The Great Wall of China

December 26, 2011 10:00 am HKT No comments

20111226 The Great Wall of China - 1

The picture above was taken along the stairs leading to the Great Wall of China. I was so lucky that it was a sunny day, which allowed me to capture my beloved clear blue sky. But most of you should be familiar with the situation in which the harsh sunlight casts undesirable deep shadows and bright highlights on your subject’s face.

As you may be aware, when taking landscape photos, harsh sunlight may create too great a contrast in the scene such that details will be lost either in the darker or brighter areas of the photo. You rarely find such perfect moments as in Photo 1, when the sunlight is not so harsh — maybe because the sun is partly blocked by clouds — that it casts a “good-looking” shadow on the subject.

In Photo 1, the morning sunlight provides a warm tone for my picture, and at the same time, it created some feature-defining shadows on this man’s face. You may also notice that the picture showed a good blend of warm- and cool-colored elements. The cool tone of the sky, the cool tone that came from the green outfit and the grassland, the warm tone coming from the colors brown, yellow, orange, and red…all of these made the photo colorful and eye catching.

Photo 2 shows you how harsh sunlight can actually be a credit to a photo. The stall keeper here stood under the sun enjoying her breakfast. Though the sunlight created a deep “cap” shadow on her face, it made the photo more interesting. In fact, this photo not only captured the subject’s awkward expression, but also the beautiful mountain scene far behind, as well as all the colorful elements present in the scene. On top of all this, I was most impressed by the green cap and green outfit that looked so well maintained in the photo. It reminded me of the core function of a photo: to capture the authentic ambiance and make the viewer feel as if he or she is present in the scene. As for Photos 3 and 4, you can see how different framing reveals the stall and part of the Great Wall.

20111226 The Great Wall of China - 2

20111226 The Great Wall of China - 3 20111226 The Great Wall of China - 4

Equipment Setup

Photo 1 Photo 2 Photo 3 Photo 4
Camera Canon EOS 5D 1 1 1 1
Lens EF 17-40mm f4L 1 1 1 1

The annoyed kid

December 23, 2011 10:00 am HKT No comments

20111223 The annoyed kid - 1

The place is Mutianyu Great Wall Entrance in Beijing. I saw this little girl in front of the fruit stalls, so I instantly knelt down and kept pressing the shutter release button. It is common advice to suggest that you lower your camera angle for photos of kids. I totally abide by this rule.

20111223 The annoyed kid - 2

20111223 The annoyed kid - 3

20111223 The annoyed kid - 4

In fact, it took me some time to get the right photo. That was because the first time I took her photo I was behind her back. The sound of the shutter release alerted the girl and she turned around to see this stranger. I kept photographing her and that’s why she gave me this annoyed facial expression, as shown in Photo 1. You can see how she turned around and saw me in the sequence from Photo 2 to Photo 4. Merely photographing the kid would be a bit dull, so I included the stall, the stall keeper, as well as one side of the customer in the framing. With this composition, it seemed that no one around cared for the kid, everyone was just busy minding their own business, and that added interest to this photo.

Other photos here show you the other scenes of this tourist site, with the colors red and pink as the major tones here. You can also see the caretaker of the kid, who held her cute little pink hat.

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20111223 The annoyed kid - 6

20111223 The annoyed kid - 7

Equipment Setup

Photo 1 Photo 2 Photo 3 Photo 4 Photo 5 Photo 6 Photo 7
Camera Canon EOS 5D 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
Lens EF 17-40mm f4L 1 1 1 1 1 1 1

Drawing with lighting

December 21, 2011 10:00 am HKT No comments

20111221 Drawing with lighting - 1

“Drawing with lighting” is not an overstatement. If you have flashes, you can definitely “draw” your photo by arranging the flashlight in the desired lighting setting. But what I’m trying to describe is how to use ambient light. You can see here that I have taken some photos in a village. Take a look at Reference Photo 1 first. The moment I arrived at this village I took this test photo. There is nothing special about this photo. But if you took a step forward, walking along the village and finding something like Photo 1 or Photo 2, the story would be different. With the shaded area created by the setting itself, you can make the picture more interesting, like leaving a black blank space when taking portraits.

20111221 Drawing with lighting - 2

20111221 Drawing with lighting - 3

Photo 3 is another story. You cannot find similar shading like that in Photo 1. But luckily, it was not a sunny day, which would make everything look too shiny. An overcast day, in fact, can allow you to shoot pictures like these. First, the light on an overcast day is soft and even. Second, if you are observant enough, you can find scenes like those in Photo 3. Please notice that the brightness or tone in this photo varies from top to bottom. This is because some building has blocked the light on the area around the bicycle. It’s as if I used a big soft box hanging top down and some black paper or a black reflector to block unwanted light from specific areas. So you can take a picture that has a natural variation in brightness made possible by the “setting” of the environment, along with your observation. To achieve this, mark an aperture smaller than normal so you won’t lose the details in the highlight area. Let’s take a look at Reference Photo 2. I wanted to achieve similar effects like those in Photo 3. But you can see that I failed because the brightness or tone in the photo was too even. I could not create that kind of gradient look seen in Photo 3.

20111221 Drawing with lighting (Reference Photo) - 1

20111221 Drawing with lighting (Reference Photo) - 2

Equipment Setup

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

Tips for Perfect Background for Outdoor Portraits

December 19, 2011 9:50 am HKT No comments

Alex led you through his photo trips in searching for the perfect background to achieve unique portraits.

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Monochrome photography

December 16, 2011 10:00 am HKT No comments

20111216 Monochrome photography - 1 20111216 Monochrome photography - 2

My initial idea for this blog was to write about foregrounds and backgrounds in a photo. But it turned out to be something different. I took Photo 1 trying to capture the contrast between the trees in the foreground and the church in the background. Yet I missed the point because when you try to play around with foreground and background subjects, one of them may be out of focus due to the use of a fast lens (any lens with a maximum aperture of f/4 or more, like F/2.8, f/1.8, f/1.4 etc.) or a wide open or telephoto lens (with a shallow depth of field). But since I was standing quite far away from both the trees and the church, I couldn’t achieve the effect I wanted. I should have gotten close to some trees or leaves and used them as a blurred foreground subject while capturing the church far away. Anyway, what you see now is another thing: a monochromatic photo.

As I mentioned, I did not intend to take this photo this way. I thought the photo looked too common so I shifted the white balance setting to tungsten to get the effect that you see now.

Photo 2 was taken in Phuket. My initial idea was to capture the water drop but it turned into another monochromatic photo. I took a similar photo (Photo 4) at a spot nearby. I think this photo is more interesting than Photo 2 since the whole arrangement and the color of the leaves are more special.

20111216 Monochrome photography - 3 20111216 Monochrome photography - 4

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