Recently I am getting more and more questions, some which got me into deep thinking. One of them was asked by several friends in person, and from readers through emails: Why don't I run some sort of photography workshop? It was not an easy question to answer, because the real truth was that I never wanted to conduct any workshop in the first place. The reason that came to that was because I do not believe I even qualify to teach anyone anything. I do not have the credentials, or any sort of credibility that I can have anyone to refer to. My work has not been published anywhere else except in local magazines and newspapers which happened some dinosaur ages ago, and I do not exactly participate in competitions, wrote any books, or held any photography exhibitions at all. If suddenly there is this funky photography workshop conducted by Robin Wong, one might wonder who the heck is this guy, an online blogger who reviews Olympus gear? Get real !!
It is not a shame for me to admit openly that I am after all, nothing but a learning photographer, much like the majority of new-comers to photography. I do not see myself higher than anyone else, nor do I wish to impose that sort of perception. I am still in the midst of discovering my own photography style, I am still in the progress of experimentation when shooting. There are so much more to explore, things to learn and experience through this long journey of photography. Therefore it is no surprise that most of my writings in this blog cater more specifically to the general learning crowd. The one unexplained phenomenon was that I unexpectedly received many visits from those who are far better skilled and experienced than I am, for that I have been truly humbled and felt very honored.
All images in this entry were taken with Olympus DSLR E-520 and Kit Lens 14-42mm F3.5-5.6
When I am on the streets, when I come across such irresistibly cute creatures, I would take a pause, and play with them for a while. Being on the street is about doing what you want to do. If you found that nice ice cream stall and in that mid-day hot sun you just have to have something cold, buy yourself one !!
On the way to the morning market
You are not alone
Very engaging conversation
Very old buildings.
There are no magic rules, no perfect camera settings.
I think one of the reasons why people would want to attend a workshop, which I believe would be for the wrong reason, is to find that miraculous guide that can instantaneously transform a nobody photographer into a celebrity photographer overnight. They expect that the workshop conductor would be able to provide some very magical formula to change normal photographs that look like snapshots, into National Geographic level kind of quality. Alright, perhaps I have exaggerated a stretch too far there, but you do get my idea. The important truth to be acknowledged is that there are no magic rules to follow. Every photographer, great and small, they all have their own style and preferences. You may be able to pick up some tips and tricks, or how-tos when it comes to technical execution (lighting setup, direction of a shoot, etc). but a majority portion of what makes a photograph work will depend on the photographer. There are many things that made the photographer successful and famous that can never be taught, or transferred to anyone else. His dedication to the craft, his uniques artistic sense, his raging passion to shoot, his undying determination to improve in the game, his perseverance in pursuing greater goals, and all the sacrifices, failures, disappointments, those are all the things that shaped the photographer.
I did receive dozens of questions on my settings that I used when I shoot on the street. There was never a fixed setting. I did a lot of things on the street. When I wanted shallow depth of field, I would open up the aperture to the widest. When I wanted to see everything in focus, shooting buildings and old architecture, I would narrow down the aperture. If I wanted to freeze action (eg a kid running) I will engage higher ISO settings or increase the shutter speed. When I wanted to do a panning shot or induce motion blur, I would slow down the shutter speed, and even so, the shutter speed was varied due to the motion that I was encountering, eg a slow man walking will require a much slower shutter speed to pan, in contrast to a motorized trishaw speeding its way through. When I shoot under bright morning sun in the open, I use the minimum ISO of 100-200, but when I moved into shade, I would bump up the ISO, and it also depends on how dark the shade was. Sometimes I use flash, sometimes I do not. Sometimes I use manual focus, if necessary.
There was never a fixed setting that works in ALL situations. Even the guidelines given by anywhere you read, books or internet, would not work accurately for most situations, and it is very crucial for the photographer to recognize the need to fine tune the camera setting to work for that specific shooting circumstance, adjusting the parameters accordingly to accomplish what you have in mind. How to determine what works and how to set the camera, it all comes down to experience. The more you shoot the more you would be sure of what to do. And everyone has different ways to work around the limitations on a similar problem.
