Sunday, September 02, 2012

Early Morning Shoot

It was a glorious Sunday morning, with clear skies and intense morning warm light shining into every single subject that crawled on the streets. With a bunch of street crazy people, Scott Chung, Kelvin Ng, Luke Ding and Nick Wade, we attacked Petaling Street, one of the most frequently attacked locations for street photography. Before we started our hunting, we filled up our stomach with some of the best breakfast you can find in town. The stall owner claimed that their signature dish, Chee Cheong Fun has been around for no less than 70 years !! The best way to start the morning off was to stuff our stomach with plenty of delicious food. 

All images in this entry were taken with Olympus DSLR E-520 and Zuiko Digital lenses 14-42mm F3.5-5.6 kit lens or 25mm F2.8 pancake. 

Top Left: Porridge with Shredded Chicken
Top Right: You Char Kueh
Bottom: Signature dish Chee Cheong Fun with Homemade sauce. 


This morning's shooting session was rather straightforward, as we explored the usual paths in Petaling Street, which is considered as the China Town of Kuala Lumpur. Within this district, there are a two Chinese Temples and One Hindu Indian Temple, hence we also ventured into those temples and shot whatever that caught our attention there. 

It does seem that I am using my beloved Olympus DSLR E-520 more and more lately. There was no specific reason for me to choose the E-520, perhaps I was just feeling a little nostalgic, and thought of all the times I have spent with the E-520. Even on today's standards, I feel that the E-520 is no slouch, and it does its job perfectly fine especially when I was shooting on the streets. I do not need ridiculously high ISO setting with clean output, since the street are usually very well lit (unless you are shooting at night). The Autofocus speed was decently fast, even for an entry level camera. The AF speed of E-520 is faster, and far more reliable than my Olympus PEN E-PL1, in all shooting conditions. Furthermore, I like the beefier grip on the E-520 that the PEN lacks, and I have always emphasized on how important balanced and comfortable handling would be, especially if you are going to walk on the streets for a few hours. I also love working with the Standard Grade (or more appropriately put lower level) lenses, such as the 14-42mm kit lens and the wonderful 25mm F2.8 pancake lens. Those lenses were small, compact and easy to carry around, at the same time delivering very, very good image quality. 

Some may scoff and look down on my "beginner's" setup, using a 4 years old budget entry level DSLR body with just low grade lenses. My response to that? It is not like if you use a Nikon D4 with a 70-200mm F2.8 VR2 lens on the street will automatically transform you into an award winning National Geographic level photographer. Staying with basic setup trains myself to work around the limitations of the camera, and maximize its strengths. This allows me to stay flexible, and push my limits, not just being dependent on the gear to deliver results. 

The fact that my gear, even after 4 years, are still working perfectly fine, shows how reliable and durable Olympus system is, even for a merely entry level setup. If you have followed my blog for a while now, or you know me personally, you will know that I handle my equipment very roughly, and I do not treat the camera and lenses like fragile porcelain vases. 

Portrait of an Indian Lady. 

Burning Prayers

Starburst

Rolling by the roadside

Questionable Occupation

Waiting 

Palm reader. 

Shirtless Vendor

The Grand Entrance

Greetings

What nice eyes you have !!

Forced Smile

The Ceremony

It does not really matter which medium you choose to shoot with, the most important thing is to keep your vision sharp and focused, as you are shooting. A lot of my friends are in the stage where they are getting thrilled with all sorts of weird cameras that they can get their hands on, including some very rare and hard to find film cameras from yesteryear. This morning, I was the only digital shooter of the gang, as the rest went full on analogue. And here I was thinking I was the only one being odd using a 4 year old camera. 

If you have noticed, I have stopped using flash on the street. Somehow I do not feel that my shooting style suits the additional flash filling into my frames. I admit there are some desirable effects and unique techniques that require the flash to be properly executed, but I would rather just stay with my current style, and I prefer the more natural feel to the photographs, taken with just available light. Do not get me wrong, I am not against flash photography, as I have used flash extensively for my macro shooting (almost all shots) and also during event shooting or paid assignment (wedding jobs, etc). I acknowledged that flash is important, and when you need it, you do need it.  In this case of general street shooting, I just do not see how the flash can blend into my usual style. Maybe I will need more experimentation to figure this out, who knows? I shall keep an open mind. Nonetheless, I am also entitled to shoot what I like to shoot, the way how I like to shoot it. Camera technical  setup can be personal too. 

