Everytime I go out for street photography in SEA countries, I face a dilemma. I feel uncomfortable looking at some of the daily activities of common folks hawking their stuffs on the road side.
If i am going to be brutally honest,I feel sad and often my mind wonders off into questions of their survival and livelihood. This leads on to inevitable realization that I couldn’t provide any help at all.
“They been surviving so far without you lifting a finger to help and they will continue to survive”, I comfort myself along these lines and quotes.
These scenes are in stark contrast when I visit European countries like Denmark, Paris or even Iceland. Perhaps their Govs have gone a long way on helping out the struggling citizens and we find less of those who trade for basic living vs average lifestyle.
Nevertheless, once the conscience tugging moments passed, I feel that these people are the true survivors and fighters. They work hard with their bare hands and whatever means to make a humble living instead of falling astray into committing crimes.
It’s rather pathetic for a country like Malaysia when I compare the crime rates with Vietnam and Thailand. In Malaysia, snatch thefts are an epidemic and I personally don’t feel safe even with my camera bag. I have been snatched once and almost 1:3 person I know of, have encountered or seen snatch theft incidents.
Overall I only managed to spend a day doing street photography in Bangkok and I had to attend a beautiful garden wedding.
Does anyone else feels the same as I do when you do street photography?
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 : 123, this whole series is done completely in film)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Two rolls. So i took the infamous LC-A and i shot two rolls. All these images are as is, without editing and straight from the labs. I didn’t want to be associated with some funny 10 rules of the lomography, i took these shots based on the simple fact that you can’t focus, so to speak. By just anticipating the distance and with your eyes as the only other reason to “click”, it opens up a whole new way of shooting.
I could of course do that on my leica M7. But the situation is just the same with Digital, one argues that on digital you can stop yourself from chimping and preview and focus on the moment, or take less shot. Never happened. Using the M7, i will use the rangefinder focus because its there. But The LC-A has nothing to focus on, just 4 ridiculous stick levels.
Its instant in shooting. Since no focusing is needed, i realized i could get really candid shots of my daughter, something which has been a hard to do thing. Parents worldwide will attest to this, some even buys the latest and greatest focus tracking digital and yet misses the shot. Ironically, something as ancient and raw as setting a zone on the camera solves everything.
This picture of korean tourists enjoying ice-cream and embraced with beautiful blue colored objects is shot from the hip. I do recall one of lomography rules is to shoot from the hip . I did it not because it was a more creative approach but because its totally less confrontational in shooting street. Love it.
Now looking at these images i wondered, where are the infamous vignettes wishy washy lens magic that the LC-A is famous for. Thank goodness the images are not vignetting like those i saw on the net, for one, i don’t want to cross process my films, these are all shot on Fuji Superia 200 🙂 . The colors are strong even on superia and i have to admit, i love it.
The exposure on the LC-A is anyone’s guess when it comes to selecting the right exposure. In my images so far, most are pleasing and some with heavy backlighting are the ones with trouble. If you have never felt anxious about your shots, the LC-A will make you.
This picture was taken using the multi-exposure switch, i forgot what was it that i tried to take as the first layer but here it just ended up adding some interesting blob of light. A failed attempt but likable.
Took this shot indoor in the mall. Was expecting it to fail but since i have time to position it over my face, that must have added stability. I am surprised at the exposure taken here, its just spot on.
Final image, another shot from the hip during my street walk. There is a distinct 3D feel to this despite the camera max aperture of f2.8 which we have no control over. You can see some of the subtle vignetting and the colors are just beautiful, this is after all taken on a cheap Superia 200.
I must say, that i am proud that a company like Lomography are selling the LC-A, LC-W and LC-A 120, these cameras are a blast to use. In fact i love these test shots so much that i am going to place an order for the LC-A 120. Oh yea, medium format on a dumb camera.
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.
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.
Please visit the rest of the photos here at flickr.
* All images here are unedited and taken using film on fuji Superia200 and kodak Porta160.
