I had the privilege to attend Amir and Halina's wedding reception last weekend. Amir has been a constant street shooting partner in crime, we have attacked KL streets together for countless times, and I have been a constant admirer of his black and white street photography. About a few months ago, when Amir asked if I would be interested to do a quick pre-wedding shoot on the streets for him and Halina, how could I say no? 

Now, that pre-wedding shoot was not as straightforward as I thought. The shoot took place some time in September last year (about half a year ago!!), when KL was still enveloped with thick, unhealthy, ugly haze, yet we needed some shots done outdoor. On top of that, we only had about 3 hours to get everything done as everyone was quite busy, and it was a group shoot (there were other photographers, which means I did not have full 3 hours to myself). And in the shooting plan we were to cover a few different locations. Nonetheless, being ambitious and excited at the same time, we braved the great KL haze and made the session happen. 

Now do bear in mind I do not do wedding photography for a living. I sometimes take up actual day wedding photography assignment to fund my gear purchase, as well as to buy that extra few cups of overpriced coffee (which you often see in my blog entries, coffee after shutter therapy sessions). It is even a rarer occasion for me to do pre-wedding photography! I did however, enjoy myself tremendously. 

All images were taken with Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II with M.Zuiko 7-14mm F2.8 PRO, 25mm F1.8 and 45mm F1.8 lenses

It has been a while since I last saw Ariff AB performed live on stage! Had the opportunity earlier this evening to see him at "Live @ The Actors Studio: Singer Songwriters" first session for the weekend.

Had my Olympus PEN E-P5 with me and did a quick recording of one of his newer songs, "Alas Birdie".
Ariff AB Official FB: https://www.facebook.com/Ariff-AB
Ariff AB Official Youtube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/ariffstardom

Video was recorded hand-held, with M.Zuiko 45mm F1.8 lens. No matter how many times I have used this camera I still cannot believe how awesome the 5-Axis Image Stabilization is, especially when it comes to stabilized video, shot hand-held.

There are two more rounds happening this weekend, one on Saturday evening, and the last one on Sunday evening, 830am onward at KLPAC! I will be there on Saturday night, come along, and support some awesome local music!

Every single time I visit Penang, the island of awesome food, I must, must have multiple servings of the following two dishes: Cendol and Char Kuey Tiaw. 

Cendol is from South East Asia but I am not entirely sure if it is from Malaysia. Nonetheless, this is a super popular sweet desert among the locals, and a treat to have especially walking around under scorching Malaysian sun. The dessert's basic ingredients are coconut milk, jelly noodles made from rice flour with green food coloring (usually derived from the pandan leaf), shaved ice and palm sugar. 

Char Kuey Tiaw, while readily available throughout the country, everywhere ranging from high class restaurants to roadside hawkers, somehow Penang got this dish right, and once you have tasted the Penang's Char Kuey Tiaw, you will think of other versions a little lesser. Char Kuey Tiaw literally translates to "stir-fried ricecake strips",

Cendol, high in sugar content, and the Char Kuey Tiaw, full of saturated fat content, are my two favourite dishes in Peninsular Malaysia. 

I have said this many times, I LIVE TO EAT!
Olympus Malaysia had two events over the weekend in Penang, namely the PEN-F and 300mm F4 IS PRO Touch and Try on Saturday and a Basic Portrait Photography Workshop with Young Sun on Sunday. Since I was working on both days, I had no chance to roam on the streets (how I wish I could in Penang). I did however steal some chance to shoot a few frames during the Portrait Workshop, conducted by a fellow Olympus user, and professional photographer Young Sun. I always look forward to events conducted by Young Sun, there were plenty to learn and his enthusiasm easily outshines mine when it comes to photography. Not many people I have met are more passionate and obsessed with photography, as Young Sun. I have learned a great deal myself, fully inspired, just observing him do what he does best, portrait photography. 

Now here is a rare chance to see some model portrait shots, taken by me. I acknowledge I am pretty much noob when it comes to studio portraits, and I can only wish one day I will be able to be half as good as Kirk Tuck in portraiture shooting skills. One baby step at a time. 

I was shooting with the Olympus PEN-F, and my own M.Zuiko 45mm F1.8 lens. All images are almost as good as straight out of camera, with very minor tweaks in contrast and exposure adjustment. 

All credits to Young Sun though, with the lighting set up and directing poses for the beautiful model. You may visit his photography Facebook Page here (click). 

So I randomly asked myself today, out of the blue, what are the three images that I have taken which I am very happy with, and would be proud to show people who will be seeing my photos for the first time?

I know that if I put more thoughts into selecting my images by going through my archives I would take days to answer that question. However, if I were to mentally select 3 images that came to mind in 2 minutes, I came up with the following three images.

I thought, hey why not show you guys these images, and discuss them?

