Low-ISO street photography by night

High ISO is usually a necessity for shooting on the streets at night without using a tripod but I thought why not have a session, for fun, where I stick to ISO200 throughout? I was near Petaling Street with some friends and we all chose to employ different shooting methods. One friend went the usual high ISO hand-held route, while another friend had a sturdy tripod setup. I was the only one crazy enough to run around without a tripod and irrationally stick to ISO200…

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Around the wet markets

If you have been following my articles for a while now you may have noticed that I shoot a lot in local Malaysian wet markets. Even my mum finds it hard to believe that I spend so much time in actual markets though I go not with the intention to buy fresh meat and vegetables but to hunt for photography opportunities. Almost every new camera or lens review has featured a few sample photographs taken at various wet market locations in Kuala Lumpur. I want to explain my fascination with the wet market and why I keep returning to the similar spots early in the mornings.

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Robin’s stylistic experiments: monochrome squares

It is no secret that I prefer to shoot in color for my street photography but I do have a special adoration for black and white for very specific situations. With the right lighting condition and sufficient contrast in the frame I tend to favor black and white. I then decided to do a specific outing just to shoot everything in black and white. Initially I did not plan to do square crops for all images in this series, but a few images called for square composition which worked well. For consistency, I cropped everything to square.

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Photoessay: Stolen moments

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In my mind, this set feels vaguely voyeuristic – stealing snippets of time from my subjects, without any of them noticing. Photographing around corners, street furniture and other foregrounds; taking small glimpses into unguarded moments of an individual – what were they thinking? What were they feeling? Where did they come from? Where are they going next? Perhaps the uncertainty of continuity combined with the strong individual emotions and expressions is what drew me to these scenes; the kind of tensions precipitated by something seemingly trivial to an outsider, yet intensely important to a single person. I didn’t set out to shoot these; they just happened across the course of a week and about seven thousand frames. Sometimes our minds pick up on recurring themes we aren’t consciously aware of. In this case, both photographer and subjects were lost in the moment – they in their lives, me in that intense blink of observation. MT

This set was shot with a Nikon D850, 24-120VR and post processed with Photoshop Workflow III.

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Photoessay: The anonymous flaneur, part I

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Leading on in the spirit of the previous post, I present a set of observations of anonymous individuals passing through the stage of life, without leaving anything more than a transient wisp. Are we equally observing each other, or are we preoccupied in our own bubbles? The more people around us, seemingly the more impermeable and discrete those bubbles become. As there’s less and less personal space we seek to defend it more closely. Is human nature wanting what we cannot have? MT

This set was shot with a Nikon D850, 24-120VR and post processed with Photoshop Workflow III.

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Le flaneur

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From Wikipedia: “Flâneur (pronounced [flɑnœʁ]), from the French noun flâneur, means “stroller”, “lounger”, “saunterer”, or “loafer”. Flânerie is the act of strolling, with all of its accompanying associations. A near-synonym is boulevardier.” A holdover from the class divides of 19th and early 20th century in Europe when the gentry could spend their time engaged in leisurely walking, observing and enjoying the cities, the concept might sound a bit indolent today but is actually still quite apt: these were the original street photographers, most of whom went without cameras. Fast forward half a century and we had the tourists; who perhaps could be thought of as serial visitors herded in predefined courses from important sight to sight. In parallel, photography went from an academic and scientific curiosity to being a mass-medium for personal recording, and then public exhibition. And then a means to show off: this brings us to the present day.

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Stepping back for context: wider street portraits

My photography buddies often ask me if I get tired of shooting the same streets in Kuala Lumpur, and my answer has always been the same: no, because I do things differently each time. While the background and setting remain the same, we can choose to vary our choice of subjects and the way we approach them. I have been shooting portraits of strangers for a while now, and I see my style changing progressively. Some of the changes are subconscious as you cannot do the same thing all the time and expect different results.

For a while now, my most used lens on the street was the Olympus M.Zuiko 45mm F1.8 lens as it gave me medium telephoto coverage, a tight perspective for close up headshots and provided sufficient control over depth of field. It was a huge challenge to approach strangers and get so close for my shots, and I was happy that I pushed through this process and overcame self-doubt when talking to strangers on the street.

In contrast to that, I have been moving myself further away from the usual head and shoulder shots and decided to pursue a wider environmental style of portrait. Instead of 45mm F1.8, my most used lens now is the 25mm F1.8 on the streets.

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Photoessay: Life in Osaka

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Today’s images are a stream-of-consciousness style set of observations of life in Osaka. I wanted to see if there were any perceptible differences from the audience side given these were not shot in my usual way, but rather a series of quick grabs whilst I was there for reasons other than photography, and with photography not as my primary objective. The usual (heavy) curation took place after the fact, which may perhaps dull the value of the exercise as the same biases are therefore applied to both more deliberate and these opportunistic sets. Is the way we see so immutably hard coded by force of habit and practice, that even when we are not trying, the result is indistinguishable? I leave you to let me know. MT

This series was shot with a Canon G1X Mark III and Nikon D850/24-120VR, and postprocessed with the Monochrome Masterclass workflow.

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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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Photoessay: Transient glimpses

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All photography is of course transient; most of it is nothing more than a vicarious disconnected glimpse into the life of somebody else or timeline of another object’s point of view – other than self-documentary, there really isn’t such a thing as a continuous statement simply because a photograph lacks causality when viewed in isolation. Yet something about the people and subjects featured in this set – shot in the rain and winter in Tokyo and Kyoto – seemed to me especially poignant and fragile. It’s as though there’s both a sort of contemplative melancholy brought on by the season (and probably also lack of sun), but simultaneously an appreciation of the fleeting fragility of the moment. Perhaps introspection is the most appropriate description of the mood here. MT

This set was shot with a Nikon D850, 24-120/4 VR and processed with the Monochrome Masterclass Workflow. Experience Japan vicariously in How To See Ep.2: Tokyo.

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