Kuala Lumpur is a beautiful city, more so when Malaysia is now undergoing a new gov that is appeasing the public outcry over corruption and all manners of injustice wrought by the previous BN led administration.
Nothing have changed however when it comes to places to shoot street photography as common people continue their daily lives. From the typical tourist spots at KLCC, petaling street china town and city centre, the dynamics of the different ethnics and street activities continues.
Today, i took a walk around Jalan Pudu. My camera setup for street is the Leica M240 and Leica Elmarit 28mm f2.8. All the images here are shot wide open at f2.8 as per my habit and discipline to shoot wide open any lenses on any setup.
You don’t need a leica to do street photography of course but each gear does have its own advantages. Leica M come with some heft and a nice weight, perfect for doing hip shots, its distance scale on the manual lens are heaven matched for this use.
All the pictures here are processed using CaptureOne’s free film simulation sample.
Shooting from the hip avoids and minimizes any chances of confrontation. This is important in some places. Jalan Pudu is not an upscale area, it is an old place that have undergone very little economic changes. The idea of sharing images in social media and the indirect benefits of reaching out for more visitors is not something that the locals and immigrants here would appreciate.
The photo above was taken after one of the aunty shouted at a fellow photographer “no photos!”, he was using a very small camera and was composing using the LCD (think Ricoh GR, Leica X2 type of cameras). I took it from the hip and avoided the scene.
A noticeable amount of older people gather around this stairs chatting away. Some are waiting for the free food donation that occurs on weekend just across the street (more on this later).
Across the road, i noticed a few interesting aunties (or grandmas, depending on how polite you want to be) sitting at the side of the road. I could faintly hear what they are discussing but they clearly knows each other.
While walking pass by the school, a large number of old people and immigrants are gathering in the middle. I continued to walk with Joe, Stephan and Junrong, a few of my street buddies when a girl in green shirt came running after us. Initially i thought she got something to sell but as it turns out she just needed someone to help her take a group photo along with the pile of food that they are donating.
She said “i just want someone young to help take the photos because the old people here don’t know how to use an iphone”. Sure, that sounds like me (I totally forgot that Junrong is at least 30% younger hahaha). I took the opportunity to take the shot above with my own setup.
There is a morning market nearby selling seafood, groceries, joss sticks and as i entered i saw this old woman with a small setup. Joe, seeing that visuals and story presented immediately went and took a photo. After he is done, i went towards the stall and bought 3 packets of tibits and took a picture of her stall. For most of us doing white collar careers, seeing an old woman at this age trying to make a living by doing whatever she can, just tugs me in the heart. How much could she sell a day? At usd 0.25 a pack, there are barely 30 packs there on the table.
The path to the stalls are very narrow, you have to squeeze thru and move all the time. I came across 4-5 stalls where the workers are chopping on some meat and for the pleasure of my viewers, those photos won’t be shared here. The canopies cast various colors that would confuse any digital camera’s white balance. But since i am shooting in RAW, it doesnt matter at all.
There was this opening between the canopies that i saw this seller with her bucket of fish. I took this shot so quickly, i actually forgot about it until i went home and looked at the files. The fishes look wet and fresh and her expression of whistling made this shot a keeper.
As our shooting time came to and end we walked out of the market and i saw this durian stall at the side wall of the market. Later i noticed the seller is asleep. Must have been a tiring day.
The Hakke Mee stall is interesting in some ways. There aren’t many locals selling food that are below 50 years old, most of the newer generation who owns these stalls prefer hire workers from vietnam,myanmar or thailand to run the stalls.
Overall, i find that 28mm is the preferred focal length for street photography today. 35mm would be too narrow for close ups like the fish and seafood stalls images.
For those readers that have followed my blog, if you are wondering what happened to my Pentax 645Z and why isn’t it used on this set… First off, 645Z is a camera that you should consider very carefully before buying it, after i have used it for the last few months, it has raised my perception standard of pixel acuity and density so much so that i found myself rejecting images from APSCs and 1″ sensors. I am not saying that APSC and 1″ cameras are crap as we know the photographer is the key, i am saying that i found their output unacceptable for normal outdoor shoot.
