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Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year

May 2011 bring you more blessings, more posperity and more health and happiness than ever before.

Phoograph of Hamburg Harbour.

travels with my LX3: Heilingendamm, Germany

The village of Heiligendamm is an interesting one. Tucked away, all the way north in Germany, facing the Baltic Sea. It was host to the G8 in 2007.

I was there one freezing December afternoon...the sea was raging...these shots were photographed with the LX3.

The waves were rather strong...unrelentless in its pounding of the shore.

From the pier just outside the Grand Hotel Heiligendamm:

After 20 minutes, I needed to take cover inside the hotel. It was calm is a panorama view of the grand cafe.

Somehow, looking out from within the warm cafe, the freezing weather manages to look beautiful.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Lubeck, Germany

The city of Lubeck is an old mediaval style town, near to the north of Germany...on arrival, the visitor is greeted by the famous towers: Holstein Towers (where the beer gets its name from!)

Getting this photograph was a bit challenging...not half due to the cold weather, but also to the human traffic which passes through. I had to tilt the camera up, even with the 28mm I could not cover the entire building...and I adjusted the perspective in CS4.

In almost every street corner in almost every town in Germany, one eventually chances on a Christmas many varieties...from mediaval ones like this, to those catering to kids, to those specializing in food, and the famous Gluhwein...a hot, red wine, quite strongly smelling, but mild tasting, to warm the extremeties to prepare one for the cold.

And yet another Christmas Market by the church:

I did not bother to correct the perspective in this photograph, as I had visualised the tall towers, with the tiny mediaval style stores surrounding it. The tilt was also quite significant, that it would have demanded significant distortion the straighten the lines. Though I did not attempt to correct the colour

balance for the first two photographs, allowing the tungsten lamps to dominate with rich golden hue...I did a levels adjustment to correct for color temperature for this shot, resulting in natural daylight colored walls for the church.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Blessed Christmas

My very best wishes of great blessings this Christmas for all readers.

Photographed in the center of Hamburg. This was a multi panel stitch...4 panels on the base, and two additional panels to show the sky. Stitched in CS4. And autolevels to make the sky pitch black. Please click for 1920 wide image. As with other panoramas, the photograph is very rich in detail, and would be best viewed larger.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Ahrenshoop, Germany

The Baltic Sea...mysterious to Asians like me...but yet, for hundreds of thousands of Germans, they make a pilgrimage up to the sea at the northern tip of their beautiful country almost every summer. Many Germans spend Whitsun in the Baltic Sea. Of the numerous villages that dot the seascape, mostly catering to the tourist industry, I spend a couple of days in Ahrenshoop...a quaint village, like most others in the neighbourhood.

I photographed this from the rooftop cafe of the hotel I was staying in...metering was easy. I put the sea into zone 5, and the rest was fine. A small brightness boost in CS4 was all it took to pop the colours.

The winter had arrived early this year...hard, cold and early. It was barely December 10 when I arrived...but we already have had some half a meter of snow in most of Germany, and indeed most of Europe. The temperature was about -3C in the morning I photographed the sea...but the north wind was very strong...indeed...and I think with the wind chill, it must have been -15C.

I had shot some photographs with the LX3 in the morning, during the recce trip...which left me nearly frozen...but I have had time to recover in the spa in the meantime, before venturing out to catch the early sunset at about 4:20pm.

The timber barriers were spread some 100m from each other, across the entire beach, to break the waves as it hits the shore with quite great force. You can see the violent waves, and if left to itself, erosion would wash away the shore in short time. I had visualized a dark image in my mind...and so in CS4, I used a red filter to deepen the wooden trunks.

A fisherman's boat, by the beach...

I wanted to catch the golden rays of the sun on the sand and the boat...framing was low, with the tripod's legs fully folded, but all 3 legs deployed in the normal position. Metering was done to put the hull of the ship at zone 4. Perhaps a polarizing filter would darken the sky a bit more, and make the clouds more dramatic.

And a sunset shot. I metered for the sun, and placed it in zone 8. The rest of the photograph was allowed to fall in place.

