Daily Inspiration #193 by Shawn Hsu

From Steve: It’s been a little while since I posted a Daily Inspiration due to the craziness of the m9 contest! Starting today they are back and I will start it off with some Sony NEX-5 love from Shawn Hsu ๐Ÿ™‚

Hi Steve

My name is Shawn Hsu and I’m a musician in Taiwan. I’ve been a regular visitor of your site since last summer, and yes, I was also converted to a Leica lover then, thanks to you. And oh, you have no idea how your site has made me a poorer but much happier man.

I started taking my interest in photography seriously about 18 months ago. I had a Canon 7D but somehow it didn’t feel quite right to me. I’m mainly into street/documentary type of photography and DSLRs are just a royal pain in my book. After getting an M9, 50 lux, and a 28 cron, I did see a lot of improvement in my photos and the way I take them. But a couple of months ago your post about the Sony NEX series caught my attention again, so I got one as my everyday camera (M9 is just too precious to me).

Last week I took a family trip to central Vietnam and I brought along only a NEX 5 and a 28 cron. While not quite matching the result produced with an M9, I am rather happy with it. Particularly because of NEX 5’s swivel LCD, I could stay invisible to my subjects (oh that sounds cold) most of the time and just ‘shoot from the hip’.

These photos were taken at 1/1000 sec, F4 (or 5), with iso 800 because I wanted to maximize the DOF and take the photos without stopping. They are post processed with Lightroom.

Hope you like them!

All the very best



  1. Hmm… all of the comments are quite interesting. I personally like the images so first of all Shawn, WELL DONE. However I totally understand and respect some of the opinions here ( apart from one who offered no constructive criticism and instead dismissed them, saying “the framing and the colours are terrible”….a tad cruel perhaps but point taken)

    I kind of agree with one person who said that they weren’t a fan of the ‘stolen shot’ but on the other hand, it’s not easy for some people to be inconspicuous. I for one am 6’4” and darkly distinctive (ooo…that sounds so exotic…it isn’t) so it’s quite difficult for me to blend in, therefore I can understand why some people choose this approach.
    But for me it’s really simple, I go on initial impact and I don’t over-analyze or intellectualize the images…..I just like what I see and would put any of them on my wall.

    Just to touch on the ‘Stolen shot’ comment again, there was a photographer whom is widely regarded by peers and people alike as being perhaps the greatest of all time. He made a life time career out of the ‘stolen shot’ approach, his name was Henri Cartier Bresson ๐Ÿ˜‰


  2. Very nice, I like the unique post processing too, I find I get caught up in post processing sometimes and think i’ve got something strange but cool and come back a day or so later and think “what was I thinking!” but I think you’ve done well here in that is really is Strange but Cool ๐Ÿ™‚ Again, very nice!

  3. Very cool photos! I’ve been shooting with the SLR Magic lens Steve recommended, with my NEX-5 and having tons of fun (even with the lack of an EVF!).

  4. Shawn, you were clearly noticed in two of these pics. Anyway, I’m not a fan of the stolen shot; I don’t feel comfortable with that at all. I prefer to be open about the shots I want to take (yes, with a D700 and a prime); that usually works better, in a human relationship kind of way. And why the heavy brownish pp? I’d like to see these shots in normal pp.


    • Hi Michiel,

      In fact, I do agree with you to some extent. I’d LOVE to really connect with those whom I take photos of. But there’re always occasions where, once I’m detected, the ‘moment’ is gone. But this is purely subjective, of course.

      Having said that, thee are times I’d actually wait for people to actually turn their attention to me, and I’d take the shots just before their posture or facial expression would change.

      In my own defense though…I’d say that I’m merely recording what my eyes see…publicly. Had I been ‘peeping’ I would have felt bad about taking the photos.

    • Oh, and like I said…the color represents the way I remember the temperature, the smell in the air, the atmosphere, the noise on the streets…etc. It’s alright if you don’t like them.

  5. These are great. Love the colours and tones, very cinematic! Don’t be too precious with your M9 tho, it would be a shame to let such a great camera gather dust ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. Hi everyone, thanks a lot for all your comments. And Steve, thank you for posting them. It certainly feels nice to know that I’m not the only one liking these photos.

