Why I will never go back to a Canon or Sony Camera

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My first DSLR camera was a Canon 50D (2010). The camera produced great images, a lot of cool features, it was also built as a brick. I sold the camera because my wife bought me a Canon T2i because I was majoring in Film. Same specs for the most part compared to the 50D. Not as bulky but still would weigh on you after a carrying it around for a few hours.

A few years later, I upgraded my camera, looking for the best of both worlds in finding a camera that could produce high quality video as well as inphotos. So I bit the bullet and invested heavily into the Sony A7s (along with all the accessories, lenses, metabones adapter, movCam cage, etc). I really liked the camera and the features were a massive upgrade from my T2i (read my previous blog on “Less is More”).

Freelance video projects were slowing down and all I was working on was my street photography before I clocked into work. I told myself that spending $4,000 plus dollars to just take photos of strangers in public was not a smart financial move.

My friend recommended that I look into an Olympus camera. They’re much more afforable, the lenses are much cheaper as well. Their cameras are a lot lighter and compact, some of the cameras have a retro look (like the OMD-EM5ii, which I own). I sold all my Sony gear with the accessories to a friend, got in contact with someone on craigslist who was selling their olympus camera and a 25mm 1.8 lens (equivalent to 50mm) for just one fourth of my camera budget and I’ve been shooting with the same set up (sold the 25mm, only shoot with 17mm lens) for the past 2 years, and I love it.

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Liberation

First off, I don’t get paid by any camera company nor am I sponsored (maybe one day =]). I think any small compact camera makes it feel liberating when taking photos. Especially if its a point and shoot camera, no lenses to worry about. Less stress about focal length and don’t have to lug around different lenses and multiple camera bodies. The Olympus m5ii did just that for me, it allowed me to just focus on what’s important…and that is photographing what’s in front of you, catching the surreal, comical, interesting, strange moments without all the hassle of megapixels, lenses, and being Captain Obvious by letting everyone conspire that I’m part of the Hollywood paparazzi crew with my giant DSLR setup.

If you feel this way with your canon, Nikon, or any camera, I would recommend to try them all out before investing a good chunk of change into one system. I would prioritize the ergonomics of the camera and how it feels in your hand when you’re out shooting than putting specs and megapixels as the top priority. More pixels, more problems.

Plus now a days, you don’t need all those pixels unless you print your work. But if you just shoot and upload onto the internet, with most people viewing your photos on their smartphone, a full frame camera is overkill. Heck, an Iphone or Samsung is more than good enough.

Ask yourself, what am I going to do with this camera. How am I using this. Is it for work, for fun, for real estate shots, am I shooting sports, people in public settings, weddings…

I also love the color rendition that comes out of my Olympus M5ii than my previous camera bodies. It’s more richer and with more contrast which I prefer to have on my images.

More Pixels More Problems…

Cameras and other technology are very accessible now. you don’t need a high end camera to make good photos. In any subject of photography not just in street/candid photography, you’ll need to recognize and anticipate a moment. And that will come with time and experience. If you have a 20 megapixel camera and want to upgrade to a 42 megapixel camera, that won’t improve your eye or improve your instincts when you go out and shoot on the street, or in the field for a wedding or sporting event.

Recognize…Anticipate…Take the photo.

Thanks for reading. Keep shooting!

For more insights on digital cameras & DSLR’s visit the resources below!

Digital camera resource: https://www.reviews.com/digital-camera/
DSLR camera resource: https://www.reviews.com/digital-camera/dslr/

Street Photography Tips (before heading out onto the streets)

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Hello aspiring street photographer. I’ve noticed there are so many blogs with tips on street photography while you’re already out shooting. Instead, let me share my experiences, (bias) opinion, and advice before you even hit up the streets.

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  1. Do your research

Research the location you’ll be shooting in. What’s the environment like? Is it a residential area? Low income, high income population? Tourist, locals, or both? Does the area have a reputation for being a rough part of town. These are questions you’ll need to ask yourself before heading to out. You’ll need to prepare yourself mentally if you know you’re going into an area where your chances of getting mugged or stink eye. Your social skills and how you communicate with others may play a higher factor in these areas. Being able to blend in with the community takes a certain person and specific skills.

