Category Archives: Thoughts

Biwako, Japan

Biwako, Japan

I lied on the grass, using my body to stabilize my camera and square ND filters (not screwed on), no tripod… as I was touring in Japan with me 20-inch singlespeed folding bike with fully loaded panniers. Not to forget it was about 15-18 degrees Celsius near sunset. The last time I took landscape photography seriously was probably 20 years ago.

One of my last student I taught in my private classes is into shooting landscapes. She sort of made me think about getting back to shooting nature again. It’s always a refreshing experience to breathe in the fresh air in nature, indulging in the masterpieces God has created. No two leaves are the same. So are humans.

 

Your Uniqueness

This is a shot I took in a wedding sometime ago. As most of you know, I slowed down in wedding photography over the last 3 years, concentrating on other types of photography which my soul needs. I didn’t want my passion in photography to reduce to just a money-making job in my life, though we all need money to live.

Striking a balance between what I really want to do in photography and what is required to make a living using photography is a forever impossible task in my life. But one thing stays true to me, I strive to be honest to myself, to my vision, and live on to develop my personal vision in photography, as an unique expression of my soul, which each individual is and should be different in his/her own way. My previous blog post HERE has what I think each photographer should live by.

The images from today’s digital cameras have greatly reduced the variety of the different characters found in different types of films, produced by different types of cameras, from toy cameras to large format, from pinhole to old brass lenses to large format lenses… “All” we see today, or most images we see online, are either from a Nikon DSLR or a Canon DSLR. And how many of us can differentiate the image from a Sony DSLR from a Nikon? In addition, most of us use the same post-processing software from Adobe.

We are losing a great deal of characters or “flavors”, I called it… from the old days. This is one of my saddest experience in recent years.

Apart from seeing an overload of similar digital characteristic images online in terms of colors, sharpness, digital touch-ups… which make me sick… we also see the other extreme: the surge of lomographers who’s hunting down expired film wherever they go, hipshooting, not looking, not thinking, not studying what’s C41 or E6 processing means, or what’s underexposure. Most of them end up with images underexposed because they know not the aperture and shutter speed value of a Holga, the recommended film speed to use, or what cross-processing means. The pain doesn’t come if the images are of interesting content and reasonably exposed, but the pain comes when they insist it’s ART for the badly exposed thoughtless mistake images. Of course, there are incidents that ART does happen through a mistake, I am definitely NOT referring to that.

As photographers, we all tend to replicate images we admire at some point of our lives, let’s face it. But let us not forget to develop our own signatures, something we can be proud of till we die.

Of course it’s not just the type of instruments we use to make an image different from the others, but it’s the way we see things. We should all have our own uniqueness. After all, God didn’t make us the same. Life is not just about seeing someone else’s image which you admire, and going about finding out and using the same tool and method to replicate it. At some point, it’s time to stop seeing what others have produced, and start making images of your own.

There’s really no right and wrong in arts. It’s only “Like” and “Dislike”. And it all depends on who you want to please.

I Love Kids

I love kids!!!

These are some shots quickly selected from a recent birthday party… more pictures to come…

If you wonder what I have been doing…

1. hibernating

2. just sold one of my favourite lens: the Panasonic Lumix 20mm F1.7 lens

3. from fiddling with my Fuji X10 to fiddling the Ricoh GXR and GRD3… and now happy with my GRD3 for daily random recordings (with the 21mm attachment of course…)

4. haven’t been touching micro four thirds for a while, happier with smaller sensors like the X10/GRD and the larger digital sensors, and above all… larger films.

5. sorting out my past works

6. teaching private lessons

7. doing selective portraits

8. a little tired of street photography

9. thinking

10. loving people

Live a day at a time, live it to your best, love the people around you. Thank you friends!

A thousand versus a dozen

I don’t need a thousand images to make me happy. I just need a dozen. I am super frustrated looking through the thousands of digital images which I snapped without the worry of wasting film, trying to select and delete them. What the hell? I don’t need this pain! This is another one of those times when I just feel like giving up all my digital cameras and concentrate on film.

I am already using digital cameras much like I am using my film cameras without snapping mindlessly and constantly previewing. But somehow, they still end up thousands. I understand the advantages of digital cameras in capturing action and expressions, the supreme advantage of clean high ISO for lowlight shooting, but I still prefer film.

The limitations of film cameras, the lack of film choices today made the craft of photography more enjoyable. Yes, “craft” is the word. It’s not just about moving your finger behind the computer to get what you want with some sophisticated photo-imaging software. It’s about a lot more hassle (and fun!).

After so many years in photography, I still get more “wow” pictures from a roll of 12 or 15 shots from a medium format camera than a memory card of images. I end up happier shooting film than digital. I don’t need the previews, they are distracting. I don’t need batteries. Remembering to charge them up and the fear of not having enough batteries for the day is painful. I carry “enough” film for the day and if I finish them, I stop. It’s no longer about “missing the moment” but “capturing the shot”. Like I said, I don’t need the thousands of repeated, similar, mindless, mediocre images to make me happy.

But the mindset of shooting digital makes you keep wanting to shoot more, shoot another frame, just in case. And so, we end up with 3-4x more images than usual, maybe more. We lie to ourselves we are good when we post a worthy shot out of a few hundred lousy shots. The only person who knows the truth is the photographer.

