Sunday, December 09, 2012

Pudu Shooting and Sony Alpha User Gathering

I had the privilege to attend an official user gathering for Sony Alpha and NEX users at Studio Zaloon, Pudu Plaza earlier this afternoon. The event was jontly organized by Sony Malaysia and Studio Zaloon, with the purpose to enable to Sony users to get together and share their experience, photography knowledge and photographs. The gathering happened in late afternoon, and Pudu Plaza was situated at Pudu, a place which has become very frequent for my street hunting sessions. Therefore, it was only natural for me to plan my schedule to fit in some street shooting just before the event. 

I roamed the streets of Pudu, and then into the open air wet market with the Sony Alpha A350, and the 50mm F1.8 lens. As much as I loved and preferred the 35mm F1.8, somehow, there are times I really want to work with something longer. Today is the day where I felt I wanted to distance myself from my subjects, step myself backward a little, and compose my shots a little differently. Also, this was one of the rarest occasion where I actually started my shooting session close to noon, hence the lighting was a lot harsher than usual, and surely this put the A350 to test when it comes to handling difficult dynamic range situations. After all, the Sony Alpha DSLR in those days, in comparison to the competitors from other manufacturers, boasted to have better dynamic range handling. 

All images on the streets were taken with Sony Alpha A350 and DT 50mm F1.8 lens

Sweet Corn



All you can carry

Stir it well

Market Place

Glued to the body

Balancing Act

The original dynamic range of the images straight from the camera was quite impressive, though all images were shot under hot, harsh, Malaysian unforgiving afternoon sun. However, the original files looked very dull, flat and uninteresting, thus my itchy hands decided to boost the contrast, and that resulted in plenty of blown highlights, as seen in the images. Do bear in mind that the way I post-process my images is only applicable to my own preferences, which usually is not agreeable by most photographer's standards as stated especially in online photography forums or groups/societies. I understand it is very crucial to salvage that extra little bit of detail and prevent whites from becoming all white, but seriously, I do not really care about all this. Yes, you may call me defiant and a little unconventional, but what is most important to me is seeing the image as a whole. Even if there is blown highlight, if that area did not affect the overall balance of the image, I would not think it would matter that much. What I emphasize mostly would be on the properly exposed main subject, and if the subject choice is a human being, the priority would be the skin exposure. You may not necessarily agree with this, and you may want to twist and turn the exposure S-Curve till snakes cry, and then dodge and burn all you can to accomplish that ideal "preserved highlight and shadow details" while maximizing dynamic range. To me, why go through all the trouble? 

What I did differently this time in terms of composition? Instead of going in extremely close with the 50mm F1.8 (which is equivalent to 75mm in 35mm format), I actually stood back many steps, trying to fit in a bit more of the environment surrounding the main subject. Strange, because I find that I am loving the longer focal length more and more. The wider shot done with the long lens, is very different with a wide shot taken with a wide angle lens. The wide angle lens tried too hard to squeeze everything into the frame that everything will appear too cramped and too, "forced". I am referring to the use of 35mm or wider, say 28mm, or 24mm (speaking in 35mm full frame format of course). However, as I have used the 50mm (75mm equvalent on my A350) and step back many, many steps backward to frame more elements into one frame, I found the image composed to be very, very balanced. The different perspective, perhaps the extra compression provided by the longer focal length helped to achieve this. The problem with wider angle lens is that there is perspective exaggeration playing tricks with the framing, meaning the subjects appearing nearer to the lens is exaggerated to look a lot bigger and further from another subject behind it. In contrast to that, using a longer lens, the compressed perspective allows the front subject to blend in more naturally with whatever subjects behind it, without too much exaggeration of difference in scale and size, due to the relative distance between the subjects. 

To me, the range of focal length between 50-100mm is surely ideal for my own street shooting preferences. However, I also acknowledge that there is strong need for wide angle use, and we should not close ourselves and restrict the usage of only one or two focal lengths. When you need that certain focal length to accomplish the shot you have in mind, you will need it. 

I can see myself enjoying the two latest lenses I have for my Sony, the 50mm F1.8 which I used for all the street shots in this blog entry, and of course, the other 35mm F1.8, which I have written positively about recently. You just cannot go wrong with these two lenses. 

