Friday, August 2, 2013

Sunrise and Sunset Cityscape at Kuala Lumpur with ND filter

As soon as I get my hands on the Square Filter, I always wanted to shoot a sunset or sunrise with it. My first try was not so successful. I did not wait until the light is up yet, therefore the image look dull. Since I did not use Cokin original filter (it's freaking expensive), the sharpness of the photo degrade slightly as you add more layer of filters on it. Therefore, for those who use the more economical "Cokin like" filters like me, I would not advised to add more than 1 filter. Besides, the filter holder are capable of holding 3 filters at a time which makes it really thick. It does cause the photos to have slight vignetting at the edge. This effect is not a bad thing, but if you would like to get rid of it, you can either adjust the vignetting control slider on lightroom or you can actually cut away the extra filter holder slot which you wouldn't use it anyway.

The set consist of a filter holder (hold up to 3 filters), 6 filters, and all sizes of ring adapter
To do sunrise or sunset photography, there are few guidelines that I find it useful to take note.
  • Check the sunrise or sunset time for your shooting location. The best light is 10 mins before  and 15 mins after sunrise/sunset. However, you should always reach the location early so that you have time to decide the best location and test the exposure as the best light timing approach.
  •  Check the weather condition for the shooting location. As long as it is not raining then it is fine. You can get good shot although it is cloudy. Use ND filter to lengthen the exposure and make it into black and white to see if it is better.
  • Research on a good location. Knowing where the sun going to rise and set is important. Make sure the place is talking advantage towards the sunrise or sunset.
  • Tripod, shutter release cable / use camera timer instead for long exposure shot.
  • Clean the filter and lens before you go out for shooting.
Here are some sample shot I take with or without the ND filter. I have use gradual ND8 filter most of the time for more pronounce effect.
ISO 200 | 17mm | f/16 | 15 sec, with gradual ND8
This is the first shot I take when I arrive at the location 20 mins before sunrise. The sky is still cold blue and not too dramatic.
ISO 200 | 17mm | f/16 | 5 sec
The shot was taken roughly 10 mins before sunrise wihout the ND filter. The sun have just started to illuminated the horizon with warm tone.
ISO 200 | 17mm | f/16 | 20 sec, with gradual ND8
This shot was taken with gradual ND8 filter to lengthen the duration of exposure. However, the sun is not fully rise yet. Therefore I try to make it a black and white photo instead. I regret I have left this scene too early as I thought I could rush to another scene nearby for sunrise shot as well. This prove to be a mistake when I have lost on the road and miss out the golden moments I mentioning.
Not satisfied with the outcome in the morning, I have decided to take the sunset cityscapes on the same day. After hours of research and reading, I have found this place which is quite common to take sunset cityscape as it is located on the east side of KL. I arrive there early to scout the surrounding to see if I was safe to take photo. Then, I go up to the 10th floor and start setting up.
The filter add onto the lens
Ready to take sunset shot
The sunset right behind the Berjaya Time Square building and the cloud above turns into golden red colour.
ISO 200 | 17mm | f/16 | 1/5sec, with gradual ND8
When you have view on high ground, I couldn't resist to take series of shots to make a panorama. I use manual to ensure the exposure is consistant and post processing it at Lightroom with the same tweaking. Later on, I use a software name Image Composite Editor (ICE), a project develop by Microsoft to stitch up the photos. All you need to do it drag and drop and they will process for you with no problem. You can download it here for FREE.
ISO 200 | 17mm | f/16 | 0.4sec each, consists of 5 photos, with gradual ND8
When the light is pretty much gone, the city light came to live. This shot below was taken around 15 minutes after sunset. You can always zoom in to shoot close up on the city. You might get some interesting traffic trail that makes your shot more dramatic.
ISO 200 | 27mm | f/16 | 10 sec
Hope this helps you to get started with your sunrise and sunset shot and I will make another update when I use it near the coastline soon! Stay tune~ Sharing is caring ^^

