Roaming The Streets Once Again

The lockdown situation in Malaysia is gradually eased, with more restrictions being lifted. The 10km travel limit is no longer applicable, and we can travel inter-district now, allowing me to go to places that I usually go to for street shooting, especially at downtown Kuala Lumpur. The rules are not entirely clear if photography and filming are allowed in public spaces, for both commercial purposes and personal activities, but I guess now that we are allowed to roam more freely out in the open, there is less harm bringing a camera out and about. After all, I do my street shooting solo, keeping to strict social distancing at all times and I am not causing any trouble or disturbance to any one. I figured, it was time to do some shutter therapy!

I brought out the Canon 5D and 50mm F1.8 for a spin at my favourite street hunting ground, Chow Kit. I refrained from entering the wet market to not contribute to the tight crowd situation in the market, and allow those who actually need to get something from the market to enter. Photography as a hobby is still quite a selfish thing to do, so I was very cautious of where I went and what I did with my camera, not making unnecessary nuisance or inconveniences to others. Nevertheless, Chow Kit is a huge ground to cover, lots to explore and photo opportunities waiting to happen at almost every corner, there is a reason why I love this place so, so much. And the people here are often so inviting and friendly, most of my portraits of strangers images were shot here!

Shutter Therapy with Samsung S21 Ultra

This blog entry is a continuation of my Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra smartphone camera reviews, please do read my first impression (click) and camera review (click) if you have not done so. 

When I was shooting for sample images for my previous Samsung S21 Ultra camera review, I had to do most of my shots indoor because of the on-going lockdown/movement restrictions imposed by the government due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The restrictions have since been eased and we are now allowed to go out and walk freely on the streets, with tight social distancing practice in place. I thought that would be a fantastic opportunity to bring the Samsung S21 Ultra out for a spin, a full day adventure around the city, capturing some urban landscape and street photography images. The S21 Ultra was just the right camera for this task - I was just shooting with a smartphone and was not seen as a serious or commercial photographer carrying large camera setup, considering the rules were still rather loose and confusing on whether public photography/shooting was allowed. As an extra precaution, I also went out alone, and did the entire session on a solo outing. 

Bukit Bintang Adventures with Fujifilm XF10

Finally, the government has decided to ease the movement restrictions of 10km from home, and more locations are opened for me to bring my camera out and about, which includes downtown Kuala Lumpur. Technically, I don't think outdoor photography is allowed just yet, or any commercial photography/personal photography done in the public setting, but I am playing it very, very safe. I brought the smallest camera in my arsenal - Fujifilm XF10 which I could easily hide in the pocket when I was not shooting. I walked around purposefully and quickly, stopping just for fast captures, and moved on immediately. I spent only about an hour plus roaming around Bukit Bintang, and we are technically allowed to move about. Also, I did not do any vlogging/video recording, which would have attracted more attention to myself. I did some very quick street photography and boy oh boy, it was just want I needed to regain my sanity. 

All images were shot with Fujifilm XF10, except images of XF10, which were taken with Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra. 

The Fuji XF10 was just the right camera to do the job, compact and light, and I don't need a camera bag to bring it about. It can be hidden away quickly too. I am still very new to the XF10, and need more time to get used not just to the whole new camera, but also forcing myself to shoot everything in wide angle, 28mm equivalent, which is still work in progress for me. Finally, I get to go out, and it was indeed a breath of fresh air after more than a month being stuck at home. Not that I am against shooting subjects within the confines of my tiny little depressing room, I still shoot from time to time, but street photographers will agree with me that there is something magical about roaming around with your camera, with your eyes and heart opened up to any possibilities that can happen at any corner. That excitement of not knowing what you will find, and yet at the same time knowing very well something will happen for you to capture with your camera, was a tremendous thrill in itself. There was this prominent photographer who sarcastically jabbed me by saying "if you are a photographer you will shoot no matter what". Seriously, the pain of being stuck at home is real for street photographers, and not surprisingly, he was not one. 

I just set the Fujifilm XF10 to Aperture Priority, and I set the ISO to mostly 200. When I got out of the house the sky was perfect! It was deep blue with little visible cloud. However, that 30 minutes commute to the city was enough for the sky to change so dramatically, the sky was covered 80%  in heavy clouds, some dark clouds threatening rain. That is the sad fate of shooting in a tropical country, the sky changes so quickly, you just cannot tell if it will rain an hour later even if it is perfectly sunny and hot now. I was already out, I thought why not just shoot whatever I can, lighting may not be on my side by my itch to shoot something was already unbearable. I knew I should not be lingering around the area for too long, so I made a quick round around Bukit Bintang, mostly the touristy spots, just to be safe. Hey, tourists taking photos of tourist hotspots/landmarks with a camera, nothing suspicious about that right? Not that I want to break any rule, I still practice strict social distancing, I was alone by myself, with no friends, and I wore a mask. So yeah, street photography has to happen, I just need a dose of it. 

