Recently my sister has asked for a favour to enrich her Instagram account with more fashion lifestyle photos. Surely as a loving and kind big brother, I extended such a favour. The timing was right as she had to visit Singapore anyway. The entire photo shoot was done only in a few hours spread over 2 days. For the first day, we had the session in Bintan Island, a mere 1 hour ferry trip from Singapore. There was no plan to do the shooting there, but as we were attending a wedding in Bintan, we might as well use the opportunity. The shoots in Bintan were entirely done in Canopy Resort, where we were staying too. We did the work very efficiently, or let say, forced to be very efficient. The heat and humidity were unbearable. We did the shoot starting around 09:30AM and finished 5 minutes later. Yes, it was that fast!
The second day of shoot was done in Singapore. The weather was unfortunately not that friendly. It was drizzling for most of the day. We had to wait until 5pm before we could head out for the shoot. Despite planning to shoot in various locations, we had to scrape them all and did everything nearby, very near in fact. We did all the sessions in my condominium – both indoor and outdoor. We spent a bit more time and did some experiments. Overall I think it was a good session, despite the challenges.
London is one of the few places where I hated at the beginning and ended up loving it. Curious indeed. 80% of the time, the city is simply grey and gloomy. Now, sometimes it’s cloudy yet dramatic with clouds moving fast and light breaking in between. But most of the times, it’s simply dull when amass of clouds overhang throughout the day, particularly in the period of my visit – February. My 1st day in London was beyond gloomy. I thought to myself repeatedly that I never know a city with such amazing and grand architectures, yet so dreary. I took really few photographs and at the end only like one. One from the whole day walking around! Incredible.
However, when the moment comes – which is 20% of the time, this city simply blows your mind.
My trip was indeed a short one, thus I know I missed many different sights. For one, I did not make it to go into the Westminster Abbey or St. Paul Cathedral. The queues were humongous. Anyway, this is how I did my trip. It was a three spontaneous day trip. I commuted mostly on foot and by hop-on-hop-off buses (Original Tour). I would really recommend to visit London during the winter time for it is quieter. Some attractions and the hop-on-hop-off buses are indeed operating at fewer frequencies and ended earlier. On the other hand, though, you will find fewer crowds.
My guide on the hop-on-hop-off bus told me that Tower of London is a must-see, and it’s the essence of London. He was right. This place is insanely rich with history. Be sure to explore every single nook of this place; it’s just amazing.
After exploring the Tower of London, you will have various attractions around the site. One thing that stood up is the famous Tower Bridge. On the way out of the area, I’d recommend taking the river cruise, which is already inclusive in your hop-on-hop-off ticket, and go to the direction of Westminster. This route, first of all, is much more interesting than ones for the buses. Also you will have different viewpoints of the landmarks.
All in all, I certainly will visit this lovely city again. It just has a great vibe. As a tourist, I will not consider taking the tube to commute. It’s just to packed. I suggest taking the hop-on-hop-off bus instead. Since normally it has a package of 1 or 2 days, I’d use it to explore the further sites first. During the wintertime, many offers 2-day package for the price of 1. And whenever possible, do also wander around on foot. It’s such a lovely city to immerse yourself in.
I have a love-hate relationship with this lens. It’s the 50mm Canon lens that slides between the f/1.8 and f/1.2 L lens. This lens has been around for a while. I bought it a while back at the beginning of my photography journey as an equivalent 80mm lens for my crop sensor camera, and now am using it also with my full frame camera. Regardless which camera sensor you have (crop or full frame), the focal lengths perceived are very useful.
This review considers about 4 years of usage. It will not have any charts or scientific figures, and frankly other people do it better than I do. You can easily find it elsewhere. What I am contributing is how I think the lens has been performing so far for my usage.
Build Quality and Feel
Well, the lens is made out of plastic. It’s not an L lens grade, so you don’t pay as much – but of course you don’t get the same build quality and feel. It however withstands some abuse. The lens is light (290g) and small. I am personally never worried about breaking it. But what I don’t like is that the front element of the lens moves along when focusing. It bothered me in the beginning. It looked fragile and inviting for a knock. Dust could also sip in through. Fortunately though, it doesn’t rotate. It’s good news for those using screw-on circular polarizer filter. As I never use CP filter with this lens, I have the lens hood attached all the time. In my unit, the lens hood is fairly hard to put on and off. It’s not smooth as what you would experience with the L grade lenses. So, yeah another reason to just keep it on at all times.
The lens feels balance for smaller camera bodies (like 550D), but slightly too light for my preference for bigger bodies (like 5D or 1D). The focus ring is just adequate at best. It has relatively a short throw, but so far not an issue for my usage.
Overall, the lens handles relatively well. It’s not fantastic, and it has shown its age. It looks fragile and feels cheap, but in reality it’s stronger than what you would expect. Nonetheless, I really feel Canon needs to issue a predecessor for this lens (particularly for the reason I will cover later).
