HDR to the Rescue

Quite a while ago I did experiment a little bit on using HDR processing on my street photographs, and I have rarely employed the HDR unless it was absolutely necessary. I have nothing against HDR shooting, I do think that HDR can produce some of the most amazing modern photography. I also believe that having too much HDR, especially the "overcooked" versions with super high saturation and unnatural look and feel to the photograph, is quite an eye-sore. Just my opinion. Don't kill me. 

In my course of trying HDR, mainly with a pseudo-processed single RAW file method, I have come to realize the strong advantage HDR can bring: and it is obviously stated in its name itself which is High Dynamic Range. In a situation of extremely high contrast, HDR can be a life-saver, if utilized properly. I encountered a street portrait shot in a harsh sun light (close to noon), and the man was wearing a cap. No matter how I expose him I would not keep the right balance of exposure, and the difference between the shadow and highlight regions was too much. I chose to bring up a little detail in the shadow region, causing the rest of the scene severely over-exposed. The image was shot in RAW, with an intention to find out just how much of detail I can recover from the Sony A57's RAW file, from the highlight region. 

Here it is. 

Scott from New Zealand: Brief Night Shooting Session!

Scott (aka Newzild) is one of my blog readers that I have been wanting to meet for a while now. Scott has been commenting often on this blog, and he also linked my blog review entries up on popular forums (DPReview forums), which I appreciate a lot.  He is from New Zealand (what a beautiful, beautiful country that is) and has been in Malaysia for a while now, but working in a different state. He stopped by KL for a couple of days, and asked if we could meet up for some shutter therapy and I said why not? After work today, I rushed down to Petaling Street to meet Scott. What initially was a short street shooting session turned out to be a traditional cultural dance shooting at Central Market. 

All images were taken with Sony Alpha A57 and DT 35mm F1.8 lens.

Scott from New Zealand with his Olympus PEN E-P3 and the new M.Zuiko 17mm F1.8 lens! 

Kuala Lumpur In The Dark

Important Update: I have DISABLED anonymous comments. This is an important step to control spams coming into my comment system, which is running rampant lately. I apologize for the convenience. You may still comment without any of the required accounts, by using the OPEN ID and just type in your name. 

It was Sunday evening, and feeling still deprived of shutter therapy I went to Ampang Lookout Point with a bunch of Sony shooters. I snapped some night city shots. Nothing to write home about really, I was not too impressed with these batch of images, but I thought I'd show them here anyway because this was my first attempt at long exposure shooting with the Sony Alpha A57. 

A few things I noticed when shooting with the Sony. I missed having the slowest shutter speed of 60 seconds before going to bulb mode, as found on default in all my previous Olympus cameras. On the Sony A57, the slowest was 30seconds, which was not sufficient when I do want to stop down the aperture further. Secondly, for shots like these, I usually would employ "anti-shake" on Olympus bodies, which was equivalent to mirror lock-up before the release of the shutter. Obviously the Sony has some sort of fixed mirror mechanism that did not move, but the 2 seconds self-timer did not feel as reassuring as having the mirror lock-up. one out of five attempts came out blurry. In case you need to know, yes I did turn OFF the built in body image stabilization. If it was one out of 10 shots, I would have dismissed it but one out of four or five shots was quite frequent for me to start worrying if something was wrong with the camera. 

50mm F1.8 lens, 2.5s, F1.8, ISO100

Sanity Boost

A beautiful reader emailed me and told me the similarities of his over-demanding working life to mine, sucking away dry of all his time, and he was amazed by how I can still have time to shoot and keep my blog updated.  Well, my response was simple. With my ever increasing working hours and all the late nighters I have pulled out, the only actual free time I have would be Sundays. The shutter therapy session has become a necessity to me. If I do not go out and shoot at least just that much, once a week, I might just lose it. Now, this is the only thing that keeps my sanity in check, and keeps me going. 

Fenced In

Things to Consider When Shooting on the Street

Important Note: 
For those beautiful Penang folks, if you are free this weekend, there is the Olympus PEN E-P5 Touch and Try session happening on 26th May 2013. Do register, and have up close and personal experience with the new Olympus PEN E-P5!
More information and registration here: http://home.olympusimage.com.my/eventlist.php
There are limited seats, so hurry up!

