I had the privilege to attend an official user gathering for Sony Alpha and NEX users at Studio Zaloon, Pudu Plaza earlier this afternoon. The event was jontly organized by Sony Malaysia and Studio Zaloon, with the purpose to enable to Sony users to get together and share their experience, photography knowledge and photographs. The gathering happened in late afternoon, and Pudu Plaza was situated at Pudu, a place which has become very frequent for my street hunting sessions. Therefore, it was only natural for me to plan my schedule to fit in some street shooting just before the event.
I roamed the streets of Pudu, and then into the open air wet market with the Sony Alpha A350, and the 50mm F1.8 lens. As much as I loved and preferred the 35mm F1.8, somehow, there are times I really want to work with something longer. Today is the day where I felt I wanted to distance myself from my subjects, step myself backward a little, and compose my shots a little differently. Also, this was one of the rarest occasion where I actually started my shooting session close to noon, hence the lighting was a lot harsher than usual, and surely this put the A350 to test when it comes to handling difficult dynamic range situations. After all, the Sony Alpha DSLR in those days, in comparison to the competitors from other manufacturers, boasted to have better dynamic range handling.
All images on the streets were taken with Sony Alpha A350 and DT 50mm F1.8 lens
All you can carry
Stir it well
Glued to the body
The original dynamic range of the images straight from the camera was quite impressive, though all images were shot under hot, harsh, Malaysian unforgiving afternoon sun. However, the original files looked very dull, flat and uninteresting, thus my itchy hands decided to boost the contrast, and that resulted in plenty of blown highlights, as seen in the images. Do bear in mind that the way I post-process my images is only applicable to my own preferences, which usually is not agreeable by most photographer's standards as stated especially in online photography forums or groups/societies. I understand it is very crucial to salvage that extra little bit of detail and prevent whites from becoming all white, but seriously, I do not really care about all this. Yes, you may call me defiant and a little unconventional, but what is most important to me is seeing the image as a whole. Even if there is blown highlight, if that area did not affect the overall balance of the image, I would not think it would matter that much. What I emphasize mostly would be on the properly exposed main subject, and if the subject choice is a human being, the priority would be the skin exposure. You may not necessarily agree with this, and you may want to twist and turn the exposure S-Curve till snakes cry, and then dodge and burn all you can to accomplish that ideal "preserved highlight and shadow details" while maximizing dynamic range. To me, why go through all the trouble?
What I did differently this time in terms of composition? Instead of going in extremely close with the 50mm F1.8 (which is equivalent to 75mm in 35mm format), I actually stood back many steps, trying to fit in a bit more of the environment surrounding the main subject. Strange, because I find that I am loving the longer focal length more and more. The wider shot done with the long lens, is very different with a wide shot taken with a wide angle lens. The wide angle lens tried too hard to squeeze everything into the frame that everything will appear too cramped and too, "forced". I am referring to the use of 35mm or wider, say 28mm, or 24mm (speaking in 35mm full frame format of course). However, as I have used the 50mm (75mm equvalent on my A350) and step back many, many steps backward to frame more elements into one frame, I found the image composed to be very, very balanced. The different perspective, perhaps the extra compression provided by the longer focal length helped to achieve this. The problem with wider angle lens is that there is perspective exaggeration playing tricks with the framing, meaning the subjects appearing nearer to the lens is exaggerated to look a lot bigger and further from another subject behind it. In contrast to that, using a longer lens, the compressed perspective allows the front subject to blend in more naturally with whatever subjects behind it, without too much exaggeration of difference in scale and size, due to the relative distance between the subjects.
To me, the range of focal length between 50-100mm is surely ideal for my own street shooting preferences. However, I also acknowledge that there is strong need for wide angle use, and we should not close ourselves and restrict the usage of only one or two focal lengths. When you need that certain focal length to accomplish the shot you have in mind, you will need it.
I can see myself enjoying the two latest lenses I have for my Sony, the 50mm F1.8 which I used for all the street shots in this blog entry, and of course, the other 35mm F1.8, which I have written positively about recently. You just cannot go wrong with these two lenses.
Portrait of an Indian Lady
Peeling the Shells Off
In my last blog entry, I decided that I just wanted to post some photographs, and just let the photographs speak. I thought the photographs were quite self-explanatory, without the need for me to elaborate further. You see, sometimes the reason I ramble so much in my blog, is to avoid some unwanted response, and prepare myself in case some kind of weird questions will be thrown to me. One reader responded saying that 1) the photo quality sucks big time and 2) Maybe the light was bad 3) The lens was mediocre and worst of all 4) Didn't bother to do much post-processing.
