Setting the intuition free

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Using a restraining camera like a film camera improved my photography almost like John’s vision in Revelation. I am paying a lot of attention of how the image would be before the shutter blinks.

I do portraiture for models and friends. I study dozens of Japanese photo albums and conducted many private workshops, often with zero monetary rewards. I want people to appreciate and take better portraits, help the community of rising models and preaches against booby shooters as pretext of art.

Some of the wedding works I have seen are bordering on shams and scams, depending hugely on hdr like post processing and cheap plastic skin tones.

Improvement comes because your are passionate about producing awesome work and pursue it relentlessly despite the common crowd. More importantly, it comes because you are not satisfied and judges your recent work mercilessly like a mindless troll.

I am being serious.

Now, concerning the image for this post, I came across a bargain for a pre loved Lomo LCA+.
While I do not like any of the plastic cameras and whatever ten commandments the capital Lomography company is selling, I do respect their efforts to keep this medium alive. If only they focus on building good solid film cameras, it would be a different story.

The LCA+ got my attention the moment I held it and saw the 4 limits it forces on its users. You cant focus the camera but you need to master 0.8, 1.5, 3 and infinite distance range levels that it provides.

I spend two rolls using this “restrain” and let’s see if the results teaches me anything.

As for the Leica M7 in this picture, it serves as a visual reminder that gears don’t matter that much, both can sit at the same table if they serve the master .

One could get 15 used LCA+ for a used M7 body alone . Big deal, it’s worth junk if you don’t learn and create better images.

Analogue vs Digital, a glance reading {film|portraiture}

 

film vs digital
film vs digital

Which one is digital and which one is film? You have 5 seconds.

There is 80% chances you will guess right. While this comparison makes no sense given the different dof and the variation of expression, I would like to draw your attention to the “feel” that you get when looking at the images on the left and the right.

There is just more “life” on the image on the left. The whiteness of the dress, the shadows and tones on the face and the overall mix lighting being captured. The one on the right was taken instantly, immediate gratification of image making. The one of the left took me 4 days to get it back. When i look at these pictures, i could feel that i recognize in a very natural way, Rachel Liu in her posed smile (she is not a model btw, just a friend joining me for a cup of coffee). While the picture on the right, though taken with a better angle for a sharper face and looking pretty, lacks that “life” that is often in digital images.

Here are more images taken casually on this “cafe moment”.

 

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I remember setting the speed at 1/250 for this shot, knowing that i would not get her face lighted up but preserving the natural shadows and tones as it is. A candid pose taken on film might seems to be a waste of cost and film but if photography taught me anything so far, its often that the candid shots are the best and most deserving whatever cost needed to capture it.

bread
bread
black and white
black and white

This image portrays Rachel in a relaxed pose. I waited for some seconds and when i noticed that she exhale and begin to be less “posed” i took the shot. The dull stare of her eyes, not fixated or rigid is exactly what how anyone would looked like if a camera is not pointing at the face.

 

not flattering but real
not flattering but real

The last image for today’s sharing. A candid smile, awkward but real.

 

Decisive moments in film {portraiture|film}

turning heads
turning heads. Kodak ProImage 100, film.

I assume the general public already knows how to use an autofocus camera for decisive moments. While its super easy to do on a digital camera, its costly to use the same attitude on film.

Now lets learn how to do it with a rangefinder. It’s a lot easier with the rangefinder. Here are the 3 steps :-

  1. Focus on the subject, preferably at f2.0 or smaller aperture. You can focus at the “ground” or nearby object whereby the subject will be passing or at the subject itself if you are expecting a change in expression.
  2. Wait for the moment
  3. Press the shutter

Thats it. How does these steps differs from a normal autofocus camera?

In an autofocus camera, the focus kicks in when you half press the shutter, or you use the de-coupled autofocus button. Due to the way we shoot in digital, we cannot help but to re-press the button whenever the subject changes the expression or if he/she about to walk into the location that you want. There isn’t much thought required so you just focus on the subject and press multiple shots. When i said “we cannot help but to re-press” it has a lot to do with how often we depend on the camera and build that into a habit vs inability.

This is where a rangefinder comes in real helpful. Its essentially a dated mechanism for focusing that got replaced by SLRs. If you use it long enough however, you soon learn to think and be rewarded with its simplicity. It is both the slowest and the fastest autofocusing mechanism in the world.