During post-processing, I burned the grassy foreground to recover some of the details. This was done using the shadows slider in Phocus. I was tempted to recover all the detail in the grass, but eventually left it with just hints of detail because I wanted the sky to be dramatic and the sun overpowering. To achieve the effect, I saturated the skies a bit.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The ALS Richard Lange Pour le Merite Tourbillon

The early release for the A. Lange & Sohne novelty for 2011...embargo lifted at 9am GMT 20th December 2010.

A number of global journalists were invited to celebrate the founding of the Lange company on 7th December 2010 in Glashutte with a Press Conference to present the new Richard Lange Pour le Merite Tourbillon. This watch is to be introduced in SIHH 2011, amongst a few other novelties in January in Geneva.

Let's start with some Christmas cheer...presenting the new Richard Lange Pour le Merite Tourbillon on a platter of Christmas cookies...photographed at the Lange Acadamie:

As may have been leaked out by other press, I have chosen to respect the embargo placed on this release. This new Pour le Merite, as with all of the family to be known as Pour le Merite (a German civil and scientific medal awarded to receipients who have demonstrated significant achievments in their field...not to be confused with a medal of the same name, but with military intentions for bravery in war), this new watch features the fusee in chain. This is now the fourth watch within the series - the first being simply named the Pour le Merite Tourbillon, the second the Pour le Merite Tourbograph, the third the Richard Lange Pour le Merite and this one.

Inspired by the regulator dial of an ancient watch by Johann Seyffert, this watch features a regulator dial.

A very large minute hand adorns the central position, with an overlapping hour hand at 4, and the seconds hand, mounted on the axe of the one minute tourbillon is at 8. The seconds subdial is open to show the beautiful tourbillon. Because of the overlapping dials, at certain positions when the hour hand is overlapping the open seconds sub-dial, the time is not easily read. To solve this problem, Lange created a jumping subdial, which springs into place when the hour hand reaches 6 o'clock, and closes a portion of the tourbillon opening, providing markings for the hours to be read. And at 12 o'clock, it flicks away to allow the owner to gaze on the entire tourbillon.

Picture with the dial closed:

This jumping mechanism is achieved by a cam-snail arrangement, and is precisely jumping, as one would expect from Lange. See the following video:

Click here for MP4 video

Note the almost instantaneous flicking of the subdial as I turn the hour hand, occuring precisely when the hour hand reaches 6 o'clock to close the subdial, and again when it reaches 12 o'clock.

The watch also features the now already famous Lange tourbillon, the cage design which is taken from the old Lange tourbillon documented in the Meis book "Das Tourbillon" as Lange 2. This tourbillon cage was adopted in the early years by Gunter Blumlein and has remained in use ever since for all Lange tourbillon watches. As with the tourbillon in the Cabaret Tourbillon and the Homage Honey Gold Lange 1 Tourbillon, the tourbillon is equipped with a hack mechanism, now unique and exclusive to Lange.

A closer look at the mechanism which does the switching of the subdial:

The movement caliber L072.1 is manually wound, from the front, under the dial, showing the exposed flicking subdial:

Note at about 10 o'clock, the snail cam mechanism. The flat spring rides the cam which makes one revolution once every 6 hours, and snaps down the sharp ridge at the edge of the cam causing the dial to instantly flick across, to close or open the sub-dial.

And the detail of the subdial:

From the back:

The movement is finished to the usual very high level of finish one comes to expect from a Lange. 351 parts (plus a chain made up of 636 parts), 31 rubies, 1 diamond endstone. I leave the reader to figure out why only 1 diamond endstones. Other Lange tourbillons have 2 diamond endstones.

All edges are finished with beautiful anglage, and polished. And the movement catches light in a very beautiful way...glistening, shining, tempting the viewer to take a closer look. The movement is complex and beautifully laid out, and as one looks closer, there is more and yet more to discover in the complication and the finish.

In particular interest is the click mechanism for the mainspring barrel and the fusee blocking mechanism, shown in detail here:

Note the double spring engaging onto the wolf's teeth of the click on top of the mainspring barrel, seen at about 3 in the picture above. And the finish on the fusee blocking mechanism which stips the fusee from unwinding by lifting the block mechanism at approximately 36 hours of run-time.

