Sunday, October 27, 2013

My Blog is an Island

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 

Gas Tank. 



No Shoes. 

Going Bananas

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

Price Tags

Exposed Bricks

Friendly Customer

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

Morning Stranger 2

Taking a Break. 12-50mm kit lens

Legs

Vegetable Seller

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. 

55 comments :

  1. Hi Robin, I agree with you 100%. Who cares...as long as they look good to me :-)

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  2. arghh!!that Oly color really striking my eyes!!Nice picture Robin. I do agree with you with all the debates on the forum and FB groups. It sometimes make people think photography are hard with all the technical perfection. People sometimes forgot that moments are the only things that valuable in photography even with all the technical error. It only come once and will never be repeated. Technical perfection from photography comes with a practice and can be repeated as desired. My 2 cents!

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    1. So true, Ashraf! technical perfection can be trained, but artistic side of seeing things is a different story.
      Yes, Olympus colors!!!!

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    2. So true. Good photography is about moments and emotions in my optinions. Many technical obsessed people think so much about the technical side while they take pictures that they doesn't even notice the greatest moments. It's important to understand the technical basics of photography to get close to what you want and don't get frustrated, but once people understand the basics nothing is more important than taking pictures and enjoying the whole process. Like Daido Moriyama once said ... "There is no quality without quantity". Especially in the first years it's more important than anything else. In my first years I was also very technical obsessed and it was such a waste of time.
      A good example is Theumas Leuthard I think, also an Olympus Shooter. He's sometimes even shooting in automatic, which the technicans hate so much, to keep his head free from technical stuff and use the few seconds he might just have on the street to use it for the composition and such more important things.

      And thanks for keeping your main priority on the Blog. There are also people like me who doesn't like to use Facebook and most content on Facebook isn't accessible without having an account there. In some Jobs (depending on the Country) people aren't even allowed to use social networkst to protect their identity. RSS is still around - I'm using Feedly.

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    3. hey Leif,
      Thanks for the kind words! Indeed we have to focus on what is more important in photography, which is taking photographs. being obsessed with technical perfection won't get us far.
      I am glad that you are using Feedly! How I wish it was still the same as the older days when feed reader was important and no one relied on other social media for blog updates.

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  3. So Robin, when is the Olympus OMD EM1 coming to Malaysian shores ? I am itching to replace my OMD EM5 hehe...

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    1. It should arrive by end of November/early December. if it comes early, we will push out to the stores early and announce on our Olympus Malaysia FB Page. Stay tuned!

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    2. Waiting eagerly and thanks for your quick response !

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  4. By the way, I like Shaun's strap on his OMD - do you know what brand that is ? It looks very elegant !

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    1. I shall get Shaun to answer that. SHAUN!!! What are you????

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    2. Hi Laser Guy - I am using a sun sniper strap (leather version). Its a great secure strap for being on the streets.

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  5. Stay with the blog Robin I love it, the space is yours not Mark Zuckerber owner of Facebook. Keep doing it your way! I also stay away from the forums etc.

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    1. Thanks Dan for the show of support! The FB Page is secondary, I pay a lot more attention to this blog. Notice I only post a few photos there? I post EVERYTHING here!

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  6. I will be the one who come in often to enjoy your photos...I like your photos!

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    1. Hey Keat,
      Thank you so much for the kind words!

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  7. Blog on, Robin. Just blog on. For every hater, there are 100 silent fans. Always remember that.

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  8. Bravo, Robin! I really liked reading what you had to say in this blog post. It is because of the reasons that you stated that I enjoy stopping by your blog (almost) every day. I don't waste any time in forums or more than 5 minutes a week on Facebook. Twitter doesn't do much of anything for me, as I only check it every few days, and the flood of stuff that comes through that door is way too overwhelming to even get started on.

    I think that a lot of people "consume" content, rather than "create" content. Watching YouTube videos and seeing what all of your "friends" are up to on Facebook is "consuming" content that other people have created. A personal blog takes time and effort to "create" the content. I also see it as there are those who do, and there are those who follow (those who do).

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    1. Thanks Gregg for the kind words. And it is interesting what you have shared, about consuming and creating content. I have never seen it that way before! Certainly worth exploring, and glad to be content contributor!

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  9. Ahh!! Missing my Oly!!! I am missing too many shots having now go back to Fuji......though i see it as a challenge for me to work harder to get the shots...EM-5 made it so easy...if I do miss....it is because of my composition and not the camera.

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    1. No worries Lazyboy, whichever camera we use we just have to make full use of it. There are so many things that are photographer dependent, which is not on camera. Do not blame the camera!

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    2. I should know better :P Thanks!

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  10. I tend to agree with you about what you said in this blog entry, but would take it a step further. Constantly chasing technical perfection can make beautiful photographs, but after a while, they all start to look the same and lack something. They become homogonized and boring. I do not argue for going in the opposite direction though. To do that would be to hand photography over to instagram filters, and that would be just as foolish as sacrificing emotion in a charge towards technical perfection. To my eye, pictures like you take usually manage to strike a happy balance between being technically perfect where they need to be (for example, your pictures of people) and stylized and emotive where they need to be (for example, your pictures of street scenes as a whole). The pictures I like best are the ones where both is done in the same picture - very sharp very detailed and well exposed focal points in your compositions, and let the rest hang.

