Freespace Fest in Pictures

16 12 2012
Freespace Fest!

Freespace Fest!

I’ve been told that there’s no such thing as a free lunch.

I concur. 

But free space? There’s lots of it – and at Freespace Fest, it’s all being put to great use. 

Live music. Dancing. Performances. Art. Boutique stalls. The open sky. Friends. Food. Grass. 

Bliss. 

Hong Kong’s creative potential. Right here. 

And now, a taste of it in photos…enjoy.  *Click on the photos to enlarge. 

The sun sets on Freespace Fest - but the music, dancing, food and life continues!

The sun sets on Freespace Fest – but the music, dancing, food and life continues!

Plenty of beer to go around, too.

Plenty of beer to go around, too.

People. Grass. Open sky. Music. Happiness.

People. Grass. Open sky. Music. Happiness.

Eat your greens!

Eat your greens!

DSC_0385

A super acrobatic dance performance. They were hardcore - literally.

A super acrobatic dance performance. They were hardcore – literally.

Dancing on exercise equipment? You bet!

Dancing on exercise equipment? You bet!

A lovely, innovative bamboo structure.

A lovely, innovative bamboo structure by the water. 

Sit and chill under this bamboo structure by the sea side.

Sit and chill…come to think of it, this would be a big hit with pandas! 

DIY eco-friendly organic detergent made only of orange peel, sugar and water, fermented all together in an airtight bottle for 3+ months. You end up with a sweet and refreshing Dettol-like liquid, but without all the chemicals! Great for dishes, the floor...cleaning in general. You've got to keep the Earth clean while you're cleaning, too.

DIY eco-friendly organic detergent made only of orange peel, sugar and water, fermented all together in an airtight bottle for 3+ months. You end up with a sweet and refreshing Dettol-like liquid, but without all the chemicals! Great for dishes, the floor…cleaning in general. You’ve got to keep the Earth clean while you’re cleaning, too.

An gory organ vending machine...

An gory organ vending machine…

Flags: pick one, add you own design, plant it.

Flags: pick one, paint on it your own design, plant it in the ground. 

Spread your wings and fly away...

Spread your wings and fly away… (Sadly, when I visited again on the second day, the pole had toppled over and the bird had fallen down. An accident or a creative intention? A veiled reference to the bird flu epidemic? An implicit allusion to the trampling of freedom? 

Another stall featuring works by a local artist.

Another stall featuring works by a local artist.

Lots of stalls featuring products by local designers and artists.

Lots of stalls featuring products by local designers and artists. Here, handmade cloth bags 西拐角. 

The ICC in the background.

The ICC in the background.

A clay workshop, open to all.

A clay workshop, open to all.

Freespace. Lots of free space. Relish in a wave of creativity.

Freespace. Lots of free space. Relish in a wave of creativity.

An intricate web made entirely of rubber bands.

An intricate web made entirely of rubber bands.

Take the stage.

Take the stage.

 





Roaming Around PoHo and Beyond

8 12 2012

Not far from the hectic crux of the business district, a short stroll away from the booze-fueled din of Lankwai, just down the road from the gastronomic paradise of SoHo, a small little neighbourhood is sprouting up.

It goes by the funky name of PoHo, and has been called the ‘Brooklyn of Hong Kong’.

Tucked above the main streets of Sheung Wan, the PoHo district – with Tai Ping Shan Street as its main artery and the surrounding lanes as offshoots – is, on most days, quietly quaint. You might perhaps chance upon a casual game of street basketball at Blake Garden, but otherwise it is all a hushed repose.

Not today.

With the inaugural PoHo Bazaar in full swing, the neighbourhood swarmed with visitors eager to befriend this funky newcomer. Shops threw open their doors, little stalls served a seemingly endless flow of drinks, hamburgers sizzled on an open grill and soon, a large crowd gathered to explore the nooks and crannies of PoHo.

