Monday, November 30, 2015

A Short Shutter Therapy Session is Better Than No Shutter Therapy At All

I don't think I have been getting sufficient shutter therapy sessions recently. I was shooting a friend's registration of marriage ceremony on Saturday and spent a huge chunk of Sunday on post-processing the preliminary edits. I did manage to squeeze some hours out for quick rounds at Pudu Markets and boy, it sure was fun just being able to walk aimlessly and enjoy shooting random strangers. 

I am now actively using the Olympus PEN E-P5, since no one came forth and claim it (a suspected stolen unit). I paired the E-P5 with the M.Zuiko 25mm F1.8 lens, and this combo is quickly becoming my favourite street shooting gear. I have always loved the 50mm equivalent perspective when I am out there attacking the streets, that will not change. 

I have heard from a prominent photographer who mentioned that he will not use 50mm or 35mm for his usual photography work (portraits, weddings, commercial/product shoots) because these focal lengths too closely resemble human natural vision, and he wanted exaggerated perspective to create depth and impact. I do agree with him, but that only applies if you are shooting to impress. Often the main objective of many photographers (myself included sometimes, surely) is to find images that will "wow" our audience. We want people to "like" our photographs that we share on Facebook, 500px, Flickr, etc. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, and encouragement with positive, real human feedback can be great motivators to push harder and improve in photography. 

However, when I am doing shutter therapy, the main objective is actually to do whatever I want to do, and the main person I am doing my best to please is, myself. 

Sometimes, I compose in a certain manner that only makes sense to me, and it does not matter because photography is a selfish game. At some point of shooting for the fun of it, I have to start having fun. I have to be the one enjoying the game, I have to do what I want to do to make the best out of the limited time I have. I do acknowledge that the photos I show here are not National Geographic worthy and will never be award-winning. Should I care about these achievements? 

To me, I am just happy being able to pick up a camera and shoot. That is one of the simplest joy, and I can do that and end the day with an expensive cup of coffee. 

A Saturday Morning

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Cat Knows

Besides shooting human portraits on the streets, my eyes will automatically lock target on any moving four-legged meowing creatures roaming the same streets I frequent for shutter therapy. Oh yes, cats ranked very highly in my "to-shoot" list when I am out there doing street photography. Mock me as much as you like, I do not care, I love cats, though I do not own any as pets, but encountering them on the streets is quite an interesting experience. 

I realized I have quite an extensive "street-cat" photo collection, I can arrange them into a series easily now. I was told by an old photography friend that one day I would be able to do an exhibition solely on the cats I have shot on the streets. No, not just the ordinary portrait close up shots of the cute, innocent looking furry faces, but portraying the cats, just like the way I shoot humans with their surrounding environments. Think of street photography, minus the humans, and add the cat into the picture. Something like that. Has there been such a category invented? If not I better come up with a new name quick. That could be the next thing I invent after the phrase "shutter therapy" and I have a good feeling it will take off. Trust me on this. 

So here I was, shooting cats, week after week, while observing all the usual rules or conventions that I apply to my own photography: composition, strong visual and subject content, interesting background, beautiful lighting, etc etc. I know there is a specific photography group that exists just to criticize and look down on other photographers who shoot cat photos. I hope they never found this blog entry. 


7 Bucks per Kilo

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

"To Be a Better Photographer, Be a Better Person" Jerry Ghionis in Malaysia

It has been a terribly hectic week for me and I had very little time for shutter therapy. Nonetheless I had very rare opportunity to meet Jerry Ghionis, the legendary and one of the greatest modern wedding photographers who was in Malacca for his workshop. I attended the pre-workshop session, the Wedding Photographer's Conference, where hundreds of wedding photographers (who did not have a wedding job that particular weekend) came for a whole day sharing and learning event, from Jerry & Melissa Ghionis, Keda Z, and some of the big names in the industry such as Jon Low, Iskandar Ibrahim, Grace Tan (from Stories.my) and many more. It was quite a refreshing twist to my usual weekend activities, as I spent almost entire day sitting down and just absorb as much knowledge as I can into my worn-out engineer-trained brain. 

At the end of the session, my friends and I had an opportunity to spend some time up close and personal with Jerry. I managed to even asked him a few questions which he humbly replied. He even showed us many of his photographs that he took during his non-working hours, just for fun! Truly Jerry was a great inspiration, though wedding photography is not my forte, I have learned so much from his generous sharing session in just 2 hours on stage, and the private session after that. 

