Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!

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1/20s . f/4.0 . ISO 800 . 17 mm
The Boulevard, Ivanhoe-ho-ho


Kids watch a decorated lawn during a Christmas Light event in Ivanhoe, just outside Melbourne. For 60 years, the residents of Ivanhoe's Boulevard and surrounding streets have been decorating their houses and gardens with vibrant Christmas lights. Commonly recognised as one of the most impressive Christmas displays throughout Melbourne, many residents make an annual visit to the area during the festival.

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Sunday, October 10, 2010

Painting with Light (2)

Continued from here.

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In 2006, I joined Fotoholics which is a photography club in Melbourne University. Over time my knowledge and experience grew, and I began to appreciate that the "photo" in photography doesn't just begin and end with a photo's brightness. The quantity of light obviously matters in a picture, otherwise you would be looking at a black canvas. However, at the end of the day, it is the quality of the light that delivers a far greater impact on the audience.

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Through activities like workshops and outings, I learned a lot about the quality of light. Here we have the Fotoholics adviser Shayen demonstrating lighting in a studio workshop. Have you ever wondered why studios use so many huge light boxes for their models? No, it's not because they need lots of light, though these equipments could indeed be very bright. The answer simply lies within the quality of the light we could achieve with them. A big light source like the one we see here is used to achieve a soft, glowing quality as it avoids the casting of harsh shadow.

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It's a difference between this...

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and this.

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We don't really have to splash thousands of dollars to get studio equipments to get nice looking lighting. For example, this shot was captured in a safari bus without any special equipment. The safari bus was trekking through a rather boring part of the safari so I didn't pay much attention outside. I happened to notice that the light from outside the window fell on this girl evenly, so I turned my camera towards her and snapped while she was looking sideway. By using window light alone I got myself studio-worthy lighting.

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The same principle applies when shooting things like flower. I used to shoot things under direct sunlight thinking that it would be "bright" enough, but the pictures shot this way all turned out to be rather uninspiring as the harsh direct light produces a lot of distracting shadows. So I learned to shoot in the shade - yes it might be darker and you might have to use higher sensitivity setting (ISO) or use a tripod, but the result would also be much nicer. The reason is that in the shade, all the lights are coming from all directions instead of just one spot in the sky, so the light would have a soft quality to it.

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Using a camera on its automatic setting is fine in many cases, but in some cases the camera would get it wrong. Here Grace is sitting in a hall with lots of light filtering through the window panes behind her. The camera incorrectly interprets the scene as being too bright, so it tries to darken the picture. However, by doing so Grace's face now turned out quite dark as it is not as bright as the windows to begin with. It's Grace's face I am interested in, not the window panes, so the auto mode gave me a crappy picture.


Grace Looking Sophisticated

To fix the problem, I added some flash to the picture so that Grace's face lights up a bit. This, together with the coffee, makes her happy and shiny. Note that in this picture, Grace's face also has a soft quality to it, that is because instead of pointing my flash directly at her, I pointed the flash at the ceiling and let it reflect back towards her. This technique, called "bounce flash" in photography jargon, makes flash light softer and is one of the most commonly used techniques in flash photography.

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Nature is the best painter, but it is quite an unpredictable one at that. I was strolling along the Circular Quay, breathing in the fresh air of the late afternoon when I saw the Sydney Harbour Bridge glow under the golden sunlight. This picture was straight out of the camera and it had a fantastic colour to it. However, I was a bit unhappy with the little pole smack in the middle of the picture, so I walked around it...

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... and took this shot merely 3 minutes later. The sky was still a very pretty violet, but the golden sunlight was gone. You can see here just how important it is to be at the right place at the right time, and more importantly, to be able to recognise wonderful light which is all too often very ephemeral.

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Photographers often talk about the golden hours of the day, i.e. the few hours around sunrise and sunset. In these hours not only nature showers us with a whole gamut of glorious colours, it also delivers them in a soft, diffused and glowing way. I once read somewhere that an editor in a renowned landscape photography magazine has a policy of only accepting pictures taken during golden hours.