Take this set for example that i did, without flash, ps, nothing, just some light editing on C1. Now just view it only if you have a monitor that is at least 15 inch (the bigger the better). Once u got used to this kind of pixel acuity and density, your mind naturally finds anything lower a problem. Hard to put a finger on it, it’s like looking at photos taken by mobile phones where ur mind knows something is lacking.
The 645Z is used for most of my model shooting events and this Leica M shall be my tool for the street.
I am at Tokyo now as i share this guide. The weird thing is that when i started to google for street photography in Tokyo, i ended up getting a pile of links that often provide…no inspirational photos, it is as if it’s written just for bait.
In fact, some of the most inspirational images i found are in youtube instead of the top links in google. Here is one example of a good youtube video .
Now that i been here for a week, i have a few pointers to share.
1. Visit the parks
By george, there are so many parks in Japan and parks are usually visited by both tourists and locals alike. By all means, its a great place to do some shoot.
2. Make up your mind on what is street photography
Street photography should be about people. There should at least be a person in your image when you take that shot. Tokyo have all kinds of people and the good news is that most of these people are Japanese, so unless you are at some hot tourist spots, you have plenty of Japanese to fill in the frame.
3. Visit Ginza on weekends
During weekend, central Chuo Dori street will be blocked from vehicle access. This means massive human traffic will be roaming this section of the street and that is exactly what we want for street photography.
If you are not sure where is Chuo Dori street, you can also look for the Ricoh Pentax building and you are in the right area. Do visit the Ricoh building, they often host interesting gallery at level 7 (which u need to pay 510 yen) or access level 8 for Ricoh Pentax shop. Level 8 also showcases the various film cameras of Ricoh Pentax and the prices back then.
4. Time matters
You need to pay attention to the 9-5 working hours time. This is because you will be using the rails too and you don’t want to be caught sandwiched in carriage while you try go get to your destination. Also if you are there early before these hours, you can watch the crowd grow in numbers and anticipate what kind of shots to take.
I didn’t take any Shibuya crossing photos because i have no idea what else i could take that could be interesting, but hey, thats me, you should go ahead and visit Shibuya. Here are some i took but didn’t capture the essence of the crossings.
5. Watch the traffic section
I found myself often regretting putting the camera back into the bag when i am at the traffic junction or stop. Surprises lurks in every corner (or in this case, every stop) and you should get your camera ready.
There are also long trucks that can slow down and even stops at any junction because they have idols inside and doing a road promotion.
6. Be confident
Most japanese are friendly and live by the culture of being polite. Sometimes they can be camera shy and cover their faces when your camera is seen pointing towards them. During these whole week, i only had one old guy shouting to me “No photos!” at the Yakitori Alley near Shinjuku at night. Man, what a loser, if it wasn’t for bloggers that took and share photographs of their shops and grilled skewers, where did he think the customers came from. Duh.
Anyway, that was just one really isolated incident. Be brave and just shoot.
Sometimes you will come across these smoking areas outside malls and streets. These scenes often present good photo opportunities. So do loiter around these locations especially in the pre 9 am or after 4.30 pm time range.
7. Pay attention to Japan’s peculiar culture
Japan have a very different set of culture and we see this reflected in many activities. This picture for example was taken just outside Gotanda, a bunch of kids are cleaning up the street and tending the public ground.
Japan is also an ageing country, so you will see a lot of over 60 years old folks still working and sometimes it can be heart wrenching to see them and be reminded of your own parents. It can be shocking too on how much these old people could walk so much between the subways and stairs.
So that is my guide for Tokyo, keep in mind this is my 3rd time in Japan shooting around and as i learn new things, i would share them in new articles.
I wanted to write this piece after stumbling upon the story of this girl called Plaaastic. She died late last year, taking her own life after a series of what she would termed as being singled out by the universe for abuse.
(*all the images here are not related to plaaastic or anyone, they are taken by me for this illustration)
Looking at her instagram and content that she generates, i see a creative soul snuffed out of this world, an immature death. It’s hard to imagine how one can deal with a situation in life where you got betrayed by the one you loved, abused by parents, abandoned by friends, tried to stood up and reclaim her life only to be robbed on the streets.
