Saturday, December 26, 2015

Ending The Year With Shutter Therapy

Today is the actual day of my birthday, yes I am a Boxing Day boy. Unfortunately, Malaysia decided to not celebrate Boxing Day as an official national holiday, or else it would have been so cool having my birthday falling on a public holiday every year. Nonetheless, it is Saturday today so it was not too bad at all. I have had private celebrations with my friends, and I have even blogged about it here (click). 

The year is coming to an end fast, and I could squeeze in one last shutter therapy session, which turned out to be quite a fruitful one. I can not think of a better idea for the last blog entry of the year. This year has been quite an interesting year for the blog, though the total number of blog entries has decreased (111 posts in 2014 vs 83 posts in 2015), I actually put more effort and spent more time in composing many blog entries that I believe will benefit the general crowd that comes visiting here: the Micro Four Thirds community, and learning photographers. 

I am not one to make new years resolutions, but hey, I can definitely want to continue blogging, shooting and sharing photographs from my shutter therapy sessions. 

I will be taking a break from work, travelling home to visit my mum and spend some time with her. I shall celebrate the New Year with her, and that means, I will not be blogging too actively for the coming few weeks. I will make time for shutter therapy in my beloved hometown, Kuching, that is for sure! So do expect small updates. 

All images were taken with Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II and M.Zuiko 25mm F1.8 and 9mm F8 Fisheye Body Cap Lens. 

I love how wide the 9mm F8 fisheye body cap lens. I know the fisheye effect distortion is not something that many people can accept, but hey, I think it does create dramatic outcome. 

Monday, December 21, 2015

A Sunday with No Shutter Therapy but with Lots of Coffee, Star Wars, Great Company of Friends and Early Birthday Surprise

It was a working Saturday for me so that only left me with a free Sunday. I was itching for some shutter therapy, hence I brought the OM-D E-M10 and several M.Zuiko lenses out to shoot on the streets, but the weather was unbearably scorching hot, I started sweating profusely it became too uncomfortable and I finally decided to just hang out in a nearby coffee place. I thought of resuming the street shooting but the air conditioning got the better of me and soon after that I have this short list of things to do that does not involve getting burned alive under the evil Malaysian sun. On the top of the list was the new Star Wars movie. 

I was not exactly a Star Wars fan, and was quite sure on not wanting to catch it in the cinema. However too many friends have been talking about it and every time I am on the Internet somewhere somehow something related to the new Star Wars movie will pop out. Not wanting to be left out and feeling a little lazy on Sunday, I walked right into the cinema and spent my afternoon watching Star Wars. It was a good movie, and an afternoon well spent. 

Although I did not have a proper shutter therapy session, I did have my gear with me and I was shooting at random things. I may not have portraits of strangers or that incredible "decisive moment" shot of the week to show, but who cares, it is Sunday, and I deserve some peace, quiet and rest!

Later in the evening, I had an early Christmas dinner with great company of friends, which turned into an early Birthday surprise for me! 

Yes, I could not believe I caved in and watched Star Wars. 

Friday, December 18, 2015

3 Inexpensive Gift Ideas for Olympus Micro Four Thirds Users

Christmas is coming, and if you are wondering what to buy as a gift for that friend/relative/family who is an active user of Micro Four Thirds system, and I am making a short list of 3 items which might just be the perfect gift. 

I acknowledge that there are so many gift ideas available already, such as lens pouch, stylish neck straps, memory cards, spare batteries, tripods, camera bags, and the list goes on and on. Nevertheless, these are very specific gifts that can actually significantly add versatality and functionality to that photography enthusiast who particularly use Olympus system, and the best part of all, these gift ideas do not cost an arm or a leg. 

1) Olympus Macro Converter MCON P02
Cost: USD50

Monday, December 14, 2015

Olympus M.Zuiko 40-150mm F4-5.6 R Mini Review

I have recently done my quick impression write-up for the two long lenses from Olympus M.Zuiko line up, the M.Zuiko 75-300mm F4.8-6.7 and 14-150mm F4-5.6 II. Since then, I have received many requests to do similar mini-review for the budget friendly, super compact M.Zuiko 40-150mm F4-5.6 R. I intended to complete this blog entry much earlier, but work obligations plus lots of procrastination on my part had delayed the progress of shooting with the M.Zuiko 40-150mm R lens. 

M.Zuiko 40-150mm F4-5.6 R on my new, shiny Silver OM-D E-M10 Mark II


Wednesday, December 09, 2015

I Bought A New Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II, and I Shot A Wedding Assignment With It

Surprise, or not really a surprise to many, I have just purchased the new Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II! Which colour you asked? This time, a SILVER one. 

Yes, I know this is a direct contradiction to my previous blog entry about not upgrading your gear. Please hear me out first. 

My trusty workhorse, the now aging OM-D E-M5 (original, first version) is dying. If you know me well and have seen the way I use my gear, you would actually be amazed that how the E-M5 has taken the torture, beating and excessive use over the years, and still survived. In case you did not know, I did not buy the E-M5 new, when I got it two years ago, it was a used unit, which also contributed to the shortened life. I cannot say that the camera can survive a full rigorous photography assignment, and that lack of confidence drove me to the option of purchasing a new camera. 

That is the point: I do take in photography jobs from time to time (so that I can eat some fancy food and buy that new lens) and I need to replace the dying camera. Instead of spending money for repair and service, I thought it is time to put the battle-scarred E-M5 to rest, and invest in a new camera. I was deciding between the E-M1 and E-M10 Mark II and went with the cheaper version: I do not need weather sealing for my photography shooting, and the E-M10 Mark II proved to be more than sufficient for my photography needs after many rounds of using it in my review sessions as well as casual shooting with it. With all the latest Olympus specific features, 5-Axis Image Stabilization, large Electronic Viewfinder, super fast AF, and very, very low entry price point, it is difficult for me to look elsewhere.  Also, this may not be something entirely unpredictable, I have sold off the Fujifilm X100 which I did come to love, but I cannot justify keeping too many cameras. 

My current gear list? 
Main camera: The new Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II Silver
Secondary Camera: The suspected stolen Olympus PEN E-P5 Silver (no one claimed from me, so I am keeping it)
Lenses: M.Zuiko 12-50mm F3.5-6.3 kit lens (I use this mainly for 2 purposes, the 12mm wide angle, as well as the special macro mode), 25mm F1.8 and 45mm F1.8
Flash: Olympus FL-50R and FL-36R

What was the first thing I did with the new E-M10 Mark II? I brought it along with all the above gear list to a wedding shoot. 

Photographs are shown with permission from Yew Hoong and Chia Ching, the newly weds. Take note that the following photos are preliminary edits. 


Monday, December 07, 2015

5 Simple Tips to Improve Photography Without Upgrading Your Gear

Note: I have written about improving photography without upgrading gear before (dealing with photography basics, composition, etc). You can read them here (click). This entry will be more focused on simpler, straight to the point tips that can be easily applied. 


We constantly find excuses to justify the purchase of that higher grade lens, or a better, more expensive camera bodies. I too suffer from lens lust (that awesome Panasonic Nocticron 42.5mm F1.2 is always lingering at the back of my mind). However, it is prudent to remind ourselves from time to time that upgrading our gear does not improve our photography. The greatest weapon that a photographer possesses is his vision: how the photographer sees the world around him, with his unique artistic sense and perspective. 

