The Rush

I remember about three years ago, when I have just returned from Perth, Australia, embarking on a new journey in a new city, Kuala Lumpur. I have just jumped into the DSLR bandwagon, and was still fresh to the Olympus E-410 and the humble Zuiko 14-42mm F3.5-5.6 kit lens. The weekend before my first day of job in a Geotechnical Engineering consultant firm in KL, I travelled down to Malacca to assist a friend, Jasonmumbles in an assignment to cover the commemorative event of Malacca acquiring its World Heritage status. The celebration ended with a bang, literally. It was the spectacular fireworks display that I was assigned to shoot, along with several other local photographers, all stationed at different locations. A big task for a small photographer who just started to get his feet wet in the world of DSLR photography, don't you think?

I remembered making the decision was not easy, because I preferred to have a calm and relaxing weekend just before the start of my new career in KL. Nonetheless, the thrill and excitement of exploring and being on an adventure was too hard to turn down. It was the RUSH that got me going. I was fresh, and I was very eager to shoot. The desire was raw, and I can clearly see my own developing passion through those early photographs.

Before the fireworks started, it poured so heavily as if it has never rained in Malacca before. Not backing down, I braved myself to step into the stormy weather and continued clicking away. My friend Frederick Yap (who is now a photographer himself as well) was kind enough to accompany me through the impossible rain and provided me little but very helpful shelter by holding a large umbrella over ourselves. I steadied the E-410 on a tripod, and did long exposure shots. Due to ridiculously harsh weather conditions, we did not relocate around much, but I did manage to shoot from a few different angles. We both got ourselves wet (so sorry Fred !!), and I could feel my whole body being drenched, even my underwear was soaked!! I got my E-410 and the kit lens fully splashed in rain water, and my camera bag had water inside dripping out as well (not a good way to start DSLR photography by torturing your gear).

I could have decided to abandon the project with the reason not to sacrifice my gear at the very last minute. It was not a paid assignment, why should I sacrifice my gear. I could have chosen to back down. I did not. Why? Was I crazy?

All images in this entry were taken in May 2008 with Olympus E-410 and Zuiko 14-42mm Kit Lens.

There Are No Shortcuts

It all began with blue skies. It was the blue Perth sky that drew my gaze so deep that it almost did not break for minutes long, as I lied down on the soft, white sand of Cottesloe beach, facing upwards to the blank, clear, open, cloudless, deep, impossibly blue endless sky. There was something about Australian blue skies that can change the way you think and feel. It was there and then that I decided to shoot more and more with my point and shoot camera, Kodak Easyshare, and the journey of my photography began.

Yes, I started shooting with a digital compact camera. Does it really matter that I did not shoot with film, or never started photography with film? I will never find out. Was my learning process somehow skewed or was there anything missing from my adventures in photography? The film purists would have a long list of argument to bring forth and defend the reign and supremacy of film photography. It did not bother me so much. Photography is photography, whichever medium you choose to shoot. As long as the shutter clicks, as long as you create an image, you have gone through the process of photography.

I did not jump straight into DSLR photography. It took me four long years of wandering in the desert, discovering myself, the passion for photography, the joy of capturing moments, and the experimentations on the technical handling of the digital compact cameras before I finally acquired my first DSLR. By the time I had my DSLR, I already knew what shutter speed, aperture and ISO settings do, and how to control them effectively to achieve my desired photographic outcome. The learning process continues, from basic photography techniques to more advanced controls and execution. There was a constant struggle of being technical and the exploration of art. I took my time to learn, step by step. I was a slow learner. It took me years and years to improve, learn and become who I am, and do what I can do today, all beginning from a single, puny, humble, 3MP no zoom, no macro mode, no AF, digital compact camera, Kodak CX7300.

I did not take any shortcuts.

All images were taken with Olympus PEN E-PL1 and M.Zuiko 14.42mm Mk1 lens.


