Speaking of Composition

The one important aspect in photography that separates the outstanding photographers from the others is none other than composition. Even if you have mastered the technical execution to maximize the best output your camera, with all the creativity in post-processing, and having the best possible subject and photography opportunities in the world, but if the composition adopted was not successful to bring out the best potential from the photograph, the image would still fall short from being excellent. Yes, composition is that important, it is either you make it, or break it with the composition you choose to execute in your photography style.

There are so many guidelines and rules available, written again and again by different photographers over the decades on how to compose a subject, and create a photograph. I have read a dozen or so guidelines, and to be honest, I did not quite remember much from what I have digested from my research, and the only one rule that I remember and actively applied all this time is the classic Rule of Thirds, which has proven to never fail in most situations. Interestingly, I have received numerous praises and noteworthy positive comments on my composition techniques of my photography work that I have displayed on this blog, but to be honest, there was never really any composition technique to begin with. I did not have any specific formula to follow, or some strict guidelines to adhere to in composing my shots when I go out and shoot. I do not exactly think that my shots exhibit any unusually creative or out of the ordinary composition, they were mostly pretty straightforward, and nothing special. Nevertheless, from the many feedback I have gathered, it is clear that my composition works for my photography style to a certain extent, and I believe it is more crucial to share what goes on in my mind when I am composing my shots, rather than the non-existent rules or guidelines that I follow. I do have some “to-go-through” list of items to consider while I am composing my subjects, and I shall share those considerations in this blog entry.

All images in this entry were taken with Olympus PEN E-PL1 and Panasonic Lumix 20mm F1.7 pancake lens.

Kay Tee & Kimberly

It was a long weekend which was much looked forward to, mainly because there were a few events lined up and anticipated for, and one of them being an Actual Day Wedding assignment, which I had the privilege to help out and shoot alongside a friend, Jason Lioh (the official photographer for the day). This particular assignment was more difficult than usual, mainly because interstate traveling was involved, and we had a really tight schedule. We took a bus down to Malacca on Friday night, stayed overnight and readied ourselves the following early Saturday morning by 6am. The Bride's house was in Malacca, and by noon we had to travel back to Kuala Lumpur to the Groom's house. Through all the hectic and rush, I did have plenty of fun, and this was one of the most expressive couples I have shot in a while, with plenty of laughters and emotion bursts throughout the day.

Since Jason Lioh commented that my previous entries were rather too length and become uncomfortable to read, well, lets keep this one simple and short. I shall just let the photographs to the talking instead.

All images were shot with Olympus DSLR E-5 and Zuiko Digital lenses: 11-22mm F2.8-3.5, 25mm F2.8 pancake and 50mm F2 macro.

Sudden Need for Shutter Therapy

After work today, I rushed down to the city to run some important errands and settle some urgent matters. In the midst of rush and time-chasing, I felt the sudden urge to whip out the PEN which I carry with me all the time these days, and started snapping away. After finishing up all the items I had in my to-do list, I looked at my watch, and there was enough time left for some shutter therapy action, before the sun went down. It was already approaching sunset, and the light was dying fast. Without wasting much time, I did what I could, no matter how brief the shooting session was, it was done at my own pace. And I enjoyed myself thoroughly. At the end of the walk, I felt, recharged and refreshed.

All images were taken with Olympus PEN E-PL1 and Pansonic Lumix 20mm F1.7 pancake lens.

Sunset sky

Hello Andy Pang

Had dinner with a few friends ealier this evening, which extended to a mamak teh tarik session.

All images in this entry were taken with Olympus PEN E-PL1 and Panasonic Lumix 20mm F1.7 pancake lens.

For the Love of Olympus

'I am a great believer in product… we make world-beating cameras, wonderful lenses, sexy-styled bodies’ – Michael Woodford, ex Olympus CEO. (source here).

