Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Macro Photography - A Green Tree Frog

Macro Green Tree Frog by Mervin Chiang
Macro Green Tree Frog, a photo by Mervin Chiang on Flickr.

Just a quick post to write about macro photography on a Green Tree Frog I took a few days back. I started Brokenvase Photos to concentrate on babies, toddlers, kids and family. However, on my free time, what I really like is to take macro photos. Hence this post.

Some quick tips or Note-to-self:

1. Taken with a EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM with a 1.4X teleconverter plus 2 extension tubes (25mm and 35mm)
2. Manual focus
3. Manual mode
4. Ring flash remotely triggered and held by cousin
5. Step in and out to get focus pane.
6. Continuous drive shoot to catch the sharpness
7. F/8 if possible to get less DoF

My very first Newborn Photo Shoot

Today, I finally got my chance to take photos of Keon, my newborn son at 9 days old! I've always wanted to do this. One of the reasons I started Brokenvase Photos was to try to take babies, toddlers and families. So what did I learn from the experience?

1. Always have your poses in you mind before you start.
2. Explain the pose to mum so she understands what is expected.
3. Prepare the parents that it is going to be rather traumatic event! Yes it is! There is not two ways about it. The baby will cry!
4. Have props!
5. "Set and forget". Lighting and camera settings must be done beforehand and not when the baby is in position!

That's all for now.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Mountain Scenery with People in it

This type of shot is the hardest to get right. It has a wide dynamic range. The background is of mountains and valleys with a very bright contrast. The foreground has people that want to be also evenly exposed.

If you take it at evaluative metering we'll get a silhouette effect. If you do spot metering the background would be completely white.

The only way I found that might work is to do a bit of fill flash. That means to still use your flash and under power it a bit. However, doing that is still not the best. As you can see in this photo, the background looks like a fake canvas in this case. Not to mention the weird color balance you need to deal with... Hmm...

I tried HDR as well, but it is hard to do that with people...

Anyway, thought I'd document this...

Friday, September 16, 2011

Mikaela's 3yo Birthday Cake Making

Eeek! I realised I haven't written anything in a while. Just been too busy with many things at work, family and various activities. Not to mention Mikaela's 3 year old Octonauts birthday!

This is not spam. If you have seen this already, yes, I am posting it again because I am very proud of Kat! If you have missed it here is the video I did again.


I like to do time lapse photography since I'm not very much into videography. This time however, instead of just straight through time lapse, I took some photos with my other camera as well on close ups. Using Animoto, I was able to quickly knock a video together! Awesome!

Monday, August 22, 2011

"The Maternal Complex" - Maternity Shoot Series

"The Maternal Complex", a photo by Mervin Chiang on Flickr.
OK, I admit. I didn't compose this shot intentionally to get this story. Instead, the story came after I took the shot.

I seldom name my photos. This one I intentionally call "The Maternal Complex". It is complex! To be a mother to a child is indeed complex! It's self sacrificing. To an extent, it's like the chain in the photo. It limits the mum to a certain way of life. But at the same time it's rewarding and a commitment. One that you make when you decide to get married. Symbolised by the wedding ring. The denim jacket again contrasts the chain to show the struggles and dilemma of the mum.

This picture signifies the huge sacrifice my dear wife made to bear and look after our children. Giving up things she likes to do and being so unselfish and loving. Thank you my love. This is my photo that sums it up... The Maternal Complex...

Saturday, August 13, 2011

"In your face!" - Macro Photography

"In your face!" by Mervin Chiang
"In your face!", a photo by Mervin Chiang on Flickr.

I borrowed Chi's EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro lens (non-L) to test out if I know how to handle a proper macro lens.

This is the result of my first field test. Taken handheld. That's probably why it's a bit blur still. Can't wait for mine to come! I ordered the "L" version with IS. And some Kenko extension tubes and the teleplus teleconvertor too!

OK, enough of the tech speak... Check out the eyes on the spider... *shudder*

Btw, to give you some perspective on size, this spider is equivalent to half a grain of rice in real life! That's how small it was... :P

Thursday, July 28, 2011

A Safe way to use flash indoors

I've done a series of event photography over the last month and in my research and testing I've found a few simple tips to remember when taking photos indoors using a flash gun (not the pop up stuff!)

So here is a list of random tips in no order. Some may not even relate to flash, but more to doing event photography:

- Gary Fong's Lightsphere collapsible actually does work!
- Lightsphere helps especially when there is no ceiling or wall to bounce the flash off of.
- Never aim flash directly at subjects. Worse case, use a diffuser
- Simplest method is to aim flash up when there is ceiling
- If no ceiling and no diffuser, use a poker card tied with rubber band. If even that is not available, aim flash at 45 deg forward.
- Use (M), Yes! Manual mode with the following settings...
- When using flash set speed at 1/160 to prevent shake unless that is your intention (to shake)
- When using flash set aperture to f/5.6 or f/8 for bigger groups
- When using flash ISO 400 is acceptable, ISO800 is better, ISO1250 is even better. Basically, more ISO = More background will be shown, but higher noise.
- Don't be afraid of "the noise". A good camera have good noise cancellation
- Depending on the distance you are standing to the subjects, you may need to adjust the flash bounce, increase or decrease the flash power by stops via ETTL controls
- Learn how to use FEL functions on your camera to get the right flash metering.
- Bounce card, diffuser, Lightsphere with or without cap and no modifiers all give a different style to the photo. Need to pick and decide on style you want.
- In conference or slightly better lit places, can try NO FLASH. Again, do not be afraid of higher ISOs.