In the midst of modern lives, where I-Pad, video-gaming and online social culture have replaced television dominion over children's pass-time, finding these boys playing what boys used to play in the backyard was a very rare, compelling and powerful scene.

Olympus E-PL1 with kit lens. Pinhole Art Filter applied

One may point out that there was nothing outstanding in that photograph. I could not agree more. There was no special effect, no dramatic presentation, no "wow" factor that pops out into your face. There was no creamy bokeh, or some over-cooked HDR rendition. Composition wise the image was arranged in too direct of a manner, and I was not even close enough to the subject to reveal the subject inside that "cage". A lot of improvements could have been done to execute this photograph better. Maybe by using a full frame camera with one of those you know, F1.4 prime lenses for that extra oomph. Then run through some special processing software to add some "National Geographic" look that could turn the children in an instant into African kids, or transforming the scene into some far away land.

Alright, I got carried away with my sarcasm, but I made my point there. Sometimes, simplicity works. Sometimes, we do not have to think too much.

A photograph may be just what it is, and no further. Try not to read it too hard.

Kampung Life

It was after work today (yes I had to work on Saturday) that I decided to bring the ever-ready PEN to stroll along the village streets, venturing into less hectic and not so tainted by modern city culture place. It was Kampung Baru, which is easily accessible from my usual street hunting ground, Chow Kit. Kampung Baru (loosely translated from Malay as "New Village") is smacked right in the middle of the Kuala Lumpur City Center, with Malaysia's landmark Twin Towers about less than a kilometer away. Strange as this may sound, the village still maintains its olden ways of life, as you can still find many wooden houses, village folks dressed in simple clothings going about their daily "kampung style" lives, and kids playing in the backyard, running wild like nobody's business. There has been a long list of issues and political struggle over this piece of land.

The reason why I chose this place for my brief photo-walk was the slow paced, laid-back and relaxing nature of the village lifestyle. You gotta admit the friendly smiles I encountered at every corner I turned to was a welcome after a long, exhausting day at work. The kids even greeted me, some thought i was from Japan or Korea. They tried to speak English to me in such comical manner (very fluent though, for their age) but I politely replied in Malay, their native tongue, and they grew even friendlier and got closer to me, allowing me to nail some close-up headshots.

All images were taken with Olympus PEN E-PL1 and the M.Zuiko 14-42mm kit lens.

She Sings

Just to share one photo which caught my attention while running through the series I have covered last night at Laundry Bar. This image of a lady singing somehow spoke out to me.

ISO2000, F/2, 1/80sec

Low light photography is so not my thing, seriously.

Silent Scenery @ Laundry Bar, the Curve

It was a great Thursday evening, that a friend's band, Silent Scenery was playing at Laundry Bar for an event called Kontakt 5. I traveled to the Curve straight after work, met up with a friend, Simon and we had a light drink at the bar just as the band entertained the crowd for the night.

Silent Scenery will be releasing their new album, titled "These Still Moments". They were playing their new songs from that new album, and gosh, it was really an awesome treat to end a full day of stressful work with great music and beer.

Please kindly check out Silent Scenery's facebook page here (click), and while you are at it, do click "like" if you like their music !! You can listen to free live streaming in their bandpage here (click).


To a Dear Friend

We have not seen each other for quite a while. I have been stationed at construction site for months now. How have you been in office?

When I asked you last Thursday during our Company Annual Dinner, you said everything was fine. In fact, you were so excited to tell me that you were looking forward to your two-week holiday to Melbourne. I told you how blue Australian skies are, and how perfect the weather is during this time of the year (spring in Australia).

Finding Beauty in Lesser Things

People have been coming up to me and told me how they admire my persistence when it comes to shooting, more specifically put, having my shutter therapy sessions. No matter how busy I am, I still somehow managed to squeeze time to satisfy that itch for camera action. I have been asked how did I find the source of motivation and drive to continue shooting week after week, without getting bored of shooting?

