Thursday, April 12, 2012

Don't You Ever Get Bored?

I have been questioned many times, "Robin, don't you ever get bored shooting the same thing again and again?" Or more crudely put "What? You shooting the streets again?"

It has been getting more and more exhaustive to explain myself, the reasons why I do what I do. To some, shooting the same thing (same photography genre) is a waste of time. To others, once they have done or tried something, they moved on. I have so many reasons and answers to the above questions, some of them have no relationship with one another at all. 

All images in this entry were taken with Olympus DSLR E-5 and Zuiko Lenses: 11-22mm F2.8-3.5, 25mm F2.8 pancake, and 50mm F2 macro

Local Malaysian Breakfast: Char Kuey Tiaw. Nothing beats a scrumptious treat before the start of a shutter therapy session. 



This is how Malaysians have breakfast, at "kopitiam", usually by the roadside. 

A friendly stall operator in the morning, washing up the dishes. 

Rain does not deter the spirits of morning business. Simple improvisation using plastic bags as caps to prevent the hair from getting wet. .

Rain does not stop my shutter therapy sessions. Rain does not stop the streets from being busy. 

Portrait of a breakfast stall operator

Waiting for customer on a gloomy morning. 

Discipline, to Stay in Shape

Photography is like any other sports out there. Kirk Tuck compares photography practice to swimming. I compare it to tennis. Whichever you want to equate photography to is up to you, but it is clear, practice makes perfect. I do take in paid photography assignment from time to time, mostly wedding photography (actual day ceremony and dinner receptions) and event coverage. How can I confidently shoot for my clients, if I am not in the best shape? The fact that I work as a full time engineer in my day job and only do photography as part time shows how little time I spend with my photography gear. We all know that in order to improve in photography, we need to shoot more. It is the same when you are in court playing a tennis game against another player. If you did not do enough practice, you won't be able to serve consistently and your strokes will be all over the places. Regular training is the key to consistently good photography, keeping your mind sharp, making sure you are familiar with the camera technicalities and efficient in controlling them. Street photography is my weekly activity, I do it, partly so that I can stay in shape, and perform to my fullest when I need to. 


Go Deep

I am new to street photography, I am not ashamed to admit that. I have just started to shoot on the streets about two years ago, and there is plenty much for me to learn, explore, and definitely to improve on. No one can instantaneously become professional or good at something overnight. It all comes down to how far or how deep you are willing to go, to get to where you want to be. Most photography peers that I know of would just "try" something, explore in it a little bit, and once they have accomplished certain standards in their photography, they are satisfied and they STOPPED there. I think that there is no end in this journey called photography. There is no ultimate right or wrong, and there is no set of fixed rules on how to shoot, and how to define the finishing line. Well, some may even say that there is NO finishing line in this context. The only truth is that, I can only improve, I can only go further, and I can only move up my game, if I keep on shooting. Yes, I have received many compliments and praises on my photographs (some are not deserving) and I appreciate the overwhelmingly positive response and encouragement from my readers and friends, but I know where I stand, and I am not pretending to be someone I am not. I am still in the process of discovering my own photography style and identity. I know well enough, the only way forward is to dive in even deeper. I will not just stop after touching the surface. There is an entirely different world beyond the surface, and I intend to find it. 


Love What You Do

The fastest answer I would give when I was asked why I shoot every single weekend and never get bored, is that "if you love what you do, you will do it again and again and you won't get bored at all, because you will love doing it more and more each time". It is the same with music. If I like a particular singer and a song, I can listen to it again and again, and I enjoy just as much every time the song plays. If you claim that photography is your passion, and you have only been doing it for a year or two, and by shooting similar things just for a few times, you already started to feel bored, I believe you have to examine and re-evaluate your passion in the first place. If you truly love fishing, you will not complain sitting on a boat doing nothing for a few hours just to catch that fish. You will not complain being bored while waiting, because you know, when you finally caught that fish, the feeling of accomplishment is so over-powering that the initial long wait does not even matter. It is crucial to love what you do. If you do not like it, do not force yourself or pretend to love shooting. Photography, like any other things in life, takes a lot of patience. If you do not love it, you will not have the patience for it. 

Newspaper, good for reading, and covering your head from rain drops

Morning child

I am not sure if he knows what a camera is. Most kids would shy away. 

Beautiful eyes

I'm getting better in panning shots !

