Saturday, May 30, 2009

I Found A Horny Spider


The weekend arrives, hence the Shutter Therapy continues.

This particular session was much looked forward too, since it was the first Macro-Photography Outing organized by the Olympus forumers at Mychiaroscuro.net. There were proper introductory explanations and tips given by the sifu RED who was kind enough to share some of his experience and knowledge with us all. I am not entirely new to macro considering my numerous previous attempts, but going macro shooting in a huge group of people was somehow refreshing for a change, and also eye opening.

*click* image to see its awesomeness

*click* image to see its awesomeness



The location of the macro outing was suggested by RED himself and situated at Kemensah which is pretty nearby to the Zoo Negara itself. I have become very fond of macro these days, and ever since I got my macro lens with the external flash, I went macro frenzy almost every weekend. Unfortunately, since I usually shoot alone, and do not have any portable mode of transport, I could only dare to shoot at places that are safe and accessible via LRT and walking distance. For really cool and unusual looking insects or bugs, you have gotta venture deeper into the forest, and this was exactly what I was doing with the bunch of Oly Macro Crazy dudes this morning. Boy what an adventure !!

*click* image to see its awesomeness

*click* image to see its awesomeness

*click* image to see its awesomeness



Note: This has got to be the weirdest looking spider I have come across so far. I told you I found a horny spider !!!

We took a mini jungle trail and hiked for almost an hour to reach the intended destination, which was one of the many waterfalls around the Kemensah area. It could have been a 15 minutes hike, but well, we were not on the rush anyway, and the main theme of the outing itself is also having great, relaxing outdoor fun. No point exhausting ourselves. After a short breakfast by the waterfall, we obviously started by shooting the waterfall !! So here you go, I covered two waterfalls at two different places in two consecutive weekends !! I dare say that the previous weekend at Terkala which I went with Darryl had a better looking waterfall than this one. Nevertheless, the main purpose of this trip was Macro.

*click* image to see its awesomeness

*click* image to see its awesomeness




It was really interesting to witness so many different approaches to macro. The usual ones, or something you would call ordinary would be like my setup which is just the plain macro lens and an external flash. There were other alternatives, some I have not even seen before (but not unheard of), such as the reverse macro ring adapted to the standard kit lens and magnifier lens like Raynox 250. The diffusing techniques on the flash was even more astounding, there were plastered whole sheet of A4 paper tied to the flash with rubber band !! As dodgy as this sounded, as I witnessed the results, it actually worked VERY well. Now screw the RM50 omni-bounce diffuser I bought for my flash. Geez.

*click* image to see its awesomeness

*click* image to see its awesomeness



Being in the real jungle itself, a heck lot more opportunities opened themselves up. There were plentiful more insects that you could not find outside the jungle, and somehow, I believe that those bugs were comfortable at their own habitats that they did not seem to be easily scared off. I could get really close to them, as close as 4-5cm away from the front of my lens, and they were still cool and not flying/running away, doing whatever they were doing. Of course this does not apply to all insects, but the hunting process itself was significantly easier inside the jungle.

*click* image to see its awesomeness



On photography side of things, I utilized the method I have always been using, which is holding the camera with the right hand, and the external flash being fired off camera with my left hand. Camera settings were almost constant throughout all situations at 1/40 seconds shutter speed, aperture of f/11-16, ISO100-200 and full time manual focus.. I have been using this technique for quite some time now, and I know shooting at 1/40 seconds single handedly sounds uninviting, but I have become comfortable with this for some unknown reasons. Of course there will be hit and misses, but hey, that is also why we take several shots of a similar subjects and only choose the few that comes out tack sharp in focus.

*click* image to see its awesomeness

*click* image to see its awesomeness




I do think that my flash direction via wireless could be improved further. It was quite difficult to predict which direction worked the best, and I had to do a few trial and errors to find the best illumination on my subjects. I am not so concerned on the shadows, but priority was given on lighting the subject up adequately, and bringing out the fine details. Preventing highlight burns was also in consideration, but comparing this attempt with my previous sessions, I believe I have done a few improvements. I am quite happy with the overall turnout this time, and I did manage to hit the places with sufficient flash firepower as I intended. Theres heaps of room for improvement, and I shall save that for future attempts.

