Category Archives: Cultural

Two Weeks with the Nifty Fifty; or, Temple Life in Taipei

I recently spent two weeks in Taipei, Taiwan. For this particular trip, I decided to leave my trusty 24-70 mm lens at home and just bring the tiny 50 mm f:1.8 fixed focal length lens. My reasons for doing this were twofold: I wanted to go lighter. The Canon 24-70 is a tank, both in terms of actual weight as well as visual weight, especially when combined with the 6D body. My shoulder is weary of carrying it all and the size of it makes me feel very conspicuous in public places. Secondly, I wanted to challenge myself with a single focal length lens. Part of the purpose for this challenge will be revealed in an upcoming post (I know you’re all holding your breath in anticipation).

Upon returning, someone asked if I had felt limited in having only the one focal length. Generally I would have to say no. Sure, there were occasional moments where I might have wished for something a bit longer or shorter, but us humans are really quite flexible creatures and we tend to adapt to whatever constraints we are given. Forced to use one lens, you adapt and soon begin to ‘see’ in that focal length. Although, aside from a 100 mm macro lens, my experience with fixed focal length lenses is limited, those-who-know-better-than-me often suggest that using fixed lenses can help you learn to see creatively because of those constraints. You can’t just stand it one spot and zoom until you get something interesting, you have to actually think within that fixed frame.

As far as the Canon 50 mm f:1.8 (often referred to at the Nifty Fifty) is concerned, well, it’s a cheap lens. On the plus side, it’s inexpensive, reasonably sharp, and light-weight. On the downside, it’s cheap, as in plastic construction, slow focusing, and, at least to my eye, seemed to struggle with high-contrast situations in which a higher quality lens might have handled with ease. That said, for the price you can’t beat this lens and every Canon shooter should have it in their bag. Or rather, on their camera.

The pictures below were all shot with the 50 mm on a 6D (full frame) body and are a series of images from various temples around the Taipei area. Taipei has numerous temples around, primarily of various Buddhist and Confucius varieties. I won’t pretend to know the differences between them and they all seemed to follow a similar layout, although the Confucius temple was more spare and much less ostentatious than the Buddhist temples.

Enjoy!

Lighting incense, Guandu Temple, Taipei

Lighting incense, Guandu Temple, Taipei
Canon 6D, 50 mm, f/2.8, 1/100s, ISO 100

Lighting candles at Longshan Temple, Taipei

Lighting candles at Longshan Temple, Taipei
Canon 6D, 50 mm, f/2.8, 1/40s, ISO 800

Longshan Temple, Taipei

Longshan Temple, Taipei
Canon 6D, 50 mm, f/2.8, 1/40s, ISO 800

Longshan Temple, Taipei

Longshan Temple, Taipei
Canon 6D, 50 mm, f/2.8, 1/40s, ISO 2000

Looking at something interesting at Longshan Temple, Taipei

Looking at something interesting at Longshan Temple, Taipei
Canon 6D, 50 mm, f/2.8, 1/40s, ISO 800

Longshan Temple, Taipei

Longshan Temple, Taipei
Canon 6D, 50 mm, f/2.8, 1/50s, ISO 320

Red wall at Hui Chi Temple, Taipei

Red wall at Hui Chi Temple, Taipei
Canon 6D, 50 mm, f/5.6, 1/125s, ISO 100

Hui Chi Temple, Taipei

Hui Chi Temple, Taipei
Canon 6D, 50 mm, f/2.8, 1/50s, ISO 400

Prayers at Hui-Chi Temple, Taipei

Prayers at Hui-Chi Temple, Taipei
Canon 6D, 50 mm, f/2.8, 1/30s, ISO 400

Confucius Temple, Taipei

Confucius Temple, Taipei
Canon 6D, 50 mm, f/2.8, 1/60s, ISO 100

Also posted in Camera Tech, Taiwan, Travel Tagged , , , |

Day Of the Dead By Candlelight

Christmas and Thanksgiving are long gone, Valentine’s Day is history, and Easter is just around the corner. Even so, I still have one more set of images I’d like to show of the Day of the Dead in Oaxaca, Mexico. These are all scenes from a number of the cemeteries that we visited around Oaxaca over several evenings. And no, the image of the band playing is not in here by mistake. Although the gatherings around the graves of loved-ones were somewhat solemn and personal family affairs, it was not a sad occasion and was, overall, more of a celebration of life and family. Hence, the band playing out over a crowded cemetery at 1 in the morning.

