July 2012 Archives

Dates in a cup

You've probably seen an olive in a cup of chilled martini. Here's a cup of iced latte with a couple Iranian dates plopped in to give it a bit of sweetness. The best foodie idea i've had for quite some time! Tastes great.

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More shots from the Olympus 75mm f1.8

Spend a bit more time processing photos from my recent walkabout with the Olympus Zuiko Digital 75mm f1.8. It truly is a glorious lens. Incredibly sharp wide open, all across the frame. Delicious bokeh that allows for very distinct subject separation; that "3D effect" is effortlessly achieved.

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Playing with light

I spent the whole day today watching a DVD set i bought online, "Lighting in Layers". The best RM320 i've spent so far in my pursuit of being a better photographer. David Hobby, the person in the video, is the blogger for Strobist, perhaps THE go-to blog if you are interested in lighting in photography. Artificial light (i.e. flash/strobes) as compared to available light, being able to control it can make a huge difference in how your photographs turn out.

I've always thought of photography as a the control of light, first and foremost. Yes, composition is a huge part of the art, but what's the point if you don't get the light right? The best composition will still turn out dull and flat or dark and ineligible. Having said that, i've always been "afraid" of artificial light, mostly because i have no idea how to control it. Generally relying on luck to pull me through on the rare occasions when i have used it, the fear factor has led me to be far more comfortable with available light photography. The downside to this, of course, is that light is not always available. And even when it is, it doesn't always do what you want it to do. Hence the value in artificial light, and the control that you have over it.

"Lighting in Layers" has helped me understand quite a bit of what i didn't before, about artificial light. I'm still internalizing most of what i've learned, but i just couldn't help myself. I strapped on my flash and took a shot.

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Lit with a Canon 580EXII at 1/32 power.

Photoessay: Berbuka in Rembau

All shots taken with an iPhone 4s processed with Hipstamatic (John S Lens, BlacKey B&W, Cherry Shine Flash). Inspired by Ben Lowy.

It's not unique to Malaysia. Anywhere else in the world where modernity has encroached has had to give up it's traditional values at some point. The first signs of decay is the migration of the young to the cities, the second sign is the contempt that begins to creep into the perceptions we have for the kampung (village). The final nail in the coffin is when those that hold the kampung dear disappear, through death and old age, and the young, comfortable in their lives and newfound powers, do not see the purpose to return. It's a life cycle of values -- they only last as long as those who remember them do. Or those who want to remember.

But, they aren't quite gone yet, not here in Malaysia where a majority of the Malay population live and make their living in the rural landscape. The spirit is still alive. The values of a welcoming home, of generosity, of lovingly prepared food where everyone chips in to prepare the feast, of communal prayer and of respect, love and honor for the elderly. 

A marker of the Malay tradition. Long may it continue.

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Geartalk: Olympus Zuiko Digital 75mm f1.8

Easily one of the most anticipated lenses of the year for the Micro Four Thirds system, the Olympus Zuiko Digital 75mm f1.8 has already had a lot said about it, including a great review by Ming Thein, a professional photographer who puts this lens on par with some of the current greats -- the Nikon 24s, Leica 35s and 50s. I'm no pro, but i'll share with you what i thought about the lens after a couple of hours with it, courtesy of Olympus Malaysia. 

Olympus in Malaysia has been going great guns lately. Heavily promoting the OM-D EM-5 and now putting together a walkabout with their customers for the new 75mm lens. Kudos to them for putting in the effort! Not only did the organize for each of the 6 groups in attendance that lovely Saturday to have a guide and a copy of the lens attached to an OM-D EM-5, but a model was also on hand to make the shooting experience all the more interesting. Amanda Qian Ru was our model, and though inexperienced, she provided lovely angles for the group.

Check out Robin Wong's blog for more details about the Olympus event itself, lots of great pictures to give you an idea of how well attended it was.

Back to the lens. It's quite a monster as far as micro four third lenses go. On a naked OM-D EM-5 body, it throws the balance of the heft out a bit, definitely requiring a steadying hand to keep it on an even keel. No one handed shooting with this lens attached. However, if the EM-5 has the optional grip attached, then the lens balances quite well. Solidly built, all aluminium by the feel of it, it's a real hunk of glass. 

Shooting with it took a few moments to figure out, because the 150mm equivalent was certainly quite unusual. To get full body shots of the model, i was standing about 30 feet away. And shooting at the same distance as with a 45mm f1.8 lens delivered larger than intended closeups. So a few steps back was required. Not really a big deal, the adjustment, however, it's still something that needs to be practiced on to get used to.

The lens itself produces magnificent images, as other reviews have noted. One thing that i notice about this lens is that it's one of the few lenses where the technical reviews and usability reviews are in complete agreement. While being unequipped to know whether the technical reviews are accurate or not, i can say that the usability reviews are spot on -- it's easy to use (after a short period of adjustment), focuses incredibly fast and accurately with a nice snappiness to it, is sharp wide open, doesn't get noticeably sharper stopped down, has great micro-contrast (notice how the images below pop out at you), produces bokehlicious creaminess and leaves you with very little to do in post-processing. 