Research the forecast of the day. Is it going to be sunny. Overcast, rainy, or all of the above. Mother nature can be unpredictable at times, so you may need to pack an umbrella or a sweater. The weather will affect your shooting for the day and how long you intend on staying out.

Research if there’s restaurants or bathrooms. If you’re out shooting for an entire day, I can assure you that you’ll need to use the restroom a few times, and you’ll want to take a break and grab a bite to re-energize.

If you’re going to shoot in a touristy area, there will probably be a lot of restaurants, hotels, and public parks with available restrooms. Now if you were shooting in a more residential area, public restrooms will probably be scarce and restaurants may be miles apart. ***You can always knock on someone’s door and ask if you can use their restroom and have a quick bite.

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2. Make sure you have a pair of comfortable shoes

Whether you’ll only be out shooting for 1 hour, 2 hours, 3 hours, or 10 hours, it helps to have a nice pair of shoes. You don’t want your feet to slow you down or stress you out while you’re shooting. And you definitely don’t want soreness after your adventure.

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3. Eat

Similar to having comfortable shoes, you’ll have to have a meal before you head out. Sometimes the only available times I have to shoot within the week is during my lunch break. A lot of times I go hungry  (saving money, cut back on calories) before shooting which I highly don’t recommend. I’ve learned my lesson on many unsuccessful photowalks during my lunchbreak. HAVE A MEAL! Eat SOMETHING!

It’s like going to the gym on an empty stomach…you need food as a source of energy to carry you through the workout process or in this case photowalk. Also, you want to keep any stresses to a minimal when you’re out shooting.

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4. Forget about your daily duties and stresses

You don’t want to think about your chores, bills, debt, or what you need to finish up at work while on your photo-walk. Put those thoughts on  the side and just zone out. Be in the moment in your photo-walk location and absorb all that’s around you. Look up, look down, look down 20-30 feet and anticipate what’s to come. Street photography is my therapy or meditative tool to get away from my reality and create my own illusion through images.

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5. Last but not least…pack as lightly as possible

Stop bringing more than one camera (unless you’re traveling abroad). Do not bring more than one lens! Keep it simple. All the extra gear will weigh on you, having more options such as a wide lens, a tele-photo lens on hand doesn’t give you more options. It gives you more stress. You shoot street photography to be stress free right?

Again, these tips are from my own experience and my own opinion. I hope you found these tips insightful. Keep shooting.

Mahalo,
Tim

What I learned traveling and photographing in Havana

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It Takes Time to Feel Comfortable

Prior to landing in Havana, Cuba, I heavily did my research on the city. Is it safe? Is there internet? Are the people nice? Tourist reviews? Crime rate? Things to do? Where to go? Asked friends who’ve traveled to Havana about their experiences.

For the most part, friends and online reviews had nothing but positive things to say about their time in Havana. In fact, it was rather encouraging, friends would mention that there’s “so much to shoot in Havana, you’ll have a field day, the locals are so photogenic”. I was really excited on this personal photographic journey.

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With those insights, I thought I would be able to capture many special moments…and do it with ease. Unfortunately, it wasn’t as easy as I had envision. It took me a few days to feel comfortable with my surrounding and get a feel of my sense of place. For one there is no internet, two I traveled on this journey alone, and three being in a new place with info that I had only read on the internet and gather from a few friends can only do so much. From this experience I’ve learned that you really don’t know until you put yourself out there.

Shoot Like It’s Your Job

My first two days, I would say I photographed like a tourist. In awe with the cars from the 50’s and colonial colors and architecture. I definitely got the cliche shots for memories. I had a photographer’s block my first two days (very short trip 4 1/2 days). I wanted to create and capture something innovative. Nothing stood out to me. I walked a total of 40,000 steps each day. From Old Havana to Central Havana, to Vedado, all along Malecon, and would come up unsatisfied with my photos.  I would be honest with myself and say I was not as assertive because I was feeling my way around town.

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It wasn’t until my last 2 days where I was more assertive and aggressive with my shooting. I was being more proactive, clicking the shutter regardless if I thought the moment was interesting or not. I would shoot as if I was shooting at an event, shoot, move, repeat. Your limits are all within your mind. If you want to go out and accomplish something, only you can slow yourself down. Shoot as if your on assignment, either will be paid or you don’t come back with any usable photo and be fired from your job.

