A Mood for Instagram

It’s been a while since I had posted something here. Sorry about that, but work was literally keeping me at the office for longer hours for the past

weeks. I did manage to take some Instagram shots during the quick visit to the mall on Friday. Here they are.

Flower Macros

I was fooling around in my garden with my Tamron 90mm SP macro lens (one bloody sharp lens it is!) when I noticed some pretty flowers that caught my attention.

I can tell you that the biggest challenge in macro photography is keeping the camera still, and all these were taken without a tripod! It goes without saying that these shots were a few good ones taken from a pile of many many bad ones.

The Old Burger Stall

Here’s a little something taken with Instagram. Shown below is an old burger stall just behind my office. Gosh, I really love these Instagram filters. A seemingly mundane shot transformed into a work of art.

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Morning Mushrooms


Every once in a while, a mushroom or two (maybe more) would sprout up somewhere in my backyard, and my mum would yell at me to whip out my camera for a few snaps at these tiny organic parasols. Just this morning, I noticed these two pretty mushrooms near the veggie patch. For one thing, they look suspiciously suggestive. I’ll leave the rest to your imagination.

Instagram Madness

The iPhone proved to be a very capable photographic tool, and when Instagram came along, it redefined the smartphone as not only a tool for recording visual information, but one for sharing them as well. Here are some pictures taken with Instagram.

Concert Photography – My First Attempt

Concert photography is not something everyone will enjoy, but for those who wish to take a first step in this direction, having the right preparation is necessary. My first attempt at concert photography was a little while ago, when I was shooting under Wedding Celebrations Studio for Sungha Jung’s concert at the Kuching International Airport. Sungha Jung was brought in to perform by Borneo To The World, a soap maker and newly-opened retailer at the airport. I would personally think their marketing strategy proved extremely successful, at least judging by the size of the crowd and the attention they were getting.

I only had two hours to prepare. A quick poking-around the web returned some interesting results on what gear to bring and what to expect during the event.

Listed below were the items I brought along. Because I anticipated I might be moving around quite a bit, I decided to pack light.

  1. Camera: Nikon D7000
  2. Nikkor 35mm f1.8 DX.
  3. Nikkor 18-105mm f3.5 – 5.6 DX

I presume that the above setup would be largely dependent upon the type of concert photography you decide to get into, but having a fast prime would be mostly adequate as most concerts are set in venues with low ambient lighting. Having a camera body which can shoot at ‘stupid high’ ISOs (as Ken Rockwell put it) would certainly be an advantage. You may have also noticed that I did not include a flash. This is because flash photography is often not allowed, or even if allowed, it may be restricted to certain settings and under specific circumstances.

The truth is, you don’t really need to have cutting-edge gear. Having a eye for good composition and some luck should suffice for most people. Below are some photos taken during the event. Click on the pictures to view the EXIF data.

If there was something important I learned about concert photography, it is about photographing minute and often-overlooked details. It is these things that help convey and express the persona of the subjects being photographed.

If it was hard working when the ambient lighting was too low, then it was even more challenging when you have distracting elements constantly creeping into the frame. A quick fix would be to get closer to your subject and have it fill the frame, thus pushing out all the distracting elements. Converting your photos to monochrome helps too.

Shown below is another version of the above photo, but in full color. At this point, you may notice that when the photo is rendered in black and white, we tend to focus on the texture and outlines of the subject.

Having your gaze fixated solely on to the performer(s) will tell little about the surrounding. I decided to include a bit of the audience in the above frame to give the picture a bit more impact. Shown below are a few more examples. This is a good way to ‘throw’ the viewer right into the heat of the action.

Metering Basics

Hi everyone! I’ve included in the how-to section above my latest article on metering basics. In this article, I will explain the three fundamental metering modes available in most digital cameras out there in the market. Please leave any feedback in the comments below. Happy reading!


Photography Notes for the Rest of the World

It’s been a while since I updated my blog, due to my hectic schedule. It is not easy juggling many tasks at a time, especially when you have to work 14 to 18 hours a day. It’s not easy being an entrepreneur. Sometimes I wonder what keeps me going.

Anyway, I digress. I’ve recently managed to squeeze in a bit of time doing some write up on my iPad (Pages for iOS is AWESOME), especially since the ‘right idea’ inevitably pops out when I least expect it. Having a pen and paper at this time would certainly be great, as my sometimes quirky nature to multitask often means what I have in ‘active memory’ gets blown out of the window, but having an iPad to lug around is certainly the ‘in’ thing, but…

LIONEL! Stop writing nonsense!

Ok ok..so back to the topic.

I have decided to spend some spare time sharing my knowledge in photography with the rest of the world and what better way than to have them downloadable as PDF files right? I have added a ‘How-to’ section which you can access from the menu bar just above. If you have any suggestions on how to improve the articles, please do leave a comment below.

