Thursday, January 31, 2008

Last year's last words

I wrote early last December that I would be without my photographs for awhile. However the cause of that was not to be.

The night of Christmas Eve, my parents surprised me with this:

Managing my photographs and jotting down thoughts when there's no paper (or on the rare occasions when I would rather type than write) has never been easier.

Thanks Mum and Dad!

* * * * *

At the Overcomers' Christmas dinner, I had my first feel of Nikon's D40. Marie had acquired a second-hand unit and was busy snapping the night away.

So it happened that sometime after dinner, the children nested themselves in the attic, watching Rush Hour 3. I found Eunice and Marie somewhere at the back of the room, and spotted their tripod. In the spirit of my recent experiments I thought of doing a long exposure, just to show Eunice what the camera-and-tripod combination is capable of doing.

This was the result, here corrected for white balance:

That was probably the highlight of the night, besides getting feedback for the 2nd College photo competition, settling a dispute with Eunice over Christine's camera model, and playing 'Christmas Isn't Christmas' with Uncle Lawrence.

(Note that in my long exposures, both here and in general, I usually allow for just enough light to bring out the features in all the subjects. You may have to adjust the brightness of your monitor screen to view the pictures clearly.)

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Two Trips, Twenty Photographs

I generally dislike putting up entries with more than five pictures, but there are some reasons I'm doing this:

1. To share a little of my trips last December.
2. To keep an online backup copy of the photos, just in case.
3. To showcase the artwork of some of my friends.

The photos are more or less in chronological order; I didn't bother checking too much. :-P

* * * * *


An alley somewhere in the vicinity of Jonker Walk.

We passed by a shop selling mirrors.

Not much of a photograph, but I was quite fascinated by the horse.

Oh, the copious amounts of background distractions we had to relocate in the making of this shot!

As if anyone would surf the internet here.

At the Geographer Cafe, Jonker Walk.

I was struck by the irony of a Malaysian flag on a Portuguese fort.

Valerie took this picture and christened it 'The Tired Traveller'. And no, I wasn't posing; I was only sitting there.

Entangled roots at the foot of St Paul's Hill, behind the Stadhuys.

* * * * *

Cameron Highlands

Early shafts of light greet the sleepyheads in the dorm.

Our little friend turned out to be quite a companion in our adventures.

Shern Ren strikes... and he scores!

Not the usual group photo.

The hands that give us BOH Tea. A personal favourite (picture) of mine and Li-Shia's.

The product of Joan's 'blunt, naive idea'.

Alaga, one of the plantation workers, at the barbecue pit.

Another of Shern Ren's triumphs. I like the backlighting.

I attempted this shot from an angle similar to that used in a dramatic black-and-white hanging in the hall at the MNS-BOH Centre.

While waiting for Mr Moorthy to send us down.

Probably the most artistic portrait of RELA officers I have yet seen.

Monday, January 21, 2008

The First Photo Win

Winner of the I-Snap Photography Competition, Minggu Minda Kreatif VII, 2nd Residential College, University of Malaya. (Picture cropped to 8R and slightly brightened.)

The competition was open to all UM students and ran for several months. The submission dates were 2 and 3 January and judging was on the 12th.

I'd like to thank, in general order of comments given, Li-Shia, Valerie, Dad, Zhen Quan, Eunice, How, Shannon, Adrian, Chee Seong, SooT and Yen. My shortlist was compiled based on your feedback.

(For the record, the winning picture was voted for by Dad, Zhen Quan, How and Christine. Though of course this doesn't necessarily mean it was the best of the lot, only that the judges saw it as the best of the pieces submitted, and I did not submit all the ones I shortlisted due to the limit of three entries per participant.)

I'd also like to thank;

Christine for helping me decide on the final three that would be sent, especially on such short notice.

Chian Ming for accompanying me to 2nd College (before TITAS class last Tuesday) to look at the entries on display (hence being the first to know when I received the phone call then), and for coming again with Adrian on Thursday to witness the prize-giving ceremony.

* * * * *

I told myself I'd say it if/when I won my first competition. Since there was neither time nor space for an acceptance speech, I'll say it here:

"This win is for you, Dad!"

In the greater scheme of things, I'd like to thank in particular:

My parents for supporting this 100% non-profit hobby of mine over the last year and a half.

Christine for introducing me to the world of SLRs and turning me into a Nikonian.

