Unexpected trip in April

There’s this unexpected trip that popped up this month, it’s a company incentive trip for high performers all around the world to gather, share our knowledge and experience, and to unwind and reward ourselves with the hard work we had poured in to achieve the result last year. And I was unexpectedly being shortlisted in the finalist.

I was shortlisted in last year too, but due to my marriage arrangement and upcoming honeymoon schedule, I decided to give up the opportunity to join the trip to Greece last year. And for this year, the trip will be held in Hanoi. I’ll be spending a few days there, though I doubt there will be sufficient time for me to go out and explore the city itself as we have already some pre-planned schedule that we need to follow.

Nevertheless, this will be my first trip for 2018 (excluding the two trips I took to went home in Malaysia). Will see if I’ll be able to spare some time to wander around the streets and snap some photos. It’s really been awhile since the last time I just shoot and without worrying about anything else. Let’s see what Hanoi has to offer for me. Till then.

Something about coffee…

I had always been a tea drinker since… the day I was born! Coffee was not something I fancied all along for some unknown reason, and I wonder why. Perhaps it’s because the “low grade mass produced” coffee that taste bad in my mouth, giving me trauma and bad experience, but I can’t really recall. Anyway, yes I had not been drinking much coffee for most of my life, until last year, the year of 2017 that is.

The tipping point was the moment when I sip in a cup of coffee from a specialty coffee shop, while reading a story book titled “Before the coffee gets cold”. It’s a Japanese novel that has been translated into other languages. While I read the final chapter of the book and took a sip of the coffee into my mouth, it kinda resonate with me on the taste and the feeling I have while reading the ending chapter of the story. And it was like some cosmo reaction followed by the birth of a new planet, and I had been drinking coffee regularly ever since.

As I am pretty new to coffee, I do not have any preference at the moment and I’m eager to try out and explore what coffee has to offer. I will order whatever that’s new to me on the menu, and I attended a small coffee brewing workshop to understand more about coffee brewing techniques. The next step for me is probably trying out different types of coffee beans, different brewing techniques and identifying the different taste from different coffee.

Why am I becoming a coffee enthusiast all of a sudden? Hmm… I’m not sure, I don’t really see myself as a die hard coffee enthusiast at the moment, I’m just interested to explore and learn more about coffee. Perhaps it’s the part within me that wanted to try and craft things with my hands, making me feel like brewing my own coffee instead of drinking instant one. Just like why I still shoot film in the age of digital, just like why some still prefer to drive a manual car over a automatic one.

I am still a tea lover until today, but now I am equally enjoying a cup of coffee as I did with a cup of tea. We shall see how far coffee will infuse into my lifestyle in the days to come. Till then, for all coffee lovers out there, cheers!

Advice from Sara Lando

This article from PetaPixel which talks about the author, Neil Ta, reviewing his photo series with Sara Lando had caught my eye. The article talks about what have been discussed through their conversation when reviewing the photo series, and some of the topics discussed really triggered me to think deep on it’s meaning.

First, a disclaimer. I got no idea who is this Neil Ta, nor I got any idea who is Sara Lando. They could be some famous photographer, or just anyone. But that’s okay, as I had always been into the artistry side of photography than the photographers themselves.

A few questions and remarks from Sara to Neil really hit the mark and should really be something for us to stop and think awhile before we pick up our camera. And these advises are really helpful for you to improve further in photography.

Shoot with intent

Sara asked a series of question to Neil when he showed her his photo series in Cuba.
“Why did you take this photo?”
”What are you trying to say with this photo?”
“Why were you in Cuba in the first place”
“What is it about Cuba that interests you?”

These questions essentially questioned him about the purpose and intent when he took the pictures. Shoot with intent, that was something I had discussed in another post previously. Think about what it is that you want to capture and what story your are trying to tell before you go out and hit the shutter. When you want to create photo series, projects or assignments, this is perhaps the best way to keep you focus and in check. You don’t end up coming back with a bunch of pictures and then only trying to force a story out of them.