It's so good, it's almost boring. With my Panasonic 14mm f2.5, i know vignetting and soft edges are an issue, but i consciously work around these limitations. With the Olympus 45mm f1.8, i try to shoot at f2.0 - f2.8 because i know that half a stop or so does wonders for it. But with the 75mm? Just plug it on, slam it wide open, and shoot to your heart's content. Chances are you're going to nail it. Again. And again and again.

I heard the lens is available for RM3000 street price. That's a steal, considering what you're getting. 

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The Leica S2 Workshop

Read the sister post to this, "Shooting with the Leica S2"

I've never shot photographs in a studio before; so when the opportunity arose to attend a Leica S2 workshop conducted by Darren Centofanti, modelled by Corinne Adrienne, it was too good to pass up. One of those happy coincidences when work aligned with interest; i needed to see how such a workshop was conducted, and why it would appeal to a particular audience segment. I got my wish.

Darren was an enthusiastic coach: he kept things simple to understand, he didn't use jargons, just straightforward, "do this and do this and you'll be fine" pointers. What works in a studio environment, how the S2 performs, and how to handle a professional model. 

The model, Corinne Adrienne, had a ton of experience and it showed: instinctively, she knew how to move her face, tilting it in a variety of positions ever so slightly in order to give Darren the shot he wanted. The light play on her remarkably sharp features were incredible; before this i would never have guessed how much effort, aforethought and talent it takes to be a professional model. The better the model, the easier the photographer's job, the better the photos. And good she is.

You can view the full photoset here (15 photos). Click through the images below to enlarge (recommended). 

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Shooting with the Leica S2

Read the sister post to this, "The Leica S2 Workshop".

Every once in a while i get to experience a piece of exceptional gear; the last time this happened was when i had a chance to test the Leica M9-P. In this case, not only did i get my hands on a very interesting camera and lens, but it also came with a studio shooting opportunity, conducted by a pro photographer, Darren Centofanti, with a professional model, well-known Corinne Adrienne. An almost perfect storm, so to speak.

The Leica S2 is a beast of a camera: heavy, solidly built, weatherproof, functional yet composed according to the minimalist Leica gestalt, it produces digital medium format images that have resolution i've never personally seen before. I'm told that the results are comparable to the full-frame Nikon D800, but having never used the D800 before, i can't tell. What i can say for sure is that the S2 is a camera and a half beyond anything i've ever handled before, in terms of output and quality. 

Having never shot with such a camera before, and also never experienced shooting in a studio and interacting with a model, i was certainly a fish out of water! But, i managed to fire off 20-odd frames, of which the five below are my favourites.

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From Club 51

There is an insider's joke over at Maybank, about the executive hall on the 51st floor of Menara Maybank: someone was invited to Level 51 one day for a function. Thinking that "Level 51" was a name of a place, she said, "Wow, cool, where is this new club?" rofls. 

I love being invited to Level 51 for dinner. It's rare, but when it does happen, i know i'm in for a visual treat, especially if it's a clear night. Menara Maybank is on a hill, and on the 51st floor, it's one of the highest points in the city. The view, unobstructed, is lovely, and i spent more than a few minutes that night just looking out into the bright lights of the KL Tower in the foreground and KLCC just behind it. 

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A sequence of sibling love

I've spent a lot of time asking myself what love is. Took me a long time to figure it out. Then, when i see my kids playing with each other, i realize i was asking the wrong question all this while. Children know what love is, in it's purest form. It's just that somewhere along the line, they forget. Then the spend their teens and young adulthood asking themselves the question of what it is, just the way i did. What a waste of time. When the time comes, i'll let these photos remind them both.

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45,000 names on a piece of string

Maybank hosted a fun evening for the Malaysian badminton Olympic team and the press tonight. Dato Sri Wahid, PCEO of Maybank, was to present a special badminton racquet to the team: it has nearly 45,000 Malaysian names etched onto it's strings. As a symbolic gesture to the success of the team, as they chase the dream of an Olympic gold medal.

I was there snapping away with my Olympus OM-D EM-5. Shooting events can be fun and very rewarding. Light conditions were incredibly challenging -- a mix of tungsten yellow and fluorescent white light. Completely blew out the white balance of even the usually accurate OM-D; first time i've see it being defeated by difficult light.

Despite the smashed colours, i knew right away by looking at the results, these photos would need to be presented in black & white; there is a particular photojournalistic feel to them, in their composition that would be enhanced by monochrome.

Click through the images for a larger version on Flickr. Click to see the full photoset.

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Rashid Sidek

Dato Sri Abdul Wahid

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Datuk Lee Chong Wei

A handsome boy, in the shape of Rayyan

Taking photos of children is a challenging task; they tend to be unpredictable, they don't take instructions well, and they do what they want to do in front of the camera. I've taken hundreds of frames of both my children, Rayyan and Mia, and 99% of them are unusable for one reason of another. Then occasionally i hit a purple patch, and i get a couple in a row that just shows off their essence. 

