Me and my Mamiya 7ii

(50mm,(25mm equiv) - I turned to see this girl who was watching what I was doing)

On my crusade to find the perfect medium format camera over recent months, I think I may just have found the holy grail - The Mamiya 7ii.

Until recently, I had only been shooting film on the Leica M6 and a Rolleiflex for medium format.  Now I REALLY love my Rollei, don't get me wrong, but sometimes I struggle with the square format, I just find it difficult to 'see' in 6x6 format, therefore the search started for something a little more traditional format, but as usual I wanted a super lightweight camera (like the M6) that could deliver outstanding image quality...

As I am no expert on film cameras as have been purely digital for many years, I was unaware of all the options available, then I started to learn about the Mamiya 7ii, a rangefinder....lightweight, with 6x7 format....hmmmm....this sounds too good to be true, so I started doing some more research, and it seems this camera is very highly regarded amongst those that use it.

The winner factor for me is size...its half the weight of a hasselblad, but has a bigger negative (6x7 as opposed to 6x6), and for me a more useable format.  The lenses are second to none in optical quality, they make my Leica lenses all look soft in comparison.  Granted, they are only F4 lenses, but this is not an issue with such a big negative size, and you cannot compare an F4 lens for this format to a 35mm format, as depth of field is not comparable.  In effect, your focal lengths of each lens are halved, i.e. an 80mm lens is approx a 40mm lens in 35mm format, therefore an F4 lens can give you a depth of field not too disimilar to F2 (hope this makes sense...)....This is one of the reasons they don't need to make faster lenses, if you had an F1.4 lens on this format, depth of field would be so slight that you would struggle to ever get anything in focus.

The lenses I use on this system are 50mm (25mm equivalent), 80mm (standard lens, 40mm equivalent) and 150mm (75mm equivalent), which I think covers all bases, wide angle and architecture, standard lens and 3/4 portrait/headshot lens.  All of this kit fits easily into a small 'Think Tank Retrospective 5' shoulder bag (the same bag I carry a 4/3 system in), and I am quite sure there is no other interchangeable medium format kit on the planet that can take up so little room and produce such big results.

Also worth noting are that the lenses use leaf shutters, which means near silent operation, and minimal vibration when shooting, hence handheld shots at lower shutter speeds are much more useable than with a DSLR rig.

(My friend Bernhard shooting inside Man Mo Temple - 7ii light meter coped easily with this scene)

I have read on some other blogs whilst researching that the Mamiya 7ii light meter is not the best, and not always accurate.  I can only speak from my own experience and that is the light meter has been spot on for me every time I used it.  I went and bought a separate light meter as I expected to get inconsistent results, however, after shooting a few films in different lighting, I can say that the meter is as good as any camera meter I have used before on any other system and gives me no reason to use an external meter in any situation I have been in thus far.

I shoot a lot on digital as I said before, and I spend a fair bit of time tweaking images with black and white conversions to get just the right look for that particular image in Lightroom 4 and Silver Efex Pro 2.  Thats fine and thats all very necessary with digital RAW files, however, something I love about using different films is they all have a very different aesthetic to them, and all the images you see here on this blog post are unprocessed, just scanned in on my Epson V700 using Vuescan software.  So these are as they appear on the negatives, which is what gets me excited, I strive to get similar looks to this with digital, and the truth is it just isn't posible to replicate it exactly.  For one, the dynamic range of film is far superior, keeping highlight details on film is simple compared to digital, which allows for far greater range in lighting in scenes, something i had forgotten about until my return to film, I really hadn't taken much notice of how much I was losing with digital images.  On a recent trip to Cambodia, a friend of mine shot a very similar image to the one below, he was using 5DIII, and the highlights on the metal roof were blown away if he exposed for the man.....the difference was quite apparent how much more dynamic range the film could handle in this light.

(Highlights were retained on the reflective roof)

(Another example of how highlight and shadow details are easily retained, and how sharp the 50mm lens is...)

