images that changes lives {film|portraiture}


The year is 2015. We see a shift of marketing from magazine and printed ads to influencers and celebrities in the social media.
There are now full time fashion bloggers that manages to etched out a living by blogging, uploading photos and socialising.
The source of power behind all these activities : images.

the homecoming
the homecoming

Daniel wellington gave away their watches to mid level influencers in instagram and facebook. Influencers whom are not actresses nor celebrities in any level. The actual celebrities and high end influencers are only available to actual luxury brands, but the mid and entry level influencers whom none of the big names cares to contact were flattered by such invites and free gifts.
DW made a killing with this strategy. The lower influencers just wears it and images of them begin to populate the average feed of the millennials.


Images can change lives. I have personally seen how my photos changes lives of some of these new models/influencers in many ways. While the complexity of life and opportunities are never attributed to just image generation, it is without doubt part and parcel of today’s marketing. Marketing creates leads and opportunities.

The line is blurring between those capable of creating images, the subject herself/himself and the advertising firms. Google, facebook, instagram, whatsapp, youtube are all tied to the advertising industry as a whole. The biblical truth of “do unto others what you want others to do unto you” being applied unknowingly, in the most powerful and direct manner : advertising.
We help you make money, you give us money.

The power behind advertising today? 3 types of images.
– Static images
– Images that moves
– Images that moves and have sound/voice/music.

Texts are just messages carried by the images to strengthen its message.


Are you an image maker? Congratulations, you have been empowered to do something in this world. We were all made in His image when the world begun, its a process that works across borders and time.


All images shown here are taken on film, superia and fuji pro400 on Nikon F100, 50 1.4d.

Finding a purpose {portraiture}

angela,lilies. 50 1.4d nikon f100

Sometimes some of us must wonder. Does anything we do actually means anything. I believe we are each called to live this life in a significant way, significant and yet transcends time.

Two years ago, a friend of mine, lee lit min, died in his apartment in San Francisco. A geek at heart, he has no girl friend and never bothered him to socialize for that purpose. He worked for Juniper networks and later some car company on software for car dashboards.

Lit min inspired me in my teenage years to do programming, which ultimately became my career of choice. He was my best friend, period. The cause of his death..cardiac failure. All that is left are his photos and images in my mind. Nothing he did, in computing, meant anything. His existence and friendship did.

In 2011, a long lost friend who is an air stewardess suddenly appear and asked for my help to take photos of her. Kiko is a cheeful person and i was surprised that she willingly took every opportunity to get her photos done, despite her working schedule. I was very new back then and pretty much learning as i go. Did a collection of photos of her and her sister Corrine, a wonderful set in Broga hills near Semenyih and various other albums.

I only found out the reason to her determination later on. She had cancer. Late stage breast cancer and wanted the best of her images taken. By the time she allowed me to know this, it was thru her sister cause she has left back to Singapore. I took a plane down to visit her the very next day..saw her last smiling expression, and she left earth the following day.

Three years ago, in 2012, i met Janice, an aspiring model. The Kiko incident reminded me that i should do my best if help is needed. In 2013, we were like the best friend/photog/model combo you can think of. I had her interest in my mind all the time and found it highly motivating to help her, to the best of my limited influence in that community. Few months down the road, our friendship faltered, i didn’t know why, communication was harder and it just went on drips.
I wish her all the best, pretty much have the best interest that she succeed.

Now its 2015. I am shooting film and occasionally digital. I have joined a startup while taking leaves from my own company, leaving it in very capable hands of my other partners.

The world didn’t become better because we embraced iphones and facebooks. Economies of many European countries are still failing. China still churns out the worst humanity news and terrorists like ISIS are still killing innocents in the name of religion.

We flood our attention with movies and feel good marvel stories. Deep down we hope that some avengers or Superman will come and put everything in order, that all these issues will be gone and the good prevails.

* Click. I took some photos of Angela last week using a digital. Spent some emjoyable time editing it and trying to make it filmic. Applied VSCO’s Provia 400. The last lab that could do real color slides processing just announced they no longer offer such service a month ago.

* Click.
A small part of me wished that my images can comfort some soul out there in this world, make someone’s day and life brighter.

The superia portraits {film}

elaine of utar. 50 1.4, f100 nikon

I am continually amazed at the unedited results of fuji’s superia 200 film. You can get one of these film at $4 per 36 exposures.

Use a natural garden or floral background and watch ur own jaw dropped when you get the film processed.

More photos from this project : Elaine’s first photobook coming.