Many of my readers have sent me emails, and some even commented on my blog, asking my opinion and thoughts on the current drama happening over in Olympus Japan, suffering the crisis of financial scandal that has received much undesired negative attention world-wide. I was reluctant to comment on the issues, mainly because we do not yet at this time of writing have solid evidence and full story on what actually happened. Everything is still under probe and investigation. So far we have only bits and pieces of information there and here, and it is saddening so see everyone so quick to come to such horrific conclusions and speculations. Whatever truly happened, the damage has already been so extensive, I only wished things did not turn out this bad for Olympus. However, after reading what Michael Woodford, the ex Olympus CEO said in his interview with the Amateur Photographer (UK) as quoted earlier, I felt something stirred inside of me. Yes, I agree whole-heartedly with him: Olympus did make world-beating cameras. Yes, Olympus has many wonderful lenses. And yes, Olympus camera bodies are sexily styled indeed!!

I am a proud owner of Olympus cameras and lenses, and I love them all. I have used them all extensively, as I have generously shared my photography work throughout the past few years on this humble blog of mine. I am here to tell you all that I love Olympus still, and I will continue to support this beautiful camera and lens maker in whatever small ways that I can.

All images in this entry were taken with Olympus DSLR E-5 and 25mm F1.8 pancake lens, or 50mm F2 macro lens.

Practical Photography

We have all heard the famous saying by Robert Capa: If your pictures aren't good enough, you aren't close enough.

Very true. However, if you get too close to the lion you might get your head chewed off. That is also true.

All the time we hear tips and tricks on how to improve photography, we read books on certain photography techniques, we do our research online on that cool DIY flash diffuser setup, and we are eager to implement all the knowledge and theories into our photography workflow. Sometimes, we just have to sit down and think a little bit, and distinguish which is practical, and which is not. Being a practical photographer can save us a lot of time, effort, and of course, prevent our heads from being chewed off by the lion.

A huge part of the artistic and technical process of making photography happen involves being practical all the time. This requires the photographer to prepare, adhere and troubleshoot with practical mentality when it comes to a shooting session, whether it is a paid assignment or simply for leisure. Being practical means being sensible, knowing whats best, deciding what is important, and practicing what works and avoiding what does not. Practical photography encompasses the gear setup, shooting process/techniques, expectations.

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

Ping Pong Balls and Highway

I was assigned to a an inspection task along a running highway, and I had the rare opportunity to walk along the highway which is restricted to normal pedestrian access. I walked a total of more than 6KM (both sides of the highway together) under hot afternoon sun, recording down defects or any issues observed on the highway. Not exactly one of the most glamorous job in town, but I did get to enjoy the KL view in my slow walk.

Images in this entry were taken with Nokia C6-01 camera.

Kuala Lumpur

found a goat under the highway, while I was inspecting the piers holding up the highway.

I did not have any camera with me (except for the office camera for documentation purposes), and I did not carry my own camera around for safety reasons. I whipped out my phone, and voila, there it was, a camera !! Who cares if it is not high resolution, who cares if it has lousy colours (the colours are so unbearable I had to convert the images to monotone), who cares if I cannot create bokeh. I just snapped away the beautiful view of Kuala Lumpur skyline.

During my walk on the highway, I have had time to think about a lot of things.

I felt as if I was a ping pong (table tennis) ball. I am being tossed around all the time, sometimes, I am being screwed, sometimes I am being smashed. People will never care if I get dented or broken, they just whack the ball as hard as possible. After all, how much does a ping pong ball cost anyway? Although the ball is important for a game (admit it, without a ball, there is no game), but the ball can be easily thrown aside and be replaced by a new one.

Man, life sure sucks being a ping pong ball.

Happy Birthday Yeow

It was one unsuspecting Tuesday night we decided to have a get together session, not just an ordinary chit-chat yum cha session but for a surprise birthday celebration for a dear friend, Yeow Chin Liang. He has been an important friend to many PEN Lovers, and he is the backbone of this group. He has always been vividly active and encouraging members of PEN Lovers to shoot more, share more photos, and most importantly, spreading the poisonous GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) amongst ourselves. His catchphrase (which many of us would use frequently as well) is "buy buy buy!!!"

