Is it possible? Of course. I would argue that one have been sold way too many times the excuse that you would fare better with smaller cameras, like the Leica.
Vivian Maier shot on a Rolleiflex, a twin lens system that is so much harder to focus and looks pretty weird when you have two lenses pointing at you. Back then people knew it was a camera and there is nothing in that form that contributes to her infamous photos.
Leica rangefinders are louder than most of the Olympus, Fujis and Ricoh GRs that exist in the market and probably the largest of them all. Still we have current credible photojournalist and photographers that swears by it for street use.
The answer is really our own acceptance of what we are comfortable with. A medium format camera should not prevent you from doing street photography.
If you prefer B&W cause it has more soul or captures someone’s soul (darn are we back in the dark ages) , a medium format camera like the Pentax 645z gives you beautiful gradation and smooth tonal dof transitions.
Make your own decision. I personally had a lot of fun shooting and using a medium format camera like the Pentax 645Z for portraits and streets and I am convinced that the suitability of any camera is defined by you.
Kuala Lumpur is a beautiful city, more so when Malaysia is now undergoing a new gov that is appeasing the public outcry over corruption and all manners of injustice wrought by the previous BN led administration.
Nothing have changed however when it comes to places to shoot street photography as common people continue their daily lives. From the typical tourist spots at KLCC, petaling street china town and city centre, the dynamics of the different ethnics and street activities continues.
Today, i took a walk around Jalan Pudu. My camera setup for street is the Leica M240 and Leica Elmarit 28mm f2.8. All the images here are shot wide open at f2.8 as per my habit and discipline to shoot wide open any lenses on any setup.
You don’t need a leica to do street photography of course but each gear does have its own advantages. Leica M come with some heft and a nice weight, perfect for doing hip shots, its distance scale on the manual lens are heaven matched for this use.
All the pictures here are processed using CaptureOne’s free film simulation sample.
Shooting from the hip avoids and minimizes any chances of confrontation. This is important in some places. Jalan Pudu is not an upscale area, it is an old place that have undergone very little economic changes. The idea of sharing images in social media and the indirect benefits of reaching out for more visitors is not something that the locals and immigrants here would appreciate.
The photo above was taken after one of the aunty shouted at a fellow photographer “no photos!”, he was using a very small camera and was composing using the LCD (think Ricoh GR, Leica X2 type of cameras). I took it from the hip and avoided the scene.
A noticeable amount of older people gather around this stairs chatting away. Some are waiting for the free food donation that occurs on weekend just across the street (more on this later).
Across the road, i noticed a few interesting aunties (or grandmas, depending on how polite you want to be) sitting at the side of the road. I could faintly hear what they are discussing but they clearly knows each other.
While walking pass by the school, a large number of old people and immigrants are gathering in the middle. I continued to walk with Joe, Stephan and Junrong, a few of my street buddies when a girl in green shirt came running after us. Initially i thought she got something to sell but as it turns out she just needed someone to help her take a group photo along with the pile of food that they are donating.
She said “i just want someone young to help take the photos because the old people here don’t know how to use an iphone”. Sure, that sounds like me (I totally forgot that Junrong is at least 30% younger hahaha). I took the opportunity to take the shot above with my own setup.
There is a morning market nearby selling seafood, groceries, joss sticks and as i entered i saw this old woman with a small setup. Joe, seeing that visuals and story presented immediately went and took a photo. After he is done, i went towards the stall and bought 3 packets of tibits and took a picture of her stall. For most of us doing white collar careers, seeing an old woman at this age trying to make a living by doing whatever she can, just tugs me in the heart. How much could she sell a day? At usd 0.25 a pack, there are barely 30 packs there on the table.
The path to the stalls are very narrow, you have to squeeze thru and move all the time. I came across 4-5 stalls where the workers are chopping on some meat and for the pleasure of my viewers, those photos won’t be shared here. The canopies cast various colors that would confuse any digital camera’s white balance. But since i am shooting in RAW, it doesnt matter at all.
