Saturday, March 27, 2010

Teh Tarik Birthday


It has come to the end of the week, on a much looked forward to Friday night, that a friend suddenly canceled his dinner plans with me. Oh bummer, what a way to start a weekend, then I suddenly thought of the photography forum that I am currently participating in right now, mychiaroscuro.net, and they had a Teh Tarik gathering session (some sort of a get-together gathering) at the very same night. Not all is lost, and actually I have been skipping the past few gatherings already. It is time to show up, or else people are starting to think I might be just another ghost member.

Lighting the candles.

Apparently on this particular week we have two Birthday members, Dr Shivan and Ashley. A generous member Blu brought a cake for the celebration, and hence the night suddenly become a birthday night for those two awesome people. We lit up the candles, sand birthday song, and yeah, basically attacked the poor cake.

Birthday girl and birthday boy (who was unfortunately a little shy....)

For those of you who are not familiar with this forum mychiaroscuro.net, it is basically a photography forum, with the majority of the members utilizing Four Thirds camera systems, such as Olympus and Panasonic. Of course, other users are welcome, but you have got to withstand the strong Olympus loyalty in this forum. If you can't then you might as well join your other friends who worship Nikon or Canon and bash Olympus. As much as I try to come in terms with this fact, those groups should never be put in the same room. War will be an understatement.

Me and the gang from Mychiaroscuro.net


It was really great to be able to meet up with everyone again. Sharing wonderful experiences, photography and non-photography wise, and coming together in laughter was just the night I needed to lift up my current rather gloomy state of mind.

To Ashley and Dr Shivan, Happy belated Birthday and may the blessings flow to you abundantly.

This is going to be quite a hectic weekend for me.

Will I survive? Lets hope for the best.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Lose Lose Situation


I am hanging by a rope.



If I let go of the rope, I will fall down so deep I do not think I will be able to get up and out ever again.

On the other hand, if I still hold on to that rope, it might eventually choke me up.

What should I do?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Patrizio Buanne Live in KL


It was one Sunday afternoon that I have been deprived of my usual dosage of shutter therapy, that my huge heavy ass was being dragged to the miserable office to rush off some work. Question, why are deadlines never dead? Nonetheless, staring into the CRT monitor screen degrading my eye-sight over some brainless analysis was not my idea of an ideal weekend. Just when I thought all was over, a phonecall came in from a friend, and suddenly I have got myself tickets to a concert which I was not aware of.

The concert was happening on the very same night at Hilton KL Sentral, hence I rushed off work early evening and got home to grab my Oly. Good thing I kept the battery charged, else I would not be able to document this particular spontaneous event. I made my way to KL Sentral, met up with a bunch of friends whom I have met through a common interest: photography and love for Olympus.

Before the show started, we had time to camwhore. All of us love Olympus, and no doubt, many people have said, somehow, Olympus users are really great bunch of people. Weird but true. Top: LKM (click), mid: Benten & wife, Bottom: Innerzen and LKM.

The artist of the night was from Italy, and for some reasons he has become quite well known in Malaysia, probably due to the heavy airplay by the local radio waves. He is Patrizio Buanne, and to be honest, it was my first time hearing his name. No thanks to me shying away from radio stations, since I do not drive, and well, I do not have a radio in my room all these while. I do not have a TV too if you were wondering. So yeah, I have not come across Patrizio before, but from what I have gathered from the crowd he must have been quite a talented performer, and his showcase was highly anticipated.



I arrived early, and glad to find myself being amongst a few familiar faces. We had ourselves decent seating positions, very close to the stage, and this was crucial for us camera crazy people to have a better reach closer to the main star of the night.

I went in the hall with little expectations of what was going to happen. I did not know who this Patrizio Buenne was, and certainly he was no hot chick. Nonetheless, having an opportunity to play with my camera was more than I could ever ask for. Having a great night out with friends, was even better after a long day of work. Not too much later after that, I have just discovered this truly talented Italian singer, who travelled all the way to Asia to promote his work. Indeed, I must say, I enjoyed myself thoroughly.



