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.
One of the unexpected nice location for photoshoot in Penang is this small opening at Babylon restaurant .
I have always strived for taking portraits that are natural with an element of candid feel to it. With the wind on my side and a close and happy model at the scene, the right recipe for a beautiful album that presents itself.
Eilein Pang have collaborated with me for over a year now for her albums and her popularity and freelance jobs have grown too. Often we would chat about some local issues that are faced by the freelancers and the individuals that we could draw inspirations from.
She has never doubted my constant preference to try new ideas on different mediums and gears. When I pursued film for the skin tones and organic feel she was pretty patient with the waiting period that her generation have never experienced before.
I will be visiting this place again if I visit Penang. Curious as to how the light would be at sunrise. I hope you enjoyed these short series of images.
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.
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.
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 ;-).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
So its christmas here already. For reading my blog, here are three(3) images from my recent-yet-to-be-uploaded albums for your viewing pleasure.
Have a wonderful weekend and do remember Christmas is about giving and not taking just as God freely gave His Son to us undeserving mortals.
I spent sometime reflecting upgrading my mental faculty to add poses to my workflow. Yup, poses. I think its working, i can now easily pose any outdoor model in decent poses regardless of the props available. Its not that hard once you have spent 30 minutes a day studying poses after your long day of work in a completely different field (app developement in startup). In this set of portraiture, i used a Voigthlander 40 1.4 that costs less than USD 500 with the Leica ME (ccd sensor).
Sexy. I find myself often struggling with this theme. The asian traditional values of grace, beautiful poses and my inherent preference of not doing anything on nude/lingerie which downgrade any beautiful model into soft porn is often at odds against each other when i study western art. Truth be told, i find recent works of China’s chinese photographers posing nude ladies outdoor tasteless, gimmicky and downright a hit at women’s honor.
On the other hand, as a women, sexy and curves are advantages of her body design, it should be highlighted in poses if its done correctly, with decent clothing that invokes that primitive visual response of viewers at a basic level.
A prop is essentially any item, object that the model can use to add interest to the visual image. In this picture, highlighting Rachel’s gladiator using the rear passenger seat and door adds interest to an otherwise weak image.
Simple poses with good natural lighting can never go wrong.
Thanks for viewing my latest portrait session, i have a lot more beautiful photographs from this session and will be sharing them on my next blog.
I know i been churning out a lot of crap reasons and morality lectures that nobody wants to hear, but hey…its how i feel in all honesty.
* featured image, taken using F2.0 at 1/3000, 40mm 1.4 voigthlander, Leica ME.
Sometimes some of us must wonder. Does anything we do actually means anything. I believe we are each called to live this life in a significant way, significant and yet transcends time.
Two years ago, a friend of mine, lee lit min, died in his apartment in San Francisco. A geek at heart, he has no girl friend and never bothered him to socialize for that purpose. He worked for Juniper networks and later some car company on software for car dashboards.
Lit min inspired me in my teenage years to do programming, which ultimately became my career of choice. He was my best friend, period. The cause of his death..cardiac failure. All that is left are his photos and images in my mind. Nothing he did, in computing, meant anything. His existence and friendship did.
In 2011, a long lost friend who is an air stewardess suddenly appear and asked for my help to take photos of her. Kiko is a cheeful person and i was surprised that she willingly took every opportunity to get her photos done, despite her working schedule. I was very new back then and pretty much learning as i go. Did a collection of photos of her and her sister Corrine, a wonderful set in Broga hills near Semenyih and various other albums.
I only found out the reason to her determination later on. She had cancer. Late stage breast cancer and wanted the best of her images taken. By the time she allowed me to know this, it was thru her sister cause she has left back to Singapore. I took a plane down to visit her the very next day..saw her last smiling expression, and she left earth the following day.
Three years ago, in 2012, i met Janice, an aspiring model. The Kiko incident reminded me that i should do my best if help is needed. In 2013, we were like the best friend/photog/model combo you can think of. I had her interest in my mind all the time and found it highly motivating to help her, to the best of my limited influence in that community. Few months down the road, our friendship faltered, i didn’t know why, communication was harder and it just went on drips.
I wish her all the best, pretty much have the best interest that she succeed.
Now its 2015. I am shooting film and occasionally digital. I have joined a startup while taking leaves from my own company, leaving it in very capable hands of my other partners.
The world didn’t become better because we embraced iphones and facebooks. Economies of many European countries are still failing. China still churns out the worst humanity news and terrorists like ISIS are still killing innocents in the name of religion.