There was this opening between the canopies that i saw this seller with her bucket of fish. I took this shot so quickly, i actually forgot about it until i went home and looked at the files. The fishes look wet and fresh and her expression of whistling made this shot a keeper.
As our shooting time came to and end we walked out of the market and i saw this durian stall at the side wall of the market. Later i noticed the seller is asleep. Must have been a tiring day.
The Hakke Mee stall is interesting in some ways. There aren’t many locals selling food that are below 50 years old, most of the newer generation who owns these stalls prefer hire workers from vietnam,myanmar or thailand to run the stalls.
Overall, i find that 28mm is the preferred focal length for street photography today. 35mm would be too narrow for close ups like the fish and seafood stalls images.
For those readers that have followed my blog, if you are wondering what happened to my Pentax 645Z and why isn’t it used on this set… First off, 645Z is a camera that you should consider very carefully before buying it, after i have used it for the last few months, it has raised my perception standard of pixel acuity and density so much so that i found myself rejecting images from APSCs and 1″ sensors. I am not saying that APSC and 1″ cameras are crap as we know the photographer is the key, i am saying that i found their output unacceptable for normal outdoor shoot.
Take this set for example that i did, without flash, ps, nothing, just some light editing on C1. Now just view it only if you have a monitor that is at least 15 inch (the bigger the better). Once u got used to this kind of pixel acuity and density, your mind naturally finds anything lower a problem. Hard to put a finger on it, it’s like looking at photos taken by mobile phones where ur mind knows something is lacking.
The 645Z is used for most of my model shooting events and this Leica M shall be my tool for the street.
I am at Tokyo now as i share this guide. The weird thing is that when i started to google for street photography in Tokyo, i ended up getting a pile of links that often provide…no inspirational photos, it is as if it’s written just for bait.
In fact, some of the most inspirational images i found are in youtube instead of the top links in google. Here is one example of a good youtube video .
Now that i been here for a week, i have a few pointers to share.
1. Visit the parks
By george, there are so many parks in Japan and parks are usually visited by both tourists and locals alike. By all means, its a great place to do some shoot.
2. Make up your mind on what is street photography
Street photography should be about people. There should at least be a person in your image when you take that shot. Tokyo have all kinds of people and the good news is that most of these people are Japanese, so unless you are at some hot tourist spots, you have plenty of Japanese to fill in the frame.
3. Visit Ginza on weekends
During weekend, central Chuo Dori street will be blocked from vehicle access. This means massive human traffic will be roaming this section of the street and that is exactly what we want for street photography.
If you are not sure where is Chuo Dori street, you can also look for the Ricoh Pentax building and you are in the right area. Do visit the Ricoh building, they often host interesting gallery at level 7 (which u need to pay 510 yen) or access level 8 for Ricoh Pentax shop. Level 8 also showcases the various film cameras of Ricoh Pentax and the prices back then.
4. Time matters
You need to pay attention to the 9-5 working hours time. This is because you will be using the rails too and you don’t want to be caught sandwiched in carriage while you try go get to your destination. Also if you are there early before these hours, you can watch the crowd grow in numbers and anticipate what kind of shots to take.
I didn’t take any Shibuya crossing photos because i have no idea what else i could take that could be interesting, but hey, thats me, you should go ahead and visit Shibuya. Here are some i took but didn’t capture the essence of the crossings.
5. Watch the traffic section
I found myself often regretting putting the camera back into the bag when i am at the traffic junction or stop. Surprises lurks in every corner (or in this case, every stop) and you should get your camera ready.
There are also long trucks that can slow down and even stops at any junction because they have idols inside and doing a road promotion.
6. Be confident
Most japanese are friendly and live by the culture of being polite. Sometimes they can be camera shy and cover their faces when your camera is seen pointing towards them. During these whole week, i only had one old guy shouting to me “No photos!” at the Yakitori Alley near Shinjuku at night. Man, what a loser, if it wasn’t for bloggers that took and share photographs of their shops and grilled skewers, where did he think the customers came from. Duh.
Anyway, that was just one really isolated incident. Be brave and just shoot.
