Thursday, December 29, 2016

My Personal Favourite Photographs Taken In 2016

As the year 2016 is coming to an end, it is time for me to look back the entire year worth of photographs I have taken.

Here are a few facts: the year 2016 is the year I have taken the least number of photographs in comparison to each year I have started photography in a more serious-hobbyist level since 2008. This was largely due to my work with Olympus which required me to work on weekends (consumer workshops, walkabout events, touch and try for new products, etc). Consequently, the year 2016 has the least number of posts, having only 70 blog entries in total, in stark contrast of 220 blog entries in 2012. While the number of photographs taken and blog updates have dropped significantly, I have ensured that whenever I was out there shooting (for myself, excluding the product reviews) I would do my best and put in extra effort to get the shot that I really wanted. Shutter therapy may not have happened as often as I liked, but I still managed to find time to shoot for pleasure from time to time.

I think as a hobbyist, and even if you are a professional photographer, you do need to find time to just shoot for the fun of shooting, and not stress out on any specific goals or "project" objectives. I acknowledge that many photography websites and photographer "gurus" would recommend sticking to a vision, having a running theme to adhere to and stick strictly to the rules of how to shoot for a series of photographs (typically with an end goal of publishing book/gallery/exhibition in mind), I beg to differ in opinion. I find there is nothing wrong to just wield the camera and just point it at the things that drew your attention, and shoot the things that you like to shoot. These images may not need to mean anything to anyone, they should mean something to you. If this is true, and you continue to stay true to yourself, after shooting for a while you will realize that you have inserted your own personality, characteristics and identity in your photography. Your images tell stories about yourself. Is it not better to shoot something that you actually love shooting and enjoy yourself thoroughly throughout the whole process, instead of pressuring yourself, stressing out on your final delivery of a "project"?

No I do not have a photography project specifically and I do not intend to start one. I may not have cohesive story-telling when it comes to my street photography, which by itself is a far deviation from the conventional approach. Does this mean I will never achieve the "high level" of photography required for standard gallery exhibitions, or does this disqualify myself from being regarded as a serious photographer? At the end of the day, as long as I come home, happy with my own set of images, I believe that is what truly matters.

Yellow Shirt

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Adventures With Panasonic LX100

How has the holiday season been for everyone?

I had a quiet Christmas, which followed by my Birthday. Yes I was born on a Boxing Day. I did some light street shooting around town, spend almost entire Christmas and Boxing Day reading a book, the "Doctor Sleep" from Stephen King which was a direct sequel to "The Shining" and had some small gathering with friends. I could not have asked for a better way to spend the holidays. A bit of shutter therapy, some coffee, awesome friends, and finally, some time off to actually read a book!

My adventures with the Panasonic LX100 continues with my recent shutter therapy sessions. As I have mentioned in my previous blog entry, as long as I shot everything in RAW and spent some time post-processing the images, the LX100 can deliver beautiful images. While the camera operations (mainly dials, rings and manual controls) can get overwhelming, I have simplified my street shooting workflow and made the LX100 work for me. The focusing was quick enough for me to grab some spontaneous shots, which was crucial for my street shooting.

I did however find that the lens was an interesting aspect of the camera, not being clinically sharp at any focal length, but it offers a very pleasing overall rendering of an image. I particularly love how the wide angle 24mm shot wide open at F1.7 can still create decent amount of shallow depth of field for subject isolation (though you should really not look at 100% view, the mushiness of details is disturbing). Also, zooming in at 75mm F2.8, the lens is decent in sharpness.

LX100 vs The Antman

Friday, December 16, 2016

I Got Myself A Panasonic Lumix LX100

If any of you remembered the post I did not too long ago about the three cameras that I was lusting for (read here if you have not done so), in the list there was a Panasonic Lumix LX100. The idea of owning a compact camera with a Micro Four Thirds sized image sensor and bright zoom lens was quite an attractive one, held back only by the hefty price tag, which I could not justify spending on. Honestly, I would think that an Olympus E-M10 Mark II, priced about the same though with a slower aperture zoom lens is a much better deal and overall more feature-packed package. Nonetheless, I found a used Panasonic LX100 with a bargain I cannot refuse, hence I thought to myself, since Christmas and my birthday are coming soon, I deserve to reward myself with something nice. Something like a camera that I have lusted for all this time. Yes, alright I admit it, it was all GAS but I am human too. Cut me some slack.

Panasonic LX100, while not a small camera, is still quite compact in overall form factor. 

Friday, November 25, 2016

Shutter Therapy In Kuching With Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II

I finally made it home recently with only one purpose in mind, to shoot on the streets of the beautiful city I have called home, Kuching which is situated in the Borneo Island. I have spent three days (technically only two and a half days) shooting around the city area that I grew up in and I was fortunate to be able to bring home an Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II with me for my shutter therapy sessions. The weather was not exactly on my side as it rained heavily for half of the time I was in Kuching, but when it was not raining I made the best with what I can.

It was a joy to just roam around freely in a place that is so familiar to me, and I know the roads and buildings so well that somehow I regretted not spending enough time in Kuching shooting. I think most people know I originated from Kuching and it is quite strange when I tell them that I do not have enough beautiful photographs of my hometown. Indeed I have spent most of my time in Kuala Lumpur since Olympus Malaysia is based there, and whenever I return to my home in Kuching I always decided to leave photography behind so I can spend more time with mum, relatives and friends. After all I do not come home often and there is so much to do and many people to catch up with. However, this one time I was making an exception, I wanted photographs, and I wanted the photographs badly.

Armed with the OM-D E-M1 Mark II and M.Zuiko lenses 7-14mm F2.8 PRO, 25mm F1.2 PRO, and 45mm F1.8, I attacked Kuching streets. My goal was to do my usual street photography shooting, but in Kuching instead of Kuala Lumpur. I did wonder what if I was here shooting for the review of the E-M1 Mark II, the variety of photographs would have been so different. These photographs shown here would have been fit enough to be an extension of the original E-M1 Mark II sample images!

These photographs shown in this blog entry are special to me, as they show my place of birth and where I grew up in. I do not think there is anywhere quite like Kuching. I hope you can enjoy the photographs as much as I have shooting them.

This scene was taken on the 8th floor of a carpark building called Medan Pelita situated opposite the Tua Pek Kong Temple (as seen as the red temple in the image). My secondary school, St Thomas was nearby and we have frequented this location for lunch, or just simply hanging out. There was the Star Cineplex, which was the only one of two go-to cinemas in Kuching back in my younger days, but Star Cineplex is now closed down. This is a classic view of the Kuching city, overlooking the Sarawak River, the Chinese Museam at the waterfront, the Tua Pek Kong temple and a handful of not so tall buildings (these are the only few multistory buildings around). I was lucky to be able to get this shot with dramatic clouds and blue sky as Kuching experiences rain and gloomy weather almost every day. 

Thursday, November 17, 2016

I Need A Break And Lots Of Shutter Therapy Session

This blog site has slowed down significantly lately. Two reasons, a huge amount of time and effort were spent on shooting and reviewing the new Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II with follow up on answering questions in comments and emails, and Olympus Malaysia has been on high gear in rolling out consumer touch and try events all over Malaysia, non-stop in subsequent weekends since the launch of the camera. All my weekends have been occupied by travel, events and meetings that I found completely no time for my own shutter therapy.

I need a break or I will break down completely.

This coming weekend I will be traveling with Olympus Malaysia team to Kota Kinabalu, Sabah and immediately after that I will be returning to my home in Kuching, Sarawak. I have not been back since August, and I look forward to seeing mum and catching up with friends and relatives. Most important of all, I shall make plenty of time for shooting on the streets in Kuching, and my hands are getting unbearably itchy!

