Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Shoot Differently


I have come across something rather interesting in an article from my complimentary copy of Digital Camera Magazine from Olympus E-System Gathering not too long ago... it says:



"Try not to strive for the perfect shot, instead, strive to shoot something you have not seen before."





Amber from KLPF (difficult shots, with so many VULTURES blocking me left right front back)

There have been so many times I tried acquiring the technically accurate photos, but they distinctively lack the ooomphh factor. They all turned out rather bland, and uninteresting, because probably millions of other photographers have done similar things before, and whats new?

I should keep that quote in mind.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Back to Bird Park with Revenge



Edit: I have overblown the pictures this time, since I believe some of them deserved to be displayed larger. I know I am going to hear some noises, but rest assured this will only happen once in a while, when I feel crazy enough to do it.

I know I have visited the KL Bird Park not too long ago, but I have made another trip back there, and this second trip was sooner than I have expected. I was hoping to save up for a 70-300mm (140 to WHOOPING 600mm in 35mm equivalent, more like 30x zoom on ordinary camera?) F/4.0-5.6 ED Zuiko lens, but I figured that is never gonna happen anytime soon before I made the next visit to the park. For this long weekend, I have friends from Malacca and Penang who came all the way to KL, and a shoot-out walkabout was in order, and I was consulted to give in suggestions. Since neither of them have been to the Bird Park before, I recommended the place for them, since it should have been the must visit place for any photo-enthusiasts or wannabes like me.






For the first time, I was actually in a proper shoot-out session, not being alone. Somehow, it was refreshing to be amongst so many cheerful people, and the fun of being in a group was definitely something new for me, since I have been taking pictures all by myself up to date. The group consists of Darryl, SleepyHao, Akiraceo (Jian), KimFei and Ser. Most of them are bloggers, but all of us own DSLRs and it was a great combination of quite a diverse mix comprising Canon, Nikon, Sony and Olympus cameras. It was truly rewarding to walk in a group of people who share the similar interest, and are actually as crazy about getting that perfect shot as you are. At least I do not look like the weird one standing out from the crowd.

I have mentioned that I have been to this park for shooting before, but that was with an Olympus E-410. Honestly I was not terribly happy with the turn-out of my shots back then, too many wrongly focused pictures, too many blurred due to hand shake outputs, and also, wrongly exposed pictures. Back then, I was still struggling to produce technically accurate photos, let alone properly composed results !!! Out of the many shots there were a few useable ones, though by now, as I look back at the pictures, they were not really satisfactory by any standards.




This time around, going back to the Bird Park, I aim at getting improved shots. I returned with an upgraded weapon now, an Olympus E-520, with a wicked built in Image Stabilization, and slightly improved ISO-noise performance. Mounted my original tele lens (40-150mm F/3.5-4.5 Zuiko) on it, I could get away with better pictures now, with higher speed without ccompromising the ISO setting (wider aperture than usual), steadier hands after all those countless shooting sessions during all the weekends, and add all that together with the surprisingly efficient Image Stabilization, I seriously expected most of my pictures to come out a heck lot better than my previous visit.

After taking this many pictures, I should have stepped up further in technicality-wise (sharp focus, no-blur due to shake, spot-on exposure/metering, color balance, etc) and all I was most concerned about would be the composition/artistic representation of the shots. Obviously there are still heaps and heaps of things I could improve on, but lets just take one step at a time, shall we?





Generally I was quite happy with the turn-out of the pictures this time. Almost all my shots came out blur-free, and I got sufficient shots on pin-pointed focus exactly where I wanted them to be placed. There were also less wrongly exposed pictures. Nevertheless, I must say that after viewing my pictures, there were still plenty to work on my composition skills. After viewing the results from Jian's camera (sorry, I have not seen the others yet, maybe I can "wow" at the other ones too), I do admire some of his creative side of framing his subjects. Somehow, I do see myself taking pictures in quite a squarish manner, following a certain pattern that I have set up in my mind.

