The city of Ember {Portraiture|Noctilux f1}

Carbon & yosemite

The noctilux F1 continues to amaze me with its seemingly out of the world rendering. At the end one must ask, does the price justify the results?

the wanderer

Shooting with the noctilux F1 takes on a different kind of eyes. You need to pay attention to the background and to the formation of bokeh that might occur, often making your wildest guess as to what the results might be.

the wanderer’s stare

Using the M9/ME CCD sensor only adds surprises to the results. The M9 sensor is a bad performer in high iso, but with a F1, you only need to do ISO 250-400 max.

grace of light

I found myself torn between focusing on the model as well as trying to envision how the background bokeh might be. Its easy to lose yourself in either one and end up with average photos that focuses too much on bokeh or ignoring its possible distractions.

malaysia top barista, kfchan

Even the most mundane background produces a kind of art around the subject.


The noctilux is not a sharp lens by any modern top lens standard…

binary man

but it can render nothing that the modern lens have.


Being real {portraiture | noctilux F1}


misa yap
misa yap

Occasionally I come across a friend that has no fear of doing a portrait session without makeup and without editing. Miss Taylor Yap here used to be a freelance model but now pursues a full time job in auditing. If i may be frank about auditing, i find that it is a lifeless job where you spend hours and hours afterwork at client’s site.  Since i am using noctilux i am hoping that some of the softness of the lens would make this “nude face” photo-session a less intimidating session for the model.

the laughs
the laughs

Its 2.30 pm in the afternoon and its the worst time of the day to do any shooting. I had to hide among shades and try get some interesting shots. Miss Taylor here wore an interesting tops that have multiple holes. I know its kind of a trend nowadays, but coming from my generation, people would have thought she is in destitute of clothing. Haha, anyway her equally scratchy pants complements the tops.

that thing
that thing
easy smile
easy smile

The shoot ended around 30 minutes as we both feels that the weather and heat is really too much. I hope you enjoyed the images.

The noctilux | f1 : Part II


Its been a week now with the noctilux f1 since i first published my initial shots with the “legendary lens”. You can read my first review here. Its not any kind of extensive review but one based on portraiture and my actual use and journey with it. So this week i had a chance finally do an outdoor shoot. Instead of trying to use the noctilux in dark and dim light situations, i just went outdoor with it.

the reflections

I set myself a condition during this whole shoot, use only f1.0. I see no point of using this lens at any other aperture except for what its made and paid for. Forget about the name Leica or the  numerous marketing hype associated with paying for such a lens. This is me, Marcus, as a common portrait photographer, one model and one lens. Its like me telling the Noct, “Look here guy, lets see what you can do, i ain’t going to sell myself some bullshit about your heritage. Show me. F1 or nothing”.

who are you?

We were late to the scene. Time is 9 am and we have got like only 30 minutes of shooting time before the sun goes up into a position that makes photography crap. Being in an equatorial country is really tough for any photographer. We have like the worse quality of light at the minimum window of opportunity. I digressed. As the shoot continues, i am often surprised by the results, i could shoot at f 1500 and f1000 outdoor without overexposure badly. The bokeh is beautiful and different in its own noctilux way. Images are not razor sharp but sharp enough. Love the colors.

red stairs

red stairs ][
You can find more of the images that i did in the outdoor forest here . I had to cut short the forest creature theme because there were just too many mosquitoes. We took a break at a cafe and we did some casual shots. The model name is Stephy. You can find her at facebook here : Stephy Yiwen.


fashion stare

In summary of this week’s sharing, i am really very happy with the noctilux f1. I have owned the Nokton 1.1 before and i have no idea how that lens could be compared with the noctilux | f1. The Noctilux’s contrast, color and subtle vintage bokeh makes a huge difference in the output. I guess one can always shoot some selective subjects and try to show how little the differences are. On a final note though, photography is the art of making images. You decide if the value a lens is what it is. I still think the Noctilux | f1 is overpriced, but if people are willing to fork out USD 4000 for a Zeiss Otus, the Noctilux gets u images that modern lens can’t. Its like a magic wand, that you wave over “good” images and it adds those little magic to it.

Asian models, why she should pose differently {portraiture}


A large part of the fashion industry are driven by the Europeans. Millions of models photos are largely based on certain fashion ads and models expression. In asia i noticed that its inevitable that models here follows the style of shooting and poses as demonstrated by these portfolios. However, asian models inherently are shy in nature and portrays grace and the gentleness that are associated with asian culture. Think of the japanese cultural geishas, korean and chinese traditional costumes and you can imagine the presence and display of grace.


In this shoot, while i shamelessly refers to Emily Soto works and albums, i tried to focus on the poses that shows more of the Asian character rather than the european smokey eyes and strong angular poses. How does one portrays “shyness” of the asian models? A stolen stare and a tilted gaze brings out some of these characters.


