Courses and workshops

Photography: Art Or Gadget Lifestyle?

Taken with Holga 35mm Pinhole Camera using Tri-X 400 film, self-developed in Rodinal using stand development.

In recent years, photography has changed so much in the world from what it used to be. The advancement in photographic technology, the “super-duper-magical” digital cameras which can shoot at ISO1million (very soon I guess)… , the BOOMING camera-trading industry, the almost complete death of film once (Thank God, it’s very much back alive!), the death of very good professional labs…(they are still not revived yet)… , and the influx of thousands of “professional photographers” who become “professionals” literally overnight by getting themselves a 2000 bucks DSLR.

Recently, we have the PC Fair in Malaysia, and it’s not the first PC Fair to have camera booths selling cameras in it. I thought PC means personal computer? I know me and my wife are backdated… as my wife still asked me, “why are they selling cameras at a PC Fair?”

So many-a-times, I asked myself,” why the hell have I gone digital?”

Because of work, I’ve “gotta” upgrade my digital cameras every few years. (nowadays, the advancement is so fast that it’ll probably be shortened to every one year). Do I really have to upgrade? Even for photo-enthusiasts, they are upgrading, many even quicker than the pros usually. I only know of one wedding photographer around me so far, who upgrades as fast as a rich photo-enthusiast/gearhead, that most of us can’t even keep up to half his speed. LOL… :p

Shot at a wedding, Nikon FM3A, 85mm F1.8, Tri-X 400, self-developed in Rodinal.

What has photography become?

It used to be about mastering the ART of capturing fleeting moments that passes us by too quickly that a paintbrush is hard to describe. Is it still? Oh yes… maybe… and it’s has gone so much easier today with digital cameras isn’t it? Face-detection, smile-detection, what else?

But, why is it that it doesn’t seem any more enjoyable than the old days, when we don’t get to see the results immediately, when we often screw up in our exposures, etc. and etc.. For the new generation, you possibly do not know what I am talking about, then maybe, you should really try getting an old film camera, pop a roll of film in it, and try it out for yourself?

We have heard that Olympus has in her plans, the potential of making cameras that can shoot up to 100 frames per second, like what Casio once did… except that this time, if it’s successful, the images are gonna be stunning. It’s the “motion-jpeg concept” they talked about… when I can imagine future wedding photographers inviting their clients into their posh and cosy lounge, looking at huge screens with a remote control in their hands, viewing “motion-jpegs” or shall we call it video? … and pressing the pause button whenever they see a “moment” to do a screen capture for output as an enlargement print. Oh, not-to-forget some soft background music and two glasses of champagne too… Now, isn’t that lovely?

Will Henri Cartier-Bresson jump out of his grave since he strongly believed in “decisive moment” by the photographer but now, it’s about “decisive pauses” by the audience?

Shot with a camera called the Zeiss Ikon Contaflex Super, made in 1959.

Also shot with the 1959-made Contaflex, using cheap China Lucky Color Film

I am just being emotional again.

Photography is about being emotional. The whole photography process is emotional. By introducing “better” cameras that supposedly make life easier for the photographer to concentrate on ARTS can also at the same time, take away certain pleasures the photographer is enjoying.  I am imagining and asking myself, “if the whole world shoots using the “motion-jpeg/video concept”, will I still be a photographer? ”

I know it’s definitely exciting for technology to advance like this… exciting for the engineers, NOT the artists, not really for me. It’s a cool gadget to have, but not for serious photography I would wanna do.

Photography is such a hybrid. It involves heavily with gears and instruments, and yet you can develop it as ART. So, it’s not surprising that many photographers are more “involved” with changing equipments than actual shooting. You change your camera, you get a different result. Take the camera away from the photographer, and he/she can’t produce pictures anymore. Whereas, a painter can still try painting with his/her fingers. So, it’s definitely highly equipment-dependent.

But how should we develop our artistic vision in the midst of all this technology advancement? Cameras are no different from mobile phones nowadays. The newer and better cameras are always luring us to believe that owning them can make us better photographers, which is TOTALLY UNRELATED to your personal photographic vision!

Taken with Rollei 35, Ilford XP2, part of my personal project "Cari Makan"(earn-a-living).

Also taken with Rollei 35, but on Kodak BW400CN.


