Everyone Needs A Little Bit Of Hipster Food Sometimes

I am not exactly a big fan of overpriced cafe food, since Malaysia has abundance of amazing and delicious local and much lower priced food available everywhere. We have so many choices sometimes we just don't know what to choose, and the most commonly asked question, possibly in Malaysia is "what are we doing to eat?" when we are out and about with friends or family. However, I must admit that the trendy, overpriced, hipster restaurants do get more and more popularity, and I am one of the customers drawn to them. Not so much of me liking the food or supporting the trend, but hey, sometimes you just want something a little bit more fancy and have an excuse to splurge.



The images were shot with Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II and M.Zuiko 25mm F1.2 PRO lens.

I particularly love food that is colorful and has a lot of texture. I guess, the plus side of eating this bowl of hipster something something, it is healthy-ish.


Sometimes Stop Moving Can Be A Good Thing

When I am shooting on the street, I am constantly on the move. This is probably due to the idea that not staying in one spot for too long will make you less of a target to bag-snatching thieves or daylight robbery, which can happen in Kuala Lumpur streets from time to time. When I am out and about shooting on my own, which I do quite frequently when I need to get some serious shots done, I consciously move all the time. However, I have also learned that slowing down the pace and taking some time to really look at how certain scenes change can benefit the outcome of photographs shown in a series.




Images were shot on Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II and M.Zuiko 45mm F1.8 lens

On one fine evening, I was walking along Bukit Bintang streets with a group of friends. Since we have the number, we were less afraid about being mugged or jumped at unexpectedly. Safety in numbers and all. We decided to make a pit stop at one corner after a long walk to take a short breather and everyone started chatting away. In the midst of the dramatic conversation about bokeh, Fujifilm, Ricoh GR3 and street photography, I noticed the light in the sky changing and I thought to myself, wow, what a splendid sunset it was. I took several photographs within a span of 15 minutes. I would have waited till it was completely dark, but everyone got too hungry and we decided to call it a day and went to a nearby restaurant for dinner.

I Will Be Conducting a Photography Workshop with OBSCURA Festival of Photography in July 2019

I am super thrilled to share this news with all you beautiful people, I have been invited by OBSCURA Festival of Photography to conduct an official workshop! This workshop will take place in the beautiful island of Penang, Malaysia on the weekend of 27-28 July 2019. Yes, it is a 2-day intensive workshop covering many topics from conceptual planning, theme selection to actual sharing of shooting techniques and execution on the street and final review and editing process. We will roam the streets of beautiful Georgetown, Penang together with our cameras and we will do shutter therapy to our hearts' content! Then we will come back with the photos, edit them and share them in a comment and critique session so we all can learn and grow together.



Details of the workshop here:

CULTURAL AWARENESS & PLACE MAPPING : STREET PHOTOGRAPHY WORKSHOP with ROBIN WONG

Date: 27 to 28 July 2019 
Full timetable to be announced soon
Location: Georgetown, Penang

Fees: RM400/USD100
Available slots: Limited to only 15 slots, so hurry up and register!

Official OBSCURA Festival Workshop Page (CLICK) for registration


How is this workshop different from my other photowalks, outings and events I have conducted previously, either for Olympus or on my own? While most of my events were mostly completed within 3-4 hours within a session, the OBSCURA Festival's coming workshop will be a lot more intensive, covering more ground. We will have a lot more open discussion, and not only we get to shoot together, but we will come back together and look at each other's photos and share our comments. I will be more hands-on in guiding from conceptualizing thought process and workflow of street photography to the actual demonstration on some advanced composition as well as shooting technique execution. Basically, you get a lot out of me from this workshop, and yes we will get to drink lots of coffee together too. 

Who is this workshop for? Basically anyone interested in street photography and want to take it to the next level. Learning together in a class, during the prestigious OBSCURA Festival can not be more inspiring! It will be fun having shutter therapy together with you in the awesome city of Penang. 

Do sign up early before the slots run out! See you in Penang. 