Its ironic though that Mico Phun, the model i chose for this theme happened to just dyed her hair to blonde months ago. However, you can clearly see, the hair color don’t make her anymore European in anyway. One look at her face and you can tell she is an Asian, even a chinese perhaps. This makes the album more interesting as she poses in this beautiful garden in Bukit Jalil, Malaysia.


Overall i am very happy with this album. However, since i have done more than five(5) times floral shooting here, i decided to just apply a color change to the otherwise evergreen foliage in the garden. Crimson leaves highlights her golden hair.


Often the need for strong angular poses are only relevant in fashion poses and not when you want to showcase the calmness and quietness of the scene and the personality of asian models. Asian models, in their original nature are just that, shy and calm. Given that most girls i know rarely exceed 170cm, that rules out the ever speedy attitude in cat walk jobs that they can find.


Inspired? Try booking an Asian model and try to shoot her album without asking her to do those standard fashion poses and if that fails, just ask her to relax and be herself as though as no cameras are pointed at her.


I hope u enjoyed these images. They are all taken using Nokton 50 1.5 VM on the Leica ME.

Panasonic FZ1000. 4K Portraiture samples from a “pro”


The FZ1000 is a crazy, crazy little piece of monster that i purchased while i was in Japan. The menu is fully Japanese and i had to use google translate to do simple things like formatting card and wifi connect. It has a SMALL 1″ sensor which produces nearly ZERO bokeh unless you stand very far away and uses the crazy long zoom for the object separation.

So why did i purchase this while i have amazing FF cameras. There are just two (2) reasons for my purchase.

1. Crazy versatile focal length 25-400

2. 4k Photo via 4K Video

Yeah, 4K PHOTO. What this means is that i can record VIDEO and extract a piece of image from it. This is somewhat a DREAM come true for any portrait photographers that wants to capture natural expression and of which the model, being a less than stellar Oscar actress looks posed rather than natural. With 4K Photo, U can record and select the most natural expression you can ever get.

In the samples below, the 1st photo is the usual “posed” photo. The rest are extracted from 4K photo mode and…unedited. You tell me. * thanks to Ramona my OLD friend hahaha for these series of shots.

This is a standard shot (not via 4k)

See how natural the 4k photos are! Her expressions are as real as it can get.

P1050530 P1050551 P1050554 P1050556 P1050557

Why i gonna produce Albums in 2015 { cause portraiture alone is too mainstream }


Throughout 2012-2014 when i engage myself in doing photoshoot for models and freelancers, i learnt a few important things in life and would like to share them here along with my new aspirations. Photography is a popular hobby and passion for many people i met during these few years, so much so that some would commit hundreds of thousands if not more to their altar.

It really depends on what someone is looking for when he or she creates an image. What drives you exactly. Having enough time to contemplate and the luxury to try out any camera i set my heart on, i came to a realise that for a long time, i have no idea exactly what it is that was driving me in this field.

For some its the pride and ego associated with owning high ended cameras, the hoo and haas of the community fields when showing off the gears. For some it provides a way to escape from the the routine job they have in their daily lives.  There is a large number of shooters that have their background in technology or science and photography being more on art and creativity, provides this escape.

Still there are those guys, typical guys, that are just in it for meeting up with beautiful people and getting to know them, snapping up photos with no advancement in image making but rather they are driven indirectly by that primal lust for the opposing sex appeal and imagery. Typically these guys would be attending motorshow events and any launches with pretty faces, uploading the same images taken by the next guy and flooding our facebooks. Well its still a healthy way to spend their energy vs drugs and other negative activities.

And then, we have those who, like me, believes that photography allows us to help others in a non monetary ways and by capturing their lives and moments whether it be beauty or ashes and sharing it to the world. Making images that makes people happy and letting that process becomes viral. Portraiture is a subset of this intention. When portraiture is specialised into the streets, i call it street photography, other specializations are wedding, reportage and models. Nonetheless, the key point here is people. People are mortals and images of them are priceless. They will never be the same, not in looks nor in fashion when the force of time sweeps over.

When some photos found hidden in the attic belonging to a jewish family that was sent to the concentration camp was found, those photos are considered treasured possessions, priceless. This is why portraiture is what i am focused on, i feel the need to capture the looks, the visual representation of a person as much as possible and in various natural expression and as beautiful as they are.

natural smile, nicole chooi, 2015


Now back to my topic. I find that there is no point in publishing just one session of a particular model’s photos in a given theme. For example, 10-12 images of the same person in a garden. Instead, this year i am going to capture a few sessions and combine them into one album and yet limit the digital album to say, 10-12 photos. This allows me to share the person’s expression and image in a much wider and comprehensive ways. The album should cover as much natural expression of the model and various candid poses, light hearted poses, fashion poses and emotional scenes. They don’t have to be very artful and artistic shots, that would defeat the whole purpose, but shows the variety mood and expression of the person.

