Shutter Therapy Was What I Needed, And I Was Getting Some

The never-ending surgery date re-scheduling drama has caused much frustration to me and mum, and I feel bad for mum being trapped on the hospital bed (she was not allowed to move her hip) for so long. Nonetheless I do have to do my best to keep her spirits up and be as positive and optimistic as I can. As much work and time sacrificed being around her, I do not feel the physical demand was as exhausting and draining as the emotional toll everything has taken from me. It was easy to tell another person that everything is ok while underlying my own thick skin of optimism I do feel scared, and unsure of how everything will turn out to be.

I do need to break, and what better way to take my mind off things for a while, than doing some quick shooting with whatever limited gear I do have with me in Kuching. Mum was fine having me away for a quick few hours, and I fully made use of this time to shoot around my beloved hometown Kuching. Nothing beats a slow, peaceful walk around town with just one camera and one lens on hand. No pressure, no stress, just me and my camera, and shooting whatever caught my attention.

This is shutter therapy at its best!

 Old Court House

 On the Steps

Friendly Hometown Folks

I have always wanted do some serious shooting to document the beautiful hometown of Kuching. In contrast to that I have also always never found the time and opportunity to do so. Even now that I do have a little time on my hands before my mum's coming surgery, I was limited to just one body and one lens. I have with me the Sony Alpha A57 and one prime lens, the 35mm F1.8 (which I do love a lot). Nevertheless this particular shooting session had no agenda or objectives to achieve. I just wanted to go out. I wanted to walk and let myself wander aimlessly. I let my eyes wander and I shot at anything that I thought was interesting, or I wanted to shoot. I just wanted to escape the hospital for a while, being there for the past 2 weeks, spending night and day in there can be somewhat, depressing. I need to breathe in some fresh air and take in sights that are more full of life and free of disease and pain. 

I also acknowledged the limitation that I am currently facing. Not having my usual working PC desktop means I would not be able to produce my usual image presentation, and I have very restrictied post-processing capabilities. I won't be able to judge color accuracy properly over this tiny 8 inch low resolution tablet, and surely even the contrast/brightness exposure ratio seems difficult to gauge. I guess there is only so much we can emphasize on the technical accuracy in terms of photography presentation, which at the end of the day may rob away all the fun in producing the image in the first place. Stripping away all those technical obsession, I find myself concentrating in getting the image right to minimize post-processing steps. Color balance issues? Lets just make everything black and white! I have loved shooting black and white for a while now, and why not show street photograph in black and white, which has proven in the past and present to work efficiently?

My current slightly modified workflow for this simple shooting and blogging setup:

1) On the street, I was shooting with Sony A57 and 35mm F1.8 prime lens. Images were all shot in JPEG, on Aperture Priority, with DRO (dynamic range optimizer) set to +3, since I was shooting under harsh afternoon Malaysian cruel sun. I adjust the aperture varyingly to control depth of field. In some unique circumstance where I need to control the shutter speed, eg slowing it down to capture motion blur, I switched to shutter priority instead. 

2) Images were transferred to the China-no brand cheap Android based Tablet via an OTG memory card reader which I purchased recently for RM20 (USD6). 

3) Snapseed App was used to post-process the images, and I have worked with Snapseed even on the PC Desktop version for Windows, thus using it on the tablet (Android version) was quite straightforward, and similar. I perform B&W conversion from originally color JPEG files, tweaked the contrast and brightness (if you know me you know I love massive contrast, not necessarilythe right choice but it was my preference) and added some "Drama" efffect. Images were saved as new files for export later. 

4) Photoeditor App was used for batch file resizing before upload. I resized the images to 1080 pixels maximum width, as I would usually do for my normal blogging. Compression was set to 90% JPEG quality, to balance between image quality and file size optimization for upload. 

5) Picasa Tool App was used to upload the images to Picasa Online Albums, which is fully integrated with Blogger, the plattform I used for this blog you are reading. The upload process was quick because all images have been resized. 

6) Using the Android's native Internet Browser, I logged on into the Blogger's main page, and composed this blog entry. Having the external physical keyboard made my typing sooooo much easier and a thousand times faster. I can now compose long blog entries, even on this cheap lousy Android tablet. 