Here’s a little visual nibble of PoHo – and beyond…

The colourful exteriors of Secret Ingredient, organisers of the PoHo Bazaar: http://www.secretingredient.com.hk

The colourful exteriors of Secret Ingredient, organisers of the PoHo Bazaar: http://www.secretingredient.com.hk

The PoHo party. And then the old man.

The PoHo party. And then the old man.

Hong Kong Museum of Medical Sciences : an Edwardian-style building.

Hong Kong Museum of Medical Sciences : an Edwardian-style building.

En route to Tai Ping Shan Street, the Island Christian Academy's exterior. Very reminiscent of HK's iconic Red White Blue bags!

En route to Tai Ping Shan Street, the Island Christian Academy’s exterior. Very reminiscent of HK’s iconic Red White Blue bags!

Right outside Secret Ingredient. A sizzling BBQ, comfy, drinks, a great atmosphere.

Right outside Secret Ingredient. A sizzling BBQ, comfy, drinks, a great atmosphere.

An elderly PoHo resident watching the party going on all around him!

An elderly PoHo resident watching the party going on all around him!

A shop in PoHo -- Rat's Cave.

A shop in PoHo — Rat’s Cave.

Floral jamming at Tallensia, anyone?

Floral jamming at Tallensia, anyone?

A Chinese store and an English sign - emblematic of the interweaving of cultures that so defines Hollywood Road.

A Chinese store and an English sign – emblematic of the interweaving of cultures that so defines Hollywood Road.

A locked, dilapidated gate...strangely adorned with umbrella handles and even the neck of a guitar!

A locked, dilapidated gate…strangely adorned with umbrella handles and even the neck of a guitar!

The newly opened Fungus Workshop - handcrafted leather galore!

The newly opened Fungus Workshop – handcrafted leather galore! Full disclosure: I am currently in a ‘handcrafted leather’ craze!

A beautiful building on Square Street.

A beautiful building on Square Street.

Beautiful fabrics for sale, just outside the Konzepp store.

Beautiful fabrics for sale, just outside the Konzepp store.

Yes, another one of those old doors, old post boxes photos.

Yes, another one of those old doors, old post boxes photos. Sorry, I couldn’t help it!

The old.

The old.

Lines.

Lines – a little further down from PoHo, on Circular Pathway.

Lines.

Lines. Red, green, brown.

Along the antique street, a shattered ceramic kitty.

Along the antique street, a shattered ceramic kitty.





The Rookie Street Photographer’s Mental Checklist

16 08 2012

I’m fairly new to street photography. I don’t remember when exactly I started consciously taking my camera, roaming the streets and snapping away, but it can’t have more than 12 months. In these twelve months, though, I have gone from being completely freaked out about shooting on the streets to being a little more confident about taking photos of strangers.

It’s been a huge learning curve. Here’s a little mental checklist that I’ve developed. It combines what I’ve learnt from my many street sessions, from blogs and various photo books.

1. Think ‘story’.

The photo needs to tell a story. It needs to offer more than just the immediate visual image. It needs to draw the viewer in on several different levels, first grabbing their attention visually, then probing them to look at the photo for a little longer, to seek out the story within.

Wahhh!! This photo focuses on the subject a lot, but there’s also a bit of a story to it. Why is the baby crying? And why is the mother looking as if she wants to hiss at the baby? What’s going to happen next?

2. Pay attention to background and foreground.

It’s an easy trap to fall into: focusing exclusively on the subject. While this can work on some occasions, such as a street portrait, I’ve found that to make a successful street photo, the background and foreground are just as important as the subject.

I took a photo of these two men were squatting on the sidewalk, who werelooking as if they wanted to take a dump! (They were actually discussing brick replacements) OK, so their odd body positioning is interesting…but there’s nothing more to this photo. No background, no foreground. Boring.

Untitled, 1956. Henri Cartier-Bresson.

Henri Cartier-Bresson’s photo above is much more interesting. It tells a story. There’s the subject, but there’s also the background, without which this would have been a boring photo of a worker. The middle ground too, of the dog, adds another layer of narrative to the photo. Background, middle ground, foreground, and of course the subject – all are important ingredients.

