Where beauty treads and pageants falls {portraiture | film}

u can't beat natural beauty | 50 1.4d | FT100 | kodakporta160
u can’t beat natural beauty | 50 1.4d | FT100 | kodakporta160

Film. Yeah, i been talking about the joy of shooting film and why the lesser road travelled might have more to offer than you could imagine.
These are simple images taken on Elaine Cheah. Elaine is a very simple girl, loves cats and have a strong devotion towards relationships. I have met many freelancer models in these last 4 years and seen various pageants and contests where some of these freelancer friends joined or win.
Elaine on the other hand, have no interest to join contests. Doesn’t apply much makeup at and looks like someone that jumps out of some korean drama into the world.

Now back to film, as incoherent as my thoughts are, the point is simply this. Just because its popular, doesn’t mean it represent the best. Digital been going around countless megapixels and features, the resemblance is almost to many pageants contestants, wipe off those makeups and it has nothing to offer. Layer after layer of makeup, hairdo and mascaras populates the face of the next contest winner.

genes vs makeups | 50 1.4d | FT100 | kodakporta160
genes vs makeups | 50 1.4d | FT100 | kodakporta160

Both the mobile and camera world has gone mad and offering gears after gears and lens after lens with no real contribution to your photography skills. In fact, do notice that mobile phones have nothing much to boast about nowadays and have focused primarily on its camera features.

In a short view of some of the top digital brands today.

Nikon D810
Nikon released a series of cameras in these last 3 years, d600, d610, d750, d4, d800, d4s, d800E, d810. Megapixels jumps all the way from 16mp to 24 to 36. Shooting buffers goes from 6fps to 10fps and beyond.

canon 5ds
Canon released the 6D, 7DmkII, 5ds, 5dsr with the latest megapixel news of 250 mp.

sony a7rii
Sony the leader of the FF mirrorless A7 line of cameras. 6 months and your existing gears are obsolete.

Its an endless chase. We all know where the best girls are, next door and rarely any of them made it to pageants as winners.
Those who win, gets dethroned the next year. I believe any of the digital FF entry level given by nikon, canon or sony is good enough to produce the best images for ANY passionate photographer. The rest of the features imho…caters for a very niche set of professional photographers.

Noctilux portraiture on Fuji superia {film | portraiture}


The fuji superia 200 is a cheap film that deserves to be praised for its amazing colors. All the images here are taken as is without any editing. The picture of Ramona was taken in a dim cafe where the light comes from a small tungsten reading bulb. I am pleasantly surprised when the colors shows beautiful hues of pinks.

street fashion. noctilux@f1.0

We found a cafe in Jaya One, started by a lovely couple George wong and his wife. George is an avid photographer whom have worked in sony and leica Malaysia as well. His wife focuses on street photography and runs this cafe accompanied by her two cats.

reflecting the past. noctilux@f1.0

A simple portrait of Ramona with her just facing a natural light and behind her is just a board that the cafe used to pin up names and stick it notes. At f1.0, the rendering of this natural shot is a keeper. This is one of the reason i always prefer the natural outdoor even if it means outside a mall or office, the structures available and the tones of objects plays very well into the bokeh of noctilux.

between the barriers. noctilux@f1.0
stare. noctilux@f1.0

This is a typical shot of a serious stare, no fashion poses needed. I couldn’t go back any further as the wall is about just 4-5 meters away from her. 50mm is strange focal length despite its popularity. The recent Leica Q have the coveted 28mm at f1.7, that focal length would be very suitable for outdoor portraits and dramatic isolation of subject. I am however more interested in the 28 f1.4 leica lens for my film usage.

drizzle. noctilux@f1.0

The black frames of these windows cast a very nice shades of colors in film. Its almost as if the fuji creates auto complementary colors when you least expect. Just love it.

bye . noctilux@f1.0

In this last photo, i wanted to capture the emotion of a person leaving a scene, as if saying “goodbye” with a tint of hesitancy. Ramona’s emotionless face and the film’s grain provided the right feel to the image.

Why shoot film in 2015 Part III {portraiture}

peaceful stare
nicole: emotion

When you look at a picture, what do you see? Often i felt images today are lacking in several elements. I find that these elements are present in much more frequency in film images and i will share my thoughts here on shooting film in 2015.

Most images are missing soul. What is soul. the closest definition i found on this, not surprisingly is in the bible where there are actually distinction between the spirit, the soul and the body.

We all know what the body is, its the physical body. The soul it seems is not the spirit but something more of a fusion of consciousness and emotion.
Most images are missing, the soul. We have near technical perfection of bokeh in today’s Zeiss lineup of Otus lenses, Leica’s 0.95 noct , 135mm f2 canon and so much tutorial available on the net, but it does not grant the created image a soul.

I feel that an image with a soul is that when you look at that image despite all its imperfection, you can feel it is different. It shares with you a piece of emotion and memory that passes on despite time. I would go on a step further to say that images that does not contains any person, has no soul.