All images in this entry were taken with Olympus PEN E-PL1 and Panasonic 20mm F1.7 pancake lens.

An Actual Day Wedding Photographer's Challenge

One of the basic requirements for most wedding photography assignment in KL, mostly relevant for Chinese Wedding ceremonies on actual day coverage, would be creating a photo-slideshow comprising images taken from the morning session of the wedding ceremony. The said photo-slideshow presentation is to be produced just in time for presentation to the guests during the reception dinner, which usually happens on the evening of the same day.

Many local wedding photographers would find this photo-slideshow to be a huge challenge, worrying about whether they have enough time to complete the photo-slideshow presentation before the dinner. I faced the similar problem as well on my latest photography assignment last weekend. The shooting assignment started at ungodly 5.30am in the morning, and the whole morning was killed off by the preparations, brother-sister war, the traditional tea ceremony at the bride and groom’s place, etc. As the final itinerary of the day ended, it was already about 2.30pm, and I have to depart to the dinner location at 5pm. Arriving home at nearly 3pm, that left me about less than two hours to create and complete the previous mentioned photo-slideshow presentation. This was not looking very promising, because on usual other assignment I had the entire afternoon (at least 3-4 hours) to complete the slideshow.

Nonetheless, I cranked up my speed and I did what I had to do.

Same Day Edit Photo-Slideshow (for reception dinner presentation)


For optimum viewing please watch the Youtube Video in full 720p resolution.

Shutter Therapy at Pudu, Again.

I have come home from a wedding assignment last night rather late. It was an exhausting full day shooting which started at ungodly 5.30am, and it stretched the entire day until late night, and I have squeezed out every ounce of energy left in my body to finish up this session. As I got home, the first thing I did was transfer the photographs, did some backup, and while the backup was running I took a quick shower, and after that, I lied dead on my bed until morning alarm screamed. My body begged me to sleep in but my heart wanted to spring out of my room into the streets for some shutter therapy good times. God knows how cranky Robin can get in the following week if he does not get his usual dosage of shutter therapy on his weekends. Heh!!

I took a train down to Pudu to meet up with two friends, Luke and Kelvin. We had a quick breakfast, and after that we attacked the streets of Pudu like we never attacked any streets before. I know, I know, some people will think I am crazy. A full day shooting wedding, and most people will just put the camera away and wont even think about clicking the shutter button for a while. Me, on the other hand, have a very different opinion. As I have spent my all shooting for other people, to balance it up, I need to shoot for myself only, thus the shutter therapy session to counter the draining effect of the photography assignment. Yes, it gets exhausting thinking about camera settings and composition angles, but you see, if you truly are putting your whole heart into photography, your focus would be the outcome of your photographs, not your camera settings and composition angles. The focus should be on subject content, and the initial intent even before the photography process began: what are you shooting, and why are you shooting

All images were taken with Olympus PEN E-PL1 and Panasonic Lumix 20mm F1.7 pancake lens.

Stuck on Mum's back

Simple Things Make Me Happy

Side Note: Thanks Yeow and Mun Keat for the kind gesture, I really love the gift you guys brought all the way from Taiwan. You guys made my day.

Just a simple gathering with friends, with some minor gossipping good chattering, catching up on each other's ilves, having some gear talk and sharing thoughts and exchanging ideas on all sorts of issues, while blurting out-of-proportion laughters loud enough to shatter the window glass, these simple things make me very happy.

All Images in this entry were taken with Olympus PEN E-PL1 and Panasonic 20mm F1.7 pancake lens.

Simon Leong (click) and the sexy red leatherish skin on his Olympus PEN E-P3.

An Afternoon Walk by Myself

It was a public holiday and I felt very lazy, not wanting to travel too far to the city center, and not wanting to stay still inside my room either. Hands were still itchy and not being fully satisfied with the few previous shutter therapy sessions. Hence, still wanting to play with the loaned Panasonic Lumix 20mm F1.7 pancake lens, I mounted it on the Olympus PEN E-PL1 and just started roaming around in a park very near to where I stay. It was in the afternoon, the sky was cloudy, with mild breeze, making it quite a comfortable walk.