There are many advanced tips, tricks and hacks available if you are keen enough to do some Google-ing around, and we are living in the era not short of any information within reach. Photography basics must not be skipped and there is no shortcut in photography, hence the crucial components that produce great photography such as composition, lighting and basic control of the camera must be learned and applied. 

I shall do my best not to be too repetitive of what have been shared before. Instead, I am sharing my own practices that I normally use when I am out shooting on the streets. The following 5 tips are simple, easy and plainly straightforward, no rocket science involved!


1) Lower Down Your Camera, Low Angle Perspective Can Create Dramatic Shots

Low angle photography works very well in many, many situations, and I employ this extremely often in my street shooting. We often shoot through the viewfinder of the camera, being at our eye level, which produces very natural looking, realistic images. Every one sees the world that way naturally, and it can appear too ordinary and plain. By purposefully forcing the viewing perspective away from the eye level, and lowering it down to the waist level, or even lower, all the way to the ground level, a different perspective can be opened up and often the composition can result in a more dramatic manner. Surely, this will not work all the time, but why not give it a try and see how it can change the look and feel of your image outcome?

This is where cameras with tilt screen, or swivel screen comes in handy. Many cameras these days, both DSLR and mirrorless ILC cameras have such functionability. Or else, lie down on the floor and get dirty! Some dirty shirt and pants are better than spending thousands of dollars upgrading your gear.  

By lowering down the camera to the ground, I can include the KLCC Twin Towers into the frame, creating a more compelling image. 

Friday, December 04, 2015

Ben & Mei Sze: ROM

I have known Mei Sze, a friend who has been actively involved with Olympus Malaysia as our emcee for events (product launching) as well as a blogger who writes about her adventures using the Olympus PEN E-PL7. Last year, she was battling with colon cancer (read her stories here and here), and survived, and she has got remarkable and inspiring stories to tell. It has been a great pleasure knowing Mei Sze and when she asked if I would shoot her Registration of Marriage ceremony which happened last weekend, how could I say no?

With Mei Sze's permission, I am sharing some preliminary edits here. 

The must-have Rings-shot. 
I needed secondary subjects for the rings, hence I looked around and found these flowers. Initially I used only one, but it looked out of place. As I added the second one into the frame, the image looked much better. 

Monday, November 30, 2015

A Short Shutter Therapy Session is Better Than No Shutter Therapy At All

I don't think I have been getting sufficient shutter therapy sessions recently. I was shooting a friend's registration of marriage ceremony on Saturday and spent a huge chunk of Sunday on post-processing the preliminary edits. I did manage to squeeze some hours out for quick rounds at Pudu Markets and boy, it sure was fun just being able to walk aimlessly and enjoy shooting random strangers. 

I am now actively using the Olympus PEN E-P5, since no one came forth and claim it (a suspected stolen unit). I paired the E-P5 with the M.Zuiko 25mm F1.8 lens, and this combo is quickly becoming my favourite street shooting gear. I have always loved the 50mm equivalent perspective when I am out there attacking the streets, that will not change. 

I have heard from a prominent photographer who mentioned that he will not use 50mm or 35mm for his usual photography work (portraits, weddings, commercial/product shoots) because these focal lengths too closely resemble human natural vision, and he wanted exaggerated perspective to create depth and impact. I do agree with him, but that only applies if you are shooting to impress. Often the main objective of many photographers (myself included sometimes, surely) is to find images that will "wow" our audience. We want people to "like" our photographs that we share on Facebook, 500px, Flickr, etc. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, and encouragement with positive, real human feedback can be great motivators to push harder and improve in photography. 

However, when I am doing shutter therapy, the main objective is actually to do whatever I want to do, and the main person I am doing my best to please is, myself. 

Sometimes, I compose in a certain manner that only makes sense to me, and it does not matter because photography is a selfish game. At some point of shooting for the fun of it, I have to start having fun. I have to be the one enjoying the game, I have to do what I want to do to make the best out of the limited time I have. I do acknowledge that the photos I show here are not National Geographic worthy and will never be award-winning. Should I care about these achievements? 

To me, I am just happy being able to pick up a camera and shoot. That is one of the simplest joy, and I can do that and end the day with an expensive cup of coffee. 

A Saturday Morning

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Cat Knows

Besides shooting human portraits on the streets, my eyes will automatically lock target on any moving four-legged meowing creatures roaming the same streets I frequent for shutter therapy. Oh yes, cats ranked very highly in my "to-shoot" list when I am out there doing street photography. Mock me as much as you like, I do not care, I love cats, though I do not own any as pets, but encountering them on the streets is quite an interesting experience. 

I realized I have quite an extensive "street-cat" photo collection, I can arrange them into a series easily now. I was told by an old photography friend that one day I would be able to do an exhibition solely on the cats I have shot on the streets. No, not just the ordinary portrait close up shots of the cute, innocent looking furry faces, but portraying the cats, just like the way I shoot humans with their surrounding environments. Think of street photography, minus the humans, and add the cat into the picture. Something like that. Has there been such a category invented? If not I better come up with a new name quick. That could be the next thing I invent after the phrase "shutter therapy" and I have a good feeling it will take off. Trust me on this. 

So here I was, shooting cats, week after week, while observing all the usual rules or conventions that I apply to my own photography: composition, strong visual and subject content, interesting background, beautiful lighting, etc etc. I know there is a specific photography group that exists just to criticize and look down on other photographers who shoot cat photos. I hope they never found this blog entry. 


7 Bucks per Kilo

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

"To Be a Better Photographer, Be a Better Person" Jerry Ghionis in Malaysia

It has been a terribly hectic week for me and I had very little time for shutter therapy. Nonetheless I had very rare opportunity to meet Jerry Ghionis, the legendary and one of the greatest modern wedding photographers who was in Malacca for his workshop. I attended the pre-workshop session, the Wedding Photographer's Conference, where hundreds of wedding photographers (who did not have a wedding job that particular weekend) came for a whole day sharing and learning event, from Jerry & Melissa Ghionis, Keda Z, and some of the big names in the industry such as Jon Low, Iskandar Ibrahim, Grace Tan (from Stories.my) and many more. It was quite a refreshing twist to my usual weekend activities, as I spent almost entire day sitting down and just absorb as much knowledge as I can into my worn-out engineer-trained brain. 

At the end of the session, my friends and I had an opportunity to spend some time up close and personal with Jerry. I managed to even asked him a few questions which he humbly replied. He even showed us many of his photographs that he took during his non-working hours, just for fun! Truly Jerry was a great inspiration, though wedding photography is not my forte, I have learned so much from his generous sharing session in just 2 hours on stage, and the private session after that. 

A group photo with Jerry Ghionis!
I was so lucky to be standing by his side! In the photos are my friends from KL, EC Tong, Meng Keat, Lim and Joseph. Image was taken by Joseph's Sony A7s (at stratospherically high ISO numbers)

Sharing the few memorable quotes from Jerry that I could recall from his session:

1) "Everyone wants to shine bright like a diamond. When everyone does, there are many, many diamonds out there it becomes difficult to outshine each other. Instead of being bigger and brighter, sometimes, it is better to be a ruby." 
Jerry talking about standing out from the crowd and be unique. Not only does this apply to wedding photography, but I think this is so relevant to everything else we do!