There must be something that you would like to say through your photography

“Photography is a language. To most of us it’s a foreign language we are learning how to speak, but even if you are fluent in shutter speed and aperture, even if you know everything about bouncing flash and own the best camera on the market, the thing is if you don’t have something to say, then you’re pretty screwed.”

This was another strong remark from Sara to Neil. Photography is a language, is this the first time I hear this saying? Probably. But it certainly is an interesting analogy. You try to learn the basic, master the technique, and ultimately you would like to be able to speak fluently, and also getting your message across… in this regard, photography does work like a language, and it’s a common language across for everyone, allowing us the freedom to express ourselves in equal terms.

Don’t try to be someone else. Be yourself.

“Your images are more intimate and relatable when you’re not trying to be someone else.”

The last learning point I managed to grasp from the article is that one should shoot for yourself, don’t try too hard in copying others or mimicking others. You are truly you, hence you should follow your heart and shoot with your own style, tell your own stories, and just be yourself. When you try to copy others, you are deviating yourself from the true you, hence your photograph will not resonate with you.

It may sounds pretty fancy, but as with many other artistry work, one can hardly improve, be great and shine if one does not listen to his heart and letting his voice to be heard. Hope these tips help you in some way. Till then.

Style vs Spec

Day after day, more and more products are gearing towards “lifestyle” products that are essentially blend into your life, making it apart of your routine, something that you can’t live without, something that resembles you, something in style that fits your personality, look and character. It’s not hard to see these products are getting more attention and sales as compared to “traditional” products that compete with specifications and reliability.

An easy example that can be drawn will be Apple. Apple had never produced any products that are superior in terms of specification. However, people used to say “it just work” on Apple products, and that their design aesthetics adhered to what they are looking for: simple and minimalist. Apple has a huge crowd of followers, and I’m one of those who purchase their product, though I don’t classified myself as their cult follower as I don’t appreciate every single thing they produced.

In the world of photography, it has always been a race of superiority in terms of specifications. With every product launch, you will only hear about how many stops of dynamic range, how many frames per second, how large is the buffer, how fast the camera auto focuses and so on. There was once a megapixel war, followed by mirrorless versus DSLR war and so on. Much of it still revolves around the technical aspect of the product. Well, it’s hard to deny that as we are actually talking about a rather technically engineered product here.

However, there were those who seek to breakthrough and go the other way. Leica was one of them. Their camera has never been “the best” in any class of specification that you can think of, unless you are saying highest price is one of the attribute you are looking at. But still, Leica managed to develop a cult of followers that believes in their philosophy and approach in photography, hence they are able to continue to survive until today. Moderate specification that command premium price tag and yet still able to sell. They are selling “feeling” and “lifestyle” more than anything else.

Another company that kind of follow this approach was none other than Fujifilm. Their camera has long been accused of copying Leica’s rangefinder design. Seriously, looking at the X100 series and the X-Pro series, it’s hard for people to say they are not. Fujifilm has never been the “best” in any of their specification. They were late in the digital camera business, they were late in the mirrorless craze, but yet, they managed to develop a group of cult followers that believed in their “passion for photography”.

My point of view is, Fujifilm has been pretty successful is differentiating themselves and building their own group of followers. They started off with retro design on their camera bodies, differentiating their camera with “X-Trans” sensor technology, adding in dials that provide tactile control resembling those from the film cameras and so on. They did gathered quite a lot of interest, but in order to continue to grow further, apparently it’s not enough.

Sony on the other hand has always been a company that focus only on specifications over form and functions. Sony cameras in particular has always been leading the edge in some key development areas, particularly those surrounding the imaging sensor. A7 has revolutionized the mirrorless camera line by bringing full frame sensors with it, followed by the recent launch of A9 which wiped out most of the advantages that DSLR holds against mirrorless. Their camera has never been a looker, but their performance will keep you wanting to go back for more.

