Being real {portraiture | noctilux F1}


misa yap
misa yap

Occasionally I come across a friend that has no fear of doing a portrait session without makeup and without editing. Miss Taylor Yap here used to be a freelance model but now pursues a full time job in auditing. If i may be frank about auditing, i find that it is a lifeless job where you spend hours and hours afterwork at client’s site.  Since i am using noctilux i am hoping that some of the softness of the lens would make this “nude face” photo-session a less intimidating session for the model.

the laughs
the laughs

Its 2.30 pm in the afternoon and its the worst time of the day to do any shooting. I had to hide among shades and try get some interesting shots. Miss Taylor here wore an interesting tops that have multiple holes. I know its kind of a trend nowadays, but coming from my generation, people would have thought she is in destitute of clothing. Haha, anyway her equally scratchy pants complements the tops.

that thing
that thing
easy smile
easy smile

The shoot ended around 30 minutes as we both feels that the weather and heat is really too much. I hope you enjoyed the images.

Two cheats in Portraiture {Portraiture|Noctilux F1}

Prime Arrancar #1
Prime Arrancar #1

There are two things that can make your portraiture stands out. Two things that resembles more like cheats than skills. I have tried all kinds of portraiture techniques, styles and lens and i believe these two factors are the “cheapest” way to improve, its almost cheat.

The first one is BOKEH.

Bokeh allows your portrait to stand out instantly. This is because bokeh only affects the lights in the background or those highlights behind your portrait or those way in front. In a way its like adding elements to your images that surrounds your main subject. This is where most kit lens sucks and sucks big time.


You can forget about bokeh if you have a slow lens. Even a 2.8 is crap nowadays. Get a 1.4 and we start talking. Bokeh is a by product of big aperture lens but its a totally separate factor to consider. Large aperture affects the DOF of the subject that you are focusing, this makes whatever in focus sharp while the others are blurred. This allows you to have subject isolation powers that will immediately pop your image, even if its a bad one.

Did i mentioned “cheapest”, i really mean its the laziest way you can improve in portraits. Period. If you don’t have both of these, you better have very sharp, contrasty lens, good studio setup or a beautiful scenery that adds interest to your images, else its gonna just looks like its some iphone images.

Have fun with your gears. Shoot long and prosper.


The noctilux | f1 : Part II


Its been a week now with the noctilux f1 since i first published my initial shots with the “legendary lens”. You can read my first review here. Its not any kind of extensive review but one based on portraiture and my actual use and journey with it. So this week i had a chance finally do an outdoor shoot. Instead of trying to use the noctilux in dark and dim light situations, i just went outdoor with it.

the reflections

I set myself a condition during this whole shoot, use only f1.0. I see no point of using this lens at any other aperture except for what its made and paid for. Forget about the name Leica or the  numerous marketing hype associated with paying for such a lens. This is me, Marcus, as a common portrait photographer, one model and one lens. Its like me telling the Noct, “Look here guy, lets see what you can do, i ain’t going to sell myself some bullshit about your heritage. Show me. F1 or nothing”.

who are you?

We were late to the scene. Time is 9 am and we have got like only 30 minutes of shooting time before the sun goes up into a position that makes photography crap. Being in an equatorial country is really tough for any photographer. We have like the worse quality of light at the minimum window of opportunity. I digressed. As the shoot continues, i am often surprised by the results, i could shoot at f 1500 and f1000 outdoor without overexposure badly. The bokeh is beautiful and different in its own noctilux way. Images are not razor sharp but sharp enough. Love the colors.

red stairs

red stairs ][
You can find more of the images that i did in the outdoor forest here . I had to cut short the forest creature theme because there were just too many mosquitoes. We took a break at a cafe and we did some casual shots. The model name is Stephy. You can find her at facebook here : Stephy Yiwen.


fashion stare

In summary of this week’s sharing, i am really very happy with the noctilux f1. I have owned the Nokton 1.1 before and i have no idea how that lens could be compared with the noctilux | f1. The Noctilux’s contrast, color and subtle vintage bokeh makes a huge difference in the output. I guess one can always shoot some selective subjects and try to show how little the differences are. On a final note though, photography is the art of making images. You decide if the value a lens is what it is. I still think the Noctilux | f1 is overpriced, but if people are willing to fork out USD 4000 for a Zeiss Otus, the Noctilux gets u images that modern lens can’t. Its like a magic wand, that you wave over “good” images and it adds those little magic to it.

since when porn became art


Sometimes i am baffled with how art are often used and portrayed as “art” when the first impression i have is that its porn. Lace it with a big name and some cluessless audience and boom! its art.