3. Look for likeness. Seek out similarity.

Henri Cartier-Bresson said, “What reinforces the content of a photograph is the sense of rhythm – the relationship between shapes and values.” Photos with nuanced relationships and unexpected coincidences embedded within them add another layer to the viewer’s experience. Ernst Hass noted, “The best pictures differentiate themselves by nuances…a tiny relationship – either a harmony or a disharmony – that creates a picture.”

Porte d’ Aubervilliers, 1932. Henri Cartier-Bresson.

Can you spot the ‘relationship’ in the photo above? Jumping right out at the viewer is the relationship between the man and his silhouette. Looking closer, you’ll also notice the close resemblance between the ballerina on the poster in the background, and the leaping motion of the man.

Women outside a mosque, Kunduz, 2003. Steve McCurry.

The ‘relationships’ aren’t limited to physical shapes, either. Steve McCurry, in his photo above,  captures the subtle interplay of color and form. As the two women walk past the window of the mosque, two men are seen praying inside. McCurry snaps the shutter at exactly the right moment: the woman in blue is directly in line with the man in blue, and the woman in white is directly in line with the man in white. What’s the implication of such a photo? The photo has done the initial prompting, and the viewer can draw their own conclusions.

Keep calm and keep walking. I’ve tried to establish links and relationships in this photo, but of course, this photo is a very mediocre stab at being nuanced and subtle!

4. Hunting is good. Creating is even better.

Often I find myself roaming ceaselessly on the streets, hunting for that decisive moment that would ‘make’ the photo. Sometimes, though, I have to remind myself that hunting is a bit of a passive activity – there’s too much luck involved, even though a good eye is of course also important. Creating, instead of hunting, might be the better, more active alternative. Instead of hunting for the perfect moment, try to wait and create it.

5. D is for Detail.

Untitled, 1969. Henri Cartier-Bresson.

Sometimes, it’s the tiniest of details that brings a photo to life. The dog, staring up at the kissing couple, adds a whole new dimension to the photo. I have to constantly remind myself to look out for details: dogs, expressions, shadows, road signs…little things that spice up the photo.

Behind the church of Saint-Sulpice, 1932. Henri Cartier-Bresson.

I love this photo. It gets me cracking every time I see it. It could probably fall under the heading of  ‘Look for likeness. Seek out similarity’ as well, but I’ve put it here because of Cartier-Bresson’s meticulous attention to detail here. He could well have just focused on the two dogs having sex, but instead he noticed the detail of the two other dogs in the lower corner, and included them in the photo.

6. D is for Diagonals.

You’ve probably heard of the rule of thirds. Well, there’s also diagonals as well. In fact, I think diagonals are just as, if not more important, than the rule of thirds. Adam Marelli goes into a lot more detail in his wonderful post here.

Untitled, 1953. Henri Cartier-Bresson. Notice how the photo is composed along the diagonal lines.

7. Don’t hesitate.

All too often, I see someone I desperately want to take a photo of, and yet am freaked out by the idea of them noticing me…There’s not a lot I can do about this, really, apart from practicing relentlessly to overcome this illogical fear!

Have you got a little mental checklist of your own? Is there anything I should add? Please leave your ideas in the comments below! 

Sources: 

The Photographer’s Vision: Understanding and Appreciating Great Photography by Michael Freeman
Henri Cartier-Bresson: À Propos de Paris by Henri Cartier-Bresson
In the Shadow of Mountains by Steve McCurry





Together Now…

25 07 2012

A quick post today.

As the fiery wrath of Typhoon Vincente subsided, I quickly grabbed my camera and headed out to do a short photowalk around Causeway Bay and Wanchai. A faint drizzle made the photographing a little cumbersome: one hand on the umbrella, one hand on the camera, all the while trying not to get the camera wet and avoiding the pink tint which my umbrella was casting on close-up subjects.