Did I have anything specific to achieve in this session? Not exactly. Can you say that I was walking aimlessly? In a way, yes. However, I did want to snap some photos, to a certain extent, I want to see what this Panasonic 20mm pancake can do in good day light. Nonetheless, the laziness kicked in, and I was too engrossed with the slow and peaceful afternoon walk I did not exactly worked the camera out much. I did snap a photo there and here, but hey, sometimes, you just have to put down the camera, and smell the fresh air. Well, not that we get that much fresh air in Kuala Lumpur, but you get what I mean. Being trapped in the delusional world where everything is viewed through the viewfinder (or electronic live view on the LCD/OLED monitor) can be intoxicating and exhausting at the end of the day. So yeah, it has become a relaxing walk, a stroll along the park. With loads of thoughts flying around in my mind.

All images in this entry were taken with Olympus PEN E-PL1 and Panasonic Lumix 20mm F1.7 lens.

Red amongst the greens. Standing out is not easy. You allow people to attack you.

Batu Caves

I had made a promise with friends Anston and Fattien for a macro shooting session. However, Fattien does not have his macro lens with him hence we decided to make a quick change of plans. We were all eager to shoot, and our hands were unbearably itchy for some shutter clicking action. I suggested Batu Caves, and much to my surprise, they both agreed !! Hence, after a quick breakfast, we drove all the way to Batu Caves for our Sunday shutter therapy.

Batu Caves is one of the many tourist attractions in Kuala Lumpur, and is a significant landmark that carries immense religious importance for the Hindu populace in Malaysia.
Here are some excerpts from Wikipedia:

“Batu Caves (Tamil: பத்து மலை), is a limestone hill, which has a series of caves and cave temples, located in Gombak district, 13 kilometres (8 mi) north of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It takes its name from the Sungai Batu or Batu River, which flows past the hill. Batu Caves is also the name of the nearby village.

The cave is one of the most popular Hindu shrines outside India, dedicated to Lord Murugan. It is the focal point of Hindu festival of Thaipusam in Malaysia.”

If you happen to stop by KL for the first time, you might want to consider this as one of your shooting destination, lots of friendly people, and the limestone cave itself is a marvel to look at. The location is very accessible from Kuala Lumpur city center, about just less than an hour drive away (taking into consideration of the massive traffic jam we get here).

All images in this entry were taken with Olympus DSLR E-5 and Zuiko 25mm F2.8 pancake lens (for most shots) and 8mm F3.5 fisheye lens (for wide angle shots)

I tell you, for some weird and unexplainable reasons, kids love me.

Panasonic Lumix 20mm F1.7 Pancake Lens

Luke Ding was kind enough to lend me his Panasonic Lumix 20mm F1.7 pancake lens for my usage on the streets. Thanks dude !! You rock.

Before I moved on allow me to clarify that this is NOT a review of any sort for the Panasonic Lumix 20mm F1.7 lens. I have had the rare opportunity to extensively tried this lens on and I shall share my honest opinion and points of view while shooting with it on my street hunting sessions. The main reason why I did not want to push out a user-experience review is simple: I was using the pancake lens on my own Olympus PEN E-PL1 body, and I strongly believe that to bring out the len’s full capability, you will need to mount it on a native Panasonic Micro 4/3 body. The Af speed and accuracy, the lens distortion and CA correction view in-camera software and overall compatibility may not be fully optimized for the use with my E-PL1 body, hence the images produced from my shooting may not accurately represent what the lens should be doing at its best. Hey, lets just set aside all the boring technicalities, and start to just really, really enjoy using the lens, shall we? I surely did not want to have a thousand and one considerations running through my head as I used the lens for the first time, I just wanted to have fun, and having plenty of fun I did with this wonderful lens.

So cute !!

