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Behind The Image : The Nepal Boy

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Back in 2014, I bought myself plane tickets to Nepal without having a proper plan. The main idea was to get lost in Nepal. When I say lost, it doesn’t mean not being able to find my way home. I just wanted to walk and explore the city of Kathmandu without having any plans in mind.

When I was younger, I never thought I’d ever visit a country like Nepal. Thanks to photography, it took me to places I never thought I would visit – and Nepal was one of them.

The photograph above has a special story behind it. This was taken in Thamel, which is known as a hotspot for tourists to hang about. On my way back to my hotel, I was walking through the crowded street filled with people doing their own things and I stumbled upon this small tunnel. I stood there contemplating to myself if I should see what was on the other side of the tunnel. If you look at the photograph, the black hole on the left behind the boy, that was where I came from. As I walked in, I was surrounded by windows of places people were living in. A boy and his mom was on the other side sitting down talking to each other. When I came into the picture, they both looked surprised. I guess they reacted that way as not many tourists walked down that way – which wasn’t to my surprise.

I went up to the boy and greeted him “Namaste” whilst pointing to my camera asking if I could take a picture of him. He then started smiling covering his face and ran around me. This is when I started slowly capturing him running around that small space. I had maybe 6 shots of him, but I particularly like this photograph asI love the color of the windows and the texture from the door – and I was lucky enough to have him standing there looking straight at me.

During trips like these, a compact camera would be ideal to capture these fast paced moments. Hence why I am intrigued by the new compact camera released by Light called L16 which combines 16 different lenses in just one body. It amazes me what technology can create these days. It definitely takes my photography trips on a truly different level.

Looking forward to many more trips like this in the future. Next stop Japan in December!

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How Photography has changed my life.

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People these days have access to cameras easily. Compact cameras & DSLR are priced very cheap. Smartphones are built with amazing cameras. People take pictures for fun, trying it as a hobby for awhile and then stop because they get bored of it and move on to something else. It’s all about getting on the hype train. I started my photography journey because my dad kept bugging me to pick up a camera. At that point in time, I was so against that idea of me carrying a camera everywhere I go. Ever since my father was young, my grandfather loved taking photos of his family and my dad. My grandfather would document my family growing up. I never got to meet my grandfather since he passed away the year I was born. But I managed to inherit his old German Lightmeter which surprisingly is still working. Not as accurate as my Sekonic light meter but that’s not the point! The eye of a photographer was passed down to my dad then to me. And If I have kids, I would encourage them to take up photography.

But how did photography change my life? Why so drama one?

Well as a young kid, I was brought up in a city – sleeping in air conditioned rooms, lavish cuisines on the table, getting whatever I want all the time (Can’t get that habit out until today). I was very spoiled (Still am quite spoiled to be honest). My idea of travelling on holidays were to places like Japan and Australia, which consist of shopping malls and concrete jungles. I never imagined wanting to go to places like Nepal, India, Bangladesh or even living in a Long House for a week. I used to have a Kampung (Hometown) but not anymore because everyone has passed on. Only recently I got to visit it again but it was empty and no one lived there anymore. The road used to be filled with sand but now covered by tar. It’s so different then and I regretted not spending more time there. I’ve always neglected my family and I try my best to find every possible way to not have dinner or spend time with them. But ever since I got into photography, I realised that I enjoy spending more quality time with them. Why so? Because I am always documenting everything they do. One of my favourite subject to document in photography is my family. If I had the chance to go back in time, I would have carried a camera with me every time we traveled because nowadays we don’t anymore. We used to go for road trips every year but now everyone is busy with work so traveling is quite rare nowadays.

Photography has made me appreciate the countryside and the ugly side of Malaysia.

It has really opened my eyes to see things that I never knew existed. For example, the paddy fields in Kuala Selangor. During different seasons, the view is different. I’ve been there when the paddy fields were still in the process of growing and another time where it was ready to be harvested. Petaling Street, filled with abandoned buildings and rats roaming in the alley – sounds disgusting right? But what I see is story and life. As a photographer, it’s my job to document these things and let the world know what’s happening. Seeing all these “disgusting” things are beautiful to me. I never enjoyed walking in Petaling Street when I was young but now it’s different. Whenever I am there, I am always looking at things and scenes which could be a potential photograph.

