Allan’s Wedding Gowns Shoot

Allan Ow (previously of Allan Couture and Pretty-in-White), a dear friend of mine designed some of the best wedding gowns I have ever shot and when I had 3 other friends of mine two whom agreed to model for me and another agreed to do the make-up & hairstyling; shooting Allan’s gowns again was a simple decision to make.

The preparation for the shoot, starting with an early morning make-up session at one of the model’s home and then driving for nearly 2hrs to reach the coastal regions of Selangor went really smoothly but before we reached the “real” shooting location, we stopped by at a place discovered by my friend / assistant / creative director, an abandoned retirement “home”.

Being abandoned, it was a strange and sorta surreal place, partially built huts, buildings… possibly nearly complete toilet complex and a bridge with no water under it.

| Aperture: ƒ/2 | Camera: Canon EOS-1D X | Flash fired: yes | Focal length: 85mm | ISO: 100 | Shutter speed: 1/4000s

The entire series of shots here was done with a single light with a standard reflector and a bit of my secret sauce, 2 layers of colour gels. All I can say now is I wish I didn’t use 2 layers as it basically sapped most of the power from my strobe but strangely, the photos sorta worked and required less post-processing than normal.

After that, we moved onto our actual planned location, an area of beautiful exposed mangrove with a clean sandy beach. By the time we got to the beach, the equatorial sun of Malaysia was blazing and basically burning everyone alive.

To the credit of my models for the day, Jasmine and Elaine, they didn’t complain or say a word; Miriam, the make-up artist for the shoot was also extremely professional and did a great job making sure their make-ups didn’t melt.

All in all, balancing and sometimes overpowering the equatorial sun at midday on a beach was challenging but I am very grateful I decided to get ELB400 strobe instead of other competing strobes. The ELB400 was (and still is) indeed perfect as a weather-resistant, portable and powerful enough strobe for DSLRs and standard mirrorless cameras that just works in even the most demanding environments in Malaysia and probably any other regions near the equator.

| Aperture: ƒ/1.6 | Camera: Canon EOS-1D X | Flash fired: yes | Focal length: 24mm | ISO: 100 | Shutter speed: 1/8000s

Canon Photomarathon KL 2016

| Aperture: ƒ/2 | Camera: Canon EOS 5DS R | Focal length: 35mm | ISO: 100 | Shutter speed: 1/100s

This year is the 10th year of Canon Photomarathon and this is only the first or maybe second  time that I actually visited this event. As it rained cats & dogs early this morning, I arrived about 2hrs after the event started and most of the participants have already gone off to get their shots for the event.

Despite being late, I spotted many participants wearing this year’s new white Photomarathon T-shirt. Some were shooting on the streets, some at the nearby cafe taking a break, I even spotted a couple on bicycle cyling around the city looking to get their winning shots.

The set-up was impressive with a large Canon stage as the centerpiece at the outdoor foyer of Berjaya Timessquare Kuala Lumpur. Behind the stage was one of the widest registration counters of nearly any local event I have been to. There was also a service counter available to service any Canon photographic equipment for participants and visitors alike.

A row of photography related vendor booths and a Canon display & test booth is also set-up in the area. A lot of Canon photographic equipment including the latest Canon DSLR, the 5D Mark.IV is available there for testing, experience and purchase.

For me the most exciting part is that I was able to test out the Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II and the Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II. There was also a EF 400 f/2.8L IS II set-up for testing but I did not touch that.

Both the 300 and 35 were amazing and I have included the straight-from-camera test shots in this post.

All in all, this probably one of the greatest  photography events in Malaysia and it is great to see so many people and companies still take photography seriously.

.. and I am hoping for at least another 10 more years of Canon Photomarathon in Malaysia.

 

Playing with Lighting

Viena at Keat Camera
Viena at Keat Camera

This week I did quite a few things that I have never done before.

  • Use my own light-meter / exposure meter for my own shoot
  • Demonstrate how to use studio strobes
  • Wash a car, the floor just to prepare for a shoot

This was all because a friend of mine mentioned casually that he’d like to know a bit more about lighting and I thought, “Why not?” and…

…before I knew it, I got a location, a model and another friend who can help in setting up some lights (and smoke :P), the shoot was *on*!

Charging batteries for a shoot
Charging batteries for a shoot

The shoot started quite uneventful until rain suddenly came pouring down and it made it impossible to shoot certain shots that I have planned; after a scramble to move things out of the way of the rain, we went ahead to experiment and play while I showed my friend a couple of tricks with studio strobes.

