Cosplay, Showacts, Manga-Stars

From the first event in the summer of 1999 through 2005 the AnimagiC took place in a little town in Germany called Koblenz. Due to a growing number of visitors the event spread to a growing number of additional premises and towns. This year it took place in Bonn. he agenda of the three day long event includes Japanese pop culture (Japanese rock music, cosplay etc..). The guests of honor who attend the event every year include well-known people (graphic artists, directors, etc.) from different animation studios, Japanese manga artists and singers.

Twighlight - Vampire - Teens - inspirated

Do you remember the grubby green monster under the bed and than it was just a long-lost shirt, about the one-eyed beast that took you if you didn't finish your evening meal. Lately, there are some new age-old monsters just around the corner — vampires.

Walking through different cities and especially in and around bookshops you can usually spot teen girls with the latest vampire-themed novels safely tucked into their bags. I have never been a fan of vampire stories and I wonder why bookstores have entire sections dedicated to these blood-sucking beauties.

They might reside around cemetries which I visited as they have quite some unique opportunities to capture.

When Twilight came out, it was instantly popular with teen girls everywhere. When the movie came out, it hit extremes worldwide. Twilight was everywhere.

Then the Vampire Diaries came out on television. For a critic, the Twilight phenomenon is a little like The Da Vinci Code crossed with James Cameron’s Titanic.

Stoker’s whole novel, might be still ringing in your ears. Stoker did not invent vampires. If we define them, broadly, as the undead—spirits who rise, embodied, from their graves to torment the living—they have been part of human imagining since ancient times. Eventually, vampire superstition became concentrated in Eastern Europe.

Vampires seems to be everywhere in different forms of art as well in photography.

 

So even as I don’t be a great fan of this genre I wanted to try my own approach and found a willing model “Gia LaFae” and a cool location in Germany. Here some of the images I took this month.

The Casemates: Unesco World Heritage

The casemates in Luxemburg have been built in 1644 from Spanish engineers. This casemates are full of mystery and if they could tell their gloomy stories from times gone bye it would be very interesting as it was the most envied fortress in Europe.

It is quite adequat that part of the European political parts are here in Luxemburg as the casemat have been built by Italian, Spansih, Belgian, French, Austrian, Dutch and Prussian engineers. All this different people of different heritage took part in the gradual extension of the fortifications of this stronghold.

The first casemates were built in 1644 under Spanish domination. The enlargement of the 23 km long underground galleries took place 40 years later, under the direction of the military engineer and fortifications builder Vauban, and later, in the 18th century, under the Austrians.

Luxemburg was called the "Gibraltar of the North" in these times. In 1867 the casemates were dismantled following the neutralisation of Luxemburg. This lasted for 16 years and the casemates were reduced to 17 km.

Here is one plan showing the casemates from the side and above and some more images from the underground casemates.

Juxtaposition in Luxemburg

Luxemburg and its old town, a UNESCO heritage site, has ruins of the castle from 963 which can still be seen. It is a town with a lot of juxtaposition of old and new. If you visit Place d'Armes a large square you'll find that it is surrounded by lots of restaurants and cafes and perfect for people watching. Luxemburg is a relaxing city as there are lots of historical sights within easy walking distance.

At night, there are good opportunities to get images of lights reflecting from the The Cathedral of Notre Dame whichholds the tomb of a 14th century Count of Luxembourg.

Built between 1572-74 to serve as the City Hall, the Renaissance style building near Place d'Armes has been the Grand Ducal Palace since 1890. It is sometimes open for tours but best to check dates and times at the Tourist Information Centre.

Here some impressions of the town.

Frankfurt: multicultural village with a modern skyline

There is just a narrow but futuristic looking skyline of high rises in Germanys leading financial market place but behind this is a town with a lot of art, culture and history. The modern skyline has been the root for the name "Mainhatten".

