When taking images is more than just photography. {thoughts}

i see u
i see u

its 12:45 am. i am sitting next to my bed, a smaller bed that is just next to the main one. i have just ordered from ebay a BessaR3M and a Nikon F3ma, both are film cameras. film? what?

four years ago before i started photography, life is just standard operating procedure. married with a kid, financially sufficient, runs a company with shares in two more companies. life is good one would say.

Day in, day out, visit my office, chat with the staffs, partners, dividends, sales, technical issues.
Life is good one would say. i am a prodigy in computer development, wrote my first game on commercial game on floppy disk when i as 14, on the apple ][. my best friend who inspires me in programming went to silicon valley and never came back. literally. He died of heart attack last year.

my circle of friend for the last 15 years, guys that grew up with me in the church, Phoenix that i met from the church and some collegues from 2 companies i joined before i started my own. I believe in God, all programmers should, seeing how stupid it is to cook up codes by chance, everything is by design.

chimping
chimping

Fast forward to 2012. Participated in a paid portrait event. Portraiture hits the key. I have never found interest in anything except people when it comes to photography. Humans are the ultimate design and whose image are so divinely created, i could find no joy in taking photos of dead objects nor animals. At that time i was 38. I pursued this field by learning from the best, ming thien, dragon chow or whomever that i felt i could learn from.

Like a born-again superhero, i added some noble intention to my newly acquired skills. Helping young models to create albums that they can use in kickstarting their freelance jobs and offering advices on standing out but keeping it safe. It was all too enjoyable. Why wouldn’t it be, meeting beautiful aspiring models every week, fanning friendships and seeing some purpose in life. Any guy would have enjoyed doing it. You shouldn’t be reading this part in a sober mood though, hahaha. Truth be told, after having done thru over 86 models and albums, one tends to go over the initial excitement and focus more on perfecting the art.

As my page in facebook : http://www.facebook.com/marcuslowphoto became more popular, write ins poured in. Paid jobs came in which i happily took, not because of the money, but because its just something you had to do when people wanted to pay you to do the thing that u love to do. I had to turn away most of the invites for events and group photos regardless the pay.

Apart from models, female friends continue to ask me to shoot. Some guys ask me why. Its pretty simple. The flower fades and the grass withers but your photos last thru generations. Female beauty are at the peak in the range of 16-27, after which the ageing effect inevitably sets in visually. If the photos are not captured during this stage, it has missed the train, so to speak.

happy
happy

Capturing light has brought plenty of experience and episodes in these four years. I fell in love with not the mere output of the art, but the whole process. Leica being an outdated camera with minimalistic knobs just works. I wager that film shooting this time round would allow me to focus even more. Looking back, there are episodes where i fell in love more than just on the gears, but that is life, in its full vulnerable state and journey. This craft have changed my life, open doors and reached out in many ways, there is no regret in photography.

My next plan is just to shoot and pass to labs to develop, no plans to open up lightroom nor photoshop at all. Lets keep it organic and real. Lets do this for some albums.

* images here are taken recently at myespresso cafe, one of the best cafe in kuala lumpur, subang jaya. model is a long time friend Angela Lieche that has her own story to tell about her freelance life in malaysia.

Why the Ricoh GR is still one of the best backup camera {portraiture}

using available light, natural tones
using available light, natural tones

The GR is a kick ass camera for streets, everyone knows this. How does it fare as a portraiture camera?

available light, natural tones
available light, natural tones

Between the Leica + Noctilux and the GR, i often find that they both complement each other perfectly. The GR takes very sharp images but the tones are really beautiful when doing simple LR (lightroom, an app from adobe) adjustments. The Leica on the other end, does very reactive ccd tones. The preset i made for Nicole’s shoot (see my previous blog) doesn’t work at all on the GR, but simple LR on GR does all the magic, particularly saturation++.

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Here are some images that i applied the VSCO film presets in LR.

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The GR has been a very flexible and indispensable backup camera that i bring along everywhere when bringing a leica is cumbersome or risky.

Nicole Chooi, An asia portraiture on noct f1, Part I {Portraiture}

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I just came out of the hospital on friday, my daughter was hospitalized since monday due to a pain on her stomach. Spending 5 days in hospital gives you plenty of time to think about life and purpose while having of remoting without anyone interrupting. Thank God she is now discharged though doctor have not figured out the actual cause of it.
Nicole showed me a new cafe here that she stumbles upon near Dang Wangi (kuala lumpur), we decided to try out some shots there.
I decided to just use noctilux f1. Speaking of which a friend of mine just got his stolen : 50mm f1 E60 : serial number 3738438
Ok, enjoy the images, do leave me a comment. If you are an aspiring model and your visiting malaysia, send me a msg, lets collaborate.

