Hunting for snow by Luke Lee

It didn't snow in Christchurch this year.

We promised our boy, that we will show him the snow this year. One trip we took down to Lake Tekapo in June, we missed snow, so we've been looking at weather forecast closely and got a time and location.

And we made it.

So, this is Lake Lyndon. Just on the way to Arthurs Pass. Deepest point we could get into with our car. It started to snow again so we headed down pretty soon later.

Not a lot of opening for some snow fun, so it was just looking at the white paste.

He only saw snow when he was just over 1 year old. Now he's over 2 and half, he will remember this longer. Giving my boy memorable moments is one of the happiest thing I can think of in my life now.

Probably the same to many other parents.

Of course, being out there with beautiful scenery, I would also like to venture. I would also like to take good photos and get into the nature and have a special time myself. It's getting harder and harder to do though. Family usually comes first. My boy's shouting out in the car to come back, for no reason really, just getting bored is all.

And then there was a private property opened for public so they can have fun with snow and ride slides over the hill. It was good that we have some opening so the boy could run recklessly and not run into anything dangerous, other than pile of sheep dump under the snow. It was fine until he dug up the snow and found them.

Packed and ready to go v2 by Luke Lee

Another day, another pack of gears all ready to go for a new adventure with me.

Now, as much as I would like to venture out to the nature and get lost for countless days looking for the perfect shot and all, it's quite unfortunate that I just don't have that sort of luxury these days. So this will be just a normal pack out hoping for a great chance for an adventure, maybe I will get lucky and have an amazing shot in the middle of norm.

Or maybe with these gears, I might make a chance myself. You never know.

So, let's go down the list and see what I've got this time.

Sony A7Rii
Sony A7ii
Fujifilm X70

Zeiss Batis 25mm f2
ZY Optics Speedmaster 50mm f0.95
Sony 28-70mm f3.5-5.6 OSS

Cokin ND filter, CPL filter, Holster with 67mm adapter (For Batis)

Pelican SD card case with bunch SD cards

USB3.0 rugged external HDD
USB battery charger 10,000mAh

MeFoto Daytrip tripod
Sirui T-1205x tripod
Smartphone tripod adapter

Bunch of cables in cable bag.

5x USB wall charger

What's missing here? My phone, tablet and small laptop for entertainment. Not much to do with me photography, so they're out of this list here.

All this is going into Dakine backpack I had for about 8 years now.
I've been loving and hating this bag for all this time, but for casual, all gear packing up, I had to go back to this one. I am still looking for a perfect one, but no luck just yet.

My gears are still evolving and I am yet to settle down with my gears. Until I'm set with a set that works for me, I will have to keep evolving.

Chinese Lantern Festival by Luke Lee

So, the time has come again, Chinese New Year.

Well, technically, Chinese New Year (or Lunar New Year as I'd like to call it) has already passed. As far as I know, lantern festival is to celebrate the new year, it's just not so ideal to time it as western culture doesn't celebrate Lunar New Year. Me, I'm somewhere in the middle. My wife's birthday is still in lunar and all my relatives in Korea are still celebrating lunar new year, so I don't have much choice.

There are 12 animals representing the years. Year 2016 is year of monkey. I was born in the year of monkey. This is my year. Off to a good start.

It was held in Hagley Park, just by the Botanic Gardens. As soon as we walked into the park through the bridge on Armagh street, along with hundreds of people, we were blown away. The park was filled with people. Completely covered with bobbing heads, shoulders to shoulders moving in a single file back and forth. This kind of population density, we've only seen in Puerta Del Sol in Madrid and Myeongdong in Seoul.

A very annoying thing of all was people taking photos. Hey, I'm a photographer. I have no problem with people taking photos, I'd like to join them most of the time. However, it was just madness. People taking photos everywhere, especially just by the big lanterns, basically not giving enough room for anyone else. At least, you can be a decent person and wait for your turn to take photos and not get into others.

However, it was one of the few times in Christchurch to see so many people in one place. It was rather fun. Just to see people having fun, doing their things and just enjoying the time. I wished we had more events like this, and the city will be more vibrant and more active. Not to mention, great opportunity to have chances for street photographers.