2) "What is the difference between seeing me in videos and seeing me live? One is Porn and one is Sex." 
Jerry's opening line for his talk! What a line. 

3) "How do you know, when it is the last time you are going to hug someone?" 
Jerry sharing his experience on the importance to express emotions, and capturing them. 

4) "I hate Photoshop. I'd rather touch my wife's boobs, than touch the mouse" 
AGREED!

5) "Photograph your subjects through the eyes of a loved one"
Powerful and applicable mostly for actual day wedding photography approach. 

6) "To be a better photographer, be a better person" 
This one actually left me with a huge impact. How true it is, being a better person, we see the world in a better perspective, and that will affect the way we shoot. Photography, is after all, the art of seeing. 

After the two hour session with Jerry, honestly I wished I have signed up for his 2-day workshop on the following Monday and Tuesday. Unfortunately I do have to work, and my life is not all photography at this moment. 

I think Jerry is a skilful photographer who has tonnes of experience, and the remarkable thing about him is his generosity to teach and share. That is one photographer crossed off from the list of photographers I want to meet in my life!

A reminder to self - "If I want to be a better photographer, be a better person".


Monday, November 16, 2015

Spending a Weekend with Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm F2.8 Pancake Lens

I am not going to lie to you, initially I wanted to bring the Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm F1.8 lens from the office, and use that only lens for my weekend shutter therapy. I wanted to revisit the lens and see if my personal trainings with the Fujifilm X100 has improved my execution of the 35mm equivalent focal length, especially when shooting on the streets. Unfortunately all the available units of the M.Zuiko 17mm F2.8 have been loaned out. Not giving up, I picked up the much neglected M.Zuiko 17mm F2.8 pancake lens as a substitute. After all, a 17mm lens is still a 17mm lens. 

I did not intend to do a review of the lens. I did not have the time to, and the 17mm F2.8 pancake has been reviewed by many other photographers before. Sufficient information about the lens is available and I do not see any way I can add more to that. As usual, what I can do is share as many photographs as I can. I will however, share my experience and thoughts after using the lens for one weekend, and a handful of photographs I managed to gather. 

The Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm F2.8 Pancake lens was released at the time of the first Olympus Micro Four Thirds Camera, the PEN E-P1, which was in 2009 (6 years ago). General feedback from both reviewers as well as users highlighted that this lens is a good all round lens but not a stellar performer. Therefore I was not having high expectations on this lens. 

COOKIE vs PANCAKE

Either the pancake was super small, or the oatmeal cookie was huge. 

Friday, November 13, 2015

Portraiture Shooting with Anthony Mendoza Barlan

Last Saturday I had a rare chance to join in an outdoor model shooting workshop, which was conducted by an up and coming local photographer, Anthony Mendoza Barlan. Anthony specializes in shooting artistic beautiful portraits of model, usually conceptual and abstract in nature. The workshop was a paid workshop, and there were about 20 participants. I did not come in as a workshop participant though, I was actually there to help out a friend, KS Du, with a task to shoot behind the scenes images of the entire workshop. 

It was a blast being able to move around freely and document the event, and at the same time, I managed to steal some quick frames for myself. 


Wednesday, November 11, 2015

12 Must Read Non Gear Review Blog Posts

It is not too brutally honest to admit that the majority of the traffic to this blog is driven by my Olympus gear reviews which I have done over the years, accumulating an ever growing list. While the biggest success of this blog was largely due to the said gear reviews, at the same time I have worked very hard week after week showcasing new set of photographs in order to create fresh blog contents. I do not want this blog to be known solely for the Olympus cameras and lenses reviews. I want my blog readers to return for other more compelling reasons as well, including my photography, which frankly is still a work in progress. I openly admit I am a learning photographer. 

In the process of sharing tonnes and tonnes of photographs, I have also shared my knowledge, experience, thoughts and anything related to my shutter therapy sessions in my blog updates. I often do my best not to hold back, and to be as open as possible, because I am not perfect, and I, like everyone else, need feedback and comments to grow. While composing blog entries, I constantly find ways to add value to my blog contents, so that my readers (my target audience is primarily newcomers to photography) will get something useful out of spending time reading my articles here. 


Monday, November 09, 2015

The 50mm Perspective Weekend

If there is a new Olympus OM-D or PEN user, using the basic kit lenses, either M.Zuiko 14-42mm F3.5-5.6 EZ or the 12-50mm F3.5-6.3 EZ asked which lens to go next, I would most likely answer them: stay with your kit lens and use it until you can create beautiful photographs with it. Then what is next? Surely by then, you will not ask me which lens to get because based on your experience shooting excessively with the kit lens, you would know what you need and what your preferences of shooting style would be, hence knowing what lenses to complement your shooting needs. This also largely corresponds to what kind of photography you are doing (surely you do not recommend a wildlife bird shooting to use a fisheye lens, would you?). 

If that photographer is still clueless on what to buy, or decided the kit lens is rubbish from the start (most people do any way) and want a lens that is versatile and will be frequently used, the answer is none other than the incredible Olympus M.Zuiko 25mm F1.8 lens. It is an equivalent of 50mm classic focal length, providing you with flexible perspective and easy to use frame coverage. This magical focal length can be used for a wide variety of photography subjects, ranging from every day casual shooting, portraits, a little bit of close up on details, tight landscapes, and so on. The lens being a prime lens, delivers excellent image quality, razor sharp even at wide open F1.8 and has minimal technical flaw. Yet it comes in a small and light package, matching OM-D and PEN compactness, thus easy to carry around or just fit into that small corner in your camera bag. The F1.8 wide open aperture allows shallow depth of field and at the same time useful for shooting in low light conditions. What is there not to like about this lens? If I were to pick one lens and say it is a must have (obviously if you already know what you are doing you surely have decided on your own must-have list of gear), surely it is the M.Zuiko 25mm F1.8. I bought mine as soon as it hit the market in Malaysia. 

I have spent the weekend with this lens, shooting around Petaling Street, as well as some urban skyscape shots since the haze is now gone. I brought only ONE lens. The 25mm f1.8 and I used it on the new OM-D E-M10 Mark II. 

I know this scene may appear ordinary and dull to you, but we Malaysians appreciate such clear sky and haze free air. You have no idea how bad it has been. Considering it is coming to the raining season very soon, it is best we shoot these shots in whatever chance we can find!

Monday, November 02, 2015

Glorious KL Sky After the Haze

Note: If you were in Malaysia and you have lost an Olympus PEN E-P5 Silver body, it is possible I have found your unit. Please read this blog here and contact me personally. 

The haze in KL is gone, after repeated episodes of heavy downpour over the course of more than a week and the shift of wind direction. That spells out overjoy for us photographers who shoot mainly outdoor. I sure hope the haze is gone for good!

I have posted up about a possibly stolen Olympus PEN E-P5 unit which I have acquired recently, and I would like to thank all you beautiful people for the words of encouragement, and most important of all, sharing out the info. I would think that not too many people in Malaysia have lost an E-P5, and most of the photographers are connected through social media (Facebook is still the number 1 social network in Malaysia) No one came forth and claim the E-P5 yet, and the offer to return the camera to the rightful owner shall remain open as long as the E-P5 is with me. However, I will have to set a time limit before I start using the E-P5, and I am setting a one month deadline. If no one claims the E-P5 from me after one month from now, I will start using the unit for my shutter therapy sessions. By then, at least I know I have tried my very best to find the rightful owner. 

