Category Archives: B&W Photography

Just another trip to laid-back Perth

It has been donkey-months since I last posted..and for legitimate reasons – that my PC is being kept within one of the 60+ boxes packed nicely in a storage place quite some distance from where I am staying right now.

Yes, I am in the midst of moving house. Though I am handicapped by the lack of a computing device, my photo-capturing tool stayed close to me as I shifted my place. But the hectic schedule between planning the move and working doesn’t permit much photography to be done. Within these sterile months, I was glad that I was able to go for an overseas conference which would provide me with the opportunities to take some frames.

The last time I went to Perth and Fremantle was about four years ago, and during then I was wielding my first DSLR. Actually it’s a m4/3 – the Olympus EP2. It was the newest m4/3 then. This time round, I “downgraded” and took along my Fuji X20, a compact that’s less than 1/2 the size of the the m4/3. But I love Fuji and I have absolute trust in the camera…and the user 🙂

The streets of Perth are interesting – a melting pot of nationalities and races, of culture and the arts. The Fuji excels in its film-like colors and its B&W.

In the right conditions, the Fuji X20 is able to capture amazing details and colors that rivals its bigger-sensor counterparts. It works well especially with structures, and Perth provides some of the nicest structures that we can find in this region.

And who can ever go to Australia without taking some photos of the native animals! I was glad that my choice of camera was the X20 as there is no need for me to change my lens. Zooming in and out was a breeze, and especially useful in capturing the unpredictable subjects. The only pitfall was that the X20 doesn’t fare well in low-light and the metering was not accurate enough. In dim places, it was quite a challenging task to get some good shots.

I had some other shots that I was quite happy with. I have inserted them below for sharing. Enjoy.

 

 

Just a salute to the men in blue – Singapore Navy Open House 2013

Visited the Naval Base yesterday for the 2013 Singapore Navy Open House. Every year, the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) will host a public event to keep us civilians abreast of the developments in their mission and to allow us to sleep peacefully during the night knowing that our forces are on 24/7 protecting the nation. While we may not be the strongest eagle in the sky, or the biggest elephant on the land , or the largest whale beneath the ocean, we sure pack one of the meanest hornet sting that promise to make anyone regret they ever threaten our sovereignty. That being said, we are a peaceful group of people because we love photography 🙂

The X20 is a wonderful companion to bring along to the event as it is light-weight and has a zoom of 28-112mm. Hence I could just swing the camera up and start shooting without much consideration for weight or lens changing. I shot the day using two modes – B&W and the Negative-Hi. Loved the latter as it gave a stern blue tone to the images, befitting the well-trained naval forces.

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The even started with a showcase of the naval might. This involved a real-time demonstration of the naval capabilities in their reaction to terrorist attacks at sea. The X20’s fast auto-focus came well in play here.

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There were quite a number of equipment displays available for visitors to try on or explore. Frigates were aplenty too and these were awe-inspiring given its futuristic looking stealth exteriors.

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I could not resist doing colors as the stern colors of the frigates went perfectly with the sky and the emerald sea.

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I loved the submarine best. The X20 rendered the image very well despite the dark colors of the sub.

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Besides the equipment, there were tons of people around. Had to take some shots of the men in blue as a simple tribute to them and their hard work.

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Even the K9 unit came and the kids just loved them.

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One of the sights that melted my heart was the presence of the underprivileged and handicap group. They were invited by the naval forces to join in the show and have a good time. Kudos!

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Kids from other schools were invited as well.

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If you are in Singapore, do drop by the naval open house over the weekend!  I will just leave you with more photos of the equipment, and a preview of what you can expect at the event 🙂 Enjoy!

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Just like a mist

I was driving past Mandai Road, near to the Upper Seletar Reservoir area when I spotted some nice thin mist covering over it. Mist also adds a serene feel to your images and are perfect for re-working into ink painting-like photos. It would even be better if I could use an ND grad filter to smoothen the water surface. But I have learnt to do without it with my X20, and settle for more dramatic compositing instead.

