Thursday, October 29, 2009

Dance Dance Dance Your Butt Off


A fellow colleague of mine, Andrew has just bought himself a Nikon D5000, one of the latest line-up of Nikon DSLRs, and we were courteously invited by another dear colleague Puy Shan to her dance practise session. It was one of the rare chances of taking a sneak into a full dress rehearsal as the dancers were preparing for a grand performance. Since Andrew has just got himself his new set of gears, and me getting seriously deprived of shutter therapy nowadays, I figured why not give this dance a try? I have got nothing to lose after all.



The dance itself was a mixture of modern, traditional and tonnes of various styles, and presented in a musical format. I am not exactly a dance literate person, but I guess everyone will surely enjoy a good dance as much as a good music. Part of the main attraction of the dance would be the superbly attractive costumes and their striking colours. I have got to say I was quite impressed by the flashy tones and sparkling apparels being donned by the dancers.



The dance rehearsal involves not only on the dancers and their moves, but also the coordination and timing of each phase, including the changing of costumes for the coming stages. Those are the scenes the audience do not get the chance to witness. The entire show’s success was not dependant solely on the stage performance only, but also on how each and every one of the dancers timed themselves accordingly and maintained the overall coordination. What happened backstage would have been a lot more dramatic and hectic, with each dancers spending every singe precious second changing into the next costume, making sure everything from head to toe, make up and accessories was in place. This serves as a reminder to myself that any huge event, as I have witnessed a number of times before, requires an enormous amount of organizing works, and practise will always make it an inch closer to perfection.




It was an immensely challenging task for me to photograph this particular dance session. I have not had the slightest clue on how the dance moves were like, how long was each phase before the dancers go to change for the next scene, where they will be moving and which direction will they be facing. I believe if I was going to be serious about capturing the shots I should have asked in advance on the entire dance layout, at least this way I should be able to predict and expect certain really cool moves or dance poses to be captured.




The dance studio layout itself was not very photo-friendly. The floor, walls and ceilings do not compliment the superbly awesome looking dancers clad in their astonishing costumes. The distracting and messy backgrounds have somehow taken the glitz and prestige away from the overall presentation feeling in the photos. I did my best to get close and isolate the subjects, and it was also not easy to do so because I could not predict their erratic and random movements. Not to mention also I tried my best to keep myself a fair safe distance away, who knows someone might come flying my direction and knock the lens out of my camera.



I do feel that the greatest challenge for the night was lighting. Careless me, I only brought one set of 2 AA batteries to be fitted on my external flash. The fluorescent lighting not only introduced an ugly greenish tint on the overall unpleasant colour cast, but it was so dim that even shot at ISO1600 without flash, I could only get a decently exposed photograph at shutter speed of 1/80 seconds, which was not sufficiently fast to freeze very rapid dance motions. I needed at least 1/125 to 1/160 seconds or faster, and even at such shutter speed, I still could not completely freeze some of the faster dance moves. Using flash as the main light source has got to be the only solution for me. of course if one of you are kind enough to buy me a better lens that would be much appreciated This was not very favourable, since intense use of flash can quickly drain away my only 2 AA batteries. I only have myself to blame for this mistake.



Armed with 14-42mm kit, the lowest grade of Olympus lens line-up of standard zoom lenses, it was a disaster keeping up with the dance moves. Focus was impossibly slow, and once I have locked the focus, the dancer would have moved 6 feet away from the locked focus position half second earlier. Focus and snap is not feasible with such slow speed of my poor lens and poor Autofocus on my camera body combination. Nonetheless, all complains aside, I still did what I can and find myself snapping away into the night. I may have missed out a lot of good shots, but still I managed to salvage quite a good number of usable ones. As difficult as the challenge was, sometimes, what truly matters would be the way you rise up from all complains and break all barriers of impossibilities. It is not easy, but it all boils down to how much you want to make that shot happen. This can very well be what we evidently learn from “the matrix”.. mind over matter.

So yeah, there it was, a little weekday adventure with my Ollie. Have you watched any live musical or dance performance lately?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Autumn Fashion Show


It was during one of my random surfing for information on upcoming events at malls in KL that I have stumbled upon the Autumn Fashion Festival at the Gardens last Saturday. Normally I would not sacrifice my entire afternoon just for a fashion show (who am I trying to kid here blerrghhh) but when I read that there were rumours going around about a special guest appearance by Amber Chia, how can I say no? Not many supermodels would do public fashion shows for non-paying patrons at shopping malls !! This was one of the rare chances of catching her in person, though I have had encounters with her previously, more than a year ago.

