One Fine Morning

This morning I felt good and went out with 3 friends for some walk around Ancol, beach area in Jakarta. There’s a place where we can see many people and there are a lot of activities over there. It depends on what you want to do you can free your mind by meditation or just find fresh air by walking around, gather with some pals and chit chat, buy some fishes sold by fishermen near by.

For me and a friend, Marco, we took photos and enjoy fresh air with sun. After a week of working it is quite a refreshing being here.

I brought my Ricoh GXR-M with Nokton 50/1.1 and MIR 37/2.8 while Marco had his Nex7 with Nokton 35/1.2 Aspherical II. I wasn’t thought about doing any kind of review here, as my main purpose of going out was only having fresh air and met Marco and his girlfriend.

So I would just share my morning walk and my thought about using these lenses. It’s my opinion along with my taste about photography, so nothing to worry about, anyone can have a better scientific review at http://www.dpreview.com or http://www.photozone.de for more precise insight.

I would share my experience using Ricoh GXR-M using Nokton 50/1.1 and Nokton 35/1.2 Asph II while walking around the area. I used to many types of DSLR before since 2003, started with Canon 10D, Phaseone H5, Nikon D50, D80, Sony A350, Canon 550D, 60D, while among others I tried A850, A900, PhaseOne H20, H25, some digital back, Nikon D200, D2X, D300, D100, Canon 5D, 5Dii, 7D, Panasonic GF1, some Olympus 4/3 and so on but frankly it’s only early this year that I found a camera with low profile look but professional capabilities and result. Yes ! I am talking about GXR A12 (M mount).

For years I heard people murmuring about the photo being not film like, analog like, lack of three dimensional look, too digitized, too artificial, the list could go on, and we all tried hard using any manipulation possible to bring back that “film look”back to no avail, but hey ! The good news is here ! I don’t know where were I for this last 4 years as it was only this January that I really checked on Ricoh GXR A12 (after viewing it’s review mostly by Steve Huff, thanks Steve !) and after downloading real samples from Ricoh website and a confirmation from Eddy my buddy, I ordered my GXR A12 as soon as possible.

After some shooting sessions in Tenganan Bali, candid shots, commercial shots and other snap shots, I boldly declare this camera as a killer camera for black and white, and color as well when you use good Voigtlander lenses such as Nokton 50/1.1 and 35/1.2 Aspherical II and those lenses by Leica M. I am not over exagerating here if saying jpg out of camera set in black and white is already done. Yes just like well done in steak terms. It’s absolutely make people stunned, shocked, salivating and instantly wanna get one, IMHO. At least my search is over. I am not overstating here as the moment my friend look at the result in GXR lcd, he instantly ordered one. And for your information, he already owned Sony 5N and also A900, none of both can compete with film like image of GXR (black and white). Just this morning when I went to Ancol beach with some friends, a friend who brought Nex7 saw my images in GXR and he said with surprised tone, “This is what I am looking for in black and white”and he compared side by side shooting his Nex7 and my GXR-M using same lenses and alas, yes I gotta tell you the truth the Nex7 results look greyish and even bluish and also flat, and GXR could render the images in pure black and white just like film. The out of camera jpgs only cropped and posted for your eyes pleasure.

Falun Gong meditation. Nokton 35/1.2 Asph II. The actual pixel shows both men tack sharp inclusing their sandals. OOC jpg no color adjustment. No cropping.

Falun Gong meditation. This shot was post processed using DXO film pack3 to bring back the backlit lighting to the face and converted to black and white as well. You can see that GXR combo with Film Pack could make a perfect black and white with analog look.

Bikers and fishermen. I noticed this view and shoot using Nokton 35/1.2 set at 2.4 with ISO 100 and standard color mode. The focus points show tack sharp in actual pixel.

Fresh fishes from morning catch. Nokton 50/1.1 shot at 2.0 iso 100. Please check the actual pixel crop below.

Fishermen selling their catches. Fresh from the sea. Nokton 50/1.1 set at 2.0 iso 100. Out of camera jpg, no crop, no adjustment.

Fine fishes. Nokton 50/1.1 shot around F2.0 cropped to show good details.

Fishermen’s equipment. Out of camera jpg, no adjustment, no crop.