The K.I.S.S.R Principle – Composition Basics

Till this very day, I am a firm believer that composition is the key to any outstanding photo, regardless of the camera or gear you use. Saying that your equipment is not sufficiently good for taking breathtaking shots is merely conjuring excuses to be lazy. Needless to say, your camera is just a tool, and you should use your tool to the best of what it allows you to do, limited only by your creative potential.
So what then is this thing calld the  K.I.S.S.R principle? It stands for ‘Keep It Simple Stupid…Really’. If you have noticed, those pictures we see in photography magazines that have the ‘pop’ tend to keep composition down to a bare minimum. Needless to say, one of the fast way to learn how to take good picture is to observe how other experienced photographers do it. For a start, a good place to start looking is Flickr. Take time to observe their photos. Besides Flickr, another good place is Facebook, because Facebook is flooded with brilliant examples of horrible photos that are painful to look at. Seriously. What we need its a means of learning from both the best and the worst. Knowing how to take ‘horrible’ photos is a good start to learn how to avoid the pitfalls of other photographers.
In this article, I will outline some of the compositional techniques employed by experienced photographers. Please not that these are merely aids, and like most rules out there, are meant to be broken. For the purpose of simplicity, I will not go though other compositional aids such as the Rule of Thirds as there are plenty of topics about it on the Internet.
Keep your composition as simple as possible. Composition is the technique of arranging subjects in a picture. Ideally, try not to have more than 3 subjects in a photograph. Having too many subjects dilutes the context. In photography, less is usually more.
The context of a picture is the part of the picture that tells a story. A good picture is one that has a punch line. In other words, one look at a picture and it should tell you something about it straightaway. A good way to preserve and enhance the context of your photo is to arrange the subjects in the frame such that they tell a story. For example, a lone silhouetted figure sitting on sandy shores of a beach overlooking the sunset can make for a striking photo. Ask yourselves questions like, “What is it that I like about this?”, or “Why am I taking a picture of this?”. A good photo always has a strong but simple punchline.
Look out for color themes when framing your shot. Different colors tend to convey different mood. Does the color of your main subject stand put of the crowd? Or does your subject blend into the rest of the scene? Does the scene look better in monochrome? Red tends to communicate warmth, energy and force. Green symbolizes freshness, youth and vitality.
Texture is important in conveying information about the nature of materials. Without texture, everything will just look plasticky and boring. Everything would be just blobs of color with nothing much to tell.
Contrast in this sense is subjective, because it can be contrast in term of color, subject, context and even texture. What good is contrast if it can be so subjective? For a start, contrast helps us to get things noticed. Think of the red-dressed girl in a crowd of black-suited executives crossing at a busy intersection, or the wrinkles on a grandmother’s face, as she hugs her 3 year old granddaughter. These are just examples of how contrast can be put to your advantage.
Harmony is the opposite of contrast. While harmony is similar to contrast in that it applies to the choice of color, texture and context etc. , harmony is different in that it is about similarities. Think of the lush green forest and all the shades of greens in between. Harmony is about conformity and control.
This is a tricky one. It is a cocktail of the above-mentioned points and matter of personal taste and understanding of the context of the situation.
The Wrap Up
Composition is a very much neglected topic by many beginning photographers. Newbie photographers often get stuck at figuring how their cameras work, and are too concerned about which settings to apply, or which lens to use. All this can be distracting and can likely be discouraging when you do not get the intended result. Instead of taking too long to figure what ISO or aperture, or shutter speed to use, photographers are encouraged to focus on the subject to be photographed. This is not to say that it is not important to know how your camera works, but that you should not be distracted by it. That being said, leave all the technical mumbo-jumbo at home and put on your creative thinking cap when you are on the field.

Fairy Cave Revisited

It had been quite a while since the last time I set foot in Fairy Cave. The last visit there proved somewhat fruitless due to the fact that I relied solely on my camera’s high ISO capabilities to shoot in near pitch dark conditions, for forgetting to bring my tripod. The ensuing result were photos that were a little on the soft edge due to extensive in-camera noise removal.
Photographing the interior of the cave proved more difficult than the last time. Not only was the light intensity lower, but it has only just stopped raining and it was so extremely humid inside! Imagine the viewfinder fogging up each time I looked thought it! And the stench inside the cave was oh so unbearable too.

But I digress; complains aside. The stuff I brought along with me were:

  1. Canon EOS 500N film SLR.
  2. Nikon D7000, my trusty companion.
  3. My tripod, with plastic socks made from cut up plastic bags. (I couldn’t bear the idea of bat’s s**t sticking onto the legs of the tripod 🙂 )
  4. A small torch, which really was the flash of my mobile phone.

Perhaps the most difficult aspect of photographing the cave was that there was not enough light to judge my composition, thus making the right judgement very difficult if not impossible. The low light also made it difficult to autofocus. Thank goodness the Nikon had all 39 autofocus points doing their magic.

Another thing about the lighting in the cave was the heightened contrast between the dark and light areas. It was virtually impossible to have a single exposure capture the entire range of light so I took several exposures, ranging from 30 to 2 seconds, and made a HDR image out of them. Shown above is an HDR composite image.

Keeping the camera still during the long exposures was one thing considering that my tripod was a flimsy and cheap one. The last time I took it out for some night shoot it literally swayed in the wind! In the cave, it was not so much of a problem with the wind, but I was hoping to have a tripod that could hold kilograms of gear without worrying that it will tip over, especially when you can’t see that we’ll in the dark.

Here are the individual Jpeg images before I combined them to form a HDR image.

Exposure: 25 seconds. Aperture: f/5

Exposure: 10 seconds. Aperture: f/5

Exposure: 5 seconds. Aperture: f/5

Exposure: 1 second. Aperture: f/5

Exposure: 30 seconds. Aperture: f/5. Deciding I needed a bit more texture and detail for the cave’s floor, I decided to lengthen the shutter duration.

And here are the HDR images.

The cave interior
The outer ‘chamber’ of the cave, overlooking a sky-roof.