Or rather what they've become, and what they're becoming. Here is Rayyan at 3 years of age.

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The Cheong family dynamic

We've all grown up with our extended families surrounding us, and over the years, patterns of behaviour become obvious. As a young boy, even as a teen, these patterns are either ignored or glossed over; you just don't see them, or don't care. At least that was the case with me.

But they have always been there, and as an adult when you see them, you sometimes wonder why you didn't notice before. The uncle who always sits alone. The cousin who glows with a light within her. The other cousin who tries very hard. The aunt who matronly looks after her flock with a stern gaze. 

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Harley Davidson, chrome and steel

There is something really machoismo about Harley Davidson bikes. The ultimate two wheel road machine. It's the package that provides the turn-on. The roar of the engine, the deep rumble and chugga chugga of the pistons. The combination of leather, steel and chrome. The monkey bars. The easy rider. 

"With power comes freedom. With freedom comes anything."

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Amy Search, Malaysia's musical Peter Pan

Part 4 of a 4 part series celebrating the superstars of the Legendary Concert: Jamal Abdillah, Sheila Majid, Zainal Abidin, and Amy Search.

Born in 1958, Suhaimi Abdul Rahman, or popularly known as Amy Search, made his name as the lead vocals for the ultra-popular band called, "Search". Dominating the late-1980s and 1990s, Amy conquered all with Search. The rocker, the rebel with a cause, the good-bad-good schizophrenia that everyone loved.


During the Legendary Concert, he more than amply proved he still has what it takes. The moment he stepped out on stage, women screamed his name, hysterical with pleasure at the pure raw appeal of a man Amy exudes. As he belted out the songs that made him famous, you could feel the blood in your veins boil with excitement. It was just an incredible performance, from an incredible man.

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Zainal Abidin, the legend among legends

Part 3 of a 4 part series celebrating the superstars of the Legendary Concert: Jamal Abdillah, Sheila Majid, Zainal Abidin, and Amy Search.

In a career spanning over 30 years, Zainal Abidin has seen and done it all. Multi-award winning hits. Tens of thousands of album sales. Sell out concerts. Controversies with his personal life. The life of a superstar isn't easy, and no one knows that better than him. And it often takes a certain type of person to survive it all, a person with not just the talent, but the charisma and perseverance to see it through. Zainal has all these qualities in spades.


His performance during the Legendary Concert took the cake for me. He weaved a story into the songs he sang, sharing with us intimate details about why each was important to him. He told jokes, made us smile, laugh and sing with him. It was a complete performance, perfect.

Click through each image for the larger versions (recommended!). Click here to view the full set of the Legendary Concert.

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Sheila Majid, Lagenda in her own right

Part 2 of a 4 part series celebrating the superstars of the Legendary Concert: Jamal Abdillah, Sheila Majid, Zainal Abidin, and Amy Search.

Born January 3, 1965, Sheila Majid's career has been one of a true superstar. Diminutive in size, she more than makes up for it with an amazing vocal range that has entertained millions of Malaysians for 30 years. Her stage presence cannot be overstated -- she patrols it like she owns it, engaging with the audience, making them smile and laugh and cry. A truly God blessed talent.


Her performance at the Legendary Concert was dynamic, full of energy and engaging. The audience sang with her, danced when she asked, clapped and cheered their hearts out. Music brings out the best in us, and Sheila Majid is a master conductor.

Click through each image for the larger versions (recommended!). Click here to view the full set of the Legendary Concert.

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Jamal Abdillah, in concert

Part 1 of a 4 part series celebrating the superstars of the Legendary Concert: Jamal Abdillah, Sheila Majid, Zainal Abidin, and Amy Search.

Born in 1959, Jamal Abdillah has had a glittering career, and evidenced by his performance during the Legendary Concert, is still going strong. Famed for hits such as "Azura", "Sepi Seorang Perindu" and "Seniman Menangis", his crooning style defined a generation.


Photographs of his performance at the Legendary Concert, 30 June 2012, Stadium Merdeka, Kuala Lumpur. A sell-out crowd. No mean feat considering tickets ranged from RM600 to RM100 each. 

Click through each image for the larger versions (recommended!). Click here to view the full set of the Legendary Concert.

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Babes on Bikes @ Jom Photo

There is something visually and psychologically appealing about women on bikes. The prettier the women, the bigger the bikes, the better. It's a bit like women and cigars -- i haven't met a woman who smoked cigars who wasn't attractive. 

Perhaps Eddie Putera knew this when he arranged for a Harley Davidson and models photoshoot as part of the "Jom Photo, Kuala Lumpur" carnival he organized this weekend. I had a chance to speak with him for a bit, and he said that the reason why he wanted "Jom Photo" to be a success was because today's photographers were all online, and the opportunity to network and make real friends were limited. In order for the community to become closer, it needed to exist in the real world as well as the cyber.

On to the ladies, and the bikes. Vroom vroom.

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About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from July 2012 listed from newest to oldest.

June 2012 is the previous archive.

August 2012 is the next archive.

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