Posts made in May 2011

Shanghai Express: Taking self-portraits in a luxury hotel on the Bund (with Cactus V5 and flash)

May 30, 2011 12:25 pm HKT No comments

Alex shows you how he took self portraits in a 5-star hotel on the Bund, Shanghai.

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Some points on luminance contrast

May 27, 2011 10:00 am HKT Comments off

20110527 Some points on luminance contrast - 1&2

I have always looked for interesting photo subjects. I think many people do the same. But in fact what matters most is the “light.” Without good light, your subjects won’t be as interesting as you hope they’ll be, to say the least.

Photo1 here is one example of “good lighting,” which has nothing to do with me except that I spotted the scene by accident and chose the right setting for my picture. I really don’t know how these things are “put together. : ) Yet the way they are positioned in relation to the setting sun is just so good that you can’t resist shooting it right away. But as I said, the respective positions of these elements in this photo are not as important as the light shed on them, which created different light zones and color zones, as well as the eye-catching contrasts, factors that made the picture so compelling. I guess it’s not just a coincidence that this is a good site for photography. The area is actually located at a blossoming arts district called M50 Art Community in Shanghai. I am not really sure if people here scientifically calculate the angle of sunlight before they finalize their environmental design, but this scene is really one of a kind.

20110527 Some points on luminance contrast - 1

20110527 Some points on luminance contrast - 2

Photo 2 was taken in the same arts district as Photo 1. Frankly speaking, I seldom make adjustments to my photos for reasons like heightening the saturation or whatever. In this blog, what you see here are just mostly the results of settings. But for these four photos, I even stuck to the “normal” setting — daylight or cloudy, instead of tungsten for a bluer sky. Well, that means the weather was just fine for shooting. But one thing to note is that abundant sunlight and a clear blue sky do not necessarily result in a good photo. As you can see, Photo 2 here shows you a sky darker than the one shown in Photo 1. This is because I have deliberately marked a faster shutter speed (less light coming through) to create the darker sky, so that the white wall will come out less prominently than when it is normally exposed, and that is a step that depends on your own judgment and taste. Speaking of taste, I have a special liking for the shadow shown here, which produced added interest in the photo.

20110527 Some points on luminance contrast - 3&4

Photo 3 and Photo 4 were taken on the same day as the previous two. So I was lucky to have more or less the same clear sky as the background. The only difference is that Photo 3 was shot at around 3:00 PM while Photo 4 was taken at 6:00 PM. The buildings in the former photo were nicely lit by the sun, while the factory in the latter photo was not. The sun is hidden behind the factory, literally, so there was a big luminance contrast between the sky and the factory. That means I had to decide if I wanted a normally exposed factory and an overexposed sky, or a blue sky with an underexposed factory. And I guess you have figured out what choice I made: right, the first one. And that explains why the shades of blueness of the sky in these two photos are different even when they were taken on the same day. After all, I think it is a pretty good lesson when you are working on architecture photography to always consider the effects of sunlight on your subjects.

Equipment Setup

Photo 1 Photo 2 Photo 3 Photo 4
Camera Canon EOS 5D 1 1 1 1
Lens EF 24-105mm f4L IS USM 1 1 1 1

Travel photos in style

May 25, 2011 10:00 am HKT No comments

20110525 Travel photos in style - 1&2

Photo 1 is one of those travel photos, or background photos, so to speak, that tourists would like to be in. But as you can see, it was taken with a shutter speed of 1/20, so the guy standing in the foreground should be holding his breath or something for a decent photo, and obviously he should be lit up by some flash or ambient light such as an advertising light box or something like that.

The thing is, monuments such as this famous Tsim Sha Tsui’s old railway station tower looks dull as there are no other elements around it. So I took another photo, by chance indeed, just to show my intention to shoot the monument in a slightly different way. The statue pictured in Photo 2 is one that is located in Shanghai, China. Frankly speaking, tourists in that area are more interested in shooting Shanghai’s landmark, the very popular “Oriental Pearl TV Tower” in the background than this statue (Chen Yi, Shanghai’s first mayor after 1949). Anyway, I was quite content to be able to shoot two birds with one stone, capturing both the greatness of China’s leader along with the shining glory of the TV tower.