Well, for starters, if you love what you do, you do not get bored doing it that easily. And if you love what you do, you will want to do it again, and again.

I think the common problem that many photographer hobbyists faced was trying too hard to get that perfect shot. You know, looking for that sexy sweet young things to pose for a full on model portraiture shoot, or going to some uptown expensive fancy fashion show, or anything that can help produce awe worthy shots. It is true the subject content plays a very important role, but if your interest is solely placed into the subject content alone, the photography process will not be complete. Surely, a photograph of a beautiful girl is beautiful, because the girl is beautiful. A coverage of that incredibly famous singer on stage is easy to impress your audience, because everyone admires her talent and looks. What if you strip all those high-placed subject contents away? What if you were to just pick up the camera, and start shooting the things around you? Would you be able to capture the beauty around you?

All Images were taken with Olympus PEN E-PL1 and M.Zuiko 14-42mm F3.5-5.6 mk1

Cameras and Music

I am currently hooked to freshly released music created by a fellow Olympus photographer, Ian Davis.

I have been following his blog for quite a while now, and he has produced many impressive photographs, especially portraiture and people shots. I admire his passion for photography, and he is a living testimony that Olympus is a capable system for professional photography work.

Recently, he created a fusion of photography and music, both his passion combined together in his newly launched EP titled "Cameras and Music". I have been looping the entire album for a few days now, and I am deeply in love with two particular tracks, namely "Portrait (Ian)" and "Alone in the Dark(Room)". I am not exactly good at reviewing and describing music, but I do love how the entire album has strong photography as its main theme. Good stuff must be shared, right? Go grab yourself some fresh cool music from Ian's website. Ian, you are being too generous for making this available for free for everyone.

I have been rather busy myself lately, both with my day job, as well as photography assignment. In the midst of all the tight schedule, I made a point to myself to squeeze in a little bit of my time for some shutter therapy session. This morning, I headed to Petaling Street and attacked one of the many temples there, with a friend of course. Choon Wee was shooting alonside me, with his Leica M9. *slurp

I have had so many things going on in my mind that I wanted blurt all out here, mainly my thoughts on current photography trends. I just have too much to sort out to properly compose a complete blog entry with a consistent theme. Therefore, for this session, I will just post up the photographs from the earlier shutter therapy session.

All images in this entry were taken with Olympus DSLR E-5 and 11-22mm F2.8-3.5 or 50mm F2 macro

SuaraKami 2011

I came to know about a two part event, SuaraKami 2011 being held at Stadium Merdeka, Kuala Lumpur after doing some quick online research on the happenings during this weekend. Suara Kami is a phrase in Malay, directly translated to English as "Our Voice". The first part of SuaraKami was held outdoors at the surrounding carpark areas just outside of the stadium, which was a line-up of various local artists, including some indie talents. The second part was held at night in the stadium itself, and is still going on at the time of this writing, a full-on concert featuring local and international artists such as Nelly. I only went to the first part of SuaraKami, and left just before the second part started in the evening.

When I decided to go to this event, I had little, if no expectations at all. Sure I brought along my trusty Olympus gear, but what I really intended for this visit was to just relax and enjoy myself, after a full day of exhaustive wedding shoot I had yesterday which I travelled to Seremban and back to KL on the same day. It was a music festival after all, a gathering of some of the best music scene in Malaysia, and I do support local performing artists in whatever small ways I can. It ewas one full afternoon full of great music and I simply immersed myself in the environment of loudly pumped bass and deafening crowd cheers. There is just something about live music that gets the soul going, and the heart pumping. Indeed, indie bands and artists performed one after another, and I have even fallen in love with one of the performers in the afternoon, which I shall be elaborating later.

All images were taken with Olympus DSLR E-5 and 50-200mm F2.8-3.5 mk1.