I think there is room in all our camera arsenals to shoot both digital and film, digital will always be my standard method these days, for sure, but I like the way film images look, the different characteristics of each film, and perhaps the most important thing for me is the way I actually shoot when I use slows me down, right down.  With 120 film on the Mamiya you only get 10 frames per roll....thats not a you cannot shoot the same way as digital, you have to think much more about each frame, slowing yourself down, and that is always a good thing in my mind.  The other thing I love about shooting this is after I go home or back to the hotel if abroad, I put the camera and films away and relax....I don't then sit down in front of a laptop and start phase 2 of several hours of picking, rejecting, editing, isnt possible until the films are developed and I get some of my own personal time back too....its a win win situation.

(I shoot much slower with the Mamiya....thats a good thing....slowing myself down :-)

I have re-learned to develop my own film at home in the kitchen, which again adds an element of fun to the whole process...I probably trashed 25% of the first films i shot as I had some 'issues' loading films in a change bag, but this all adds to the experience, and just gives a very different feeling to the final images.

I had some prints made a few weeks back from the 6x7 negatives, and the results are nothing short of spectacular, the resolution, detail and sharpness I can see in these images cannot be compared to any digital 35mm system, its far superior in many ways.  Now I haven't used medium format digital so I can't speak for that, but one thing I know for sure is the cost alone of getting into medium format digital is no joke, and out of reach for many (myself included).

Here are some more samples from this amazing camera system, all scanned on the Epson V700 with no other corrections.

I have recently discovered the Contax G2 also.....another amazing little camera, this could be the 35mm rival to the Mamiya in terms of quality.  My thoughts are that if you are a photographer currently shooting digital and what to broaden your horizons, then take a serious look at a small film camera.  You will approach your shooting in a different way, which can only enhance your experience.

Happy shooting!

(Fuji colour it)

(Behind the scenes on recent Cambodia expedition)

(Very slow shutter speed in low light - no problem for leaf shutters)

(The 50mm lens - 25 equivalent, perfect for interiors or close up wide shots)

(The 150mm lens - 75mm equivalent, ideal portrait lens on the Mamiya 7ii)

(Temple complex close to Phnom Penh - Cambodia)

(The Mamiya 7ii - the perfect rangefinder camera?)

Thanks for taking the time to visit our blog, if you like our blog and website, please ‘like’ us on our public Facebook page and share this story with your friends with the Facebook and twitter links below.  You can also subscribe to our blog via the RSS link below.

F8 Photography provides commercial photography and training across Asia, with workshops on Street Photography and other photography and video training courses, more details can be found via the ‘courses and workshops’ link and upcoming events via the front page of our website.

Street Photography with Fuji XPro1

NOTE:  All images shot on Fuji XPro1 and Fujinon 35mm 1.4 lens with autofocus only.

We've had our hands on the Fuji XPro1 for about a week now, and starting to get used to it and its nuances. Yesterday myself and a few friends met up in Soho and headed over to Temple Street in Kowloon which is a great little area for street photography with vibrant buzzing markets and even more vibrant characters around the place.

After a short trip on the ferry across the harbour, we walked up Canton Road, which has a lot of the big brand shops and is always full of characters, a great area to warm up before hitting the markets further into Kowloon.  You can always be sure to see hundreds of mainland tourists spending their fortunes around here on designer brands.

This was the first full day of shooting the XPro1 in this environement for me, and using only the 35mm 1.4 Fujinon lens in full autofocus mode (I believe the manual focus with the fuji lenses is totally useless as its fly by wire only), which means there is no tactile connection between you and camera/lens...its way too slow.  If using manual focus with other lenses such as the Leica lenses, its brilliant, I don't know why they insists on developing a fly by wire manual focus system, it really is completely unusable in my opinion unless you use it exclusively for 'zone focussing'.

So, I decided to shoot everything with autofocus.  There has been much debate about the AF capabilities of this camera in light of the X100 problems.  I can say this....yes, its not perfect, however, it is pretty fast (if the camera is kept awake) and it nailed 95 percent of my shots without a problem.

I shoot very fast when in the streets, so normally i use zone focussing, so using AF was almost a step back for me, however, I think this environment was the perfect test for this camera, as I believe many people are looking at the Fuji as a viable street photography/travel photography replacement for their DSLR or even as an alternative to the Leica M system such as M8/M9.

I shot everything in RAW, converted via the Fuji software supplied with the camera, then edited in Lightroom 4 using VSCO film presets set to Kodak Portra 400 for all images other than the black and white conversion using Niksoft Silver Efex Pro 2.

