Year in Review 2015

This is going to be a long post to close the year of 2015, so please bear with me. This year marks the 5th year of my photography journey, and this year has been a roller coaster ride for me. A lot of changes in terms of gear that I’m using, and there are a lot of things that I learnt throughout the year.

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This year, I managed to get a real taste of shooting with a “real” film camera… the Nikon FM3A. I shot quite a number of rolls ranging from colour film such as Kodak Gold 200 and Pro 400H, to black & white film such as BW400CN, T-Max 400 and Neopan Across 100. The experience of shooting with film camera has been very enjoyable, and I get to understand more on the roots of photography, like how the classic metering system works, manual focusing, focus and recompose and so on. I also get to appreciate different types of film and their output, and to train myself to become more precise in executing a shot before triggering the shutter. Eventually, I have sold the camera off and yes I’m regretting on this decision.

The year of 2015 marks the beginning of my journey through the world of rangefinder. I’d always been curious and eager to try out a rangefinder, but the price of the camera has always put me off. It’s not cheap and I don’t feel comfortable to just asked for one from my friend to try and shoot for a period of time. There came the opportunity for me to buy over a Leica M9-P from my friend at a very attractive price. I bought it over, battled my way with the rangefinder and eventually fell in love with it. Later on, I decided that I “need” the better performance from the new Leica M Type 240, and so ended up selling the M9-P and got myself the Leica M-P Type 240. Actually both are brilliant cameras, but I’ll talk about it a little more next time on the story surrounding this change.

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And last but not least… the year of 2015 also marks the end of my 2 years journey with Fujifilm cameras. Yes, from X-E2 to X100S, from X-Pro1 to X-T1… I have sold them all (technically speaking I still have a X30, which belongs to my girlfriend). There are many reasons why I decided to do so. I still can’t seems to harvest all the greatness of Fujifilm RAW files, and the fact that new lenses are getting bigger and heavier were a big let down to me as well. Of course there are many other things which brought me to this decision, but most of them are just my personal opinion. I’ll talk about those next time in a separate post. For now, the only Fujifilm camera left that I might still be shooting with will be the X30.

Gears aside, I’m glad that I’d been shooting more frequent than the year before. Almost every weekend or every other weekend I’m out to shoot, to learn more about my camera, to practice more about what I have read from books or forum and to see things and visualize them in different perspective. Perhaps I’d planned too many projects with too little time to complete them. Anyway, I managed to complete a couple of small projects like the “50 Shots with my Zeiss Planar” and “Goodbye 74 to 80 Commonwealth Drive”. The “to do” list is still pretty long, and I’ll see what can be done in the year of 2016 to materialize them.

The year of 2015 has been a fruitful year in terms of traveling and photography. I managed to cover Japan (Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe and Nara), Hong Kong and Cambodia (Phnom Penh), and I’m glad that I managed to grab some shots that I like from these trips. It’s always nice to be able to travel to some foreign places, it feels refreshing and gets you excited and wanted to just go out all the time to look, see, experience and shoot.

So what’s there for 2016? For a start, I’m planning to revamp my flickr account, though I’m not too sure how to do it, I’ll just try and see if I can keep them organized better. Blog post will continue over here, and I’m actually planning to shoot lesser for 2016. I’m toying the idea of revisiting my archive of images and relook into some of the forgotten gems and process them all over again. I have not been improving much in terms of post processing, hence I would certainly hope I can do something about it in 2016. Photo project wise, I’ll be downsizing and only be selecting a few projects that I’m really keen to work on. And last but not least, a lot of money has been spent on gears in 2015, so for 2016, I would like to spend more on developing my skills instead. I’ll probably grab some useful books or attend some workshops, we’ll see how everything unfolds. Besides that, hopefully I can embark on a solo trip as well for next year.

Gear wise, I don’t think there will be any major changes moving forward. It’s likely that I’ll grab a camera to replace my X-T1 as a AF-driven system alongside my Leica M System. Perhaps adding a film camera body if I can get something cheap to play with? Lens wise, at most I can foresee is getting a 28mm lens or “upgrading” one or two lenses in my current line-up. Otherwise, nothing much that I can think of for now. Oh well, we all know how the G.A.S. strikes out of nowhere, no one will be able to predict what camera you will be holding next anyway.

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All in all, 2015 has been a pretty good year for me in terms of photography. I learnt a lot, get to know a lot of new friends and fellow photogs, get to explore more places and above all, get to take some nice pictures that I’m happy with. Hopefully 2016 will be another great year ahead for me and my photography. Till then, Happy New Year.