A wrist shot...diameter of the watch is 41.9mm, with a case height of 12.2mm ...quite wearable. Shown on my 8.5" wrist. The movement itself measures 33.6mm in diameter and a height of 7.6mm.

The watch is available in platinum, limited to 100 pieces, and in rose gold, limited production.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Dresden Aldstadt

Continuing on my freezing was really cold when you are not dressed for it...a Canadian friend of mine once told me...there is no such thing as too cold weather...and this from a chap who lives in Montreal where winter temperatures can dip below -20C...or -40C with windchill factored in. Only poor clothing. I was poorly clothed...though I had two sweaters, a rugby t-shirt, a leather jacket, hiking boots. But the chill took its toll...

The skyline from the AugustusBrucke...I think the bridge suffered from some vibrations when the tram is passing...showing up in my photographs as blurring of some edges of buildings. This is the best of the lot...but still terribly lacking in quality and artistic view, in my view.

I am trying again from the Carolabrucke, on the other side, which I think will give a better perspective. And I will summon up the chi to do a panoraman with the 120mm, instead of using the 28mm.

A shot of the Dresden Tower from Theaterplatz. The tram made its way across as I had the shutter open...this being a 40s exposure. I tried differential stretching in this one...again I am not satisfied with the image.

And finally an image of the famous Semper Opera House, from Theaterplatz. By this time, my fingers had gone numb, and I was shivering feeling the cold on my back...

So a quick shot, and back to the car to warm up.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Hofkirche, Dresden, Germany

Dresden is a beautiful city...once known as Florence of the Elbe, this magnificent city was almost totally destroyed during the end of WW2. When I first started to visit some 13 years ago, many of the buildings which stand proud and beautiful today were in ruins...literally holes in the ground. Left by the GDR government of the day all through the years since the end of WW2. The Frauenkirche, the city's landmark was on the ground. The amazing thing about Dresden is that it was decided to rebuild the city, piece by piece so that it returns to its former glory. Quite magnificent.

Today's topic is the church called Hofkirche. Just next to the wall known as the Procession of Kings, and just next to the Dresden Castle. This is an interesting Catholic church, which was built by August the Strong, when he converted to catholism when he accended to the throne as King of Poland.

I found great difficulty photographing the church. It had been an exceptionally early winter this year. Heavy snowfall started on Nov 28, and continued to fall. By Dec 5, when I took this photograph, more than half a meter of snow had fallen. And in some parts temperature had dipped below -19C.

I setup my tripod in the middle of the small square leading to the Royal Stables, and had to point my camera up to capture the entire church. I should have done a vertical stitch with either the 80mm or 120mm, but the temperature took the better of was -3.5C, but with the windchill factor about -15C, too cold for me, and under equipped in the clothing department, I was quickly freezing.

I hastily setup, metered for the snow in the foreground, and placed that at zone 7. The different artificial lighting - flourescent mixed with tungsten mixed with mercury played havoc with the white balance.

I straightened the perspective in CS4, and had to crop out the Dresden Tower, where F.A. Lange had lived because unbeknownst to me at the time of shooting, there was a big ugly truck at its foot. I intentionally included the strong lampost, shining bright on the right to create some tension in the image.

I am still tweaking with the perspective control. Even with a slight stretch vertically, I think the perspective is incorrect. The windows on the church front, near the ground seems a bit oval...wider than its height, but the actual windows are oval, just perhaps not as much. But the top of the tower is begining to stretch over its natural limit. There must be a way to stretch the image based on a curve algorithm, such that it stretches more at the bottom than the top. Anybody have suggestions?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Florence Duomo

Florence...a beautiful Italian city in Tuscany...the centerpiece of this city is the Duomo, or is the center of many Italian cities.

The Duomo was shining in the evening light, the white marble walls almost glistening...I metered the wall at zone 8, and let the rest of the exposure fall where they were. In post processing, a slight levels adjustment made the sky almost black.

Long exposure, nearly 32s at ISO100.