A quick note on the VSCO film presets - If you are looking for a good film emulation preset for lightroom, then look no further, these really are good, I have hundreds of presets and I keep going back to these ones, I believe they are the most realistc set available, and I am eagerly awaiting a specialist set from the for Leica and who knows maybe a Fuji specific set also, as they tweak camera calibration settings in RAW also, not just basic adjustments, they have camera specific versions for Canon and Nikon already, as well as a generic set for other cameras for now, and they have promised to release Leica specific profiles, which I hope to get my hands on as soon as possible.

The markets around Temple street - as you can see from these pictures have a diverse mix of characters.  Although its probably classed as a 'tourist friendly' area, there are still a lot of things going on behind the scenes here, with triad activity and in particular prostitution clearly visible on the streets even in the middle of the day.  Any photographer visiting this area should be aware that most of these girls will react quite adversely if photographed....some are friendly of course and don't seem to mind....however, if unsure, then my advice would be just stay well away from shooting anyone you think may react negatively.

I noticed many muslim girls around the markets when we were shooting, so approached them to ask permission to take their picture as they were wearing some great colours.  All of them were more than happy to be photographed.

The Autofocus on the Fuji had no problem at any stage with shooting a diverse mix of subjects, and as the image below shows, shooting into the sun, (sometimes difficult for autofocus), there was again no problems with the performance.

Two of the young ladies accompanying us on this 'photo walk' were Becky and Cheryl, both previous attendees of the street photography workshop, Becky was keen on shooting her 5DII using zone focussing to get her shots, whilst Cheryl preferred to use her new Canon S100 (I think that's what it was), for speedy and discreet street shooting.

This gentleman below was a great subject I thought, he was just squatted on the road, laughing continuously, and was more than happy to be photographed.  I noticed on closer look that he had a cigarrete in one hand and 3 spares in the other!!! Thats what I call chain smoking!.

The only lens that I used during this trip was the Fujinon 35mm 1.4, which so far I must say is a great lens (as long as not using manual focus - way too slow), normally I shoot much wider for street photography and closer to my subjects, but this seemed to work well on this day for me.   I keep emphasising about the autofocus - and again you can see from the image above, quicky focussing on the cigarretes on the bottom left corner of the frame, it had no problem locking on and giving me the desired focus point.

The total time we were in the markets was only about 2 hours, and I found the camera consistently delivered the results I needed.  I have tried this camera with a Leica M mount adaptor and the 35mm F2 ASPH lens also, and the results were quite spectacular, very clean and sharp images, very easy to focus using the EVF its really great with an M mount lens for this, my wish would be that it had 'focus peaking' similar to the NEX-7, then there would be no need for me to zoom in to fine tune focus using the rear dial, especially with wide lenses as its a bit harder to fine tune the focus than with a longer focal length lens.

This fantastic gentleman was more than happy to let me take his portrait and yet again the fast performance of the Fuji XPro1 had no issues nailing the shot for me.  Something else I have noticed is that the metering system of the camera seems to overexpose about half a stop most of the time...I consistently left the camera set to -1 or -2/3 to get more accurate exposures, but this is not a problem for me, I just think it takes a little bit of practice, figure out where all the buttons are (there are a lot on this camera that are easy to press by accident...) then it will be fine.  It's just like any other camera tool, we need a bit of time learning our way round it, and then there won't be any issues.

Overall I am very pleased with this camera when using it for street photography.  Being a similar size to my Leica M9, the feel was quite similar and I believe its a perfect size for this style of photography.  People aren't really intimidated by a camera this size compared to a DSLR with a big zoom lens, its ultra light (maybe feels even a little too light for me - again i'm comparing the the tank like construction of the Leica which many won't like).

So my final thoughts are as follows:

Recommended for street photography - A BIG YES.

Recommended to switch if you already have a Leica M9 - personally NO, but I think many will....

Recommended for manual focus with Fuji lenses - NO WAY!

Recommended for manual focus with M lenses - YES, REALLY WORKS GREAT.

Recommended for anyone wishing to switch from DSLR or looking for travel photography camera - YES YES YES.