Well, the logic is pretty much simple, when I do not have time to shoot in the weekends, there are no new photographs, thus nothing that I can use to compose my new blog updates.

Was trying the close up shooting of 12-100mm F4 PRO lens

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II Review Extension

IMPORTANT NOTES:
1. I am an Olympus Malaysia employee.
2. This is a user experience based review, based on my personal opinion which can be subjective.
3. All images were shot in RAW and converted directly to JPEG (High Quality) via Olympus Viewer 3
4. General camera settings, Noise Filter = OFF, Contrast/Saturation/sharpness = 0, White Balance = Auto (with an option maintain warm color = OFF), Gradation = Normal
5. Minimal post-processing applied to the images, with slight brightness/contrast balance tweak. All images were almost as good as straight out of camera, with minimal cropping for better presentation.

This is a continuation from the original Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II Review, if you have not read that first review entry kindly do so before proceeding to this extension. I have covered the important points of the E-M1 Mark II Review (Continuous-AF performance, 5-Axis Image Stabilization improvements, image quality, camera handling, etc) in that original review entry.

As you probably know, I have a day job, and can only do my shooting for this review in the weekend. Last Saturday was also the day we had our first official E-M1 Mark II touch and try event in Malaysia. Immediately after the event I went out to shoot some photographs, and I spent almost all my following Sunday to test out some of the features to compose this blog entry.

For this particular blog, I will be addressing the following questions:
1) What are the improvements in the 50MP High Res Shot in E-M1 Mark II?
2) How does E-M1 Mark II handle rolling shutter/jello effect in high speed shooting using electronic shutter?
3) More detailed explanation on how E-M1 Mark II's Continuous AF works, with more image samples
4) What are the improvements in camera operations? (Auto IS with exposure compensation, minimum shutter speed limit in Program and Aperture Priority mode, etc)
5) More images samples!

Lets get right into the first question on the 50MP High Res Shot, shall we?

50MP High Res Shot
7-14mm PRO, f/5.6, 1/1000, 7mm, ISO200

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II Review

IMPORTANT NOTES:
1. I am an Olympus Malaysia employee.
2. This is a user experience based review, based on my personal opinion which can be subjective.
3. All images were shot in RAW and converted directly to JPEG (High Quality) via Olympus Viewer 3
4. General camera settings, Noise Filter = OFF, Contrast/Saturation/sharpness = 0, White Balance = Auto (with an option maintain warm color = OFF), Gradation = Normal
5. Minimal post-processing applied to the images, with slight brightness/contrast balance tweak. All images were almost as good as straight out of camera, with minimal cropping for better presentation.

Note: E-M1 Mark II Blog Extension (click) is now published, covering 50MP High Res Shot, Electronic Shutter improvements, Cinema 4K shooting and upgrades of camera features. 

Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II (which was originally announced as "in development phase" in Photokina 2016) is the much anticipated successor for the 2013 flagship E-M1.

I have had the chance to shoot with the E-M1 Mark II extensively over 3 days in various real life conditions covering as many tests as I can. It is difficult to post all my findings and results in one single blog entry, so for this particular blog review I shall be focusing on the most important points of my review. There are just too many things to say about this E-M1 Mark II, and so many sample photographs I want to share here. I shall cover the other parts which are not mentioned here in my coming review extension.


Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Short Insect Macro Shooting Session

Olympus Malaysia has been incredibly busy lately with consumer activities, following up all the new product announcements at Photokina in September. Therefore almost all the weekends I have had were occupied with Touch & Try events, photography workshops or photowalks around KL, Penang and Johor.

However, as busy as I have been I tried my best to squeeze a bit of time for personal shutter therapy session. I figured I have not done any insect macro shooting, so I thought why not do a quick one while I was in Johor last weekend. All images were taken with Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II and M.Zuiko 60mm F2.8 Macro lens, with FL-50R flash. For my full macro shooting technique, I have shared my methodology here (click). 


Thursday, October 20, 2016

Understanding Subject Content Choices

As I shoot on the street often, almost on every weekend doing my weekly shutter therapy sessions (whenever we do not have an Olympus event), I have collected a large amount of random images. I generally would walk around with no particular end-goal or objective in mind (unless I was reviewing cameras and lenses of course, that is a different story) and end up with a series of disconnected, disorganized and chaotic frame of work. In the midst of all the randomness, there were repeated ideas, themes, composition styles and specific subjects that I have consistently kept an eye out, and captured again and again on the street. I am sure if you have followed me on my shutter therapy adventures here in this blog (which I should be updating more often), you will find these patterns happening again and again. I want to take a closer look at these recurring messages, understand them and discuss the meaning behind the redundancy in this blog entry.

I think it is crucial to understand yourself if you do want to improve in photography. Your photography, whether it is your conscious decision or not, does reflect a part of who you are, and your unique identity. While ideas and contents can be easily copied and plagiarized (now this is even more rampant in the age of Instagram/Twitter/Facebook), personal style in photography is something that can only be developed and seasoned over time, and it becomes a signature that the photographer imprints in his photographs that his viewers can often immediately recognize. Before you can reach that far in photography journey, it is prudent to take a step back and study on your own progress, scrutinizing your own preferences of photography execution. This is what I am doing here, and I am sharing my thoughts on what I felt, wanted to tell, and reasoning behind what I normally shoot.

I know I have a lot of photos of cats but cats are just cats and I have taken images of cats on the streets because they love me and I love cats and I must play with them and I should stop talking about cats. Moving on...

Birds
I think this is a rather straightforward one, that anyone can easily guess why I was so drawn to birds. My name, Robin itself, is a bird, and men have deep fascination with things that can fly since forever. One of the movie quotes that have always been stuck at the back of my mind was from the movie Batman Forever (I know, I know, not the finest Batman movies out there, but it was still a cool movie), Alfred gave a prudent advice to then an injured Dick Grayson, saying "broken wings will mend in time, one day, the Robin will fly again". When I heard that line, it struck a chord in me, and this was so true in so many levels, because temporary setbacks happen so often in our lives that we easily lose hope at times, feeling helpless and cannot look beyond our difficulties. Just observing the birds flying, I find it calming and reassuring that just like the bird, I will one day be able to break myself away and just soar high, fly far away from whatever mess I have managed to get myself into. Birds easily symbolize freedom. 

Saturday, October 15, 2016

A Day Out With Ming Thein X Frankie Falcon Ultimate Photographer's Daybag

Let's do something different for this blog, instead of just reviewing cameras and lenses, for the first time ever, I am writing about a bag! Not just any bag, but the newly launched Ming Thein X Frankie Falcon Ultimate Photographer's Daybag!

Ming Thein, a fellow friend and incredible photographer/blogger was super generous to loan me a pre-production unit of his personally designed camera bag which was done in collaboration with a renowned bag manufacturer, Frankie Falcon. When he showed me the bag it was love at the first sight: having just the right size and capacity to fit in cameras and lenses and just about anything you need to be on the move, and it comes in really sexy design and stealthy black finish. It is a camera bag that photographers need, want and more! When he told me I could borrow the bag for personal use, I was thrilled of course!

All photos of me using the MT x FF Bag in action were taken by Robert Sarmiento Evangelista and Van Ambruce Ligutom.


Monday, October 10, 2016

Alena Murang's EP "Flight" Launch in Kuala Lumpur

About two weeks ago, I managed to squeeze some time out of my hectic schedule to attend Alena Murang's EP launch happening in Timbre at The Row, KL. I arrived early and secured a front seat together with my friend, Jackie, and it was a great experience seeing a local Sarawakian talent performing traditional musical scores on stage, live on a Saturday evening. Alena's speciality is a traditional guitar like string instrument called Sape', which she incorporated prominently in all her music in the latest EP, "Flight". Many local Sarawakian artists were also featured on set, notably Amir Jahari who did a beautiful duet with Alena on the song "Ingga" which was sung entirely in a local Sarawakian language (or Bahasa Sarawak).