Patrizio was made famous by singing covers for many international hits, such as Fly Me to the Moon and Everything. His control of voice was quite stunning, and hitting each note with precise accuracy. Digging further into his background, I found out that he was working closely with Humberto Gatica, one of the main person behind the success of my long time idol Celine Dion. Knowing this fact, the outcome of the performance cannot go wrong, the wow factor solely depended on his powerful voice acrobatics. I am not one to go into describing good vocals, but his voice was just very pleasing to take in. Most of the songs presented on that night was love and romantic numbers, which Italians were really famous for. I must say, if I have known Patrizio earlier in my days when I was head over heels for sentimental touchy lovey dovey music, he must have been my hero. Time changes, and my kind of music I drown myself into these days do not have such bright and sunny lyrics, unfortunately.

The highlight of the night was the moment when the special guest, local star Noryn Aziz walked up the stage and had a duet with Patrizio. The even more amazing part was when Patrizio was actually singing in Malay language !! Of course he did not memorize the lyrics, but for a man who speaks more than half a dozen of languages, that was forgiveable. His eagerness to venture into music, and blend into the local language was quite an admirable trait.



I was sitting in between two photography-friends, LKM and Innerzen (pseudo-names in forum). LKM used Olympus E-3 with his mammoth Zuiko 35-100mm F2 SWD, while Innerzen had an Olympus E-30 with the highly sought after Zuiko 50-200mm F2.8-3.5 SWD lens. I was smacked in the middle of those two gigantic cameras and lenses, and I was humbly holding my tiny Oly with the 70-300mm F4-5.6. For a moment there, it really looked quite interesting. We had all the varieties of Olympus long lenses, and all had their strengths and weaknesses. Innerzen's 50-200mm boasted the fasted Autofocus, LKM's 35-100mm displays the brightest aperture shooting wide open at F2 which was desirable under low light conditions, and my 70-300mm had the longest reach at 300mm, which was equivalent to 600mm (roughly 20x zoom on compact camera). It must have been interesting to compare the kind of shots we can all come up with. Unfortunately, in terms of image quality, my 70-300 is at the bottom of the class, and that was not surprising since my lens was the cheapest amongst the bunch. Nonetheless, for a 300mm lens, it really did quite well, and you can evidently see the results in this entry.

It is amazing how close this lens can get to the face of Patrizio !!


I know I have been shying away from too much heavy of photography talks in this blog, since many of you beautiful readers would have been lost, but this part is important for me to record down my journey as a developing photographer-wannabe. Every time I have a photography session, I learn something new, and I improve, though it was just by that tiny bit. Jotting the important notes down can help me trace my steps, and learn from mistakes.

This session, the common camera settings were: Manual (M) shooting mode, shutter speed at 100-160 seconds, Aperture set to widest F-stop, ISO400, External Flash fired with TTL -1.0 to -1.7EV, and a diffuser cap on. The stage lighting was actually bright enough to eliminate the usage of flash, but I wanted to engage the flash to fill in and balance off the shadow areas, as well as bringing out the lovely catch-light effect on the eyes. At the same time, I wanted to bring in as much natural light as I can, to preserve the ambiance and the mood of being there. I know the spot lighting with multiple colors of red, green and yellow may be destructive to the skin tone, but come on, this is NOT a studio shoot. I would think that those colour casts shining on the skin made it glow with certain quality, and they intensified the facial expressions.

Special Guest, Noryn Aziz.

Facial expressions, that was the difficult part. This time, it was not so much of the camera not being able to catch up on the speed in terms of focusing or shutter lag, everything seemed to work out fine actually. The fault mainly lies on my own slow reaction. I just do not have that lightning quick reflex to instantaneously press the shutter button when something unusual or interesting crops out from the character of Patrizio on stage, though I have pre-focused and anticipating for those moments to happen. I must train my fingers to respond faster.

All in all, I must say, this was one hell of a great shutter therapy sessions. It clearly demonstrated the capabilities of an Olympus zoom lens, though I am just merely using a budget cheapo version. Add that to the satisfaction of listening to a great Italian vocalist, and hanging out with really awesome people, I could not have asked for a better ending to a terribly hectic and worked out weekend. Many thanks for Innerzen for the tickets.

Any of you listening, or loving Patrizio Buanne?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Olympus PEN E-PL1


I have been very much back to my own again, going about my shutter therapy sessions alone lately. Street shooting with traces of HDR wannabe shots have been my latest experimentations, and I would very much love to continue doing so for quite some time. Nonetheless, singling myself out from the world of people can be miserable at times. This is the main reason why I have been looking forward so much to this particular weekend.

