Temple Scenes

A wander round the temple at Wong Tai Sin today gave some decent photo opportunities. Sunday morning meant it was busy, not just with the Taoist worshippers but also the tourists. One thing you can be sure of is a warm welcome:


I am not sure what the glass bowl holds but hopefully not what it seems. If he filled it from that distance he certainly has a good aim.

Once inside its a slow shuffle through the crowds:

Crowd scene

Temple crowd

I managed to find a small gap to point the lens the other way.


As you can see it is all very informal and people come and go as they wish. There is no ‘service’ in the sense that many of us might recognize it.

I took the crowd scenes simply by setting the aperture to F8, Pre-focussing about 1/3 of the way through the scene and holding the camera over my head. All these images were taken with my Leica M9 and either the 35mm Summilux of the 50mm Noctilux.

The buildings themselves are beautiful:

Temple frontage

Roof shots

This next shot was perhaps my favourite of the day. Shot with the Nocti at F2, 1/750s and ISO 160. Whatever you think of the cost of the Nocti I find it a truly superlative lens.

Roof detail

And if at the end of the day you get bored with crowd watching you can nip down and have your fortune told.

The Fortune Teller

My prediction is that I’ll visit again.

As you Reap….. (now with bonus image added)

About 14 months ago we had a short break in Siem Reap in Cambodia, temple bashing. At one stage I did know the order in which we visited the temples but now they are just a blur and a lot of DNGs in my Lightroom catalogue. Occasionally I go back, review, delete a few and wonder, hmmm, I wonder what the would like if I processed it. Perhaps my PP skills have moved on in the last 14 months. Maybe not. And of course, Reap may not be pronounced Reep but Ray-app, which is what I heard at the airport. It could be one of those cunning foreign names designed to trip up unsuspecting aliens. Like Phuket, which before you get agitated is Poo-kett. So there.

To get to the point, as they used to say on Blue Peter, here’s one I made earlier.

Golden light

You can tell that the builders almost certainly didn’t have proper qualifications, no City & Guilds in brick-laying or window installation. Aha! But did they have C&G in 1200? I suspect not. But even so, fancy building a temple next to a tree like that. Any fool knows that the roots will play havoc with your foundations, madam. It is a bit like building Cologne Cathedral next to the main railway station. Bonkers. Fire the architect.

What I wanted to capture here was a sense of the scale, hence allowing an intruder to feature in the image, the wonderful way the natural and the man-made have intertwined over the centuries and of course the sensual light that bathes the site. Look at the rich chestnut glow of the tree boles left and right. I think this is the Ta Phrom temple, but I am not 100% sure.

Yet I also have a sense that the stone and timber should be well-suited to black and white. So I processed another shot in both colour and monochrome.

I have a marginal preference for the B&W frame but frankly I am  relaxed – both please me.

I would appreciate thoughts on the colour versus B&W debate and indeed any critique you wish to offer. We are here to learn, even at my age and I am happy to sow differently if I reap a better harvest.

As a bonus, here is another B&W frame, processed in LR / CS4 rather than in Silver Efex Pro. Can you tell the difference between Stork and butter?

Ta Phrom

Out with Nocti again

There has been an interesting thread on the Leica forum about “photographer’s block”. I am not sure what the warning symptoms are but once you have it then at least for a while you are stuck with it. I was probably born with it and I am sure I shall die with it. Someone suggested the cure is to buy new gear. I think not. If there is one thing I don’t need it is more kit. I have a fair number of once used but now redundant bodies and lenses in the cupboard. Perfectly good Canons, 30D and 40D, even a couple of old film bodies. Some nice P&Ss including an excellent G9. I have an excellent 200mm F2.8 prime but rather on the old side – probably second hand when I bought it. None sees the light of day since I went Leica. Only the telephotos survive with my 1D mk IV for wildlife. No, more kit is not the answer.

I went out at 5.30am today, hoping for a glorious rich sunrise and some inspiration. Disappointment. Still, I learned just how many people are out and about before 6am. The temple in Pak Sha Wan was being opened, the incense coils were being lit, the floors swept and I was probably the first ‘tourist’ of the day.

At the temple in Pak Sha Wan

I was playing with my trusty Noctilux 0.95 and this gave me a lovely shallow DoF. Sometimes I use it wide open just because I can but it does create the most luscious bokeh and bright, creamy images. I am not a landscape man but I did take a couple of pre dawn shots off the pier. Here is one:

Pre dawn

I then drove off to photograph the Flame or Phoenix trees (Delonix regia) but was distracted by something much less aesthetically pleasing, namely a scavenging dog. The skinny pooch and his pal were rummaging around inside a torn, upturned, abandoned sofa. Heaven knows what they found to enjoy – maybe some rats or discarded food. They slunk away as I approached but their nerves were overcome by the lure of the lap sap. I edged forward again and as I pressed the shutter I must have crossed the circle of fear and the bolder hound turned smartly away. I used to regard any sort of blur in an image as a sign of technical shortcomings. Now I view motion blur as part of my limited armory of creativity!

This seems to me to work better in B&W. There is no dominant colour in any case.  I captioned this simply as The Thief.

The final leg of the outing was back to  the local town. Barely 6.45am and some of the cafes were full of people enjoying (?) dim sum. I was quite surprised by how alive the town was. There was a small pavement market going on, a few mats laid out on the walkway as optimistic hawkers tried to sell their wares, from ties to vegetables. I was at a loss to understand who would buy a tie at 6.45am. Almost in unison the cafes emptied and it was then obvious that these were the boat people, breakfasting before starting on a hard day’s labour. The shouts of the boat people replaced the background buzz of breakfast banter.

The hawkers too melted away faster than arctic ice and shortly after 7am the town was more as I had expected. I walked the length of the front as far as the second pier and found the local pilates class. Through my mind went the sound of Joyce Grenfell as the fruity-toned gym mistress from the 1950s films, probably The Girls of St. Trinian’s….. Knees bend, arms stretch.

I hope I can do this when I get to this gentleman’s age.

By the time I reached home it was almost 8am and time for my breakfast. The sunrise was nothing like that of the previous two days but at least I had discovered a different rhythm to the local town. I am now waiting for the inspiration to take hold but whilst I wait I have to go and stop the dog barking. Not the The Thief  but a 5.8lb mass of fighting Pomeranian. Good morning, Lulu.

Ready to lick the nearest intruder