Images that takes almost no effort in taking them except for the need to convince young girls to strip and to pose in many different revealing positions and strange formation and boom! its art. Where is the lighting, where is the beauty of light sculpted images. 

I am sorry, but as far as i am concerned it aint art. Its porn. They can twist and turn all the descriptions they need and associate it with any amount of culture, paradigms and psychoanalysis they want. 

Every year without fail, locally here in Malaysia or Singapore, we have news of some guy holding a camera and taking questionable images of young girls, some even ends up in some series of blackmailings and scandals. That is what you get for promoting nudity and blurring the line between art and porn. Any guy can say “look i am a photography, so take off your clothes see how these other models do it and became exhibition worthy?”.

The seemingly progress from lingeries to nudity and whatever = art. 

While i am possesses no credentials to define art, it does not stop me from ranting on my page. If you are a model and you are reading my page, take my advice, dont even accept any jobs that ask for nudity, chances are that the photographers are just peepers and there is really no art sense in any of it.  Besides, those images are of no values to you, portfolio wise. 


Then comes Noctilux F1.0 {Portraiture}



I’ve heard people paying crazy prices for lenses. But nothing is more ridiculous in price than the Leica Noctilux, trumped only by other limited edition of noctiluxes. The day came when i just have to have this lens and see for myself all the hearsays i have heard and the images i have seen about this lens. Is the legend true? Is its a lens worth spending usd 10k on.




Initially i went thru the same struggle that some folks did, should i go for the F1 or the new and modern Noctilux 0.95. After much consideration and the fact that i lost the bids in ebay, it seems fated that the F1 is the better option. For one, manufacturing of lenses have become so good and precise that we are getting just more and more of those clean, smooth bokeh images.

The F1 existed in the days when only the best craftmen and manual precision could produce the lens. It has some spiral feel to its bokeh and beautiful painterly colors that blends in the images.


As luck would have it, i got the lens yesterday thru ebay and decided to bring it to office. Later in the evening, i was surprised that Ramona dropped by the office and so it was an unplanned candid photo tryout at the nearby cafe.


Focusing on the rangefinder is not easy at all, its more like you can never tell if you focused correctly given the small margin for sharpness on the Noctilux F1. I am pretty sure this lens would produce super sharp images on the Sony A7/s lineup, but i only have the Leica ME and have no plans to acquire any further camera body, to me the search for camera body ended in one full circle when i returned to Leica.


I don’t find the size big at all, if anything i find it perfect for my use since i have small tremors on my hands and a good weight renders my photos less shaky. I read that some folks shoots the Noctilux at f4 or 5.6 and that is just pure silly. You don’t buy the noctilux to shoot it at any other aperture other than the biggest one, F1/F0.95.

There are also folks that claims you needed an ND filter to use on the noctilux, this is actually a rather subjective solution. I tried shooting in the morning today and F1.0 was fine even at 1/1000 in decent light. If you have to put your model or subject in harsh light whereby you can’t use base ISO and F1, i think you clearly have put the model in the wrong light.


Overall i am very happy and impressed with this Noctilux F1. Buying it via Ebay is pretty risky, but then there isn’t much choice since i cant really find a decently priced item in Malaysia. Is the lens worth it? I leave the images and my further upcoming project for your own evaluation.

r-L1002257 copy r-L1002267 copy

I hope you have enjoyed these images as much as i have made them. I am very lucky indeed to have own this perfect copy of V3, F1. All the best to your search.



Asian models, why she should pose differently {portraiture}


A large part of the fashion industry are driven by the Europeans. Millions of models photos are largely based on certain fashion ads and models expression. In asia i noticed that its inevitable that models here follows the style of shooting and poses as demonstrated by these portfolios. However, asian models inherently are shy in nature and portrays grace and the gentleness that are associated with asian culture. Think of the japanese cultural geishas, korean and chinese traditional costumes and you can imagine the presence and display of grace.


In this shoot, while i shamelessly refers to Emily Soto works and albums, i tried to focus on the poses that shows more of the Asian character rather than the european smokey eyes and strong angular poses. How does one portrays “shyness” of the asian models? A stolen stare and a tilted gaze brings out some of these characters.


Its ironic though that Mico Phun, the model i chose for this theme happened to just dyed her hair to blonde months ago. However, you can clearly see, the hair color don’t make her anymore European in anyway. One look at her face and you can tell she is an Asian, even a chinese perhaps. This makes the album more interesting as she poses in this beautiful garden in Bukit Jalil, Malaysia.


