Thursday, January 28, 2010

Australia Day 2010, Melbourne, part 2

Continued from Part 1...

As the armed forces march into the distance, the Peoples' Parade takes over with Australians from all ethnicities and walks of life joining in the fun to celebrate a vibrant nation.

I guess they form part of a comedy troupe that can potentially work in circuses.

You can hear the bagpipes screaming from a distance. They're pretty loud ;)

This school band participates in almost every major street event that I know of.

The Turkish troupe.

I'm not sure how Elmo fits into the Korean costume, but at least he's red~

I've this idea that senior chinese ladies spend their days drinking tea, practising tai chi and talk about life, something that my grandmas should be fond of doing.

Vietnamese umbrella girls. Now thats one pretty lass over here.

The dragon ushers the coming of the Chinese New Year. Hmm.. I wonder where all the lion dance groups have gone to.

The girls from the buddhist group walk in single file bearing their lotus flowers.

The Falun Gong group.

This group has something a bit special in mind...

A giant lotus flower, with a little girl in it. Wow.. Australia Day is looking more like a Buddhist procession as the years go by.

The Drum Corps are the finale of the parade (I expected something a little grander, actually) before the rest of the onlookers trail the parade down Swanston St.

Back At My Heart / Natalie Grant

Strong on the outside
But coming apart at the seams
That's me
Tragically always together
But bruised underneath
That's me
I stand just to stumble
I trip on my pride
Why do I always try to hide

Meanwhile back at my heart
I'm desperate for all that You are
See through me and take me apart
Meanwhile back at my soul
Mend me, please make me whole
You know just where to start
Back at my heart, back at my heart

Patiently waiting to pick up
The pieces of me
That's You
Healer of hearts
When the world leaves it broken in two
That's You
Maker of heaven
The sky and the sea
When You stretched your arms
You reached for me

Meanwhile back at my heart
I'm desperate for all that You are
Undo me and take me apart
Meanwhile back at my soul
Mend me, please make me whole
You know just where to start

Back at my heart
Back at my fear
Back at my brokenness
Lord meet me here
I am exposed
And I'm not afraid anymore

Meanwhile back at my heart
I'm desperate for all that You are
Undo me and take me apart
Meanwhile back at my soul
Mend me, please make me whole
You know just where to start

Australia Day 2010, Melbourne, part 1

Australia Day is a much celebrated nation-wide event celebrated annually on the 26th of January. Celebrated annually on 26 January, the day commemorates the arrival of the First Fleet at Sydney Cove in 1788, the hoisting of the British flag there, and the proclamation of British sovereignty over the eastern seaboard of Australia. On this day, a lot of people flood the Melbourne CBD and there are heaps of entertainment options for the public in Alexandria Gardens, Docklands, etc etc..

I arrived at the scene on Swanston St while the parade participants were still busy setting up. This is the very enthusiastic Falun Gong band.

Some girls from a Buddhist group. The pink lotus flowers do look very compatible with their dresses.

Met a friend from Camera Action. He's pretty helpful. Seen here with a Sony A850 and a Zeiss 135 /1.8. Very powerful combo.

Korean drummers. The specific name for this drum is the janggu.

The costumes worn by the Thai ladies, with all their fine embroideries and gold stitching are indeed a sight to behold.

A girl from the Greek community.

I think its a wonderful tradition that the policemen here wear kilts and play bagpipes. And yes, I'm pretty sure they're wearing boxers underneath.

The star wars group makes their regular appearance at most anime events.

Its a very nice feeling to masquerade as a journalist on Australia Day. You often don't get the opportunity to photograph the army, navy and air corps this close in full uniform ! Just bring a decently sized 70-200/2.8 or even a 200 f2 to do the job ;)

At least one thing I notice here is that they don't really regulate the height of their troops, unlike China where they actually choose the officers according to a certain height !

Ah... guns. A boys' dream to hold, but not everyone wants to serve their motherland in real life.

The officer manning the Australian flag from the HMS Cerberus at full attention.

Ah... the Australian flag. If you're more jovial, you'd wear it as a bikini or tie it around your neck like a cloak. ;)

The Australian Navy band played the national anthem.

Getting ready to move out.

And yes, off we go...

...into the distance (actually Alexandria Gardens), until the next year arrives again.

Stay tuned for more images of the peoples' parade...

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus

Sometimes, it's easier to leave camera jargon behind, and to blog about something else closer to your heart

As they always say, "Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus". We're created by the same God, live on the same Earth, but at [most] times, we  find each other a little hard to understand. As such, husbands at times always claim that they don't understand their wives, while girlfriends can say the same about boyfriends. Is it really that hard to understand each other, despite how advanced human civilisation is (and will be)?

