The day i stopped my Photoshop subscriptions, stopped reading any new gears reviews and lenses comparison, I found myself thinking more about the next theme, the location, the opportunities of creating art. Art that consist of outdoor and actual location, non-studio that captures not just the model or people in them but a real scene.
During this week I managed to wake up early and visit this road between two house. The owner took the opportunity to plant plenty of flowers at this road though legally, it doesn’t belongs to either side of the house. From such irrational need for plants and the risk of being removed by the local council, fate saw it fit to get them captured by yours truly.
Without Photoshop healing brush and clone tools, I didn’t bother to remove the pipes and dead petals from the images, since i was shooting film (you don’t need a film camera, just use what you have, if you really need one, just buy one and stick with it). When I sat down and look at the image, I began to appreciate the fact that they were there, those pesky objects, elements, but they are as authentic as nature is. It is what it is, minus Trump.
I envy anyone that is not staying in Malaysia. I envy everyone who has a camera and yet not living where the equator lines crosses. Do you know that in equatorial countries, our light quality totally sucks most of the time? When you have the spotlight shining directly on top of you most of the time, you get terrible light and for someone like me who enjoys available light and natural outdoor.
Don’t even start me on the flowers, BougainVillea is all you get, they are beautiful no doubt but the all year summer weather means the lack of other seasonal flowers and the trees here are either green or dead. D E A D, dead.
One thing we do have going for us here are gigantic green leaves. It’s either rain or sunshine dear, so these plants grows and grows, I won’t be surprised if they are sewn as dresses for the uber sexy theme shoot.
I am digressing. This is my 4th installation of one camera one lens, truth be told, its one focal length, the 45mm f2 planar masquerading as 50mm. Why did Zeiss created the Contarex 50m F2 that is actually closer to 45mm and the same formula migrated to 50mm f2 modern planar on the M mount? I have no idea and you don’t need to google this up because it will lead to GAS and there is no such thing as the final buy.
Overall I am very happy the results I am having so far. The lack of need to edit photos, heck i don’t even need to chimp. Editing took me like 2 minutes and that is because of the exporting folder workflow I have.
Brew a cup of coffee, sit down and enjoy the rest of the images in the 4th week of September + 1 week of October with music .
Full set of images available here for the 4th week of September / 1st week of October
Since the last week of August, I have committed on using 1 Camera and 1 Lens by restricting myself to stop reading reviews, gears launches and instead just go out and shoot. You don’t need a film camera, any DLSR, m43 or mirrorless camera produced in the last 7 years will do fine.
I met a snag in the 1st roll itself, the Contarex Bullseye 50 f2 planar was showing back-focusing issues and I barely could get half the images in focus. As a result I had to find a 2nd body to try the lens on and confirmed that the first body which looks super new was faulty, there is something wrong with the mirror.
Do enjoy the images you can find them in the youtube here and a flickr link.
The first 2 out of 52 weeks
In these 2 weeks, I was sorting out issues from the missing spool (basically this film camera needed a spool to take in the film and the sellers omitted them) and backfocus issues. I visited a cafe with a friend Xiao Bai who works as an Interior Designer in Puchong to visit a new Cafe that have some japanese vibes.
I love the large window that the cafe use and most of the images is focused on that.
The 3/52 week
My friend Carol Lim, who is a top sales in the banking industry took the risk of betting against the weather and we drove 1 hour to a spot not far from Kuala Lumpur to do the shoot.
Although there isn’t any dramatic and sunset light, I felt the soft and low-moody ambiance gives the images a comfortable feeling of peace.
The year was 1958. The competitions were fierce. It is a take no prisoner stage, where every camera manufacturer did their best to produce the most reliable, most advance and beautiful 35mm film camera of all time.
The over engineered Leica M3 was released 4 years ago, the undisputed champion. There was no sensor war, no dynamic range, no fps, what can you possibly produce that can have an edge in engineering to offer the consumers?
Zeiss held a pep talk with the company, the engineers in particular needed to hear one. Something is cooking at the land of the rising sun and it is not going to be merciful when it arrives. How about we throw everything we can and create a camera that no man has ever imagined neither will the competitors ever be able to produce?
Zeiss created the Contarex Bullseye.
