fujifilm GA645 review thru portraiture {review}

I was visiting a film lab in Publika KL last week and the owner offered to loan me a Fuji GA645 for my portrait works. I took the camera and did some googling. After reading a few reviews i was totally disappointed. Most reviews talk so much about the authors’ feeling on the camera but failed to show any interesting portraits or even images.

Here are some example of sites : filmshootercollective.com, dantestella.com , while they do contain some useful info about the camera and some nice photos of the camera itself, i came out feeling empty and hungry.  Maybe its because i am into portraiture and the lack of such examples just doesn’t show the camera any justice.

Without any materials to draw inspiration from, i took the camera, a roll of kodak Porta400 220 and went shooting with Irene near bangsar at Plant Cartridge.

There is this idea that have been in the air for sometime about what kind of imagery can we create that would hit the mass appeal for “the perfect girlfriend impression”, to the asians. Reading up on some articles and some sharing of ideas with makeup artists like Megan, the suggestion is that guys prefer girls that are just simple, wears basic clothing that are comfortable, long hair (what?), slim and with a pleasant personality. Sexy elements such as showing strong curves and cleavages didn’t make it to the list. #pfibyM

Enjoy the images and do leave me a comment or two. All the images are shot wide open at 60mm f4, Aperture priority mode.

fuij ga645 portratis

beauty and flowers

 

ga645 beautiful portraits

Skintones

fujiga645 medium format film

its summer

fuji GA645 full body portraiture

floral balcony

fujifilm ga645 outdoor solo portraiture review

hello

fujifilm 645 medium format GA645 portraiture

serendipity

fujifilm camera review medium format 645

joy

fujifilm medium format camera gear view ga645 portraits

yellow bokeh

World’s most beautiful Leica M6 Part II {does it takes pictures?}

best leica m6 available

M6 Dragon Y2000 Black Paint

Read Part 1 here

We have to ask ourselves whenever we try to justify our purchases. Especially one that comes from the red-dot company (cough*). The left brain begets us to explain, to sanitise our conscience through logic. The big question is “Why did you buy this camera, will you even use it?”. There is a thin line between a gear head, a collector and an actual enthusiast user that appreciates using the tool.

 

leica zeiss ultimate m6 camera

Leica M6 dragon with 35mm f2 Biogon

When i bought the Dragon M6 limited edition, i was clearly stunned by its built and quality. I even blogged about this earlier . It has been weeks since i had the camera. All the early shouting and self afflicted propaganda to keep buyer’s remorse have subsided. I couldn’t allow myself to keep the camera in the box to just appreciate its aesthetic values, my views of collectors are pretty low in respect and using that same measurement on myself would make me a complete hypocrite.

A beautiful tool such as the Dragon M6 have to prove its worth and a camera is useless if it isn’t used to create images. So i took it out for a whole day shoot when my model friend and internet idol Stephy Yi Wen told me that she would be going to Korea for studies. I got myself some rolls of Fuji Superia 200 and Fuji Venus 800. I knew that i would be using the 35mm Zeiss Biogon wide open but in a room with only dimly available natural light coming in, the ISO 800 film would be handy.

 

best film camera 2017

The Dragon 2000

If you happened to be travelling to South East Asia and passing by Malaysia, do get your films replenish and develop in Bang Bang Geng in Publika. With the pathetic level of Malaysian currency today, you could get a Superia 200 for USD 4 and scanning with development for USD 4.5.

Now back to shooting session. I noticed that there are indeed some improvement that M7 does have over even this Dragon M6. One of them being the iso dials you see behind the body, the M7’s iso dial is clearly easier to use and felt more robust. The other is the shutter dials. The Dragon’s shutter dial are more polished and looks great but turning the knob at each stop felt better on the M7. The M7 is after all a much newer camera.

 

most expensive leica m6 2017

Immaculate finishing

The rewind knob is used slightly differently than how i imagined it would be. The Dragon’s knob needs to be lifted up while the 2 dots remains submerged to do the rewinding. I found myself winding for 5 minutes and getting nowhere initially before i realized that the knob needs to be lifted.

There are several aspect of the camera that made it a very inspiration tool for use. First, the body is slightly lighter than the M7, i would say almost nobody would buy an M7 or M6 without using it on a holster or case. The Dragon just felt perfect while the M7 felt a bit on the heavier side. This is of course a purely personal evaluation. The other advantage is that the Dragon only uses 1 battery as opposed to 2 on the M7, the mechanism of replacing the battery on the M6 is definitely built better than the M7s.  The 0.85 finder, delicious.

Enough about the camera, how did it do, i will leave some images here for you own evaluation.

recommended leica m6 for today

beautiful stephy. M6 dragon. venus 800

 

desire leica m6 dragon edition

Enlightenment. M6 Dragon, venus 800.