So what did I use for my shutter therapy during this past haze-free weekend in KL? Olympus PEN E-P5 which I grabbed from the office. I paired it with my own beloved M.Zuiko 25mm F1.8. There was one particular shot that I wanted to do so badly, a landscape shot of the city from a far, taken during sunset. The weather did not disappoint, and the skyline was blessed with dramatic cloud formation, with strong golden warm sunset light over the city. I could have created a HDR shot but I decided against that and presented the classic silhouette style instead. This was probably the most beautiful shot of the city I have ever made. 

Sinset over KL. Which lens you ask? That humble kit lens, M.Zuiko 12-50mm F3.5-6.3 EZ, at 12mm widest angle. 

Friday, October 30, 2015

I Bought a Used Olympus PEN E-P5 And I Think It Is A Stolen Unit

Something interesting happened last night. 

I bought a used Olympus PEN E-P5 Silver body. 

Firstly, I sold off the Panasonic GM1, to fund my purchase of the Olympus E-P5. I loved the GM1 to bits and it was difficult parting with it, but I shall save this story on why I decided to get E-P5 on my coming blog entry. The main reason I got the E-P5 body used, was that it was dirt cheap - after selling off my old GM1, I only had to top up RM100 (less than USD25) to purchase the E-P5. 

Now here are the observations I have made on the spot:

1) No Box, No Warranty Card, No Receipt
The seller just sold the camera to me, basically stripped naked. Not a big problem for me as the box served me no purpose. 

2) No Front Body Cap
The front body cap was missing, but the seller was kind enough to substitute with a Panasonic body cap (hence I knew the original Olympus cap was missing). The seller told me, at this point that he bought this E-P5 with  M.Zuiko 17mm F1.8 lens together from another seller. I further asked if the rear lens cap was included when he made the purchase, and as suspected, the rear lens cap was missing. 

Sunday, October 25, 2015

My Street Shooting Workflow in Flow Chart

So, I thought it would be cool to produce a workflow chart to show my street shooting processes. The chart is quite self-explanatory.

MY STREET SHOOTING WORKFLOW 

If you want to read in full detail about 'How I Approach my Street Portraits" please read the lengthy blog entry I have written here (click) quite recently.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Devastation of My Favourite Street Shooting Location in Chow Kit

For many years now, Chow Kit has been my favourite street hunting ground. There are just so many amazing locations to shoot, with the background full of character and always filled with friendly people. There is this one particular spot at the old market building, at the storage section area, that I was particularly drawn to. I would never fail to visit this one part of Chow Kit market and spend at least 30 minutes (or more, if I was alone) to wait for the right subjects or moments to shoot. The lighting there was always almost perfect, with light leaks coming down from the roof, creating dramatic scene. Even the overall ambiance was suitable for beautiful portraits.

Unfortunately, much to my horror, I discovered last Sunday that the particular spot that I loved so much, has been burned down by accidental fire. At the time of my finding, it was already 10 days after the fire incident. I was away for one weekend due to KLPF (Kuala Lumpur Photography Festival) and I returned immediately the weekend after, even though haze was a huge problem.

I was walking along the path leading to the storage area, anticipating to create some beautiful photographs for this one shutter therapy session. As I walked closer and closer, I saw a cat which was not at her usual favourite resting position. The cat saw me and walked to me instantly, greeting me, and I decided to play with the cat for a bit. Somehow, I think the cat knew something I did not. As the cat walked forward a few meters, and I looked up, there and then I saw the whole place being burned down, destroyed. I was shocked, yes. The effect did not instantaneously sink in. Taking my time to visually inspect the extent of the fire damage (I am a qualified Civil Engineer after all), accessing the structural integrity and all... about a few minutes in, I could feel tears starting to build up behind my eyes.

I know it is ridiculous to feel anything for a place that I probably still am an alien to, and just passing by to shoot some photographs. Suddenly the memories of my time spent in this location, all the weekends, I waited at some spots to shoot, I just could not help it but feel sad, angry, and seriously devastated from inside out. This was my spot. Many of my best photographs, or at least the ones I liked the most came from this very spot. I came here so often that it is just wrong to see it all gone. Just like that. I felt betrayed. I felt so much pain which I do not even know how to describe properly.



Taken some time last year in September (Vintage Art Filter, testing/review shot for E-PL7)

The exact same spot, taken last Sunday

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Short and Sweet Shutter Therapy to Keep Me Going, and Sharing What Goes On Behind Each Shot

Haze is back with a vengeance. It cleared off after a series of heavy rain last week, but my oh my, when it came back, the haze was twice as bad as it was before, or worse. Outdoor activities are ill-advised, which meant cutting down on my street shooting. I managed to have a super short session last Sunday, a quick walk at Chow Kit just before lunch. Thank goodness I am not doing any important review blog entries at the moment, the smokey blurry city skyline is not exactly the best test subjects for any cameras or lenses. That mystical de-haze filter on Lightroom? No, that won't help either. 

I shall just post up the few photographs I managed to shoot and, add some thought process and ideas behind them in the description that follows. 

Steel Bridge
I decided to take the lazy way out this time. Instead of waiting for that perfect moment and click the shutter, you know, how the pros would tell you the importance of quick reflex and recognizing the peak of the action, I thought hey why not just use sequential burst mode to shoot continuous 9 frames per second and I am pretty sure at a leisurely walking speed I would NOT miss the moment. I know, I know I should be ashamed to rely on technology to get the shot. You know what, it is crazy hazy out there, I just want to get the shot and get out of there soonest I can. I agree photography cannot be rushed, but this is an exception I am willing to make. 

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Mid Week Shutter Therapy is a Lifesaver

For many kind souls who came and support us at Olympus in Kuala Lumpur Photography Festival (KLPF) 2015, you have my deepest gratitude. Thank you for dropping by and say hi, giving words of encouragement, I needed them to push through a gruesome 3 full day event, and seeing so many Olympus shooters coming together in one place was quite incredible! Canon and Nikon decided not to join the photography festival (which shows how much they support or care about the whole photography community here locally in Malaysia, versus their own sales and branding). Olympus, together with Fujifilm and Sony ruled KLPF this year: and you know what, MIRRORLESS is indeed the future now. 

Since I was practically stuck at KLPF for the entire weekend, I had zero shutter therapy. Thankfully, yesterday was a public holiday in Malaysia (Awal Muharram) and I snatched this much needed opportunity shooting on the streets. Originally I intended to spend the whole day shooting with the Olympus M.Zuiko 40-150mm F4-5.6 R lens, and do a mini-review, as requested frequently by many readers here. Having too many things in my mind and the ever stacking workload as a consequence of being away from the office for too many days (leading up to KLPF, and the aftermath), I mistakenly forgot to bring home the 40-150mm R lens. I shall have to revisit this objective, perhaps in the weekend, and I sincerely hope the rain keeps pouring to clear the hazy weather. 

I joined a huge group of friends and photography-enthusiast to attack Pudu yesterday. It was great to just now talk about cameras (I spent almost all my waking hours talking about gear in KLPF) and just shoot and shoot and shoot. I armed myself with the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II and my favourite M.Zuiko 45mm F1.8 lens. 