OK, that's all the self-tip and reminder I can think of...

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Gloomy few weeks...

Loves of my life, a photo by Mervin Chiang on Flickr.
WARNING: Philosophical and spiritually religious post ahead...

It's very sobering how God works and have reminded us as a family to cherish and be contented with what we have and never to take for granted the gift of life and the many little blessings we have.

I will be shooting at my very first funeral event tomorrow here in Brisbane. And never in a million years would I have imagined that the first funeral I attend here in Brisbane would be that of a 3 day old baby. Ben and Faith have grown really close to us as friends and Kat and I hold them very dear to our hearts. Our hearts and prayers go out to them as they work as a family to go through these trialling times.

A few days after the news we heard another sad news regarding cancer of someone Kat knows.

It's a reminder that our current life on earth is temporal and that we need to invest in the eternal and look to God for our salvation. Today's feature photo reminds me to be contented and happy to have my family and to cherish life with them. And to make sure I lead them towards the Cross... As much as I can.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Flowing River

The Flowing River by Mervin Chiang
The Flowing River, a photo by Mervin Chiang on Flickr.

Just a simple illustration of a flowing river. Slow shutter handheld. I was too lazy to setup the tripod in this instance.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Full Gear On!

Full Gear On by Mervin Chiang
Full Gear On, a photo by Mervin Chiang on Flickr.

I think my set is complete and ready for action. I was putting everything to test mobility, weight and practicality...

- 7D with 17-55mm - Check!
- 7D mounted with 580EX II connected to battery pack - Check!
- Lightsphere - Check!
- 28mm in "hot-swappable" bag - Check
- 40D with 70-200mm - Check!
- 40D mounted with 430EX - Check!
- I look scary... - Check!

Will be fun to put all this into practice though... Kinda like in the Singapore army with all my gear on ready for those simulated battles in the jungle :P

OK, I'll stop sounding and looking weird now...

Thursday, June 9, 2011

A Timely Reminder...

I heard this on the radio it struck a nerve. Not that I am exactly guilty of this entirely.. yet.. but still a good reminder. So here is the way the parable goes...

A little girl greeted her daddy as he entered the door late one night and excitedly asked, "How much do you earn earn an hour daddy?" Getting slightly annoyed and after having a long day, daddy replied, "not now honey. Not even your mum knows how much I earn an hour. Go play." The little girl persisted. "Daddy, can you please tell me how much you earn an hour?" Feeling really frustrated and just wanted to go get a shower, he replied, "$20 an hour. Why do you want to know?" Ignoring the question, she asked, "Can I borrow $10 please?" Getting really mad by now, he remanded, "NO! Go play with your toys, I have no time for this." and left to the bathroom.

Later that night, having calmed down and feeling a little guilty. Daddy thought to himself, "maybe she is trying to work out if I can give her the money to buy something..." So he decided to go to her room hoping she's still not asleep and asked, "Mikaela, are you asleep yet?" To which the little girl sleepily replied, "almost..." "Here's your $10 you asked for." She immediately sprung up took the money and reached under her pillow and grabbed what looked like a mountain of coins and said, "I have enough now! Daddy, can you sell me 1 hour of your time please?"

This story is fictitious, but I am reminded once again to guard myself from this. Between work, photographer, iPhone-time, gardening, social meetings and even church activities! We must not lose ourselves in this sea of activities and forget the simple things like spending dedicated time with our kids. I am guilty of this on several occasions already...

Saturday, June 4, 2011

The Gary Fong Lightsphere Test

Got the Gary Fong Lightsphere diffuser attachment for my flash. I'm going to borrow someone's comment on the fact that the thing is a "vanity bulb" as the ice breaker to taking photos :)

You should see the thing! Google it and you'll see... It's huge and really like a light bulb! Anyway...

From the left - My el cheapo $2 cloth looking sock diffuser

Middle - No diffuser, light bounced from the ceiling

On the right - Gary Fong's vanity light bulb...

I like the right one the best. What do you think?

Timeless Classic of Love, originally uploaded by Mervin Chiang.

I took this photo quite a while back when we had friends over for a holiday and we all went down to the coast for a morning breakfast before heading out to the beach.

At this awesome breakfast place out the back room was this really big clock and the decoration of the place was a photographer's haven! Full of texture and character. To top it off, I saw this loving couple having breakfast just in front of the clock. I couldn't resist my urges and asked if they would like to be photographed. A quick pose and a few clicks later... I got the picture out of my head and into the digital world!

I feel this really represented the timeless language of love. I wish to grow old and have still nice Saturday breakfasts with Kat. Hope you enjoy this photo as much as I did!

Side note: My Flickr to Blogger posting link is not working anymore... WHY? :-((

Monday, May 23, 2011

Screen Callibration - Ouch

Wow! I'm starting to do prints seriously and I'm thinking that my eyes are playing tricks on me. To be honest, up until now, I haven't really cared much about calibrating my screen for print as I've always thought that there wouldn't be much difference from screen to print and the difference would be minor.

However, now that I am doing serious printing, there's a need to calibrate it properly especially when I sent 2 photo books to print and they both came back too saturated. I did a simple "eye ball" calibration. That is:
1. Printed a high quality natural light with proper skin tones photo on high quality paper.
2. Put that next to my screen and used a special program to view the photo
3. adjusted colors, color temperatures and gamma on the screen.