I should have allowed myself to explore further, and not by just binding myself with all the rules. There should be no boundaries to creativity, and I guess being into engineering for this long does take its toll on certain aspects of your life. I should not make this as an excuse, but take it as an opportunity for me to find out my weakness, and find ways to see my framings differently next time.




On lighter side of things, this could have been one of the most fulfilling photography session I have had. I do find joy in observing others being so focused on getting that one shot, and I just cannot help but wonder what would other think of me when I was the one using my camera and being so sucked into my concentration on taking my shots. That is the joy of going out together, something which many of my friends have pushed me to do so.

It is also a very good chance to share knowledge and experience, and you will get feedbacks about your shots and techniques, which would in turn help you progress in photography. Not being selfish as I have been shooting alone most of the time, it was not easy to find photo-kakis. Maybe, I guess I should be trying harder. But do not get me wrong, I do enjoy my time shooting alone, there are just some things that I would rather photograph alone.



I also hope that this entry serves as an example of what an Olympus camera is capable of in general, and busting some myths and misconceptions people have always been tagging Olympus DSLRs.

1) Olympus STRUGGLES/CAN'T produce good bokeh (background blurring/defocussing effect).

Well, the pictures speak for themselves.

2) Olympus lenses are NOT SHARP.

You will be surprised to find how sharp the pictures Olympus can produce, even at full telephoto zoom, without any real noticeable faults at all.





3) Olympus entry level 3-point Autofocus is not as capable/fast/accurate as competitors.

True, other competitors offer 9 points, or 11 points AF, but I only used ONE SINGLE point all the time I was shooting. Works wonders too, if you look at the pictures close enough. What is the point of having so many points of AF, if you could not get the picture focused right at that particular spot you want it to be focused?

4) Built in Image Stabilization on camera body is not as effective as the lens Image Stabilization.

There may be advantages of having the Image Stabilization built on lenses, but it may not be marginally significant in comparison by result outputs. I find Olympus Image Stabilization really improved my sharp pictures to blurred shots ratio dramatically.



Without saying, I am not denying that Oly has its drawbacks too, for example less than average high ISO shooting performance, and lower dynamic range in direct comparison with other cameras. Nevertheless, if you know your camera, you will know its strengths and weaknesses. You exploit the strengths to bring out the best in your pictures, and you work around the weaknesses with ways that you should be able to devise after utilizing it for a while. High ISO making pictures noisy? Stay with lower ISO whenever possible. Period.

I should also consider getting more memory for my camera, I maxed out both my memory cards of 2Gb each, and I was NOT even shooting RAW for goodness sake. Just one session and I somehow ate up the entire memory space available.




After today's session, I do hope to have more future group shooting outings. The fun was something new I have discovered, and having shared that joy with others simply brought in even more.

Come come shooting, anyone??

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Another Night @ KLCC


Remember Fred who came out all the way from Malacca to KL just to grab an Olympus SP570 ?? Well, recently, he was here in KL again for his training module required by his current work. He was here for a couple of days, and I took off early from work just to catch up with him, and have a merry round of photo-shooting together. I was pretty sure he was darn eager to try out and test the capabilities of his new camera !!

Hence I packed my camera and tripod and brought them along to work. During lunch time, as bored as I was, I snapped a few pictures.

PAPER CLIP



LIGHTING ABOVE



Fighting through the crazy crowd at the train stations, and sardining myself into the LRT taking me to KLCC, I made it there just before sunset. We caught a fast meal, and jumped right into shooting mode after that. I lent Fred my trustful tripod, for he did not bring his from Malacca. Therefore I was left with no tripod, so all my shots for this session was done handheld. I figured he seldom comes to KL, so I should not be cutting out his limited time of shooting this session. I can always come back, heck I was just here with Chong not too long ago.

