Local Events 2

This year I participated into one of the most exciting annual sports event in Hong Kong, the Rugby Sevens.  The atmosphere is amazing, everyone was having fun and enjoyed their time.  My second reason to entry is of course to take more shots!

I brought my fish-eye zoom with me, which allowed me to capture the above image at the 14mm end at f7.1.  Most of the photographers may focus the action on the pitch, yet for this special event, it is also a carnival where the fans will dress up and become photo subjects as well.  Enjoy!



Local Events

There are always interesting events happening in your local area, and these usually gives ample opportunities to take good pictures.  The above picture was taken during the Chinese Opera Day in Hong Kong.  To tell the truth, I am not actually interested in Chinese Opera, nor was I aware of such event until Johnny said he has free passes to take photographs in the backstage.

It was actually very entertaining and interesting.  I never knew how long it would take a Chinese Opera singer to put make up on, and they also discussed about their career, the challenges and the satisfactions.  It also makes me understand more of their jobs, and also allow me to appreciate this local old-school entertainment.  Their makeup and dresses are very colourful, giving eye catching images.

So get out more, and bring your cameras to your local events near by, not only you will learn new things, but also to capture more images for your own portfolio.


Film in 2012

Back in February, I found my dad’s Nikon F3 camera and started playing with it.  After a months time, I have finally finished a full roll of 36 frames, and collected the developed negatives today!   For the past few years I was able to see the shots I have taken immediately on the camera’s LCD screen, and they can also be examined closely back at home on my computer at day end.  It is truly a special feeling when you have the anticipation of not knowing how well the photos will come out, and have to wait for a few days for development before getting the negatives back; the sensation of holding negatives in hand is just like bringing myself back in time, maybe 15 years back where all cameras just use film.

The above photo was taken by the Nikon F3 with a 50mm f1.2 lens, using Lomography’s ISO400 B&W lady grey film.  It has then been scanned directly from negative to digital.  The scanned quality is not perfect, and the resolution is rather low, but somehow it feels different from DSLR outputs.  Maybe its the low quality which gives it the “retro” feel, or maybe its just my own experience which makes it look different (or just a photo taken by a low quality digital camera with basic sensor!?)

My point is even though I have been shooting with DSLRs for quite sometime now, I am always able to learn new skills and tricks when going back to SLR working with film: the manual focusing lens, the confidence of shooting a few frames in your mind without the “luxury” of checking the result immediately etc.  I highly encourage DSLR shooters to find a film camera to experience how photographers shoot back in the 80s.  The feeling of waiting for the photos to be developed (unless you have your own darkroom) is certainly very interesting.  You may not like it, buy there is no harm in trying!


Fish Eye Lens

This is the first gear review on this blog; I have been contemplating if I should do gear reviews as I am a believer of creativity over gear, yet after searching on the net, most reviews focus on the technical aspects of the gear, the size, the weight, the performance, the resolution etc, but rarely elaborate on the user experience and feel (there maybe user review on the sharpness, focusing speed etc.).  I will try to approach this “gear review” from a different perspective.  Please leave comments and let me know if this is useful for you or not…

After thinking for a while, I have finally invested into a new lens, the Canon 8-15mm f4L Fisheye zoom lens.  It is certainly not a cheap lens, as it costs over HKD10,000 (USD1,300), yet the biggest obstacle was that I was unsure if its useful or not.  After using it a most of the time during my Malaysia trip, I was totally convinced that it an excellent addition to my gear.

For the rational bunch (like me), you will be thinking that the fish eye is really a fun lens, and its not as “practical” as a 50mm f1.2L, 24-70mm f2.8L II, 70-200mm f4L IS which is in the same price bracket.  If you are currently not a proud owner of the lenses I just mentioned, then you should really consider getting those before getting the fish eye.

OK, back to the fish eye experience.  Out of the box, it feels solid as all L series lens do, and opening the lens hood will reveal the massive concave glass.  On the 5D mark 2 it feels balanced and mobile.

