I rarely had the urge to write something about a camera that I try before but this one is an exception as I felt that there is a few points that I need to put out.
A week ago, Fujifilm did a camera hands-on session which include a small street photography workshop done by one of their brand ambassador (I think). To be honest I do not expect much from the workshop but the chance of trying out Fujifilm high end equipment on the street of Georgetown is much more interesting, and it’s free.
Ever since I continue my study in Penang, I never got the chance to explore the street of Penang as much as I thought I would be. Project submission and curricular activity has made me very occupied throughout the week. So this is like killing two bird with one stone, a chance to explore Georgetown with a better camera and to actually try Fujifilm recent offering.
Since it’s free and doesn’t seems to restrict only to Fujifilm camera user. I decided to give it a go.
The event was held at Gayo Cafe, next to the Chinahouse. A cafe that doesnt seems to bother to check their location on facebook, which made many of us late for the event as we scramble to find the exact location of the cafe.
As I was late, the talk already gone through halfway and the place was literally packed with people. The talk was done by Thomas Phoon where he gave a basic introduction on street photography.
Street photography in general is a very difficult genre to dissect. Even the speaker try to keep it simple while at the same time entertaining to the crowd. It keep up with the basic approach to street photography while at the same time showcasing why Fujifilm X series camera are the best camera for street photography.
But I am not expecting a talk from Alex Webb here.
CAMERA LOANING SESSION
The only experience that I had with Fujifilm camera before is their X100 model. A camera which I was planning to get before getting a second hand Sony a900.
But that was back in 2012, where the autofocus was not up to standard and the control is a bit tedious compared to what I heard recently. For this session I was hoping to try the X-pro2 or the X100F in which I was unlucky as I was one of the last few at the back of the line.
So for this, I have to settle with the Fujifilm XT20 with some random zoom lens that is left with them. The girls in front of me manage to use the Xpro2 Graphite, damn.
We left our MyKad with the organizer before taking the camera off to the street of Georgetown. I also ask one of the brand representative to teach me how to use the camera and to adjust the setting in which I find the camera control to be similar to my Olympus OM-1.
After a 10 minutes of basic Fujifilm camera session with one of the Fujifilm representative, I head out with the usual intention of taking photograph of whatever that I deem interesting.
This is also a good way to try the camera where in the recent year, saw many hardcore Nikon and Canon enthusiast to switch to the X-series system. On first impression, the camera control is pretty direct and simple with most of the necessary control are put on top of the camera plate. The most noticeable difference compare to the usual DSLR is the classic look of the camera which resembles the SLR back in the 70’s from the like of Olympus OM and Pentax LX. The camera is also surprisingly solid with the lens built quality is stunning, similar to a solid classic analog lenses made from stainless steel. Even though my loan lens had some used mark here and there.
You can refer to more information on XT20 at Dpreview.com, as this blog is never meant for a scientific camera review. I used to like Fujifilm for its 400H Pro film.
In general, mirrorless camera is a very viable option as a serious workhorse camera. For me that is. But this is not a surprise considering that Sony has somehow conquer the market with its mirrorless full frame camera, the RX1r and A7 series camera.
My point here is that I used to have some doubt on mirrorless camera, not in term of image quality but more on the actual shooting performance and I am glad that the technology for the camera is getting better.
In this day, most digital camera is a good camera. With only differences is more on the features than the actual image quality. For a starter the only thing that I find irritating with the camera is only the following (nothing serious) ;
The EVF still could not replace the actual experience of using a viewfinder. Which I believe the X100F or Xpro2 suits me more. I am the kind of person who use viewfinder most of the time.
The organizer doesn’t even bother to provide a neckstrap for their camera. So basically you are carrying 7K equipment around the area by holding onto the expensive lens.
I just wish to try the Xpro2 instead. 😦
Given the opportunity, I wouldnt mind using the XT20 all year long. Its a great camera with tons of feature but so far, I am impressed.
As for the event, I believe it was a success. I consider myself a neutral when it comes to camera brand but Fujifilm did a good job on this and they even have a free meal.
Looking forward for a Leica camera hand-on test in the future. Hopefully.
Mid-semester break is definitely what every University student are looking forward to every semester. The 9 day of holiday away from tedious group assignment and laborious series of test and quizzes, mid-semester is truly a week of blessing to everyone especially for those who had been away from their family for a few months.