 

most desirable leica

Alluring. M6 Dragon, venus 800.

 

best film camera leica dragon m6

Stephy @ Sekeping Jugra. M6 Dragon. Superia 200

 

limited edition 2000 dragon leica

“There”. M6 Dragon. Superia 200.

Could i have gotten better or similar results from the Leica M7? Of course i could, don’t be silly :-). The Dragon M6 might be the most beautiful Leica M6 that warrants it as a collector item but it should by all means be used. The 0.85 works really well with the 35mm frame lines. What was you weekend shoot, did you try film? Do share some of your thoughts here.

Shooting film in 2016, 2017 {kodak ektachrome revival}

I take it that you are here is because either you are curious about shooting film or that you read about the revival of kodak ektachrome. I been shooting ALOT of film in 2016, fueled mainly by the desire to slow down (you will hear this reason from almost anyone who shoots film) or the cosmetics tones that film provides.

Film labs in malaysia are cheap. So cheap that the labs like ColorDotCom and Bang Bang Geng have films from all over the world posted to it for development and scanning. The results are uploaded via wetransfer or google drive the moment its completed and owners can enjoy the results while their negatives takes its time to return.

Total cost per roll? USD $3, that includes both development and scanning.

Don’t get me wrong, i am not giving up on digital. But digital, like a genie from the lamp gave me so much power that i forgot whats it feels like to enjoy the process and to stop being a gear head or reading up exciting new gears every quarter. Moore’s law guarantee that your current digital gears will be crappy in comparison to new releases faster than the new car models.

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film tones, fujifilm 400H, olympus 35 uc 42 1.7

Film cameras on the other hand had reached its golden age somewhere in the middle of 1970s. Since no “sensor” was involved, manufacturers had to think out of the box on how to make the next release. Premium and even mid level cameras were built so well, they have a heft to it when you carry them and they easily lasted over 20 years. Most of these manufacturers focused on quality and build and the vast amount of film cameras available today and still functional are a testimony to these decisions.

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mamiya rz67pro, 180mm f4.5. Kodak Porta 400

Truth is, digital cameras have reached a level whereby you don’t need to buy a new one anymore. The nikon d3000 that i purposely buy because of its large CCD sensor produces amazing results. Yup, d3000, the supposedly weakest camera released by nikon according to Ken rockwell ;-).

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nikon d3000, sigma 50 1.4 (non art)

Around 6 years ago, the camera that got me interested in photography in the first place is the quirky Sigma DP2. I was interested in why would a manufacturer go against all odds to pursue and release a camera using a different sensor than everyone else is. I soon gave up on that camera after realizing that i am addicted to pixel peeping  but produces nothing interesting in actual photos. Film on the other hand is at the far right side of the spectrum, where one no longer pursue sharpness, latest and greatest or burst speed, but rather the communication with the subject and the process to think more before pressing the shutter.

Shooting film enables me to appreciate the digital gear that i had, the awesome power of technology and how much it has progressed since early 2000.

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Canon 6D, 35 1.4L lens with VSCO film tones.

My only FF digital camera is the Canon 6D and i have only 1 lens to go with it, the 35 mm 1.4 L. This to me is more than sufficient to create albums that new models and existing models friends would want. When the album are not urgent, i would use film as well. In the world of film, a Leica M7 with a Noctilu f1.0 do not have much advantage over a cheap USD $100 camera like the Olympus 35 uc, they are both used depending on my mood for the type of results i want to get, instead of showing off  Leica as a brick around the neck.

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Leica M7. Noctilux f1.0. Kodak Color plus 200

As i went one full circle from 2011 till 2017, i began to appreciate and understood the reality and truth that “gears” are not really the important factor, but rather the photographer.

I bet if i had my hands on the tragic Sigma DP2 again, perhaps this time, things would be different.

 

 

 

Portraits, last months of 2016 {portraiture|film}

Just wanted to share some of the images i took in the last months of 2016, between November and December 2016. Some friends call me the best portrait photographer in Malaysia jokingly, looking back, i have done portraits without any limitations on myself, pursuing whatever medium and gears i felt is inspiration for the album and experiment and learn at the same time.

I have been using mostly film exclusively, some on the medium format Mamiya rz67pro film with Kodak Porta and  some on the leica noctilux f1.0, M7, fujipro 400h film.

 

 

Dubrovnik, Croatia {travel with film} Part 4

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Art seller

Inside the walled city, i feel the fusion of urban commercialization with medieval haunting covering the whole place. It is as if two lovers struggling to keep the relationship alive and yet dances in harmony to the playing music.