So, I won't be swapping it for my Leica just yet....but I can still highly recommend the camera, its ergonomically great, looks the part, and I personally haven't had any serious issues with autofocus.

I have another blog post using this camera at night with a 50mm 0.85 lens from SLR Magic, if interested to see the image from that, please click here.

Thanks for taking the time to visit our blog, if you like our blog and website, please ‘like’ us on our public Facebook page and share this story with your friends with the Facebook and twitter links below.  You can also subscribe to our blog via the RSS link below.

F8 Photography provides commercial photography and training across Asia, with workshops on Street Photography and other photography and video training courses, more details can be found via the ‘courses and workshops’ link and upcoming events via the front page of our website.

My first thoughts...Fuji XPro1

(35mm lens, ISO 6400, 1/250th F1.4) I have been back in Hong Kong only a day, and I get a phone call from one of my suppliers....the Fuji XPro1 kit is here....come and collect it and take it for a test drive...of course, like the obedient little boy that I am....i quickly agreed and darted across the river to Kowloon to collect it.

Now something has been tickling my mind...last week I had my best week ever with the Leica M9....totally restored my faith in the beast....however I know the Fuji was on the horizon, and although I don't consider it a direct competitor with the Leica, I have to admit I was scared in case the results from it were so good that I started to question my investment in the Leica gear at some point.

Now I must stress again that I am not a technical wizard nor a scientist of any form....I simply use the camera I have in my hand to attain the best images I can....and the only thing that limits me with the Leica is the ISO..thats it, and even then its mainly because i LOVE to shoot in almost darkness or extremely low light and have found the ISO performance questionable in certain situations.  That will soon be rectified as I will be testing the SLR Magic 50mm 0.95 lens from next week, so will be able to shoot bats in a cave without light i think :-)

Anway, I just wanted to post a few images that I shot tonight and share a few quick thoughts on the Fuji XPro1 having used it on the streets of Hong Kong for only 3 hours.

(35mm lens, ISO 3200, 1/800th F1.4)

Camera settings will be posted under each image, however I will not post full size images for one reason....i dont know how to do it and keep the blog size images at same time! I'm an wordpress idiot when it comes to that, so if anyone can share how to do that on my blog I will happily share links to full size files for them should they want to see them.

My initial thoughts were as follows:

Pros:  perfect body size, amazingly sharp lenses with great maximum apertures, looks super cool (one guy i shot even shouted 'waahhhh LEICA!' after I took his pic, so the Fuji has no problem demanding street cred already as people are thinking its a retro Leica :-), extremely good high ISO performance...shooting in the dark at ISO 25600 and nailing sharp images!

Cons:  Autofocus missed a handful of shots initially...i have almost rectified that problem already by turning on some other autofocus settings that seem to help...I think a bit of practice is needed then it will be fine.  After an hours fiddling around, I was able to shoot in a bar with literally no light, where I could not read the label on my beer and get perfectly sharp focus 9 times out of i guess its just a bit of practice, time will tell, I've heard many complaints about the X100 i was expecting problems, but nothing dramatic has occured, simple fine tuning and it seems to be pretty much there already.

Here are tonight's quick snapshots, please bear in mind these are purely test shots for me to try and familiarise myself with the camera in low light...testing focus and high ISO performance.

Following shots all on the 35mm 1.4 (equivalent approx to a 50mm on full frame) 

(no post processsing or adjustments, simply camera JPEGS here)


(Rocco the Leica slave,  1/350th F1.4, ISO 6400)

(Taxi,  1/1000th F1.4, ISO 3200)

(Woman texting,  1/150th F1.4, ISO 3200)

(Happy Couple,  1/350th F1.4, ISO 3200)

(Caught me peeking,  1/105th F1.6, ISO 3200)


The following few pictures were all taken on the 60mm 2.4 lens (again, no post processsing or adjustments, simply camera JPEGS here)

(dinner time,  1/110th F2.4, ISO 5000)

(inside computer centre,  1/500th F2.4, ISO 5000)

The following images were shot in a very very dark bar, i cranked up the ISO straight to the maximum ISO 25600.....heres the results...again, no noise reduction, or post production whatsoever, these are straight from camera.