Morning Coffee

Saturday, October 10, 2015

10 Reasons Why You Should Visit Olympus at KLPF 2015

If you are in Kuala Lumpur this weekend you may want to make some time for the most happening and largest photography event in Malaysia, the KLPF 2015 (Kuala Lumpur Photography Festival). Olympus is coming in huge this year and we have amazing setup, lined up with tonnes of activities for visitors! I will be stationed at Olympus, KLPF full time on both Saturday and Sunday!





Monday, October 05, 2015

Less Shutter Therapy Due to Haze, Less Blog Updates

Note: Fellow photographer/blogger Ahmad Firdaus Yosman did an honest and interesting review of his experience with the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II, coming from a DSLR user. He has got some awesome photos taken with the E-M5 Mark II too, so please give his blog a visit here (click)!

This blog space of mine will experience a little bit of slowing down for the next one to two weeks, mainly due to two reasons: first being the horrible haze enveloping the entire nation at unhealthy air pollution index levels, hence outdoor activities are to be reduced and second, which is the more exciting reason, I will be busy preparing for the coming Kuala Lumpur Photography Festival which will be happening this weekend (9-11 October 2015 at Mid Valley Megamall, KL). Olympus will be at KLPF and I will be stationed there at all times, so if you drop by do come to Olympus area and say hi!

While the nation was under thick, health degrading haze conditions, I managed to sneak in a short shutter therapy session, going out in a huge photowalk last Saturday, joining the Scott Kelby WorldWide Photowalk 2015. I met some awesome people and we attacked Petaling Street. I was probably using the smallest camera amongst all photographers, the Panasonic Lumix GM1 and Olympus M.Zuiko 25mm F1.8 lens. How I love using this combination!

An Indian Restaurant Cook

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Olympus Stylus XZ-2, Three Years Later

About three years ago, I have reviewed the Olympus Stylus XZ-2, the then flagship compact camera from Olympus. Many of you may not know this, the Olympus XZ-2 reviews were the most popular blog entries with the highest number of page views. This was further reflected by the number of emails and messages I have received asking generally about XZ-2, even to this very day! I genuinely thought that it was a highly capable compact camera, packed with all the high end features from OM-D and PEN cameras such as Touch AF, Tilt LCD screen, super control panel and having an accessory port to use an external Electronic Viewfinder. The strength of the XZ-2 lies in that Zuiko lens, 28-112mm F1.8-2.5 which is extra bright, and delivers beautiful, sharp images. 

Why a compact camera? After all I am quite comfortable using the Micro Four Thirds system (and that Fuji X100 for a bit now), but compact cameras will always have that place in my heart. I started photography with point and shoot digital compact cameras (no I did not start with film, unfortunately). I used compact cameras for a span of four years, killing three in the process of learning photography. I had Kodak CX300, Kodak CX7430, and Kodak C875. Did I wish I have more controls? Did I wish the image quality was better? Did I wish I could do more with my Kodak compact cameras? Yes, yes, yes and yes to these questions. However, did I wish I had a DSLR during those compact camera years? Did I wish I have picked up a DSLR sooner? Nope. I never regretted using the compact cameras for four years, and I would have continued using so, as I was at my early learning stage, and I thoroughly enjoyed my experience using the compact cameras with their restrictions and limitations. 

Digital cameras have come a long, long way now. The Olympus Stylus XZ-2 would have been the ultimate camera and I would have wished I had nothing more, if it existed during my early learning years with compact cameras. 

Why am I using the XZ-2 now? 

I guess, in a way, I am reminding myself that all the gear that are available and accessible to me now are more than sufficient for the kind of photography I am doing. 

I may not be able to speak for you, as your requirements and usage for photography may differ. For my own shutter therapy, I do not need a million megapixels, in fact the humble 12MP on the XZ-2 is plentiful. I do not use ridiculously high ISO numbers, I mostly stay below ISO400, and the XZ-2 allows me usable shooting up to ISO1600, hence lots of room to work with. Autofocus was not lightning fast like the newer OM-D cameras, but fast enough for shooting on the street, and generally the camera just works. The lens is amazing, with Image Stabilization built in. The camera shoots RAW, and I can run through my usual workflow with Olympus Viewer 3 in my post processing. 

Even after three years since its launch, I can pick up the XZ-2 and still be happy with it. 


Steel Bridge

Monday, September 21, 2015

5 Reasons Why Your Kit Lens is Awesome


Interchangeable camera has been popular and successful, allowing camera users the ability to change lenses and use specific purpose lenses to accomplish a wider range of photography needs. The availability of many lenses has overshadowed the original humble kit lens that comes with the camera. I myself have been shooting often with prime lenses such as M.Zuiko 45mm F1.8 and 25mm F1.8 lenses. Somehow, there has been a general belief that kit lenses are inferior: lacking in many aspects of lens technicalities, do not deliver sharp and desirable results and should be replaced or upgraded to superior lenses such as fast F2.8 zoom lenses or prime lenses.

While it is generally true that prime lenses and higher grade, more expensive constant aperture zoom lenses will provide superior image quality, I think it is too quick to push the original lowly kit lens aside and not fully utilize it. While the kit lens being a bad lens may have been true in the earlier days of modern digital photography (older entry level DSLR), over the years, the kit lenses have improved optically as well as technologically. I acknowledge that the original kit lenses were not designed to outperform higher grade lenses, but as an all round performer and do it all lens, the kit lenses can provide admirable results. 


Of all the available lenses in the arsenal, I decided to go out with the lowliest, underrated kit lens, M.Zuiko 14-42mm F3.5-5.6. Can this lens perform on the street?

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Merchant's Lane, Petaling Street, KL

I rarely blog about restaurants or cafes, but my recent discovery of The Merchant's Lane (thanks to shutter therapy buddy Amir) at my usual street hunting ground, Petaling Street just begged me to photograph the location. Yes, the location itself is quite an interesting subject to shoot. It was an old heritage building, with well preserved old architecture and interiors, sporting a rustic look bringing back nostalgic memories of the 60s, or was it the 70s? The shop lot was renovated and refurbished with the cool retro interior well maintained. Instead of modern furnishing, there were wooden tables and rattan chairs, something of a rarity in today's food eatery settings in KL. 

The best thing I like about the place is the spaciousness, without too many tables and chairs cramping the whole place like so many other restaurants and cafes that tried too miserably to fill in as many people as they can, creating an uncomfortably choking environment. That sense of large space is augmented by incredibly high ceiling, with partially exposed roof (through glass of course) letting light in from one side of the roof/ceiling. The natural light coming in during the day added a beautiful glow to the look of the whole setting!

Time to work out the magic of Olympus M.Zuiko 7-14mm F2.8 PRO lens!

Did someone not complained I did not have enough interior shots taken with the M.Zuiko 7-14mm F2.8 PRO lens during my review?


Saturday, September 12, 2015

The Awesomeness of Olympus M.Zuiko 75mm F1.8 Lens

I was thinking about using a lens that I have rarely used for my shutter therapy session this weekend, and looking at the selection of available M.Zuiko lenses, I realized I have not paid much attention to the beautiful 75mm F1.8 lens recently. The most popular lens for my street shooting has always been the 45mm F1.8 lens, and more recently I have been shooting very frequently with a 35mm equivalent lens on the Fuji X100. I knew it was going to be a challenge using a longer focal length of that 75mm F1.8 lens, and then I thought why not?

