Recently I had a work trip up to the beautiful historical city of Georgetown, Penang. Since I was there, I managed to squeeze a bit of time for shutter therapy! I thought this would be an opportunity to do another video about street photography and continue to show some behind the scenes of how I got some of my shots on the street. Also, at the same time I shared a few more tips and tricks on general street and travel photography! It was certainly not easy making that video, it took a lot longer than anticipated and Penang weather was a lot hotter than Kuala Lumpur! Obviously I was drenched in sweat at the end of the session. It was always fun exploring and shooting at wonderful Penang street.

I was only able to cover a few streets in a span of less than 3 hours, as video shooting part was also challenging and more time consuming than I initially anticipated. I wished I could have visited some awesome huge temples as well as the jetties by the ocean, overlooking the majestic Penang bridge as a backdrop in some of my shots. I knew I may need another 2 hours to do that, and at that point I was already writhing in agony due to the overbearing heat! Penang is super, super hot!

I brought along only the Olympus M.Zuiko 25mm F1.2 PRO, my current favourite lens and the OM-D E-M1 Mark II camera for this shoot. One camera, one lens. Simple setup!

The tips that I shared in this video: do not use wide angle at all times! I know it is tempting to fit as much as possible into a frame, but that would make the photograph looking too generic and "ordinary" since most people shoot with smartphones now and most smartphones are stuck at wide angle shooting. Using a longer focal length, such as 50mm equivalent will allow different framing, with more emphasis on the subject, and you are able to isolate it better from other distracting elements in the frame.

I guess it is a huge challenge also to shoot a tourist hotspot, because this place is swarmed by tourists from everywhere, and there are tonnes of images of Penang being shot and posted online everywhere. Therefore, it becomes increasingly difficult to shoot anything original, and not repeating what has been done multiple times over before. Nonetheless, we should not be lazy and just do usual looking photographs. We can take that extra effort to find a different way to compose a scene, or shoot the location a little differently, adding our own flavor to the images.

Penang is such a wonderful place for street photography! If you are visiting Malaysia please do consider dropping by Geeorgetown, trust me, you won't regret it. The place, the food, the people, all simply amazing. 

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BLACK DAY is a photography book by Ekkarat Punyatara, a National Geographic photographer and photo editor from Thailand. Ekkarat undertook a year long photography project to chronicle the mourning phenomenon of Thailand after the loss of their much beloved great King in 2016. This project was deeply personal for Ekkarat, as he expressed not only himself, but also the love of Thai people toward the King in his book. I fell in love with the book the moment Ekkarat showed it to me, and I bought one immediately. This was the most expensive photography book that I have purchased in my life thus far (RM350/USD80). I have had the chance to interview Ekkarat during our recent meet up in Penang for the OBSCURA Festival of Photography (we both conducted workshops and gave talks at the festival), and I thought it would be awesome to do a video interview (CLICK HERE) with Ekkarat on his book, Black Day!

Check out Ekkarat Punyatara's work on his Portfolio site and Instagram. 
The book BLACK DAY is in limited print, only 89 copies available, and is running out fast. If you are interested in a copy, please contact Ekkarat as soon as possible. Contact details here (click). 

I had the privilege to meet Ekkarat Punyatara from an Olympus Visionary photography trip to South Africa late last year. He is an amazingly talented photographer and I like how he sees the world differently, producing interesting photography work with unusual perspectives.

Being an active National Geographic photographer, Ekkarat was tasked to document the passing of the King in 2016. However, as a local Thai, Ekkarat decided to do a personal photography project to express his own feelings freely, without the boundaries and obligations that came with being a photo journalist. He wanted to look for ways to show the love of himself and Thai people toward the King, who was so beloved by the whole nation. This phenomenon was possibly the last occurrence in the world - the impact of the King's passing was felt nationwide, everyone just stopped functioning and mourned the Black Day.

The key themes observed from the photographs shown in BLACK DAY were sadness, loss, darkness and love. The use of dark tones, literally over-splurging of black ink an every single page had a huge impact on the overall message the book was trying to convey. The images were mostly dark, with muted colors and very quiet, and at some degrees, heart-breaking. There were a wide variety of images shown in this series, from the scenes of people outside the Golden  Palace's walls, to toned down wedding and festivity celebrations, to close up portraits of expressions on people feeling the loss of the King. The effort and time spent on creating this tightly curated series of images was nothing short of incredible, and the outcome breathtaking.

Ekkarat shared his challenges during the shooting process, as he traveled across the country to find images from people at various places. It was a full year long shooting process, and from the many photographs he had taken, he narrowed them down to only 29 to be shown in the book. The tight edit was necessary, as Ekkarat wanted the book to be viewed in one seating only, from start to finish. He wanted the visual story-telling in the book to be consumed in one full viewing session,  much like a film.

