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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
And the crop results.
So here is the technique and the criteria for using it.
You will need a camera that supports Touch Screen (more on the whys later). On Canon this means 6D MK2 and newer.
You must be able to turn on LiveView easily on the back of the DSLR
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.
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.
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.
Now check out the Otus 55 1.4
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
It dawn upon me that some of the “best” photographers are the famous photographers. In today’s age of internet and social media, popularity and fame falls upon those that are able to blog and express their photos. Maybe its not a popular opinion but from time to time i am often confounded at the quality of portraits or streets that are shared by some online photographers. Its not that they are bad, they just didn’t satisfy my thirst for inspirations.
So i asked myself, “if u think ur better, why don’t u share more of your portraits, gears and street photos, maybe similar minded folks out there could be looking for some inspirations too”. Thank you, 2018, lets just do more of that. In my posts i will attempt to share images, gears and street photos all in one article per post.
I visited Hanoi on 26th-30th december, hazy and cloudy, there isn’t much good lighting to look forward to but i was really excited to see some of the unique scene in Hanoi and wanted to do some shoot there with a model.
I had this peculiar camera with me, its nearly a 80 years old and do or die, it’s the only gear i brought with me.
I brought along some Kodak 400 porta and Fuji 160NS 120 films. After walking around the streets i notice a unique occurrence in the Old Quarters where a live railway runs thru the city, this is it, i told myself, i need to do an album here.
Thru SanAsia Event, a model was selected for my shooting, her name is Phuong Thao. The agent Miss Dao Thuong from SanAsia Event is a savvy and charming lady, she told me that Phuong Thao is one of the top 30 in Miss Vietnam search but her dreams are cut short because she could not fund her own glamour outfits nor photo-shoot.
Miss Thao could understand english but her pronunciations of the english language sounded queer to me. The agent Miss Dao told me that this is a common problem in Hanoi, mainly because graduates are taught in the wrong pronunciations.
While shooting i thought of how lucky the other pageants and contests are in other countries as most of the requirements and needs are covered by sponsorships and the organizers.
After shooting two rolls of film, Miss Dao from SanAsia suggested that we should do the next shoot at Long Bien Bridge, a french architecture marvel that is still supporting the commuting activities in Hanoi.
Despite the weather which was hazy and the light is flat, film tones are just so beautiful. It brings out the moment and the very life of the scene, when i look at these images i thought to myself, “wow, i could just reenact the scene and hear the sounds of the bikes and see the hazy ambiance”.
Shooting with film has always been special because i need to manually focus the Rolleiflex and i always shoot wide open regardless of camera and lens. On the Rolleiflex automat this require a lot more effort because the focusing screen is just a ground glass, relatively dim with no split screen or focus confirmation of any sorts, you just have to see the image and when you believe you got it in “focus”, you press the shutter.
The efforts slows down your photoshooting tremendously, i needed to do it fast so that Miss Phuong Thao here won’t be posing too awkwardly waiting for me. It is those very effort and focus that you do while shooting film that your mind embeds the scene with everything in it far beyond what you can remember on a casual snapshot.
So how fast was i? Here is an image of a man riding a bicycle while walking his dog in Hanoi.
The guy running the film lab in Kuala Lumpur didn’t believe this is possible. Well, it is. In fact i am a lot slower than Vivian Maier if you have seen her works, those photos that she did with shallow depth of field on the street, they are impossible to be shot slowly.
Here are some other images on the street that i took.
I did bring along a backup camera, my phone, the Google Pixel2. I also took some pictures using it on the rails and the bridge, the results are too crappy to be shared here. Despite being the latest and greatest in mobile photography, “portrait mode” results is far from usable except in the most common scenario of poses.
Feel free to see some of the fail cases of Google Pixel2 here.
Today we live in a world where instant gratification and yada yada is cutting short our experiences and joy in many ways. Film photography as painful as it is, brings back some “pauses” to this world.
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.