Beautiful Portraiture at 35mm {portraiture}

Recently I have been shooting on both the sigma dp2x and the canon 6d digital. It’s Chinese New Year and the film labs are not open so i invited Stephy chang over for a session.

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Sigma dp2x

Sigma have amazing colors but highlights often blown easily. Despite what some die hard sigma fans will defensively tell you, it’s pretty much Sigma’s silly decision to put the AFE conponent into an otherwise usable camera.

Well regardless of brands and advantages, let’s just enjoy some of these images.

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Sigma dp2x
best malaysia portraiture outdoor photographer
dp2x on vertical portraits, 3 meters away

I have a lot of beautiful images taken by the canon 6D, it’s amazing how easy the common cameras are in delivering results vs sigma. There is this beautiful airbnb site “sekeping jugra” that allows various interesting scene with the play of light. If you happened to be in KL, do drop by this place or make it your accommodation.

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Canon 6d. Added grains
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Canon. Moving candids are easy on canon, impossible on sigma

 

stephy yiwen photography best photographer
Canon 6d

The sigma images are shot on 41mm and the canon images on 35mm. I am a fan of using non standard portraiture lenses focal length because I needed the outdoor scene for context . I find it often hilarious how some would travel far and shoot models on 85mm losing any relevant context to the images.

What is your favourite outdoor portrait lens ? I have once tried using 18mm for portraits.

 

What camera is a hybrid between film and digital? {gallery}

There was a story about this guy who went to Nepal in search for peace and simplicity. The guy have half his lifetime focusing on his career and building a corporate life that he soon got tired of it all, gave away bulk of his money, sold his house and took a one way ticket to Nepal.

As the story goes, after 7 years in Nepal, he came to a conclusion. Peace and simplicity isn’t found in Nepal or anywhere else,  he could pursue the same objective of living a simple life back in an apartment in Amsterdam. Nepal and its basic lifestyles and people gave him a chance to know himself better.

sigma camera best portraits photographer portraiture
the search, processed from raw file

I started off photography on a peculiar camera, the sigma dp2. From there i went all the way to nikon D4, Leica M9, A7R, Canon 6D and a lot more gears that i am more shameful to bring up than to boast about. Did i improve? Nope. My improvement came from lots of practice, 2 workshops that i attended on portraiture and film photography.

Yup, like the story of that man, film gave me time to discover myself. Now after one full year on film, i decided to find two cameras that have the same inconveniences of film but a digital unlike any other. I call them the “twins”. The very thought of owning these two cameras and carrying them around with me tickles me somewhat, it is like cowboys in the older days where the top gunner would carry two guns on each side of his belt.

sigma low iso shooting night quattro sdh dp1x
single exposure, processed from raw file

These two twins are the Sigma DP1x and Sigma DP2x, fix lens, APSC cameras with a strange, weird sensor.

Let me just provide a note of warning here. Do not follow me on this path, haha, no kidding, i would go so far as to say that shooting film is much easier than using these two cameras.

But i have come to a point whereby limited gears don’t really trouble me much. These two cameras main selling point is its Foveon sensor, it’s what i would call, an anomaly sensor that produces results between a film and a digital.

At 4.7 megapixel, its even smaller than my regular film lab’s output. I wouldn’t have come to this mindset of accepting such low-res results if it wasn’t for my one year film pilgrimage, it reinforces what i already knew about megapixels and what we really need in our image sharing and even printing.

sigma dp1x dp2x dp2m quattro portraits
unedited, jpg from dp1x

The image above is unedited jpg straight from the camera’s raw file. Man, it already feel so film like even without going thru VSCO.

Here is another sample.

sigma dp1x sdh portraiture
dp1x jpg out of the camera

The uncertainty that these “twins” presents, the dog slow auto-focus and the availability of a crappy manual focus are just so similar with the film cameras that i use. Instead of labs, i have to wrestle with Sigma Photo Pro, an obscure software that can process the raw files or extract the jpg as shown above. It’s a bit like waiting for the lab results.

I am not giving up on film, don’t get me wrong here. It’s amazing that the DP2x 41mm focal length is so much like my favourite Olympus 35UC’s 42mm focal length. The DP1x’s 28mm would cater for wide angle shot.

Note : I wouldn’t recommend Sigma cameras to anyone, personally I felt Sigma is a company that continuously betrays its camera users with experimental, unproven and stupid decisions. If you google up the reviews of their new cameras e.g. One such review, those are plainly evident.
I have lost this camera. This camera has been stolen on 27th January 2016 near VCR cafe, Kuala lumpur malaysia, together with a hood and AML-1 lens and 2 wasabi backup batteries.
– Update : 24th jan 2017.

What do you think of these images? Drop me a line or two in the comments below.

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.

 

 

 

Go beyond your imagination {portraiture}

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Its peculiar that certain people can meet at the most unexpected moments.
Its amazing that things you have never planned can turn out to be the most successful event.
Its amazing that sometimes you venture into a side project only to realize, that is the main project.

A lot of things happens in our lives that contradicts the notion that we are in control, or that our plans actually matters.
That 3 years plan you have down that road, scrap it. That best buddy u are counting on, duh. That one person that you think would never disappoint you, screw that.

Thats the same in the photography world too. Some of these camera makers never imagined the way their cameras will be used or even fathom the combination simply because some things or criteria just didnt exist when certain decisions are made.
Take for example these pictures that i took…

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There are at least 4 things that occurs here in these images that are extraordinary.

