Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Street Photography Is About....

Found an old image of myself, taken several years ago by a dear friend, Luke Ding during one of our many photowalks around KL city area. 

There was a background with a gigantic word "Fun" on it. 

I figured, this could make a good introduction slide in my upcoming Street Photography presentation that I am working on now. 


Monday, April 18, 2016

Keeping Things Simple And Fun

I have been witnessing the urge in many local photographer friends to push through boundaries, trying to accomplish something great with their photographs. Talks about tips and tricks to win that prestigious competition, being featured in a local art gallery for exhibitions and generally how to gain recognition from their photography work. Somehow, all this made my own photography attempts during my weekly shutter therapy sessions look so... plain and simple. Perhaps, too simplistic, knowing well that none of these photographs I have taken or shown here would win me any competition, or be printed and proudly hung in Art Gallery walls. 

As I was about to question the whole purpose of me picking up the camera and shoot week after week, I paused for a second and realized that, it was never about competitions or exhibitions in the first place. It would be awesome for you if you have a strict goal to achieve, something to aim for, hence the powerful motivation to go far, and break down barriers. It all comes down to how much you want something, how desperate you want it to happen and how much you are willing to sacrifice to accomplish your goals. As much as I have given up and can set aside to the expansion of my photography goals, I would never, ever sacrifice one particularly important aspect: the JOY of photography. 

That was the difference between me and many people that I know, while some photographers pick up the camera hoping to capture that miracle shot that will be featured in the National Geographic, I on the other hand could care less about anything, really, except making darn sure I was having a blast of a time, as if it was my last shutter therapy session I have had. Why bother picking up a hobby if you cannot even enjoy every single process of it? 

Keeping in-line with the spirit of simple and fun, I decided to use just the kit lens for last weekend's shutter therapy session. All images were taken with the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II and M.Zuiko 14-42mm F3.5-5.6 EZ Kit Lens. 

Sometimes I cannot believe how small the E-M10 Mark II is. Not that much difference in size in comparison to a cup of Flat White

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The Sigma 19mm F2.8 Lens Review That Almost Happened

I bought a new lens last week. It was in the used market, and the deal was just too hard to resist. It was the not so new, Sigma 19mm F2.8 EX DN lens, not the new Art version, but the original first generation released about four years ago. 

Why would I want a new lens, at an odd focal length of 19mm? I have always had the 35mm perspective in mind, and I wanted a lens just for that. I did not quite click with the Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm F1.8 version, and I was not happy with the slow autofocus speed of the older pancake version of Olympus 17mm F2.8 lens. No, that Panasonic 20mm F1.7 is even slower, though I do like the image output from that lens. I was left with not many choices left, and that Sigma 19mm F2.8, after going through some online reviews, looks promising. Focusing was reported to be fast and the lens performs considerably well optically. Yes, it is very close to Olympus 25mm F1.8, and even larger, but at a super low selling price, I thought why not give it a try?

Imagine, having a newly acquired lens in hand, with a mission to do a long, extensive shoot to compose a blog review for that Sigma 19mm F2.8 lens, I was fired up and fully enthusiastic on last Saturday morning. The enthusiasm lasted as long as the lens was still alive, which was about 30 minutes into my street shooting session. Unfortunately, the Sigma 19mm lens decided to die on me. IT DIED ON ME while I was shooting halfway, and the camera just refused to recognize the lens mounted on it. I brought two of my own Olympus cameras out: E-M10 Mark II and E-P5, both failed to recognize the lens. I then tried the Sigma 19mm on my friend's E-M1, and it did not work either. After half an hour of rubbing the electronic contacts and praying to the Photography God, I must have not done anything right at all as the lens still remained dead. 

I figured, I could just give up and move on to the fully air conditioned nearest cinema to catch The Jungle Book, or put the Sigma lens away and substituted it with my faithful Olympus M.Zuiko 25mm F1.8 which I did bring along, continued with the shutter therapy and then ended the day with The Jungle Book. I went with the latter option. Never let a dead lens stop you from shooting. And The Jungle Book was super freaking awesome, so awesome I think I am going to watch it again soon. 

Here are a handful of images I shot with the Sigma 19mm F2.8 lens on my E-M10 Mark II before it died on me. And yes I have used these images in my previous blog entry. 


Monday, April 11, 2016

5 Reasons Why Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II Is An Awesome Camera For New Comers To Photography

I have written an extensive review for the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II (please do read if you have not), I loved the camera so much I purchased one not too long after the review. I have owned the E-M10 Mark II for more than half a year now, and have used it extensively for my own shutter therapy sessions, as well as some assignment shoots (event coverage, pre-wedding shoots, and actual day wedding photography). Throughout my use of the E-M10 Mark II, I cannot help but always feel that this is perhaps one of the best camera I would recommend for new comers to photography!

If you are already an experienced photographer and have been shooting religiously for a while now, this article may not be relevant to you. However, if you are shooting mostly with your smartphone cameras, or a compact, basic point and shoot and are thinking of taking your photography game to the next level, you may want to take a good look at the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II. It is not the cheapest value for money budget system camera (entry level DSLR or CSC). In fact, I would not label the E-M10 Mark II as an entry level camera, after using it extensively for half a year, I believe it is a lot more capable in terms of field performance and delivering high quality images than most entry level DSLR or mirrorless system. In this blog entry, I shall discuss the advantages and strengths of the E-M10 Mark II against most other entry level systems available out there. 