It’s the same for me although a week of holiday is probably better off spent by traveling around the peninsular side of Malaysia. It’s been like this since my Diploma years where the cost of my return flight ticket to my hometown is used to support my week long traveling to various places in peninsular Malaysia. Malacca and Kuala Lumpur is my favorite.
So when my mid-semester break is approaching, the thought of going somewhere interesting grew on me despite being drowned in the sea of endless assignment and project deadline. The list is endless (maybe not, as it’s capped off within a certain budget)
Go to Kuala Lumpur and spent time at Kinokuniya.
Go to Langkawi and spent days at the overprice hotel. But I thought it’s better to go there with friends.
Take a train Ride all the way to JB and then to Singapore before returning back to Penang on flight.(Good idea but didn’t have enough money)
Take a bus to the scenic route to Kelantan and Perlis through Kedah.
Maybe just stay in Penang and explore the area on bicycle.
I did a post on my facebook wall and a few friends notify me that they would be more than happy to meet up with me when I got to the places. So a long time friend that I got to know through our interest in photography had decided to bring me along to explore Kedah and Perlis. Last time I met him was years ago in Kuala Lumpur and it is great to have a true local to show me around the scenic view of Kedah. Surely this would turn out great.
Up until then, there was nothing solid being plan. All that I had decided is that it would be from Kedah and somehow afterward I gonna take the train to Ipoh and then Kuala Lumpur, all through the brand new KTM ETS train.
I bought the bus ticket a week earlier just so that I would not be disappointed for missing the bus ride as University students will be going back to their hometown by Bus and most of them are from Kedah and Penang, so go figure.
I woke up extra early than usual on that day while double checking my rucksack and camera bag, I also made sure that I bring some books to read along and it’s Haruki Murakami new book ‘Colourless’.
I took the morning bus to Alor Setar from Stesen Bas Sungai Nibong. Grab a quick Gardenia vanilla bun for breakfast before I went off across the Penang bridge and all the way to Alor Setar. Falling asleep was the easiest part when you only get a few hour of sleep before the trip.
Upon arrival, I was welcomed with the sight of newly refurbished bus station. The big steel structure consisting of a series of repetitive steel trusses covering the entire area which seems to be recently painted new. It was few hour past afternoon and after meeting up with Akmal at the bus station entrance, we decided to get some lunch before heading somewhere else.
Kedah has a spectacular scenery. I knew it from the words that my friends has told me, they say the paddy field seems endless over the horizon and it is true. A glistening green field with a patch of solid limestone hill along the foreground. Certainly I wish to visit it again, as well as exploring the shorelines.
That evening, Akmal decided to bring me to some random places around the area as well as showing me how the paddy field actually work. It seems the layout is determine by the paddy field owner and each has its own name or code given. Can’t remember the detail for the name but the Kampung address is based on it.
I have another reason to visit Kedah other than to actually visit the Paddy Field. There is someone that I have been wanting to meet for so long and that is Mr Jusni. He is one of the person that has inspire me to widen my perspective on the world and he has consistently share the beautiful landscape of Kedah through Flickr. Without him, I won’t be taking photograph using film camera, and thanks to him, I am a fan of Olympus OM camera.
Akmal used to stay around Mr Jusni area and they are quiet close. He call Mr Jusni for some short teh tarik session and finally I was able to have a chat with him face to face. As expected, he is a great guy with a lot of experience. We also share similar passion on cycling and he did brag that Kedah is a good place for cycling.
Afterward, we decided to go back to and get some rest. We are staying at Akmal parents home for the night before going to Perlis or Perak tomorow morning. The hospitality that I received throughout that night was beyond on what I would expect, wish I could repay their kindness in someway. They also keep a lot of cat with many different unique character as well.
On the next morning, we already prepared for our trip to Perlis. The journey will take long hour and basically we are trying to find a way to keep the journey fun and interesting. Akmal did share his story on his hiking trip to Japan with the Ricoh GR and also some tips on how to travel to Japan for cheap. We discuss a lot about bagpacking and stuff but I do wish to visit that part of Japan someday. We spent a lot of time inside the car that day, a total of perhaps 6-7 hours where we eventually decided to go to Ipoh instead.