As history records the aftermath, the most beautiful camera in the world which was supposed to be engineered to a level of perfection that it needed no after service nor care, did not fare well commercially. It was more expensive than the Leica M3 and a year later in 1959, Japan sent its Nikon F into the world, obliterating M3 and every other rangefinder in existence.
This blog doesn’t promote GAS and I have been pondering on which camera to use for my 52 weeks project of One camera, One lens, I decided to pay homage to the Zeiss engineers effort and ideals and use this camera for this task. The fallout of this camera was so bad it literally killed the company.
The engineers lost passion and never produced anything significant in terms of camera bodies. The company went downhill after that. While this is not the absolute truth of exactly what happened, it is my narration based on the timeline and understanding of engineers in companies.
Why film? Why not just use the 645z and use that instead for the 52 weeks project? The reason is simply because of restrictions. Film development is still affordable here in Malaysia, we are looking at USD 4 for development and includes scanning. While they exist and the limits of 36 shots per roll is appealing for my objectives, this seems like a good direction.
The other reason is that I have decided to remove Photoshop and Lightroom from my workflow for this 52 weeks project. That is me showing the finger to this commercial company for their lethargic products and these subscriptions and megapixels marketing noises. Did you know that they parked their sales in IRELAND and you had to contact customer service to stop your subscription? No thanks.
Thus my 52 weeks begin. Come join the restriction, pick 1 camera, any camera, 1 lens and focus on photographing things that moves you, not the likes or public.
Here are some updated photos I took of the camera itself, it is a real beauty though that divine shell comes with a heavy history and cost.
One of the unique craftsmanship seen on this camera is that it has no light seals to be found anywhere, in fact the only foam you can find is at the mount near the focusing screen where it has slight contact with the mirror as it flips up.
The mechanism of flipping the mirror is not the ordinary design that we find in the dslrs or slrs of the golden age of film cameras. It looks and feel complex, whether this complexity translates to anything superior is pure conjecture.
In following up with the guide i wrote about my opinion on natural model posing for outdoor portraits, i wanted to write a guide on how to create portraits that matters. I wrote a whole section about sunrise and sunset and why those moments add that magic to otherwise common portraits and four other elements. But i stopped.
One of the things i told myself this year is that i won’t be creating images driven by the need to feed the public. Neither should i be writing blogs about technicalities and compositions rules, instead i should be sharing what i feel, what is true to myself and the reasons i took the images.
*All the images here are taken on ProImage100, 50f1.4 on a Nikon U2 film camera.
“There is this theme that i wanted to shoot. It’s going to be somewhere between Shah Alam and Klang and i am going to do it on film”, I told Angela. Angela, a popular social influencer and a friend of mine, wasn’t a big fan of film, her work requires her to publish image quickly and create interesting content. She uses Instax and Fujifilm X-A3 cameras, both choices suggest that getting results fast, matters.
This is not the first time that i did this nature, sunset theme but it is a theme that i should do more often cause it is one of those theme that i won’t get tired of doing.
There really isn’t anything around that is more beautiful than that moment when the sun rises and when it retreats, the glorious golden light separates the night from the day. These are moments that you can find almost in anywhere else in the world and it lights up the landscapes and people caught in the rays beautifully.
Each day when i woke up, it is a gift. How often this divine gift is quickly drowned by the cares of this world, the evil news that floods my facebook timeline and the griefs of the world crying out to all who would hear. More than often, i swam with the flow and echoes what is out there. These images i create, i wish above all else, that it would be useful to my friends and it would grant the viewer a moment of serenity.
A moment that you breathe.
Truth is, living is hard enough. Recently two korean pop artist left the world leaving both observers and fans grieving and fuming over the incidents. While it is very easy to point fingers at celebrities giving up their lives while others struggle to keep them, the crux of the matter is that it is simply the outcome of the lost of a battle. The battleground took place in the heart and the mind and not the physical world and when the battle is lost in your mind, your body could never survive. You have no idea how lonely these people are and why they felt that death, is the way out. The real cowards are not these celebrities that gave up, the real cowards are those who pledge religious cause to take away the life of the innocents.
Life was given to us free.
I hope that these images would inspire you to create more images that promotes life, serenity, peace and love. These images are not about sexy, fine art nor highly fashionable in any sense. They are meant to be comforting to look at, to enact the moment of being there, seeing life in a care-free world.
