Saturday, July 21, 2007

Reflections of a Photographer

I had at first intended to put up my best photos from the following categories:

Still Life

As I searched my inventory, I discovered countless portraits and little else. Or maybe it's just the way I think.

To me, my shots of landscapes are more like portraits of the world around us. Still life shots are portraits of objects. Children and portraits of children; what's the difference? Action shots are portraits of people in action. And travel photos are portraits of places I've visited. Everything is a portrait of some sort, and I don't know how to differentiate!

Of course, this does not apply if 'portrait' is restricted to studio images. But that is hardly the case in photography.

All that aside, it has just dawned upon me that nominating a 'best shot' is a very tedious undertaking. I can think of definitive or memorable shots, but they aren't necessarily artistic; conversely, some of my most 'artsy' shots are hardly definitive pieces.

The photos below are not my most recent, but they each mean a lot to me. None have been edited, so for better or worse, they appear as I shot them. Together, they represent the photographer I was, the one I am, and the one I hope someday to be.

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This was among the first few photos taken with my 50mm f/1.8 lens, and Yen was my first 'model'. I think it started here, that I began to fully understand what 'cropping-in tight' meant. With a wide-angle lens, it is easy to snap a picture without paying attention to what to include and what to throw out.

A 50mm lens at close range doesn't offer the photographer that luxury. I learnt to be more careful in my composition, and more focused on the intensity of the emotion. The result? The trip to Mersing the day after meeting Yen turned out to be my most successful photography outing to date, and most of the shots were 'portraits'.

So where am I now? I've experimented with weird portraits by just including parts of the face, like the eyes without the mouth and vice versa. Nevertheless, I still think traditional portraiture is the best!


This is one of my weaker areas. I can never think of a landscape in terms of 'foreground interest' and 'leading lines' and other patterns familiar to the landscape photographer. Or maybe it's just that I haven't seen enough landscapes.

But then again, anything can be a landscape, even the plot of unused land at the end of my road. And to me, a landscape is as much about the emotion as it is about the beauty. As a result, many of my landscape shots contain people in them, simply because I like to show how I perceive human interaction with the environment.

The first digital camera I acquired was a Minolta DiMAGE G400, and the first full-fledged photo 'project' was d'NA Stage Two. This photo of Soo Tian walking away from the morning petal shower (affectionately called the MPS) was taken on the morning of the last day. It would also be the last 'last day' without a Graduation Ceremony.

For an ad hoc shot, it is surprisingly well-balanced in terms of composition. I would only learn the implications of composition some two years later.

Still Life

By and large, most of my attempts at still life photography have been pictures of food, as anyone who has eaten with me will know. It didn't actually occur to me that the picture I chose for this category also happens to be food, until now. Apples are food, right?

After dinner at the al-Marjan restaurant in KLCC with Soo Tian last June, I decided to fiddle around with the apples. I liked the contrast between the green and red apples, and the rather dark table. This was shot with the Minolta.

To me, still life is mostly about texture and colour, and less about form. Again, the emotion is central to the shot. Most of my still lifes are either melancholic or contemplative in nature, as I believe this category is best suited to such emotions.


Hands down, my worst category. It's not that I don't see enough children; I just don't have a strong enough rapport with them.

The ingredients of successful child photography are simple: shoot from their level, capture the fun and innocence. I suppose I'm just not quite there yet, and most of my other photos of children seem better suited to the 'portraits' category.

This was taken with my recently-acquired (well, two months ago anyway) Nikon P5000.


The photo was planned, but the effect was accidental. The Minolta overexposed the shot, resulting in very bright 'washed-out' highlight areas. And I love it! I took another couple of shots with balanced exposure, but the effect just wasn't the same; this reminds me of something Kelvin Chan said, that there is no such thing as correct exposure, only what you want to achieve.

Virtually all my shots of people are action shots, simply because they are doing something in the photo. But in terms of 'action' conveying force and energy, this one is about as good as it gets. Phak Hoe struck this pose beneath a tiny 'waterfall' in FRIM, and the water droplets 'frozen' in mid-air bear traces of heavenly power.

If there's one thing I need to improve, it is my spontaneity. I'm not a very fast photographer, much to the annoyance and frustration of my friends. Thankfully, they are sympathetic and patient with this budding photographer!


First things first: the 'Selamat Jalan' sign was not intentional. I took this picture two years ago, and it was only today that I noticed the sign!

I chose this picture (taken with the Minolta during the d'NA reunion in Kluang) to represent travel because of two reasons:

1. The d'NAers are my perpetual travel buddies.
2. The car will always remind us of our dream Road Trip.

[At this point (9.18 p.m.) there was a split-second blackout. I'm so, so thankful everything up to this point was saved. God must be telling me it's dinner time, so I'd better hurry up!]

Indeed, I have loads of travel photos, too many from which to choose a 'best' or 'definitive' shot. Every trip has its finest photos, and every trip is different. But the picture of the whole lot of us squashed in Michelle's Tiara represents the two most important elements of any trip:

1. The people.
2. The journey; whether on foot, by car, by bus, by train, by ship, by plane or any other means. The joy in the journey, and not just the destination, is what makes travel the great fun it is.

[It has just occurred to me that Blogger's saves the entry every minute; what an excellent system. And since I take time to string my words, I don't write a lot in a minute.]

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So this is a trip down memory lane, showcasing a selection of photos spanning two years. I'd like to ask the ones responsible for firing up my interest in photography, and who remain till today some of my favourite subjects, namely the d'NAers: how have I changed and developed as a photographer since Stage One?

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One more thing:

Happy 23rd Anniversary, Mum and Dad!

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