August 25, 2010

Life in the Bagmati village

Of course, photography is not the only fun traveling in Nepal, but then it also depends on how one perceive his camera.  To me, a cemra on hand is often no different from a paint brush, or even a pen, the pictures are story, sometimes beyond words - particular in capable hands.  Or, one can always come back, with his photographs, and put words on them, like keeping a blog.
To me, the image is a preservation of moments, it has the significant meaning to the one who shot it, or those being shot at, with intention or not, the moment the shutter pressed, it is there.  Shot with Canon 1Ds III + EF 100/2.8 L Macro IS. I often wondered, when I look through those images, what and how people read them?  But may be it does not matter.
Here in this little Nepali village, life is quite simple. Perhaps it is simpler because of people has less desire?  Or they don't have such luxury to desire?
A few portrait here, all with Canon 1Ds III + EF 100/2.8 L Macro IS.

And these few, with Canon 5DII and EF 24-105/4L.
And of course the kids. Also shot with Canon 5DII + EF 24-105/4L IS.

And an all too familiar scene, the water.Here this little girl working diligently to fill her bucket besides a well. But just like those many at hard working, the Nepalese perhaps by their religion, have peace within themselves, not seemed to be bothered by their fate. They of course watch Hollywood movies, those fast and furious, but those were just fairy tales, or is it us that is not in reality?

Here in this remote village, somewhat disconnected from the digital world. a girl is still a girl, with her necklace, pendant, bracelet, and beautiful smile.

August 24, 2010

Beginning of a day

People who live in civilized world may not understand that they are blessed, if to consider many people who lives in 3rd world countries may start their day just to get water, which is a rather common scene in Nepal, even in Kathmandu.
After gathered our gear, we went back to our bus and another 10 minutes later we arrived at a small village where we will spend 2 hours here for our own image works.  As how the locals start their day, I started this image with the Nepali already queued up their buckets waiting for their daily needs. Not a bad subject for people like me trtavels for photography, this is some subject to shoot, but consider as simple as it is, is in fact how they live, actually quite sad.  Which reminds me what I read as a boy, wrote by Helen Keller, "....there are people complain about their shoes, there are people born without foot...." - this is from my vague memory, not the exact quote, but says many things.  Image taken wtih GF-1.
This is a small village, the morning of late March in Nepal was still somewhat chilled, some elder people sit outside with blanket wrapped around to get warm.  This one shot with Canon 1Ds III with EF 100/2.8 Macro IS L.  I like to use macro lens pareticular for this occassion, that I can get a very quick head and shoulder shot but also be able to get a lot closer, when chance permits.
And here a young Nepali girl, opened the window and some of her morning routine.  Girls, regardless of their living standards, are somewhat alike. Canon 1Ds III + EF 100/2.8 Macro IS.
As with the little girls, the little boys or girls around the world, regardless the level of civilization they live, or for that matter, different time of history - are all more or less the same; the cry, the laugh, the play.  Emotion of human hardly changed as we developed, perhaps true for all animals - but I can't speak for them.
The love, sorrow, joy wrote by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe or William Shakespeare is still as fresh as today as it was then.
In this little village of Bagmati District of Kathmandu, time has a different pace, one would seem to find extra peace and clam here, it was early morning, but I feel the morning last a lot longer than in the larger cities I am familiar with.
This image, two Nepali woman walk side by side on the street, stay close as if they are keeping the warmth together, shot with Canon 5D II with EF 24-105/4L.  I shot the picture from behind. Of course one can also shot in the front, but my preference of story telling, this works better for me.
This is another shot of a boy quietly watched me taking the picture, the morning sun bathe the brick wall, gives the image a more homy feel. Canon 1Ds III + EF 100/2.8 IS.
And this one taken with Canon 5D II with EF 24-105/4L, show the calm, ordered, small village street.
Some Nepali kids, with Canon 5D II + EF 50/1.2L.  I like the way Nepali people before the camera, they are just nature!
And here a vendor rush himself to the small street market, shot with Canon 5D II with EF 24-105/4L, at 24mm, the wide angle setting gave this image an extra drama.
A shop keeper sweeping the street in front of her shop. Also with a Canon 5DII + 24-105/4L. Careful reader will find that I use a slower shutter speed to allow a little motion blur, always my preference of picture such as this.