Embracing Imperfections, Chasing Simplicity

One of the issues growing as a photographer is trying too hard to be perfect. I may not speak on behalf of professional photographers or "those-who-have-been-in-the-field-forever", but as a developing and learning photographer, I see myself falling into the traps of wanting to be perfect or doing too much to avoid mistakes. Then it comes to a stage where the process of shooting becomes too stressful, because the checklist of "to-do items" and worse, the superbly long list of "what not to do"have dictated the overall shooting experience. Keeping in mind at all times the rules and regulations of what is supposed to be a good photograph and acceptable practice in getting the right shot can be rather daunting and exhausting at the same time, and it slowly saps away the joy of shooting in the first place. Oh dear !!

The more you read, the more you explore the advanced techniques of photography, the more you know, the more confused you can be. Imagine, before clicking the shutter button, you are haunted by so many things happening in your head all simultaneously at once, how to compose the subject, which aperture to choose to achieve adequate field of view, the right ISO for the right lighting to minimize the digital noise, is the shutter speed fast enough to freeze motion, is the light coming from the right direction, how was the white balance compensated for the stray colour cast, am I standing too near, should I zoom in, should I use wide angle instead, how do I get my subject to look at me without giving me that awkward stare, what if I was standing at the side instead… goodness gracious the list of considerations go on and on and on can be rather scary when you really went through my train of thoughts. Then the traumatizing questions started to kick in, did I miss anything in the “must do” checklist? Back to square one, we are.

Trying too hard and too much at one time can be disastrous, and hey, where is the fun of shooting?

All images in this entry were shot with Olympus DSLR E-5, mostly with Zuiko Digital 50mm F2 macro lens , and a few with 25mm F2.8 pancake lens.

The sky was green. Cross Process Art Filter applied.

Sony Alpha 77, a Close Encounter

I was out having dinner with a group of cool friends. Everything was fine until a Sony Alpha 77 popped out of Jack's camera bag. Then I realize my saliva was dripping all over not because of the food, but for obvious camera lust.

The Sony Alpha 77 is a beast. The electronic viewfinder is fluid, and very clear. At 2.4 million dots resolution, and very high refresh rate, I must say it was rather astonishing. The autofocus was very fast, though we were in a dimly lit Old Town Cafe, and the high ISO shooting performance up to ISO1600, tested and previewed on location was rather impressive. Overall handling of Alpha 77 was very good, the grip was substantial enough for good balance even with larger lenses (there was a Minolta 70-200mm F4 AF lens), and the weight of the body was lighter than my own Olympus E-5. Oh my did you see how the LCD monitor screen can tilt and turn? This camera is truly an interesting package, showing how ambitious and how forward thinking Sony truly is. Just a brief encounter with this latest camera from Sony can tell you why Sony has had a strong history and steady footing when it comes to electronics market and branding. Their innovation is unquestionable, and they know how to push the right buttons on the consumer demands.

All images (unless otherwise mentioned) was taken with Olympus DSLR E-5 and Zuiko Digital 25mm F2.8 pancake lens.

In Loving Memory of Olympus 35mm F3.5 macro

In case some of you guys who only started to follow my blog recently, you may not know that I previously used to own the Olympus Zuiko Digital  35mm F3.5 macro lens. I must admit that letting the lens go was one of the hardest decision I have ever made.

Spending time looking through old photographs I have made in the year 2009, I cannot help but to marvel at the capabilities of the 35mm macro lens. It has 2:1 magnification ratio (when used on 4/3 sensor), captures amazing details and sharpness, has really realiable autofocus even shooting at close distance, yet was so reasonably priced, possibly the cheapest fully digital and autofocus capable macro lens in the market. It is so difficult not to love this lens. I have had countless adventures doing macro hunting throughout my limited time with the lens (spent almost a year with it), and I have learned a great deal about macro and photography in general through this lens. It has taught me much, and it has been a huge part of my learning process. Those of you who have not picked up macro photography, do not even dare to brag about technicalities and mastering the camera controls. Seriously, pick up macro photography, then we will start talking.

All images were taken with Olympus DSLR E-520 and Zuiko Digital 35mm F3.5 macro, with the external flash FL-36R, in the year 2009.

Who says you cannot get bokeh at F3.5?