I think we have a lot of "to do" tips and tricks for street photography, being laid out by the predecessors as well as the current professional street photographers. Many of them center on gear choice and techniques, on how to frame your subjects and waiting for that "decisive moment" to shoot. I really think there is not much to add to such a long list of recommendations on how to improve your shots when shooting on the street so I will keep my list simple.

Here goes.

1) Shoot to impress. Make sure you know WHO to impress. 

This may come as a surprise because we are always told to shoot for ourselves, and not for an audience. Care only for what you think and shoot "who you are" when it comes to street photography. Nonetheless, considering photography as a medium of communication, you do have an audience which you will reach out to. A good photograph deserves to be seen and appreciated, and as long as you intend to show and share your photograph somewhere, the fact that you have an audience is true, no matter how much you want to claim that you are shooting for yourself only. If someone else sees your photograph, and can form an opinion or feedback after seeing your photograph, you already have an audience. It may be just a few friends  or family, or a huge following on Facebook or an online community (groups, forums, etc)

All images in this entry were taken with Sony DSLT A57 and 50mm F1.8 or 35mm F1.8 lenses. 


Stuck in My Mind

Important Note: 
For those beautiful Penang folks, if you are free this weekend, there is the Olympus PEN E-P5 Touch and Try session happening on 26th May 2013. Do register, and have up close and personal experience with the new Olympus PEN E-P5!
More information and registration here: http://home.olympusimage.com.my/eventlist.php
There are limited seats, so hurry up!

I was strolling along the Forest Chase building (first floor) with open view over Murray Street Mall in Perth, and I saw this man and a child feeding the pigeons on the interlocking pavement walkway. Being an engineer I was instinctively drawn to the interlocking patterns of the pavement, and having a high ground means a top view can create something out of the ordinary. The street was getting busier with people passing by, but I thought the shot would look too "normal". I was using my Olympus E-5 and the wide angle lens 11-22mm F2.8-3.5, and I zoomed the lens until I found the right perspective (surprise, surprise, it was zoomed at 17mm which was equivalent to 35mm field of view, a focal length which was not my favourite and I seldom worked with) and then I framed the scene with some empty space to allow passer-bys to enter my frame. I regretted not bringing around my ND8 filter, but I improvised on the spot and set my camera settings to allow the slowest shutter speed possible: setting ISO to lowest 100, and aperture to smallest F/22 which the lens permitted. The aperture priority shooting mode gave me about 1/10 sec shutter speed which was correctly exposed, and then I switched the shooting mode to fully manual to override the shutter speed and deliberately overexposed the shot to get even slower shutter speed. It was the motion blur which I sought after, and I could care less about overblown highlights in this shot at that moment. I did 1/3 sec shutter speed (with all other settings maintained) and I managed to get the movement blurry effect that I wanted. Thank goodness for the built in body Image Stabilization I got away with a usable image (without the whole frame being shaken into blur). I indexed this image in my mind, that I would pay special attention to it when post-processing because I have over-exposed the image intentionally. 

Interlocking pavement

When I returned from Perth, I had more than a thousand things to do, and in the midst of compiling photographs from my Perth trip to blog here, I accidentally missed out this particular shot. 

Not only until a few days ago, I am not sure how or why, the "index" started blinking in my mind and the image popped out, screaming for attention!! I dug out all the RAW files and you have no idea how happy I was to find this image, after having forgotten about it for a few weeks! The image was exactly as I have planned and visualized and it was there, waiting for me to put in some final touches. I converted it into black and white (I wanted this to be a monotone) and cropped it into square, not because of any other reasons but the distracting elements on both left and right of the frame. Thankfully it was shot in RAW, I managed to tone down the over-exposure by a few notches and the image still appeared good. 

Of all the images I have taken when I was in Perth (read here if you have not seen the photos) I love this image the most!