August 21, 2010

Sweep Panorama, a talk of SONY

Before and during my trip in Nepal I did not own a SONY camera. I did before.  And if you count Minolta a SONY as well, then a longer history. My first Minolta is an Alpha 9000 (the earliest AF professional camera availabe bought it in 1986), then later with a stainless steel chasis (first in SLR history) Dynax 9, I eventually passed them to my relative and that is the last Minolta I have. All along I was more a Contax user, although I have long history with Nikon and Leica as well. And later with Canon. My first digital camera was in fact a SONY Mavica, where the image file wrote to a 3.5" floppy disc - sounds very ancient indeed. And last one was a Cybershot DSC-F828, but my graphic designerd lost it, what a shame, and my relationship with SONY ended, period. Why? Because in recent years SONY is to me not a leading company in innovation, or design, so to speak, in my own point of view. SONY is lagged is offering true innovative thinking, design, concept, and in quality, but still, it is a big company.
Then it came along taking over Minolta, hurried out a line of digital single lens reflex cameras, one particular note the Alpha 900, like its predecessors, it is a good camera, but not offering what Canon or Nikon couldn't, except aggressive pricing.  But for younger users who has less knowledge of this history, SONY's long time partner gave its Alpha line some nice lenses does make SONY more professional smell.  Its line of compact is mixed of good and bad, more on the niche side, sometimes with a few good performer.  But started with its built in HDR function, sweep panoramic picture, party-shot automatic photography station, and then the EVIL - NEX-3 and NEX-5 which I have it now, SONY looks a lot more alive in its digital imaging division.  
So how useful is the sweep panoramic function from SONY?  Quite big actually, and soon might be picked up by many other camera makers.  Just like my preference over landscape pictures, a superwide angle lens eventually not wide enough, and with digital stitching capability, one can compose the picture with the most essential scene and make a large panoramic image - but now - this can be done in-camera, simply just sweep the camera acorss the landscape, and in the case of NEX-5, one even get the 3D panoramic image - true, it might be a feature too early to be available because effectively there is not much proactical device useful for display, but hey, it came free with a firmware update, why not!
When and how effective all these technology will be further developed for future releases of Alpha line of DSLR - or shall we say HDVDSLR is worth looking for, but surely we will see the NEX-7 or even a NEX-9 not far from the horizon with even more refine features, SONY might as well see their investment in taking over Monilta paid off.  
I have in varies posts in this blog to give Panasonic GF-1 a high praise, now I feel that may be GF-1 is having a serious competitor, and should I have both GF-1 and NEX-5 before the trip to Nepal - which one will I take?  As of today, I would say NEX-5. That's how good it is.  But, GF-1 is as good as a picture making tool as the NEX-5 and perhaps even edge it out in straight forward operation, but speaking of snap video, NEX-5 just turn everything around.  I would then return from Nepal much more panoramic images, videos..........

Worm for the early bird

The rd day of my Nepali trip started early, the mornng call rang at 4:30am.  The destination is a village in Bagmati area (named after the Bagmati River).  Sit in the bus for about 30 minutes, we arrived at a spot where we need to open the torch, walked on small road to a small hill where we can see the small village about 2 kilometers away, still dark, but the lights of the houses, vague cooking smokes tell us its location.  Waiting for the first light of dawn, I set up my Canon 5DII with a EF 35/1.4L prime on the Arca Swiss B1 head, carefully level my tripot so I can take a full (stitched) panoramic image, while I started to hear shutter clicks from my fellow photographers.  What I have learned over the years, if I have time, and the scenery is not particularly great, a single shot is a snap shot at best in situation like this, I would just go for a large panoramic image so at least it has a large visual impact. And so I did.  I made a few series of 6-7 shots, stitched them together to get this image, cropped from original size: 17,010 X 2,643 pixels.
So why don't I use superwide angle lens?  Qucik answer is that I did not bring it in the trip, the widest I have for this Nepal trip for Canon is a moderate 24-105/4L, but I also carried a Phase One P65+ on Hasselblad - which I left in hotel, where in that bag I have a H35/3.5 that is equivalent to 21mm. But the real answer is that I don't usually use superwide for landscape, I do, just not usually.  Why did not bring them to being with?  The powerful Canon TS-E 17/4L, if you considered a stitched from left-middle-right, you then get a final image that is about 12mm, or a 14mm prime?  My approach of landscape image is more panoramic than traditional 4:3 or 2:3 ratio, my preference is more or less the classic 17:6 or even wider - like the one I did for the Kathmandu.  I could have use a very wide angle lens but ended up crop just the small middle senction of the capture, that is not my best choice.  The digital camera today and the avaialble software makes super panoramic image so easily, explore them, use them, then you would know.
This one, seeing the sunrise, we started to move back to the bus to go to our main destination - the village. With a Panosonic GF-1 on my hand (yes, it is always on my hand basically this entire trip), I quickly snap a series of image, handheld, pivot myself to sweep over the landscape. Resized from the oiginal picture of 9,904X2,397 pixels.
This one, still with Panasonic GF-1 with 20/1.7, the panoramic image stitched from 9 captures, resized from the original artwork of 24,665 X 3,579 pixes.