After spending hours inside the car accompany by Queen Bohemian Rhapsody album throughout the day, we finally reach Ipoh after a rather heavy downpour. Since it was late and we dont want to waste any money to stay at the hotel for one night, we decided to sleep in the car instead. It was a bit damp due to the weather but we slept through the night anyway due to being exhausted.
We woke up rather early that morning, I believe it is partly because it was uncomfortable and Akmal need to do his morning prayer. To be honest it was enough but Akmal seems to be rather okay about it, as expected from someone who loves camping outdoor. Afterward, we visit University Teknologi Petronas which is just next to the oil station that we parked for the night. Akmal is an alumni of that place and it is nice of him to show me around the area. The university building is designed by Lord Norman Foster from UK and this a very exciting building to observe. We did take our breakfast at the cafeteria though and that place is rather huge.
After a good walk around the University, we decided to grab our lunch at Ipoh for some of the famous Nasi Ganja. But of course not without visiting some of the interesting place in between. I did told Akmal that I enjoy looking at old abandoned kampung house and he did exactly that, we drive along this kampung area and there is so many thing to look at.
After we check-in at the nearby hotel in Ipoh, we decided to take some rest to make up for the lack of sleep last night. Afterward that evening we decided to walk through the town area and its amazing on what a few years could do to the area. The ugly empty landscape in front of the KTM station has become a great public space while the path towards the clock tower has been reworked somehow.
We take our late lunch nearby and then decided to stay at KTM station for the night just to immerse ourselves with the nice cheerful vibes around the area. The surrounding area is rather happening with parents bringing their kids while some people renting out rollerblades and hoverboard. I spent RM15 just to try the hoverboard around the area, I look like a giant kid among kids.
The initial idea was Kedah – Perak – KL – Penang, I already told Akmal about it and basically he is cool with sending me all the way to Ipoh. We bought the ticket earlier and there is only one ride left which is at 5:30am, it sold out quicker because tomorrow is Deepavali and that is a public holiday. I wish I could take breakfast before proceeding my trip to KL and accompany Akmal a bit before his ride back to Kedah. After saying goodbye to Akmal, I walk myself to the train station from the hotel.
I didn’t stop by to any place afterward, I just informed a few of my friend that I will be in KL for a short while. I decided to go to my favorite bagpacker hostel just to make sure that there will have a room for me. Surprised to find out that they remodel the ground floor into a nice Cafe with proper expresso machine and stuff, I didn’t try it during my stay though so can’t say how good it is.
I got a message from Nick that afternoon that he will be at his favorite bar at the Pavillion, its nice to catch up with fellow ‘Street photographer’ to chat on geeky stuff about photography.
Contrary to what people thought about me, I don’t drink as much as they think. I do enjoy alcohol but not to the point that I will passed out for no reason, unless there is someone that will take care of me. Nick brought Daphne along with Scott and it was an entertaining chat that we are having that night. Not sure on what but it was fun.
Fun until I have to walk to my hotel slightly drunk, but if I could cycle back to my hotel dead drunk at Chiang Mai, I can do the same at Kuala Lumpur by walking.
I remember that Nick told me last night that he will accompany me for tomorrow morning, I wish I could woke up early but being the student that I am, the earliest that I could was 9:30am. Nick brought me to a decent nearby stall at Petaling Street before we hit the street with our camera and stuff. Chasing shadow and light.
After a wonderful stay at Kuala Lumpur, it was time to say goodbye. It was great to catch up with some of them but the next time I visit KL, I will try to catch up with some old friend as well. For now, I will be going to KL Central to catch the evening ride to Penang. My luggage is getting heavier thanks to the loots that I bought from Kinokuniya.
The ride to Penang I believe will take at least 6 hour instead the usual 9 hour before they upgrade the train into the ETS. Train ride nowadays has become so comfortable that you could actually just sleep on your seat which is more comfortable than taking the aeroplane. The toilet is cleaner as well but the train ride that I took stop to many times for my liking, maybe I should make it clear that it’s not a non-stop train ride.
I arrived at Butterworth around 11:20pm, almost midnight. It took us another 20 minutes walk from the train station and maybe another half an hour for the ferry. The thing that I worried now is my transport back to my dormitory. Rapid Penang stop working by 11:30pm and I arrived at Georgetown at 12:10am. Go figure.
