Olympus M.Zuiko 75mm F1.8 Review: Coming Soon

I was contacted by Olympus Malaysia earlier this week, and I have just received a loaned unit of the much raved about Olympus M.Zuiko 75mm F1.8 lens for review purposes this evening. 

Image above taken with E-5 and 50mm macro lens. 
Low Key effect achieved by using wireless flash, with the aid of a small torchlight shining directly on the lens to create the reflective glass surface. 

To go along with the 75mm lens, I was loaned the SILVER version of the highly acclaimed Olympus OM-D E-M5. I shall be bringing these babies for test shooting this coming weekend, and I promise to do my very best to push out my blog reviews of the 75mm F1.8 lens soonest possible. 

Do check back here soon, as I have mentioned before, exciting times coming ahead !!

Having Fun with the Cheapest Lens I Could Find

Confession: I bought a new lens. I just could not help the itch to get this tiny, cute little creature when it was advertised in the local buy sell directory for photography equipment, and as soon as I saw the post I immediately fired an email to the seller, and there and then I booked a meet-up session, which was just last night. It was the CCTV Lens 25mm F1.2 C-mount, and the lens comes with C-mount to Micro 4/3 adapter, meaning I can instantly mount the lens onto my beloved Olympus PEN E-PL1 and take it for a spin right away. I did just that, immediately after work today, I went to Kuala Lumpur city area and had plenty of fun shooting with this dirt cheap lens. How cheap? On Ebay, you can probably get it below USD30, no kidding !!

All images in this entry were taken with Olympus PEN E-PL1 and CCTV 25mm F1.2 lens, unless otherwise mentioned

At wide aperture F1.2, you can get bokeh even when shooting wide angle. 

Less Talk

I had a lot of things going on in my life lately, having visitors coming from other states, taking up unusual photo assignment (Marathon and Prom night, never knew I would be shooting those) and I just did not have the time to sit down and sort out the thoughts in my head. In the midst of all the happenings and hectic schedule, I did cramp in a little time for shutter therapy, which was desperately needed to keep myself sane. 

So here goes, some photographs from last weekend's shutter therapy, with less words so the photographs can speak louder. 

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

The crazy bunch I was shooting with

First Experience Shooting a Prom

I was shooting for Jason Lioh, a friend photographer who acquired a rather unusual assignment this time: a Prom Night for a prestigious college in Malaysia, Kolej Tuanku Ja'afar. Why unusual? Prom is not exactly a very widely practiced tradition in Malaysia, and we only get to see them mostly on American TV dramas. The Prom was held in a grand ballroom of a Five Star hotel, The Westin Hotel which was situated at Bukit Bintang, the heart of Kuala Lumpur. I have been covering really odd assignment lately, including shooting a marathon and getting myself drenched wet in rain last weekend, so shooting a Prom night should really add to the continuity of unusual stuff I have been doing lately. 

In this blog entry, I shall be sharing some of my favourite photographs from the night, as well as my experience first time shooting a prom. It was not exactly anything that far apart from covering a wedding dinner reception in Malaysia which usually do happen in a reception hall anyway, but of course, in a different type of event, the challenges faced have been rather different too. 

All images were taken with Olympus DSLR E-5 and Zuiko Digital Lenses 11-22mm F2.8-3.5, 50mm F2 macro and 50-200mm F2.8-3.5 (non-SWD)

The Grand Ballroom  of Westin Hotel KL. Do take note of the available ambient light, which was constructed of very unpleasing colors for people photography. It was unfavorably dim too. 

Night Shooting with a Visitor from Brisbane, Australia

About a week ago, a stranger added me on Facebook and asked me for the recommended place to develop film and digital scans in KL. Since I have almost zero knowledge on film photography, I asked around some of my friends (amazingly many of them) who do shoot film, and I gave the preferred shop for film development to him. On late last Saturday, he messaged me again through Facebook, saying that he went to Chow Kit earlier on the day, and he has sent his film for development. I was shocked when I found out he was at Chow Kit, because on that very same Saturday morning I was also shooting there with my friends !!

Shaun (now no longer a stranger) from Brisbane, Australia is a very dedicated Olympus shooter, he has been shooting with Olympus, starting from the OM4-Ti days, and when Olympus went digital, he has had almost tried and owned all the incarnations of 4/3 system DSLR bodies, going all the way back to the first generation E-300. It was indeed very refreshing to see another person so crazy into Olympus stuff. He also had recently acquired the OMD, which unfortunately had to be sent away to Olympus Service Center for servicing (something is wrong with the sensor, producing only horizontal lines), but the good news was, Olympus Malaysia was very kind to offer him help, though the OMD was purchased in Australia. Another great fact that I found out about Shaun was that his favourite gear setup was the Olympus DSLR E-5 and the beautiful Zuiko Digital 50mm F2 macro, which happens to be my staple weapon of choice these days on the streets. He strongly commented that he has spent about ONE full year shooting with just the E-5 and the 50mm, and he had produced many amazing photographs with the setup during his travel, as well as his underwater adventures. 