My friends who have over the years filled the frame of my camera. Every photo taken, every blunder made, every glimpse of glory was a step towards the photographer I am today.

All glory goes to God, because there are two equally miraculous stories behind this picture.

On the second day in Mersing, I decided in the morning's quiet time that I would structure my photos around Psalm 104; the fruit of that labour appeared on my blog in the 31 July entry last year.

What I did not mention on the blog (but which was referred to in an issue of the Triple-M, Mensa Malaysia's official magazine) was the story behind the bird picture. The 12th verse kept eluding me:

Beside them the birds of the heavens dwell;
They lift up their voices among the branches.

The few birds I spotted in Mersing weren't on branches, and those that were were comfortably out of sight, hidden amidst the leaves. It was in Kluang that the breakthrough came. As we were leaving Michelle's house for church, this little bird perched itself on the bare tree.

Immediately I saw the photo I was waiting for, fumbled for my 55-200mm lens, quickly attached it to the D50 (I think I actually had to remove the other lens, either the 18-55mm or the 50mm, first!), pointed the camera out of the car window and pressed the shutter.

There was no time to adjust anything and I was too excited and desperate not to let the moment pass. And then the bird flew away, as suddenly as it appeared. I had no time to make a second exposure. If I could sum up the entire blessedness of the whole trip--for indeed it was blessed in many many ways--in one moment, that was it.

The second miraculous story is somewhat more general where it concerns photography: it is the miracle behind every photograph.

Because if you go back nearly 170 years to 1839, you would have heard the words exclaimed by Louis Jacques Mande Daguerre when he produced the world's first photograph: "I have captured the light!"

And if you go further, much, much further back than that, you would have heard the first words echoing across a dark universe:

"Let there be light!"

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Ticking Rat

Tee Ming will be an MC for the Chinese New Year celebrations at her campus, USM Kubang Kerian. She wanted to include a poem in her speech and so turned to the last poet in the world I'd approach for help. *wink*

In conversation a little punlike idea came to me. I was thinking of the Chinese term for rat, laushu and somewhere along the way a word linked to a common rat-prompted emotion suggested itself: "Shoo!"

(Of course there is that other emotion: "Aaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!" but I think it might be a little too unorthodox. :-P)

So it started with this line, "Shoo laushu!" and Tee Ming was in stitches. I think we both half expected me to come up with something a little deeper and more serious, and half expected this crazy idea to be more fully explored.

Within the same conversation, the "tick tick tick" part came about, and basically I knew from that point on that this would not be a serious poem, nor was meant to be. And for the first time in my life I wrote something based entirely on a sense of loose fun, wild language devices and multilingual references.

(I will not elaborate upon it here, but the more musically inclined may attach some minor significance to the arrangement of the lines within each stanza.)

* * * * *

The Ticking Rat

There's a rat-tat-tat at the door;
The old year's not here anymore.
Caught between an end and a start
Be still, be still, my restless heart.

There is comes again; shoo! shoo, laushu, shoo!
I rest upon the rhythmic clock, as it
Ticks. Tick, tick, tick... tikus!
A yell echoes through the hall
Racing the yeli back to whence it came.

Run! Run! Run! The New Year has begun.

Sunday, January 13, 2008


Cameron Highlands was a great experience.

And it was a great photographic experiment. Changing hands and drive-by landscape photography were some of the highlights.

And I probably had the greatest success-to-shots taken ratio of all my trips so far.

I am now in the midst of a three-week photo sabbatical.

I need to rest and, to borrow a U2 phrase but quoted on a much smaller scale, 'dream it up all over again'.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Into 2008 with mamak and junk food

So the new year has begun, and I haven't taken any photos yet. My first shoot is on the 12th this month for the Executive Council of my college's Chinese Festival.

So the new year has come, and I haven't written any essays/stories yet. My first assignment is for the April-May issue of Asian Beacon. Peer pressure? BGR? The perfect holiday? Youth temptations?

* * * * *

Spent the night of New Year's eve with these two. We spent three hours at Sahur's Cafe over e-mee sup, (a very spicy) mee ladna, rice with daging kunyit, SooT's bandung panas and several glasses of juice. We then counted down in one of the deadest places: Dataran Sastera in UM.

And believe me, last night it was DEAD.

Yen would remember the smiling Mat Salleh.


Shutterbug the Third (of the three of us).