    This is something I have been trying to achieve more in my own photography. It is, to be frank, what converted me to electronic viewfinders and shooting in manual mode. I get more control over the output with that approach.

    Regarding blogs - I agree again. I am in the process of divesting myself of most online social media. I maintain myself on facebook only because I have noticed an uptick in hits on my professional site when I mention new content. Continous traffic on that site is good for business as it reminds people I am there. That is a good thing. But otherwise? I am fading out and moving most of what I am doing over to my blog. It is refreshing. I can tell a story with pictures and words working together there much more easilly than I can on any photoshare website. I don't care if anyone reads it. People do, but not many, and I am ok with that as I am creating for me and me alone. I am pleased that some people appear to want to come back and see what I am talking about when I post, but that is not why I post. I suspect that you understand what I mean.

    Anyway, this is a long way of saying keep this up please. This blog of yours, coupled with a couple of others, is one of the things that I enjoy reading on the net.

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    1. Hey Chris,
      Thank you so much for taking time to comment and share your thoughts. I like the way you describe how striking balance is important in a photograph. I too find myself struggling with that, it is not an easy thing to achieve and surely takes a lot more effort, which we should be focusing on. Shooting with electronic viewfinder is liberating in so many levels, and finally we can put more attention to the subject and composition.

      You were right when you said continuous traffic is good for business! Considering facebook is still the largest and most engaged social media platform I would say it would be foolish for photographers who earn their living through photography not to use this to their advantage.

      Thanks again for the kind compliments, really appreciate it!

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  11. I don't think you owe anyone an explanation or apology. I think your photography is amazing. It's inspiring to me. Street shooting is not something I am accustomed to doing or have much practice in. But I want to go out and do it. It will take some work to get over my own personal hangups with taking people pictures though. :-) I am a newcomer to your blog...thanks to your E-M1 reviews, but I don't expect to leave any time soon. Cheers.

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    1. Thanks Glenn. Street photography is not that complicated! I am sure you will enjoy it.

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    2. I guess I just come from a place where walking up to strangers and taking their picture is seen as a little odd (or worse). I've always felt very self-conscious about it.

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  12. Hello. Food for thought. I always come back because your photos are damn good and its a place for me to learn about street photography, the culture in Malaysia, funny stories ( which really complements the photos), malaysian food etc..... Well I visit a lot of sites but none of them have this personal friendly touch. I also do not come because of olympus camera since I use canon but I really enjoy the gear reviews. By the way the 45mm is a killer lens... the bokeh is very pleasant (round bokeh balls) and the kit lens is no slouch either! Least but not last, I started a photo blog too because I was inspired by your blog ;-) So why not..!?

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    1. Hey Johan,
      Thanks for the kind words, and I don't think my photos are thaaaaaat good, but surely I strive to improve. Glad to see that you are blogging, and wow, you do have some impressive shots yourself, and those shots are meant to be shared with the world.

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  13. A very interesting blog post, Robin - you always "speak to us" from the heart, and this time you gave it to us, your readers, with both barrels :-) I love it! You are so right. This is EXACTLY the reason why your photography is special, realistic, engaging, and inspiring. You don't (slavishly) follow "The Hallowed Rules" but you apply them Creatively (with a capital C) and that's what its all about! You're the one who's getting it and the "experts" clearly are not. It's sooo simple. Those "Rules" are only mere guidelines, tips, hints - and nothing more. If we'd all follow "The Rules" then all we would get is zillions of similar crappy, flat, boring shots! And don't get me started about the forum armchair "experts". Most of them are pathetic and should be out shooting instead of hammering utter technological nonsense on a keyboard. They often remind me of a hilarious variety on the famous infinite monkey theorem, on statistical probability -this time by Wilinsky- stating that "We’ve heard that a million monkeys at a million keyboards could produce the complete works of Shakespeare; now, thanks to the Internet, we know that is not true."

    How appropriate!

    You keep doing what YOU like - and to heck with the technicalities and the white balance and the bloody highlights and the ISO's and the rule of thirds and whatnot. Your photography is excellent exactly BECAUSE you focus on the art and craft, YOUR art and craft, YOUR vision, and not on the technology and the "rules". Heck, some of my best work (at least work that I personally like) was made with a crappy coal-fired 5mp compact and others with a 1980's era AF zoomlens which is widely recognized to be the worst in the history of humanity. Guess what? I like it, find it sharp enough and I don't care about the distortion. It's good enough for me, and the kind of shooting I do. To drive the f-stop equivalence brigade wild I shoot full-frame lenses on APS-C and vice versa, and to make the forum warriors completely foam at the mouth I even shoot in JPEG often. Ha! I am fairly sure several already ended up in a oxygen tent because of me :-)

    Keep up the good work my friend and don't let anybody tell you what to do. You're doing excellent work - the pictures speak for themselves - while staying yourself and clearly enjoying it - and that's the real reason why people keep coming back.