Knowing that Shaun loves street shooting and he is an Olympus fan much like myself, we met up at Pavilion last night, together with some of my usual shooting friends, Luke and Kelvin, and of course, we had a brief shutter therapy session at Bukit Bintang streets. 

All images were taken with Olympus DSLR E-5 and Zuiko Digital 50mm Macro F2

Shooting a Marathon

It was a lazy, hazy Sunday that I was on a photo assignment shooting for Nigel Sia (check out his amazing video work here), the main videographer of the day. We were covering the Marathon event organized by TM, and alongside me I was partnered with Jason Lioh. There were many challenges that we faced in the shooting session, and of course, a lot other unexpected turn of events. 

We arrived at Dataran Merdeka at ungodly just after 6am in the morning, and it was before sun rise. As we reached the shooting location the area was already filled with runners warming up, registration in progress and the organizers busy setting up the place. It was a rather demanding event, our tasks include shooting the runners randomly on the filed posing with placards, shooting the invited celebrities (and any other random ones that decided to just show up), catching the start of the marathon, and the most difficult of all, running alongside runners and get them to pose for the camera. It was a rather physically challenging task to me since I am not exactly at my best shape at the moment (note to self: time to pay attention to fitness and do away with the chips). 

All images were taken with Olympus DSLR E-5 and Zuiko Digital lenses 11-22mm F2.8-3.5 and 50-200mm F2.8-3.5 (non SWD). 

Body art

The Hazy Sun

I was on an photo-assignment last Sunday, a very hectic yet fulfilling shooting session it has been. I shall probably talk about this assignment in my following entries. I was stationed at Dataran Merdeka early morning, even before the sunrise. Sometimes, I believe being at the right place and at the right time, opportunities will come find you. All you have to do is get yourself out there, open your eyes, and really see what to photograph. 

KL Tower, the second tallest structure in Malaysia, after the KLCC Twin Towers. The sun was glaringly red due to the thick haze in the air. 

The weather has been deteriorating, the haze is getting worse. With such poor air quality, it is not really good for street shooting. I might have to tone down my shutter therapy sessions. Or perhaps find something else to photograph instead of going outdoors and being exposed to the polluted air. 

My Custom Black and White Processing

I have been receiving questions on this blog as well as almost a dozen emails asking me about my black and white photographs. I shall share what I did with my photographs, but do bear in mind that what you saw on my blog are not exactly good examples of black and white photographs. Those photographs are just plainly post-processed in a way that I wanted them to look in certain manner, to suit my own personal vision on how I want my photographs to look like. If you use any of those photographs and show in any photography forums, I am sure they will be bashed and would not pass any criteria of good B&W photos at all. 

1) All photographs were shot in RAW
2) All photographs were converted to monotone via Olympus Viewer 2 software (picture mode: Monotone)
3) At "Color Balance", I added RED +6 to +8, GREEN +1 or +2 and minus BLUE -2 to -3. 
4) At "Hue & Saturation", I played with the hue slider (add green cast or magenta cast), saturation and lightness until I get the balanced look that I had in mind. 
5) Overall on the photograph, I boosted the contrast, and adjusted the exposure balance accordingly. 

The most important thing to keep in mind is that no all photographs can be processed with a fix set of settings, hence paying attention to individual image is important. The above guidelines are just very simple and rough indication on how to achieve the look on my B&W photographs. Alternatively you can use Sepia tone, but I never liked how the default sepia conversion looks. If you are using something more powerful like Photoshop or Lightroom, you may use the similar settings as I have described above. 

All images were taken with Olympus DSLR E-5 and Zuiko Digital 50mm F2 macro lens. 

The Cat Knows

Quick Run with Panasonic Leica 25mm F1.4

I was excited when Luke Ding agreed to lend me his beautiful Panasonic Leica 25mm F1.4 for a run with my Olympus PEN E-PL1, so we, together with another friend Scott attacked the streets earlier this evening. Initially I intended to do a very short review, including some thoughts on my shooting experience and image quality of the 25mm F1.4 lens. However, while shooting I noticed that the lens, in combination with my E-PL1 has some back focusing issues, and it was proven right when more than 50% of my shots were missed focus after inspecting the images on computer screen. I shall refrain from making any comments on this lens, until I have sorted the focusing issue out, which could just be an isolated case anyway, and lets not make a big fuss out of this. 