 

You might think of Frankfurt as a city for bankers and brokers which are hiding behind some of the mirrored and fancy looking skyscrapers. But just around this high buildings you will find an atmosphere which is rather old style urban or village like. Sitting in one of the many restaurants which serve the local apple wine you will find a very cosy environment. From the times of the famous poet and writer, Goethe,  this might not have changed a lot. 

 

Römerberg

 

On the rubble of the finished World War two remains the famous place around the old town hall has been reconstructed and builds quite a contrasting scene to the modern buildings in the background. You can find some old an history burdened buildings in Frankfurt like: Kaiserdom, Paulskirche, Goethe-Haus, the Opera and more.

 

Paulskirche

 

This church is the birthplace of Germans democracy and is a classisistic building where 1848/1849 German members of the national congress disputed over a democratic governed German state. At this time they were neglected by prussian and austrian monarchy.

 

Goethe

 

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, born 28.08.1749, has been born here and lived through his youth in Frankfurt. The old house was bombed in World War Two but reconstructed shortly after.

 

Zeil

 

A street called Zeil is the first address for any shopaholic who comes to Frankfurt. It is the usual mix of department stores, boutiques and branches of world known brands. Shopping Centers as MyZeil have distinctive futuristic looks like this world of glas with liquid form. Just around the corner you will find the "Fressgass" literally an alley to dig into food. Here you can find all the restaurants, bistros and bars which offers local and foreign specialities.  If there is fine weather you can eat and dine on many of the outdoor facilities.

 

One thing not to miss is the "Kleinmarkthalle", a local market with about 60 market stalls on a surface of 1500 squaremeters were you can get all the good tasting local delicacies of the region and even foreign foods. From german sausages to japanese sushi and a lot in between.

Fashion shooting at Chula House

Fashion photography is less stressful if you organize a shot list before the shoot and rehearse technique and composition for each shot in your mind ahead. If possible preparing the location, props and clothes ahead of time would be a good idea.

Unusual looking models can bring interest to the shoot, whereas female models with large almond eyes, big lips, small chins and symmetrical faces are deemed “more commercial”.  

At this shooting it was advised by the client to shoot at the location where the fashion is produced and sold.  As it was not only a hot but a very humid day not only the photographer has been sweating but the model as well. A challenge for the make up artist and in fact a matter of resting in an air-conditioned room and shooting outside in short intervals was the only way to go.

The location for the spring/summer and natural looking fashion was ideal as it was a rural environment with a small garden, wood benches and some colorful backgrounds.

At first I was by moving around the scene and exploring which angles might work best to full expose the garment. This ended as well in climbing on the roof crouching low, working at different angles and moving closer to the subject.

Here is the link to more images shot at Chula House.

Macao - UNESCO World Heritage Site

If you are in Hong Kong or Kanton or actually visiting Macao you will find apart all the fancy and new buildings and casinos a very fine cityscape from the 15th century. The Macao UNESCO World Heritag sites. Wandering around its different parts you might as well come up to Ah Ma temple, which is worth visiting.

Just before you enter you might encounter some of the old woman who always seem to be in front of the entrance to earn some money in different ways - mostly in charging tourist for taking their picture. Or you do it like I did. Wait for a group who is taking photographs of her and snap your own in between. She wasn't pleased at all.

Macau's name is derived from A-Ma-Gau or Place of A-Ma and this temple dedicated to the seafarers' goddess dates from the early 16th century.

It consists of prayer halls, pavilions and courtyards built into the hill and connected by winding paths through moon gates and tiny gardens.

At the entrance is a large rock on which is engraved a traditional sailing junk. On other boulders are carved red characters invoking the gods or repeating a prayer. There are a lot of little pathes and stairways so you don't have to stick in the masses and have your own little peace in the surroundings as well.

And if you are one of the white devils like I am you might be getting another image for free from her. After I took it she was grinning as well and as I showed her the image she was pleased. Actually I went back about a month later and presented her with a print which delighted her immensley.

So don't stay in the Casinos there is a lot to discover in the different parts of Macao and it is fun and rewarding for your visual senses.