Experts (or Dr. Love) claim that its not that hard to understand each other. For example, they say the common woman has certain traits that she looks for in a guy, like she...

1. Still believes in love at first sight. She has an ideal picture of Prince Charming riding on his white horse sweeping them off their feet and taking her to his castle. I guess in modern terms, that's Mr. Richie Rich arriving in his S-class Merc and taking her to his 20 bedroom mansion, or a penthouse overlooking Central Park. Her current mate may be 60-70% of her ideal guy, but something's always missing.

2. Is concerned about little details. They look and our shoes and fingernails to make sure they're clean. Little moments, like holding hands, hugging, kissing, may matter more than big expensive gifts. Receiving an email or phone call from someone she cares about makes her happy. Well, at least that's a relief to us guys who don't earn enough to buy a pair of Prada shoes or LV bags once a week!

3. Is passive and expects real men to lead the relationship. She likes it when the guy chooses the movie show, the restaurant, etc etc, provided he has good taste of course.

4. Likes surprises. She likes her real man to keep her on her toes and is creative enough introduce variety and changes. (I mean duh.. all of us like surprises to an extent, right?)

5. Has very difficult, critical periods. Oh yeah, my dad thought me well and told me about PMS a looong time ago. At times, she wishes everyone would go away and leave her alone, even brush off some people when she didn't intend to do so.

6. Likes to test men. It's like a circus. The trainer sets the hoops on fire and expects the lion to jump through it. After a guy proposes for a relationship or marriage, she makes him wait some time (or even for hours or days) for an answer. Sometimes, we men get tested too much. But hey, it happens in nature all the time. The strongest male who is able to fend off fierce competition gets the rights to his harem.

7. Is mildly critical of herself. She stands in front of her mirror, looking here and there for minor flaws and imperfections (even though she's one of the most beautiful creatures on earth). Hence a compliment or a smile can increase her self-esteem.

Despite us guys knowing all of this (and God forbid, memorize it), life doesn't get any simpler. It's as complicated as Facebook status updates. Andy is 'single'. Bridget is 'in an open relationship' with Ben. 'It's complicated' for Clarissa. These things change all the time. Hence, we need to understand the communication styles and emotional needs of each gender, and even tailor it to our specific spouses if we are to make the most of our relationships. And as M. Gandhi says - Where there is love, there is life.


Thursday, January 21, 2010

Photoshoot 21 Jan '10

Using the ideas which I expounded in my last post on natural light, I went on to photograph a very talented model at the Melbourne Convention Center this afternoon.

Even though we were under the shade, the amount of light reflected from the concrete was sufficient to fill in the shadows, hence the overall light tone.

The shape and angle of the columns were quite characteristic of the architecture of the Melbourne Exhibition Center, so we decided to use it to our advantage.

Moving inside the building, the amount of light flooding the building is still sufficient to act as a giant single directional soft box.

I thought this wall served as an interesting back drop. Enough light was still reaching inside the building, but an increase in ISO or decrease in shutter speed was necessary to attain the correct exposure.

Probably my favorite from the shoot. The yellow paint on the pavement imparts a very pleasing golden glow to the model's skin even though the day was generally cloudy and dull.

Changing into a final set of clothes to end the shoot.

Trying a higher angle to shoot the model. Again, enough light was reflected off the light surfaces of the bridge to minimise shadows.

Hope you've liked this series. You may view the rest of the album here.


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Lens choices for beginners

So, you've just invested some money into your first DSLR / or you're still on the lookout for one, and you'd like some lenses to start out with. I've compiled a list of lenses for most brands that should be in most of your bags, and are be more than sufficient for most general purpose photography - eg. landscape, semi macro, portraiture.

Note: This article is neither conclusive nor exhaustive (since I'm mostly an Olympus user), but most review sites would have common recommendations. This article is valid as of January 2010 and doesn't take into account future lens upgrades unless the author decides to update this post.

Do bear in mind that although I use the term 'beginner', some pros also use these lenses in their day to day work because of excellent price / performance ratio. It makes good business sense too.


VR (Vibration Reduction) / IS (Image Stabilisation) - enables the user to handhold the lens with a gain of ~ 3 stops in typical field conditions.
ED - Extra-low Dispersion glass elements excel at correcting chromatic aberration and eliminating secondary spectrum to produce outstanding image resolution and clarity
AF-S (AF-Silent Wave Motor) / USM (Ultrasonic motor) / SDM (Pentax) / SSM (Sony) / SWD (Olympus): the motors in the lens that enable the glass to move and help auto focusing
DX - For use with Nikon Cameras with cropped sensors, eg. D40, D300, D80. Not compatible with Full frame (FX) bodies, eg. D700


Nikkor AF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 G ED DX II - The de facto kit lens in every starter Nikon DSLR kit. Truly remarkable image quality in a small, light and inexpensive package. Recommended by Ken Rockwell.