The next step is to get a Spyder or something, but just by doing this simple visual thing, I get such a radical difference!

Poll question: which is better? The top one or the bottom one on your screen?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Brokenvase Photos' Got a Print Pricelist!

5 Friends and a Toddler by Mervin Chiang
5 Friends and a Toddler, a photo by Mervin Chiang on Flickr.
I've finally got around to completing my chosen list of printers for various products. From normal photo prints and enlargements to Canvases and photo books.

What you'll realise though is that I will never be able to compete in price with your "mass printers" like Big W or Harvey Norman. You will however, get a more controlled quality print instead. I can't control what printers customers use once they get the digital negatives from me. Their printers may have off colors or copped the image unprofessionally.

What I'll do before printing is to treat or re-treat the images if required before sending them to the printers and ensure optimal final quality before delivery.

Prices if interest here: http://tinyurl.com/bvpricelist

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Retouching Birth Marks

Retouching Birth Marks, originally uploaded by Mervin Chiang.

Retouching is sometimes viewed as an art form or a skill once highly revered during film days. Now with modern technology it is relatively easy. Spots are easily removed. Double chins and eye bags are "photoshopped" out.

The question is, do we want to? Many people might jokingly ask for it. But do you really want a "porcelain" looking family portrait? Sure if it were a fashion magazine shoot, but for family and children, don't you want to retain some "realness" in the photos?

This photo is an example of that. I did 2 versions for the parents to decide which they want. The "could have been" shot versus the reality shot. They chose to keep the reality! They felt that it is what made her a unique individual. In fact she is proud of this birth mark she has! I was told that she'll be upset if I took it out.

I have known Isabel since she was young and I can tell that this mark of hers is slowly fading. Who knows? When she is older, it'll be completely gone and photos are her only way to remember she had them.

Interesting learning!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Shanghai, China - How Many Celebrate Easter?

Shanghai, originally uploaded by Mervin Chiang.
It's Easter and instead of chasing rabbits and chocolate eggs, we always get reminded of God's love and what He did for us on the Cross at our family. As a Chinese and a Christian, listening to my pastor's message on the ABC radio today brought me back some memories of when I did my photography walk in Shanghai China 6 months back. "How many here know God?" I wondered...

Look at the photo! I nearly forgotten I took it. They are buried amongst the thousands of unprocessed personal photos I've yet to go through. This was taken on a Tuesday afternoon. I was overwhelmed by just the sheer number of people on the plaza! This is non-stop for the whole day...

Have a listen to the radio interview of Pastor Ben. A Chinese pastor of the English speaking congregation of the Chinese church I go to on Sundays. Have a listen to the raw, true and real meaning of what Easter is! http://blogs.abc.net.au/queensland/2011/04/up-close-with-ben-ho.html?site=brisbane&program=612_evenings

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

My Philosophy on Marriage Series #3 of 5

The commitment of matrimony, originally uploaded by Mervin Chiang.
It's been a while since I had time to write the continuation of this series. This blog is about "Commitment" to continue the series I started in February. Full ongoing series here.

After the first two of the five foundations comes Commitment. “Till death do us part” is a common vow we recite during our wedding. Have you actually stopped to really consider what exactly are you committing to? “Committing to loving each other to the end, of course!” you might say. Well as usual, this is often easier to say than it is to actually do it in practice.

In fact, I’d say that you should place all your efforts to committing to achieve the first two foundations in the series! That is to practice Unconditional Love and Extreme Honesty. You will slowly find that these next three foundations in the series are relatively shorter to explain than the first two because they are quite self explanatory and builds on the important first two.

I mentioned that to continue in love within a marriage is hard work and if you try to change yourself to always practice Unconditional Love is even harder work! Also to constantly strive for zero politics by constantly mining for conflict in extreme honesty to each other so as to achieve emotional and spiritual true intimacy is also very strenuous work! That is why in short, this third foundation is a commitment amongst yourselves work together on the first two foundations... “Till death do us part!”

Life is full of seasons and is like a sine curve. There are ups and there are downs. There will be times when love is challenged and honesty tested and stretches your patience. There will also be times where due to this labour towards love, you have pure joy with each other. Enjoying the fruits of your labour in love! Always remember that continuously working at it, talking about it, living it, brings not only physical but emotional and spiritual intimacy with each other. Statistically, couples who actively do this are less likely to fall apart than those who don’t. This is what it means to have commitment!

Again, referenced permanent link here: http://www.brokenvasephotos.com.au/Marriage/Philosophy-on-Marriage

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Vintage Camera Gifts

Vintage Cameras, originally uploaded by Mervin Chiang.

My parents came back today from their trip back to Singapore and brought gifts!

On the left is an ultra vintage Shanghai 203! Thank you uncle Peter!! Bit of history... Prior to 1964 they called it Shanghai 203 after that they renamed it to Seagull 203. They are essentially the same camera. A medium format rangefinder. It's lucky that I got some training in the Holgas to handle these fiddly films again :D I'm so excited!!

On the right is a modern replica German camera Minox DCC 5.1. Honestly its not so good as a camera but it does play on my "collector's syndrome". They sell cute miniature attachments and replica mounted flash etc... Thank you dad! I can see more money there spent! :P

Monday, April 18, 2011

Redback - I wished I had a Macro Lens

Yeah. 'Nuff said with the title. A Canon EF 100mm f2.8L Macro IS USM would be a nice option!