For this particular shutter therapy session I was joined by visitors from Germany, Jochen and Cinzia, as well as another German who has been residing in KL for a while now, Stephan. Visitors keep coming from Germany, if this goes on I can compile a blog entry just featuring ALL my German visitors whom I have met in KL. 

I forced myself to just use the M.Zuiko 75mm F1.8 lens for the whole outing. It is a challenge since we were shooting Chow Kit, a market setting which did not allow much working space between the camera and subjects. 


All images were taken with Olympus M.Zuiko 75mm F1.8 on the OM-D E-M10 Mark II. ECG-3 external camera grip was attached to the E-M10 Mark II for added comfort and better handling.

That is one sexy looking lens, Olympus M.Zuiko 75mm F1.8 mounted on the new OM-D E-M10 Mark II

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

A Few Random Updates

It is in the middle of the week and I do have a few things to share here. These are the items that do not fit into any of my topical weekly shutter therapy themed blog posts. Nonetheless I have always been a blogger who blogs about random life events and happenings around me, and a part of me still has a strong urge to continue to do so. 

1) Once Upon A Miao

Monday, September 07, 2015

A Weekend of Olympus Fun

Last weekend, shutter therapy took quite an unexpected turn. Initially, we created a street photography session for a friend (landscape photographer) who wanted to join in the fun, exploring street photography, since this is not something that he does often. An outing was then organized, with a small group of common friends, all non Olympus users. One of them asked if I could bring along the latest OM-D E-M5 Mark II for a test run, so I said yes after checking the availability of the camera for the weekend. When the others found out, they also asked for Olympus gear to use on the street that particular session! I ended up bringing along E-M10 Mark II (2 units), E-M5 Mark II (2 units), M.Zuiko 7-14mm F2.8 PRO, 12-40mm F2.8 PRO, 12mm F2, 17mm F1.8, 25mm F1.8, 45mm F1.8 and 75mm F1.8 (2 units) for everyone to try out in that particular outing. It has been a while since I brought out my large bag which I have last used for my DSLR system! 

It was a short outing to Chow Kit, KL, my favourite shooting ground. It was interesting observing non-Olympus users giving the system a go, discovering the wonders of using M.Zuiko lenses, and experiencing the super fast Olympus AF capabilities, coupled with Touch Shutter (shooting immediately after touching the LCD screen). Also, how small and light the system is, easier to use for street photography! I believe everyone enjoyed themselves, and having fun was the main agenda of the day!

All the following images were taken with Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II and M.Zuiko 7-14mm F2.8 PRO and 45mm F1.8 lenses

Bed of Natural Goodness
A good example of how useful the tilt screen is, on the E-M10 Mark II, for compositions such as top down shot of a table. 

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Shutter Therapy

Shutter therapy is a phrase I have created several years ago, which I have used frequently throughout my blog entries here. I do not remember myself defining it, and for some unexplainable reasons the phrase has been widely used by many friends here locally in Malaysia, as well as some photographers I have known overseas. What exactly is Shutter Therapy, and the original meaning when I started using the phrase? Where did it come from? Why do I go for Shutter Therapy on every weekends? I shall do my best to answer all these questions in this blog entry. 

THE ORIGIN

I started to go deeper in photography in 2008, when I first purchased my first DSLR, Olympus E-410. One year later, my father passed away and it was one of the darkest moments of my life. I was in my hometown Kuching, feeling rather depressed, thus I needed to do something to get off those miserable emotions, I needed to go out of the house, be with good company of friends, and obviously, do something I liked doing very much. I figured photography was a good thing to do, since it occupies my mind when I am out there shooting, as I have to consider all the technical controls, composition, lighting on the subject, etc. I called up a dear friend, Allen Ang who has been there for me throughout my difficult times and we went out shooting, randomly, with no particular purpose. I felt free, and my mind was not clouded with all the negative feelings and as I concentrated on making photographs there was this sense of satisfaction that I get when I shot a photograph that I like. That positive encouragement was extremely powerful, and self-uplifting. After the shoot, when I was home looking through the photographs, it clicked in my mind that the short, random, positive-healing photography session was best described as "therapeutic". I just had a Shutter Therapy. 

That was the beginning, and that therapeutic quality has been stuck with me, and I started craving for more and more, weekend, after weekend. Photography has somehow evolved into an obsession. 

The photographs used in this entry are compiled from my favourites, taken with various cameras: Olympus E-5, E-PL5, E-PL7, E-M10, E-M5, Sony A57, Panasonic GM-1 and Fujiflm X100. 


Kuala Lumpur is an awesome place to shoot. 

Monday, August 31, 2015

Malaysia BERSIH 4.0 - Cry of Malaysians

Important Note: In case you have not noticed I have blogged about Bersih 3.0 previously, you can read my coverage here. 

Before I begin, allow me to clarify a few things. Freedom of speech is dead in Malaysia, all media is censored, and controlled by the ruling government. Any attempts at speaking ill at them will result in the said media, be it mainstream publication or a harmless online blog, much like this one you are reading now, silenced. The control over what is being written and published is absolute. Therefore, I shall compose this blog entry carefully, as I do intend to continue blogging in a foreseeable long future. 

If you have followed what has been happening in Malaysia, you will find all kinds of news pointing toward corruption and abuse of power by the current government. I shall not go into details about the accusations (made by Wall Street Journal and several other fully valid, legitimate parties. both locally in Malaysia as well as outside), but it has come to a point that the people can no longer sit still and not do anything. As a Malaysian, I too am faced with deep frustration at the current state of the country, which I have mentioned recently, is falling apart. 

Therefore, Malaysians got together for this one gigantic rally, Bersih 4 (you can read more here) to show our protest. You can also read the full objectives and demands of the Bersih 4 rally in the provided link. Bersih 4.0 happened at Dataran Merdeka and all locations adjacent to it, or leading to it, on 29th and 30th Auguest 2015. The nation celebrates the Independence day tomorrow, 31st August 2015. 

The theme of Bersih has always been Yellow. Hence, if you find that the photographs are on the warmer side of color balance, it was not the white balance issue. Joke aside, it was quite mind blowing seeing so many Malaysians all dressed up in Yellow, came together hand in hand, Estimated attendance was about 300,000 strong Malaysians. 

I brought along the new Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II and M.Zuiko lenses 12-50mm F3.5-6.3 and 45mm F1.8 to cover this event. 


Interesting things and activities did happen from time to time, and the crowd was never bored. 

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Insect Macro Photography

Note: Before anyone starts asking, the focus bracketing feature in E-M10 Mark II does not work with my usual macro shooting technique. For the focus bracketing to work the camera must not move when the bracketing was in action, and tripod use is a must. 

In the very beginning of my early adventures of photography, I started with insect macro photography, something I did fairly often. Macro photography is probably one of the technically more demanding types of photography, it is an all rounder in getting all your photography basics right. You have to take care of accurate focus, steadying your shots with proper hand-holding techniques, trying different techniques to gain magnification and more importantly, the use and control of additional lighting which usually require diffuser or reflector. 

After shooting a little bit of insect macro last weekend (for the OM-D E-M10 Mark II review), the itch to hunt for insects returned, and I decided to do a little macro shooting this weekend. In this blog entry I shall share my techniques and execution of insect macro photography. 