Another view of the Duomo, from the other side..I made all these photographs with the 28mm lens, which is very wide, but to get the entire building in the frame, I still had to tilt the camera upwards, causing converging lines. These were managed in PS, using the "transform/distort" tool. CS4 and other version have a "transform/perspective" tool, but I prefer the flexibility of the distort tool. I also stretch the final output vertically slightly to correct some foreshortening of the image, especially the background images.

And yet another, walking around the Piazza where the cathederal was located:

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Fallen trees: Yosemite, CA

Fallen trees are a fairly common sight in the Yosemite Valley. Something I don't remember seeing much, living in the tropics.

Here are two, in tribute to the landscape of Yosemite.

The first, I felt was better conveyed when rendered in black and white.

This was photographed on the way to Yosemite Valley, about 2 miles before reaching the gateway entrance as we drove from San Francisco.

Metering for black and white is slightly different, and requires a different visualization from colour. I usually only shoot in black and white when I want to emphasize textures...especially differing textures of the subject and its environment. In this photograph, the tree showed a pronounced twisting of its trunk, probably established during its formative years, before it was likely to have been struck by lightning or broke in high winds. The contrast to the bare trunk and the lush surroundings is stark. Even though this photograph is rendered black and white, the leaves just behind the trunk almost leaps out as greenery. And even though I had not used a graduated ND filter, the sky was captured with deepening tones.

The next tree looks like the same type. I photograph this not too far from the first trunk. The same twisting is also seen on the trunk. But rendered in colour, the effect is different. Altogether less stark, and emphasizing less on the textural differences but more on the hue and colour tone. I shot this using the hyperfocal method...where placing the lens at its hyperfocal distance will allow everything to be in focus from half that distance to infinity. Note the entire trunk is in focus. As are the nearest point, about a meter from my lens to the mountains in the background.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Travels with my LX3: Milano, Italy

Do I need a medium format digital camera? Well, I'd like to think I do...especially for the extreme closeups I normally do for watch photography, and also for the magnificent landscapes and cityscapes.

But sometimes a small pocketable camera is better...its almost always with me. Although by no means perfect, or even able to deliver all that I want and need of a small camera. The autofocus is too slow, the high iso performance is poor, but the colour balance is brilliant, and the hand-holdable possibilities are excellent. How about an autofocus Leica M9 with a 35mm Sumilux lens for less than what Leica wants for the regular M9? Well, it probably ain't gonna best bet right now looks like the yet to be delivered Fuji X100. So in the meantime, the LX-3 is my weapon of choice when the Hassy is too large, heavy, or inconspicious to go.

And given the proper conditions, the LX3 does a remarkable job.

Here is a 3 panel stitch, done hand held, at the huge mall next to the Duomo in Milan.

Stitched in CS4, but stretched vertically to proper proportions. Each panel is photographed with the LX3 in portrait mode.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Scenes from Yosemite

Some more photographs from the Yosemite trip.

As we were waiting for the sun to set at Glazier Point, for the glowing golden light to magically appear, we sat at our positions, waiting. Waiting. I thook this shot.

I intentionally framed such that the people in the foreground are visible...with their multicoloured clothing contrasting with the landscape. As it turned out, the light was begining to turn golden as it hit the Half Moon surface.

Somewhere along the valley floor, the Merced River runs, and an old stonebridge...well, known as StoneBridge...runs across it. I took a very short hike down to the river level, and captured this shot.

As the light was coming from the other side of the bridge, I metered to place zone 5 at the rocks which form Stonebridge. And allowed the exposure to be determined from there. This pleasantly resulted in the lighted patch of the under-side of the bridge at zone 8, and still left enough detail in the submerged river bed next to the rocks in the foreground.

And driving round Stonebridge on the Valley Loop, we came across El Capitan Meadows, with the Merced River in the foreground.