I brought along the E-M10 Mark II and several M.Zuiko lenses and shot the performance. I used mainly Aperture Priority, switching lenses when necessary (mostly between wide angle, 12mm F2 and 45mm F1.8). The lighting was not that good, with the light hitting directly from the front creating very unflattering outcome. I would have preferred if the main light was shined more from the side. Nonetheless, we were there to enjoy live music and truly Alena has made it huge with her debut album! She is also a painter and TV host for local stations, and have appeared as a speaker on TDxKL talk this year! The EP launch was a huge success with full house strong support from the fans, and I personally decided not to get my CD autographed in the same session as that would mean I need to battle the impossibly long queue!

Sape', a traditional Sarawakian musical instrument was Alena Murang's signature sound in all her music. I am proud to see a Sarawakian making it huge and took the opportunity to spread the awareness and love for Sape'! I cannot help but feel homesick when I hear Sape's tunes, which is always so smooth, soothing yet energetic and radiant at the same time. 

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Scott Kelby's Worldwide Photowalk 2016, Kuala Lumpur with Huawei P9

Last Saturday, I participated in probably one of the largest photowalks ever organized in Kuala Lumpur, the annual Scott Kelby's Worldwide Photowalk 2016. The photowalk was coordinated and led by a dear photographer friend, Raja Indra Putra, with locations covering Chow Kit, my favourite street hunting ground, all the way to Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman and Jalan Masjid India. There were 50 participants that registered and I made it to the last number 50 registrant! Of course, the actual turn up was more than 50 with a lot more local supporters and photography enthusiasts who decided to just join the fun without prior registering. That was very Malaysian indeed.

Having dedicated many shooting days to do my blog review for the latest Olympus M.Zuiko lenses (25mm F1.2 PRO and 30mm F3.5 Macro), I decided to take the weekend slow and easy, and put the more serious photography tools away. Instead, I just picked up the trusty Huawei P9 and shot along the streets with the P9 throughout the entire Scott Kelby's Photowalk! I thought there would be a few more people who would shoot solely on smartphone, but I was wrong, it turned out I was the ONLY smartphone user in this particular Scott Kelby 2016 Photowalk in KL! Everyone else had large DSLR or mirrorless cameras with them. I wonder what they must have thought of me, I must be someone who did not know what I was doing, using just a mere smartphone joining such a large, internationally recognized, prestigious photography event!

So how did the Huawei P9 fare in street shooting?

I have often shot portraits of strangers, and it was no easy task shooting close up portraits with a wide angle lens (27mm equivalent focal length). Thankfully for the wide aperture mode, I could easily create subject isolation with the simulated shallow depth of field effect, blurring the background off into beautiful, creamy bokeh. While the bokeh effect is not as good as actual large format cameras with large aperture lenses, I dare say that, for a simulated effect, this is the best I have seen from any smartphone camera. It is the best option we have!

Friday, September 23, 2016

Olympus M.Zuiko 30mm F3.5 Macro Lens Review

Important Notes:
1. I am an Olympus Malaysia employee.
2. This is a user experience based review, based on my personal opinion which can be subjective.
3. All images were shot in RAW and converted directly to JPEG (High Quality) via Olympus Viewer 3.
4. General camera settings, Noise Filter = OFF, Contrast/Saturation/sharpness = 0, White Balance = Auto (with an option maintain warm color = OFF), Gradation = Normal
5. Minimal post-processing applied to the images, with slight brightness/contrast balance tweak. All images were almost as good as straight out of camera, with minimal cropping for better presentation.

I am well aware that the hottest items that everyone wants to know about would be the newly announced in development Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, as well as the M.Zuiko 12-100mm F4 IS PRO lens. However, the E-M1 Mark II is still under development, and it will be quite a while before it is ready to be launched. I do have a very early pre-production sample of the 12-100mm F4 PRO lens, which is not fit for review purpose, The actual review-ready sample will be arriving soon, and trust me I will jump right into reviewing it when it is here, you know I will!

Now this leads me to another item which was also announced alongside the E-M1 Mark II, 25mm F1.2 PRO and 12-100mm F4 PRO, the strangely under-mentioned M.Zuiko 30mm F3.5 Macro lens. It is not difficult to understand how this new 30mm macro lens has become overshadowed by the OM-D new flagship and two PRO lenses! Nonetheless, Olympus should be acknowledged as an expert and industry leader in lens making technology and manufacturing expertise, hence like all other Olympus M.Zuiko lenses that 30mm F3.5 Macro lens should not be underestimated.

I have spent a total of two days (not successively), one day shooting the 30mm F3.5 Macro lens on my own OM-D E-M10 Mark II and another day on the OM-D E-M1 (original 2013 version) to gather sufficient photographs to compose this blog entry.

The Olympus M.Zuiko 30mm F3.5 Macro lens is compact and light. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Olympus M.Zuiko 25mm F1.2 PRO Lens Review

Important Notes:
1. I am an Olympus Malaysia employee. 
2. This is a user experience based review, based on my personal opinion which can be subjective.
3. All images were shot in RAW and converted directly to JPEG (High Quality) via Olympus Viewer 3. 
4. General camera settings, Noise Filter = OFF, Contrast/Saturation/sharpness = 0, White Balance = Auto (with an option maintain warm color = OFF), Gradation = Normal
5. Minimal post-processing applied to the images, with slight brightness/contrast balance tweak. All images were almost as good as straight out of camera, with minimal cropping for better presentation.

Today Olympus has announced quite a number of new products in Photokina, one which excited me the most was the Olympus M.Zuiko 25mm F1.2 PRO lens, which is the first ever F1.2 digital lens from Olympus! Panasonic was the first to introduce an F1.2 lens, the 42.5mm F1.2 Nocticron about 2 years ago, and now we have another F1.2 lens option for the Micro Four Thirds standard with the new 25mm F1.2 Olympus addition.

Olympus M.Zuiko 25mm F1.2 PRO on PEN-F

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Much Needed Shutter Therapy

Last one week has been a crazy working week for me, with back to back business meetings, training sessions and I just wished the weekend had come sooner. I had only one goal in mind, to walk on the streets and just have my shutter therapy, ending the session with nice, expensive cup of coffee.

I did just that, and boy was I refreshed! I brought along the Olympus PEN E-P5 and 17mm F2.8 pancake lens, and just shot anything that I thought was interesting. No specific agenda or objectives to fulfil, just me and the camera against the streets. Sometimes I do wish life is just as simple as that, without all the complications and dramas, which honestly did not add much value at all to how we live our lives.

Crates of eggs

Thursday, September 08, 2016

A Little Bit Of Everything

The past two weeks have been crazy for me, travelling to different cities for work. That means, I had very little time to shoot for myself. Nonetheless, I did bring along a camera with me, and stole whatever small opportunities I could find to fire the shutter button away. This compilation of photographs is not done in a cohesive manner, and created out of total randomness.

I think I should do more selfie so more people will be able to recognise me. 

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

A Full Monochrome Image Sensor Implemented in Huawei P9

This blog entry is a continuation from my Huawei P9 review series. If you have not read my previous posts, please go to the following links: 1) Huawei P9 Review and 2) Long Exposure Shooting with Huawei P9

In this paricular blog review, I shall explore only one specific feature of Huawei P9, the Monochrome mode.