I've been living in this city for more than 20 years now. It used to be quite busy before the earthquake in 2011. Now, we can hardly see people in the central city during the weekdays.

When events like this pop up, I think us locals get excited. we haven't had this kind of activities for so long, we are just thirsty for some. Last Night Noodle Markets for one, and this.

There were many activities going on with lots of food to try on. The event started at 5PM and lasted till 10:30PM. Most kids would go to bed by this time. But, hey, it's lantern festival mate. We all come out. Sleep if you want, but this is the night for some fun. I mean, who would be even able to tell if you got a face painting on your face at this time of the night, but hey, might as well.

My originally given name was based in Chinese characters. I've learnt how to write it in Chinese when I was a young boy, and I still remember. I am a horrible writer, especially when it's Chinese. But sometimes I do feel quite special to have my name written in Korean, Chinese and English, all in its own characters.

I also learnt how to write Chinese in a formal way like the photo, and I still remember. I just suck at it.

Did I like it?

Hell yeah. Yes, too many people. Yes, I couldn't even see where I was going because of people. Yes, I lost my way in the waves of people. Yes, I lost my wife and son couple of times during the time. Yes, we don't really like being surrounded by so many people (they become immoral, stupid and mindless).

But this is the kind of things we needed in Christchurch. Painting some colours in our city, in our lives. We are getting back to the mind and place before the earthquakes happened. We need a boost of normalities. We are getting back to normal. This is a great change in our day to day lives of traffic cones, road blocks and detours.

Petzval 58 by Luke Lee

One Lens, One Camera, One Photographer

This time, it's Petzval 58.

If you've followed my instagram feed, you already know I've been playing with this lens.

It's a beautiful golden lens. It was a head turner. Very bright at f1.9 but almost unusable at that aperture as it gets extremely hard to focus  with its knob and somewhat blurry view through the EVF.

To be honest, I struggled a lot. It was different experience than using Voigtlander 40mm f1.4 Noktor. That lens was much easier to pre-focus and was easy to nail it even at f1.4. But this, this is not an easy lens. Given it's age, I guess I should have assumed that.

For me, it was lack of information on top of the lens. When the lens is manual, you don't look for information in the viewfinder, you are looking at the lens for them. However, it has lack of it. You have no idea where you are focused or how much depth of field you have. For aperture value, you gotta know what aperture ring you have just put in the lens, and for focusing, you have to turn the knob at the bottom of the lens while looking through the viewfinder. You can't pre-adjust it by looking at the focus distance on the lens, well, it doesn't have one.

The light naturally falls off at the edges and you can control the amount of that imperfection from the lens. It does pop the middle of the frame quite a lot and you can play with it for sure. But if you like putting subject off from the centre of the frame... well, you don't buy this lens because of it's image quality.

March of the Photographers

Colour is very neutral. It doesn't pop any colours initially. I can think of using an older lens that has not been overly well preserved. No, this lens does not suck though. When you are stopping down to like f4 or slower, you get a really good sharpness overall. But when you are using faster aperture values, sometimes you wonder 'what the hell have I bought this for'.

In the post processing, you do appreciate though, for neutral colours. And also you realise, the lens didn't kill the colours, but preserved it underneath. You know that, at least, it's better than the cheap bundle lenses that just kills the colour data. It's not a killer colour popper, but it doesn't kill colours like cheap lenses. But you can't expect great colour performance straight out of the camera. So you just make peace with it and let that one go.

Then you should realise. This lens is not something you buy because of the quality. If you were looking for a popping colour, a finger slicing sharpness, edge to edge clarity, you shouldn't have been looking for old design lens. You buy this lens because it's interesting. Some might say a toy lens. But hey, this was not a toy when it first came out. The quality just got better, that's all.

The hardest thing for me with this lens was focusing.
The focusing knob is not as accurate as rather modern focusing ring. I've used other manual focusing lenses, but this one is beyond the level of those. You just can't have that accurate focusing with this knob. I tried to turn it slowly, then it skips bits occasionally. It's not like turning the focus ring of these manual lenses and find the sharp point. It's more like using a diopter dial and trying to nail the sharpest point for your eyes. Not so user friendly. Probably why the design didn't last all this years.

