Saturday, July 31, 2010

Brickfield's Walk

I woke up to a sunny Saturday morning, all geared up, ready to explore the streets of Brickfield, together with Rustie. After a quick and light breakfast, we stormed the streets there. All photographs taken with Olympus E-520, with 11-22mm F2.8-3.5, 50mm F2 macro or 40-150mm F3.5-4.5 lens.

Hook in my mouth.

I wash my hands clean.

A hug a day keeps the psychiatrist away.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Pasta Zanmai Quickie

Side Note: All photos in this entry were taken with Panasonic Lumix DMC-LZ8

Last Friday night, right after work, off we (Andrew, Ben and me) flew to Mid Valley to catch "Sorcerer's Apprentice". Before entering the cinema, we had our dinner at Pasta Zanmai, which was surprisingly vacant for a Friday evening.

My trusty Panasonic Lumix LZ8 was with me, and I happily went into photo-trance and spent a few minutes snapping photos before indulging myself into some real good Japanese food.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Fashion Show @ Times Square

Right after the Macrology session at FRIM with the gang, Mike and I decided that our shutter therapy session should not just end there. It would have been too soon, and while we were still in our camera frenzy trance, we decided to travel to town and catch the multiple fashion shows happening everywhere at Bukit Bintang area. There were fashion shows at Times Square, Pavilion and even Bukit Bintang shopping mall. We chose Times Square instead and off we went for another merry round of shutter therapy to satisfy our appetite for the weekend.

Future photographer. Kids these days have unimaginably expensive toys, don't you think?

I did not bring my tele-zoom lens, since originally the morning session was only intended for macro photography. I only carried along my macro lens, and not having a long zoom lens was a total disadvantage for me especially shooting stage events. However, Mike was kind enough to lend me his Sigma 105mm F2.8 lens, while he has his 18-180mm lens to use. This was my first time dealing with a fashion show using a fixed focal length lens (prime lens) and definitely a challenge if you ask me. Firstly, no flexibility to zoom means I really have to plan my shots carefully, and position my standing spot at the right spot. The field of view was quite limited as well, and the best I could do at where I chose to stand was half body shots, which was a little too tight for my usual shooting style. Nonetheless, I shall just do what I can, and complain less. A fashion show is still a fashion show, no matter which lens you use.

The models were shot from the side, which was not exactly the best angle.

This also marked the first time I have attached a third party lens on my Olympus Body. The Sigma 105mm F2.8 Macro lens itself was not doing too bad, in my opinion. Comparatively, as a prime macro lens, it was not as sharp, and as contrasty as the 50mm F2 macro. However, that was strictly pixel peeping comparison, and at ordinary view on the photograph, the outcome was very pleasing. The F2.8 constant aperture was a huge welcome, allowing higher shutter speed to freeze motion, and the thing that most DSLR user out there are crazy about: the bokeh. Indeed, now I understand what the craze was all about. Imagine if F2.8 can produce such creamy, and dreamy bokeh already, I can only imagine how much more delicious things can get with... say... a 85mm F1.2 lens?

I do think that the fashion show was quite poorly set up. First of all, the arrangement of the stage was rather weird. I know sometimes people tends to be overly creative and tries to be different, but building a two floor stage, with models coming out from the top floor and walking down the stairs to the platform was a silly stunt, honestly put. The models were fitted in new apparels, some probably very uncomfortable or tight dresses and pants, walking down the stairs, which was quite steep mind you, in shoes which are not of their own. Dangerous is one word to describe it, and prioritizing safety has taken the glitter and glamour of the catwalk away from the models. They have to walk in such a cautious manner to avoid off-balance footing, and their eyes were constantly shifted down on the stairs instead of being fixated straight to the front, which was a big no-no for fashion shows.