Lots of trolleying around in the morning, at Pudu Market

Different directions. 



At the end of the day, every photographer intends to get better and better in their game. 

Lets take a simple plain flower for example. If you have shot it once, or twice, you may have only discovered the characteristics of the flower, and the initial technicalities of close up/macro photography. The subsequent trials will have you experiment with advanced controls, such as additional lighting, or optimization of macro shooting to reveal more interesting textures of the flower petals, and perhaps, better illuminated with good lighting. Some photographers would have stopped there, because they thought they have done it all. They claimed victory and spread their glory. Now ask yourself this, what makes you think that you have achieved a "good standard", when you put that photograph of your flower out there in the open, where millions of other photographers may have shot the same flower, but in different shooting conditions and setup? Are you so blatantly arrogant to claim yourself better than everyone else, based on that limited experience of shooting that flower? Some photographers realized this and they continued to experiment, again and again, shooting the same subject, chasing that "perfection" (though I believe photography is not about perfection, but lets talk about this another day). Only by constantly shooting, even if doing the same thing again and again, but improving bit by bit, no matter how tiny the steps are, you will jump in standards, and rise from the rest who stopped there before you. What separates a passionate photographer from the rest, is the willingness to go the distance. Willingness to accept that "good photography" is not easy to obtain, and acknowledge that hard work is needed, consistently. 

I want to be a good photographer. And I hope someday, I will be there.



30 comments:

  1. Hi Robin,

    Another brilliant masterpiece. Love your pics especially the cat photo. All hail Master Olympus!

    Eric V
    from Edmonton Alberta

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Eric but I am not a master !! Just a photographer like you and me, heh.

      Delete
  2. Robin, those are wonderful thoughts about patience and practice. We live in world of instant gratification - remember we once had "instamatic cameras", way before digital cameras came along! - so its great to hear an appreciation of the slower pace, of taking time to smell the flowers!

    And I'm pretty sure Ansel Adams transcended his own high standards and developed more and more, the more and more photographs he developed!

    Peter,
    Hobart tasmania

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Peter,
      Thanks for the kind compliments. And yes, we live in a too fast paced world where everything is like instant noodles. There are many things in life that only through time can truly develop and grow. We can't rush everything.

      Delete
  3. Is that Penang's fried kuey teow? oh how i miss those...... :)
    Wonderful set of photos. Some reposted i believe?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. hello Calex,
      Not really Penang, but its similar. Local version of Char Kuey Tiaw, of course, penang's would have been better !

      Delete
  4. sweet photos...I love the portrait of the kid...=)

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  5. Hi Robin,
    I enjoy visiting your blog and I am familiar with the places you normally shoot like
    Pudu and Petaling Street etc. Foreign visitors to your blog might have the wrong impression that
    the whole of KL is like these places. How about shooting at places like KLCC, Mont Kiara
    and Damansara. Shoot some Datuks and datins in clean places instead of the usual foreign workers,
    old people and those down and out subjects in dirty surroundings.
    Warmest regards
    Mike
    Kuala Lumpur

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Mike,
      The true essence of people live in those streets that I shoot. When they smile, they smile genuinely. They do not put extra make up or dress up unnecessarily just to "impress" the passer-bys.
      I want my subjects to be honest and unpretentious. I want my subjects to have "real life stories". I find it very hard to look into the stories of high heels and fancy hair dos.

      Mike, my job is not to sell Malaysia. I am a photographer, and I shoot photographs. I shoot culture, I shoot what is real on the streets. Unfortunately, such culture is dying, and it is my duty to preserve it, and immortalize it in whatever way I can.

      Delete
    2. Robin, everybody has a stories...you just have to look a little deeper in some places. Street Photography should encompass all situations and people. However, if this is your passion then I say go forth and photograph lol.

      Maybe I should start blogging and feature those in high heels and fancy hairdos. Lol

      Delete
    3. dude get that blog up and running already!!

      Delete
  6. Aaaayyyyoooooh Robin, you very naughty lah - why you screw with my mind over that Char Keoy Tiaw? Lots of near misses in Melbourne, nothing like this. The faces and expressions of the street people are just one kind gorgeous.