Friday, July 19, 2013

Night Street Photography Session around Petaling Street

It's Saturday night, the adrenaline flows in my blood stream again to go out hunting with my camera. I was inspired by Kai from DigitalRev where by in almost all the review he made, he test it on the street, right onto people's face! It seems easy enough, but to do it is a totally different experience. While you are adjusting the focal length, focusing and composition, the subject that you are shooting might already been aware that you are actually photographing them. I just don't have the gut to do it.
ISO 800 | 17mm | f/2.8 | 1/125 sec
Initially I'm trying to do focus and recompose but with no success. They will either duck their head or move away from my frame as soon as I raise my camera. So my next approach is to try manual focus and shooting from waist level. I try to shoot at wide end (around 24mm on crop sensor) and pre-focus at around 1 meter. I shoot wide open, therefore the depth of field is quite limited. It's still a hit and miss. However, it is still better than my previous method.
ISO 800 | 19mm | f/2.8 | 1/60sec
As you can see from this trolley shot, I am shooting from waist level with pre-focus method. My goal is to focus at the trolley man, but it ends up on those bottles of drink. Another trick is have to keep your shutter at least 1/60 sec or faster in order to get rid of movement blur from your subject. However, this depends on what you want to archieve. If you would like to take long shutter with peoples movement around, that would be cool too.
ISO 800 | 22mm | f/2.8 | 1/30sec
The reason why I went to Petaling Street instead of fish market or even wondering around the shopping complex is because that is a tourist area. The peoples around there might have better chances to let you take their photo, maybe they are used to tourist around the world passing by and can't resist to snap their shutter on them. Once you have blend in, your subject might be glad that you took their picture, and of course in return, I will just smile back and say thank you.
ISO 200 | 17mm | f/11 | 5 sec
This long exposure I'm not using a tripod. Instead I'm resting it on the pedestrian bridge steel barricade. After passing through the Petaling Street, I'm deviate from my goal on street photography. Instead, I'm obsesses with traffic trails.
ISO 200 | 17mm | f/11 | 10 sec
Shooting traffic trails on night cityscapes makes the photo feel "alive". While I am waiting for the shutter to close, I'm constantly look around and watch out for traffic and suspicious person that might have bad intention on you.
ISO 200 | 17mm | f/16 | 20 sec
This light trail make my day. The building is so crisp and the street lights and car lights have make this photo alive. Although it get flare into the lens, it actually make the scene look more dramatic and realistic. The star burst from the street light is the effect from using small aperture such as f/16.
ISO 800 | 36mm | f/2.8 | 1/20 sec
I always shoot RAW. Therefore I will set my white balance to auto especially at night street where the mix lighting situation can be quite challenging. Low light environment makes you would want to shoot wide open and higher ISO. Depends on your camera ISO performance, I only can accept the files not higher than 1600. Beyond that the lost of details is quite significant. I shot mostly at f/2.8. If you have a nifty-fifty, that would be great as well.

I believe with more and more practise you can build up your confidence to be able to shoot spontaneously on the streets. Hopefully you enjoy my shots and forgive me for my poor writing. Happy outing!

Sunday, June 30, 2013

My shots attempt on Milky Way

Ever since I own my DSLR, I have dream to shoot the Milky Way on a perfectly clear night sky. After a series of trial and error, here I would like to summarize how you can get a shot on the milky way as well.

There are few guidelines to shoot Milky Way:
  1. Location
Google Sky Map Application
From May to August each year, the Milky Way is rising from the South East horizon and setting on the North West horizon generally. For their precise location, you can install an apps on your Android (not sure other phone OS have it) called Google Sky Map. Using this apps, locate the Scorpius and  Sagittarius constellation and use that location as a starting point. Right about now(July 2013), the Milky Way is rising high enough on the South East direction around 11pm.

Besides, you should look for a location away from the streets light and city light pollution to maximize the visibility of the Milky Way.

2. Composition
You would like to include some of the object eg. trees, house, mountain as part of your composition to show the sense of scale in the photo. However, you can try out different composition as you have hours to photograph the subject which is moving slowly across the sky.

3. Weather Condition
Do check on the weather forecast on the area that you are about to visit. You need a perfectly clear sky (not even cloudy) in order to get the shot. Besides, watch out for the moon cycle as the moon light can pollute the sky as well. You can check the moon rise and moon set cycle on the internet.