Hands Free

Fresh

Kiss

Busy Street

Portrait of an Indian Lady

Peeling the Shells Off


In my last blog entry, I decided that I just wanted to post some photographs, and just let the photographs speak. I thought the photographs were quite self-explanatory, without the need for me to elaborate further. You see, sometimes the reason I ramble so much in my blog, is to avoid some unwanted response, and prepare myself in case some kind of weird questions will be thrown to me. One reader responded saying that 1) the photo quality sucks big time and 2) Maybe the light was bad 3) The lens was mediocre and worst of all 4) Didn't bother to do much post-processing. 

Ouch. Seriously ouch. Not that I can't take criticism very well. I felt this was a little off the edge. 

The photo quality sucks big time. I knew it was not the best of what I usually produced, but I do not think they were that bad, that they "sucked big time". The light was bad. Let me correct that, the light was extremely, horribly, bad, not just dim, but with severe mix lighting source and uneven exposure. This is why, I always, always ranted in my blog on the lighting situation and all the challenges I faced when I produced my shots, because it was just so easy to point out and comment on something without actually having to do it, or go through all the trouble and struggle in the real shooting conditions. It was so dim that at F1.8, with ISO800, I can only get 1/20-1/30 seconds shutter speed. Geez, what were you expecting? All models at the PC fair to be accompanied with studio lights with gigantic softboxes standing on their sides? You deal with what you have to, and in that horribly dark lighting situation, I'd say the Sony fared rather well, of course far from perfect, or what most modern cameras can do, but it did just fine. 

The lens was mediocre. Whats wrong with the lens? To my eyes the images were sharp. It was a 35mm F1.8 lens, a budget, cheap, yet rather decent performer from Sony's lower line-up of lenses. What, you are expecting a Carl Zeiss quality?

Didn't bother to do much post-processing. I don't know about that. Maybe after I spend an hour with Photoshop on each photograph the models will suddenly appear like they were shot in a properly set up studio with big lights. When that happens maybe I can turn stones into cameras, and water into expensive lenses. 

There is a reason why I do not participate in online photography forums or groups. Sometimes, there is just too much to deal with, which drains off my energy unnecessarily. I'd rather just concentrate on shooting and making images happen. 

Alone

Friendliness

Bucket loads

Peace

Small opening Walkway

Table top

In the Backalley

Right after my solo shutter therapy session, I had a quick lunch, hanged out at Pudu Plaza, and before I knew it, the event which was the highlight of the day started. 

Joining me in this session was Raja Indra Putra, a friend and a great photographer !! He has got himself a Sony RX100, and he simply loves that amazing camera. We were both hoping to see the Sony RX-1, to touch and play with even just a demo unit, alas, it was not yet available in Malaysia. 

It was really great seeing so many Sony users gathered at Studio Zaloon. The speakers of the day were William, Meng Keat, and Killabee. William was sharing his photographs from the recent trip to Siam Reap, which was mostly shot with NEX-5 and NEX-6. Meng Keat showcased his bird photography collection, and I was surprised to find Sony actually fared very well in the longer focal length department. Finally, Killabee presented his portraiture work, sharing some tips on shooting models. Everyone who attended had something to gain, and learn. It was great seeing the more experienced Sony users so willing to share not only their knowledge and experience to the newer users, but also spread their passion for photography. The inspiration and motivation that drove them to do what they do, and produce those stunning shots, those were evidently seen throughout the session today. 

Being involved in photography, it is a constant process of learning, exploring, discovering, and growing. It is a neverending journey, and as we progress further, we become better photographers, capable of taking better and better images. We enjoy what we do much better, if we are good at what we do. Therefore, it was a joy to see some members actually have grown, and achieved the level that they are currently at, being able to produce amazing photographs, worthy to be printed large and displayed in art galleries. Unfortunately I cannot say the same with some of the group of photographers that I know. Some of them choose to stay stagnant, ignoring growth, and just stay restricted in their own tiny isolated island. When people showed good faith in pushing them to the positive direction, spurring them to grow, they resisted strongly, and retaliated with their own sense of righteousness, defying common sense. I guess at the end of the day, all we want, and care about, would be seeing everyone get better and better in this game. I think that was why I was so drawn to this group of Sony users. They are different. The lust and hunger for photography were admirable. Their desire to improve was something I have not seen in a while. I needed these to be rubbed on my own shoulders. I needed that motivation, and the "peer pressure". I guess, what I am saying is, I need to step up my own game. 

