In about 12 hours from now I will be in Perth, Western Australia. Partly to for a photography assignment shooting an old friend's wedding, and partly to get away from the madness of Kuala Lumpur life and just relax. 

I am not sure if I will find time at all to update this blog, but if you do not hear from me for the next one week, rest assured that I will be out there shooting away happily. I miss Perth so much, and I hope to make the best out of my trip this time. 

Having quick spin with the underrated Panasonic 14mm F2.5 lens. Mounted on my E-PL5 and just took it out for random clicks. Guess what? I actually liked what I am seeing from this lens. It is small, light, wide open at F2.5 and works well with E-PL5. 

Portrait if a Stranger

Last year, I experienced Holi Festival, or the Festival of Colors for the first time. I was not very sure if I could get into the celebration again this year going in as a photographer, due to the newly imposed rules on restricting DSLR users to enter the festival compound. I pushed my luck and managed to secure myself a media pass (thanks Sunil) and braved myself through the colors and water and grabbed myself some shots. My Olympus DSLR E-5 and Zuiko Digital 50-200mm F2.8-3.5 survived last year's Holi, and I was very confident that it will survive Holi again this year. Therefore, my primary shooting gear was the E-5 and 50-200mm lens attached on it, full time. 

Now for those of you who may not know about Holi, it is also known as 'Phagwah', representing the Hindu month of 'Phalgun' which ushers the spring season, when vegetation begins to bloom after winter. Holi is celebrated to usher the spring season with the brightest and liveliest colors. Many people may only think that Holi Festival is celebrated at India (the origin) or other countries outside Malaysia, but we have been celebrating Holi locally here for over 5 decades. It is a time where everyone comes together, friends, relative and everyone to form a community as colorful as Holi itself. 

The Holi celebration that I went to took place at Shree Lakshmi Narayan Mandir (est 1919), which has been the centre for Spiritual, Cultural & Educational activities mainly for the North Indian community in Malaysia. For more information about the temple as well as the organizer of this event, SDS Youth, kindly visit their Facebook Pages.

It is indeed a blessing to be able to witness, participate and shoot such a beautiful event like Holi in Malaysia. Photography opportunities were calling out from all directions, there were plenty of live action, human expression and emotions and lots and lots of colors to play with.

All images were taken with Olympus DSLR E-5 and ZD 50-200mm F2.8-3.5 or Olympus PEN E-PL5 and Panasonic 14mm F2.5

Side Note: This blog has just surpassed 8 Million Page Views. That is a LOT for a humble blog of mine. Thank you all beautiful readers for making this happen. I am not sure what made you guys come back again and again, but what I can tell you is that shutter therapy for me continues, and I hope you get your shutter therapy too!

I have always been a fan of longer focal length when I am shooting on the street, No doubt, I also acknowledge the importance of having wide angle coverage and some subjects and composition work much better with wider angle perspective. Though I have used mostly the Olympus 45mm F1.8 for my street shooting, I have always kept the 17mm F1.8 and the versatile 12-50mm F3.5-6.3 kit lens around handy, just in case there was a sudden need to have a wide perspective. That is the fun part of hunting on the street, you never know what to expect, you never know what comes your way, and it is best to be fully prepared. I am all in when someone advised learning photographers to just stick with one lens (prime lens would be strict but helpful in your growth in photography) but I also believe in insurance. Since Micro Four Thirds system is so small and light, it is easy to carry around several more lenses. 

Today, I decided to change my shooting style when I was attacking the streets. I decided not to use the M.Zuiko 45mm F1.8. Instead, I made room to fully utilize the newly purchased, 25mm F1.8 lens. The 25mm is my primary lens which I used 80% of the time, and it is mounted on my OM-D E-M5 full time. Now, this is something new that I am experimenting now, I have now with me, a PEN E-PL5, with a Panasonic 14mm F2.5 lens attached to it full time. I am running with TWO cameras and lenses, and they are both pretty much wider than what I normally work with. I have effectively 28mm and 50mm perspective (equivalent focal length in 35mm format of course) to play with, and boy did I find this combination really useful, and it worked very well for me. As expected the Olympus 25mm F1.8 lens continues to amaze me with the superb results, while that Panasonic 14mm lens was no slouch either. The best part of all, I can still fit everything into my small bag and still the bag was very light. 