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The landscape exudes an incredible aura during the golden hours. The next time you come across a wonderful landscape photograph, pay some attention to the time it is captured. More often than not they would be shot during sunrise or sunset, or even during dawn or dusk. That editor may have a point after all.

Sunrise at Grampians (Uncropped)

This picture was taken in Grampians National Park which is about 4 hours away from Melbourne. The difficult thing about chasing the golden hour is that you either have to wake up at ungodly hours, or continue shooting late in the day when everyone else would have had enough for the day and had started thinking about dinner. For this picture, I woke up at 5 so that I could be there just when the sun was rising. I got lucky, the sun shone through a gap between the clouds and gave me this surreal scene.

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Of course the golden hour is not limited to landscape alone. It worked equally well in this cityscape of Shanghai.

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You may not know that our eyes are actually much better at perceiving light in most regards compared to even the best camera in the world. This is your standard postcard picture of the two most iconic structures of Sydney, taken from the best vantage point during the best time of the day. But I cheated here. This is actually not just one picture. What you are seeing is actually a combination of three pictures.

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1. This is what you would get if you just shoot it without changing any setting on your camera. Note that the Opera House is a bit dim here.

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2. This is what you get when you take the picture of the same scene, but exposing for longer to get a brighter version. Notice how the Opera House is now bright, but the sky is so bright that you can't even see the details of the clouds anymore.

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3. Lastly this is the dark version of the same picture, and it allows us to see the detail of the sky.

The three pictures of the same scene with different brightness are then combined to give us the final picture. The final picture is the most similar to what you would see with naked eyes, however due to the camera's limitation of the range of brightness it could capture, if you only took one shot you would not be able to get the same result. The technique of combining pictures of different brightness is called "High Dynamic Resolution" (HDR). The Grampians shot above was done with HDR too.

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Another HDR shot: Sydney skyline.

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I am still in the process of appreciating the quality of light. Be it contrasty light,

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straight-from-above light,

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selective illumination

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or bright background light ("high key"), it's the way we paint the picture with light that counts the most in the final outcome.

And I will keep on enjoying light-painting for years to come.

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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

外国的月亮


第一次自己一个人过中秋,有点淡淡的惆怅。我在墨尔本的小房里吃着自己煮的菜,如常面对着那银屏,看到大家在面子书上一个又一个的“中秋节快乐”,心里纳闷了起来。

该找些事来做啦。 如果以后还是在异乡过中秋一定要提一提灯笼,吃一吃月饼。虽说我不是最传统的人,但在这样的日子里独处的时候,我还是不禁感受到那团圆、团聚的意义,还有明月寄相思的韵味。

在这里用我两年前和朋友庆中秋时拍的一双灯笼,向大家说一声“中秋节快乐”吧!

2 comments:

Friday, June 11, 2010

Add Your Own Background Image to Google

Google Background (by changyang1230)

Now you can add your own background image in Google homepage! Just click on "change background image" and choose an image either from your own computer or from one of the choices given by Google, and you will enjoy your new background in no time.

Before trying it out I thought this is quite a useless cosmetic thing, but after plugging in my recent Great Ocean Road shot (pictured above) it worked very well, and I am in love with it :) The fact that the Google symbol and the search bar is located amongst the clouds is quite symbolic of the whole "knowledge in the cloud" idea of the Internet too.

Try it out and see whether you like it as much as I do!

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Saturday, June 05, 2010

[Photo] Yes I Own Them

IMG_0373 (by changyang1230)
Western Medicine is not such a lucrative means of earning money...

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so I decided to diversify my business in alternative medicine,

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and open a branch in China.

Sorry that's lame.

I apologise.

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Saturday, May 29, 2010

[Photo] Running Late

Running Late
1/80s - f/5.0 - ISO 800 - 10 mm
Flinders Street Railway Station, Melbourne

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Friday, May 21, 2010

Hollywood at My Doorstep


I have never thought that one day Hollywood would shoot a movie at my doorstep. Today it happened. I walked out of my house and I was immediately met by a HUGE crew equipped with every piece of cinematography imaginable - huge tents, giant soft box, big-ass cameras, realistic looking props and intimidating security guards who seem to be employed to shout at people who try to shoot the filming set with a big camera. But of course a brave photographer wouldn't give up the rare opportunity just because of some scary-looking security guards. So I present to you, "The Killer Elite" filming featuring Robert De Niro, Jason Statham, Yvonne Strahovski, Clive Owen etc.

