Medium Format As The “One” perfect camera for hobbyist, feat 645Z and GFX50s

I must admit, I have been flirting with this idea for a very long time for my digital preferences. It has been around 2 months now ever since I started my One Camera One Lens restriction on using the film camera for a year. The idea is not entirely new as other people including the popular blogger Eric Kim advocated similar discipline.

You can check out some of the videos here, released on a weekly and bi-weekly interval, ads free and non-sponsored.

Covid-19 threw a big spanner on my plans as travelling even between district is now prohibited in Malaysia as part of the conditional movement restriction order. So with not much opportunity to finish up the 36 shots a week and while immensely enjoying the peace of mind with this approach I looked at my existing digital gears and wondered whats the point of keeping all the gears. If anything after a year, I am probably so sold on this restrictive approach that I wouldn’t ever need them.

medium format fujifilm GFX and Pentax 645Z portratis
Medium format 45 f2.8 / IG : sashaxuan / IG : changelivesimages

I took this discipline one step further and of today, I sold off my favourite EOS-R, Panasonic G9 and dozen of native lenses that worked on them. I kept the films few bodies that can work with exceptional lenses still in my dry box like the Otus 55 and several M mount lenses.

The result? A massive decluttering. Not only is the dry box having spare space, I realize all the spare items that was needed to support the existence of those items are not needed too. I ended up with 4 extra bags, 8 filters no longer needed (should have given it free with the lenses) and the same detoxifying effect on my mind.

I don’t need to think which camera to bring out when I need to shoot. When I need the film experience, 50F2 planar + Contarex. When I need the digital, BAM, here take this medium format camera and this lens.

Medium format 45 F2.8. I am a big fan of candid and realistic representation.

Photography, in terms of its role in our lives can be categorized into (3) three categories. You are either a professional photographers and makes a living in photography 100% (you would need whatever number of bodies and lenses needed for your job and this article would be moot), semi-commercial work of which you could de-clutter and like me, you could be someone who just enjoys photography passionately.

For us, hobbyists that enjoy photography and not so much about collecting gears, having a discipline of going out and producing amazing images while connecting with the community is the ultimate objective. It is what feed our addiction, shutter therapy and the sense of being part of something much bigger in purpose than the routine lives we see daily that are deeply driven by commercial motivation.

medium format fujfilm gfx for hobbyist
Medium format 45 F2.8. Beautiful gradation of a simple indoor scene of a hipster cafe in KL.

Now, here is the thing. I brought those lenses and gears to a contact of mine, Jeff Speaker and told him, “Here i am taking my 1 camera 1 lens further, take these and give me an evaluation” . Having a conversation with Jeff and the difficult situation the camera industry is in (Nikon Malaysia just closed its door), I am am prepared to a reasonable value and have no illusion about their worth being used. This means I would convert all these gears and lenses in my digital inventory into 1 Camera 1 lens.

Jeff came back with a trade in proposal instead. The big but in this trade-in scenario is that I was prepared to just use my existing Pentax 645Z as I still have 2 good lenses with it and it would be contradictory to my goal and direction to acquire more gears. The 645Z I had is the one tool that I would bring out when I need absolute quality and assurance in getting the images I want. I even brought it out to two overseas trip and no regrets on the weight. You can see some of my japan images, a friend I met-up in Tokyo and my wife in Khao Yai sunflowers farm.

Jeff’s proposal however make sense and I brooded over it for 2 days and agreed to it. He has a pristine used Fujifilm GFX50s and a 45mm F2.8 lens traded in by a customer for Leica or something. Bottom line, two bodies, dozen of lenses including some manual ones that I used with the EOS-R gone, a GFX + 45mm in. It dawned upon me, I am now left with just medium format cameras, the 645Z and the GFX50s and in a few months I might reduce them to One altogether when the 52 weeks is over or treat the other as a backup camera given that the sensor is the same Sony 50mp.

Would I have been happy having downsized to just the 645Z?, you bet. The GFX50s brings me closer to my current habit of packing 1 Cam 1 Lens and having no subscription to Photoshop I was eager to just use the Film simulation (cringe worthy but a lot of joy on the similar approach in my film camera experience)

fuji gfx medium format portrait
GFX50s 45 F2.8 – Classic Negative Simulation / IG : sashaxuan (Forbes 30 under 30)
medium format portraiture fujifilm gfx50s
GFX50s 45 F2.8 – Classic Negative Simulation / IG : missjoycelish

Look, I understand Medium format is expensive. I am totally advocating that anyone reading my blog here, if you have a decent camera since 2015, it is probably sufficient for all your use. The entire idea behind #jointherestriction is to move away from reading reviews of new camera gears, click baits in youtubes by influencers that peddles “this camera is the best camera yet”, instead go out and shoot. Spend on experience.