I have also met so many new people this time around. It was good to see that the Olympus group is growing in size steadily, and more and more people do feel that what Olympus has got to offer in DSLR is suiting thier style and taste in photography.

*click* image to see its awesomeness

*click* image to see its awesomeness



You have got to admit that Olympus offers really good value for money when it comes to certain areas, such as Macro-Photography. A macro lens capable 2 to 1 magnification ratio (200% enlargement from original size), the Zuiko 35mm F3.5 Macro selling at merely RM700 (or cheaper depending on where you hunt for your copy) has got to be the best deal out there. Other manufacturers would come up with a macro lens costing RM1.5k and above.

If you question the usablity of this 35mm budget macro lens from Olympus, since you have to get very close to the subjects, I dare say that I have nothing to complain while using it. If you question the Image quality, well, just check out the pictures in this entry. It is darn sharp for a budget lens at such low price point.

*click* image to see its awesomeness

*click* image to see its awesomeness




This was also my first time encountering leeches !!! Those little vampires, gosh... they were everywhere in the jungle. You can see them crawling around on the leaves, bushes, the ground, everywhere! They were flocking my pants, and luckily only ONE got into my legs, but I did not know until I saw blood marks from my pants. As I checked where the leech was, I could not find it, probably it decided that my blood was not tasty enough hence just took off. But one of the guys got the blood flowing out so badly that i seemed like he cut his leg deeply. Leech, gotta hate it, but can't avoid it.

I do have more shots of even more wicked looking spiders, but they come out of focus, unfortunately. The spiders hanging on their webs were particularly difficult to photograph, since the webs were always wobbling due to the wind.

*click* image to see its awesomeness



I am not sure if you guys see what I see, but I believe this entry shows how much I do love macro shooting, and why I love doing it. Seeing the tiny creatures from a different perspective kind of opened up an entirely new world, a world that we cannot see with our naked eyes.

I cannot wait for another macro outing already !!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Sense of Direction Much?


Side Note: Photos were taken during the Spring Summer Fashion Week at Mid Valley about a month ago. How time flies !!

I do not quite understand it much yet, but this must have got something to do with my charming outer look. LRT and KTM (train) have become my main mode of transport in this giant city of KL, and too many times have random people walked up to me and asked for directions, to some God-forbidden places, or to some lost train stations in unknown territories. I know, this may seem normal, but do bear with me on how freaky the story could get.



At first I thought it would be a nice thing to help people to get to their destinations. After all this is a huge city, and even myself do not quite know that many places yet. Hence, in the beginning I was more than happy to help out anyone who approached me, in any way I can to explain and guide them to the right path. However, the fun somehow started to turn into irritation when more and more people, especially the unsuspecting ones ask for directions, and at the end of the day, I just want to be left alone in peace while waiting for my next train ride.

Believe me, it was not like I was throwing myself out there in the open, I took measures to stay hidden. I tried to stay low, but somehow, something in me must have attracted some unwanted attention.

1) Isolating myself.

I know putting myself in the middle of the crowd would make me stand out since I am considerably taller than average Malaysian, so I decided to stand at far end or corners of the LRT stations instead. No, that did not stop some people who would walk pass by DOZENS of people and get to me, asking me for directions. For goodness sake, there were DOZENS of people standing so much nearer to where they were, why not just pick any of them instead of me? I was hiding at the corner and still, they come to me. Geez.

Now this bakes the cake, I said I do not know where that dunno-what-station-name was, and he stared at me back real cold and said "Are you sure you do not know?"

"W.H.A.T.T.H.E.F.U.C.K.!!!!!!!!"



2) Music on the move

I do have a portable MP3 player with me and there are times I just blast the music so loud in my ears that my eyes would fall off. I have a noise cancelling set of earphones that worked so effectively even if you did scream like a mad dog in front of me I would not have taken notice. As I was banging my head to the erotic tunes of My Heart Will Go On by Celine Dion, a young kid tapped my shoulder. And I turned around and took off my earphones, and well well, you know the rest of the story. He blardy asked me for directions.