However, after a while, you realise, how much of the sharp focused photos you have grown used to over these years of digital photography. You can open up some of those older photography books and you find out, focusing is only part of the photography, not everything. Slowly, realise that fact and let that one go.

So it has come to an end. At the end of the day, I'm wiping off the sweat on my forehead and putting the lens out of the camera, replace it with Zeiss 55mm f1.8. An ultra sharp top of the line quality lens with fast native AF. It becomes so easy to take photos. I'm not even thinking and the camera (or should I say computer) does the job for me.

I think this is why we are starting to look retro and going back to the hard way of doing things. Modern technology is great. It is accurate, fast and very efficient. I would appreciate it when I'm on a job. I cannot miss things and because as a person, I can make mistakes, time to time, I need help from good gears that can do the thinking for me.

But, when it's not critical. When I'm not on a job, and trying to be creative. I take things that aren't as intuitive any more. Things that are now aged and not as common to find around. Petzval 58 is definitely not an easy lens. I've basically given up using it wide open. I've given up getting accurate colours or focus. I've given up expecting uber sharp photos. It's not an impressive game changer of a lens.

It's fun. It's different. It's hard and it's old. It's something we are loosing. An analogue soul.

No I'm not selling this lens. I might change the mount adapter though. Mine sucks.

The Night Noodle Markets by Luke Lee

First time in Christchurch, New Zealand.

The Night Noodle Markets open.

And it's packed, with people..!

Now, let's look at this event at my perspective.
This is my background. Born in a multi-million population megacity (familiar with so, so, so many people), South East Asia origin (very familiar with the food), master of chopsticks (ability to hold noodles!). And hey, this is noodle markets. My background is about to pay off here.

On a hot sunny day, in the middle of the park, surrounded by long lines of people and food trailers (or food stalls) blocking strong winds. This is one of the good days to be out and eat something. Make that noodles, give me a pair of chopsticks and some noodles and I'll be happy. But well...

Lines, lines and lines of people. Lined up everywhere. When will I get a chance to order, I don't know. Oh and don't forget, most of the time you order, you are in a different queue of waiting for the orders. So there are two lines on each stalls. I saw so many people trying to line up to a shorter queue and end up with the waiting line and not making orders.

In the beginning, it was good. 10 minutes of standing in the queue, I can handle. The last queue I stood before leaving the markets, took 40 minutes. That's from the time I queued up, till the time I got my bowl of noodle soup and a pair of chopsticks.

So, my recommendation, get there early if you can, and go with friends and/or family. Divide and conquer mates, divide and conquer. Strategically divide your group into multiple stalls and get the orders all at once.

40 minutes for this!

Just in case you don't know, it's not just noodles they have on sale. It's all kinds of oriental food and some fusion meals. And even though I ended up trying only about 5 of them (hey, for a group of 2+infant, this is a very good effort) I can say they are very nice. Yes, I have my favourites and not-so favoured ones. But people have different preferences and I'm not here to judge.

So here's my review
What's good
Tastes good. It's nice to just queue up somewhere without thinking and get something you end up enjoying them (eh, probably not so much to the picky ones. Me, I don't mind any food)
Family activity with random events. Yeah, it's not just food, apparently. I could see many enjoying their wines and beers, making conversations to strangers. I could see so many with prams and kids running around just having fun. Ever since we got a baby boy with us, we are always wondering, can we bring our baby with us? or should we just give up and wait till he grows up enough to have a babysitter?

What's bad
Lines and lines and lines of people! Come on, there's gotta be a better way. How about having more counters, or just more stalls. Since we now have an experience, maybe some popular ones can have multiple stalls, I don't know. There's gotta be a better way.
Thought we need more activities. And maybe an activity centric area for the people to enjoy. There was only a single live band in a tent. How about just have a small stage where local bands can rotate and perform? If the quality of the performers need certain level of skill, then well, have an audition. Just thinking, if I need to line up in a queue for more than 10 minutes all the time, I wish I have something to look at other than the tiny screen of my phone.

And here are some photos of the event.
It sucks that I have other plans over the weekend, I can't visit again. But this is a very welcome event to have. I would definitely visit again next year and already waiting for it. It's not even over yet!!