– These are all shot in Fuji 400 Xtra. Its film. Its automatically scanned and uploaded to my google drive by this Film shop in Publika called BBG (bang bang geng), Malaysia. Creators of film have never imagined their output to be ended up in Google drive.
– These film are shot on Sigma 50mm 1.4 on a Nikon F100. Sigma 50 1.4 was designed, produced and sold when digital is already king, it had never imagined it to be used to capture images on a film. There are no software correction to its distortion or vignette or whatever else today’s modern lens maker could use to hide its weaknesses.
– Nikon F100 was running on rechargable Sanyo Eneloop batteries. Nikon f100 did not know the existence of rechargable AA batteries back then.
– Sigma 50 1.4 has HSM autofocus system that were never tested on Nikon f100. The autofocus system is newer than the most advance digital circuit in the F100 by 9 years. In digital years thats like a century.

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The amazing thing is that they all worked, and these images are produced. That’s life.

Photography Reset : One single truth that you can’t afford to miss out

Photokina 2014 is here and over. New gears, new lust, new features, new comparisons.
While the world goes on its normal course and manufacturers praying to increase its fair share of the market, i was totally oblivious to it. I was on a course of self discovery. Discovering the things that really do matters to me and why. In short i pressed the reset button.

Since this blog is about photography, i will just focus on the “reset” effect on my photography side of the story and the one(1) truth that makes all the difference.
Last few weeks it was all about using film. I had my hands on a vintage kodak, the Leica M6, Mamiya 645 and the GW690ii.
Kodak and M6 is now in my cabinet, in their respective coffins so to speak, service no longer needed. Mamiya was returned due to shutter fault and GW690ii did four(4) rolls of film.

Once you used film, you be very grateful when you looked at your current digital cameras. So much so that i took two(2) steps back and took a look at my journey so far. My love for Sigma Foveon and how its SPP software continues to disappoint me when i even volunteered to fix up the code for free and wrote to the CEO. Enough then, Sigma and two(2) lenses sold and shipped out to a Russian buyer.

Took out the Xvario and did some shots. This is the camera that was way overpriced in Malaysia, selling at more than USD 3k. I chucked it into the cabinet previously because it does not have enough shallow dof. I tried using it and trained myself on composing and doing portraiture without shallow dof, did that, done that and my verdict was that its just not suitable, or is it?

Xvario. Gaussian blur added to bg.
Xvario. Gaussian blur added to bg.
Xvario. Gaussian blur added  to bg.
Xvario. Gaussian blur added to bg.

Took these two(2) shots outside a photo exhibition and the colors are just beautiful. Clear, sharp and some tweaks in PS and i have some satisfactory images. The Xvario has always produce beautiful skin tones and colors, right out of the camera. Nevermind that its optics results actually involves some cheats of software correction in raw, the results are beautiful.
So why stop here i asked myself, lets dig out other “useless” cameras from the cabinet and see what i can do with it. I went thru my list of cameras in my cabinet and took out the very first DSLR that i bought in early 2005, the Nikon D50.

The Nikon D50 uses a CCD sensor, type of sensor that “snapsort website” labels as “low” sensor, inferior to CMOS. I took it out, put in the old SDCard 2GB and took it to the exhibition hall to shoot with a 50mm 1.8d lens (another old lens that uses screw to focus). I took this featured image, using built in flash, you know, that ugly pop up flash.

Nikon D50. 50mm 1.8d. Flash 1/16, built in.
Nikon D50. 50mm 1.8d.
Flash 1/16, built in.

I was surprised at the results i got when i load it up and did the same post processing as i would with any other camera. Hence the realization of the one(1) truth that hobbyist photographers should know.

#1. Your Gears are more than sufficient even BACK THEN.

D50 didn’t change while it was in the cabinet. I did. Most of the features and knowledge on using cameras back then wasn’t available to me because i am not who i am yet, the same camera did wonders now. There is a reason why film died or rather got frozen in the ICU state, its because our gears entered digital and like any other digital stuffs, it went on hyperdrive every six(6) months and declared obsolete any previous versions and everyone voted yay.

Truth is, at some point in time, Digital Photography jumped over the acceptable limit. Do we really need to pay for PS and LR every month because our new cameras and raw files needs them? Do you really need those 20 sharpen features if you got your image sharp in the first place? Was CCD obsolete because CMOS is really better, was that a quality choice or a choice made because of manufacturing cost and that we want to see images taken in crazy ISO that our eyes can’t see.

Looking at my Sony A7R in the Lowepro Runner bag and looking at the D50 in this small crumpler bag, i honestly don’t know if the Sony would produce any better images than the D50, in my hands. It never did. The wifi function? nice to have, but transferring 6 mp images on the D50 was even faster. One hundred an seventeen focus points(117) vs five(5) focus points on the D50, gee, i only used the middle one as an electronic rangefinder, selecting other focus points was just pointless and slower to operate. 5 fps, 10 fps? Use a video if you need more.

If there is any features on any new cameras that anyone might really need that wasn’t already available few years ago, it must be a very niche type of photography which one could already live by without or without it. Today there are still die hards using films to shoot wedding photography commercially, think about it, that whatever entry level digital SLR or mirroless camera you have, most probably blows it out of water. It didn’t stop them from making beautiful images in film and happy customers paying for it. I am pretty sure clients don’t do pixel peeping unless he/she is a photographer too.

There are enough pixels on your monitor today to form smooth beautiful fonts, definitely enough to display images that you eyes can discern and unable to discern even if it goes higher. So how much resolution do you really need. I personally can’t see any differences on 6mp images vs 36 mp images without zooming in 100%. I bet you have an APSC that is already doing 16 mp.

#stilwithyourgears #morethansufficient