FRED AND HIS OLY



THROUGH SP570



THROUGH MY LENS



We somehow wish we had more time, since we both had to rush back quite early. Nevertheless, I foresee more shooting sessions at KLCC in the future, maybe trying out some cool techniques. That is the awesome thing about photography, there is always something new to play with, even when you are using the same old camera all the time. The opportunities are endless, and every session is different.

ZOOMING OUT



I am foreseeing a trip down to Malacca some time soon. And I am foreseeing lots of pictures being taken there this time around.

Weekend is almost here. I can almost taste it.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

KLPF Day 2 with Amber Chia



Side Note: Click here for Day 1 of the KL Photography Festival !!


Like many other photgraphers, I made it to the KL Photography Festival on day 2 as well, joining in the crowd and making a lot of noise with my camera shutter. This time, I went with my dear colleagues, Andrew and Darryl, who were both as equally mad about taking pictures as I am.

Throughout the history of me in photography (4 years since I first picked up a 3MP budget camera) I have never once forgotten to make sure that the batteries were loaded into the camera and being fully charged for action. For the first time in my life, it finally happened to me. As I fished the camera placed the strap onto my neck, I realized that it was lighter than usual. I flipped it on, and it just stayed motionless. I accidentally left the camera battery happily charging at home, I must have gone really sloppy these days. Which stupid photographer would do such a mistake?? I only found that out just before a model photoshoot-out session was about to start !! Bummer.




My friend incidentally brought 2 DSLRs to the event, and he was kind enough to lend me his spare. So all of a sudden, I have a Canon 400D, with a tele zoom lens 80mm-320mm (in 35mm) F/4.5-5.6. I thought to myself, having a DSLR is better than none, right? At least I could still snap some pictures for the day. As I was fiddling with the settings, customizing it to my preferences, and finally tested it, I began to truly appreciate what Olympus has offered me all these while. Under such dim indoor lighting, most of my shots come out blurred.





You see, all this while (not so long lah, only for roughly half a year) I have been utilizing the Olympus Zuiko 80-300mm (in 35mm) F/3.5-4.5 tele zoom lens, which was equivalent in focal length range with the previously mentioned Canon lens, but the with significantly wider/larger aperture. Larger aperture is necessary to obtain faster shutter speed, which is crucial in order to minimize picture blurring due to hand shake. Therefore, having one step lower in F-number clearly enables the Olympus tele lens some comfort and flexibility in shooting under low light, and obtaining almost TWICE the shutter speed in any chosen focal length !! Throw in the body Image stabilization of my Olympus E-520 body with the faster than average tele lens (for its class) I can shoot away with minimal risk of blurring. Unfortunately that is not the case for the Canon, with much slower lens, and not having built in IS on the lens just made indoor photography such a misery !!

Alright I know many of you would point out that external flash could solve all the problems, I know its true, but hey, thats another story. I would definitely be happy too if I had a flash !






So I have on one hand an awesome Oly + lens combo, but battery-less, and on another, I have a fully workable Canon, but very susceptible to shake-blur. To be honest, I do think the Canon 400D is capable, I am just complaining about the lens in general (and that particular lens is not cheap by itself anyway). In that desperate moment, I really wished my Olympus would come back to life.

And finally it did. I kid you not. No it was not exactly a miracle, but I did something.

I thought that it was a gigantic photography festival, and Olympus had a booth set up for the event. They have live demonstrations of the cameras on display, hence they would need batteries to power the cameras. Now I was gambling on my feeling that Olympus people would be kind enough to let me use one of their batteries for just half an hour. I went in, and asked for that favour. Surprising enough, the people there were really sporting !!!! Hence, I got myself a spare battery to use just for the photoshoot, and my Oly was back in action !!

Thanks so much Leo and gang, you guys were my savior for that day !! Without them, you guys have no pictures to see in this entry !!




So I got the battery, but I have sacrificed my spot just to retrieve it, and by the time I went back the crowd was getting larger already. The position I had this time around was a lot worse than Day 1. Nevertheless, nothing could beat the joy of utilizing your own camera, and this was even more true when you have finally realized how capable it was in comparison to other alternatives (in the similar class) out there. Lousier position means, less interesting pictures.