As you can see, the Apps I have downloaded and used for my workflow were all FREE and quite easy to use. They were efficient in what they do (powerful enough for simple post-processing and efficient enough not to consume to much resources and time) and I managed to pull almost everything off (steps 2-6) in just about more than an hour's time. Not a bad workflow with limited gear setup, don't you think?

 Closed Shop

 Perfect Reading Spot

Sorting Out
Conversations On the Five Foot Way

It is indeed very sad to see that street photography is not really that popular amongst the local photographers in Kuching. I have not really seen anyone doing any regular sttreet photography  here. Perhaps having beautiful sceneries (both for Sunset and Sunrise) have attracted more landscape shooters. I personally do think Kuching is full of great potential for street shooting. We do have interesting street scenes that perhaps are unique to us here locally that others may not find elsewhere in the world. Not even in Kuala Lumpur where I have spent most of my time doing my shutter therapy.

I do wish I have two other lenses with me: a 50mm or longer lens to be used for my usual tight perspective framing, and a wider lens for wide angle coverage, you know, just in case there is that sweeping breathtaking sunset over the Sarawak River. I have not found the solution for the longer lens yet, but for wide angle shooting I shall make use of the humble 8MP camera on my phone. That may not give me the best results I seek, but for what it can do, it is sufficient, and better than not have anything to shoot with! When you need wide angle, you do need a wide angle lens.

I am not sure if there are any other Sony shooters in Kuching. If you are in Kuching, and you do have some Sony gear, and by some miracle you are reading this, please do find some ways to reach me (email me!!!) and I might want to loan some lenses!

Else I have no worries working with just a humble 35mm F1.8 lens and a phone camera. No worries. My main purpose being here in Kuching for now is not for photography. I am here for mum, and photography is just a side activity as a temporary distraction, which I do need.

But then again, having some people to shoot with, can be fun too! Anybody out there? Perhaps we can make an arrangement, and we can do a quick street shooting around Kuching. I can't spend time out of the hospital for the whole day obviously, but a few hours is fine, and one can do PLENTY of stuff with just a few hours.

 Environmental Friendly
 Gambir Street shoplots which were burned few years ago

  It was a HOT day

Beautiful Windows
Shot with Nexus 4's phone camera

Again I do have to thank you all beautiful readers here for being here for me, and I appreciate all the well wishes and words of encouragement. I think this blog has evolved over the years from just me blogging randomly about my photography experiments and sharing of some no-that-good images into something much bigger, some sort of an online community. Indeed blogging has affected and changed my life so much, that I have underestimated its importance. The donations have sufficiently covered the initial metal implant costs, and I would have never seen this coming a few years ago. The generosity and kind faith you have all shown were overwhelmingly abundant, and I can only return this undeserving favor by continuing my efforts in blogging here, and sharing my (still work in progress) half-baked photographs from a learning, and still improving photography enthusiast. 

Sarawak Kolo Mee

I shall post my updates on what is happening to my mum and the hospital saga on my Facebook Page (click). I am not able to blog very frequently for obvious reasons, but rest assured that I will keep the shutter clicking, and I will have images to share here, as always. 

The world may stop turning, but the shutter therapy MUST go on!!

Thank you all for believing in me, and lets shoot more photographs!


  1. Buck up bro!I'm sure the challenges that you are facing now will add some great tone and texture to your life and how you shoot through the lens!!!

  2. There's a sadness in many of these photos to me. I wonder if that's because of your current emotions or if it was luck of the draw. Bittersweet, melancholy.

    In the meantime, send over that lunch! Looks wonderful!

    1. Hello Libby,
      Hmmm I did not notice the sadness. However I do believe it has got something to do with the fact that now is the month of Ramadhan (fasting month for Muslims) and the streets were quite deserted at the time I was shooting (late afternoon), so finding human subjects was not as easy as usual. Perhaps there was a lot of "emptinness" or negative space. Shops were closing and people were almost energy-less (final hours of fasting).

