Street Photography with my Leica M6

Street photography is to some extent about the art of making do.

I tend to think that street photographers are in the same category as street musicians, street performers and street hawkers.

There is technique but it’s the kind of technique shaped by being immersed in a specific environment, rather than one accrued by looking at charts, manuals, and pixels on computer screens.

I am in many ways reassured by David Gibson’s comments in his book The Street Photographer’s Manual, in which he says: “My technique is to get technique out of the way so that I can take pictures” (pg. 36).

He talks about respected street photographers who use the P mode (and cracked a photographer’s joke about “P” being the professional mode).

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This is the view from my office window – what I like about it is the contrast between nature (the hill) and the man-made (the air-conditioning whatchamacallit box-thing sticking out).

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I pay attention to composition, once I get the thing with the aperture/shutter speed and focus out of the way.

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So, buying a new lens for my Leica M6 provokes a crucial question about technique: what could a 35mm lens do that my 50mm Summicron couldn’t?

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If you have a 50mm lens, take 2 steps back and you have a 35mm lens… that’s street wisdom.

But a 50mm lens gives me that reach, as when I’m trying to capture part of a building, as in above.

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Or when I’m taking a picture like the one above. (Could you guess where I was?)

All photos above are taken with my 50mm Summicron Type II lens.

The rest below are with my newly acquired used Voigtlander 35mm f/1.4 Nokton Classic SC, which I think of as a budget (relatively speaking in Leica land) “old-school” lens for Leica film shooters.

All images from this post are from the same roll of film: Fuji Neopan 400CN.

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Was it money well spent?

Well … I couldn’t have taken the above shot otherwise, unless I take 2 steps back, which would have placed me in the path of traffic at Nathan Road at Tsim Sha Tsui during rush hour.

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I would have captured a smaller portion of the building above.

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Ditto.

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Ditto.

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Ditto at Shamshuipo.

There’s a hard-edged feel to the above that I like.

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I was trying to capture both people and buildings. The light wasn’t so good that day.

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This was on another day, with better light.

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Hmm… this brings me back to 1960s newsprint…

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Somehow the composition looks complete.

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The f 1.4 aperture means I could do some indoors street photography…

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Can you guess how the above was done?

Hint: it’s not double-exposure, and I don’t use Photoshop.

So anyway, I hope I’ve convinced you (and myself) why that 35mm Voigtlander lens was necessary.

Now that I have 2 lenses, what’s missing of course is another Leica body.

Perhaps a Leica M4 body might be a good backup/variant for the M6… which means I could do a double Leica combo on the streets…

Thanks for reading, and check out my Saatchi Art page!

 

 

Singapore Heartland

Heartland is the title of a novel by Daren Shiau.

We don’t meet often, though our paths have crossed a few times at various literary readings/events.

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The novel is about the coming of age of a young man who grapples with class disparities, national service (conscription) and romance.

It is also about every Singaporean son…

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The heartland is the social-cultural space we grew up in.

For me, it’s what nostalgia is made of.

There is a shiny global Singapore (Gardens by the Bay, Marina Sands, Clarke Quay, etc.), and there’s also the heartland of Singapore we return to in the evenings.

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It’s the uncle we see every day, loitering at the void deck.

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It’s hawker food!

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It’s that uncle on a bicycle I side-stepped to avoid in the morning.

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All of that adds up to a sense of community…

And both national and personal growth is a kind of departure, a severing of ties from the past…

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We’ll never return to the seesaw of our childhoods again.

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Things are too new to be comfortable.

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All that unearthing and shifting of foundations…

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There’s always work in progress.

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Hence all we can do is learn to look back and find a glimmer of our home again in our imagination…

For collectors: open-edition prints are available at my Saatchi Art page.

Thanks for reading!

 

 

Shanghai On the Move

The overall theme for this post is Shanghai’s speed and mobility.

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I realize I have a preference for a “flawed” aesthetic.

Even with a digital camera (Canon 600D), I’m still going for the same vision as with my film compacts.

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In fact, in some ways, I’m treating my Canon 600D like a film compact…

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If you view the image at full size, you could see the grain almost breaking up the picture.

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There’s a symmetry to this composition that I like.

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It’s not focused correctly, just as we see things in glimpses.

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There’s still a lot of construction going on in Shanghai.

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This is visual evidence that the metropolis (population 23 million) is still growing!

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It’s a city on the move.

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With people on the move.

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The three big Chinese characters are translated literally as “China dream”.

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A city is the dream of its people made manifest.

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The Chinese characters on the left can roughly be translated as “caring for the youth of the future” … I think.

The ones on the top right means “building the nation’s most eminent city”.

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Where would Shanghai (or China) be, economically and politically,  in the next 5-10 years?

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This is one of the entrances to the Xujiahui campus of Shanghai Jiao Tong University, where I gave a talk entitled … lo and behold, “The Practice of Poetry and Street Photography” at a conference called Modern and Postmodern Arts: China and the World.

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People pose here, at the campus gate, for photographs.

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One of my favourite Chinese idioms – “a hundred years to cultivate a human being”.

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The full idiom is something like “it takes ten years to cultivate a tree, a hundred to cultivate a human being”.

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That’s a library, if i remember correctly.

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Waiting.

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Still waiting.

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Now crossing – a nation of people on the move.

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Places to go, people to see, things to do.

The next 8 photographs were taken by my son, though of course, I’m the one responsible for the high contrast monochrome.

The first six were taken when we were in one of the spheres of the Shanghai Oriental Pearl TV Tower.