In 100 shots i have taken with my rangefinder whether its the Leica ME/M9 or the Hexar/Bessa/M7 film bodies, i have maybe 2% of mis-focused shots. In my autofocus bodies, i have around 5-10% of mis-focused shots. This might sound absolutely ridiculous until you try it. I am going to keep that surprise as the reward that you deserve to receive for trying out.

Keep shooting.

 

 

 

Chinese Vintage Story {film}

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It’s been an exciting week for me. Each roll that was uploaded to my Google Drive by the film lab never fails to surprise me.

On the 13th Feb decided to try doing a roll on fuji superia 200, a relatively budget film that works very well on Asian skin tones.

I went to the same temple and did the shots with miss woh yon, a pharmacist friend I met few years back when she did freelancing modeling.

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The joy of shooting film is in the sum of its experience. The uncertainty of each exposure I took given the limitation of 1/1000 max shutter on broad daylight and the challenging indoor ambiance.

I shot everything manual.

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The analogue tones are just so beautiful. I actually tried duplicating these tones on vsco two months back by selecting Superia, utterly time consuming and disappointing. There is just no way to get the same feel.

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The shot above is a bonus to me. It was pretty dim inside and I shot it at 1/15 and expected the results to be blurred or shaky. Maybe the cloth shutter on Leica M7 is more than meet the eye.

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Feel free to ask me anything if you would like to try film. It’s not a superior medium by any means and I totally don’t recommend it for product or commercial studio works.

But… if ur feeling an artist block and you need inspiration. There is no better route. Trust me.

The temple {street photography | film}

young generation
young generation

So i had this chance of visiting a temple near Petaling Street during this festive Chinese New Year. Brought some Fuji superia 200 with me and was curious as to how the images would turn out given that the ambiance is challenging and its background layered with vintage feel.

 

mother and daughter
mother and daughter

I am very happy with the results. It feels so analogue, so natural. All these images are taken on a 35 mm Zeiss f2.0. In the temple there are many other photographers, all trying to bring back some nice scenes. It was nearly impossible to frame any shot without capturing another fellow shutter bug in it.

canon
canon

All these images are unedited as is straight from the lab, with just some cropping done on this “canon” picture. I noticed most of the photogs here are just waiting for someone to pray at the altar so that the smoke from the incense will rise up and meet the sunlight that crept thru the side windows.

prayers
prayers

This young man happened to be wearing yellow and i got my shot taken.

beggars
beggars

As i left the temple, i noticed many beggars are sitting near an old concrete stairs almost in a line. It is not a sight i am proud off and its hard to think of the kind of lives they lived on a daily basis. These people comes from all walks of lives and some are just odd jobb workers that hope to get some “ang pao” red packet, some are hardcore beggars, no one is proud to be begging.

Hope u enjoyed my photos, no models this round.

 

the perfect camera {portraiture|film}

film portraiture
fuji 400h pro. 35mm zeiss.

Every three months, we get spammed by the release of new cameras. New features. Record breaking iso’s. Another 2 ev on dynamic range, another 2 stills on fps. If you are a hobbyist like me who paid for the gears yourself, it feels almost like an addiction, GAS they call it.

Canon, Nikon, Sony, Fuji and Olympus. The allies of the digital age that survived the transition of film to digital, only to be bested by digital’s natural trait, “convenience”, in the form of mobile photography.  As of this writing, Iphone 7 have a dual camera in the pipeline with the latest and greatest technology empowering its new flagship phone, the DSLR killer.  Yeah, heard that one, but coming from Apple, it warrants attention. Can a brand survives if the common folks, the hobbyist turns on mobile phones for all its images and leaves DSLR’s and compact camera for only professional pros?

They can’t.

The mobile industry is not much different from the camera industry. Each model promising something that show case the creativity of marketing at play. It becomes very obvious that cameras are what everyone is selling, even in the phone. After all, we got tired of Microsoft’s new Office Word when we were already suffice with Word 6. Some knew of this sufficiency yet the rat-race, enclosed in a circle of upgrades and peer recognition, funded the Babylon merchandise.

Stop.

It’s like waking up in the Matrix, taking the red pill. When i decided this on my photography. Suddenly, there is peace. I realized that every shot costs me. In digital they ended up costing me something more precious, my time, digital upgrades and processing, more storage, editing and figuring out the tones. In film, its a direct cost per click, no beating around the bush, no marketing shenanigans.