Sorry just one of my random rantings while going through some of the backlog of personal photos I have yet to process...

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Playing with Lightroom Presets

It's been a while since I actually written a blog or posted any photos on Mikaela. So I decided to combine this post of a recent photo of her plus a little bit of "tech-photo-speak"...

Today while researching on Photoshop plug-ins and presets, I found a whole cool new world of Lightroom presets! I downloaded about 130 presets and tried most of them for fun. To see what are the creative possibilities with them.

This got me thinking... So does using some presets constitute to "creative cheating"? Or simply easing the photographer's time? Pretty much anyone with LR and these presets could get the color tones and exposures seen here. I used a combination of 2 or 3 presets plus some minor tweaking of my own.

Hmm.. interesting thought isn't it?

Anyway, which do you prefer? I know most would like the one on the left because for a child, it's warmer and more personal. However, I believe if I didn't present you with 2 options and merely the one on the right, it'll work too as Mikaela's facial expression shows a little tint of coldness in it as well. So the colors would have played on that emotion.

You decide! Please comment!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Working on a Photo Book

Photo Book Page 11, originally uploaded by Mervin Chiang.

I'm back! God has been quite good to sustain me through some trialling times this week. Had too much on and I basically had a minor blow out in my head. Anyway, I'm slowly getting back into things and pacing myself.

First up, a photo book. I've been meaning to do this as a profile coffee table book to be placed at a few places where there are waiting areas so someone can pick it up and see some nice photos. This is an excerpt from page 11 on the photo book. Yes, this is my grandmother in case you were wondering :)

Also, if the text cannot be read, here is what it says:

Why Brokenvase Photos?

“It was an online nickname I chose for myself a long time back when I was a teenager. I believe that we're all broken and like a vase, even after we're mended back together, the lines will show. And these lines are what makes up one's character. In other words, no two vases when broken, will be mended back together having exactly the same lines!

How is this relevant to taking photos? I feel that I am always learning. Sometimes, even broken repeatedly. Each time I mend the vase back, I try to see what I can learn from these lines. So now I am going to marry my love for lifelong learning and taking photos into one. This means trying to capture for people and myself our memory lines along the vase - one photo at a time, one event at a time...

... Learning life through lenses”

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Taking Stock of Life

Taking Stock of Life, originally uploaded by Mervin Chiang.

This one's a personal blog. I've been reading and following a few photographers. Usually we keep business and personal stuff separate. But it seems that occasionally, I feel it is important to blog about something personal as well. It keeps me real and genuine I think.

Anyway, recently at my day job, I've been having a few conversations about work, life and play. It seems that recently for me they are all kind of blended together! And there seems to be too much of all of them!! As I was telling Kat, "it's not that I don't like it or don't find these things fun. It's just that at the moment there are just too MANY fun things at the same time!!"

1. Work to me is always interesting and fun. But we are going through big changes and big challenges.
2. I started Brokenvase Photos. And in some ways my "marketing plan" is working, and/but its keeping my busy...
3. Kat is feeling quite tired recently and we have a 2.5 year old to look after.
4. Our recently purchased house although fun, has a BIG yard!! Too much grass :(
5. I made a personal commitment to God this year to put more time in His ministry.
6. Oh! and I forgot to mention and nearly forgot myself... I am doing my Professional Doctorate at QUT as well!

Yes, I am young, but I am feeling that all these things are a little too much. It's like a little Kid having free reign on candy and am feeling the after effects of having too much with a tummy ache...

Overcommitted? Being to driven, and getting too successful on the goals too fast are also sometimes not a good thing. All through life I feel like I'm always "moving on the fast lane". Wonder when I'll get to slow down...

Sunday, March 20, 2011

My First Family Portrait Customer

I can't believe it's more than 2 weeks since Peter and Janice came to our place to take their family photos. Lot's of research, trial and testing to prepare myself for the shoot. Lot's of lightroom and photoshop time to get the shots perfect for delivery. It's quite an involved process!

When it comes to satisfaction as a photographer, nothing can compare to the feeling I got when Janice commented on all the photos showing how happy she was with the photos.

I will forever be grateful to them for supporting Brokenvase Photos as I start out. Peter and Janice were really good sport. Despite a long and hard night with Tom the night before, they came with high spirits. Really fun to catch up with them and we had lots of fun trying to think of what will be a good shot to take. We struggled with Tom's constant frowning as he slept. All in all a very good and valuable experience for me.

Few notes to self:
- Need to really work on the backdrop. Had to do a lot to the background post processing time.
- Must remember to fire off more drive shots to get the sharp and right moments.
- Need a wider repertoire of poses and things to do. I ran out quite quickly. Thanks to Janice and Kat we were able to do a few more things.
- A series of themed shots are great to tell a story when composed into a sequence.

My next challenge: a large family of 9 adults and 3 kids!


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Family Shoots Galore

I'm taking a break this weekend and next weekend, but so far I've done 2 families (1 was a last minute thing) and will be doing 4 families over the same number of weekends! This means I can't take bookings until after May...

This is great! Getting lots of experience and having fun along the way. Thank you all for supporting me to "jump-start" this thing this year. At this rate, I'll reach my quota of not more than 26 sessions per year very soon :P

For this first year, I am capping the number of sessions I am taking to limit my time spent on this as well. Still got a family to enjoy, work to do and a Professional Doctorate degree to finish at QUT! And not to mention God's work in church as well, which I want to somehow fit in and amongst all this. 2011 is has been a big and busy year so far. Both globally with the disasters closer to home and in Japan. And also many changes and huge things happening at work.