As I mentioned earlier, going back to my University in the middle of the night is one of the problem that I didn’t expect to encounter. My phone is so outdated and it couldn’t even install UBER or GRABCAR apps. For once, I have to rely on Taxi eventhough I knew it would be very expensive as hell.
It cost me RM35 to go back to the university eventhough I share the same taxi with some nice aunties who is concern on my safety and also on my wallet. God bless them but fuck the overpriced taxi driver.
After arrived safely at my room, I took the time to clear my bag and then took a long shower before hitting the bed. Until next time.
Obscura Photo Festival is an annual photography festival that is held yearly at Georgetown, Penang. It is currently in it’s 4th edition which is also the number of time that I had missed the festival. I nearly missed the recent edition and somehow managed to salvage the remaining few days of the festival.
Like any other International Photo festival, it has became a great stop for a gathering among International photographer community prior to the upcoming Angkor Photo Festival this November. The festival has certainly grown a lot compared to its first edition where there is more serious photography discussion with the participant and at the same time with the public. It has also manage to brought in some great name in Contemporary Photography to share their view on current issues and also their perspective on their own work.
Among the program on the list that really capture my attention is the talk from Shahidul Alam on “Finding New Narratives in Photography.” and of course the International Photobook show. I missed the talk due to my commitment for my University Faculty programs but somehow able to drop by for the International Photobook Show at INCH.
The Photo Festival starts on 15th August until 31 August although the first few days are for the Masterclass workshop while the exhibition is open to the public on 19th August 2016.
On 24 August, I finally managed to get myself free and spent the rest of the day solely for the Photo Festival. The morning was terrible as I was staying up late that night and only to get lost on my way to INCH.
When I arrived there, the talk was already halfway through and the atmosphere were rather serious with a few casual laugh in between. Most of them are totally focus on the talk while some other were browsing through the books that is on display. A scan through the room shows a few people that I knew online mainly Daniel Boetker-Smith from Asian-Pacific Photobook Archives and also Sim Chi Yin who is rather famous recently with her works from China (I am a fan of her work). I didn’t notice anyone familiar until Alvin (a friend from KL who joined the masterclass workshop) say Hi to me.
The first talk was done by Teun Van der Heijden, famously known for his photobook design ‘Black Passport’ for Stanley Greene. He is a creative designer that works on photography editing and photobook design and to summarize his talk, it was more about how, why, and his preference in making a photobook. The talk was interesting as he keeps on showing example from his previous work (which is available on display during the International Photobook Show). There was a few interesting point that were discussed which I wish I did a recording of it. It was on how he recently working with a fine art photographer to conceive a photobook while despite all this, he still prefer or rather, more comfortable to work with Photojournalism type of work. There was also something that he mentioned on how working with the two genre is different and what we can learn from this and reapply to any other project in terms of visual presentation or impact.
Of course, the Q&A session were ruthless and perhaps rightly so since we are surrounded with talented photographers of such high caliber.
After the first talk were done, everyone were going downstairs to take their lunch. I already taken mine so I decided to spent my time browsing through the books that is on display. The main objective to go to such event was to gain inspiration and I am taking my time to go through someone else photography zine and dummy book. Not to mention some rare and expensive books as well.
Rainbow Transit by Per-Anders Petersen
Rainbow Transit by Per-Anders Petersen
Remnant of recent Past by Pip Erken
Remnant of recent Past by Pip Erken
Remnant of recent Past by Pip Erken
Remnant of recent Past by Pip Erken
Remnant of recent Past by Pip Erken
There was also a number of photobook on display and particularly those finalist and winner that have won some ‘Photobook Award of the year‘, can’t seems to recall the name of the award though. Just to name a few, there was also the super expensive Henri Cartier Bresson recently republished photobook ‘The Desicive moment’, the writing were good but I still can’t understand why it was that ‘famous’.
The second talk of the day is by Daniel Boetker-Smith,an enthusiastic photographer/educator from Australia. I knew him from Photobook Australia and he is also the Director for Asian Pacific Photobook Archive, big stuff.
Throughout the talk, he discuss the current state of Photobook market especially in Asia and how aspiring Photographer that want to publish a photobook can do so for themselves. There was also some discussion on the pro’s and con’s of self publishing where opinion were threw in by some of the audience. Since I had no such intention to do a photobook at the moment, I tend to ignore the whole talk apart from the Asian Pacific Photobook Archive effort in promoting photographer work to a wider audience.