On the technical side, all of these images were taken hand-held. You’ll notice the high ISO in most of them, a testament to the low-light capabilities of the Canon 6D. There was noise, of course, which varied from image to image but this was easy to clean up in Lightroom or with Nik Define2. The final images lost a bit of sharpness due to the noise reduction and probably wouldn’t be appropriate for large printing but they are adequate for web and small prints.

Xoxocotlan, Mexico - Canon 6D, 24-70 mm f/2.8L @ 48mm, f/3.2, ISO 4000, 1/60s

Xoxocotlan, Mexico – Canon 6D, 24-70 mm f/2.8L @ 48mm, f/3.2, ISO 4000, 1/60s

Santa María Atzompa, Mexico - Canon 6D, 24-70 mm f/2.8L @ 70mm, f/2.8, ISO 5000, 1/60s

Santa María Atzompa, Mexico – Canon 6D, 24-70 mm f/2.8L @ 70mm, f/2.8, ISO 5000, 1/60s

Panteon General, Oaxaca, Mexico - Canon 6D, 24-70 mm f/2.8L @ 70mm, f/2.8, ISO 10000, 1/60s

Panteon General, Oaxaca, Mexico – Canon 6D, 24-70 mm f/2.8L @ 70mm, f/2.8, ISO 10000, 1/60s

Santa María Atzompa, Mexico - Canon 6D, 24-70 mm f/2.8L @ 70mm, f/3.2, ISO 1250, 1/60s

Santa María Atzompa, Mexico – Canon 6D, 24-70 mm f/2.8L @ 70mm, f/3.2, ISO 1250, 1/60s

Xoxocotlan, Mexico - Canon 6D, 24-70 mm f/2.8L @ 60mm, f/2.8, ISO 12800, 1/60s

Xoxocotlan, Mexico – Canon 6D, 24-70 mm f/2.8L @ 60mm, f/2.8, ISO 12800, 1/60s

Santa María Atzompa, Mexico - Canon 6D, 24-70 mm f/2.8L @ 70mm, f/3.2, ISO 6400, 1/60s

Santa María Atzompa, Mexico – Canon 6D, 24-70 mm f/2.8L @ 70mm, f/3.2, ISO 6400, 1/60s

Santa María Atzompa, Mexico - Canon 6D, 24-70 mm f/2.8L @ 54mm, f/3.2, ISO 12800, 1/60s

Santa María Atzompa, Mexico – Canon 6D, 24-70 mm f/2.8L @ 54mm, f/3.2, ISO 12800, 1/60s

Santa María Atzompa, Mexico - Canon 6D, 24-70 mm f/2.8L @ 70mm, f/2.8, ISO 8000, 1/60s

Santa María Atzompa, Mexico – Canon 6D, 24-70 mm f/2.8L @ 70mm, f/2.8, ISO 8000, 1/60s

Also posted in Mexico, Travel Tagged , , , |

Backstreets of Mexico

As I’ve written about in several previous posts, last October/November I traveled down to Oaxaca, Mexico, with Within the Frame to photograph the Day of the Dead festival. Festivals typically involve a number of relatively short periods of frivolity and excitement interspersed with long periods of nothing much happening. For our group, a good portion of this down time was spent simply walking around, alone or as small groups, exploring and photographing backstreets and neighborhoods of Oaxaca and nearby communities (not to mention plenty of eating and drinking). Festival pictures are often fun and dramatic, full of color and movement with people dancing and revelers in fantastic costume. There’s certainly nothing wrong with photographs of this but as images that are representative of a place, they can be a bit misleading. Festivals are only a very small part of a culture or a place. That’s why, for me, it’s the images of everyday life in a community that are often more interesting and compelling.