Taking photos is my way of keeping a mental sanity balance inside of me. Besides praying and keeping close to God.

p.s. I love this featured photo *grin* (thanks Lemmy and family!)

Friday, March 11, 2011

Fun FREE practice session

Ron Mueck Exhibition-32, originally uploaded by Mervin Chiang.

I'm still experimenting with different lighting set ups and techniques. Anyone interested to come to my place for a bit of photo fun? I was thinking of organising a combined practice and learning session for all interested photographers as well.

The general idea is to meet up at my place one Saturday morning, have morning tea, then take some photos using various studio lighting and flash set ups and exchange ideas and learn. I'm happy to open and extend this to all beginner DSLR photographers who are interested to come and learn about the basics.

I will of course need volunteer "models"! If you are interested to get some free glamour shots taken, come along!

Register your interest and I can judge uptake arrange a get together if there are enough interest to run something.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Impatient OCD?!

This shot is one of my favourite ones for the day.

I admit that I do have some Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) sometimes. I may be too much of a perfectionist. But at the same time, I am impatient! So I want to hurry through the editing of the photos, yet I want to go through it with a fine tooth comb... I suppose it helps that I am lazy as well :P

OCD, impatient and lazy?! What a combination.

Anyway, 27 of 81 so far... At this rate, all should be done by next week sometime.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Poll: What color scheme to use?

Which one's better? Please help me pick one and state some reasons. Thanks...

After 2 hours and getting a little blurry eyed from post processing 10 photos out of 100++ I now can't decide which looks better? Honestly I like both, but the minimalist in me says to pick one. I personally prefer the right one, as it adds an added character to it. The one on the left is the "safer" one as it is more close to natural colors (a.k.a boring :P).

Oh and the photo shoot went well. I had very patient subjects! In the end we had fun (At least I think they did...). I know I certainly did have fun. Although I felt that I could have done better with more creative poses and use of props. But this is the first of many I suppose :)

Friday, March 4, 2011

Getting ready for my first shoot

As part of my roadmap to skill up and gradually get better as a professional photographer, a few weeks back I committed to 7 free sessions to shoot family photos and babies. A few of our friends were kind enough to put their hand up to be my first *a-hem guinea pigs a-hem* customers. :)

After a few practice runs at home and much research. The day has finally arrived tomorrow where I'll be shooting my first session with the Woolfs - Peter and Janice's family. So how do I feel about it?

Excited - as it will my first and I think it will be fun
Nervous - at the same time as it is the first and hope that it will be fun
Happy - that I am able to pursue a passion
Sad - that as I did my research I found that many are doing the same (a.k.a. competitive, not unique)
Disappointed - that I haven't had time to practice more
Tired - as I had 3 big weeks at work

I posted a few photos on the forums for feedback and basically most weren't good. Some notes-to-selves...
- Don't use too much light on both sides. Some shadow is good.
- Be careful of posture and poses.
- Pay more attention to details. E.g. stray hair, etc...
- Try not to take frontal shots - not flattering
- Sharpness in this case is quite important

Let's hope I don't stress myself out and have some fun along the way. Oh and I will be doing lunch as well! :P Come for a shoot and get lunch on the house... LOL!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Kat's Sewings

Kat's Sewings, originally uploaded by Mervin Chiang.

Just a short post to flaunt Kat's stuff... We're still deciding on the label we want to brand my wife's designs and clothings. Her name is Kat. "Kat Doodles" is already taken, but I believe "Katoodle" sounds nice... There were many other comments on what she should name it as. But in short, I think it's great that we're both exploring our creativity side :)

On a photography note, I'm exploring a more consistent way to take the shots of her "products". Of course there is always a natural model to wear them ;)

Monday, February 28, 2011

My Philosophy on Marriage Series #2 of 5

Ron Mueck Exhibition-48, originally uploaded by Mervin Chiang.
Note: In case you were wondering, the photo on the left is not real! It was taken at a Ron Mueck Exhibition of extremely detailed and confronting sculptures.

Ok, this next section is pretty self explanatory you would think. However, there is a reason why I used the word "extreme" before "honesty". In order to understand what this means and how to try this in your marriage you must first have a good foundation on unconditional love taken from the section above. Soon you will notice that each layer builds on each other...

Firstly, let's understand something I borrowed from Patrick Lencioni's book The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team (with written permission to use it here). He calls it the concept of "Invulnerability". Let me explain...

In no matter what circumstances, we tend to avoid being vulnerable (a.k.a trying to be Mr/Ms Invulnerable). Since I am Chinese, it's even more prevalent in our culture. We call this "saving face". Or simply put, we don't want to get hurt. It's a self preserving reflex we have. However, too much of this in a work place actually starts to incite politics! And its the same at home. If we try to "beat around the bush" or "be a princess" about the issues, we then tend to tip-toe around them. Or worse, we sweep them under the carpet!

Let's look at it from another angle. I normally say that if an issue cannot be "gossiped" or talked about directly with your spouse, but you find yourself only secretly telling your best friends or anyone other than your spouse, then you are "being the princess". And you must wear a tiara on your head! (Yes, even the guys!) This means you are, as Lencioni puts it, trying to be invulnerable. For guys, you may call it "swallowing" it. Or tolerating. Or taking the pain. "It's ok, I can take the unhappiness, I'm a guy..." you might think. Internalising an issue is equal to sweeping it under the carpet.