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    1. Hey Andre,
      I always make sure my blog is a "conversational" kind of writing, so that I am indeed, speaking to you as if we are having a conversation.
      Photography is a lot more than just following rules, it is a medium of communication and we can express ourselves freely from there. You put it in the right way, my photography is, MY photography and my photos reflect my own vision.
      Thanks for the kind words again, Andre!

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  14. The only thing to say for posting your photos on someplace like SmugMug or 500px is that it would offer your fans a chance to buy some of your photographs. I don't know what the commission is like, but with your fanbase it could put a few coins in your pocket.

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    1. Hey Patrick,
      Not planning to sell these images but hey, that is one idea I shall keep and consider again when the time is right. Thanks.

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  15. Robin, imho your stubbornness to follow your own vision, and to do things your way, is what makes your photos _and_ your blog so refreshing.
    It's one thing to have ideas about what you like; it's another to follow through and develop them into a unique body of work -- as you have in your photography.

    It's also instructive for those of us who may not have previously questioned certain assumptions on correct technique. I particularly value that you've made me rethink my attitude towards clipping -- and that's because I like the way your clipped photos look!

    Another thing: your individual approach is not _against_ anything, it's _for_ your own vision of what makes good images. In other words, this site is a sparkle of positivity amidst the jungle of twitter/facebook/forum ego negativity!

    Btw, I'm glad you've recently had the time to shoot and post more frequently; it's a pleasure for your readers/viewers. :^)

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    1. Hey Peter,
      I guess I am really stubborn like that!
      And please do not consider my thought about "clipping" to be a good way to present a photo, many people have frowned upon this and I do understand why. After all, it is a personal preference.
      I am sooooooo glad I can finally shoot! I think you can sense the happiness in that itself.

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  16. Going back to the Cat City must have been good. It's good that you spent time with your mum. There seem to be plenty of places to photograph there, also, with all the water.

    I believe I started reading about your blog two or so years ago, in the ClubSNAP Four-Thirds forums from Singapore. You were like a lighthouse near the rocks, helping people avoid desperation by giving us a view of what could be done with that awful brand Olympus. Mind, I've been using Olympus equipment since 1990, so I care if people didn't like the equipment I carried. I knew what I had.

    By the way, I recently mentioned your site in one of my blog entries, as a site that I read regularly for photographic news, etc.

    If you are who you are and never let go of that, you can be at peace with yourself, and I hear that is a wonderful state of mind. Be well!

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    1. Thanks so much Sakamoto for the words of encouragement. Appreciate that.
      Indeed being home in Kuching for 2 months somehow reassured me of what I want to do and made me realized how important photography and this blog are to me.
      Glad that you are using and staying with Olympus! It is a great system of course, and I am loving it.

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  18. Relax. Don't want you to join anything. Just adding a link to my blog (you must hate that!) ;)

    Lots of EM5 photos. No crap about gear. Just photography.
    http://alphawhiskey.slickpic.com/photoblog

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    1. I don't add links to any other blogs, unless I know the photographer/blogger in person, and also we have been interacting for a long time.

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  19. Hi Robin,

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

    I think that you need as much technique as you need to make your pictures look the way you want them to, and you need as much (or as little) gear as you need to... make your pictures look the way you want them to.

    So, I completely agree with you, that it's all about the pictures. If you had an idea for a picture, and you weren't able to make the picture because you didn't know how to make the camera express your idea, well then you are lacking a technique that you need, and you should learn it so that next time you will be able to express yourself the way you want to.

    Some people talk/write about photo technique and gear because, well... it's easier to talk and to write than it is to get out there and put your ego on the line. If you spend more time taking pictures than talking about taking pictures, you will probably get better at taking pictures and worse at talking about pictures. We get better at what we do, and worse at what we don't do!

    Keep shooting and sharing your work with us, Robin. Thanks for all your hard work!

    Regards,
    Steve

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    1. hey Steve,
      I like the way you think and how you put it about the more you spend time shooting the better you get, and you actually put your ego on the line! That is so true. Action speaks louder than words and if the results show, anything else does not matter.
      It was my pleasure to share my photos and blog!

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  20. This was such a funny read, and lovely pictures again! Heh.

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  21. Brilliant blog, brilliant photos, I keep coming back .. thanks Robin!

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  22. Thanks for sharing Robin, great photos as always. People sometimes dismiss the kit lens too easily where they forget it's the context, story and emotion is what counts in the photograph. Your site and Ming Thein is what I follow the most and read often you guys tell it like is with no pretenses.

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    1. Thanks Rain! Indeed Ming Thein is a great writer and photographer!

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  23. Robin, go on like this forever! It's a pleasure to read a blog about going aroung taking photos, with the occasional snippet about equipment you like!

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    1. Hey Andrea, sure, will do my best!

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  24. Hi Robin. I just wana ask if all the photos you've posted in this particular post were taken with 12-50mm kit lens?

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