Why Film Cameras?

1. Because of the colors.

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2. Because you could visit the past and re-open closed doors.

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3. Because they’re a good investment – digital cameras have built-in-obsolescence but film cameras are built to last.

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4. Because they’re perplexing.

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5. Because what appears wrong can be right.

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6. Because what appears right can be wrong.

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7. Because film photography has a different flavor.

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8. Because everyone else is using digital and I’m just being stubborn.

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9. Because it’s another life.

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10. Because of their rugged beauty.

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Why Street Photography?

Why street photography?

1. Because it is always work in progress.

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2. Because we’re all looking for something.

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3. Because we’re waiting.

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4. Because it deals with the mundane, and reality can be mundane.

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5. Because it’s another way of looking at ourselves.

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6. Because it is artful waiting.

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7. Because we’re born to say “Let there be art”.

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8. Because it’s a way, like any other.

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The best camera is the one you have with you

I do have a routine, and go to the same few places time and again.

These are all taken within a week or so on the same roll of film, with my Minolta AF-C loaded with Kodak ColorPlus 200.

My usual haunts are Shamshuipo and Wu Kai Sha beach.

That’s a cooking stove by a village house along Wu Kai Sha beach.

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They say the best camera is the one you have with you.

I have cult rangefinders such as the Canonet QL 17 GIII, Yashica GX and the Leica M6.

But nowadays I’m in a point-and-shoot and snapshot-aesthetics phase.

So it’s either a Contax TVS, Olympus XA2, or Minolta AF-C.

These are to me signs of life, these ropes and bricks, arranged as if for display.

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Sometimes, I strike up a conversation with people with my broken Cantonese.

This gentleman runs a BBQ site at Wu Kai Sha beach. He was trying to convince me to book a BBQ pit for my family for the coming weekend and as a bonus, he would throw in a few complimentary pieces of cuttlefish.

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At Shamshuipo. That’s one of my favorite pit stop. Whenever I walk past, I’d try to take a shot.

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It seems we oscillate between desire and labour all the time.

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We discipline ourselves to make sure the plumbing works.

The Work of Street Photography

I am reading Shop Class as Soul Craft by Matthew B. Crawford.

It’s a meditation on the value of manual work. I’m on page 79 at this point and it’s one of those books I’d like to read slowly, because there are so many wonderful insights that are conveyed in a very accessible manner which encourage me to stop and just think.

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Take this sentence for example:

If different human types are attracted to different kinds of work, the converse is also true: the work a man does forms him.

I am a literature geek, pure and simple. That says a lot about who I am already. Neat, simple and a bit obsessive.

So I have chosen the kind of work that suits my temperament.

The work then further deepens my temperament.

I am sure many of us could say the same thing.

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But I’m at a point where something else has come into play – my interest in street photography using quality compact film cameras.

Street photography relies on serendipity. It celebrates ordinary, everyday life, and it’s something to think about as to keep myself from going insane during banal moments (such as when I am at the back of a really long queue at a crowded supermarket checkout.)

And it introduces a kind of variety into my work I suppose. (The Chinese characters at this shop entrance means “anarchy”.)

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I was standing outside the shop composing with my Contax TVS and a passerby saw what I was doing.

“All these crazy shops,” he muttered to me, and walked on. It looks like a Japanese ramen place as far as I could figure.

So, yes, I suppose it’s a little bit different from my day job. Here, I’m standing at the entrance, aiming my camera, waiting deliberately for the right moment.

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What am I doing, and what am I looking for as a street photographer? I admit I live within myself too much.

Maybe part of the work of street photography has to do with getting away from myself.

Sometimes, it’s good not to be myself.

I look into the backs of trucks.

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I look at other people at work.

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I look at stuff.

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I am intrigued by the strangeness of other people.

I imagine myself wearing their clothes. Then, I imagine myself wearing their skin.

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And I look some more, and am sometimes not quite used to what I see.

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Ngong Ping Cable Car IV

If you’ve read the previous 3 posts, you’ll know that the photographs below were in some of those posts, though they are in color here.

Yes, my B mode (berserk mode) in the cable car.

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Monochrome is a gift to the street photographer, because:

i) it removes distracting elements and focuses our attention on the theme and/or graphic elements such as lines/grids/repetitions;

ii) it provokes a knee-jerk reaction to do with aesthetic pretensions (ooh b/w, therefore it must be seriously worthy/arty/historical/documentary);

iii) there’s virtue in taking the minimalist less-is-more approach.

But sometimes, less can be less as well.

Slightly contrasty colors can be striking.

Here’re the cable car exhibits (which my wife said looked like Ultraman heads).

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While we’re on the subject of superheroes, it’s hard to resist that Superman blue and red combo.

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Blue and red combo again.

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Slightly desaturated colors can be … poetic.

Colors could mark our different kinds of spaces.

Colorful below, black and white above.

There’s a statement here to be made about human colors vs religious monochrome.

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The colors below look Kodak Ultramax -ish to me.

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Anyway, there’s a tussle here of course, and you could say the photograph in color is not the same as the one in monochrome.

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This one below looks Kodak Portra – ish. (Yes, yes, I miss my film cameras already.)

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Of course, there are various kinds of monochrome (low vs high contrast, different filters, etc.).

Not to mention b/w vs colors as in film photography.

Photography is a universe in itself.

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Until next time.