I am getting increasingly high amount of emails asking me about photography tips and how I get the shots I usually get. Therefore, I shall share bits and pieces of what I can with descriptions beneath the photos. Bear in mind if you want to find out about the Shutter speed, aperture or ISO used (even the metering modes and white balance settings) I have ALWAYS left the full exif data of my photos intact, and you can view them. I hide nothing!

All images were taken with Olympus OM-D E-M5, PEN E-PL5 bodies and M.Zuiko 25mm F1.8, Panasonic 14mm F2.5 lenses. 

Overhead Bridge
Morning light (or evening light)  is possibly the best for creating dramatic effects in photographs, especially if you want to produce long-ish and far-reaching shadows. The moral of the story? Don't be lazy, wake up EARLY and go out to shoot. In Malaysia, it usually rains in the evening, thus chances of getting this kind of effect later in the day is much slimmer. 

Few days ago I posted a photo of Sarawak Kolo Mee. Do you really think that would be complete without the Sarawak Laksa?

Taken with Olympus OM-D E-M5 and that new awesome M.Zuiko 25mm F1.8 lens of course. That 25mm lens is just perfect for food photography. You can have a decently wide coverage, yet at the same time you can choose to do close up shooting if required. 

Everything about this one shot was wrong. It was completely out of focus. It has a strongly backlit subject. The image has no definition and the composition was boring, having the man smacked right in the middle of the frame, with nothing else to support the main content. The exposure was all off with too much shadow and highlight burns. No matter how much post-processing the image cannot be salvaged. This shot was a failure. A rejected frame from the series to "edit" and filter out the unacceptable images.

But you know what? I love this image. And I do not care if no one likes it either. Because this is still my image. 
I was away to Sarawak, my hometown last weekend, was busy with work, thus the lack of shutter therapy. Nonetheless, the reward was in the delicious local Sarawakian dishes which I stuffed myself silly. 

Sarawak Kolo Mee. The longer I have been away from home, the tastier it gets. 

I got mine. Olympus M.Zuiko 25mm F1.8 BLACK.

It has been a while since I last used the M.Zuiko 60mm F2.8 Macro lens, hence I decided to bring it out for a spin last weekend. 

Oh gosh, I almost forgot how amazing this lens was for insect macro. I should spend more time doing macro shooting. The following images were taken with Olympus OM-D E-M5 and M,Zuiko 60mm F2.8 macro lens. 

If you are interested in finding out how I managed the above shots, kindly read my entry here (click) which I shared EVERYTHING about my macro setup and shooting techniques. 

The above results were achieved with several important factors:
1) Undoubtedly, the great M.Zuiko 60mm F2.8 macro lens, for full 1:1 magnification for both shots. 
2) Wireless TTL Flash, fired off camera by Remote Control function, which is available in all Olympus Micro Four Thirds camera system
3) The 5-Axis Image Stabilization allowing hand-holding such extreme magnification shots easier

The week has been an unexpectedly long one, with work stretching to ungodly hours, and shutter therapy was needed more than ever. I joined a group of old shooting friends and we attacked the Petaling Street, KL this morning. Not exactly my favourite street hunting spot, but somehow it turned out to be very enjoyable. 

A while ago, a friend Raja Indra Putra commented on the way I approached the street people (strangers) before I took photos of them. He said I would make my entrance to the scene, posing as someone harmless. After establishing that message of "me being here, not a threat" with the stranger since the stranger is already aware of my presense, then I walked in closer, and work my camera. He said that happened almost all the time, and it worked because it gave the strangers time to decide that I was not someone evil (I do have a very friendly appearance, I think), thus allowing me go in closer and taking photographs of them. 

