Another photo taken in Phnom Penh street side, the weather was steamy and there were lots of people just relaxing on various jumbles of makeshift furniture. Here is a powerful photo, with the man in the foreground in deep thought, the diagonal line drawn by the bench draws the viewer into the photo. The lens’ shallow depth of field isolated the main subject, with classic compositional placement of objects, makes for an emotive expression of the man contemplating.
Photo of a lime grocer in a street market of Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The biggest impression from my first trip to Cambodia is the people, after the long struggles during the evil Khmer Rouge regime the people’s morale is high and even in poverty the mood is uniformly happy everywhere. The Cambodian people are friendly and wasn’t photo shy, a smile from the photographer goes a long way. I made a concerted effort to show the picture I just took on the LCD display of the camera to the subject and that would invariably elicit laughter all around. It is important to make it easy for the next photographers to come along, so I always try to leave a happy trail.
This photo is one of my favorites of the trip, the natural spot lighting, the genuine smiles, the vibrant colors of the lime and various articles splayed about makes for a colorful photo. This lens is probably one of my favorite and most used in the Canon stable. It is sharp and high contrast with beautiful out of focus areas, if its the only lens I own I would be a happy man.
Here is a third photo from the same event, the man in the picture is holding the lure that is the way the villagers use to direct the fiery dragon, at the end of the festival the fire dragon is extinguished by returning it to the sea. The geometric shape of the lure, made of incense makes for an interesting composition, though the handler is in the bokeh you can still feel his intensity.
As you know so far, I use many systems but this setup with this lens is the fastest low light monster I own (with the exception of the equally good Canon 1D mark III), even a Leica 50/0.95 is a few stop slower if you take into account the ISO 3200 that I am using with confidence on this mobo. Not to mention the rapid fire of the camera, even the relative slow Canon 5DMk2 can manage 3.9 fps with a much larger memory buffer than the digital Leica M9. This photo depicts the man manning the tail, it is the most active part of the dragon and needed a new person to handle every minute as its very tiring. As the tail is swooshed around the sparks fly! It’s actually quite dangerous for prospective photographers! Note that unlike the other photo, there is no faux film grain added to this photo as the grain with compete with the point sparks for the viewer’s attention.
Here I had the privilege of a press pass to get close and personal with the Tin Hau firedragon, it is a part of the full moon festival that occurs annually around April, but in Tin Hau, Hong Kong there is a twist to the usual dragon, its a fire dragon. The story goes that the old fishing village that was Tin Hau had a plague, a seer advice the villagers to raise a potent fire dragon to frighten away the disease and as the myth goes it worked and it has been a tradition ever since. The dragon itself is huge needing hundreds of volunteers to manuveor, the body core is made up of a very long roll of straw and stuck in the straw all along its long length is tens of thousands of burning incense. It was painful to photograph as the smoke of all those incense stung the eye badly and I was weeping all the while. The results were worth the pain though. Here is one of my favorite photos, its composition turned out perfect with dynamic subjects this is very difficult, or should I say fortunate. The photo retains the vital energy of its subjects and it is this dynamism that attracted me to this photo. With all these people basically running through the scene, the high ISO, f/1.2 aperture and rapid autofocus was essential to keep the shutter speed up to capture this scene. The gritty black and white look was added post-processing.
I frequently use many different cameras, both large and small. If it was a planned photo outing, I would always try to bring the best tool for the job and that usually means the camera with the best sensor. But it is the small cameras that shine through and save the day for that impromptu and unplanned shot. I am unlikely to have my Rollei 6008AF with me on my tram ride past Victoria Park on this rainly day and I would have miss this shot if I didn’t have my little Olympus E-P1 with me.
As the tram went pass the park, a thought flashed past my mind. The wet green asphalt of the football grounds in the park would make a wonderful reflective surface and the interesting cloud formation would be spectacular in this otherwise a rather uninteresting scene. I haven’t reached my destination but I jumped out of the tram anyway! Life of a photographer! I was wet from head to toe, but I was able to capture this photo just as the sky was clearing up. I converted the photo to black and white to make the clouds stand out more, and left the color green in the photo to give attention to the reflections in the wet asphalt.
Living in Hong Kong street photography is a way of life for most photographers, we have an abundance of streets if nothing else. The the local forums here in Hong Kong are packed to the rim with budding street photographers, many are exceptionally good. Everyone has their own theories and its the sort of thing that certainly doesn’t have any rules, I have found that spontaneity and rapid focusing the key to capturing good photos. Discretion, speed and stealth are all very important factors here in Hong Kong as much of the population here are very photophobic, but these skills learnt here in Hong Kong is even more effective applied anywhere else. The photo above is a piece of street life in Lhasa, Tibet. It was unfortunate how defensive the people there were to having their photos taken, but not surprising given how many cameras were hanging around the many tourists’ necks. I have tried many different types of camera gear in my street wanderings and many things work, but there is nothing quicker in the world of photography than a rangefinder with a wide-angle lens used with zone focusing at a smallish aperture like f/8 or f/11. With a digital rangefinder, like the Leica M9, M8 or Epson R-D1, I can even keep the shutter speeds up with a little touch of high ISO. With practice you can get subjects in frame without putting the camera up to the eye. The reasonably high pixel count allows you to crop a little to make a better composition. That is how the above photo was taken (but without cropping). In the past when I used mainly a digital SLR, my favorite combo for street photography was very similar, a wide-angle lens set on hyperfocal distance, zone focusing is rather difficult on DSLR lenses, their DOF scale is usually too short to be accurate enough to use. The other way that worked nicely is a little naughty, I would set a camera gear across a busy street or scene, sometimes even on a tripod with a gimbal tripod head to allow me swing the camera around quickly. Mounted on the camera is a long lens, usually 400mm and longer. After a patient wait of 15 minutes or so you become part of the landscape and people no longer notice you, its like magic, they think you are a surveyor on some official business. No one in the their right mind would be using heavy gear like that just to take photos of me, most people will think. I have taken many wonderful shots this way. It’s a little cheeky but it gets those birding lenses out, the sun is good for fungal prevention.