All images from here onward were taken with Sony A350 and DT 35mm F1.8 lens

Danny (from Sony Malaysia) and Uncle Francis (Studio Zaloon)

Top: Meng Keat on Bird Photography 
Bottom Left: William on Travel Photography (Siam Reap)
Bottom Right: Killabee on Portrait Shooting

Sony Users


Danny

Tea and Camera

One for the album. Photograph courtesy of Studio Zaloon. 

Oh yes, I am a proud Sony user now. And boy am I glad to be in this camp !!

22 comments:

  1. Hi Robin,
    As usual I really appreciated your real time photographic approach oppose to virtual criticisms from "theoretical" photographers...

    The use of long lenses is giving us the opportunity to isolated in a more compressed view of the surrounding. By blurring more effectively fore and background which is a good illustration of the compression effect your eyes is captivated by the in focus subject. For sure many of us love to anticipate and accentuate this effect.

    In contrast wide angles lenses are really "contextual" lenses living more apparent space with close subjects. Many of your previous beautiful photo essays are a marvelous illustration of this approach. Many of your admirers loves your "wide" way of seeing... and may have been disappointed your more oriented tele essays.

    At the end photo interpretation may take any road you decide to experiment. It is your liberty of art expression.

    On a lighter note, photo reddition may appear (and obviously are) different from one camera system to another like a choice of film or lenses.

    Lastly, I agree with your preference of doing more picture taking than photo-paint post processing...

    Receive my best,

    Daniel M from Montreal

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    Replies
    1. Hello Daniel M,

      Thanks for the kind compliments. Thanks also for sharing your own views on the use of wide angle and longer lenses. Really appreciate participation and sharing of opinion here.

      I think wide angle is equally as important as the tele-lenses, but they do have their own places and purposes for specific needs.

      Delete
  2. hi robin:

    Don't let the n*gative people drag you down. Your honest self appraisal is far better than token random not very constructive criticism from folks.

    I love your photos in your blog posts! Wish I could curate mine as well (flickr.com/roland)

    Cheers!
    ...Roland "yet another Canadian Fan" Tanglao

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    Replies
    1. Hello Roland,
      thanks for the reminder, and your kind comments.

      Delete
  3. *hadi nik*
    Ello..meet u again..i agrre with u about using d lens..different between long lens and wide lens..really need tu see u on that day but unfortunately my fmly has come to my house (to visit my son after bersunat)..and on that day also has a workshop to attend (food photography 3pm-6pm @ hairaka cafe subang jaya)..on that workshop i try to use my sigma 30mm but with d limited area in d room i cant to use it..so i change it with sigma 19mm..its a wide lens with f2.8 aprtre..with this lens i can go to d subject closer (not closer as macro lens)..and then i set my gear to use digital zoom..so i can get a subject closer to me..actually i can use my tele lens but with this limited space and big crowd of people (around 15-20) for sure its hard for me to snap d subject..
    Once again just want to tell u that i really2 like to read ur blog..lots of knowledge i can get here..thnx..

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    Replies
    1. Hello Hadi,
      No problem, there are many more future events, surely we will meet again. It is strange that Sony made the two events clashed, both started at same time 3pm. However, I was told that they wanted to keep the gathering small, if too many people, the sharing would be more difficult to manage.
      I am glad to see you use both the Sigma lenses, 19mm and 30mm. They were designed to work efficiently with the Sony NEX, and I am very sure the images come out very sharp and detailed.
      Are you going to share the images taken from the food shooting session? Now you got me curious of what is happening there !

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    2. Not to expert with this lens ...already upload in my fb ..just waiting ur comment ...tunjuk ajar ku sifu ...hahaha *hadi nik*..

      Delete
    3. eh I don't take food photos lah !! but I will have a look hehe

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    4. Hahaha...same goes to me..but its a knowledge for me so i just take d opportunity lor..

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    5. No worries, now you make me look forward to the next food photography workshop.

      Delete
  4. critics what make people better aside from practice, but too harsh critics might give bad influence and demotivate some people..BTW Robin, you've always got some sweet pose by your subject, i like that a lot, even some people said that posing subject aren't street photography, at the end of the day it's always about our own preference of how we want to compose the picture, that's my opinion only...=)

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    Replies
    1. Hello Amir,
      Glad to hear from you again, and thanks for reminding that critics may be necessary, and of course it is up to ourselves to filter out the constructive ones from rubbish.