It’s been pretty clear that lately Fujifilm has emphasized more on specs lately and started to detour themselves away from their retro-ness. They started to adopt top plate LCD, they talk more about specification than anything else, they started to venture into videography business for their X-series camera line-up and so on. It does make business sense for these decisions. However, the current state of of products from Fujifilm makes me feel that they are not sure where to go. The GFX and X-H1, to some extent are good initiatives from Fujifilm to grow their product lines. But the fact that they tried to innovate but at the same time still kind of afraid to let go of their retro styling, makes the GFX and X-H1 look just weird. I believe they could have just gone all out with both of these camera and ditched all the dials if they were to incorporate the top plate LCD, just make them with futuristic design to differentiate from the existing retro styled offering. I believe they had built a strong enough cult followers for their retro cameras, is time to move on with something more modern that opens up a new market segment for them.

It seems to be that all manufacturer has bowed to specification over style. Even Leica has been busy with a slew of “modernized” camera like the SL, CL, TL and Q. It remains the be seen whether this will be the way moving forward. I would really want to see if any manufacturer can strike the balance of the two (the Hasselblad X1D is pretty close in my opinion, but I have yet to see or try one in person for myself to comment). Anyway, I’m just contemplating on this while I’m thinking about where should I move on next in terms of my photography gear. Style or spec? Let’s wait and see what else 2018 has to offer for us. Till then.

My rant about Apple…

Source: Reddit

I wish Apple will put USB-C connector into their iOS devices. No, this is not another rant about why Apple should adopt a universal connector that’s going to be the same across the broad and in-line with other Android devices. I have nothing against the use of proprietary lightning cable for iOS devices, in fact I have enjoyed using one since it was first introduced. However, when Apple shifted all its macOS devices to USB-C, the iOS devices got left behind and things started to get… messy.

Why Apple refused to have USB-C on iOS devices? I wonder. Well, maybe it’s because they want to prevent user from using any cable and plug into their iOS devices, which runs a risk damaging it? Perhaps Apple just want to keep lightning cable so that they can earn more money by selling you their cables at inflated price? Much of the advantages for lightning cable has present in USB-C, so why can’t we make a shift?

Why am I pondering about this? Well, take a look at Apple’s website. You’ll notice Apple is selling “Lightning to USB-A” adapter, “Lightning to SD Card” adapter, “Lightning to HDMI” adapter, “Lightning to headphone jack” adapter and so on. And at the same time, guess what are they selling for the Mac? “USB-C to USB-A” adapter, “USB-C to HDMI” adapter and so on.

Imagine if I’m using MacBook Pro and iPad, I will need to have two sets of adapter for the same function that I want to use! It doesn’t fit the minimalist idea of late Steve Jobs at all, and to me, as a user, I really cannot understand this kind of logic. How good will it be if we can use the same set of adapter across all Apple devices? I will not live in such a world that’s shaped by the broken vision of Apple. That’s part of the reason why I decided not to go for the MacBook Pro when my old one was dead. I rather spend on iMac which has all the ports I need, and keeping just a set of adapters for my iPad.

Perhaps there are some limitations behind, maybe fundamental code of iOS and macOS that simply don’t allow such integration? Or hardware limitation for iOS devices to incorporate USB-C? I have no idea, but I’m really disappointed by the execution of Apple on this. The ecosystem of Apple is still the best in class, but sadly the hardwares surrounding the ecosystem are deteriorating. They took “courage” to get rid of headphone jack on iPhone, touting wireless is the future, but the same “courage” was lost in transaction on the Mac or iPad; they said USB-C is the future and shipped their MacBook Pro with only USB-C port, but ended up selling you iPhone with USB-A cable bundled in.

What a joke, Apple. What a joke.

Anyway, for the time being I will still live with them as I still need the seamless transition between my devices. I do hope someone can create an equally good, if not better ecosystem to rival Apple. I was putting my bet on Microsoft, but sadly it doesn’t materialized. Perhaps Google is the next to look into, Chrome OS + Android maybe? Who knows, we’ll see how things unfold in the future. Till then.