So why is unconditional-love-resulting-in-trust combined with the concept of NOT being Mr/Ms Invulnerable have anything to do with Extreme Honesty? These are the 2 key concepts to practising Extreme Honesty in a relationship. It means to NOT fear the ridicule of saying something's wrong in the relationship. It is to call something that is not right out without fearing a lash back. It is to discuss something that is difficult and confronting without any fear of rejection and judgement. If you are sharing something that is bothering you in the relationship with someone else, don't! Your spouse should be your best friend. If you are trying to tolerate something and internalising it, don't! To sweep something under the carpet is actually more cowardly than to confront the issue head on!

Wait a minute! Am I saying that you guys should argue and fight? Absolutely! Yes! I am saying exactly that. I am saying that you should have a strong and healthy "robust conversation". To argue and fight over a topic in an objective manner and never personally serving "low blows" are the best thing that can happen to a relationship. Why? Because it teaches both of you more about each other and how each other thinks, feels, process information and deal with situations. To tease that out in an "Extreme Honesty Episode" gives a great insight into your spouse that you married! If you objectively and respectfully try and hear each other out to seek a resolution, you will learn so much more in each episode than 30 years of sweeping under carpets and never finding the root of an issue with each other.

If you both need to join a course on conflict management, go for it! "Conflict Management in a relationship" is a whole topic in itself which I won't go into here. However, remember this when going into an Extreme Honesty Episode: "Is this fight we are about to have, trivial?" In trivial I mean, does it really matter if the socks are on the floor next to the bed? Will both your worlds end if either don't win on such a trivial event? Is it worth sacrificing your love and a good night together over the issue? Fight, but be sensible about them. No one likes being picked on. This comes comes back to the first layer - "Unconditional Love"!

The key to all this is to fight it out in an Extreme Honesty Episode and endeavour to never repeat the same episode again! Learn lessons from the episode and respect each others' differences and learn to apply unconditional love on them. At least in this way you are both getting more clarity and "mental intimacy" upon each episode of an Extreme Honesty session.

"Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger" 
- Ephesians 4:26 -

Referenced permanent link here: http://www.brokenvasephotos.com.au/Marriage/Philosophy-on-Marriage

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Improving my technology use

In an effort to satisfy my laziness, I have applied IT to my solution :P In my day job this is called "Automation". I've tried to hook my instagram on my iPhone to a tumblr account. I then hook my tumblr account to facebook...

Aahh... the joys of social networking, micro-blogging, photo-blogging and anything techie rolled into one!

Now I can pretty much do a photo > upload to my site > lie on my bed > use iPhone to grab the photo > parse it through instagram > bounce it to anywhere (e.g. tumblr, flickr, facebook, foursquare)... Perfect!

I must really get onto completing the marriage page of my site...

Monday, February 21, 2011

Is Sharpness Everything?... Not in the Holga World

Holga Trial-16, originally uploaded by Mervin Chiang.

The one thing I'm about to say will make any sharpness nazi faint... I don't believe that a sharp photo is everything. There you go I've said it. Thanks Kevin, for pointing that out to me. It's not an excuse! Don't get me wrong. If I am engaged in a gig and especially doing portraits, that's quite a different story. It's about capturing a moment. Capturing a story in the photo. The fact that it's sharp I feel is secondary. Along with technique and exposure. That is why I find comfort in my Holgas (yes, I have 2!) But what I am now finding, is that I am still searching and challenging myself to look for the niche in my Holga images. I just don't know what to do with them yet...

Featured image: taken from my Holga 120N on Medium format 400 B&W film with frame attachment removed mod. Taken at Movie World. Look like fisheye, but it's not. :)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

First Studio Shoot Family Fun

The studio kit is finally set up! I wasn't going to test anything or take any photos, but Mikaela started bringing her chairs and toys in front of the backdrop and wanted to take photos!! I wasn't going to let the chance go, so I quickly set the 2 soft boxes to the right height and turned them on. Picked up the camera and away I went...

Lessons learnt?

- For some reason it is still not enough light. I had to drop down to ISO 800, 1/60 speed on f/4 aperture.
- Above setting is no where fast enough for kids...
- Is it because of the "cheapo" gear I got? Hmmm...
- Creases as still visible on the backdrop (lightroom's gradient filter is my friend...)
- I don't really have a good place in my house for a studio. Would have loved a bigger room with a nice big window for day time's natural light... My reading room is too small :(

Anyway, I think we had fun. A good 30-40mins with the family. One 7D and 2 iPhones :)

My Philosophy on Marriage Series #1 of 5

Mikaela Portraits Series, originally uploaded by Mervin Chiang.
The first of the 5 guiding principles, I believe, is the topic of unconditional love. That is easily said but not often easily done! And this is important because I believe it forms the basic foundation of a relationship. Remember, you got married because you chose this partner, no one else forced you. You chose to love and get married to your partner. And this commitment, when elevated to marriage, means unconditional love!

Unconditional - This means "no matter what". Learning from "the Love Dare" book, as long as you start saying "I love my spouse because...", you are placing a condition on your love. Saying that he or she is handsome, cute, loving, kind, etc.. are all conditions. So does that mean that when they are no longer these things, you stop loving them? Unconditional love means literally - NO MATTER WHAT.