Being in the sun for hours has no effect on me. Sweating in a pair of jeans and heavy boots – no problem!

There’s a difference between having to eat in a hot weather day and doing a shoot under the blazing sun. While I was in Penang 2 weeks back, I was walking around in t-shirts, jeans and boots. Everyone else was in shorts, slippers, and singlets. My fiancée asked me this, “How can I stand the hot weather in my jeans?”. Whenever I am in my shooting mode, I won’t care how hot it is, or how cold it is or even if it is raining. If I need a particular shot, I’ll do anything to get it.

Socialising! My mom told me to never talk to strangers. But I didn’t listen to her.

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Whenever I am on the street, I like to talk to the people that I photograph. For example, I met this old man at the end of the alley around midnight. I wanted a photograph of him so I greeted him and asked him how he was. He instantly replied me asking, “Do you have cigarettes?”. I quickly took my box of cigarettes and gave him a stick, light it up  and stood next to him. We then started talking and he was telling me about himself. Photography has taught me to engage people and not judge them straight away. There might be a guy who is covered with tattoos that may look quite intimidating, but he might be the nicest person you’ve ever met in your life. In Malacca, I was on my last frame on my film and from afar I saw this man standing next to his rented bicycle with a tattoo and a beard, and it intrigued me. I wanted to photograph his tattoo on his arm so I set my camera setting first while walking towards him. Whenever I see something or someone I want to photograph, I will always set my settings first before I walk towards the subject. I then asked him, “Hi there, I really love your tattoo. Do you mind if I take a picture of it”, He answered sure and he looked away. While I was framing the shot, he turned to me with his eyes squinted due to the blazing sun and I instantly snap the photo. I said thank you and walked away while listening to the camera’s motor drive rewinding the negative into the canister. It felt so good cause I knew that was going to be my favourite photograph that I took throughout my trip in Malacca.

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So, that is how photography has changed my life. It really played an important role. I’ve so many people who I call friends today because of photography. I may be doing a part 2 soon but I am not too sure when. There are many more things I want to share as well as a photographer.

Thanks for your time!


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Weapon of Choice : Mamiya 645AF

Disclaimer – This is not a full spec review by the way. This is just my own personal opinion about the cameras I use. How I like using it and how it fits my way of shooting. If you want to know more about the camera in terms of specs and all. You can ask http://www.google.com

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The Mamiya 645AF my current latest gear. Before this, I’ve used a many different 120 Format cameras. For example, Mamiya RB67, Hassleblad 500CM & 500 ELX, Pentax 6×7, and the Rolleiflex. This is my first time using a 645 format which is so much more useful for me. To be honest, I am not a huge fan of 6×6 format. Yes i’ve changed cameras so many times and if you’re asking why? Basically, when I started film photography, I’ve always wanted to try out different cameras. What I’d do is buy and sell, buy and sell. From there, I learn how these cameras work and find the suitable one for me. At first, I thought the Hasselblad system was the one for me but again, I was never a fan of square format. It has its own art form yes but it isn’t my kind of style. Anyways, why the Mamiya 645? 2 things, built in lightmeter and a hot shoe. If you know how I shoot, I tend to do a lot of flash photography. Before this, I’d use my Hasselblad with the pc sync cord to trigger the flash. But despite it being an old camera, sometimes it doesn’t trigger which annoys me a lot and I can’t really depend on it. So I wanted something reliable. With the Hasselblad, I would need to carry a separate light meter as well because it has no built in light meter. To be honest, before this I never had a problem carrying my light meter around and metering with it. But when I’m on shoots, time is money. I need everything to be fast. So having to meter the model or the product and shoot and yada yada takes a while. Unless I have an assistant but that cost money. And i’ve read a couple of good review of the Mamiya 645AF. I was always keen but never could find a good condition one until my buddy Jeff who sells second hand film cameras on Facebook had one unit in good condition. You can check out his page here https://www.facebook.com/TheShutter.Films?fref=ts . Reasonable price and a nice guy to talk to. I buy most of my stuff from him.

