Monday, December 15, 2008


What makes a good portrait? This is a question often asked, many answered, more didn't. Is it about the person in the image? The light? The composition? Chemistry between the photographer and the model? A bit of everything? Or not?
I made this image for a young model, Kate, using a new Sinar Hy6 6X6 camera fitted with a 33-million-pixels Sinar eMotion 75 digital back. The lens which helped capture this beautiful image is the well known Carl Zeiss 120/4 Makro Planar.
What makes a good portrait? Human is an emotional creature, the emotion inside the model's brain reflect on her face, story told in her eyes, subtle yet sensible change happening in milliseconds, photographer pressed the shutter at the moment it captures something, and often missed more. I made pictures for many people, often many pictures for each of them, it is very seldom many people like the same picture, in particular, often the model likes the picture different from the one picked by the photographer, but is it strange? No, not at all, at least I am used to it.
The neural system in our brain works so fast and we often did not know it actual works. We often look at a picture and in that instant, we might smell the person in picture, feel her skin texture, share her happiness, or her sorrow, or uncertainty. Or we like the jewel the model wears, imagine how will the same jewel on ourselves, and what is the fabric of her dress? How soft? Is she really look at the lens? Or she was trying to look thru it to find the eye behind the viewfinder? Or something? Too many things happened in the instant of image capture, and as many things happened at the instant that one looked at the picture.
So does it matter what makes a good portrait? May be we should not try to define such answer, or because the answer is already in each one's mind?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

SEAL Table

This is a table I designed in late 2007 and went into production by the end of 2007 and continue to 2008. The name of this table comes from sea and land, which suggests the intend use of this table.
I started the design to try to offer a solution of a all terrain table, especially for use on beachside, garden, swimming pool side and certainly indoors. So the choice of material quite naturally set to use a marine grade stainless steel, SUS316L so it can withstand weathering, and the design itself is to transform the tri-table-leg into table top, to allow the true all-terrain use. Fabricating the table is no easy task, to reach a larger footprint, the table leg is slightly stretched out to allow the connecting angle in a direction that require extra precision cut for the hollow, cone shape table leg, and weld them together to form the table top, which is using 2.5mm thick 316L steel. The SEAL Table is not light, but the entire design to make it an all terrain use was also to enable it to float on water, with the weight it balanced to a level that the table is more useful, on clear water, about 100 mm above the surface of water. The displacement of water keeps the table afloat, and in order to reach a perfect balance, the fabrication of the hollow leg require the degree of control beyond most common fabricators' ability, but it is quite fascination to see how it work on water. And of course, it is also quite pleasing to see it stand along as a design object.
This image is one of the advertising I made for this table, with the lovely model, Magaritta, laying on the floor with her leg across the table legs, holding a wine glass while licking the chocolate dripping from the able top, a lovely yet sexy presentation, at least it is to me. The direction of the image is of course to present the table, but more or less to use the model and set up of the image to soften and warm up the cold stainless steel.
The image was taken using the Phase One P45+ digital back of 29 million pixels resolution attached to my beloved Contax 645 camera mounted with Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar 45-90mm lens.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Motion of Fashion