There was the 5th Olympus User Gathering, organized specifically to promote the newly launched micro four thirds camera body, Olympus PEN E-PL1. This was the perfect opportunity for me to throw myself into a crowd of people who share the same passion, not only in photography, but the general love for Olympus products. Connecting to people is very important in all walks on life, and no man is an island. It was great to finally catch up with some old friends and getting to know some of the Olympus users better.

Ok I lied. The main reason I want to go to the gathering was for the free buffet lunch at Bon Ton, Lot 10. I had five three servings. *burp*

The gathering and the food.


On each gathering, the typical flow of event would be the introduction of the new product, a few hands on demonstration and basically everyone present would be allowed to touch and play with the new products. The main audience target has always been Olympus users, mainly the DSLR E-System crowd. Therefore, to cater for this specific photography and camera crazy crowd, the presentation and overall show of the day have got to be something that serious hobbyist, or professional photographer would be looking for. Consequently, if just an average joe, who does not care much about a camera or its settings and technicalities were to be there at the talk, he would have been lost.

Hands on session.

The approach for this gathering was quite dissimilar in comparison to the previous four gatherings, which I have attended the first three. The emphasis was not on how great or how powerful the new camera is, but more on how simple and easy to use it is. Pen has been known to be the small compact camera, yet capable of producing images rivalling DSLR results. It is light and portable, yet nearly as capable as a DSLR. It also inherits the capability of interchanging lenses, which was desired amongst the DSLR crowd. The whole presentation was cantering on how the built in live guide mode can help a non-DSLR literate user to capture a decent shot, without worrying so much on the shutter speed, ISO settings or aperture. In brief, this new PEN has been dumbed down, and its main target of audience was basically everyday casual camera users, NOT photographers.

Olympus PEN E-PL1 on hand.

I had my hands on one of the copies there. It felt extremely feather light in my hands, and this E-PL1 is even smaller and lighter than its predecessors, both the E-P1 and E-P2. I was quite amazed by this, and any other ordinary users would definitely not be able to tell the difference between this PEN and another normal compact PnS camera. I did not really bother so much with the built in live-guide or whatever toned down user-friendliness add-ons, but the main concern was on the performance and image quality. In such short period of time molesting the camera, I can tell the AF performance has not been improved much over E-P1 or E-P2. There was also no opportunity for me to assess the untouched file (RAW of original JPEG), and I can only see the shots previewed on the LCD screen. Nonetheless, if this camera is indeed being aimed at non-DSLR users, I should not be the one writing down all my thoughts and feelings about this camera, not especially from a guy who has a reputation of torturing his camera and lenses every now and then.

Me, Chun Chow and E-PL1.

There was also a chance to try out the new Ultra Wide Angle lens, produced specifically by Olympus for Micro four thirds camera system. It was indeed incredible to see an ultra wide angle lenses being made into such a small size, yet still able to rake in the wideness of 9mm. I guess people would not go head over heels over this lens, because Panasonic has already came up with the really impressive 7-14mm lens, which was significantly wider.

So if this particular gathering was indeed meant for users who love a compact camera, hates DSLR for being bulky and heavy, but still wants better photos for their everyday snapshots, the question bakes down to this: what the hell am I, and 90% of the crowd who actually owns a DSLR doing there? I am not saying that we should not be there, but somehow, to push this product further out into the market, the crowd being invited for the gathering is quite crucial. Most DSLR users who have owned the E-system would not willingly give up their camera body and lenses collection that are worth over RM10,000 over a toned down, watered down camera for non-professional uses. Maybe we were there to help spread the word. Perhaps, we should not be left out because we are strong supporters of Olympus, and we all know Olympus is not the main player in camera market. However, I just cannot help but feel that the target should have been addressed to so many more potential consumers who would feel at home with what the new PEN can offer.

Ashley

Christian and wife.

If this Olympus PEN E-PL1 was introduced to me before I found the joy of using a DSLR, I would most definitely pounce on it. It was probably the best gap between the compact camera and a DSLR, and it is so light and small, and so simple to use that it encourages you to explore photography further. This would be the camera to recommend to people who just need a camera to record memories, and everyday snapshots.

The advantages that E-PL1 has over its predecessors are: 1) built in pop-up flash, 2) smaller and lighter, more portable, and 3) simplicity and user-friendliness. For more comprehensive comparisons, especially for the image output, more technical reviews should be available on the major photography sites really soon.

Mychiaroscuro gang, LKM, Scott, Compmac and Lacroix.

