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.

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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…





A Few Street Shots Around Hong Kong

29 01 2012

A nice Sunday morning – time to stroll around town and look for stories.

Do let me know what your favourite photo is – why does it work for you? I’d also love to know which photos didn’t work out so well, and why.

You can also look at the photos my Flickr photostream.





Capturing Life.

29 01 2012

A Man on the Street (click for better quality). Focused oblivion. My favourite photograph of the week - hopefully there will be more successful street photos to come!

Quite simply, street photography has an irresistible allure.

The excitement, anticipation, unpredictability.

The prospect of observing everything around you and documenting snippets of action here and there. The idea of looking for a story and telling it with the powerful visual medium we call photography.

The concept that life flows all around us at any given second, and that the mere click of a shutter – timed correctly (if you can call it that), framed skillfully, composed perceptively – can capture it.

Using some of my red pocket money collected over this Chinese New Year and a generous  sponsorship from my Dad , I went out to Wanchai today and bought myself a long-coveted Nikon 35mm f1.8G prime lens. I expect to use it a lot in my coming street-photography adventures!

I also just stumbled across a video titled ‘How We Do STREET PHOTOGRAPHY in Hong Kong’ – it’s absolutely inspiring, thoroughly informative and very encouraging. I think it’s safe to say that I may just be falling in love with it. In fact, there are about 14 more such videos that I have yet to watch. Exciting stuff!