4. Gear
Now we are talking. My recommendation on the gear would be:
  • A good camera body. APS-C sensor size at least. This ensure your camera have big enough sensor to pick up the weak light from the distance stars and often result in better high ISO performance.
  • Wide angle and big aperture lens. If you can afford the f/2.8 lens such as the Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 for the crop sensor or the Canon 16-35mm f/2.8L then it shouldn't be a problem. My entry level lens would be the Tamron 17-50 f/2.8 Non VC as it is the better choice beside the kit lens. However, if you only have your kit lens, which the maximum aperture at f/3.5 at 18mm, then you would like to give it a try. I will explain why you need such big aperture lens later.
  • Tripod!!! or anything that allows your camera stay still during the exposure. Gorilla pod??
  • (optional) remote cable shutter release. This is to ensure your camera did not shake when you press down the release shutter. However, you could use your built in camera timer release to avoid camera shake.
  • Torch Light. You often shoot in the dark environment. Make sure you can shine your way into the right position and not end up into the swamp or something.
  • Proper attire. Jeans, shoe, jacket to cover yourself during the night and walk through the bushes.
  • Pepper spray and baseball bet? For security purposes in a not so safe country we live in.

5. Settings
Generally you would get better result with the following settings.
  • ISO highest you can get. e.g. 1600-3200. Don't worry about the noise. Lightroom or Adobe Camera Raw are good in removing the noise in the post production part. You need to harvest all the available light from the distance star first!
  • Largest Aperture possible. For instance, f/2.8 or f/1.8 if you have a wide angle prime. Big aperture means more light can get into your sensor in the same amount of exposure time.
  • Focus to infinity. You want your star cluster to look sharp doesn't you? Otherwise you can calculate what is your lens hyperfocal distance (distance to set on the focus scale whereby all the object in your lens would appear sharp!) at a given length which I have no talent to understand it.
  • Exposure time not more than 20 seconds! Otherwise your star will start to move and you get a short trail on all the stars you capture. (not the longer the better unless you want to do star trails)

6. Personal Safety
Last but not least, safety first! You might want to travel in packs, carry some light weapons or even first aid kit. Who knows what would happen in the dark bushes? At your own risk.

Finally, I would want to show my outcome on my recent attempt.

ISO 1600 | 17mm | f/2.8 | 15 sec

ISO 1000 | 17mm | f/2.8 | 30 sec

ISO 1000 | 17mm | f/2.8 | 30 sec

If you need more reading, I recommend you check out Milan Teh blog. I get my reference from her as well.

It might not be the best, and for sure I will keep trying! Good luck~

Contact Me!!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Sunset Outing at Taman Tasik Titiwangsa

This is actually my second visit to this place. What attracts me to this place is actually the lake which reflects the concrete jungle at the heart of KL. However, the sun will set behind you if you are shooting the lake reflection of KL. Regardless, my last visit was a very windy day and I could not get a clear shot on the reflection from the lake. I'm here to try my luck again!

There are few things I think should be keep in mind when doing landscape photography:
  • Rules of third (concept)
  • This rule is true 95% of the time, not only for landscape but all the photography. However rules are meant to be broken. 
  • Foreground interest (concept)
  • Always try to include some foreground object such as rocks, grass, bench for instance to let the viewer have the sense of space.
  • Symmetrical shot  (concept)
  • When you are trying to capture the reflection alone, you may just split the frame to half horizontally to the symmetrical effect.
  • bracketing
  • Always take your shot with a stop of exposure under and over on what your camera is suggesting. You never know which you will actually preferred until you compare it. Meanwhile, you may do HDR processing.
  • Lead of lines (concept)
  • There should be clouds, roads, wooden fence that will draw audience attention into the frame.
  • Tripod & cable release ( if it involves long exposure )
  • A good tripod is necessary to get a firm platform for you to shoot while cable release minimize the vibration you caused while pressing the shutter button on the camera body. Using timer will do the trick as well but you never know what will happen 5 seconds later (if you are doing traffic trails, you have to predict when will traffic passing by and start the timer in advance).
  • Lens hood on all the time
  • This is to reduce glare and reflection besides protect the front lens elements when there is not filters.
  • No UV filter
  • Even you have the best UV filter in the world, there always will be a slight blockage in light transmission into the lens. Besides, it induce flare and reflections as light travel though extra layers of medium before get into the sensor.
  • Use ND filter / Polarizer instead for some creative effect
  • The purpose of ND filter is to stop down light from reaching your sensor, hence allowed you for a longer exposure. This is particularly useful when you are doing seascapes, where by those wave actions turns the sea into fumes effect. Polarizer is use to darken the skies, and reduce non-metallic reflection. Hence, in this particularly outing, it is not really useful.
  • Be there early
  • If you not familiar with the destination, be there early to scout for potential spot for your shooting. Don't be too obsessed with the spot, once got the exposure right, move on!
Here I would like to give you an idea how roughly the light changes as the sun is setting.
20 mins before sunset
20 mins before sunset
ISO 400 | 17mm | f/11 | 1/125sec
15 mins before sunset
15 mins before sunset
ISO 400 | 17mm | f/2.8 | 1/1250 sec
5 mins before sunset
5 mins before sunset
ISO 400 | 17mm | f/11 | 1/50 sec
ISO 200 | 17mm | f/11 | 1/5 sec
5 mins after sunset
5 mins after sunset
ISO 200 | 17mm | f/16 | 1 sec
10 mins after sunset
10 mins after sunset
ISO 200 | 50mm | f/16 | 2 sec
15 mins after sunset
15 mins after sunset
ISO 200 | 20 mm | f/11 | 2 sec
25 mins after sunset
25 mins after sunset
ISO 200 | 20mm | f/10 | 10 sec
27 mins after sunset
27 mins after sunset
ISO 200 | 20mm | f/10 | 15 sec
30 mins after sunset
30 mins after sunset
ISO 200 | 29mm | f/11 | 15 sec
Notice that I shoot all my long exposure shot with ISO200. This is my camera base ISO, it can go lower to ISO 100 (L 1.0) natively but I believe the sensor can perform better at its base ISO.

