Postcards: My quiet hometown, Kuching

I was born and raised in Kuching, the City of Cats situated in Borneo. Kuching is a small city and drastically different from Kuala Lumpur – where I am based currently. There are no extensive highways, skyscrapers or excessive concrete structures. The air is cleaner, the sky is always blue and people there are generally friendlier as well. Many photographer friends are willing to pay good money to travel far to see and shoot different places and cultures. While I always encourage them to travel, I also remind them to slow down and look at what they have around them. I love my hometown, I grew up there and I know it well. Knowing your subject is critical in improving your photography. What place would you know better than your own roots?

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Second take – the Sigma 16mm f1.4 in the field

As mentioned in my initial review of the Sigma 16mm F1.4 DC DN Contemporary lens, I had the lens for a few more days – enough for a quick round of weekend shutter therapy. Considering I shot mostly at night/low-light for the review, I took this opportunity to test the lens under more favorable light conditions. I also shot images with human subjects as I normally do for my street shooting.

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Experiments with ring lights and insects

I am currently experimenting with an alternative lighting solution for my insect macro work – LED ring lights. My usual insect macro technique of using wireless off-camera flash (as seen in this article) may be effective in shooting bugs hiding in difficult to reach places, but it is also physically challenging to execute. Holding the camera and macro lens steady with just one hand with the flash on the other can be tiring for hikes in the forest hills – where these insects are usually found. The LED ring light, in theory, should be much easier to use. Let’s see if my hypothesis was correct.

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Tips from street photography workshops

One of the more rewarding experiences as a photographer is the opportunity to conduct photography workshops. I have been conducting workshops for Olympus Malaysia, and recently Panasonic Malaysia, that focus primarily on an introduction to photography – conducted in the form of a photowalk. Workshop participants are usually new-comers to photography and are looking to learn how to use their newly purchased cameras. Not only do I have to share photography tips and tricks, but I also have to be able to walk the talk and demonstrate, on the spot, how certain shots are executed. It is easy to talk, but shooting and showing instantaneous results is the challenging part. I’ve compiled a series of photographs below that were shot over the course of a few workshops, and used to demonstrate certain techniques live.

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Concert photography: Robin’s view

Just as I was returning from my short holiday to Phnom Penh, I was invited to shoot the dress rehearsal of an unusual rock concert, Let’s Rock, at KLPAC (Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre). The concert featured lead vocal performances from three prominent local singer-songwriters, Nick Davis, Bihzhu and Fuad (from Kyoto Protocol) and was backed by the KLPAC Symphonic Band orchestra, a 20 member strong choir group from the Young Choral Academy and a 4-piece band. They covered iconic rock songs from the 50s all the way to the present day hits: such as Elvis Presley, Beatles, Queens, Guns and Roses, U2, Coldplay and many more legendary rock artists! I was privileged to be there at the dress rehearsal and was blown away by the concert. The photographs have been unexpectedly well received and are circulating around. In this article, I wanted to share some crucial tips on managing a challenging live stage shoot.

Note: MT previously wrote about concert photography here.

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A blast from the past II: revisiting the Olympus OM-D E-M5

Of all the cameras that I’ve reviewed in the past, the Olympus OM-D E-M5 will always have a special place in my heart. It seems appropriate to follow the previous revisitation of the very first E-1 by revisiting the E-M5. The E-M5 was a game-changer for the mirrorless interchangeable camera world, pushing the boundaries for capabilities and setting high standards for other mirrorless manufacturers to follow. It’s been 6 years since the release of the E-M5 and I want to explore the significance of the E-M5’s role in changing the perception towards mirrorless cameras as a serious tool. I spent a day with the E-M5 for my shutter therapy and all the images shown are fresh out of the trusty, old E-M5.

MT also reviewed the original E-M5 some time back, here, and wrote about how it was a game changer for him professionally at the time, here.

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A blast from the past: Robin Wong on the Olympus E-1

Between the chase for stratospheric megapixel numbers, lust over new gear releases and pushing the limits of imaging envelopes, I sometimes take a step or two back and relive the experience of shooting with cameras from yesteryear. In this case, the first ever Olympus Four Thirds DSLR, the E-1 which was introduced in 2003. While accessorizing my outfit with a vintage-looking camera matches the overall retro-fashion look that seems hip these days, my purpose of shooting with the dinosaur E-1 was more simplistic. I wanted to slow down, and just enjoy shooting without having the camera get in the way. After all, have I not repeatedly talked about going back to the basics and getting the fundamentals right? Even MT has a great, must-read article about shot discipline, which emphasizes critical timing and technique relevant to all gear choices.

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Firmware 2.0 for the Olympus E-M1 Mark II

Olympus has announced firmware upgrades for their OM-D E-M1 Mark II, E-M5 Mark II and PEN-F cameras. Olympus Malaysia provided me with the early version of Firmware 2.0 for my E-M1 Mark II about a week ago and I’ve had some time to test it out. There are no major changes but there are small yet relevant improvements that can make a difference. In this article, I explore the improvements that firmware 2.0 brings to the E-M1 Mark II, and how it affects my photography.

Olympus has made the following feature additions or enhancements to the E-M1 Mark II via the firmware upgrade:
– Smaller AF target area for both Single-AF and Continuous-AF
– Focus Stacking compatibility for M.Zuiko 12-100mm F4 PRO lens
– Indication of 1 to 1 magnification view on image reviews
– Improved buffer of Pro Capture Mode to 35 pre-burst frames from previously 14 frames only.
– In camera fisheye lens distortion correction (de-fishing)
– New Flicker Scan Aid function allows for easier removal of flickering when using electronic shutter.
– New Art Filter added: Bleach Bypass

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Review: the Panasonic Leica 12mm f1.4 ASPH for Micro Four Thirds

Here’s another one to add to the glut of high grade, fast aperture, Micro Four Thirds, prime lens reviews: the Panasonic Leica Summilux 12mm F1.4 ASPH lens. At first, I decided not to review this lens mostly because I prefer to work with longer focal lengths. Also, the Panasonic 12mm F1.4 lens has been around since 2016 and there are already several reviews available. The lens has been sitting in my camera bag for a while now, as I went along shooting on the streets. I’ve used it for certain shots – out of curiosity or when I needed a wide angle lens. Eventually, I’d used it enough that it made sense to review it – if for nothing else, but the sake of completeness.

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Review: The 2018 Olympus E-PL9

Olympus has just launched a new addition to their PEN line-up, the E-PL9. I had the opportunity to shoot a review unit for about a week before the launch. Looking at the compact form factor, stylish design and inclusion of a selfie screen, the E-PL9 is clearly targeted towards the entry level market – particularly smartphone users who need better image output and performance but are not keen on carrying larger and heavier DSLR cameras. However, there is no shortage of entry level system cameras now, both from the mirrorless and DSLR camps. In this E-PL9 review, I explore the capabilities of the small PEN camera that allows it to stand out from the crowd, as well as the compromises that were made to keep the compact form factor. [Read more…]