Thursday, February 28, 2013

Pic(k) of the week 9: The Streets of Hong Kong

The last 48 hours I've spent on the Streets of Hong Kong... Well not really, I did get a hotel room for my 2 night stay! 

After New York, Hong Kong is probably the best city for good old street photography!
Since I got my Sexy-1 (officially the FujiFilm X-E1), I kind of rediscovered the art of street photography. Most of my Street Photography work is in Black and White, however sometimes colour seems to work just better. A typical example is this shot of a student walking home in front of a HKG Fire station.

Even though the British gave Hong Kong back to China in 1997, this vibrant city in the Far-East, still feels very different from mainland China. 

2013 Pic(k) of the week 9: The streets of Hong Kong

The image above of people waiting at a tram station, was shot at night from across the street on Hennessy road in the Causeway Bay area of Hong Kong island. I was especially attracted to the background of the hundreds of small portraits. 

Image details:
Sexy-1 (Fujifilm X-E1) with the 18-55 lens
ISO 640, 49mm, f3.6, 1/50s
Lightroom 4.4. RC for RAW development
Nik SilverEfex 2 for Black and White conversion

My full "The Streets of Hong Kong" series can be found here.

Lastly for all of you shooting with any of the FujiFilm X series (X-Pro1, X-E1, X-100...); Adobe just released the Lightroom 4.4. RC. This version of the software now supports the X-Trans sensor 100%. The update is a must have for all you X-series fans out there! A download link can be found here.

Remember; "What I like about photographs is that it captures a moment that is gone forever, impossible to reproduce" - Karl Lagerfeld


Saturday, February 23, 2013

A village that always sleeps - Jazirat al Hamra

One of my long time photography projects in the UAE, has been documenting the decay of the abandoned village, Jazirat al Hamra North of Dubai. Earlier this month, I launched on my yearly trek to Al Hamra. Over the last three years these shoots have grown into a significant body of work, which can be found in its own dedicated gallery; " A village that never sleeps".

"Deserted about forty years ago, Jazirat Al Hamra (arabic for Red island) is one of the only complete villages of its kind, still standing in the Gulf Region, which gives a glimpse of what life was like before the discovery of oil.

Situated only a short distance off the main highway running between Ras Al Khaimah city and the Al Hamra development and only a few kilometers from the Al Hamra Mall, the village is not readily spotted from the road. But once pointed in the right direction, one quickly arrives at its outer edge, where an old fort and tower watch in eerie silence over empty streets and abandoned buildings, some at least a century old. 

Mosques, shops, and houses – with courtyards overrun by vegetation and quaint features like star windows, wind-towers, and carved doors – all lie in varying states of decay and disrepair. Beyond the tower, the main village paths meander through the town towards the sea and eventually converge in a town square of sorts, where the souk – a handful of stores and open-front shop buildings – was located. 

Some of the most interesting buildings in the town can be found here, including a school, several small mosques, complete with a tiny, crudely-shaped minaret tower and a large house with wind-catchers, where a well-to-do merchant lived. Once home to a thriving pearling and fishing community, the town’s proximity and relationship to the sea is evident everywhere, on the sandy pathways with shells and coral strewn all about, as well as the very buildings themselves, which were made from coral and bricks of sand and shell. Traditionally, pearling was a major source of income for Ras Al Khaimah’s coastal towns, and Jazirat al Hamra’s location, believed to have been inhabited since at least the 16th century, was abandoned only in the latter half of the 20th century, after the decline of the pearl trade. 

Varying accounts exist as to why the village was deserted. Some tell of a dispute between the tribe residing there and local authorities, which resulted in the tribe appealing to Sheikh Zayed and moving to Abu Dhabi after the formation of the UAE; while others claim that the town was gradually deserted, with most of its inhabitants moving away simply because they were attracted by the job opportunities, lifestyle and conveniences found in larger cities and modern housing communities. Its inhabitants may be gone, but Jazirat Al Hamra is not forgotten. 

Occasionally former residents still living in the area can be found gathering in the souk area with old friends and companions and are often happy to point out their former homes, reminisce, and share fond memories of the place they once called home as well as their fears for its future. Not an official tourist site, the town occupies an enviable portion of waterfront property and is threatened by the modern developments encroaching on it from all sides. For this reason, many of the families who still own property in the town are reluctant to sell, and some wish that the town’s value as an important historical / heritage site would be officially recognised, before it disappears forever. Over the last 18 months, part of the village has been cleaned up and is occasionally used as a heritage site. 

Most of the major paths in the village are wide enough for cars, but four wheel drive vehicles are recommended, as portions of the area are covered with soft sand. 

The site is quite large, with diverse types of architecture from different decades, and photography and history buffs alike could easily find themselves taking several hours to explore it all. But those visiting close to sunset are warned to beware – It is said that the Djinn, who dwell there now, emerge at night fall"... 

Wanting to document the past, at some stage this body of work will probably end up in a self-published book...


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Pic(k) of the week 8: Desertscape

What is a "Desertscape" ? The dictionary tells me - a pictorial representation of a scenic view of a desert -

A few days ago, I felt the need for some good old fashioned landscape photography... Grabbed my trusty Nikon D800 with the 70-200 and jumped into my 4x4, heading Eastbound. Even though I pretty much live on the edge of the desert in Dubai, I tend to shoot more urban landscapes than desert ones.

