Street Experimental

Before I dive into my usual random ramblings and blasting of multiple photographs of my recent street shooting session, allow me to divert your attention for a while toward my friend, Brandon Eu. He has a great, inspirational story to share, about an incident that happened during his overseas assignment in Melbourne, Australia, shooting a wedding. A day before his huge job, he encountered an unexpected accident that cut his chin, and worse, injured his wrists severely. God knows how he did it, but Brandon fought his way through, continued shooting with unforgiving pain and much movement difficulties. At the end of the day, he delivered his photographs to the clients, and he did a splendid job. It took a lot of strength not to give up, and sheer determination to survive the whole incident. 

Hear the story from Brandon himself which he has shared on his blog here (click). Believe me you will be amazed. 

While you are there, do say hi to Brandon, any words of encouragement will be deeply appreciated. To Brandon, stay strong my friend, God is with us always, and the healing surely has begun. I have always believed in you, and your photography work inspired me a lot from the beginning when I started to pick up my first camera. 

Now, lets come back to my usual blog entries, sharing my shutter therapy session. It was the first day of Hari Raya (the largest Malaysian Muslim celebration in this nation), and I took advantage of this long weekend to do more street shooting. I went to Masjid Jamek, intended to journey into the territories of Chow Kit, However the sky turned dark so suddenly and threatened to rain, thus I shifted my location of shoot to KLCC, getting there by train of course. 

I decided to utilize my beloved, trusty Olympus DSLR E-520 and the much underrated but superb kit lens, Zuiko Digital 14-42mm F3.5-5.6. For most photographs in this entry, I did use that cheap RM10 manual flash I bought recently (click). 

Wrong direction

How to cross a road

Busy Street

A man bearing a cap

Under the broken roof

Different kind of baggage. 

My 14-42mm kit lens was probably the most under-utilized lens now, considering I shoot mostly with 11-22mm and 50mm lens on the street. Sometimes, if I want a lighter setup, I would opt for the 25mm pancake which is superb. However, in the early times, I only had one lens, the 14-42mm, and not too long after that I bought the telephoto-zoom 40-150mm. With these to lenses on my old E-520, they have remained with me, been through many adventures, and I squeeze many, many photographs out of the combination. The 14-42mm has been very faithful and I never complained about it. The images that it produced were decently sharp, detailed, and has good enough contrast. It even has good close up capability for such a small lens. The fact that I do not use this lens anymore (gotta admit that 11-22mm and 50mm were leaps better in terms of everything) I still do miss the lens sometimes. 

For non-serious stuff, my personal shooting sessions on the street, that I do not have to deliver to anyone, but myself, I do think that the 14-42mm kit lens is more than sufficient. The focal length of 14mm all the way to 42mm roughly delivered the important equivalent focal lengths in 35mm format: 28mm for wide angle shooting, 50mm for normal perspective view as the eyes see it, and 85mm for a little compressed perspective of medium tele-photo range. All in one lens. Yes, the aperture opening range of F3.5-5.6 was nothing to shout about, but if large aperture was not a priority in shooting, and you have plenty of good light to play with, it was as if having three lenses in one. The flexibility to zoom has nothing to do with your position away from your subject, even if you get close, having a varying focal length can create different results, introducing variety into your shots. The convenience of not having to change lens, and just stay with one lens that can do different things can be quite liberating. All that versatility, combined with the advantage of small size and light weight, with satisfactory image quality (come on have our expectations skyrocketed to the ridiculous heights) in general shooting, what is there not to like about a kit lens?

They say that real photographers shoot with primes. It is a lot easier to make good looking photographs with primes, because primes are sharper, can create shallower depth of field, and generally optimized for that one focal length. I say, pick up your kit lens, and shoot some good images. It is more difficult, is it not? So how can so many people say zoom lenses are for lazy shooters? 

Out of the train

Baby Passing By

Frustration Takes Over

Friendly Stranger

Friendly stranger's Friend. 
He asked to be photographed !!

Fixing his pants

In Front of Closed Doors

In this particular shooting session, I had two things in mind: playing around with slow shutter speed, and using the al-cheapo flash whenever I can, and see how and to what extent can I utilize the flash to get some kind of images that I have not done before. Slowing the shutter speed down was not too difficult, thanks to the great Image Stabilization system in the camera, as well as shooting at wide angle (14mm). I am still at experimental stage, and I did have some failures, and I also believe that a lot of the shots in this entry could have been improved better, if I set the "optimized" shutter speed (too long, the subject disappeared, or become more invisible, too slow, the subject is too apparent). Moreover, my timing was not perfect, there were some misses, and it was my own fault for not reacting fast enough. 

About the flash, I had better control over it this time, and somehow, people reacted very positively towards my camera with flash firing this time. No negative confrontation like the first time I used flash. I think this was mainly because I approached them first, and flashed my smile first, before I fired the flash on camera. There were some moments when I fired without the subject knowing, but the powerful flash (Guide Number 20 fired at maximum output at all times) was not helping in the stealthy part, so the subject would looked at me (the only guy holding a camera in close proximity). I would quickly flash my beautiful smile (I would like to think my smile is beautiful) and gave a friendly wave. Most of them laughed because they were caught off-guard and I quickly walked away after that. 

The most important thing is to maintain the right attitude while shooting. Be positive, always !!

