Canon 50mm f/1.2

Yellow Telephone

Yellow Telephone
1/2500s,  f/1.4, ISO 800, 50mm

What's attractive about a dirty, old telephone?  Not much, generally.  But somehow this yellow phone found just the right place in the world.  At first, the phone and the yellow caps on the bottles caught my attention.  Then I noticed, the matching blues of the newsstand and the sign in the background.  I first shot the scene without any people any it, but the result struck me as a bit too desolate (and a bit dishonest given how busy the street was).  So I waited around and got a father and his daughter to talk walk into the frame

9/11 Memorial

Flower at September 11 Memorial
1/400s, f/1.2, ISO 1250, 50mm

Last week, I made a brief visit to the 9/11 Memorial at the World Trade Center site. The design made me skeptical, mostly because it seemed too somber and not forward-looking enough. Designed by Michael Arad, the center piece of the memorial is a park with two square pools of falling water marking the footprints of the Twin Towers. The water in each pool flows into a square pit--a seemingly bottomless void. Large bronze plates surround the pools and carry the victims' names. The sound of the falling water is surprisingly loud and drowns out a good amount of the city noise.

Experiencing the memorial in person is truly moving. The scale, the darkness, and the roaring sound of the water invoke the destruction and the depth of the tragedy. It's a powerful combination that undoubtedly will lead most people to reflect on the event and what happened in its aftermath. Sadly, that's a depressing exercise, especially when watching night come on during a rigidly cold January afternoon. And it leads back to my concern that the memorial really doesn't look forward or communicate something hopeful about the future. I worry that the solemnness and scale will make it difficult for the memorial to integrate into the city and age well, and I wonder if more light and useable green space could have done a better job of balancing the past, present, and future.

In my photos, I have tried to provide as elegant a portrait of what are, despite the drawbacks, strikingly beautiful structures. Click on below the fold for two more shots, an iPhone panorama of the south pool, and a 360 degree view of the park made with Photosynth.

September 11 Memorial
1/400s, f/1.2, ISO 800, 50mm

Perspective on The National September 11 Memorial
1/640s, f/1.2, ISO 800, 50mm

On the Streets of Mongkok

On the Streets of Mongkok
1/2000s, f/2.8, ISO 400, 50mm

I've been spending some time lately shooting street scenes using manual focus.  I pre-focus the camera to somewhere around two meters and chose a relatively forgiving aperture (usually something like f/2.8, which still generates a fairly narrow focal plane).  It's great for street photography since it's less obtrusive and allows you to compose the image without raising the camera.

Bird Cage

Bird Cage
1/640s, f/2.8, ISO 400, 50mm

Here's a shot from near the entrance the bird market in Mongkok.  The cage was hanging by itself away from the center of the market, and none of the passersby seemed to give it much attention.  I waited around a bit to get the right amount of people in the shot to balance the composition.  I chose a somewhat narrow aperture of f/2.8, so that the background wouldn't be a complete blur.

To Crop or Not to Crop

Gage Street, Hong Kong (结志街) Take II
1/1250s, f/1.2, ISO 100, 50mm
To crop or not to crop: I took this picture a few weeks ago and initially decided to crop it and move the subject to the right of the frame.  I try not crop my images excessively but in this case I felt that the surroundings didn't add much.  And cropping seemed a way to bring the viewer closer to the woman in front.  But when I came across the orignal image yesterday, I realized that I made a mistake.  While there's not much going on around the woman, the surroundings provide more context and reveals more of the street's grit.  The cropped image is below the fold.  What do you think?
Gage Street, Hong Kong (结志街)
1/1250s, f/1.2, ISO 100, 50mm