Evening Sky

I was on the way out to grab something to bite, and I chanced from the corridor of my place, a beautiful sight which stopped me dead on my tracks. The sky was striking orange, with layers of dark clouds threatening rain. Against the sky there was almost completed building construction, with tower cranes, as seen to my naked eyes as only silhouettes. The tower cranes were still operating, turning around. It was a magnificent sight. 

I ran back to my room and grabbed the Olympus E-5 and attached 50-200mm F2.8-3.5 (non-swd) onto it. I took just a few shots before the sky became dull and the dark clouds took over the majority of the scene. 

That 50-200mm !! How I missed using it. What a magnificent lens it was. 

As I looked into the dying sky (strange suddenly I did not feel that hungry anymore) a few thoughts came into mind. How we civil engineers build concrete jungles and destroy whatever that is left of the natural greens. How belief and faith in people can change so much, just because perception of reality has been shifted due to real life circumstances. How honesty may not necessarily make things better, and most people prefer the buttery sugary coating of lies to keep them safe in the dark. How truth can be so effortlessly twisted and turned into whatever version of stories to fit into personal agenda, or reasoning. How human nature favors blame, hatred and war. 

Or maybe I have been reading too much of Yann Martel's Life of Pi. The movie was great by the way !! Make sure you catch it in 3D !! (and Jason Lioh will say please watch it in IMAX)

The Revelation

About two days ago, I posted something rather cryptic on my blog, which originally I have intended to be a full out defense on a very sensitive topic. I was expecting a rather negative feedback, but surprising even to me, nothing actually happened. I then realized, and strongly believed I must have attracted some of the most beautiful and kind mannered readers from the online community !!

So here is the revelation. The original topic to the blog entry here (click), was... *drum rolls...

Why I Don't Shoot Film?

If you go back to that blog entry and re-read the whole thing, everything will become clear to you now, why I said the things I have said, and the reasons I am staying with digital, and not picking up film. 

Please bear in mind that this is NOT a film vs digital argument that shall see no end. I acknowledge the strong presence, and significance of film and its rich historical tradition. Film has its place, and it is not going anywhere. I have highest respect to friends and professional photographers who still shoot seriously with film. However, to my own personal preference, my own style of shooting, and my needs when I am using the camera, I just do not see how film can fit into anything that I do, and will do in photography. Yes, my reasons are personal, so is the whole subject of gear choice itself in the first place. 

Sony A350 and 50mm F1.8

If you really look deeply into each and every photograph I have presented in that blog entry, you will find that using film will restrict you from achieving them, and there are just too many uncertainties and struggles, which are totally unnecessary. Those should not be any issue if digital gear was the option. 

Let The Photographs Speak For Themselves

It takes a lot of courage and strength to speak up and stand your ground, when your belief and practice are being challenged and questioned. However, it takes even greater courage and more strength to know when to stop, and stay silent. I have thought out a complete blog entry layout, detailing on items to elaborate a very crucial argument which I have been wanting to bring forth for quite a while now. At the same time, I also realized the repercussions that this argument may cause, and the unnecessary complications that may follow. The topic itself is a sensitive one, thus for the sake of avoiding violent internet bloodshed, I decided to hold my tongue (in this case, my fingers from typing those sentences out) and just let this slide.

I do admit that I am still fairly new to this world of photography, not as seasoned as many readers that I have. Many of you beautiful people have been shooting way longer than I have, and I must speak out with caution, acknowledging my limited experience and knowledge in this field. 

Nevertheless, I also believe that in the world of photography, photographs speak louder than words. Everything I wanted to say in the first place, everything I intended to defend, and everything I wanted to prove, are all evident, and prominently shown in the photographs I have compiled in this entry. Perhaps if you look close enough, and really study the technical difficulties of achieving each of the photographs displayed here, and how my practical execution, choice of gear and shooting considerations needed came together, you might find that what I wanted to say in the first place was quite obvious. As I have mentioned many times before, show me the photographs, and we will talk. 

Sometimes, it is important to capture a series of photographs to better illustrate what was happening. Emotions and expressions can be strongly amplified. One photograph is often inadequate.

Charcoal Factory at Kuala Sepetang

Confession, I bought a new lens a few days ago, and it was for my Sony Alpha A350. I found a very good used deal from an online buy/sell portal in Malaysia, and I could not resist. The lens is the budget, yet highly revered Sony DT 35mm F1.8 lens. I got the lens just in time for this weekend's special travel outing organized by Sony Malaysia, a photography trip to a Charcoal Factory in Kuala Sepetang. 