The fashion show was held outdoors, right? Just in front of the Times Square main entrance. Under such broad daylight, I do not understand the need for the organizers to use the additional spot lighting on the stage. The spot light added an orange and red cast, which looked really horrible on the model's skin. It would have been better if they have just switched the stage lighting off, and only use it during evening shows. I selectively chose only certain positions on the stage where the models stopped and posed, where the sunlight over powers the stage light in order to maintain pleasing looking skin tone. Using flash may improve the situation, but in my opinion, the natural light was doing just fine. The stage light was utterly unnecessary, destroying the beautiful skin of the models, and you must agree with me that it was a waste of electricity.

Our earth is dying anyway, right?

I feel this time my shots did not come out very well. Composition wise I was stuck with one focal length, which was not to my advantage, since I really prefer full body shots, and sometimes, a few headshots. I was not standing at the center, hence there was no direct eye contact. Those models would have looked even more stunning with direct eye contact. I could have gone on the small stage built specifically for photographers' use, but there were so many vultures out there I just felt uncomfortable squeezing for that tiny space with them on that tiny stage. I was not that desperate to get that amazing shot anyway. Oh, besides my tiny camera and tiny lens do not stand harmoniously with those 7Ds and D700s with anything at least the size of 70-200mm F2.8 lenses. Ironically, perhaps if I was shooting with Olympus PEN, I would bring myself UP on the photographer's stage, just to see what kind of reaction I can get from those "big boys". Now, that itself, can be one heck of an interesting blog entry.

I also bumped into Bing and Rustie at the fashion show.

Any of you guys went to any of the fashion shows at Bukit Bintang area? Do share some thoughts or experience.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Macrology Resumes

Macrology is a term invented by a friend of mine, Mike who is also equally as crazy as I am in macro photography. Interestingly, when I was getting obsessed, deep into the macro world about a year ago, I suddenly decided to pull out the plug temporarily and stop macro altogether. As you may have already noticed, my blog was suddenly void from macro images, namely insects and bugs for more than half a year already. I even took a drastic measure, selling off my macro lens, but another more convincing reason was to fund my 11-22mm wide angle lens, just before my trip to Phuket.

Nonetheless, one fact is made clear, I have always loved macrology, and now, after half year drought of macro hunting, I am making a return.

This spider was actually quite huge, with its legs spread out, the length was probably as long as my palm. However, it was hanging high above the tree levels. I used the live view, and stretched my 50mm lens out to capture this shot.

About a week ago, Benten (yes, we call this friend by the name Benten) organized a small macro outing amongst the usual macro kakis. Earlier this morning, we made our way into FRIM at Kepong, and started macro hunting. I must say that I was really looking forward to this outing, and more importantly getting my hands on macro again. The inner me has an itch for macro. I woke up at crazy 6 something in the morning, got out of house at 7am, took a LRT to Tasik Selatan for an exchange to KTM taking me all the way to Kepong. Useless and unreliable are the words to describe, Malaysian public transport, I had to wait for nearly half an hour for a KTM, and because of that I was a little late for the appointment with the gang at 8.30am.

Damselfly, easily found near ponds, or places with water.

The usual hunts would be spiders. Spiders are definitely much easier to spot, and nail down, since most of them stay very still. Besides spider, there were grasshoppers, ants, beetles, and many other tiny bugs and creatures all around for us to capture. I shall try not to overflood this place with insects, which I acknowledge the fact that some of you have certain repulsion towards small creatures. Therefore, I shall just select the few photos worthy of mention, especially the few spiders that I have not seen and photographed before.

Ant or spider? It is actually an Ant Mimic Spider.

A different type of Ant Mimic Spider. This spider lives its whole life, lying, and pretending to be an ant. The purpose is probably for protection, since walking along a colony of ants can be safe and protected from other predators. Another reason could be disguising as ants to get close enough so they can devour them. In order to mimic an ant, this type of spider has to raise its front two legs, hence they walk only on 6 legs, pretending that their front two legs are antennas like normal ants. The arrangement of the eyes also have been altered.

Possibly the nest/web of the Ant Mimic Spider. This was an extremely difficult situation to photograph. The leaf was curved inwards, and pointing the macro lens near to get close up shots, meaning that you would have closed in the paths of lighting. If you fire the flash from top or side, the light would not reach the inner leaf. To counter this problem, I positioned my flash (holding it wirelessly with one hand) close to one side of my lens, and let it fire side by side with the lens. Hence, the flash entered the leaf through a very small opening, but adequate to achieve a decently even spread of light inside the leaf. Hence, I got this shot of the Ant Mimic Spider in its natural habitat.