Often its the old school guys that pushes for shooting films. Folks that are caught in the past and never got the balls to seriously try digital. As a result of that we end up having all kinds of articles in the internet that is both misleading and silly. Sifting through the internet for gems and valid points from experience people who have done both and yet decided on film is like mining for gold in a ghost town.
I believe that before you can judge something, you need to either have divine knowledge in it or you have spent enough time to provide some authoritative opinion on it. Being ignorant or reactively being defensive is a fool’s mentality.
i am a firm believer in digital. I have subscriptions to LR and Adobe CC and i have spend countless hours perfecting my outdoor portraiture works both in editing and photographing. I could shoot manual 100% easily in almost any lighting. I have owned and used Sony a7r, Nikon D4, Sigma SD15 and various other cams during my course of photography. Ownership of premium gears is of course not a credible factor except for being a gear head. My last set of gears that i still own are the Leica ME/M9, Ricoh GR and the Panasonic FZ1000 travel cam.
And so i tried film…gave up few months ago…and i am back.
Here are 5 reasons why i have no plans to do digital anytime soon. I have one caveat to list here, that is, i am a hobbyist, i don’t shoot studio commercials, my commercials are outdoor portraiture.
1. film are for pros.
Pros as in using a camera and knowing what to set. I am not in the learning stage nor amateurish level where topics like iso, aperture and whitebalance are being learned. If you are starting out, i highly recommend digital. If you can’t take up any camera and shoot successfully in manual, i recommend sticking and using digital. I use 0 exposure compensation for all my images shot since 2013, if you don’t understand how is that possible, stick to digital.
If you have done all that. Welcome to film.
I am using a bessa R3m, which is a rangefinder, similar to my M9 except its 7 times cheaper.
Because it has a magnification of 1:1 i could open both eyes and just decides when to press the shutter.
I have like 500% less things to fiddle on the film camera. Just the shutter speed.
Films is less fiddling because you know what you want.
2. film sticks to the moment
There is no chance for chimping. You keep ur eyes open, you raise your alertness to the model’s or subject’s ever changing situation. You take the shot, wind the film, next. All the while, you are in the moment, u never left the scene.
When you are using film, you surrender the luxury of digital capabilities like replaying the shot and retaking, 5-100 fps (use a 4kvideo plz) and every click cost money.
Suddenly, your mind is more alert, sober and serious when taking the next shot. This only works on film.
When you have digital and even if you cover up the LCD or if you attempt to limit your shooting process, your mind is not stupid, it knows and you will shoot it like a machine gun.
3. film saves you time
This might sound really silly but its true. A typical workflow in digital goes this way.
– 300-1200 shots on a 2 hours shoot
– 1-2 hours just identifying which photo to use, simple tweaks
– 1-3 hours per retouching on each photo
A film workflow is :
– drive and pass to the lab (30 minutes?)
– goto nearest cafe and enjoy your coffee or go home
Today’s modern labs will scan and automatically upload to your google drive, you can collect the film negatives only when you need it. I do pay for the development and scanning, but it comes down to around USD 0.50 per shot. Time is always more expensive and precious.
The tones are so beautiful and i don’t even need to edit to tweak the image vigorously. (See 4 : film tones are awesome)
4. film tones are awesome
VSCO dominates most of the picture editing apps today. In instagram VSCO is used more than any other apps added up.
VSCO attempts to deliver film-feel to digital and people just realized they love it.
When you shoot film, you get these awesome tones out of the box. In fact, i could not use any VSCO on any of my film images because the original is just so much better.
None of the images shared here were edited.
5. shooting film slows you down
Each click cost your something. Your “system” is aware of that and you will compose much more before you take that shot.
You will see more and get yourself out of the digital upgrade hell hole and insufficiency complex that the industry is selling you.
At this point of writing i am in Tokyo. I took 5 days off my full time job, to Japan. I came with one film camera and 12 rolls of film.
Don’t get me wrong here. Film is in no way superior to digital when it comes to output and clinical sharpness. It is however, a fantastic process and experience to get into.