Before proceeding further, kindly take note of the following important points:

1) For new comer to photography, do not skip your basics. If you still struggle in understanding the relationship between shutter speed, aperture and ISO, then make sure you master these very fundamentals of photography before venturing into macro photography. 

2) My techniques are not entirely made by me, I devised it based on information I have read, observation of other macro photographers as well as my own limited experience in shooting. Each time I go out I did trial and error experimentations. It is still work in progress, hence my technique I am sharing is not perfect, and there is plenty of rooms to improve. 

3) My technique may not necessarily work for you. There is no right and wrong, there are more than one ways to accomplish the same goal. Pick what works for you best. 

WHAT I USE FOR MACRO PHOTOGRAPHY

1) A camera, of course, and my own camera is the OM-D E-M5, I also use any other OM-D cameras. For this weekend, I have used the new OM-D E-M10 Mark II. A camera with a viewfinder, ability to do macro, or attach a macro lens, and have wireless flash control capability. 

2) A macro lens. I used Olympus M.Zuiko 60mm F2.8 Macro. 
You need a true macro lens for the large magnification. For Olympus 60mm I get 2:1 magnification in 35mm equivalent format. 

3) External flash, fired off camera. I had the Olympus FL-50R. 
I have tried many methods of flash use in macro photography and find using wireless flash to be most practical. Most of the insects do not just sit on top of the leaf posing nicely for you. They often hide underneath the leaves, behind the branch, or sticking vertically on a tree trunk, with their face looking down to the ground. With flash being attached on top of the camera, I have no control of where the direction of light will fall, and often not successfully light the parts of the frame that I want. By moving the flash away from the camera, I can position in anywhere I want, and this has allowed me to shoot at very difficult angles. 

4) Mini Softbox attached to the external flash unit. I had recently acquired the Gamilight Box 21. 
I have previously created my own diffusers or reflectors, from all kinds of materials, including shoeboxes, but they did not last very long and I could only used the fragile constructions for a few limited times. Now I decided to not go through so much trouble each time I needed to shoot macro and just bought a proper mini softbox. Gamilight Box 21 was the only one I could find within short notice, and it was not expensive, and got the job done decently. 

1/125sec. F11, ISO200, Wireless Flash fired

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II Review

Important Notes:
1) I am an Olympus Malaysia employee. 
2) This is a user experience based approach review of a camera. I spent considerable amount of time shooting, and I am writing this blog review based on that shooting experience, with plenty of sample photographs to show and support my findings. 
3) This is not a full technical analysis review site. There are many of such sites out there, I am not equipped with sufficient expertise and equipment to perform elaborate technical tests. 
4)I may be biased (who isn't?) but that does not mean I cannot shoot photographs, share them, and write about my experience using the camera, all which are still valid. Do not just rely solely on my review alone, there will be plenty others available for you to make a more rounded conclusion. 
5) All images were shot in RAW and converted to JPEG directly via Olympus Viewer 3 software. Very minimal post-processing were applied (minor exposure compensation, white balance tweak, etc). 
6) Important image parameters: White Balance Auto (warm color off), Sharpness, Contrast, Saturation = 0, Noise Filter = OFF, Gradation = Normal

Today, Olympus is launching the new Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II, the second generation of the premium compact E-M10 series in the OM-D system line-up.

The OM-D series is aimed at professional and serious enthusiasts wanting more from their camera and expect the best of the best that the system can offer. Characteristics that define an OM-D include large Electronic Viewfinder (EVF), powerful image stabilization system, DSLR like controls and features (twin dials, plenty of shortcut customizeable function buttons, good ergonomics and handling etc), high performance in terms of AF speed/camera response, as well as the final image quality results delivered by the camera. E-M1 and E-M5 series are weather-sealed, while the E-M10 series, including the new E-M10 Mark II is not. It is crucial to note that the OM-D E-M10 Mark II is not a direct replacement of E-M10, and sits comfortably between E-M5 Mark II and E-M10.

The key highlights of the OM-D E-M10 Mark II:

1) Powerful 5-Axis Image Stabilization 
Continuing the tradition of the OM-D strength, now the E-M10 Mark II has 5-Axis Image Stabilization, much like the elder siblings E-M5 Mark II and E-M1. The Image Stabilization works in both still and movie recordings.

2) Small, light-weight, premium quality construction
E-M10/E-M10 Mark II is the smallest of the OM-D series, but still fully built in metal body and high grade material.

3) Large Electronic Viewfinder (new OLED design)
E-M5 Mark II and E-M1 share the same LCD viewfinder (0.74x magnification), but the E-M10 Mark II is slightly smaller at 0.62x, with high resolution of 2.36 Million Dots and 100% frame coverage.

4) High Performance (fast AF, OM-D image quality)
Olympus AF system has been known to be super fast and accurate and this continues in the E-M10 Mark II. The E-M10 Mark II also uses the similar image sensor and processing engine (Truepic 7) as the E-M5 Mark II, so I am expecting the camera to deliver very similar image quality.

5) Creative Shooting Features 
Art Filters, HDR Mode, Color Creator, etc

For full specifications please visit the official product page here (click). 

I like the new design of the E-M10 Mark II. It looks cleaner, simpler and more straight to the point. I'd pick silver if I were to choose one. 

Saturday, August 22, 2015

35mm Adventure at Pudu Market

In the continuing effort in learning 35mm photography, I brought the beautiful Fujifilm X100 to Pudu Market, the largest wet market in Kuala Lumpur (and possibly Malaysia). I do not remember using much 35mm perspective in this market, my favourite perspective has always been 50mm, especially shooting in this market. Nevertheless knowing that I will work with very tight space, a wider coverage is always a plus point and having more fitted into a frame forces me to consider my shots more carefully before pressing the shutter button. The market setting is possibly the messiest place to achieve clean composition. 

Joining me this morning was the new friend from Germany, Stephan as well as the KL streets regular Nick. We started earlier than usual, to catch the beautiful morning light, and that really did pay off. The lighting on human portraits were fantastic, and there is almost a magical glow thanks to the beautiful morning light. 

Gigantic Fish
We were lucky to have come across these two friendly market sellers. We did not approach them, they saw us with our cameras, and immediately asked us to come to them as they picked up those huge fish!


Friday, August 21, 2015

Silent Scenery - "Play, Rewind, Repeat"

I have been a huge fan of Silent Scenery, and have been following them since the debut of their first album released in the year 2008. Their music is unique, one of its kind, and at the same time tunes that can be easily blended into our daily lives, becoming loosely described as "the soundtrack of your life". In every opportunity that I could find I would catch their performance live on stage and did my best to shoot photographs, and then video recording in later days. Silent Scenery has come a long way, having successful Asian tour (all over Japan, Hong Kong, Thailand, Philippines, just to name a few) and subsequently launched their second album in 2011. Unfortunately all good things come to an end as the members of the band parted ways and Silent Scenery was officially disbanded in early 2013. My heart was broken. I even could not make it to their finale show before their indefinite absence from the local music scene!

I think my biggest regret was not being able to do justice to their performance in my photographs, due to the lack of equipment (imagine shooting with an Olympus E-410 and E-520 in dimly lit cafe or bar, with just mere kit lenses back then), and my inability to shoot high quality videos (what is music if you do not have good video recording?). I have only recently started to polish my skills in shooting video of live music performance (mostly Ariff AB and a few other local artists) and I have learned and improved so much. I have even started to consider the audio quality of my recording a priority! I have always thought to myself if only Silent Scenery was still playing, I could have recorded much better videos with what I can do now (equipment wise, and skills). 

