Sunday, March 23, 2014


I just acquired a new lens from eBay, Nikkor 50mm f/2 AI, produced between 1977 - 1979 period. Never planned on this before, but I found this very cheap offer is too good to skip. Only USD 50 + USD 16,3 shipping to Indonesia !! After googling a little, I found many positive comments about this lens. It's true this is not the pro f/1.4 or the popular f/1.8, but it is reported to be very sharp and have specific character, with six bladed aperture which differentiates it from the other 50mm Nikkor. I think 66 dollar is a low risk spend, so I hit the Buy button.

The internet reviewers didn't lie. I like the rendering of this orchid.

22 Mar 2014
Nikon D700
Nikkor 50mm f/2 AI
ISO 400 - f/5.6 - 1/320

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Urban Juxtaposition #16

I take this shot in response to Weekly Photo Theme "Pattern & Shadow" in Indonesia On The Street Facebook Group. The keyword "pattern" hints something that geometrical in nature, a repeating elements. From all possibilities that come to mind, I arrive at this spot. Again ... Pasupati.

Actually I'm starting to get bored with this kind of scene. Foreground to background connected with leading line. But I see a unique potential here. The curve line of the perimeter of the exit lane converge with the line from the flyover, give a strong geometrical shape. At the same time, those two curve enclose the peaceful Taman Jomblo area, protecting it from the wild and hazardous highway nearby. Great! As usual, I wait few minutes to get passer by on the foreground. This approach is already becomes standard procedure.

At first, I plan to capture this as a blue hour scene, but I think it's better in BW.

8 Mar 2014
Nikon D700
Nikkor 35mm f/2 AI
ISO 400 - f/8 - 1/3s

Project : Urban Juxtaposition

Night Street Photowalk - Braga Culinary Night

Let's try another challenge, night street photography at Braga Culinary Night (BCN). BCN is a biweekly event held every Saturday night at Braga Street, Bandung. Food vendor set their booth along the street and citizen hang around with family, friends or lover. As usual, there will be crowd. The first challenge is how to make a good picture out of this non-photogenic situation. The next challenge is we have to do it at night with minimum available light.

It's time to exercise my D700 high ISO capability. And to raise the bar a little bit more , I use the 1981 manual focus Nikkor 35mm f/2 AI. Crank ISO to 3200, and here we go..

People everywhere, where do I start? At first I thought I'll take the seller view, facing the customer. Unfortunately it's not that interesting. Too many people, I can't isolate one nice story telling picture.
Then I see similarities among the seller booth. They always have menu board lit by lamp for people to read. It is bright enough giving high shutter speed to prevent camera shake. Let's try some ...

The two pictures are so ordinary just like beginner snapshot. But remember, I focus that menu board manually. I struggled enough to nail that focus, relying heavily on the green focus confirmation dot inside the viewfinder. You can't trust your eye in this very dim light.
I'm very surprised how sharp this lens is. Could you read that menu? I bet you can. It's clear as crystal.

"Come on madam, this one tastes good. Buy one!", that's what he said.

Street Artist. He claim he could sketch your face less than 10 minutes. I didn't stay that long to verify. Maybe next time I would ask him to make a sketch of me :)

I set my aperture to f/4 to prevent slow shutter speed, which gives rather shallow depth of field (exposure already in 1/13s, too slow). I have to refocus every now and then. This image was taken in a very short distance, that means even shallower DOF. The girl seems uneasy about being photographed and makes an interesting facial expression. Unfortunately I focus on the guy behind her, who has yet another interesting face.
Low light is not easy.


The last two images are what I like the most in this photowalk. This is what street photography should looks like. Previous images are "Crowd Photography".
Braga is known as shopping and dining place in the Dutch Occupation Era. This bar is one heritage of that time, with strong European architectural style.
Juxtaposition between what happen inside and outside the bar gives an interesting emotion to these pictures.

In conclusion :
  • Night street photography is not for the faint of heart
  • D700 renders usable images at ISO 3200. Just be sure not to underexposed.
  • Nikkor 35mm f/2 AI is sharp! Provided that you focus correctly.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Shoot From The Hip

Some purist might say, "Shoot from the hip is a technique for those who don't have courage". I'm not disagree with that. We will get better composition by carefully position the frame as we look through the viewfinder. But for my current mastery level now, this technique is the most effective way to be invisible on the street. Being invisible is the most important thing to get those candid shots.

I've been using this technique before using my Coolpix P7100 and got disappointing result. Being a point-and-shoot camera, P7100 is too slow for street shooting. Shutter lag, exposure calculation and other things takes almost 1 second or more after I press the button. I always miss the shot. This morning I tried again using the powerful D700 fullframe body.

Some technical consideration worth to mention is that I'm giving a try those tips suggested by Eric Kim in his blog.
  1. Use wide angle lens. I use 35mm f/2D.
  2. Use pre-focusing. I set my aperture at f/11 and set the focus point manually at the hyperfocal distance (around 3 meter). It gives dept-of-field from 2m to infinity.
  3. Use aperture priority automatic exposure.
  4. In one of his workshop video, Eric suggest to use ISO 1600 to get high enough shutter speed (around 1/250s). I found ISO 1000 is adequate for my circumstances.
I already know my 35mm lens has 62o field of view on fullframe body. Approximately it covers the area between 11 to 1 o'clock direction. By those reference I can pre-visualize in my mind what would be the horizontal coverage of the frame, without looking through the viewfinder. But I'm completely lost about the vertical coverage. I totally guess and pray about the verticals.

I turns out I got some decent result using these D700+35mm pair. I wait until my subject close enough (around 2-2.5 m) before I press the button. They completely didn't notice I take their picture. I'm invisible! Take a look ...

Teenage girls have a chit-chat walking on Dago Car Free Day. I could make a shot from this short distance and still get that candid expression.

Sausage seller is too busy with her stuff to notice me.

She was still busy with her mind while I shoot her. This is Simpang Dago pedestrian. Do you see the Fuji Film board on the upper left? It is Mitrasari Photo, one of photo labs where I process and print my negatives 20 years ago.

This is another advantage of shooting from the hip. Usually I take the Cartier-Bresson approach. Work the composition first, then wait until something happens, the decisive moment. For this approach to work, we have to stand or sit still at one point. In this case, I'm not stand still, I'm walking. Wandering looking for something interesting. I keep my finger on the shutter while maintaining the 62o field of view in my mind.
I see a white colored public transportation stop by, sub-conciously I knew that someone will step down the car. I keep walking towards the car and by the time her body coming out I press the button instantly. I got it! Shooting from the hip give us the ready-to-snap state while walking.
Actually the frame is bigger than you see above. I crop it to make the composition better.

I see two women with nicely saturated cloth crossing the street and press the shutter while they are still in the middle of the road. I'm very surprised to see that nice reflection on the black car door. Cool! This photo is also a crop from a bigger frame.

Red everywhere. The rambutan, the woman's cloth, the plastic bag hold by the seller, and the hat of the seller. I wish that woman facing towards me to give more expression and story. But I'm out of luck.

Another close distance shot. Not a good composition, but the expression and the perspective give the sense of immersion into the scene.

The two women doesn't know each other. They both similarly clothed, have similar age, and have similar body size. It's interesting to see the interaction between stranger.

As a conclusion, shooting from the hip has its own merit. Not a good technique to get a perfect geometry, but a very effective undercover method to be invisible. I recommend the use of 35mm lens for its easily estimated field of view.