For the first time in my life, after reading his blog for years, and occasionally caught him online and chat over MSN, I finally met up Smashpop in person. Really cool guy.




I guess everyone was anticipating the 4pm event, with guest appearance by Amber Chia. Yeah, who would not love her anyway. Man, you guys should see how everyone reacted when she went on stage, and started posing for the portrait shooting workshop/demonstration. Though the crowd was told not to snap any pictures during the demonstration process, considering the fact that the continous firing of flash units by the crowd would distract/affect the stage photographers output, being Malaysian, the cameras never stopped clicking. It was as if Amber was made of gold or something, and none of them have ever seen her before. The way the photographers inched in closer and closer, standing and stepping over each other, stomping their way to get that angle... seriously WTF !!!!!

If you guys were so desperate to get good shots of her, why not go to her shows during any of her public appearances? I have caught her in public fashion shows several times, and during those shows, there were less than 15 photographers (possibly less than 10) taking pictures. I could freely move around to readjust my position. Why fight over each other like animals here in the KLPF?? This just did not make any sense.

Alright folks, this should wrap up my coverage for the KLPF 2008. I went, I saw, and I did what I went to do: shoot pictures of chicks for your viewing pleasure.

Blogging will resume like usual, with not so much of graphics overloading.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

KLPF 2008 Fujifilm Model Shootout Day 1


Side note:

1) Warning: heavy graphics loading coming up. Therefore, I have set the main page to only display one main current entry at the moment for faster loading. For previous entries, please go to the sidebar.

2) Thanks for the tag/meme/blog-award M, I am flattered to be nominated as your favourite photo-blog !! But unfortunately, I have stopped myself from joining any of those meme/blog-chain things, since they do not exactly flow well with my style of blogging, so I shall not post anything up regarding that. I do appreciate the nomination. Thanks again.



During this weekend, there was the annual giant photography event held at Times Square, the Kuala Lumpur Photography Festival (KLPF) 2008, where all the major brands and manufacturers of cameras and related equipments were rallying together for a major show and exhibition for the two day full out event. Showcasing of upcoming new models from respective brands, shedding light on the groundbreaking technologies being developed, and of course, gathering the photographers, professionals, not so professionals and noobs (like me) in one particular spot have somehow made this event quite a spectacularly remarkable one.






There were demonstrations of newly launched products, or upcoming ones, talks and seminars on photography tips from various categories being conducted by real internationally acclaimed photographers, are just a few highlights of the massive event. It was so massive that I have spotted quite a number of friends who travelled all the way from Malacca and Penang just for the festival. I was originally planning to attend just the second day with my colleagues, but since Jian (the crazy cat) came out all the way from Malacca and could only made it on the first day, I was forced decided to join in the fun, and make use of my camera, like what I always do on weekends anyway.






I found my way to Times Square, and met up with quite a number of photographers/bloggers, some I have known for quite a while back (I have been blogging for almost 3 years now), some actually have become good friends, and some I have never seen in person but had the chance to meet them there and then. We bumped into SleepyHao and KimFei, and we formed a mini group to go around hunting and strolling around. Along the way, I also met up for the first time, Fattien who uses a Canon DSLR but with an Olympus flash proudly mounted on it. I also bumped into another guy, whom I have met previously in a similar assignment back in Malacca not too long ago. He was Fish, an Oly user and also a fellow mychiaroscuro.net forum member.





The event features plenty of sessions, mostly on mini seminar and talks, which I have decided to attend quite a few of them. I have attended the one organized by Olympus, about how to survive in the wild by Sanjit Singh. The talk basically touches on the dos and don'ts, and several important points to be noted when venturing into the dangerous wild taking pictures. Besides that, there were many attractive talks regarding travel photography, and tips on saving heaps on travel, but without compromising on photo opportunities along the way. The event itself being open to the public and free of charge, just being there I find myself taking home a lot of very useful pointers in photography.