Young Yau & Pieh Hung

It has been about more than two months since my previous wedding assignment, but the gaps in between have been filled with the Olympus PEN E-P3 and the 45mm F1.8 review works, which have taken quite a huge chunk of my time. You guys have no idea the amount of time I have spent on replying comments, emails and answering all the questions posted to me. As tiring as the review activities have been, it was very fulfilling at the same time, and I even had the chance to present in front of an audience of my reviews on the Olympus E-P3 during a Malaysian Olympus user gathering not too long ago. The response I gathered from the audience have been encouragingly positive, and I have made many new friends.

A break from my usual photography assignment has allowed me to focus on other things such as the previous mentioned review works, and of course, my own shutter therapy and the never-ending journey of self discovery. Nonetheless, the dry season for Chinese wedding is over, and starting from September onwards, I am very sure the local Malaysian photographers will have numerous inquiries and calls coming in. The break of silence happened today, this very morning, and this break is one of the first of a series of assignment to come. I was the official photographer for an ex-colleague and friend of mine, Pieh Hung, who had her wedding today. Boy, was I excited, and glad to finally get the camera to work again !!

Just Another Full Moon

Due to uncontrolled forest burning in neighboring country Indonesia and the thick haze that the tragedy brought over to Malaysia at this unfortunate time of the year, I was not expecting the full moon to be photogenic tonight. It was the Chinese celebration of Lantern Festival (some call it Mid-Autumn festival, mooncake festival, etc) hence the full moon was rather significant for us.

Thanks to some miracle, it rained rather heavily early evening, and the sky cleared up a little, good enough for the moon to shine through. Perfect opportunity to utilize my Zuiko 50-200mm tele lens !!

Olympus DSLR E-5 with Zuiko 50-200mm F2.8-3.5 Mk1
200mm, ISO 200, F4.5, 1/320sec, -0.7EV spot metering, shot handheld
100% crop from original size.

The moon did appear rather soft somehow, most probably due to the presence of the earlier mentioned haze, which is plaguing Malaysian skies right now. Now I wish I have the teleconvertor, or better that super 300mm F2.8 lens !!

I must remind myself to stop gobbling those dangerously high in sugar content mooncakes. After all, the festival is over.

I Shoot Because I Want To

Have you asked yourself why you click the shutter button, frame after frame? Why photography?

If you are shooting professionally, then photography is your bread and butter, of course this question would have been redundant. For the rest of us, we all shoot for all sorts of different reasons, some more personal than others. Some shoot to prove something to others, some shoot simply to join or fit into the crowd, some buy a camera because a camera is a cool technological gadget/gear, while some shoot to record memories. While many strive to improve and go all they can to produce that National Geographic level of photographs, they have lost sight of the important element that shaped up photography in the first place: shooting just for the fun of it.

All images in this entry were taken with Olympus DSLR E-5 and Zuiko lenses.

Jason Lioh, who was with me for shutter therapy this morning at Chow Kit. I wanted to convert this image to B&W, but realize the importance of the red lining on his lens. Hence the color remained. Heh !

Volkswagen Das Auto Show 2011

Earlier this evening, I braved the massive crowd flooding the Bukit Jalil National Stadium for the much anticipated Volkswagen Das Auto Show 2011. There were so many people I lost my appetite to shoot. I only came out with a few photos, but the look and feel of those sexy Volkswagen creatures were out of the world experience. That, coming from a non-car lover such as myself, is something rather unusual.

Weekend is here. Time to charge up the batteries and go for shutter therapy.

Someone Called My Name On the Street

It was after work today that I decided to have a very brief shutter therapy session with my Olympus PEN E-PL1, walking along Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman from KL Sogo to Masjid Jamek LRT Station. I did not have anything particular in mind, and I did not intend to fire away 100 shots. I just wanted to make the shutter click, and come home with a few photos to look at on my computer screen. As hard as it is for many to believe, something as simple as this is enough to make my day.