There were so many other people he could have asked that did not have a set of earphones clogging their ears. I was practically drowned in my own world of sorrow ignoring everything else around me with the huge bright red sign on my head saying "DO NOT DISTURB" when I have my earphones on, and I got picked as the victim !! Why? Tell me WHY!



3) Moving on the phone

Sometimes, I do get calls from my mum when I was on the LRT, and I chose to spend time chatting especially on long travels. Yes, I was blardy chatting on my phone, in a crowd of possible 50-60 people waiting for the next coming train, and this blardy auntie had to GRAB MY ARM and asked me where some-dunno-what-place was at.

This was just unacceptable. Why not just bug someone else who seemed like they had nothing better to do than interrupt me while I was on mobile conversation??? This was just too weird.


I do not know guys, am I reading anything wrong here? I mean, I am not exactly looking like the person who knows where every single place in KL is at, and yes, if you know me well enough you would know that I have a horrible sense of direction !! But why the hell people would somehow have a glance at me and decided that I would be the one to be asked out of so many people around me?? I have been approached by Malays, Chinese, Indians, Africans, and aliens from unknown origins many times over. I think I should start keeping a journal of every single person who has asked me for directions. I could probably end up in the Guinness World Book of Records or Ripley's Believe It Or Not.



Oh, unless you are some hot French Chicks (click to read this story) or any equivalents, please, please stay away from me. I am not a tour guide, and I just want to get on the next train peacefully.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Hill and the Waterfall


Last weekend, when I just flew in from Kuching to KL returning for work, my colleagues made a trip climbing up a hill full of lalang grass that could grow a heck lot taller than a human. I do not quite understand why but they told me that it was so good they were willing to go to the same spot again the following weekend. I have also come across numerous photo-blogs with stories and pictures of that particular place which is becoming really popular these days. Therefore I tagged along this second trip to witness the wonders and majesty of the lalang grass, which is easily overpopulating the surrounding areas of the Broga Hill.

*click* image to see its awesomeness

*click* image to see its awesomeness




Darryl suggested we made a move real early in the morning to catch the Golden Hour (just before sunrise). I woke up at ungodly 5.30am in the morning, and zoomed out the door at 6am. As we arrived at the heel of the Broga Hill, it was still pitch black, and we started our journey up to the hill. It was not as challenging as my previous attempt at Bukit Melawati, but there were some really slippery and steep slopes to climb over. My shoes have been badly worn out, and the base did not provide me much of my needed friction at all, hence I slipped rather easily. Dangerous as this sounded, I still managed to climb to the top somehow.


*click* image to see its awesomeness

*click* image to see its awesomeness




So I was at the peak, and much to my dissapointment, the whole process of Golden Hour + Sunrise + After sunrise did not quite happen at all. There was a thick blanket of white cloud covering the entire stretch of sky, leaving no traces of that morning sun-ray through. I was anticipating clearer skies, with approaching sunrise twilight on the horizon, and as the sun made its first break, I was hoping for an intense golden ray to bathe the entire scape, creating a dramatic deep golden reflections on the grasses, popping out the landscape viewed from the peak. Unfortunate enough, none of that happened. The cloudy circumstance dragged on till late morning, and my landscape pictures included neither of beautiful cloud formation nor deep blue sky !!

*click* image to see its awesomeness

*click* image to see its awesomeness




As much as I did complain, I snapped quite a number of pictures for this session. Yes, I am still currently on Shutter Therapy, and I do go a little trigger happy at times. I did manage to salvage some useable shots as seen inside this entry. Oh, and since the landscape was less interesting, I took the liberty to Macro-fy (man this word should be registered as my trademark) the lalang !! I did find some rather interesting bugs from place to place but I refrained myself from heavy macro since that would have slowed our paced down a fair bit. We had our second destination, hence staying too long at one spot was a no-no.

*click* image to see its awesomeness

*click* image to see its awesomeness



After some light breaky after the hill climb, we went searching for some waterfall at a place called Terkala, not too far from Semenyih. It took us a little round there and here before we hit the destination, and when we actually found the waterfall it was such a joy !! This was my first time attempting waterfall, hence there was much I did not know. I mounted the circlular polarizer on my lens, and fixed the Oly on my tripod. Setting to exposures at 1-2 seconds shutter speed, I managed to smoothen the water as if it was milk coming down splashing from the top. Yummy indeed !!