Ouch. Seriously ouch. Not that I can't take criticism very well. I felt this was a little off the edge.
The photo quality sucks big time. I knew it was not the best of what I usually produced, but I do not think they were that bad, that they "sucked big time". The light was bad. Let me correct that, the light was extremely, horribly, bad, not just dim, but with severe mix lighting source and uneven exposure. This is why, I always, always ranted in my blog on the lighting situation and all the challenges I faced when I produced my shots, because it was just so easy to point out and comment on something without actually having to do it, or go through all the trouble and struggle in the real shooting conditions. It was so dim that at F1.8, with ISO800, I can only get 1/20-1/30 seconds shutter speed. Geez, what were you expecting? All models at the PC fair to be accompanied with studio lights with gigantic softboxes standing on their sides? You deal with what you have to, and in that horribly dark lighting situation, I'd say the Sony fared rather well, of course far from perfect, or what most modern cameras can do, but it did just fine.
The lens was mediocre. Whats wrong with the lens? To my eyes the images were sharp. It was a 35mm F1.8 lens, a budget, cheap, yet rather decent performer from Sony's lower line-up of lenses. What, you are expecting a Carl Zeiss quality?
Didn't bother to do much post-processing. I don't know about that. Maybe after I spend an hour with Photoshop on each photograph the models will suddenly appear like they were shot in a properly set up studio with big lights. When that happens maybe I can turn stones into cameras, and water into expensive lenses.
There is a reason why I do not participate in online photography forums or groups. Sometimes, there is just too much to deal with, which drains off my energy unnecessarily. I'd rather just concentrate on shooting and making images happen.
Small opening Walkway
In the Backalley
Right after my solo shutter therapy session, I had a quick lunch, hanged out at Pudu Plaza, and before I knew it, the event which was the highlight of the day started.
Joining me in this session was Raja Indra Putra, a friend and a great photographer !! He has got himself a Sony RX100, and he simply loves that amazing camera. We were both hoping to see the Sony RX-1, to touch and play with even just a demo unit, alas, it was not yet available in Malaysia.
It was really great seeing so many Sony users gathered at Studio Zaloon. The speakers of the day were William, Meng Keat, and Killabee. William was sharing his photographs from the recent trip to Siam Reap, which was mostly shot with NEX-5 and NEX-6. Meng Keat showcased his bird photography collection, and I was surprised to find Sony actually fared very well in the longer focal length department. Finally, Killabee presented his portraiture work, sharing some tips on shooting models. Everyone who attended had something to gain, and learn. It was great seeing the more experienced Sony users so willing to share not only their knowledge and experience to the newer users, but also spread their passion for photography. The inspiration and motivation that drove them to do what they do, and produce those stunning shots, those were evidently seen throughout the session today.
Being involved in photography, it is a constant process of learning, exploring, discovering, and growing. It is a neverending journey, and as we progress further, we become better photographers, capable of taking better and better images. We enjoy what we do much better, if we are good at what we do. Therefore, it was a joy to see some members actually have grown, and achieved the level that they are currently at, being able to produce amazing photographs, worthy to be printed large and displayed in art galleries. Unfortunately I cannot say the same with some of the group of photographers that I know. Some of them choose to stay stagnant, ignoring growth, and just stay restricted in their own tiny isolated island. When people showed good faith in pushing them to the positive direction, spurring them to grow, they resisted strongly, and retaliated with their own sense of righteousness, defying common sense. I guess at the end of the day, all we want, and care about, would be seeing everyone get better and better in this game. I think that was why I was so drawn to this group of Sony users. They are different. The lust and hunger for photography were admirable. Their desire to improve was something I have not seen in a while. I needed these to be rubbed on my own shoulders. I needed that motivation, and the "peer pressure". I guess, what I am saying is, I need to step up my own game.
All images from here onward were taken with Sony A350 and DT 35mm F1.8 lens
Danny (from Sony Malaysia) and Uncle Francis (Studio Zaloon)
Top: Meng Keat on Bird Photography
Bottom Left: William on Travel Photography (Siam Reap)
Bottom Right: Killabee on Portrait Shooting
Tea and Camera
One for the album. Photograph courtesy of Studio Zaloon.
Oh yes, I am a proud Sony user now. And boy am I glad to be in this camp !!