I have yet to find out what kind of spider this is. However, this has got to be one of the meanest looking spiders I have seen so far. The shell-like thing at the back was quite scary.

Insect macro photography is probably one of the very few areas of photography which requires more technical mastery over artistic sense. To be able to produce a decent macro photograph, you must have at least understood and have a certain amount of control over the shutter speed, aperture and ISO of the camera, know the concept of depth of field, and develop methods of lighting your subjects. Focusing also has become a crucial factor, in cases of extreme magnification, auto-focus on the lens may become rather useless, and you have to rely on your ability to focus manually. Your overall sense of technical side in photography must be adequate, or else you will find yourself coming home with blurry, dark photos. Hence, it was no surprise that one of the main reason I jumped so deep into macro previously, was to improve my technical control in photography. Through uncountable sessions of macrology, I must say I have come a long way since I first wondered which F-number should I use to photograph a small red ant.

Compmac said this was a "ghost" spider, which was quite common, though I have not encountered one before. I think the blue shiny fur was rather cool.

So what did I do this time in terms of photo-techniques? Not much really, I did not employ anything new. This was not a session of experimentation, this was more like a session to familiarize myself all over again, and orientate my inner mind to concentrate in macrology. Most of the techniques and tips listed below have been blogged before.

1) I use Olympus E-520 with 50mm F2 Macro lens and an external flash FL-36R which is capable of wireless TTL control.

2) Full time manual focus, set to near or full magnification. I do not turn the focus ring, instead I fixed it to the closest focus the lens offers (for 1 to 1 magnification), and slowly rock myself back and forth until I see the subject appearing sharp and in focus on my viewfinder.

3) Full manual settings. General camera settings: ISO200, F11-14, shutter speed 1/50sec to 1/80 sec. Aperture needs to be stopped down, in order to gain more depth of field.

4) Wireless TTL-Flash. You will definitely need flash for macro photography, especially taking photos of tiny insects at high magnification. I hold my camera on my right hand, and the external flash on my left hand. I position the flash and fire it wirelessly so that the light comes from the side of the subject, not from front, or directly top. The advantage of this technique is to have a more natural light, and shadow profile on the subject that made it look either more flattering or 3-dimensional.

5) And of course, some serious yoga body bending moves, and ninja stealth breathing methods are also required to make certain shots of some insects posing at extremely awkward positions possible.

A type of fly?

Catch of the day. Literally.

Thanks Compmac, Mike and Benten for making this session happen. This was more like a session to bring myself back to macro again. Do stay tuned, as I immerse myself into the world of macrology again. Yes, I have always loved macro, I have never given up on it, and now I am back for more.

Do tell me what you think of macrology !!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Who Will I Be

Tell me honestly, will you still be my friend, and see any part of me as who I am now, if one day, you bumped into me on the streets looking like this....

Olympus 70-300mm (at 190mm), 1/1000sec, F4.9, ISO400

If you can approach me and tell me you are still my friend, along with a warm, sincere smile on your face, I have to say...

You must be one of the truest friends anyone could ever ask for.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Local Camera Shops

Photography Note: Shots taken at Petaling Street with Olympus E-520 and 50mm F2.0 Macro.

I believe many of you beautiful people out there have shared the same frustration as I do, when it comes to shopping, or window shopping for camera, lenses or accessories locally. In the Bukit Bintang/Low Yat Plaza area alone, you can easily spot more than two dozens of camera shops lining up everywhere, eager to pounce on your innocent wallet.

I agree, papa is da best !!

The flower dude. This photo was quite a challenging one, balancing the dark skin tone against the white flowers being strongly lit by harsh morning sun.

A bench, or a bed?

