Sunday, July 31, 2016

A Fashion Show Photography Analysis: Entry Level Camera Then And Now, How Far Have We Progressed?

So I stumbled upon this open fashion show at Nu Sentral (a shopping next to KL Sentral) and I thought why not stay for a bit and take some shots? As I was shooting the fashion show (which turned out to be quite a good one) I started to remember how it was like 8 years ago, in 2008 when I first picked up my entry level Olympus DSLR and was enthusiastically searching for and shooting free fashion shows in malls around KL. Boy oh boy, how far have we come?

Back in 2008, I had an Olympus E-520, an advanced entry level DSLR (the lowest level was the E-420), with ISO limit at 1600 and 3 AF points only! At ISO400, ugly noise starts to creep in, and I usually do need to shoot at ISO800 if I was not using an external flash, and with ISO800 the photographs normally lose plenty of details, looking soft, and lacks dynamic range. Oh did I say the ugly, intrusive noise? And the focusing was rather slowish, and what the hell can anyone do with just 3 focusing points to choose from? In addition to that, there was shutter lag, though minimal, but bad enough to miss critical moments. Hit rate was quite bad, I get less than 50% hit rate, and it was almost impossible to get critically sharp images with the models usually moving at super fast speed on stage. A year later I got myself an FL-36R flash, to aid in such difficult shooting situation, but it did not help that much either. I often get harsh output, and the recycle time of that flash unit was a pain to work with!

Shooting fashion show can be exciting, rewarding, yet extremely frustrating at the same time. It was a situation where I did wish I had a better camera, a camera that did not miss out so many shots!

Fast forward to 2016, today, shooting fashion show was a breeze. Ok, I shall admit one unfair advantage: I was using the PRO lens, 12-40mm F2.8. And back in my DSLR E-520 days, I used the basic kit lens as well as the 40-150mm F3.5-4.5 lenses, which did pale in comparison to what the modern PRO lenses such as the 12-40mm F2.8 and 40-150mm F2.8 can do. That aside, everything else I am about to say still remains valid, and applicable in the comparison on how much the camera system has improved. I was using the OM-D E-M10 Mark II and the 12-40mm F2.8 PRO lens for all my shots. Autofocus was instantaneous! It was so fast, there was completely no lag at all, and damned accurate too. I have 81 AF points to choose from, the AF points stretching out to far end of the screen. Half-pressing and then immediately pressing the shutter button got me 100% accurately focused images, again and again without fail. I got 99% hit rate. That 1% failure was due to my own fault. Furthermore, the ISO was set from 800 to 1600. Even at ISO1600, as seen in the images in this blog entry, there was completely no trace of noise, thanks to the new and more powerful processing engine Truepic 7, as well as an improved 16MP Live MOS sensor. I can shoot at ISO3200 on the E-M10 Mark II with images that come out cleaner than ISO400 on the old DSLR E-520,.and believe me, I am not exaggerating. The camera just works, and it has gotten sooooo easy to get technically good shots (correct exposure and accurate focus). Having a "What You See Is What You Get" Electronic Viewfinder was a Godsent, I can make sure my exposure was what I wanted even before I shot my images!

Also worth mentioning, having the 5-Axis Image Stabillization means I never have to worry about camera shake, and surely you know that the E-M10 Mark II is soooooo much smaller and lighter compared to the E-520?

Some technical data:
OM-D E-M10 Mark II and 12-40mm F2.8 PRO lens
Shot in Aperture Priority, set to F2.8
Shutter Speed: 1/100sec to 1/250sec
ISO: 800-1600
Autofocus: Single-AF, AF-point selected pointing toward the head of model
Metering: Multi-Pattern
White Balance: Custom, image was shot in RAW and I customized the white balance in post-processing

I think we have photography tools today that are more than capable, and can deliver great results, with ease and much less effort in comparison to many years ago. We should really stop worrying about how good our camera system is (whichever system you are using), and focus on improving photography skills. Spend time to shoot more, not spend money to upgrade your gear! I am confident what you have now, is more than good enough to get incredible results.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

A Portrait of Carmen

A dear friend Carmen was participating in the Celebs and Blogger's Bazaar, sort of a like a fashion flea market for lifestyle and fashion bloggers. I was no where in the neighbourhood and decided to stop by just to say hi. Carmen was looking stunningly beautiful with her bright, Burgundy Red hair colour in contrast with the black and white dress she was wearing! A spontaneous quick portrait session ensued, and we decided to scout around the location for a nice, non-busy looking background to work with. We went up to the mezzanine floor and found that the entire floor was vacant, and there was a huge, plain white wall which looked just right for what I had in mind. The large window panel with afternoon sun was just the perfect side lighting I needed for this portrait, and we Carmen hit some simple poses and shutter started clicking away.

Carmen Hong is also an Olympus shooter. 
You can check her out in her blog at or follow her on Instagram @itscarmenhong

Image was taken with my Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II and M.Zuiko 25mm F1,8 lens, at very low angle.

Minor adjustments were made during post processing to balance the colours, as well as lifted the shadow around her hair to emphasise the brighter red.

I'd say, simplicity works, each and every time! And I think I should do more portrait shoots.

Monday, July 25, 2016

A Quiet Sunday, A Short Photowalk with Shaun from Brisbane, Australia

Shaun from Brisbane, Australia is visiting again and we had a quick photowalk yesterday. We went to Chow Kit, hoping to catch a glimpse of the old market building before it was being torn down. Fortunately the building was still standing, but now almost fully evacuated. It will be within days the demolition work begins.

We had a slow, relaxing walk and we shot anything that got our attention. I armed myself with my Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II and my most favourite lens, the M.Zuiko 45mm F1.8. The focal length was familiar and comfortable for me to work with, and the lens, being so small and light, felt right at home on my hands.

Shaun visiting from Austtalia

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The Fading Old Market, Chow Kit

At the time I fell in love with street photography (or more appropriately put, photography on the street, just so that I do not insult the "traditionalists"), I discovered this hidden holy grail of street hunting ground in KL, Chow Kit. I fell in love with the place instantly, and every single trip I made to Chow Kit has been fruitful, and I always came home with the SD card filled with photographs, many have become keepers from this wonderful location. Unfortunately, the original, old building of Chow Kit that houses a huge area of the market, and the surrounding lanes and storage locations will be demolished very, very soon. I was told by the locals that they were asked to evacuate the premises, and demolition work has already begun phase by phase. In one or two weeks time, the main building will go down.

When I heard the news, I did not exactly know how to feel. For many years now, I have spent so many hours camping, and strolling around these streets in Chow Kit, inside and around the main old market building area. So many wonderful shots, so many friendly faces and smiles, so many beautiful moments, now all that's left, are nothing but memories. I do feel sad, because I do not think there will be a place like Chow Kit else where in the world, this is truly a unique location, and strangely, it has defined the look and feel of many of my photographs I have displayed here in this blog. 80% of the close up strangers portraits that have become my favourites came from Chow Kit. The beautiful, diffused yet directional light in a relaxed, easy-going environment made it an ideal place for street portraits, and people in Chow Kit are just the friendliest of all KL streets. It is impossible not to be able to make good street portraits here.

With mixed emotions, I picked up the Olympus PEN E-P5 and the M.Zuiko 25mm F1.8 lens, and just walked casually around last Sunday, and shot a few images. Nothing specific I wanted to accomplish this round, just taking my time, in a way, to say goodbye to this place.

I don't think this blog will ever be the same if I have never found Chow Kit in the first place!

Dangling legs