(35mm lens, ISO 25600, 1/450th, F1.4)(35mm lens, ISO 25600, 1/340th, F1.4)(60mm lens ISO 25600, 1/120th, F2.4)(60mm lens, ISO 25600, 1/170th, F2.4)

Although these images have been shrunk down for blog sizing, hopefully there is enough information to show the quality at least to give an idea...basically as I said already, there is a total lack of noise anywhere at any ISO....I shoot normally Canon 5D Mk II, Canon 7D or Leica M9 and this Fuji blows them all out of the water in a nano-second with regards high ISO performance...if this is the future of cameras to come with this kind of high ISO performance, then I might as well sell my flash units, as I won't be using them much anymore!

I have to say, apart from the tiny niggles with the autofocus I had at the start of the night, overall I am extremely impressed....I ain't selling my Leica gear, its a very different feeling for me shooting a rangefinder over an autofocus camera...but for sure this new Fuji is going to be getting a serious workout over the coming weeks.

My initial advice to anyone who is looking for a lightweight alternative to DSLR where image quality is paramount, or a less expensive alternative to Leica for street or travel photography...I think this camera could very easily fill that gap.

Please bear in mind that I have not tested any other cameras that could be considered competiton....this is just my gut feeling as a photographer who shoots a lot of images on a day to day basis in a variety of situations.

Thanks for taking the time to visit our blog, if you like our blog and website, please ‘like’ us on our public Facebook page and share this story with your friends with the Facebook and twitter links below.  You can also subscribe to our blog via the RSS link below.

F8 Photography provides commercial photography and training across Asia, with workshops on Street Photography and other photography and video training courses, more details can be found via the ‘courses and workshops’ link and upcoming events via the front page of our website.




Cambodia - Me & my Leica M9

Note: This is not a technical review of the Leica M9 in any way shape or form, its purely my own view of the experience of using one in the field with the images I shot to support my views, I also comment here about some AMAZING Zeiss lenses that I have been using that should definately be considered if looking for alternative glass for Leica cameras. (Children live along the disused railway line in Phnom Penh, one of the poorest parts of the city - this shot taken with the Zeiss 25mm 2.8 lens, which surpassed my expectations, delivering amazing sharpness and 3D look every time)

So its been 6 months since I travelled to Cambodia and almost as long that I've owned and used a Leica M9 for my street photography in Hong Kong.  On my previous travels I have always taken too much gear, 5D Mk IIs, lights, video kit....the list goes on...

One of the reasons I acquired a Leica M9 was to enable me to travel light and still maintain a full frame camera with high quality as well I guess as taking a step back into retro-land and simplifying the process by using a rangefinder with minimal external functions, other than aperture and shutter...

The purpose of this particular trip was a mini-workshop, teaching a few previous students some 'environmental portraiture' in a photographically rich environement, which was to be the city of Phnom Penh in Cambodia and its surrounding villages and islands in the Mekong river (blog post on their work to follow).

As I was teaching as well as shooting my own work, the Leica gear was a perfect compromise as it enabled me to move around quickly with just one small bag (the thinktank retrospective 5) with all my gear inside instead of the usual large heavy backpacks that I carry full of DSLR kits.

My packing list for this trip was:

Leica M9. Leica lenses: 35 f2, 40 f2, 50 1.4, 90 f2. Zeiss lenses: 21 2.8, 25 2.8 (quite possibly my new favourite lens). external viewfinder for the 21/25 lenses. 2 x batteries. Macbook Pro and external firewire 800 'Lacie rugged' hard drive

(I always use external firewire or thunderbolt drives to store and manage my Lightroom catalogues - it runs just as fast if not faster from an external drive (as long as not USB, and worse case scenario if my laptop were to be stolen I would still have my external drive with all my images (that stays in the hotel safe when I'm not there).

Enough of the technical jargon....below you will find images from the trip that I shot (we were there 4 full days).  All I can say at this point is the M9 far exceeded my expectations, delivering everything and more than my Canon can deliver, and to be honest I think the star bit of kit on this trip was the Zeiss 25mm 2.8 nailed every shot with some of the best 3D rendering I have been able to produce.