Sunday, April 03, 2016

5 Important Criteria of Camera To Consider Besides High ISO and Megapixel Count

The two main criteria that have been rigorously pushed by most camera manufacturers these days, and worshiped by camera users are surely megapixels count and high ISO performance of the camera. I do acknowledge the importance of advancing camera technologies and that mainly revolves around getting higher pixel count as well as cleaner low light shooting with high ISO sensitives, but in all seriousness, are these two the only two concerns which most people are considering, sidelining many other crucial factors of camera capabilities? I have mentioned this again and again, when it comes to real life shooting, photography in the field is practical, and in this blog entry I shall discuss these practical importance from my own experience. 

If you somehow need to produce images with high pixel count (professional photography job requirements, eg commercial shoots), or if your photography assignment require you to shoot a black cat in the dark, unlit alley, then go ahead and get the right tool for the right job. However, 95% or more of the consumers in the market buying digital cameras are NOT professional photographers, that is the truth, and these end users purchase cameras to be used for pursuing their hobby in photography. For most situations, any entry level cameras in the market (yes, I am talking about any brands now, Canon, Nikon, Samsung, Panasonic, Sony, Fuji, feel free to add in any brand of your choice) can deliver more than sufficient image quality to produce beautiful large prints, and surely stunning images viewed on any electronic screen, provided that the camera user knows what he or she is doing with the camera. There is NO bad camera these days. And if you have more cash to spend on mid-level camera, or high end professional grade cameras, with better lenses, I do not see how any cameras or lenses cannot deliver high image quality.

The main question to ask now, to decide which camera to buy: how confident are you to nail the critical shot with the camera of choice? That confidence factor is what separates a camera that can deliver. 

1) Fast, Accurate and Reliable Autofocus
To me, autofocus performance sits very high on the priority list of camera considerations. Imagine, a rare, beautiful moment is about to happen in front of you. Your camera is in your hands, it is already turned on, you have set the settings, ready to pounce on your subject. Now, you raise the camera to your eye level (viewfinder), or you may also choose to use the Live View on the LCD display. As you compose your subject in the frame, you half press the shutter button to lock focus. How confident are you that you will nail that shot perfectly? Even if you have that slightest hesitation that your camera/lens will hunt, or miss, then it is just not good enough, because the best photography opportunities happen at the least expected moments, as much as you have prepared for the shots, there are these times when things just decide to happen out of a sudden and you need the camera to be able to grab the shot without failing you. Speed is just one thing, as the camera locks focus, and you press the shutter button to capture the frame, how reliable is the focusing system? Is it accurate? Is it always, always accurate? What is the percentage of hit rate? 50%? 70%? Assuming that you did not do any mistake, your execution was perfect, will the camera decide to back focus or show some other erratic behavior? You see the importance of fast and reliable focus: it does not matter how many megapixels you have in your camera, it does not matter how clean your ISO 1 million image is. I would rather have a 5 Megapixels image with high ISO noise all over the image but have successfully captured the image as I have visualized it, than a 100 Megapixels image with clean ISO 1 million but an out of focus mess, and entirely missed moment. 

2) Image Stabilization
Many people may not consider this to be an important factor when purchasing a camera, but trust me, once you have used some newer cameras with latest image stabilization capabilities, there is just no turning back. The question remains the same: when you shoot with your camera hand-held, how confident are you that you do not suffer any softness or blur of image due to camera shake? Yes, maybe you have super steady hands and you can hold your camera steady, but can you do that consistently, again and again? Many people have asked me how I get my images so sharp in my blog, the FIRST and MOST important thing to do: make sure you are free of any camera shake! Some people may argue that tripods and monopods will help, that is true, if you are shooting a planned event, or a session with nothing fast changing or dynamic. Landscape shooters, or studio work with use of tripod is common. However, out of the general mass camera users, how many actually shoot in a studio, and how many would want to lug around tripods or monopods just to gain the confidence of completely getting rid of camera shake? It all comes down to how sure you are to get the shot, when you use your camera, and a powerful image stabilization adds so much more confidence into that. Being able to hand-hold the camera at slow shutter speed also opens up a whole load of advantages: a) you can shoot at lower ISO numbers, producing cleaner images. Eg using a 50mm lens, instead of shooting at 1/50sec with ISO1600, I can choose to shoot at 1/10sec at ISO400. b) you can do creative shots, like panning or capturing motion in the images without the need of using a tripod. 

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

Love for Mr Bean
This kid was rather camera shy, and would always look away when a camera was pointed at his direction. Knowing that, I remained by his side for a few minutes, and when he let his guard down, I immediately pointed my camera at him and snapped this shot, so fast that the frame was fired before he had a chance to react to me. This is the best example to describe the need for super fast and reliable Autofocus to nail the shot at critical moments. I knew with full confidence the camera won't fail me, I just needed the opportunity to present itself and I pounced on it.