It was a rather hectic weekend for me, because I have just had a wedding reception dinner shoot on Saturday night in Kuala Lumpur city center, and as the dinner ended close to midnight, I asked my friend Jason to drop me off at the meet up point of the outing members in Pudu Plaza. Imagine the exhaustion from a full on shooting session, with no rest, I immediately jumped into the next outing. I packed my gear into two separate bags for the evening, the Olympus gear in one bag which I used for the wedding shoot, and entrusted to Jason to take care of it after the assignment, and another bag only with Sony gear, which I brought along for the Kuala Sepetang trip. The participants of the Sony outing gathered at Pudu Plaza at an ungodly 1am on Sunday, and we departed shortly after, in a bus which was about half full. We arrived on location just before sunrise, which was perfect for the start of this photography adventure. 

All images in this entry were taken with Sony Alpha A350 and Sony DT lenses, 35mm F1.8, 50mm F1.8 and 18-70mm F3.5-5.6 kit lens. Almost all images were taken with the 35mm. 

Drama in the smoke

Kel Wyn & Jinn Lin

About a few weeks ago I decided to give the Sony gear a chance in a paid assignment. I was shooting the Sony as a second body, alongside my main Olympus system. I had the Olympus E-5 with the super wide angle 11-22mm F2.8-3.5, and the Sony A350 with the 50mm F1.8. I used the Olympus exclusively for all wide angle shots, while the Sony for close up shooting and details. Olympus FL-50R was attached on my E-5 and fired at all times. Similarly, a third party TTL compatible Sunpak flash was on the Sony. 

Here are some photographs from the dinner reception at Hotel Maya, Kuala Lumpur. 

Carol Wong

I don't do much portraiture shooting, it is not exactly my forte, and I admit I suck at doing it. But when opportunities do present themselves, I rarely say no to trying new things, or exploring uncharted waters. 

When I was on my short holiday back to my hometown in Kuching in June earlier this year, I was shooting alongside Dr Soon Ruey who came all the way from Sabah for a medical conference in Kuching. We had a chance to shoot Carol, and the session took place in a morning, just before our delicious famous Sarawak Laksa breakfast. 

All images were taken with Olympus DSLR E-5 and Zuiko Digital lenses, 50mm F2 macro or 25mm F2.8 pancake

What is Wrong with Using an Old Camera?

I think one of the things I never quite expected when I have acquired the Sony Alpha A350, was the overwhelming response from so many people around me. The look in their faces, tells a thousand horror stories, as if I have committed one of the biggest mistakes in my life. There would be that standard set of questions on how bad is the high ISO performance, how under-performing the old camera is, and why would I waste my money on an old junk that nobody seems to care anymore. Everyone says there are better and newer options out there. Everyone is disappointed with my decision on getting the Sony. It gets really exhausting having to explain myself over and over again, and why should I have to justify my own personal choice of gear in the first place anyway? 

So I thought ok screw the comments, the A350 really is a dinosaur, so I decided to take the plunge and upgraded myself to a Sony A99. And slapped a spanking sexy Zeiss onto it too. 

Ok, kidding. That A99 belongs to a friend Jack. I would probably need to starve for a few months before I can afford one, and hopefully I don't die in the process. The sad fact of being an engineer in Malaysia. 

The Reason Why I Stay Faithful to Olympus E-5

I was flooded with three wedding assignment shoots in the past weekend, hence I did not really have any time at all for my personal shutter therapy sessions. Nonetheless it was through paid assignment that I can earn spare cash to fund this superbly expensive hobby called photography. 

It was this particular shoot, right in the middle of the highlight of the event: registration of marriage, that the sky decided to pour !! I was then armed with two camera bodies, the Olympus DSLR E-5 with Zuiko 11-22mm F2.8-3.5, and Sony Alpha A350 with the SAL 50mm F1.8 DT mounted. The rain got heavier, so I decided to rest the Sony on a shedded table, and ran out into the rain, chasing the newly weds, as they left the garden (venue of the ROM) and walked into the nearby hall. It was an important part of the event, since the couple just got officially married, and the wedding march is one of the items in must photograph list. I was shooting alongside a few friends (a photographer and two videographers), but I was the only one storming out and got myself and my gear drenched. 

Kenny & Desiree, marching out through the rain. 
Image taken with Olympus E-5 and my beloved 11-22mm F2.8-3.5 wide angle lens. 

Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm F1.8 Review: Deepavali Festival of Lights

Important Notes:
1. This is a user experience based review.
2. All images were shot in RAW and converted directly to JPEG (High Quality) via Olympus Viewer 2.
3. General camera settings, Noise Filter = OFF, Contrast/Saturation/sharpness = 0, White Balance = Auto (with an option maintain warm color = OFF), Gradation = Normal
4. No post-processing applied to the images, except slight brightness/contrast balance tweak. All images were as good as straight out of camera, with minimal cropping for better presentation.

