Tuesday, January 25, 2011

simple and nice

There's something different about taking a portrait of someone who's really special to you. Perhaps if it was another photographer, he or she won't feel anything different. But as for me, I get a warm fuzzy feeling inside.

I remember doing everything slowly and deliberately that morning. Unfolding my softbox and tripod, and making sure that everything is in order. Making sure the eneloops are juiced up, and the trigger fires when required. Putting the reflector at an angle, just enough to bounce enough light onto the shadow areas.

With a photo like this, its not about the most fancy model-esque poses. Its about a subtle change in the angle of the head, smile, eyes, etc. You take several shots of the same pose, and you change the lighting style along the way. Of course, I could have achieved better result with some proper teaching techniques instead of the boring studio lighting that I'm exposed to everyday at work. After a few more shots, you finally find something that's close to 'perfect'. Something that represents your photographic 'style' at a particular point in time in your life.

Why do I love this image? Because it is simple and nice. Because of the genuine smile and the look in her eyes. Maybe others will think that the smile and pose is pretty cliche, but I know she is smiling at me and just for me. Not at some random photographer who just wants to make a quick buck and fulfill a job requirement.

And finally, just natural light, a camera, and a tripod. Perhaps its not the most perfect of pictures, and I could have been a better 'model' myself. But this simple picture means all the world to me.

At times, life seems to pass by so quickly, that we forget how beautiful it is to smile. Perhaps we should just stop our busy schedules, take out our cameras (doesn't matter whether its a handphone, compact or SLR camera) and just take a photo of our loved ones smiling. We don't know how long they will smile for us, but as long as they're around, its good to have a memory of them doing so though pictures. I know one day, I'll be looking back and be happy to see this picture every time.

Do we need the most fancy cameras, or studio facilities? No. The most accomplished photographer? No. Just  some determination to make a beautiful picture of someone who means the world to you, smiling.

Good evening everyone.

Friday, January 14, 2011

After work

Life can get quite mundane once a graduate start working. Unlike our western counterparts who have decent lunchbreaks, overtime, health benefits and workers unions, we Asians are typically overworked and underpaid.

Some of us leave for work before the sun rises, and return home after the sun sets. At times, we spend our whole day inside air conditioned offices that we do not get to see natural sunlight at all.

 I usually get off work about 7. During this time, families are busy cooking dinner at home.

 Compared to the shops in Australia, the shops here can close pretty late. Of course, we can't compare ourselves with the 24 hour mamak stalls which operate round the clock.

Being frugal, we usually eat very simple meals, such as this wan tan hor...

... and hokkien noodles.

Tonight, my brother and I had dinner at a cafe in Sea Park. RM 30 for 3 dishes is considered okay-ish, but I've tasted better food elsewhere for this price.

Sweet and sour pork.

Marmite chicken

After dinner, a silent ride back home in the car. When I reach home, I'm so tired and brain dead that I can't really do anything much at all. Of course, I always look forward to spend time with my special one ;).

Thus is a simple, unassuming life. I guess I've got much to thank for as compared to the other homeless people who roam around the city.

The cycle repeats tomorrow, and the day after. Have a good evening everyone.

Monday, January 10, 2011

My review of the Nikon 85mm f/1.4D lens


All images shot with a Nikon D3
Standard picture control with +6 sharpening.
Large basic JPEG fomat
High ISO noise reduction and Active D-lighting OFF to retain maximum detail and sharpness.

 A friend recently got hold of a Nikon 85mm f/1.4D lens and asked me if I wanted one. However being on a tight budget, I decided to test it out first and see if its really suits my photography style.

This is a very solid, well built, highly sought after lens which heralded the days of Nikon AF-D lenses. Nikon's newer lenses aren't as well built unfortunately. Weighing 560g, its a heavy prime lens with 9 glass elements in 8 groups. It is powered by a conventional screw drive motor instead of Nikon's latest Silent Wave Motor, hence the lens does make quite some noise when it autofocuses.

Price wise, this lens had a retail value of approximately RM3,800 before it was recently discontinued. On the used market, its usually priced around RM3,000 to RM3,200.