A group photo with Jerry Ghionis!
I was so lucky to be standing by his side! In the photos are my friends from KL, EC Tong, Meng Keat, Lim and Joseph. Image was taken by Joseph's Sony A7s (at stratospherically high ISO numbers)

Sharing the few memorable quotes from Jerry that I could recall from his session:

1) "Everyone wants to shine bright like a diamond. When everyone does, there are many, many diamonds out there it becomes difficult to outshine each other. Instead of being bigger and brighter, sometimes, it is better to be a ruby." 
Jerry talking about standing out from the crowd and be unique. Not only does this apply to wedding photography, but I think this is so relevant to everything else we do!

2) "What is the difference between seeing me in videos and seeing me live? One is Porn and one is Sex." 
Jerry's opening line for his talk! What a line. 

3) "How do you know, when it is the last time you are going to hug someone?" 
Jerry sharing his experience on the importance to express emotions, and capturing them. 

4) "I hate Photoshop. I'd rather touch my wife's boobs, than touch the mouse" 
AGREED!

5) "Photograph your subjects through the eyes of a loved one"
Powerful and applicable mostly for actual day wedding photography approach. 

6) "To be a better photographer, be a better person" 
This one actually left me with a huge impact. How true it is, being a better person, we see the world in a better perspective, and that will affect the way we shoot. Photography, is after all, the art of seeing. 

After the two hour session with Jerry, honestly I wished I have signed up for his 2-day workshop on the following Monday and Tuesday. Unfortunately I do have to work, and my life is not all photography at this moment. 

I think Jerry is a skilful photographer who has tonnes of experience, and the remarkable thing about him is his generosity to teach and share. That is one photographer crossed off from the list of photographers I want to meet in my life!

A reminder to self - "If I want to be a better photographer, be a better person".


Monday, November 16, 2015

Spending a Weekend with Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm F2.8 Pancake Lens

I am not going to lie to you, initially I wanted to bring the Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm F1.8 lens from the office, and use that only lens for my weekend shutter therapy. I wanted to revisit the lens and see if my personal trainings with the Fujifilm X100 has improved my execution of the 35mm equivalent focal length, especially when shooting on the streets. Unfortunately all the available units of the M.Zuiko 17mm F2.8 have been loaned out. Not giving up, I picked up the much neglected M.Zuiko 17mm F2.8 pancake lens as a substitute. After all, a 17mm lens is still a 17mm lens. 

I did not intend to do a review of the lens. I did not have the time to, and the 17mm F2.8 pancake has been reviewed by many other photographers before. Sufficient information about the lens is available and I do not see any way I can add more to that. As usual, what I can do is share as many photographs as I can. I will however, share my experience and thoughts after using the lens for one weekend, and a handful of photographs I managed to gather. 

The Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm F2.8 Pancake lens was released at the time of the first Olympus Micro Four Thirds Camera, the PEN E-P1, which was in 2009 (6 years ago). General feedback from both reviewers as well as users highlighted that this lens is a good all round lens but not a stellar performer. Therefore I was not having high expectations on this lens. 

COOKIE vs PANCAKE

Either the pancake was super small, or the oatmeal cookie was huge. 

Friday, November 13, 2015

Portraiture Shooting with Anthony Mendoza Barlan

Last Saturday I had a rare chance to join in an outdoor model shooting workshop, which was conducted by an up and coming local photographer, Anthony Mendoza Barlan. Anthony specializes in shooting artistic beautiful portraits of model, usually conceptual and abstract in nature. The workshop was a paid workshop, and there were about 20 participants. I did not come in as a workshop participant though, I was actually there to help out a friend, KS Du, with a task to shoot behind the scenes images of the entire workshop. 

It was a blast being able to move around freely and document the event, and at the same time, I managed to steal some quick frames for myself. 


Wednesday, November 11, 2015

12 Must Read Non Gear Review Blog Posts

It is not too brutally honest to admit that the majority of the traffic to this blog is driven by my Olympus gear reviews which I have done over the years, accumulating an ever growing list. While the biggest success of this blog was largely due to the said gear reviews, at the same time I have worked very hard week after week showcasing new set of photographs in order to create fresh blog contents. I do not want this blog to be known solely for the Olympus cameras and lenses reviews. I want my blog readers to return for other more compelling reasons as well, including my photography, which frankly is still a work in progress. I openly admit I am a learning photographer. 