The calendar design was an interesting aspect of the book making. Ekkarat emphasized that he wanted to make the book symbolic of Thai people's love for the King. It is a common sight in Thai homes, having local calendars hanging with a prominent King's portrait at the top of the calendar. He took this inspiration and had his BLACK DAY book designed in a similar manner, mimicking a local Thai calendar. This made the book a lot more personal and intimate for Thai.

The printing process was a huge challenge for Ekkarat, as he wanted the prints to look a certain way, based on his artistic direction. His creative style of very dark images, heavily emphasizing on blacks was not an easy feat for any printers. He has searched high and low for the right printer to do the job. The blacks in the pages were black ink on white paper. Also the task of hand-binding the book was tedious for the printers to make. The result was spectacular, I have never known that black can be so beautiful on print, and Ekkarat's vision was realized in this book. The overwhelming emotion of silence and sadness was evident in all images. It was indeed a break-away from my usual own photography approach of bright, sunny, colorful tones that I adopt for my own shooting.

Ekkarat intentionally made only 89 copies of BLACK DAY to represent the age of the King at 89 when he passed away.

Ekkarat told me that after doing so many exhibitions, being published in magazines and have been an accomplished photographer in general, now his aim in making the BLACK DAY was to create an art piece.

His advice to young photographers? Do a photo project. Find something that you love. Find something that you can do for a long period of time. A long term project can be both personal and challenging and it will be your way of seeing the world, showing your perspective.

If you are in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia visiting and we are meeting up for coffee, I may just bring along Ekkarat's  BLACK DAY book to show you!

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It was on Carmen's birthday that we caught up in the morning and did a quick portrait shooting session. We only had about an hour or so to do the portraits. I had the Olympus OM-D E-M1X on loan from Olympus Malaysia for training activities so I thought before returning the loan why not do something cool with it? Since I am still developing my YouTube channel (please subscribe) I thought it would be awesome to take you guys with me and show you behind the scenes of the shoot. It was a fun session, we had a lot of fun, and I cannot wait to do a more extensive, and properly planned out session.

Special thanks to Carmen Hong for helping out all these time, appearing in my previous review articles, as well as for this session. Please do follow her on INSTAGRAM and BLOG.  She was so kind to spend her birthday morning with me doing this portrait shoot!

Since this was quite a rushed session, and I had like 1000 things happening in my mind at the same time - making sure the video recording was properly executed, the voice recording was working, directing Carmen, paying attention to people  wandering around (Malaysia is not that safe of a place, people  can just snatch the tripod and camera on it and run away) while at the same time  I need to figure out my portrait shooting, composition, lighting, and posing Carmen. If there is one thing I have learned over the years - it is that I am a terrible multi-tasker. I cannot do so many things at one time, some things will have to give. This is evident when I finally reviewed my shots of Carmen. The portrait images could have been better if I did not have to do everything else all at once.

Alas, I should not be giving myself excuses. This was a challenge, a difficult one I admit, and I welcome it. There is only room for improvement, and I learned so much from doing this. This video marked the first time I have someone else in my video. All these while, it was just me talking to my camera like a crazy person. Having a conversation with another real person is a better experience I must say, but so much more difficult to execute, especially for someone as fresh as me to video making. So much to learn, so much to explore and definitely a long, long way to go for me.

Maybe I should write about all the challenges I am facing while I am starting up and building my YouTube Channel. It has been a month plus since I produced and released videos regularly, and in that short period of time I almost surpassed 5,000 subs, which to me, is quite an achievement. I take the small wins.

The location of shoot was amazing, a popular spot for local photographers to do outdoor wedding portraits. I was merely utilizing 5% or less of the location, due to time constraint, and also I was filming the whole process at the same time. I shall return again in the future, and hope Carmen will come along too for a second round. This time, I need at least a half day session.

I was using the  E-M1X alongside mostly M.Zuiko 45mm F1.2 PRO lens, and for some wider shots, the 17mm F1.2 PRO lens. These lenses were also on loan from Olympus Malaysia. I personally own the M.Zuiko 25mm F.2 PRO. I thought why not use other lenses that I do not have and seldom have access to?  Else I would be perfectly happy working with the small yet magnificent M.Zuiko 45mm F1.8 lens.

Originally I intended to do more urban/modern structures in the background, and compose much wider. I started with close up portraits, working with wide open aperture and slowly worked my way to wider  and environmental framing, but that did not happen as we ran out of time. Oh well, I guess there will be a next time.

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