Olympus Malaysia has been incredibly busy lately with consumer activities, following up all the new product announcements at Photokina in September. Therefore almost all the weekends I have had were occupied with Touch & Try events, photography workshops or photowalks around KL, Penang and Johor.

However, as busy as I have been I tried my best to squeeze a bit of time for personal shutter therapy session. I figured I have not done any insect macro shooting, so I thought why not do a quick one while I was in Johor last weekend. All images were taken with Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II and M.Zuiko 60mm F2.8 Macro lens, with FL-50R flash. For my full macro shooting technique, I have shared my methodology here (click). 

As I shoot on the street often, almost on every weekend doing my weekly shutter therapy sessions (whenever we do not have an Olympus event), I have collected a large amount of random images. I generally would walk around with no particular end-goal or objective in mind (unless I was reviewing cameras and lenses of course, that is a different story) and end up with a series of disconnected, disorganized and chaotic frame of work. In the midst of all the randomness, there were repeated ideas, themes, composition styles and specific subjects that I have consistently kept an eye out, and captured again and again on the street. I am sure if you have followed me on my shutter therapy adventures here in this blog (which I should be updating more often), you will find these patterns happening again and again. I want to take a closer look at these recurring messages, understand them and discuss the meaning behind the redundancy in this blog entry.

I think it is crucial to understand yourself if you do want to improve in photography. Your photography, whether it is your conscious decision or not, does reflect a part of who you are, and your unique identity. While ideas and contents can be easily copied and plagiarized (now this is even more rampant in the age of Instagram/Twitter/Facebook), personal style in photography is something that can only be developed and seasoned over time, and it becomes a signature that the photographer imprints in his photographs that his viewers can often immediately recognize. Before you can reach that far in photography journey, it is prudent to take a step back and study on your own progress, scrutinizing your own preferences of photography execution. This is what I am doing here, and I am sharing my thoughts on what I felt, wanted to tell, and reasoning behind what I normally shoot.

I know I have a lot of photos of cats but cats are just cats and I have taken images of cats on the streets because they love me and I love cats and I must play with them and I should stop talking about cats. Moving on...

I think this is a rather straightforward one, that anyone can easily guess why I was so drawn to birds. My name, Robin itself, is a bird, and men have deep fascination with things that can fly since forever. One of the movie quotes that have always been stuck at the back of my mind was from the movie Batman Forever (I know, I know, not the finest Batman movies out there, but it was still a cool movie), Alfred gave a prudent advice to then an injured Dick Grayson, saying "broken wings will mend in time, one day, the Robin will fly again". When I heard that line, it struck a chord in me, and this was so true in so many levels, because temporary setbacks happen so often in our lives that we easily lose hope at times, feeling helpless and cannot look beyond our difficulties. Just observing the birds flying, I find it calming and reassuring that just like the bird, I will one day be able to break myself away and just soar high, fly far away from whatever mess I have managed to get myself into. Birds easily symbolize freedom. 

Let's do something different for this blog, instead of just reviewing cameras and lenses, for the first time ever, I am writing about a bag! Not just any bag, but the newly launched Ming Thein X Frankie Falcon Ultimate Photographer's Daybag!

Ming Thein, a fellow friend and incredible photographer/blogger was super generous to loan me a pre-production unit of his personally designed camera bag which was done in collaboration with a renowned bag manufacturer, Frankie Falcon. When he showed me the bag it was love at the first sight: having just the right size and capacity to fit in cameras and lenses and just about anything you need to be on the move, and it comes in really sexy design and stealthy black finish. It is a camera bag that photographers need, want and more! When he told me I could borrow the bag for personal use, I was thrilled of course!

All photos of me using the MT x FF Bag in action were taken by Robert Sarmiento Evangelista and Van Ambruce Ligutom.

About two weeks ago, I managed to squeeze some time out of my hectic schedule to attend Alena Murang's EP launch happening in Timbre at The Row, KL. I arrived early and secured a front seat together with my friend, Jackie, and it was a great experience seeing a local Sarawakian talent performing traditional musical scores on stage, live on a Saturday evening. Alena's speciality is a traditional guitar like string instrument called Sape', which she incorporated prominently in all her music in the latest EP, "Flight". Many local Sarawakian artists were also featured on set, notably Amir Jahari who did a beautiful duet with Alena on the song "Ingga" which was sung entirely in a local Sarawakian language (or Bahasa Sarawak).

I brought along the E-M10 Mark II and several M.Zuiko lenses and shot the performance. I used mainly Aperture Priority, switching lenses when necessary (mostly between wide angle, 12mm F2 and 45mm F1.8). The lighting was not that good, with the light hitting directly from the front creating very unflattering outcome. I would have preferred if the main light was shined more from the side. Nonetheless, we were there to enjoy live music and truly Alena has made it huge with her debut album! She is also a painter and TV host for local stations, and have appeared as a speaker on TDxKL talk this year! The EP launch was a huge success with full house strong support from the fans, and I personally decided not to get my CD autographed in the same session as that would mean I need to battle the impossibly long queue!

Sape', a traditional Sarawakian musical instrument was Alena Murang's signature sound in all her music. I am proud to see a Sarawakian making it huge and took the opportunity to spread the awareness and love for Sape'! I cannot help but feel homesick when I hear Sape's tunes, which is always so smooth, soothing yet energetic and radiant at the same time. 

Last Saturday, I participated in probably one of the largest photowalks ever organized in Kuala Lumpur, the annual Scott Kelby's Worldwide Photowalk 2016. The photowalk was coordinated and led by a dear photographer friend, Raja Indra Putra, with locations covering Chow Kit, my favourite street hunting ground, all the way to Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman and Jalan Masjid India. There were 50 participants that registered and I made it to the last number 50 registrant! Of course, the actual turn up was more than 50 with a lot more local supporters and photography enthusiasts who decided to just join the fun without prior registering. That was very Malaysian indeed.

Having dedicated many shooting days to do my blog review for the latest Olympus M.Zuiko lenses (25mm F1.2 PRO and 30mm F3.5 Macro), I decided to take the weekend slow and easy, and put the more serious photography tools away. Instead, I just picked up the trusty Huawei P9 and shot along the streets with the P9 throughout the entire Scott Kelby's Photowalk! I thought there would be a few more people who would shoot solely on smartphone, but I was wrong, it turned out I was the ONLY smartphone user in this particular Scott Kelby 2016 Photowalk in KL! Everyone else had large DSLR or mirrorless cameras with them. I wonder what they must have thought of me, I must be someone who did not know what I was doing, using just a mere smartphone joining such a large, internationally recognized, prestigious photography event!

So how did the Huawei P9 fare in street shooting?

I have often shot portraits of strangers, and it was no easy task shooting close up portraits with a wide angle lens (27mm equivalent focal length). Thankfully for the wide aperture mode, I could easily create subject isolation with the simulated shallow depth of field effect, blurring the background off into beautiful, creamy bokeh. While the bokeh effect is not as good as actual large format cameras with large aperture lenses, I dare say that, for a simulated effect, this is the best I have seen from any smartphone camera. It is the best option we have!