Seeing Colorless Squares

It has been a long, traumatizing week at work place and the only consolation I had to cap off the otherwise fruitless week was something I looked forward to very much, my shutter therapy session, and this time, I have a guest from Sydney, Australia, Tom Truong! Together with usual suspects, Nick Wade and Kelvin Ng we attacked Petaling Street in the morning. I used my newly acquired Sony A57 and one lens only, the 50mm F1.8 lens. I shot everything in RAW, but as I was processing the files, my hands got a little itchy and I started cropping everything in squares, and yes, suddenly the black and white bug bit me again. In many cases on the street photos, I actually preferred the square format presentation. I do not know quite how to explain it, composition seemed to work better generally. 

All images were taken with Sony Alpha A57 and 50mm F1.8 lens

Your Neck is Mine

Panasonic GH3, Sigma 35mm F1.4 and Tom Truong from Sydney!

Tom Truong, a professional photographer from Sydney, Australia is in town again, and I managed to catch up with him over dinner earlier tonight! Do check out his amazing photography work on his portfolio website here (click). It was great hearing stories from a real, working, professional wedding photographer from another land, and surely there is much to share and learn from each other. He has got his hands on some of the latest and most interesting gear as well, such as the Panasonic GH3, which he intended to use mainly for video shoots. His main gear for his professional work is the Nikon system, and the latest addition to his Nikon was the new and highly raved Sigma 35mm F1.4 lens! Tom exclaimed how amazed he was using the Sigma lens on his Nikon D800!

Initially Tom suggested me to review the Panasonic GH3 (he brought along two lenses with it, the 12-35mm F2.8 as well as the 35-100mm F2.8). I do not have time to spare for reviewing the Panasonic GH3, I really want to, believe me, but I am tied down with my current day engineering job which pretty much sucked out all my free time dry. Then I suggested to Tom, why not he does the review himself, so I can feature him and his GH3 review on my blog here? It would be some sort of like a guest-blogging thing. Tom seemed to like the idea, and surely, he would need time to shoot and compose his review, and lets hope that really will happen!

That GH3, it actually felt like I was holding a real DSLR in hand. Rather large and heavy. It is interesting to see Panasonic taking such different approach on Micro 4/3 system. 

Shooting a Wedding with Sony

I think it is still a popular opinion that if you do shoot anything serious you would use either Nikon or Canon. You know, how people would regard any other camera brands as less than what a professional gear should be. I could go on and on about how Olympus and Sony can be just equally as capable, but this kind of discussion has become old and pointless, somehow. I have been shooting wedding as a freelance photographer for quite a while now, and I have very little complain with what the Olympus can do for me. It has never failed me, and my clients have all been happy so far. Nonetheless, I did acquire a new Sony Alpha A57 to add into my shooting gear, and for past weekend's wedding shoot, I decided to just bring the Sony, and leave the Olympus behind, for a change. Was the decision a sudden and unplanned one? Far from it, I have been shooting with the Sony A57 enough to know that I can confidently use it for a paid assignment. 

The following is my setup:
Main Body: Sony Alpha A57
Lenses: 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 kit lens, 35mm F1.8 and 50mm F1.8 (all Sony lenses)
Flash: Olympus FL-50R mounted via an ISO hot-shoe adapter, controlled fully manual
Back-up: Sony A350, 18-70mm F3.5-5.6 and Sunpak external flash

Quite a mediocre setup for a full on wedding job, don't you think? A Sony A57, an entry level DSLT (oh my, not even a DSLR) for a professional level job, and all budget-designed lenses, cheapest available from the Sony lenses. And using a KIT LENS for a shoot? I think some of the audience must have rolled their eyes looking at my rather toned down setup for the wedding shoot. I think most people would expect a wedding photographer to use multiple latest and most advanced full frame bodies, with those gigantic oversized lenses, with camera bags rivaling airport luggage in size and weight. 

The following are preliminary quick edits for preview purposes. But they are sufficient to illustrate what the above Sony gear setup can produce.

Olympus PEN E-P5 Touch and Try Session

Important Update: 
For those of you in Malaysia, you can pre-book Olympus PEN E-P5 from Olympus Malaysia (click here) now!

You may also pre-order from B&H Online Store to help keep this blog running!
Olympus Electronic Viewfinder VF-4 

Please support me by "liking" my Facebook Page (click).