Here are my reasons why I did not have very pleasant experience going to most of those camera shops:

1) Camera Fictions

Sales would be sales, and people would churn out all sorts of lies just to win your opinion. Similar situation applies to many local salespersons working at many local camera shops. In order to sell something, fictions have often overridden facts. Biased opinions are so common that if you do not have prior research or knowledge on what to buy, you would have been misled and victimized mercilessly.

There was a case when a friend of mine was looking for a kit lens to replace his broken unit. The sales person blatantly mentioned that the Olympus 14-45mm was the newer version, superseding the 14-42mm, but the truth was the total opposite. Thank goodness my friend knew his gears well enough not to fall for the trap. The 14-45mm was one of the first few lenses produced by Olympus, possibly have been sitting in the shop for the past 4 to 5 years, and in a desperate attempt to earn some bucks back from the obsolete lens, the salesperson chose to bent the truth. How dishonorable of him!!

Besides selling fictional stories, many shop staffs would convince the customers to steer towards the products they intended to sell. Claims which may be half truths, or with questionable justifications such as “oh this camera is sharper”, or “this camera takes better pictures at night” or “this camera can take blur free pictures” have been playing around the lips of the salesperson, like pre-recorded audio clips. It has come to a point that camera sellers have been degraded to nothing more than pasar malam vendors.

Lanterns, a must have item at any Chinatown in the world.

One of the most important inventions in mankind.

What do you think is in that box?

2) Overpriced

This is one sick trend that has been practiced everywhere in Malaysia, not just in camera-selling business. Prices of cameras and lenses have been jacked up so high that some would be reaching 200% of its original price, allowing a huge contingency for bargain hungry patrons.

Many of us serious photographers, or photography-hobbyist know our equipments, and the street pricing of what we intended to buy. One case that happened to another friend of mine was the bargaining of a camera bag. He spotted a small camera bag, and he asked for the pricing. He was initially quoted RM200, discounted from RM250 on the price tag. Still feeling that it was too expensive, my friend asked for more discount. It was then further reduced to RM120. Then my friend told the salesperson he still thinks it was too expensive, because, the bag that I was using was only RM80, which was a whole lot larger, comes with weather proofing feature, can hold in a lot more accessories while sporting a really rugged, good look. Then the person said “OK la I give you RM80.” Seriously, when things like this happened to you, would you not start to think maybe the bag is worth probably less than RM10?

The best option would be to say thanks and move on to the next shop for a more reasonable offer, which we did. Nevertheless, how about the people who do not have prior knowledge about the approximate pricing of the item of interest? No wonder those camera vendors are earning so much these days.

Perhaps it would be an ordinary trap for tourists, or people who know nuts about latest camera pricings. Hiking the price at such sky high rates would have worked on many clueless first time buyers. I cannot help but think that such widespread practice is so disgusting that cheating people who have little knowledge is nothing more than stealing cash from the money can besides a blind beggar by the street.

To be absolutely honest I have no idea what the guy is doing.

Flipping papers. Would the copy at the bottom of the pile be any better than the ones at the top?

These two blokes were staring at something so intensely that they would not care me snapping their photos just standing besides them.

3) Clueless Staff

When I was out to buy my first CPL (circular polarizer) I had the worst of my time ever with the sales people at various camera shops. I think 9 out of 10 of them have no idea what a polarizer is. Most of the salespersons are there just to sell the cameras, and a few popular lenses. If you question them further on accessories, they would give you the alien look. Of course, not everyone in the shop do not know what a polarizer was, normally the first person who was clueless would refer to his or her senior supervising staff, who would answer my question earlier.

I do not get how clueless some of the front staff can be. Yes, they may be new, but basic things like memory cards, some filters, ordinary lenses like tele-zoom and primes lenses should be in their knowledge databank. It was traumatizing when they asked me in return “what is a polarizer?”

Another similar experience can be shared here was encountered by myself. I had my camera with the external flash mounted on it, but the head was rotated 90 degrees upwards ready for a vertical/portrait orientation shots. The camera salesperson stared at my flash for a considerably long time, and he then questioned me “why is your flash head tilted like that?” Then I rotated the head back to its original position and he gasped.. and went “Wow… the head can be moved like that?” He was at a DSLR booth, and I just cannot help but stare at him back in awe.