Thank you for reading and I hope this helps. C&C are welcome.

Contact Me!!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 OS HSM lens testing

It's been a while since I did not update my blog. Recently, I'm lucky to get my hands on the Siggy 17-50 f/2.8 OS HSM. I'm so excited to test it out during my trip to Legoland!!
The design of the lens is similar to my previous 17-70 f/2.8-4 OS MACRO HSM which I had sold it off due to its poor low light performance at longer focal length. The autofocus speed is as slightly faster than the 17-70 and it does not seems to have zoom creep problem. I dont see much impact of OS on the photos as claimed by the Sigma for its 3-4 stop Image Stabilization capabilities. The OS on the lens is always activated by half pressing the shutter release although you have turn it off from the switch.
The image is generally much sharper than 17-70 IMHO. Here I posted a sample photo with its 100% crop on the center.

ISO 800 | 32mm | f/2.8 | 1/2500s
100% crop from the center
I shot this wide open just to test the sharpness. This is the reason why you would spent so much for a f/2.8 fix aperture zoom lens. You can see the details is well preserved although I'm using D90 body so you might expect some color noise. However, sharpness do depends on focus accuracy and reasonable shutter speed to prevent handshake.

ISO 400 | 36mm | f/2.8 | 1/40s

100% crop from the center
The picture above I have taken at a cafe at Jonker Street, Melacca. I have add in some preset filters in Lightroom to the photos just to match the theme. At first glance at the camera LCD, I thought I had the shot. The radio which I had focus suffer from a bit of ghosting especially the wording part. My shutter speed was not fast enough to tackle my handshake even with the help of OS.

I shows few of the photos during my trip below:-

Monday, April 15, 2013

Visiting Bangkok, Thailand

This is actually my third time travel to Bangkok for work. Bangkok is a very interesting city to explore. Most of the people would like to shopping (especially girls!!), while others enjoy the food there. One thing I realize is that travel around the city is very convenient. The city main attraction is surrounded by public transport such as BTS sky train, MRT underground train, taxi, motorbike and also touring cruise. The travel fee is much cheaper. Most taxi use the meter with the base fare 35 baht if not mistaken. 

Among the location that you must visit is their Royal Palace, Wat Arun Temple and also Chatuchak market. I don't get the chance to visit to floating market, and also the Maeklong Railway Market. According to my friends, it is also worth visiting as there are plenty of photographic opportunities. 

What I notice so far is that Thai people don't speak english very well. Make sure you learn few simple Thai word prior travel.  However, I must emphasize that they are very polite and helpful although they do not know you. Their food is very cheap as well. You can settle your meal on the roadside for around 35 baht if you are ok with street food. Their 7-11 convenient shop is available almost in every street which occasionally a place for me to settle my meals too.

