Getting Close with a PEN

After shooting a while with the PEN E-PL1, I can safely say that people (my street subjects)  are generally feeling less threatened and more warm towards me approaching them, especially in close shooting range. Not that I was having that much trouble in the first place with the gigantic E-5, but PEN somehow draws smiles and welcomes quicker and more effortlessly. Perhaps it is the small sized factor and cuteness that people would not think too much about, because people equate large black DSLR as serious business. Obviously, people feel more relaxed around small cameras, hence being able to get very, very close to the people I was shooting on the streets really opened me to a whole new world of opportunities.

Most of them know I was shooting them directly, and I did not even have to ask their permission. All I did was looked at them directly in the eye, offered a generous smile, which most Malaysians would politely smile back, thus there and then I would attack them with the PEN, since the friendly connection has been established. It does not work all the time I admit, but I did get most of the shots I wanted with this simple, straightforward and fuss-free approach. In the case where rejection was encountered, I just continued smiling, and moved on. One door closed, another surely would be opened. Leave that behind, and move on to the next opportunity. Attack the next victim. This worked wonders with the cute PEN, and I am growing more and more in love with my E-PL1.

All images in this entry were taken with Olympus PEN E-PL1 and M.Zuiko 14-42mm Mk1 kit lens.

Such mesmerizing gaze. I sure hope he does not lose it as he grows up.

Mother figure.
Shot at ISO3200, the limit of the PEN E-PL1 under heavy shade.

Lounging at the backalley carpark.

Heavy pushing.

A bike and a man selling fruits. So what is those two have no connections or whatsoever?

A gathering of some sort.


Yes, I can get this close with PEN. Considering I was using the kit lens, this was rather a satisfactory headshot.

Camwhoring with PEN, life rocks.

Of course I cannot escape from many imperfections coming from the camera, such as slow autofocus, less shortcuts for quick controls and settings. Not to mentioned the ever not so friendly 14-42mm which is rather far from what I can normally do with my high grade 4/3 DSLR lenses mounted on the mighty E-5. When I looked pass the complains and whining, I actually found out that the PEN was sufficient for most of my shooting needs on the streets. Yes, there is that lack of bokeh which I could die without, or the longer reach of a tele-zoom, but for most of the shortcomings, the PEN would counter back with something that the E-5 could not offer. Nothing is perfect, but being able to live with the imperfections, and working my way around them is important to train myself to be a better photographer. Getting that ridiculously expensive Leica or full frame cameras would not turn me pro overnight either.

It was after work, that I decided to attack my favourite hunt, Chow Kit. Olympus PEN E-PL1 and the kit lens did the job splendidly, and I could not ask for more. Since it was late evening, the sun was dying, I had to boost up the ISO setting, yet the outcome was not too bad at all. Most importantly, it was a shutter therapy session which I find very fulfilling. I inched very close to my subjects, created very brief connection, exchanged smiles, made small talks and unexpectedly cropped out few bursts of laughters: those moments were truly refreshing and joyful at the same time to cap off a truckload week of work stress.

Weekend is here. Oh wait, now I have to work full day on Saturdays. Shucks. No shutter therapy till Sunday. Oh well. Life goes on.


  1. Nice series, and always refreshing!

  2. Interesting opinion regarding being "threatened" by the large DSLR. Maybe the body language of the photographer is even more responsible. Just a few days a ago a friend of mine (neither anxious of me nor of my cam) told me that I hold it like a gun. But hey, that's the way it is to be held. Forward stance, elbows tucked in, shoulders rolled forward and the face almost completely covered by the camera. If you'd took my SLR away and gave me some boxing gloves, I could be in the ring as well - looking not so friendly.

    How relaxed must the photographer look in comparison, when he/she operates a camera via the screen...

    Rgds, Zed

  3. Hello Alf,
    Thanks !!

    Hello Zed,
    I agree with the importance of body language. However, there are times when people already felt threatened even before I pointed the camera at them.
    I am speaking merely about street photography. Do take note that shooting through the viewfinder adds to the threatening factor as well. Also, people usually regard large camera users as reporters or journalists.

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