20110525 Travel photos in style - 1

20110525 Travel photos in style - 2

Photo 3 captures the International Finance Centre (IFC) of Hong Kong, the famous skyscraper in the city. By the same token, I preferred not to shoot it alone so I went on board a ferry to take this photo (which was part of my trip to the outlying island, Cheung Chau). It came out appearing as if I was comparing this old ferry pier with the modern architecture. Yet I think what interested me more is the geometry in the composition, and it was the composition that led me to take this photo.

20110525 Travel photos in style - 3

Equipment Setup

Photo 1 Photo 2 Photo 3
Camera Canon EOS 5D 1 1 1
Lens EF 24-105mm f4L IS USM 1 1 1

Photo Troubleshooting: Composition and color temperature

May 23, 2011 10:43 am HKT No comments

Alex discovers some creative ways to rectify his trial photos for a better color.

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Control the exposure for desired effects

May 20, 2011 10:00 am HKT No comments

20110520 Control the exposure for desired effects - 1&2

I am always fascinated with beautiful lamps, so when it comes to interior photography, I never miss them in my pictures. But they become a problem if you want to take a shot that includes the close-up of the lamp and some other subjects. This is simply because the lamp is on the whole too bright compared to other elements around it. The contrast in brightness will either make the other subjects underexposed or the lamp’s surface overexposed, which implies that there are details lost.

20110520 Control the exposure for desired effects - 1

Reference Photo 1

This situation is best explained by the photos here. The candle lamp depicted in Photo 1 requires extra attention as I want to keep those fake wax drops visible. So it is crucial to avoid overexposure, like that shown in Reference Photo 1. But you may argue that if I mark the shutter speed to 1/125, as in Photo 1 to correctly expose the lamp, the picture on the whole will seem underexposed. That is both right and wrong. If I have to keep the details of the candle lamp, other areas in the photo will be a bit underexposed. But that is my choice, as the focus of attention is the lamp itself so that the hanging picture that comes out blurred can be regarded only as part of the background. So it is you who makes the aesthetic judgment of which parts of your photo you correctly expose, and what subjects will be the focus of the photo.

20110520 Control the exposure for desired effects - 2

Shown in Photo 2 is another subject that interests many photographers. The photo frame is a good subject if you can make it stand out in a photo. In this photo, most of the elements except the photo frame were made of wood so the frame can grab your attention, and it is appropriate to correctly expose the frame, and not to worry if the surrounding area is a bit underexposed.

The trial photos here are examples of photos that are meant to capture both the lamps and other elements. As for Trial Photo 1, I could capture the finish of the lamp’s surface but the whole picture seemed a bit dark. While in Trial Photo 2, I marked a slower shutter speed to make the photo brighter but the detail of the lamp’s surface was lost. Sometimes you can’t get both the fish and the bear’s palm at the same time (except when you bring along your wireless transceiver and portable flash to create your lighting), so I decided that it was a bad composition after all. I ended up with a modified framing (Trial Photo 3), focusing on that classic hat stand while using the lamp as the foreground. And I also got a shot of the photo frame that showed how women looked in Shanghai in the 1920s. Well, I forgot to tell you that the site pictured in the trial photos was the original railway carriage once used to transport Song Qing-ling, the wife of China’s founder, Dr. Sun Yat-Sen, in the ‘20s, and now is turned into a dining area in the “Old Station Restaurant” situated in Shanghai’s Xuhui district.

20110520 Control the exposure for desired effects (Trial Photo) - 1&2

20110520 Control the exposure for desired effects (Trial Photo) - 3

20110520 Control the exposure for desired effects (Reference Photo) - 2

Equipment Setup

Photo 1 Photo 2 Ref. Photo 1 Trial Photo 1 Trial Photo 2 Trial Photo 3 Ref. Photo 2
Camera Canon EOS 5D 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
Lens EF 24-105mm f4L IS USM 1 1 1 1 1 1 1