Another fisherman’s boat. Nokton 50/1.1 no adjustment, out of camera jpg.

A boy playing with locks. Nokton 50/1.1 out of camera jpg. ISO 100.

Dried salted  fishes. Nokton 50/1.1 at F 2.0 ISO 100, out of camera jpg.

Marco’s girlfriend. Out of camera jpg. Nokton 50/1.1 at 1.1 iso 100

A fine reflection too. Nokton 50/1.1 out of camera jpg.

My conclusion is my GXR-M will be long used camera for me and I will use it mainly for my travel photography, portrait, interior (with my Skopar 21/4), and even product shot. As I use manual focus lenses on it, the shutter lag is not too bothersome for me and when I want to capture moment I used to predetermine it so I just shoot away. Surely it is not a comparison against DSLR, but for a low profile look with no shutter sound it will help me get extra ordinary shots. And not forgetting the cmos specially build for Leica M lens design and no AA filter, this sensor surely will be able to deliver the most of any optics with original M mount, be it Leica or Voigtlander M. I used this camera with Skopar 21/4 for interior shot and the color output is more precise than Canon using the same lights set up.

The funny thing is this camera has not widely promoted and it is such a pity when people can enjoy this quality but end up buying other over promoted ones with no match quality to GXR A12.

One thing to hope for is that Ricoh may someday come up with may be a full frame new design module and updated for the shutter lag, buffer for raw shooting in continous mode, and perhaps a built in EVF (not a mandatory), a higher capacity battery, a repositioned tripod mount, and last but not least may be an added speed grip for those with big hands.

Maki “The spiritual artist”

She is one of the best face I photographed. Nov 3rd, 2010.

In my life, I have seen lots of weird faces. I never pay any attention as if looking could be an offense to them. Remembering those faces I feel like making an endless portrait session for them. Usually I meet them in public place and it is impossible to portray them in any way. Neither do I have an idea how the portrait should look like.

An opportunity came when in November 2010 I was in Bali for my first portrait exhibition. The owner of the gallery, Adriaan Palar had a guest who is a healing artist from Japan. Her name is Maki. She attended the exhibition opening with her husband and children. In fact my exhibition was also a part of my spiritual journey in searching my true self after long years of self denial and chaotic life. Working in commercial photography you are used to please other people and always think in term of satisfying lots of audience who look at your images. So it is unimaginable for me, what or how should I please my self after eighteen years of pleasing others. There are lots of ordinary things happened during the days in Bali and I tried not to miss any one of them.

The next day after opening of the exhibition Maki came for some business with Adriaan’s daughter, and when she was almost left, my heart started to pound hard and I sensed it as an urgency to do something with it. I already looked and studied her face and honestly was so eager to portray her. Adriaan was there with me watching when she said good bye to him and he murmured to me “such an unusual face and very unique”. I said “Indeed. I want to shoot some shots of her face” and he said “go after her and shoot it”, so I ran after her while Adriaan wife asking Maki to pose for me.

She only had a few minutes before leaving for airport so I had to shoot her in short time possible. I asked her to stand in front of stoned wall with natural lighting of open shade. It was around four in the afternoon so the light is pretty subdued there.

In early shots she smiled naturally, it was nice but I thought I want to come up with unusual image besides she has unique look and I did not want to waste it. So I asked her to be cool with no smile on, just looked straight to the lens. The rest of the shots were some moment captured making sure I got the right look.

I tried to listen to my heart and be my self in portraying this image, ignoring my past role in commercial world as much as I can. The picture tell the true self of Maki with no extra touch ups or manipulation as in commercial way.

Travel journal : Resurrection In Bali (Part 2)

Maestro Jro Made Puspawati doing the rehearsal.

I have no idea at all that I would be watching this maestro of Balinese dance. Not even in my dreams. At the moment I photographed them, it’s just like instinct learner doing his lessons, just shoot it. But the more I look at these photographs it’s becoming more and more alive and they are more like a memory of my struggling between material world of photography and idealist one. It’s quite funny but now I can appreciate my works more and better, thus giving me self satisfaction and acknowledgement of what am capable of. It’s also strange when finally I kind of rediscover my self, the inner self of artistic side that I strongly suppressed these years, and becoming more hungry for satisfaction in it.