    About the color(s):

    In fact, I’m a huge black ‘n white fan. But this trip to central Vietnam somehow sparked something very different inside me. When I got back from the trip, I tried converting all my photos to B ‘n W but then realized that…well, that’s not exactly the way I remembered it! So I what I did to those photos was mainly (a) higher color temp, 12.5k or so. (b) high contrast & blackness (c) de-saturation.

    I have to admit I kinda went overboard with photos like the last one (men with bikes), but it really is how I’d like to remember the moment. It’s very personal and I understand it may not please everyone.

    About the framing:

    Well I don’t really know what to say except that the Nex’s default aspect ratio and LCD (16:9) lend these photos some cinematic feel to my eyes. I like it a lot but I’m afraid it does get boring after a while…

    About the shooting experience:

    All it took for a photo to be shot was less than a second (sometimes less than 1/2) and that’s really something in my book. With zone focusing and the help of Nex’s swivel LCD screen, I could just position and camera whenever I felt something and snap it and move on, without really getting noticed. I LOVE street photography but…to be honest, I myself would get kind of uncomfortable if some stranger sticks a camera (especially larger ones like DSLRs) in my face. And that’s why I really prefer not getting noticed.

    I did get caught every once in a while though. And in my experience, usually with a polite nod and smile I was forgiven (or so I wish, hah.)

  7. Shawn – The second photograph is just amazing. It has so many stacked elements, it takes the viewer a while to discern the dimensions. I like how it reads from right to left too – beginning on the gentlemanโ€™s face then moving back to the left to the girl, eventually setting upon the farthest back woman at the table. You have excellent depth and composition in that photograph. It surely allows the viewer to contemplate all the dynamics of the moment of time you captured. I wonder what is hiding in that far off room that the girl seems to want to close the curtain upon? Stellar job! It reminds me of a photo narrative!

    • Thank you sas! In fact, that seems to be my best photo so far. I love it too but I swear I didn’t see all that when I took the photo. It came back at the processing stage as such a pleasant surprise!

  8. I love the second image – but ,I am curious if a simple B&W conversion or a more subtle lightroom treatment wouldn’t have been better

    • “but ,I am curious if a simple B&W conversion or a more subtle lightroom treatment wouldnโ€™t have been better”… to your tastes you mean?!?

    • Yes…as a huge B&W fan I have to say yes, they do look great in B&W. But somehow I wanted these photos to be kinda different because I felt something there (in Vietnam), and I tried to preserve that feeling in these photos.

  9. Shawn…nice shots and post processing….
    I had read an article in the New York Times a couple of months back about the northern parts of the country that is reputed to be Shangri-La….Around the area of the village of Sa Phin….
    It has inspired me to make plans to travel somewhere different and I think I am going to make the plunge in the Spring of 2012. I want to be able to devote at least a month there …primarily to shoot for my own pleasure. So I have to plan this carefully.
    Your images are showing me..that I think I am on the right path!!!!!!!!

    • Hi Bob

      I personally think Vietnam is a great place for photography. Full of stories and hidden emotions. I just love it!

      • And there is lots of emotion with these photos Shawn. Felt I was right there while
        you took each shot. Thanks for sharing.

  10. Great stuff, nice colors and a very good ‘atmosphere’! @Rudi, please feel free to show us your work, so we get the idea what ‘framing and good colors’ are…..?

  11. I really like what you did with the color.

    I am leaning toward the NEX for street photography. I like the shooting from the hip aspect of the camera. Reminds me of my old Yashica D days.

    Your comments helped make the case for the NEX.

    Hope to see more of your work.

    Al in Kentucky

  12. Three great, telling street scenes, well done! The processing is great, but what really impreeses me is how you collected these unique moments, street photography at its best!

    • That’s alright rudi. You don’t have to like them. They’re just a fragment of my memories.

    • Clearly you gave them only a passing glance. There’s a lot of depth and the framing makes that happen.

      I also like the color treatment. Not sure I’d want to see 50 all done the same way, but it works for these three.

      Well done.

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