Ngong Ping Cable Car III

This is the third post in a series of four.

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That’s one of the twelve divine generals from Chinese mythology.

I know this because of my impressive encyclopedic mental repertoire of culture knowledge. Plus, I’m Chinese.

The information plate below the statue helped only a little bit.

More food, yes.

Food and intellectual work are closely intertwined, as we know.

Let’s see, we’ve got almond sesame soup, bean curd, tea eggs, etc.

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Etc. Ooh, did I mention tea eggs?

They’re made of chicken and tea.

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Time for the strenuous task of taking the cable car down the hill.

Again, I’m in B mode (berserk mode) with my camera in the cable car.

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I shall spare you from the awe-inspiring beauty of my other 29 photographs of passing cable cars.

And because a cable car sits a maximum of 10 people, we’re in here with another family.

This lady, too, is holding a camera.

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A poetic moment.

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There’s something to be said about being tourists – there’re always photographs telling you how to be tourists.

What better way to have fun in a cable car than to joyfully admire photographs of people having fun in cable cars. (See bottom left of photo below.)

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Finally, below is what you see at the end of the cable car Big Buddha trip, just so you know you’re back in Hong Kong land.

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Ngong Ping Cable Car II

This is the second of four posts in the series.

We stopped at the following quote in the previous post:

The only Zen you find on the tops of mountains is the Zen you bring up there.

(Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance)

After the strenuous task of going up the hill via cable car, it’s time for lunch.

So, yes: here’s our very helpful waitress from the aptly named Zen Noodle Cafe (a very important kind of zen nonetheless).

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There’re exhibits of cable cars from all over the world. This is from Spain.

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This is from France.

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My wife said they look like Ultraman heads. Which indeed they do… (wait till you see them in colour in my last post).

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So, yes, we need some more food before going up those 268 steps to the Big Buddha.

My wife and I were panting (only slighty) halfway (almost) up the steps.

To encourage us, my son and daughter (bless their youthful and energetic souls!) insisted on counting those steps we’d just taken – 45, 46, 47, 48, 49 …

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I must admit these are really beautiful sculptures.

Time for another obligatory Pirsig quote:

Art is the Godhead as revealed in the works of man.

(Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance)

Art is the Godhead as revealed in the works of man.

ROBERT M. PIRSIG, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Read more at http://www.notable-quotes.com/p/pirsig_robert_m.html#qY3ZCqf1wh3GR32J.99

Art is the Godhead as revealed in the works of man.

ROBERT M. PIRSIG, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Read more at http://www.notable-quotes.com/p/pirsig_robert_m.html#qY3ZCqf1wh3GR32J.99

Art is the Godhead as revealed in the works of man.

ROBERT M. PIRSIG, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Read more at http://www.notable-quotes.com/p/pirsig_robert_m.html#qY3ZCqf1wh3GR32J.99


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And of course, I can’t help but do my street photography thing.

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There’s an interesting blend of spirituality and tourism to the place.

I can’t help but admire Hong Kong for doing it so well.

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Ngong Ping Cable Car I

This is the first of 4 posts on Ngong Ping, taken with my Canon G11.

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As mentioned here and here, the Canon G11 is my default family snapshot camera plus street photography tool when I’m playing the role of the wholesome family guy as opposed to a street photography maniac outside of my professorial hours.

When will it break?, I sometimes wonder at quiet moments, as I need an excuse to get that fabulous Ricoh GR.

As I tell my wife, it’s all for the sake of documenting our important family moments, of course.

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If you’re a poet and nothing else, then you’re not a good poet.

If you’re a street photographer and nothing else, then you can’t possibly be a good street photographer.

If you’re a scholar and nothing else … (you get my point)

So yes, I’m a father and husband too, and I can play the role of a tourist very well.

Ngong Ping is one of those tourist sites that is tastefully done, I think.

It’s a tasteful blend of commerce and spirituality.

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So yes, I was in B mode (berserk mode) with my camera in the cable car.

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I can’t decide which of the above three photographs is the best.

I feel like I’m comparing apples with oranges.

It’s never the same river, I’m not the same me from one moment to the next, and strictly speaking even cameras of the same model are not the same.

You get the picture *drum roll, with crashing cymbals* (yes, pun intended).

Which is why I have 2 Yashica GX’s, 2 Contax TVS’s and am planning for another lens for my Leica M6.

Don’t tell my wife. (I was joking about the planning bit.)

I often go shopping with the intention of not buying another film camera.

Anyway, back to the main plot – it was raining so the view was rather poetic…

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So – a quiz. Are the above three Buddhas or one?

I’ll just end with this quote from one of my favorite books. I read it once every few years.

I mean the book.

The only Zen you find on the tops of mountains is the Zen you bring up there.

(Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance)

ROBERT M. PIRSIG, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Read more at http://www.notable-quotes.com/p/pirsig_robert_m.html#qY3ZCqf1wh3GR32J.


We all need to walk.

I have done this walk so many times now, that some of these images are lodged in my mind.

We all know how our external environments organize our internal state.

In a crowded shopping mall, we’re all a bit tense.

Look at water and we relax.

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We all need a depository of homely images in our mind.

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So we feel at home even outside of home.

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There’s a story of a family here waiting to be told.

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Just a little narrative.

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A little space.

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A scattering of things telling us who we are.

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Just a little window to the world. A little insight.

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A safe harbor.

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And we’re home.