For those of you beautiful people in the wonderful Penang, Malaysia, if you have not done so, go and register with Olympus Malaysia (click here) for this event coming up on 26th May 2013!! 

Before I go on covering this Olympus PEN E-P5 Touch and Try event organized by Olympus Malaysia over this weekend, allow me to summarize my rather hectic and overwhelmingly exhausting weekend. I had a wedding assignment in Malacca on Saturday, so I travelled down to the historical state from Kuala Lumpur by bus on Friday night, immediately after work. I spent the whole Saturday shooting the wedding (which was beautiful, congratulations to Zachary and Jovyn!!!) till late night. I could not make it to the first two sessions of the Olympus E-P5 event which was on Saturday, thus I was doing my best to attend the final session on Sunday. Earlier this morning, I arrived at the Malacca Sentral (bus station) and got myself an 8am bus back to KL. In all the rush, thank goodness I managed to make it to the last session of the E-P5 Touch and Try session, and in the midst of the fatigue and exhaustion from the previous day's full day wedding shoot, I managed to pull out some shots with my camera !!

The Olympus PEN E-P5 Touch and Try session was organized to allow loyal Olympus users (the event was open to all, but of course existing Olympus users were prioritized) to have the first look and try on the just launched E-P5. The event was very well coordinated, allowing participants to have an enjoyable session, throughout the afternoon. To me, it felt like I was having a good movie experience, plus the additional bonus of getting to participate actively, in terms of shooting and trying the latest PEN E-P5 and assortment of lenses and accessories. Upon arrival, the guests were required to register, and they were given: two coupons to redeem freshly brewed coffee, one token to redeem the door gift, a lucky draw form. What was the first thing that I did? Obviously, I went for my COFFEE, and that has successfully kept me awake and going for the rest of the afternoon. That amazing fresh brew of coffee was a life saver.

All images in this entry were taken with Olympus DSLR E-5 and Zuiko Digital lenses 25mm F2.8 pancake, 50mm F2 macro and 11-22mm F2.8-3.5 with external flash FL-50R.

The venue of the event before it started. The "attraction of the day" was veiled, and displays of the legendary PEN cameras. 

Olympus PEN E-P5 Initial Thoughts and Impressions

Important Update: 
For those of you in Malaysia, you can pre-book Olympus PEN E-P5 from Olympus Malaysia (click here) now!

You may also pre-order from B&H Online Store to help keep this blog running!
Olympus PEN E-P5 body BLACK, WHITE and SILVER
Olympus Electronic Viewfinder VF-4 

Please support me by "liking" my Facebook Page (click).

A few days ago, I was invited by Olympus Malaysia to have a private hands-on preview session with their latest product, the much anticipated Olympus PEN E-P5. The units were not ready for review purposes, hence reviews shall come much later, but for now, I was fortunate enough to be selected to have a quick touch and try session with that new E-P5! In this blog entry I shall share my initial thoughts and first impressions on the Olympus PEN E-P5. 

The E-P5 comes in three color schemes,  BLACKWHITE and SILVER  I have seen them all in real life and my preference leans toward the SILVER

Here is the summary of what is in the new E-P5.
Premium PEN with quality build and design
Mini OM-D:  same 16MP Image Sensor and 5-Axis IBIS (further optimized for panning shots)
New shutter mechanism, high shutter speed 1/8000sec
Low ISO Setting (Equivalent ISO100)
2x2 Dial Controls
Built in Wi-Fi functions
Focus Peaking (FINALLY!!!)

For full specification list, please visit Olympus’ Official Page for the E-P5 (click here). 

Me in Macro Mode

Important Announcement:
Olympus Malaysia will be having an open event on 11th and 12th May 2013 (Saturday and Sunday), and the event will be in conjunction with their new "Premium PEN" camera which was in the teaser they have circulated through e-mail invitations as well as on the official Olympus Malaysia Facebook Page. If you are in Malaysia and you are free on 11th and 12th May, this event is not to be missed. The last I heard, friend and amazing photographer Ming Thein will be speaking too. So what are you waiting for? Go to the following link for registration!! Registration Link: http://home.olympusimage.com.my/event-main.html
Update: The sessions on 11th May (Saturday) are FULL. Quickly register your spot if you have not for the remaining 12th May (Sunday) sessions.

