Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Its Carnival Time!

Every bank holiday weekend in August since 1966, the streets in Notting Hill in West London play host to Europe's largest street party, The Notting Hill Carnival, (the second largest party in the world after Rio's).

With over 1 million people over the 2 days, many visitors, locals and tourists alike brave the sardine-packed streets to experience the mega sound systems, the colourful costumes, floats, Samba dancers, drummers, Chinese acrobats and of course the food the drink ala Caribbean-style.

Rum punch, brandy shots and jerk chicken with rice and peas, fried plantain, and lots and lots of beer thrown in or up, whichever suits your fancy.

I arrived early and walked the back streets and prep areas before the actual float parade started at noon. I usually prefer this routine than to come later and get stuck at the many bottle-necked entry points the police have set up to control the flow of people.

This way I get to photograph the performers getting ready and just chilling out in anticipation of their street performance for the rest of the day.

I intended to focus on faces and got a few that I like, just carrying my favourite portrait lens, the 85mm f1.8. Setting the aperture to f2.0 and getting up close would create a nice background blur to isolate the face from the often distracting background of street furniture and buildings. I also brought along my small Ricoh GRD2 to capture the wider scenes of the days, which was invaluable as i can often get real close to the scene without attracting attention.

Mind you, almost everyone had cameras, so the performers weren't camera shy. That made it easier to photograph complete strangers close up.

Friday, 8 August 2008

Shooting in the dark!

Brits are baffled the most by digital cameras!

According to online gadget review site who surveyed 2,000 people recently, they discovered that the gadget consumers feel most confusing are digital cameras. Also, more than 25% surveyed have no idea how to use their cameras properly and do not bother to read the manuals either. What gives...!

Top Ten Baffling Gadgets according to the Survey

  1. Digital camera
  2. GPS/SatNav
  3. Mobile phone
  4. Washing machine
  5. Camcorder
  6. DVD player
  7. Gamers console
  8. TV remote control
  9. MP3 player
  10. Microwave
I have to say that camera manufacturers have to take a big share of the blame. Why on God's good earth do compact digitals need PSAM functions? Blur already? PSAM ! what's that, where got? Some high end compacts have this little dial on top of the camera with PSAM stamped on it and also an icon of a girl's face and a mountain. If you got one and don't know what it does, go READ the manual that came with your digicam. 'Manual' - its an instruction book! Tricky though..manufacturers are quite cunning sometimes. In order to save the forests and wanting to be seen Green, knowing most of their customers won't read any manuals, they now print their instructions onto CDs, so worse still, no one bothers now, hence..blur lah.

Consumer digicams now sport 10 - 14 Million pixels. Now why on earth does the holiday snapper require so much resolution from their beach snaps? A conspiracy exists to my mind. The larger files sizes generated requires larger memory cards and storage space on computers, hence, suckers (like me and you) are urged to splash out on newer, faster and bigger laptops and peripheral devices like external hard drives every 6 months. So, the process is an on-going one.

Buyer-led demand or producer-led greed?
When was the last time you printed a 13'' x 20'' print of your beach sunset from your digicam? I will rephrase..when was the last time you printed any thing off your digicam? We all confess we take far too many photos and 99% of them stay in our memory cards or computers and never see paper in daylight. I know someone who keeps buying new memory cards when one is full. It's sad but true.

I advocate PHD cameras to all consumers. 'Press Here Dummy' cameras. Bring back simplicity and ease of use. 'Face-detection' is the latest innovation to greet consumers. Cameras can now track and focus up to 9 faces (human, although chimps work too) to make damn sure that at least one happy subject will be in focus. 'Smile' detection is also finding its way into cameras. Cameras will only release the shutter when the detected face puts on a cheesy grin
! How cool is that! No more "Smile please, say cheese!"

Don't get me started on mobile phones..

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Assault on Photojournalist..shameful and appalling

Photo © Masry Che Ani, The Sun

The incident that happened in Seberang Perai, Penang, last weekend where the Guang Ming Daily photo journalist, Loh Hoay Hoon, 25, was allegedly kicked, choked and hit on the head by a group of thugs, (allegedly, PKR security personnel) is absolutely appalling. It must not happen again and PKR must publicly apologise to the Daily and personally to the photographer. Even if these thugs are 'agent provocateurs', because it happened at a PKR event, the real PKR security has the obligation to provide security to all their visitors, pressmen and women alike.

A good press photographer's duty is to the cover an event to the best of his or her ability in, procuring the best vantage points possible and not follow the 'herd' of other photographers in getting the same shots. Using their skills in smooth-talking, pleading, and smiling profusely are ways to win over security guards or sentries and accessing backstage, or getting closer to events, all in the name of public interest. Photojournalists, generally know when not to cross the line, and follow a simple but unwritten set of rules, only known to working photographers and their peers, be it reporting war, famine, riots or simply as this case shows, a political rally.

The report that Ms Loh was followed by a pack of men, (thugs) back to her car after being restrained from doing her job, smells like a revenge attack, far from just performing a basic security duty for Anwar Ibrahim. The Malaysian press, especially the NUJ must strongly condemn the assault, and the Malaysian Chinese Photojournalist Association (MCPA) must urge all working pressmen and photojournalists from the other dailies to stage a boycott until an acceptable apology is made, and the thugs charged with illegal assault.

Most press photojournalists work to extremely tight deadlines, having to file their stories immediately via wireless laptop computers, and work in unfavourable conditions. The work is highly competitive and maintaining a high standard and your job, means that you must 'get' the picture or you are out. With these pressures and deadlines, and with low pay, the only 'high' for photographers is having their by-line or credit against their published photo, which are often overlooked by readers.

Please do not deprive them of this.

Incidentally, here's another take :

Photojournalist wins police apology

A photojournalist who claimed he was beaten by police at a demonstration outside parliament has accepted an apology and an out-of-court settlement.

Marc Vallée sued the police after suffering injuries at the Sack Parliament rally in October 2006, where he was working as a photographer. He was treated for his injuries at the nearby St Thomas' hospital.

He began legal proceedings against Sir Ian Blair, the Metropolitan Police commissioner, alleging the police had assaulted him and breached his rights to freedom of expression and assembly.

Vallée has received a written apology and an out-of-court settlement, according to the National Union of Journalists. His legal costs for pursuing the action will also be met by the police, the union added.

Chez Cotton, Vallée's solicitor, described his treatment as "an extremely unpleasant incident".

"Neither the commissioner of the Metropolitan Police or his officers has any legal power, moral responsibility or political responsibility to prevent or restrict what the media record," Cotton said.

"Mr Vallée is a well-respected photojournalist, lawfully present to photograph a political protest outside parliament, yet he was brutally prevented from doing so by the police."

Jeremy Dear, the NUJ's general secretary, said it was "disgraceful that the police brutally obstructed a member of the press from reporting on a political demonstration".

"Press freedom is a central tenet of our democracy so Marc Vallée's treatment by the police is deeply worrying," he added. "The Met needs to take a close look at what must be done to ensure its officers respect journalists' rights."

The Metropolitan Police had not commented by the time of publication.