This blog entry is a continuation from the previous Part 1 of my Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm F1.8 review (click). 

In Part 1 of my review, I have brought the Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm F1.8 lens to street shooting at Brickfields and Petaling Street, Kuala Lumpur, testing how the lens performed in favorably good lighting condition. From the street shoot I found the lens to be very sharp corner to corner even at wide open F1.8, has very good distortion and CA control, and focuses very fast. How does the lens perform in poor light? That is the only question I intend to answer in this Part 2 of my 17mm F1.8 lens review. 

As a reminder, allow me to clarify a few items. This review will be written from a photography-enthusiast’s point of view, because I am not a professional photographer. This will be a user experience based review, sharing on what I think and feel as I use the Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm F1.8 lens (mounted on Olympus PEN E-PL5) in real life shooting situations. Therefore, this is not a technical review as there will not be elaborative technical explanations, which can be easily accessible on many professional review websites such as DPreview and DXOmark.

The opening images, the city skyline of Kuala Lumpur being taken during sunset time, was shot at Jelatek. I was on the 16th floor of a low cost apartment, resting the E-PL5 with 17mm attached on my dying tripod and shot a series of images watching the sun went down. 

F/5.6, 1/13sec, ISO200

Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm F1.8 Review: Street Shooting

Important Notes:
1. This is a user experience based review.
2. All images were shot in RAW and converted directly to JPEG (High Quality) via Olympus Viewer 2.
3. General camera settings, Noise Filter = OFF, Contrast/Saturation/sharpness = 0, White Balance = Auto (with an option maintain warm color = OFF), Gradation = Normal
4. No post-processing applied to the images, except slight brightness/contrast balance tweak. All images were as good as straight out of camera, with minimal cropping for better presentation.

Back in September, in the world's largest photography event, Photokina, Olympus has hinted that there will be one more product to be released for the Micro 4/3 lens line up, which is the M,Zuiko 17mm F1.8 lens. Thankfully we do not have to wait too long, and just a few days ago Olympus Malaysia has loaned me an initial production unit of the 17mm F1.8 lens for my testing and review purposes. 

Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm F1.8 Lens Features Highlight
1) Similar Optical Performance as the renowned M.Zuiko 12mm F2 lens
2) Similar construction and build as the all metal lens M.Zuiko 12mm F2 lens
3) Snapshot focus - pull down the ring for immediate switch to manual focusing, with DOF and distance scale for zone-focusing
4) ZERO (Zuiko Extra-Low Reflective Optical) Coating for minimizing ghosting and flare control
5) Fast focusing mechanism, and optimized for video recording (MSC)

For full specifications, please head over to Olympus's Official Page (click). 

The Mystery of Disappearing Image Files

It has been quite a few weeks since I last used my Olympus gear for shutter therapy, making way for the new Sony (well, its not exactly new since the camera is a 4 year old model), which I did enjoy using tremendously and have fallen in love with. This glorious Sunday morning I decided to pick up the Olympus again, and attack my favourite street, Chow Kit with the E-5 and two wonderful lenses, Zuiko Digital 11-22mm F2.8-3.5 and 50mm F2 macro. It was great using Olympus again after all this time, I have spent about an hour plus shooting, and I knew I had some good shots which were sufficient for me to compose a blog entry. I did not quite sure how, or why I suddenly had the urge to pause for a bit, and review my images. Call it the photographer's six sense or something, I felt something was not right. To my horror..... almost ALL my image files taken in the morning, recorded into the Lexar 8GB SD card... VANISHED!! I remembered I had more than 100 photos taken already (could have been more, not sure really) but as I was reviewing the images, there was only 11 of the most recently taken shots !! Where the heck have the rest of the photos gone to???????

All images in this blog entry were taken with Olympus DSLR E-5 and Zuiko Digital lenses 11-22mm F2.8-3.5 and 50mm F2 macro


Its Pissing Down in KL

The weather has been quite harsh in Kuala Lumpur recently, starting off with unforgiving hot morning, and ending with late afternoon insane heavy downpour. Rain or shine, as long as the fingers are itching for some shutter clicking action, I will be out there shooting. Obviously when it was raining down too heavily, I would not be crazy enough to sacrifice my gear. When the rain slowed down to drizzle, armed with an umbrella on my left hand and the camera on the other, I roamed the streets attacking some interesting characters caught in bad KL weather. 

