Thursday, March 31, 2011

I Am a Photographer

The infamous Jason Lioh wrote an article on me in the Star paper yesterday, talking on street photography.

It was my first appearance on a national paper, and I was really excited about it. It was really awkward reading about myself on the paper, but at the same time there was that warm and tingling sensation of finally feeling a little more worthy to present myself out there in the open, and ready for the world to see who I am and what I do, in photography.

Look Ma, its me on paper !!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Unexpected Encounter

As I was shooting merrily down the streets of Chow Kit, my favourite street hunting ground, someone called out to me from inside his car. He said "Hi, you are from Kuching right?" I immediately replied yes, but still puzzled, I moved closer to the car, being careful because snatch theft and robbery are common crimes in such dangerous districts of Kuala Lumpur.

The next question I received from the stranger was "Were you a Thomian?"

And then it hit me, this must be my fellow ex-schoolmate from my hometown Kuching. It turned out that this dude, Mohd Rashdan was my junior by one year in secondary school, SMB St Thomas, and we were both in the prefectorial board when we were in Form 1 and Form 2. It was amazing that he could still recognize me after all these while since we were not exactly swimming in the same circles. I could barely remember him after more than ten years since I left school in 2001. I think I must have a face that is really, really easy to remember. That, or I could have had a reputation that lasted me this long, and lets hope it was not a bad one.

I do admire his balls for coming up to me and dared to asked if I was the person he thought he knew. We were both surprised, and I was even more surprised to find out that he had just married !! He seems to be doing really great with life, having his own business that gets him to travel around the world, and I looked at myself and wonder, gosh, why am I still stuck here in a place where I don't seem to be going anywhere?

Before we part ways, I managed to grab a quick shot of Rashdan. It was not perfectly executed, I could not find a plain, clean background, and the lighting was a mid-day sun, and I shot him with my 40-150mm zoomed in, standing from a far distance. Yet again, I wish I have put in more effort, and time to make the portrait photograph work. I seriously MUST work on this area.

Mohd Rashdan. So nice to see you again after 10 years !!

It was a brief encounter, but a very pleasant one that left a smile on my face as I continued walking the street that afternoon. Past memories are starting to haunt me, is this a good, or bad sign?

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Shutter Therapy Resumes

It has been rough couple of weeks for me, and busy times only meant lack of shutter therapy sessions. Having some time to breathe again is really something I appreciate so much these days, and the first thing I did was to grab the camera and attack the streets. I felt really guilty not spending enough time out there making photographs happen. The guilt resulted in today's spontaneous street shooting session, yet again at Chow Kit. Man, I think this is probably a single blog/website in the world that has mentioned Chow Kit so many freaking times.

My 50mm F2 Macro, a staple lens for my usual street shooting use is still away from me, and not having the lens really did cripple me to a certain extent. Nevertheless, this allowed me to use back my older lenses such as the 40-150mm F3.5-4.5, a superbly brilliant budget tele-zoom lens which sadly has been discontinued by Olympus. This lens still remains my favourite, the signs of over usage on my copy are obvious.

A Weathered and Torn Nation.

Friday, March 25, 2011


Much thanks to dear friend Cyril Dason who referred me to Grace Ng, the Host and Assitant Producer of CUBE, an English Talk Show on channel NTV7 focusing on youth, I have just got myself a chance to appear on the show !! The recording session was done earlier this evening, and I was accompanied by two other Sarawakians, Silas and Priscilla. In this particular session the main topic centers on issues of youth from Sarawak, and what we can do to assist in the current development of the new generation youth to earn higher income, and achieve better living status. The discussion branched out a lot further than just that, and I shall not bore you guys with too much details in this entry.

Me with Grace Ng (Host and Assistant Producer of CUBE on NTV7) and Adrian Jalaludin (Co-Host of CUBE).

Before heading off, I managed to grab a few photos. None the the photographs turned out like how I wanted them to be. My mind was not exactly in focus and I was overly exhausted from a long week of heavy work and lack of sleep. I used a single bounce flash off the ceiling. Not my best people shot, I should have put in more effort and energy in making better people shots next time.
This episode of Cube with me appearing for a brief session will be aired on 7th April, 8.00pm.

Silas (lead singer from Evenstarr), Adrian, Grace, Priscilla and Me

It was my first time being recorded for a TV show, and boy was I nervous !! It was indeed a great experience, and both Grace Ng and Adrian Jalaludin were great hosts for the evening. It was fun and exciting, encouraging open discussion, and this was a place where our voices will be heard, nationwide. I truly appreciate this opportunity.

Thanks to both Grace and Adrian for having us on the show.

