Walking Wanchai

Wanchai is ofcourse one of the classic Hong Kong regions. A blend of the new and the old. A place where everybody is usually rushing around. Grabbing a meal on the walk is pretty normal and acceptable.

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The trams are what give Hong Kong Island’s streets a lot of its charm. And, like the tram on the cover image, they are often vibrantly colored, giving the streets a real splash of color. However, on this day, I saw several trams just stationary on the streets with nobody on board. Puzzling. This never happens. As I walked further I discovered that there was a fire raging in one of the old buildings bordering Wanchai and Causeway Bay. People were gathering to observe and ofcourse get some pictures. I resisted the temptation – didn’t want to interfere with the work of the firefighters and police and somehow I just can’t get myself to document the misery of others. Especially, in a case like this where you don’t have a more “noble” objective such as highlighting some trouble to gather public support. So I moved on and called it a day.

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Couple more from Angkor Wat

Found and worked on a couple of interesting Angkor Wat photos lurking in Lightroom. The one above is actually an exposure blend of 3 photos. As always for any exposure blend, the challenge is to make sure that it still looks natural, with good contrast.

The photos below was taken in blazing heat during the middle of the day. Barely got the ladies to pose fir a moment or two before we fled to the shade! Used a flash for filling in the harsh shadows. Both these photos were taken with the Sony A7R and the 16-35 F/4 FE lens.
Angkor and the ladies

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.

The Zeiss 35mm f/2 ZM Biogon T* on Sony A7R

The Zeiss 35mm f/2 ZM Biogon T*.  This is  small but not insubstantial lens for Leica M mount. I use this on my Sony A7R as well as my Leica M-P.  And I love it. There is a perennial debate about this lens vs the Leica 35mm summicron.  I’m not going to go into a technical debate here. Ken Rockwell and Steve Huff have written about this. Personally, for my needs, the Zeiss is all I want. I also have the Leica 35 1.4 Summilux, which is just sensational but the Zeiss comes really close for a tiny fraction of the cost.  Very often, when I just want to carry one lens, I find myself reaching for the Zeiss for its light weight and sensational 3D pop, color and contrast.  The Leica summilux scores on build quality, 1 stop advantage and the smoothness of out of focus transitions.

I love how the focus transitions on this image. And who wouldn’t love an Alpaca!
Zeiss Alpaca

The sharpness and contrast on this image are so beautiful.
Zeiss Doorway

And finally, here is the Zeiss color! This Peruvian girl is making natural dyes.
Zeiss Girl with Dye

Sony A7R + Leica 35 Summilux: Wow!

To my eyes – and I have not done any scientific tests to confirm it – the Sony A7R has the best dynamic range of any camera that I have used. While I loved my Canon 5d2 (sold) for its “will never fail me, no matter what the circumstance” character and still love the Olympus OM-D EM-5 for its versatility, none of them yield RAW files that have the same malleability. Combine this with the sharpness of the Leica 35 Summilux and you have a cracker of a walkabout combination. It’s light and has stunning resolution!

Take this photo for example. The amount of detail I managed to recover from the highlight and the amount I have been able to push the deep shadows is just incredible. This was a strongly backlight seen and all the faces were rendered in deep shadow. Yet, after some minor Lightroom work, the photo is nicely balanced, with great color and contrast and very little noise.