The above shot was taken last week at a waterfall with my Mamiya m645 and I accidentally fell into the water with my camera. The first thing which crossed my mind when I got out of the water was “Thank God I wasn’t shooting with my digital cameras!” The Mamiya m645 is a fully mechanical camera and it operated just fine after I dried it with a towel. (It was just a quick dip but a non-weather-sealed electronic camera wouldn’t have survive it.) I continued on with another roll.

Having said all that, I know my digital cameras still come into good use for some commercial purposes. I am always treading on the thin line of pleasing myself and my clients. And I am thankful that most of my clients don’t really care what I use to shoot with. They just want “The Images”.

 

 

Portrait: Michelle’s Dad

Sometimes, you don’t need a reason why you love a photograph. It’s just like sometimes, you don’t know how to explain why you love someone, why you like something or why you enjoy certain moments in life. God gave us two sides of the brain, the right side for emotions and creativity, the left side for rationalization in which everything must come with a reason.  Just imagine if you live life entirely on rationalization, how would life be for you? (vice-versa of course)

But in photography or paintings, I find that there’s really no absolute way to explain why you love a photograph or a painting. I have taught many students photography by now, but I still find that there’s something in photography which can never be taught. It is what’s deep inside you. Your character, personality and the way you express it.

A sharp eye can often tell a photograph that’s made from the heart apart from a photograph that’s made from the mind.

I love the photograph above. Maybe it’s because I grew up with a dad who’s often not around. I remember my grandma being the closet to me when I was young, and then my two sisters who are much much older than me.

My memory of my dad consists of certain times when he would bring us swimming at the old East Coast Park Lagoon in Singapore, early hours at the Singapore Botanic Gardens where I picked up tadpoles home to see them turn into frogs (probably my mum’s idea), and the rest of it are probably scoldings when I turned Christian during my teenage days.

I guess my dad is not too bad after all cause I still have some memories of him spending time with the family. :)

Today, I am a dad myself, pretty much a “hands-on dad” (recently got lazy though). I was the first one to hold his little palm when he was born, and I pretty much stick around him most of the time. He’s six now. Time flies.

I love the intimacy in the image above. The silence, the quietness, the look in their eyes. It’s as if their thoughts are crossing each other, communicating in silence. Jun Ching and Michelle, thanks for making this picture happen!

 

Bliss

The unspeakable joy of a mother and her baby! No amount of words can express!

I have not been writing much as I have been quite reclusive. So sorry, everyone. I hope you’ll still stay with me through my journey in life, watching me grow as a person, as a photographer, as a teacher, and maybe as a friend as well. I thank all of you who has been motivating or correcting me through your comments both in facebook and in my blogs. I’ll do my best to share what I know as much as I can.

Happy Belated Mothers’ Day to ALL you mothers out there!!! You have the special calling which we men will never have. And you experience the unspeakable joy from pregnancy to breastfeeding and watching your baby grow which we fathers will always feel that missing link between us and our baby. I did try making my baby suck my nipple but that didn’t work! Hahaha……..

 

Choice of High ISO Digital Street-shooting Cameras

Recently, I have been pondering, what will the choice be if I want a digital camera for street photography which has high ISO capability. Now, imagine… F8, zone focused, ISO6400 or higher, at night.

My preference has always been film cameras but undeniably, film cameras suck at high ISO. The only high speed films available today are Ilford Delta 3200, Fuji Neopan 1600 (recently discontinued),  Fuji Superia 1600/800 (color negs). Kodak TMax 3200 has been discontinued a long time ago. The only other way to shoot at high ISO for films will be pushing standard ISO400 black and white films to 3200 (or higher if you know how).

Since the development of digital photography, we experience both the benefits from the technology as well as the downgrade of image quality in general. Tons of low resolution pixelated images from phone cameras, point and shoots and low end DSLRs started flooding the internet.

Now, back to the current choice of digital cameras suited for night street photography, I have also fine-tuned my search to just one focal length, something close to human’s natural eye’s perspective. Many have argued that 42mm is the closest but I shall give myself  a bigger allowance, from about 35-45mm.

So, my criteria shall be:

1. No Shutter Lag

2. Prime Lens between 35mm to 45mm (fixed focal length: easier to pre-visualize images before shooting and to build a good discipline of “zooming” with your feet instead)

3. Compact, Small and Portable

My list is as follows:

1. Olympus E-PL2 with Panasonic 20mm F1.7

Effective focal length: 40mm

Highest useable ISO: 3200

Depth of Field Scale: None

2. Sony NEX with Voigtlander 28 Ultron (F2)

Effective focal length: 42mm

Highest useable ISO: 6400 (at 12800, some banding starts to show)

Depth of Field Scale: Yes

3. Leica M8 with Voigtlander 28 Ultron (F2)

Effective focal length: 37.24mm

Highest useable ISO: 1250

Depth of Field Scale: Yes

4. Leica M9 with Voigtlander 40mm F1.4 Nokton

Effective focal length: 40mm

Highest useable ISO: 3200

Depth of Field Scale: Yes

5. Canon 550D with Olympus OM 24mm F2.8 Lens via adapter (smallest 24mm SLR lens I can find)

Effective focal length: 38.4mm

Highest useable ISO: 6400 (at 12800, some banding starts to show)

Depth of Field Scale: Yes

6. Fuji X100

Effective focal length: 35mm

Highest useable ISO: 6400 (not sure about results at 12800 yet)

Depth of Field Scale: None

So, what do you think? (Tell me your preference either in my FB page or down in the comments column). The Fuji does look tempting… :p