Apart from playing with PEN and eating all the food I can *burp* I managed to catch up with some fellow photographer friends. There were people from the forum which I actively (define active?) participate. There were also many friends whom I have made through photography friends who attended the gathering, and it was nice getting to know them better. Also, a dear friend Chun Chow who was the first in my closer group of friends to get involved in the DSLR world, and somehow got me to love Olympus, was also there. I had the chance to meet some new people as well. You guys have got to believe me when I say this: Photography is a powerful tool to connect people.

Anyone coming with me to the next Olympus gathering?

*burp

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

In My Mind


1) My holiday trip home to Kuching is coming soon. What to buy for mum?

2) How ugly I am when I wake up. Note to self: Mirrors are evil. Stay away from them.

3) If I save up the money I used to buy shoes which I destroy God knows how many times a couple of times a year due to excessive walking, I can actually buy a car.

4) How would it feel like not doing anything but DOTA for whole day? I reckon it could be better than sex.

5) My choices of hobbies are sure expensive.

6) Did she just blink and smile at me? Who cares, I walked away.

7) I am not an item you can stash in a drawer and be ignored, until suddenly one day you thought of using that item, then you rampage the drawer inside out.

8) I still don’t get what is so fantastic about Facebook. However, I do realize its importance.

9) Why does KFC taste so good? Did they put some addictive drugs inside the chicken?

10) Since when did I stop tennis?

11) If you really cared for me, you would not have let me walk under the thunderstorm in the middle of the blistering cold winter night, literally. My Nokia 3310 died the very same night.

12) Number of MSN contacts: Year 2001 – 52, Year 2004 – 120, Year 2007 – 298, year 2009 – 459, Year 2010 – 21. Year 2011 - ??

13) I have been secretly carrying around a kilometrico pen in my pocket, just in case, you know…

14) If there is one thing I can do and would be proud of doing, it would be to steal from the rich and give to the poor.

15) Why is it that the faces of the people you do not want to see just keep popping out everywhere you go to?

16) I wish the Matrix is real. I want to be able to bend spoon, dodge bullets, and jump from buildings to buildings.

17) I miss shopping at Harbor Town, or Carousel. Everyone says KL shopping is paradise, but seriously, it sucks.

18) Perhaps, being hit by a car or something, and waking up with no memory of the past is not such a bad thing.

19) I think I am getting old.

20) Sense of humor is a fusion of art between sadism and sarcasm. Fulfillment to the lack of laughter at the expense of another person’s pride, is not funny, it is inhumane.

21) I wish I am 21 all over again. Oops, is it too soon to say this?

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Why I Love 11-22mm?


I have mentioned quite briefly about my acquired lens, Olympus Zuiko 11-22mm F2.8-3.5 not too long ago. I have made comments based on my first impressions on the lens and the few test drive sessions I have done with it, including my HDR experiments recently. After using this particular lens for a while now, I have grown to love it more and more each time I use it. This entry shall be a sort of informal report of what I think and feel about this lens, and why I love it.




The Sacrifice of Macro and Pancake Lenses

In case many of you did not know this yet, I have sold off my very beloved pancake lens and macro lens, just to fund this 11-22mm. A lot of people went nuts when I told them, and they said I was crazy to let go of my macro, since I was getting quite obsessed about it for almost a year. No, I did not have a change of heart, and I still love macro. However, I do feel that delving in macro for so long, I felt constrained by it, and now I do really feel like moving on to something else, exploring different possibilities of photography. I have picked up street photography, and more recently, the HDR experiments. My old lenses worked just fine, but to explore more possibilities, a switch of lens would help in many ways. Considering the fact that I am one underpaid overworked engineer, lacking the cash to fund this new lens, the only solution was to let go of my precious two lenses. As painful as the sacrifice was, I did not regret this decision at all. This could probably be one of the good things that happened in my photography journey in a long, long time.



Ever since I got this 11-22mm, the original standard kit lens, 14-42mm has been stored away and never been mounted on my Ollie. The 11-22m has somewhat become the standard everyday lens I use. A lot of people may find this lens a little restrictive, because at 11mm, it is not exactly an ultra wide angle, and at 22mm, it is too short for any tele-shooting. Nonetheless, I have come to known a few professional photographers who heavily rely on this particular lens, especially shooting events and wedding. Looking at their shots, I dare say the capability of this lens should never be underlooked.



