Tuesday, June 15, 2010

An Opera Show

Warning: Heavy loading photographs in this entry.

So what have I been up to last weekend? It must have been one of the most fulfilling weekends I have had in a long, long time. There were many reasons contributing to this sense of overwhelming fulfillment, and one that seriously stood out was none other than an opportunity to attend a Chinese Opera Show, and given the privilege to go backstage shooting the dressing and make-up during the pre-show in action.

Yes, I know you will start rolling your eyes, Robin Wong, at a Chinese Opera? Has the sky fallen down? Apparently not yet !!

It was an invitation by a dear friend Janice who had a friend being so active in the Chinese Cultural Opera Performance. There was this charity dinner with open invitation to the crowd, and the money you pay went directly to the orphans as well as the Chinese Cultural Society (of Performing Arts). Besides raising funds for the orphanage, this event also served as a platform to further promote the traditional Chinese Arts and Culture to the public. I mean, come on, you guys are most likely goo-goo-gaa-gaa-ing over Lady Gaga and Beyonce, instead of giving a chance for our proud art and tradition, for instance the Chinese Opera Performance, right?
Thank goodness I am no fan of Gaga. I think she is weird.

This was probably my first time watching a full set Opera, and I must say, I was enjoying it to bits.

I arrived early, together with Janice and her hubby, Jeremy and we stormed the backstage, shooting at the preparations the performers were doing before the show. It was quite interesting witnessing the process of the overall preparation. The make-up were fully done by the performers themselves!! They did make up on their own faces, and they helped each other out with hairs and finishing up donning the apparels and accessories. I was told that the costumes and majority of the accessories came directly from China, hence the look and feel of authenticity were never lost. There was this tone of intimacy and togetherness amongst the group of performers, probably a knit being bonded over long years of working together. They all seemed to be able to read each other’s minds, and I was really impressed by their synergic thinking.

Onto the stage, there were three main Acts. The first one I shot the least, because my stomach was already killing me and I was dying to eat since the first course was being served. The last two rounds I did more shots, especially so on the Third Act. The Third and final Act was the most interesting one. With more actions such as sword swinging, and most notably the emotions overflowing from the characters, ranging from sadness to rage. I have been dying for some stage action for quite some time now, and I know many of you have grown sick of my Fashion Shows right? Well, yeah this is something rather fresh for you people, and I do hope you guys enjoy it.

I have got to love Olympus, really. A dear friend Brandon Eu has reminded me of how much he misses Olympus colours, something which I have taken for granted all these while. On this particular night, I could not help it but to really open my eyes to the splendid colour tones being captured by my Olympus. I have tried so with many other camera brands, you may argue and disagree as much as you like in this matter, but you just do not get such pleasing skin tone, vibrant and lively colours at the same time. Mind you I am only using an entry level DSLR and very basic lenses, which most professionals would have frowned upon seeing such noob-ness. Nonetheless, Olympus colours have never failed me before, and even on most difficult lighting situations they never disappoint.

I have chosen to present my photographs more similarly towards my older color scheme. There was a time I really wanted my colors to pop out, and being as vivid and striking as they can be. Until I read somewhere in the internet that oversaturation is not a good thing, and will be a trend that dies off eventually. Sometimes I can be such a foolish believer. I should have followed my heart instead of what is being voiced out there so blindly. In my mind, and my heart, I have always adored colors. I love bright and cheerful scene, and impactful strong tones of colors. Maybe growing up watching Disney cartoons and movies have shaped me towards such love for colors, but for a period of time this had defined the characteristics of my shots. For some unknown reasons the “technical perfectionist” voices all around me have gotten the best of me and forbade me to go on with that color trend. I photograph not to be technically perfect, but I want my photographs to express my thoughts and feelings.

In my mind, this world is full of colors. So, shall be my photographs.

My primary lens for the night was the old 40-150mm F3.5-4.5 Olympus Zuiko tele-zoom lens, which until this day remains my favourite. Though the reach was not exceptionally long, but the additional brightness of F3.5-4.5, and the slightly wider angle of 40mm made up for it. All photos were shot with Aperture Priority, with no flash aid (except the backstage photographs). I was able to achieve reasonably fast shutter speeds to freeze almost all movements shooting at ISO400 (at few occasions I bumped up to ISO800) and I relied on the spot metering and single area focusing, carefully targeting the faces of the performers on stage. The exposure came out a little overexposed this time. Somehow, you will notice some highlight burning problems on the white dresses, and areas that are white. The contrast level on the stage due to the harsh spot lighting rendered the highlight clippings unavoidable, especially on my Olympus camera which is known to have limited dynamic range. Nonetheless, looking past all those technical crap, I am happy that the faces are all in focus, and movements were properly frozen.

Who needs 10000000 metering zones, or 10000000 focus points? If you know what you are doing, spot metering and single focus point would give you the most reliable results.

I know some people will come and say “hey this Robin is brand worshipping again”. Come on guys, is it really that wrong to show a little appreciation to my trusty and faithful camera and lenses? Is it such an unforgiveable sin to love a camera?
Do forgive me for flooding this entry with too many photographs. I originally intended to split this to two or three entries, but by doing so, I am dragging this event into probably one week long. While many bloggers would take this golden opportunity to fill up their slots for the whole week and relax for not having to look for other materials to blog about, I on the other hand have different outlook. I just want this entry to be out as soon as it can be, and I want to write down my thoughts as fresh as it should be.

Now comes the question, what was I doing at a Chinese Opera? I do not understand Chinese Language. True, but in contrary to popular belief, I am still a very pure Chinese. Though I may choose to live my lifestyle in probably not so traditionally Chinese, but I am fully aware of my origins and roots. I have always been fascinated by Chinese Opera shows. My reason for being in this dinner (besides the obvious photo opportunity) was mainly to support the cause of promoting the awareness to the public regarding our precious Chinese Art and Culture. Also, it was charity, and being me, I do try (note the word try? I have learned from someone significant that if you use the word try, it means you are not really doing it… I wonder how true this is) to be a good person. And I get to spend time with a colleague, catching up and getting to know her and her hubby better.

The way I see it, charity, great food (Shark Fin OMGGGG), time spent with friend, helping to promote Chinese Arts, and… best of all, shutter therapy (yeap this qualifies as one)… it was like killing 5 birds with one stone !! How much better could it get from this? You tell me.

So yeah, Chinese Opera for Saturday night. Even my mum was stunned to find out I was there. And I dare say, this will not be the last time.


  1. Thks for sharing, Robin. The colours are great!

  2. great stuff dude, i don't think you are worshipping a brand... you did stuff that other people can't achieve with it..Keep it up!!!

  3. hey jc,
    thanks!! I have been a little more adventurous on the colors in this entry.

    Hey Wong,
    Thanks for understanding !! Not many people would see it that way though ahaha...



  5. hey LKM,
    I dont have the power to ajak man !! My colleague ajak me one !! If I can i put up in forum already ahahah