Lighting was tricky as the space was small and part of the area we were shooting was completely open to the sky resulting in sunlight pouring in from the sky; having to fight the sunlight so that we can control light on the scene better, both the strobes (Elinchrom ELB400) had to be set at or near full-power.

Luckily the strobes performed very well, only finally overheating once each after nearly an hour and 45mins of shooting by 3 photographers.

My newly acquired Gossen Digisky lightmeter / exposure meter also worked very well and was a great help by triggering the strobes remotely. Although it cannot give the correct reading when the ELB400 were on High-Sync, finding out how much power is needed in that mode just required setting the meter to 1/1000s and knowing roughly how many stops are lost while at a certain shutterspeed on High-Sync.

The following images are some of my favorites from the photoshoot :

*EXIF info is intact if anyone is interested in the settings for the shots

Canon 5D Mark IV Impressions

Last Sunday I attended a 8hr Canon 5D Mark IV Product Seminar organized by Canon Marketing Malaysia and had a chance to play with a 5D Mark IV for maybe a total of 5mins but I have to point out, it is entirely my decision of not hogging the test cameras for too long so that others may try and experience it.
Having previously handled a 5D (from the original to Mark III) and also shooting with the latest iteration of the 5D in the 5Ds-R (more on that HERE) before the 5D Mark IV, I am rather familiar with the system and Canon EOS cameras in general so I didn’t really need to test out all the features. The main feature that was of particular interest to me for the 5D Mark IV is related to image quality or more specifically detail level when compared with the 5Ds-R

1z7a9513The first shot I took using the 5D Mark IV after I slapped on my own 85 f/1.2 on it was this one of some of the “models” at the seminar.

As you can see even if the “models” weren’t of the professional variety and the shot is completely candid, the camera did very well in terms of auto-exposure, auto-white balance and AF. The full EXIF is preserved in the image if you are interested to see that. Do note that all images on this blog post are processed with Adobe Lightroom 2015.7 with sharpening turned to 0, noise reduction to 0, Adobe Standard color profile and no adjustments done unless noted otherwise.

1z7a9517After looking through all my photos from the event, I was surprised to see some were slightly underexposed and was going to draw a conclusion that the 5D Mark IV’s auto-exposure or metering isn’t that good but after studying the images further, I found that 2 images that were taken one right after another of the same subject maybe 0.5s apart, one was darker and one was brighter.

So yes, flickering lights in this case fluorescent lighting on location DID mess up the metering on the 5D Mark IV but it was my bad that I didn’t turn on the “Anti-Flicker Shoot” mode which should be implemented in the 5D Mark IV.

On the outdoors portion of the seminar, Canon M’sia set up a Ducati scrambler, one of the best looking man you will find in Malaysia and a Profoto B1 light with a beauty dish mounted. When I saw that, I smiled a little and this might finally be my chance to shoot actual photos with a Profoto B1 (my previous experience with the B1 is detailed HERE

Due to the fact that I wanted to test out how the Profoto B1 and 5D Mark IV performed together, the 5D Mark IV was set on Aperture Priority at -1 Exposure Compensation, 0 Flash Exposure Compensation and the B1 was set in TTL mode; and not surprisingly, since the Profoto B1 was set-up in the wrong position (I didn’t move the flash as there was 3 other people trying to test the camera at the same time) which effectively only backlit the subject, the shot came out underexposed.

Underexposed by how much? Exactly 1-stop (duh! that was what I asked the camera to do :P) and like most TTL mode flashes, TTL without compensation for backlight strobes will always give you the wrong output and the shiny white Canon banner right next to the model didn’t help matters for it.

1z8a9816So I ended up having to push the final shot on this blog post by 1-stop in Lightroom and recovered some shadows in it.

Finally, the most important question to me was, do the detail levels hold up to a 5Ds-R? After looking through all the images taken, the answer to me right now is a “NO” at least in ideal or close to ideal conditions though I am pretty sure the 5D Mark IV would do better than the 5Ds-R in less than ideal conditions.

As such, if you are a wedding photography, event photography, sports photography (casual :P) and indeed any other kind of photographer that shoots a variety of subjects, the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV will be the camera to buy BUT if you are a crazy starving photographer like me who only cares about capturing absolutely “the shot” in the highest possible quality, get the Canon EOS 5Ds-R.

Hope this post is useful for you and if you have any questions or comments, just post them below or send me a message.

To download and view all the photos from the event, go HERE

The Sekonic LiteMaster Pro L-478DR-EL Saga

Once upon a time, I decided that it is time to buy a real lightmeter for my photography and as of 2016, there is only ONE viable manufacturer left on this great blue ball of water, Sekonic and they ONLY like to sell 1 model with 3 or 4 variants. They are most advanced and best lightmeters in the world because they are the only one left making them (more or less).

