Sunday, February 18, 2018

Unpopular Opinion: Why I Don't Shoot Film

A lot of you have stayed with me over the years, and some of you must have wondered if Robin Wong has ever tried shooting film? Why is there no blog articles about film? The short answer is, I do not shoot film. I shall explain myself in this article why I never bothered about film and why I never will.

I am not against film photography in the digital age. If you love shooting film and it gives you that much pleasure and satisfaction, by all means, continue doing what you love doing. This is not going to be an article about film vs digital photography, that is a treacherous terrain that I would be suicidal to cross. I will explain myself as simple and as straightforward as I can: I just do not see the point of shooting film now.

I discovered photography in the digital age.  My first ever camera I have used was a digital compact point and shoot, the Kodak CX7300 which was quickly upgraded to Kodak CX7430. My first Digital SLR was the Olympus E-410. I learned photography with digital cameras and grew with them over the years. I was trained in the arts of composition, exposure basics, getting critically accurate focus and seeing creatively through digital imaging products. Everything that I have learned and gained over my experience and endless trials and errors have led me to where I am today. The photography journey is endless, that much I have realized and I still have a long, long way to go. Every day I strive to be a better photographer. My tools have always been digital. I never wished things were different.

I will never understand the magic of film photography, because I have never tried shooting film. I will never know how the process of shooting film, from the loading of film to the winding of film after every click and then the darkroom development procedures. As fun as these tasks sound, they do not entice me in the slightest bit. Then there are those who proclaim the "film" look in the images that digital cameras fail to reproduce, or how the grains look beautiful, something I also fail to see. Sometimes I do wonder, am I missing that much? Those who preach film kept telling me that real photographers shoot film, and I am not considered a real photographer if I have not experienced film. I refuse to believe in that.

The more I explored photography the more I learned from photographers who really breathed and lived with film in the old days. I have also found that these photographers who were doing the real stuff when film was the only medium available before digital have moved on to digital, and they have not looked back ever since. They have told me that they did not miss film at all, and they gladly chose digital over film if they had the choice back then. There was no magic, no nostalgia, no special look in film that they found lacking in their digital tools. I often wondered, could it be that the new, hipster generation of film photographers these days are romanticizing about a film nostalgia that they never had in the first place? Scott Bourne from Photofocus wrote an article about this, and I agreed with him.

Personally to me, I want the easiest tool I can work with. I welcome the convenience. I am a learning photographer and I want to be allowed the flexibility to experiment without hefty costs. I do a lot of trial and errors and I allow myself to make mistakes. Lots and lots of mistakes. I do not have the luxury of time (all the waiting) and money (imagine the cost of films and developing them) to spend. I also do not believe in shooting less making you a better photographer. I believe in being out there as much as you can shooting images. It is like any athletic sports, you have to spend ginormous amount of time training and training and training to get stronger, faster and better at your game. Why should you limit yourself? I also agree to strict editing and curation process, but when I am shooting, I do not like unnecessary limitations. I do whatever it takes to get the shot.

Why am I ranting about me not shooting film? Because I have had film worshipers banging on my door shouting at me, harassing me for not having the same belief as they did. Many people said they wondered how my images will look like if I shot with a film camera instead of Micro Four Thirds system. They complained that I shot too fast, blogged too fast, and film will slow me down and make me a better photographer. The reason I am not a good photographer is because I am not shooting film.

Many of these film photographer wannabes shoot film for the sake of shooting film, and have no idea what they are doing. The proof is in their "prints". Badly exposed images, severely out of focus shots and images with no subject content or having weak composition choices. Yet when I pointed out these weaknesses they dismissed them because I was not qualified to comment and critique, since I was just a lowly digital shooter. I see film photography being used as a bad excuse to mask bad photography. Just because you shoot film it does not make you any better than others, there is no skipping photography basics, and there are no shortcuts.

It has come to a point when I had to decide enough is enough, and I chose to distance myself from these fanatics. I do not find similarities between my photography approach and theirs and there is no point co-existing with so many differences between us. I respect them for their boldness and loyalty to film photography. Fanboy-ism is not doing anyone any good. Since I do not believe in their cult, I just have to cut myself away from them.

To me, good photography is good photography, regardless of the medium used to produce the photographs. Either digital or film, if I like the image, who cares how it was shot in the first place? Some people are so fixated in the process that they have lost sight of the bigger picture. Photography has always been about the photographer's vision and how he sees the world.

I like that I can review my images instantly to ensure my images are perfectly in focus. I like that I can immediately see how my street portraits looked at me in my shots, because the eyes speak volumes. I like that I can decide to reshoot my images if the first takes were bad, or unsatisfactory. I like the ability to change ISO. I like the versatility of post-processing RAW files. I even like the colors that my digital cameras are rendering. I also like that in every new camera releases, technical optical and imaging flaws are better managed and controlled. I like that I can almost shoot endlessly with just a 64GB memory card and a few spare batteries. I like to work with the tilt screen with touch shutter for street shooting. I like the lightning fast autofocus that gets the shot every single time.

I like my digital camera.

So screw you, if you don't like the fact that I do not shoot film. I like the way I am. And I will continue shooting digital.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Happy Chinese New Year 2018

If you are celebrating, I wish you a prosperous and happy Chinese New Year! May this year bring you happiness, love, good health and abundant opportunities.

I am finally back in my hometown Kuching (Borneo), preparing for the coming celebration of the new year. Of course I have had my over-dosage of Sarawakian food goodness over the past few days before the stalls closed down for the celebrations. My cravings were adequately vanquished but I do wish I have more. I will have to wait until the 3rd or 4th day of Chinese New Year for some of the stalls to re-open.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Lunch at CalleVerde Cafe, Petaling Street

So what happens when there is a newly opened cafe incidentally being smacked right in the middle of my usual hunting ground for street photography? We do some street shooting and we eat some good food there immediately after!

CalleVerde is a Fillipino and Western fusion themed cafe that serves a variety of commonly available Fillipino food and also some western dishes. This is not exactly a food review blog entry, and I have no intention of doing food reviews here either. However, I am a photographer and my hand gets itchy whenever I see something interesting to shoot. It is no secret that I am a food lover (judging by the size of my physical appearance) and putting the two things that I am passionate about together, I do enjoy shooting food tremendously. Though I must admit that my food photography still need plenty of work, but it is work in progress nonetheless. What better reward for food photography than to be able to taste the subject that you have just photographed on the spot?

All images were taken with Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II and M.Zuiko 12-40mm F2.8 PRO lens.


Sunday, February 11, 2018

Revisiting Kuala Lumpur - A Photography Exhibition Comparing KL from 1976 vs 2017

One of the advantages of being a photographer living in Kuala Lumpur is the bountiful of events and activities that are available to get myself immersed with and be inspired. Photography exhibitions happen frequent enough that we never really run out of opportunities to absorb new idea, get motivated and push our photography boundaries further. The most recent photography exhibition I have attended was the "REVISITING KUALA LUMPUR" by three local Malaysian photographers, Eric Peris, Lee Hong Leng and KF Choy. This exhibition specifically compares urban landscapes from the early scenes in 1976 versus what they have changed into in 2017.

KF Choy, Eric Peris, Academician Professor Emerita Datuk Dr. Mazlan Othman, Chairman of Sutra Foundation Datuk Ramli Ibrahim and Lee Hong Leng