Nonetheless, I have salvaged whatever images that I could use from the earlier shooting session, and just present them here like my usual shooting session. It was quite a fun lens to use, and I must admit, the 25mm field of view is VERY useful indeed on the street. 

All images in this entry were taken with Olympus PEN E-PL1 and Panasonic Leica 25mm F1.4 lens. Take note that some images have slight back-focusing. 

Be calm, street photographer at work

Break the Rules, When You Need To

Sometimes, I wonder how some hardcore photographers can have very restrictively narrow perspective when it comes to street shooting and the methods accompanying the execution in the field.  If you search on Street Photography How To you would probably find millions of Dos and Don'ts all over, many which contradict each other, and many more that are probably not even relevant to street photography itself at all. Rules and guidelines serve as initial drive to push us forward to move toward certain direction, but once we are on the streets shooting, we should follow our heart, and decide which path we want to take. If we constantly adhere strictly to the rules, I am afraid photography will no longer be fun. 

Photography as a hobby, is meant to be fun. It is supposed to be enjoyed by the photographer. 

That is why, sometimes, it is ok to break some rules, if you need to. Breaking the rules that are being set by others, or the rules that you have set for yourself. 

1) Use Flash When Necessary

We all know that flash is not the best friend when it comes to shooting portraits, especially when it is not bounced or diffused with some sort of expensive large panel softboxes or fancy gigantic umbrellas. The final outcome would be harsh, and undesirably, well... ugly. True, but shooting on the streets, your subjects are not supermodels anyway !! So why worry about the oily skin or imperfections that the flash may amplify? Of course we are doing all that is technically viable on the street to make our subjects look good, but when you need to use flash, in that particular moment, just pop up the built in flash (or external flash if you have one and do not mind carrying it around) and fire it to save your shot. 

E-520, 25mm pancake, Internal Flash

Spaces in Between

Malaysians will surely understand what this image is trying to say. If you are not from Malaysia, I will be surprised if you can see it.

Street Runway

I have been receiving a consistent trend of feedback from my Malaysian readers and friends, and they consist of both photography related comments, as well as non-photography related responses. I was told that I have portrayed Malaysian streets and citizens rather... how would I put it... in a depressing and miserable sort of way. With lots of homeless people, beggars, and all sorts of other social issues and difficulties which are rather rampant in this beautiful country of mine. I, as a photographer, do what I can to capture those truths that many chose to ignore. However, Malaysia is still a beautiful country, with beautiful people, and I love it to bits. I have often been requested to shoot at more "urban" streets, at places where people do not look so displeasing!!

I have been exposed to all sorts of weird street photography trends lately, and some of them have made ingress towards my own shooting style unexpectedly. I have also widened my circle of street shooters, sharing and learning from more local photographers, when it comes to shooting. It is interesting to be see, learn and experience the diverse culture and variety of styles being adopted in street photography. It is prudent to always keep an open mind, and explore new things once in a while. I am particularly drawn to a few friends lately, namely Luke Ding and Scott Chung, and they attacked BEAUTIFUL subjects in particular. Of course they shoot the streets like any other street photographers do, but their choice of subjects were beautiful !! It was so refreshing to see their work after going through my own shots (which is full of ugliness on the streets, ok lets not go there), where they showcase the completely different and opposite of what I have been shooting all along. 

Since I have been tagging along them for quite a bit recently, I have been intrigued to see what they see, and shoot what they shoot. 

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

Shutter Therapy = Passion + Fun

Had a brief shutter therapy this morning with my mates, and I came across this nice wallpaper along the streets at Pavilion, KL. I instantaneously asked Luke Ding to photograph me with his spanking Nikon FE2. Yeap, photographs of me shot in film. 

When I saw those two huge words on the wall, all I could relate to was what I have been doing all along: Shutter Therapy, which essentially is driven by my passion for photography, and wanting to have fun at the same time. 

Shutter Therapy in Wonderful Kuching

I have been away from Kuala Lumpur and my beloved blog here for more than a week. I was in my beautiful hometown, Kuching, and spent most of my holidays with dearest mum (went shopping and eating and visiting relatives together) as well as catching up with friends, and at the same time, making some new ones. Of course, whenever I could find some spare time, I would squeeze in some shutter therapy !! I really love my hometown Kuching, and unsurprisingly, I love shooting at my hometown. I attacked the streets with a few friends, and I shall just let the photographs speak more for now, as I catch my own breath. I have just returned to Kuala Lumpur a few hours ago. 

All images were taken within the past one week in Kuching, with Olympus DSLR E-5 and Zuiko Digital lenses: 11-22mm F2.8-3.5 and 50mm F2 macro