Friday, July 31, 2009

Cinderella Horror


I was entrusted with the task and have beautifully planned to create such an awe-worthy Cinderella story. Nonetheless, it was deliberately hijacked by heartlessly inspiration-less jerks who cut all corners and left the outcome with nothing but something of lower standards than the B grade horror movie with blood dripping from Cinderella's dress looking cheaper than ketchup.



I almost lost it the moment they took away the Cinderella's glass shoes. They said, why should we follow the tradition? Why does Cinderella needs to have glass shoes? She is fine the way she is.

I tell you, the horror is beyond any horrors I have ever encountered in my entire life. The worst part of this uncorrectable state of mess is, at the end of the day, all blames come back to haunt me. I do wish I can just be the simple, humble, photographer, rather than the puppet movie director with the most disastrous movie in the making.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Sunday With Fashion


It was Sunday, and I woke up to such a beautiful day that I could not help it but went back to sleep. Sometimes I do wish every single day is like Sunday, when you just could sleep your morning through. I know it has been quite some time since I actively went to church, but hey, even when I was in Kuching my family has always opted for the evening (Evensong) services. These days I just feel there is so little time in a day that sleep just does not fit anywhere into the equation.

*click* image to see its awesomeness

*click* image to see its awesomeness

*click* image to see its awesomeness



I knew well enough that there was a Fashion show at 1130am at Times Square on Sunday. I woke up at 9am, and initially intended to get ready for the first session. The next thing I knew I was still curling up in bed, and my clock was saying 1045am already. And I thought to myself, oh crap, I was going to miss the first show. No biggie, still have half a dozen more to cover throughout the entire afternoon. It was funny how a terrible week preceding the Sunday made everything else seemed, so unimportant.

*click* image to see its awesomeness

*click* image to see its awesomeness

*click* image to see its awesomeness



Since the fashion show started an hour late on Friday night, it was safe to assume that same thing was to happen on the Sunday session. And it did. I arrived at Times Square at 1145pm, and the host had just announced that the fashion show was about to begin. I quickly found myself an auspicious spot, sprang my gears out and got myself ready for action. Just as I turned on my camera and fiddled a few settings, the first model came up on stage and did her thing on the miniature sized runway. I did not even miss a thing. I guess it was worth sleeping in that extra hour and a half.

*click* image to see its awesomeness

*click* image to see its awesomeness

*click* image to see its awesomeness



I may have taken quite a lot of Fashion shows already, but each and everyone of them have been unique in their own ways. This was the first time I have been to a fashion show that was held outdoors. The stage was setup right in front of the main entrance to Times Square. Since it was afternoon, the sun was high and the shed provided by the building was not adequate to fully shield the whole stage, thus some part of it was exposed to the direct sunlight. This was a huge challenge to me in terms of metering, and balancing between the harsh bright sun and the dark shadows at the shady area.

*click* image to see its awesomeness

*click* image to see its awesomeness

*click* image to see its awesomeness




Under such condition, flash has become a necessity to mitigate the previous mentioned problem. I have set the external flash to Super FP mode (or High Speed Sync mode) to enable flash shooting at high shutter speed. The flash provided fill in light for shadowy areas of the face (below the eyes, nose and mouth) cast by strong sun from the top, and also counter a slight back-lit situation depending on where the model was standing. I was pleased to find that the flash worked well and managed to produce quite an even skin tone on the models.

*click* image to see its awesomeness

*click* image to see its awesomeness

*click* image to see its awesomeness




On the downside of things, Olympus is known for being notorious when it comes to dynamic range. It can be easily seen that the top of the hair was severely exposed to sun light, suffering from highlight clipping (white-out due to overexposure). In the process of squeezing out the details from the shadowy areas, the exposure was pushed up for a brightly lit skin, but unfortunately the rest of the photo suffers the lack of balance between light and shadow. I know I could recover the details by shooting RAW, but seriously, even if I did, I would not have the time to just sit down whole day and process my photos to revive the lost dynamic range. All I did when I got back from the fashion show were to transfer my pictures, did a little colour correction and boosted up the contrast before I resized and uploading the photos online.

*click* image to see its awesomeness

*click* image to see its awesomeness

*click* image to see its awesomeness

Photo Note: Hmm I just realized that photo above is OOF...

I have also tried something different this time. Instead of just standing at the front like most photographers who would fight their ass off for that auspicious position, I went to the side. I noticed that the model stopped at the side briefly; hence it would have been quite a nice spot too. Since there were half a dozen sessions for one day, I had plenty of room to play around with positioning myself differently for each show. Also, instead of just using the usual tele-lens, I switched my lens to macro as well. The image came out sharper than the tele lens, but I truly need the reach of the longer tele lens for stage shooting.

