Shutter Therapy Overdosed

UPDATE on E-M5's "humming noise" (2 April 2012)
It has become a hot discussion pertaining to the "humming" sound emitted by the Olympus OM-D E-M5. I have received quite a number of email asking me this in the past few days. Initially I did not notice the humming sound, until Sanjit (the friend who did the videos with E-M5) pointed the sound out to me, when we were in a very quiet room for our voice over works. We have asked Olympus Malaysia and in their response the "humming" was due to the New 5-Axis Image Stabilization mechanism. Though we turned the IS off, the humming sound was still there. I did not highlight this in my earlier reviews because I did not think it was anything significant to report. It did not in any way pose  consequences to the photographs or video recording work that we did. I seriously think that the assumptions and fantasized stories have blown out of proportion, and to me, honestly, the "humming" is inaudible in most situations. I do not see this to be of any problem at all. 

I think this past weekend has been a marvelous one, the most enjoyable I have had since a while ago, simply because I have had a healthy dosage of my shutter therapy sessions, perhaps a little more than usual. In my previous entry I have shot in Petaling Street for two sessions. Usually I only have one or the most two street shooting sessions in the weekend, but this time, on top of the previous two sessions, I went for another two sessions, one in Pudu with a dear friend Jack, and another one in Bukit Bintang with Luke and Johan. Call me crazy, but I think life is too short not to get the camera out and shoot as if tomorrow will never come. And God knows how much shutter therapy was needed to patch back and compensate for the traumas I have had over the one week long full time day work. 

In this entry, I shall just present my set of photographs, and in addition to that, I shall add in some small tips and descriptions on how I made the shots and why I think that made the shots that I like. Do keep an open mind and understand that my opinion is purely subjective, and are formed based on my own preferences and shooting style, which may not be fully accepted by everyone. Feel free to disagree, or have your own stand. As we all know it, there is no right and wrong for photography as a whole, and the pointless debate is just getting obsolete on how to properly define a good photograph. Sometimes I get so tired and fed-up on reading how people can pick on the mistakes, flaws and imperfections on the photographs they so willingly critic, but seldom have we seen people who actually see the good in the photographs first. It is so easy to find faults in everything, that is only human. I agree, to learn, we have to make mistakes, and learn from them to improve further. However, to improve, we need to have the right motivation and inspiration. We inspire and motivate ourselves through the good that we see, not through all the negativity !!

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

Chinese Chess.
I like to explore interesting angles, instead of just shooting plainly from my eye level. Many times, I would go low, but in this particular shot, I strongly believe that high angle works best, because to me the main subject in attention is the chess board and pieces. 

One of my faults when I shoot in any occasion is moving in too close, having a shot that becomes too tight. These days I always remind myself to take a step back and leave some negative space. We are all trained to go as near as we can, but sometimes, being too close is not the best solution. In this photograph, the packaged materials in the background and the over-hanging goods add a lot of interesting details surrounding the man in sarong. Of course, low angle helps a lot, and I used the swivel screen, shooting with wide angle from the floor level. 

When I am on the street, I always look for subjects that are "eye-catching". Usually those subjects come in the form of repetitive lines, patterns, or contrasty colours. Such as this lady in the above photographs, she was wearing bright blue flower patterned shirt with equally matching bright blue pants. On her hands are contradicting colors of grocery bags in vivid red and orange. Such strong colors against the dull and colorless background made the subject pop up instantly. The naturally exhausted expression of the lady completed the shot nicely. 

Indian Man
One of the favourite things I do is to go VERY close, and shoot tight headshots of my subjects. The way to make this work, is the expression on the face. It has to have a certain quality to it, may it be pleasingly friendly, or aggressively scary. These are the qualities that set apart normal portraits from the good ones. I generally like my subjects to have that "engaging" look, hence the eye contact is very important to me. I would snap at least 4 to 5 shots, with 1-2 seconds pauses in between shots, and you can see that their expression might change from shot to shot. I pick the most natural expression out of the lot. 