Now, I only use this lens for people. I’ve never used it for landscape or travel. I feel that 50mm (or 80mm in crop) focal length is neither here nor there. My preference of a travel/landscape prime has always been a 35mm.
Anyway capturing people (i.e. portraiture/fashion/beauty) is where this lens shines. It has the perfect focal length for capturing people. It has minimum distortion, and I would say quite neutral. Most of the time, I use it for a half body portrait or closer. No reason in particular, but I rarely have the privilege of space.
Now, most of us like fast prime for the option to open up the aperture. Unfortunately, this is the weakness of this lens. At a crop body, it is more usable than in full frame body. Since the crop sensor only uses the centre area of the lens, you get decent result.
However, using this lens wide open with full frame sensor will show more of its weakness. At f/1.4, I found it barely usable. It’s super soft, hazy and with significant colour fringing issue. The photo below shows how I get with my copy at f/1.4.
Things are improving gradually when stopped down. I normally stopped down until f/1.8 and above to get an acceptable performance for my need. I said “for my need” because you may find it beneficial for your need. So apart from the weak performance at f/1.4, I think this is a great lens. It’s not the fastest in autofocus and may not be the most accurate (somehow it cannot make up its mind 25% of the time). However, it’s one of the best 50mm lenses at the price.
Angkor Wat. Who hasn’t heard of this before? It’s one of the world’s wonders and part of the UNESCO world heritage list. I’d wanted to go for many years really, but could only do this in 2015. A few years back, many told me that the site saw much fewer visitors. Nowadays, do expect a high number of tourists, mainly from China, Korea and France. But, still I would recommend you all to go now, as it won’t see fewer visitors. The thing is though Cambodians are really welcoming with high tolerance. Many visitors saw this as affirmation to their conducts, and many of them could damage the sites. I felt really agitated when I saw a bunch of retarded teenagers carve their bloody names onto the wall. I went through teenage years, obviously, but never do I remember that I was that stupid. Anyway, moving on with Siem Reap.
Siem Reap is a little city from where you can access Angkor Archaeological Park easily. This park hosts different temples inside, such as: Angkor Wat, Ta Phrom, Bayon, etc. There are plenty of hotels in Siem Reap that can accommodate various budget range. From Siem Reap, it will only take 15 minutes of drive to Angkor Archaeological Park. Many of the hotels will provide you a car service – either free or at an affordable cost. Alternatively, you can ride a bike or tuk-tuk. Visitors are required to buy an entry ticket. I bought a day pass at USD20. The whole experience is very smooth and organised. Plenty of staffs will guide you through the process.
Now, as I mentioned, there are several temples in the site itself. The most famous is, of course, Angkor Wat. One can easily spend 3 hours in the site given the size. Plenty of locals will offer you their guide service, but I don’t know how it will go as I didn’t take it. I always liked to explore alone, and get my education before or after the visit. In fact, in Siem Reap, you will have a national museum with abundant info about the kingdoms and temples in the vicinity. Do allow yourself a fair bit of time in the museum. It took me around 4 hours to educate myself in the museum.
As a photographer, I really should start waking up early in the morning. But after all these years, I gave up trying. So I didn’t go to the site during the magic hours, but I heard it is indeed “magical”.
Next, you have Ta Phrom. If you ask me, I would say this is the most mesmerising site of all. It simply transported you back to the past. No wonder you have some Hollywood productions, like Tomb Raider, made here. With every look, I immediately imagine how I would build a shoot in the area. Gosh, it’s gorgeous.
The site itself is not that large though. I did a round with stops to take photos in less than 2 hours. There is already a pre-defined path and platform. So in a way, it was not as “natural” as I would like it to be. But considering it’s flocked by tourist all year long, it’s better this way to preserve the site.
My next stop was the temple of Bayon. It’s my 2nd most favourite temple. Much smaller in surface area, but it makes up in height. You have to climb steep steps, which indeed do not look that safe, but you’ll miss a lot otherwise. Admittedly I stayed for way too short at Bayon. The heat was unbearable. Note this folks, do research and plan your visit time accordingly. Between 12:00 and 15:00, I’d suggest you chill somewhere indoor. It was extremely hot under the sun. I was here around 2pm, and within 20 minutes, I felt I really had to get out of there. This shows as I could only take a couple of photos.
All in all, the 3 temples truly deserve to be part of UNESCO’s world heritage list. They are magical in their own way. I highly recommend you all to go now. Not only can you see a piece of great history, you will also be able to savour delicious food and meet with the loveliest people.