Olympus Tough TG-6 - A Brief Hands On

Olympus has just launched their latest Tough series camera, the Olympus TG-6 today, and I have had the chance to shoot with it for a few days last week. I am not an adventurous person, certainly I do not do crazy intense activities like diving, mountain climbing, trail running or anything extreme, which this camera is designed for. Therefore, I shall be exploring some special features in the Olympus TG-6 such as the extreme macro shooting capabilities and comment on the general experience using the camera.

Important notes: Before we go too far, allow me to remind you that currently I am an active Olympus Visionary member, being an ambassador for the brand. The Olympus TG-6 was a loaner from Olympus Malaysia, I had it only for few days and it has been returned before the writing of this article. This blog entry is NOT a review of the product. I did not have the chance to dive or shoot anything underwater with the TG-6, hence this article cannot qualify as a complete assessment of the camera. Instead, I am only discussing a few key aspects of the TG-6, specifically the macro shooting capabilities, general image quality and overall comment on the TG-6 as an imaging tool. My experience with the camera and observations may be subjective. All images were shot in RAW and minor post-processing (exposure compensation, white balance tweaks, etc) was applied via Olympus Workspace.


Shooting Star Trail With Olympus Live Composite

Live Composite is a unique and useful image stacking feature built into Olympus cameras that has been introduced since 2014 in Olympus OM-D E-M10 (first generation). Live Composite allows extremely long exposure shooting without overexposing the image. Typically, an ordinary single frame of long exposure image will capture too much light if the shutter is left open for too long. To prevent overexposure, Olympus' Live Composite basically stacks multiple images of similar exposure over a long duration of time while maintaining balanced exposure from the first frame. The exposure settings are fixed on first frame, set on a shorter exposure duration and are the same for subsequent shots. To illustrate this, instead of capturing a single 60 minutes exposure image which will certainly cause overblown outcome, Live Composite stacks 60 images (all taken at 1 minute exposure each) subsequently and continuously. The compositing process only selectively and additively blends in brighter parts of the subsequent frames onto the previous image. As a bonus, as the blending happens (for example, trailing of light due to slow shutter), you can view it occurring live on the camera's LCD screen, hence the name Live Composite.

While this Live Composite is not a new feature, I have rarely used it. Living in the metropolitan Kuala Lumpur, light pollution negated the possibility of shooting night sky. Furthermore, due to tropical weather, we typically get thunderstorms or lousy cloudy skies at night. Recently, I made a trip to Perth, Australia and did some star trail shooting with Olympus Live Composite. I thought why not do an article about this, and maybe share some tips to those who may want to explore this feature with their cameras?

All images in this entry were shot on Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II and M.Zuiko 7-14mm F2.8 PRO

5 seconds each image, total composite duration 40 minutes, ISO200, F2.8

The beauty of using Olympus' Live Composite was the convenience of having compositing feature already built into the camera, generating results at the press of just a few buttons. Traditionally, to get a star trail image, hundreds of images were taken subsequently and then composited via software processing on a computer. When shooting Live Composite, Olympus gives you not only the ease of capturing one frame with full composite result, all done in camera, but also the ability to preview the star trailing effect as it happens right in front of your eyes.

HOW TO CAPTURE STAR TRAIL USING OLYMPUS LIVE COMPOSITE

1) TRIPOD
You will need a tripod, there is no going around this. You may think that propping the camera against the rock or your backpack will work, but trust me, if you want to get into the photography game, do yourself a favor and get a sturdy tripod.

2) START WITH FULLY CHARGED BATTERY
The last thing that you want to happen is battery dying off in the middle of an almost successful star trail shooting, losing a chunk of precious time and have to restart the process again.

3) TURN ON LIVE VIEW BOOST 2
To enable easy framing using the LCD screen in the dark, switch on the Live View Boost 2 feature. Go to Menu --> Gear/Cogs Icon --> D tab --> Scroll down to Live View Boost --> Live Composite/Live Time --> On 2.
With this setting turned on, you may even see some visible stars in the sky, and you can clearly see the foreground (trees, structures, etc).

