The best Pho I have ever had. Of course, it was in Vietnam.

I spent the past few days in the picturesque coastal town of Hoi An, Vietnam. Finally, I managed to get some time away from work and just click the shutter button away, while doing that in a quaint, small and peaceful town. I have not had much chance to travel around and I really should have made more effort to explore South East Asia more, there are so many beautiful places, rich in culture and various tradition, all screaming photography opportunities to be discovered. 

I brought along Olympus OM-D E-M1 as the primary camera, an E-M5 as a back-up in case something happens to the E-M1, and four M.Zuiko lenses: 9-18mm F4-5.6, 45mm F1.8, 75mm F1.8 and 40-150mm F2.8 Pro. When I was walking around doing my shutter therapy, I did not bring everything with me of course, usually only one camera (E-M1) and about three lenses (40-150mm Pro stays behind, unless the extra long each was needed). E-M1 and the three lenses weigh less than 1.5kg, all fitted into a small shoulder sling camera bag, easy to carry around without feeling any strain on my shoulder or neck. In comparison to my older days with DSLR E-5 and the Four Thirds lenses, this new combination of E-M1 and smaller lenses made such a stark, huge difference in terms of portability and convenience. And with the 40-150mm F2.8 pro lens, the total weight comes to about 2kg only! 

Beautiful Hoi An, near sunset

Friendly Hoi An farmer

The shops and buildings are old, but with beautiful, traditional design, staying in tact. 

I have noticed several comments, here on my blog as well on forum discussions, mentioning how it was almost impossible (ok, impossible is a very strong word, or simply put as "unlikely") the shots I took with Olympus cameras (E-M5, E-M1, E-M10) exhibiting so little noise, looking so clean when I was shooting at high ISO settings (ISO3200-6400). 

Before we step any further in this subject, I would like to clarify a few items. I never mentioned that you do not see noise in Olympus high ISO shots, and surely I also did not mention that the shots were "clean" and "noise-free". I always, always have been careful when it comes to touchy subjects like high ISO shooting, and I always mentioned my high ISO shots were "good enough" and noise was handled, or controlled well. Noise is present in image even at lower ISO settings, it is either the noise was smoothened out by in camera processing or too negligible to be detected with normal computer screen views. How tolerable the amount of visible noise in high ISO varies from person to person. I was perfectly fine with E-M1's ISO6400 ouput, but showing the exact same image to a friend, he cringed even at the sight of some luminance noise (which I was perfectly fine with since it did not add any destructive effect to the image, instead adding "structure" which looked nice, in my own opinion). 

I do have to reiterate that Olympus cameras CAN shoot very good images, and I shall put a stop at ISO6400 here. Yes we can go higher and still get away with usable images, but we all know there are other "higher end" cameras that can do better. The problem here is, many people thought that I somehow miraculously managed to shoot "supposedly" clean ISO3200 and ISO6400 images. 

ISO3200, Olympus OM-D E-M1 and M.Zuiko 40-150mm F2.8 PRO lens

ISO6,400, OM-D E-M10 and M.Zuiko 75mm F1.8
I know there are many die-hard believers of available light photography, who would rather throw their cameras down 20 storeys high building than choose to use flash in their photography. 

I am a strong believer in available light. If you have seen even just 2% of what I have posted on my blog, you would see that more than 90% of what I shoot (street photography mainly) were done without aid of additional artifical  lighting. However, I do not deny the advantages of enhancing an image using flash photography. I certainly acknowledge that careful and strategic use of flash can open up a whole new world of possibilities. 

It all comes down to the ability of the photographer to understand the light, and apply it in his photography. Light is not perfect all the time. While most of the time utilizing available light may be the best solution, there are times the available light was simply terrible, or insufficient. Recognising that the light condition is poor, we have a few choices to make: 1) forget about shooting, lighting is everything, thus poor lighting = poor photographs 2) shoot anyway, and screw lighting. available light is king (you must be delirious) and 3) find ways to counter the poor lighting, for example, using flash!

I have encountered this situation while having dinner last night. I was served with a plate of beautiful burger, begging to be photographed (I know, I know, the internet is overflooded with food photographs, but do forgive me this one time to demonstrate my point in flash photography). I tried shooting without flash, and I did not get the shot that I wanted. No, the camera was perfect capable in shooting low light conditions, images came out clean despite high ISO setting, and I had an F1.8 lens so it was not an issue under low light. The problem is the light was poor, being flat, and uninteresting, with poor color cast. The initial image came out dull and honestly, not appetizing to look at. 

