Saturday, October 17, 2009

A different vantage point

I am tired; it's been a tiring day. But there are a few thoughts that I think I ought to write down lest they lose their urgency.

* * *

This morning, I shot the Chinese Cultural Club (CCC) of my college for the third (and most likely last) time. I'd put on my bandanna for the shoot; Andrew and How both agreed that I should do something different, this being the last. But before getting out of the car, I removed the bandanna, deciding instead that I would show up as myself.

Little did I know that indeed I would end up doing something different. I climbed a tree and got bitten by a few kerengga in an attempt to shoot from a fresh angle at the overphotographed UM crest across Dewan Tunku Canselor (DTC).

(Many thanks to Pak Koon, Jun Lee and co. for bringing the two chairs on which I'd at first planned to mount the Gorillapod, as my tripod is with Xiao Lee. And thanks upon thanks to Andrew, Amos, Jimmy, Jee Haw, Jun Lee, Pak Koon and Ri Chian for literally supporting me throughout the challenging shoot!)

(Nikon D50 with Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 lens)

Doing something different can be as simple as taking a group photo... from behind the group.

While almost everyone else walked back to college, I drove. And I realised what it is about walking that I like so much: I like taking in the world around me, feeling the wind and the sun, taking in the sights and sounds and smells all around.

Maybe that is why I don't mind the slow pace (and low 'efficiency') of walking.

Ghosts have all the time in the world, another pleasure of long-distance aimlessness - travelling at half speed on slow trains and procrastinating.

~ from
Ghost Train to the Eastern Star by Paul Theroux

How true of local trains! And perhaps precisely why I like them so much.

* * *

(Photo from here)

When I got back today, Mum showed me a flyer she picked up from Bangsar Shopping Centre. Apparently Uncle Hui is still there, and now he even his own lot! (Prior to this he operated from a small 'studio' in Kidsport BSC.)

And now he even has a blog! Click

This is the man who, nearly ten years ago, started teaching watercolour technique to a 12-year-old who knew nothing about painting. That boy is still learning, and discovering more and more each day just how much those formative years continue to shape his artistic style and vision.

I really must pay Uncle Hui a visit one of these days.

* * *

While in Elensha's car, driving into IKEA, I flipped through the June '09 issue of August Man (which I assume belongs to her sister).

There was a small caption which pronounced, among other things;

The digital revolution has made it possible for anyone to take good pics. Better cameras to come can only mean a greater levelling of the field.

And then I remembered something I was thinking earlier in the day, after editing some of the photos from the morning's shoot. Yes, digital has levelled the field; it has also levelled images.

On the one hand, it is truly difficult to screw up with digital. I can pull a lot of detail out of seemingly underexposed images. Yet it also seems that digital has brought the standard down; we are far too easily satisfied. Or perhaps our concept and idea of photography has been redefined by digital photography.

When we returned from Putrajaya last Sunday, Thary said something that got me thinking; "Digital photographs all look the same." I don't exactly know what he meant by that, but I think it has something to do with the character of digital photographs. In some ways, it is easier to say of digital photos than of film ones, "Once you've seen one, you've seen them all."

(Ilford Delta 100)

Film, I feel, was designed for outstanding performance within narrow ranges. Slide film like Fujichrome Velvia (ISO 50) and Provia (ISO 100) are quite impractical to shoot with small-aperture lenses.

In those days photography was about fine-grain film (for clarity and definition) and bright lenses (for ease of composition and versatility in various lighting conditions). There was also of course, coarse-grain film (especially black-and-whites), which imparted an artistic sketch/canvas-like texture. These days, photography is about small-aperture (dim) lenses compensated for with anti-shake functions and relatively clean high ISOs.

But as anyone who has shot slide film will know, there is something about nailing a shot that gives such immense satisfaction no digital experience can provide.

* * *

Mum shared with me just now the story of a pastor, trained as a medical doctor, who witnessed the healing power of God in his ministry.

On one occasion, he was treating an elderly woman who was suffering from diabetes (among other things). One night, with the members of the family standing around the woman, her daughter told the doctor that her mother was having nightmares, from which she would awake in fits of violence.

So the daughter asked the doctor if there was any cure for this. And the doctor answered, prayer. The daughter then said, alright, pray. The doctor, not knowing what he'd gotten himself into, walked over to the woman and prayed for her. The family was Chinese-speaking, but the doctor himself knew little Chinese. In addition to praying in tongues, he prayed in broken Chinese.

When he finished, the daughter asked, is that all? He said, yes. She asked him to return the next day. He returned to his car, trembling; he did not know what he would do if he returned the next day and there was no improvement. But he prayed, and he returned the next day.

(You know how the story ends.)

He returned, and lo and behold, the family reported that the night before, the woman did not awake to fits of violence. Eventually the whole family became Christians, and at the woman's funeral the doctor managed to preach to all the residents in the area, for the family wanted everyone to know they were Christians.

As I heard this account, I remembered Jim Elliot, Nate Saint, Mincaye and the missionaries of Operation Auca. I remembered the early disciples of Jesus Christ.

Where did the power of their ministry come from? I think it came from the fact that they were more afraid than we would like to think; afraid enough that God's courage could truly indwell them. Doubtful enough to trust a God who is more often mysterious than lucid.

As I think about them, I want to make my life count. I want to make every moment count. I thought about Michael Jackson and Barack Obama. It seems many are surprised by Obama's recent Nobel Peace Prize win; How commented that Michael Jackson is probably more deserving, having done in the way of peace and international relations what countless generations of politicians have tried in vain to do.

I know God is waiting for me to get up, leave my nets by the water's edge, climb out of the boat and follow Him.

1 comment:

Adrian Benjamin Lim said...

Ben....I really miss UM and 3rd..lolz


anyway, it's always great to know that a fellow follower of Christ wants to make a difference in the world.