Most with a smart phone and eye for creative photography would probably already know about VSCO (pronounced visko).  It is also called VSCO Cam sometimes. This app has been around since 2012. I'm going to share what I love about VSCO and why it works for me. 

My current phone is the iPhone X, but have had VSCO on my phone right from the iPhone 5/6 version. Over time a lot of iPhone camera app has come and gone. Some boasting megapixels others with unnecessary features.  VSCO largely stayed the same with one major user interface change around 2016. Some notable research studies were made and here as well.

My love for VSCO comes for a few reasons

  • Their film emulation presets for recreating vintage film looks from Kodak, Agfa, and Ilford are pretty awesome. Film cameras or Film look/emulation to flat digital files will never go away until digital large format photography becomes lifelike and affordable for most.

  • A6, N1, SS2 & SS3 preset filter makes street photography look stunning. If street is your genre experiment with these. SS3 gives beautiful deep dark shadows. Great for moody photos

  • L2, L3 preset for landscape love. There are a whole lot here depending on whether you are shooting snow, mountains, seascape or even ariel.

  • The way the VSCO camera catches light and detail is almost a little better than the native iPhone camera. When using the camera function with VSCO touch the screen with 2 fingers to fine tune focus and exposure on different part of the scene. Shoot RAW, apply film simulation, and breathe your creativity into it.

  • The VSCO community are not focussed on likes or hash tagging and/or commenting or telling the world how great their lives are, unlike Instagram and Facebook.

  • There is no right or wrong in the VSCO community. There is no camera gear talk its all about using what phone you have and the filters that work for you.

  • Its a platform where creativity soar because you are devoid of self-affirmation and the number game of being liked and acknowledged

You can download VSCO here. There is also a paid membership of about US$20 per year for VSCO X membership. I’d recommend it if you like photography. That is less that US$3/month. 

It includes exclusive presets, transformation tools and a whole lot of VSCO education from around the globe. This is my second year of membership with them and I do enjoy the nuggets of wisdom I receive. Back in 2017 we spoke about this in our photography class in Vietnam with Eric Kim. Definitely a worthy membership in my view.

2019 goals

A photoshoot with the talented  Paul Frontczak  that was probably an epic failure as a model. I couldn’t stop laughing despite Paul’s patient. However, I do love this candid frame. I’m definitely way more useful behind the camera than in front.

A photoshoot with the talented Paul Frontczak that was probably an epic failure as a model. I couldn’t stop laughing despite Paul’s patient. However, I do love this candid frame. I’m definitely way more useful behind the camera than in front.

2018 has been a year of growth — a year in which I learned to be more comfortable in my own skin. It taught me to find solutions to difficult problems. I’m very grateful to my close friends for helping me along my journey. The biggest part being, the so called problems were not problems but something I’d conjured up in my head. Human beings are amazingly clever like that!

“When you find no solution to a problem, it’s probably not a problem to be solved, but rather a truth to be accepted.”

— Gautam Buddha

Photographically speaking, the first two months of the year, my work was displayed at the PROV exhibition centre in Melbourne. My work also featured in various newsletters. I did cover a few photography events — the Taiwanese film festival coverage was one I enjoyed the most.

I travelled to India and Hongkong spent time with family and friends at both places.

2019 will have its own set of challenges but I intend to focus on my art and tune out from things that lacerate my spirit. Life is short. It’s wholesome to stay focussed and true to your inner passion. There is magic in every corner we explore.

I’ll leave you with a beautiful quote from Roald Dahl — so very apt and timely. Happy New Year! May your 2019 be full of passion and magic.

“I began to realise how important it was to be an enthusiast in life. He taught me that if you are interested in something, no matter what it is, go at it at full speed ahead. Embrace it with both arms, hug it, love it, and above all become passionate about it. Lukewarm is no good. Hot is no good either. White hot and passionate is the only thing to be.”

My Uncle Oswald

Sydney Mardi Gras 2018

Love is love

Love is love

This was the first time I watched the Mardi Gras parade from such close proximity. I had scored myself a great spot, luck was surely shining down on me. To my left was a hilarious aboriginal mum with her sister and to my right a family from Brisbane who were watching the parade the first time. Behind me a bunch of ladies, slightly merry. Bet it was the water in their bottles. They were wrapped in colourful tinsel and kissed as many passerby as they could. Not only did I score a good spot but I was in great company. I was all set and waiting for the evening to unfold. The energy was electrifying! ⚡️

A massive 300,000 plus revellers hit the streets that night!