Also, if you have not done so, please support by "liking" my Facebook Page (click here)!!

Some photographs of me taken during a recent macro outing with the Sony gang. Photo credits go to amazing Hadi Nik! Thanks mate. 

My single handed camera holding technique, with another hand holding flash off-camera.

Patrick and Bubble Tea

I got off work early today and spent the night catching up with Patrick, the dude from Sweden over dinner. After dinner, I managed to get Patrick to try Pearl Milk Tea, some huge trending modern sugary drink thingy originated from Taiwan. It was a huge thing in KL.

I was thinking of doing some night shooting but then again, KL weather has been crazy and the rain was unforgivingly cruel. So I got away with one shot of Patrick and his first Pearl Milk tea experience! 

Shutter Therapy with Visitor from Sweden, Patrick!

Some time last year, beautiful reader Patrick emailed me and asked if we could meet up when he came to KL and have a shutter therapy session, and obviously I said YES! Nonetheless he could not make it last year and about a few days ago, I received another email from him, and he is coming to KL again. I don't think I have met anyone from Sweden in my life before, so Patrick would be the first one. However, he is not exactly new to Malaysia, having traveled to KL for work for several times in the past. We met up earlier this morning and I brought him to my favourite street hunting ground, Pudu. We did some wet market shooting, and Patrick told me he has not seen or experienced anything like Pudu market before!

I took this opportunity to further accustom myself with the Sony Alpha A57 and the amazing prime lenses, DT 50mm F1.8 and 35mm F1.8. 

Say hi to Patrick!! Amazingly warm-hearted dude all the way from Sweden. From the way he described his beautiful country, I feel like wanting to visit it already. Patrick proudly uses Olympus OM-D E-M5 with several amazing micro 4/3 lenses, including that now-legendary lens, the Olympus M.Zuiko 75mm F1.8, which some reviewers claimed to be the best and sharpest lens on the planet. 

Atlas Fest at Publika: Featuring Kyoto Protocol, Dischord and Ariff AB

It was Saturday night and I was feeling drained after a long working week, so when I found out about the Atlas Fest happening at Publika, a live band performance by local indie bands, I thought it was the perfect cap for the week. What not to like, loud and awesome music, quality local music and at the very same time, I get to work my camera, and further test out my recently acquired Sony Alpha A57? 

All images were taken with Sony Alpha A57 and DT Lenses: 50mm F1.8, 35mm F1.8 and 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 kit.


Adventures of Sony A57 and 18-55mm Kit Lens

People have started to comment that I overused shallow depth of field in my photos, and suggested that I should be shooting more with narrower aperture to reveal more of what is happening in the surrounding environment. That is the exact thing I will do in this blog entry, since I will be utilizing the the kit lens that came together with the Sony A57 purchase: 18-55mm F3.5-5.6. Initially I wanted to look for only Sony A57 body option, but it was not available in the market at the moment, hence I purchased the set together with the kit lens. Nevertheless, the price difference was not too much and I did not mind having a kit lens, though most people would think otherwise. 

Early this morning, joining the Sony Alpha users group, we attacked the Orchid Garden, KL. What I thought was initially a flower shooting session suddenly mutated into an insect macro shooting session. Oh no, I did not have a macro lens!! Fear not, that kit lens 18-55mm I have just mentioned had very good image magnification ratio (about 1:3x) and does considerably better in close up shooting in comparison with my other two Sony lenses, the 35mm F1.8 and 50mm F1.8. Therefore it was only logical for me to attach this lens on my Sony A57 at all times. Halfway throughout the shooting, beautiful friend Joseph Cheung arrived and he brought along a very, very important device which turned my macro shooting experience around in this morning! I borrowed an extension tube (third party, but with electronic contacts that enable full electronic control over the aperture and focusing) and by miracle, I suddenly have a pseudo macro set up, ready to attack whatever insects that crossed my lens' line of sight. 

1/80sec, F/10, ISO200, Extension Tube 20mm

100% crop from previous image. Quite amazing for a kit lens, don't you think?