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The next two pictures (by my son) were taken at Urban Planning Exhibition Center.

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I think he’s developing a good sense of composition here.

Thanks for dropping by, and buy my open edition prints at my Saatchi Art page!

 

Shanghai Digital Monochrome: Power Station of Art

We went to the Power Station of Art, and I happily brought my 600D with my nifty-fifty lens along do a a bit of indoors street photography.

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He’s either an artist or a priest…

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A photograph of a person taking a photograph… that’s the master trope of this post.

I am looking at people who are looking at art.

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Perhaps a case can be made that I am also making art of my own, out of art itself.

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This is art quoting art.

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Fabric mirroring fabric…

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Museum goers are also performing a kind of art…

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Someone doesn’t like Dickens… or perhaps this is a comment on China…

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Don’t ask me what it means…

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See for yourself.

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And have a dialogue.

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Hmm…

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Hmm…

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Hmm…

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The gift shop is tastefully done.

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The helicopter view of the gift shop.

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The real is a shadow … the pose is clear.

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Participatory art… we like to see ourselves in art.

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Is art real?

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Always read what it says…

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An owl of Minerva…

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So many texts and subtexts…

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The elephant in the room…

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Even the pipes look arty!

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Is this art?

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Can this be art?

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Better consult the catalogues…

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Is it in the book?

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We need to do some close reading.

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There’s a decorum here, for the sake of the decor…

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We need to find out more…

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Look some more…

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Pay close attention.

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Look up…

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Look down at the screen.

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The answer is in the smartphone.

Thanks for dropping by, and don’t forget to check out my Saatchi Art page!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shanghai Monochrome: On Finding Your Street in Street Photography

I was in Shanghai last week and so, quite naturally, I brought along 3 cameras.

Assuming the scans turn out fine, we’ll have quite a few posts on Shanghai.

A warm up shot while hiding behind a pole.

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Quite literally, this is street photography.

I walked up and down the same street for about an hour, happily snapping away.

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This is Huashan Road on a weekend mid-morning.

There’re lots of malls along this road.

I was told this is where Shanghai people do their shopping, whereas those malls at Nanjing Road are for clueless tourists.

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I suppose a shot like this is not too difficult.

While I was in his face, his attention was elsewhere.

It’s amazing how people (myself included) are generally unaware of other people.

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I was distracted (only) momentarily by the yummy international (check out the flags) street food… but resist I must.

After all, as a street photographer, I need to know myself.

I have yet to master Level Nine of Street Photography Kungfu, which involves taking photographs while munching on a chicken wing.

I hear that very few people attain this level in their lifetime.

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Shanghai people are known for their very cosmopolitan dress sense.

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People here are generally very stylish.

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Handbags do matter, as my wife tells me.

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There goes a happy couple.

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Another strolling couple.

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Teenagers out for a walk.

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A street vendor selling handmade miniature bicycles.

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I chatted with him for a bit – he says it takes 4 hours to make one, and they go for 40RMB, in case I’m interested.

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I assume they’re policemen – they always walk in pairs.

I’m right in front of them with my camera, and they seem quite used to having their photographs taken.

They’re actually quite friendly, as many people stop them to ask for directions.

The advice though, needs a bit of work. Once in a while, I hear them say “walk in that direction for a bit and ask someone there”.

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People at work – I’m quite proud of the composition here. The bodies are pointing to the centre, guiding the eyes to where the boss is.

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Ladies chatting.

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Scooters, motorbikes and bicycles are very popular modes of transport here.

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There’re special lanes for bikes and scooters.

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A scooter on the road.

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A scooter on the pavement.

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Scooters and bikes parked on the pavement, with an attendant.

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Interesting scooter handles. That’s a good hack.

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This person spotted me and stared for a bit.

Naturally, I responded with the street photographer’s standard operation procedure.

I fumbled with my camera, tried to look confused, and uttered a few choice words in a lesser-known Klingon dialect

All images here were taken with my relatively hard-to-find Minolta Af-C with an unbelievably accurate meter, loaded with the acclaimed chromogenic BW film, Ilford XP2 400.

They’re all from the same roll of film.

The light was good that day.

For collectors: a few images here are available at my Saatchi Art page as affordable open edition prints.

Thanks for coming by!

 

 

Purchasing Schemes

Again we choose.

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We decide.

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We look.

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Hmm…

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That one! Yes!

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This is the season.

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We’re in season.

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We stop to think.

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And buy wisely.

All images are taken with my stealthy Contax TVS II with Ferrania Solaris 400 film.

For collectors: some images here are available as open edition affordable prints at my Saatchi Art page.

Thanks for reading!

 

Shenzhen Shopping Monochrome

For the images here, I’ve done a B/W conversion from Fuji Venus 800 film loaded on Olympus XA2.

I’ve done a minimal bit of tweaking for some high contrast.

To my eyes, they look somewhat raw and harassed.

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Here’s another one of Luohu Commercial City, viewed  at a lower level.

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You could see this is a popular place for bargains.

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The above composition looks quirky – though it looks strangely apt.

This is how we see things – artlessly.

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I’m up close, and they’re too busy negotiating prices to notice.

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Why is it that yummy food is always unhealthy food?

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That’s the way we see things sometimes – blurred and hurried.

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You could see I lingered for a bit at this stall…

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Check out those food on the skewers …

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And yes, let’s not forget the man who winked at my wife…

Some images from this post are available here as affordable prints, in case you haven’t checked out my Saatchi Art page yet.