*click* image to see its awesomeness

*click* image to see its awesomeness





I still remember the rush I had the first time I shot a fashion show. For some weird reasons, I still feel the adrenaline pumping in my veins when I was at this show. This could have been another trait of mine, I do not get tired of things easily, once I have fallen in love with them. I have seen friends who just bought the camera and left it there to collect cockroach eggs. I asked them why, they said, they have tried everything and there was nothing new to entice them in photography. Funny, to me, if you find one thing truly pleasurable, you will never run out of steam no matter what. It is just like sex. You just have got to do it over and over again.

Next up will be the second part for the Sunday series of Fashion Show. Stay tuned, and I do hope you guys enjoy like the models as much as I did.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Open Wider and It Will Crack

No thanks to Fishtan and Brandon Eu who both poisoned me with their ultra-wide-angle (UWA) lenses, I too, would really love to have one for myself. Nonetheless, the cheapest available option for Olympus users would be the 9-18mm and it would cost around RM1.7k, which is quite steep. None of my lenses was priced over RM800. So what happens to a poor photographer wannabe who is stuck with his current limited collection of gears, but still lusting for more flexibility in his pictures?

*click* image to see its awesomeness

*click* image to see its awesomeness

*click* image to see its awesomeness



The answer is simple. I do what I do best. I improvise with whatever cheaper alternative I could churn out with. Like what I did with macro attempts previously, I find myself a wide angle adapter to force my standard kit lens to think and act like an ultra wide angle lens. I may not be able to achieve true UWA quality this way, but hey, the wider angle of view can really create some stunning effects. The way I see it, I can wait for probably more than a year from now until I saved enough cash for that new UWA lens, or throw in that spare few hundred bucks for the converter to fake an ultra wide angle.

Knowing me this well, you guys can guess what happened. Yeap, I got myself an ultra wide angle 0.45x converter, to be adapted on the front thread of my current widest lens. On the 14-42mm, it effectively opens up the wideness to 6.3-21mm.

*click* image to see its awesomeness

*click* image to see its awesomeness

*click* image to see its awesomeness



Unfortunately, the working range of the converter was quite limited. At full wide 6.3mm, very noticeable corner cut off can be seen, and the image just suffers overall softness. The result was quite unusable. However, taken at 9mm onwards, the image shows slight improvement, and coupled the end results with some distortion correction on photoshop, the photos come out satisfactory for my standards. There are still noticeable flaws, but hey, at such a cheap option, if it was able to produce perfect images, why do you think the real UWA lenses are so freaking expensive? I am not expecting much from this cheapo converter, hence I would be happy with its mediocre results.

Here is a list of the problems that the converter exhibits:

1) Corner softness
On the whole, the image retains its original sharpness at the center sweetspot, and as it goes away from the center, the quality drops significantly towards the corners. This is quite a normal phenomena for most lenses, but having used Olympus lenses all these while, it was not easy coming in terms with the corner softness, since Olympus lenses are usually tack sharp from edge to edge (as opposed to Full Frame lenses, hah, there you go, not everything about full frame can beat Oly)

2) Chromatic Aberration
CA is a term used to describe serious colour deviation which may occur under a variety of situations, such as under strong contrast highlighted by the harsh sun as shown in the pictures in this entry. The CA problem can be quite irky especially viewed at large size. Nonetheless, the overall colour balance was not affected at all, and the punchy famous Olympus colours is still well-preserved.

*click* image to see its awesomeness

*click* image to see its awesomeness

*click* image to see its awesomeness




3) Barrel Distortion
I have seen what a true 7-14mm (thanks Brandon) can do, and it shows almost NO distortion even at full 7mm wide. That was very impressive, and I expected nothing less coming from Olympus. This was sadly not the case with the use of my kit lens with the wide angle converter. The distortion was so obvious that in certain situations it was destructive to the photos. This was certainly a disaster when there are a lot of lines in the picture, for example buildings or any sort of architectures. Even after severe correction in photoshop, I could not get rid of the distortion. I guess this is just something I have got to live with for now.

4) Restrictions
Though at full wide open I could obtain the angle of 6.3mm, but in truth, to produce a photograph of acceptable level of quality, I have done a battery of tests and came up with a conclusion that I should use 9mm and above. At 9mm, it was barely an ultra wide angle, and the perspective exaggeration was not very noticeable. Nevertheless, at 9mm, I can cover a field of view a heck lot wider than what the kit lens originally can do, 14mm, which is quite a bonus already. Therefore, I should not really be complaining.

