Saturday, 4 August 2012

Diagonal Line 2

diagonal2(Leica D-Lux 5)

If we try to understand a scene in a geometric relationship, we may be able to make sense of even a short queue in a photo worthy way.

Friday, 3 August 2012

Diagonal Line

diagonal(Leica X1)

Have you ever found yourself ended up deleting images back home as suspiciously vigorously as you took the shots in the street? If that is the case, the likes of the Leica X1 may suit you as the restrictive fixed 36mm lens gives you a non-existent chance of success in blind shooting and the slower camera response forces you to compensate by concentrating greater on your forward thinking as to where, when and how to do shots. The saving grace, and a big one, is that you will be returned with a greater number of shots that don't require deletion at the end of the day. Today's shot is one of those.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Composition and Feelings

lonetree(Sony A55)

Can composition in photography be learnt? In a cliché way of a reply, yes and no, depending on how you look at composition.

It is not really opinionated to say that no photographer hasn’t learned about compositional techniques at some point of time by reading guidebooks, studying works of others or soliciting advices from old hands. I for one have tried all of these. Just as any techniques, compositional skills can be learnt.

However, it is clear as one travels further in photography that compositional contemplation isn’t just about implementing standardised codes. In fact, I am starting to query the conventional wisdom of treating compositional principles as a paradigm standing on its own. It is in this sense that I think composition cannot be learnt.

Take today’s shot for example.

At the sight of this spot the question immediately jumped to my mind, in a split of a second, was how to frame a nature shot. Probably intuitive to every adept photographer, the typical rule and sure-fire way is none other than enclosing the centre of interest with the usable elements of landscape around. But chances are that no landscape element is available around and maybe they are changing too fast for that purpose as in the case of this shot.

This scene captured my attention as the 4-wheel drive was whishing across the desert to the next sand dunes in Dubai. Seeing through the viewfinder, I fixed my eye on it and decisively snapped the shot when the elements within the frame fell into place. It should be pointed out that the driver hadn’t slowed down the car for my sake which was going in like 110 km/h (roughly 68 mph). So, no chance to compose in a proper sense really. Fact is, however, I did not fumble for any second there and then with the composition as a matter of its own. The composition, together with the exposure combo, simply serves to reflect my state of mind at that decisive moment.

Now, to decipher the shot’s composition in a technical way, I can say that putting the lone tree on the left bestows the image with a continuous view as this conforms to our habit of reading (maybe except for Arab readers whose language is read from right to left); checked. The green bit of the tree is roughly on the golden intersection; checked. The one third distribution between the land and the sky is a commonly taught compositional technique; checked. Nothing to engage the viewers on the left portion of the shot – not so good. I could also say that I might have probably viewed the scene in geometric forms. So on and so forth.

But I would rather see the shot as a whole in terms of how it reflected my state of mind. It was taken on my last day of the Dubai trip when my frustration over the various hacked online accounts and the tiredness under the hellish heat were subsiding. It was meant to be a chance to stay away from the hectic work at home but, paradoxically, the prospect of going home somehow gave me a peace of mind (which street photographer won’t with no mobile communication under a weather too hot for street photography). After all, the vista outside of the car windows was captivating. I saw the tree braving the heat on the dry desert. It was a sign of hope which connected to my feelings. Looking through the viewfinder, I snapped the shot when the elements combined to best reflect such feelings of mine. I did not compose the shot to fall in line with the technical rules or to amaze the viewers in the first place.

In a nutshell, what is important is not whether compositional technique can be learnt. To me, composition is only as good as the technical rules can get if without first fermenting one’s feelings towards a scene. The rules of composition in photography can and should be learnt as a technique to build a stepping stone from which one should move on to look at the compositional device not for its own sake but, together with other photographic devices, for use to reflect one’s feelings which should be there in the first place.

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Kick Back

(Sony A55)

In fact, he was kicking up. This shot was done with one take only on the desert somewhere in Dubai. The trickling of one desert shot at a time is not because of frugality but that not everything has been migrated to my new computer from the old one. And there are some hiccups with the new computer, confining me to the chair to figure out solutions.

Run with Abandon

desertrunning(Sony A55)

The beauty of Dubai lies not, as some would have it, in the grandeur of architectures which I would call my biggest find during the recent trip. Whisked in a 4-wheel drive to the desert for what is called sand surfing the other day, I was tremendously captivated at the continual sight of the taut, undulant sand dunes whose vista was impaired only by the horizon where the expansive desert and the tolerant sky met. The acute amnesia with which I alighted the vehicle panting to its engine's humming tone, roamed to shoot with abandon and even changed lenses on the land of fine sand grains was the result of none other than my bewilderment on that first visit to a pristine desert. Thankfully, I turned less cautious but not totally reckless, and returned with unscathed gear and a few nice shots of which one is shown today. The regret is that the shot lacks a bit punch without a smoky trail of sand dust after the boy. But technically it is still okay I hope.

More desert shots to come when ready.

Monday, 30 July 2012

On We March

(Sony A55, Polarised)

Summer holiday is a time when parents and their children take a breather especially because we have a hectic school schedule in Hong Kong. This is what made yesterday's scene frustrating and even saddening with 90,000 parents taking their babies and young kids to the street in protest of the government's bulldozing ahead the controversial national education curriculum to be put on "trial run" this September.


But isn't it natural for Chinese Hongkongers to be given some education about its own country? At the core of the issue are that, quoting the Financial Times, "course materials made available to schools include a teaching manual describing the Chinese authoritarian government as 'progressive, selfless and united' while assessing the US system as one that allows politics to disrupt the lives of ordinary people, and a prescriptive guide on how to be a “good child of China” that directs children to shout out in class: 'I am proud to be a Chinese'."

The curriculum will turn compulsory in three years' time, and non-Chinese Hongkongers are too required to take the national education.

(Placard reading, "Withdraw the Brainwashing National Education")

Meanwhile some supporters sitting on related committees have made comments including, "Problemtic brains warrant brainwashing, just as dirty clothes need washing and sick kidney requires cleaning."

The local Observatory issued a Very Hot Wather warning yesterday when the march took place. The government has so far not acceded to the protestors' demand to withdraw the curriculum.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Turning Topsy-Turvy

topsyturvy (Leica D-Lux 5)

Today Hong Kong is again to see probably tens of thousands of people taking to the street in protest of the government's bulldozing through what it calls the national identity subject to be implemented in schools this September. The issue became rough when the media discovered in a government-sponsored teaching handbook that the subject would be heavily biased towards praises of the one-party regime while  speaking ill of the multi-party political system as in the States. One of the guidelines for the subject is to train students up basing on the principle of "understanding oneself, treating Hong Kong as home, relying on the Motherland, facing the world", which is more commonly known as indoctrination.

Isn't education something to teach one to think and reason?

While the government is turning the situation topsy-turvy, the protesters, especially the anxious and infuriated parents, will show their colours for sure until there is a definitive answer from the government.