Monday, February 20, 2012


Nostalgia - a wistful desire to return in thought or in fact to a former time in one's life, to one's home or homeland, or to one's family and friends; a sentimental yearning for the happiness of a former place or time.

A Redux... larger and sharper pictures :)

My friends asked me if I miss shooting big sports events, I do and I don’t; I do miss all the excitement and the adrenaline rush… I don’t, because physically I cannot handle jobs like this anymore!

I remember fondly that in the 70s and 80s, all you need for covering sporting events were a film based SLR and two lenses, the 35-70 and 80-200 zoom! The relatively “slow speed” of f4 was not a problem because of the classic Kodak Tri-X film which we often “push” processed in D-76 soup and raising the ASA (ISO) film speed to over 3,200!

For football match in dimly lit stadium at night, the standard arsenal was the 180/2.8 and the 105/2.5 lenses.

Those were the good old days when we were forever young, cameras and lenses were compact and light weight and shooting sports were FUN!

Lenses I used for my work in the 70s and 80s, all manual focus; thank-you :)
Take a look at what pro sports shooters take with them to cover a major sports event nowadays:

Two unit of EOS 1D digital camera bodies weighing in at 3.1 g.

A 70-200 / 2.8 zoom lens, at 1.5 kg.
16-35 / 2.8 wide zoom of 600 g.
300 / 2.8 tele of 2.6 kg.
And the neck breaking 400 / 2.8 tele, 5.4 kg .

That is a whopping total weight of nearly 15 kg! And adding to that a laptop computer, extra batteries etc etc, you ended up lugging 20+ kg!

Not only had you got to be young, you have to be very fit to do that job well!

That’s yours truly shooting a rugby match at the 1998 Commonwealth Games at Bukit Jalil, Malaysia. Sorry I cannot remember the photographer who took this picture of me, but hey…. Thanks!

Follows are some of my better sports shots with comments from some net critiques. I hope you enjoy them, I sure enjoyed shooting them!!

The Ability To Focus

They said that old photographers do not ride into the sunset; they just go OUT OF FOCUS, not anymore! The auto focus mechanism on today’s SLR/lens combo is so accurate and fast that you are virtually guaranteed a pin sharp picture as long as you can have your subject within your AF target!

Make you wonder if we are able to manual focus our lenses anymore!

Gone were the time when we took pride in our ability to focus quickly, manually; with little depth-of-field to spare!

The Flying Korean…

The New Straits Times clip above was the picture which won me a MAS Sport Picture Of The Year award.

I wish I had kept a print of this pin sharp winning picture of flying Korean Kim Jae Han leaping and knocking over Malaysian player Nik Fauzi in a Merdeka Cup football match in Kuala Lumpur!

The action picture was shot in very "dim" stadium light with a Nikon F2 and 180mm f2.8 lens at full aperture and 1/125 sec.

Manual focusing lens, thank-you!

The Kodak Tri-X ASA 400 film was "pushed" processed in D-76 soup for 30 minutes (normal processing was 7 minutes)!

Jumping Jack...

My first rugby shoot while working for the New Straits Times, Malaysia; as a photographer.

The media group also publish two other paper, they used a "contact-sheet-passing-around" system whereby NST Editors will select "the cream" first, then Malay Mail follows and finally their Malay paper, Berita Harian will pick up the bones or whatever left.

Well, all the Editors missed this shot during the selection process. I printed the shot myself and gave it to Malay Mail and they displayed it well.

Shot with a non-motor-drive (hand wind) Nikon F2 and manual focusing 180mm f2.8 lens on Kodak Tri-X film.


"Grab rugby"? Or, if you can't stop him, grab him in the tummy; that's the name of the game? Or what-ya-had-for-breakfast?

I used a Kodak 520 digital camera, Canon 300 f2.8 lens plus a 2X extender @ f4, 1/500.

 Rugby! So nice to see Rugby photos. Far too many soccer (football) shots for my liking :)
Good photo, great capture of a decisive moment. The expressions on the players faces are brilliant. Good composition and the colours are lovely. Good focus throughout, though I agree a shallower DOF would have helped. But the subjects are still well isolated from the background. A really good shot. – Paul Stormfront

From a Commonwealth Games rugby match in Kuala Lumpur.

The Aussies showing the Pom how "Step Reebok" is done! Ha ha ha....
Using the 70-200 zoom and a 2X converter... the effective focal length was a whopping 640 mm!!

Great shot! Sports calls for action, facial expression and the ball in the frame (if it's a sport with a ball) and you got it all and then some!

Good DOF with blur in the background to emphasize the busy action. Real winner.” – Linda Epodange

My Cup Runneth Over

A Malaysian swimmer at the 98 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Canon D2000 digital camera, 70-200mm f2.8 plus 2X extender.