I just had to share this story. When we were at this place scouting to find a spot to shoot, we saw a cluster of giant lilies in the middle of the field. So I drove there slowly as the terrain is kinda off road, then we notice something moving in front of those giant lilies…a huge snake. We gave up the idea quickly and went to the roadside and this series was created.
Thanks for visiting and reading my blog. Sometimes my blogs are hard to read simply because they reflect fragments of my thoughts that could be unstructured.
When you don’t have the time to even read a blog, you can visit my instagram, they contain tags of my friends that i collaborated with and say hello while you are there.
* The films are developed by my favourite lab in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Everytime I go out for street photography in SEA countries, I face a dilemma. I feel uncomfortable looking at some of the daily activities of common folks hawking their stuffs on the road side.
If i am going to be brutally honest,I feel sad and often my mind wonders off into questions of their survival and livelihood. This leads on to inevitable realization that I couldn’t provide any help at all.
“They been surviving so far without you lifting a finger to help and they will continue to survive”, I comfort myself along these lines and quotes.
These scenes are in stark contrast when I visit European countries like Denmark, Paris or even Iceland. Perhaps their Govs have gone a long way on helping out the struggling citizens and we find less of those who trade for basic living vs average lifestyle.
Nevertheless, once the conscience tugging moments passed, I feel that these people are the true survivors and fighters. They work hard with their bare hands and whatever means to make a humble living instead of falling astray into committing crimes.
It’s rather pathetic for a country like Malaysia when I compare the crime rates with Vietnam and Thailand. In Malaysia, snatch thefts are an epidemic and I personally don’t feel safe even with my camera bag. I have been snatched once and almost 1:3 person I know of, have encountered or seen snatch theft incidents.
Overall I only managed to spend a day doing street photography in Bangkok and I had to attend a beautiful garden wedding.
Does anyone else feels the same as I do when you do street photography?
Ginny comes from a popular startup in Vietnam, Grab. However there seems to be a culture in Vietnam whereby the female citizens are more willing to explore the path of entrepreneurship. She left Vietnam to join a startup in Malaysia and wasn’t satisfied with just a job, she ventured into starting her own business, a shoe cleaning service for sneakers : shoemo.
It’s is surprisingly a virgin market in Malaysia as we have high end heels repair services but never had a cleaning service just for sneakers. Soon clients begin to pour in and investors contacted Ginny to expand her modest business which is already turning in profits.
I took the opportunity to have lunch with her and took some portraits during those short hours. All the images here are shot on Nikon U2 / 50 1.4 sigma non-art on either Premium400 or ColorPlus200 films.
I make it a point to know more about a person when i take her portraits. I needed that element of knowing her character personally so that the images would reflect the essence of her personality.
Ginny is a person that brings in the adage of “more than meets the eye“. For her shoot, i decided to bring in an equally interesting prop in my collection, the Olympus SP 35, a camera whose lens matches even the leica summilux but totally underrated.
Starting your own business is akin to travelling to another country alone and trying to make a living there. In that sense, taking such risks is nothing new to Miss Ginny here. That confidence that she has and the willingness to go all out doing what you believe to be worth risking, is an attribute that is hard to be captured on her portrait.
January 2018 will be her last month with her current startup. I am glad to have met her in this short time and as much as her colleagues and managers would wished she would stay, we all know deep down, that given such an opportunity, no one should stop her from pursuing her dreams.
With this note, here are the two of my favourite images taken during this session.
“Nope. thats not it”, i fumbled with the menu on the Sony A7s looking for a way to move the cursor for focusing on the electronic viewfinder. Behind those mountains of menus, lies a simple and important feature that i needed, one that just selects one of the focusing points on the camera. It’s deja’vu when i looked at the menu’s on the Canon 6D and the Nikon DF, “what? why would i want to select a 7Mp pixel only on a three given options and why would i want a fine jpg when the basic looks just as good.”
A moment of flashback happened, I was 15 and standing at the school’s field hanging out with my fellow friends, a weird crowd some say. Kien Hong, an introvert that went on to become the top graduate in the country, was just next to me. “hey kien hong, see i got myself a new pen and here is my notebook (paper) that i gonna write my school notes on.”, I showed off my fancy pen and premium notebook and how excited i am to use these tools to improve on my grades, Kien Hong gave me a friendly smile and took out his 555 small notebook and a kilometrico pen, those were the most economic and simple stationaries you can find back then, same combo used by the canteen’s food seller for jotting down the 4D magnum sports toto number.