How do we do this practically? I read somewhere (can't remember where), that the "honeymoon" period is literally a chemical thing in our brain. When we first fall in love, for the first few months our body is riding on this "fuel" of chemicals that make us "think" we love our partner. Once this "fuel" runs out, we have to WORK (yes, work), to love that same person and its no longer a chemical "morphine" that keeps us going, but hard effort. Now realising that I have to work to love Kat makes a whole mind shift on how I learn to love her in our marriage. Love is not a feeling anymore, but an action!

"The good, the bad and the ugly" of "working on" love means you need to change your mindset on how to love your spouse in a marriage. Its an inward change and not a reciprocal one. You cannot be thinking, "I need to change him/her on how to love ME", but be thinking "what can I do differently to love him/her unconditionally". Coming to the challenge of the word unconditional. This means no-matter-what! Even if he leaves his socks lying around. Even if she doesn't pick up the mobile when you call her. Even if he is insensitive to your feelings on certain things. Even if she doesn't understand your need to be with your mates to do something. Even if... [fill in blanks here, you get the pattern?]

Also, to practice unconditional love your natural "side effect" should be trust. And I don't mean, "I trust that he/she won't cheat on me", type of trust in this case. Or even "I trust that he/she will do the right thing when told" kind of trust. What I mean is, because of the unconditional love attitude I am placing on my spouse, I trust that whatever he/she says or do has never any ill intent, is malicious or is purposefully done to cause hurt or harm physically or mentally to me.

This type of what I call "heightened" trust is quite different to what we normally understand as trust. How does this look like in practice? To trust in this case then means you must and should never be looking for any "hidden meaning" in your spouse for the things he/she do, say or writes. In other words, trusting that he/she are always doing things with neutral or good intent. Even if it is so apparent that it is not so! This is where "unconditional love" comes in. Even when wrong is done to you, you must love unconditionally!

No one says working to love someone is easy... Remember, we're in for the long haul and not chasing that morphine chemical called "feeling of love". It may sound hard, but this first "layer" of foundation sets a firm one for the next 4 sections.

Referenced permanent link here: http://www.brokenvasephotos.com.au/Marriage/Philosophy-on-Marriage

Monday, February 14, 2011

Gearing up!

David and Anne Night Shoot, originally uploaded by Mervin Chiang.

My backdrop and stand set came from eBay! That was really quick. I've got to now figure out how to straighten out all the creases. Ironing a 3 x 6 meter piece of cloth is going to be fun! :P

The stand is 3.1m X 2.8m. Just realised that my room is not that wide... Now have to figure out where is the best places for it. Anyone of you photographer enthusiasts want to come over for play around with the setup? Any volunteer for models? :P I should be getting my 2 soft boxes continuous light set this week as well, if all goes well. Perhaps a play this Saturday morning. Let me know if you are keen!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Researching on newborn photography

Mikaela using liquid chalk, originally uploaded by Mervin Chiang.

I now have at least 4 jobs to take photos for family with a baby or a newborn. The pressure is on! I thought I'd document some of my "self-reminding-tips" for myself, being forgetful as I am, so that I remember what I've researched on. Most of them are pretty basic knowledge stuff. Stuff that a enthusiastic photographer would know already. But I guess doing it "professionally" takes it to a whole different level.

Disclaimer: these are notes for myself only. Different people need to develop their on styles and believes. So please don't take this as the absolute recipe or anything of that sort :)

So here we go, 7 tips to taking baby photos:

1. Go down low - go to their level and take photos at the same level as them
2. Go natural - Nothing beats natural light on a baby's body. I agree with this statement. I think artificial light, although sometimes needed, cannot mimic the sun's light made by God.
3. Newborns don't pose! - We have to pose them. I have to think about some poses and positions if the parents don't have something they want to try already.
4. Trigger finger - :P in a digital age, we can afford to take lots of photos! You never know when they make that priceless expression. This also means that I need to be solid with technique so I am not fiddling with the camera when the moment arrives.
5. Post process - Lots of people do black and white photos for babies. That's because as a newborn, their skin may have spots and blemishes you might have to take out or "airbrush" off.
6. Go Macro - Close ups are my favourite. I like tight shots and you'll notice that about my photos. I don't do too well when I need to "get everything in the frame". A close up on a feet, ear, hand would look very nice I think.
7. Use Props - Introduce something that can show the contrast or context to the baby. Tell a story with it.

Another interesting distinction I found out through reading on-line is to decide whether to take portraits or documentary shots. Portraits are the ones that needs setup time and posing (duh!). Documentary are taking more candid "spur of the moment" shots.... OK, enough ranting for now.

Notes on featured photo: Mikaela was using this liquid chalk thing. Kat allowed her to draw on the shower's glass in the bathroom. Pretty cool stuff!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Sequence shots

Peter and Melissa, originally uploaded by Mervin Chiang.

I've been starting to do this lately. Finally had to blow off the dust on my Adobe Photoshop skills to do the website anyway, I thought I'd get off my lazy bum and do more of these "sequence" photos in my collection.

I've always wondered about these type of photos. You know, the ones that has a few or at least 2 photos in one, telling a story? I've always wondered how they are done. I think the hard answer more often than not is that it is most likely photoshop-ed... Something that takes longer than an average 3-5mins on post processing a photo. That is why I try to avoid it :P

Another point to note as well is that this is an effect that can be achieved only in the digital age. Although one can argue that we can use mutli-exposures on file to get a story... but I think the feel of the photo is different then.

