Today is the actual day of my birthday, yes I am a Boxing Day boy. Unfortunately, Malaysia decided to not celebrate Boxing Day as an official national holiday, or else it would have been so cool having my birthday falling on a public holiday every year. Nonetheless, it is Saturday today so it was not too bad at all. I have had private celebrations with my friends, and I have even blogged about it here (click). 

The year is coming to an end fast, and I could squeeze in one last shutter therapy session, which turned out to be quite a fruitful one. I can not think of a better idea for the last blog entry of the year. This year has been quite an interesting year for the blog, though the total number of blog entries has decreased (111 posts in 2014 vs 83 posts in 2015), I actually put more effort and spent more time in composing many blog entries that I believe will benefit the general crowd that comes visiting here: the Micro Four Thirds community, and learning photographers. 

I am not one to make new years resolutions, but hey, I can definitely want to continue blogging, shooting and sharing photographs from my shutter therapy sessions. 

I will be taking a break from work, travelling home to visit my mum and spend some time with her. I shall celebrate the New Year with her, and that means, I will not be blogging too actively for the coming few weeks. I will make time for shutter therapy in my beloved hometown, Kuching, that is for sure! So do expect small updates. 

All images were taken with Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II and M.Zuiko 25mm F1.8 and 9mm F8 Fisheye Body Cap Lens. 

I love how wide the 9mm F8 fisheye body cap lens. I know the fisheye effect distortion is not something that many people can accept, but hey, I think it does create dramatic outcome. 

It was a working Saturday for me so that only left me with a free Sunday. I was itching for some shutter therapy, hence I brought the OM-D E-M10 and several M.Zuiko lenses out to shoot on the streets, but the weather was unbearably scorching hot, I started sweating profusely it became too uncomfortable and I finally decided to just hang out in a nearby coffee place. I thought of resuming the street shooting but the air conditioning got the better of me and soon after that I have this short list of things to do that does not involve getting burned alive under the evil Malaysian sun. On the top of the list was the new Star Wars movie. 

I was not exactly a Star Wars fan, and was quite sure on not wanting to catch it in the cinema. However too many friends have been talking about it and every time I am on the Internet somewhere somehow something related to the new Star Wars movie will pop out. Not wanting to be left out and feeling a little lazy on Sunday, I walked right into the cinema and spent my afternoon watching Star Wars. It was a good movie, and an afternoon well spent. 

Although I did not have a proper shutter therapy session, I did have my gear with me and I was shooting at random things. I may not have portraits of strangers or that incredible "decisive moment" shot of the week to show, but who cares, it is Sunday, and I deserve some peace, quiet and rest!

Later in the evening, I had an early Christmas dinner with great company of friends, which turned into an early Birthday surprise for me! 

Yes, I could not believe I caved in and watched Star Wars. 

Christmas is coming, and if you are wondering what to buy as a gift for that friend/relative/family who is an active user of Micro Four Thirds system, and I am making a short list of 3 items which might just be the perfect gift. 

I acknowledge that there are so many gift ideas available already, such as lens pouch, stylish neck straps, memory cards, spare batteries, tripods, camera bags, and the list goes on and on. Nevertheless, these are very specific gifts that can actually significantly add versatality and functionality to that photography enthusiast who particularly use Olympus system, and the best part of all, these gift ideas do not cost an arm or a leg. 

1) Olympus Macro Converter MCON P02
Cost: USD50
I have recently done my quick impression write-up for the two long lenses from Olympus M.Zuiko line up, the M.Zuiko 75-300mm F4.8-6.7 and 14-150mm F4-5.6 II. Since then, I have received many requests to do similar mini-review for the budget friendly, super compact M.Zuiko 40-150mm F4-5.6 R. I intended to complete this blog entry much earlier, but work obligations plus lots of procrastination on my part had delayed the progress of shooting with the M.Zuiko 40-150mm R lens. 

M.Zuiko 40-150mm F4-5.6 R on my new, shiny Silver OM-D E-M10 Mark II

Surprise, or not really a surprise to many, I have just purchased the new Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II! Which colour you asked? This time, a SILVER one. 