*click* image to see its awesomeness

*click* image to see its awesomeness



I know composition could have been seriously improved in this matter. Going closer can possibly add depth and impact to the waterfall. I should probably do some research on how to create better and more interesting waterfall shots. Nevertheless, I did pull off the slow shutter part and in that itself, I am happy for now.

So yeah, that was how I spent my Sunday. It was a much needed shutter therapy session, and it has also been almost a decade since I last visited a waterfall back in my hometown Kuching.

Been to waterfalls or climbed any hills lately guys?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

It Slides


Update 24/5/2009 (Sunday): OMG Hak Jeng, you guessed it right !!! OMG OMG OMG *jump up and down left and right and terpelanting down the stairs*
Owh, but hey too bad NO prize for guessing it right.

Yeap, like most of you have guessed, it is a Nokia.

NOKIA 2680 SLIDE



I know it is just an ordinary, simple phone. But who cares anyway I am not a phone fanatic like some people I know.

So why did I get this phone? One reason only, one reason.

RETAIL THERAPY !!

It almost works as good as shutter therapy. Almost.


It was really shiny. It caught my attention.



And yes, it does slide. I am loving it.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Wing That Broke the Sky in Two


I was at the airport and suddenly my hand got bitten by the shutter-bug, hence I went shutter-frenzy. Nope, this time the Ollie and the merry gang of lenses stayed put inside the bag, and I let the Lumix do the job. Who says I can’t shoot properly with a compact camera?

*click* image to see its awesomeness

*click* image to see its awesomeness



The Kuching International (kononnya) Airport yes we do have an airport u ignorant bastards has only recently been upgraded with cosmetic facelifts and much needed expansions. The construction rate happened so fast that people who flew away from Kuching and came back a year later would almost find themselves landing on a completely different airport altogether. I do not particularly fancy the design, but I do have to admit it does look a lot better than the old one.

There was a slight delay for my flight from Kuching to Kuala Lumpur, which was favourable since I had more time to walk to the uncrowded area of the terminal and point my camera anywhere I want without getting unwanted attention. This was quite a casual session, and I basically just simply point and shot the photos without much thought. I just wanted my fingers to have the camera clicking, that’s all. Unexpectedly, I do find some really good photo opportunities lying around such a huge area.

*click* image to see its awesomeness

*click* image to see its awesomeness



I have been using this Panasonic Lumix LZ8 for some time now, and I have given it a considerable amount of praise, especially on the stunning value for money performance and feature-rich set as a budget camera. Image quality comes out reasonably well, but of course, at such low end pricing, shortcomings are expected. I particularly dislike the colour rendition portrayed by the camera’s JPEG engine. There is a notable annoying green cast on every single picture, that I spent quite some time to manually remove the cast and troublesomely readjust the colour balance. The pictures that you see in this entry were shot in ample amount of broad daylight, hence there should not be an issue of off-balance in the colours produced which usually occurs in artificial lighting conditions. Although I must say, this problem is not entirely beyond salvation, and in situations like this, we have photoshop to the rescue.

I do miss the near-perfect straight out of the camera colours I was so used to getting with Kodak cameras.

*click* image to see its awesomeness

*click* image to see its awesomeness



I know a few pictures on this entry are cliché’s such as the photo of the plane resting on the dock and the cabin window overseeing the wing spanning across the sky. But hey, sometimes good photography is not about everything original, but more on ways to present something differently, in a better way. No, I admit I still do not fare so well in seeing things differently. I gotta remind myself to explore more possibilities before clicking the shutter button.

It seems that I have used up my annual leave due to the recent circumstance which was a little unexpected. That also means it will be quite some time again, before I fly back home to Kuching.

I miss kolok mee already. Goodness gracious.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

More Shutter Therapy


I am now back in KL, and I shall resume my working life soon, real soon. But I still have got a little time left for myself, and how should I fully maximize this bit of remaining time?