Why black and white, you ask? For photography-enthusiasts, especially street photographers like myself, at some point of our journey in photography we will stumble upon, and fall in love with the simplicity and elegance of black and white as a medium of photography. Without the distraction of colors, we open a whole new different world of images, which boldly emphasize on the subject content, drawing attention to the main idea of the image, as well as strengthening the subject expressions and overall emotional output of the image. Black and white is a different class of photography altogether, and is an art form by itself.

THE MONOCHROME IMAGE SENSOR

The Huawei P9 is the second photographic device to implement a full monochrome image sensor, considering the first camera was the Leica M Monochrom. The Huawei P9 has dual cameras (with one lens on each camera), one has the usual RGB color sensor, and the other has the monochrome sensor. The logic behind having a full monochrome sensor is quite straightforward, by removing the traditional colour filters in a typical RGB image sensor, the light will hit the image sensor at full spectrum, unfiltered, allowing the image sensor to collect full information with minimal losses. This translates to images in black and white which display greater sharpness, depth and clarity, hence the claimed superiority of utilizing a full monochrome sensor.

How do we define sharpness, depth and clarity? Sharpness simply means the ability of the lens + image sensor combination to resolve as much fine details as possible (per-pixel sharpness, even if you have not that large Mega Pixels count, if you have high quality pixels, you still get plenty of details). Depth can be achieved by having good contrast and tones, ability of the image sensor to differentiate highlight, shadow and midtones, resulting in smooth transitions. Otherwise, having poor contrast and bad differentiation between light and shadow will result in flat images. Clarity basically means, images that have both excellent sharpness and contrast, producing the "clear", life-like appearance.

I intend to explore the following items:
1) What is the advantage of using the Monochrome mode in the Huawei P9, versus the standard color mode which is converted to black and white later in post-processing?
2) What is my experience shooting in full Monochrome mode?

All images were shot with Huawei P9 Monochrome Mode, unless otherwise stated.


Above the Clouds

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Kuala Lumpur After Sundown With Huawei P9

This is a continuation from the Huawei P9 camera review I posted here a few days ago. Kindly do read that original full review for photography if you have not, as I have covered all the important highlights and my opinion on the P9. This particular blog entry serves as an extension to the original review, with one particular capability put to test: long exposure shooting.

ABOUT LONG EXPOSURE PHOTOGRAPHY 

Long exposure photography to me is extremely enjoyable, it requires opening the shutter for an extended period of time, typically more than half a second long, to perhaps minutes or even longer to capture more light into the sensor. Slow shutter speed is one important aspect of photography, typically setting up the camera on a tripod (or non shaky/moving steady surface). Having more light exposing the image sensor means that we can afford to use lower ISO setting on the camera, ultimately producing clean, noise free, and sharp images. Therefore, to shoot beautiful images of city landscapes and building lights at night, long exposure is the best way to go. Furthermore, allowing the camera to capture the light for seconds also means that it will record all motion and light trails, which can create very exciting effect in the end result. Light painting, fireworks, car light trails, all can be produced from long exposure photography.

However, long exposure photography is difficult to be performed on most smartphone cameras, mostly due to the lacking of full manual control of the imaging parameters. In order for long exposure to work, we need to have access to control of shutter speed and adjustments of ISO sensitivity. Huawei P9 has both these controls, allowing shutter speed adjustments from 1/4000th of a second to the slowest exposure of 30 seconds, which is very generous and flexible enough to use for a wide variety of long exposure situations. ISO can be set from 50 to 3200, and believe me, in long exposure, the lower the ISO, the better the image quality, so ISO 50 was a great starting ISO. In case those of you are not aware, the aperture is fixed at F2.2 (there is no moving aperture diaphragm to stop down further), and there is no mechanical shutter mechanism, thus electronic shutter is used.


HUAWEI P9 LONG EXPOSURE SETTINGS

My set up for this round of shooting session, typically:
Huawei P9 on PRO mode (full manual control)
Shutter speed varying from 1/2 second to 5 seconds, adjusted as necessary
ISO fixed at 50, for cleanest, best looking image.
Self-timer set at 2 seconds to prevent the phone being shaken from the tap of the screen to start shooting.
Camera was mounted on tripod, via a cheapo clamp bought from Daiso (RM5.30)

Huawei P9 mounted on a tripod. Waiting for the light to go down, overlooking KL City Skyline

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Huawei P9 Camera Review - Is This The Photographer's Smartphone?

Update (24/8/2016): Huawei P9 Review extension for Long Exposure photography is published! 

Surprise! I have a review write-up and this time it is not a camera or lens, it is actually a smartphone, the Huawei P9. I acknowledge that Huawei P9 has been in the market for months now, and there have been dozens (perhaps even hundreds!) of reviews being posted online everywhere. Not only the usual gadget review sites, this time I also notice a handful of photography specific site reviewing a smartphone, and the most notable one being the review posted on DPReview. Therefore, there really is nothing much I can add to what has been posted and shared out there.

I was connected to Huawei Malaysia by an Olympus user (thanks heaps Grexer), and I was provided with a loan unit of a Huawei P9 for review purposes. I was immediately interested to try out the Huawei P9, considering it was heavily advertised as being "co-engineered with Leica". Leica's involvement, to what extent not being properly clarified, certainly piqued my interest to take a look at the P9 closer. The setup of the camera having dual modules, containing two image sensors that have corresponding two lenses was unusual. There have been mixed reviews thrown out there, several review sites (mostly gadget reviewers) concluded that the camera in the P9 is not as good as competition, while some actually praised the camera's imaging prowess.

DISCLAIMER

I must emphasize that I am not a tech-junkie, and I will only be reviewing the camera and imaging performance of the Huawei P9 only. I will not be covering the phone review of P9, as I believe this has been done and you can read the many reviews available online by major tech/gadget review sites. I am not a professional photographer, I am merely a photo-enthusiast who shoots passionately as frequently as I can. I am not connected to Huawei in any other manner except for this arrangement of a loan review purpose. I shall approach the review of P9's camera the usual way I always do for my camera and lenses reviews on this blog: by shooting a large amount of photographs, and write my review based on the experience using the P9 out in real world situations and carefully scrutinize the image output from my PC monitor. I support my claims through evidence found in the images, which will be shown plentifully here in this review entry. You can say that this is a user-experience approach review of Huawei P9's camera capabilities.


Huawei P9 fits perfectly in my not so large hands. 

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Olympus Photowalk in Kuching, Sarawak with Great Wall Camera

Last weekend, I was back in my beautiful hometown, Kuching, Sarawak (which is in Borneo Island), and we did an extensive consumer event, stretching the entire Saturday afternoon at Great Wall Camera, Kuching. Firstly, I did an hour long photo-sharing, showcasing a compilation of my most recent street photographs, dispensing tips and tricks on how I obtained my shots, and my ideas and thought process behind each shot. Secondly, we had a touch and try session with the latest Olympus products, we brought along the PEN-F, OM-D E-M5 Mark II, E-M1, E-M10 Mark II, and many M.Zuiko lenses, the 300mm F4 IS PRO, 40-150mm F2.8 PRO, as well as prime lenses such as 17mm F1.8, 25mm F1.8 and 45mm F1.8. Thirdly, we had a photowalk in the late afternoon along Carpenter Street and Main Bazaar (neat the Waterfront), and the participants for this event were allowed to loan our cameras and lenses to try and use during this photowalk!