“How in the world did we ended up here?”, i snapped back into today’s timeline and thought about the direction we are heading in our social interaction, cameras and life in a glance. In my bag are two old film camera, a Nikon F2 and Nikon U2. The F2 in particular was the older camera and with a legendary status while the U2 was premature in its arrival and DOA on 2003.
The F2 changes everything when it was introduced. It quickly became the standard for photojournalists and professionals for 35mm. Some say that it killed Leica’s dominance and pushed Leica towards a niche market and Leica never did recovered.
Film cameras are amazingly simple. You have that Shutter, Aperture that you control on your lens and you lived with whatever ISO film u used. Planning ahead is almost a necessity for the shoot that you do. Life was simple then and even now, i enjoyed using the same basic controls. That Kien Hong’s combo is a constant reminder on how little adding bells and whistles complicates the actual learning process and results.
Images, especially portraits, should be about “feel“. Feel cannot be measured in megapixels, sharpness nor does it gets better just because the camera have a longer and updated technical spec. Last week, Malaysia experienced what we called the “winter” days. Unprecedented and unheard of here, we saw the temperature plummets to 22C, in contrast my usual room air conditioning is 25C. Such drastic drop in temperature on an equatorial country is laughable, almost as ironic as the crypto-currencies volatilities.
We added so much complexities to life and instead of having more quality of life, we are suffocating it. Mark Zuckerberg recently announced a change of heart in how he wants Facebook to be used, God bless his soul, those ads and baits in social medias didn’t add any value to any social interactions.
In respond to the letter written by the 27 year old girl who have passed away, we all can make decisions to have a richer life and even what we have now should never be taken for granted. Collecting items is just one of those things that adds nothing to life equations nor to the quality of life.
Watches, cameras, bags, phones and cars. Well you name it, chances are you know somebody who is into it. I am all into “being” rather than “having” as a resolution for the year. It’s a worthy resolution 🙂
The F2 have seen more than most of us in this lifetime. That was never it’s intention. It was supposed to be a tool for us to see more of life.
Sometimes…maybe often, i would look for new portraits inspiration on the Internet. The best came from some obscure photographers that publishes their work more for storage rather than sharing, many good ones comes from social influencers that thru practice and hard work became skilful in creating them. However…there are quite a number that appears on seemingly professional photographers websites but are cringe worthy and makes me wonder if perhaps i have a different level of acceptance or culture.
I learn portraits by practice, joining workshops and practice. I am blessed with lots of beautiful friends that i met while pursuing my photography passion and it would be an injustice to them and myself if i didn’t focus on portraits.
I would therefore share 5 of the key reminders that i personally use in my portraits and i do mostly outdoor portraits based on available light. I am going to skip thru the normal guides like “look for interesting light”, “rules of 3rd” and those other stuffs that you can find elsewhere.
I shot all images here on Nikon U2 with Kodak ProImage100 film on a 50mm lens.Model friends ig: x.x.angela, stephyyiwen
Join a group shoot and look at the photos, chances are 90/100 of those photos are images of the model or person looking straight into your camera.
While its ok and you should definitely have photos with eye contact with the model, those images quickly becomes boring when almost every single one of them are the same expression of “look into the camera”.
For shoulder and head portraits, eye contact are classical approach for getting good portraits, but it should not be more than 70% of your total images.
I find the approach of being the invisible photographer a much more rewarding approach than “look into the camera” approach. The best images are always the most natural and one where you want the person to feel very relax as though ur not there.
2. Head and shoulders portraits are boring
There is a true story of a group of friends that book a flight to a overseas country and went to a beautiful site to do a photoshoot of a model that joined them in the trip. They then proceed to take out their 85mm and 135mm lenses and started shooting.
The resulting images are all photos of the model without any background whatsoever. The blurring of the background and the background inclusion were so minimal that one might as well rent a studio to save cost.
Always try to include some of the environment that the model is in, preferably if the model can have some form of interaction with the environment.
