Sunday, February 15, 2009

Snap Shot Revisited

I made this picture using a compact Sigma DP-1 camera, an otherwise unique camera for its Foveon sensor and its size for camera of this size.  I was on the ferry departed from Surat Thani to Samui Island a few days earlier, on the deck, I saw the distant ferry cruises in the subtle morning mist, I made this color but appeared more like mono tone image. 
Though of much debate, there are much less people still argue over whether today's DSLR capable of producing better image than those film counter part, in my point of view, they certainly do.  But perhaps Sigma DP-1 is the first compact camera to break the quality barrier that rival those little film gems such as my old Contax T2/T3.  
It really make snap shots during travel a joy. 

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Snap Shot

This was a quick snap shot in Doi Maedaman, one of my most visited place over the last decade or so. A remote Hmong village in northern Thailand, quiet, beautiful and peaceful. It was a normal New Year's Day, yet a colorful set up, by the light, the old roof, the straws, blue sky and a rooster, a natural set up. There are beautiful things happened everyday, it is there and we just need to sense it. Taken using a Canon G9, nice to have a pocket camera with you at all times.

Friday, February 6, 2009

The Original and The Another

Most of my time still spend on industrial design, for home furnishing, appliance or for some public furniture and architecture fittings. When we look around, we found usually the competitor is ourselves. And this does not implicate that we are the best one available, we are among the very good ones but we can't say and we are not the best.
As I often tell the designers or engineers who works for me or work with me, I do not require the best one to work for me, in stead, I am willing to work for the best one. And one does not need to be best to deliver excellent jobs, especially I still prefer people to work as a team rather than play individually. But what does not need?
The decision! The decision to be excellent!
The picture illustrate the Pinna M Wine Rack, one of my most recognizable designs. I designed it in early 2006, with the original Pinna, and file the design pattern in US and EC and got the pattern approved in mid 2007. The Pinna M is a diversion but close resemble of the original Pinna, which still sells well, particular in Italy.
It was originally a commissioned work from a wooden product manufacturer to design something unique, requiring high skill (obvious to avoid common competitors), and can be finished in exceptional quality to ask for premium. I receive the request, looked at my desk where somehow an empty wine glass was there, so I say "OK, I will do a wine rack!", and the design is finished practically in minutes.
I must admit I am not a genius, I read slow, and often need to read twice or more to remember something I want to remember. Come to design, I often spend a lot of time just to cooking the idea in my mind, sometimes months before the vague picture became clear and I can start to draw or to draft it. So I got lucky with the Pinna wine rack? Not really!
I have made a decision to design a wine rack, so I ask the common specification of the wood cutting from the manufacturer, the width, the thickness and the length and so on. At the same time, I am also determined to defy the common, be different and useful in more than one way. And I really have little choice but to settle on what I eventually designed.
Is it easy, yes, for this one. Because the common wine rack/storage were all around a horizontal display or shelf, which when the system builds up, you don't really know what you have there. Going horizontally, you always require more space, so the decision to be different gives me a clear direction - to go vertically. And with the limitation on wood, the purpose to also display the wine label, I arrived at what I designed. And when look back, this is really easy. And the difficult part, make the right decision to be original and different, and make sense.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Cat and the decising moment