(More kids living in shacks along the disused railway line)(old lady, shot with the Zeiss 25mm lens...amazingly sharp)

One of the most prevalent features of Cambodia for me are the children, there seems to be just masses of kids everywhere, a lot of them living in extreme poverty yet in general they seem quite content, I guess they don't know anything else, so they just cope with what little they have.  Whilst in this run-down part of town, I noticed one child that stuck out more than others, because he was pure can see him in the photograph below right.  I spoke to his mother and father through our translator (both parents were very dark - his mother can be seen in the image looking down on him).  I was slightly confused as to his origins, however they assured us that his dark skinned father was indeed his natural parent, and that the mother had watched some western TV shows and prayed for her child to look that way, and lo and behold - he was born white with light almost ginger coloured hair!

(Children of the railway village, including the 'western' looking child we found pictured here on the right)

We also found some local older girls who spoke perfect english and were happy to admit they worked as 'bar girls' in the red light area of the Phnom Penh, they were also happy to be photographed.  It is an unfortunate fact that in this city for young women living in these areas, this lifestyle is probably by far the most lucrative for them - an unfortunate situation that is probably emulated in many other cities around Asia and the rest of the world.

(working girls that live in the railroad slums)(in the doghouse...)

Although this part of town is extremely poor, it is photographically rich, every doorway and person I saw was a potential photograph, one of our workshop participants felt a little uncomfortable to shoot in this neighbourhood, feeling it was slightly voyeuristic and intrusive.  I can totally see his point and why he felt that way, but I personally have shot in many areas like this all around Asia, and my general feeling is that if you approach your subjects the right way, talking to them first, asking permission, and I also take a small Canon CP800 printer with me and supply them with prints right there and then (the battery on this thing lasts almost a week whilst churning out 40-50 prints a day!!!), then generally its a very positive experience for everyone, probably a novelty for them for some western people to visit, show an interest, give them gifts and exchange lots of smiles along the way.

(giving back a print and some candy to the kids was certainly the best way to gain access for us)

Of course a visit to Cambodia wouldn't be complete without involving some monks or temples...we didn't want to travel to the famous temples in the North around Siem Reap, instead we opted to find some working monks in pagodas around and outside the city on the outlying islands in the Mekong river, so our next day was spent in the heart of mosquito land around the rivers.  We found plenty of friendly working monks who were more than happy to be photographed, we took them a 20kg bag of rice as a gift and that opened up all the doors we needed to get some nice environmental portraits, as well as them enjoying practicing their english language skills with us.  In my experience this has been always the kind of reception I get, other people I have spoken to tell me Monks usually don't like being photographed...I personally have no experience to support that theory.

We also found a muslim area in Phnom Penh, something I had noticed on previous visits, unfortunately people were very reserved and not willing at all to be photographed, everyone I approached either ran away or waved me away, so I respected their wishes and left them alone, I only managed to grab one shot in that part of town which was a young girl who I guess was out shopping for her family, she giggled and covered her face when I spotted her, but didn't seem to mind being photographed so I took the chance and grabbed the shot from across the street.

(young muslim girl in Phom Penh)

On our last day we were finishing up and driving back to get our gear to head to the airport when we noticed a massive gathering of women and children at the roadside.  Our Tuk Tuk driver informed us that this area had a free childrens hospital so everyone was waiting for that...I couldn't resist jumping off and grabbing a few shots from across the street to create a panoramic look then getting up close with the Zeiss 21mm lens as they all seemed happy enough for me to be there...

(the Zeiss 21mm 2.8 performed amazingly on the M9)

So that was it, 5 days travelling around Phnom Penh and the surrounding villages, only the Leica with me this time, and I hope the images above can speak for themselves...with a few different focal lengths this kit was much more efficient for me than my bulky gear I normally take...I will be testing the Fuji XPro1 shortly which may indeed give the Leica a run for its money, especially given the incredible price difference and the amazing high ISO performance of the Fuji...(I tried one last night back in Hong Kong so I have seen the results already)...So until next time, I hope you enjoy the images from our travels and they can inspire you to get out and shoot...and if you haven't been to Cambodia are really missing a gem of a place to visit...not to mention Angkor beer is amongst the finest ale I have ever sampled :-)

My assistant photographer RJ has also written a blog post about his experience, that can be seen by clicking here

Thanks for taking the time to visit our blog, if you like our blog and website, please ‘like’ us on our public Facebook page and share this story with your friends with the Facebook and twitter links below.  You can also subscribe to our blog via the RSS link below.