On the other hand, if you going to shoot for wedding photographs, (this is where i differ from the current trend seen in Asia), it’s not a scenery shoot, don’t go shooting the couples looking like miniature figures in a beautiful scenery. A few years down the road the son or daughter will be looking at that image and wonder who are those people in the scenery. Might as well buy a poster of that scenery and pin it up.
3. This is not a fashion show, don’t pose like one
Unless you are doing a fashion shoot where you have this tall model wearing some designer ultra urban dress, avoid doing fashion poses in the natural outdoor. Those poses often only makes sense when showing off the clothes or if it’s done with conceptual/artistic background.
For everyone else, including the model that just dressed nice and looking beautiful, your aim should be to take photos that makes her look natural. Poses can be interesting by having some props around like a camera, book, bag or even leaves.
Poses are very important to give the image a sense of comfort and candid feel.
4. Bokeh are good if they are 1.4
There are only two kinds of photographers in portraiture. Those that use bokeh and those that use f1.4 bokeh. I am not saying 1.4 is the same across all focal length, the idea is to use the largest aperture lens that you can find and use that to your advantage.
You see, bokeh and shooting with shallow depth of field differentiates your images with those fake iphones/android types of portraits. If you are not shooting with shallow dof and leveraging on bokeh characteristic of lenses, you might as well shoot with a phone. Eric Kim once posted something silly about his Samsung results are as good as a medium format and he could just be right if you are shooting without any shallow dof.
If you are using a 50mm lens, well, 50 1.8 is the most common 50 mm lens that is available in almost any camera, the idea is to avoid that “normal” range and go for the 1.4. You want different results, use something different (probably the least important criteria to get good results, but good vs different is a different story, get it?)
5. Don’t over edit
Hell have a special place for three(3) types of photographers. First, those who exploit new models for nude shoot in the name of art, those who use HDR on portraits and lastly, this group outnumber the first two by a large margin…those who liquify and edit their subject generously.
While its perfectly understandable that female subjects would love to look flattering in your photos, you know the edit is too much if anyone who sees that person have an “ouch” effect. “Ouch, she don’t look like anything in her photos” kinda ouch.
Clearing blemishes, spots and lighten the dark circles and the model would look really good as though as he/she had a very good makeup artist. But slimming her down like 30% or making those alien V faces and pulling the legs longer is just no no no. Fact is you would be doing the model more harm than good and you should be drawing anime instead of photography.
* this photo has editing done on the eye’s dark circles.
In 2018, i would love to do more collaborations with models for outdoor shoot but with heavy focus on “feel”. How do we define “feel”, it is that feeling that you get when you look at the photo and you could feel the serenity, loneliness or the joy of that person.
When the world first herald the end of film, film gears prices went downhill very quickly. Today, we no longer talk about “film is not dead” as a topic but rather whether one chooses “film” or digital as a choice of medium. The recent Rollei “Vario-chrome” was sold out all most as fast as it reaches the shelves, even if those are virtual shelves sold online.
If you wanted to try film, you should go ahead and try Medium format as those gears are just a fraction of its original cost and being medium format, you get huge “sensors” hahaha. These huge negative size produces really amazing and beautiful results even when scanned by the same scanner that scans the normal 135 film.
For medium format portraiture, i would recommend the Mamiya RZ67 and its legendary 110mm f2.8. So as per the style of my blogging, lets see some of the images i done for the last 2 months using the Mamiya RZ67 and films like pro160NS or kodak porta400.
This image barely got any editing, the model is a stranger i bumped into an offered her a makeup with an album. Her name is Kiwami and she is a local chinese in malaysia. Look at those faithful rendering of her hair and the skin tones on her, see how those highlight behind just falls in beautifully into the bokeh.
This is Amanda, a popular makeup artist in Malaysia, aka Mak3upQueen. This scene was shot at a rooftop around 630 pm and some of the sunset light are coming in. Just love those tones!
Notice that in the portraits above, Amanda wore red, a color that is often problematic to digital sensors even today. For film, its just a walk in the park. I must say, i wished the sunset golden light was better.
Blue are gorgeous on film too, even though its indoor. You can find out more about Mamiya RZ67 pro cameras from google and checkout its pricing in ebay/etsy or other online used marketplace. I personally went for the version 1, instead of the more expensive RZ67 proII. Hope you enjoyed the medium format portraiture samples that i took.