*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 autumn fashion festival was quite dazzling. The set up of the whole runway was quite unorthodox, with plenty of fancy decorations and props to create a garden feeling inside the mall. The looks may be sophisticated and admirable at the same time, but it was not favourable for photography mainly because of the inclusion of too many distracting and messy elements. Plain and simple set-up would have worked best, but of course, style is never plain and simple.

The models recruited for this session of fashion show were mostly not locals. And looking at the catwalk, I would say that they knew what they were doing on stage. Typical Malaysian fashion shows would be.. models doing very casual walk to the end of runway, strike some long, poses for the photographers. This Garden’s fashion show was very different. The catwalk itself was the main fashion show, and the models stopped very, very briefly for just one pose that lasted less than one second at the end of the runway, then they continued their catwalk. I heard plenty of grumbles from the crowd of photographers surrounding me about the very narrow window of opportunity to capture the models’ poses. However, I beg to differ in opinion.

*click* image to see its awesomeness

*click* image to see its awesomeness

*click* image to see its awesomeness

*click* image to see its awesomeness

*click* image to see its awesomeness

*click* image to see its awesomeness




Looking at fashion magazines, it is prominently acknowledged that the fashion show itself is ALL about the catwalk, on how the models would present themselves just by walking down the runway. The best fashion photographs were mainly taken during the catwalk itself, with the model walking in such confidence that the cloths themselves were scream attention, and that was when fashion was selling their highest points. Of course it was not easy photographing the catwalk in action, or else why would fashion photographers being paid so well?

*click* image to see its awesomeness

*click* image to see its awesomeness

*click* image to see its awesomeness

*click* image to see its awesomeness





I believe there are many technical challenges in photographing the catwalk in progress. Any subject in motion would be difficult to photograph I might add. The models were walking at such fast pace that, once you have locked your focus on the camera (by pressing the shutter button halfway) just 0.5 seconds later she would have moved half a meter away from where you have originally fixed your focus on, and releasing the shutter just at that instant would render the shots slightly, but visibly out of focus. It did not help that the pace of the fashion show for this Autumn collections at Gardens was a heck lot faster than usual.

There are ways to counter this models moving too fast for your lens/camera to focus and snap problem:

1) Use a really fast focusing lens, and you focus and then you release the shutter just immediately after your focusing.

2) Capture more depth of field, by increasing the aperture F-number, say, F3.5-4.5 to have wider coverage before your subject goes out of focus completely.

3) Adopt higher shutter speed to prevent motion blur. Flash is important in this regard to boost up the speed while maintaining the right exposure, most importantly on skin tone.

*click* image to see its awesomeness

*click* image to see its awesomeness

*click* image to see its awesomeness

*click* image to see its awesomeness

*click* image to see its awesomeness



Considering I am using the lowest camera model on Olympus’ camera ranking, and the cheapest tele zoom lens there ever was, my autofocus speed is very, very slow, rendering the first option not achievable. The maximum floating aperture for my lens was F3.5-4.5, which I found to be at a very comfortable working range. It provided me fast enough shutter speed, and adequate depth of field for my slow focusing to catch up on the models without becoming out of focus too soon. My camera may possess one of the slowest and most unreliable AutoFocus system in the DSLR market today (with the dinosaur 3 point AF system.. my God) but I still find it working relatively well for me, once I understood its weakness and worked my way around it.

*click* image to see its awesomeness



So yeah there you have it, yet another fashion show. It is towards the end of the year now, so I am expecting more series of fashion shows coming up. Stay tuned guys !!

Monday, October 26, 2009

I Thought We Were...

I thought we were friends...

I thought we were friends...

I thought we were friends...

I thought we were friends...

I thought we were friends...

I thought we were friends...

I thought we were friends...

I thought we were friends...

I thought we were friends...

I thought we were...

I thought we...

I thought...

I thou..

I.....

I

...