All images were taken with Olympus PEN E-PL1 and kit lens

Simplicity Works

One of my beautiful readers pointed out in my previous entry discussing "snapshots vs phototgraphs" that I may have over-think about the subject. Honestly, I agree with him because I have become contradictory to my own long-time belief that simplicity works best. Not that I am giving up my own principles, it is wise to keep the door open for feedback and suggestions, especially when it comes to something as subjective as photography.

I have always believed in simplicity, not only in photography but in life generally. I would consider only one main subject in a frame, placed within a simple background. One story to tell. Less complications, less distractions, and the approach may seem too minimalist to many, but I find it to complement my shooting style beautifully. Sometimes, trying too much to make that shot happen would just spoil the shot altogether. I like my photographs to be direct, clean and easy. I like my photographs simple. I am a simple person.

I shot the above image with a simple tool: my Nokia C6-01 camera phone.

No bokeh, no high ISO capability, no fixed aperture lens. No difficult composition consideration, it was straight on direct angle shot. No extra lighting setup. No endless camera setting fiddling, everything was set to auto. Spent not more than two minutes on quick post-processing to get the tone in my head into the image, performed via a simple image editing software, Google's Picasa. No photoshop necessary. The image has no hidden agenda, or double meanings to decipher. No need to over-think.

And you know what?

Regardless of what any of you may think, this is my favorite photograph from anything that I have taken in quite a long while. There is nothing special in that photograph, but I still am loving it. Yes, the image screams simplicity, and it is meant to be that way.

Snapshots vs Photographs

If you have been exploring the world of photography you would have heard many people proclaiming how important it is to produce photographs, not snapshots. I have heard this advise and reminder plentiful times, but it still puzzles me on how to properly define and differentiate an image as a good photograph from a snapshot. Generally people agree that a randomly snapped photograph, mostly captured via the "point and shoot" style without much thought would result in a commonly ordinary looking snapshots. On the other hand, a good photograph usually would come from stronger technical execution and bold artistic projection.

I believe that the line which separates a snapshot from what everyone so inconsistently defines as a good photograph can be rather thin, and blurry.

I understand that views on photography is widely open for debates, and everyone is free to choose whichever sides. The thoughts brought forth by anyone in the online photography community (which can get rather brutal and vicious sometimes), including myself are not necessarily absolutely final and 100% accurate, and may subject to individual interpretations. However, I do encourage open discussion, because only by doing so we can better understand and learn from each other (photographers thoughts and emotions while shooting) and hence, progress further in photography. Kindly proceed with a grain of salt.

All images in this entry were taken with Olympus DSLR E-5 and Zuiko 11-22mm F2.8-3.5 or 50-200mm F2.8-3.5 mk1

Burning prayers

Pudu with Blue Skies

I am still on my Hari Raya break, hence to maximize my time I spent it with lots and lots of shutter therapy sessions. This time, I went to attack one of my favourite street hunting grounds, Pudu with beautiful friends, Chun Chow, Wendy and Choon Wee. It was an unexpectedly wonderful morning with clear, deep blue sky, and the spirit for street photography was really high. It is hard to explain how it happens, but sometimes the urge and instinct to shoot come rushing in, and it was that exact moment that the photo opportunities present themselves abundantly.

I specifically wanted to utilize the Zuiko 8mm F3.5 Fisheye in this session, hence I paired the fisheye lens with my Olympus E-5. I understand that fisheye is not exactly the preferred lens for street photography mainly due to the distortion that can be quite unsightly. Certainly, technical perfection is out of the window when it comes to shooting with the fisheye lens. Nonetheless, I look beyond the stereotypical restrictions that people placed on condemning the usage of the fisheye on general shooting. Many people say fisheye lens is only suitable for that one or two shots out of a hundred shots. I pushed over this limitation by forcing myself to shoot more than 50% of my shots in today's session with the fisheye, while the remaining of the other shots were covered by my super sharp 50mm F2 macro lens.

All images in this entry were taken with Olympus DSLR E-5 and Zuiko 8mm F3.5 Fisheye or 50mm F2 Macro

Coffee Shop
8mm, minor distortion correction applied.