E-PL5, 17mm F1.8, 

The least used Micro Four Thirds lens for me (amongst all the lenses that are available for me to use, which excludes the majority of Panasonic lenses) would definitely be the M.Zuiko 17mm F1.8 lens. 

However, I have been doing my best, trying hard to familiarize myself with the elusive 35mm perspective. I have used the Fujifilm X100, which has a fixed equivalent 35mm focal length, and I have also subsequently used the underrated M.Zuiko 17mm F2.8 pancake lens, for a few shutter therapy sessions. I have also found an article written by Chris Gampat at ThePhoblographer here about "Beginner's Tip to Shooting Portraits with a 35mm Lens" extremely helpful when dealing with human subjects on the street. 

My 35mm journey, a love-hate relationship which many of you have known now, is a continuous work in progress. I think (or I would like to think) that I am making some good progress, and hey, there really is no rush to accomplish anything out of my shutter therapy sessions. All I know, for certain is that the more I shoot, the more I see through this 35mm perspective, the better I will get, and I will definitely get there. 

As a bonus to my usual showcase of selected photographs from my street shooting session, this time, Raja Indra Putra has sneakily recorded a video (using an app Clips, on his Iphone) of me and my friends in action!

Thanks Ripi for recording this!

All images were taken with Olympus PEN E-P5 and M.Zuiko 17mm F1.8 lens

Strip of Light

Last week I was at South Africa for a work trip, and the first few days were spent at Kruger National Park, where we had a few sessions of "game drives", going out into the wild to see the animals. I thought this would have been the perfect opportunity to test out the M.Zuiko 300mm F4 IS PRO lens. I have mentioned previously that my review images (read my review of 300mm F4 PRO lens here if you have not) were taken from an ordinary user perspective, as I did not have the chance to travel far into the wild to do any meaningful wildlife shooting. Many people have pointed out that my photographs of the birds in particular may not be applicable in practical shooting situations since I got ridiculously close to the birds, which does not happen in real life. Therefore, having the chance to go to South Africa and shoot the wild animals there, I must do my best to test the 300mm F4 PRO lens again!

There were a few obstacles standing between me and my imagined ideal shooting conditions. 

There were about 8 of us in a jeep, and in each jeep we only had ONE M.Zuiko 300mm F4 IS PRO lens to be shared. So while you are looking at the photographs shown in this blog entry, take note that I did not have the 300mm lens at all times. However, I am only showing photographs taken with the 300mm PRO lens. 

The lighting condition was horrendous. I was told by the locals that at this particular time of the year, Hoedspruit, Limpopo area has the best lighting any photographer/cinematographer could hope for. In my mind I was visualizing the golden, warm, "national geographic" light quality when shooting during early morning or near sunset, having that magical glow on the wild animals. Over the course of three days, the sky was constantly cloudy, with a few threats of thunderstorm (though the rain was light and quick, nothing serious). The lighting was soft, dull, uninteresting, creating undramatic images, which I often would describe as uninspiring. Experienced photographers would have put away their camera, since lighting is almost everything in photography!

For this particular "game drive" session, the M.Zuiko 300mm F4 IS PRO was NOT the ideal lens to use. We often had the chance to get super close to the animals, at times, about 5 meters away only. The 300mm was just too tight for proper framing. I understand that communicating with the ranger (driver of the jeep) to coordinate locations stopped would have helped with better compositions but remember the jeep had 8 people with cameras and there was only one 300mm lens? It would have been selfish to ask the ranger to relocate the jeep further just for myself to shoot, while others without telephoto zoom lens would treasure the every bit nearer distance that we could get. The better lens in this situation would have been the amazing M.Zuiko 40-150mm F2.8 PRO lens. 

All complains aside, lets look at some photographs.

All images were taken with Olympus M.Zuiko 300mm F4 IS PRO lens

My first time seeing a live chameleon. Quite a charming creature! And this one was pregnant. 
F6.3, 1/500sec, ISO250
I stopped down to F6.3 instead of shooting wide open at F4 to get abit more depth of field so I can have the entire eye in focus. This particular image shows off the incredible close up shooting capability of the 300mm lens. I was approximately less than 2 meters away from the chameleon, and having the pseudo macro feature allowed me to shoot this without having to change lens. I acknowledge that the shot would have been better if I was maybe a meter or two away but we were not allowed to get out of the car. We were basically stuck at our seat positions. 
I originally intended to shoot a tennis tournament happening in Kuala Lumpur over the weekend and subsequently do an extension review for the M.Zuiko 300mm F4 IS Pro lens. However, the weekend was filled with meeting friends who came from all over the place, and I decided that catching up with precious friends was more important than shutter therapy, and I had a blast with my mates!

