Tuesday, May 31, 2011

What is important?

The views expressed here are personal in nature and are not intended to be conclusive. Please read on with a pinch of salt. 

Facebook (fb) is a great thing. It makes the whole world smaller.. much smaller that we can now know a person intimately without even meeting them in the first place.

But then again, many of our 'friends' on fb just stay as friends there while we don't get to meet them in person although we're in the same vicinity. Heck, I don't even have my housemates' fb even though they're just staying one floor above me.

Some of the most successful men that I know don't have time for fb.

My boss for example. He doesn't have a profile on fb, but he has many contacts in the business and political arena so that he can sustain his empire for generations in relative luxury. What comes before fb? Money of course. He is very competitive and seeks out the most successful and efficient staff to further improve the business.

How about a successful photographer who doesn't fb much? Cliff Mautner is one I admire. In fact, I believe that he is so busy shooting (and of course while enjoying the process) that he admits that he doesn't have much time to fb or to blog. And he's getting better with every job that comes in the way, sans the tacky fb advertisements that some photographers have employed to win more fans. Of course, I do not deny that fb is a successful tool to reach out to your clients, but I'm sure your images will speak louder to your clients as compared to the number of 'likes' that you have on your fan page if you are that good and have numerous awards under your belt.

Sometimes, we can get too carried away by the little things in fb. I've seen lovers quarrel on facebook and tell things which are a little too private to let loose on each others walls. Workers have been fired because they've said a little too much about their boss although their boss is their 'friend'. Kids write on their walls about how awesome the party they attended was while their parents snoop on them and find out the truth. Oops.. you're busted big time. Or sometimes you state some controversial statements that don't go well with some people until you get hundreds (or thousands) of hate mail/comments. And the list goes on and on.

If someone deletes us as a friend on fb, we fire back with a whole salvo of questions asking why on earth did we 'unfriend' them. Its sometimes as serious as, if I unfriend you on fb, we will not be friends forever. Its like in kindergarten last time when I (jokingly) said to some of my playmates - "I dun wan friend you anymore", while the next moment we're gleefully playing police and thieves. By golly, I haven't even met the person in question before, and he goes out all offended just because he unfriends me on facebook.

*Actually, thats not so bad I guess. There are cases in Malaysia where an SMS is a valid excuse for a husband to divorce his wife. And poor wife is suddenly dumbfounded not knowing what to do. Jeez, what are marriage certificates for in the first place ? :s

Frankly speaking, nowadays I've not much time for fb; not that I intend to do so. There are much more important things in life to take heed of. How can I still fend for myself in such a big city (Kuala Lumpur) with limited resources while still being able to put food on my table despite the rising prices of goods? How can I market myself so that I stand out from the gazillions of photographers out there? What is my purpose in life? I've been quite busy with some assignments recently until I'm quite exhausted when I get back. I have no desire to get excited on facebook. I just need to chill and have some rest. Maybe shoot a bit more and enjoy the sun and fresh breeze. Have some delicious 'bak kut teh'. And most importantly, spend time with a special someone thats close to my heart.

I recently read an article about an experiment conducted on a family which had almost no communication at all. They took away the TV, radio, computer, handphones from all the members of the family for an entire week. And yes, that probably includes fb. As a result, the family grew closer in a week without all the distractions as compared to the years with which they only spoke to each other for a maximum of 5 minutes a day.

Yeap, there are definitely much more things in life to do other than fb. In fact, I'm doing it right now, such as writing this blog post instead of being on facebook. And I made the effort to call some friends whom I haven't managed to speak to in a while. Messaging each other on fb doesn't really seem personal to me somehow.

Cheerio, and have a good night.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Vivitar 28mm f/2.8

Yesterday, I received a Nikon F4 film camera from a customer who wanted to get rid of his stuff. Along with it came a splendid made-in-Japan manual focus Vivitar 28mm f/2.8 wide angle lens. [In the background is the iconic Dayabumi tower, situated near Padang Merdeka in the center of KL].

All images were taken using large basic jpegs with the Standard picture control. Sharpening +6, D lighting OFF.

Yeap, this is the lens in question. It gives a focal length of 42mm on DX format cameras, or 56mm on 4/3rds cameras. This isn't the first manual lens I've tried though. The first was a Minolta 50mm f/1.4 for fourthirds mount. I got the opportunity to review a trio of Samyang lenses too, despite being reluctant to return them, especially the Samyang 85/1.4.

[taken with my lovely Tamron 28-75. I love its semi macro capabilities].

 It has 6 traditional aperture blades which stop down to f/16. The bokeh isn't as spectacular as Nikon's newest wide primes, but it does the job sufficiently. [Sorry for the marks on the metal mount.. I'll clean it later :s]

Even the cheapest 18-55 kit lens nowadays trumps the Vivitar with respects to image quality. But there's one thing that the Vivitar can attest to - its impeccable build quality. The focusing ring is smooth and well damped, while the aperture ring functions well. I can't expect more from a lens that I received for free, can I ? :)

There are colour coded marks on the depth of field scale, which is good for estimating the plane of focus for manual focus lenses. You focus the lens by turning the textured focusing ring near the front of the lens. I wished the ring was a bit wider though.