I have ever mentioned that the Olympus E-P1 helped me in expanding my photographic vision, unleashed the experimental part of me, and that it is a camera that gives you great JPEGs without much retouching. I used it in automatic mode so I could concentrate on my photographic vision. That’s one way. Get a camera which can produce wonderful images without having to do much post-processing and in-camera settings. Set it to auto and concentrate on your composition.

Shoot film.

Shooting film slows you down. From shooting thousands with my DSLRs, I slowed down to shooting 36 per roll, a few rolls per week. Recently, I shoot just 12 shots a day on my favourite medium format camera for about 3-4 days per week. I am telling you this “slowing” is gonna continue for me. I am currently addicted to seeing as high as 10-11 keeper shots out of 12 per roll. And this feeling definitely beats having 30 keeper shots out of a hundred odd digital snaps.

Photography: ART or Gadget Lifestyle for me?

It’s still partly ART and partly a gadget lifestyle for me since I am often tempted by good old film cameras and sometimes the small digitals. :p But, I’d rather keep to my First Love which is Shooting! I WILL NOT spend more time on the computer than going out there for actual shooting as long as my eyes can still SEE.

Do feel free to share the images you shoot with me by inviting me to your flickr or whatever photo-sharing website you have… I’d love to see them!

I’ve been doing private coaching for quite a while now and I am gonna have a group photography workshop soon, so please email me if you are interested. Thanks!

Related Posts:

1. Why Photo-enthusiasts are cool!

2. Good to stay “innocent”.

Finally, Some Updates… …

Take a break man… … have a currypuff and talk to your loved one!

I have been taking a loooonng break from blogging, and I really owe many an update of what I have been doing. To put down in words all that I have been busy with is gonna take a few pages and so I’m just gonna talk about the basic stuff I did.

Stuff I did:

1. Exploring even more cameras, beyond Olympus, beyond the common brands, beyond digital

2. Thinking hard on what I really wanna do for 2010

3. Learning from photo enthusiasts!

4. Understanding the people I shoot, namely the strangers on the streets, I try to make them friends

5. Learning from my child. He has double portion of my bad DNA. “Retribution”. But God taught me the most through him.

Stuff I really need to do now:

1. Share more knowledge online!

Photography is a lifestyle. It should progress beyond shooting pretty girls, testing lenses, shooting for money, shooting what others have achieved, shooting to impress, shooting to compete, shooting for the sake of shooting, shooting to cover up our insecurities, or shooting just because you like the camera shutter sound and it’s functionality or complexity.

I know that some enjoy photography because of the photographic equipments. Me too, I enjoy each individual mechanical or electronic built. I know that some enjoy shooting pretty girls so they can enjoy looking at the images after that. Me too, who doesn’t like pretty stuff? I know some enjoy photography when they win awards. Me not really, I’d rather not be obsessed with shooting to win the favor of judges / or shooting what others want.

I wanna shoot for a cause. A competition for an exhibition of images for a good cause, yes!

And I believe photography should develop into a lifestyle. Photography, my sketch book. I sketches my life in it. What I see, what I feel and what I want others to see, feel and know. I just hope that my images speak, and that my images last, no matter how insignificant my images may seem to be. I am insignificant, just like a tiny grain of sand on the seashore. Yet, I’ll still shoot to share. Who does not shoot to share? He should give up photography if photography remains in his closet. Fear of others “copying” your works??? Who do you think you are anyway? A Bigger Grain?

2010 Plans:

1. I am gonna get more active in sharing photography! So, you are gonna see more of my face in workshops, more of my works online, and more of my outspoken thoughts (never meant to offend, just treat my blog as my online diary, you can have yours too!).

2. I am shooting more for others, rather than just for myself selfishly, and I mean commercially, as many still love my wedding and portrait works. Now, I must say for any artist, repetitive works are never what an artist wants. That’s why I mentioned “shooting for others”. But, that does not mean I shoot mindlessly without emotion for my clients,  it’s about achieving “the pretty shots” my clients always wanted. That’s part of sharing too! And I still have my fiery passion in shooting portraits and especially actual day wedding events when so many “decisive moments” are waiting to be captured.