We are in the Era of disposable images and where lifecycle of digital cameras is just 1.5 years and that shiniest object you have in your hands that is worth 10k today is worth 2k tomorrow. Any investor would tell you, that is the worst investment ever. Buy used cameras for your upgrades and spend the extra funds on education, travel and props setup. If you are looking into Medium format digital, the 645D, 645Z and Fujifilm 50s is now available in the used market at prices lower than the latest Full Frame.

digital medium format photography using fujifilm gfx and 645z
GFX50s 45 F2.8 – Classic Negative Simulation, Realistic Skin Textures

Medium format totally works for me. If you are looking for reasons on settling for one, here are my reasons.

Depth Rendition

I love the tonality and quality it produces. The current sensor is just 0.79 bigger than the FF sensor but the results are significant. Images shot have better depth rendition, this is an overused term that can easily be explained. Just take a picture with your phone and at the largest aperture take a picture of say a cup. Notice the background blurring just 2-3 meters away compared to 10 meters are the same, the is absolutely no “transition” of depth between those distances. This is something IPhone’s fake rendition will never solve, neither will Huawai or any of those simulated depth regardless of who sold their soul and publish misleading youtubes on such features, they look absolutely fake and almost like a cut-out board.

Larger sensors allows much smoother transitions between distances. I am not referring to bokeh here but the depth rendition. This is also where i feel that plenty of test images you read on dpreview are totally missing the point by shooting on objects in similar focal plane.

digital medium format photography on gfx and 645z
GFX50s 45 F2.8 – Depth rendition

It is actually harder to produce high quality lenses for m43 like Olympus and Panasonic than to produce one for the Full Frame cameras. If you put in a FF lens into a m43 camera you will notice it does not produce the same excellent results you see on the FF camera when you pixel peep, unless the lens is of exceptional quality. This is why M43 system is at a huge disadvantage. They need to produce exceptionally high resolution resolving lenses while keeping the price low because consumers always compare them to FF. When you view mobile phone photos at 100%, you see the pixel quality are mostly junk but when you view m43 images, they look similar to those you see on FF, this is by no means an easy achievement by the m43 to appease the consumer’s expectations. You can check out the LPM measurements on micro four third lenses like those pro series, they often have to resolve “double” what is expected of a FF.

Now what has that got to do with Medium format? The opposite is true, you don’t really need a very high quality lens to fit the needs of the large sensor to produce very high image quality. The 645Z 75 F2.8 is crazy sharp and beautiful contrast yet it only cost USD 700, the results easily rivals a Summilux costing USD 7000 or more.

645Z 55mm 2.8 / ig : changelivesimages / sashaxuan

Image Pop Quality

This is an observable quality that is closely related to Depth rendition. Often we hear magical stories on how lenses produces images that just pops. Its pretty hilarious if you try to nail down the reasons behind them, personally I feel often it’s just the use of wide aperture and the contrasting colors between the subject and the background but some of my own images, I could not fit that narrative while still being awed by the results.

645z medium format portrait
645Z 55mm 2.8 / mandaa.cme
645z medium format portrait
645Z 55mm 2.8 / mandaa.cme

Ergonomics

As an asian, my hands are not as large as my western friends, but holding a medium format camera just works for me. The 645Z in particular has such wonderful grip and buttons placed perfectly that I don’t need to spend any time looking at menus. The Fujifilm GFX50s grip is superb and I love the simple physical buttons that I could find and use quickly. In a way I am a sucker for ergonomics, that is also the reason why my other 2 late cameras that I sold was the EOS-R and the G9, both are the best in its class for ergonomics in my opinion.

Bigger absolutely works for me, but not when it is as big as say a 67 Mamiya Rz or Pentax 67 both which i once owned and I felt had terrible ergonomics.

What if you don’t need a medium format camera?

I have done some of my best albums on both film and digital on FF and proud of some that I did on the m43. Did I mentioned I used to have tons of gears and been cutting down ever since until now. So you won’t miss anything, whatever you have now whether it is FF, m43, APSC, digital or film you could go out there and produce amazing images and you should be doing just that.

Weekly Photography Inspirations #4 and #5

photography inspiration and anti-gas

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.

Amanda, professional make-up artist / @mandaa.cme

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.

Is that a drain pipe? Yes it is sir, it is as real as it gets.

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.

Bougainvillea

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.

Large green leaves

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.