    Just met Eric Kim in person by the way. Real personality.
    I didn't shoot with him, it was just a free presentation he did
    I did shoot the street though
    https://plus.google.com/u/0/photos/110479167004746675441/albums/5730447698002810977

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ananda, come back to KL for authentic Char Kuey Tiaw and then we go shoot street again !! haha
      Great that you have met Eric in person !! I am sure there is much to learn from him.

      Delete
  7. Cool panning ;)

    make me miss Msia food now!!

    ReplyDelete
  8. hello Scott,
    come back and we go shoot and makan!!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Hey Robin,

    Now I know why I like your blog so much -- I'm an engineer, too! :)

    Great post, and I do enjoy your blog. I certainly haven't gotten tired or bored of your photos, so it makes sense to me that you haven't either! I especially liked the portrait of the breakfast stall operator today.

    Can I also ask you for some advice? I am getting ready to sell my beloved E-PL1 and jump up to the OM-D. I can't wait. I'm conflicted though on whether or not to buy the kit lens. I have the panasonic 20 mm, which I essentially use all the time. It seems like the OM-D kit lens is a little bit higher quality lens than the E-PL1 kit lens, but still, it makes for a much bigger set to haul around! I have the zuiko 45 mm on my list for later this year after I recover from the OM-D purchase :) -- so it seems like once I have that, I'll have similar coverage to the kit. On the other hand, there is a nice discount when you buy the kit with the body, and there is the weather sealing to think about. Any thoughts?

    Keep up the practicing and the great work!

    Cheers,
    Stacy

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    Replies
    1. Hi Stacy,
      Thanks for the kind compliments ! We engineers think alike.

      Whether you will need the 12-50mm or not is actually hard to answer. From one side of the argument, 12-50mm is very worthwhile, because it can do many things: 12mm wide angle shooting, very admirable close up shooting, great movie recording lens (power zoom and silent operation) and the only lens that is weather sealed to match the E-M5. The build quality is very solid. It might be slightly bigger, but with all those things in it, I find it hard to complain.

      However, if you already have the 20mm F1.7, and you intend to get the 45mm F1.8, you may already have specific plannings in mind, and you know very well what you want out of your photography system. Both 20mm and 45mm offers superior quality in comparison to 12-50mm. They both are sharper, faster, and definitely can perform much better in low light, rendering much smoother and more bokeh.

      It all comes down to your preferences and shooting style. I personally would keep the 12-50mm lens, just for the 12mm wide angle (since there is no way I am forking that much cash for the 12mm F2) and very good close up shooting, since I love macro a lot.

      Hope that helps.

      Cheers

      Delete
    2. Hi Robin,

      Thanks for reminding me of the two M's: movies and macro. I don't do much of either (not thrilled with the focusing during movies on the E-PL1) currently, but would certainly like to. Hmmm!!

      Thanks and keep up the great work! Hope you have lots of shutter therapy this weekend.

      Cheers,
      Stacy

      Delete
  10. Wonderful street images, Robin. I absolutely love the guy's hat in image #6.

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  11. Nice pics, with a story well told. Always happy to read.

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  12. Yoz Robin, seem like more ppl visit your blog because you do review on new gears..

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Please leave a name (even a nickname) when you comment next time, thanks.

      Delete
  13. Hi Robin,
    Great real life thoughts and informative reading.
    I always believe practice (in the correct way)makes you a better player and raise your game.
    I learned this tenet in Tae Kwon Do and blend it in my life and photography.
    Great street shots! Love it.
    Happy a great weekend and Happy Shooting.
    John Ragai

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    Replies
    1. Hi John,
      Thanks for the kind compliments.
      Wow did not know you were in Tae Kwon Do, thats very cool.
      You have a great weekend too, and keep that shutter clicking.

      Delete
  14. Hey robin based on ur explanation I'd liken photography to a marathon actually. When you start you can only go 5km then you get new shoes and shirt and u train for 10 then 20, 40 and soon your running and cycling and swimming. Then your on triathlons And other areas of endurance challenges.

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    Replies
    1. Marcus, thats a good way of seeing it !!

      Delete
  15. Hey Robin!

    Wonderful pictures as always, I always visit your blog for my daily dose of humanity. Just one question: Which do you think is the better setup for street photography, the E5 with the 50/2, or the OM-D with the 45/1,8? My e-620 is nearing the end of its shutter life, so I'll be needing to get a new camera. I'm leaning towards the OM-D because it's the cheaper option, with better image quality, but you never know...

    ReplyDelete