Nikkor AF-S 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR DX - probably still the best DX standard zoom lens in Nikon mount to date. The implementation of VR and SWM make this an attractive package in a 24-128mm equivalent field of view. Good resolution at all focal lengths.

Nikkor AF-S 55-200mm f/4-5.6G IF-ED DX VR - for telephoto use. VR helps you to get sharper images in low light conditions. Good image quality for a kit lens. Its compact and light too.

Nikkor AF-S 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 G IF-ED VR II DX - one of the most popular nikon lenses, but in my opinion its quite over-rated. 11X zoom range coupled with VR technology make this lens pretty handy if you hate switching lenses.

Nikkor AF-S 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 G IF-ED VR - sharp and relatively cheap full frame lens for telephoto applications, as recommended by Moose Peterson. VR is very welcome too.

Nikkor AF-S DX 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5G ED - A super wide angle lens that replaces the Nikkor AF-S DX 12-24/4 G. Image quality is a bit compromised at 10mm, but its still quite good.

Nikkor AF 50mm f/1.8 D - cheap price tag, has relatively large aperture for low light conditions and to separate subjects from the background. Slow and noisy AF mechanism.

*Nikkor AF-S 35mm f/1.8G DX - I think this is a more practical fast aperture prime lens for Nikon DSLR users over the 50mm f/1.8. Slightly wider than the 50mm which makes it more flexible for general purpose photography. Will autofocus on ALL Nikon DSLRS; the D3000, D40 and D5000 lack the built-in autofocus motor to drive the Nikkor AF 50mm f/1.8D


Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II - the nifty fifty. cheapest lens in canon line up. Large aperture is definitely welcome. One of my friend's copy is so sharp at f/1.8, he brags about it heaps. Unfortunately to get that result, you'd have to use manual focus and the 10X live view option on the 5D2.

Canon EF-S 17-85mm f/4-5.6 USM IS - natural upgrade choice from the 18-55 kit lens. Addition of IS and ring-type USM drive with full-time manual focusing is definitely welcome.

Canon EF-S 15-85mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM - upgraded version of the 17-85. Delivers top-tier image quality over an excellent general purpose focal length range in a nicely-sized/weighted/built body with great AF and an excellent implementation of Image Stabilization.

Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 USM IS - offers very high performance throughout the zoom range without the significant drop in quality at longer focal lengths.

Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM - very good optical results and great build quality for an ultra wide angle lens.

Canon EF 70-200mm f/4 USM L IS - one of Canon's sharpest telephoto zoom lenses with excellent build quality and a 4 stop IS mechanism.


Pentax SMC-DA 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 AL - very good build quality (compared to other kit lens offerings), but nothing spectacular in the optical department.

Pentax SMC-DA 16-45mm f/4 ED AL - very good image and build quality. good speed and AF accuracy

Pentax SMC-FA 50mm f/1.4 - cheap and fast (aperture-wise). One of my favorites.

Pentax SMC DA 18-250mm f/3.5-6.3 ED AL [IF] - does a decent job as a general purpose lens, good build quality


Zeiss ZA 16-80mm f/3.5-4.5 DT - offers better image quality than Sony's 18-70mm f/3.5-5.6 DT. Decent build quality.

Sony 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 SSM G - high quality telephoto lens and possibly the best of its class.

Sony 50mm f/1.4 - one of Sony's fastest primes, average performance at f1.4


Olympus Digital Zuiko 35mm f/3.5 macro - great image quality at a very affordable price.

Olympus Zuiko Digital 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 ED - good image quality in a small, light and well built package.

Olympus Digital Zuiko 40-150mm f/4-5.6 ED - as the above

Olympus Digital Zuiko 9-18mm f/4-5.6 ED - For ultra wide angle lovers, this is definitely a must have for its small size and superb image quality

Olympus Zuiko Digital 12-60mm f/2.8-4 ED SWD - one of the best standard range zooms in the market, with excellent image and build quality

Olympus Zuiko Digital 50-200mm f/2.8-3.5 ED SWD - excellent build and image quality in a small and relatively lightweight package with an equivalent range of 100-400mm.

Third Party lenses

3rd party offerings can offer image quality which rival proprietary lenses at a cheaper price, but they have more quality control issues. Eg., it may take you at least 3 tries to find a truly sharp copy of the same lens.