Therefore, I moved on to the next item of my to-do list on this blog: to do a comparison review between two of the possibly most used lenses for Olympus PEN and OM-D users: the kit lenses M.Zuiko 12-50mm F3.5-6.3 and M.Zuiko 14-42mm F3.5-5.6 pancake lens. Although both 12-50mm and 14-42mm pancake lenses were designed as kit lenses, they are actually quite different in characteristics and real world shooting applications. In this blog entry I shall do my best to highlight the strengths and weaknesses of each lens and supplement my findings with plenty of photographs which I have taken over the weekend. 

Olympus M.Zuiko 12-50mm F3.5-6.3 (on the left) and M.Zuiko 14-42mm F3.5-5.6 Pancake (on the right)

The reason my blog has been quiet for over a week, is because I have been away to South Africa. It was a company trip, hence I was partially working on this visit. This was not a photography tour, I did not have a lot of time to roam around freely and shoot whatever I wanted to shoot, as we were rushing from location to location with limited time to spare. Considering that the tour was not photography oriented, I did not have much chance to do my best in capturing Cape Town, perhaps one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Nonetheless, with whatever opportunities that crossed my path, I made sure every single one counted. 

We started our tour with the Big 5 Safari, which I am not including in this blog post. I intended to do an extension review for the Olympus M.Zuiko 300mm F4 PRO IS, considering I now had an actual chance to bring this long lens out in the wild to capture some wildlife shots! Coincidentally now in Malaysia, there is the BMW Malaysian Open 2016, a tennis tournament which I think is a perfect ground to test the 300mm F4 IS PRO lens for sports and action photography. Furthermore, this would be an ideal condition to test out the C-AF tracking of the lens, though I will not put too much hope on high success rates. After shooting the tennis event (hopefully nothing clashes with my schedule, especially work) I shall compile images both from the tennis tournament and from the Big 5 Safari in South Africa to compose my extension blog review for the M.Zuiko 300mm F4 IS PRO lens. 

We spent the first few days at the Kruger National Park, and remaining days at Cape Town. I was told that Cape Town was breathtaking, and that word is not enough to describe now beautiful this place is. There is just a slice of everything in Cape Town: blue waters, dramatic sky, beautiful sun, gorgeous mountain, white sandy beaches, amazing cliffs... I don't think I am able to list down everything, as I may not have visited all places in such a short visit. Obviously we went sightseeing, touring around Cape Town, taking the scenic tour. We did stop by the Central Business District, and the group was allowed 40 minutes to shop. I traded my 40 minutes shopping time for shutter therapy instead. With just 40 minutes at hand (technically I only have 35 minutes, as I needed 5 minutes to walk back to our meeting point), I attacked the streets with my camera. 

The South African people are the friendliest people I have met so far (I have not traveled to that many places, though). I noticed many people commented that I was able to do my close up portrait shots of strangers in Malaysia because people here are so friendly, and a trait that is not shared elsewhere in the world. I think the South Africans are friendlier than Malaysians! They speak fluent English, unlike most Malaysians who prefer to converse in local dialects, eg Cantonese, Malays and when Malaysians do speak English mostly on the street they are broken and not easily understood by foreigners. This was not the case I observed in Cape Town. I have approached many strangers and none, I repeat, NONE rejected my request to photograph them. We even sparked conversations, some lengthy ones, and some rather meaningful ones. 

As I have mentioned, I am faced with a few obstacles: 
1) This trip was NOT a photography trip, it was designed as a sightseeing tour. 
2) All the shoot timing I had was wrong, I was having my shutter therapy at noon time, when sun was harsh and not directional 
3) I just did not have enough time. 40 minutes? What can one photographer do in 40 minutes in an unknown location? No complains here, I just charged the streets head on and hoped for the best. One has got to make full use of one's opportunities, no matter how small one was given. On top of shooting at the CBD, I also had a chance to roam around the waterfront (about 30 minutes) while shopping for souvenirs. 
4) We did stop by a few other locations around Cape Town, some with high potential of awesome street shots, but was limited to only 5 minutes stop each. I am not kidding. 5 minutes. 
5) We stopped by tourist locations, thus, please bear with my "touristy" shots, as anyone would be able to capture with their smartphones instead. 

All images were taken with with Olympus OM-D E-M1 and M.Zuiko Lenses 12-50mm F3.5-6.3 kit lens, 25mm F1.8 and 45mm F1.8. Also, the Fisheye Body Cap Lens. 

View of the Table Mountain from Robben Island (where Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years). 
This location was actually situated at the back of a toilet. I am serious. Sometimes, best locations are at least expected places. I only wished I had more time, not just 5 minutes here. Imagine setting up a tripod, mounting an ND400 filter in front of the wide angle kit lens, and do a slow shutter of maybe 30 seconds to slow down the water motion, creating smooth, silky texture! So much to improve in this shot. Nevertheless, of all the touristy shots I have taken, this is the one I liked the most. I wish there was some stronger foreground subject to enter the frame.