Sarawakians, lets fight for our future !!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Silhouette of a Beggar

I was standing in a position against a very strong sun light, and it was almost impossible to achieve decently balanced image, even so with the limited dynamic range on my old Olympus E-520. Armed with the 40-150mm F3.5-4.5, I decided to shoot the silhouette of the beggar instead. The scene was calling out to me, and I just could not pass by without snapping a shot, though the technical execution was far from perfect.

When was the last time you spare some coins, or buy a street beggar a nice, warm meal?

If this question makes you feel awkward and you ought to walk with me along Kuala Lumpur streets. It will open your eyes, wide.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Olympus E-5: Absolute Sharpness

I have received many comments regarding the rather incredible sharpness of my photographs shown in my blog. Some questioned how I managed to obtain sharp images, while others requested me to share my techniques on how to process the photographs to increase the sharpness. Seriously, it was not so much on the processing part.

Everyone loves sharp images. In order to accomplish tack-sharp images, the following steps are important:

1) Make sure your focus is dead on accurate. On DSLR (or large sensor cameras) even slight miss-focusing can cause soft images.

2) Shoot at low ISO settings to capture maximum amount of details while minimizing noise.

3) Use fast enough shutter speed to mitigate blur due to hand shaking in dim lighting situation.

4) Mount the camera on tripod for slow shutter speed works

I usually do perform a little sharpening on my photographs before resizing, but it is crucial to get your image blur free and as sharp as possible while shooting. If your image is out of focus, or blurred due to shake or subject motion, no matter how much post-processing sharpening you apply it will not be able to salvage the broken image.

If you have experienced using Olympus E-System or their newer Micro 4/3 Pen series cameras, you will realize that one of the many strengths of using Olympus would be the absolute sharpness. Though the sensor size of 4/3 or micro 4/3 cameras are smaller in comparison to competition, the amount of details being able to be captured by the superior quality lenses is nothing short of breathtaking. Olympus Zuiko lenses are so sharp even being used at wide open aperture (most other brands’ lenses require stopping down to match the Olympus lenses’ sharpness), and this is no joke. Now mount them on the Olympus E-5, the combination is no slouch. Comparison tests (which were being done in-house by Olympus) have shown the overall sharpness and resolution to evidently surpass what the 18MP Canon 7D and the 12MP Nikon D300s can achieve.

With the proper techniques and execution on field, using significantly superior optical quality lenses with a respectable professional grade camera body like Olympus E-5 can really make a difference in delivering absolutely sharp images. I know that we are not really very supportive of the pixel-peeping culture which has gone wild in the modern photography world, but to answer the questions of you beautiful readers out there, I shall post up 100% crop images.

All images were taken with Olympus E-5. General camera settings: Noise Filter OFF, Noise Reduction OFF, Sharpness 0, Contrast 0, Saturation 0, Picture Mode Natural. Lens and exposure settings used are as stated below following the image. All images straight out of camera with no post-processing applied.

The Shop Assistant

50mm F2 Macro. 1/160sec, F/2, ISO 200

Monday, March 21, 2011

Why Should I Move Backwards?

It gets tiring explaining myself again and again, so I shall try to elaborate my thoughts with a response of one single image. The illustration in the image is very clear and straight to the point.

Bicycle vs Motorcycle

Olympus E-5 and 11-22mm F2.8-3.5

The motorcycle is newer, and technologically more advanced. Yes, people will still use bicycles, they are environmentally friendly, a good sport and much cheaper.

But tell me, if a motorcycle races with a bicycle, who will be faster, and who will travel further?

I want to travel far. I want to travel faster.

Now, this is my polite way of saying "stop asking me to shoot film".

My preference is not open for questioning. My choices are mine to make. Don't make me start making a list of the reasons why I won't shoot film.

Photography is about making photographs happen, regardless of what medium you choose to shoot with. My focus is on photography itself, NOT photography equipments.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Putrajaya International Hot Air Balloon Festival 2011

Yes, like the crowd of a million photographers, or more so of photographer-wannabes in Kuala Lumpur/Selangor region I joined them to generously contribute to the massive human flood at Putrajaya for the International Hot Air Balloon Festival, happening over this weekend. I went with a group of PEN Lovers (Olympus Micro 4/3 Pen users) arriving at the venue at an ungodly 6.30am in the morning, just before the sunrise. The first 200 visitors with "professional" photography equipments are allowed to enter the setup and preparation areas for the hot-air balloon, allowing the photographers to get extremely close while the early works were in progress, even before the start of the day. Such opportunity was much appreciated, perhaps, a little too widely spread that every tom, dick and meow-meow cats in the neighborhood with a (blame the decreasing price of entry level DSLRs) DSLR would fight their way into the event.