Mona Lisa, is an image with a soul. Pundits and critics for centuries have turned to fans by just looking at that image for some time. Something very different about the expression and stare that lives in that picture. Was there backlighting to add beautiful outlined to her, no. Was there even bokeh, no. Soul yes.

asian characteristic, nude face
shy, without make up

2. Its image making on molecular level

Images on digital are too clinical.
The images formed on film does not follow a bayer sensor layout algorithm nor array. A bayer sensor, fyi, is what nearly 99% of all cameras you see today uses as its sensor, be it Cmos or ccd.
Basically when you are using digital, pixels are captured in the sensor and it uses certain process and algorithm to distinguished between the color and intensity of one pixel next to the other, sometimes, using guesswork. Your image is as sharp and as clean as how the sensor renders it.
Film are analogue in nature. The images formed are reactions of chemicals at molecular levels and it doesn’t care about algorithm nor specific arrangement of pixels. Its more “lifelike and organic” and not perfect either.
As someone says “God does not create straight lines”, referring to how beautiful our world natural scenery is, how nature despite all its imperfection layout, forms beauty beyond description.
A friend of mine used to argue, “whats the point of shooting film when it ended up being scanned into digital format for sharing”. Pixels representation in jpeg or monitor or even printed, are just medium for showing images. How the image is formed affects the image itself, so when viewing images taken on film vs digital, you will easily see the differences on the same monitor or printer.

colors in putrajaya, misa yap
misa, on the fields

Digital is getting into a rat race loop as companies spends billions into technological services and gadgets. Part of our lives and even job are tied to digital. But is this what you want in your image making process or to some of us, our hobby?
Film cameras are just amazing and beautiful.
What did you think happened when Olympus decides to make a retro looking camera like OMD and how Nikon’s DF and Fuji’x X100/s/t came out? They all become top sellers. Granted these designs already existed long time ago…in the film cameras. We just got dumbed down with using digital DSLRS with loads of menus and never ending updates.

We feed our insecurities and fantasy by imagining how happy we would be if this new digital update came out or if Sony adds in 5 ibis (they did) to their cameras. But it doesn’t end. Camera makers knows this and hence the cycle of marketing and features update continues to get users to keep buying. Its almost like a cloud subscription.

The film cameras were already 35mm Full frame since …1920 when Leica created it.
If you think the OMD looks great, try holding and focusing a Nikon FM3A.

When i shoot film today, i break out of this rat race. Its like you are in this crazy race where everyone is running but going nowhere and suddenly, you decided to step sideways and away from the crowd. You slowed down, look at the scenery and the people around you and you realized, you didn’t need to run.

The whole process and experience of shooting film, cancels the “now” addiction.

joyce birthday, sunway giza
joyce, birthday at giza

4. Art becomes valuable again
The dwindling down of photography value started when the digital photography moved in. Due to the large influx of images and the ease of shoot first, think later, humanity have became numbed to art. Thats how the human mind works, you can’t expect to watch Jurassic Park 10 times in the cinema and be as excited as you first saw it.

The world is flooded with pornographic images pretending to be art images because its trying hard to get attention. That is one of the reason i don’t do nudes. It’s more of an excuse created by the greater controlling part of the society (read: males) back then that wanted women to strips. Feeding lust with a pretence of art. There is a thin line between too sexy and porn and so-called artists can call it anything they want.

How can your art be worth anything when anyone, can reproduce it with the same digital camera and setup after looking at your images. Its a digital copy whose source is digital, stored as binary 0-1. When your source is film, you better keep that film safe, cause if you lose it, its gone. While different types of scanners can extract better imagery from your film negatives, the image you created on film, would be, naturally more valuable.

In fact, its already more valuable to you, if anyone else don’t think so. Every click u did, cost you money, development, scanning. These facts are constantly there when you take your photos. Its the reason why you would go back with only 36 images on film and 28 keepers vs 1000 images digital with 15 keepers.

* note, output wise as mentioned in my other posts, Digital output is much more cleaner and superior in details. If you are a full time professional photographer, digital is your only choice unless you become so popular that your clients will take anything you give. For you own shooting, where its about life and purpose and making images, try film.

All images here are taken using the Leica noctilux f1 on a Konica Hexar film camera. Film is Fuji Super 400 Premium.

Five night at tokyo {street photography | noctilux}

smoking corner

I am still in tokyo, my third day. One Film camera, One lens, the noctilux 50 f1. These photos are from my 2nd day, developed and scanned by Big Camera at Ginza, for around 1000 yen for both process. All the photos are shot at aperture F1-f2.8. I never shoot anything with deep dof, noctilux’s vignette seems to diminish a lot on film.


These photos are unedited, i am using Superia Premium Iso 400, i shot this photo using the hip. These teens are lighted only by the shops on the left and the street light. I took this at f2.

electric town

The black tones on this image is just, perfect. taken at F2.0


This shot was taken on my way out of the Fish market near Ginza where i took the first photo shared on top.

do it

Please visit the rest of the photos here at flickr.