  3. Wow, I love the contrast on these images as well as the composition. Very striking. When you have a lot on your mind and free it by shooting, it can help you focus even more on better images. I think these images prove that. Great to see you getting out. I hope to do a lot of shooting this weekend too.

    1. Hey wataru,
      Thanks for the kind words! Hope to get more shooting done soon too.

  4. Beautiful photos, as usual Robin!
    You are the living example about what you have kept saying on the blog, that is: photographer is more important than the gear!

    BTW, I love B&W pictures

    All the best

    1. Thanks Stefano!
      Appreciate the kind words.

  5. Keep positive man. Give your mum lots of hugs. Keep shooting and writing

  6. Some really excellent shots in there, Robin. The first one stands out for me - the low perspective really accentuates the columns - but also the man amongst the boxes and the chaotic street scene (also with boxes) made me linger to take a closer look.

    It's sad to hear that your mum is still in hospital. All the best to you and to her, Robin.


    1. Hey Scott,
      Thanks for the kind compliments! I have learned not to compose some shots to tightly and allow for the spaces surrounding the subject to mak a more "complete" photograph. I guess that works for some shots!

  7. Some really excellent shots in there, Robin. The first one stands out for me - the low perspective really accentuates the columns - but also the man amongst the boxes and the chaotic street scene (also with boxes) made me linger to take a closer look.

    It's sad to hear that your mum is still in hospital. All the best to you and to her, Robin.


  8. Robin, these are awesome shots!
    I can understand that you need this kind of therapy in your current situation and nevertheless thank you for sharing them! I was glad to read your news and hope that your mom will get the needed help as soon as possible. All my wishes for both of you!

    1. Thanks Klaus for the kind words and well wishes.
      It was my pleasure to share the images, and test out my new blogging method!

  9. Wow, it is GOOD to see you back, Robin! Excellent work here - some very striking shots in there. I agree with the other commenter who said that there's some emotional "tension" (as I would word it) in some shots. No doubt such an emotional rollercoaster as you and your mother are going through affects a person, and perhaps subconsciously influences your compositions. Some very strong, forceful compositions in these shots. The first one is brilliant, but so is the "beautiful windows" shot with your phone. The shutter therapy is certainly working! And the food shot is mouth watering as always.

    I am happy you found a way to share this with us, and its even better that you and your mother are doing well. Hopefully everything will go more smoothly from here for her and you, but I can assure you that -crappy tablet or not- your work is brilliant as ever!

    Keep your spirits up and keep shooting! And my best wishes to your mother, of course.

    1. Thanks Andre for the kind words! Indeed there has been some emotional tension and somehow it has gotten translated into the photos. Hope that did not scare some people away!

  10. BTW you may be interested in this (free) color management app for Android (assuming you have a spyder color calibrated monitor at home?)

    Cheers, Andre

    1. Andre, it was not so much of thee screen color accuracy that I am worried about. the screen generally is a lousy one with low resolution display and poor contrast, making it hard for me to ensure the "look" that I want when I process the images.

  11. My dad has just met a nearly fatal road accident, which involved a total-lost lorry of my dad. He is now safe in Hospital but the almost endless surgeries at there to be done. So I do know all the pain you feel.

    Everytime I pass by my workdesk and see my gears lying there, I feel sorry too. Should have placed them in a drybox.

  12. These look great! You're getting good results considering your simplified workflow. Of course, having good shots in the first place doesn't hurt :) Sorry we missed you when we were in KL last week, but good to know your mum will get her surgery. Maybe our paths will cross again one day! All the best to you and yours!

  13. finally..i can read ur blog again..really miss with ur i know ur feeling just now..with ur mom at hosp waiting for d surgery, i can see ur feeling from d pic u take..hopefully ur mom will be ok soon..

  14. Nice setup you put together to upload your photos and blog entries. I looked for a setup like this for a while and was not sure, if a OTG-Cardreader will just work. What model do you use and is it just recognized by the tablet? Do you have to use an App to import photos on to the tablet or does it show like a gallery-folder or something?
    When I'm on the road and don't want to bring a laptop, such a setup may be interesting for me, so I'm looking forward to learn more. :)

    Best wishes,

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