Recently I have been venturing out of my comfort zone. Yes, indeed. I have been doing some product shoots for my wife’s new project. It is an online fashion store for (mainly) ladies offering a range of fashionable jewelleries and accessories, yet at the same time, an opportunity to donate to the charities through the purchase. I am very excited to see her setting up this project. So… I am – a volunteer by the nature of assertive encouragement from her – supporting with the photographs. And how was the experience you asked? Great actually. I have the opportunity to experiment in my photography and be a helpful partner all the same. So below are some of the images I have taken so far.
Do me a favour and stop by Etiquette Shoppe!
Oh my, time flies – doesn’t it? I did not realise that I have not posted anything in over 3 months! I have been preoccupied with a lot of things – mostly personal matters though. One of the massive changes is that I am getting married! Haha. Yea yea I could hear those laughs from those who know me… Didn’t expect that, did you?
In any part of the world, wedding is a huge thing. In Asia, it’s just manic. Preparation started 6-8 months before the wedding itself. Pre-wedding photography is taken to the next level. Yes, indeed. These photos are to be shown during the wedding reception. Some couples fly 3,000 miles to Paris for a pre-wedding shoot. Us? We take it to the next level, in the other direction. We decided to do it ourselves, a.k.a. a selfie pre-wedding project.
It will be interesting, for sure. We had our first shoot in the weekend. And boy, it was not easy. Haha. Trust me, it’s twice as difficult and 4 times more time consuming than my usual photoshoot. But again, we are in it for the ride. So in the coming months, we will be doing bunch of selfies, and surely will share with you all once the project is completed. For now, here is our first try-out photo! A literal depiction of selfies…
Recently I did a personal project through collaboration with a bunch of talented people in the industry. I have always wanted to do a shoot with some fashion flair, but always dreaded to do so. I mean come on, what do I know about fashion? My significant other can confirm this for sure.
I started contacting all the team members via Model Mayhem about a month prior the shoot, and gratefully they agreed to participate in the project with me. I love working with them. They are not only professional, but also incredibly passionate. And through this experience, I certainly will not hesitate to work with them again.
Now the shoot per se was full of challenges. We shot in a café/restaurant somewhere in the east (in the middle of nowhere, really). From the moment I step into the place, the manager has already made my life hard. All the things that have been agreed during the booking stage were suddenly changed. A typical case where sales person just said anything to get you into their place. Amongst all, there were 2 biggest challenges I faced. First, I was not allowed to move the furniture, not even by inch. Second, most of the planned spots were somehow occupied by incoming guests, even when I had informed them of my plan in advance. This has forcefully thrown my original plan to the bin. All my visualised spots to shoot were not available, or were no longer ideal. Worst, I had only 2 hours of allowance to shoot 4 looks indoor (2 models with 2 looks each). I had to change the spots and make do with whatever restriction they have. Thankfully the team was really patient and understanding.
All in all, I feel the shoot has indeed produced some images that I like, but more importantly for me it was the opportunity to work with other passionate people. Below images are some of my favourites from the day.
Models: Bianca and Isobel (Basic Models Management)
Photographer Assistant: Jonathan
MUA and Hair Stylist: Rie Miura and Jean
Wardrobe Stylist: Cin (Flaunt CC)
Amongst all my Canon lenses, this particular lens is the best lens purchase I have ever made. Many photographers, particularly at the beginning of their photography journey, are cursed by an insatiable gear lust. Not many people can understand how real and powerful this “lust” can be. I fortunately realised it fairly soon. There is a limitation to what each gear can do. Some pictures require certain types of gear and this is indeed true, but in most cases we can make do with what we have.
I acquired this lens in 2011, so this review will consider around 3 years of usage and abuse. At the beginning, I purchased the lens for its macro ability, but ended up using the lens in various uses. This review will not have charts or any scientific figures. I know nothing about them. What I can contribute is how I think the lens has been performing during these 3 years of usage.
Build Quality and Feel
For those who have used pro-grade lenses before, you will feel that this lens is fairly well built. However something still feels lacking. Canon has somewhat decided to use plastic for the lens. I have to admit they are good quality plastic (not that I know anything about plastic), but still not the usual metal. Plastic in general feels cheap and fragile. On the other hand, metal lens feels very solid. Nonetheless this lens does feel nice on hand and is much better than most consumer grade plastic lens.
Further, the lens is about 625g in weight. It is fairly long and skinny of a lens, but well balanced for body like 5D. Some people would feel it to be front heavy on smaller bodies. I used it with a 550D, and I didn’t notice such imbalance that much.
The lens handles very well though. The focus ring feels very smooth. It is marketed as a weather sealed lens, but I rarely take my lens under extreme weather – so wouldn’t know how it really holds up.
Simply put, the AF in this lens is amazing. Never let me down in any situation. However, one must note that it is still a macro lens. So if you expect the lens to change focus blazingly fast from taking macro images of insect to infinity, that is asking a bit too much from the lens. This is why on the side of the lens, you will notice additional AF feature from the traditional “on/off” switch. It has distance limiter switch, which basically gives the lens a range where it should be paying attention to. When you do this, the AF works bloody quick.