“Ok..with risk of sounding stupid here..but I just had to ask...were you IN the water when you took this shot? I've gone back to this photo a few times now and I like it more and more! “ - Richard


Of all the sports I covered, I think diving and F1 racing are the most difficult to get a good shot of.

In diving you virtually cannot see your subject because he or she will be spinning on the way down at such fast speed, you really have to be a seasoned sports photographer to catch the action!

I was at the Commonwealth Games in KL to take some shots of the Malaysian divers practice...

I am NOT a seasoned sports photographer, after a roll or two I was really frightened! Why? Because I found out first hand how difficult photographing diving is!!

This shot I supposed was half luck and half reflex, but I like it very much because I caught the diver SHARP sharp sharp :-) and she was in her action peak... then there was her trainer from China, just about perfect!

But look at those yukky sunglasses he is wearing! Cool reflection!


“Excellent! Yes, there was some luck involved. But this is the reward for the diligent professional who strives for perfection. Congratulations to you on this photo!! “ - 47468.v1/B.S.

“The luck was being the right place at the right time, the skill was definetly in the picture taking. This is a fantastic picture!” - bill/Bill

“Leow I shoot bike racing and know exactly what you mean! I think you hit this one right on the head! I don’t think you could have a better composition even if you had her hanging by a string from the roof and the sharpness is excellent. Top marks all around!” - racerxphoto/Dave

“Great action shot Leow...Superbly captured and framed...I know everything about difficulties catching F1 cars and motorcycles, but I really think that's easy comparing to what you have done in this diving shot...And yes, the sunglasses he is wearing are way out of time, but I also like the reflections in it very much, you must be a lucky man that the glasses in that spectacles are soooooooo large!” - nikappleon/Harry


This is a very “arty” photo that I like very much, I was shooting the diving at the KL Commonwealth Games pools (see DIVE!) when I noticed her floating in the next pool.

The diffused sunlight from the pool canopy did magic to the water, the colour was breath taking!

To increase the focal length of my 70-200 lens, I decided to shoot with my Canon D2000 digital and a 2X converter. The compression effect of the resulting 640 mm was spot on!

My friends asked me what is the "snake like" artifact on the lower part of the photo... well, I don't really know; but it sure added a sense of mystery to the shot!


“Smashing Leow . This reminds me of the holy grail of swimming shots. The picture I have tried and failed to get over many years. I want to get the persons face compressed like your picture just as they break the surface to come up for air. Maybe I'll get it, now i've got this 300 2.8 !” - niallc/Niall

“This is a most interesting; unusual angle, CY ! 
You have every reason to be proud of your composition. 
Great work on colour... 
It has an impressionist touch I like a lot!” - Marie-Helene

“Mr. Leow, "Charge","Up", and "Float" are true sports photography Art, images that we do not see very often in the Sports magazines. I have really enjoyed these images. Especially "Charge". I thought the swimming pool would drain from my monitor onto my lap and the swimmer would be left flopping on the floor.” - Ron Manous


Canadian gold medalist Valérie Hould-Marchand emerging victoriously. I like the way the water wraps around her body.... giving a cling-film effect.

Canon D2000 digital camera at ASA800 , 300mm f2.8 lens and 1.4X converter at f5.6 1/1000 sec. Commonwealth Games, Bukit Jalil; Malaysia.

“This is great professional work. I really enjoy viewing your photos. This shot of Valérie Hould-Marchand should make her proud if she sees it some day.” - Louis-Philippe Masse


 Malaysian syn swimmers at Sukom 98.nCanon D2000 digital, 70-200mm f2.8 and 2X extender.

“Once again, excellent work. (I am running out of good comments!). The only thing I would have prefer in this shot is a less focused background. But that's nitpicking.” - Louis-Philippe Masse


I am always a sucker for RED Ferrari!

This was taken at F1, Sepang, Malaysia. Panning and a relatively "slow" shutter speed of
 1/125 was used to get the "movement".

Shot with Canon D2000 digital camera, 70-200 zoom with 1.4X converter.


“I have owned a Ferrari and chills go up my spine when I see extraordinary shots such as this! It is one of the better ones that I have seen...almost 3-dimensional created by the excellent motion and separation of the car and the green grass.

I can hear the whirl and whine of the engine. I love the different shades of red and the detail captured in the highlights and shaded areas. Very well done.” - Robert Bedwell

“Would have killed to be at that race. It was brilliant and Schumacher is superhuman. This is good shot and having been to a number of races I know that in person these cars are a blur. These are the hardest subjects to photograph. Well done.” - Andy Laycock

Red, Red, Red...

The way these guys change tyres of the race car gotta
 seen to believe! How about 8 seconds to swab all the wheels? Phew...!!
 And it is red, red, red colour every where. 
Canon D2000 digital, 70 to 200 zoom.