 

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Danial Naim – Mamiya 645AF//80mm 2.8//Kodak Potra 400

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Jean – Mamiya 645AF//80mm 2.8//Kodak Potra 400

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May Lim – Mamiya 645AF//80mm 2.8//Kodak Potra 400

After 3 months of having this camera, I am very happy with the photographs it produces. I am currently shooting with a 80mm 1:2.8 lens which is equivalent to a 50mm on a the 35mm format. The bokeh (depth of field) is beyond beautiful. And this camera is idiot proof. Idiot proof meaning anyone can pick this camera up and start shooting. It has the normal modes you find in a DSLR for example Aperture priority, Shutter priority, and Manual. A built in light meter so I can adjust my settings while looking through the viewfinder. In terms of weight, no complains. I’ve carried much heavier camera than this. Imagine shooting street photography with a Mamiya RB67. What was I thinking? Shooting on a 645 format gives me 16 frames as well which is just nice. Sharpness of the lens suits me. I mean it shoots on film and I’m not that anal about sharpness. Interchangeable backs which is useful for me if I’m on a location and if I need to switch between colour or black and white film. Viewfinder is bright as well.  I mean its a nice camera and I doubt I’ll be changing to another camera anytime soon (Hopefully). A lot of people told me to get the Contax 645 but the price is OVERKILL. I rather get a Leica MP if I had the chance. I haven’t pushed it to its full potential yet but I am waiting for the chance when I can.

 

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Cat Stare – Mamiya 645AF//80mm 2.8//Kodak Tmax 400 – 1600//Kodak HC110B

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Azlan – Mamiya 645AF//80mm 2.8//Kodak Tmax 400 – 1600//Kodak HC110B

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Allicia Amin For Civil – Mamiya 645AF//80mm 2.8//Kodak Tmax 400 – 1600//Kodak HC110B

 

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Civil Lookbook – Mamiya 645AF//80mm 2.8//Kodak Tmax 400 – 1600//Kodak HC110B

Overall, I am happy with this investment. No complains so far and I enjoy shooting with this camera. For some weird reason, every time I take a picture with this beast, I know the picture will come out beautiful. If your looking for a 120 Format camera to start with, this camera might be the one for you.

 


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Photographing People Vaping.

Vaping in Kuala Lumpur is huge now. It’s crazy how vaping has evolved within a short period of time. I started vaping about a year ago and I’ve pulled a lot of my friends into it. But this topic isn’t about vaping itself. It’s about photographing people vaping or using vaping as a prop. I’ve always loved photographing someone having a smoke of cigarette but I could never do it indoor because of the smell or the fear of triggering the fire alarms. I’ve always wanted to photograph someone smoking on a black background with a couple of studio lights but I never had the chance. And now, as we have vape, a tool where I can get someone to blow smoke indoors without having to worry about stinking the room up. I got my friend to help model for me and we would do all kinds of different things with it. Usually I would work with a black background or somewhere dark, and use one light source only.

While my friend was servicing his vape, I decided to photograph him. I used his table lamp as the light source and under exposed the background. I asked him to slowly blow the smoke out so it looks more fluffy and thick.

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“No Smoking”

 

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Until today, this has to be my favourite vaping shot. This was taken with one light source on a black background. Notice how the shape of the smoke is like an arrow?

 

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My colleague helped me shoot this photo for me. My new setup could produce a lot of smoke by firing it by itself.

 

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If you have a friend who owns a vape, give it a go! I’ve seen so many photographers use vaping as a prop for their shoots. There are so many ways you can experiment.


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Portrait Series : Fuad Alhabshi

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Senior Analyst by day, rockstar by night, Fuad Alhabshi leads a 5 man strong rag-tag outfit that goes by the name of Kyoto Protocol.

When I was assigned to shoot this, I needed a story and a concept. I didn’t want to do a typical guitarist rockstar look kind of shoot. I wanted something different. As I got to know Fuad, I found out that he works in an office like everybody else. So I use that as a base point. I wanted to show the world that side of him but how? After weeks of brainstorming, I got the idea of using the whole Superman Concept. Clark Kent, journalist by day, superhero by night. Everyone knows Superman as the Man Of Steel but no one knows he’s real identity.