I am sure if you guys have undoubtedly noticed the pictures of the models I have posted up to this point. In the late afternoon there was the Fujifilm model shootout competition opened to the public. Of course, as under-equipped as I was, I did not participate in the competition, but just went in and shoot anyway so you beautiful readers would have the usual dosage of lovely babes to view on my blog !! What I would do for you guys, heh !!!






I would not say that this photo-shoot session was one of the most challenging I have faced when it comes to taking pictures of models on stage so far, but I dare tell you guys that it was not an easy task. I shall list down the reasons why it was a nightmare for me, though I have done this several times previously.

1) ZERO MOBILITY

Since it was a competition, God knows what prizes were being offered for the winners, and being a massive annual photography event where photographers come from all corners of Malaysia flocking into the hall, the entire area surrounding the stage was jammed packed with photographers. This was the first time I have seen so many cameras together in one spot, there must have been hundreds and hundreds of DSLRS aiming at the stage. Right in front of the stage, there were two rows of chairs for sitting down, and I was standing three more rows behind the chairs, making me at the 4th or 5th row behind the front line, being squeezed in from all directions by vultures who would do anything to push their camera and equipments to the far front as much as they could, even if it means bumping your head off along the way. Those cruel vicious creatures seriously were nothing near human I swear.

Since I was sardined, I could not move my body at all, heck, I was stuck with one particular position. Whether its good or bad, I had no choice, but to work with that particular one spot. On usual days, where there would be only 10-15 photographers for a fashion show, I could move around quite freely, or even relocate by body a few meters right, or left, or front or back, or even lower my body if necessary. I had totally zero mobility in this particular session. Hence, no room for creative angles at all !!!!





2) DISTRACTIONS

Considering the fact that I was surrounded by so many camera users, there were heads in front of me, elbows besides me, flash units portruding out, and basically at any single place I point my camera to, there would be something blocking my view. There was no total 100% distraction free view, unless I move myself to the front standing line. Taking into consideration of all those obstructions, it was seriously impossible to achieve that perfect composition corner to corner. I find myself shooting away with half body shots most of the times, and I could not go any lower than that point since what would come into the frame would be some fat ugly guy's freaking skinless head. I know it is important to emphasize on legs, especially in model shooting, but I find it nearly impossible to do so in such situation, and there was almost nothing I could do about it.

I must say though, being tall does have its advantages. I do consider myself taller than average by Malaysian standard, and having the slight height advantage does give me a tad more flexibility in isolating my subjects in the frame. But this also ultimately means being the disadvantage to the person standing directly behind me. Since I was holding my camera in the vertical direction most of the time, my right elbow was being held up, and it somehow clashed with one photographer's flash unit. He must have cursed me countless times there, and well, sorry dude. I got to save my own shots.





3) CONTINUOUS FLASH FIRING
You will be amazed by how many hundreds of flash strobes being fired upon a model in one second. There were so many continuous flash firing from virtually ALL directions, that it has become one challenge itself not to capture their flash accidentally. Quite a lot of my shots have been blown out of exposure thanks to the never-ending rapidly thrown out flashes. One shot which would have been good, had to be taken at least a couple of times continuously to make sure that at least a few of them come out without the flashes.

I have yet to own a flash unit, so firing at boosted ISO was my only solution. Seriously, this was my first time seeing so many flashes firing all at once. God knows how the models could stand the intense harsh flashing. Even myself could barely stand the flashes coming from left right and front of me all the freaking time !!!!





Although the shooting conditions were not exactly ideal, and having terrible lighting distribution on stage, I believe I have done all I could with what I have. It was not easy pulling out those shots, but somehow viewing those pictures I have a satisfactory feeling. Not having an external flash, I do believe those shots were quite acceptable.

So there you go, the first day of KLPF. Of course I went for the second day too with my beloved colleagues, but that shall be a story for another entry. Anyone of you went to the event? Any stories to share?