*click* image to see its awesomeness

*click* image to see its awesomeness

*click* image to see its awesomeness





I should have really waited till near sunset time before I took the photos for this entry, but hey, I was solely only testing and trying out the converter. I know I could have done a lot better in terms of compositions. Nevertheless, it was not an everyday thing to find clear and blue skies in Kuala Lumpur. I was glad I happened to be there at the right time and the quality of light may not be as good as golden hour times, but it provided me with enough depth and contrast.

*click* image to see its awesomeness



To me, I greatly treasure functionality. It does not matter if there are a million flaws, for the low price, I can live with it. Besides, I am not taking photographs as a profession, and technical accuracy was not exactly a requirement in the photos I take for my own leisure. No doubt, a real ultra wide angle lens is in my "to buy" list which will happen God knows when, but for now, I make the best with what I currently own.

Lets go WIDE !!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

The One-Hour Late Fashion Show


So it has been a hell of a week at work. You have no idea how refreshing it felt when the end of Friday arrived, and it was just bliss to just leave everything behind a little temporarily. After all the dramas all I only really looked forward to was to take out the Ollie and make the shutter purr.

There was the Fashion Show at Times Square, the opening show for the entire stretch of activities running over the weekend. The fashion show was presented by the International Fashion Training Center, hence expectations from the crowd was rather high, in comparison to the usual organized by retailer's kind of commercial fashion series. The fashion runway was setup at the front of the main entrance to Times Square, hence it was held outdoor on a humid Friday night.

*click* image to see its awesomeness

*click* image to see its awesomeness

*click* image to see its awesomeness

*click* image to see its awesomeness



The show was supposed to start at 7pm according to the programme list, and by 655pm, the crowd already flocked the area and I was in position at the front row with other fellow stranger photographers getting our gears ready for action. at 715pm, there was still no sign of any activity on stage, and there was also no announcement of delay from the Emcee. The crowd started to get agitated, and I believe many have not had dinner just yet. It was not the usual wait inside the comfortable cool air conditioned lower ground platform. It was not exactly comfortable cramping under "fresh" Malaysian metropolitan air.


*click* image to see its awesomeness

*click* image to see its awesomeness

*click* image to see its awesomeness

*click* image to see its awesomeness




At 730pm, the Emcee started to engage the crowd with a few really crappy announcements which the crowd would pay no attention to. So great, we thought the show was finally going to start. Guess what? No. The models seemed to have just arrived, and they were not even ready yet !! And so everyone waited and waited. There was this photographer who randomly came up to me, and we started chatting. He was from Turkey (first guy I encountered from that country!!! Eeep) and he voiced his dissatisfaction towards the event. At 745pm he decided to leave the venue, with his friends who all waited in total frustration. This is their final, but friendly remark to me:
"I have only been here for 2 months, but everything in Malaysia does not seem to happen in time. Everything is late. The trains, the buses, the events, the food (restaurants), the people, EVERY-FREAKING-THING is late here.".

It was a statement I find myself agreeing to. After all, is that not what made us so famous? So much for Malaysian Culture.

*click* image to see its awesomeness

*click* image to see its awesomeness

*click* image to see its awesomeness

*click* image to see its awesomeness



So at 755pm, the show finally started. Being nearly an hour late killed off the enthusiasm from the crowd, and the show could have been a better success.

Since this particular fashion show was presented by the International Fashion Training Center, the designs of the cloths were somehow more odd-looking than ordinary, and more "creative" in some ways. I do think some of them are rather eye catching, and unconventional in design. I am not exactly one to be knowledgeable in fashion, but variety seems to dominate the night, and this is good to keep the stage fresh throughout the one hour show. Yes, the show ran for an hour long, I wonder how I managed to keep my arms attached holding my Ollie taking pictures non stop for an hour.

*click* image to see its awesomeness

*click* image to see its awesomeness

*click* image to see its awesomeness

*click* image to see its awesomeness




The stage set-up was a disaster. The lighting was terribly harsh, and even using my external flash as fill in, there were harsh shadows everywhere on the skin of the models. Highlights on the dress was another issue, and the loss of details on the dress was very annoying. This was also partly due to the limitations on my E-520, having limited headroom before hitting highlight and shadow clippings. Nonetheless, more evenly covered spot lighting would have been appreciated, and perhaps, a wider and longer stage could have been better for the models. For such a huge event, the stage sure did not reflect the grandeur.

*click* image to see its awesomeness

*click* image to see its awesomeness

*click* image to see its awesomeness

*click* image to see its awesomeness



This was certainly a great way to end a hectic week, and the perfect start to the weekend. There will be a full day series of Fashion Show happening on Sunday at Times Square.

Anyone coming?