For three of these shots, I kept to my earlier promise to do B&W, and I was glad I did 🙂

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Invisible Singapore [03] Keep North – Yishun äą‰éˇş

Sometimes it’s amazing how a small island like Singapore could pack in so many things. i have been living in the northern side of the island ever since I know how to mumble my abc. Till today, i have yet to even explore a quarter of this segment in detail. Yishun is one of the towns in the northern side, alongside Sembawang and Woodlands, and nearby to Ang Mo Kio as well as the new towns of Sengkang and Punggol. It is also along the Upper Thomson Road which offers a myriad of scenic and gastronomic experiences.  Yishun used to be a sleepy old town that houses reserviors and natural lushes of greens. With the explosion in population,  the laid back style was replaced by more concrete landscaping. Yes, it’s harder to find natural formations to shoot but if we try, there are still some spots that offered an opportunity.

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located at the entrance to Yishun is the Bottle Tree Park – a place for relaxation and for corporates to host cohesion or team building activities.  The owners tried to replicate a rural landscape witnin their premise which comes with a fishing pond, a RC car racing track, a handicraft area, a vegetation growing area and even a heritage area. while most of the things are man-made,  thee are still some nice scenic stuffs worth shooting. I shoot largely in base ISO 100 in the bright sunlight which the X20 performs very well.

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Black and White houses

Nearer to Sembawang, there exists a stretch of land where many colonial black and white houses stand. These are bound by roads with very foreign names such as Pakistan Road and Queens Road. Apparently, the houses are still inhabited but could still be felt as quite secluded from civilisation. The X20 is able to output a good level of contrast for the structures and highlight the beautiful tones of the b&w buildings.

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Pierce Reservoir

It is advisable to go with a partner, at least, if you intend to visit Pierce Reservoir.  Even at broad daylight, walking the covered tracks is an eerie experience. I decided against venturing in alone amidst the thick vegetation into the reservoir.  I was glad that I stood with that as the sky soon turned dark with threatening roars of thunder. Though I missed the landscape shots, I managed to take some shots of the monkeys that are abundant along the reservoir road. These rascals are totally unafraid of us humans and wanders into close proximity of my car. One stood just outside my car window allowing me to shoot it while it got drenched in rain. I was impressed by the capability of the X20 that despite its small sensor, it was able to deliver a high degree of sharpness and dynamic range that breathed character into the images. Great job Fuji!

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There are many more nice places in Yishun and the rest of the northern regions. Hopefully I will have the chance to cover more of them in the next few weeks.

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Just another Sunday

To be frank, I don’t like Sundays as much as I love Saturdays…as Sundays signal the end of the weekends. Moreover, Sundays in Singapore are often used for last minute preparations or to prepare for the hectic week ahead, so that literally means the end of rest time for most of us. But amongst all these work and much, some of us will still try to squeeze out time to do what they like. For me, I will use my errands or grocery/marketing to sneak some frames.

Near to Yishun where I lived is the Upper Seletar Reservoir Park. According to official records, the place was built in 1920 and was opened by Her Royal Highness, Princess Alexandra in 1969! It was later renamed as Upper Seletar Reservoir. Besides being a water catchment area, the Park is also surrounded by nature reserves. It is a nice place to laze and just stare at the blue waters or greenery, and a lot of causal fishing take place here too. Since I was out buying some teabreak for my wife and kids, I popped by the place to take a few shots – in pure B&W 🙂

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Just some monochromes from Fuji X20

After getting some low light yesterday, decided to push the cam harder and go real low in light. As expected, the performance was not exactly good, but the Fuji B&W has its own character.

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The above shot of a person imposed against the backdrop of the wharf, with an angled shoreline attracted me as it gave very strong dissection of the entire image.

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While the jetty was fenced off for construction, there were still a number of people pitching tents and enjoying a night out.

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The above image and the subsequent ones were taken in better light and hence much sharper and cleaner.

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Just another PnS? No! It’s the Fujifilm X20!

