It has been a year already since I attended the previous Kuala Lumpur Photography Festival 2008, and it only felt like a couple of months ago. This years KLPF 2009 was loudly advertised, and many of photo-enthusiasts like me and from many corners of Malaysia really looked forward to this and came flocking the event venue. This time it was held at the Mid Valley Exhibition Center. I went with my partner in crime for KLPF since last year, Darryl.
Here is a photo of Darryl and the monster Nikon he was sampling.
I went to the KLPF with a few objectives in mind. First and most obvious reason was to snap the photos of chicks on stage doing their "thang" for the Fujifilm Model Shoot-out contest. No I was not there to participate in the contest, was just there for the heck of it. The second onjective was to catch up with some friends, mostly photo-kakis who would happen to gather there since KLPF is indeed the largest photography event in Malaysia. Last objective was to hunt for a cheap third party spare battery pack for my Olympus E-520. I have recently getting more involved in event coverage and wedding sessions, hence a single battery on my current camera body does seem to have its limitations, though I can comfortably shoot more than 1000 shots in a single charge. Another battery is indeed necessary.
I have arrived at the event even before the main gate to the halls were open. Thanks Chong who generously fetched me from my place all the way to Mid Valley. Much appreication to the "adherence" to Malaysian time, like many other frustrated photo-enthusiasts out there we were waiting dreadfully for almost an hour before the opening ceremony was completed, and the outsiders being allowed into the exhibition halls. I made a quick stroll around, and found almost all the expected brands and manufacturers to be present. Olympus was as anticipated, pushing the E-P1 rather aggresively to the crowd, and it was refreshing to see Canon and Nikon users paying the Olympus booth a visit to have a taste of the new breed of Camera system. There were Sigma, Tamron and Tokina booths, all being third party lenses that cater for the poor souls like me who cannot always afford the original brand lenses and accesories. On the surprising account though, Sony did not make an appearance. I was quite taken aback because we have all known Sony to be very ferocious when it comes to marketing. Not participating here in this largest photography event of the year does raise some eyebrows.
Could there be something wrong between Sony and the photography societies of Malaysia?
After much browsing around, I finally decided to hunt for my third mission, the battery before the crowd gets overly crazy and flooded every single available space in the hall. I found Shashinki, which has become famous being the first and largest online store for photography equipments. The price for the third party BLM-1 battery I was looking for was RM79 online, but it was offered RM60 after some bargaining, and I thought it was a pretty good deal !! I instantly grabbed it off the shelf and paid, and voila, one of my missions was successfully accomplished in such a brisk. I even managed to tell Chun Chow who came a little later in the afternoon, and he too, made a purchase of the battery for himself. I know there is a high risk using third party batteries, but I have heard good testimonies about this particular one, so I was not too concerned.
Throughout the whole afternoon, I managed to catch up with a few buddies. Besides meeting some people from the common forum the Olympus users used to hang out at, I also bumped into some people I used to go out for shooting before. There were Ryan, Kim Fei, Ser, Hao, Brian, Darryl, and of course, Chun Chow. I was actually expecting to meet more people there, but some friends cancelled their trip to KL, and some decided to make it there on Sunday instead. Nonetheless, it was nice seeing so many people gathering in one place and being crazy about one of the most celebrated human art: photography.
Since one of the main agenda of the day was the Fujifilm model shootout, Darryl and I positioned ourselves auspiciously at the far front of the stage an hour before the session started. During that one hour gap, there were some talks on Ricoh and Olympus E-P1 being given to the public. As it went closer and closer to 3pm when the model shootout session was supposed to take off, you can practically feel the entire main stage area being flooded with cameras of all sizes and shapes. There were so many people, all armed with DSLR cameras that you would think every single person in KL owns a DSLR. If the price of the entry-level DSLR keeps dropping at any rate, I believe that afore-mentioned statement could come true very soon. It was indeed a wise move to prepare ourselves early and booked ourselves decent shooting spots. Else, it would have been like last year, in a situation I was standing three or four rows behind the main stage, being blocked by all sorts of distractions, elbows, flash units, heads, spiky hairs, you name it. Luckily that was totally not the case this time around.
I do think the stage setup is a little awkward. I believe the organizers tried to spread the hotspots of model posing locations to several places, and not concentrated on one end, like the usual catwalk arrangements that comes to one final stop where all photographers would focus on. The stage was quite a long one, and the hotspots were placed at two to three different places. I was targeting the area where the models had the box to sit on and do all sorts of crazy poses, instead of the other end where they do some mandatory yet boringly conventional end of the runway poses. Of course, there are advantages and disadvantages of choosing either spots, and varying kind of shots being able to obtain, but the point here was, I have got to choose one spot and I think the one I was at was not too bad at all.
The stage lighting was actually bright enough for shooting up to ISO400 without employing the flash. I did use the flash after all this time, to fill in the shadowy areas and to add the catch-light sparkling effect on the models' eyes. By staying within the limit of ISO400, I managed to achieve very minimal noise, and this helped heaps in producing cleaner images, in comparison to what I had last year when all my shots were taken at ISO800. Also, white balance has become quite an issue with the strong tungsten cast spot lights hitting harshly on the models, but a little post processing was performed to bring back the original faithful Olympus colours and pleasing skin tones. The lighting may be uneven and very harsh, but if you set your metering and exposures correctly with the aid of flash, I do believe the photos would turn out alright.
The common camera settings for most of shots would be: Shutter speed 1/80-1/160 seconds, Aperture F3.5-4.5, ISO 400, TTL-Flash -0.3 EV to +0.3 EV, pointed up 90 degrees, with my ciplak stofen-omnibounce diffuser adapted on the flash unit.
In comparison with my previous attempt, I believe I have improved a little, in terms of timing, and knowing what to shoot selectively. Previously I just shot as many photos as possible, and worrying at the same time on having limited space on my CF card. This time, I barely even finished a 2GB card, and still managed to snapped more usable photos than previously. I have worked out more on waiting for the models to pose and preparing my camera and plan my shots more carefully, instead of just random shutter clicking hoping to get the right shot amongst many clicks. Of course, the flash also helped heaps. There were also more interesting captures this time, for example the shot with strong backlit effect by the spotlight, and also one shot where the model was being lit by another photographer's flash being fired from the side, creating a very studio like appearance that added the 3 dimensional feel to the model.
There were of course limitations. I used a tele-photo lens, which was not exactly ideal being where I was positioned so near to the stage. Most of the time I could not fit the full body view, hence I had to cut off the models. There were also times I accidentally cut off parts of the body unintended, creating a mess in composition. The tight view provided by the zoom tele-lens was not very desirable in this regard. Nonetheless, I did what I could, and salvage whatever I can.
I sure had a blast at KLPF 2009.
Did any of you guys go to KLPF too? Do tell your stories.