Robin’s take: Thaipusam 2019

Thaipusam is one of the largest festivals in Malaysia, drawing no less than 2 million people to Batu Caves in 2018. MT did a splendid job covering it in 2017 with the Hasselblad H6D-100C (photoessays here, here and a video here), shooting mostly in low light as the rituals start on the eve of the actual celebration. This year, I decided to brave the crowds at Batu Caves but was also intending to do things differently. Instead of punishing the camera in impossibly low light situations, I played to my strength by shooting during the day and utilizing the beautiful morning light.

MT’s note: I’ve covered Thaipusam on several occasions in the past, but tend to prefer working at night for both the atmosphere/drama and the lower temperatures (though it brings its own challenges in the sheer crowd sizes, light levels etc.) Had to sit out this year because of my back, but glad to see one of the team made it!

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Street-style wedding portraiture

When Sarah, an old friend, shared news of her engagement and related visit to Kuala Lumpur, I could not help but ask if she was interested in a pre-wedding shoot here. I told her this would not be a typical engagement shoot at the park or by the beach. I wanted to do something unusual and different for Sarah by bringing her and Gregor, her fiancé, to my usual street shooting grounds and do their portraits there. Outdoor street-style pre-wedding is not new to me, I have done a few rounds with other clients but this was the first one I did around the Petaling Street area.

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Robin’s fisheye adventures

Firstly – a happy Lunar New Year to all our readers!

Fisheye lenses fall in the love-it-or-hate-it category – there is no middle ground. The excessive distortion is not widely accepted and frankly does not work for many scenarios. I was curious about how I would approach street shooting with such a lens as it would, no doubt, change my execution in street shooting by forcing me to look for different subjects and compose my scenes differently. I found that I needed to be more careful in my framing as the lens can fit in more than intended. Also, to find subjects and scenes that work well with fisheye is a huge challenge in itself. I used the Olympus M.Zuiko 8mm F1.8 Fisheye PRO lens for all images in this article.

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Robin in Bangkok, part II


Continued from Part 1

Since it was my first time in Bangkok, I decided to spend a full day at the Ayutthaya historical park, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. I knew that the temples and general landscape have been photographed countless times before, so I challenged myself to shoot these tourist attractions in my own style and avoid making a a clone of the many images already out there.

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Robin in Bangkok, part I

I planned on visiting Bangkok some time at the end of last year, but with the South Africa trip in December, I decided to make Bangkok item #1 on my agenda for 2019. This was my first ever visit to Bangkok and was fully intended to be a personal holiday, but somehow turned into partial work when Olympus Thailand invited me to conduct a street photography talk. With half a day blocked for the talk and me visiting the usual tourist traps and temples of Bangkok, I was left with little time for street photography. I did manage two full morning sessions of shutter therapy around the Bangkok Hua Lamphong Railway station and surrounding areas leading to Chinatown, and I shall be sharing my images here.

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Mountains and clouds

Recently I had a job that took me all the way up to Genting Highlands, which sit about 6000 feet above sea level. I was there over the weekend and most of my time was spent shooting for the job, leaving me no opportunity to roam around. Luckily, my hotel room overlooked the surrounding mountains. It was quite an experience staying in a place so high up that and close to the cloud cover. My view was constantly covered by thick mist but when there was a brief clearing, I quickly shot some images. Due to the mist and other atmospherics, I found that the colours were flat and dull resulting in me converting my images to monochrome and ensuring a more dramatic output.

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Robin’s event photography tips

A large portion of my work as a commercial photographer is event coverage. I have covered events ranging from a private birthday party to a large corporate event with almost a thousand attendees. There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to event photography but I have learned so much from my experience and I would like to share some of these tips today. A lot of these discussions revolve more around your attitude and approach as a photographer than the actual technical execution. I shall focus on how to minimize mistakes and be as prepared as you possibly can for any unexpected developments.

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Keeping photowalks fresh

I have led hundreds of photowalks within Kuala Lumpur and a few outside of the city and I have yet to tire of them. There have been official outings and workshops for local photography clubs or consumer events for camera manufacturers as well as private and solo outings over the years. I believe that a photowalk is essential for any photographer. If you are a professional photographer, commercial shoots may bring food to the table but personal photowalks are an opportunity fore creative experimentation and growth. For this article, I shall define photowalks as not strictly street photography per se, but a wider involvement of multiple disciplines in photography that may include city architecture, urban decay, street portraits, and any other genres with subject contents widely available at photowalk locations.

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Working with overcast light

When the weather is overcast and light is not great, street photographers (myself included) usually lose motivation to continue shooting. After all, light plays a vital role in producing results. With less than ideal lighting, there is no opportunity for the widely practiced deep shadow and highlight play, silhouette shots or even dramatic high contrast shots, both in color or black and white. I do envy photographers in regions further away from the tropics (Japan, Australia, Northern European countries), where directional beautiful light is more common and present for an extended period of the day. In Malaysia where I reside, if there isn’t tropical afternoon showers, then we have to contend with haze or harsh light for most of the day. Directional and interesting light is confined to mornings and just before sunset.

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Robin visits South Africa, part II

Continued from Part 1

It was hard to believe how close we were able to get to the wild animals in Madikwe Game Reserve. Our park ranger drove us as close as 5 meters from the animals! The feeling of potentially fatal danger was persistent even while we busied ourselves composing images. The animals kept turning toward us and glancing at us from time to time, but they never showed any sign of aggression or agitation. I guess they’re so used to human presence with the never-ending stream of tourists that pass through the reserve. I was thrilled to be able to continue shooting my portraits of strangers, only this time my subjects were wild animals instead of humans.

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