A night to remember! More importantly though, it took 40 long years of prejudice to win over a simple thing - respecting another humans right to chose and love. It was a humbling moment to see the 78ers go past. The people that stood up n rallied for equality way back in 1978. Age has wearied them but they are strong within.  People’s views change very slowly in Australia. But at least it’s still moving in the right direction.

Happy Mardi Gras! Enjoy the gallery.

I used my Fujifilm X100F (yes I bought another one having sold my old one - story for another post perhaps) for shots for street portraits and the rest were on my LeicaQ.

What are your photographic goals for 2018?

Halfway through the year, I released my project work on the tribal people on Vietnam. Very soon after its release, The Hmong Spirit was featured on Fujilove by Tomash. This happened a day before my birthday and in a few weeks, I heard my photo from Melbourne was picked to be among the top two of the Catwalk to sidewalk exhibition in Melbourne at the Public records office Victoria. I flew down to the exhibition opening and found myself among friends from Sydney and Melbourne. It was a humbling experience.

Somewhere from the beyond blue firmament, Ma keeps looking after me.

I was sent on assignment to photograph a school event in Urunga in regional New South Wales where kids and teachers interacted with Artificial intelligence and Minecraft virtual worlds. Back in Sydney I also covered Interact 2017 an IT event where Mark Scott — Secretary of the Department of Education made an appearance at the Australian Technology Park. And over at the head office of the Department of Education, I also took behind the scenes photos of a team working alongside with Adobe Australia to deliver next-generation technology solutions to public schools in New South Wales. It has been a busy year. Challenging but fun and fruitful. And I have learned a lot of things I possibly took for granted.

Last year was busy and long on many counts. It was a year of learning. Most would argue this – every year or in fact every day we learn something new. Yes. Mostly. But some lessons ground and polarise you. Some leave an indelible mark and change your pathway. 2017 was one of those years of relearning myself. Of knowing to see beyond my horizon.

Earlier in the year, I was in Vietnam for an epic photography course with EricNeilCindy and . It was very nice to meet old friends and make new ones. I finally got to meet Cindy and Neil both of whom I have known for a bit. Revisiting Hanoi after eleven years brought back many good memories – I wrote about it here. The photographic journey was insanely rewarding. I collected more friendships with like-minded people. Eric definitely has a way of attracting good people together.

Taipei was the next leg of my journey. Spending time with Wei and seeing his city through the locals viewpoint was priceless. I was also very fortunate to have Lucas to hang out with me for the next few days and finally to meet Haute, KC, Ed, Chung. In hindsight, wish I had kept more time aside for Taipei. It’s a magical city and I can’t wait to revisit one day soon.


How photography gear changed me in 2017

But in the end, I had to let it go for two compelling reasons. It was a little small for my hand and the centre of gravity of this camera is lopsided! I made lots of tilted horizons unless constantly aware. We said our goodbyes in a mall by the tall Christmas tree.

In the last quarter of 2017, I befriended Satan himself. I was about to commit a cardinal sin. I thought about it lots and then finally one day when the stars aligned I came home with a beautiful black Leica Q. Happy little mudlark. My good friend Andrew had a smidge influence but it would be fair to say I’ve desired one for a while for its sheer engineering finesse and the way it captures light. It was a brand new honeymoon with a whole new body!

Most purists shudder at the thought of changing gear. It is not my intention to challenge their views. Change in my view is a good thing. Curiosity is ingenuity. Till you find your sweet spot with a camera or a lens. Everyone’s process of finding their photographic path is unique. Some need change(of gear), some don’t. We are all different even though we are similar.

in 2017 I went from using the Ricoh GR-II back to Fujifilm X-Pro2. it was a strong second honeymoon with my Fujifilm X-Pro2. Then came the skittish lover Fujifilm X100F. We had some great moments together.


Whats in store for 2018?

Street portraits, capturing the emotion and the occasional travel photos. More writing for my blog. The truth about the world around me. These are general guidelines but once unpacked there is a lot in there. I hope you enjoy it. What is your focus this year photographically speaking?

Happy shooting!

Launch - Catwalk to Sidewalk

Street Fashion in Melbourne

I acknowledge the homelands of all Aboriginal people and pay my respects to this beautiful Country. But today very specially, I stand on this ancestral land of the Koori and Kulin people of the Wurundjeri nation the true custodians of this land and pay my respect to their elders past and present. I acknowledge and respect their continuing culture and the contribution they make to the life of this city of Melbourne.

Thank you Victorian Archives Gallery for selecting my work. I am honoured and humbled to the core. Thank you so much, Kate and Andrew, for working together with me and finally to meet you both in person.

Thank you lovely friends that made my special day even more special by being there with me. To my friends Melissa, Warren, Anne & Rick that came down from Sydney.