F8 Photography provides commercial photography and training across Asia, with workshops on Street Photography and other photography and video training courses, more details can be found via the ‘courses and workshops’ link and upcoming events via the front page of our website.

No Photos allowed.....or are they? (VIDEO)

Cat Street market stall advertising 'NO PHOTOS'
Cat Street market stall advertising 'NO PHOTOS'

In recent news here in Hong Kong there has been much controversy about photographers rights to shoot in public places (in particular in front of large branded designer stores, etc).  Security guards have been misinformed by their employers about what is 'public space' in front of a shop and therefore this has led to confusion, aggressive and sometimes even violent confrontations between photographers and staff.

These big stores are not the only places that try to 'enforce' a ban on photographers, even small market stalls have signs up saying 'no photos', 'no cameras', or 'photo - $200', etc.

To those of us in the know, this is basically outrageous behaviour on behalf of the shopkeeper, trying to create some kind of martial law around their own property, thinking they can control what you do with your camera in a public space.

Now, I don't want to confuse the issue of photographing people, I am well aware as should everyone be that some individuals do not like having their photograph taken, especially without permission, and I  completely understand the issues surrounding that.  This is not what this blog post is about, it is purely about having the right to shoot an interesting market stall, a shop facade or interesting building without having to worry about consequences or thinking that you are doing something wrong - you are not, its well within your rights to take photographs.

This short video we shot in an hour or so the other day shows a quick walkaround Central and Sheung Wan in Hong Kong shooting a few market areas where they have these signs.  I have heard many people say they get confronted in these places so thought I would try to see for myself if we had similar problems and I highlight in the video the ways in which we shoot to try to avoid confrontation.

This is the first DSLR video that Gurung RJ has shot with very little instruction in advance, so I must thank him for his efforts in helping me put this together.

Also a special thanks to Will Gell who has very kindly allowed me to use his music for various projects, amazing musician, check out his albums here:

Please remember when out shooting that you WILL upset some people sometimes, that's unfortunately the nature of the beast with street photography, some people will always react negatively no matter how polite you are, maybe they just had a bad day, or maybe they just grumpy...thats life, its a choice you make if you wish to become a street photographer, never take it personally, and try not to respond in the same manner, keep smiling, say thank you and continue on your way.

Previous recent blog posts that relate to the same issues are linked below, the first one has an extensive video shooting street photography in Kowloon with a GOPRO camera attached to the top of the Leica M9, linked together with the images that we captured during the walkabout:



Thanks for taking the time to visit our blog, if you like our blog and website, please ‘like’ us on our public Facebook page and share this story with your friends with the Facebook and twitter links below.  You can also subscribe to our blog via the RSS link below.

F8 Photography provides commercial photography and training across Asia, with workshops on Street Photography and other photography and video training courses, more details can be found via the ‘courses and workshops’ link and upcoming events via the front page of our website.

So Uk - The oldest government housing in Hong Kong

So Uk Estate entranceSunday morning, and myself and good friend and fellow Leica photographer 'Rocco' met up for a traditional English breakfast in Soho before deciding where to head out for some street photography on this pleasantly sunny but chilly Sunday morning. We decided to visit 'So Uk' in Cheung Sha Wan, reported as the oldest government housing estate in Hong Kong.  We thought it might make an interesting subject so we jumped on the MTR and headed off into Kowloon.

We did a little googling on the way to find out more information: the 16 block estate was constructed in 1960. Unlike many public housing estates built afterward, the architectural design of the estates is unique in Hong Kong. There are 5,316 flats in the estate, with capacity of 15,200.

So Uk Estate and mapbalconiesview up to So Uk

Upon arrival I was slightly surprised, I thought it would look more 'run-down' being the oldest estate, but it was very well maintained and clean, a far stretch from any of the older government housing I could find in London or anywhere else in Europe for that matter!

The kind of images I had in my mind before going to So Uk were 'texture', 'symmetry', 'shape'....  So At first I tried mainly to look for these kinds of images, which were everywhere to be found, as you will see later in the blog post though....I always seem to gravitate towards 'people' photography, no matter where I go, just can't help it!

