Monday, 25 June 2012

Photo School

Leadenhall Market - This was my shot of the day with all the vertical and horizontal lines along with the never-ending flags, the row of lights and the soothing colours.

I recently bought myself a new camera as a birthday present and decided on the Pansonic Lumix G3 in red - mainly because of the compact size, interchangeable lens and electronic viewfinder. Also helped that as an Olympic Sponsor, there was an offer for £50 cashback which eventually sealed the decision for me.

I know absolutely nothing about cameras or photography so enrolled myself onto a jargon-free course with the Photo School with Natalie.

I was nervous as I was going on my own and was convinced that everyone knew what they were doing but within the first 10 minutes of introduction, it turned out that 80% of the group had owned their camera between 6-12 months but was still using their camera on the 'automatic' mode so that gave me great comfort.

I did 2 classes - the first one being camera settings and the second being creative composition.

The first 90 minutes was spent learning the different buttons and modes on our cameras before we headed out for approximately 45 minutes in the City to explore and take photos. I wandered far... started off in Leadenhall Market but I slowly wondered towards the Gherkin and Lloyds Building with a knowledge of aperture and white balance!

In creative composition, we looked at photos that Natalie had taken and the sort of things that can make something very mundane into something of interest. After the briefing, we all ventured out and again and I took a lot of photos - albeit most of them didn't turn out great but the class and the group discussion certainly opened my eyes to new things that I would have normally just walked passed without even a second glance but now, it all seemed so fascinating and got my imagination and creative juices flowing - those that know me, should know that I am not a very artistic person! Now, I am obsessed with lines, patterns and symmetry!!!

Anyway, I did take some good photos and now feel fairly confident in using my camera and cannot wait until a free day and good weather where I can just go wandering around in London with just my camera and experiment.

Here are some of the other pictures that I took on the day:

Messing about with the white balance - this was incandescent

I liked the lines from the stairs and bannister plus the curve of the roof!

My attempt at framing using one of the arches of the Gherkin. Also tried to make it as symmetrical as possible! 

The Gherkin - loved the fact that there is one huge black streak running through the building as well as the pattern of the diamonds down to the three triangular arches at the button. The top is deliberately missed off to try to emphasise the height of the building and the reflection of the other buildings in the glass was a fluke!!

Rule of Thirds! This was actually a sign/plastic screen outside a shop in Leadenhall Market and this is an example of something that I would have never even taken a second glance at before the class but can now see how it can be turned into something that looks so pretty! 

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Scheme $6,000 HKD - Collect the money in London

For those that are citizens of Hong Kong, you are probably aware that there are running a scheme whereby Hong Kong government are opening their vaults and offering $6,000 HKD to those that hold a valid HK Permanent Identity Card on 31 March 2012. However, for most this means a trip to HK to either collect the money but there is an alternative way to do this if you cannot find the time/money (let's face it, air fares have gone up dramatically of late!) to make the trip then there is a way that you do it in the UK by opening a bank account with Bank of China.

I have just successfully set up an account with Bank of China in Hong Kong - all done in London.

Quite a straightforward process in that you email or call BOC to set up an appointment. They give you a date and time and you are required to bring the following documentation:

  • HK ID card (must have smart chip)
  • British passport
  • Proof of address  - driving licence, utility bill or bank statement (they don't accept mobile phone bills apparently)

You go to your designated appointment and bear in mind, this is not a 121 meeting. I was in a meeting with 3 other people and they explained the process - they can have this explained in English or Cantonese. They copy your documents and verify the validity of the above ID documentation and they print out a pre-completed form with your name, address, phone number, ID card number etc. You also complete some personal details - i.e. occupation, name of company, etc - all very brief.

It is not guaranteed that you will definitely open an account in HK as in the UK, their job is to verify your documents. Once you pay (£60 - cash only) and sign the documents, they then send the documents over to their HK BOC and you have to wait for a phonecall from HK between their working hours which is UK GMT of roughly between 7am - 2pm in the next 4 weeks or so.

I got my call on 20/06/2012 after I had my appointment on 29/05/2012.

They asked me the following questions that I declared on my form:

  • Chinese Name
  • English spelling of my name
  • Address
  • ID card number (memorise it or like me, I wrote it on  post-it and stuck it on the back of my phone under the case)
  • Telephone number
  • Where I had my details verified
  • Occupation
After I answered everything correctly, they said that my account will be opened and they will send me the appropriate forms in the post to sign and send back to HK.

Even when your account is open, you still need to download the form from HK government website for the $6,000 HKD (now, $6,200 HKD), fill it in and send it back to HK to get the money paid directly into your HK bank account.

Oh another thing, there needs to be a minimum of $5,000 HKD in your account at all times otherwise they charge an administration fee and it is advisable to put some money into your account (can just be $10 HKD) every year to ensure the account is active. If the account is not touched after 2 years then even without your consent, they will freeze your account and you will lose any money in there.

I think that's it. BOC stop operating this scheme in September I believe so if you are interested then I suggest to get your skates on. 

I asked, and there have been instances where people have gone through the process and could not open the account but apparently (or so they told me), this has only happened on 4 occasions so good luck :)

Pass this on to anyone that you think might be interested as well.

Details for BOC are as follows:

Bank of China (UK) Limited London Chinatown Branch
107 Shaftesbury Avenue, London W1D 5DA
Tel: 0044 (0)20 7437 5975
Fax: 0044 (0)20 7734 1704

Details on the Scheme $6,000 can be found on:

Hope that this help some of you out there that were unaware or wanted more information on the process.

Any questions then leave a comment.