Victoria Harbor from the Peak

Whenever visitors come, we always take them up to Victoria Peak. The views of the harbor are stunning – definitely one of the great city views in the world. Sometimes, I go up by myself as well with the intention of taking some evening photos. This time I got up nice and early, about an hour before sunset. I was shooting with the Sony A6000 and the Sony 10-18 lens (this is a real gem). The first photo below is an exposure blend of 3 photos taken before the city lights came on.

_DSC9229-Edit

The best photos are ofcourse when the city lights come on. The trick is to not keep it for too late – take the shots when there is still some blue in the sky. The shot below is again an exposure blend of 3 photos.

Sony A6000, Sony 10-18
Sony A6000, Sony 10-18

The feature image of this post, was a single shot taken as a 25 second exposure. I normally don’t do such long exposures here. But this time, there was some very nice movement in the clouds that I wanted to emphasize.

Lioness on Rock at Seronera

This photo taken in the Seronera region of the Serengeti, Tanzania. There was a pride of lions (2 lionesses and 5 cubs) who clearly appeared hungry and looking for prey. We followed them for a while and then this lioness scaled this big rock to get a panoramic view of the surroundings. Unfortunately for them there was no prey nearby but as we drove on we saw a huge herd of wildebeest further ahead. I’m sure the lions found them eventually. Photo taken with Olympus OM-D EM-5, Panasonic Lumix 35-100/f2.8

The next photo was taken shortly afterwords as she was descending the rock. Photo taken with Sony A6000 and Sony 55-210 lens.

20151226-_DSC2222

Pier Abstracts

I woke up at 5am one morning when we were staying at Lorne along the Great Ocean Road. That was quite an effort for me in the middle of a family vacation with a lot of driving around. Grabbed the Sony A7R and the 16-35mm lens and walked down to the pier. I did not have a tripod but had a small Gorillapod. Woefully inadequate given the conditions – windy and not too many places where the pod could be positioned while giving an interesting viewpoint. Got this one semi-nice photo while the light was ok.

Pier Light

But then the light just got boring – no interesting colors, no interesting beams through the clouds. So, I just converted the photos to b&w and some abstract compositions. These photos are not much to talk about but I still keep them because I find the results kind of interesting and I remember the effort it took to wake up in the morning.

Pier at Lorne, Victoria

Long Exposure Abstract

Black and White

Off Great Ocean Road, Victoria, Australia

I really like black and white conversions for certain types of photos. The color photo above is straight from raw. It’s ok but rather bland. Given the leading lines and the strong contrast in the photo I decided to convert into b&w to see how it would look. The conversion was done in Lightroom using the standard tools. An important tool I have found, is to play around with the color blending in the B&W panel and moving the temperature and tint sliders in the Basic panel as well. This opens up some really interesting contrast possibilities.

As an added tweak, I reduced clarity for the photo and then brushed loosely along the path with a high clarity brush. Helps in drawing the eye through the frame. This photo was taken with the Sony A7R and Sony Zeiss 16-35 FE lens.

Fuji Velvia 100 on Contax G2

The Contax G2 has got to be my favourite camera.  Small size, outstanding lenses and easy to use –  what’s not to love?! Well, there are a couple of frustrating things but that’s for another day. In the end, despite these minor annoyances, it is my favourite camera.

The Velvia 100 is an underrated and under-appreciated slide film.  Perhaps unfairly and almost definitely because all the attention goes to the Velvia 50. Some time back, I had a mix of Velvia 50 and 100 in my bag.  I shot a roll with the Velvia 100 before moving to the 50.  This was my first encounter with Velvia and I was surprised that when I got the scans back from the lab, I found it really hard to see any difference between the two! All these shots were taken in Bali, Indonesia.

 
Contax G2 Velvia 100 3

Contax G2 Velvia 100

PMQ Hong Kong with Leica and Voigtlander Color Skopar

We went to PMQ for the first time yesterday! Unbelievable, given its been open for a while already. Its actually quite nice with some nice restaurants, cafes, bakeries and boutiques. My favorite HK blog Bluebalu has covered PMQ in a few posts. Decisions, decisions, decisions! What photo gear to take. Film was out given night time and changing light.  In the end I picked up my Leica with the 35 Lux and the Voigtlander 21mm f4 color skopar.