I been struggling to master the bokehless portraiture. This struggle has motivated me to force myself to use cameras with deep depth of field and hence inability to produce bokeh photos. One such ridiculous camera is the Casio TR. If you read my previous blog, i took this camera and went walking around Singapore as well as shot my model friends in Kuala Lumpur. Things took a change when i decided to ask Angela Lieche to do a shoot with me. Angela (x.x.angela instagram) have been creating beautiful bokehless images and her fame instagram is rising fast, thanks to her images.
Bokehless portraits, takes a very different set of eyes and mind to capture them. When i had the Casio TR, i tried my best and eventually i admit i could not take any satisfactory portraits with it. You can read about how the model herself could take a better picture here.
I am lucky to be the owner of a Noctilux f1. An ancient lens granted by Leica to possess magical qualities. I maybe exaggerating but the fact that you use a rare aperture, it can only create different bokeh and imagery. So in this shoot with Angela, i use the new skills of utilizing both bokeh and bokehless cameras. The bokehless camera is the Ricoh GR 28 mm f2.8 and the bokeh camera is my trusty Leica ME Noctilux F1 v3.
If i were to be downright honest here, i am one of the best outdoor portrait photographer anyone can find in Malaysia. Not the best, but definitely one of the best.
Well, let me correct that statement earlier, “best outdoor female portrait photographer”. LOL.
I pay my dues with constant learning, practicing and restrain in learning and enhancing my skills, do visit my other articles and photos to see the various themes that i have done and collaborated with. I learn from the best, be it Dragon Chow from HK, Ming Thein of Malaysia or a freelance model like Angela who is gifted, i take my lessons with no prejudice.
Is it profitable? No by a far margin, photography to me is like an art and a gift to me and people that i meet.
Please do enjoy the images below and drop me a comment if you enjoyed my images and lame jokes.
18mm f4 zeiss is one of those lens that keeps coming back to your side, sweet talking you into taking it out for some good time. Today i decided to shoot really close, 1.2-2 meters. This has to be done from the hips and its not something new to me as i prefer shooting silently as an observer rather than taking the VF up to my eyes. Granted, Leica ME/M9 uses mechanical shutters and its nowhere as silent as today’s electronic shutter that you can find in many mirrorless cameras. However once you are on the street, its barely audibe and could be used in almost any street photography except a quiet subway.
If there is one thing that i love about the 18mm more than any lens is the drama it brings to the image. 18 is not your average street photographer’s nor portrait lens, but that is exactly why its a compelling lens to used. While shooting at F4, base iso 160 and 1/250 on a cloudy midday, i notice i could easy frame and get the image almost exactly as i imagined it would be.
Street photography is very different from my model portraiture shoot. You don’t have all the time to focus and shoot and you would want as much elements in the picture as possible that shows the subject being in the street or environment. This particular shot i was very close to the subject and they came out from my left suddenly from the mall’s entrance. I set my camera to be in focus for 1.2 meter. Its really beautiful how manual focus lens have these distance markings easily readable when you are shooting from the hip. The masters of the old film days didn’t have any option but to shoot using distance zone focusing when they don’t want to miss the moment, hence the popular one liner of “F8 be there”. I use f4, i want the background to be visible enough buy not as sharp as the subjects.
This photo is unedited. The beautiful subject isolation is caused by direction that these people are moving towards the bright outdoor. I notice the cute baby expression of being anxious and quickly move towards them.
This is probably a photo that i don’t feel like publishing because it actually resembles an upskirt kinda shoot but i am actually pretty far off and took this picture only because of the rare empty distance between me and the subject. When i imported my images to LR, i noticed how perfectly straight the lines are even though i took it from the hip and did not double check on it after the shot. Was tempted to put the caption as “stalked” after i converted it to B&W, but no.
Malaysia is undergoing some Cafe booming market right now. This is a standard Starbucks and look how full it is. There are so much activities and interesting people in a cafe.