Friday, 31 July 2009

Shooting street II

Satok Market, Kuching, Sarawak

This is a series of photographs taken at the Sunday market at Satok Pasar Tamu on the outskirts of Kuching, during our Borneo photography workshop in April this year. Satok market is a weekly occurence where local and indigenous traders from around Kuching congregate to sell their produce of live animals, fish, fresh meats, vegetables, kitchen and household utensils, clothes, amongst other more obscure items, like iguanas and strange fruit.

It is also a photographer's haven for its myriad shapes, colours and facial expressions, juxtapositions of old and new, young and the elderly and this outing, being the first for the workshop participants, was certainly an eye opener.

Despite the colourful offerings before me, I opted to photograph in Black & White, omitting the usual distractions of an exotic Asian open market, by purely focusing of the local people going about their weekly shopping, under the heat of the tented market, which was close to 30C at 11am.

To get upfront and close to my subjects, I used a small compact camera, with a 28mm lens at chest height, manually set focus to 4 feet, -1.0 EV and Aperture priority, with flash ON. I wanted to convey a sense of proximity, closeness, but depict the bland and blank facial expressions of the people walking about, unnoticed of my camera. I use the technique of predicting the scene, observing the people that are inching their way towards me, and then raising the camera to above eye level in an instant to press the shutter release an then lowering it. More often than not, the subjects were not even aware of the flash going off within feet of them., Other times, I just smile and act like a tourist.

(Click on the photos to enlarge)

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Shooting street I

Over the last 3 weekends I have been out street shooting in Central London. Being at the height of the tourist season, London's West End is a magnet for visitors and is a hive of activity. Hotels are full, Eros, at Piccadilly Circus is covered with foreign language students with their regulatory brightly coloured backpacks and caps. Mainly Italians and American exchange groups on study or cultural visits. The Euro, being so strong has brought many Central Europeans hopping over to Blightly to sample the mediocre and overpriced food offerings that we have. Germans and Czechs, a smattering of French ( they'd prefer the Cote d'Azur), and Spanish. Not many Asians mind you, perhaps only Japanese, who are travel-crazy anyway. Arabs? I hear you ask. Tons of Arabs..around Knightsbridge mainly, and in the vicinity of Harrods.

I love street shooting.. basically, you don't know what you get till you get home. I don't chimp. Well, at least not after every shot. I have my LCD screen turned off, mainly to save battery and make sure I have a large memory card and a spare battery. I also use manual focusing, set at 6 feet and F2.8 on Aperture priorty, as I am currently using a non-AF body. Its a hit and miss affair, mind you, but when I get a decent composition, I am happy! As I am mainly walking, I carry a small shoulder bag, some water, 1 camera and a small notebook.

(Click on the photos to enlarge for better viewing)

I will try to explain what grabs me in street photography and the various juxtapositions, scenarios and how I approach subjects, with

Friday, 17 July 2009

'I AM NOT A TERRORIST' Worldwide awareness campaign

Calling all concerned photographers who photograph in the public space, lend us your support!

About 'Not A Crime'

Police in the UK and abroad routinely invoke bogus anti-terror legislation to prevent photographers from carrying out their work, and photojournalists are constantly filmed at gatherings and their details kept on an ever-growing database.

The British Journal of Photography is beginning a campaign for photographers' rights, and we need your help.

There is no point petitioning governments, because they're not listening, and the problem is generally that laws are being misused, rather than drafted, to harass photographers. We need to raise awareness, so we have decided to launch a visual campaign.

Over the next year, we hope to gather thousands of self-portraits of photographers - professional and amateur - from around the world, each holding up a white card with the words: 'Not a crime' or 'I am not a terrorist.'