Sometimes you will come across these smoking areas outside malls and streets. These scenes often present good photo opportunities. So do loiter around these locations especially in the pre 9 am or after 4.30 pm time range.
7. Pay attention to Japan’s peculiar culture
Japan have a very different set of culture and we see this reflected in many activities. This picture for example was taken just outside Gotanda, a bunch of kids are cleaning up the street and tending the public ground.
Japan is also an ageing country, so you will see a lot of over 60 years old folks still working and sometimes it can be heart wrenching to see them and be reminded of your own parents. It can be shocking too on how much these old people could walk so much between the subways and stairs.
So that is my guide for Tokyo, keep in mind this is my 3rd time in Japan shooting around and as i learn new things, i would share them in new articles.
Streets, one of the unlimited source for shutter therapy. Bukit Bintang is a major commercial square in Kuala Lumpur. I come here nearly every week to either chill in a cafe or just to be surrounded with vibes of life.
Here, we have Pavilion, an upper end shopping mall very much like Giza in Tokyo and the flow of tourists goes from Pavilion -> Fahrenheit -> Isetan Japan KL.
(* All the images here are shot on 23 f1.4, Fujifilm with Acros film simulation)
On that short stretch of walking pathway, you can find all sorts of cafe’s and side shops. Recently i noticed the following shops, a new bakery shop, taiwanese ice tea shop, two new ice-cream shops and a money exchange.
There are a lot of middle east people here too, in fact one could easily tell that two bigger cafes here are owned by them. A walk further from Pavilion and it becomes obvious that the locals no longer have a prominent presence here. Shishas, kebabs and massage services occupy the right side of the rows of shops, while the more hipster setups of shops are on the left.
There are free buses that travel thru the main attraction in Kuala Lumpur between the commercial centres. From Bukit Bintang here, one can hop on to such buses and alight in KLCC (The Petronas Twin Towers).
I saw this man riding his bike to the side and took a few seconds to adjust his helmet. Usually these streets are packed like sardines, but because this week in Chinese New Year, a large percentage of the local chinese in KL have returned to the other states for family reunion and celebration.
This was taken just outside H&M near to Lot10, a much smaller mall that have lost its former glory and surviving due to its superb location. You will find plenty of tourists here taking selfies.
I often visits the hawker food at the lower ground level of Lot10 for some mouth watering local food. The basement of Lot10 only holds reputable hawkers stalls and is the brainchild of YTL (a strong developer company in Malaysia that flourished during Dr.Mahathir’s era). He even gave it a name “Hutong” and interconnects with Isetan Japan KL.
There are some peddlers hawking their wares along this walkway. The common items are bubble guns, umbrellas, fidgets and today i saw these led lighted balloons. They often cost just around RM10-20 (USD3-4) and the main clients are the kids tugging at their parents.
There is a MRT station here for Bukit Bintang and i usually take it to reach Pasar Seni (China town). As in anywhere else in Asia nowadays, you will see a lot of chinese tourists in Bukit Bintang buying original branded items here that are cheaper than almost any other country.
The structure on the left that in the picture above is the MRT station.
How do you like these images? Are these simulated film on fujifilm cameras good enough?
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?
Between my rented apartment and the old city Dubrovnik is a beautiful harbour. I took a stroll down with Phoenix while Sheryll takes a rest from the flight. Retail stores here are nothing like those in Kuala Lumpur city, they are more “vintage” and gives the impression that the owners are of aged.
It’s a pretty narrow set of shops lined against a the backdrop of rocky hills. There is a constant lure by the scene to hike along those hills and create your own “Lord of the rings” experience. Walking along the harbour towards the old city takes around 20 minutes.
The walk itself is a peaceful and unfolds several serene scenes. There are residents along the main road that resembles some mansion and old rocky stairs that leads to the homes. I like these scenes. It strikes a nostalgic chord somewhere inside of me, wondering what happened to those people who have taken these steps and how so much activities have preceded us.
There is a bakery shop that we stopped by and we were wanted to experience what Croatia bakery is like. While they were enjoying the bread and cakes, i took the shot below.