Through the glass, a bakery in Petaling Street
@Irene.yfxp at a Cafe in Kuala Lumpur, Kloe

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

https://flic.kr/s/aHsmReBoNn

Photography, finding inspiration in an age of disposable images

Maybe some of you are like me, tired of reading reviews, tired of seeing SquareSpace ads, tired of looking for inspiration and instead landed on yet another YouTuber’s clueless images.

Tired of chasing for likes, tired of complying to Facebook and Instagram shitty screen estate for showing images and yet limiting your reach and audience? Sometimes we only need to take a good look at the mirror and ask why.

As a hobbyist, I have clear advantage over pros and I believe there are many like me, we enjoy photography but we don’t want to drag our passion into commercial stage. This is our exclusive area, a sabbatical escape from the daily business routine in our lives.

We create images and we share them so that others would see our work, enjoy our work with the hope that people could feel what we feel, see what we see. Sometimes we reached out to seek inspirations but instead we are greeted with gear reviews, messages about the inferiority of our gears and rubbish examples that are poor value for our time.

645z / li wen / August 4th week 2020

As time goes by, the challenge of doing a 1 camera 1 lens for a year is becoming both more attractive and meaningful to me. Limitation is a catalyst for creativity and a vote of protest from my soul towards all these noise coming from Brands, social media and the lack of appreciation of good work done by fellow photographers.

I have decided to share my images in Flickr and other platforms where images gets their well deserved resolution and display without all the shackles of compression and pursue of likes.

While I have not decided on the camera to participate in this challenge, I felt a strong peaceful confirmation whenever I think of this decision. I will be sharing a set of images each week on my YouTube channel just for people to enjoy looking at them to chill for the day and if you want to see the bigger versions, a flickr link is included in the description.

Every Week, 1 Set of Images for 1 Year, done on 1 Camera + 1 Lens

Here is the first one, enjoy.

EOS R, is it worth it?

It’s September 2019 and you wondered if the EOS R is still a viable camera given that the Sony’s eye-AF is now the de-facto for autofocusing.

I came across the same question when I realized I have to either upgrade my apsc 6400 to A7III or another FF system.

I love the a6400, with the 30 1.4 it’s like a dream combo for general shooting including candid portraits.

EOS R with Otus 55 1.4

There is no good reason to change the a6400. I needed to upgrade it solely because now i know enough of Sony’s tech to make an informed decision on its eyeAF game changing feature.

I have several Canon lenses, a noctilux f1 from my Leica days and an Otus 55 that demands a FF body.

** For videos need, I have settled on m43, as much as I tried using m43 with the noctilux, the 4mm sensor stack glass is unsuitable for the M lenses ( Leica M9’s width is 0.8 mm). I m sorry to say this but m43 is in many ways a much weaker format when it comes to lower-light availability. Lower light scenarios which poses no problems to FF affects m43 image quality noticably. Unless u have a tripod.

EOS R with Otus 55, medium format look

The decision to go with the EOS R is based on my own long term observation of my character. Looking at my existing inventory, I always kept lenses that I considered legendary.

The Otus 55, Noctilux f1, 90 f2.8 summicron R, Zeiss 50 f2 Makro Planar are lenses that have resisted changing hands or traded in during my photography tools discovery.

If lenses are the main drivers to what I treasure in my tools, the mount and how that affect the images in the near future as a system, is important.

EOS R vs Sony

The RF mount now supports some lenses that I find to be amazing, 50 1.2 RF, 28-70 2.0 RF and 35 1.8 RF. Amazing? How?

It is in the way Canon tried to show the capability of the mount with novel ideas and the balls to pursue it.

Nikon launched the Z mount with a 24-70 f4? Really? That’s pretty lame.

Sony doesn’t have any lenses that I couldn’t find the equivalent in the DSLR world and those mount are as old they go. In a way Sony’s apsc was a more interesting line.

Thinking along this line, the EOS R is the system for me. I respect that Canon came out with 28-70 f2, a lens that is never seen before and the aged reviews of the 50 1.2 RF proves that the RF mount does delivers on its promise of great optical designs.

EOS R is the winner for me

Is the EOS R superior in anyway compare to the Sony A7iii’s lineup (A7R4 is available too) ?

Technologically, no. Nobody is.

The Canon EVF and hand held ergonomics however, are better. The colors are beautiful and the shutter sound is addictive. These small wins are good enough to make up for the loss in specs on paper.

Having said that, Canon has announced that there will be a firmware this month to ease the gap between the focusing technologies.

The Zeiss Otus 55 1.4 Review {Portraiture}

Zeiss Otus 55 1.4 Review, Amanda CME / IG : marcus_low

Otus. The crème de la crème brand of the Germany’s Zeiss lens maker. My review focuses only on its aesthetic output for portraits and doing so using a DSLR and handheld.

