Does it spark joy?


There are times when I took a picture, and then edit them in Lightroom, when everything seems well executed from composition to other technical aspect. But as I stared at the final picture… I tend to feel… empty. Something is lacking, and I wonder what it is.

Some said there needs to be a story, some said there needs to be “soul” in your picture. I think ultimately, the important factor of whether a picture will be included in your collection is: “Does it spark joy?”

There are times when we have some very ordinary pictures, but because it brought us some sentimental values, it carries a meaning, it “sparks joy”, hence it became a keeper for us in the years to come. The same goes to every other aspects in life, if what you are doing at the moment does not spark joy in you, you can hardly deliver a good result. If an item does not spark joy in you, no matter how well made it is, you wouldn’t buy it and bring it home.

I believe the same can be said to photography, and this has become one of the aspect I look into when I’m shortlisting pictures from my pile of collections. Not just the technical aspect, but also the feeling it gives me. Well, everyone has their own selection criteria, so what’s yours?

Camera technology… what’s next?

In recent years, traditional camera technology has not changed much. You get better sensor performance with better noise control, you get higher speed performance that allows blackout-free shooting through EVF, you get better auto focus performance in the form of eye and animal eye AF… other than that, there seems to be not much going on.

Whereas for smartphone camera technology, computational photography has evolved and allows user to capture HDR image and video with live view, night mode that allows handheld low light photography to be possible, blurring background without the need of large aperture lens, creating lighting effect without the need of studio light and so on.

It’s an obvious threat for sure to the traditional photography industry, smartphones have been eating their piece of pie ever since they were introduced. To photography geek like us, we jolly know the difference between the two in terms of what each can achieve and their limitations. However, for the vast majority of average consumers, it simply doesn’t make sense to buy a camera anymore.

So, can traditional photography platform catch up and make a come back? Or it will slowly fall into a niche? I wonder. Maybe they can add computational photography into traditional cameras, but that would require a crazy amount of processing power that current technology simply couldn’t deliver. Maybe they can innovate by adding internet connectivity and adding apps on their camera to ease content sharing, but that would probably eats in their battery life and annoy some purist along the way.

We are already seeing camera sales dropping year over year, it would be interesting to see how one would react to stay relevant in the business. What do you think is necessary for traditional camera brands to survive the storm?

Never stop exploring

For my recent trips, there have been a slight change in terms of what activities I planned for those trips. Before this, it was all about walking around those touristy spot, snapping some pictures of the famous locations and that’s all. But as time goes by, I started to enjoy a little more on something else.

It probably started during my trip to Hong Kong, where I hiked through a few trails and paths (be sure to check out some of the blog posts I shared previously on this), and I found that although tiring, I very much enjoyed the experience. And then I tried to venture into some “off the beaten path” location in Japan, and later in Taipei. I am not ready to camp out in the wild yet, but I do enjoy hiking through some day trails, getting close to nature and away from the busy buzzing crowd.

With that change in taste, it had partly contributed to some changes in terms of my gears and the way I plan my trips. For camera setup, I ended up switching from only primes to mostly zoom lenses, this is to cater for the unforeseen circumstances and photographic opportunities arise during hiking. Now whenever I plan my trip, I’ll research for locations where I can hike for half or full day. And I am considering to get a better backpack that is more comfortable for hiking use.

Let’s hope I can explore more places while I am still able to do so. In fact, I’m flying over to Tokyo tonight (yes, again…) for a trip that I have been planning for so long. It will be my fifth visit to Japan and the first full solo trip all by myself. Let’s hope that everything will be fine, and I’ll share more when I’m back from the trip. Till then.

Another new chapter

Finally… I decided to drop my soul and made the jump. I am officially shooting with a Sony A7 III now. I bought this camera just awhile back, together with the Sony Vario-Tessar T* FE 16–35 mm F4 ZA OSS, Sony FE 70-200 mm F4 G OSS and Tamron 28-75mm F/2.8 Di III RXD lenses.

It’s a big shift from my previous setup indeed. I started off with prosumer compact camera, which was then followed by DSLR and mirrorless cameras. I then decided to make a switch to rangefinder and now I’m back to mirrorless system again.

I think I talked about why I made my switch away from rangefinder previously so I’ll never touch on that topic today. But after shifted away from rangefinder, I had been using the Fujifilm X100F solely for the past year or so. Can I continue to shoot with only this camera? Or if I even want to continue with photography altogether? Those were the questions I was trying to answer for myself.

I had been shooting my class events and couple of my trips with just the Fujifilm X100F. But the reality was that besides these occasions I had rarely shoot anymore, unlike previously where I would go out and shoot at least once a week. That’s probably the reason why I was holding back with any camera purchase, I want to understand whether I would still want to continue on this journey.

After much consideration, I decided that “yes, I still want to continue” and “yes, the Fujifilm X100F will not be enough to cover my needs”. Hence, I started to look around and I was considering the Nikon Z6, Sony A7 III and Canon EOS R. The Canon’s offering is a total disappointment to me, the whole camera simply is just… doesn’t make sense and does not entice people to shoot with it. Between the Nikon and Sony, in the end I decided to go with Sony as it is a more matured system overall. The Z6 really impressed me though.

As for the lenses, I made the decision to switch from prime lenses to zoom lenses. Well, I may add a prime lens to my arsenal in the future, but for now, zoom lenses are the one that will meet my needs. This will be the setup that I’ll be bringing to my coming trip in August, so let’s see how everything turns out by then. In terms of weight and bulk, it will be slightly more than what I carried for the past years, but then again it’s not much different from my days with Fujifilm X series mirrorless. Hopefully I’ll get used to it soon.

Some asked why I don’t go with A7R III instead. Well, I’m just a casual shooters, I really can’t justify the extra money I’m paying for that camera, the equation just doesn’t add up. Anyway, after shooting with it for awhile, I’m still trying to get used to editing their raw files, and the menu system was actually not that bad, Sony just need to work on the naming of the functions better and it should be fine. Otherwise, let’s see what I can capture with this camera in the days to come. Till then.

Digging into the thought process of a photographer

I bought the book “Magnum Contact Sheet” quite a while back but was not able to really to have time to sit down and read it through. Well, finally I did now. For those who enjoyed shooting streets or documentary style photography, this book can easily be the “bible” for one to own and keep. Of course there’re a lot more to offer in terms of content inside the book, which I believe is useful to all photographers out there.

The book shows contact sheets, which are series or sequence of photographs taken by the photographer for a particular event or moment. Looking through the contact sheets, you will be able to understand how the iconic pictures were made back then. The first thing that struck me was that there’s almost always more than one frame being captured in order to arrive at that one iconic shot. By looking through the contact sheets, you will get a sense of the photographers’ thought process in arriving at the final image.

Is it a decisive moment? Is it spray and pray? Is it staged? Is it cropped or post processed? I’ll leave it for you to explore and find out the answer on some of the iconic shots. You’ll be amazed. My key takeaway from this book is this: it doesn’t matter if you take multiple shots in order to get that one shot you want, it doesn’t really matter if you crop or post processed your picture, all that matter is the mind behind the camera. The thought process when moving from frame to frame, changing of composition, waiting for different subject, playing with the light and shadow… if there’s a thought being put in for each frame, you will eventually find the “one frame” that defines your thought.

This is indeed a good photography book for me to kickstart the year. Although there isn’t much plan for me on photography this year, reading books like this does keep my spirit and interest going. Highly recommended.