      Delete
  5. Hi Robin, As usual your street photos are outstanding. Perfect framing and timing always. I have never really tried street photography but I am really learning from your site. You have also shown in your photographs how beautiful Malaysia is. It reminds me of my home country the Philippines. Hopefully, I can visit Malaysia in my lifetime. Keep up the good work always.

    May the eye be with you always!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks jalaed, do come to Malaysia if you have a chance !! It is not that far from philippines.

      Delete
  6. I see that formus' situtation is the same all over the world. I also 've stopped using them beacuse the only important fact seems to be your gears, your post production, your brand. A lot of people buy gears for several thousand $ or € abd then spend a lot of time in post processing and destroying their files. why to buy a perfect all-frame lens if you use vignetting in ALL PHOTOS? why to seacr perfect clear and sharp image and than kill them with horrible post-softness-effect (skin for example)? evety user in forums seem to be photography god, until they show their work, often graphic works and not photographs.
    When I started to use Sony system I begin to buy new lenses, but I cannot buy now professionals (as Olympus gears I have) by now. So I'm looking for good ones and not-too-expensive. And I'm happy, because I feel myself as in the first period, when i bought my first camera and started my adventure in photography world.
    If you can use well decent gears you 'll be able to make great image with every things (also Iphone).. if you only use top-pro-high levels gears and too much pc-editing you'll never evolve your skin ;) I think so.

    Ugo

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    1. Hey Ugo,
      I am feeling the same as you, as I got into the Sony world, it seems fresh, and starting all over again, the joy of re-discovering !! Indeed to build the same pro quality as the Olympus lens line-up would be difficult. Nonetheless for me, I buy the lenses which my Olympus lacks, such as the 50mm F1.8 (corresponds to 75mm) and the 35mm F1.8 (equals to 50mm), and having the wide aperture F1.8 surely helps in some situations.

      Delete
  7. There is a difference between (constructive) criticism and utter rubbish. If somebody calls your work "crap", just ignore it. The person saying something so obviously nonsensical is not even able to quantify his "criticism", thereby only proving his own moral and intellectual bankruptcy. Criticism *can* be good -if it can be identified as constructive and is quantifiable- but on the internet 90% is from self-proclaimed airchair "professionals" who probably cannot distinguish a telephoto lens from a Coke bottle. People who have nothing better to do than trolling and posting utter garbage are hardly photographers. Real photographers are out there, taking pictures, just as you do!

    You can ignore such idiots. A total waste of time, and probably not even capable of intelligent discussion. The fact is: you are a talented photographer who's getting AMAZING results with ANY camera, and I have the highest respect. Ignore the idiots... the world is full of them.

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    1. Thanks Andre for the support and kind words. No worries, sometimes some critics will keep our perspectives straight. It is good to be open minded and listen.

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  8. Hi Robin,
    I just love the compositions that you did with the 50mm... Having tried to do street shooting with a 50mm on an APS-C sensor myself, I thought I found it a bit tight for composition but you proved me wrong... Just step back and here you are! I'm sure to try it again next time.
    Its always a pleasure to see how you work around each lens benefits to your advantage. One cannot get it all from one lens alone and need to work around its inconvenience. Its true that that the perspective provided from the 50mm has less distortion... well its seems that the 35mm complements the 50mm and vice-versa!
    Thanks for sharing your real life experience.
    PS: I prefer the colour and image quality of the 35mm though.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for the kind words Johan !!
      About the 35mm, somehow, for some unexplainable reasons, using the lens on A350 (not sure on other cameras) shifted the white balance to colder tones, and images come out bluish. I have searched the internet and this is a common issue with the 35mm, especially used with older Sony cameras. However, simple adjustment and tweak on white balance in post-processing solves this problem. The 35mm has better contrast (general contrast, not micro contrast) than the 50mm, and images come out better, as you have observed !! The 35mm is visibly sharper too.

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  9. Robin, as I said many times, I love your insight on photography, your work in my opinion is outstanding. I am an street photographer since I was 16, now 67 and my pics have been after film OOC -jpegs out of camera- without retouching. Lately I have been trying RAW and LR 4.0 just to compensate clarity and exposure, but I always take pics like if was analog. By the way, forget the negative opinions given to you by people that are not real photogs!

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