Umbrella is meant to be shared

KLCC Park Downpour

Running Away from The Rain

Extra Umbrellas coming this way

Shut Up and Eat Your Banana

Splash Free Zone

They told me they were on a treasure hunt. But had 2 seconds to spare for a quick shot. 

As I have mentioned before I relocated to KLCC area and continued shooting there, as it started to rain. I have been inspired by a dear friend Luke Ding (click) who has done multiple series of street shots in the rain. I do think that when it rains, there are many opportunities for good photographs. Most photographers would shy away and not have their gear being drenched by sky juice, but I thought otherwise. I did not mind having some water splashes, I am fairly confident my Olympus will survive it. My system has survived a heavy thunderstorm before (God knows how) so I know, some drips wont hurt. Of course I was not stupid and went out in the open, but hid myself at shelters and covers, and shot from safe distance away from the heavy downpour. You do get certain facial expression and mood through the raining times. Luke, where were you? We should be shooting together !!

I am still having my looooooong weekend. That only means one thing. MORE shutter therapy sessions coming up. And I will make every single moment count. Watch this space for more and more photographs. 


  1. Exciting shots you present to us today and it's hard to tell which one is the best. My favs are Baby Passing By, In Front of Closed Doors,KLCC Park Downpour and Running Away from The Rain. Keep your good work going.

    1. Hello Hugo !!
      Thanks for the very kind words on my photos. It is interesting that the shots in the rain are your favourites !! Surely I will shoot more and more. Thanks for the encouragement.

  2. I used to live in Southern California and vacation in the Sierra mountain range. Both of these areas have an abundance of sunlight. At that time, I thought the Olympus kit lenses were exactly right. Anything smaller would be too slow, anything faster would be bigger than necessary.

    Now I live in a foggy area by the ocean and I take pictures of dimly lit forests. I find that faster lenses really do offer an advantage here! So, the "best" equipment will vary from one photographer to the next...

    I enjoy your photography even though we are complete opposites in many ways. I live 500km from the nearest city and I don't do street photography, but I like to look at your street photos.

    1. Hello Dwight,
      Wow, I envy you for living at a place with great landscape shooting opportunities. I love shooting landscapes, but you can only do so much in a city that is always hazy, and having cloudy weather. No mountain, no water, and only plain concrete buildings.
      I understand the need for higher grade lenses, especially the weather sealing capability in your situation. Me too have used my High Grade lenses very often these days, leaving my kit lenses neglected. There is no such thing as "best" equipment, only the equipment of choice that works best for your intended purposes and shooting style.

  3. "Wrong Direction", "Busy Street" and "Under The Broken Roof" are stunning.

    1. Thanks Andreas, those three are my favourites too !!

  4. Those are beautiful motion blur photo. I will try out one day for the motion blur shooting at night.

    1. Thanks for the kind words Kelvin. Yes, lets shoot at nite again !!

  5. It is different. More gritty. I prefer your earlier non flash shots but I support that an artist must evolve and must experiment. Keep shooting mate.

    1. I agree with you Amanda, I also prefer the more neutral and natural approach. I do want to try something different from time to time. this style may not be suitable for me at all times, but having a bit of variety can be fun! Yes we need to experiment, only by then we know what works best for our own shooting.

  6. Rafael Alcaide Juan8/20/2012 03:28:00 PM

    Lovely work, Robin! As always you do! Is hard to see a so well made collection of images. Technically impressive, and heart-touching photographies. I love the photo of the boy running in the rain. Is the incarnation of the happiness! Congratulations, and thanks for share!

    1. Hey Rafael,
      thanks for the kind words, they were too kind really. techically I was still.experimenting with new methods, a lot can be improved. the flash was not that easy to use because it has no controls at all except on off button. I think the most important thing is to try out different things and have great dun while we are at it!

  7. Hi Robin,

    i like very much your blog and thank you for all the infos and good pics you share. Which one do you prefer between the 14-42 and the 12-50 mm ? (Plus the 12-50 is tropicalized). Regards,

  8. Hello jean,
    thanks for the compliments, really appreciate it. I could not use the 12-50mm on my DSLR since it is designed to fit micro 4/3 camera system only. hence I have no comparison to be made, since it cannot be used. nonetheless the 12-50mm is a very good lens.

  9. Hi Robin, I really like Olympus camera ever since I follow your blog post.
    Last week I have been offered by my friend to buy second E-30 which he just use it after 2 weeks and
    the price is really cheap. What do you think of this camera?

    1. Anonymous,
      Please leave a name when you comment next time.
      I have not used E-30 extensively to give any useful comment. Also it is very difficult to comment on the suitability of the camera, when I do not know you, or your shooting style and preferences. Most importantly I do not know what you will use the camera for. E-30 is very old now, it is about 3 years since it's release. Furthermore, camera body is only one part of the equation. The other possibly more important part is the lens. Which lens are you eyeing for?

    2. Hello,
      I'm still using e-30. Its a way up more to offer then my e-420 with built in stabilizer, flip out lcd, color effect and better chipset. Both cameras are still my favorites. As Oly cameras cames out with e-5 an OMD, the old Oly price drops significantly. Its only merely a tools. Robin.. i still kept n used my 14-42mm as a backup lens though i had a 12-60mm,40-150mm, 70-300mm, 50 mm f1.8 OM and my favorite 25mm pancakes. Its a dirt cheap, light amazing kit lens that makes my Nikon n Canon friends amused how these kit lens stands out! :p ~ nafi.

    3. Thanks for the input Nafi. Much appreciated.