How to build a house
Waiting for food to arrive
Flower and Smiles
Use the right gear for the right situation
Another set of similarly difficult to answer questions would be "what is the best camera or lens for street shooting" or "is this camera better than that camera" and "should I buy this lens or should I upgrade that?"
I am not sure why people would trust me with these sort of questions, because honestly, I have only used ONE camera system so far: Olympus. I have not shot with any other systems extensively enough to make any useful comments. Yes I review Olympus gear, because based on my experience handling Olympus cameras and lenses, I understand the system inside out, and I can optimize the output from basically any Olympus gear, past or possibly anything coming out in the near future. The layout of the menu system is basically the same, the customization, characteristics of parameters, they behave similarly, even with a DSLR from Olympus 4 years ago. However I have completely useless information when you ask me about anything else than Olympus. Would Olympus 45mm F1.8 be better than Nikon 85mm F1.8? How would I know, I have never used that Nikon lens before !! Can Olympus OM-D replace a Nikon D300s? Maybe, and even if I did use the D300s, how can I give you such a conclusion? What I am trying to say is that I would probably be the last person you should ask for such advice concerning gear choice and purchase.
I also strongly believe that using the right gear is important, corresponding to that particular shooting requirement and need. It is getting very exhausting reading how people would categorize and discriminate photographers who use certain gear. The arguments of primes over zooms, or higher grade lenses over budget kit lenses, etc. Long lenses vs short lenses, or how that "perfect" all-around lens to be used in all situation. Generally, if you need certain focal length, you will need it. If you are shooting a concert, and your position is about 30-40 rows from the stage, you are still stubbornly claiming that long lenses are for pussies, then you have missed the most important point of this discussion: choosing the suitable gear for the job. Similarly if you want to see the eye of that insect, mount that macro lens. Some people will then argue "oh I do not shoot concerts or I do not like insects", but that is totally besides the point, is it not?
Coming back to the popularly asked question: "what is the best lens to shoot on the street" that I have been getting very often. If I want to shoot something from far away, I will not hesitate to use the long tele-photo zoom lens, and zoom in ALL the way to the longest end for the reach. If I wanted to capture close up head shots, I will not hesitate to use my favorite 50mm F2 macro lens, and blur the background into oblivion while recording every single details of the wrinkles and lines on that beautiful face. If I was faced with very tight space to move around, and I needed to fit in more frame, surely the wide angle will come in handy. No, I do not encourage changing lenses often, or shoot with many lenses or camera bodies at the same time. You have to use the one that suits your shooting condition at that moment. There is no one lens to do it all. Different lenses are designed for different purposes. It is also wise to carry more than one lens with you.
The one sitting on high chair
It was a hot morning
Girl selling "petai"
I am happy where I am, being a learning photographer. I love shutter therapy. I love shooting, whether on the streets, or in the jungle looking for little insects. I believe the most important part of photography for hobbyists/photo-enthusiasts, is the fun factor. You have got to enjoy what you are doing. Every, single process of photography, from planning the session, to being on the field executing the shots, until the post-processing stage, and sharing the photographs whether within your small group of family and friends, or through online social media community.
I have seen many, many friends (new-comer to photography) who claimed that they love photography, but only after shooting for a year or two, you never heard anything from them anymore. And worse, the next thing you knew, the cameras and lenses were on sale in the local buy/sell forum section. What happened? They said they did not have time anymore for photography. Well, if it was so fun as they have claimed to be, surely they will make time for it. Then they said it was no longer as fun as it used to be. I am guessing it was never fun from them from the beginning.
Will I be happier shooting with better capable cameras and lenses? Maybe, who knows until I give it a try? The desire to pick up the camera and go out to shoot, the passion to create something visually interesting, the determination to improve and be better, and the immense amount of joy going through that every single process of photography, must stay in tact, being a learning photographer. When everything falls into place nicely, and you accomplished that shot you have had in mind, that intense amount of joy happened right there and then is beyond orgasmic, that the positive feeling stays for a very, very long time. If you have not discovered what that is, let me give it to you in two words: Shutter Therapy.
And if you truly love photography, you will crave for MORE and more.