Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Shutter Therapy

Shutter therapy is a phrase I have created several years ago, which I have used frequently throughout my blog entries here. I do not remember myself defining it, and for some unexplainable reasons the phrase has been widely used by many friends here locally in Malaysia, as well as some photographers I have known overseas. What exactly is Shutter Therapy, and the original meaning when I started using the phrase? Where did it come from? Why do I go for Shutter Therapy on every weekends? I shall do my best to answer all these questions in this blog entry. 

THE ORIGIN

I started to go deeper in photography in 2008, when I first purchased my first DSLR, Olympus E-410. One year later, my father passed away and it was one of the darkest moments of my life. I was in my hometown Kuching, feeling rather depressed, thus I needed to do something to get off those miserable emotions, I needed to go out of the house, be with good company of friends, and obviously, do something I liked doing very much. I figured photography was a good thing to do, since it occupies my mind when I am out there shooting, as I have to consider all the technical controls, composition, lighting on the subject, etc. I called up a dear friend, Allen Ang who has been there for me throughout my difficult times and we went out shooting, randomly, with no particular purpose. I felt free, and my mind was not clouded with all the negative feelings and as I concentrated on making photographs there was this sense of satisfaction that I get when I shot a photograph that I like. That positive encouragement was extremely powerful, and self-uplifting. After the shoot, when I was home looking through the photographs, it clicked in my mind that the short, random, positive-healing photography session was best described as "therapeutic". I just had a Shutter Therapy. 

That was the beginning, and that therapeutic quality has been stuck with me, and I started craving for more and more, weekend, after weekend. Photography has somehow evolved into an obsession. 

The photographs used in this entry are compiled from my favourites, taken with various cameras: Olympus E-5, E-PL5, E-PL7, E-M10, E-M5, Sony A57, Panasonic GM-1 and Fujiflm X100. 


Kuala Lumpur is an awesome place to shoot. 



I shoot anything that attracted my attention. This includes shapes, lines, repetition of similar shapes, something out of the usual, anything that I thought was interesting. 

I think photographers have this fetish with reflections. 

Shutter therapy trains my reflexes. Shots like this, you may only have one or two chances to shoot. 

Seeing is very important in photography which I am still struggling with. I envy those gifted with photographer's eyes. 

I generally favor side lighting, which happened a lot during my shutter therapy sessions. 

I have blogged about shooting strangers on the street recently. Please read if you have not here. 


SHUTTER THERAPY & STREET PHOTOGRAPHY

The association between Shutter Therapy and street photography happened by accident. 

I have just started to get more serious in photography in early 2008, leading to 2009, I have tried all kinds of photography genres, from model portrait shooting to fashion shows, and the one that I have been most involved with was insect macro photography. Spending about almost two years doing that, I started to realize that while technically I was getting better in controlling the camera, I did not develop my artistic sense in photography. Yes I can get sharp images, proper flash exposure on the subjects and accurate white balance, but my composition was poor, my images did not tell a compelling story and I did not have a good vision of what good photography is. 

The problem was not about "how to shoot", it was "what to shoot" which I must pay attention to. 

Realizing that I needed to improve my "seeing" and creativity in photography, I decided to temporarily quit insect macro photography (I sold off my first macro lens, Olympus ZD 35mm F3.5 macro) and took up an entirely different category: street photography. 

It was at this time that I started using the term Shutter Therapy more frequently. So I simply described my street shooting sessions in the weekends as shutter therapy sessions. Nowadays, when I ask my friends out for shutter therapy it usually means lets go shoot on the street. By default, my usual weekend shooting activities have become Shutter Therapy sessions


SO, WHAT IS SHUTTER THERAPY?

To me, personally Shutter Therapy simply means, go out with your camera, and have fun shooting. The keyword here is FUN. Yes, the main purpose is to go out and shoot, but you are not having Shutter Therapy if you do not have fun while shooting. 

To me, when I am doing shutter therapy on the streets, I will shoot what I like, and the subjects that attracted my attention. That is important, because doing Shutter Therapy means being myself, and I can do what I want with my camera, without the restrictions and strict binding rules of typical traditional street photography. 

Shutter Therapy can be short, it can be an hour outing, or it can span a full day long, as long as you are having fun. It can be done alone, much like spending some alone "me-time", or with a group of friends, having fun shooting together. I do not like an outing with too many people, because it will then become a huge social gathering where there is more talk than camera action. It does not matter what camera or gear you use, as long as your gear can snap photographs, you can have shutter therapy. Yes, even with your smartphones. I personally prefer smaller cameras and lenses. 


BENEFITS OF SHUTTER THERAPY

1) FUN FUN FUN
The anticipation to head out on a weekend morning, just to be out there and shoot some photographs, the excitement is difficult for me to explain. I guess if you are passionate about something that you do, you will most surely enjoy when you are doing it, especially if you put your mind and heart into it. 