Then suddenly, a few weeks ago, the dormant Silent Scenery Facebook page pinged a notification on an upcoming event, some sort of a reunion show, playing ONE more time, one last time, together with their friends Lightcraft (from Indonesia), Telephony and Take Two (from Singapore). I cannot believe this was happening! Last night was the show and boy, it was a blast seeing Silent Scenery performing live again one more time. Though the evening was short, it was one awesome evening to remember. 

The venue was at Live Fact at Taman Danau Desa, and I went there immediately after work. I brought along the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II and M.Zuiko lenses 12mm F2, 25mm F1.8 and 75mm F1.8. Knowing that I can get near, the 12mm F2 is the primary lens, and 25mm was already too tight in many scenarios. Lighting condition was horrible (purple) but that was to be expected from such gigs. Though I originally intended to shoot more stills, somehow, instinctively in the final moments I decided to tilt my balance over to video recording. 

Here are the two videos, shot in full HD 1080p at 60 frames per second! Video was all recorded hand-held with only 12mm F2 lens. 

SILENT SCENERY - ANONYMOUS INTRODUCTION & FESTIVAL

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Food Photography is a Real Struggle for Me

I started this blog in 2004 (during my University days) with the intention of keeping an online diary, recording in detail of my every day adventures, where I went, whom I have met, what interesting activities I participated in, any exciting events that happened and most importantly, to remember the delicious food that I have eaten. As a typical blogger who regularly posted photographs of food once upon a time, I have often found myself struggling to shoot a decent photograph of food. The struggle is very real, I can spend 5 minutes in front of a beautiful plate of noodles under majestic available light and I have trouble nailing a good shot. What happens next? All the photos were discarded and never made it here. Only very selective few survived the brutal filtering process and these shots are being compiled into this blog entry. 

I know some of you will roll your eyes and say "oh typical Asians who shoot food photos" and this scenario cannot be illustrated better in this short done by WongfuProductions. Food is a huge part of culture and you can share that through photographs. I do think food photography is art and not an easy one to master. Evidently there are just too many "average" and well..... less than average food shots being shared. I have always envied my friends like Jasonmumbles (who no longer blogs about food, boooo), whom I have learned a great deal from, and more recently Anna and Carmen both always enthusiastically shooting and blogging about food in Malaysia. 

My biggest problem with food photography is composition. This is the first time I am compiling all of "ok can make it at least for this blog entry" food photographs together and they all look almost the same in terms of angle and perspective of view. I really should explore different composition options and more creative angles. This is easier said than done! I have in fact experimented with so many alternatives and they all come out... unusable. At the same time I have always wanted to take good food photographs. 

Why shoot food photographs you ask? Because I am a food lover and I believe we live to eat. I have frequently shouted: Shoot What You Love. 

Roasted Duck Slices at Roost, Bangsar
This image was shot at 40MP High Resolution with E-M5 Mark II and printed large 60"x40" for the use in Olympus events. This is the only image in this series that is entirely straight out of camera JPEG with no additional processing. 

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

About My Street Portrait Photography

If you have spent time exploring my older blog entries you will find that almost every week I will post some photographs from my shutter therapy sessions, which usually involved me and several friends shooting on the streets of Kuala Lumpur. From these street shots that I share, there would be a few portraits of strangers. In this blog entry, I shall share my thoughts on street portrait photography, and subsequently, my favourite photographs of these portraits. 

Why Shoot Strangers on the Street?

I do not exclusively shoot just tight portraits of strangers, in general that only accounts for about 10% of my shots during my usual street hunting sessions. I think street photography is quite a subjective genre that has been debated endlessly yet never been properly defined and has spawned almost ridiculous amounts of sub-genres and categories. I am not quite sure when and why I was attracted to shooting street portraits. I think it was a dare, or a challenge by one of my earlier blog readers who criticized me on my cold, soul-less street photographs that were (at that time) void of human elements, or more accurately put, there were no people in my street shots. I have learned tonnes and improved myself from these constructive feedback and comments posted on my blog (some can be quite brutal, but it helps that I am a thick-skinned typical Asian). Taking up the challenge I braved myself to approach strangers and shoot them as close as I can possibly manage. The feeling that I had after successfully executed the shot was nothing short of breathtaking. There was a thrill that I cannot describe in words, the sense of accomplishment, though just mere ordinary portraits of people that may not get me anywhere far in photography, but it was enough to satisfy my weekly shutter therapy cravings. I get more satisfaction in shooting one perfectly executed street portrait shot, than a hundred posed, arranged beautiful bikini-clad models by the beach (that most other photographers seem to prefer doing here in KL). 

I do not have a fixed purpose or final objective in shooting strangers on the street, unlike the popular works of Brandon Stanton in his Humans of New York, or undertaking serialized projects like Bruce Gilden in spreading terror on the streets. I shoot entirely just for the fun of it, and I enjoy shooting portraits. I think that is enough reason to justify me returning to the KL streets week after week. That way, I am not attached to any strings so I can do anything I want with my shots, and choose to shoot or not shoot anyone on the street. 

How Do You Approach the Strangers?

I normally choose my subjects carefully, and I do not just attack random people. I generally would not stop someone who is walking, or obstruct whatever the people are already doing on the street. For such close up shots I look for people who are standing still waiting for something or someone, or comfortably sitting down somewhere. I will always be careful not to disrupt those who are working or cause trouble if my presence is not welcomed. It works best when the people you want to shoot is at a comfortable position, and it takes a lot of body language reading and anticipation on my part to understand or predict if the subject of choice will agree if I were to ask for a photograph to be taken. If the person is busy, or doing something important, or did not look happy, or was obviously not in the mood to engage in a conversation with a stranger, I will give it a pass. 

I think what drove me to shoot close up portraits has something to do with the excitement that I get when I actually do have to interact with someone I am completely alien to. Nervous is an understatement but I have learned that a little sincere smile, and polite conversation can go a long way. Breaking the ice is not easy. I would establish my presence within the peripheral vision of the subject, before jumping straight in for the kill. I observe what is the response of the stranger with my inclusion within his comfort zone, breaching his personal space. People will react when you get so close, and with all the right signals I read, I then ask if I can take a photo. 90% of the time? A solid YES. 

I do engage in conversations, but normally brief, and quick. Sometimes, it was just a nod if it was ok for the photo to be taken, and no words exchanged. In some rare circumstance I would have a long conversation. 

Here is the thing, there are times I do get rejected. So what? Just smile politely, and move on. For every one rejection there are possibly dozens of opportunities waiting else where. Forget him or her, and focus on finding the next opportunity. The trick here is to stay positive and always be positive. Your facial expression, and how you present yourself is the key in getting the response that you want. People react to you the same way you treat them, especially if you are a total stranger to them. 

Some famous photographers would point out that for such street portraits the character would exhibit better without them smiling. I disagree. We smile when we see each other, especially amongst friends and family. There is magic in human smile that even science cannot explain. Animals have other ways of greeting one another, but for us humans, our smile is so unique and universally accepted as a peaceful language. Why exclude something that is so exclusively human, when you are shooting humans?