Searching Waiting Thinking

It’s that existential condition, of always searching, waiting and thinking.

We can only have images of ourselves.

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The glimmer is often only a few steps away.

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Thanks for stopping by today.

 

 

Camera: Leica M6

Lens: 50mm Summicron Type II

Film: Ilford XP2

 

 

 

 

Loosening Up in Street Photography

I’m a bit of a maximizer (as opposed to a satisficer) when it comes to choosing/doing things.

I try to find out all there is to know before making a decision.

When it comes to execution, I try to go through the various steps in my mind in order to get everything right beforehand.

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Which is why zone focusing and street photography is such a re-creation for me.

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We’re working with a circumference of acceptability.

Is good enough good enough? There’s motion blur here which adds to the sense of movement.

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I was close enough, but it doesn’t mean I could see clearly.

And if we don’t always notice everything around us, why should we demand a photography that sees everything accurately and in sharp focus?

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On the other hand, how much loosening up can one do before one loses discipline?

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There’s a spectrum here, between trying to get everything clinically right and hence losing the moment and operating without some sort of discipline, as if one is holding a camera for the first time.

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Sometimes, good enough is good enough in street photography.

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Try to get everything right and one might lose the “street”.

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There’s that tendency to overthink and hence lose the art.

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On the other hand, one must possess discipline in order to lose it.

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So my job is to learn everything I can, and then forget all I have learnt.

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Imperfection is an art in itself.

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And so is perfection.

And perhaps art is about improvising and about knowing how to move back and forth between perfection and imperfection.

Thanks for reading.

 

 

Camera: Leica M6

Lens: Summicron 50mm Type II

Film: Ilford XP 2

 

 

 

Zone Focusing with the Leica M6

Given an ISO 400 film, if the light is good, I’d simply set the aperture to f/16 and shutter to between 1/60, 1/125, or 1/250 depending on whether I’m in the shade.

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The f/16 aperture would allow for a broad depth of field, which allows me to zone focus with a wide latitude.

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The whole procedure sounds complicated, but it’s for me the mid-point between going fully auto with a point and shoot camera, and going fully manual and getting all finicky and missing the moment.

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It allows me to work intuitively and be disciplined at the same time – that’s the flow state I look for, whether I’m teaching, writing or on the streets with my camera.

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I’m at Wu Kai Sha beach – yet again.

All images are from the same roll of film, all taken within an hour or so.

I like the word “take”. To take a photograph is to take something from the world you see.

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There’s a contemplative and leisurely mood here I’d like to immerse myself in.

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It’s nice to see people relax and do nothing in particular.

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Like a frame with nothing at the centre, because the image is the frame.

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My favourite street photography trick is to start whistling – people will look at me for a bit while my camera is pointing elsewhere and then ignore me after that.

They’ll think I’m a normal person… though the guy above wasn’t quite convinced…

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At other times, they’re too involved with their own thing to notice.

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I’d like to think that every photograph I take is an image of myself.

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Sometimes there’s no need for explanations – it just is.

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It’s a way of life – this awesome village house faces the beach.

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We all have our journeys to make.

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I wish I understand jogging.

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I’m learning to look for patterns.

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Looking for moments of insight.

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We wait.

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We’re on the lookout.

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We look at ourselves.

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We think some more.

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Our pigeon thoughts will lead the way.

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The pigeons are lining up in my mind.

Thanks for reading!

 

Camera: Leica M6

Lens: Summicron Type II 50mm

Film: Ilford XP2 400

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

 

 

Leica M6 Summicron Love

It’s been a while since I’ve given some love to my Leica M6.

The Minolta AF-C and Contax TVS point-and-shoot combo has pampered me.

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The auto-focus and auto-exposure modes do allow me to get into the flow of things, to the point where I’ve come to think of manual focusing and exposure as distractions to stealth and composition.

So I was worried that I’ve lost touch with the Leica M6 routine.

All images here are from Leica M6, 50mm Summicron Type II lens, on Fuji Superia 400.

A little warm up was needed.

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Testing testing. Got to be fast on the double-decker bus as the reflections are flitting past. Yes, I can rhyme pretty well.

A little practice on walls.

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No prizes for guessing where this is for HK film photography people: that film lab (Dot-Well Photo Workshop) across the road develops your film in 15 mins during non-rush hours, for the princely sum of HK$20.

The people working there exemplify the HK way of doing things – somehow they manage to be gruff, direct, and friendly at the same time. And all those film cameras piled up in there …

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And that building (Champagne Court at Kimberley Road) has a magnetic quality to it, given the vintage film camera shops.

I often go there with the intention of not buying a camera.

The prices could be a tad high, compared with the stalls at Shamshuipo.