I never really thought about that before! That friend's observation was correct, to every detail, but there was a twist in it. Now the truth, from my perspective, I did not intentionally "enter the scene" and establish that I was a non-threat, at least that was not part of my plan at all. 

What actually happened was me taking a quick pause to quickly adjust the camera settings before I approached my strangers on the street. You see, when I saw a stranger that I have decided to attack, I wanted to have all my camera settings set before I go in and make the shot happen. I set the focusing point to exactly where I want the eye to be in the frame, I set the aperture to have sufficient depth of field (depending on how near or far the subject is and how much I want to be in focus), I set the ISO to compensate for the light or lack of, and surely I must watch the shutter speed and ensure it was fast enough to mitigate blur if necessary. All the camera controls should take about 2-3 seconds, and then I make that strike happen by pointing the camera to the stranger and BAM. I tbought it was 2-3 seconds, or so I wanted to believe it was only that brief and I was so efficient with camera controls. Another truth to be told, I actually took about more than 5 seconds, perhaps even 10 sometimes when I do hesitate on my settings (hey, I am not perfect, seriously, I do make mistakes, but at least I rectify it before I shoot). That many seconds of me being stagnant, staring blankly at the camera fiddling with settings, was helpful to give out a friendly signal to the stranger that I was about to shoot them, and for those who are ok with their portraits being taken (of course not all, if they said no, I would respectfully oblige), they have that nice, friendly, beautiful expression on their faces. Honestly, I did not know how they looked the way they looked, but it probably was a mirror to my own expression when I was looking at them. We are all human after all. 

All images were taken with Olympus OM-D E-M5 and M.Zuiko Digital lenses 45mm F1.8 and 17mm F1.8

Portrait of a Stranger 1

Last Friday I had a blog reader visiting all the way from Germany, Mirko who came together with Celine. We met up at KLCC and I brought them out for local Malaysian dinner. I think the food was probably a bit on the spicy side. Nonetheless, we all had great time knowing each other, exchanging ideas on photography. Unfortunately their time in Malaysia was so short and they had to fly off the next morning, else I would have brought them out for a shutter therapy session. 

All images were taken with Olympus OM-D E-M5 and M.Zuiko 45mm F1.8 lens. 

Note: May I direct your attention to Olympus Ambassador of South Africa, Dallas Dahms who runs an amazing blog rich in useful Micro Four Thirds contents here (click).  I think it is great seeing more and more people shoot with Olympus OM-D and Micro Four Thirds in general, and more importantly share their thoughts, photographs and experience.

I have often been asked questions, either by my beautiful blog readers here or friends in real life, on how to make good photographs. I think that is too general of a question, and it is not as simple as answering in a few lines of descriptions. It is also not as straightforward as coming to a classroom and me giving you all the tips and knowledge (from whatever limited experience that I have) on photography and you will walk away being able to make good photographs. Often I observe people looking for answers at the wrong directions, or asking all the wrong questions. Therefore, I want to share what I think that new/beginner photographers should watch out for in their learning process in becoming better in their craft. 

Before I go on sharing any further, I mention that this blog entry is written for learning photographers, mostly newcomers and beginners who are very young to the photography world. Although that was the main target audience, strangely, I also acknowledge that a huge number of blog readers here are actually much more experienced, and better photographers than I am. I have often been humbled by the sharing of great photographs by my readers and I have had great privileges to meet a few great photographers who happen to read my blog in real life. Ultimately we admit that there is no right and wrong or hard written rules in photography, what we find mostly are guidelines, tips or recommendations that can positively help us improve our photography. 

All images in this blog entry were taken with Olympus OM-D E-M5 and M.Zuiko Lenses, 45mm F1.8 and 12-50mm F3.5-6.3 kit lens. 

Bridge in Morning Sun