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Monday, May 10, 2010

Painting with Light (1)

I realised that I haven't been posting anything in the last few weeks, and this blog is more dead than ever. I was supposed to do some travel-logs from my recent trips; I have even written up half a post but it has since been collecting dust in the draft folder. I have also had some ranting about people's general attitude towards racism but I have also pushed that aside for more farming in Farmville.

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Every once in a while, I sit down thinking that I should post some photography stuff. A few months back a camera shop approached me to put a link to their shop because they thought this is a photography blog. Well, since they paid me, even if this isn't a photography blog, it kind of is one now. Who knows if I don't post anything on photography for a few months they might just ask for a refund.

So here goes. Something about photography.

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Photography comes from two root words, "photo" which means "light" and "graphy" which means "writing or drawing". So photography literally means "painting with light". My journey in photography has been about how I slowly come to gain insight about the importance of light.

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When I first got my compact camera back in 2003 (shown here is Chin Fei's Minolta Dimage Z3), I knew pretty much nothing about light, except maybe for "it's bad if it's too bright or too dark". I played around with my tiny Powershot A70 trying to make sure that everything was bright enough.

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If it was dark, I added flash. (Gosh I was actually better looking than Yee Pin before I put on all the fat)

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Or, I exposed for a bit longer.

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I thought I was pretty good, and once in a while I did get pretty good shots with sheer luck.

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I played little tricks,

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like changing the colour of the picture by shooting through sunglasses.

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But that's pretty much all I knew about light and photography in general, and my knowledge about light pretty much halted without further improvement for the next three to four years.

[to be continued...]

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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Pictures from Sydney Trip 2010


I have had the opportunity to visit Sydney during the recent Easter break, and here comes some of the best pictures taken during the trip. Unfortunately I haven't had time to finish up with my China pictures but with this Sydney trip I am able to complete the whole thing in two days. I had a great time with Xuan Ni, and thanks to the generosity of Raymond, Cheok Quen and Heng Liang I saved a lot on accommodation. :)

As always, feel free to browse them and leave any comment or criticism for me. Enjoy!

Facebook reader: Please view the slideshow here.

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Sunday, March 21, 2010

Pictures from China Trip 2009/10


I finally have some time to sort out and upload my China trip pictures from three months back. As of now I have processed and uploaded half of all my pictures, and I hope I will be done with the rest within two weeks.

Feel free to browse them and leave any comment or criticism for me. Enjoy!

Facebook reader: Please view the slideshow here.

3 comments:

Saturday, March 20, 2010

As Time Passes By

Read this somewhere and I thought it's very insightful:

It seems that when we are children, the time sprawls before us. Some might call this time of your life, slow or long time. I can remember Summer days, when I was about 8 years old, that seemed to go on forever. You were always in a hurry to make time go faster because you thought that if you could hurry up and grow up then life would be a lot more fun...

Then you become an adult and your life starts to move a bit faster. Some might call this normal time. You just seem to have just enough time in the day to get things done and the days pass by tick-tock... You wish for more time in a day but chances are if you had more, you would find more ways to fill it so you ultimately would never have enough, time that is.

Finally you become old and time really speeds up. Days pass by in a blur and your don't know where all the time has gone. You long for days past and feel everything just slipping away. You go slower but everything around you seems to be going by at a hyper-speed. By the time you wake up in the morning and start your day, it's already almost time for the day to end.

I guess the lesson I get out of this is that it is so critical to live for the moment because when you are young, that moment is beautiful, when you are middle aged, that moment is important, and when your old, that moment is a blessing.

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Sunday, February 07, 2010

Of Poking, Sucking and Bumming Around in a Shanghai Hospital

IMG_9903 (by changyang1230)

As you may have read from my previous posts, I did my elective work in Shanghai for four weeks last December and January. Overall, my elective term in Rui Jin Hospital has been a bit of a mixed bag. While there have been intriguing, interesting and eye-opening moments, there have also been hours of boredom and frustration.