To friends from Melbourne: Rajesh, Jocelyn, Rohan, Tash, Ziyu, Maxwell, Wei. To everyone that couldn't make it but was in spirit. For all your countless well wishes and thoughtfulness and generosity of your spirit. A very special mention for my dear friend Judy from whom I learned about PROV (Public Records office Victoria) and another big thank you to Amal who was with me while I made this portrait of the dashing go-getter!

It is an honour to be a part of the Victorian archives very particularly cause Melbourne is one of my most loved cities in Australia! Possibly the world :)

The Exhibition is open now until March 2018 before the body of work is archived in the PROV Archive Centre. I hope you get to see it in person.

Fujifilm X100F review by Shannon Atkinson

I try and resist gear acquisition syndrome. Often known in the photography circle as GAS. But this really is a bit of a GAS talk - cause Fujifilm X100 series has raised the bar yet again!  But why do I not talk about GAS? Because I've learned by losing lots of time and thousands of dollars that no camera will ever be perfect. That perhaps is another blog post for another time.  But every now and then when a really well-engineered camera comes along - it's worth taking a little step back to appreciate the beauty that has been put behind the well-crafted machine. I'm talking about Fujifilm's newish baby the Fujifilm X100F that was released about 3 months back. I did write a review here.

It's not a technical review but more of an honest feel of what I like/dislike about this camera. Thanks, Kevin Mullins for your tweet.

I decided to do an interview with Shannon - an awesome photographer. Shannon's every day is a Leica M9. We met in Hanoi, Vietnam at Eric's course in February and often spoke about the impending release of the Fujifilm x100F. Fast forward a few weeks -- when I got back to Sydney I soon had a brand spanking new black Fujifilm X100F in my hands. I sound like a gearhead - I know! Very lucky to have had one this early as others had to wait months! I did my best to tease Shannon with some X100F gear porn just as good friends do! Rest is history! Over to you Shannon!


Who is Shannon Atkinson?

Shannon is a fascinating photographer from Thibodaux, Louisiana. He loves the world of Leica. We spent about six days running around hilly terrain of North Vietnam. I had the Fujifilm X-Pro2 with the 23mm f/2 while Shannon sported is much-loved M9. I could tell Shannon has been using Leica for a long time. But at the same time, he was very knowledgeable in the world of Fuji X100 series having owned one many years back. When I found out he'd jumped ship to the Fujifilm X100F for his every day, I thought this would be an interesting interview to give non-Fuji X users an understanding why this camera is making waves in the street photography scene. So here goes.

Hi Shannon, awesome to start with series with you! Could you tell the viewers how we met?

Earlier this year I decided to travel to Vietnam and attend a workshop held by Eric Kim and Neil Ta.  Amit attended the same workshop and I quickly became a fan of his work and of him as a person.  Something about Vietnamese coffee and exploring the backstreets of Hanoi creates a strong bond between photographers.  I left that workshop with a lot of new friends and a lot of inspiration from some fantastic photographers.  It was a humbling experience.


What draws you to photography Shannon?

Photography has always been a big part of my life.  As a kid, I have memories of my dad shooting a Polaroid Land Camera and I remember the anticipation I experienced while waiting for the pictures to develop.  My dad was superhuman to me, anything he did I wanted to do too.  He used a camera to document oilfield equipment as part of his business and being around the camera so much, it was natural for me to start making images of my own.

When I was experienced enough he started hiring me to take pictures for his business, it was a great way to make extra money and learn how to use a camera.  Later I decided to pursue a career in the medical field but never lost my love for photography.  It has always been a part of me and is great therapy.  Even in my professional life photography has benefited me.  I've been hired multiple times to take promotional images for doctors, even being able to shoot documentary images in surgical procedures at times.  It seemed that having a camera and being able to use it has often opened doors for me and still does.

For me there is still that sense of anticipation and excitement every time I go out shooting, waiting to see what I am able to capture... good or bad doesn't really matter.  It's the same as when I waited for the polaroid images to develop as a kid and I still love that feeling.

Could you tell us a little bit about your Home town and the photography scene there?

I grew up and currently live about an hour outside of New Orleans, Louisiana.  The culture here is a rich melting pot of interesting things to photograph.  Parades, festivals, the music.  There is always something interesting going on and always something interesting to capture.  I spend a lot of my free time at these events and really enjoy photographing them.  Like most documentary and street style photographers, I am happiest blending into the crowd with a camera in my hand.

Finally, the elephant in the room -- Why did you pick the Fujifilm X100F?