3. I hope that I can have an exhibition of some of my works. It’s really tedious in organizing all that I have been shooting in 2009, and it’s accumulating in 2010… and I have so much to share. I have been shooting almost everyday, and sometimes it’s just one frame per day.

My encouragement of the day: Be a Photographer! Not just a Businessman.

I always remind myself:

Good Businessman creates his own opportunities. Lousy Businessman copies what others do.

Good Photographer creates his own works. Lousy Photographer copies others’ works. (Have some pride lah! Not shy meh? When others say you copy.)

Keep me bookmarked! For those who are interested to participate in my coming workshops, please email me at or drop a comment below.

I will have more updates very soon.

The Launch of Olympus PEN E-P2

I am extremely honored to be invited by Olympus to speak of my experience with the PEN on 5 Nov at the launch of the Olympus E-P2, and also not-to-forget, experiencing the E-P2 over the past 1 week on it’s new features. I must say the PEN, being the 1st micro four thirds system in the world, is gonna rock the world just like it did with it’s half-frames (72 shots) in the 1960-70s.

NEW OLYMPUS PEN E-P2, image from

NEW OLYMPUS PEN E-P2, image from

Image by Leo from Olympus Malaysia.

Image by Leo from Olympus Malaysia

I was actually busy photographing the big group of media photographers photographing us during the photo session. I should be getting those images back from them soon. The PEN is such a joy to use! You should try it.

Below are some pretty girls’ shots of the Olympus PEN E-P2 ambassadors of the day taken backstage. I am so-not-used-to dressing up formally without carrying my PEN E-P1 in my camera pouch strapped to my waist, that I only managed to steal some shots of the day intermittently whenever I can get my E-P1 out of my bag. All the PEN E-P1’s images shown in this post below are straight out of camera. No touch-ups at all.







It has been a truly enjoyable day meeting new friends, chatting with the Olympus Team about up and coming exciting developments, and sharing my experience with the PEN to the crowd. I must say, somehow I find the Olympus Team different. They are truly passionate about the Olympus Brand!

To them, it’s not just about selling cameras. It’s about high quality photographic instruments and human-to-human connection. Olympus is about high quality photography made available at ease to everyone and anyone.

Let me remind you, I am not paid to shoe-shine for Olympus just like I’ve earlier mentioned HERE. They just want a truly passionate genuine PEN user to share something at their meetings, and here I am.

I also have the priviledge to meet the veteran photojournalist who uploaded the first Tsunami shots online during the 2004 Tsunami. He’s none other than John W. Ishii.

Me and John

Me and John

And a photo with Hugo from Olympus Japan and Mr Tan, the managing director.


Below shows the high quality huge enlargements frames of the Olympus PEN E-P1 and E-P2’s images at the launch, largest being 30 by 53 inches. Mind you, the enlargements are made from “Normal JPEG” straight out of the cameras. Not even “Fine JPEG”!

With such high quality, I absolutely don’t see the need to shoot RAW with my PEN E-P1 at all, unlike my Canon and Nikon DSLRs I used to own. I have since sold both my D700s and now back to shooting lots and lots of film (still my 1st Love), accompanied by my PEN E-P1!





Thank you Olympus Malaysia for giving me the honor to speak of my joy in photography using the PEN!

Coming soon… I will be blogging more about the PEN, both the E-P1 and E-P2.

New Course Details Updated

New course details are updated in our “Courses” page. For all interested, please check it out. Recently, I have just started the 3rd batch of basic class and 1st class on wedding photojournalism.

I Quit

1. I quit shooting weddings after weddings, which is what I have been doing for many years, no time to think of what I really want to achieve artistically, neglected many clients in my busy schedule which I feel bad till today.

2. I quit from the repeated routine of shooting weddings. Artists need to break their usual routine, that’s when they can breathe some fresh air, and mature in their thoughts and feelings, thereafter reflected in their works.

3. I quit following the world in believing being rich and famous is an essential. There are just too many things in life that money cannot buy.

To all who cares for me and love my works, don’t you worry. I still shoot weddings, just that I only shoot a certain number of weddings per year. 38 weddings per year is way too many for me. I am a part-time wedding photographer, freelance teacher, freelance editorial and non-profit community photographer now. I love training people, believe in effective personal training and mentoring, enjoy the sincere company of my few associates from 1 Avenue Photography.