Tu Duc complex

Tu Duc Tomb, Khiem Lang or Khiem tomb as known officially is the mausoleum of the fourth emperor of the Nguyen dynasty. The tomb is in Duong Xuan Thuong village near Hue city. The work to build the site had started in 1867.

The intention of Tu Duc has been to build a poetic and virtually a site of perfect beauty like an unique poem. The whole site is about 12 hectares surrounded by a 3 m high wall which surround the site on a length of 1350 meter.

The tomb faces the east and has four gates. On the North bank, in the center of a pine forest has been a shooting range of the emperor and places where he had his library, read books and embraced the panorama of the scenery. There are about 50 different architectural constructions in different locations.

The UNESCO inscribed this tomb ensemble in 1993 to its World Cultural Heritage list.

more images here.

Point of view

Thanks everyone out on Saturday in the streets and alleys of the Old Quarter trying to get some incling of different point of views as shooting in the street.

Position, direction and height of your camera define the point of view of the image. The way your subject is perceived might be much different by changing the camera position. If you are photographing something that you want to seem very tall, arrange the shot so that the camera is looking upwards. The mood and effectiveness of a picture can be very much altered by what is in the background.

 

Is there a “best” point of view?

The best point of view depends on your intention. There are certain angles to take an image which makes your picture certainly more powerful. I hope everyone had some good time in exploring and trying different approaches.

 

Here are some of the images taken:

Photographer in action mode.

Attention cyclo ahead!

Why is he taking a picture of me?

Earluy morning praparation.

Naked truth .....

 

My chance to wield the Megapixel Monster Nikon D800

Yesterday I had the chance to get hands on a Nikon D800, which as a new model in its own right (as opposed to a straightforward linear replacement/upgrade to the D700) and it’s hard not to be impressed with what's on offer.

Outwardly, I found that the Nikon D800 is very similar to the D700. It has the prominent hand-grip, which is very comfortable to my hand. The overall shape of the camera body seems to be a little bit rounder and streamlined, but otherwise the dimensions seemed very close to the older model.

This isn't a scientific test at all but just a possibility for me to see how I could handle the massive files and how the low light capabilities would be influenced by the high megapixel capture. This is certainly a camera for landscape photographers, but any portrait/lifestyle photographer will benefit as well in getting a lot of pixels to push around.

Sensitivity ranges from ISO 100 to ISO 6400 in standard mode, which is widened by an extended Low1 setting that’s the equivalent of ISO 50 and a Hi2 setting that’s equivalent to ISO 25,600. So my main interest had been to what extent the densely populated sensor would affect the low-light image quality.

I have been quite happy with my D700, which was rightly praised for this ability to suppress noise at higher sensitivity settings and performed miraculous well in poor light conditions. In the short time I could use the new gear I found that it’s really not an issue at all. The D800 offers excellent high ISO/low-light performance.

Shooting at the Hanoi Opera at "Tchaikovsky night" in between ISO 3200 to 6400. Here a sample which pleased me at ISO 5000, 180 mm, f 5.0, 1/80 sec handheld with the 70 to 200 mm f 2.8 lens.

A real issue are the big, big files recording to your memory card and later transfer it to you computer and working in Lightroom, PS or any equivalent. If you have this camera you need most probably as well an upgrade on your computer hardware as well.

Tchaikovsky night from Kiribane on Vimeo.

Want to get published?

Ever wondered what it takes to get your work into a magazine?  Here’s a hint: brought from phtoshelter and forbes magazine (http://bit.ly/MujZw6)

Apart from that you can nearly go to any editor and magazine’s Director of Photography you will hear the same:

“creative” software filters. – no go

minor post-processing is ok like minimal dodging and burning, black and white, tinting images and cropping.

So even the current trend in photography, is towards filters, don’t expect that editors and directors of photography will jump this trend anytime soon.

If you are doing your own artistic approach, going for fine art, into galleries etc. that's a whole different cup of tea.

Just go out and take some amazing images.