The late Maestro Jro Gadung Arwati backstage. August 28, 2010.

Maestro Ida Bagus Oka Wirjana, also known as Gus Aji.

The busy of making up

Somewhere around backstage in Peliatan, August 28, 2010.

My camera used to be Sony dslr but this time I relied on Canon 550D and only a kit lens of 18-55 EFS IS. I just want to have a more pictorial look on my images, and I also post processed them using DXO film pack3 to have film like images. You can check it here : http://www.dxo.com/us/photo/filmpack/what_is_dxo_filmpack

I usually use Photoshop to develop raw files into normal look then do the final tweak in DxO Film Pack. In my humble opinion it creates more natural looking images than other software in the market and the processing is very easy and it will not suck up your computer’s RAM.

There’s one lens I also used in this trip, it’s Revuenon 24/4 macro in M42 mount and I used an M42 to Canon EF adapter to mount it on my Canon. This old lens have a very nice black and white rendering, somewhat similar to Contax Carl Zeiss but slightly different, it’s hard to describe here. You can find it in ebay with a price around US$ 1,400 – 2,000. While the result is stunning, given it’s macro sharp and contrasty images, it’s also prone to fungus due to high humidity such as in Ubud, Bali area.

All along the Langse performance for 3 days I had access to backstage. It’s different with usual backstage as this was not exactly at the back of stage. Nevertheless it’s quite hectic and all performers and make up artist and everyone involved were really busy with their works. I did not have any particular target on back stage so either I walked and watched the people and shoot when some moment seemed to occur.

One of the main focus surely were the maestros. They were truly humble and there was not any sense of “higher than others” attitude. Every one is like families in the community. They professionally doing the preparation and ready in time they were about to start.

Travel journal : Resurrection In Bali (Part 1)

Puri Agung Peliatan

What are you going to do when you have a nervous breakdown ? Get yourself a bottle of whiskey ? Go shopping ? Find some food ? Indulge yourself in the most pleasurable way ? Well, in my case then in August 2010, I went to Bali. Yes, I have a friend who conducted stage performance by dance maestro of Peliatan and was invited to photograph it. So there I went, got introduced to Runa Museum owner, who become a good friend, had a chance to document Balinese cremation, got in touch with the world again, and last but not least was the maestros performance itself.

Lost in the world of “do’s” and “don’t” in commercial photography is not the happiest feeling you might expect as a portrait and nature enthusiast. You see, your inner person might disagree with your client but sometimes you suppose to compromise for the sake of many things later on. At the end of the day it’s not your soul satisfaction that count anymore but merely your bank account. And guess what do I think we should be called ? A prostitute of art. So commercial photographer might be called a prostitute of art. Yes indeed. Some guys may disagree with me, no problem. Everyone can be whoever they think they want to be.

General Rehearsal for Langse

I have a story. Once I told a painter friend in Facebook that I have to shoot whatever my client wants me to, and she said bluntly : “Well, I never take order from anybody, I paint whatever I want to paint”. And her statement shocked me first, but it gave me ideas. Ideas about my future existence in photography, of who I want to be, of what I am going to shoot, of where I want to shoot and who my audience will be. It was her comment that woke my mind and not coincidentally the trip to Bali opened up an opportunity to pursue my long lost dreams.

Arrived at Ngurah Rai airport did not make any changes to my stressful mind. After all those serious problem I faced in last 10 years of marriage seems like I have to plunge deep into deep cold water or do some bungee jumping. Fortunately Doddy my buddy brought me to meet interesting people, had great experience while in this first trip.

Purwanto the successor to Maestro Gus Aji. Performing Kebyar Duduk Dance.

The main reason for me being in Bali was the Langse, maestros performance in Puri Agung Peliatan. I felt like a first time hobbyist with a camera and thought I had to freemy mind from those commercial rules. Hell with it, I would be who I am now. It’s now or never. So my first lesson is listening to my heart, shoot whatever interest my eyes and mind. So the first day was general rehearsal and the D day followed soon.

The exotic ambience of Puri Agung Peliatan with its dancer.

Some people were born to dance. It’s in their blood.

What a beautiful moment. Thought if I had been somewhere else it could have been different, but I was in front of this amazing moment. The ambience, the dancer, music, they planted lasting melody in my soul forever. Thank you so much.