Acupuncture:


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I did the first two weeks of elective in the acupuncture unit. The opportunity to see the coexistence and cooperation of both Western and Traditional Chinese Medicine has been one of the greatest reasons for my choosing to go to Shanghai. Eye-opening it has indeed been. Much as we were shocked to see the depth the needles go into (up to 2-3 inches in some areas), we were also quite impressed by the acupuncturists' firm knowledge and understanding of Western medicine. In fact they devote a good proportion of their training years in Western medicine alone. A patient presenting with fatigue would first be examined for thyroid function and blood sugar among others, by the acupuncturists themselves! They can also order X-rays, CTs and interpret them. So it's been both comforting and surprising to learn that Chinese medicine practitioners are not as ignorant as some might believe them to be - in fact the irony is on us to not know more about them.


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Despite the novelty, we found that we couldn't do much in the unit and soon enough it became a drag to spend time day in day out. As the needle insertion involves a level of dexterity and special techniques, we were not allowed to perform it on the patients. So all the time we only got to stand and observe the procedure, and occasionally we were called upon to remove the needle after the treatment. The only other thing we got to do is applying and removing suction cups, which is a procedure where a heated glass jar is applied onto acupuncture points and left in place for a few minutes via vacuum suction.


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Overall it's an interesting experience, despite the lack of practical opportunity, I would recommend medical students with an interest in Chinese Medicine to spend some time in the acupuncture unit. However, we found that two weeks were a tad too long for the purpose, so a one-week stint would have probably been a better option.

Cardiology:


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I chose cardiology due to my interest in the specialty. I was assigned to an attending who was stationed at the CCU, which I later found to be simply a fancy term for post- and pre-operative observation area for pacemaker insertion. There were also some occasional paroxysmal Atrial Fibrillation patients who were there for either pharmacological or electrical cardioversion. But basically that's all the patients I got to see in the 10-bed unit.


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Unfortunately the experience over the two weeks have been rather uninspiring, to put it mildly. The unit (and I suspect the hospital as a whole) is not familiar with the concept of elective terms, and I was treated as a transparent passive spectator of the department most of the time. In my two-week stay in the department, I only got involved with the daily 20-minute ward round with zero to little teaching, as well as observing a few angiography, an EP study from afar and a couple of permanent pacemaker insertion. Most of the other time, I was left to my own device sitting in a room with some junior doctors and research students. My attending was hardly within sight at any time.

In general medical students don't get to do much ward duties or get involved in any active patient management, so all this made the experience very bland. By day three I was already looking forward to the end of it.

General:


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If you are looking for an action-packed or highly educational elective then this hospital is the last place you want to be. However, it did offer me a very personal insight into China's healthcare system which is sophisticated and chaotic at the same time. If exposure is what you value in your elective then it's not too bad a place. Shanghai is a shopping haven and food paradise, and the surrounding cities such as Hangzhou and Suzhou are all very captivating.

If you want some better teaching and more enthusiastic staff who speak better English, I heard that Huashan Hospital (also in Shanghai) is better in these regards. Choosing surgery units is also recommended as you do get to see a lot of cases including the rare ones - remember, even if a rare condition has a prevalence of one in a million, China has 1,300 of them.

2 comments:

Crazy Transportation in Shanghai

IMG_2021 (by changyang1230)

In a city as populated as Shanghai, a good transportation system is essential in keeping the city functional. In fact, they need to be damn good at it to get the 12 million people moving about without being stuck on the street for three hours at a time.

IMG_0004 (by changyang1230)

Shanghai has one of the best public transportation systems in the world. Its subway network currently operates eleven metro lines and it has a daily ridership of more than 4 million. Its bus network is even more staggering - there are more than 1000 bus routes in operation in the city, and they connect various points of the city very efficiently. In general, for a long distance travel, people first take metro to get to the vicinity and change to a bus to reach the destination. The bus fare is 2 yuan per trip while the metro fare is between 3 9 yuan, so it's very affordable.