“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”

I summarised the logic behind my new approach.

i see u – nicole chooi, 2015


While this blog and article  i could only share some of these photos and not the actual album, i would do so once i have processed the whole  4 sessions of it.

Pastel fun
Pastel fun




Switching from DSLR back to s̶t̶u̶p̶i̶d̶ Leica {irony}

Indoor handheld. Ultron 28/f2.
Indoor handheld. Ultron 28/f2. (test shot…ignore the bad crop)
Stephy via nokton 1.5, M240 (freedom's kitt)
Stephy via nokton 1.5, M240 (freedom’s kitt)

I am now using a Leica ME. Before you discard this post as yet another leica fanboy article or blind faith, kindly spare me a minute..or two and read up. I started using Leica M9 three(3) years ago when i started portraiture, because of the cost of the camera, i was constantly mastering it and speeding up my rangefinder focus so that i could produce good results during model event shoot.  As time goes by and as i progressed in skills and photography, i decided it was time to move on to “serious” photography gears, so i dump the M9 and moved to Nikon D4. I felt that M9 was a stupid camera, rangefinder being silly and in need of tweaking after some years (my own unit never needed any though) and too slow to match against my buddies that have autofocus. So in came the D4.

Did studio shoot, outdoor flash, outdoor remote flash with over 3 flashes, reflectors, you name it. In my blog here if you have the patience to trace back my postings you will see various works and album done using various cameras. In between i do have various other cameras like GXR, Xvario, Sigma SD15, Olympus Ep5, but to shorten my sharing and thoughts i will just refer to only the “big guns” that i switched to.

Then came Sony A7r, that mirrorless evolution that gave me loads of joy using all kinds of lens, vintage and other mounts. But soon it down upon me that using vintage lens, while produces interesting bokeh and results ends up distracting me with just more gears, lens, weight and less photography. The weight of my A7R with the collection of lenses i took easily overshadow the d4 and the nikons lenses i had by a magnitude of four (4)times.  Sony taught me a valuable lesson, that i really missed the time when i don’t need to be bothered with so many lenses and instead on making beautiful images of people.


the deserted princess
the deserted princess, random shot passing thru comic fest 2014 KL, Malaysia.

So i sold off the A7R, took just one (1) 58mm f1.4 nikon lens and use the D3000 for my portraiture and street projects. Tried my best to use that focal length (~90mm in apsc) and was really happy with the CCD colors and results. I adopted the motto of “lesser gear” and was really happy doing it. When i was offered a DF, i see that i could use the actual 58mm which would be very useful for street vs 90mm. So the DF became the main gear and i kept the D3000 because of its unique CCD output.


Now the thing is. I have improved in many ways. My projects are getting better as undertook more and more models project with different style. Its actually pretty ironic that on the DF i only use the centre focusing and focus-recompose as my main focusing and composition method. That reminds me of how the same “silliness” that i attributed to the M9 rangefinder, is now my only reliable way of focusing and recomposing quickly.  Yesterday a friend borrowed my DF and offered me the ME instead, he is a wedding photographer and needed a working horse camera after selling his own D4. I took the ME.

Its pretty epic that after three (3) years of shuffling thru gears and understanding myself, shooting myself on my foot, changing stance that i came back to the M system. The Leica ME/M9 has everything i needed to maintain the motto of lesser gears and more photos. It has the CCD signature i wanted, small lenses of which i needed only two(2) 28mm and a 40mm (both of which are not even leica). In terms of simplicity and usage, i was never happier. I guess lesser gears and lesser menus works on me.


ambiance light
ambiance light

Okinawa : photoblog


When i was first told that i should visit Okinawa instead of Hokkaido and Tokyo, i was not really excited about it.
There is however a glimmer of hope in me that it will turn out OK. I remember watching “The secret life of walter mitty” and long to do such a trip, a trip to somewhere less popular and remote and having a set of extraordinary memories and photos to come back with.

The main attraction of Okinawa is its unique ramen, aquarium and beaches. I am very happy when i visited the cafes there because they are built on top of cliffs and hidden beaches, something that i cant find in normal cities.

I am going to just share these images in the random order they appear and will keep adding to this page as i process the other photos.

So Okinawa it is. The plane stops at Osaka for transit and within 1.5 hours we reached Okinawa. We rented a hybrid car and drove to the hotel, which is conveniently built near the beach. It is a beautiful hotel and so is the beach. The sand are so beautiful, full of corals and various shapes of shells, almost untouched by man.

After Okinawa, i visited Kyoto (those temple and reddish leaves you see here) and Osaka.















The temperature in Okinawa hovers around 23C to 16C a perfect climate to walk around the whole day. Its a more laid back tour as residents goes to sleep very early and there isn’t much night life around.