'Gursky like' view of So UkSo Uk texturessymmetry

Another shock for me was that almost every single person i met spoke perfect English and were super-friendly towards us, maybe they don't see too many 'Gweilo's' (westerners) visiting the estate, I am not sure, but either way, it was very pleasant to be able to chat to many different people around the estate and find out a little about their life there.  The image below shows Pat, Harvey and their small Peking dog called 'Bun Bun'.

Harvey, Pat and Bun Bun

Another lady we met at the entrance to the estate was equally happy to chat to us, maybe she wanted to practice her English, I am not sure, but one thing for certain was everybody we met was more than hospitable towards us, at first I thought she was pushing her children or grandchildren in the a pram...then I realised it was two poodle dogs dressed up - amusing for us, and a common site around Hong Kong.

poodles out for a walk/ride...2 poodles in a pram!

The children we encountered were equally keen to chat to us and asked to be photographed when they saw our cameras....Something else I noticed as there is not much 'green' space for gardening in these kind of places was the abundance of Bonsai trees decorating the entire area which also added to the serine peaceful feeling about the place.

So Uk Bonsai TreesLocal kids in So Uk Estate

As we walked around, something else caught my eye - a pre-wedding photography shoot was happening on the roof of the car park!  I guess it makes sense as the place certainly has some contrasting views to the bright red costumes the bride and groom were wearing, so I approached them, had a little chat and asked if I could photograph them all together, as I find the costumes very interesting and again must emphasise the total friendliness of the people around this place.

pre-wedding shootpre-wedding shoot and the photographers

A few other individuals we met also chatted away to us at length and we met a group of young local photographers who were doing the same thing as us, just exploring the area, so we grabbed them for a quick photograph as well.

local man, So Uk EstateHong Kong youth exploring So Uk

So after a few hours in this wonderful part of Hong Kong, we stopped at the local 'cafe' for a hot coffee....perhaps this is the reason I don't live in this part of is way too far from the nearest Starbucks for me! :-)

coffee break

Thanks for taking the time to visit our blog, if you like our blog and website, please 'like' us on our public Facebook page also.

F8 Photography provides commercial photography and training across Asia, with upcoming workshops on Street Photography and other photography and video training courses, more details can be found via the 'courses and workshops' link via the front page of our website.

Street Photography Workshop with Eric Kim - 24th-26th Feb 2012

So its finally happening!  Eric Kim is flying in from LA to host with F8 Photography a 2 day Street Photography Workshop.

There are limited places, so sign up fast if you are interested, we expect this workshop to sell out quickly, as have all Eric's workshops in Asia and over the world.

The workshop will take place from the evening of Friday 24th until the evening of Sunday 26th February 2012.

All the even details and signup information for the event are here or at the following link and from the events shortcut on the front page of our site:

How we shoot Street Photography in Hong Kong (VIDEO)

A lot of people have been asking us how we get close up pictures of people out on the streets in Hong Kong, so we decided to make a short video to show exactly how we go about getting these images. We attached our little GOPRO video camera to the top of the Leica M9, plugged in a wireless microphone to a small Zoom H1 to record the voice and then went for a walk for 2 hours round Mongkok, Yau Ma Tei and Jordan in Kowloon to see what we could shoot.

This video is a short insight into how we generally shoot our street photography, we really try not to offend anybody out on the street, some people are camera shy, that's normal, you have to just move on and not take it personally, theres millions more interesting subjects just waiting for you to photograph them...

We emphasise throughout the video the camera settings and techniques we are using, so this video hopefully can be of use to anyone that is unsure of what settings to use for fast paced street photography.

We are very interested to hear everybody's comments or critisicms as we are always striving to improve, so feel free to comment below on anything you have seen in the video or you think we should be doing differently.

Please feel free share this link on your blog, on your facebook and recommend it to friends, we are trying to get as much exposure as possible with these techniques to help anyone who wants to learn from it.

F8 Photography runs all kinds of photography training as well as upcoming street photography workshops, so if you are in Hong Kong and interested in this style of photography, contact us to register, we will soon be launching an events page with all the details of all our 'street' workshops.

If you like this post, please 'LIKE' us at the bottom of the page and Facebook via our links below.

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