In the process of sharing tonnes and tonnes of photographs, I have also shared my knowledge, experience, thoughts and anything related to my shutter therapy sessions in my blog updates. I often do my best not to hold back, and to be as open as possible, because I am not perfect, and I, like everyone else, need feedback and comments to grow. While composing blog entries, I constantly find ways to add value to my blog contents, so that my readers (my target audience is primarily newcomers to photography) will get something useful out of spending time reading my articles here. 


Monday, November 09, 2015

The 50mm Perspective Weekend

If there is a new Olympus OM-D or PEN user, using the basic kit lenses, either M.Zuiko 14-42mm F3.5-5.6 EZ or the 12-50mm F3.5-6.3 EZ asked which lens to go next, I would most likely answer them: stay with your kit lens and use it until you can create beautiful photographs with it. Then what is next? Surely by then, you will not ask me which lens to get because based on your experience shooting excessively with the kit lens, you would know what you need and what your preferences of shooting style would be, hence knowing what lenses to complement your shooting needs. This also largely corresponds to what kind of photography you are doing (surely you do not recommend a wildlife bird shooting to use a fisheye lens, would you?). 

If that photographer is still clueless on what to buy, or decided the kit lens is rubbish from the start (most people do any way) and want a lens that is versatile and will be frequently used, the answer is none other than the incredible Olympus M.Zuiko 25mm F1.8 lens. It is an equivalent of 50mm classic focal length, providing you with flexible perspective and easy to use frame coverage. This magical focal length can be used for a wide variety of photography subjects, ranging from every day casual shooting, portraits, a little bit of close up on details, tight landscapes, and so on. The lens being a prime lens, delivers excellent image quality, razor sharp even at wide open F1.8 and has minimal technical flaw. Yet it comes in a small and light package, matching OM-D and PEN compactness, thus easy to carry around or just fit into that small corner in your camera bag. The F1.8 wide open aperture allows shallow depth of field and at the same time useful for shooting in low light conditions. What is there not to like about this lens? If I were to pick one lens and say it is a must have (obviously if you already know what you are doing you surely have decided on your own must-have list of gear), surely it is the M.Zuiko 25mm F1.8. I bought mine as soon as it hit the market in Malaysia. 

I have spent the weekend with this lens, shooting around Petaling Street, as well as some urban skyscape shots since the haze is now gone. I brought only ONE lens. The 25mm f1.8 and I used it on the new OM-D E-M10 Mark II. 

I know this scene may appear ordinary and dull to you, but we Malaysians appreciate such clear sky and haze free air. You have no idea how bad it has been. Considering it is coming to the raining season very soon, it is best we shoot these shots in whatever chance we can find!

Monday, November 02, 2015

Glorious KL Sky After the Haze

Note: If you were in Malaysia and you have lost an Olympus PEN E-P5 Silver body, it is possible I have found your unit. Please read this blog here and contact me personally. 

The haze in KL is gone, after repeated episodes of heavy downpour over the course of more than a week and the shift of wind direction. That spells out overjoy for us photographers who shoot mainly outdoor. I sure hope the haze is gone for good!

I have posted up about a possibly stolen Olympus PEN E-P5 unit which I have acquired recently, and I would like to thank all you beautiful people for the words of encouragement, and most important of all, sharing out the info. I would think that not too many people in Malaysia have lost an E-P5, and most of the photographers are connected through social media (Facebook is still the number 1 social network in Malaysia) No one came forth and claim the E-P5 yet, and the offer to return the camera to the rightful owner shall remain open as long as the E-P5 is with me. However, I will have to set a time limit before I start using the E-P5, and I am setting a one month deadline. If no one claims the E-P5 from me after one month from now, I will start using the unit for my shutter therapy sessions. By then, at least I know I have tried my very best to find the rightful owner. 

So what did I use for my shutter therapy during this past haze-free weekend in KL? Olympus PEN E-P5 which I grabbed from the office. I paired it with my own beloved M.Zuiko 25mm F1.8. There was one particular shot that I wanted to do so badly, a landscape shot of the city from a far, taken during sunset. The weather did not disappoint, and the skyline was blessed with dramatic cloud formation, with strong golden warm sunset light over the city. I could have created a HDR shot but I decided against that and presented the classic silhouette style instead. This was probably the most beautiful shot of the city I have ever made. 

Sinset over KL. Which lens you ask? That humble kit lens, M.Zuiko 12-50mm F3.5-6.3 EZ, at 12mm widest angle.