Shoot Through The Window

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Shoot while in the car, Lee Friedlander style. Photographing while in the taxi was one of my highlights. Being in the car you know you’ll cover so much ground and you’re not seeing the same mundane neighborhood or work district as back home. Some of the images I’m happy with were through the car. Just snap away and enjoy the ride. Photographing through the car offers a unique perspective, a different taste. This Point of View really captures the POV of the photographer.

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I think if I had a few extra days it would have been perfect. I would have ventured out to other areas in Cuba. To summarize, I’m thankful for this Cuban experience and to have had this once in a lifetime opportunity, to communicate with people in a country where both our governments have had decades of tension. This experience will continue to help me understand this complicated world we all live in. And this was done through verbal discussions and visual documentation.

3 Lessons I learned from C.T. Fletcher

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I was lucky enough to watch a documentary on Netflix a few weeks ago (the kids hog the Netflix) on C.T. Fletcher,“My Magnificent Obsession”. Prior to this, I have never heard of C.T. Fletcher, I was just Netflix surfing and the main image and synopsis caught my attention. I really enjoyed an old documentary on weightlifting…”Pumping Iron” and thought of giving this film a try. The topic was on weightlifting, something I’m somewhat familiar in my old life (I hope to resurrect that old passion in 2017).

The film is a biography on C.T’s life, his recovery from open heart surgery, and his life long goal in opening his own gym “Iron Addicts Gym”. C.T. is known for becoming the strongest “Mutha Fucka” as he would always say without ever using steroids. He once benched 700 lbs and is a 3X world arm curl champion…curling 225 lbs! What can C.T. teach us?  Below is what I’ve learned from him.

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Become an addict to your passion

In the 1980’s, C.T. discovered weightlifting which was a turning point in his life. He became addicted to weightlifting, working out 7 days a week! The transformation of his physique made him even more obsessed with weightlifting. His initial goal was to be a cut up, drug free, body builder. Remember…in the 80’s, weightlifting was at it’s peak (Schwarzenegger, professional wrestling, Stallone) and a lot of bodybuilders were roided up. By the mid 80’s his attention shifted to becoming “the biggest, strongest, baddest, drug-free Mutha Fucka to ever walk this planet”. He was able to do this because he was passionate in what he was doing. He put in the time, the blood, the sweat, and the tears and made it a part of his lifestyle.  To become great at something I believe you must be somewhat obsessed…which means you eat, breath, sleep, shit, repeat it.

If street photography is your passion, study the greats, analyze some of your favorites on social media, take risk, experiment, ask for critiques, sign up for workshops. Just rule o thumb though,  be obsessed but don’t neglect other things in your life.

Count your blessings

Make the most of each day. After surviving open heart surgery in 2005, C.T. lost all his gains, his confidence, and even self pity himself. Years later, he realized that he was given a second chance. He did not give up on the gift of life and continued to proceed with bodybuilding.

Everyday is not guaranteed, if there’s something that you want to do, go do it, pursue it with all your heart and mind. If you’ve always wanted to shoot street photography but was always fearful of how someone might yell at you for taking there photo, don’t worry. Live today like it’s your last and you’ll get the most out of each day. Be thankful you have the opportunity to even wander the streets to make photos.

No matter how shitty your life is or how unhappy you are, there’s always light at the end of the tunnel. One good day will always outshine seven bad days. Just like one photo your satisfied with will outshine a thousand crappy photos. As long as you’re above ground, breathing, moving, consider yourself blessed.

Use your passion to help others

Now at 57 years old, C.T. inspires people all over the world whether it’s through a meet and greet, speaking to an audience, or if you’re working out at his gym. Through his body of work, surviving a fatal heart condition, and his life experiences, C.T. inspires others through his healthy lifestyle philosophy. He not only used his passion to better himself but to better others.

Besides from trying to capture that decisive moment….which I haven’t yet. I’d like to do some good with my street photography. Maybe it’s to hold a workshop in a third world country for an orphanage home. Or to be able to put together a photo book and donate a portion to a specific cause…We are our most happiest as human beings when we are able to give back and help without seeking any reward.