Frankly after reading the part on her villain husband who was introduced to her by her photographer friend, i could only wonder, what an idiot he is.
This series of images is going to reflect the loneliness of such a life and the prison that one can be in. She is not alone, in the last few months, we have seen korean k-pop idols who took their own lives. One could never fathom the “why” but one could feel. I ended this series with a positive note, a hope and i hope those who feels trapped by these invisible walls, will find strength to stay on.
Glasses. A prison of the soul.
You called out to those who seems so near. Yet they can’t hear you, your pleas and your plight found no one. Many are standing so near and yet the icy glass makes them so far.
Do we often create invisible barriers by our own decisions? A few steps to the right, a few to the left, are those steps all we needed for freedom. Do we walk right into another layer of glass even if we escaped this one?
Draw strength by looking back! What if looking back we could only draw hurts and unlock hidden memories that are too painful to be held to our attention? What then, how can one continue the journey if every step taken in the past only draws us back to darkness.
Peace. What one took for granted, is priceless to some. Unattainable, remote, like stranger that does reply no matter how much we calls out to. Each waves that swept over us are waves of disappointment.
But, then, we realize something. We could be happy. What if we are not trapped, but we are merely worthy of harder challenges in life to move us further up.
What if those who are actually trapped are these same people over the other side of the glass? People who are complacent and happy without direction nor purpose. Celebrating around a little fire that they started, unaware of the reality of life on the other side. Unable to offer help, they became like the deaf and mute.
Life is not a series of chance and tragedy. Life is about free gifts that are given to us, breath given to this Universe so that we could play a part in it, to experience Love and His great plan.
Invited a friend of mine for an outdoor portrait shoot at the popular Petaling Street. A group of friends requested that i organize this shoot for a friendly rate for the model. Since i don’t organize for fees, i just do the transportation and took a few shots while the group event took place.
Just sharing some of the images that i took during the shoot. The model is Kim Goh from Penang, i met her in 2013 when she participated in Miss Malaysia 2013 and was selected for the finals.
It been 5 years since and as the saying goes, Class is forever, beauty is temporal, Kim could easily carry out the portrait shooting successfully.
Streets, one of the unlimited source for shutter therapy. Bukit Bintang is a major commercial square in Kuala Lumpur. I come here nearly every week to either chill in a cafe or just to be surrounded with vibes of life.
Here, we have Pavilion, an upper end shopping mall very much like Giza in Tokyo and the flow of tourists goes from Pavilion -> Fahrenheit -> Isetan Japan KL.
(* All the images here are shot on 23 f1.4, Fujifilm with Acros film simulation)
On that short stretch of walking pathway, you can find all sorts of cafe’s and side shops. Recently i noticed the following shops, a new bakery shop, taiwanese ice tea shop, two new ice-cream shops and a money exchange.
There are a lot of middle east people here too, in fact one could easily tell that two bigger cafes here are owned by them. A walk further from Pavilion and it becomes obvious that the locals no longer have a prominent presence here. Shishas, kebabs and massage services occupy the right side of the rows of shops, while the more hipster setups of shops are on the left.
There are free buses that travel thru the main attraction in Kuala Lumpur between the commercial centres. From Bukit Bintang here, one can hop on to such buses and alight in KLCC (The Petronas Twin Towers).
I saw this man riding his bike to the side and took a few seconds to adjust his helmet. Usually these streets are packed like sardines, but because this week in Chinese New Year, a large percentage of the local chinese in KL have returned to the other states for family reunion and celebration.
This was taken just outside H&M near to Lot10, a much smaller mall that have lost its former glory and surviving due to its superb location. You will find plenty of tourists here taking selfies.
I often visits the hawker food at the lower ground level of Lot10 for some mouth watering local food. The basement of Lot10 only holds reputable hawkers stalls and is the brainchild of YTL (a strong developer company in Malaysia that flourished during Dr.Mahathir’s era). He even gave it a name “Hutong” and interconnects with Isetan Japan KL.
