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

Sleep Company

F*** F*** F*** Cat

Looking back

In the shadows

Safe Distance

Some interesting observations I would like to share:

1) I have converted most of my cat photos into black and white. I am not sure why I did this, as I made my decision from photo to photo. I think, instead of having the cat standing out of the scene, I subconsciously wanted the cat to blend into the background. 

2) I mostly, only take very close up shots of the cat (much like my human portrait headshot style), when I was testing a new lens, or camera. You know, zoom into 100% magnification view and see all the fur you can count. I realized I do not do so much tight shots during my usual street photography sessions. 

3) Cats love me. People who have been shooting with me know that they come to me and I am like a cat-magnet. No, I do not have food on me, and I do not do anything unusual. Sometimes I just call out to the cat and they could come. Though they are street cats they do not look hungry or wanted anything from me. I spend some time playing and petting the cats, perhaps much more than shooting them. (I would keep some as my own pets but I live in a flat which forbids pets indoors)

4) I really am getting serious about cat-street photography. I know it does not make much sense, but hey, cat replacing humans as subjects in a properly executed street photograph can be something uniquely interesting. I may not be the first to initiate this, but I think a full project that leads up to a proper exhibition sounds probable. Maybe I should start some Kick starter campaign. 

5) Most of my favourite cat photographs were taken with wide angle lenses. 

6) It is NOT easy shooting cats. It is quite difficult to predict their movements and how long they will stay in one position (unless they are sleeping, or resting in one spot). When composition was planned, the cat can simply decide to move out of your frame. 

7) Dogs just do not have the same charm in street photography as cats. I don't know, maybe I am wrong but they do not work in my own visualization of how my images turn out. 

8) Yes, Kuala Lumpur has too many stray cats running around. Though I must add, most of the cats I have encountered were healthy and well fed, since they usually linger around the back-lanes and areas adjacent to local eateries. 

The Stranger

The Jump


Hanging out


The Crossing

By the Light

One behind. 

And yes, some behind the scene photos. 

Any cat lovers here? You must have taken tonnes of photos of your cats. One day when I have my own house I will have cats, and probably by then I should start a new photo-blog just for my cat photos. Else, this place will be inundated with cat portraits. Which can be a horror. 

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 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" 

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. 


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.