I am more comfortable with wide angle composition now, having forced myself with this focal length only for several outings. The trick is, you need to be close enough for the main subject in your frame to appear dominant, yet at the same time, not too close else you may not work the background nicely into the shot. You still need to step back a little to consider how to fit the background, and that is the difficult part. Sometimes, you don't want that much background in your shot, or the background just does not work with the main subject. Deciding whether to proceed with the shot and find creative ways to make it work, was not easy. I am slowly learning, but hey, with all this pandemic craziness, I think time is on my side. 

Looking at the images shot from the XF10, I was quite happy with the outcome. Dynamic range was pleasant enough, thankfully the light was quite flat due to overcast weather. Despite the unfavourable light, the Fuji renders very pleasing colors, very different tones than what I normally get from Olympus, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Different is good. The 28mm equivalent lens on the XF10 is a very good lens, I get consistently sharp images, shooting subjects from a distance, all the way to super close up shots. That wide angle lens is capable of delivering some impressive close up performance - look at the Lego images. While some may complain that F2.8 is nothing to shout about, I disagree. I don't need anything wider than F2.8, for wide angle shooting I prefer everything to be in focus anyway, and I found myself shooting F4, F5.6 or beyond. However, I did wish there was a reliable image stabilization, that would have dramatically improved the hit rate of some stunts I tried to pull with slow shutter speeds. 

Of course I sat down in a hipster cafe for some overpriced coffee and ridiculously plated Instagram-worthy looking food. After being stuck at home for a month, I ought to treat myself something nice. And they look great in photos too! I enjoy shooting food almost as much as I enjoy eating them!

I hope you have enjoyed the images that I have shared here! More shutter therapy adventures to come, fresh new images to share, for sure! Wherever you are, I hope you are able to go out and shoot too. Be safe. 

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To all you beautiful readers who celebrate the Lunar New Year, here is me wishing you Gong Xi Fa Cai, and have a joyous celebration and healthy, prosperous year ahead. 

Unfortunately for me and many others in the same situation, Chinese New Year celebration this year will not be the same. In Malaysia, the lockdown/Movement Control Order is still in effect, barring any inter-district travel. My hometown is 2 hours flight away, across the South China Sea in Borneo, so I won't be celebrating at my beloved hometown this year, being a responsible/sensible citizen, abiding by the strict rules of the lockdown period. That means, I am celebrating alone, here being isolated in Kuala Lumpur, and for safety reasons, I am refraining from meeting other people here, you know, just in case. 

So what happens when you trap a photographer in a tiny room during the festive season? Well, Chinese New Year is all about red, the redder the better (more prosperity and luck). So I gathered all the red objects in my room I can find, thankfully I have decided to go more bold and bright in the past several years with my gadgets, and do some indoor photo shoot of course! And how can I not do another self-portrait?

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

My shirt qualifies as a CNY costume, right? Red enough, no?

I swear I thought I had more red items in my room, but these are all I could find. 
Book - Stephen King's Dr Sleep 
WD 2TB external hard drive
Antman figurine
JBL budget wired IEMs
Samsung S21 Ultra with Nillkin red casing
Thonet & Vander wireless portable speakers with original red sleeves
Fuji XF10 in red soft carry pouch
Logitech Spidey wireless mouse

The red case arrived just in time for the Samsung S21 Ultra!

This soft carry pouch was a wedding favor from my dear friend Amir's wedding reception!

All the redness, more prosperity and luck come come come!

As much as I value high fidelity sound, I also indulge myself in cheap/affordable audio. The JBL wired IEMs were about RM20 and the Thonet & Vander Bluetooth Wireless Speakers were about RM99. 

How are you celebrating your Chinese New Year? Are you eating all the sinful good food yet? Or have you gambled your life away? Do tell. 

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Samsung S21 Ultra Camera Review - A Photographer's Perspective

This post in a continuation from the Samsung S21 Ultra review series, and I have shared my Part 1: Initial Impressions here (click). In this particular blog entry, I shall discuss specifically on the imaging performance on all the 4 camera modules at the rear of Samsung S21 Ultra. Samsung has been at the forefront pushing the development and innovation of smartphone imaging, with use of high megapixel image sensors to inclusion of super telephoto lens in their previous flagship iterations. Having the latest Samsung S21 Ultra in hand, I was very curious to find out if Samsung has made any improvements in the camera department and of course, my thoughts generally using the S21 Ultra coming from a professional photographer's vantage point. 

After 2 weeks using this phone, I really do love how the design is!