At the Corner Market

At the Corner Market – Canon 6D, 38 mm, 1/60 sec @ f/2.8, ISO 2500

Villa de Zaachila

Villa de Zaachila – Canon 6D, 70 mm, 1/250 sec @ f/4.5, ISO 100

Unknown backstreet

Unknown backstreet – Canon 6D, 24 mm, 1/1000 sec @ f/2.8, ISO 100

Villa de Zaachila

Villa de Zaachila – Canon 6D, 32 mm, 1/400 sec @ f/4.0, ISO 100

San Pablo Villa de Mitla

San Pablo Villa de Mitla – Canon 6D, 24 mm, 1/500 mm @ f/4.0, ISO 100

Villa de Zaachila

Villa de Zaachila – Canon 6D, 70 mm, 1/500 sec @ f/4.0, ISO 100

Also posted in Mexico, Travel Tagged , , , |

Observing the Parade

Last week I posted a series of images of the Gay Pride parade and march that occurred recently here in Manila. In that post I mentioned how when photographing events such as this, I often find it more interesting to capture the scenes around the event, the passersby, the people there to observe. I had a few more such photos from the Gay Pride event that I really liked but didn’t include in the previous post so I thought I’d post them separately here today. As stand-alone images they probably don’t work very well, but hopefully you will enjoy them within the context of the previous post which you can see here.

Amused gentleman .. Gay Pride Parade .. Manila, Philippines

Amused gentleman .. Gay Pride Parade .. Manila, Philippines

Mixed reactions .. Gay Pride Parade .. Manila, Philippines

Mixed reactions .. Gay Pride Parade .. Manila, Philippines

Young girl watching .. Gay Pride Parade .. Manila, Philippines

Young girl watching .. Gay Pride Parade .. Manila, Philippines

The other photographer .. Gay Pride Parade .. Manila, Philippines

The other photographer .. Gay Pride Parade .. Manila, Philippines

Cooking, no time to watch .. Gay Pride Parade .. Manila, Philippines

Cooking, no time to watch .. Gay Pride Parade .. Manila, Philippines

Also posted in Philippines, Social Justice Tagged , , |

Manila Gay Pride

A week or so ago I just happened to find myself at Manila’s annual Gay Pride march in the Malate section of the city. A relatively small event, especially considering the size of the city, it was nonetheless a boisterous and lively group that wound its way through the narrow and crowded streets in a part of town known for its colorful nightlife. I don’t know any of the details, but typical of what I’ve seen of many Pride organizations, this event apparently almost didn’t happen due to lack of organization and problems with sponsors. Regardless, the show did go on though this disorganization may have had something to do with the small size of the event.

There was no organized route in the sense that one would usually expect from a parade. There were no blocked off streets, no pedestrian fences to keep people off the parade route, no traffic cops, and very little media presence. And no spectators, aside from the people out on the street going about their business, the occasional odd tourist, or those who came out of their homes or shops to see what all the ruckus was about. Although there was some corporate sponsorship in evidence, overall the march had a very grass-roots feel to it, more like a protest rally than a parade, something reminiscent of what might have occurred back in the 1970s and ’80s when the gay-rights movement was just getting started.

After a few years of photographing events like this, I’ve come to find that quite often it’s the vignettes of the everyday people who come out to watch the festivities that are the more interesting story. In this case, it’s the people on the street, some just going about their business, pedestrians caught-up in the mess of the passing crowd, some amused, indifferent or unsure, and some still covered in the soapsuds of their interrupted bath.

Gay Pride, Manila, Philippines

Gay Pride, Manila, Philippines

All made up and ready - Gay Pride, Manila, Philippines

All made up and ready – Gay Pride, Manila, Philippines

Gay Pride, Manila, Philippines

Gay Pride, Manila, Philippines

Gay Pride, Manila, Philippines

Gay Pride, Manila, Philippines

Fairy angels, or something like that - Gay Pride, Manila, Philippines

Fairy angels, or something like that – Gay Pride, Manila, Philippines

A passerby gets caught up in the parade - Gay Pride, Manila, Philippines

A passerby gets caught up in the parade – Gay Pride, Manila, Philippines

Young homeless street urchins hanging out in the square as the parade prepares to depart - Gay Pride, Manila, Philippines

Young homeless street urchins hanging out in the square as the parade prepares to depart – Gay Pride, Manila, Philippines

Telling it like it is... - Gay Pride, Manila, Philippines

Telling it like it is… – Gay Pride, Manila, Philippines

People come out of their homes to see what's coming down the street - Gay Pride, Manila, Philippines

People come out of their homes to see what’s coming down the street – Gay Pride, Manila, Philippines

Gay parade participants share the street with other traffic in a residential area - Gay Pride, Manila, Philippines

Gay parade participants share the street with other traffic in a residential area – Gay Pride, Manila, Philippines

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Also posted in Philippines, Social Justice Tagged , , |