Finally, I managed to land one satisfactory shot on a little side lane in Wanchai. This old couple was walking towards me…I was about to take a hip shot, and yet missed the moment, perhaps too apprehensive of how they would respond to the loud ‘clack’ of my shutter in this eerily quiet alleyway.

D’oh! They walked past me, and all that was in view were their boring backsides. It seemed as if I had missed the moment.

Slightly dejected, I took the camera up to my eye anyway, and snapped a shot. I liked it. It seems like I hadn’t missed the moment after all!

Together Now…





Running, Walking & Getting Lost to Find Venice

22 07 2012

This is the first in a series of articles about my recent trip to Italy. Enjoy!

My favourite photo from Venice: Hierarchy?

Venice: supposedly the most romantic city in the world.

I’m not much of a romantic, but I can sure tell you another thing about Venice: it’s an absolute nightmare to navigate! Forget the tourist maps – they won’t help you much. You’ll spend so long squinting at those darned blindingly miniscule alley names that by the time you’ve figured out where you are, it’s probably time to go home. And those yellow street signs, forever pointing you to San Marco and the Rialto? Sometimes they work, but I’m convinced that more often than not, they’re conspiring against all of us tourists, pointing us around in endless circles, laughing at us while we wander around like headless chickens, hopelessly lost.

Ditch the map. Go for a run.

Don’t get me wrong, I like Venice. But to really get a taste of this lagoon city, I decided to ditch the map, un-bury my face from all guidebooks, and just go wherever my running shoes took me. After all, what is it really that we want to take from our travels? Memories, sure, but what are memories? The view of Venice from the lagoon, the tourist-filled Piazza San Marco, the gondolas and their oarsmen (which, perhaps a little harshly, AA Gill describe as “unsmiling…a cross between a pork butcher and a French mime”) – all these are fine memorable views, but also views that every other tourist will see, whether personally or on postcards. What I want to take from my travels are more than just memories of these mass-produced views. I want to make make these memories mine, to attach to the views my own emotions.

This is what I will remember.

I will remember the endless winding narrow alleyways and the ubiquitious presence of calm waters; I will remember the way one emerges from a claustrophobic alley, hemmed in by buildings on both sides, out into a majestic square, and likewise retreat from the buzz of San Marco into one of the many quiet streets. I will also remember the soothing sun rays at dawn and at dusk, caressing the brick walls and cobblestones with its slanting, casting walls a vivid red, leaving a slither of gold here and there.

Beware the tourist traps!  

There is also, of course, the less beautiful side of Venice: the hordes of tourists everywhere. It’s ironic that I should say this, because as a tourist myself I’m part of the very horde that I so despise. The main tourist traps are Venice at its worst: tacky restaurants with menu turistico‘s in seven different languages, displayed together with unflattering photos of their food taken with harsh and direct flash; store after store selling you I Love Venice baseball caps, t-shirts with cliched memes, ‘Not-Made-In-China’ masks and other crappy touristy paraphernalia.

Don’t just ‘do’ Venice. Make it yours.

How was I to go about touring Venice, avoiding the tourist traps and unearthing the city’s inner beauty? Ditch the maps, chuck out the guidebooks, avoid the crowds. In short, eschew the conventional Venetian tourist checklist for something more spontaneous, self-directed and self-created. I would walk wherever my walking shoes escorted me, run wherever my running shoes took me, and explore wherever the geocaches pointed me! I had my qualms about this at first; after all, how can you say you have ‘done’ Venice until all the big name, ‘must-see’ attractions have been ticked off? This was a little quandary in which I found myself, but I also quickly found reconciliation in thinking that this was the real way to journey, the real way to create lasting, personal, emotionally rich memories.

So, here are a few of my favourite photos from Venice, taken during my map-free runs and walks. You can also view them on my Flickr page here.

Also, some questions to consider – I would love to hear your responses!

Have you been to Venice? Some say that you either hate it or love it. What did you think of it?

What are your thoughts about travel? Why do we travel?  What is the purpose of travel?