Look at the time
Shooting an unstaged or unposed scene on the street is what many older generation photographers would define street photography. I personally do not care that much on what the true definition is, as long as I am on the street shooting and happily enjoy myself silly, that is all that matters. In this shot, the natural, unposed/unstaged condition actually worked well. If they were to look at me directly, the outcome would have been different. 

Basket by the tricycle
I encourage people to shoot inanimate subjects. Yes, street photography is all about people and people and people, but seriously, when you present a set of photographs, sometimes the things you found in the surroundings can add very interesting characters into the series. Even without having people subject in this shot, you know that a basket is used to hold things (vegetables, goods) and the tricycle is a mode of transport for goods. This shows that a market place is probably nearby, a precursor to your shooting location, without actually showing it as a whole. 

Under the stairs
For many people shots, what made them truly work is the facial expression. May it be natural or posed, the facial expression is the key to bring out the impact in the people subjects, no matter how you photograph it. The expression is a book that reads emotions, truths, and stories, easily understood just at one glance.

 Fried Spring Rolls
Instead of just stationary subjects and people, having action shots will keep the series dynamic. Shooting people in the midst of their everyday activities is also a strong part of street photography. In this case, the fried spring rolls and the lady may be complementary on each other, but it was her action of stuffing the plastic bag with the spring rolls that made the scene more natural and "believably real". 

An empty bucket
There are many composition tips which may have been repeated over and over again everywhere, but when it comes to framing, not many photographers (new ones, especially) pay attention to it. The opening of the shop-front is a good framing to draw the attention to the girl and the white bucket she is carrying. 

Angry Birds 
When I shoot people, I do not just blindly point the camera at whatever people I met. I chose my subjects based on interesting features and characters. In this case, the way this lady dress. The bright red shirt with matching apron, and the Angry Bird cap all stick together nicely. 

A man's Umbrella
I used to only have one subject and one background, creating very simple images. these days, I try to incorporate more than just one subject. Having multiple subjects is definitely more difficult to arrange, and the subjects should work together well. The umbrella is in the fore front, making it a dominant subject, while the man was standing behind, counting money in his hands. Since the umbrella was so huge in the image, one may wonder, why was there an umbrella, then the blown highlights all around the edges answers the question: it was a VERY hot day. Is it not interesting all these tiny details come together and reveal parts of the truths imprinted in the image?

Ham Chee Peng
Who says you can't shoot food on the streets? Food is probably my favourite shooting subject, no argument on that !! If you can find people selling food, why not add the food into your set of photographs? Some people claim that "If you can smell the street, your photograph is good". I want to take it a step further !! If you can TASTE the street, then your photograph is MUCH better !!

Jack and his beautiful Sony A77. What a sexy creature that is. 
Just a shot of my friend who was with me shooting at Pudu in the morning. That is one wonderful camera, if you ask me. Even Kirk Tuck loves it (though he has got his reservations, but hey, where can you find a perfect camera?)

Baby and Fountain
Kids are possibly one of the easiest and fun thing to photograph. They are easy to approach, and they have the most genuine and sincere facial expression you can ever ask for. I guess it is their innocence that made the photographs of them stand out from the rest. 

The Mickey Family
Spotting a theme and repetitive pattern is not an easy thing to do, when quick reflex comes into the equation. My friend Luke spotted this scene, and I was quick enough to react. Shooting from a distance with my 50mm has preserved the "natural" expression and look in their faces. 

Moving Kid
Photographs are known as stills. They are understood as being static, and not moving. Adding movement in the forms of motion blur, in the case of the above photograph, a panning shot actually created dynamics for the otherwise, dull and uninteresting still. The overall of the frame is blur, but the most important thing is to keep the main subject clear and sharp. Panning human shots is not easy, because of slower walking pace, and I used 1/15 sec shutter speed, shot at shutter priority at ISO100 for this shot. IS off of course. 

Girl and DSLR
Shoot what catches your attention, and you can't be wrong. If that subject you come across managed to grab your attention, it should be a good enough photograph to grab your viewers attention. What attracted me was the bright red shirt she was wearing (how can that not?) and of course, the fact that those two grils are using large DSLR. Mirrorless or Compact System Cameras is still not exactly the mainstream choice of camera here in Malaysia. 

