Tsim sha Tsui is one of my favourite places to shoot in Hong Kong, you have the diversity of rich and poor all in a very tight community, with alleyways connecting the designer shop streets the the drug dens and everything in between.
I have been testing the SLR Magic 50mm 0.95 lens for a few weeks now, and am thoroughly enjoying the experience, and again this was my weapon of choice on the M9 for some nice grungy low light portraits and street images around this interesting part of Kowloon for a few hours last night as I tried to escape the mayhem and overspill from the Rugby 7s tournament on Hong Kong Island.
The characters around this part of town range from the super rich, shopping along Canton road, laden with bags from Gucci, Dolce & Gabbanna and the likes...to the homeless and everything in between. This is a normal reflection of Hong Kong life in most parts of the city actually, this diversity makes shooting on the street very appealing, I love how I can be shooting a model outside a store, then 10 seconds later I'm haggling with sinister looking characters in a back alleyway over whether they should allow their portrait to be taken (every time I do that, I have so far had no problems at all, I even take these guys prints back and they are actually very friendly towards me - like everything in life, its all about perception, if you act scared or threatened, generally people will react accordingly, reassure them and yourself that you are doing nothing untoward, and you won't go far wrong...just keep a friend close by to keep an eye on you ;-)).
Anyway, more about the lens....I am using it almost daily now, and am finding that I can nail the focus even wide open most of the time, this comes about simply by shooting several hours a day, so I am getting plenty of practice, and am out shooting at every available opportunity with my M9. I have noticed no focus shift on this lens whatsoever, at any aperture, and once stopped down past f2 it is way sharper than my summilux lens was before (i owned a non-asph version), which was sharp, but I cannot compare with the latest version.
The only downside to this lens as people who have seen it will know is the weight, its a big piece of glass, but thats the compromise for 0.95, need a big hole to suck all that light in, and for me its no problem, I would rather carry this lens and have that option.
These few pictures show how this lens comes into its own territory, shooting in dark alleyways with only the odd small streetlamp to work with, it just sucks up all the light and gives me fast shutter speeds even at low ISO and makes shooting in this low grungy light a simple task. None of my other lenses even get close, the M9 is renowned for not having great high ISO quality, so for me this is the answer at night.
I have heard some people mention on my blog about 'purple fringing'....If the focus is off, then sure, you will get that with any lens when shooting into light with high contrast subjects around the edges, you can see from the colour samples here, I have done no 'fringe removals' of any kind, I have simply used '1 click' presets from VSCO film presets for lightroom 4 to give me the tones I desired from the M9 RAW files, I have not retouched the images in any other way.
Below is a portrait of Becky, one of my friends who was out shooting with us around the area, I just love the way this lens renders, to me it is a classic style, and it really copes well when shooting into the light and gives lovely lens flare effect that I do not find distracting at all, this is my opinion only of course, but from all the lenses I have shot, I really don't see any problem with this effect here.
The hub of activity around Tsim sha Tsui gives a photographer so many opportunities, I was actively looking for scenes like this one below last night, trying to find something quirky through glass, using the shallow depth of field to my advantage to help separate the subjects from the background and foreground.
Even late at night, all the restaurants are busy and full of activity around Hong Kong...I tend to shoot a lot of stuff at night, theres more shadow and contrasty light around, and usually easier to find interesting 'characters' to shoot around town.
After a couple of hours round the back alleys, I headed back to the Star Ferry along Nathan Road, which is always full of interesting characters aswell, whether its someone trying to sell you a copy watch or handbag, to the interesting characters just going about their lives, normally I have had no problem with shooting people in this area, just smile if they see you, and I almost always then engage them in conversation, exchange business cards and send them their photographs, makes getting out and shooting a very social and enjoyable experience, this is my therapy, it keeps me sane!
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