Add your mugshots here :

Saturday, 4 July 2009

JENNY CHU : Featured Artist

YEABU'S HOMECOMING : A Documentary Report from Sierra Leone by Jenny Chu

Bio : Jenny Chu (half Malaysian) recently earned her master's degree from U.C. Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism. After spending years as a still photographer, she recently shifted her focus to documentary film. For her photographic work, she has traveled extensively, documenting the ethnic minority groups of China, the massive changes overtaking Shanghai, and the struggles of those in war-torn and poverty-stricken African countries.
I met Jenny in 2001 when she exhibited her black and white photographs of interior China at the lightgallery. Jenny hails from California and has traveled extensively to China, documenting the vast landscapes and peoples from the minorities, and also the contrasts of modern Shanghai, where she has relatives. She comes across as a shy and unassuming person but tenaciously streetwise and intelligent. After all, traveling alone across Africa and China has made her knowledgeable and focused in her work, as a still photographer.

Watch her latest video (click the link above), following Yeabu's journey, a farmer from Sierra Leone, who suffers from obstetric fistula, a common problem in Third World countries, to Freetown to receive surgery from a team of doctors funded by Mercy Ships.

I found it highly informative and well put together.

Bravo, Jenny!

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Letter from Leica

..otherwise known as "My priceless little Red Dot".

Once in a while you can spoil yourself rotten. Today, I received a letter bearing a Milton Keynes postmark on it, and yes, for those 'in the know', its where the headquarters of Leica UK is located. You see, a few weeks back, I picked up my 50mm Summicron lens from inside my camera bag and did not recognise this piece of lens, it was like a familiar friend had suddenly become unfamiliar, and for the life me, I just cannot see what has changed but change there was.

I couldn't put my finger on it! Literally speaking! Got it!

The little raised plastic red dot on the lens barrel was missing! Shock horrors! Its a Summicron first and a Leica M lens second, or was it the other way round. How can this be. The Red Dot is a signature piece, just like the flying lady in front of Rolls Royces, or the Three Pointed Star in a Merc. Its the the little halved lime you squeeze into a bowl of Sarawkian Laksa. Its the icing on the cake..ok enough, you get what I mean. Without it would mean, utter shame and a let down. A Leica lens would merely be 'another' branded lens.

I searched every crevice and fold deep in my bags, tipped everything out, (found other things unmentionable though) and basically had a clear out but nada. No little red dot. I was depressed for days. My lens was naked like a turtle without its shell.

Beware : Naked Summicron

Then I read in some online forum that if I wrote nicely to Leica AG, they would gladly send me a little red dot replacement. I took the chance of shooting an email off from their website a two days ago, telling them how much I missed my dot. promptly forgetting the whole episode once the send button struck. How silly I told myself. Grow up. A lens is a lens with or without the red dot.

Now those of you that use M or R lenses would understand. Its just not the about the plastic raised dot. Its about execution and finesse. Ah..these German designers long ago were clever engineers. You see, there is a purpose to the little plastic hump on the barrel, as any one who has changed lenses in near darkness or in candle light would testify. Leica's Ms are known for their compact dimensions, solid build, quiet stealth shutters with no mirror slap, and its brilliant fast lenses. All Leica lenses are designed to be shot wide open, as wide as F1.0 with maximum resolution and little flare.

My letter from Leica

The red pimple acts as a guide for your thumb to align the lens to the red release button on the body. (Before any Canon user would jump in now, yes, Canon EF lenses also have a tiny red dots on their lenses, but somehow, I never noticed it, maybe because its smaller, and the barrels are larger, and I have a zoom lens so I hardly change lenses. I can't vouch for Nikon and other makes, contributions please?)

Today, my red dot arrived and my lens is happy, and so am I.

No more nakedness

On the Leica M, all it takes is a one handed, slight (1 cm perhaps, 1/16th ) turn to secure the lens, unlike most makes which make take a 1/4 turn). In fast changing low light situations, this can be a God send in camera handling. Most cameras would require a separate finger to depress the release button and another hand to twist off, and a third hand to hold the camera body steady. I don't have three hands. With my left hand holding the body, my right hand thumb can depress the release button whilst grabbing and twisting the lens off in one swift action. Its really quick.

Keith Jarrett solo - Time on My Hands

Absolutely sublime.. at the Carnegie Hall, September 2005.