We had an overwhelming response, unexpectedly there were 46 awesome Kuching folks who turned up, filling the floor space of Great Wall Camera's first floor workshop space to the brim. I rarely did such a huge event, however I also acknowledge that we rarely do events in Kuching and we decided to allow more participants to go in after our initial capping of 25 participants. Considering that the same weekend there was the Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF 2016), the turn up could have been more than 50 people, since some of the photographer friends I personally know went to the RMWF instead. It was indeed such a great joy for myself to see so many beautiful Kuching people, my own people, coming together to a photography event, and shoot together! I was so glad to see some familiar faces (Eve, Gladys, Sin, Lance) and meeting many, many more new faces!

Before we started the day, obviously, we fueled ourselves with the breakfast of champions, found exclusively only in Kuching.

Kolo Mee

Thursday, August 04, 2016

Adding Interesting Elements Into Photographs

I think it is too easy to create ordinary looking images, an image that can be easily replicated and shot by any other photographers. Every photographer has his or her own preferences in shooting techniques and also unique vision, which contribute to individual shooting style. While it is getting more difficult to find original photographs these days (we all try to surpass certain standards being set before us by another photographer, but along the way we are actually copying the photographer's shooting style), I want to believe that we can, in our own small ways, add interesting elements into our own photographs. Those characteristics create uniqueness and that ultimately resulted in our owb unique photographs.

This works especially well for street photography. We often keep an eye out for something unusual, something outstanding, and something that can generate curiosity when the viewer was looking at our photographs. In this entry, I shall share a few examples, and explain what was added to create these dramatic impact.

In Renovation
The shop lot was under renovation, and the worker was shirtless, peeking out the small opening to the main road outside. As I walked by, we saw each other and I was greeted by a smile. That was a green light for me to step in closer and get the close up portrait. I was particularly drawn by a few things in this frame: 1) the partial opening which hid his hands 2) quality of light on the man 3) his genuine, bright smile and 4) the facial mask to protect from dust or even paint, worn on his head. Location was clearly established, and the purpose of the man being there was obvious. 

Sunday, July 31, 2016

A Fashion Show Photography Analysis: Entry Level Camera Then And Now, How Far Have We Progressed?

So I stumbled upon this open fashion show at Nu Sentral (a shopping next to KL Sentral) and I thought why not stay for a bit and take some shots? As I was shooting the fashion show (which turned out to be quite a good one) I started to remember how it was like 8 years ago, in 2008 when I first picked up my entry level Olympus DSLR and was enthusiastically searching for and shooting free fashion shows in malls around KL. Boy oh boy, how far have we come?

Back in 2008, I had an Olympus E-520, an advanced entry level DSLR (the lowest level was the E-420), with ISO limit at 1600 and 3 AF points only! At ISO400, ugly noise starts to creep in, and I usually do need to shoot at ISO800 if I was not using an external flash, and with ISO800 the photographs normally lose plenty of details, looking soft, and lacks dynamic range. Oh did I say the ugly, intrusive noise? And the focusing was rather slowish, and what the hell can anyone do with just 3 focusing points to choose from? In addition to that, there was shutter lag, though minimal, but bad enough to miss critical moments. Hit rate was quite bad, I get less than 50% hit rate, and it was almost impossible to get critically sharp images with the models usually moving at super fast speed on stage. A year later I got myself an FL-36R flash, to aid in such difficult shooting situation, but it did not help that much either. I often get harsh output, and the recycle time of that flash unit was a pain to work with!

Shooting fashion show can be exciting, rewarding, yet extremely frustrating at the same time. It was a situation where I did wish I had a better camera, a camera that did not miss out so many shots!

Fast forward to 2016, today, shooting fashion show was a breeze. Ok, I shall admit one unfair advantage: I was using the PRO lens, 12-40mm F2.8. And back in my DSLR E-520 days, I used the basic kit lens as well as the 40-150mm F3.5-4.5 lenses, which did pale in comparison to what the modern PRO lenses such as the 12-40mm F2.8 and 40-150mm F2.8 can do. That aside, everything else I am about to say still remains valid, and applicable in the comparison on how much the camera system has improved. I was using the OM-D E-M10 Mark II and the 12-40mm F2.8 PRO lens for all my shots. Autofocus was instantaneous! It was so fast, there was completely no lag at all, and damned accurate too. I have 81 AF points to choose from, the AF points stretching out to far end of the screen. Half-pressing and then immediately pressing the shutter button got me 100% accurately focused images, again and again without fail. I got 99% hit rate. That 1% failure was due to my own fault. Furthermore, the ISO was set from 800 to 1600. Even at ISO1600, as seen in the images in this blog entry, there was completely no trace of noise, thanks to the new and more powerful processing engine Truepic 7, as well as an improved 16MP Live MOS sensor. I can shoot at ISO3200 on the E-M10 Mark II with images that come out cleaner than ISO400 on the old DSLR E-520,.and believe me, I am not exaggerating. The camera just works, and it has gotten sooooo easy to get technically good shots (correct exposure and accurate focus). Having a "What You See Is What You Get" Electronic Viewfinder was a Godsent, I can make sure my exposure was what I wanted even before I shot my images!

Also worth mentioning, having the 5-Axis Image Stabillization means I never have to worry about camera shake, and surely you know that the E-M10 Mark II is soooooo much smaller and lighter compared to the E-520?


Thursday, July 28, 2016

A Portrait of Carmen

A dear friend Carmen was participating in the Celebs and Blogger's Bazaar, sort of a like a fashion flea market for lifestyle and fashion bloggers. I was no where in the neighbourhood and decided to stop by just to say hi. Carmen was looking stunningly beautiful with her bright, Burgundy Red hair colour in contrast with the black and white dress she was wearing! A spontaneous quick portrait session ensued, and we decided to scout around the location for a nice, non-busy looking background to work with. We went up to the mezzanine floor and found that the entire floor was vacant, and there was a huge, plain white wall which looked just right for what I had in mind. The large window panel with afternoon sun was just the perfect side lighting I needed for this portrait, and we Carmen hit some simple poses and shutter started clicking away.

Carmen Hong is also an Olympus shooter. 
You can check her out in her blog at http://www.carmenhong.com or follow her on Instagram @itscarmenhong


Image was taken with my Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II and M.Zuiko 25mm F1,8 lens, at very low angle.

Minor adjustments were made during post processing to balance the colours, as well as lifted the shadow around her hair to emphasise the brighter red.

I'd say, simplicity works, each and every time! And I think I should do more portrait shoots.

Monday, July 25, 2016

A Quiet Sunday, A Short Photowalk with Shaun from Brisbane, Australia

Shaun from Brisbane, Australia is visiting again and we had a quick photowalk yesterday. We went to Chow Kit, hoping to catch a glimpse of the old market building before it was being torn down. Fortunately the building was still standing, but now almost fully evacuated. It will be within days the demolition work begins.

We had a slow, relaxing walk and we shot anything that got our attention. I armed myself with my Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II and my most favourite lens, the M.Zuiko 45mm F1.8. The focal length was familiar and comfortable for me to work with, and the lens, being so small and light, felt right at home on my hands.

Shaun visiting from Austtalia

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The Fading Old Market, Chow Kit

At the time I fell in love with street photography (or more appropriately put, photography on the street, just so that I do not insult the "traditionalists"), I discovered this hidden holy grail of street hunting ground in KL, Chow Kit. I fell in love with the place instantly, and every single trip I made to Chow Kit has been fruitful, and I always came home with the SD card filled with photographs, many have become keepers from this wonderful location. Unfortunately, the original, old building of Chow Kit that houses a huge area of the market, and the surrounding lanes and storage locations will be demolished very, very soon. I was told by the locals that they were asked to evacuate the premises, and demolition work has already begun phase by phase. In one or two weeks time, the main building will go down.