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Ricoh GR, the force is strong with this one {practical review}

 

very near
very near

Last two weeks was a really challenging week for me. That is because i was forcing myself to use the Casio TR camera, a camera without bokeh and at 21mm wide angle. Short story, I have the Ricoh GR lying around that i recall can support 21mm and since i am now more equipped in skills to use it…

the turn
the turn

Although the GR is 28mm f2.8, its bokeh is almost unusable except for real closeups, thats fine, the picture above shows you how i would have shoot normally with a bokeh lens like f1.4 but on the these weak shallow dof cameras, the left side elements of this picture are distractions.

vsco pastel
vsco pastel

This is done correctly, since there is no bokeh, u have to place the subject using compositional elements to surround/highlight the subject. I used VSCO on the mobile app for editing this photo, making it pastel like.

color positive film
color positive film

One thing i really love about the GR is the positive film effect. When its used on earth color subjects and dark colors, you get a kind of rusted red feeling.

color positive film
color positive film

color positive film
color positive film

If they are going to release GRII i hope it comes with one fix that i think is the main weakness of this camera. OIS. It needs serious optical stability or 5 axis stability else for some people with handshakes like mine, i rarely get any usable image except in decent daylight.
The lens is very sharp across the board. Camera light as a feather, probably lighter than any APSC camera i have ever used and its a truely pocketable camera. GR was relesed in 2013 and today you can get a really good buy. It cost me more on the TR than this camera today if you were to get it brand new, mind boggling.

When “bokeh” can’t save you {portraiture}

 

deep depth of field requires strong elements

I have always depended on “bokeh” from my 1.4 and recently the 1.1 Noct to produce beautiful images. But after looking at a lot of beautiful photos (e.g instagram “pimtha”) i knew these type of photos is something that have eluded me for a long time.

Its pretty obvious these photos uses some kind of app filters, but isn’t thats exactly what i am doing in Photoshop when i edit the images and tones of the portraits. Last two weeks, with the Casio TR camera with me, i could not produce any satisfactory portraits depsite having access to Elaine in town. TR is a puny sized compact sensor 1/1.7 that Casio don’t even sell to their own japanese market, maybe its not an honortable thing to do, selling compact cameras at 8x the price of ordinary compacts. 

So i tried hard to use it to do portraits, force myself to carry only the TR. 

You see, there is a big difference how you shoot images that leverages on “bokeh” and those that don’t. I have been doing portraits for years and always paid heavy attention to the bokeh and blurring of background characteristics so much so that my eye for portraits are accustomed towards such setup.

Yesterday, while studying further images, it suddenly dawns on me the simple truths that when you can’t count on bokeh, you have to count the background in as strong elements. When i see those multiple repeated fences or columns or lights behind, i would have an idea how they would turned out with the 1.4 lens or the noct. That doesn’t work at all in the bokehless camera, in fact, almost all the poses that would work on beautifully with these fast lens and big sensors, would fail terribly on compacts or mobile phones. 

The image above is my first decent image using this new line of thinking. I am happy and excited to continue this journey. I will be sharing more of these images and my works #nobokeh

Images, who cares and why we take them

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Never before has we been so equipped with photography gears like we are now. Mobile phones granted us the freedom to shoot whereever we are, whenever we want. Our visual senses are constantly being challenged by the vast flood of images. Often the meaning of photography is lost in the habit of snapping photos for no reason whatsoever. These candids and snaps however takes on a different meaning when we are not attempting to profit from it, but rather to just share what interests us.

Processed with VSCOcam with a9 preset
Processed with VSCOcam with a9 preset

I must confess. Its pretty much a roller coaster ride to me when it comes to taking images. Fuelled by the lust for gears and the ever thirsty curiousity of trying different lens and creating different albums for models, i have come to a point whereby i just want to take a break and have some fun. Fun, comes in the form of small packages, like this casio TR, the legendary bimbo camera.

No way i can kneel down so low or even focus with a rangefinder so close to get this shot. In fact, i didnt put any effort, just pointed the camera at the cat, look at the big lcd screen that is tilted and snap on the shameless “premium auto mode”.

I hope to share more photos as i continue my daily walk with this mobile camera. The sensor size is 50% bigger than the Iphone 5 and samsung s6 but casio is ironically honest enough to maintain 11 mp on this sensor, giving it a high true resolution.

Processed with VSCOcam with g2 preset
Processed with VSCOcam with g2 preset

What are your thoughts on this? What if you can just take this ridiculous small camera for all your shooting needs and take its limitations as part of the challenge to improve urself. Would you not rather be focused on taking images than wasting time on setting up gears and lenses?

Where no cameras matter {Portraiture|Mystery camera}

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Amanda cme, a full time makeup artist in malaysia, KL.

Last few weeks its all about using that “premium” level noctilux F1. This week, i decided to use a mystery camera to educate friends and public. The point is..

 

2-sit
all smiles

You don’t need the most expensive lens or gears to make art. You can’t be using an iphone if you want quality images of the same scene. But here is the good news…

 

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chelsea, beautiful

Today’s camera, if you were to buy one that is even 1″ sensor. Its more than enough to keep you busy. After all, lens or cameras are servants of light.

 

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the eyes

These images taken here are of very high quality, i have no reservations printing it out and matching even the best 35mm have to offer…with billboards as exceptions.

 

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its all about the expression

What is even more important is to have quality of light and focusing on what you love to do. I love candids and i love portraiture. This is where leica will have a big problem matching, fast focusing. I had good success using 18mm F4 on the Leica ME with zone focusing. But if you gonna do some composition and you want speed…

 

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emotion

you will be spoilt by choice by other brands. Autofocus has reached a godlike speed. All the images in this series are taken with 1 camera that cost less than USD 1000 and 1 set of cheap triggers costing usd 30.

 

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love

When i have that bokeh lust, its the Leica with the Noctilux that does it. When i want those beautiful candids and i need autofocus, almost any camera will do.
 

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straight pose

This mystery camera is just the Panasonic FZ1000. A zoom lens of 25-400 and 1″ sensor.
Enjoy your day.