Ramadan Night Bazaar with PEN

It is the month of Ramadan, a holy month for the Muslims to observe the fasting practice, before celebrating the Hari Raya on the first day of the following month. During this particular Ramadan month, stalls and bazaars are being set up everywhere, selling all sorts of merchandise such as Hari Raya clothings, accessories, house decors, and all sorts of festive themed food. All the stalls and tents set up were done in a night-market style, or what the locals here would call "pasar malam". I happen to pass by one of the longest Ramadan Bazaars around the city at Jalan Masjid India on my way back from work every day, hence it was only natural that one fine evening I would arm myself with the PEN that I carry everyday to do some shutter therapy there. I did it earlier this evening.

All images were taken with Olympus PEN E-PL1 and 14-42mm Mk1 kit lens. Noise filter: Standard.

Who does not love bokeh?

A vendor in a temporary collapsible tent.

"Buka puasa", meaning breaking fast together with family inside the tent.

I did not expect this uncle to allow his photos to be taken, but when I approached him, he was all smiles.

Most of the stalls were run by youngsters. Quite an interesting sight.

A boy in an island of slippers.

Joy in a Night Market.

The peace sign.

This was my first time shooting all out with the PEN out in the open at night. The lighting condition was far from what any photographers normally could consider ideal. The lighting was very dim, and I needed to bump up my ISO setting between 1600 to 3200 to achieve enough shutter speed. There were mixture of all sorts of weird lighting, coming from strong warm tungsten to greenish fluorescent, with different shades and intensity. The fact that I was only using the kit lens with variable aperture opening from F3.5 to 5.6, instead of my usual DSLR gear that provided the flexibility of shooting wide open at F2.8 or F2, was quite a disadvantage to work with. Under difficult, dim lighting, the E-PL1 does have trouble locking focus, and sometimes, it refuses to focus at all, or focused inaccurately. While the shooting conditions and camera performance may sound frustrating to a certain extent, the shutter therapy turned out to be quite an enjoyable one. I do not think the outcome was that bad at all.

Shooting high ISO was not Olympus' best fight, but up to ISO1600, the E-PL1 really produced pleasing images. Although noise was present, but it was so well controlled, with small negligible traces of chroma noise. I can live with luminance noise, which added character to the photograph, and can be easily smoothened away if I needed to, in expense of details of course. Even at such high ISO, the resolution and details captured were still quite acceptable. Color rendition was superb, and I have no issues at all. Skin tone was surprisingly consistent and pleasing, even under horrendous multiple casts of light sources. There really is very little to complain about the image quality, but so much to like.

Plastic expression

Just after the rain.

Another young vendor. Selling drinks.

Baju Melayu, a traditional Malay costume usually worn during the celebration of Hari Raya, after the fasting month of Ramadan.

Another close up of a very young vendor at the bazaar.

Pushing it.

I really like the way he looked into my lens !

Cheap, yummy, but unhealthy dinner.

An important mode of transport to go through the narrow paths along the Bazaar.

It was an unplanned shutter therapy session, something that I just decided to make happen there and then on the way back from work, a spur of the moment thing. I did not know what to expect from the Ramadan Bazaar, as I seldom visited one. Little did I know, people here were all so friendly, and all smiles greeting me and my cute PEN. I think there is something about the way they look at me (or my camera) that made those photos, different. Maybe I am imagining things, but those street portraits are being shot at a close distance, since I was only using the kit lens. The eye contact, the way the subjects looked at you, does affect the overall outcome of the photograph.

Do bring your camera to the Ramadan Bazaar in your next visit !! You never know, you might bump into great photography opportunities there too.


  1. Thanks Encik Senyum !!!
    How have you been man? Long time no see.

  2. Once again you are a living testimony that it's not about the gear, it's about photographer's skills. You can consistently produce better results with a very cheap kit lens + E-pl1 than pros with Nikon D3 or Canon 5d Mk2. :) Well done, my friend! Almost everyone can produce good photos two-three times a year. But it takes great skill to be CONSISTENT.