Friday, October 23, 2009

Mao and Cat


Recently, just before the hectic and life-draining company anniversary dinner which I have poured out my whole heart into, I was given the opportunity to help out Chun Chow in a photography assignment. His friend Mao was getting married, hence I really appreciate this opportunity to give this wedding photography thing another go, and do what I can to improve from the previous attempts. This wedding style was quite new to me too, since it involves church wedding which I have not had the chance to shoot yet. There is always the first time for everything, and yeah, this session has been quite an eye opener to me.

*click* image to see its awesomeness

*click* image to see its awesomeness

*click* image to see its awesomeness

*click* image to see its awesomeness

*click* image to see its awesomeness




Up to date, I have only covered a small number of weddings, mostly very toned down, and smaller in scale. They were all relatively simple. Mao and Cat's wedding was the most energy demanding wedding I have come across so far. Their schedule fitted almost everything in one single day: starting from the morning house sessions, the tea ceremony, the church ceremony, the registration, all the way to dinner session at night. Chun Chow and I woke up at 5am in the morning, to got ourselves ready for the make-up session that started at ungodly 6am. We went out the whole day, and the schedule only allowed us some free time in the afternoon, which we have fully utilized to select best 40 photos, edit them, and made a simple slide-show for the coming night time dinner. There was simply no time to catch our breath until the dinner ended at 11pm. When we got home, it was already pass midnight. That was more than a full day's job !!

*click* image to see its awesomeness

*click* image to see its awesomeness

*click* image to see its awesomeness

*click* image to see its awesomeness

*click* image to see its awesomeness

*click* image to see its awesomeness



Though the session was physically and mentally draining, but I did find thrill and excitement throughout the entire day. My skills have not improved much from my previous attempts, though I tried to time and plan my shots more carefully this time. The output were not as satisfactory as I have originally liked, but hey, lets not rush anywhere here, and sometimes, the learning process has got to take a certain path and timing before the final goal can be achieved. I am a learner, no doubt, but what I love about wedding photography is the emotion and joy that were so bright and powerful. Being able to capture those, and view them again and again at any given time in the photos is something I see as being extremely awesome.

*click* image to see its awesomeness

*click* image to see its awesomeness

*click* image to see its awesomeness

*click* image to see its awesomeness

*click* image to see its awesomeness

*click* image to see its awesomeness




As mentioned before, this was my first wedding shoot with a church session. I did not know what to expect from the church, but I just went with the flow. In this place I did find a tele-zoom lens to be of extreme use, because movement is rather restricted. And having the ability to get really close to the bride and groom can really add much depth into the results. There was this really intense moment when the video presentation was showing, a compilation of friends, colleagues and church friends who wished their best for the newly weds. The couple just could not resist the urge to burst into tears, and just less than a minute into the video, the wedding has turned into one of the most touching scenes I have witnessed in my life. Although I do not really know the couple that well, but just being there at that moment, witnessing their pure tears of joy, I just could not help it but feel so touched. I have got to say, the emotion level was skyrocket-high, and my photos do not do justice in conveying them here !!

*click* image to see its awesomeness

*click* image to see its awesomeness

*click* image to see its awesomeness

*click* image to see its awesomeness

*click* image to see its awesomeness

*click* image to see its awesomeness



It was during the dinner session that the slideshow presentation of the photos I have taken earlier from the morning till afternoon session were played at the screen on the main stage. I believe the majority of dinner attendees were not there in the morning and church sessions, hence it was their first time seeing what happened earlier of the day through my photos. I have to say, listening to the response from the crowd was one of the feelings I have not experienced before in my life. It was as if I felt that I managed to connect the audience with the couple, and they could actually know and feel what happened throughout the day. They laughed at certain photos during the brother sister wars (typical Chinese wedding culture) and they gave a huge "AWWWW" when the photos of the couple crying rolled out. To me, this was the priceless reward of my photography works that I just do not have the exact words to describe how I felt. It was a joy of your photographs being seen, and appreciated.

*click* image to see its awesomeness



I may be extremely new to this game, but now I can see myself falling deeply in love with wedding photography. It is not an easy ball, but every ball will roll, and you have to find the right way to toss/hit/spin/stroke the ball to make it work for you. I am still at the very first step of getting to know the ball better. A year ago, when I first purchased my DSLR, I never thought i would do any weddings. Now I am starting to wonder what else will come next.

Oh and I NEED an ultra wide angle lens SOOO BADLYYY !!!

Somebody HELLPPP !!!