretary of justice whose boss is the Chief Executive, has not instituted any proceedings against those five officials with no specific reasons given)

What did they say in response?

In short, Henry said that he is victimised and is willing to guard Hong Kong's core values in joint hands with Hongkongers. He further proclaimed in a statement that he is going to win the "election" and be the next CE.

Donald said that he has complied with the rules on accepting treats he laid down for the incumbent CE who is himself. Simply put, the rules say that the he can accept tycoon's treats if he sees fit. To blandish the discontent public, he set up a committee to look into more stringent rules to govern the CE in future terms!

CY has kept saying that when the lawmakers have investigated deep enough, the whole truth of the accusation against him will be laid bare to the public.

Tung. Nowhere in sight.

------

There is a quote from Martin Luther King, "Injustice everywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." Very true and befitting.

These are the impossibly ludicrous signs of the times in Hong Kong.

(P.S.: After pondering a bit, I finally decided to file this post under the tag " Humour")

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

I'm Above the Rest

DSC05001L (Sony A55)

It seems that every night when I switch off the camera, go into the bedroom and turn off the lights, what have become the reminiscences of the day in the memory card will start flickering from one electron to another in my head, interspersed with question or exclamation marks about the day’s conversations and observations. This will go on and on as I tuck myself into bed, turn from side to side and look around the faintly discernible whatnots on the side table until my eyelids feel so increasing heavy that the brain automatically comes to a temporary shutdown to put me to sleep.

Then last night when the flickering stopped, I dreamt a dream about a Beijing ren (meaning “person” in Mandarin), a lead waiter in a hotel restaurant to be exact, catching a Caucasian madam red-handed with a bread and an apple on her hand which the lead matron believed to be blatant food smuggling after breakfast. The Caucasian madam was blocked from her way out, given a lecture on the restaurant rules and finally directed by finger-pointing to put back the food to where they belonged. The lead matron made quite a scene of it, and the madam was really crossed from the expression on her face. Embarrassed in front of other patrons, she kept her manners, put back the food and left.

This morning I immediately knew that it was actually a mental caricature of a similar scene took place some eight years ago, which I mentioned to the founder of the HK Cover Magazine at the cocktail party on Monday. That incident happened during my second trip to Beijing, to be followed by two more to add up to four in ten years. During those four visits, I met different people from Chinese officials involved in the WTO entry negotiations, news anchors in the China News Agency, ballet teachers from a renowned capital academy to taxi drivers. From their manner and conversations invariably wafted an omnipresent smell of a patronising quality. It is that they talked and articulated in a way as if they felt themselves a notch above others, above people from outside of the capital and probably above the rest of the world.

Where does this quality come from? Could it be the thinking registered in their DNA that it entitles one to natural superiority for being a native of the great capital of the middle kingdom? On my last trip to Beijing, every piece of negotiated arrangement was changed in the last minute. It seems that when there are more than one party involved in an negotiation with or among the Beijing people, there has to be a single shot-caller calling the shot at will: the "I". The gist is that when a Beijing party or Beijing ren says something is good, it must be the best.

Back to my conversation with the magazine boss. I was asked about the mindset of Beijing’s photographers and the impacts on their works. I replied that honestly I didn't have any personal contacts with a single photographer in Beijing. But from some of the commissioned shots by the Beijing photographers on display, I felt the same sense of "shot-caller  calling the shot at will". While commenting on the topic at the party, I ,to be polite, managed to touch on this lightly and not to pinpoint any shots despite the urge of frankness arising from some glasses of wine gulped into an empty stomach. I don't really know the right words to say my comments, but you can go over there and see for yourself those commissioned shots taken by the Beijing photographers with the Leicas.

Well, well, well.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Both Feelings and Your Gear Count

DSC05061L (Sony A55)

Let me start by saying something about today's shot. This was taken on the escalator leading to the lift lobby level of the Upper House hotel where I attended the cocktail party last night to open the photo exhibition of the Leica x Swire Hotels project. I think this image adequately conveys the mysterious quality to the hotel's atmosphere, as well as the moment's jovial feelings in my heart fluttering with inexpressible anticipation of the event -- my winning shot was one of the highlights in the exhibition.

The reason for me to take this shot was simple: to challenge a commissioned photo taken (by a Beijing photographer) at the escalator top for the project echoing the theme "views from the top". It is not that the commissioned photo taken with a Leica M is bad, but that I prefer one with more depth in meaning apart from the interest of composition so that the photo can give more punch. The soliloquy to my soul led to one conclusion: take a shot to challenge it. And if I were the commissioned photographer, I would have put a semi-nude model on the top of the escalator and shed enough flash light to freeze and light up her in this final image.

To me, it is the photographer's spontaneous feelings at the moment that makes the difference. No true feelings, no good photos. I also tend to believe that at the shutter-releasing moment of capturing the spontaneous feelings in the final image, an experienced photographer would have factored in all the considerations between, as we just discussed here, light and no light, seeing and interpreting, as well as the camera and the brain. These are all reflected in the final image. With a trained eye, you just know it at first sight.

So the cocktail party was a success. I met lots of people, some photographers and directors of some magazines. On my way home an epiphany dawned on me. Suddenly I saw a reason to use a more powerful camera with higher-grade lenses. If one continues on doing photography seriously, preparation should be made for a future chance to present the works to studios or magazines. Take for example my winning shots taken with the GX200. The A2-size print of the photo for the exhibition is about the maximum stretch of its resolution.

The exhibition began last week and will be on until the coming Sunday (P.S.: just learnt that it has been extended to March 19). I was told that the exhibition will move to Beijing afterwards.

DSC05040L DSC05042L

The above shots were taken at the cocktail party while the one below shows the print in the exhibition area at L6 lift lobby of the Upper House hotel. The commissioned photos are shown alongside mine.  Some more are displayed on L36. If you are in town and nearby, drop in and check them out.

DSC05049L

Monday, 27 February 2012

Bagfuls of Experience

L1000255L (Leica X1)

Having been into a craft for an enough period of time, and through flounders and failings in matter of results, any craftsman will harvest wide benefits from reflecting on those flaws and foibles and then be catapulted onto a high level of craftsmanship at certain point.

On this account, I have done some soul searching last week about the direction one may continue along the road of photography. I made efforts to answer two questions: What's so special about photography? And what actually are we learning in photography? My conclusion so far can be read, for what it's worth, after the following links.

1) Between Light and No Light

2) Between Seeing and Interpreting

3) Between Brain and Camera

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Hug of Caring

L1000253L (Leica X1)

This is Sunday, give your loved ones a caring hug.