2) KEEP THE MIND SHARP
Using the camera, understanding and mastering the technical controls require constant exercise to keep all the memories and reflexes consistent. Much like sports (racket sports, swimming or anything that requires hand-eye coordination and quick reflexes) the more you practise the more efficient you are at what you do. Same with camera settings, the basic exposure triangle of shutter speed, aperture and ISO controls, while I can control them with ease now, if I rarely use them for a long period of time I will lose this efficiency. I do not intend to spend time to relearn what I have already learned, I just want to keep using them and get better. 

3) IMPROVE PHOTOGRAPHY
To improve in photography, it does not just happen overnight. It takes tonnes of patience, sweat, heartbreaks, obviously immeasurable time and effort to be good at photography, or basically anything else in life. The only way to improve, is to shoot, and shoot, and shoot some more. Yes, there are workshops, there are online tutorials and guidelines, there are photography books written by professional photographers, you may have a great photographer as a mentor, but if you do not go out and spend time shooting you will never improve. Why not do shutter therapy as frequently as possible? In that way, you get to shoot more, and have amazing fun at the same time! 

4) IT IS BASICALLY FREE
Assuming you already have a camera and at least one lens (kit lens is perfectly fine), you can just grab your gear and have shutter therapy any time! 

5) IT MAKES ME FEEL PRODUCTIVE
I normally do not spend more than half a day for shutter therapy, and finish it by lunch. I still have the rest of the day to meet friends for lunch, do grocery shopping, catch a movie, or simply read a book at a cafe. Shutter therapy rarely gets in the way of my weekends, though it has become the highlight of my weekends. I plan my shutter therapy around what I have lined up for the day. And the best part is, after coming home from a shutter therapy session, I know I already have a set of images to be used on this blog, and I just cannot wait to blog about them!

6) DID I SAY FUN?
I just cannot emphasize FUN enough!

Again, quick reflex kind of shot. You have to think ahead, plan the shot, anticipate it before it happened. 

Glorious colors that called out to me to shoot them. Many times, you do not have to look for subjects, they actually screamed for your attention, if you open your eyes and heart. 

I like black and white images, for the tidiness and simplicity of the shot. 

When I was out shooting on a Sunday I imagined this would be a Sunday that I agree with. Hence shooting what you like, and what you want to say is important. 

Oh I love cats. Hence I shoot them a lot. 

More cats. 

Yes I can do a whole series of cats. E-PL7 at ISO6400 for this one. 

I believe great Shutter Therapy session should end with an equally great cup of coffee. 



SHUTTER THERAPY OBSESSION

Why am I obsessed with shutter therapy? Why do I keep shooting again and again, every weekend? 

When everything came together, composition, lighting, good subject content, beautiful background, with the right moment, that sense of accomplishment and satisfaction is just incredible. That sense of achievement, the happiness derived from it, stays with me for a very long period of time. In order to revisit that positive energy, all I have to do is just to look back into my photographs again. 


So there you have it, I hope I have cleared some questions about Shutter Therapy. 

It has become an identity for this blog and for myself, while many professional photographers wrote about specific techniques or philosophy in photography, my take on photography is on the lighter side of things. I may be no expert in photography, or win any international level photography competitions, or won recognition from National Geographic Society, but I have one thing I did better than anyone else: I made sure I have the most fun ever when I am out having my Shutter Therapy. I may not be a world famous photographer, but I will be happy enough if people know what Shutter Therapy is!

And the best part? Shutter therapy is free for everyone to experience! Try it, I assure you, you might get addicted to it. 

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17 comments :

  1. Yes, I believe the same things. I also adopted your term of "shutter therapy" instead of "street photography" because too many self appointed gurus want to own that definition

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Ananda. I think Street Photography has become too vague and at the same time very complicated!

      Delete
  2. For those who get addicted to shutter therapy you will have to start a new blog titled "STA." Shutter Therapy Anonymous. ;-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anyone is free to use Shutter Therapy not a problem!

      Delete
  3. Robin, you said "Seeing is very important in photography which I am still struggling with. I envy those gifted with photographer's eyes". And I have to say to you, you're kidding me!!! You're struggling? No way Robin, you're too humble, you do have the Photographer's eye! You definitely see what Henri Cartier Bresson sees. Your pictures speak for itself. You rock!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the kind words. I want to think that my eyes were trained, from consistent and rigorous weekly exercises (shutter therapy). Some people are born with the eyes!!

      Delete
  4. Can you imagine ST lugging around Canon 5D and L zooms lens? Sold it all got EM1 and Pan/Leica 25 mm 1.4 lens and 12mm - 40mm f2.8 pro zoom

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  5. Very honest words (and images) Robin. I appreciate your humility and passion, and keeping true to yourself throughout all this time. Congratulations and I wish you can have many more Shutter Therapies to come (within and outside Malaysia)!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hey ya, Robin!
    My, it's been a long time since our last e-mail conversation.
    Yep, shutter therapy it is! I have been doing shutter therapies (as you had suggested to me before), even though it's only either on Saturday late noon or Sunday morning.
    And yes, my stress has decreased a lot ever since.

    Keep on inspiring, Robin!

    ReplyDelete
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