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But it’s really apples vs oranges, since many of the Champagne Court shops cater to collectors who would then place the cameras in their cabinets, whereas the cameras stalls at Shamshuipo are more for users.

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Yes, I was spotted, so I did my silly-tourist-frowning-and-muttering-at-his-camera routine.

If they’re within earshot, I would mutter in my Klingon dialect.

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I’m happy I’m still able to capture images the way we look at other people in crowded urban landscapes. We see through glimpses.

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We glance at one another so as to be polite.

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We learn not to look too directly at people.

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For collectors: open edition prints from this post are available here.

Searching for Singapore II

I usually have 2 cameras with me during a photo-walk.

The previous post was with my stealthy Olympus XA2 loaded with Ilford XP2 400 film, while this is a Summicron 50mm Type II Rigid on a Leica M6 loaded with Kodak Portra 400.

I sometimes go all Daido Moriyama with my Olympus XA2 (or I try, at least), while with the Leica, I get that understated Martin Parr social commentary look (or I try, at least).

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So that’s the flat visible from Bras Basah Complex, my favourite haunt since when I was a teenager as it’s the place to go to for secondhand books.

I took an Irish colleague there once and he said quite accurately that he could see that Bras Basah Complex was a formative part of my education.

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Good old civil defence!

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Singapore, along with its many historical landmarks, are works under construction.

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That’s just outside the Arts House. I supposed you could call this commissioned graffiti.

“If You Dream Too Long” calls to mind If We Dream Too Long, the title of a novel by the late Goh Poh Seng. I met him once at a literary festival.

The author of yet another great Singaporean novel, Heartland,  Daren Shiau, once told he admires the writings of Goh a lot. Heartland is many ways a response to If We Dream Too Long. Read these two books if you want to know Singapore.

Yes, yes, that’s my inner Singaporean literature nerd emerging.

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That’s outside Ngee Ann City, a very appropriately named shopping complex because it’s so gigantic.

Yes, the humongous bookstore Kinokuniya Books is in there. It’s a place I go to for inspiration.

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The stone lion outside Ngee Ann Complex, representing prosperity and all the good stuff and guarding all that conspicuous wealth inside the shopping mall.

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That’s the ice-cream uncle at Orchard Road. I’ll usually buy a durian ice-cream wrapped in bread from him. It costs all of SGD$1. Pretty amazing.

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That’s “Urban People”, the art sculpture in front of Ion Orchard, delighting tourists always.

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We’re always being framed by brand names at Orchard Road, with fashion models watching over us, reminding us of what we could be if only we’re willing to spend just a little bit more …

Thanks for reading!

My Singapore

I was in Singapore recently and of course, I brought along my Leica M6 fixed with a 50mm Summicron.

I was paranoid at first about the film going through airport x-rays. But I could see no fogging to my beloved Ilford XP2 films on a previous trip despite them having gone through 4 x-ray cabin baggage scanners at the airport at HK airport, then at Dubai where I transited, and back again.

I took a walk around my neighbourhood and walked past him, circled around, and took this:

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This was at the National Library. I simply love this particular angle of the architecture:

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This was in Hans, the café at the library. I like the rectangular grid:

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And yes, the kacang puteh man:

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You might say there’s a statement here waiting to be made about the life of a kacang puteh seller, as our attention is drawn to the newspaper headline the seller has put up.

And then I had my Singapore-style chicken rice here. They do it very differently in Hong Kong…

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The photograph below sums up my ambivalent attitude towards my country of birth, in which I’ve spent 3/4 of my life before moving to Hong Kong. About 80-85% of the people live in public housing, and the facades of these HDB flats are often used as symbols of conformity, depicting the cookie-cutter and pigeonholed lifestyle and aspirations of middle-class Singaporeans. I have in mind those haunting images at the beginning of Eric Khoo’s 12 Storeys.

I think of the photograph below as saying something opposite.

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I like the tree here because it symbolizes something else, that perhaps there is life, rejuvenation and fresh insights that might arise. I sense a poem coming …

Finally, since some of my friends have been asking about my street photography and the point of it all, here’s an essay by Nick Turpin that says it.

I especially like this quote from Nick’s essay:

“As a Street Photographer you are different, you are not like the others, you are an oddity both in society and in photography. In society you are odd because you are just standing their [sic] looking whilst everyone rushes past to their next shopping experience or intake of salty, sugary, fatty food. In photography you are odd because your motivation is not financial and you don’t go to photo trade shows unless it’s to people watch. You are really not part of either world, it can be lonely not talking about equipment and bags and not oiling the wheels of retail….if it weren’t for online street photography forums you could feel isolated like some lonely eccentric.”

Sometimes I stop and look around and wonder where everyone is rushing off to…