Every shot counts. Think about it.

 

 

 

 

is it true {portraiture|film}

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Is it true? I asked myself when I started using film. Being a cto of a startup and having ran my own internet company for over 13 years, technology has always been my forte.

So when I heard that more and more photographer recommend trying film for a change I was irked and curious. Why would doing less and having less advantage be an advantage.

Life as it seems flourished in constraints and restraints. With only 36 limited shots, the inability to preview what is taken, paying for each shot even if it’s a blank.

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It’s as if you are walking on water with only the most important factors to focus on. The subject, the composition, the light. The very basic of photography being pushed to the edge as you consider whether the shot is worth taking.

The last time someone walked on water, the event was life changing. 

Why i moved to film in 2016 {portraiture}

 

I packed the Leica ME and visited Desmond of YL camera, a popular distributor of cameras both used and new in Malaysia. Desmond is a friendly guy, humble and realistic…

I had a lot of good memories using the Leica M9 and leica ME. In my last commissioned project on Charlotte i found myself depending on Nikon D3000 instead, a cheap USD 150 camera that i paired with the Sigma 50 1.4. The results are beautiful and both client and model are happy and popularity index soars.

The D3000 is just a 10.2 mp camera and few focusing points. It is however a hidden gem, one which if discovered, would cause a worldwide buy on it. I might as well let the cat out of the box so to speak. D3000 is nikon’s last CCD sensor camera and D200 is Nikon’s last pro-bodied CCD sensor camera, both are APSC.

Charlotte. D3000. Sigma 50 1.4

 

Now back to the story. The Leica ME/M9? Lots of good memories with it. I used it on the Stephy first photoshoot in 2011.

M9. voigthlander 40 1.4

I have sold it off before and switched to Nikon D4 -> the Sony A7r -> DF and i realized that the Leica M9 it was the preferred shooting experience for my own projects and shoot and i got the Leica ME back in 2014. The D4 and DF produces nice images no doubt.

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Nikon D4. Nikon 24 f1.4
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nikon DF. Nikon 58 1.4
malaysia top portraitist
sony a7r with legacy vivitar lens 28mm

 

Using back the Leica ME was a joy. My shooting was slower and instead of having 1300 files to process, i often have around 300 files at most. The experience of handling and using the D4, DF, A7r taught me the difference between CCD and CMOS and i wanted the FF CCD back, which was only available in the Leice ME/M9 series.

I “played” with the idea of shooting film back in 2015 and realized that for non-collaborative projects or commercial, the film experience yielded me more satisfactory outcome than digital. For commercial and CCD stuffs i have my d3000, D200 ready to kick in. But for street, model shooting for artistic projects, the film experience is just fantastic.

I found myself experiencing “disappointments” over my shots, thinking more for each frame that i use and having a lot more time to chat and to know the friends/models that i shoot with during the session. Often in digital during break time, i would hand the camera to the model and we goes thru the same dialogue of :

“can you delete that. sure, ok.”

“dont worry about this, i shot in raw, it could be salvaged”

“its a bit bluish cause its raw, i could easily adjust the temperature during edit”

With film, all these goes away into just shooting, meaningful dialogue and the surprise that greets you when you see your scan results uploaded by the processing lab.

I estimate that i spent at least half of my time in getting an album up vs my digital workflow. I didn’t need to use VSCO or editing to “tone” the raw files images since each film comes with its own tones and feel.

Along the months, i have decided that film is the way to go. The satisfactory-index level, if there is such a thing, is just high vs digital. So there i handed the ME over. The new workflow saves me time, something that i spent in a beautiful startup that i am attached to.

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konica Hexar. 35 f2. Fuji 400H pro.
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Konica Hexar. Fuji 400 Super Premium.
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Konica Hexar. Kodak porta 400
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bessa r3m. Fuji Superia 200
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Bessa R3m. Kodak Pro-image 100
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Bessa r3m. Superia 200. Noctilux f1.
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Nikon f100. Kodak Porta 160. Nikon 50 1.4d
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Bessa R3m. Fuji 400h pro

Notice the different feel on each of these images? They are different film. Changing film is like changing sensor.  All the images above are shot with a range-finder like camera.

Now, after i handed in the Leia ME. I got myself 2 beautiful camera, same model, one silver and one black. Both film. I will end this post with a picture of the black model.

IMG_20160207_073413

Thanks for reading and have a nice weekend.