Dubar Square at dusk

Few things about not traveling in a tour group are about freedom, solitary and creativity.  Sure, man is a group animal, but often the most creative moment comes when one is in his absolute self; along.  So even I travel with a few fellow photographers in this Nepal trip, I do have those moments that I can shoot along, and enjoy the moments of mkaing pictures.  Not that I ended up with great images, but to enjoy the process of getting some images.  And sometimes I can get certain image exactly because I am along, rather than standing among many photographers who all have their camera at their eye level and ready to shoot, often the picture result less natual.
This is an image taken with Canon 5DII, with EF 35/1.4L, I walked by this small shop and waited for about a minute for the moment the lady open the lid of the stockpot for this steaming shot.  Not of particular exciting picture, but the dark light tells the time of the day, the Nepalese lifestyle, one of their food...... Not that this is a great image, or even a good one, but it simply tells its part of story for this travel blog.
Moving on the small street around the Dubar Square, sun is setting, small street market emerged for those busy Nepalese on the street to take home something. This is a rather familiar image one may find in Kathmandu, or perhpas the entire Nepal.  I have a small Panasonic GF-1 on hand, quickly snap this image, not just to portrait the street vendor, but also display the variety of Nepalese way of diet. The beautiful and wonderfully sharp 20/1.7 on the Micro 4/3 sensor of GF-1, allow the depth of field to cover what I intended to display on this image, even in poor light.  It is an ideal travel camera for documentary type photography.
This little Nepali girl, saw me with my camera, quick ran into me to let me take this picture. With my GF-1 set in aperture priority mode, I was able to quickly decide the right amount of exposure to allow the nice and faithful skin tone of the this little girl, as well as the lights of the shop in the background to tell that it was early evening. The 20/1.7 can get reasonably close to take this nice head and shoulder picture.
And this one, a typical fabric shop in Nepal, still with Panasonic GF-1, I ahve set the exposure to f/2.8 and 1/25s, to be able to register the moving subject with a little blur, while enough to keep the main subject reasonable still, and to faithfully reproduce the exact lighitng in the early evening.  Although with a small sensor, the GF-1 capture the vibrant color in poor light quite well that adds some extra appeal to this otherwise common image.
This one is an overall view of the busy street by the Dubar Square.  Busy, a little noisy, but somewhat calm, the typcial charm of a regilious nation, such as Nepal. The 20/1.7 on the GF-1 gave the street a nature perspective, it is almost permanently gluded to my GF-1, leaving the other lens - an Olympus E-Zuiko 50/2 Macro EF (an outstanding lens itself, one fo the best macro lens) in the bag until few days later I finally use it for a few shots.
And here a street vendor selling his vegetables, perhaps too tired from a day's work, was napping here, feeling his own quietness amist the small river flow of people, kids playing ariund, motorcycle, cars, sometimes bells from the cow. This further convinced me the quietness is within one himself, not the surroundings.  Still with the Panasonic GF-1 + 20/1.7, faithfully registered the scene and its surrounding. After the shot, I slowly walked away, leave him along in his own tranquillity.
Finally, I went to a higher balcany of a cafe's over looking the Dubar Square, with my Canon 5DII for this short video as a wrap for today's photo session.