Imperial Citadel of Thang Long

Here are some of the images I took on Saturday at Thang Long the Old Citadel in Hanoi. I had a lot of fun at the shooting and as well in post processing as I wanted to try to build up a private recipe gallery with NIK Software Color Efex Pro 4.

 

My favourite filters are "Detail Extractor", "Classical Soft Focus", "Brilliance/Warmth" and "Glamour Glow". Mixing them and others is a lot of fun and a starting point for images which are alike or if you ike to process a bunch of images in the same style.

You can have a look at the images here.

Imperial Citadel of Thang Long and some recipes

No it is not about cooking even if I’m just hungry now and will go out to have a bite of tasty and fresh cooked Vietnamese food. It is about having a photo shoot at the Imperial Citadel in Hanoi.

A friend of mine wanted to have some images with Ao Dai and as I didn’t have planned anything else I happily agreed as shooting some Vietnamese fashion with nice girls is a no brainer.

 

Weather was OK but not great and apart from the fitting location of gritty and old walls and the contrast of lovely ladies in front is already a good choice the light has been so so.

I didn’t have assistance and bringing along a lot of gear had been out of option this time because as a professional you are charged more than as a regular tourist. So I opted just for my Nikon D3s, my new on the go lens 28 to 300mm and off I was.

 

I got images as good as possible in camera but already something started to brew in my mind. As with food you can get the best and fresh things which taste on its own very well it is sometimes even better if they are prepared with some spices and different herbs.

So I decided to enhance some of the images with NIK Software. There is exactly one thing I love about Nik’s Color Efex Pro 4 - it is the ability to save my own – so-called - recipes. I love to ‘cook’ and create my food and in the same way I like to add different filters on top of each other to get it to where I like it.

 

The fun of all this is that you can save that look to apply to future images that might be similar in style or subject matter. I think this is an excellent way to jumpstart a body of work that has the same treatment or to create some visual work, which relates to your taste.

As creativity, taste and approach of anyone are very different I nevertheless would like to hear your constructive opinion on the treatment I gave the images that will be posted in a while. Here just some behind the scene images and the first of a series which will follow.

 

heavy rain turns street - land under

the hot and humid weather in the last days had clouds gathering around Hanoi and today it has turned the street I'm normally walking in a land under. It looked like a river flowing through the city. Unfortunately I had an event going on, luckily I got a taxi, unlucky I didn't have one of my big gear with me. But what the hell restriction is sometimes what you need and at least I had my iPhone 4 and could tke some images out of the cab.

Astonishing how fast the water had been changing the street into a streaming river and stopping nearly all traffic - fascinating.

Clouds are coming in low like fog and the rain starts to pour down.

Drainage system overflowed and the river starts to build up.

Forcing your eye muscles to stretch

Vietnam has a rail system that spans the length of the country. You can, when not easily, but you can, travel from Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) in the south to the border with China in the north. The railway is charmingly called “the Reunification Express”; you can as well reach destinations like Sapa in the northwest and Ha Long Bay in the northeast by rail, and on the way to or from Ho Chi Minh City the cities of Hue, Hoi An, and Da Nang in central Vietnam.

But the rail just served me as a medium to stretch my eye muscles in using one of my medium format cameras. There are a lot of different style cameras that use this kind of film format. You can have it with toy cameras like the Holga and Diana, as well on your smart phone with apps like Instagram, which are making the square format popular or more popular than ever.

Square format cameras have been around a long time. Photographers like Richard Avedon, Irving Penn and Robert Doisneau. Diane Arbus used the square format.

One of the main attractions of the square format is composition. There is something different about a square. The viewer’s eye moves around the image in a circle, rather than from side to side. There’s less wasted space around the subject. You can place the subject in the centre of the frame and it just looks right, but you can as well use the rue of thirds, using diagonals and alike.

The square format seems to work best with subjects like portraiture, still life, architecture, details and abstracts. These are all artistic subjects – which is perhaps why the square format is popular with fine art photographers.

What it comes down to is that experimenting with the square format is fun and shooting to a different ratio forces you to compose your images in a different way and helps stretch your eye and creative muscles.