All images were taken with Sony Alpha A350 and DT lenses 50mm F1.8 and 18-70mm kit lens

Plastic Bag Cap

Attacking Strangers

I shoot on the streets at least once a week, sometimes more, if I have the time for shutter therapy. Everytime I am on the streets, I will shoot at anything that caught my attention, the stray cat, the homeless man, the abandoned car, the weird architecture of an old building, an empty bottle or even a surreal art painting on a weathered wall. One consistent photography subject that I never overlooked, and always aimed whenever I am street shooting would be portraits of strangers. I find much thrill and excitement when I point my lens toward someone completely alien to me, yet there is the sense of that person being on the street that compelled me to go near, and take the shot. 

All images were taken with Sony Alpha A350 and 50mm F1.8 DT Lens

Sony Alpha Outing at Petaling Street

The last time I participated in an open event (which was the Google + Photowalk), there was a significant number of Olympus micro 4/3 users in the crowd, hence they instantaneously recognized me as I whipped out my E-5. The next thing you know some random people actually came up to me and asked if I could take photos with them. It was like one of the most awkward moment ever, because that celebrity treatment does not suit me at all !! The attention, and the fact that everywhere I go to, in the crowd of micro 4/3 or Olympus community, it is hard to hide away and just blend into the crowd. It gets daunting, and sometimes I just wanted to be a "participant", nothing more, to enjoy the outing. 

The two full frame Sony A99 users in the group. Kevin and Jack (background). 

What Caught My Attention?

Now that I am finished with my review episodes of the Olympus Stylus XZ-2, finally, I can get back to my own Sony A350, which I have missed dearly !!

I often mentioned that it is very important to pay attention to the things and subjects that catch your attention as you shoot on the street. If the subject is good enough to make me look at it twice, it surely will appeal in the final photograph. Choice of subject content is always very important, and should not be overlooked. My subjects are usually very straight-forward and simple, most of the times the things that I can connect to very easily. This morning I went to a shutter therapy session with some beautiful friends, and with the photographs I have taken, I shall describe what drew me to the subjects.

All images were taken with Sony Alpha A-350 and DT lenses 18-70mm or 50mm F1.8 

Unusual Residence
I have always have strong fascination for strange architecture, or buildings/structures with out of the usual designs. After all, I am in the building and development industry for my main career. It is only natural when I came across such an outstanding building like this, I would point my lens toward it. 

Olympus Stylus XZ-2 Review: PEN Lovers & Conclusions

Important Notes:
1. This is a user experience based review.
2. All images in this entry were post-processed, with color balance adjustments, exposure tweak and some cropping.
For straight out of camera images, please refer to my Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 of my review for Olympus XZ-2. 

This is Part 4 of my Olympus Stylus XZ-2 review series, and also the concluding blog entry. If you have not read my previous parts, please do so here: 

In my final part of XZ-2 review, I have used the XZ-2 together with an attached external flash, Olympus FL-50R for a photo-assignment, to cover an important event: the PEN Lovers 2nd Anniversary Lunch Gathering, which happened last Saturday (27th October 2012). So how does the camera perform in a more serious shooting environment, where results are to be expected at the end of the day? Also, I shall be doing into summary and conclusions of my four episodes Olympus XZ-2 reviews.

ISO800, F/2.3, 1/80sec
A Pen Lover trying out the Olympus E-PL5, with the new body cap lens, 15mm F8. Gotta admire the tilting screen !! Perfect for camwhoring. 


Before we go on, let me describe the background of this momentous event. PEN Lovers was started by a dear friend and fellow Olympus PEN user, Koon Yik about 2 years ago. He initiated this non-profit independent group, as a local support group for new-comers to Olympus PEN and micro 4/3 system. Often new-comers to photography in general would be over-whelmed by technical freaks and nazis in online photography forums, hence the PEN Lovers acts as a friendly platform for Olympus PEN users to interact freely, share opinion and also to spur each other to shoot, and grow together, while shooting with Olympus micro 4/3 system. In last year's 1st Aniversary, the PEN Lovers group has reached more than 200 members,  and just last week, for the 2nd Anniversary, we have now more than 700 members, with many joining from all over the world as well. This is a group that is very special to me, and I actively participate in. If you know me well enough, I do not join photography forums or other online photography communities (you won't find me in 500px or Flickr), since there are just too many internet "trolls" around, and I have dedicated most of my time for this blog (in case you have not noticed, this blog requires tremendous amount of time to maintain). PEN Lovers has not only become a photography hobby group, but also a place for me to hang-out with like-minded people, and surely we have come a long way, and a celebration was in place !!