One very important principle in doing street photography is to seek permission to take photo because not everyone like their photos to be taken. Inside the Royal Palace, not all the place is allow to take photo such as the temple, and some museum. Follow the rules and respect their culture. Besides, you must always aware your surrounding especially you are carrying few thousand dollar worth of camera equipment with you. Always keep micro fiber cloth and zipper bag in case of raining / dust. Clean your equipment everyday.

 I will show you some of the photos that I taken during my trips to bangkok. Comments and critics are welcome.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

My viewpoint on Fujifilm X100S

Ever since Fujifilm comes up with the older version of X100, this camera always in my watch list. On March 2013, the X100S has arrived. It seems to have fix most of the major problem faced by the older X100 such as the AF problem, menu layout, ISO performance and so on. Suddenly, it seems like a perfect camera already! Or is it?

Basically it still has the same 16.3 million pixels APSC X-Trans CMOS sensor that is on the older generation. What has changed is the new sensor comes with newer processor and lack of an optical low pass filter. They have redesign the color sensor pixels to counter the moire effect. This means the photos can be really sharp! Besides, they have put in phase detection into the sensor to incorporate with contrast detection for better AF performance. The menu system has been re-organize similar to its bigger brother X-E1 or the X-Pro1. They have also changed the "RAW" button to "Q" button for quick access. The EVF resolution has been doubled and now the burst mode can go up to 6 FPS. However, the only thing that remain is the fixed fantastic 23mm (35mm equiv. in Fullframe format) f/2 Fujinon lens.

Here I provide few reviews from different sources so that you can have the idea how great this camera really is.


Digital Rev:

Bert Stephani:

The Camera Store TV:

Zack Arias:

Jim Marks:

After watching all the videos and reviews (especially Bert Stephani one), I am so tempted to get one!!! However, there are few things that still holding you back. I better list it out for you to consider before you plunge your head into it.

  • Price
  • This camera is selling at around RM3400 - 3600 at the moment. With this price point, you can get many DSLR or mirrorless camera system such as Canon EOS 650D, Sony NEX-6, Olympus OMD, or even Fujifilm X-E1!
  • Fixed lens
  • It's fix! So you cannot change lens like all the model I stated above. To practise with you current camera, try put on 23mm (if you are on crop sensor) and use it for the whole day. Even I'm using 17-50mm focal length on crop sensor, I still feel sometimes I need a little bit wider or longer. Look at the positive side, it lets you concentrate on composition instead of zooming in and out.
  • Bokeh
  • Bokeh-ness depends on 3 factors. Focal Length, sensor size and aperture. This camera have decent sensor size and aperture. However, the focal length is abit wide. Therefore, you cannot get the effect like you normally get from 85mm f/1.8. However, the bokeh is smooth and way better than point and shoot.
  • Image Stabilization
  • The camera body and lens itself DOES NOT have image stabilization / Vibration Reduction / Optical Stabilization / Vibration Compensation / Shake Reduction what ever you want to call it. Therefore you does not get the benefit for slower handheld shutter speed.
  • Video Mode
  • The camera shoot full HD videos but without the Image stabilization, the video would easily makes the audience seasick! You can put external mic though which is a nice feature to have.
  • Responsiveness
  • You cannot compare this with the dslr responsiveness as it still lag a little when you half pressed the shutter release and take the photo. However, it is still very decent compares to point and shoot and even some of the mirrorless.
If you think you can live with the 6 points that I mentioned, I think you are pretty much ready for it! Just like Kai saying, "if you like it, the worth is all relative to desire!".

Update: My Own review! here

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Night Street Photography Session

People often thinks that night photography is about long exposure, tripod, shutter release kind of thing. That is not always the case. What i want to show you here is a sample photos shoot handheld with a standard zoom lens. The trick is to increase the ISO to higher value (i.e. 1600 or even 3200), use maximum aperture in order to get descend shutter speed. You may also use auto iso setting in your camera, where by you need to set maximum ISO and minimum shutter speed allowed to use. Your camera will then evaluate the scene and increase the ISO automatically whenever the shutter speed falls below your minimum shutter speed.

Dancing Water
1/25 | ƒ/3.2 | ISO 1600 | 26 mm
This shot is taken at KLCC fountain right outside the shopping complex.