The Cult Of Leica M

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I have been shooting with Leica M recently. I am still trying my best to learn to utilize this camera fully. The more I shoot with the camera, the more I’ve been thinking about what’s so attractive about it that keeps me shooting, and keeping many other Leica user shooting with such a camera in the year of 2015.

I think part of the reason is because this camera is simply a pure photography tool, nothing more and nothing less. You get to control the three key elements to exposure, and you focus your lens manually. If the photo turns out bad, it’s all your fault but not the camera’s. You are in full control to create the picture you want. This may not be something that everyone used to, and that’s part of the reason why some people dismissed a Leica rangefinder. They prefer to have automation in assisting their photography.

I don’t think there’s a debate in either manual focus or auto focus is better. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. The end of the day, it boils down to which method you prefer to shoot with, how much control you want to be in, how much you are willing to rely on the automation system. Same goes to the metering and exposure. However, with the release of Leica M Type 240, Leica has brought in more technologies to improve the user experience, one great advantage will the the availability of live view and the ability to use optional EVF instead.

There are people who comment that Leica camera is very discreet, people don’t notice you, you are more connected to the subject and etc. Sad to say I don’t feel any of those at the moment. Maybe they are over exaggerating, or maybe I just yet to experience it myself. Rather, I find myself focus more in creating the image itself, something I have shared before this. It slows you down and allow you to think through before hitting the shutter. In fact I find myself shooting lesser, not in terms of frequency, but in terms of output quantity. This is a good thing, where I am forced to improve in terms of quality, and my workflow has become much shorten and simpler.

Of course the experience of using a rangefinder is very much different compared to using other camera system. And this is a love it or hate it kind of relation. Rangefinder’s focusing with parallax error is certainly not everyone’s cup of tea. You don really get the “what you see is what you get” kind of feeling as there’s only frame line approximation. Aside from that, I’m very much inclined towards rangefinder’s body and design versus SLR. I feel more comfortable with them. That’s why I ended up getting the Fujifilm X-E2, and subsequently the X-Pro1 and then the Leica M series.

To sum it all up, I agree that there are many limitations imposed by a Leica M rangefinder. However, these limitations are the very reason why I like this camera. At times, people need to get out of their comfort zone, get cornered to the edge of the cliff in order to have a breakthrough. We shall see what will happen in years to come, for now I’m happy shooting with my Leica M rangefinder. Till then, happy shooting 🙂

3 Weeks Without My M9-P

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It has been 3 weeks without my Leica M9-P by my side as it was sent for sensor replacement on the sensor stain (a.k.a. sensor corrosion) issue. As a result, I have been shooting with my Fujifilm X-T1 and X-Pro1 a little more. A couple of questions came to my mind:

  • Is the M rangefinder really a camera that I want to continue to shoot with?
  • Am I enjoying the rangefinder experience, or the Leica experience?
  • How can I integrate the M9-P into my current Fujifilm camera system line-up?
  • Will the M9-P become my main camera? Or it will just be a fun camera rather than a work horse?
  • Can I live with manual focusing as my main focusing method moving forward?

Well, I might not have all of the answers yet. Hopefully I can find out once I get it back from the service centre and start shooting again. Till then, happy shooting 🙂

A journey to the forgotten land at Haw Par Villa

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I can still recall from my memory that I have visited this place when I was young. Back then, the theme park is packed with tourist and locals, and there were so much to see and discover. Today, Haw Par Villa has become a quiet and lonely place, as if an old man lying on his sick bed while waiting for his last breath to come. It’s sad to see this as there was sentimental and emotional attachment between me and this place.
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Back then, all the statues and decorations looked huge and gigantic. Now, they seems rather average in size. This is the time when I realized time goes by and I have grown up so much. Ironically, the huge theme park back then has shrunk in both size and scale. Gone are some of the decorations, attractions and the boat ride through the Dragon Tunnel. What left behind are just poorly maintained and well beaten.

Journey Through the Ten Courts of Hell from Funny Bunny on Vimeo.

All pictures were shot with Leica M9-P and edited in iMovie

Haw Par Villa, as a oriental theme park based upon Confucianism and Chinese myth, was once a place for parents to instill good value and morale to their children. The main attraction, “Ten Courts of Hell”, is one of the most graphical representation of after life in chinese mythology. It sets to create a reminder to people to be a good person, as whatever sins you have done in your current life, you will need to pay them back after life.
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Today, Haw Par Villa is a free entry theme park and it’s easily accessible via the new MRT station located near to it’s entrance. When I embark on this personal photography project, I came here for a few times and only seen a handful of people who drop by to pay a visit. Let’s hope that new life will be restored to this place in the years to come.