I started researching about Superman on the net trying to look for ideas and concept. Then when I got all the ideas I started drawing out my story board. When you looked through this album, you need to start from first picture till the end. Because the way I shot this is like a story. How he transition from working in the office into a rockstar.

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For the first set of photographs, I got the idea of stock photographs from the internet. Typical office stock photos where everyone is happy, pointing at the board, discussing about work, perfect lighting that kind of vibe. But again, I used that as a benchmark and then start putting my own ideas into it. The next important is working with your model. Your model needs to know your vision, what you want and what the mood of the shoot is going to be like. Talk to your model, make them laugh & make them comfortable. If you need them to look stupid then tell them. If you want them crying then tell them. Working with a model who is very sporting and follows instruction very well is also good. Make him or her believe in your vision.

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Superman is famous for the whole pulling his shirt and having the S symbol photograph. So I wanted to recreate that. Heres the finish product.

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They are times that Clark Kent uses the phone booth to change into he’s costume so I wanted to do that as well. But in Malaysia, our phone booth do not have a doors, but that didn’t stop from making him strip in public. Again, working with Fuad was a breeze. I asked him if he didn’t mind taking he’s clothe off, and he was more than happy too! Again make him or her believe in your vision.

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The whole Idea for the last set of photographs is to filled an alley with guitars and amps. I got Fuad to bring he’s guitars and my colleague to get some amps for props. The last set of photographs turned out great. I told Fuad to just go all out with the guitar and be himself.

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One of my most memorable shoots I’ve done. The team I worked with was great! All you need is ideas and concept. Once you have that, see how you can execute them.


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Leica M9 X Nizam Lee

Camera : Leica M9

Lens : Leica 28 f2.8 Elmarit IV

Process with Adobe Lightroom 5

A lot of my friend always asked me this question. Is it worth spending money on a Leica? Yes you pay for the name but compared to image quality and usability. You have so many cameras nowadays in the market that can beat the Leica flat! So here are my opinion since I got to use the Leica M9. This isn’t a review by the way. I would also like to thank my good friend Suwen for lending me the Leica M9. Makes me want to get one for myself!

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For this shoot, I was assign to photograph Nizam Lee, one of the best skateboarder in the whole of Malaysia. This time, I didn’t want to take my Canon 5D MKIII with me. I wanted to challenge myself to be able to capture the moment without having to burst on the shutter button. Armed with the Leica M9, I was able to capture gold moments without having to take multiple photographs.

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For this shoot, I used a 28mm lens. Just nice, not too wide, not too shallow. I’ve seen some skateboarding photographs before which consist of low angle, fish eye, etc. I wanted to try something new by using the background, lines, shape, and architecture. What I’ll do first is frame the background. Then I will ask Nizam to do a trick for me within the frame. Working with Nizam was fun. Being able to ask him to do what I want made the whole shoot a lot easier. The tricks I asked him to do were very simple tricks like Olie, kick flips, pop shuv it. But being the photographer, my job was to be able to make the photograph look great despite simple tricks.

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With the Leica M system, your only framing is the square line in the viewfinder. It isn’t as accurate as a DSLR where you see everything through the lens. On a DSLR, what you see is what you get but not for the Leica. Your framing won’t be as accurate. But after shooting with it for a few months, I got the hang of it quite fast since I’ve been shooting with my Leica M2 for 3 years. Another thing why I enjoy shooting with the M9 is that every time you take a shot, the viewfinder doesn’t blink so it won’t interrupt the scene you are seeing through the viewfinder. I love the Rangefinder focusing. I’m not going to elaborate too much on this. (You can ask google). Focusing with a rangefinder is fun. I’ve been doing for a while so I got use to it. A lot of my friends who tried it hated it. But at the end of the day it comes to personal preferences.

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So heres the question, is it worth spending bucks on the M9? In my opinion, don’t buy the M9 because you want the image quality. You buy it because you want to use it. For example, a honda civic Type R moded can beat a Stock Ferarri any day (Correct me if I’m wrong). But you buy the Ferrari because you want the Ferrari. For its design, engine, leather and the list goes on. If you have the money to spend, why not? If youre not a fan then the Leica ain’t for you my friend. Overall, I was happy with the outcome. I had fun working with Nizam Lee. And i am pleased with the photographs I got from that day.