Go full on Shutter Frenzy of course !!

I find shutter therapy always works in soothing and calming my emotions in whatever situations being thrown to me. There is a need to clear off my mind and prepare for the coming week, and something tells me the accumulated documents piles on my desk tomorrow will not scream "welcome back". Furthermore, it has been a while since I last utilized my macro lens which I added to my gear collections a couple of months back, and do feel a little guilty not fully bringing out its full potential. It has become my favourite lens, though I seldom use it !! What an irony.

*click* image to see its awesomeness

*click* image to see its awesomeness



Wanting to click the shutter badly, and choosing the macro lens to be mounted on the body, I had a brief shooting session, hunting for dragonflies. I know I have possibly photographed and blogged about dragonflies a dozen times over before, but hey, do cut me some slack. If you have followed and studied my history on how I progressed in macro photography, it would be quite interesting to notice how I slowly improve over each attempt. Nothing overly dramatic, but each step I make forward can be evidently observed.

I did not have to go far, there is a park nearby where I stay in KL where insects and God knows what other unsightly insects do flock together. I was lucky when I chanced upon this particular corner where I could easily spot more than a dozen dragonflies buzzing around !! The thing about photographing dragonfly is the stealth approaching move, you gotta slowly get your ass closer to them without scaring them away. I did scare more than half a dozen away, but I also did manage to get close to just as many and make my captures.

*click* image to see its awesomeness

*click* image to see its awesomeness

*click* image to see its awesomeness




I think my macro photography is still far off from what one can consider "awe-worthy" in standards, but I have achieved what I could not have dreamed of a year ago !! My photo-taking techniques have also evolved so much that sometimes when I look at the way I take my pictures I do wonder if I should be making so much trouble just to get one shot. Nevertheless, the biggest challenge when it comes to macro photography would be lighting, and every photographer has his own way to counter this problem. Some would prefer "ring-flash" or firing multiple flash units attached to an adapter on the camera. As for me, my choice of lighting option is Olympus wireless flash system.

In this particular session, the following tools/tips have been used:

1) Wireless TTL (through the lens) Flash, being fired off camera all the time. I should learn to use manual control on flash next time.

2) Manual Focusing most of the time for precise focusing on the head/eye of the dragonfly. Auto-focus is not entirely reliable at such large magnification scale.

3) Narrow Aperture, F/14 to F/16 to maximize the depth of field.

4) Holding a camera with one hand, and flash on another. I shot all the pictures here at Shutter Speed 1/40 seconds single handedly. Not bad eh?

5) Move myself as close as I can to the dragonfly, at certain instances I was no further away than 5cm only from the eyes.


So how do I feel about the picture output this time?

*click* image to see its awesomeness

*click* image to see its awesomeness



Again I cannot help it but marvel at the sharpness of the cheapo budget lens, possibly one of the lower end lenses produced by Olympus. Although just merely a very humble budget lens, the image quality does not scream anything budget at all. Stopped down to narrower aperture, the sharpness and the amount of details recorded were simply stunning. Just click on any of the images to have a better look on the sharpness.

The wireless TTL Flash may not be as effective as twin flash or ring flash, but at least it provides a much better option than direct flash. There is still much needed to be improved on the way I improvise the wireless flash method, such as overriding the controls with manual settings which I am not comfortable to try yet.

It is safe to say that I have no problem with focusing already these days, and am very confident shooting my macro works manually. Many people asked me how effective is the built in body Image Stabilization system of Olympus, as opposed to other brands, or other options such as built in lens stabilization system. Well, I have not tried using other systems much yet, but all I can tell you about Olympus IS system is that, I can shoot using the macro lens at 1/30 to 1/40 seconds, single handedly (with manual focus some more mind you) at almost 100% success rate of completely shake-blur free images. I have the pictures on this entry to prove this statement.

*click* image to see its awesomeness

*click* image to see its awesomeness



For the macro-photographers out there, I believe they would easily spot the errors in my ways, or alternatives to improve the shots. Please do share your views, I appreciate any input I can get to get better shots.

So any of you into macro out there? Let me know, we should go hunt insects together !!