There is still a little time left before this long weekend is over. Shall we squeeze some more frames out of the camera? 

10 comments:

  1. I couldn't agree more - there's nothing wrong with "old" (digital or otherwise) equipment. In fact I use both; and it's all old I'm afraid. Why would I spend a small fortune on the newest plastic made-in-china Nikkor when my old screw-driven and MF Nikkors deliver nearly equal and sometimes even better results? The most modern analogue 35mm camera I have is a F4, the oldest several F's. The "newest" digital I have is a 2006 (?) D80 - doubtless a complete fossil by today's standards. Yet it works well when you're not shooting black cats in unlit coalmines.

    Every time I examine (and enjoy) the superb results you obtain with relatively modest means I am reminded of the nonsense of GAS syndrome. Sure, I'd like a D800, but do I need those monstrous RAW files? I dare say I don't. Even a (upcoming) 24mp D600 is probably over the top for me.

    I like your approach: squeeze more frames and more quality out of your existing equipment, and learn to use it well. New stuff is nice, but in many cases not even really necessary. Your superb work proves it again and again.

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    1. Thanks Andre for agreeing and pointing out that old equipment do work well, and they are still valid even for today's photography. If it is for hobby and personal shooting, indeed, why the need for professional equipment?
      D80 is a GREAT camera !! I have some friends who still use the camera and guess what, their photos look just as stunning.

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  2. I love that "Portrait of an Indian Lady" and and "Burning Prayers" are your best so far, at least of those that I know. The simple geometric raster works well with them, although I'd prefer having them not so cut off at the top. Maybe you should bring a ladder :D :D :D

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    1. Hello Andreas,
      The portrait of an Indian Lady was my favourite for the day hence it was placed the first in the arrangement of images !!
      Bring ladder? I think I might need a crane !

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  3. Hello, Robin
    I think you did well in leaving the flash in the bag. To be honest, I didn´t appreciate your flash street photography as much as I did your usual style. You are developing in a certain direction, b§w, motion blur, different composition, on-cam flash was a step back. So we go: one and a half step forward, one step back :-)
    next step maybe off camera flah??
    bw
    Sven

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    1. Hello SvenReinhold,
      Thanks for the honest feedback.
      I prefer not to see it as a step forward or backward. It was an experimentation. You will not know certain things until you really try it out. And while in the beginning of trying something, it usually starts with something less than desirable results. It takes numerous trial and errors to get it right.
      In the case of flash on the street, I admit it helps in creating certain effects that without flash cannot. Being able to do something else, and something I have not done before is always an added bonus.

      Oh, did you notice all this while in my street shooting, I was using a MANUAL flash with non TTL, and only one power output setting? Of course when you talk to proper flash techniques there are a lot of things to be considered: flash intensity, distance from the subject, good diffusing technique, and also blending in the flash and ambient light. Since the flash that I used was a manual one with completely zero control except on off button, I wont expect miracles from the shot either.


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  4. of course, Robin, you know how to use a flash! I learned a lot from your blog about flash technique especially in your wedding entries. I wonder what a talented photographer like you could do with two or three off camera strobes.... :-)
    but in street, your pics have a special magic that easily can be destroyed by using that cheap flash, so you walk on a fine line :-)

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    1. Oh dear Sven, my flash techniques are all experimental !!!! Hopefully nothing horrible coming out from them. I was merely sharing my thoughts, I think the settings and techniques need to be fine tuned for individual circumstances.

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  5. oh, and now i see it.....i should have read the end of your entry more carefully.... :-)

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  6. No worries Sven. I appreciate your open feedback. I am still at learning and discovering stage. Any feedback is useful and welcome.
    I think we all can agree that it takes a lot of practice and trials to achieve something decent. Hence, lets just shoot more and improve from there !!

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