Firing up a balloon. At such close range, I can literally feel the heat blasting on my face. Intense !!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Walking Downwards

Everyone is struggling to climb their ways up, higher and higher. Were they driven by ambition, or was it really foolish pride? Don't you get tired of all that climbing? Why do you yearn to touch the sky that much?

Sometimes, the best way out is going down. Hence, falling may not be such a bad thing after all. There is also light underneath it all. You just have to find the right stairs and walk through it. All it takes, is to set aside your pride and lower yourself down, and you will see, there is life there too.

Shot in an abandoned building in Dang Wangi. Olympus E-5 with Zuiko 8mm F3.5 Fisheye.
Distortion correction processed. Dramatic Tone Art Filter applied.

Won't you walk down the stairs with me?

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Seeing Images

When you are shooting, in your mind, do you want people (who will view your photographs) to see or read your photographs exactly the way how you see them? If the people who view your photographs do not see the way you want them to see, does it mean that they are wrongful for not seeing the right things which you have so profusely defined? What happened to the freedom of seeing things differently, that everyone has their own perspective, and choices to interpret photographs the way they want to?

Art is a free-form. It is open to individual interpretations. Everyone will see things differently. Everyone will see your photograph differently. There is no universal governing law on how we should quantify and value photographs. There is no ultimate right and wrong in photography. Misunderstandings may occur, and usually happens when people choose to narrow down their perceptions and views on how they see photographs.

Chilli Pan Mee at Kin Kin Restaurat, Chow Kit. A good snack to kick-start an afternoon shutter therapy.
ISO 1250, still looking great.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Stanley & Tracy: Actual Day Wedding

Thanks to a dear friend and photographer, Kenn Wai, I had a wedding job to shoot last weekend. This was my first time shooting a wedding with my new Zuiko 8mm 3.5 fisheye, and boy, did I find a lot of use for that lens in an actual day wedding coverage !! It was indeed a very versatile tool, and it added drama to my wedding photography.

I was stationed at the bride's side, while Kenn was at the groom's side in the morning.

It was a joyous day, full of great fun, joy, laughter and heartfelt warmth from the newly wed's happinness. It was an honor being there to capture the beautiful moments. I shall share the few of my own favourites in this entry.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Fisheye Street Sunday

I have had an extremely long and tiring weekend, with a full day wedding to cover, and a few appointments with friends that I hardly find time to breathe at all. The only time I had to myself was Sunday afternoon, and I thought to myself, I MUST move my ass to the streets and make some shutter therapy happen. Failure to do so will result in a very unhappy Robin for the whole next coming week.

I brought out the Olympus E-5, with only one lens, the newly acquired Zuiko 8mm F3.5 Fisheye, and all I wanted to do was just have fun. Furthermore, this casual shooting will allow me to familiarize myself more with this fisheye lens, which is still very alien to me. I started off from Dang Wangi, then slowly headed to Kampung Baru. These two places are the least often places I have visited from the list of my usual street hunting places. However, from the fun factor I somehow stumbled into some really interesting photography opportunities that I have captured some images that have become instant favourites.

This is my favourite photograph, so allow me to elaborate more. This homeless man was having his Sunday afternoon nap in an abandoned building just next to the Dang Wangi LRT station. As I walked into the abandoned shoplot I did not realize there were people residing inside. When I saw him from the doorway, he was snoring loudly, hence I moved in close, but still maintained a comfortable distance away. The fisheye provided me extra wideness to cover the whole room. What shocked me was the look of how tidy the room was !! Seriously, look at how he hanged the cloths, and lay the papers on the floor. Even the slippers were lined up nicely, and the entire room seems very presentable. It begged the question of what happened to this man's life, because from this image, it did seem like he had a decent life before. It pains me to see scenes like this, because I believe no human deserve such isolation and rejection from the society.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Darryl & Ann

Just sharing one of my recent wedding assignment shoots. I have been doing more actual day weddings lately. I am enjoying it more and more too !!

Congratulations to Darryl and Ann !!

All photographs were taken with Olympus E-5, 11-22mm F2.8-3.5, 50mm F2 macro and FL-36R flash.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Nokia C6-01: Fixed Focusing Camera, Good or Bad?

Side Note: All photographs in this entry were taken with Nokia C6-01.

I had a beer session with the legendary photographer David Chua and a few photo-kakis last Friday night, and many interesting conversations pertaining photography cropped out, with lengthy thought provoking sharing and discussion sessions following up.

One of the topics being brought on the table was the zone-focusing system.