In late 2011 a friend loaned me what he referred to as his "X100 point and shoot" for a weekend getaway.  At the time I was still shooting DSLR's and immediately noticed the Fuji's autofocus seemed pretty slow.  The camera also seemed uncomfortably small compared to the Nikon gear I had been shooting for years.  I used it for snapshots all weekend and gave it back on Monday.

A few days later I uploaded the images and although the image quality was pretty amazing, I was more impressed by the difference in the interaction with the individuals I had photographed.  I couldn't put my finger on it at the time but there was a different interaction with this small camera.  After reading that people are often less intimidated by smaller cameras I became convinced this was what I was seeing in the portraits.   Shortly after, based largely on this experience, I bought a digital Leica and never looked back at the Nikon gear.

Earlier this year, travelling with a group of photographers in Northern Vietnam, several people were shooting the X100S and x100T.  I had been thinking of buying a more compact camera that I could carry with me daily and I was more than impressed by the improvements made from the first generation.  When I returned home I immediately put my name on the waiting list for the X100F.

What gear do you currently have and how long have you been using it?

For the last 6 years my primary camera has been a Leica M9.  I have several other cameras and still shoot film, but the M9 is my most used camera.

What is your current gear not delivering that made you consider x100F, Did X100F deliver? How long have you been using it now?

The X100F is just easy, that is the best compliment I can give it... "easy".  It can be used totally automatic as a simple point and shoot.  I can hand it to my 10-year-old son and he can get great, in focus and properly exposed images.  But when I need it to be, it is a very capable, pro level tool with just a couple of adjustments.  It is also small enough to fit in my jacket pocket so there is really no excuse not to have it with me at all times.  I have been using it for a few months now and I keep it with me everywhere I go.


What is that you can do with the X100F that you couldn’t with your previous one?

My original interest in the camera was primarily because of it's size.  I wanted a small, light camera that I could keep with me at all times, and the X100F fits this bill very well.

I've discovered that the high ISO performance is better than that of my Leica M9.  At low ISO's the M9 is difficult to beat, the glass to me is unmatched.  However, when you push the ISO above 1600 I find it starts to fall apart, that's where the Fuji shines.  I find myself using the Leica as my first choice, but when the light gets sketchy I now have the option of going for the X100F.  I find the two cameras greatly compliment each other in this way.  I do have to admit that the Fuji is slowly growing on me and it seems I'm using it an awful lot regardless of the light situation.

The live view on the X is something I didn't think I would use, but it has actually come in handy many times.

One big difference between the two cameras for me is the manual focus.  I don't care for the manual focus system of the Fuji.  I've been shooting true rangefinders for a long time and I love that focusing system.  I realise this isn't a big deal for most, but for me, it's been difficult to adjust to.  To get past this I zone focus or use autofocus, something I haven't done in years.

Any tips you might like to share with your us that users should consider if they were to jump on the X100F?

The first few weeks I shot the X100F on Jpeg.  I switched between the Classic Chrome filter and the Acros filter, both were extremely impressive.  However, lately I have been shooting RAW and I am finding that what I am getting is more along the lines of what I want in a final image.

I would encourage anyone coming from another camera to spend some time finding the sweet spot in the post processing for this camera.  At first, I applied the same Lightroom settings that I use on my other cameras and was disappointed with the results.  It was only when I started from scratch that I got results I liked.  It's a different animal and needs to be treated as such.

Can you share some of your photos with your new camera?

I spend a lot of time photographing the music scene in the New Orleans, La area.  This usually means low light, high contrast situations and often I finding myself shooting backlit subjects.  The X100F does really well in these challenging situations.  The musician images are from a few projects I'm currently working on.  The individuals in these images are not the front men that we all know, but the guys who have toured and backed them up for decades.  I find the size of the X100F in these situations to be an amazing asset.  I feel my subjects aren't as intimidated and this allows me to get away with more than I would using other cameras.


I also shoot a lot of festivals and events in the area.  I used the X100F to capture a recent New Orleans twist on The Running of The Bulls.  The event is a run where the participants are chased by "The Bulls" (Roller Derby Girls with wiffle ball bats).  It's a typical Nola event with lots of chaos and bright colours.  The Fuji was fantastic to use due to its small size and light weight, allowing me to move through the crowd and get up close with minimal effort.  I felt sorry for the guys shooting the big DSLRs at this event.

What would make the Fujifilm X100F better?

I'm impressed that Fuji fixed the "focus to 2 meters when powered down" issue so quickly.  Their last firmware update fixed the biggest issue I had with the camera.  It shows me that they are listening and take their photographers seriously.  That level of dedication is hard to find in the camera industry.