When I heard the news, I did not exactly know how to feel. For many years now, I have spent so many hours camping, and strolling around these streets in Chow Kit, inside and around the main old market building area. So many wonderful shots, so many friendly faces and smiles, so many beautiful moments, now all that's left, are nothing but memories. I do feel sad, because I do not think there will be a place like Chow Kit else where in the world, this is truly a unique location, and strangely, it has defined the look and feel of many of my photographs I have displayed here in this blog. 80% of the close up strangers portraits that have become my favourites came from Chow Kit. The beautiful, diffused yet directional light in a relaxed, easy-going environment made it an ideal place for street portraits, and people in Chow Kit are just the friendliest of all KL streets. It is impossible not to be able to make good street portraits here.

With mixed emotions, I picked up the Olympus PEN E-P5 and the M.Zuiko 25mm F1.8 lens, and just walked casually around last Sunday, and shot a few images. Nothing specific I wanted to accomplish this round, just taking my time, in a way, to say goodbye to this place.

I don't think this blog will ever be the same if I have never found Chow Kit in the first place!

Dangling legs

Saturday, July 16, 2016

5 Reasons Why Olympus Micro Four Thirds System Is Suitable For Insect Macro Photography

I have written lengthily before about my shooting techniques when it comes to Insect Macro Photography, if you want to find out more about the equipment I use and how I get my shots, kindly read my post here (click). 

In this post however, I will not discuss about how to shoot, but rather why I find that Olympus Micro Four Thirds system is highly recommended for newcomers to photography who want to explore the world of insect macro.

Being the mirrorless system, Olympus OM-D and PEN cameras are generally smaller and lighter than DSLR alternatives. Adding useful features such as 5-Axis Image Stabilization, large Electronic Viewfinder and built in wireless flash TTL control capabilities, you basically have all the tools necessary to shoot extreme close up insect macro. The M.Zuiko 60mm F2.8 Macro lens offers a large magnification of 2 to 1 (in 35mm equivalent) which is plentiful of magnification for small insects shooting.

Image Credit: Tian Chad

Monday, July 11, 2016

KL Street Shooting - A Different Approach

I think it is crucial for a photographer not to just stay stagnant with one particular shooting style and not experiment with different approaches or techniques in photography. I have seen a handful of narrow minded photographers who think they are so sure of what they are doing and just fully concentrate on their own specific methodology. I do not think there is a single best solution when it comes to art, and we do have to constantly update ourselves, daring to try different ways of doing something and often the best results are the combination of multiple alternatives of approaching the same subject.

My usual set up for street photography is: OM-D or PEN camera with either M.Zuiko 25mm F1.8 or 45mm F1.8 lens, and usually in full colour (because I love glorious colours). I would do close up portraits and tight composition of certain scenes, and I will plan my shots carefully with precise execution (having the focusing point at the exact location of the frame I want in focus and fervently adjusting the exposure compensation to get the right balance of brightness, etc).

For this particular session, I have done something rather different:

1) I used the PEN-F and activated the Monochrome Profile Control, using Mono Profile 2 for most people/usual street subjects, and Mono Profile 3 for buildings and sky scenes. 
The main reason I went all black and white in this session, is to eradicate the constant consideration and thought process that involves colour. This way I am simplifying my workflow to just focus on the subject, minus the distractions of colour in the frame.

2) I chose the 17mm F1.8 lens, providing an equivalent of classic 35mm perspective, something much wider than what I comfortably work with
This is not exactly a new experiment, as I have used the 17mm lenses (both the 1.8 and 2.8 pancake versions) quite frequently recently. While this is not my favourite focal length to work with, I find it challenging to myself to compose using 35mm classic perspective, and sometimes it does yield rather interesting results.

3) Instead of using Aperture Priority or Shutter Priority, I switched the mode dial to Program. I decided to trust the camera on the metering too (Evaluative/Pattern)
Because, not having to think too much about which F-number and what shutter speed to use helps me not to obsess to much about the technical part of the photography execution, we are paying so much for modern cameras these days, I would think that the camera should be able to work for us and not fail us!

4) I left the ISO to Auto (with high ISO limit of ISO6400). Normally, I will change the ISO settings necessarily to compensate for varying lighting conditions.
The default monochrome profile 2 in the PEN-F added so much film grain that you cannot even distinguish if the photo was taken with low or high ISO settings. Furthermore, the highlight and shadow settings were pushed to the extreme by default, shadow -6 and highlight +6, effectively blowing out the highlight and clipping the shadow regions, crushing whatever available dynamic range in the photograph. It is good to remove yet another variable to think about as I was shooting.

5) Usually I would painstakingly select the focusing point (single point) but for this session, I left the AF to be fully controlled by the camera (activating all area) and turned the Face Detect AF on
I still would not recommend this for usual shooting (or anything that requires critical focus) but Henri Cartier Bressan said sharpness is a bourgeois concept, so...

6) I shot in JPEG. No RAW this time. Just JPEG and I set the compression settings to Large Super Fine. 

Fly

Thursday, July 07, 2016

Flirting with Legendary Olympus Zuiko Digital 14-35mm F2 Super High Grade Lens

To all my muslim friends and blog-readers, Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri! Maaf Zahir Batin. Have a joyous, blessed and happy times with your family and friends, and may your stomach be filled with plenty of Raya goodies and amazing celebration foods! Stay safe everyone!


While I was digging through the hidden sections in the office I found more and more interesting items, some old lenses, and one stood out in particular: the Zuiko Digital 14-35mm F2 which was a Super High Grade lens for the now discontinued Four Thirds DSLR E-System. I thought, why not bring this lens, attach it to the latest Olympus Micro Four Thirds camera, the PEN-F, and give it a spin?

The ZD 14-35mm F2 was a legendary lens, a much sought after lens for all Olympus DSLR users, as well as a bragging right for those who own the lens. While Olympus Four Thirds format has a smaller  image sensor in comparison to APS-C and Full Frame DSLR cameras, the 14-35mm lens at a wide constant aperture opening of F2 consequently bridges the gap between the larger sensor systems, considering the rival DSLR systems have only constant F2.8 zoom. While this effectively is only one stop advantage and may not carry that much advantage when it comes to shallow depth of field rendering, the extra light gathering ability of F2 vs F2.8 is still a huge benefit to have. Furthermore, the 14-35mm F2, being a super high grade lens (SHG), designed to deliver the best optical performance, and being razor sharp even shooting wide open at F2 was truly a God-Sent, considering all other competitor's F2.8 zoom lenses would require some aperture stopping down to at least F4 or narrower to accomplish similar sharpness and lens flaw control (chromatic aberration control, distortion, corner softness, etc) as the Olympus 14-35mm lens.

When I was actively using the Olympus DSLR cameras many years ago (I have the E-410, then upgraded to E-520, and finally had the E-5), I always had the lust for the F2 Super High Grade lenses (14-35mm F2 and 35-100mm F2). I never had the chance to use them, also never a chance with my lowly Malaysian junior engineer's salary can I afford any of these ridiculously expensive lenses. Now, imagine, the lens was right in front of me and I have full permission to use this lens! I know this lens may not be popular these days, due to the rather gigantic size which was disproportionate in comparison to the small newer Micro Four Thirds camera bodies, sporting a 77mm diamater filter thread! Nevertheless, there was that curiosity in me that must be satisfied, so my shutter therapy sessions have been fulfilled with the Olympus Zuiko Digital 14-35mm F2 SHG lens!

All images were taken with Olympus PEN-F and Zuiko Digital 14-35mm F2 lens (via MMF-3 adapter of course)

The 14-35mm lens is not a good match to any Micro Four Thirds body, as the lens is too large, and rather heavy. I would not recommend this lens for long hour shooting. 