We flood our attention with movies and feel good marvel stories. Deep down we hope that some avengers or Superman will come and put everything in order, that all these issues will be gone and the good prevails.
* Click. I took some photos of Angela last week using a digital. Spent some emjoyable time editing it and trying to make it filmic. Applied VSCO’s Provia 400. The last lab that could do real color slides processing just announced they no longer offer such service a month ago.
A small part of me wished that my images can comfort some soul out there in this world, make someone’s day and life brighter.
Some say a tool is just a tool.
Some say a high quality sensor, FF and a set of premium lens helps a long way in making any images stands out more.
Some opt for higher resolution while others harp on low light performance and high iso cleanliness.
Some say all you need is the mobile phone since its the camera that is with you all the time.
Some swear on nikon, some canon, some says Sony mirrorless is the dawn of the new age.
All useless points.
I would like to share the following on my personal opinion on gears and how it actually affects our output and choices. You may be surprised at the conclusion that i settled on.
1. INSPIRATION MATTERS
Like every other creative work be it writing or painting. Creativity starts from inspiration. Without inspiration, you are as good as dead. What makes a particular work creative or inspirational is an inspired person.
A bigger sensor or bigger lens won’t grant you inspiration anymore than buying 2 pens allows you to write a successful novel.
2. GEARS THAT SPARKS INSPIRATION, WINS
There is a reason why the images shot on Elaine and those on Taylor differs greatly in style, tones, objective and appeal.
When i hold a D4, it feels like a professional, commercial tool. So despite that i usually talk to Elaine in a very casual way, when i am shooting with D4, you feel “inspired” to shoot something more of the higher-end genre of fashion.
When i hold the Konica Hexar, i feel i am holding a camera that have seen the ups and down of life. These inspiration comes from the very design and nature of the camera’s purpose and timeline. With the Hexar, you feel that life is to be appreciated in a simple way as though as your walking down memory lane.
3. Limitations are like physics.
Every action there is an equally opposing reaction. I can’t recall the exact words uttered by my physics teacher but this holds true not just in physics but in everything else. A limitation imposed by a camera causes you to use it in a very different way than a camera that does not limit you.
There was a time i got the Leica Xvario. A beautifully crafted camera that will have its owner going through a love/hate relationship. That camera have a mediocre 28mm f3.5->70mm f6.4. Ouch. You can’t get any worse specs than this in any new APSC camera.
But because i paid a silly amount for it, I was adamant to use it to the best of my knowledge and i actually spent time creating images that caters for that camera’s strength, IQ and natural muted colors.
The Xvario didn’t have any bokeh that i could use to isolate the subject so i had to use its rather deep DOF and decent image quality. That was the only time i agreed to go on a local trip driving up all the way to the hills.
I shot the above using F3.5. While this may surprised some but it highlights the personal struggle i had with the Xvario. I am only interested to shoot wide open any of my lens regardless of its make and at f3.5 i easily hand held the shot.
4. Ergonomics will break you or raise you
Before i ever owned a Leica, the logical side of me says that Leica users are either dumb ass or arrogant fools. I am a known veteran in the developer’s community and security. I founded the Python user group Malaysia, wrote some crazy shit VPN and Firewall from scratch and part of my code are were once used by the US ministry of Defense in mid 90s.
But when i hold my M9 few years ago, i just felt like going out to shoot. It was pretty silly because i am shooting models most of the time, before i could take one shot, my friend next to me took 10. The M9 felt fantastic when held on to, the knobs and dials are just there with a function.
I eventually argued myself out of it and went for the Sony A7r, during a time in 2013 when i had a fallout with someone i cared for very much. The Sony was cold, computer like camera that i distracted myself mostly by using all kinds of vintage lens on it. Everything just felt cold. My images became technically “clean” and scientific.
If you are reading this and where it is going you probably think that i am promoting leica. No. No, you can find extremely inspirational tools in film cameras as well. I borrowed a friend of mine a Nikon FM3A and the next day itself he is already sold on getting one despite being a digital user all these while. The FM3a is just so beautiful and simple that you can’t help but to feel like creating art with it.
Leica just got it right by keeping to the designs and film cameras. There are loads of solid, inspired-imbued film cameras just waiting for you. Please, just stay clear of Lomo plastics. If Lomo were to produce solid film cameras i would line up in support, but as of now, its anything but a toy.
5. Subject Matters
I am an advocate of portraiture because i believe the image of a person is priceless. The communication, friendship, joy and discovery that photography grants you could only be found in portraiture, not in scenery. While there are awesome sceneries that deserves to be in the hall of eternity, there is just no one else in eternity, like you.
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