Yes. I traded in my trustworthy X-Pro1 set and got myself a Fujifilm X20. It was a hard decision that involved nights of tossing and flipping. My X-Pro1 was a stunner and has given me hours of delights with its portability and great colors. It has incredible ISO control surpassing that of a high-end APS-C or full frame camera. The colors are iconic Fuji-style, and its black and white astonishingly striking.  But still, I’ve let it go because as great a camera as the X-Pro1 may be, it lacks a range of versatile lenses and a good autofocus system.  I did not get much choice over the past year playing around with a Carl Zeiss 35mm and a Fuji 35mm. These two are fantastic glasses, especially the legendary Carl Zeiss f/1.4, but sometimes as a photographer, you will yearn for more versatility and range.  As for the autofocus, it’s a decent one but in low light, it kinda sucks…

image taken from Fujifilm Singapore website

Of course the Fuji X20 will not be my primary system. I will be looking out for a suitable one. My heart tells me to wait for a X-Pro2, hoping with a full frame sensor and blazingly fast AF , like the XE1 or 100s. My head tells me to go for the Canon 6D.  In any case, I am not in urgent need and the new X20 will fill the void in this period.

The Fuji X20 cost me $770 Singapore dollars or about $610 USD. This is slightly more expensive than the US set which goes for 599 USD at B&H. I was torn between this, the Sony RX100 and the Canon G1X. The Sony and G1X are cameras that received rave reviews, and their prices are not exactly that far from the X20 i.e. $640 USD for RX100 and $699 USD for the G1X. But the sample images from these 2 cams lack the emotive factor which the Fuji colors give. For me, Fujifilm have a strong color character – deep and arousing. Contrast that with a Leica which has a classic and refined character. But Sony and G1X just doesn’t emit those kind of sensation though they have very high quality built and glasses, and a much bigger sensor than the X20 (X20 only has a 2/3 inch sensor, compared to a 1 inch for Sony and a 1.5 inch for G1X) Find out more about the difference in sensor sizes here.

Anyway, it is naive to assume that the X20 can match up to its big brother X-Pro1 or the X100s. But it would also be silly to belittle this beast of a Point and Shoot (PnS). Technologically,  Fujifilm has somehow managed to shrink all the great stuffs from the X-Pro1 into this handsome retro-looking box  that weights only about 300+ grams. The upside is that you get the Fuji look with a cheaper and lighter package that rivals the performance of entry DSLR. The downside are the limited ISO performance, the limited DOF/bokeh and a missing BULB mode for those long exposures.

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I just got the X20 two days ago and gave it a test run out in the field yesterday – to see its speed, IQ and ISO performance. It’s neither scientific nor professional, just your average street testing with the naked eyes. And I must say that I am mightily impressed. The autofocus performs well in challenging conditions, and the IQ was very good. The ISO performance is about the same as a mid-range mirrorless or entry DLSR (usable up to ISO3200). This is where you realised that as mighty as the Fuji sensor may be, its 2/3 inch sensor still fails to match the  ISO prowess of a RX100 or Canon G1X.  Anyway, pictures speaks a thousand words, so  here are some of the image samples from yesterday.

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I ran a few tests at night to test the ISO from 800 onwards till 6400. I find the images very usable at ISO1600. However 3200 and 6400 is more suitable for black and white given the noise and artefacts. And don’t think about ISO12,800, it’s not palatable even in black and white, unlike the X-Pro1 which is usable even at ISO25,600!

Here are some images at ISO800, under low light.

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800Here are some at ISO1600

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Here are those at ISO3200

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And finally, these are the ISO6400

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So the verdict?
Small? Checked
Light? Checked
Great IQ? Checked
Fuji? Checked
This cam is staying!

Just a cat and its postures

The iPhone camera is really one of the best inventions in this century. Frankly, it had changed the way we go about our lives e.g. snapping away before we eat our food, and the way that photographers capture the stories around them.

I was glad that I have my iPhone with me wherever I go since I can’t possibly lug around a DSLR, or even my portable X-Pro1 in and out.  Just like earlier this afternoon, I spotted a cat lazing in the corner of my flat’s void deck. It was just sitting there ignoring me as I approach it to take a few shots. As if accommodating to my “request”, it shifted into a few poses, and when I stopped, it just stood up and walk away…what a cat!