I walked passed by a shop selling potpourri of trinkets only to be greeted by the next shop with hand crafted items and arts. Today is the first day in Dubrovnik and after 15 minutes inside this ancient city, i knew i made a big mistake.

I had only 7 rolls of film and about to finish up the 3rd roll.

(Do visit my previous chapters here : 1 2 3, this whole series is done completely in film)

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The oldest pharmacy in the world

As my family strolled along the main path looking at the shops and cafes, we noticed there are narrow paths between some shops and those paths are opens up smaller shops that array themselves along the corridors.

On top of these shops are actual residents living in almost apartment like setting. They are not allowed to renovate the outer construction to preserve the medieval theme. Most are available for rent and you could find them at premium prices in AirBNB.

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postcards

I didn’t want to buy any souvenirs since it is just day one and constant reminder that i am running out of film only leave me with two options. I could either switch to use the Fuji digital camera that Phoenix is carrying with her and that amazing 16 f1.4 in her green bag or i should try to find a shop here that sells film.

I went for the latter.

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Narrow walls

It is a vintage location with vintage look, feel and ambiance. Who in the right mind would prefer digital over film in Dubrovnik? Hahaha, that was playing on my mind as i turned on my “radar” as we tour the ground level.

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toys of thrones

 

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charlie

When Phoenix and Sheryll got tired and decided to snack at a cafe (there are 1 at nearly every 10 meters away) i took the opportunity to walk up some of the visible stairs leading up to side of the city. Away from the main attraction you can see people going about their normal lives, doing laundry and chilling outside the window.

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the chef

There are all kinds of restaurants here and even at the higher level of the city if you walk up the stairs you will see smaller establishments. It does feel “crowded” sometimes in this city despite the vintage settings and i was really hoping to find a quiet spot to just take in the moment.

Next, i be sharing images taken at the wall tours and piers in the tip of the walled city.

Dubrovnik, Croatia, Chapter 5

Portraiture with Olympus 35 UC {portraiture|film|gear review}

olympus 35 UC with 42mm 1.7

olympus 35 UC with 42mm 1.7

Recently i have come to acquire an “unloved” camera. According to the seller Eugene, he came across this camera from a bundled sales of various film cameras and he was surprised to find this gem. Unfortunately in Malaysia, seems like there isn’t much love for film cameras of any other brand except Leica, Nikon and Canon. Listed on his page is this peculiar Olympus 35 UC with a fixed 42mm 1.7 lens.

I bought it and i been using it for 3 weeks now. Now, just to bring some context to my short review here, I do own 2 (two) Leica M7s among other film cameras that are M mount, Lomo LCA120s/LCA+ and Nikon F100. I have used all the mentioned cameras for both model shoot and particularly the M7 on my recent trip. After i have used this Oly and seen the results though, i am totally stunned.

The lens is SHARP and the rangefinder focusing is very easy to see. The fun of using this camera, its operation and simplicity of setting it to 1/500 almost everytime on an ISO 400 film at 1.7 for outdoor is just dummy proofed.

Lets see some results.

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stephy. Pro400H. Olympus 35UC 42mm 1.7

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stephy. Pro400H. Olympus 35UC 42mm 1.7

All the images here are shot at f1.7 handheld. On an ISO 400 film, i didn’t bothered to load the batteries into the camera because the metering is a series of EV values and i have never used or set EV in any single shoot that i have done in the last 4 years. I prefer to keep things simple by ISO, Shutter and Aperture, EV to me is nothing more than a distraction. Granted the camera shows the EV values and you just need to turn either the aperture or shutter speed to get the “same” shown EV in the viewfinder and your set. Since i am always on f1.7, the metering was merely a cosmetic feature.

 

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stephy. Xtra400. Olympus 35UC 42mm 1.7

These shots on Stephy (stephy yiwen) are one on Petaling Street, the Chinatown of Kuala Lumpur. The backdrop you see here is the oldest tailor shop in malaysia and has been in operation for over 100 years. Love the fact that i am using a very old Olympus camera to match the whole theme.

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charlotte. Pro400H. Olympus 35UC 42mm 1.7

The Oly uses a leaf shutter and the size is kinda perfect for my hands. The camera is not “solid” like the Leica in terms of build quality and the feel you get when you hold it but it has its own charms. Among some of the things i really love about the Olympus 35UC is that its a very serious tool with a simple and humble front. There is nothing inferior when it comes to its output.

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charlotte. Pro400H. Olympus 35UC 42mm 1.7

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charlotte. Pro400H. Olympus 35UC 42mm 1.7

42mm is an odd and vintage focal length. There is something about this focal length that i really love. It just looks a tad more natural than 35mm that i use on my M7. For some days i couldn’t figure it out, i alluded the reason to placebo effect of having a “new toy” but after 5-6 rolls of images done across three weeks, i found myself preferring this focal length more than anything else.