Tamron AF 17-50mm f/2.8 SP XR Di II LD Aspherical - a much talked about lens, very good image quality at a lower price point compared to proprietary zoom lenses.

Tamron SP AF 70-200mm F2.8 Di LD (IF) Macro - excellent image quality at an affordable price, but it's autofocus motor is slow and noisy.


Sigma AF 18-50mm f/2.8 DC EX Macro - decent build and image quality, but the Tamron 17-50 /2.8 is recommended more than the Sigma.

Sigma AF 55-200mm f/4-5.6 DC - good image quality for a kit lens, but it has some shortcomings , eg. rotating front element, so its not good for polarisers.

Sigma AF 10-20mm f/4-5.6 HSM EX DC - good image performance for a third party ultra wide angle lens, but newer designs from proprietary companies have made this it a bit obsolete.

Sigma AF 70-200mm f/2.8 EX APO HSM DG - good image quality that rivals proprietary lenses, sturdy build quality (without weathersealing), no IS / VR makes this lens a little challenging to use in low light.


Tokina AF 12-24mm f/4 AT-X Pro DX - very similar image performance to the Canon 10-22 at a cheaper price and slightly better build quality, but unfortunately its 2mm less wide than the canon.

*Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 DX - This has the fastest maximum aperture (f/2.8) of any of the wide angle zooms for the smaller sensor (DX, Canon APS-C) DSLRs: it's 1 full stop brighter than the older Tokina 12-24mm and 2/3 stop brighter than the Canon 10-22mm and Nikon 10-24mm at the wide setting. It seems to test very well for sharpness in the far corners, a bit better than the older and much more expensive Nikkor 12-24mm.

Tokina AF 50-135mm f/2.8 AT-X Pro - Good resolution performance except at 135mm. Superb build quality, although the old screw-drive AF mechanism can be improved.


Do note that what lenses that you choose depends on your needs, budget, etc and of course camera system. Although a lens seems like a good bargain, hold off purchasing it until you test it yourself first and are very certain that you'll appreciate it in daily use. What's the use of having a whole closet of lenses for bragging rights if you're not using them ?

Reviews marked * are credited to Michael King

Your natural light studio

We photographers always love the latest pieces of studio gear to elevate our photography skills to a higher level, but we tend to forget that the most important studio equipment that we have is God-given: our eyes. I love to do outdoor portraiture using daylight. In order to create natural looking portraits, we have to learn how to "see the light". By knowing so, we will be able to understand natural light much better and know exactly what to add or subtract when we have modifiers next time.

Although cloudy days are great for diffused light, sunny days are much better in my opinion because light can reflect off a variety of surfaces for the extra 'punch'. One tactic of utilising daylight is using natural reflectors which are almost anything, really: tree foliage, signs, sidewalks, and buildings. Just be aware of the opportunities which are present, and use them to your advantage.

In this image, the colourful building behind the model is used as a gobo to block direct sunlight (and its also a very cool backdrop) while the glass building in front acts as a huge reflector that projects a single point source of light onto the model for a very dramatic look.

In this example, I positioned the model between a pair of white sculptures while the sun behind her gives some backlighting to her hair and shoulders. Don't overdo it, unless you want some really bleached out skin, so the placement of the model is quite important in this case.

I had no trouble adding light to the shadow areas, because light was reflecting everywhere from the white sculptures and the concrete sidewalk. Just be aware of using light from below; if its too strong, it creates a "ghoul lighting effect" which isn't too pleasing.

I love to position my models underneath trees because the dappled lighting from sunlight travelling through the foliage can give some interesting effects, while at the same time the green background serves as a very pleasant backdrop. Be careful about the dappled lighting, because uneven spots on her face can be a very unpleasant thing.

Although this image uses natural lighting, I did use a hint of direct fill flash. Why is that, you may ask?

Well, comparing this image and the one above, this example lacks the vibrancy that the fill flash gives, especially on the skin areas. You could perhaps correct this in post processing, but I prefer to get the effect right straight from the camera. Your mileage may vary, of course.

Although Joe McNally could easily recreate this effect using the acclaimed Nikon CLS system, the warm light coming from the window was reflected from the adjacent sand stone surface and lighted up the model's face beautifully.

Although this courtyard is fully enclosed, the sunlight was strong enough to enable light to be reflected off the surfaces of the building opposite. The final effect is a very soft, pleasing and directional light.

So what are you waiting for? Get off your lazy bums, take that beautiful model friend of yours out on a sunny day, and start shooting!


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