Where beauty treads and pageants falls {portraiture | film}

u can't beat natural beauty | 50 1.4d | FT100 | kodakporta160
u can’t beat natural beauty | 50 1.4d | FT100 | kodakporta160

Film. Yeah, i been talking about the joy of shooting film and why the lesser road travelled might have more to offer than you could imagine.
These are simple images taken on Elaine Cheah. Elaine is a very simple girl, loves cats and have a strong devotion towards relationships. I have met many freelancer models in these last 4 years and seen various pageants and contests where some of these freelancer friends joined or win.
Elaine on the other hand, have no interest to join contests. Doesn’t apply much makeup at and looks like someone that jumps out of some korean drama into the world.

Now back to film, as incoherent as my thoughts are, the point is simply this. Just because its popular, doesn’t mean it represent the best. Digital been going around countless megapixels and features, the resemblance is almost to many pageants contestants, wipe off those makeups and it has nothing to offer. Layer after layer of makeup, hairdo and mascaras populates the face of the next contest winner.

genes vs makeups | 50 1.4d | FT100 | kodakporta160
genes vs makeups | 50 1.4d | FT100 | kodakporta160

Both the mobile and camera world has gone mad and offering gears after gears and lens after lens with no real contribution to your photography skills. In fact, do notice that mobile phones have nothing much to boast about nowadays and have focused primarily on its camera features.

In a short view of some of the top digital brands today.

Nikon D810
Nikon released a series of cameras in these last 3 years, d600, d610, d750, d4, d800, d4s, d800E, d810. Megapixels jumps all the way from 16mp to 24 to 36. Shooting buffers goes from 6fps to 10fps and beyond.

canon 5ds
Canon released the 6D, 7DmkII, 5ds, 5dsr with the latest megapixel news of 250 mp.

sony a7rii
Sony the leader of the FF mirrorless A7 line of cameras. 6 months and your existing gears are obsolete.

Its an endless chase. We all know where the best girls are, next door and rarely any of them made it to pageants as winners.
Those who win, gets dethroned the next year. I believe any of the digital FF entry level given by nikon, canon or sony is good enough to produce the best images for ANY passionate photographer. The rest of the features imho…caters for a very niche set of professional photographers.

Noctilux portraiture on Fuji superia {film | portraiture}


The fuji superia 200 is a cheap film that deserves to be praised for its amazing colors. All the images here are taken as is without any editing. The picture of Ramona was taken in a dim cafe where the light comes from a small tungsten reading bulb. I am pleasantly surprised when the colors shows beautiful hues of pinks.

street fashion. noctilux@f1.0

We found a cafe in Jaya One, started by a lovely couple George wong and his wife. George is an avid photographer whom have worked in sony and leica Malaysia as well. His wife focuses on street photography and runs this cafe accompanied by her two cats.

reflecting the past. noctilux@f1.0

A simple portrait of Ramona with her just facing a natural light and behind her is just a board that the cafe used to pin up names and stick it notes. At f1.0, the rendering of this natural shot is a keeper. This is one of the reason i always prefer the natural outdoor even if it means outside a mall or office, the structures available and the tones of objects plays very well into the bokeh of noctilux.

between the barriers. noctilux@f1.0
stare. noctilux@f1.0

This is a typical shot of a serious stare, no fashion poses needed. I couldn’t go back any further as the wall is about just 4-5 meters away from her. 50mm is strange focal length despite its popularity. The recent Leica Q have the coveted 28mm at f1.7, that focal length would be very suitable for outdoor portraits and dramatic isolation of subject. I am however more interested in the 28 f1.4 leica lens for my film usage.

drizzle. noctilux@f1.0

The black frames of these windows cast a very nice shades of colors in film. Its almost as if the fuji creates auto complementary colors when you least expect. Just love it.

bye . noctilux@f1.0

In this last photo, i wanted to capture the emotion of a person leaving a scene, as if saying “goodbye” with a tint of hesitancy. Ramona’s emotionless face and the film’s grain provided the right feel to the image.

5 things that can affect your images more than anything else {portraiture}

Elaine Cheah, Diva Nikon D4, 24mm 1.4 ISO 500.

Some say a tool is just a tool.
Some say a high quality sensor, FF and a set of premium lens helps a long way in making any images stands out more.
Some opt for higher resolution while others harp on low light performance and high iso cleanliness.
Some say all you need is the mobile phone since its the camera that is with you all the time.
Some swear on nikon, some canon, some says Sony mirrorless is the dawn of the new age.

All true.
All useless points.

I would like to share the following on my personal opinion on gears and how it actually affects our output and choices. You may be surprised at the conclusion that i settled on.

Like every other creative work be it writing or painting. Creativity starts from inspiration. Without inspiration, you are as good as dead. What makes a particular work creative or inspirational is an inspired person.
A bigger sensor or bigger lens won’t grant you inspiration anymore than buying 2 pens allows you to write a successful novel.