It was only later some friends pointed out to me that 43mm is most likely the actual focal length of our eyes in the central zone that i became convince that the “its just more natural” have some credible reasons behind it.

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charlotte. Pro400H. Olympus 35UC 42mm 1.7

In summary, i totally dig this camera. So much so i got another copy of the more common Olympus 35SP (they are the same camera with differing cosmetic changes) as a backup for parts. The lens reminds me of a Leica 35mm 1.4 summilux that i have tried sometime ago but at less than USD 250 per camera + lens, its impossible not to love this camera.

This opens up my mind entirely when it comes to Olympus film cameras. If they could do “this” quality setup since 1969, i am intrigued to find out what else we the “new generation” have missed out on this perceived underdog brand.

Dubrovnik, Croatia {travel with film} Part 3

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tourists 101

This is the 3rd chapter on sharing my film only travel experiences on Croatia from the period of June 28th to July 12th 2016. You can find read about Part I and Part II before coming here.

Upon reaching the entrance of the old city Dubrovik, you can see huge crowds of tourists from various countries. Mostly are white people from Europe, America, Australia and some asians from Japan and Korea. Particularly interesting is that i have seen more Koreans here than from any other asian countries.

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crowd

I took these 35mm shots feeling much safer and bolder than i would have done in Malaysia. It is after all a tourist spot and you can see in the picture above it is not easy to find someone who still hangs a camera at their neck. There are some canons and nikons around no doubt, but mirrorless and mobile phones are the cams of the day.

Street photographers would find these spots interesting but i saved most of my films for the scene inside the old city.

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no.19

Droves after droves of tourists with their guides will arrive here. There are also individual guides that you can hire here that will walk you thru the old city and provide historical expository guidance.

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handcrafts

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majestic walls

Before entering the walled city thru the obvious gate, you can walk near to the side of the restaurant and see how the walled city looks like on a majestic ocean view. There are still vintage like ships that would be seen sailing here and for those seeking additional adventure, there are kayaking services that will bring you into some of the gates built at the bottom of the wall. You can see one of such entrances in the picture above, looks pitch black on my shot here.

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first steps

Here is a glimpse of inside of the walled city, here is where you will see cameras snapping away and its pet friendly too. I spend nearly 4 hours here before my kid got tired and took a lot of amazing images that i will share in my next chapter.

Chapter 4.

Dubrovnik, Croatia {travel with film} Part 2

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.

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The harbour. Pro400H

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.

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peace along the harbour. Pro400H

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the walk. Pro400H

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.

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old rocky stairs. Pro400H

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mansion of old. Pro400H

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.

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the bakery. Pro400H

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.

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the view. Pro400H

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 😉

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next “The old city Part III”

Dubrovnik, Croatia {travel with film} Part 1

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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)

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Amsterdam Superia 200

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.

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Superia 200. M7

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.

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no makeup and tired from the trip, i hope she don’t see these photos haha. Superia 200.

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IBIS budget hotel. You buy food thru the vending machine downstairs. Superia 200.

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.

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The apartment. Superia 200.

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.

 

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On the way down, we took some photos by one of the neighbour’s door, beautifully surrounded by flowers. Sheryll is camera shy and cant wait until we are done. Superia 200.

Dubrovnik is where the Games of Thrones was filmed for the “King’s Landing” scenario.

next, the walk Part II

jun yan {portraiture|film}

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A friend from Macau came back and she is going to stay for 6 months in malaysia before continuing her career in Macau. When i first met her, life is just starting out and she decided that working overseas is financially a better option. I agree.

Now that she is taking a necessary Macau enforced break for all foreign employees, managed to catch up with her during a lunch break. Life is a lot better for her now, financially stronger and open up her eyes to the world, working in account management in one of the luxurious hotels in Macau is more rewarding than a 5 years exp manager in Malaysia.

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Since the sun is out with all its power, we tooks some of these photos at the BBG film shop, using a porta 160 and a borrowed camera from Mr.Koon, the owner for this film lab. The ambiance and the props in the shop make the whole vintage feel more enacting.
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In  the end i am pretty happy with the results and added some texture via Analogue2 to enhance the actual film output. As we chat about current life and her plans,  i could only be happy for her and her family for making allowing her to make that decision. As an independent woman, she could easily flourish in her solo career and gets to tour the region as well. 12473561_1026804364033802_8998618461248825383_o.jpg

Outside the shop we notice a well decorated cafe has just gone out of business and decided to try a few shots there.
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A very short session. Looking forward to hear more of my friends adventure as they make life changing decisions and i, gets to note down these moments during our candid chats.

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