"This is an excellent study of patterning and dynamic action. Red heads and bodies scurrying about embracing huge bits of rubber.

Damn cameraman on the left! Can we lose him? 

Find it ironic that this race appears to be co-sponsored by a brand of cigarettes and a petrol manufacturer. Not your typical companions!

In a world full of red hot sparks, something's gotta explode. :) “ - charmaine murray

“Gas and cigarettes, makes for an explosive image. Way cool. Regards, Janet” - Janet Jonas

G.P. Waltz...

Shot at the Penang G.P., Malaysia many years ago; one of my favorite sports picture!

The picture was one of a seven sequence shots, this one I feel has the "oomph".


“Very nice shot - I especially like the fact I can see Expressions on the faces of the spectators.” - Mike Werner

“You caught the peak of action in this photo. I don't know how it could be any better. Great sport action!” - Leo M.Johnson

“This is a great action photo. I like all the details that can be seen. Firstly there's the people in the background,

Then there's the similar riding styles of the two still standing riders, finally its the turn jacket on the fallen rider. Nice work.” - Anthony Kohn

Walk On Air…

 Taken at the quarter final of the 100m, Sukom; Malaysia with a Canon EOS1n RS, 300mm f2.8 lens at full aperture 1/500 HAND HELD!

Panning with the runners on Kodak Ektapress 800 film.

Man that RS is FAST! At 10 frames per second.. just as well I am not 
paying for the film :-) Look at all them feet, not one was on solid ground... like they were all walking on air!!

Alas, the "Sport Editor" of the "People's paper" did not ever use the shot! I noticed the said paper have some nice sports pictures with that moody editor gone ;)


“Mr. Leow, 
Very good. Hand holding that camera/lens combination is a chore for me. What does the other 35 frames look like? I'll bet they are great also. I have not used the RS version of the Eos 1n because I'd go broke just replacing bricks of film!!” - Ron Manous

“Incredible timing, not one foot on the ground!” - Rob Abney

Human Rockets…

 My concept was to show Malaysian top sprinters Watson Nyambek, right and G.Shanthi's explosive start in preparation for the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Malaysia.

After virtually "begging" with their coach, I was allowed two chances to get the shot, I rest the digital camera on the track for a really low angle and when I said "go!" they disappeared before I can even hit the shutter!

Dang! I wish I had my faithful F3P with me that I can remove the prism for a low view!

Second time round I fired the camera continuously before I told them to shoot off. I was really not sure if I had caught the moment; their coach threw me out of the stadium when I request to do it again! It’s hard to be a photojournalist sometimes :-)

Look at their stance! You would think that they will fall flat on their face!

Since I was using a ultra wide, I was only inches from Watson; I have to be very careful not to get tramped on!

Please take into consideration that this picture was taken with a two mega pixel camera that do not response very well to backlight and high ISO (ASA) setting.

This was the best at that time and at US$16,000.00 for the camera body, it WAS the best.


“Explosive, dynamic, great movement implied, all from the perfect angle!” - Cab/G

“One of your best, I think! Great color and great action. Personally, for this shot I do not find a problem at all with the featureless sky as some others have commented. I think it even adds to the drama of the moment. Nice job, good color... and I'm glad only your ego was bruised and not your body!” - George Fay

“I think this is an excellent sports shot. As a former coach I appreciate the action and details you got in these great athletes form and body. good job!” - Steve Chong

“Great pic CY and you're right, the angles look motor bike racing where they hit bends almost horizontally. This has a sort of unreal feel to it also...away from the 'bullets'....

Great comments too..I look forward to them because I know they're going to be 'different'! ;-) excellent work CY and always worth coming to see your work. Regards Rob” -Dreamer/Rob

“Great idea going so low, and well done for being so persistant. The sky being so burnt out isn't nice and pretty of course but I think it adds more impact to the shot, especially with the guy on the left's hand and out stretched fingers - I can't see that it would have stood out so clearly. I'd be tempted to put this into black and white as I think it'd suit the dynamic subjects and shapes...maybe by taking the blue channel we'd get a nice dark ground too.” - Ian Gordo

“Apart from the greenery, this is an excellent action shot. Using ones imagination to the fullest. I wonder how many of us so "called photographers" would think to get down this low! (I wouldn't have). I am surprised at the physique of the nearest athlete,(haven't see many Malaysians with such well developed bodies).

What can I say, the shot is perfect and for the early model digital the colours I guess aren't perfect but that's no fault of yours. You keep this up, you won't have any worries about loosing your job ;-) “ - Kiwi Clive

* Thanks Clive… I DID loose my job with The Star after I turned 55, in life; my friend; it is not how good a photographer you are but how well you fit into the “old boy’s club”! Are you reading this, bosses at the Star newspaper? ;-) ”

Finally two of my favorite shots taken at the KL Commonwealth Games!