Now quick without accuracy is useless. I can assure you that accuracy is spot on. During the macro usage (covered on next section), you will see my image of flying bee. I tracked the bee with AF Serve in 550D, and the focus is spot on – provided that I am using the centre AF point. (note: I like to use crop sensor when shooting moving subject in macro mode as it gives me room between my lens and the subject.)
Obviously this is the first use for the lens. I would say most macro lenses are really sharp, and so is this one. I do not know how this compares with the other macro lenses, but believe me this lens is really sharp. It is the sharpest L lens I own. Now, what differentiates Canon 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM over other macro lenses (and why I chose this lens) is because the IS. There were many occasions that I wouldn’t get the shot if I didn’t have IS. Because of the distance (or lack thereof), macro shots have very shallow depth of field even if we shoot at f/22. Therefore, under natural light, having the IS allows me to shoot handheld without resorting to tripod. Canon said that the IS is a new generation of IS. Frankly, I haven’t got a clue about any of that. What I know is that it does work really well.
To the other side away from Macro work, I also use the lens to shoot landscape or travel. The reason being? Nothing in particular. I like it because it’s sharp. Is it the best telephoto for landscape or travel? No. It surely lacks the flexibility and convenience of zoom lens, unlike the 70-200mm. But this lens always amazes me at 100mm range. It is very sharp and detailed.
In my view, there is only 2 features that a lens for product shots must have – one is sharpness, and the other is short minimum focusing distance. Well, these 2 are the main feature of Canon 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM. It does the job perfectly. I am not a still life photographer, but no doubt this would be my key lens if I were.
Now it comes to the type of usage I do the most. I think this lens does the job extremely well in this genre. Indeed there were times when I have too much information captured – this means all wrinkles and lines are vividly exposed. However, I prefer to have the information and do something in post, rather than not having when I need it.
The focal lens is right in the middle of classic portrait focal length – which is about 85-135mm. It is true that you don’t have the option to blur the background as much as 85mm f/1.2. But most of the time though, I don’t need to.
The lens per se is very impressive. Optically it is very strong. Sure it would be much better if it were made out of metal. But this lens is also very reasonably priced. So I have no complaint at all. If you are looking for a 100mm lens that is as good and as well priced, look no more. This is a very good lens indeed.
I strongly believe that a photo shoot has to be fun. There is no point of doing the shoot if the people – either your model or team – are not having fun. Fun is indeed what I felt during my recent shoot. It is true that I have never had any session that simply goes well unchallenged, so this time is no difference. However, I can still feel that everyone was relax and enjoying the session. Our model Hui is a newly aspiring model, so I understand that she would feel quite a pressure working with strangers in the early days of her modelling career. But, all in all, she did well and seemed to enjoy the shoot too. Or, at least, I hope she did.
There are several different looks we did during the day, both indoor and outdoor. We started at 13:00 with preparation on wardrobe, make-up and hair by the MUA. By 14:30 we started shooting until 16:00. We did 4 different setups in these 2.5 hours. Afterwards, we took a break for 1.5 hours for the late afternoon shoot outdoor. We went to a beautiful reservoir in Bedok. Beautiful, but also loved by so many flying insects and mosquitos. Yep, another variable that I did not expect… We did the shoot for about 30 minutes, and wrapped the day before any of us would lose too much blood.
MUA – Clara
Assistant – Jonathan
Relationship is a journey, and definitely a happy journey – if I may add. Being around Elle and Hong for 1 day really tells you about such a journey. They have the chemistry and understanding of each other that one can only envy. I was constantly smiling and laughing the whole day – even when the session got really challenging. Yep, no doubt this was one of the most challenging sessions I have ever had.
The session did not start as planned because Singapore’s weather has decided to go mental that morning. We postponed the morning session – having to let go the sunrise, and hoped that the weather would get better at some point. Luckily it did.
We went rushing to the site, and started shooting until lunchtime. We had a refreshing lunch break, and started shooting again in 2 different sites. Again, the weather betrayed us. We could not have the sunset shoot as the rain came back. I remember my MUA was really worried about it. She screamed, “no need to check your lighting! Just shoot, the rain came back!”. Haha. I had to laugh every time I remember this. It was so crazy. For the last setup, I literally only took 2 exposures before it rained – and it was one of my favourite photographs of the entire session. I guess you never know…
Elle and Hong however were really cool. Chill and hilarious as always. We ended the day in an amazing diner called “Handle Bar”. Fantastic location, great steaks, and the superb motorised margarita. The perfect way to end the session.
I wish you both all the best, and I am sure you two will have a joyful journey to come.
Photo Assistant: Jonathan
© Reynard Laksmono 2016