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Back to Pudu, One of the Best Places to Shoot in KL

I have not been to Pudu for quite a while now, since most of my friends prefer to shoot around Petaling Street area in Kuala Lumpur. Last weekend, I decided to go for a short solo adventure on the streets, a personal shutter therapy session, and I thought why not revisit a place which I used to shoot a lot at not too long ago. Pudu is a busy, busy wet market, full of life and people and activities. People here are generally very friendly and will not mind having their photographs taken, unlike in Petaling Street, a tourist heavy area that the locals there are attacked by cameras way too often. 

After flirting with the old, gorgeous Olympus Camedia C-8080, I am now back to using the OM-D E-M10 Mark II. I brought along my usual lenses, 14-42mm pancake kit lens, the 25mm F1.8 and 45mm F1,8. The weather was beautiful and I think I got away with quite a few decent shots!

E-M10 Mark II is my regular camera now, and I am deeply in love with it

Saturday, June 25, 2016

8 Mega "Plenty of" Pixels: Olympus Camedia C-8080 Wide Zoom

So one random day I chanced upon a dinosaur camera in the archived section of the office, the 2004 released advanced compact camera, Olympus Camedia C-8080. While the whole world is obsessing over newer cameras with superlative megapixel counts and sky-high ISO numbers, I somehow found this old C-8080 rather appealing. The camera called out to me (if such a thing can be understood) and I decided to bring it home with me, and utilized it for my usual shutter therapy session. This camera was considered one of the legendary, best, compact camera at its time, and if that is true, it should still be able to perform rather well today, in my own opinion. Or was I wrong?



Sunday, June 19, 2016

Charcoal Factory, Kuala Sepetang with Olympus OM-D E-M1

When it comes to an environmentally challenging situation, such as shooting inside a charcoal factory where dust is a big problem, I would not hesitate to pick up the ever reliable Olympus OM-D E-M1. I armed myself with all the necessary lenses for this particular shoot: M.Zuiko 7-14mm F2.8 PRO, 25mm F1.8 and 45mm F1.8. This marked my second visit to the charcoal factory, the first one being about three years ago with a group of Sony shooters (it was a Sony Malaysia official photography outing, back then) and boy was I excited to get some shots with Olympus this time around! I joined a group of passionate and enthusiastic photographers from the PSPJ (Photographic Society of Petaling Jaya) and we drove all the way from Kuala Lumpur to Kuala Sepetang (it was more than 3 hours long drive out of the city), where the charcoal factory was at. 

I was faced with the exact similar issues as I did few years back, it was a Sunday, and the workers were not exactly working. Furthermore, it is now the fasting month for the Muslims (Ramadhan), and we encountered a slow, rather quiet morning, with little to almost no activity all around the charcoal factory areas. The weather was not on our side, the sky was cloudy, blocking the important sunlight, thus negating the "sun ray" effect through the holes and cracks on the ceilings/walls of the factory. While all things did not seem to work, the important thing is to stay positive, keep the optimism going and not to give up too quickly. As we walked around we did find some friendly workers were rather chatty, and friendly enough for us to shoot them! I immediately shifted my photography objectives to what I do best: shooting people in their environment and portraying what they do. So here you are, portraits of charcoal factory workers!

A resident

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Petaling Street Adventures with the Humble Kit Lens

Before jumping into photographs of my usual, weekly, now getting more and more predictable shutter therapy sessions, I shall divert your attention to Rizki Skema Maulana, an awesome, young and talented photographer who has just self-published a mini magazine, .IMG. The .IMG project is a collective of photographs from a group of KL street photographers, many of whom I have shot alongside with frequently for the past few years! 

You may have seen many of these familiar faces on my blog before:
Nick Wade
Luke Ding
Amir Shariff
Scott Chung
Alvin Lau
Razlan Yusof
KG Krishnan
And of course, the man behind the project himself, Rizki Skema Maulana

The man himself, Rizki and his beautiful street photographs in PRINT!

Monday, June 13, 2016

Attacking Malacca Street

Last weekend, I was working in Malacca, probably the oldest and most the historical city in Malaysia. I was giving talk on stage at Mahkota Parade Shopping Mall on both Saturday and Sunday evenings, and on Sunday morning there was an official photography outing organized by Olympus Malaysia, which was headed by me. I knew very well that I would not have much time to shoot on my own if I were to be there bringing a group of photography hungry people walking on the beautiful streets of Malacca. I would be too busy answering questions, sharing some shooting tips and composition techniques, as well as making sure every one was ok. Not having shutter therapy, especially street shooting for several consecutive weeks will turn me insane!

Therefore, I decided to travel to Malacca a day earlier, on Friday evening, staying over a friend's place, and started my Saturday extra early, roaming the streets and attacked whatever subjects that I came across. I had with me, the trusty Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II, and I used the much underrated M.Zuiko 17mm F2.8 Pancake lens as my main gear for this session. It was a fruitful, enjoyable session and I managed to grab quite a few good shots which have become my personal favourites. 

Those of you who follow me on Instagram (@Shutter.Therapy) and Facebook Page, you would have noticed my "What's In The Bag" post. 


A glimpse into my bag:

1) The bag was a Honx, made in Indonesia. They have an official Facebook Page here (click). They make awesome camera straps too. 

2) My own E-M10 Mark II, with 17mm F2.8 pancake lens as my primary lens. 

3) M.Zuiko 8mm F1.8 Fisheye lens, just for some fun shots, if I want to

4) M.Zuiko 45mm F1.8 lens, for tight portraits, just in case. 17mm F2.8 remained as the main lens. 

5) Two spare batteries with colorful soft pouches

6) Think Tank Pocket Rocket with plenty of SD cards

7) ECG-2 external camera grip for the E-M10 Mark II

8) Powerbank for my phone, as I was out the whole day

9) Small, foldable umbrella for unpredictable Malaysian weather

10) The new book from Saharil Hasrin Sanin, "Cerpen-Cerpen Underground" to accompany coffee breaks

Thursday, June 09, 2016

Three Cameras I Am Lusting For Right Now

I am human, just like everyone else. I may stay strictly loyal to Olympus and probably not sway too easily, but I am also susceptible to gear acquisition syndrome (GAS) that all photography hobbyists suffer from. There were moments when I do wonder how my photography workflow and shooting experience will differ if I were to use a different camera. The fact that there are so many exciting cameras out there makes things even more difficult!

On one hand, I am a strong believer of Olympus Micro Four Thirds system as a complete, well-rounded, reliable and effective photography system. There are just too many can't-live-without features such as 5-Axis Image Stabilization, small form factor & lightweight yet robust construction, super fast & accurate autofocus, and most important of all the wide selection of available sharp and small high performing lenses. On the other hand, I cannot help but always wonder about a few other cameras out there and what they can do for me!

Here is a short list of 3 cameras that I lust for, at this moment. 

1) FUJIFILM X70
What is there not to like about this camera? Small, light, same philosophies as what I have always shouted about, and the super-versatile 28mm focal length, which is one of the highly valued perspective for street photography. Oh and that killer, sexy classical look, Fuji makes beautiful cameras so easily to fall in love with at the first sight. I personally have owned and used the Fuji X100 (first version) and I simply loved the camera, despite the few shortcomings (painfully slow Autofocus, mediocre lens). Fuji X-series camera has come a long way and I am sure the AF has improved over the years. Having a fixed lens camera for street shooting is not a bad choice, and the external controls and dials (not excessively done) would aid in some quick settings when necessary. I can totally imagine myself shooting with Olympus E-M10 Mark II with 45mm F1.8 for longer, tighter shots, and switching quickly to Fujifilm X70 for all my wide angle coverage needs on the street. I have also known a few street shooting friends who regularly use the 28mm perspective for their framing. After trying my best to adapt to the 35mm focal length, I have concluded that the 35mm is just not meant for me and I should only use it when necessary. I am now shifting my shooting style back to my original preferences: wide angle and medium telephoto range. Not so much of 35mm which is neither here nor there. And yes, the 28mm works well for me and the Fuji X70 is really tempting. 