 Taken at the closing of the Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur, Queen E was supposed to say "I now officially declared the Games closed." And THEN the firework will go off.

The blast went off before she finished her sentence, much to the amusement of the others... the moment was captured with a Canon D2000 digital camera and a 300mm f2.8 lens plus a 1.4 times converter.

Alas The Star ran this shot in a 2 column black and white! Say so much about a paper who suppose to have the best pictures!

Thus confirming again what I think of the Editors there as being VISUAL ILLITERATES!


"Great work as usual!" - Nicol

"Love the expression on the woman behind the Queen. The Queen herself seems undisturbed (stiff upper lip?). Good catch!" - Deborah Settergren

"Great shot! Perfectly captured reaction of the front row of digitaries. And then the unflappable Queen herself. Wonderful" - Garry Schaefer

"Saying figuratively, she reddened with shame after that problem :-). Good work!" - Dima Zverev

"Oh my, a royal moment! ;-) Great shot!" - Mike Kravit


Taken at the Commonwealth Games opening at Bukit Jalil Stadium, Malaysia.

2,000 school children dressed in the flora and fauna theme of Malaysia wowed the audiences as they danced to the traditional but upbeat Malay numbers.

As expected the illumination at the stadium was not very photo friendly, I was shooting with the 2 mega pixel DCS 520 and the ASA was cranked up to 1,000 to get enough DOF from the 80-200 and 2X combo which only give you a f5.6 maximum aperture. At an effective 640 mm focal length, a solid monopod is a must.

As with all my digital shots, I always save a copy of the raw (untouched) file in a safe location for archiving. A copy of it was then adjusted in Photoshop with TLC. The final image was then enlarged (interpolated) with Fractal PrintPro.


A RAW digital image file, be it jpeg or tiff; is like your negative, you should NEVER do manipulation on this "virgin" copy. In any adjustment, pixels will be added or thrown away; once that happened, you CANNOT get them back. So do practice the discipline of storing the original and only work on a copy of that. After all, you do not throw away your negatives, do you? :-)


"Wow, very punchy colors and great human texture. This goes beyond journalism for me.

I've read about the difference in standards applied to journalistic shots and on that scale, I would have to grow two extra thumbs to rate this one, giving it a four.

Journalism should always be this good.

The 2X extender served well. I've been thinking about getting one and this is helping to convince me.

About saving the original and working on the copy, I agree with that 110 percent. I was working on an image the other day from a school play, did all my work and went to do a 'save as,' but flubbed it because of my erratic mouse and downsized possibly the only really good image I had.

Gone, puff, if I was working for a newspaper, I would be gone too probably! " - Michael Schack

"Like most of your photo's this is bursting with colour, good documentary, journalistic picture which speaks for itself. Your comments are also always well received and of great help.

Although I find the orange and reds clash together and a little overbearing,there's not anything you could do about it. I like the triangular composition and the impression of movement flowing towards the bottom right of the photo.

Nicely done." - Kiwi Clive

"Now, talk about an original shot, CY! 
This is one is about a subject rarely (never?) treated before here! (without my knowledge, anyway….)

Bursting with colour, movement, and life… 
Almost an abstract! 
The triangular shape is very dynamic, and your angle provides good perspective. 
Nice tones and textures, good clarity & detail.. 
A well balanced composition, supported by the customary interesting comment". 


"Great color and good detail.... ESPECIALLY under the conditions you had! I
Always like your comments on your shots too, and you give details that many others do not... that's appreciated!

With regard to raw images... you know I usually shoot in Nikon NEF format which is their raw version. The first step in post processing for me is to view, color correct, white balance, and rough exposure correction if needed.

I use a program that is NEF aware called Bibble, rather than Nikon Capture. An interesting and useful feature of this software is that it does not touch the original, but saves the alterations in a companion file and applies them when viewed or transferred to PS... also a good way to work!" - George Fay

"Hi Leow! This is just SUPERB!
Sea of people! I really like how you have captured the "V" shape formation! Very dynamic indeed! Keep posting the great stuff! I never throw away my negative/slides though :-)

Damn! Now I really regret it! Why I didn't pick up photography sooner!! :-) "
Steve Chong

Famous Last Words…

How many times have you taken your camera to your kid’s sport meet?
I wished I did it more often!

These pictures were taken by me at our eldest daughter’s Convent Light Street school sports meet, 1986! What a treasure!

I remember we were testing out the Nikon 300 mm f2.8 lens which cost RM6,000! Did you know the Ford Laser Sports I owned then only cost me RM12,000? But What a lens!

Many years later I managed to secured a second-hand 300/2.8 and I still have it in my arsenal of “old” Nikon manual lenses. I look forward to the day when I can get my hand on a D700 and use that “canon” again!

Go shoot some school sports!

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