You can view the individual images here.

Hanoi by Night - boring or exiting?

Hanoi is not world famous for its nightlife and some visitors find it outright boring but there are some places worth checking out. Even just walking through the streets you can explore a lot of Vietnamese traditional characteristics under the sparkling street light at night.

The most prolific side to Hanoi's after-work activities are its many beer bars selling 'bia hoi (fresh beer).

But you will be surprised that here are quite many night activities in Hanoi such as night market, street foods or any kind of sport, dance, people gathering and so on. So take your camera go out see and enjoy Hanoi.

I did it getting more accustomed to the behavior of my Sony NEX 7 with my 35mm f 1.2 Voigtlaender lens. Around the flag tower of Hanoi there was a big crowd doing different things from biking, break dancing, roller-skating and many more.

At a setting of Aperture f 2.0 and ISO 6400 I got some images which I like and would like to share.

Hue and Tu Duc Tomb (built 1864-67)

Emperor Tu Duc struggled with rebellion, French encroachment, and court intrigues for thirty-odd years Emperor and had the longest reign of any monarch of the Nguyen dynasty, ruling from 1848-83.

Although he had over a hundred wives and concubines, he was unable to father a son. So he decided to write his own epitaph on the deeds of his reign. For all that, the Emperor affected humility, adding the word Khiem, or “modesty”, to all the building names in his tomb complex.

The epitaph can still be found inscribed on the stele in the pavilion just to the east of the Emperor's tomb. Tu Duc began planning his tomb long before his death in 1883. The major portions of the tomb complex were completed from 1864-67, along with future temple buildings that served as a palatial retreat for Tu Duc and his entourage during his lifetime.

The Emperor used this site as his home away from home, so the amenities for the living are unmatched at any other tomb I reckon. Here, the Emperor could boat on the lake and hunt small game on the tiny island in the lake's middle. He could recline at Xung Khiem Pavilion and recite or compose poetry in the company of his concubines.

Interestingly, despite the grandeur of the site and the amount of time Tu Duc spent here, he was actually buried in a different, secret location somewhere in Hue. To keep the secret safe the 200 laborers who buried the king were all beheaded after they returned from the secret route. To this day, the real tomb of Tu Duc remains hidden for future generations to discover.

The tomb site and its buildings are relatively well-preserved despite the ravages of war and time, and serve as a reminder that money and power can only buy one so much happiness.

Getting to Tu Duc’s tomb, which is about four miles from Hue is possible by package tours, taxi, xe om, and cyclo drivers from the town center or you just walk as I did.

 

This building housed the Royal Concubines.

 

Nearby at the lake where the lotus was in blossom there has been as well plenty of life going on. There will be more images from the whole site coming up soon.

Shooting kickass street and world-class images – who didn’t want to do this?

Please notice: this post isn’t featuring Garry Winogrand, Bruce Gilden, Martin Parr, Henri Cartier-Bresson or other famous photographers — their works deserve has already their own posts.

Street photographers strive to capture the life and culture of city streets, searching for what the bunch of famous photographers mentioned above did and do all time. Henri Cartier-Bresson, probably the most famous street photographer of all, is said to term the thesis of the ‘Decisive Moment’.

Street photographers traditionally choose to work in black and white, focusing the viewer’s attention on the subject by eliminating the distraction of color. As I have been in Hong Kong lately and had the chance not only to get hold of a Sony NEX 7 with a Voigtlaender 35mm f1.2 lens I could meet up as well with a bunch of street photogs with wide angle lenses who like to get in close to the action. There method is to encourage interaction between the photographer and subject.

But who is capturing them – so I did it, as I was already close.

Out in the streets with a pack of same minded photogs always helps to get you in the mood and beeing more adventures than shooting alone.

Chimping or setting the camera right? Ready for the next shot.

The hunter waiting for the prey.

critcal look

different gear will get you different results

Some climb, some jump and some get the shot.

And then my lens get blurred as it began to get to sharp.

Have fun and shoot!