Venetian Archways

A Narrow Lane in Venice

Peekaboo! Hide and Seek in Venice?

Made in Venice…not China!

A Venetian Street

View From A Hidden Street

Venice at Dusk

A Street Cleaner in Venice

Along the Venetian Shore

Piazza San Marco, Venice…early in the morning, without the tourists!

Ponte dell’ Accademia, Venice





Tai O: Photographing the Venice of Hong Kong

26 03 2012

Tai O, the quaint little fishing village at the tip of Lantau Island, is often called the Venice of Hong Kong – and not without good reason. Although weekends bring hoards of tourists to the village, some careful poking around with a camera will reveal the rich character of the area.





Everybody was Kung Fu Fighting…

13 03 2012

As part of Project Week, a yearly week-long excursion that forms part of our United World Colleges education, I led a trip up to the city of Dengfeng – home to the mighty Mt. Song and the world famous birthplace of kung fu, the Shaolin Temple – where we experienced a week of intensive kung fu training. Here are some photos to tell the tale of our kung fu endeavours…

Here you see kids at the Shaolin E-Po Wushu School. These students would be running around everywhere during recess, practicing their kicks and punches and just generally developing very good stamina and agility without realising it! It was amazing to see how disciplined they all were – at one point we saw a line of about 10 boys, all squatting down on and moving slowly across the school yard, carefully picking up dirt from between the floor tiles.

Our daily training schedule was quite similar to theirs, although the intensity of our sessions would probably pale in comparison. Here’s a taste of a day’s training:

At 5:30am every morning we would quickly warm up, then go out into the cold and run along the empty streets of Dengfeng. All along the way we would see other students running in perfect formation, chanting ‘1, 1, 1-2-1’ in immaculate unison while we fumbled along, each running at our own speeds. Then we would return to the training center for some stretching, kicks and agility exercise, finishing up at around 6:45am.

Our second training session would begin at 9:00am until 11:30am. Again we would warm up, jog around the mat, stretch, kick, do lots of jumps and spins, and move on to practicing our routine. Stretching is a big part of each session…as is the pain that comes along with it!

After a quick lunch and perhaps a stroll around town we begin our last training session of the day at 2:00pm till 4:30pm. This would be very similar to the 9:00am session and afterwards we would all stay behind, playing around with various jumps, flips and kicks. By 9pm most of us will be fast asleep in bed, ready to start at 5:30am the next morning all over again!

We arrived on Sunday and as there is no training, we visited the Shaolin Temple.For some of us it was the first time to see snow…

The excitement as some of us touch snow for the first time!

Up we go to visit the Dharma Cave, climbing up large concrete steps. The Mt. Song mountain range stretched before us, the Shaolin Temple slowly diminished in size below us, and the landscape became progressively more snowy. Hmm…very Zen like.

A nice warm up for the coming week of intensive training!

Bodhidharma supposedly meditated in this cave for nine years, facing a wall and not speaking for the entire time. Talk about being patient and profound!

Here you have Leila practicing a kung fu stance (pu bu) on a tree.

On the second last day of the trip, we visited the Song Yang Academy and also did a short hike up to the entrance of the Songshan National Park. Halfway up the hike there was a little house, where some villagers were burning offerings for their ancestors, while others huddled around cooking noodles for lunch. This lady gave me the glare as I tried to peep in through the doorway…She seems to be telling me, ‘Tourist, you shall not pass!’.

At the Songyang Academy, we all walked around a small pond three times. Folklore has it that doing so will get you top grades. Naturally, we all dropped our bags down and proceeded to circle the pond three times.

This is our instructor Coach Jia’s two year old son. We asked him whether he would have his son practice kung fu, and he told us that it would really be up to his son to decide whether he liked kung fu or not. It’s interesting to see a  liberal parenting mindset as this coming from our coach, who has been practicing kung fu for 20 years. A helpful reminder that not all Chinese parents are Tiger Mums or Eagle Dads!