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Indoor Portrait Shooting Session

The reason for the less frequent updates on this blog for the past 2 weeks? I have been away for work, outstation in Johor Bahru, for business meetings as well as supporting an Olympus event there. We just had an Indoor Portrait Shooting session, organized by a local Olympus fan group, Pantheon of Olympus (check out their FB page!) and headed by a fellow Olympus photographer, Sapphire Ker. 

It is no secret that I am not that good at shooting portraits! Nonetheless, it was sure super fun, and I do wish to do more, the only issue now is finding time to do so. There have been many working weekends for the past month and my hands have been getting unbearably itchy for some shutter therapy session, which I have been deprived of. 

The lighting was quite bad in the cafe, but hey, sometimes I take the easy way out and I converted all images to black and white for simplicity. 


Sunday, May 29, 2016

The Weekend That Ended with Soba Noodles Served on an Ice Block

The weekend was a rather busy one, with a whole Saturday spent on moving office (yes Olympus Malaysia has shifted our office out from Mon't Kiara to Ascent in Kelana Jaya), and today (Sunday)  we just had a morning Olympus Photowalk which was led by me, at KL Bird Park. Therefore, I had most of my time sucked out and left me with very little opportunity for shutter therapy. I decided to just take it slow with whatever free time I have left, had plenty of coffee, and checked out an interesting place that serves noodles on ice blocks!

This was shot with 40-150mm F2.8 PRO on Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II, at 135mm focal length. 

Thursday, May 26, 2016

The Malacca Weekend

From my previous blog entry you would know that I spent almost the whole Saturday shooting my friend's wedding. The day after, I told myself if I managed to wake up early and did not feel too exhausted I would pick up the camera and hit the streets in Malacca. I did wake up rather early and felt quite energetic despite the wedding shoot a day before, so I went to Jonker Walk and had a slow, relaxing walk and shot whatever subjects that caught my attention. 

To keep things easy and simple I only had the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II and one lens with me, the M.Zuiko 25mm F1.8, and it was a short an hour and a half walk, before I headed back to meet up with my other friends for brunch. I did get some shots that I am quite happy with, and I am sharing them in this blog entry. I did however wish I would just walk a few more hours and explore some of the inner streets of beautiful, historical Malacca. One day, maybe I will just spend a weekend in Malacca and do nothing but shoot and eat!

Fly

Monday, May 23, 2016

Fred & Renee

Frederick is one of my closest friends in life, whom I have known since my college days in Kuching. He got married to the beautiful Renee Lim last weekend, and I was there throughout the ceremony and reception all the way. It was a blessing to be a part of the celebration and I wish Fred & Renee nothing but pure happiness, abundance of love & joy and a life-long prosperity and good health for their journey as a married couple!

I shall share some pre-wedding portrait shots that I have taken about half a year ago, in Malacca. Take note that I was NOT the main photographer, the official photographer was CJ Fen who did a splendid job. I was helping out and stole some opportunities to shoot for myself.

All images were taken with Olympus OM-D E-M1 and M.Zuiko Lenses 25mm F1.8, 45mm F1.8 and 75mm F1.8


Friday, May 20, 2016

My First Street Photography Workshop in Malacca with Craftify Studio!!

Last weekend has been quite an adventurous one for me, as I was conducting a basic street photography workshop in the beautiful, historical city of Malacca. The event was organized and hosted by Craftify Studio, headed by incredible photographer friends CJ Fen and Kenn Wai, both well established wedding photographers in Malacca. I was invited to speak about street photography and conducted a short photowalk for the participants.

The Craftify studio was quite a comfortable, homely environment, and I gave a one hour photo-sharing, with some tips and tricks on street shooting in general. Nothing too fancy, most of the things I have shared here in this blog, about decisive moment, lighting, paying attention to the background, using repetitive patterns, lines, shapes color play as well as slow shutter speed to create drama in the shots. I welcomed any questions at any time and I tried my best to answer the best I can. I also shared pointers on shooting strangers and how to approach the people on the street. After the sharing session, we headed to the nearby Jonker Street for a short photowalk where I demonstrated the points which I have highlighted earlier.

It is always fun to meet new people and bring them out to shoot! I was truly glad to see so many eager, and passionate photographers, tagging along and exploring street photography. Malacca is such a beautiful town, my only wish is to have more time to shoot. I hope everyone enjoyed the session as much as I did!

Here are some behind the scene photographs, mostly taken by Kenn Wai and Brandon Liew.

I brought along some Olympus gear for everyone to try! Guess what, all cameras were fully utilized during the street shooting session. 

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Of Coffee, Oatmeal Cookies and Saharil Hasrin Sanin

I miss the old days of blogging when I can just jumble up a few non-related subjects together to form a blog post title, and still make perfect sense. Those were the days before I even ventured so deeply into photography. 

Last weekend, there was the International Kuala Lumpur Book Festival happening at MAEPS, Serdang, and I braved the public transport (LRT --> KTM --> Shuttle Bus) to the event venue, just for two specific reasons: 1) to buy the new book "Cerpen-Cerpen Underground" authored by Saharil Hasrin Sanin, a renown local Malaysian author and visual artist, and 2) to meet Saharil in person during book signing session and of course, to have the newly purchased book signed by him. 



So who is Saharil? Those who are familiar with and following local Malaysian literature scene will surely know of Saharil and his work. Not too dissimilar to myself Saharil too was an engineering graduate, but was gravitated toward the world of art, in his case, writing and drawing. I first discovered him through his online blog many years ago showcasing comic style drawings, which he updated every day (the blog no longer exists). Then I read some of his short stories and immediately fell in love with his style of writing as well as his unusually unique perspective on life. I particularly admire the way he sees the world around him, and how his interpretation is always surrounded by layers and layers of deeper meaningful messages. Through his writing and visual arts, I have been inspired to train my eyes to look at everything around me differently, and in some ways Saharil has influenced my style of photography. 

I am probably not qualified to do a review for his new book, "Cerpen-Cerpen Underground" (translated as Underground Short Stories), and the book is fully writen  in Malay Language. My mastery of Malay Language has been deteriorating over the years as I rarely use this language any more, but gosh, reading his new book made me fall in love with Malay Language all over again. I am only about 30% through the book currently (believe me I would love to finish the book in one seating but who has the time to do that these days? I did not even have sufficient time for shutter therapy) and I am loving it so far. 

If you are a Malaysian, and you appreciate the beauty and grace of the Malay Language, this book "Cerpen-Cerpen Underground" by Saharil Hasrin Sanin is highly recommended for you. You can buy the book online here, and it is priced at RM25 only! 

A super quick portrait of Saharil. 
Oh what horrendous lighting in a huge hall I had to deal with. Should have stopped down the aperture so that book was not so out of focus. Should have asked him to stay away from the distracting red car. I suck at shooting portraits. Why is it that the photos that matter always turn out so bad???? Ok I shall stop ranting haha

To Saharil, thank you so much for what you do, you have brought much laughter and even tears (yes, some of his writings/art pieces are indeed that moving) to some of us, and I appreciate your generosity in sharing your craft with us. Stay awesome always. 

I know most of my readers here may not be able to understand Malay, but for those of you who do, you can follow Saharil at his official Facebook Page here: https://www.facebook.com/saharilism/