Same Neighborhood. 40 years.

•October 6, 2009 • Leave a Comment

One thing I know about street photography is you have to really know the neighborhood to capture the essence of the place. And if you can spend 40 years at the same city shooting the street you definitely will be able to find it, also for the fact that you will gain 40 years of photography experience !

In this post a previous unknown photographer walked into Columbia College Photo Department to ask the chair to look at his portfolio:

One day in 2004, Bob Thall, chair of Chicago’s Columbia College Photo Department, was met at his office by a rather unusual visitor. Amid the usual young students was a middle-aged man with a paper shopping bag. Thall’s secretary told him that the man said he had some photos to show someone. Thall invited the man into his office where he introduced himself as Gary Stochl. He told Thall that he had been doing photography for forty years but hadn’t really shown his work to anyone. He thought Columbia College’s photo department was a good place to start.

What a start! After browsing some of the approximately 300 loose prints from Stochl’s shopping bag Thall abandoned his afternoon schedule and instead, with some of his colleagues, spent the next two hours reviewing the rest. Those black and white prints captured on downtown Chicago’s streets since the 1960s were some of the best street photographs he had ever seen. According to Stochl he had become inspired by studying the work of Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Frank during high school in the 1960s. He bought a Leica and took to the streets of downtown Chicago to find his own style. He had been photographing mostly in this same area continuously ever since.

This story is inspiring on so many levels. Here is an amateur photographer who pursue his passion only because he loves it, and can keep at it for 40 years. Also because this proves that you don’t need any formal education to become great in photography, only prerequisite being your passion.

You can buy Gary Stochl’s photo book from here.

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Colorful City

•September 27, 2009 • Leave a Comment
Colorful City

Colorful City

Under the correct light this city can be quite colorful. As long as the modern architectural style rendering every building to be made of steel and glass.

Old Neighborhood

•September 13, 2009 • Leave a Comment
Old Neighborhood in Wan Chai, Hong Kong

Old Neighborhood in Wan Chai, Hong Kong

Someone will see these older communities in Hong Kong and want to raze it and build new high rise apartment complexes. I wish Hong Kong real estate developers and especially the Hong Kong government will learn from European countries about how to re-vitalize old communities without knocking everything down.

(Please don’t tell me about Hong Kong Government needs the space to build more affordable housing for the increasing population. The nearby neighborhood’s housing price jumps from $3000 HKD per sq. ft. to $9000 HKD after it was “renovated”. Hardly the change they are advertising will happen.)

It is dangerous to play here …

•September 7, 2009 • Leave a Comment
It is dangerous to play here ...

It is dangerous to play here ...

Panasonic Lumix GF1

•September 3, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Panasonic Lumix GF1

Panasonic finally release the sister camera of Olympus’ EP-1. The GF1 has a couple of features the EP-1 doesn’t have:

  • Faster autofocus and AF subject tracking
  • Higher resolution screen (twice as many dots)
  • Built in flash
  • Optional Viewfinder

All of which (well … maybe except the screen, I don’t care about the resolution) are exactly the gripes I have with the EP-1. Now this camera has become my primarily choice of a DMD camera.

AF System

As a DMD camera AF speed is going to be critical, for-the-moment street shots don’t allow photographers lots of time to focus. Most of the time you don’t even have time to bring the camera to your eye, and have to shoot by the hip. AF system is critical in this situation.

Built-in flash

As a party / clubbing camera, flash is a must in those “dungeons”. Even as a street camera or carry-everywhere one. A bit of fill flash from time to time will improve the shot a lot. Olympus says it is impossible to put a flash in that body, Pany proved it otherwise.

Optional Electronic Viewfinder

Throughout the whole history of digital compact camera, I have never adjusted to shoot using just the rear LCD screen. So an EVF is a must for me. The optical VF for the EP-1 is just a poor substitute to a true through-the-lens viewfinder. So thank you Panasonic for making one.

Tram Station

•August 20, 2009 • Leave a Comment
Tram Station

Tram Station

Weekday. On a hot summer night. Everybody would be anxious to go home, so where is the bloody tram !!

New Nikon cameras and the trend in camera industry

•August 7, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Nikon has released a couple of new digicams this week. I won’t bored you with the detail spec (You can get it from dpreview.com). I will just talk about the features that catch my attention.

Coolpix S1000pj – The selling point for this camera is obviously the projector built into the camera. You can play back both still photos or videos from this camera onto any flat surface. Definitely a neat party trick, and much easier to share pictures around a group than passing the camera around.

Coolpix S70 – The first digicam to be completely controlled by a touch screen OLED display in the back. People who use an iPhone will have no trouble at all operating this camera. Swipe / Pinch / Scroll action you are used to on the iPhone will work just fine on this camera.

Coolpix S640/S570 – Ultra fast startup and autofocus is always a plus in P&S. The new “Smart Portrait” and “Skin Softening” feature is interesting. Basically the camera will actually help you to frame a portrait photo, and will automatically soften skin tone. Good feature for general end user since they have even less reason to mess with Photoshop, bad news for professional photographers because once customers are used to this kind of features from P&S, their demands for pros will be even higher !

For once I am impressed with what Nikon has done to their P&S lineup, for a couple of product cycles Nikon has been producing me-too cameras with no differentiators against other brands (Canon for premium quality P&S, Panasonic for ultra lens and interesting format (i.e. LX3), Ricoh for making pro level P&S).

The trend for Nikon seems to be focus more and more on the software side in the P&S lineup, which might be a wise decision as you can only do so much with new hardware spec (while within a certain price point). One area I still hope Nikon can focus on is the network connectivity of their cameras (i.e. Auto upload to Flickr / Facebook ?)