Hello Nikon
Alright, I am guilty of pixel-peeping. This is a 100% crop of the previous image of the girl in the bright red shirt. Well, in all fairness, I only wanted to see what camera she was using. Although the camera was slightly out of focus (the focus was on her hair actually), you can still clearly see the D5000 and Nikon wordings on the camera. One of the advantages of using Olympus system, you get MORE depth of field. 

Looking out
Subject isolation is not an easy thing to do. Nonetheless, putting the subject against a large background, with nice interesting looking structures can work well at times. I just wished that the taxi was not there !!!!

Afternoon Sun
This was just a reflex shot as I was walking by the tourist. I did not even know what she was holding on over her head, I thought it was some random paper. However, as I reviewed the image, I noticed it was a map, and that gave her away as a tourist. Photographs are strong mediums to reveal such tiny details. You can't lie too far. 

Being Sincere
One of the most popular style of street photography is to find a good "stage" or background, and you wait until something comes along, jumping into the "stage" and you snap that "decisive moment". This is probably my least interested style of shooting. It is funny, because if street photography is not supposed to be "planned" or "staged", then how can this pre-arranged setup qualify as street photography? It makes not sense to me. Though the scene may be natural, but the approach is questionable. Nonetheless, I am perfectly fine with this, because my own definition of street photography on its own is questionable. 

Umbrellas in Motion
Instead of background blur, sometimes having a clear, sharp background as your main subjects and the forefront being blurred due to motion can create an interesting variety of shots. It does not matter if my front subjects are blur, because you can still clearly make out the shapes of people and the umbrellas they are holding. It was under hot mid-day sun, hence I used an ND8 filter to slow down the shutter speed. 

When it comes down to any kind of photography, it is crucial to have a series of photographs that is diverse and complementary with each other. They should run together with a strong theme, supporting each other and go towards the same direction. However, variety is an important element to spring interests, and prevent your images from appearing too repetitive or boring, How to you create diversity/variety in your images? Use of different focal lengths, playing with the shutter speed to capture motion blur (panning shots), going all wide to capture the surroundings, going all in as close as you can to have tight shots, and shooting all different age categories (old, young) are just a few examples, the few tips that I have in mind when I attack the streets. At the end of the day, your choice of subject is still very important. What caught your attention, what moved you, and what you love to shoot are all good subjects, making great photographs if you put your heart in shooting them. 

It has been a very fruitful week, meeting lots of friends and having my must-have shutter therapy sessions. Can't wait for the next weekend to come to have even more !!


  1. Better and better mate. This set has your usual class of street photos but you have evolved some movement techniques and different angles. Bravo!

    1. Hello Ananda,
      Thanks for the kind comments. Nolah, I don't think it is called evolved la...ahahah.. but slight improvement I guess.

  2. felt like a therapy session, just by looking at your pictures....TQ..

    1. Hello Amir,
      You in KL? Lets go !!

    2. ya, hope that i can fulfill your invitation, lately i have been busy with my study.

    3. Amiruddin,
      Lemme know when you are free. I shoot on weekends only, every week.

  3. Noise of E-M5 is this:

    Robin, other theme is real E-M5 confirm focus with manual lens without confirm chip need?
    Many thanks

    1. Please leave a name when you comment next time.
      I did not use any manual focus lenses. Sorry I cannot answer your questions. Many users have received their EM5 starting from now, I am sure online forums will be useful place to get more info.

    2. Make less noise than my E-P2 sensor. I am sure I will not be shooting in the quiet of night, or anywhere else there is not some background noise.

      Great shots again Robin. Thanks.

    3. Hello JimD,
      Even if it is very quiet, the turn of dials and the click of shutter are more audible than the almost non-existent "humming" or "whirling" sound. It should not be an issue at all.
      Thanks for the kind compliments !!