After much online research and enquiry, I found the correct model that I wanted and proceeded to try to buy one. Here is the email I sent to the local disti after after trying (and much frustration) to buy one :

Dear Rxxxxx,

It is to my understanding from both xxxx Camera and Cxxx (your staff) that Exxxxxx DOES NOT carry this model the Sekonic LiteMaster Pro L-478DR-EL and that you would not even order the item for me if I wanted.

From what I heard, you are saying that the L-478DR works for triggering Elinchrom flashes; YES, indeed it does if i use a sync cable (like in the 1970s) OR if I connect it to a PocketWizard Receiver.

And NO, that is not why someone would want to buy a L-478DR-EL, the -EL, -U (or without dashes as in Malaysia), -PX as shown here http://www.sekonic.com/malaysia/products/l-478dr-el/overview.aspx ; offers the ability to actually control and communicate to the flashes to adjust their power ON THE LIGHTMETER for the wireless control system they are compatible with.

The -EL communicates with any strobes compatible with the Elinchrom Skyport system for power adjustment, remote wireless trigger; the -PX for any compatible Phottix receivers whiles the -U or without dash), i.e. the L-478DR listed on Sekonic's website talks to the PocketWizard ControlTL compatible receivers.

Your staff also said that you say the L-478DR-EL is *Made for Elinchrom"; that is complete b.s. that is a Sekonic product that communicates with Elinchrom's system; just like a Tamron lens could be made with a Canon EF mount. In the case of the Tamron lens, it is NOT supplied to Canon to sell, so neither is the Sekonic L-478DR-EL sold exclusively to Elinchrom for them to sell. In fact, if you check, it is NEVER listed on Elinchrom's website or even any online sites.

Notice here on B&H https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1216800-REG/sekonic_l_478dr_u_el_litemaster_pro_l_478dr_el_series.html; the item even has a Sekonic PART NUMBER and not an Elinchrom part number or here on Adorama http://www.adorama.com/skl478druel.html or Calumet Photo UK https://www.calphoto.co.uk/product/Sekonic-Litemaster-Pro-L-478DR-EL-Elinchrom/335-532E?tracking=|searchterm:L-478DR-EL

In case if you still need to see how it works, it is on this Youtube video posted by Sekonic https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x5jRu96hUCA and notice the video is also by Sekonic and NOT ELINCHROM.

Thank you very much.

p.s. like when I emailed Sekonic, I told them if anyone else in the world made this item, I wouldn't have bothered to ask them again about it; they are lucky and you are lucky they monopolize the market, if not, there is ZERO chance I would ever even think about buying a Sekonic product.

*Please excuse my grammatical and/or spelling mistakes on this email, it was more or less written in anger 😉

This distributor is by no means an exception in my dear country, Malaysia. Many distributors of professional photographic equipment in Malaysia are ignorant about what they are really selling and some don’t even have any technical expertise about how the products they represent works. In addition, most will use simple excuses to justify the high prices for photographic items we buy here and never actually carry any stock of the products they distribute.

Dear Manufacturers, why do you insist on continue to use such distributors or do not actually ensure they are properly trained?

It is indeed a sad day for me and other photographers in Malaysia when we as customers has to actually educate and sometimes (like in this case) try to beat facts into the distributor’s thick skulls.

*Update 21/09/16*
The disti’s reply is as follows
The Sekonic meter is a capable unit to work with certain latest model studio flash (old models cannot work) in the event there is a wish to control power. However it does state if capable of Hyper Synch with flash.

The new Broncolor RFS 2.2 Transceiver works to trigger Broncolor flash, control power and has Hyper Synch. Will send you info separately.

Yes, he did send me the press info for the Broncolor Transceivers… is it me or is this like when you are driving a Toyota and the mechanic recommends that you put a Honda part into your car? Haha

There is light at the end of the tunnel btw… sent an email to the Sekonic Singaporean distributor and finally got an answer that I know how to deal with. Their email reads:

Dear Steven Leong

Good afternoon

This model is only launched in EU countries and Canada. It is not available for sale outside these countries.

Thank you.

I will now take that as proof that Singaporeans do a better job at distribution than Malaysians.

*Update 22/09/16*

Found an actual alternative for the Sekonic that I was looking at, it is more expensive, yes but its always better to put money where my mouth is. So here it is :
screenshot-99

Once it arrives in 2wks or so and I have tested it, I will likely post something about it.

Goodbye Sekonic, Hello Gossen (hopefully)! :p