Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Why Do I Shoot On The Street?

Olympus Malaysia will be hosting a Photo Sharing session this Saturday Morning (at our headquarters) featuring a multiple international award winning photographer, Sanjitpaal Singh. Sanjit will be sharing his latest photographs taken at various rainforests in Malaysia, showcasing amazing nature photography that I am sure many of you have not seen before. Since it is a photo sharing, this session is all focused on photography and anyone is welcomed to view Sanjit's photographs and ask any questions, so we can all learn and benefit from this session. 

Event details: Sanjitpaal Singh Nature Photography Photo Sharing at Olympus Malaysia this Saturday 16 August 2014 (10am to 12pm). Open to all, registration required. 

For info and registration head over to the Facebook Event page here (click). 

People are often amazed when they found out that I can go to the same KL streets week after week and never get bored. Some friends who initially followed me religiously to shoot have somewhat become "exhausted" of the same scene and decided to either stop shooting, or shoot other photography subjects besides street, or pursue other hobbies entirely (people do change their minds often). It takes a lot of discipline and self-motivation to grab the camera and head out to shoot, and more importantly it takes even more patience and persistence to shoot on the same streets over and over again. 

All images in this entry were taken with Olympus OM-D E-M5 and M.Zuiko 45mm F1.8, 25mm F1. or Panasonic 14mm F2.5 lenses

Portrait of a Street Cat

1) To wake up early in the weekends and not waste the day away

Having shutter therapy is a great way to start the weekend mornings with high spirits, doing something that I love and ensuring I get photographs (that I love) by the time the sessions end. I normally start very early in the morning, to catch the morning golden ray and directional lighting which is crucial to create more dramatic portraits or street compositions (long shadow plays, high contrast, etc). Starting early also means I get to end the shooting session on the streets by the time the sun is high, around 11-ish, and when I do come home I already have something achieved with a sense of accomplishment, and that great feeling will stay on for the rest of the day, or even the whole weekend. Then the anticipation to look at the photographs on the PC adds to the excitement and normally I just could not wait to blog about the photographs. On the other hand, I still have the entire afternoon and evening to do all the other activities that a normal working class adult like myself would do, catch a movie, have lunch with friends, do some window shopping or just stay home or go out and save the world from supervillians or something.  That is the thing that I always emphasize: to not let my photography sessions get in the way of my life, and I allow it to co-exist with whatever I am doing. If I do have a long list of to-do items lined up for the day, the shooting session can be cut short to an hour, and I can be really happy to just come home with one or two photographs that I am really happy about. Quality over quantity. 

2) To keep the mind sharp

All the things we have learned as a photographer, especially the technical control of the camera such as shutter speed, aperture, ISO, focusing, etc do require constant exercise to stay in tip top condition, ensuring efficiency on operating the camera. Like sports or any activities we need to constantly repeat a routine again and again until we get it right, and then continuously repeat that until we never get it wrong again, and still doing the same thing over and over again so we do not forget what we have learned. Not only getting fully mentally quick in reflex when it comes to changing camera settings, such regular photography shooting exercise is also crucial to maintain the conscious and subconscious awareness of the camera buttons and controls layout, as well as the operating menu. Where is the ISO shortcut button? What did you program that Fn1 button for? 

Some people believe that after they have discovered and successfully executed some special techniques, they have accomplished their goal in photography. However, you will lose all that if you do not keep practising and repeating all the routines to stay sharp. To be able to shoot artistically, all the technicalities of the camera must become fully automated by the brain. Instead of spending too much time to figure out what shutter speed works best, how to change the metering and which lens works best for this scenario (which can be figured out quickly, effortlessly at the back of your mind), the focus should be on the subject you are shooting, how to compose it dramatically and create a beautiful photograph.  

3) To experiment and improve

People like to think that they are good at what they do. I would love to think that I am good in my street photography too. Nonetheless, the truth is obvious, there is still so much to learn and explore, and improve. There is always room for improvement. The question is, should I just stay where I am and be happy that I have achieved whatever little success that I have with what I have done so far, be stagnant and say "that's it!"? Or should I be constantly pushing myself to get better, and experiment more, challenging myself to see things differently or try different approach in shooting. On with the latter thinking that I see myself growing. 

Everyone wants to be a super-star overnight. Any successful, award winning, legendary photographer (insert idol photographer of your choice's name here) will tell you that he did not get to where he was in a short span of time, or by luck. It was mostly immeasurable hard work and spending infinite amount of time shooting, to ascend to their level of accomplishments. Improvements do not happen all at once, they happen incrementally. A tennis champion when he was 25 years of age (his prime) may already have started training on the court intensively on daily basis when he was 10 years old, or younger.   Taking all this into consideration, I see myself as relatively new to photography and it is still a work in progress. 

Somewhere Hidden


Portrait of  Stranger

Lying on the Floor

Five Foot Way

By the Chickens

Feet up in the Air



Ultimately, I enjoy shooting on the street because I really do enjoy it. I love randomly walking up to beautiful strangers and have their photographs taken. I love to see people smile. I like to see people smile naturally. I also like to challenge the norm of street photography which portrays life as miserable, depressing and full of horrific truths. I want to find the human part of my street photography, I want them to feel positive. I choose hope and I want to believe that there is good in everyone (including cats). At the end of the day, your photography is to a certain extent, showing the way I see life. 

So what is your excuse of shooting (or not shooting?) Do share your thoughts!


  1. your commitment to photography is very inspiring. very nice cat portrait.

  2. Love these images. Wow , that Street Cat is beautiful. And Playful is wonderful. And (2) is so true .. gotta keep the mind sharp!

    1. Hey Derek,
      Practice makes perfect!

  3. The "Feet up in the Air" picture of the chicken tootsies is one freeky lookin pic! Because of the composition it looks like children's fingers reaching toward the lens, looking to grab it. Something from a Tim Burton film. WOW!!!

    1. You should see the image taken by my friend, Johan, from that len's perspective. Simply amazing.

  4. I absolutely love the low angled shooting perspective that u often adopt ...:)

    I strongly suspect that this cat/kitten is stalking u ....I have seen it so many times in your captures .....:):)

  5. You have a great blog site Robin. You helped me decide to buy an Olympus PL-5 to replace my DSLR. I have a question. How do you approach strangers when you want to take their photograph. I'm a bit of an introvert and a bit freaked out at the prospect of getting in someone's face like that. Thank you again for everything you publish.

  6. I love to filming within the neighborhood mainly because I complete have fun with this. I adore at random , taking walks nearly wonderful guests and have absolutely the pics considered. I love to view persons giggle. I love to view persons giggle by natural means. When i likewise choose to difficult task normative connected with neighborhood taking pictures which often portrays lifetime seeing that gloomy, dismaying in addition to rich in horrible facts. I have to chose the people component of the neighborhood taking pictures, I'd prefer those to think constructive.
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