 If you're stumped on what to shoot, you could first start by looking for a cat. The Japanese have a very pleasant aesthetic of capturing a cat in its environment. As you can see, its rather poorly emulated here by me. :s

From this image, you can see there is some complex barrel distortion at the bottom periphery of the image. Its not perfect, but I'm not complaining about it. The lens vignettes too at maximum aperture.

Most cats would readily approach you once they've established that you don't have any hostile intentions.

 Looking up at Menara DayaBumi, which literally means 'Force Earth Tower'. Hmmmm...

 A 28mm is good for taking moderately wide angle photographs without the excessive distortion from a 14mm lens.

This little lens has a maximum reproduction ratio of 1:5 when used at its minimum focusing distance of 23cm. It was a great feature of the lens during its debut.

Of course, we can't expect this lens to be as bokehlicious as a 50/1.8 lens for example, due to its wider focal length and slower maximum aperture.

A rather gloomy evening over KL.

 You can see almost all the optical limitations of the lens in this image - noticeable vignetting, loss of sharpness and contrast in the center while the edges just turn into mush with loads of coma.

Motorbikes in an alley.

Playing with old manual focus lenses such as these give me more satisfaction than AF lenses, because I have to take the time to slow down, think, manually focus and compose the image while at the same time fiddling with the aperture ring for the correct exposure (though I find myself using f/2.8 at most times). I would not have the desire at all to manual focus on my Nikon AF-D lenses, because the tactile feel sucks compared the smooth, oiled focusing ring on the Vivitar.

Hmm.. I seem to be getting a hang of manual focus lenses faster than I thought I would. Hopefully a Nikon 50mm f/1.2 AI-s lens will drop down from the heavens one day ;)


Sunday, May 22, 2011


I guess the title today speaks for itself. Wikipedia states that these rodents "are particularly known for their long periods of hibernation."

Its been nearly a year since I moved to the big city of Kuala Lumpur to seek experience as a photographer. In one sense, I've succeeded. I know more Photoshop, have some experience in shooting various events (ranging from corporate functions to kindergarten concerts) and selling cameras. Of course, there's a whole photography world out there that I'm yet to know.

Unfortunately in this period of time, my passion in photography has declined so much so that its hard for me to take a picture.. any picture except for job requirements. I was recently at a park near Paramount Garden LRT. There was a whole scene of life unfolding before me - seniors doing tai chii, kids jogging with their parents, some men fishing. But there was no desire at all to capture what was in front of me. I let it all pass by.
In fact, I have been letting the world pass by for too long. My peers have succeeded in the careers and some have already settled down. My photography buddies revel in the fact that they can go for outings and do model shoots as they like while I have to work on weekends (Yes, I'm working tomorrow in fact).

But where can I move on to? I don't know yet. Or rather, I'm not looking hard enough.

I recently had an interview at a medium sized commercial photography studio. After handing my paltry portfolio to be looked at by one of the directors, I wasn't surprised when he said nothing really impressed him. After all, he's been there and done that. After studying photography in Australia, he went on to work in US for quite some time before returning to KL.

He posed me some very important questions. Among them - "Can you handle the pressure working in a stressful environment under tight deadlines?". The working hours can vary greatly. Sometimes I may be working several days in a row with 3 hours of sleep, or go to work at an ungodly 2am to prepare for a sunrise shoot. Its all part of the job anyway. (Hmm.. this is beginning to sound like a doctor's work schedule, or some underpaid, overworked workers in neighboring Singapore).

I wasn't afraid to admit that I know close to zero regarding commercial photography. After all, what I've learnt so far is nothing compared to what others are doing. In the studio, I only know the concept of two studio lights at even power. Its frankly boring, flat lighting. Nothing compared to the gadgets that commercial studio has - huge octabanks, strip lights, Elinchrom power packs. And no... they're not some cheapo China brand - they're Broncolor, Elinchroms. Not to mention the cameras. Are you complaining that your D700 or 5DmkII is pricy? Consider the Hasselblads or the Mamiyas - one of the latest bodies cost at least RM100k!

The director tried to be as encouraging as possible, but at the end of the day, he asked me to prepare myself for what lies ahead if I was really serious about his offer. "You're frankly too young to understand all of this. I don't blame you though, because I went through this before". Well, what a bummer to hear that as a photography enthusiast for the last 4 years while even owning a pro series SLR :(. Time to eat humble pie.

I've been hibernating like the dormice for way too long. While I'm in my little shell, the world has moved on. Times are getting tough. I have to motivate myself to move on, and go further than what I can see with my 2 humble eyes. I love being a photographer, but I do not like where I am now.

During the past month, I've done some reading. Of some interest to me was a book written by Pastor Kenneth Chin of Acts Church Subang Jaya, entitled "Chin Up". It was amazing to read how God came through for him, his family and ministry in times of dire need. But God isn't a God of Blessings all the time. Ps Chin, like all of us had his tough times too. If I was in his shoes, I may have given up. But in spite of everything, he managed to pull through. Of course, his mid life biography is only possible after all the good and bad experiences that he has encountered.

Will I still be a photographer 20 years, or even 30 years from now? I don't know, but I hope my patience and hope will continue to bring me forward. I'm quite lost now. As they say, "God can't help you unless you help yourself."



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