Stranger #30 – Robert

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Stranger #30 – Robert
2013.10.14 – Wan Chai

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I was invited to attend, observe and photograph a Sikh ceremony, Phalia Prakash Sri Guru Granth Sahib. This ceremony celebrates the Guru Granth Sahib was bestowed the title of being the eternal and final Sikh Guru. This procession took place in Wan Chai in Hong Kong, the oldest Sikh Temple which has a long history during the colonization of Hong Kong. The Sikh religion doesn’t evangelize or seek out new believers like in many other religions, which is why I found it interesting when I met Robert.

Robert is studying in Hong Kong. He initially came to Hong Kong living from hand to mouth; from one couch to the next. In his travels, he was welcomed by the Sikh temple. Over time, he came to know their faith and eventually adopted it as his own. This was his first time getting his head wrapped and commented that it was very much like the echo people hear when they walk around with their fingers stuck in their ears. This made him a little hard of hearing.

A special shout out to Manpreet for coordinating the event and allowing people like myself to shoot there.

Photo Essay: Chiang Mai, Thailand

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This gallery contains 3 photos.

Tourists often visit this area of Thailand for the massages and to better avoid the busier lifestyle of other areas of Thailand like Bangkok. That being said, Chiang Mai has more often than not been treated as a ‘Tourist Destination’ … Continue reading

The power of digital photography.

In the early days of photography and when it was in its infancy, the subject was terribly removed from the process.

2011.04 Australia Self-portrait Shen Hao 4x5 Field Camera

2011.04 Australia
Self-portrait
Shen Hao 4×5 Field Camera

Walking into the photographers studio, a subject’s first reaction was the reaction to the smells. A range of foreign odors, foreign and pungent to the uninitiated. Magnesium nitrate, tannic acid, albumen, pyrogallic acid, potassium bromide, ammonium carbonate, or maybe vaporized mercury. Eventually curiosity will overcome the shock and perhaps wonder whether the smell of glycerin is actually safe? And perhaps the ethyl ether is beginning to make you a little light headed.

Then the photographer emerges from behind a curtain. A shadowy curtain of mystery. Mysteriously, there was no light emanating from behind the curtain. To the more creative mind who has just read Bram Stoker’s feature novel, might suspect that this man is a vampire.

The photographer extends a welcoming handshake; but the subject is taken away by the sight of the photographers hand. A hand that has been blackened and deformed by the collodion and ambrotype chemicals. Burns and callouses scar cover most the hands – the spaces left between are left dry and cracking. Every crack and blemish is highlighted by a blackened soot that doesn’t wash off. These are the hands of the photographer.

When led into the photographers studio, the subjects sees a weird array of chrome, steel, brass and other metals. Unusual clamps, stands, chains litter the path to the sitter’s chair. Next to their chair is one particular stand; standing behind the chair. It has an arm that protrudes out and into the chair, right where your neck is suppose to be. The sitter’s eyes widen with a steady mix of caution and curiosity. The photographer tries to give a reassuring smile while motioning the sitter to sit. Once seated, that metal stand behind the chair begins probing your neck. The photographer runs off and disappears behind the camera and the dark cloth. Only the photographer’s legs are visible.

Once the picture is taken, the photographer removes something from the camera, and disappears off into another room.

I find this whole process makes it impossible for the subject to get involved photographic process. It is shrowded in mystery and potential dangers and perhaps some B-rated alien movie.  Digital photography has shed a light onto the general public and has made this whole process accessible. Anyone can pick up a camera and take a picture of their friend. There is no mysterious photographer disappearing into and out of darkened rooms; nor anyone hiding behind the camera. Hands are no longer scared by chemicals. And the best thing yet is how the image appears in a few mere moments.

Despite the wonders of modern technology and instantaneous feedback, something is missing. There is still a magic to be held when a physical tangible print is in someone’s hands. There is a moment when the subject sees their own photograph in their hands for the very first time. A surprise? A wonder? Definitely some kind of magic.

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2013.02.22 – Kai Leng
The Magic that is shared when they see the physical picture in their hands for the very first time. Sheung Shui

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2013.02.22 – Kai Leng
The Magic that is shared when they see the physical picture in their hands for the very first time. This time, I made sure all three opened their pictures at the same time.

These people I met when I was invited to a neighborhood community block party. It was a big meal and there was a lot of people. This community is a huge contrast to the typical non-community driven apartment complexes. I had the honor and pleasure to photograph and share some of my photographs with them. I want to make sure I can always communicate this wonder with my subjects.

Therefore, I am seriously considering adding a mobile printer to my workflow when traveling. Especially when I don’t want to put my Polaroid 110B into harms way. A digital camera. A film camera and a Canon Selphy CP900. hmmm.

Chinese New Year in Victoria Park

2013.02.08 – Chinese New Years

Victoria Park in Causeway Bay

During Chinese New Year, there is a yearly night market that runs all night long. By all night long I mean from 8PM, to 9AM. I stayed until 8AM.

I finished my first evening with my family. It was a very cheerful family gathering. The one downside was how it has been a year since I’ve seen them all last – although quite understandable. [You see, I live far out from Hong Kong island. It took me about two hours to reach them from my place. I suppose then the phrase, "absence makes the heart grow fonder" applies to this situation if the heart represents the familial feelings. Note: Those pictures are strictly reserved for them - and it has little to do with what I want to accomplish with my photography.]

After a long night celebrating Chinese New Year with the family, I wasn’t ready to stop the celebrations yet. I was too far away to commute back home. I didn’t want to be an imposition on anyone by crashing at their place. And I knew that I had more celebrating tomorrow. Therefore, based on these three reasons, I decided to stay out all night long. I went to the night market in Causeway Bay. I found my way to Soho. And from Soho, I ran into some orange hair drunks, some normal hair drunks, and I walked all the way to Causeway Bay.