Conclusion

If you need inspiration, I recommend you to watch “My Magnificent Obsession” on Netflix. My biggest takeaway from C.T. is that you have full control of your destiny and in reaching your goals. You will always encounter obstacles but it is up to YOU if you want to accomplish any task or condition. Obstacles is an illusion set to divide the weak from the strong.

 

***Read my other blogs on people that I find inspiring. 

5 Lessons Vince McMahon Can Teach You About Street Photography

Lessons Stone Cold Steve Austin Can Teach You About Photography

Lessons “Shinsuke Nakamura” Can Teach Us About Photography

Lessons Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson Can Teach You About Photography

What I learned shooting on Halloween

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For the first time, I spent the spookiest night of the year not dressed up in a costume but instead shooting others dressed for Halloween in Waikiki. I didn’t really know what to expect. I was just hoping to capture some surreal moments, nothing in particular. Something special to add to my collection. While I wasn’t able to capture anything spectacular, I walked away with more knowledge for next time. Here’s what I learned from shooting on Halloween night.

Mask have no Emotion

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My first 15 minutes in Waikiki I was noticing a lot of people wearing mask and not so much costumes. I realized although some mask are unique, they lack emotion. Maybe because it covers the eyes and there’s not much of a emotional attachment, I don’t know, mask’s feels stiff to me. I was afraid I wasn’t going to see anyone in customized costumes or anyone unique. I started to doubt myself with a feeling of regret for having drove into town so late at night. I continued walking down the strip, it was busy as ever, everyone squeezing through tight spaces. Even though I realized that photos of people wearing masks make for boring photos, I couldn’t resist to not take them. After all, Halloween is once a year.

Note: IMO photos of people wearing Mask works best if juxtaposed. See photo below.

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Flash is a Must!

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Flash is a must! Especially on my micro 4/3 camera (olympus M5II). One rule in street photography is to be stealth and go unnoticed. Unfortunately, when using a flash you can’t help but to be noticed. Most people were aware that I was photographing them, most loved the attention, some thought I was photographing something behind them (as usual), and a few said the “F” word. But that was it. If you shoot without a flash at night, regardless how high your iso can go up to, your photos will suffer more often than not (unless you’re going for a grain effect similar to Daido Moriyama; he’s the master of that). My recommendation…Use a flash! No one cares or don’t even knows that you’re photographing them!

 

Experiment…Motion Blur

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I’m a fan of motion blur and slightly out of focus photos if used properly (again…Daido Moriyama). If used correctly, I think these effects can add more emotion and drama to your photo. Referencing my photo above, I saw this couple kind of tired and swaying back and forth (drunk and in love? maybe).

Their intimate bond caught my eye and without wasting time by checking my shutter speed I made clicked my shutter. My observation of the photo is that regardless of how much craziness, booze and weed in the air, or obnoxious groups around them, it doesn’t really matter because they have each other and want no part of their environment. In short, “Life’s a Blur”.

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Stay in One Spot

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For most of the night, everyone was pacing back and forth, lots of movement, and I wasn’t really feeling nor seeing anything. I was capturing a lot of the same type of photos of people walking right past me and not much was happening. I decided to settle in one spot and let the action come to me. Finally, a person in a Trump costume came around the corner and caught a lot of people’s attention both positive (wanting a photo selfie) and negative (people saying insulting remarks).

A group of teenagers approached the person dressed as Trump and said some negative things all in good fun. Apparently, the person as Trump decided to stay in character (Trump’s hand gesture) and not back down from the harassment, causing the scene to be more hostile. Initially, I was focused on the two teenagers and Trump but then realized that around them were some older folks who seem to be laughing it off or having a good time with it. The US flag behind the kid with the mask adds a nice layer that reminds us all that this is how divided we are in the United States of America. It’s quite spooky knowing who our options are for 2016 Presidency.

Lesson from that night is to be patient, let the action come to you. Good things come to those that are patient. Try new things, be open to experimenting. Street photography should be fun and therefore you should try new things and push your limits/boundaries. Don’t add any pressure to your photography…to remind myself to have fun and enjoy the moment. And last, shoot more flash! Flash is fun!

Enjoy the process

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” When you’re in the day-to-day grind, it just seems like it’s another step along the way. But I find joy in the actual process, the journey, the work. It’s not the end. It’s not the end event.” Cal Ripken, Jr. Continue Reading