Olympus OM-D E-M1 and M.Zuiko 25mm F1.8
1/25sec, F2.8, ISO400, FL50R, TTL +1.3EV, bounced directly off ceiling
When the week was long and it weighed you down, and the weekend came, the only thought that came to mind was run away as far as we could from the city. My friends and I did just that over the past weekend and we decided to do a day trip to Sekinchan (about 2 hours drive away from Kuala Lumpur). It was not exactly a spontaneous plan either, originally this outing was intended to be a model portrait shooting, but somehow plans got shifted last minute and we decided to just head out and have some fun, being silly exposing ourselves under the blistering Malaysian sun, stuffed ourselves silly with cheap and good seafood and just randomly clicked the shutter away, Somehow it was not really a photography trip, and I did not want to focus on shooting so much, but I did come home with a few shots that I was rather happy with. 

I brought along a Silver Olympus OM-D E-M1, and M,Zuiko lenses 45mm F1.8, 25mm F1.8 and the kit lens M.Zuiko 12-50mm F3.5-6.3. I also brought along the E-PL5, as a second body, with the fisheye bodycap lens attached to it at most times. 

This was easily my favourite photo of the day. We actually drove past this scene and I requested the gang to turn back so I can capture this. I know there really is nothing that spectacular about this shot, but everything seemed just rightly in place. There were the strong major colors, bright yellow and red against bold green and soft blue background, there was a reflection by the water and the nunbers on the container added some interest to the overall rather simple and straight forward photograph. The lighting for this scene was just nice and I could not have asked for better. Nothing fancy, but it caught my attention!
I have to admit, after using the Oneplus One phone for about almost 2 months now, I have completely fallen in love with it. I have also reviewed the Oneplus One's camera capabilities here (click) and did some slow shutter speed experiments (click). The few outstanding features I like about the phone, is the high flagship specifications, long battery life (can last me whole day with just a single charge) and more importantly, it was priced ridiculously low, about half of what other competitions in the similar range were offering! 

When Jackie Loi alerted me about the first ever OnePlus Fan Gathering event in Malaysia, which happened earlier this afternoon, I immediately registered. I went with Jackie of course, and was glad to find so many attendees. Somehow it felt really strange seeing so many people using the same phone as you do, all in the same room. Indeed OnePlus user base in Malaysia is growing strong, and I am very happy to be a part of this vibrant community. If you have not known by now, the OnePlus is setting up a local office in Malaysia, which the OnePlus One phone should be made readily available to be purchased by Malaysians. 

All images were taken with Olympus OM-D E-M1 and M.Zuiko lenses 45mm F1.8, 25mm F1.8 and 9mm F8 fisheye bodycap lens. 

NEVER SETTLE, the tagline for OnePlus. 

Not bad for the first official OnePlus event in Malaysia, so glad to see such high turnout. 

When dear friends and ex-colleagues, Fei Seong and Lih Shiong asked if I were willing to do some outdoor portrait shooting for their pre-wedding albums, I immediately jumped in and made it happen. This entire weekend was spent at the beautiful locations of Singapore, which I have never done any assignment shoots in before. Fei Seong and Lih Shiong were gracious to have me around and we had plenty of fun roaming around Singapore. 

Considering I was quite inexperienced with wedding shoots (especially so for pre-wedding), I insisted that the couple get an actual professional photographer to do the official photographs, which they have done so. That took a huge load off my shoulders knowing that they already have their primary set of photographs taken, and whatever I am delivering will not be in the "make it or break it" situation, Nevertheless, I took this opportunity to learn and push myself further. I cannot use the "beginner's card", at some point I do have to get my feet wet and dive in altogether. Only by exposing myself to something I rarely do, I can improve. 

Primary Camera: Olympus OM-D E-M1
Secondary Camera: Olympus OM-D E-M5
Third Back-up camera: Olympus PEN E-PL5 (always, always have a back-up)
Primary Lenses: M.Zuiko 45mm F1.8, 25mm F1.8 and 9-18mm F4-5.6
Secondary Lenses: Panasonic 14mm F2.5 and Olympus 9mm F8 Fisheye Bodycap lens
Olympus FL-50R Flash, used off-camera, fired wirelessly when needed
Olympus FL-36R as a back-up flash (in case FL-50R fails)
Flash Softbox: Gamilight Square 43 (portable, and light, fold-able to flat form)
Tripods, small, light, and cheap, two units, one for the flash + softbox combination, and one for the camera when needed. 
Bags for camera and lenses: Think Tank Urban Disguise

The priority was lightweight, and we walked the entire day from location to location, in combination with commuting via public transports. I have the Think Thank Urban Disguise bad to fit all cameras and lenses, while another long carry bag for the softbox (folded, flat, easy to store and carry) and two tripods. The tripods may be the super cheap, unsteady, unreliable ones, but boy were they small and light, and they did their jobs well. 

Here in this blog entry, in less than 24 hours from the time of shoot, I am showing quick preliminary edits of selected photographs.