My feeling as I came across this scene is the cool, lush and refreshment the water provides, in contrast to the looming, slightly forbidding El Capitan in the background. I metered to place the face of El Capitan in zone 8+, allowing it to be very bright in the photograph, but still retaining plenty of detail. The rest happen to fall into the zonal range of the camera, allowing me to capture even the deep shadows in the foreground right with good detail.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Flora in Bonatical Gardens, Singapore

Botanical Gardens...we used to haunt the gardens when I was in I lived on campus just across the road from one of the entrances by Cluny Road. It was the place for exercise, for courting, and for just walking around...doing nothing, dazed sometimes due to too much mind boggling stuff the Profs would dish out.

The gardens are always a haven...though our climate might make them humid, they always delight with the flora and fauna.

Here are some flora photographs. I am surprised that I enjoyed taking flowers more than I would have imagined initially. All pictures were made with the HC4/120 Macro on a monopod. The HC4/120 is a macro lens I use most frequently for my watch photographs.

I already knew its superb abilities in capturing detail, even micro-detail which show up as textures. But I am a bit surprised...pleasantly no doubt...that the bokeh of the lens is quite superb too...nice, smooth, creamy, and the specular highlights were nice and round.

This shot was made just outside the main entrance..

I neglected to take down the labels which name the plants, so am unable to repeat their names.

Shot with the 120mm macro lens, at f/11 and ISO200. Note the very shallow depth of field.

I also spied a dragonfly...having a meal. It would rest on the tip of the stalk, close its wings in 3 discrete steps, and fly off. Only to return a very short while later and repeats. I caught this on his second or third return.

This is a crop, as I was not able to go near enough to have the dragonfly fill the frame. The insect is rather small, but almost bright red in hue. Interesting. On clicking the larger 1920 wide picture will show what looks like pixelation on the wing left of the observer. I am not sure it pixelation, as at no point did I have to uprezz the picture. I made a 100% crop, and slightly down-rezzed the picture.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Laurent Ferrier Gallet Tourbillon

Laurent Ferrier...the first offering from this doyen of traditional watchmaking. Laurent used to work within the studios of Patek Philippe, and this year, he introduced a landmark piece bearing his name on the dial.

The Gallet Tourbillon is a masterpiece of watchmaking. Totally traditional, fully classical in design, layout and finish.

Available as an enamel dial in white,

or a black onyx dial:

The owner can request to have the words "Tourbillon Double Spirale" removed if he wishes, and frankly, I think the watch looks better without declaring its technical specifications.

The movement finish is exquisite...all parts are beautifully finished, in classical style, without cutting any corners:

Note the click, designed and finished beautifully. The only watches I can see with this level of finish and attention to detail are the works of Philippe Dufour.

Detail of the tourbillon cage and the bridge. Note the single arm on one side of the bridge. This is executed in the original Patek style...rounded steel, high gloss black polished. Perfect!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Devon Works Thread 1

Imagine if you will...a designer...talented, no doubt. But who has worked designing cars, and electric guitars. Imagine that this same designer took his thoughts on a watch, discarding all the normal ideas on watch having hands, like the way you show time. Imagine if he was unlimited by traditional watchmaking...and the movement is mechanical, but yet, modern and electronic, yet not like a quartz machine from China or Taiwan.

Well, imagine no more. Made out of a case of stainless steel, but clad in PVD titanium, Scott Devon, and industrial entrepreneur who saw the vision of the young designer - one Jason Wilbur.

The final watch, known as the Thread 1, is shown below:

Belts driven by electric motors. Running in several different directions. And it runs on a battery not unlike that found in most mobile phones. The charger is built into the watch box, and when resting inside, the watch charges by induction. Cool. Each charge will last about 2 weeks.

The watch can go to the Seiko Kinetics...where the timekeeping functions continue, but the watch saves energy by not displaying it. At the press of the crown, the watch can be re-started and it becomes up to date with the time display. The rear of the case, showing the engraving, and proudly proclaims "Made in California/USA"

Detail of the dial. The seconds belt in the photograph is not as sharp because it happened to be moving during the exposure. It moves one small step each second...

The crown is massive. Used to stop and start the display mechanism, making the watch go to sleep as described above. It also allows the time to be adjusted. Press to activate the adjustmet system, clockwise to move the hour belt in hourly increments, and anti-clockwise to move the minute belt by one minute increments.

Another look at the side...showing the belts as they wrap around.