On the exterior of the lens, you can see a distance scale, Manual / Autofocus switch as well as an aperture ring for use with film cameras. Newer G lenses unfortunately don't have aperture rings in order to 'save cost'. A large textured manual focus ring is located towards the front of the lens for MF enthusiasts.

When you set the aperture to its widest (f/1.4), you can see that this lens is a huge chunk of glass.

This lens has a metal bayonet mount (unlike Nikon's 18-55, for example).

Optically wise, this lens is very sharp at the central portion of the frame even at its f/1.4 maximum aperture.

On the periphery of an FX sensor, it doesn't perform as well optically compared to its lighter cousin, the Nikon 85 f/1.8D.Nonetheless, the 'less sharp' edges gives the lens its distinct 'look' which is great for portraits.

This lens has superb circular aperture blades which makes out of focus highlights almost perfectly circular. Its bokeh is pretty shallow and 'buttery' too, especially when mounted on FX sensors. Bokehlicious! :)

Although the optical performance of this lens seems dated since the launch of the 85/1.4G AF-S, a friend has told me that I can enjoy that optical performance at a fraction of the cost with the Samyang 85/1.4 which cost around RM 1200. The only trouble with the Samyang (and all its other lenses for that matter) is that it is manual focus.

This lens doesn't have very impressive macro capabilities with its 0.85m minimum focusing distance. Nonetheless you can still grab some close up shots of medium sized objects.

The texture on the label of the Carlsberg bottle is fully visible.

Although this cup is quite close to the beer bottle, the lens still manages to blur out the bottle in the background because of its large aperture.

If you're a fan of available light shots, this lens may be your answer. The lens still manages to find  focus although it tends to hunt especially when the subject doesn't have enough contrast to begin with.

Another example of a subject which posed great AF difficulty for this lens - a black cat.

Using available light gives a certain ambiance to the photo which could easily be disrupted through the use of flash.
Look ma, no tripod! Handheld at f/1.6 and ISO 12000.

 The 85mm focal length gives a slight compression effect between the subject and the background. Its great for head shots and half body shots as it gives you a bit of working space between you and the subject, especially if they're not so used to seeing someone with such a large camera. The background is nicely out of focus, especially when you use large apertures, such as f2 as shown above.

One of the biggest irritations that I find with this lens lies with the weakness of its regular screw-drive motor..  It is SLOW and at times inaccurate. This is also a pretty 'lazy' lens. It refuses to autofocus even though I press the shutter button to fine tune its autofocus, hence making it not so useful for events where fast AF and accurately focused images are required all the time.

But when the lens autofocuses correctly, the result is sublime. It is bloody sharp and wonderful!

In conclusion, this lens is in a league of its own among Nikon primes. After the release of its AF-S successor, this lens is highly in demand. After all, not everyone would want to pay more than RM 5k for its successor that performs slightly better. If its autofocus performance was dead on accurate all the time, I would have no reservations to acquire one. Its for those who can afford to have work in a more relaxed environment, such as a studio, or a controlled portrait shoot, but not for intense event coverage.

Hope you've found this review useful. Drop me a comment if you have any. Cheers!

Sunday, January 02, 2011


My blog post for the first day of the new year.. 010111. Life could be better, but it isn't.

Not too interested to put in too many words today. Just a song to share how I feel. Happy New Year everyone.


If I seem distant
Baby I am
Words are like scissors in your hands
And there’s no script to follow
So I just close my eyes
That way it won’t hurt so much
When we say goodbye

I feel just like an actress
Up on the stage
I can’t believe
What I’m hearing myself say
And the porch light is my spotlight
So I play along with this life
That way it won’t hurt so much
When we say goodbye

Did you ever love me?
Does it even matter?
Did you even notice the whole world shatter?
I just want to hold you ‘til you know I’m sorry
But I just keep it all inside
That way it won’t hurt so much
When we say goodbye

My heart feels like a circus
It’s to much to take in
It’s hard to lose love
But you were my best friend


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