Yet another thing that has been "floating" in my mind is twittering... Or is it Tweeting? Should I add that to my "things to do" for brokenvasephotos? Will anyone really "follow" my tweets? What should I tweet about? What I had for breakfast... :P Just kidding. I think my lazy bone in me says I won't keep that one up to date. Facebook's wall is good enough micro-blogging for me.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Lots of gear coming from eBay!!

I think it's no secret for people who know us as a family, we buy almost everything on eBay. I just ordered a whole bunch of stuff for my first "official" shoot on the 5th of March. Thanks Peter and Janice for signing up!

Right, gear check from eBay:
- Light stand
- Flash gun mount with umbrella
- Softbox attachment
- 4 bulb adapter
- Lighting stand bag
- Studio background stands
- 2 muslin background cloths
- Business cards! (yes! from eBay...)

Note: a little about this featured photo. I took this of Kat posing after our photo shoot with Desmond and Estella. She was supposed to be my assistant (eating chips!). Taken with the Pentax K1000 on ISO400 35mm film. Still love my dad's old camera!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Photo got featured

I was so excited when Kerry from akemiphotography contacted me and wanted to use one of my photos of the flood as on her appeal page feature. (Link added below) This really came as a timely encouragement!


Other encouragements were that we have now 26 "likings" in facebook! This means that I can have my own personalised facebook link instead of the ugly long one. The new one is facebook.com/brokenvasephotos. Who would've known that you need 25 "likes" to get a chance to choose a personalised link?

The website received a really good response and I think I'll fill up my 7 free sessions very soon. This would keep me busy till June I think. It's all FREE though -.-" but that's part of learning. Paying with time to learn the art of the business - well worth it I reckon...

Monday, February 7, 2011

Free Sessions!

Mikaela-2, originally uploaded by Mervin Chiang.

Well, now the word is out. I think... I have "officially" launched brokenVase photos. So what does this mean? Well if I do my math right, I am prepared to run at close to zero cost on the first year. That means I'm in "gain experience" mode. That means I am GIVING SESSIONS FOR FREE!!! At least for the first half year. So...

- If 52/2=26months;
- That is 26 weekends / a further 2 = 13 weekend sessions
- Minus some personal weekend time with family... say 5
- Leaves? 7 FREE SESSIONS (Half-day pass) up for grabs!!

I've got roughly 3-4 sessions allocated already (I think) so that leaves a few more slots! Any one interested in taking family portraits, baby portraits or functions? Let me know... All you pay is the cost to print photos, canvases or frames if you want them (we can negotiate getting the DVD source files).

Check out the "Services" section on the site for more details.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Biting the Bullet

Mikaela-1, originally uploaded by Mervin Chiang.

Let's see... After about 3 years since getting back into SLR and getting into digital my passion for this hobby has finally pushed through above my other hobbies to turn into a somewhat serious thing. My family has been complaining that I've been spending too much time on the computer the past week after work. Why? I've decided to finally do something about recovering my cost to the expensive camera gear. I've decided through great encouragement by my wife Kat to, as they say... "turn pro"

So, I've...

1. Registered a few more domain names.
2. Setup brokenvasephotos.com
3. Got a smug mug power account
4. Hacked away for the past week at a website design
5. Loaded all my portfolio
6. Designed my branding the business card

:) Now there's only marketing left to do... That's next!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

What makes up a modern day photographer?

Holga Trial-1, originally uploaded by Mervin Chiang.

I have been thinking about this a lot lately. Especially when "turning pro" is something I have been toying in my mind more so in the last month. I've been inspired by the people around me and following quite a few good photographers on Facebook. Sparks have been flying in my head when it comes to marketing, business plans, web design, branding etc, etc... some things that excite me and caused a few nostalgic veins to tingle.

So what really makes up a modern day photographer? With the advent of modern day technology and the information age. How as this "diluted" the once exclusive trade? Being a consultant during my "office hours", it is often an occupational hazard to try and "analyse" this and to do a proper feasibility assessment on my decision. So the first thing that has been lingering in my head is regarding what makes up this photographer that we know these days? And I am not talking about the truly famous ones. I am talking about the part-time students, the stay-home mums, the wannabe IT geeks. How did they "turned-pro"?

First up let's look at my guesses of key characteristics. By percentages?"

20% Good gear
30% Creative eye to see and set the frame
10% Post production creativity
10% Charisma and knowledge on how the "work" the subject
10% Technical knowledge on gear and light
20% Guts & commitment to chase a dream and stick to it!

Are the ratings right?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Great Brisbane Flood Jan 2011

I couldn't resist on the 12th of Jan 2011 when the Brisbane was about to meet of have already met one of its worse flood in 35 years to get out with my camera to take the event. We were told to stay at home where possible, and not add to the load of the traffic and may accidentally become a victim that need saving. But I wanted/needed to try out my journalistic photography instincts and decided to come out to the safest possible site to take some photos.

Even at a relatively "safe" edge of the flood, you can already see the devastation this flood is causing. Many ask, "seeing this what do you feel?" To me honest, I haven't felt the enormity and emotions of it yet. Maybe because I live quite far from "ground zero" but I am sure it will hit over the next few weeks the gravity of the situation. I will be a dilemma to take photos or not. But I hope that I can capture this historical event, its emotions and heroics as they unfold.