Study history gives me a different perspective and may be different definition about moments.
Many great photographers, some of those were the most memorable and known photojournalists, icons, great many people praised for their images of capturing the deciding moment, me around them.
And why this article?
A slice from a drilled ice cylinder from the frozen land of Greenland, scientists are able to study the weather, the composition of atmosphere, some life pattern on earth backdate to hundreds of centuries or millennium ago, or even much older. Assemble many of those slices, the scientists may be able to draw a convincing history of climate pattern on earth of the given period of time. Study of history told us where we came from, and hopefully gives a clearer guide as where we are going to. And so the deciding moment, does it necessarily more important than what happened a moment ago or later? Or what happened is a freezing moment not matter to what was captured but who captured it. A powerful image is powerful because it has the magic to knock on our heart, to coax our emotion and we felt the sensation. Like a Mona Lisa smile, does it really matter Da Vinci portrait her the most deciding moment? Probably not, but does it matter?
This picture, taken with a Leica M8 with the unique Carl Zeiss Hologon 16/8 machined to mount on M8, a camera carries a rich tradition of being the most cherished camera for those shots of decisive moments in our memory.
It was a lovely mid winter day in Bangkok, along the canal, I walked by this small spot and saw the 2 cats stared on me by the window of a temporary worker's domitory, I slowly pick up the camera hanging on my neck and fire with one picture, just one, this one. I wanted to shot another one, but one of the cat disappear, leaving me with the cat by the window and I shot a few more. I can't say I like the first one the best, or the second one, because they are all good in its own way.
History is exactly the same way, it is sequence of consequences. One moment lead to another. The moment itself carries no particular significance if none is interact with it. As the case with the 2 pictures I shot, some see the picture with 2 cats more dramatic, some see the picture of one cat and the photographer in direct confrontation more interesting. Important things is how one feels the picture.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

The orientation and the desire

There are much too many formats in photography, almost unlimited, especially when the photographer has the liberty to crop the picture he wants.  This is an image made for a young, lovely and beautiful Russian model, Kate, to portrait her in a more matured, sophisticated and sensual way. 
I was using a square format camera, the new Rolleiflex, or known as Hy6 to Sinar or Leaf AF-i II for Leaf.  It is an interesting camera because although autofocus has been introduced to mainstream 135mm format cameras since mid 80s, and in mid 90s to medium format, it is just became available for medium square format, at 6X6, available for the still film lovers, but also an open platform for digital photography by way of attaching a digital back, while most of the current digital backs offer more or less 2:3 image ratio, depend on how you position the camera or the digital back.  For this picture, I was using a revolutionary digital back, the 33 million pixels Sinar eMotion 75LV with its revolving back adapter.  What's special?
The 6X6 film gate on Hy6 allows much larger working space than sensor area of the back, and with Sinar revolving adapter, you can simply rotate the digital back, rather than flipping the camera.  What's more interesting?  Because the viewing area on the camera allow the choice of either shooting the picture in landscape or portrait mode, it gave me the opportunity to hold back and see beyond the image capture area to decide which orientation to shoot.  But can you do this with other cameras?  Perhaps, but not by looking thru the viewfinder!  But how important it is to have to look thru the viewfinder?  To me, it is very important! And why?
Yes, many would argue that in fashion work, the classic medium format has the finder allows the photographer to control the camera while have entire visual presentation controlled by looking at the entire scene, which I don't disagree.  But when you shoot at a very close distance, it will then become very difficult.  Because when the photographer and camera moves closer to the model, the intimacy between the photographer and the model increases, and a good picture - at least it is to me, will be difficult to get when there are more than 2 parties involved, and in such situation, there are the model, the photographer and the camera - one too many, and one too much more!  When I shoot a model in a close distance, I need to stay behind the viewfinder so the model look thru the camera and seeing the photographer so she is communicating with a photographer; in stead of a photographer is away from the viewfinder and the model will be confused to which her emotion focus on? 
And the Hy6 and Sinar eMotion 75LV gave you just that!  The camera allow you to hold in a position you always do, but it gave you the choice to determine which orientation to shoot, rather than separating the photographer and his camera.  Portraiture is a very spontaneous photography, you can't really plan ahead of what kind of picture will come out best, it is the chemistry between the two that is the deciding factor, not the model, not the photographer. And when you get close, everything change. 
Will this picture look as good as it is when I shoot it otherwise?  I don't know. But, I am quite certain if I shot this picture in portrait orientation, the result will become different, probably worse. It is how you approach to the model, how do you control the model by having her looking at the camera lens as seeing the photographer's eye, there the magic chemistry between photographer and the model happens.