A summary on what Asian Pacific Photobook Archive has been trying to achieve in the past few years is to promote the joy of Photobook viewing in a form of travelling mini library. This is achieved by joining/involved in as much Photo Festival that they can afford to. Through their effort, there is some Photography project that manage to capture the attention of a Publisher and from what they said, there is a follow up collaboration with the photographer.
The next program of the day is the Projection Night “Judgement of Line Orientation” curated by Anshika Varma, which if I was not mistaken, a Photo Editor for NGEO India.
One irritating things that I don’t really like with the Photo festival is that the programs doesn’t start punctually. But this is understandable and can be well tolerated as most of the participant and audience has probably been tired from following all the program for the past few days.
Before the projection night starts, they were giving out some handouts that gives some short description on the selected photography works and also the curator statement on the slideshow.
Here are some of the short writings on the projection;
“Judgement of Line Orientation stems from exploring social structures created for people to find a sense of belonging as a community. The works included explore and question the act of creating such norms. These questions become more relevant in the context of our current times when constructs are blatantly exploited by the politics of nations and its powerful to divide. The photographic interrogations included draw from a strong base in the photographers personal thoughts or politics. For the curator, it questions the need and relevance of these structures and its impact on how we choose to live our lives today. The curation questions the formation of our multipletures and its impact on how we choose to live our lives today. The curation questions the formation of our multiple identities for nations, religions, mythologies, families and gender homogenization and its subsequent politics.”
Aapo Huhta – Ukkometso
Alejandro Chaskielberg – Otsuchi Future Memories
Andre Fernandes – Killing Kittens
Diego Moreno – Guardians of Memory
Dragana Jurisic – Yu the Lost Country
Kosuke Okahara – Ibasyo
Laurence Rasti – There are no homosexual in Iran
Magda Biernat – Adrift
Vasantha Yogananthan – Early Times
Yoshikatsu Fuji – Red String
The projection showcase a bunch of visually interesting narratives that really challenge the common society thought on a bunch of issues such as cultural minority, mentally challenged, and also towards understanding the common theme such as love. There is a lot to learn from it as well and hopefully it could go through (in some way) to the works that I had been working on myself.
After the projection night was done, I was somehow been able to join a group of friend for late supper before taking our time to take pictures of some people burning offering to the god. It’s that time of the month in Chinese Calendar and the whole town seems geared towards it as well.
As for my University life, all the thing that I try to do from my ‘New year resolution list’ is slowly being done but of course apart from my love life; which is as miserable as it always is. So far for this year, I manage to get into my first architecture competition at the end of last year and managed to get third place out of 20+ participant from all over Malaysia. I also got myself busy with some extra-curricular activities which I try to avoid before in the past, something that I try to actually get myself involve in a different circle of people and at the same time improve my time management skill.
The thing with my semester break this time is that I will be involve in a several events few weeks before the next semester start which means my ‘holiday’ is not exactly 3 months but only for a solid 2 months. It did force me to change my mid-semester plan short as I did plan to take several design commission but nevertheless, I happen to work at my old company instead since they are short in staff at the moment (a rather surprise decision actually). This in addition will help me ease through next semester financially and hopefully funds me to do something interesting on the next semester break.
Coming back to Labuan for the semester break allow me to be more collective in thought, like considering how much had I progress so far in life (Current Level : 24, 2456 EXP required to the next level) and focusing on what to do next. Photography wise, it’s time to get back to my previous work and to actually review my past work. There is this wise photographer once told me that you need to detach yourself from your photograph that you took and guess what happen when you been away from looking at your photograph for like a year?, that awful nauseating feeling of seeing a newbie works!.
True enough that some of the photograph feels as if it works when I show it to Wu Bin last time but now I realize how true his opinion is, it just doesn’t work, composition wise or technical wise. Maybe it’s time to be more ruthless when it comes to editing my work and to be a more tougher critic of my own work.
Going back to my contact sheet for my ‘The Promised Bridge’ long term photography project, maybe, just maybe I finally get a grip on what I actually been seeking through the project; that mundane melancholy of Labuan itself.
This will be another tiring mid-semester break all over again.