In action, the lens opens up a whole new world of creativity, especially at the 8mm end.  I have been to KL a few times, yet with the fish eye I manage to see the city in a whole new way.  Composition is totally different from the conventional ways, peripheral vision is extremely important to make sure everything in the frame is intended.  The sharpness, colour, saturation, chromatic aberration is well controlled, image quality is top notch.  I also tried to use it to take group shots for 8 people sitting round a circular table, and again it allowed me to capture the scene in an interesting way.

In short, I think this is an excellent lens to add to a complete working focal range, if you have lenses which covering 16mm to 200m already and is looking for some zest for your portfolio, I highly recommend this lens which opens up your creative possibilities.  Landscape photographers should certainly use it, and in the right hands wedding and portrait photographers will also find its uses.


Blue Sky

Circular Polarizing Lens filter, or CPL, is an invaluable tool for landscape photographers.  It is one of the rare tools which cannot be replicated in the post processing.  It can make the skies bluer, the seas clearer with better contrast.

The way it works is they align the light rays getting through the filter onto the sensor, and can reduce the refraction from the dust particles in the air, and also works on the water reflection.  These effects cannot be reproduced by Photoshop.  So I highly recommend budding landscape photographers to bring along 1 CPL with you next time you go shoot.  Depending on the diameter of your lens and also the quality of the filter, price varies from around HKD400 (USD50) to HKD1200 (USD180) for the top notch ones, e.g. B&W.  Try it out and you will never leave home without it.


Walk Further

Ultra wide angle, super telephoto, 18-270mm lenses…. to me zoom lenses are not always the way to go.  Sometimes the best images are captured with what I called “human zoom”, i.e. move your feet!  If you want the subject to be smaller, move further!  If you want to capture more of the subject, move closer.  The advantages are two fold:

1.  When you get closer to your subject, you get a better emotional connect.  You see the textures, the details more clearly and makes you feel it a little better.

2.  When you need to walk further away from a subject because of its vast size (just like the above image), you have more time to feel the surrounding environment, what is happening around the subject?  Is there anything I need to avoid/include?  This also results in better planned images.

So my advice is, get your feet moving, and stop depending on your zoom lenses, this applies to any camera users!


Tilt Shift

Have you ever seen photos which looks like a miniature model, yet when you look closely you realise the river, the cars and the people are all real?  You then find out that it was all because of some photography technique.

There are actually a few ways to achieve such effect, the most straight forward, direct way is to use a tilt-shift lens.  It is rather expensive, for example the Canon TS-E 24mm f3.5L will cost you over HKD14,000 (USD1,790).  There are also some built-in filters in newer point-and-shoot cameras (or smartphone apps) which mimics similar results .  Another method which I like is by post processing in Photoshop.

The above photo was taken in Prague using my 5D Mark 2 and a Canon 24-70mm f4L lens.  It was inspired by a postcard I saw when walking along Charles’ Bridge, and realise that this scene has been taken thousands of times, in colour or black & white.  I wanted to give it a different look and not just taking another “postcard moment”.  I used a plug-in called “Bokeh 2” by Alien Skin, which is a fantastic piece of software to add planar or circular Bokeh in Photoshop.  On the other hand you can use blur filters with the gradient tool to get a similar effect.

To have the best result, a photo taken from a high vantage point is key.  Just imagine you looking down at a model sized town and you will understand what I mean.  Give it a try and you may discover new ways to see things!


Tripods Prohibited

Sometimes there are places where the use of tripods are not allowed, yet with the limited light source and no flash, some sturdy support is needed.  The above photo was taken in a church in Germany.  I used the donation box as my support, and propped the lens up with my phone.  This allowed me to take a long exposure photo to show the movements of the visitors.

Try to think out of the box, especially at places where you don’t have a second chance to take the same photo.  I am not sure if they actually allow people to place cameras on the donation box, but surely I got the photo I wanted, and I was happy.  Also you may consider bringing a small Gorilla pod with you, which maybe allowed to use.  Don’t let the surroundings limit your creativity!