4) SET TO MANUAL FOCUS
We are shooting landscape (if you are doing portrait photography then skip this step), so the focusing should be set to infinity. If you have Olympus PRO lenses (12-100mm, 12-40mm, 7-14mm, etc) pull down the focusing ring, and set the focusing mark to the infinity symbol.

5) CAPTURE A SINGLE FRAME
To start, shoot the scene with a normal exposure. For the Crawley Edge Boatshed at Mounts Bay Road scene as shown in the opening image, I did some trial and error using Manual shooting mode, and figured out that a single frame capture of exposure settings ISO200, 5 seconds shutter speed and F2.8 aperture were needed for a balanced shot. The shot below is an example of the single frame taken before replicating the exposure settings for Live Composite.

5 seconds, ISO200, F2.8


6) ACTIVATE LIVE COMPOSITE
Having figured out the exact exposure settings for a single capture as explained in point 4), then we can now turn on the Live Composite mode. Turn the mode dial to M. Dial down (slow) the shutter speed to 60 seconds, then you keep turning it to find Bulb, Live Time, and finally, Live Composite. At this point, the LCD screen may suddenly become dimmed, do not be alarmed, that is perfectly normal as we normally use Live Composite shooting in dark environment, hence the camera intentionally dims the screen.

7) SET EXPOSURE SETTINGS FROM 4)
Based on the single capture settings from point 4), make sure all the settings are the same. You can adjust aperture via the control dial, and ISO from super control panel (or any other shortcuts you have set). However, to adjust the shutter speed, press the "MENU" button. This step is extremely crucial, and is often missed by many newcomers to Live Composite.

8) PRESS SHUTTER BUTTON ONCE TO GET READY
The camera will require capture of first frame to get ready, so just press it.

9) PRESS SHUTTER BUTTON AGAIN TO START
Press the shutter button again the second time to start the Live Composite process. When the process started, you should be able to see capture information at the bottom right corner of the LCD screen, showing number of frames captured and total duration of capture.

Once the Live Composite process begins, you will get live feedback shown on the LCD screen. Within 5-10 minutes, you will start to see the stars trailing a little.

10) PRESS SHUTTER BUTTON AGAIN TO STOP
Please allow about 45 minutes or more for the trails to develop. The longer duration of the capture the longer the trails will be. Once you are satisfied with the developed trails in the frame, press the shutter button to stop.

Additional tip - Live Composite can be shot in RAW, meaning the final composited result can be recorded as a RAW file. This allows better flexibility in post-processing, having full control over white balance and some detail recovery over shadow and highlight regions of the photograph.

Behind the scenes image of the E-M1 Mark II shooting the famous Blue Boathouse at Matilda Bay

30 seconds, ISO3200, F2.8

60 seconds each image, total composite duration 45m minutes, ISO1600, F2.8
Trail was not smooth due to intermittent frames with no star visibility, sky covered by cloud obviously. Trails should be smooth with clear, cloudless sky throughout the duration of shoot. 

60 seconds each image, total composite duration 45minutes ISO800, F2.8
This was taken at Tau Game Lodge at Madikwe Game Reserve in South Africa. Shot from the balcony of my room. 

There are some limitations imposed by the camera while using Live Composite (hardware limit, or software processing capability) which should be taken note of:
ISO highest limit - ISO1600
Shutter Speed - 60 seconds (for single frame)
Aperture  - No limit, but typically set to widest to capture as much light as possible
Image Stabilization is disabled during Live Composite, hence sturdy tripod is necessary

Practically, I highly recommend maxing out the shutter speed, set the aperture to the widest (if you have an F1.2 lens, use F1.2!) and finally, only increase the ISO as necessary. 

If you have an Olympus camera (E-M10 or newer) and you have access to location with not too much light pollution, and the weather is not too cloudy, why not give star trail a try? There is always something magical shooting the stars in the sky. If you have any questions regarding Live Composite please ask!

Acknowledgement - Special thanks to Charmaine and Chris who brought me to awesome places to shoot night skies in Perth, Western Australia recently!