IMG_9886 (by changyang1230)

Our very first encounter of Shanghai's public transport began with the awe-inspiring Maglev train (Magnetic Levitation train). Operating at a top speed of 431km/h, the 30km journey from the airport to the city area is done in a mere 7 minutes and 20 seconds. The journey was extremely smooth, and the idea that you were travelling at one third the speed of sound right on the ground is simply exhilarating. This project is making a loss, unfortunately, with its current ridership and the ticket price of 50 yuan per journey, it's simply not able to recoup its 1 billion US dollar construction fee. In fact this line is more of a technological showpiece than an economical instrument, and the Chinese name of the train reflects that - it's called 上海磁浮示范运营线, literally "Shanghai Magnetic Levitation Demonstration Operation Line".

IMG_9892 (by changyang1230)

Unfortunately the Maglev doesn't send you right to the doorstep. We needed to catch a cab from the Maglev terminal to the place we were staying in. Contrary to all the evil story you might have heard about China and its cunning people, the taxi drivers in Shanghai are surprisingly honest and professional. For this we must thank the very strict regulation by the government. As you can see in the picture above, the driver's number is displayed clearly (in fact more clearly than Melbourne's counterpart) and you can lodge a complaint about the driver by calling a number right next to it (not in this picture). Every passenger also has the right to request a receipt which contains the number and the detail of the journey.

The unique thing about taxis in China is that they all have what they call an "anti-violence screen" that separates the driver completely from the passengers. The transparent material is also supposedly bullet proof. I came across this shield device in all the cities I have been in China, so I suspect it's a norm all over the country.

The taxi price is very affordable, the starting price is 12 yuan for 3km, and each subsequent km only costs 2.40 yuan. It's also rather comfortable; but fresh foreigners in the country would be shocked by just how reckless the drivers can be. Red lights often mean nothing to the driver who's taking a right turn, and sudden sharp manoeuvres are preferred over rule-abiding driving. In Shanghai, a pedestrian who's crossing an intersection showing green light would be mercilessly honked by a taxi who's taking a turn when it's red light for him. Taxi drivers are in turn honked by truck drivers, who are in turn honked by bus drivers. This is the traffic rule of Shanghai.

IMG_2614 (by changyang1230)

Speaking of bus, we have had our good share of experience about it in Shanghai. As we live a fair distance from the hospital, every morning we have to catch a bus to work. The journey takes about 30 minutes on normal days, but it can take even longer on a busy day.

You would have thought that buses were heavy and there were more inertia to it and it is therefore harder to manoeuvre and therefore the drivers need to be more careful and courteous. Wrong. None of the above (except the heavy part). In Shanghai you don't get to sit on the bus most of the time. You stand from the beginning to the end. When you are standing, not holding onto the rail with BOTH hands is fatal. As you might have guessed from my previous ranting about the "road ranking", the buses are the king of Shanghai's bitumen road because there are simply so many of them. So they do all sorts of dangerous thing with impunity because people have to respect them. In fact, I am surprised that with all the speed and tricky manoevres I witness, I have yet to witness a single accident involving buses. It's not that I want one to happen, but it's just surprising.

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When it comes to danger, nothing beats the danger faced by cyclists in China. Numbered in the millions in each city, cyclists are the second lowest in the road ranking, just slightly higher than the pedestrians and the tourists. In their daily commutation, they have to weave in and out of cars and buses on the road. Most of these bikes are not your developed country road racing bikes; many of them are worn-out olden-day bikes which have probably been passed on for decades. There are so many cyclists that there's an industry in China where technicians basically just sit at every road intersection waiting to repair a passerby's bike.

Bike Parking (by changyang1230)

There you have it, the multiple modes of transportation in Shanghai. I have not covered a few things like the ferry service which connects the two sides of the Huangpu River. There are also the long-distance train service which deserves another discussion altogether. So in short Shanghai has a transportation system that works, as long as you can live with its eternal congestion and the lack of courtesy on the road. Perhaps it's the lack of courtesy that makes it work, if people are all as polite as Melburnians we would probably have dead gridlocks throughout Shanghai.

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