It was as if a person who has not opened a car hood before was fixing your car engine.

Life is a prison.

This man's bright pink shirt caught quite a bit of attention.

4) Limited Accessories

After suffering from point no 3, I have come to another conclusion that most local camera shops are so helplessly hopeless when it comes to accessories. You will have limited choices of ugly looking camera bags, China made flimsy yet expensively priced tripods, and perhaps only UV filters to grab. The main selling items would be just cameras and some basic lenses, and if you want more exotic items most of the time the camera shops would have to place special order, which in turn you have to wait for at least one working week for the delivery of the item.

Why not just buy Online?

I think a one stop camera store with sufficient supply of accessories in variety is seriously lacking. Yes, there is probably one or two (which I shall not mention the name, and the location of the shops would not be easily spotted) but I am talking about the majority 99% of the easily accessible camera shops at major shopping malls around KL.

Milo-Ais bungkus?

Grab a mug.

5) Knowledge-less

Sometimes, the best way to spark an interest with your potential camera/accessories buyer would be warming up a conversation on photography. Simple things like “what do you like to photograph?” or “Have you used a Film camera before?” would suffice to break the ice. Of course, adequate basic photography knowledge is necessary to facilitate such tasks, which I find absent from most of the salesperson at local camera shops.

Apart from asking “How much is the latest pricing for D90?” or “what is your best price for this camera bag?” there is nothing else to talk about with those local camera shop sales assistants. You are at a camera shop, you would expect to at least find some common interest to talk to them about, right? It was quite depressing when you start yacking about Aperture and Shutter speed settings and all they can respond was a blank, white face of blur expression. How can they possibly recommend you the best item to purchase, if they do not even know a thing about what the items they are selling can do in photography sense?

Chicken Porridge for breakfast.

Beef noodles for lunch. *burp

I must admit that there are exceptions to all my points listed in this entry. There have been one or two shops which I frequent, with the sales assistants who do know at least a thing or two about photography and provide a wide range of products and accessories to choose from.

However, I must admit that my general experience with most camera shops everywhere was rather awful. If you have any similar experience, feel free to share!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Olympus PEN Workshop by David Chua

I do not exactly know why Olympus Malaysia loves to announce their events at extremely last minute, and expecting the attendees to register and RSVP to confirm their seats. It was only two days ago I saw the notice of the event "Olympus PEN Workshop by David Chua" at One Utama which was held earlier today at 1pm. Seriously, Olympus Malaysia should learn to announce the events at least two weeks in advance to allow us a little bit of flexibility in arranging our time, and make way for this event. Thankfully my projects at work are not picking up hecticly at the moment, else I would have to give this great event a miss.

So what makes this event so great?

Olympus PEN E-PL1, the latest Micro 4/3 system body from Olympus. With standard zoom 14-42mm F3.5-5.6

The highlight of the day, new lens 14-150mm F4-5.6

There is only one reason of course: the workshop was conducted by David Chua, a professional photographer whom I have come to respect and admire. I started following his blog ( for quite a while now, and not only do I find myself awe-ing at his shots published there, I also agree with his thoughts and ideas being put forth strongly. He believes strongly in perceving photography through an artistic manner, shooting not to impress others but only for yourself, and stressing very heavily on originality, which Malaysians generally are lacking. Above all, I deeply admire his true passion for photography.

The workshop was broken into 5 main parts: 1) Presentation by David Chua on his experience with Olympus PEN, 2) Presentation by Olympus Marketing Staff on the new Micro 4/3 Olympus lenses, the 9-18mm wide angle lens, and the 14-150mm zoom lens, 3) Refreshment (my favourite session of course) and 4) Walkbout with PEN session 5) Photo Critique session.

The crowd testing the PEN cameras and the new lenses, 9-18mm and 14-150mm.