  4. Robin, Wonderful images from the street. You live in such a vibrant city. Just wanted to chime in and say that since Sony issued firmware 1.05 for the Sony I no longer have any reservations. It's a great camera to shoot with and the EVF is beyond my expectations. Thanks. Keep up the good, good work.

    Kirk Tuck

    1. Hello Kirk !!
      Always very happy to hear from you !! Thanks for the kind compliments. My friend Jack did tell me about the firmware update, indeed it has improved and solved many issues.
      If you do stop by Malaysia do let me know. Will surely bring you to some of those streets.

    2. and Kirk, please update your blog soon. April 10th is too long of a wait, we are all dying of thirst waiting for your update.

  5. Nice photos ans sharing on your opinions ;)

    Saw someone familiar in the last photo ;)

    1. Hello Scott,
      LOL !! We should go shoot together next time !

  6. Robin, thanks for your update. I curious, do you hear a difference between the fanlike noise when the camera is set to video mode, and when the camera is set to a stills mode (like A or P)? I can hear quite an audible difference on my unit. The hum noise of video mode, as you correctly pointed out, is so low it's hard to hear at all unless you press your ear against the camera. The 'shaaaaa' whooshing noise when the camera is set to stills mode sounds like a gentle fan to me and is clearly audible in a quiet room amongst other background electronics.

    1. Hi Michael,
      I only noticed the noise AFTER all my review works was done, and I was in Sanjit's studio for voice over works and in that room it was very quiet. I did not notice the sound at all when I was shooting, but then again my shooting locations were all outdoors !!

  7. another great set, pa' Cik

    just curious with "indian man" pic, can you share the setup of that photo ?
    i want to know how many zoom that you use & f/? to make that bokeh or did you take wider pic & crop it or you just put a lens on his face (if you do, do you ask for his permission?)
    i want to learn about portrait photography & its a good one

    oiya...great new blog setup...*like*

    1. Hello Konikonaku,
      Thanks for the compliments !!
      For the "Indian man" portrait, I did ask permission, and he responded with a gentle smile. I was possibly standing less than 2 meters away from him. I used the 50mm F2 macro, shot at wide open F2. Focus was on the eye of course.
      There was only very minimal crop, to rid of the distraction at the right of the frame.

  8. Robin, wonderful street imagery. I recently went to India and Singapore and did some street photography/Shutter Therapy myself. Your images remind me a bit of Singapore. I will post my images from those countries in the coming weeks and months.

    In the meantime, here are some shutter therapy images from the Rodeo in Austin, Texas. I used 3 cameras, Olympus E-PL1 with 20mm1.7, the E-PL1 with the 45mmf1.8 and the Sony NEX-5 with the wide-angle adapter.
    Rodeo Austin — tradition, variety and visual richness

    1. Hello atmtx,
      Thanks for the kind compliments !! Malaysia is very similar to Singapore indeed, we have many similar culture and practices, mainly because we have large local Chinese communities here.
      Thanks for sharing the photos, they look great !! The rodeo was very vibrant and lively !!

  9. Nice set mate! It was very enjoyable just standing around in one spot! Lol

  10. Great shots Robin! Very inspiring. I need a session myself soon.

  11. Awesome pictures Robin ! and the sarong picture is the most epic. did you bend down to take the shot ? 'Cause the man has that "is he trying to look up my sarong" look. tee hee

    1. Thanks beetcchiealien,
      I was on floor level, using the swivel screen on E-5 to shoot from low angle with live view. I was at a respectable distance away from him LOL

  12. I love those two lenses (11-22mm & 50mm), and.. the E-system and the E-5 in particular, of course!

    Really gorgeous site, very intimate, informative, full of colors and joy.

    Congratulations, Robin!

    Daniel, from Montreal

    1. Thanks Daniel for the kind words.
      11-22mm and 50mm will always be my favourite, I am glad you feel the same !

  13. Stumbling by your blog ... Awesome photos with great knowledge sharing .. !!! Tonight I have learn a lot .. !! Thank u ~!

    1. Thanks k@hy3@n,
      Glad that you found my sharing useful !!

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