I'm not a fan of the ISO knob.  For me, it is less than ideal, especially in low light situations.  I find it cumbersome and counterintuitive at times to pull up and turn while trying to see what setting I'm currently on.  I know that it can be assigned to the command dial but you loose the ability to go to auto ISO when it's set up this way.  Not a deal killer, just an observation.

I find the inability to transfer images taken in RAW mode to your smartphone a pain.  Although I don't use this feature often, there have been times when I wanted to share an image and since it wasn't shot in jpeg I was unable to do so.

I do have to add that Fuji always seems to be two steps ahead and the more I dig the more I find workarounds and better ways to do things.  I'm still very much learning this camera, but Fuji's ability to stay ahead of the issues is mind blowing.

Do you have any advice for the new Fujifilm X100F users?

Big 'aha moment' for me when I realised pressing the toggle returns the "point of focus/exposure" to the centre position.

I highly recommend spending time getting to know the camera in full manual mode.  It is capable of a lot more than it seems at first.

Although the auto settings are fantastic, in tricky light situations I find auto settings on any camera is easily fooled.

I also recommend using the camera in manual focus mode and using the AEL/AFL button when you want to autofocus.  This gives you the best of both worlds.  However, when doing portraits I have found the facial recognition feature while in autofocus mode to be incredibly accurate.

THANK YOU, Shannon, FOR YOUR TIME AND WISHING YOU THE VERY BEST. Dare I say welcome to team Fuji! :)

Please check the URLs below and follow Shannon's amazing work both on Leica and Fujifilm inspiration.


Shannon's Fujifilm X100F Gallery

A beginners mind

Shō Shin. (初心) is a concept in Zen Buddhism meaning "beginner's mind".

“Shō Shin. (初心) is a concept in Zen Buddhism meaning “beginner’s mind”. It refers to having an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject, even when studying at an advanced level, just as a beginner in that subject would.”


Shō Shin. See you over at my Instagram

Creatively speaking, when ego enters the mind of an artist, muse can no longer abide. For artists that create, the pureness of this state of being true to their art is next to none. To stay worthy and inspired in a world full of distractions and fake social hype - resetting the mind is a very cleansing process.

After long deliberation, today, I decided to delete all my Instagram photos collected over the past four years. Many frames, travel stories and life events. I have gained amazing friends through this channel and created beautiful memories. Here's hoping version 2 of my Instagram will be even stronger than ever.

It's a beautiful thing to embrace beginner's mind. My openness to people, their cultures, and curiosity has helped me develop friendships around the world. I keep learning, every day. I am grateful for your friendship and for you being a part of my Instagram journey.

April is my JPEG month

“Paint light and shadow with your camera. All you need is an artistic mind and a fearless spirit. When muse sees your intent it flirts with you. Embrace your rendezvous.”

— Amit Karmakar

Had a lovely catch up with my friend Sue yesterday who has been a Fujifilm shooter for a while and loves fashion, photography and architecture among many other things. Sue and I share lots of Fujifilm love and often talk about our photography ideas and challenges. On this particular meet something Sue mentioned really piqued my interest. It was about JPG shooting. The photography world is very divided when it comes to RAW and JPEG shooting. There are advantages on both sides. It really depends on what feels right for you.

I normally shoot JPG + RAW. Why? That extra insurance that if i shot a 'decisive moment' I can re-edit it later to perfection. The truth is:

  • there are a zillion 'decisive moments' happening everyday. Dan Winters wrote about this beautifully in his book 'Road to seeing'

  • there is no such things as perfection. Its a journey.

Most digital cameras produce high quality images and pack a lot of details even at high ISO. When we pixel peep, it is merely to affirm our own insecurities. A sharp and noise-free images doesn't equate to a 'better' image.

April is my JPEG month

I have consciously decided to shoot JPG all of April 2017. Maybe longer. Thank you Sue. Let the good times role. Less time on computers and less time on RAW file processing. Less time sorting out duplicates means more time left to shoot and enjoy life with your loved ones. How could that be wrong?

Things to remember:

  1. Sharp images are not necessarily better images (look at the masters of photography, the reverse might well be true)

  2. Images don't always have to be perfect. - perfection kills the soul

  3. Shadows and highlights don't always have to be recovered - what you don't see adds drama to the scene.

Make memories let creativity guide you. Don't be hung up on technicalities of photography.


My landscape photos in print shop

LakeTakepoNewZealand2016.jpeg This body of work is a collection of moments from a project that took me across three island countries of New Zealand, Australia and Japan. It can also be viewed online at the contact sheet print shop

If you know someone that might be interested in Landscapes for their house/apartment or to buy it for a loved one - please get in touch with contact sheet gallery on:

Various sizing options are available. Art money loan is also available for installed payments. Thank you for your support.