Elaine Cheah, Diva Nikon D4. 85mm f 1.4.

There is a reason why the images shot on Elaine and those on Taylor differs greatly in style, tones, objective and appeal.
When i hold a D4, it feels like a professional, commercial tool. So despite that i usually talk to Elaine in a very casual way, when i am shooting with D4, you feel “inspired” to shoot something more of the higher-end genre of fashion.
When i hold the Konica Hexar, i feel i am holding a camera that have seen the ups and down of life. These inspiration comes from the very design and nature of the camera’s purpose and timeline. With the Hexar, you feel that life is to be appreciated in a simple way as though as your walking down memory lane.

taylor yap. colors. Konica Hexar.

3. Limitations are like physics.

Every action there is an equally opposing reaction. I can’t recall the exact words uttered by my physics teacher but this holds true not just in physics but in everything else. A limitation imposed by a camera causes you to use it in a very different way than a camera that does not limit you.

There was a time i got the Leica Xvario. A beautifully crafted camera that will have its owner going through a love/hate relationship. That camera have a mediocre 28mm f3.5->70mm f6.4. Ouch. You can’t get any worse specs than this in any new APSC camera.
But because i paid a silly amount for it, I was adamant to use it to the best of my knowledge and i actually spent time creating images that caters for that camera’s strength, IQ and natural muted colors.

Leica Xvario. Lavi, Cameron 2014.
Leica Xvario. Lavi, Cameron 2014.

The Xvario didn’t have any bokeh that i could use to isolate the subject so i had to use its rather deep DOF and decent image quality. That was the only time i agreed to go on a local trip driving up all the way to the hills.
I shot the above using F3.5. While this may surprised some but it highlights the personal struggle i had with the Xvario. I am only interested to shoot wide open any of my lens regardless of its make and at f3.5 i easily hand held the shot.

Leica Xvario. Victoria, Singapore.
Leica Xvario. Victoria, Singapore.

4. Ergonomics will break you or raise you

Before i ever owned a Leica, the logical side of me says that Leica users are either dumb ass or arrogant fools. I am a known veteran in the developer’s community and security. I founded the Python user group Malaysia, wrote some crazy shit VPN and Firewall from scratch and part of my code are were once used by the US ministry of Defense in mid 90s.
But when i hold my M9 few years ago, i just felt like going out to shoot. It was pretty silly because i am shooting models most of the time, before i could take one shot, my friend next to me took 10. The M9 felt fantastic when held on to, the knobs and dials are just there with a function.

I eventually argued myself out of it and went for the Sony A7r, during a time in 2013 when i had a fallout with someone i cared for very much. The Sony was cold, computer like camera that i distracted myself mostly by using all kinds of vintage lens on it. Everything just felt cold. My images became technically “clean” and scientific.

If you are reading this and where it is going you probably think that i am promoting leica. No. No, you can find extremely inspirational tools in film cameras as well. I borrowed a friend of mine a Nikon FM3A and the next day itself he is already sold on getting one despite being a digital user all these while. The FM3a is just so beautiful and simple that you can’t help but to feel like creating art with it.

Leica just got it right by keeping to the designs and film cameras. There are loads of solid, inspired-imbued film cameras just waiting for you. Please, just stay clear of Lomo plastics. If Lomo were to produce solid film cameras i would line up in support, but as of now, its anything but a toy.

Taylor Yap. Colors. Konica Hexar

5. Subject Matters
I am an advocate of portraiture because i believe the image of a person is priceless. The communication, friendship, joy and discovery that photography grants you could only be found in portraiture, not in scenery. While there are awesome sceneries that deserves to be in the hall of eternity, there is just no one else in eternity, like you.

Why shoot film in 2015 Part III {portraiture}

peaceful stare
nicole: emotion

When you look at a picture, what do you see? Often i felt images today are lacking in several elements. I find that these elements are present in much more frequency in film images and i will share my thoughts here on shooting film in 2015.

Most images are missing soul. What is soul. the closest definition i found on this, not surprisingly is in the bible where there are actually distinction between the spirit, the soul and the body.

We all know what the body is, its the physical body. The soul it seems is not the spirit but something more of a fusion of consciousness and emotion.
Most images are missing, the soul. We have near technical perfection of bokeh in today’s Zeiss lineup of Otus lenses, Leica’s 0.95 noct , 135mm f2 canon and so much tutorial available on the net, but it does not grant the created image a soul.

I feel that an image with a soul is that when you look at that image despite all its imperfection, you can feel it is different. It shares with you a piece of emotion and memory that passes on despite time. I would go on a step further to say that images that does not contains any person, has no soul.