The fashion image is often the result of a solution to many obstacles.  As we often do in industrial design, if we can't hide it, then we feature it.  
I shot this image for a Halloween promotion, and I have three international models to shot, and of course the costume, hair and make-up to match. Problems, one female model was 3-4 inches less than the other female model, and much less than the male model; so in order to compose a balanced picture, one has to wear high heel while the other two with bare feet. The costume is also rather weak to portrait the desired Halloween look, so I have to divert the attention of the costume and to reduce its final visual impact, especially the cloak. 
The result, as presented in the final image, is to have the shortest model to bring motion into the picture, and the motion, was the weakest costume, which in any case, won't be seen much if wore by the male model.  I shot a small sequence of 6-7 images with the shortest model flipping the cloak to capture the cloak in the right position of the image so I can put a cooperate logo of the company who hired me for the work, as well as to hide the high heel she was wearing.
Motion in a still picture is a frequent used option, just as motion pictures often use slow motion to try to present the sense of freezing the moment, in order to bring the audience to a mode that they can have enough time to share the same emotion of objects in the picture.  As the case with the final image, a slower shutter speed was use to give a bit of blur effect to the cloak, while try to maintain the models in good sharpness.  Very little Photoshop was applied; at most, it was the blood.  Camera in use was Phase One P45+ fitted on Contax 645, with Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar 45-90mm.
The final image is far from what was planed.  
Today's commercial work, quite sadly, has in large part neglected or simply don't understand the photographer's role as the creative master.  In stead, many so called creative people or directors try to involve in the process, few made positive contributions, more made it worse, some are simply useless, and all of them at the same time try to tell photographer what to do??  Photography to me is about the man and the subject, with the camera or other media the tool to capture what is in the mind of the photographer. Of course, as the case of fashion photography, the model plays an important role, as thru the expressions and postures, he or she help deliver more depth and dimension to the final image. 
The image was in such a hurry, it gives little time to prepare anything. No time to cast the model, not enough time to get the appropriate costume, and the final image needs to deliver few hours after the production.  Is there luck?  Hardly any.  It is the result of a photographer to use his or her imagination, communicate to the model, fix the problem at the spot, and finish the picture in minutes.  Is this the best result possible?  Certainly not!  There are countless talented photographers can come in, solve the problems in each own way and create the final image in different perspective and execution, and probably all equally good or better.  
What do I try to explain, quite simply, the term photography and photographer came from the same root and they cannot be separate. 

Friday, November 21, 2008

Spring Chair

This is one of my favorite designs.  I did it 2 years ago as a part of series design using similar concept.  The chair made use of SUS304 stainless steel, a material known to be resilience, strong and rigid, but perhaps I also made the chair looks warm and soft.  And in deed it works very well. The chair using single 1.2mm thick steel sheet and partly welded together to result of chair very strong, yet flexible enough for one to sit in and feel very comfortable. 
I took this picture myself earlier this year for a advertising campaign for our clients and collectors, using a Phase One P45+ back fitted on Contax 645.  In order to portrait the chair and the lovely and perfectly proportioned Lithuanian model, Margarita, in perfect harmony, I choose to shoot the picture in silhouette, with strong backlit, to give the overall picture a soft yet pronounced presentation.  And of course, Margarita did her job well!  Also to be reviewed via SOTA BITI


An image took in SoHo, New York, while walking across the street, this image stop me. I pause (not a wise thing to do while across the street) and took this image with a Contax TV-S compact digital camera.  What intrigued me was the lines on the building kind of merging with the trees, and the traffic sign pole, the color, and I said to myself, what a picture. I really did not take the picture, I just record it.
As a photographer, or just as any traveller in his journey of life, everything before the eyes is a picture.  It can be quite surprising to see how blessed we are as human being, with the technology capable of recording moment in life into a timeless image and able to share with other billions.  
The original image was captured in JPEG with a compact, 4 million pixels digital Contax TV-S camera, blown up to a 24" image when I have the exhibition in National Gallery, still with pleasing quality. As most true photographers often say, it is abut the quality of vision, not the number of pixels and its resolution.  It is a waste not to shoot picture often than to invest too much into tools that does not produce images.

Why this blog?

I hope by hosting this blog will give a better detail and perspective of the designs and images I create in daily life. I did not originally study design, nor photography, but you don't need teacher for that, you just need passion and persistence, just like any relationship.  There are insightful materials I wish to share with those having common interest on something I did, or they did.
Creation is not a job, it is an experience and a journey, and with luck someone can get paid by doing it.  I am among the lucky ones.  
With this blog, I will share with you the technical aspect of the designs and photographs I did, and the creation path of them.