The presentation by David was the one thing I was really looking forward to amongst all the items lined up for the day. He detailed his experienced in such a personal, yet generally perceivable level that everyone can relate to when he was illustrating his points. He emphasized the importance on shooting freely without the hindrance of the technical obstacles that would usually weigh the photographers down, the advantages of shooting with smaller and lighter cameras, and of course, on the whole idea of why Olympus PEN is such a great and fun camera to use. On top of that, he also added a lot of his life experience and very useful tips which could very well inspire and at some level, encourage the audience to have a more openly creative and fresh outlook towards photography. His conclusion was Olympus PEN is Photography. I cannot agree more.

The event was held at a function room inside MPH at One Utama Shopping Mall.

I was actually shocked at one point when David mentioned about "shutter therapy" repeatedly, and further on noted that the phrase actually originated from me. My goodness, I had the most "paiseh" (Hokkien slang for embarrassed) moment in my life. Never would I thought I would find this phrase being used at any other places outside this blog. Part of me felt honored, but somehow it did feel really awkward coming from another person, especially presented in front of an audience !! Nonetheless, shutter therapy has defined a huge part of what this blog is about now, and I foresee countless shutter therapy sessions coming along for a long period of time. Shutter Therapy is definitely something to be shared and I would be happy to see more people enjoy photography as much as I do !!

Every attendees to the workshop were loaned an Olympus E-P1, which was the first generation Olympus PEN micro 4/3 camera with a standard zoom 14-42mm F3.5-5.6 for the walkabout session. It was generous and kind of Olympus to allow everyone to use the cameras, but I do find it a little odd somehow. Since now Olympus is heavily promoting the latest PEN which is the E-PL1, why not push the audience with the new product and let them have a taste during the walkabout? Yes, the usage during the walkabout would drastically reduce the face value of the units being loaned, but letting everyone use an older unit, yet in the main agenda of the event, and the marketing strategy of pushing an entirely different camera were two contradictory acts. If you want to tell the crowd how good your E-PL1 is, then let them use it.

A refreshment session was provided at the Espress Soup cafe inaide MPH. We were provided an assortment of salad, sandwiches and pastries.

I took up one E-P1 of course, and went for the 45 minutes walkabout shooting session with the rest of the gang. The walkabout was done around the One Utama shopping mall compounds, and everyone was free to choose whatever subject they wanted to photograph. After the walkabout, everyone was required to submit a maximum of 3 best shots for photo-critique session. In this photo critique session, everyone can voice up their opinions, and David would be the main compiler, as well as providing his own insight towards the photographs. Generally, the main purpose of this session was geared on identifying ways to improve the photographs taken, and this can be achieved mostly in various manners, such as composition, artistic sense/value, subject interest, technical control, etc etc. Although one may only submit 3 photos, but listening to the comments and feedback on other people's photographs, everyone has a chance to learn from each other.

Oh and I did a close-up shot on my food. I love macro, can't help it.

If you have not noticed, I did not take many photographs from this event. Why? I decided to put my camera down, and just enjoy the event and truly immerse myself in it. When David was giving his presentation, I opened up my mind and really listened. During the walkabout session, I used the PEN E-P1 camera, and did the walkabout session like it was supposed to be done. I found a ladybug on a leave, and I was so tempted to whip out my 520 and the 50mm macro lens with my wireless flash, I admitted I almost diverted into that moment, but I stayed away and just maintained the shot with the PEN. During the makan session, I took some quick snaps of the food, and once I put the camera down, I made sure I ate as much as I could and really enjoyed my food. I paid attention, because I wanted to be inspired, and I wanted to learn. Above all, I wanted to fully enjoy the afternoon.

Therefore, you do not see my usual trend of camwhoring, or taking random shots of the people there.

This was definitely one awesome workshop. I would strongly recommend to my friends, especially those who has only newly picked up photography. If there was any future sessions by David Chua, I will spread the word. Something not to be missed !! Again, may I reiterate my request for Olympus Malaysia to at least put up the notice earlier, so we have time to spread the word and get people to join !! Such great events should be shared and be known.

Weekend is now, and shutter therapy continues. More entries coming with more photos. Stay tuned.