Overall i am very happy with this album. However, since i have done more than five(5) times floral shooting here, i decided to just apply a color change to the otherwise evergreen foliage in the garden. Crimson leaves highlights her golden hair.


Often the need for strong angular poses are only relevant in fashion poses and not when you want to showcase the calmness and quietness of the scene and the personality of asian models. Asian models, in their original nature are just that, shy and calm. Given that most girls i know rarely exceed 170cm, that rules out the ever speedy attitude in cat walk jobs that they can find.


Inspired? Try booking an Asian model and try to shoot her album without asking her to do those standard fashion poses and if that fails, just ask her to relax and be herself as though as no cameras are pointed at her.


I hope u enjoyed these images. They are all taken using Nokton 50 1.5 VM on the Leica ME.

Why you need a 1.4 lens for portraiture


The 1.4. Its a magical aperture for portraits. Traditionally folks wants to use 85mm for potraits, but in reality, ANY lens can be used for portraits. In this set that i am sharing, i am using the voigthlander 40 1.4. Its a cheap lens by any standard, you can find used around USD 300 and sometimes less.



With a 1.4 lens you can take low light using ISO around 400. The image above and the rest are done in a Starbucks cafe and you know how dim those lights are? Thats what a 1.4 lens can do for you. If you ever need those beautiful rendering of bokeh lights and portraits of your friends during ur night coffee time or when you just want to be alone in the cafe and think through your work. Grab a 1.4 lens. Its more therapeutic than coffee itself.



This set is unique because i shot these at night and right after a rain fall. Those lights you see surrounding Ramona here is magnified by the cold weather and humidity as well as reflection from wet surfaces.

I used the 40 mm 1.4 lens on the Leica ME. Love those CCD colors. But fret not, you could get good results using any camera of your choice, but the key point here is to use a lens that goes below the f1.8. The problem with today’s images is that there are just TOO many of them flooding the internet. The need to differentiate your images starts from the very choice you make from ur gears selection. A 1.4 lens is definitely higher in “rarity” than a 1.8 lens that most amateurs starts out with.

There you have it. My short answer to the title of this post, via images. Hope you enjoyed them and do leave me some comments 🙂


That 18mm Zeiss Magic {portraiture}


They said that if you ever found yourself buying the same camera or lens, those are the ones you should never let go. In the last 3 years while circling around gears like A7R, Nikon DF and the D4, i inevitably came back to Leica. The reason is simply because the smaller package and….the other 2 lens that i really loved. The 40mm 1.4 and the  28 f2 ultron.


However, during my project on 100 most beautiful selfie, i came across a gem that i regrettably sold and now reacquire the exact same lens. The 18mm Zeiss, you can read more about it in some of the articles in my blogs. The 18mm f4 Zeiss ZM is one lens that is so unique, it earns its place forever with the Leica ME that i have. Its ironic that a last year i have written a long rant against M9 as one of the worst value camera i ever had and now i am back to ME. Thats just life sometimes, its not like i enjoy shooting myself on my foot or contradicting and losing credibility in my posts, but the fact that new data presented to me and hindsight of my usage and experience, warrants a change of heart.


Leica ME, 18mm ZM and the 40 mm 1.4 voigtlander are all tools that have gone one full circle of being sold off and now back with me. For one, i could never love the 50 or 35 mm focal length, but 18, 40 and 75 seems to be my poison and for a very good reason. With the amount of photo spams in the world today, you don’t want to be shooting a 50 mm, the focal length itself, demands a much harder differentiation point on the images it creates.


The 18 f4 Zeiss, used with the 21 mm f 2.8 profile (the first 21 mm one you find in the manual profile in the M9) fixes most of the corner magneta and vignetting issues that you can find reported in the internet. I bet you can find a real good used one by some users that have given up on fixing the corners.

This is Ramona Tiara, soon (hopefully) she will be flying with emirates and in this album, i wanted to shoot her in her full body length and leverage on the slimming capability of wide angle lens. If you are familiar with Casio TR (the most expensive compact camera and small sensor on the planet), you will know that it is using a 21 mm lens and models and ladies just love its slimming effect. What most ppl don’t know is that its not really a software thing, its the lens. So if 21 mm puny sensor camera cost USD 1000, this 18 mm f4 on FF camera is worth every cent it asked for.

L1001547-EditThanks for visiting. I wish i got time to write a long review on this lens or do these images some justice by giving each of them an appropriate caption, but alas, my eyes are tired and its way past my bedtime. So adios, readers, enjoy your photography.