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
Things that grow on roadside.
Windows open to the sky
Paper thin blanket
In this session, I was armed with the Olympus PEN E-PL1 and a single lens, Panasonic Lumix 20mm F1.7 pancake lens (thanks to kind Luke who allowed extended use of this beautiful lens). Here are a few things about this particular shutter therapy session:
1) Composition Variation
I find myself composing my photographs very, very differently when I use the Live View on the camera's LCD screen, in comparison to the usual look through the optical viewfinder. When I use the viewfinder, I tend to move myself a lot closer to my subjects, human and non-human. I somehow fill more into one frame, leaving less negative space. I think this has something to do with the psychology of seeing the LCD screen on the camera. Usually, as I review the photographs, I will have to look at the LCD screen, and it is the final product that the camera delivers after you make the shutter click happen. Therefore, looking at the LCD Live View, it sort of pushed me to thinking that has to be final, and I will compose it in a way that I will not crop, or have minimal cropping at the post-processing stage. As opposed to the composition through Optical Viewfinder on my E-5 or E-520, I will leave some negative space "just in case" I needed to do some "horizon-straightening" or cropping. Also, on the LCD Live View, I did a lot more weird angles, such as low angle and high angle shooting.
2) Shooting JPEG at Widescreen 16:9 aspect ratio
I have shot all my images in JPEG in this entry. The JPEG engine on PEN E-PL1 was fantastic, delivering great colours and resolution. On top of that, I have used the new aspect ratio of the month which is the widescreen 16:9. Shooting with this aspect ration made me think differently when I compose too, somehow, it created the cinematic feel, and the presentation felt a lot more dramatic than the original native 4/3 aspect ratio. Not that I favor any one over another, I do admit that it is important to shoot at native 4/3 sensor ratio in order to maximize the full use of pixel resolution. This was just a personal shutter therapy session, and perfection is not what I sought after. I wanted to try out something unusual from my normal practice. The 16:9 seemed refreshing. What do you guys think?
Don't worry, I am just experimenting here, I shall return to my usual style.
What a aharp knife you have?
To better cut your heart out my dear !!
Luke with his deadly 25mm F1.4 Leica.
Whatever that was it looked damned delicious.
Like mother like son.
He makes roti canai too.
Open market, Pudu on Sunday Morning
Green is green
3) Learn to trust the camera more.
One of the restrictions that many photographers faced when they are shooting most of the time would be the amount of mistrust they have towards their camera. Yes, it is true that to take full control of the camera, you need to do full manual exposure controls, you probably need to do manual focus, and control the light by introducing artificial lighting such as flash, etc. Human loves control, and we hate uncertainties. By controlling the camera manually, setting dozens of camera settings to suit each shooting conditions with varying lighting, white balance and nature of subjects can be exhaustive. The worse consequence was not the exhaustion, but the amount of effort and time wasted on setting up the camera, instead of REALLY shooting.
Learning to trust the camera means allowing the camera to do certain tasks for you.
Yes, you cannot leave everything to the camera, because the camera does not know what you want to do and the outcome you intend to accomplish. Photographer input to the camera is important. Instead of shooting fully manual, Aperture Priority and Programme Exposure modes can help to eliminate one or more parts of the variables off the the big confusing equations of photography settings. Let the white balance be on Auto. Your camera will get it right 95% of the time. What? Your camera has wacky, unreliable and lousy white balance that you need to manually set it all the time? Try Olympus. I rarely find the need to fine tune my white balance, even in the harshest lighting situations. No joke here.
I know, I know your camera has 500000 focusing points for you to choose, but seriously, to go through all the points to select the one you intend to use, will indeed waste your time. K set the focusing point to center, and use the "shift the camera after half-press of shutter button recompose" technique to quickly nail down my shots. Yes, the focusing is not 100% accurate, but its close enough.
I set my camera to Aperture Priority, ISO200, shooting at widest aperture F1.7 most of the time, and used center point focus, on center weighted average metering, and I went snapping away happily without worrying about any hiccups or issues. I probably did fine-tune there and here, but the main thing I want to emphasize here is the liberty from spending too much effort and time adjusting camera settings and worrying about which controls work better for each subjects. I trusted the camera, and it did not fail me. It is not 100% accurate or fully reliable, but hey it is close enough to what I wanted to accomplish, and it is good enough.
This dude asked me to take a photo of him as he saw me walking by with a camera.
Kelvin and his E-P3 and awesome 20mm F1.7 lens.
Such dreamy gaze.
Luke enjoying his apam balik. Now I regret not getting it myself.
Whats inside the blue pails?
Waiting for customers.
Most photographers have that "the more is better" mentality. The lower the F-number, the better the lens is. The higher ISO setting with less noise, the better. The more dynamic range, the better. The sharper the images, the better "cough cough cough". The more accurate the colors from the natural perception, the better. The faster the Autofocus, the better. The more frames for burst continuous shooting, the better. The bigger the camera and the lens are, the better!! The more money that the camera can make, the better! The more sexy chicks that the camera can attract, the better.
Seriously, the craving to go for something more and more and more powerful has to stop at some point. There is no end. The lust will just continue to consume and destroy the essence of photography. There is NO perfect camera and there is no one camera that can do everything. What is more important is to fully understand your camera, maximize its full potential while working around its weaknesses to accomplish your photography vision.
What if you do not have that F1.4 lenses? What if your camera is slower, and not 256MP in resolution? So what if your friend can shoot at ISO 1000000? There is a reason why limitations exist, they train us to work harder, to think differently, and to push through the obstacles with our photographer's instincts. We overcome difficulties with creative solutions, we do not buy our way out in every single problem.
Having this thought in mind, I left my Olympus DSLR E-5 at home, and just used the PEN E-PL1 with the 20mm pancake this session. Yes, the autofocus was painfully slow. The shot to shot time was annoyingly not smooth, and the sharpness and overall image quality of the image is not on par (because of E-5 and high grade Zuiko lenses can deliver better resolution on the whole). I was stuck with 20mm, not exactly the best focal length in my preference for street shooting. Honestly, I did feel less confident with the PEN E-PL1. Then, I told myself, all that should not have been excuses not to make good photographs. Your photography equipment restrictions should not restrict you to shoot. You do what you can with what you have on hand, and you should exceed your own limits by doing so.
5) Blue skies are fabulous.
I think I have said this many times, but having blue sky today really did wonders to my photographs.
Blue, blue sky.
Kelvin testing out a Fuji X10. Buy Buy Buy !!!
It was a great shutter therapy session. I get to shoot, spend time with friends, did some deep thinking, and enjoyed myself thoroughly
And I am starting to love the Panasonic 20mm f1.7 pancake lens more and more