Insert your surprised look here. It was crowded. It was beyond crowded. So many people crammed into a market about the size of three or four soccer pitches. They were selling flowers – the new year tradition. I think it has something to do with blossoming new life and prosperity. From my eyes, it was a giant party. Lots of shopping and money exchanging hands. People crammed like sardines. And everyone moving at a snails pace. Me, I was there for the experience and the photographs.

Why am I an Apple convert.

Colour accuracy!

I finally caved in. I bought an iPad 3 (also known as the “the new iPad”) in August of 2012. Then I purchased the iPhone 5 in late December.

(I would have gotten it earlier but the wait list for the iPhone 5 was insane in Hong Kong. People were buying them from the apple store, and reselling them for 80% profit. Then Tim Cooke had the bright idea of only selling iPhones with a very long contract. I waited patiently for 3 months. I’m a bit bitter.)

The reasons i got the iPhone and iPad are the same; plus or minus a few extenuating circumstances – which I will get into further later – colour accuracy.

The Apple iPhone 5 and the third-generation of the iPad are the first mobile device to feature a high quality screen that displays accurate colours. According to Amanda Tech Review,these mobile devices have an some of the most colour accurate displays on the market. This means that when I look at a black and white photo, the various shades of grey actually look grey. They won’t look blue or green. And after using these devices for the past few months, I tend to agree. The displays look amazing and accurate. I’ve looked at the Samsung’s, but after looking at a few photos of people, they look extremely red. Portraits of people on a Samsung looks like their head was dropped into a bucket of rouge cheek blush.

Other extenuating factors:
I was previously using the first generation Samsung Galaxy Tab. It was a little too big. I tell people that I shattered the screen when I tried to take a picture of myself – my camera just couldn’t handle that much ugly. It actually just fell on the floor. The primary reason was that this loosely termed phone cannot be heard and used easily as a phone. It is as big as a brick and it isn’t the 1990s anymore. Phones don’t need to be that big and feature such poor reception. For the two years that I used this phone, I made every effort to avoid making and receiving calls.

The iPad has a lot of fun features that I can recommend. iPhoto is nice to use to edit photos on the fly and nice for very long train rides into the city. (It usually takes me more than 80 minutes to get into the city).
The other awesome feature is that I can use the iPad as a supplementary monitor to my computer. So I have a tablet that doubles as a second monitor. And it is about the same price as the higher end colour accurate monitors. (I might add another colour accurate monitor into my workflow in the future.)
Lastly, many of these posts here were created on an iPad.

What kind of camera should I get?

Lets get the obvious out of the way. My camera wish list includes the upcoming Leica M and a 28mm elmarit. And I would never recommend this to anyone. It lacks any modern features and is unreasonably price. Avoid it like the plague lest you get sucked in too.

Back to the question at hand, what camera should I buy? This is the wrong question to ask. What are you going to take pictures of? It is the same for any other kind of tool; the right pan for cooking, the right knife, the right car, the right socket wrench – simply the right tool.

I want to learn photography!
This is a hobbyist. You can barely spell aperture, much less understand what it means. However, you are inclined to learn. In the meantime, you carry your camera proudly on your neck on holidays and family gatherings. And one day, when you become a bit older and wiser, you’ll know exactly what you want and won’t need someone like me to tell you want camera to get.

You want a basic entry level DSLR. Anything too advance will have too many features to make sense of and they lack any of the easy modes (camera companies remove these features so the professionals can work quickly and easily without being impeded by the automatic modes. )
canon 650d
Nikon d5000
Sony equivalent
Fuji xpro1

I still want good pictures but I will never learn how to spell aperture. And I hate math!!!
To calculate the relationship if the variables for proper exposure; requires basic math and a few basic principles. But if these seem too much for you, there are plenty of cameras to choose from.

This is currently the biggest market right now and there are a lot of choices. You can also save a lot of money by choosing the previous generation. The affluent are constantly upgrading leaving these small fun fashionable cameras lying around.

They are small and still offer great quality. In the most situations, anything the DSLRS can do, these little guys can do. The biggest difference is the accessibility particular controls that I have come to rely and depend on. This is not to say these cameras don’t have those options, it’s just that these controls are buried behind complex menus. They might as well as be behind a firewall to someone like myself.

And as eluded above, they make cool fashion statements as long as they are the newest version. And by extension, the older versions can be had for very cheap. I’ve personally seen a 60% drop in price for the same camera that is about 18 months old.

Sony nex7
Olympus ep3
Olympus OMD
Nikon v1

I have no idea what you’re talking about. I just want clear pictures.
These fellas just want to take some nice memorable pictures at their family gatherings, recitals, concerts, clubs.

I personally believe that these people should be content with their camera phone. It is already an amazing camera that can accomplish everything that bigger heavier and more expensive cameras can do.

An expensive camera on automatic mode will take the same picture as your phone with the automatic mode built in.

The biggest problem with this category is the unrealistic expectations that often arises.
- I want to take pictures of a band at a concert
- the flash on the camera makes me look weird
- I’m going to a club with my friend.
The solution is always a complex one that requires expensive equipment, the technical experience and access to do it correctly. Giving their cameras an unrealistic expectation what they can and cannot do.

I want a fashion statement to look cool
Then go back above and get one of the Sony’s or Olympus’ already mentioned. They look great!
However it should be strongly noted that the majority of these people might already be content with an updated iphone. iPhones and other smartphones have fantastic cameras these days. I firmly believe these phones can easily replace any one of the traditional compact camera