Yes, I know this is a direct contradiction to my previous blog entry about not upgrading your gear. Please hear me out first. 

My trusty workhorse, the now aging OM-D E-M5 (original, first version) is dying. If you know me well and have seen the way I use my gear, you would actually be amazed that how the E-M5 has taken the torture, beating and excessive use over the years, and still survived. In case you did not know, I did not buy the E-M5 new, when I got it two years ago, it was a used unit, which also contributed to the shortened life. I cannot say that the camera can survive a full rigorous photography assignment, and that lack of confidence drove me to the option of purchasing a new camera. 

That is the point: I do take in photography jobs from time to time (so that I can eat some fancy food and buy that new lens) and I need to replace the dying camera. Instead of spending money for repair and service, I thought it is time to put the battle-scarred E-M5 to rest, and invest in a new camera. I was deciding between the E-M1 and E-M10 Mark II and went with the cheaper version: I do not need weather sealing for my photography shooting, and the E-M10 Mark II proved to be more than sufficient for my photography needs after many rounds of using it in my review sessions as well as casual shooting with it. With all the latest Olympus specific features, 5-Axis Image Stabilization, large Electronic Viewfinder, super fast AF, and very, very low entry price point, it is difficult for me to look elsewhere.  Also, this may not be something entirely unpredictable, I have sold off the Fujifilm X100 which I did come to love, but I cannot justify keeping too many cameras. 

My current gear list? 
Main camera: The new Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II Silver
Secondary Camera: The suspected stolen Olympus PEN E-P5 Silver (no one claimed from me, so I am keeping it)
Lenses: M.Zuiko 12-50mm F3.5-6.3 kit lens (I use this mainly for 2 purposes, the 12mm wide angle, as well as the special macro mode), 25mm F1.8 and 45mm F1.8
Flash: Olympus FL-50R and FL-36R

What was the first thing I did with the new E-M10 Mark II? I brought it along with all the above gear list to a wedding shoot. 

Photographs are shown with permission from Yew Hoong and Chia Ching, the newly weds. Take note that the following photos are preliminary edits. 

Note: I have written about improving photography without upgrading gear before (dealing with photography basics, composition, etc). You can read them here (click). This entry will be more focused on simpler, straight to the point tips that can be easily applied. 

We constantly find excuses to justify the purchase of that higher grade lens, or a better, more expensive camera bodies. I too suffer from lens lust (that awesome Panasonic Nocticron 42.5mm F1.2 is always lingering at the back of my mind). However, it is prudent to remind ourselves from time to time that upgrading our gear does not improve our photography. The greatest weapon that a photographer possesses is his vision: how the photographer sees the world around him, with his unique artistic sense and perspective. 

There are many advanced tips, tricks and hacks available if you are keen enough to do some Google-ing around, and we are living in the era not short of any information within reach. Photography basics must not be skipped and there is no shortcut in photography, hence the crucial components that produce great photography such as composition, lighting and basic control of the camera must be learned and applied. 

I shall do my best not to be too repetitive of what have been shared before. Instead, I am sharing my own practices that I normally use when I am out shooting on the streets. The following 5 tips are simple, easy and plainly straightforward, no rocket science involved!

1) Lower Down Your Camera, Low Angle Perspective Can Create Dramatic Shots

Low angle photography works very well in many, many situations, and I employ this extremely often in my street shooting. We often shoot through the viewfinder of the camera, being at our eye level, which produces very natural looking, realistic images. Every one sees the world that way naturally, and it can appear too ordinary and plain. By purposefully forcing the viewing perspective away from the eye level, and lowering it down to the waist level, or even lower, all the way to the ground level, a different perspective can be opened up and often the composition can result in a more dramatic manner. Surely, this will not work all the time, but why not give it a try and see how it can change the look and feel of your image outcome?

This is where cameras with tilt screen, or swivel screen comes in handy. Many cameras these days, both DSLR and mirrorless ILC cameras have such functionability. Or else, lie down on the floor and get dirty! Some dirty shirt and pants are better than spending thousands of dollars upgrading your gear.  

By lowering down the camera to the ground, I can include the KLCC Twin Towers into the frame, creating a more compelling image.