Mona Lisa, is an image with a soul. Pundits and critics for centuries have turned to fans by just looking at that image for some time. Something very different about the expression and stare that lives in that picture. Was there backlighting to add beautiful outlined to her, no. Was there even bokeh, no. Soul yes.

asian characteristic, nude face
shy, without make up

2. Its image making on molecular level

Images on digital are too clinical.
The images formed on film does not follow a bayer sensor layout algorithm nor array. A bayer sensor, fyi, is what nearly 99% of all cameras you see today uses as its sensor, be it Cmos or ccd.
Basically when you are using digital, pixels are captured in the sensor and it uses certain process and algorithm to distinguished between the color and intensity of one pixel next to the other, sometimes, using guesswork. Your image is as sharp and as clean as how the sensor renders it.
Film are analogue in nature. The images formed are reactions of chemicals at molecular levels and it doesn’t care about algorithm nor specific arrangement of pixels. Its more “lifelike and organic” and not perfect either.
As someone says “God does not create straight lines”, referring to how beautiful our world natural scenery is, how nature despite all its imperfection layout, forms beauty beyond description.
A friend of mine used to argue, “whats the point of shooting film when it ended up being scanned into digital format for sharing”. Pixels representation in jpeg or monitor or even printed, are just medium for showing images. How the image is formed affects the image itself, so when viewing images taken on film vs digital, you will easily see the differences on the same monitor or printer.

colors in putrajaya, misa yap
misa, on the fields

Digital is getting into a rat race loop as companies spends billions into technological services and gadgets. Part of our lives and even job are tied to digital. But is this what you want in your image making process or to some of us, our hobby?
Film cameras are just amazing and beautiful.
What did you think happened when Olympus decides to make a retro looking camera like OMD and how Nikon’s DF and Fuji’x X100/s/t came out? They all become top sellers. Granted these designs already existed long time ago…in the film cameras. We just got dumbed down with using digital DSLRS with loads of menus and never ending updates.

We feed our insecurities and fantasy by imagining how happy we would be if this new digital update came out or if Sony adds in 5 ibis (they did) to their cameras. But it doesn’t end. Camera makers knows this and hence the cycle of marketing and features update continues to get users to keep buying. Its almost like a cloud subscription.

The film cameras were already 35mm Full frame since …1920 when Leica created it.
If you think the OMD looks great, try holding and focusing a Nikon FM3A.

When i shoot film today, i break out of this rat race. Its like you are in this crazy race where everyone is running but going nowhere and suddenly, you decided to step sideways and away from the crowd. You slowed down, look at the scenery and the people around you and you realized, you didn’t need to run.

The whole process and experience of shooting film, cancels the “now” addiction.

joyce birthday, sunway giza
joyce, birthday at giza

4. Art becomes valuable again
The dwindling down of photography value started when the digital photography moved in. Due to the large influx of images and the ease of shoot first, think later, humanity have became numbed to art. Thats how the human mind works, you can’t expect to watch Jurassic Park 10 times in the cinema and be as excited as you first saw it.

The world is flooded with pornographic images pretending to be art images because its trying hard to get attention. That is one of the reason i don’t do nudes. It’s more of an excuse created by the greater controlling part of the society (read: males) back then that wanted women to strips. Feeding lust with a pretence of art. There is a thin line between too sexy and porn and so-called artists can call it anything they want.

How can your art be worth anything when anyone, can reproduce it with the same digital camera and setup after looking at your images. Its a digital copy whose source is digital, stored as binary 0-1. When your source is film, you better keep that film safe, cause if you lose it, its gone. While different types of scanners can extract better imagery from your film negatives, the image you created on film, would be, naturally more valuable.

In fact, its already more valuable to you, if anyone else don’t think so. Every click u did, cost you money, development, scanning. These facts are constantly there when you take your photos. Its the reason why you would go back with only 36 images on film and 28 keepers vs 1000 images digital with 15 keepers.

* note, output wise as mentioned in my other posts, Digital output is much more cleaner and superior in details. If you are a full time professional photographer, digital is your only choice unless you become so popular that your clients will take anything you give. For you own shooting, where its about life and purpose and making images, try film.

All images here are taken using the Leica noctilux f1 on a Konica Hexar film camera. Film is Fuji Super 400 Premium.

Why i shoot film in 2015 #2 {portraiture}

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Instead of talking about resolution and the whole she-bang, re-hased reasons of why film rocks, slows your down blah blah blah. I decided to share my pictures taken last week. This is my 2nd article on why i shoot film in 2015, the first one can be found here. Personally i think there are just too much reasons given and argued for that its gets to a point where nothing really matters or makes sense anymore.

So without further ado…enjoy the photos. All shot using a Konica Hexar, Kodak porta 160 and 40mm 1.4 cv lens.
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