I am so glad to finally find some time for proper shutter therapy, and together with Shaun visiting from Australia, we attacked Chow Kit, my favourite hunting ground. I have not been to Chow Kit since... I don't even remember when. Must have been more than half a year since I last went there. Chow Kit, as it has always been, remains my number one place to go to for more serious street photography outings. I always come home with better photographs, not necessarily the photos that my readers will like, but those are the photos that I am personally very satisfied with. Photographs that I want to take, and photographs that show the way I see things. There is just something about this place that kept me going back again and again for more shutter therapy.
In my bag (now a much smaller bag) I have the Olympus OM-D E-M5 and M.Zuiko lenses 45mm F1.8 and 12-50mm F3.5-6.3. As usual I would expect myself to use mostly the 45mm F1.8 lens, but somehow this time, I have changed lenses more often than I used to, and I have utilized the 12-50mm kit lens more than I have originally intended. It provided me with wide angle coverage, something very useful when shooting in tight spaces especially when we were in the wet market. To be honest I am starting to warm up to this lens. I know very well that the new M.Zuiko 12-40mm F2.8 is a far greater lens in every aspect, but this 12-50mm kit lens is not exactly doing too bad, especially in situations where I do not need the extra speed of F2.8 bright aperture, and in shots where sharpness does not really dictate the better outcome of a photograph. For my usual street shooting, the 12-50mm kit lens did its job wonderfully!
Dried Food. 12-50mm kit lens
Burn Chicken Burn
Considering that I now have quite a significant presence in online photography community, and my blog reviews of Olympus gear ha been discussed in many places, I have been receiving quite a number of invites to join photography Facebook Groups, forums, and many more societies. This may come as a shock to many of you who have just recently followed me here, I have not joined any forums or Facebook groups, except for mychiaroscuro.net (Olympus local Malaysian forum) and PEN Lovers facebook group. Even so, I am rarely active in either forum or FB Group. I will continue to do so, and please do not take it personally when I turn down any future invites. I shall explain my reasons.
If I were to join a group or photography forum, I want to be an active member, and I want to be able to contribute, committing a chunk of my time and effort. I could barely find time for the forum and group I am currently in, and I doubt I will be able to make time for any other groups or forums. I spent a great deal of my free time out there shooting, and I would like that to remain the same, shooting first, and everything else second. After all, what is photography without actually going out and shoot? After shooting, I immediately will update my blog, with fresh photographs out of the shoot. For example, all the photos you see in this blog entry were from a street shooting session which happened this morning, less than 12 hours ago, and I would have updated my blog sooner if I did not have further plans in the afternoon. Keeping this blog alive and updated with latest photographs are something I have been constantly doing for so many years now and I do not see myself giving this up for anything else, certainly not for forums or groups. I have so many reasons to throw out on why I prioritize this blog and my shutter therapy sessions, and that itself can be one whole separate blog entry, with perhaps multiple parts.
Aside from shooting and blogging religiously, which already took all my free time (I do have an 8-5 full day work) I also receive dozens of emails a day, and dozens more comments on my blog which I would do my best to reply soonest possible. The content of the email is getting longer and longer and there are more questions which I tried my best to answer, in my best capacity. The questions range from "how to change the ISO setting in my newly bought OM-D (not kidding)" to "why my photographs are not sharp" to "what lens should I buy". I also receive many questions on photography techniques and discussion on how to improve certain photography skills. I have no issues receiving many emails and replying them, I am glad to be able to interact with my readers and I would like to do whatever i can to contribute to the community. However, as you would have predicted this, I was left with very little time for anything else.
And I am not even talking about Gear Review season. When I am reviewing a new camera or lens, as the readership/page views increased exponentially, so did the number of comments and emails I had!
Imagine if I go into online groups (I received dozens of invitation) and having to answer further questions in each and every one of them, I will somehow miss out some groups or some questions or neglected some people. I am not a machine. That is why I have decided to have everything centralized, I only have ONE blog. I do not have a Flickr account. I do not use Google+. I do not have Tumblr. I do not have a very active Twitter account (which I am deciding whether I should just axe my Twitter off), I am not on 500px, and I will not join any forum and groups. Yes, I do have my own Facebook Page, which I only started in April this year, which is doing quite well by the way, but only because EVERYONE is using Facebook now and I cannot expect everyone to keep coming to this blog manually (whatever happened to RSS Feed readers? no one is using them anymore?) so the only way to keep everyone updated is through that said FB Page.
Green and Hot. 12-50mm Kit Lens
Low Cost Apartment. 12-50mm Kit Lens
I know there are a few notable photographers who would hog onto every single social media channel and shamelessly do self-promotion. Self-promotion is not wrong, but when it is overly done, with the aim of gaining popularity and hooking potential clients or workshop participants, it can get to a point where the over-zealous postings and updates can become annoying. I seek neither. I was one of the few blogger that are not obsessed with my blog statistics. Blogging is no longer the leader in social media game now, in fact it has lost its footing, but I am one of the rare few who chose to remain in the blogosphere, and I still find that it is pretty much the most relevant social media when it comes to online photography community. Blogging may not be the most popular (in comparison to 500px, Google+ or Flickr) but I like the fact that a blog is my own personal space, which has its own unique look, and its own identity. No other blog can look the same as mine (unless someone intentionally copied) and I get to do whatever I want with it. The most important thing is sharing my thoughts in a more "complete" manner. I have a lot to say. And a blog is the right channel to say what I want to say.