2013 Pic(k) of the week 8: Desertscape

The image above was made near Fossil Rock, a small mountain range in the middle of the desert where one can find lots of fossils. Because I was travelling "single car", I was pretty much limited to the paved roads and harder sand tracks. Still, it was a very relaxing afternoon with loads of photography fun!

Image details:
Nikon D800 with the 70-200 2.8 VR2 lens
ISO400, 165mm, 11, 1/400s
RAW development in Lightroom 4.3
ColorEfex for contrast and color adjustment

To see more of my "Desertscapes" click here.

Off now to "The city that never sleeps", (New York), for some good old fashioned "Street Photography".

Remember what Ansel Adams once said; "To the complaint, there are no people in these photographs, I respond, there are always two people; the photographer and the viewer"


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Saturday, February 16, 2013

Sharjah Light Festival 2013

Personally for me, one of the few negatives of living in the Gulf region, has been the lack of quality Art and Cultural exhibits. Over the years this is slowly but surely improving with events like Art Dubai, Abu Dhabi Art Fair and plenty of new galleries who try to put the UAE on the Art map.

Sharjah Light Festival 2013

The Emirate of Sharjah, just North of Dubai, has over the years promoted itself as the Cultural and Educational center of the UAE. One of its newer events has been the yearly "Sharjah Light Festival", which this year was held from February 7 till 15. It was the first time, I attended this 9-day event and was pleasantly surprised with the variety of the installations.

Sharjah Light Festival 2013

Sharjah Light Festival 2013

Artists have been asked to light up a dozen or so different locations. One of them is the Noor Mosque above. 

Sharjah Light Festival 2013

One of the installations which was quite different, was the "Plasticiens Volants" at the Central Souq. Giant balloons in the shape of sea creatures, could be seen flying around the park area next to the souq.

Sharjah Light Festival 2013

Sharjah Light Festival 2013

Lastly we spend some time at the Al Majaz Park fountain light-show. Sharjah has always had a fair amount of free outdoor parks and Al Majaz is probably its prime example. Let that be an example for some of the other Emirates!

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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Pic(k) of the week 7: Stairway to heaven - Academy of Fine Arts Munich

Having an Architect in the family (my wife is one...) surely has developed my appreciation for good Architecture. The last 5 years, we have spend the first day of our yearly ski-holiday, in the Bavarian capital, Munich. Having the afternoon to explore part of the city, I left it to her to come up with a few interesting places to visit. Just like every year, she did not disappoint!

Our first stop was an off the beaten track contemporary church, built in 2000. A few images of this beautiful mix of glass and wood structure, called "Herz-Jesu Kirche", can be found here.

Using the U-bahn (metro/subway), I was pleasantly surprised by the beauty of some of the stations. This is surely something, I will try to photograph more extensively in 2013!

Before dinner, we stopped at the Munich Academy of Fine Arts, which just happened to have an open door, the night we were there. Next to its 19th century Venetian Renaissance wings, the complex also has a brand new Modern wing. 

2013 Pic(k) of the week 7: Stairway to heaven - Munich Academy of Fine Arts

The image above, of one of the spiral staircases shot from below, makes for an interesting perspective.

FujiFilm X-E1 (Sexy-1) with the 18-55 
ISO1600, 33mm, f5.6, 1/20s
RAW development in Lightroom 4.3
SilverEfex for Black and White conversion

Please take your time to visit my complete Munich photo gallery.

Remember; "An escalator can never break, it can only become stairs" - Mitch Hedberg

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Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Pic(k) of the week 6: Shooting the streets of Dubai

One of the reasons I bought the new FujiFilm X-E1 (alias Sexy-1) a few months ago, was to shoot more "Street Photography". For the ones unfamiliar with the term, lets revisit what "Street Photography" really is: 

First of all, it is something we easily throw out there but also equally struggle with to clearly define. Wikipedia's definition is: a style of documentary photography that features subjects in candid situations in public situations such as streets, parks, beaches, etc... No it doesn't necessarily need to be shot on a street! Probably the most known and important Street Photographer was Henri Cartier-Bresson. A link to his best known work can be found here.

My personal definition of Street Photography is when a photographer tries to capture a daily person(s) life without making them pose, often by shooting candid images. Although not a must, Black and White is well suited for Street Photography, especially when shooting midday in harsh light. 

One of the things I really like about Street Photography is the fact that one never knows what he/she will come home with... Some days produce no images, others plenty! 

2013 Pic(k) of the week 6: Street Photography in Dubai

While wondering around the Dubai Creek area last week, I had one of these better days. Sitting on a bench in Deira, watching the world go by, this older gentleman sat down next to me and started having a small snack. While I pretended playing with my camera settings, I made a few candid portraits.  I really like how he looks into the lens without realising his picture has been taken. Street Photography at its best!

Out of respect for the local culture, I'm careful not doing this same technique with Arabic women. 

Needless to say that smaller and quieter cameras like the Fuji are almost a must for this kind of photography. 

Image details:
FujiFilm X-E1 with the 18-55
ISO1600, 61mm, f4, 1/240s
In camera RAW conversion to jpeg
Lightroom 4.3. added vignette and light spilt tone

More than 150 of my best Street Photography images can be found my typing "Street photography" in the Find box on my site. I've done this for you here.

Lastly another great thing about this type of photography is that Street Photographers generally like to share and give things away for free. I therefore would like you to discover the following free eBooks written by two of the present day best street photogs:

Remember; "If your pictures aren't good enough, you aren't close enough" - Robert Capa