    I always say there is nothing wrong with reasonable luminance noise - it looks great when printed. But heavy noise reduction almost always looks ugly. Photographs with heavy NR look more like bad paintings. In print it is especially bad. I'm all with you - there is nothing wrong with luma noise! People today stress over nothing, because in print luma noise is almost never a problem.

  3. BTW, those ISo1600 shots look very good (in my eyes overall quality is BETTER THAN E-p3). I wouldn't hesitate one moment using ISO1600 on that PEN :)

    I prefer images coming out of the E-pl1 to much pricier E-p3.

  4. hello bartosz,
    thanks for your kind comments, I really do appreciate it.
    I strongly agree with your take on the luminance noise not being an issue. I only wish more people see it this way.
    however in all fairness, I did not shoof with the ep3 under similar circumstances. actually I subjected the ep3 to a far worse lighting, in a night bar. to say ep3 is not better than epl1 is not juafifiable because I can honestly tell you that the epl1 is almost useless without flash in the bar, while the ep3 works wonderfully, even up to iso3200, and many cases 6400 to freeze movement.

  5. Well, I do like your photos very much. I have the E-P1 and Lumix 20mm. Maybe you should experiment a little with the meting on your cam. Often I use the spot-shadow meting and then +1.5 or +1.7 EV in dark places. And I prefer not to go above iso 640. Then you can catch more the feel of the moment in those dark situations. If you let the cam take care of the exposure, the machine always tries to make a photo well exposed like on a bright summer day.

  6. Hello Frank,
    Thanks very much for the compliments and feedback.
    Metering is an interesting issue to discuss. While I do agree on fine tuning the exposure to get the balanced exposure, but I do think adjusting Exposure Value (EV) to anything on +1.7EV means something is not right in the metering in the first place.
    Spot metering is a powerful tool, but it is not an easy tool to apply in real life shooting situations where lighting changes every single spot you point to. It is much safer to stay on center weighted average, giving an approximate value, though not as accurate as spot metering, it allows quicker response and less chance of error.
    I understand you prefer darker tones to the night images. However, some people (like my dear reader Bartosz) would complain about lack of detail in the shadow region or perhaps, why are the photos all "underexposed" due to the presence of too much shadow.
    Again, how you present your metering outcome of your photograph is of your own individual preference. Generally, people are more accepting when they see a bright image corner to corner, than underexposed images.

  7. Well, let's say you have to photograph a face near and only lit by a candle light. Then, the face and the flame of the candle should be well exposed, the rest of the frame can be in darkness. That's capturing the mood. That is not under-expose the dark regions in the frame. And that can be done very well with my method. If you know what I try to say :)

  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

  9. Hello Frank,
    I strongly agree that to properly capture the right exposure for your described candlelit image, the camera metering usually will over compensate.
    However, using the center weighted average, you can also set the exposure value to -1.0 EV or more, until the desired value is obtained, Alternatively, some may suggest that you can set the aperture, shutter speed and ISO settings manually (for absolute control).
    Therefore, the choice of technique is actually the user's preferences, to achieve his/her vision. There really is no fixed formula.

  10. Robin,

    Really solute your passion in street photography! Agreed with Bartosz about you utilizing the E-PL1 to it's full potential. If throw a set of Nikon or Canon full frame, I belief you will excel the same; if not better. :)

  11. hello.xuenphotoz
    thanks for the compliments!!! I appreciate it. but I cant afford full frame cameras haha. hence my current gear will suffice.. but I cant afford full frame cameras haha. hence my current gear will suffice.

  12. You can afford it actually. Come, we go 'yam cha', I'll estimate & calculate the minimum cost of full frame for you. Hahaha...... My old problem to 'poison' friend again. Just teasing you. Full frame or not is not really important. Afterall, the experience of changing to full frame is sweeter, if the person wants it himself. No point 'poison-poison'.

  13. xuenphotoz
    feel free to poison me anytime!! I love full frame cameras too, but yeah, gotta save up, and that will take a while. it is true though, the experience is sweeter if the poison comes from within!! xuenphotoz
    feel free to poison me anytime!! I love full frame cameras too, but yeah, gotta save up, and that will take a while. it is true though, the experience is sweeter if the poison comes from within!!
    yum cha any evening I am free!

  14. hye robin i`m new on this scene.. but really like ur pic..

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