It is also interesting to note that I am gaining higher readership in this blog at the time when blogging is no longer at the peak of social media hierarchy. I guess my blog has not really changed, I have been doing the same thing over and over again for the past 7 years, and surely the content matured over time, but the diligence and persistence were always there, miraculously. My online presence was centered almost solely on this blog. And I would very much like this to remain the same way.
I think another reason why I do not participate in photography forums and groups, is due to me being too "different" from generally agreed rules of photography. I challenge the rules many times and I break them to create my shots. I do not believe in preserving highlight and shadow details, I have many blown highlights and shadow clippings in my photographs, as evidently seen in my photographs shown in this entry. I do not use wide angle lenses much in street photography, I (personally) hate 35mm field of view, and I shoot almost exclusively with medium telephoto focal length (100mm would be ideal). I do not care about perspective or barrel distortion, I enjoy having the distortions in my photographs. I explore very unusual composition techniques, and I always shoot against the light. My tolerance of high ISO noise being ok is somewhat much, much higher than what most people would expect. My photographs were never perfectly levelled, they were always tilted to a certain degree, and some were purposely slanted to add tension to the photographs.
I find it very exhaustive to discuss technical imperfections, and if I post my photos up on a forum or group, the critiques would go like this: 1) The white balance was slightly off, try to tune it a little warmer 2) Composition would be better if you leave more space to the right of the eyes 3) There is too much noise in the photo, you may try using prime lens in such low light condition 4) Depth of field not shallow for good separation, Better lens will solve this problem 5) Too much highlight clipping, next time use histogram to watch your highlights.
The thing is, my white balance is all over the place (who cares), I compose it the way I see it, no one else can tell me otherwise. There really is no right or wrong, if I feel that the composition is right, it is right to my eyes. Noise? Depth of field? Better lens? What about the moment, the emotion, the idea, the message the photograph sends, or the layers of juxtaposed meanings? What about the connection drawn into the look of the stranger's gaze? How about how do you "FEEL" when you see a photograph that I show? About highlight clipping and histogram, I do not trust the histogram. I would have my own way of determining the appropriate exposure balance for my shots, the histogram usually is NOT accurate for my shooting. And highlight clippings? Lets just say I want my white to be white, and there is nothing you can say to convince me otherwise.
I am not really against all the technical debates out there, surely they have their place. But you must understand that I am an engineer (perhaps I should use past tense in this sentence) and the main reason I came into photography in the first place was to get away from all the technical non-sense! What happened to just shoot what you love, shoot what moves you and enjoy the process of shooting? How about capturing what you see, and show what you see to your audience through your photography work? Photography is a lot more than just F-Stops and lenses and having a larger image sensor. Instead of arguing about better low light shooting or which gear is better, we should be discussing about photography itself. I have yet to find a place online that does just that. I have not. If you have, please let me know!
I know I cannot fit into the general crowd in the forums and group, hence I always tell people that, my blog's existence is as if I am living on my own island.
Superman and Shoes
Wrapped and Barbequed
Morning Stranger 2
Taking a Break. 12-50mm kit lens
My blog is an island, that is no secret. I have broken so many rules in photography and worse, I do not use Full Frame cameras! I am not even using Nikon or Canon, and for goodness sake, I am using Olympus, one of the least popular choices when it comes to gear, and one of the most bashed.
And that is also why I am equally surprised when people actually come here and read, and come back again! Surely I am not the only one who feels this way, and I know those of you beautiful people who are here, do not just come for camera and lens lusting, but to see more into photography as a form more than just gear chasing and measurebating.
What is the one important thing I emphasized on this blog? Fresh, new photographs. As frequently as I can deliver. Why? Photography is all about photographs. They may not be award-winning, or professionally taken, or may not even qualify any forum critic sessions, but hey, they are my own photographs, and I am damned proud of them. Because my blog is a photography blog, I usually would show more photographs and let the photographs do the talking. I will continue to do so, and somehow I do hope people would shoot more and share more too! Instead of waging wars in forums and online groups.
Special thanks to Shaun (http://www.footlessfish.com) for tagging along me for shutter therapy today. I had plenty of fun, and I hope you did too.
Having left this blog for 2 months when I was away in Kuching, being by my mum's side (she is doing GREAT by the way!) made me realize just how important this blog is to me.
I personally find that photographs from this blog entry are better than my usual weekly street photographs. Like I said, this is a personal opinion, and I thought I really have put more effort into this session.
So yes, more shutter therapy sessions, and surely more blog updates to come! Glad to be back now and back to my usual groove.