August 14, 2010

Snapshot or directed shot

Travel photography on people can be very spontaenous but that does not mean there is no options available. If time permits, or you have to make time available, spend a little more seconds, minutes, or longer if you wish - in case of an interesting opposite sex (for instance, not an encouragement), this way you are not alwasy trying a candid snapshot, not that it is not good, but there are too many or eventually your collection of work may lack certain variety.  Of course, some photographers can craft around their candid shot and make them as their style, is another matter.  I do candid shot sometimes, just sometimes, but while traveling, I like to engage to other people, spend a little time, make them relax, while you always learn something from seemingly nothing, often in seconds or minuts, and to me it is part of fun. Fun in getting a little different picture, fun in knowing something might be unexpected.
This Nepali girl for example, the picture appeared to be snapshot and indeed it is, but then I don't just try to snap a few pictures and go away, in stead, I start a small conversation - quite limited if you realize that I don't speak Nepali except "Namaste" - embassassingly limited but it is a start. And certainly this little girl, perhaps knows a few words in English - very limited, but here you go, you are starting to make a conversation.
Keeping the line of talk going, the spontaneous kicked in, then depends on who your subject is, they react, and you react accordingly. A lady might be shy, turn her face away but look back to you with a smile, or like this gorl, playfully hid herself behind the door.
And do your subject has to look at the camera, yes and no, there is no rule here, but why not both?
So are these considered snapshot? or directed shot? May be both. But htis is certainly not staged shot, where you hire a girl talent to act, it is a business but not photography.
And this Nepali gentleman, his hair interests me, so I started the topic around his hair, and took the shot when he is very relxed.  These all shot with Canon 1Ds III with EF 85/1.2L.

And sometimes you can't really direct your subject, especially when it is a group, then you wait, wait for the right moment to happen.  And because of this, your subject will have less suspecious on you, or tired of paying attention to you, and so you can be isolated from the happening and get the picture. Few example here all taken at almost the same spot, all happened in approx. 15 minutes. All taken with Canon 5D II, with EF 35/1.4L.

And this is my shot of the day, made also with the Canon 5DII attched with EF 35/1.4L.   I like this image for many reaosns.  First, there is a boy on the far left of the picture, he was looking at directly to the camera while everyone else turned their head toward the monkey.  Because of the boy is obviouly looking at the camera - or the photographer behind the lens, the look include the photographer in the picture, rather than an isolated onject, like simply a camera mounted on something and fired by a mechnism. The look at camera to me, does not make the picture un-nature, it put me in the picture too.  Then, out of luck, while the little girl turn her head to the monkey, with a smile, and her hair flying in the air while a sudden breeze came to blow her skirt, this all happened in the instant, that made it the picture of the day, to me.

August 10, 2010

Still around Dubar Square

Following my blog one may get the wrong idea that the time passed slowly in Nepal; for Nepali may be, but for travel photographers, absolutely not!
This blog is building slowly because I still travel often, as well as have to devote more time for my own professional works in design and design management, and of course the photography work.  And eventually, it is indeed a nice platform that I can keep the travel journal this way that is a nice memory for myself, and perhaps some valuable information to share. And so I take my time, as I was taking my time in Dubar Square.
People, is one of the most interesting subjects in Nepal, apart from its numerours world heritage sites and beautiful nature forest and the Himalaya.  This Nepali man, sitting (sort of) by the ancient building, is a typical Nepali, calm and unmoved by your camera, allow me a quick snap shot using Panasonic GF-1 with its pancake 20/1.7 lens. This is a clever lens from Panasonic, with nature perspective and a little wide, and fast, helps to produce nice image in close distance - something I like to do, in order to achieve a little tight and powerful composition.
And this one, still with Panasinic GF-1 and 20/1.7, shot of a very normal wooden door in this world heritage site, tell its age.  The brigh blue locker, however, reminmd you that it is still in use in modern day. The visitor would appreciate the mamagement of Nepali goverment to not allow to turn this into another boring Karaoke House or another bar that open as early as 11am, like some place in China.  So the focus of this image, as one may aware, is in fact the little blue locker, a little device tells the presence of its owner (at least who lives inside), and a little compression of past and present. There are thousands, or many more doors such as this, whether or not to shoot it depends on if the photographer has a story to tell. Another tip to share.

Another door shot with GF-1 with 20/1.7, inside a hindu temple. Also with a locker.  This image has less drama than the last one but its color attracts me, the bronze color show its age, yet its surface was polished by who knows how many people put thier hands on it.
The use of such elements to tell pass and present is not as strong as the diaply of a rather aged wood and modern locker as last image of door, this one, telling the story in a more conservative way.
Here is a shot made with Canon 5D II with EF 35/1.4L, a shot made at nearing the top of a pagoda of this square, to get a perspective that can more nuturally display the beautiy, busy square. The use of slightly wide angle lens such as 35mm prime is to exhibit the view more closer to how human eye sees it, to get a little higher so that the perspective of the surrounding can be controlled better.  This is to suggest many shooters that there is an option to go a little higher, not necessary to make all the shots in street level.  Of course you can and nothing wrong with it, but why not give my suggestion a try?