All images shot here are done on Canon 6D MK II, Handheld, at wide open f1.4 except for snapshots of bags, camera setup itself done on phone.

We all know that story in 2013 when Zeiss launched the Otus 55 1.4, a standard lens type of focal length with a hefty price tag, some of us are quick to jump on the keyboard warrior pods while others sang praises with less than a day of using it.

I was one of them. When reviews started coming in with images of the Otus size, I was both baffled and intrigued. Baffled because of my own decision of using a Noctilux f1 (50mm) on a relatively small FF camera like the M9 or 240 tells me that it is not going to be a very practical lens.

Zeiss Otus 55 1.4 portrait, Amanda CME
Zeiss Otus 55 1.4, Amanda CME

Intrigued because, knowing Zeiss, this is a solid company that don’t just slap on a price tag because “we can”. What magic lies in that lens to justify the asking price? Sure, we all know the mantras shared in every darn forum and page on “gears don’t matter” , while the background chants sponsored by phone makers whispers “Let us just stick to our Iphones and huaweis”, but for those in the know, you want the best with you when you can. Phones and it’s yearly bs about replacing DSLRS and Mirrorless are just marketing gimmicks. Each year more baals worshippers join the herds as commercials done using dslrs are put up to mislead the public again and again.

Otus 55 1.4, Amanda CME

The day finally came when I sold off the Leica M240. For those looking to buy your first Leica camera, let me just put it this way, the M240 produces one of the most boring, most inaccurate white balance on any of the cameras I have owned and tried and its a huge list in my last 8 years of photography. What it is however, is a very beautiful camera and feels fantastic at hand.

After I left the m240, I essentially left Leica as a brand I would continue to pursue in my journey. Next on my list, Zeiss. So when I got an offer for the Otus 55 1.4, I took it and started shooting.

Zeiss Otus 55 f1.4 review
The Zeiss Otus 55 on Canon 6D Mk2

My main concerns and probably the same concerns that you will have

1.Will it be too heavy?

A Canon 50 1.2 weights 545g. The Otus 55 1.4 is 970g. It is not light but if you are looking for One Camera + One Lens and rule the world setup, this is it. I am a Asian guy, I don’t find it heavy and I am at 169 cm in height. I took it and walked with it the whole day and I feel its ok.

2. Is the size practical?

I would say this is an even bigger concern than weight. The good news is that the size can easily fit a small bag with the camera if you reverse mount the hood. If you want to carry the camera and lens with the hood in the normal position, then you will need a medium size bag.

zeiss otus 55 size
Zeiss Otus 55 f1.4 in a small bag x 300cm long

The red watch is a normal sized watch for the ladies so you can see here the small bag I mentioned is not “small like a wallet or jacket pocket” but it is a very common sized bag.

zeiss otus 55 size
Zeiss Otus 55, the One Camera One Lens Setup

3. How in the world do you manual focus accurately?

Aha! Let me share to you a technique I use just for this kind of setup. It is both practical, enjoyable and produce decently sharp results.

Here are some proof.

How to use manual focus on DSLR for the Otus 55 / Indoor / Handheld

And the crop results.

How to manually focus Zeiss Otus 55 1.4
100% Crop

So here is the technique and the criteria for using it.

  1. You will need a camera that supports Touch Screen (more on the whys later). On Canon this means 6D MK2 and newer.
  2. You must be able to turn on LiveView easily on the back of the DSLR
  3. You need a strap. The kind you hang over your neck and without too much elasticity.

You will need to stretch the camera out before you and have a bit of tension. This provides the stability to reduce handshakes that is needed especially for indoor type of shoot.

Press on the LiveView button, on the Canon 6DMK2, you can easily reach it using your right thumb while holding the camera with two hands.

COMPOSE! You do your composition now, ignore the focus point.

Press the Magnify button (or whichever button on your camera that allows you to select a focus point via touch). This is the reason why I insist that this technique requires touch screen, it makes the whole shooting process easy because you already composed your shot, there will be no recomposing.

Press the Magnify button twice (eg 6DMK2) or whichever button to get you maximum ZOOM. Twist that smooth focusing barrel on the Otus 55 1.4 and when you see the image is clear, just press the shutter, don’t worry about the image looking wobbly while being in the zoom mode.

So just to recap, you shoot using the liveview, compose first, click on the focus point, zoom in and manually focus on the zoomed-in image, press the shutter. All while having that tension between the camera and strap.

Marcus Low

What’s so great about the OTUS 55 1.4?