There are some peddlers hawking their wares along this walkway. The common items are bubble guns, umbrellas, fidgets and today i saw these led lighted balloons. They often cost just around RM10-20 (USD3-4) and the main clients are the kids tugging at their parents.
There is a MRT station here for Bukit Bintang and i usually take it to reach Pasar Seni (China town). As in anywhere else in Asia nowadays, you will see a lot of chinese tourists in Bukit Bintang buying original branded items here that are cheaper than almost any other country.
The structure on the left that in the picture above is the MRT station.
How do you like these images? Are these simulated film on fujifilm cameras good enough?
I would like to share a bit on Reykjavik in my previous travel to Iceland. Almost nobody seems to be interested much in what Reykjavik have to offer in terms of tourism as everyone’s itinerary is to use that city as a stepping stone to the offsite tours.
The offsite tours are what Iceland is famous for, no doubt about that, but there are reason why this city shouldn’t be left out of your itinerary. Here are some reasons why i felt you owe Reykjavik two days of stopover.
(all the photos here are shot on Sony A7s, 35mm f2.8 zeiss, unless otherwise mentioned)
People. If you want to see how the people in Iceland are, you have to visit and stay in the town for a few days, better still, stay in an AirBnB home and you could find yourself graced by the warmth of the Icelandic hospitality. You are not going to find much interaction with real Icelandic people if you are just on the tours, except for the tour guide.
Local Shops. Apart from the dreaded made in china souvenirs that you can find in every single Scandinavian and Europe city, Reykjavik is no exception, but there are many local brands and shops that you can find here that have survived and made themselves relevant.
There is this particular photography shop that have analogue aura all over it. You can’t miss the fotografi.is shop on the right side of the shophouses as you walked up the city. However when i went in i realized that they don’t sell any analogue cameras or film, but they showcase photography works from various photographers and made them for sale as prints here.
Culture. Apart from their unique language (Icelandic tongue is probably the most complicated language in the world), you can feel the culture here is slightly different than say, Denmark. Maybe its due to the fact that these people have to survive in this forsaken ice-land and have successfully done so, they tend to appreciate and respect nature in both their way of living and communication.
It is hard to imagine living in Iceland from birth and growing up there with the constant history reminding you of angry volcanoes, crazy winters and sharing blood with the Vikings. Probably kids grow up listening to stories made up to represent the potent forces of nature here like the wind, earth, sun and water.
It is said that 1:10 people here would publish a book. That is true with my airbnb host Brynar.
The younger generation does seems similar to Europeans and with elements that show influences from Germany and countries across the sea. I came across a music video recording while i was strolling along the city and even though i can’t understand the language, the feel, vibe and presentation of the artist was similar.
There are probably a lot of celebration done in Reykjavik to commemorate events in Iceland. I happened to witness a vintage car procession that took place in the middle of the city.
Those cars are in very good condition and proudly driven by their owners as they drove slowly thru the streets. I spend one of the afternoon just visiting the city’s main attraction like the rocket church and another afternoon strolling thru each corner of the city. The walk from my host’s house to Reykjavik took me around 20 minutes.
What i do find missing in spades are local fashion. There is an outlet for a local brand Geysir, which could be the word for geyser (one of the attraction in Iceland) at the corner and that was about the only one i recognized. I have seen the magazine in the IcelandAir and in its console advertisements.
Now about that stroll in Reykjavik…
fish & chips
I really enjoyed walking to Reykjavik by passing thru the Opera House, along the coastline and into the main centre. It will take you around 5 minutes from the Opera House to Reykjavik centre.
The best local food is the indisputable cod fish & chips that can be found in restaurants and even a roadside truck. They are as fresh as money could buy and taste fantastic no matter where i tried them. My favourite is the one from that simple roadside truck.
I went on summer, around August 2017 and the beautiful golden sun sets around 4-6 pm, so if you going there on summer, those strolls will become very memorable as the light streaming thru the city is beautiful.
I barely started on the Iceland tours. It seems that this series of images will be a long one. I hope you enjoyed this 3rd instalment of my travel with a single camera series. Do leave me a comment if these image inspired you in anyway, cheers.