Wednesday, April 16, 2014

What Makes This Image Work?

I have had an idea of selecting a few of my favourite images and then pull out some points on why I think the images work the way they do, and hopefully this sharing can benefit some readers (new-comers to photography) as they find ways to improve in photography. I know I have been randomly doing this for a while but lets just take a closer look at one image, and see what we can find out from this one image. 

This was not a new image, in fact I have taken this about a few weeks ago, and displayed in one of my weekly shutter therapy blog entries. 

We shoot too often at our eye level. Although eye-level photographs are mostly natural and easily acceptable by the viewers, they appear too ordinary. From time to time I would explore different angles, mostly low angle to create a more dramatic outcome. In this particular image, the light leaks from the roof was a very important element and to successfully emphasize on the bright light coming in the alley, shooting from low perspective helps. 

Lighting has always been an important factor to determine how good a photograph is. In this situation, it was a backlit situation. In most cases, an evenly lit subject appear normal and comfortable to look at, which encompasses about almost everything that we see every day. To make the photograph stand out from the usual, having different lighting effect, such as backlit or heavy directional side lighting can result in more interesting outcomes. Watching how light interacts with the subject and its environment is also very important. 

If you have played Counter Strike (gosh what a great multiplayer first person shooter game it was) one of the popular (some despised this technique) play was to "camp", meaning that staying hidden and still at one spot, until the enemy came by and you had the chance to attack (Kill!) the enemy by surprise. In the case of this image, I actually saw the scene (market place, backalley, with nice lighting setup) and I have decided to have this one particular background for my image. All I needed was a subject, so I waited (quite patiently at that) until something entered my frame. I actually knew that it would be the man with the cart, well, because it was near a storage area and there were many men with carts moving around the busy place. 

Having the background decided and waiting at one spot, camping until the subject enters the frame, this has been a popular technique in street photography. Many have argued whether this technique is really street photography (since the scene was already almost 95% planned anyway) but who cares, really? If the image works, it works, end of drama. The important thing about photography in general (not just street) is visualization, being able to picture what you want to have in your final photography output, being able to see what your image will look like in the end, and work your way backwards to your shooting execution to accomplish that goal in mind. 

There is a reason why the "Decisive Moment" is such a huge phrase when it comes to street photography. I may not be a 100% believer in decisive moment but I do admit at times, there is that one particular moment (a single frame) that trumps everything else, and we as photographers always do our best (with whatever techniques we can employ with our system) to ensure that we do not miss that very important moment. In the above image, I intentionally planned to have the subject moved into the light. I also knew that due to drastic difference in exposure part of the scene will be hidden, and as the head (and upper body) of the subject moved into the bright spot at the centre of the frame some of the will be blown into highlights. I was perfectly fine with that as part of the subject was being hidden, and that added a little mystery to the image. 

I also think that luck plays an important part. That one morning, someone was burning incense nearby (not sure it was for prayers or other purposes) and the thick smoke engulfed the whole area I was shooting. That smoke added much desired effect on how the light fell into the place. I would not have known about the incense burning and it was not something that I can predict, but seeing it happen I immediately incorporated that into the image. 

Technical notes: Image taken with Olympus OM-D E-M5 and M.Zuiko 12-50mm F3.5-5.6 lens. Oh yes, it was that kit lens that not many people love, but I find it to deliver consistently good results. I needed the 12mm coverage for this wide angle perspective, and I went low angle, using the tilt screen (thank God, else I had to lie down on the floor). ISO320, 1/500sec, F3.5. Black and white because I love it. 

Saturday, April 12, 2014

MIrrorless Is The Future

I have come from a long background of using DSLR (Olympus E-410, E-520, E-5, Sony A350 and A57) and I can testify that there really is nothing that I miss from my DSLR days, since I have fully converted to mirrorless Micro Four Thirds system now. Gone were the days of carrying huge and heavy camera and lenses, and now we are seeing the new generation camera system that emphasizes on smaller, lighter, yet siimilarly powerful, if not even surpassing what most DSLR cameras can do. Mirrorless system is maturing, what is your excuse in clinging to the DSLR?

Indeed, there are still that top of the line full frame cameras which seem to be somewhat untouchable when it comes to pure speed and low light shooting performance, cameras such as the venerable Canon 1Dx and Nikon D4/D4S. Yes, you may need to shoot at ridiculous ISO25,600 and you need the shots to be usable. Nonetheless, looking at how far the other systems have caught up all these years, I do not feel inferior when I am using the Olympus OM-D cameras. I am perfectly fine with ISO3,200 images, and would not hesitate if I needed to boost up to ISO6,400. Now we have a wide selection of F1.8 lenses, and Panasonic has taken the wide aperture game a step further by introducing their latest 42.5mm F1.2 lens. You have sub F2 lenses to work with, at very usable ISO6,400, and you know what, the technology is still improving, surely things will get better and better with every new camera releases. More and more interesting lenses are being released. For most photography situations, that combination should be more than sufficient! Times are exciting for the next generation mirrorless camera and there is still a huge potential of growth. 

All images were taken with Olympus OM-D E-M5 or PEN E-PL5, and M.Zuiko Digital 45mm F1.8 or Panasonic 14mm F2.5 lenses


Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Olympus Macro Converter: MCON-P02

I think I should do a dedicated review on this new Macro Converter from Olympus, the MCON-P02 which fits nicely to whichever lens that has 37mm or 46mm diameter filter threads. Initial tests show very promising results. 

MCON-P02 attached to 45mm F1.8, shot on OM-D E-M5. F2.8 at ISO2,500

Monday, April 07, 2014

Messages From My Blog

Side Note: Olympus users at Asia and Oceania regions! If you have not submitted your photographs to the Olympus Asia Oceania GrandPrix, you still have a few days left before the closing date. Stand a chance to win an E-M1! More info here:

I shoot again and again, and I share my images week after week. There is no end to shutter therapy (lets hope it goes on forever), as I deeply enjoy doing it, and love to share that joy and whatever catch of the day with you beautiful people here. Sometimes people came up to me and told me how amazed they were about my self-motivation to go on and on, and never get bored or tired of doing the same thing over and over again, or shooting on the same streets week after week. If you truly love what you do, if you are truly passionate about your craft, and you seriously want to be a better photographer, you will not tire easily, and you will not run out of inspiration to go on. There is so much more to learn and explore. 

After going through some of my recent blog entries, I found a pattern of consistency running through my writing and photo-sharing here. There are similar and repetitive messages that played over and over again week after week, some I have written lengthily about, some I have not yet done so but the messages have always been evidently seen. I shall discuss in this blog entry what are the main messages that I hope my readers will take home, and hopefully be a part of their exploration in the world of photography as well.

All images were taken with Olympus OM-D E-M5 and PEN E-PL5 with M.Zuiko 45mm F1.8 or Panasonic 14mm F2.5

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