Why do I love 11-22mm?

1) The extra bit of wideness, but not too wide.

I have mentioned this a couple of times, and I am going to say it again. I appreciate the extra bit of wider coverage this lens offers. In many shooting conditions, I have been hammered with the limitation of 14mm of the standard kit lens, and I have always wanted the coverage to be slightly wider to fit in that extra bit of frame. I fully understand that this lens can never replace a true ultra wide angle lens, but this lens itself is of its own category. An ultra wide angle might be wider, but it is so wide that you have to get extremely close to your subjects to create the dramatic effect. Standing a distance away won’t produce anything other than an ordinary shot, even with an ultra wide angle. This 11-22mm being not too wide, allows me to have that certain working distance, though I do still have to get close but at least I am working at a comfortable distance from my subjects.



2) Brightness of the F2.8 lens. Good for low light shooting conditions

At the widest angle, 11mm, the lens widest aperture is F2.8, and this is considered to be a rather bright lens. Certainly, this will enable much faster shutter speed, which is useful to combat hand-shake or blurring especially in low light shooting conditions. Some may argue that shake is not an issue when it comes to wide angle lenses, but having that marginally larger aperture (lower F-number) can really make a world of difference. I have brought this lens out to test at a Pasar Malam, shooting without flash. Even while sticking to only ISO400, I can manage to get decently exposed photographs, and this was crucial for me because Olympus is notorious when it comes to high-ISO shooting. Since I have no money to get that D700 or 5Dmk2 to shoot at ISO20000000000000, staying with this Ollie, the only way to overcome the high ISO noise issue is to get a faster lens, and shoot at lower ISO settings. As you can observe from the Pasar Malam photos, this lens did its job under poorly lit situations very well.



3) Close up capabilities.

One of my more obvious shooting style, that many of you must have noticed by now, is to get as close as I can to my subjects. Having been crazy about macro did teach me a thing or two in getting close up shots, even with ordinary or other non-macro lenses. Even professionals will tell you that if your photos are not good enough, most likely you are not close enough. This 11-22mm lens allows me to get as close as 28 cm (measured from the sensor, not the front of lens) to the subject. This ultimately enables me to get very close to my subjects. One main advantage of doing so would be the ability to reveal tiny details, or texture of the subjects. For example, look at the cat photographs in this entry. I was probably only 10cm away from the cat’s eyes (yeah good thing the cat did not scratch my lens) and check out the texture of the fur on the face !! It was actually exceeding even my own expectations of the lens.




4) High Grade lens

This is my first High Grade Lens from Olympus. Generally Olympus categorizes their lenses into three divisions, the lowest being the Standard Grade, then up one level to High Grade, and the best of the bunch would be Super High Grade. Being a High Grade Lens, this 11-22mm has many positive remarks. It is weather sealed, very robustly constructed. The image quality of the lens is quite outstanding. Shooting at the widest angle 11mm, at F2.8, the image came out pleasingly sharp, revealing plenty of details. Stopping down to F8-F11, the sharpness can be quite scary that at times when I forgot to tone down the sharpness setting on the camera, the overall image came out so sharp it looks very unnatural. Since the lens was at F2.8 widest aperture, with circular aperture diaphragm, the defocusing effect can be quite lovely. The bokeh is creamy and though I am not a bokeh person, I do admit the creaminess comes out very nice. The colour tone reproduced as expected from any other Olympus lenses, but the contrast was evidently better in comparison to my other standard grade lenses. I am pleased to acknowledge what this lens can actually offer.




5) Suits my shooting style

My composition style has always required me fitting a lot of items into the tight framing. Also there are times I would utilize plenty of negative space to isolate my subject. Therefore, this 11-22 lens does its job well in handling those two demands. I can cover a wider frame, to either fill in more things, or to add in more space.



I must admit that I have yet to truly bring out the full potential of this lens. But why rush? It is the joy of slowly discovering what the lens can do, each time I try out a new shooting session that makes the whole experience worthwhile. The excitement of knowing that there are things that this lens can do that I have not done yet, is something that makes me want to pick up the lens and start shooting more and more.

I am also aware that this may not be the suitable lens for many people, because of its odd focal lengths. Nonetheless, if you have similar shooting styles like me, or having a style that this lens can actually help, then you will realize this 11-22mm is such a great lens to use. Otherwise, there are always other options to go to.