You could take a taxi or bus to reach the old town but for the next few days here, i walked there every single day. Enjoying the same scene and answering more and more of my curiousity of the people who lives here. Different time of the day grants the same scene a very different feel. Shooting these scenes on film….are just perfect.
Halfway towards the old city, you will come across some locks with love messages locked to the fence. This fence leads you to an opening view of the sea and you can see the shores on the left and the newer city and hotels on the right. It gets really windy here, a perfect spot for emotional portraiture. I am not an aficionado for landscape, so i had to include a model in most of my shots, no models around, my family had to fill in 😉
I want to share the photos from my recent trip to Croatia done entirely in film. This will span several chapters and posts to complete. When my family decided on Croatia for this year’s family trip, i selected the Leica M7, some rolls of Pro400H and Superia 200s. (All images in these series are taken on M7, 35mm Zeiss ZM)
Our flight have to stop by Amsterdam for a night before leaving for a very early flight the next day to Dubrovnik. I carried a small Crumpler sling bag and i am surprised i managed to put the M7 with the 35mm f2 Zeiss and 7 rolls all into that bag.
My “home ministry of tourism” decided to be thrifty and she booked a budget hotel for this overnight stay because its very near to the airport. We took the free shuttle provided by Ibis just outside the airport.
In Malaysia, if you are into photography, you will definitely lament on the fact that the “golden sun” only exist between 7.20am to 8.30 am and 6 pm to 7.20 pm. So you can see how ecstatic i was when i landed in Amsterdam around 8pm and the golden rays greeted me.
IBIS budget hotel is exactly what it is. A small room with a double decker just enough for a small family of three. We walked over to the non-budget IBIS hotel which is located just 200 meters away and had our dinner there.
The flight took 2 hours to reach Dubrovnik. We were greeted by Nikolina, a mother of 2 and had coffee with her while her father in-law prepares the apartment for us.
Located at Grutz, it is a 20 minutes walk to the old city Dubrovnik. Our apartment is built on top of a reclining slope and leads to a beautiful harbour. It’s a beautiful sight to behold and walking by the harbour around 18 C is enjoyable.
Dubrovnik is where the Games of Thrones was filmed for the “King’s Landing” scenario.
There is an analogue event last Sunday and i managed to drop by and met an interesting guy that develops 120 photos for just USD 3, complete with scan and develop. I’ll say its the craziest deal ever, so i quickly took some shots with the LCA120 and sent over to him.
When i got the results back, gosh, its so nice. Check out the image below, click on the + to expand to full size.
Took a walk at Pekan Ampang. This district is one of the vintage places left near KL with a rich history of migrants chinese during the british rule and whom became part of Malaysia citizens. There are a lot of dark history here especially during the May 1969 racial riots sparked by some losers.
Pekan Ampang is found at the far end of the straight road from the more glamorous Jln Ampang where various embassies chooses to build their site. The other end of jln Ampang is the iconic KLCC or the twin towers of Petronas.
This is one of the rare morning market where you see a lot of ethnic chinese peddling wares, snacks and food stalls. Most of KL morning market has been taken over by immigrants from myanmar, burma and pakistan, where you rarely middle class families around. It is a strange sight in KL when you see it being flooded by just immigrants, most of which came for a better life. Rumors abound about how the current reigning political party here purposely allows masses of immigrants of which would be granted citizenship for voting.
If you are looking to have an excellent meal without paying exorbitant fees, the morning market is your best bet for buying fresh fishes, meat, poultry and spices. What you would pay for fine dining in KL for one person could easily feed 4 here.
This morning market is the central business activity for residences around Pekan Ampang. Life goes on from one generation after another. However i think this would be the last generation, a quick tour around the market and its evident that only the remaining old people are standing by their stalls.
There have been talk to renovate or demolish these stores in return for building newer shops and matching themes. Most of these shops belongs to the chinese, who couldn’t care much about maintaining the identity and would easily give in to buy over proposals from powerful conglomerates and developers. Why is this so? Years of being treated as 2nd class citizens just eats you up. There is hope that the new election will see a different party winning vs a current disillusioned one, which has been in power for over 50 years.