I’ve discovered that the Voigtlander smears quite a bit, throwing a magenta color cast.  But still, its a nice wide angle that would work well for the photos I wanted to capture.  Here are three randomly selected from the ones I took.

PMQ 2

PMQ 3

 

Hong Kong from the air

My job involves a lot of flying. I always try to get the window seat for the views. Hong Kong is often shrouded by fog and pollution haze but there are a couple of months, around June and July, when the skies are incredibly clear. And during this time, Hong Kong is simply the most beautiful city in the world from the sky.

These two photos were taken in June 2013 on my iPhone 5 and processed using Snapseed.
HK From Air 2

HK From Air 1

Cambodia: The flooded forest in film

The Tonle Sap lake is a good excursion from Siem Reap. We went in late December 2014. I carried my Sony A7R as well as the Contax G2. The Contax was loaded with Kodak Portra 400, which I rated at ISO 100. Now, that’s a tip for any newbie to film. Overexpose by 2 stops or so because color film (not slide film!) as a lot of latitude in the highlights but very little in the shadows. So just overexpose and then pull back the shadows in Lightroom or similar software.

Tonle Sap

One fascinating attraction connected to the rivers that drain into the Tonle Sap is the Floating (or Flooded) Forest. These are flooded mangrove forests surrounding the cluster of Kompong Phluk villages. You visit them on small boats rowed by local villagers. These small boats are owned by separate families and is often their only source of income.

Flooded forest 2

Flooded forest 1

Flooded forest 5

Flooded forest 4

Flooded forest 3

Angkor Wat: 4 different ways

We visited Cambodia in December 2014.  And it was a wonderful vacation.  The people are extremely friendly and generally the country is reasonably well set up for tourism.  And its really inexpensive.  All of this makes for a great combination but most people really visit Cambodia for Angkor Wat, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site.  It is truly remarkable.

We visited Angkor Wat during the afternoon and it was truly stunning.  This was taken with my favorite film camera, the Contax G2, loaded with Velvia 50 film.

But to truly experience the beauty of Angkor, one must go in the morning. I had done my research on when to go and which pond to stand in front of to get the sunrise reflection shot – exactly the same position from where the day photo above was taken. So, three of us woke up at 4:30am and left the hotel to go to Angkor. As expected, there were tons of tourists ahead of us but I knew that patience was the name of the game and the tourists would be gone as soon as the light became interesting from a photographer’s point of view. Luckily, my opportunity came soon enough and I got a position right in front of the lake.

Angkor Wat Velvia Day

I had taken my tripod, Sony A7R with Zeiss 16-35 FE lens and the Contax G2 with the Zeiss 28mm. I started taking shots with both cameras. The one below was taken with the Contax G2 loaded with Velvia 50.

Angkor Wat Velvia Pre Dawn

This was going to be a once in a lifetime opportunity (ah well I may come back to Angkor Wat but its surely not going to be frequent occurrence). And the clouds were wonderful. Much as I love film, when you want to shoot tons of images, digital is obviously the way to go. Also, given the huge contrasts and fast changing light, multiple exposures were called for.

This one below is an exposure blend of 3 photos taken with the Sony A7R and Zeiss 16-35 FE just before sunrise.

Angkor Exposure Blend Pre Dawn

 

And this one is again a blend of three exposure but this time taken just after sunrise.

Angkor Exposure Blend Sunrise

Amazing isn’t it, how light and photography medium shape such different looks from the same subject.

And by the way, I spoke of exposure blend for 2 of the photos above. I think High Dynamic Range imaging is a great technique for fulfilling photographic vision given the limitations of sensors compared to our eyes. However, I do not like most of the garish HDR stuff we see on the internet. There are lots of examples of HDR done “right” that I hope to compile some day. In the meanwhile, if you are interested in the concept, this free tutorial from B&H is the perfect place to start.