Now that we are done with the technique, let’s see why this lens is a must have for a standard focal length if you don’t mind manual focusing.

Contrast, Colors, Sharpness

The bokeh. I am a bokeh whore and there for a 50mm kinda portraits you will need bokeh. The Otus at 55 1.4 means you will have plenty of that, but who needs ugly bokeh?

Check out the ugly bokeh of some 50s that you have probably come across. Below is the 50 1.4 Canon USM.

Bokeh Zeiss Otus 55 1.4 vs Canon 50 1.4 USM
The model is beautiful (fb: colleen), the Bokeh is questionable

Now check out the Otus 55 1.4

Zeiss Otus 55 1.4 Bokeh
Zeiss Otus 55 1.4, Busy background but beautiful bokeh, Model Amanda CME

More examples of great COLORS, CONTRAST, SHARPNESS

Readers of my blogs will understand that I often prefer to demonstrate the points by picture instead of elaborate texts. So sit back and enjoy the images. Pay attention to the shifting tones between light and shadows, highlights and the falloff in depth of field rendering.

Zeiss Otus 55 1.4 portraits
Zeiss Otus 55 f1.4 portraits
Zeiss Otus 55 1.4, 3D POP!

Check out the colors! Those living in Malaysia know we don’t have the best angle for good sun light, every bit of advantage you get from the lens helps!

Zeiss Otus 55 1.4 portraits
Zeiss Otus 55 1.4 DOF renderings / Melaka

When I first got the lens and took some shots, I saw something I didn’t find in my other lenses. Something subtle yet makes the images different. I found it hard to pinpoint the factors. I spent some time reading the technical details on Zeiss own site and took notice of the amount of work their engineers had to do to create this lens.

Flare is like none-existing, instead you get a kind of glow.

Otus 55 f1.4 portraits glow
Otus 55 f1.4 portrait. Flare becomes a glow / no-flash

I am so happy with owning this lens, although admittedly I didn’t come in with the launching price, I wished I owned this lens much earlier and I would have happily paid the price for admission. Sometimes, the timing in technological advancement and features are just not there to make this connection, for example, I would have failed in using this if not for the touch screen introduced on the DSLR like 6DMk2.

Otus 55 f1.4 review
Bobba tea anyone? Cheers to Zeiss

Thanks for reading. You will notice I did not add any affiliate links to BHPhoto/Amazon or anywhere, that is because I am not paid for writing these, just sharing from one enthusiast to another. – Cheers.

Glasses {portraiture|medium format}

malaysia top portrait photographer

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?

malaysia top portrait photographer marcuslow

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.

malaysia outdoor top portrait photographer marcuslow
enlightened

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.

freedom

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.

It cannot rain forever.

Kim {portraiture}

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.

Enjoy the images.

Follow my instagram for  more images : marcus_low

outdoor portraiture guide kim
when u enjoy being with urself

kim goh outdoor portraiture marcus low
amber stripes

outdoor photography marcus low best malaysian photographer
that look

malaysia top outdoor portrait photographer marcus low
i don’t mind your ride

malaysia best photographer marcus low outdoor
kim + rolleiflex

marcus low photography outdoor
kim + rolleiflex

malaysia important outdoor photographer marcus low
it’s me

kim goh outdoor photography with marcus low malaysia
Love + Vintage

Portrait Sharing 1st Feb 2018 {film}

creating portraits that matters, malaysia

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.

creating portraits that matters Malaysia
“..and she turned around, with the glory of the sun behind her”

“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.

sunset portraits film in malaysia
“the wind blew past her hair, the lilies greets the gentle breeze”

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.

film portraiture in sunset in Malaysia
“she embraces that moment, that whispers from nature itself”

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.

film portraits of models in analogue in Malaysia
“when the sun embraces her, it was as if a cosmic dress was worn, whose threads are made of gold”

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.

suicide is not the solution, Love is.
“she walks towards the unknown, the path is there, lighted by the sun”

film portrait of angela in malaysia
“a lily from the roadside”

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.

film portrait of angela in malaysia
“life comes with gifts, sufficient on its own”

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.

Marcus’s random Natural outdoor portraiture guide {film|portraiture}

best guide for natural outdoor portraits

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

ig: marcus_low

1. It doesn’t always have to have eye contact

best natural outdoor portraiture guide
eye contact is not always necessary

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

best natural outdoor portraiture guide
Include more of the environment background with the model

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

best natural outdoor portraits
Even leaves, yes leaves.

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

best guide for natural outdoor portraits
Bokeh are a big differentiator

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

best outdoor portraiture photography guide
keep it natural.

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.