The last few months of 2009 saw some experiments in photography, the greatest of which was the massive ET Shoot. More on that coming soon.
What follows is a set of pictures which were very fun to make, and which, collectively, continue to remind me of why I still do it.
I didn't want to take Di Kor and her birthday cake in the same old way. So I had her put on the sunglasses so as to reflect the candle flame, and I think we managed an overall feel that shouts 48 and getting younger!
How does one shoot a husband and wife in a novel way? By employing a method used by the legendary photojournalist James Nachtwey in a photograph of monks: see the others through one's glasses.
Having tea with Fitrah at 11th College after the ET handover meeting (a very unforgettable meeting), I noticed the rain brought out the colours of the 'banner'. Overcast weather reduces contrast and allows for a wide image tonality.
Kevin's 19th at Genji, PJ Hilton. An alternative view of lunch.
The birthday boy, under the table.
Mintu, the 'bartender' at Sahur's Café, 3rd College.
This, and the next three photographs, were shot on Ilford's Delta 3200 film.
Ali, the mee goreng man.
The burger dude.
Saiful, who is known, among other things, for his incredible voice.
"Nasi goreng kampung, siap!"
The Kadazan family and the Chinese aunty. The surprise and the animated conversation. This is Malaysia!
On the train to Seremban, en route to Port Dickson for PKV's T.H.E. Camp 2009.
And the LORD said, "I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. But," he said, "you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live."
Then the LORD said, "There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen."
-- Exodus 33:18-23 (NIV)
A population of millipedes lives in the mossy carpet growing on one wall at the Lutheran Centre, a symbol of an 'oasis' in a 'desert'. The moss provides moisture, shelter and organic matter for food. This reminded me of the Israelites' experience in the desert.
Even as you prepare, I admonish and exhort you with two verses; they are familiar verses, but spoke with an otherworldly eloquence on the night 'Coming Together, Building Each Other' was unveiled in July 2008.
I remember them till today, and hold on to them ever as strongly. May they aid in preparing the way for you as well.
Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.
Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.
-- 1 Corinthians 9:24-25 (NASB)
As you literally run, remember these words. Our strength and victory comes not from the favour of men alone, but from the grace of God.
Let us continue fighting for the imperishable wreaths.
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
-- Isaiah 9:6 (NIV)
Last month, as Christmas approached, I was reminded of this famous passage in Isaiah, first at the KLPac performance of Handel's Messiah (a very, very good and Handel-worthy interpretation in the usage of a chamber orchestra and choir, instead of the usual gigantic ensembles), and then via an SMS from Rebecca.
As I thought about it, I remembered what a pastor (I cannot recall who) once preached some Christmases ago: that the child was born, but the Son was given. The Son was not born, for he was there from the beginning.
And reflecting on the passage this time around, I realised how Trinitarian it is.
'Wonderful Counselor' foreshadows Jesus' promise that the Counselor would be sent to be with his disciples after his ascension to heaven.
'Mighty God' and 'Everlasting Father' foreshadows the opening words of Genesis and of the Gospel of John: the God who was from the beginning, from before the beginning, and who is, and who will be beyond the end of time.
'Prince of Peace' is the title Jesus himself directly bore.
It was a good reminder. And I really think Handel did the best any human being ever did and ever could, in his rendition of the prophecy.
The semester that was, was a test of survival. We passed.
(Photo by Thary.)
After the field trip to Port Dickson on 5 September (for Seaweed Biology and Ecophysiology of Marine Organisms), we desiccated some seaweed samples in an experiment. I remember seeing these petri dishes outside Lab C2.3 a couple of semesters ago or so; and now it was my turn to conduct the experiment.
Nowhere were the thoughts of growing older and the fear of the future more real than in Kuala Krau, on the Wildlife Biology field trip, 25-27 September.
Assigned tasks by Prof Rosli Hashim (who then disappeared for the day), we were on our own for the first time on a field trip. I don't know about all the others, but I realised then that this would be the pattern of the years to come should I remain in this discipline.
The trip to Sungkai on 3 October for Conservation Biology featured cameos from eye shadow, plastic-y hornbills and durians.
I photographed this seladang with my 70-210mm lens, on Ilford XP2 film. It's one of my least favourite films, simply because I don't really like the low contrast for which it is famed. However, in this shot the low contrast brings out a full range of tones in the foliage of the wildlife centre in Sungkai.
Thary remarked that the seladang looks artificial in this shot; one day when the seladang is extinct, our children will come across this photograph and never believe it really existed. It was probably just a cardboard cut-out propped up among trees.
Putrajaya Botanic Garden, Conservation Biology field trip on 11 October.
How on cengal. Like the mighty cengal, like the resilient rainforest, is the How Wan Cherng. Every semester there is a definitive picture of How; I'd say this was last sem's.
The tea company at the Shrew Seminar on 1 October. Prof Rosli Hashim, Prof Emeritus Dr Yong Hoi-Sen, Dr Manuel Reudi and, in the foreground, Dr Lim Boo Liat.
The Earl of Cranbrook was also present, as were Thary and How, the latter of whom attended the seminar by accident, having forgotten that Wildlife Biology class that morning was cancelled due to the seminar.
Late September and early October was a rather fruitful time in college; we had a field trip plucking and eating the rambutans from the tree growing next to Sahur.
Some said they were too sour, but I loved them!
17 October: we discovered the Bigfoot of Ikano.
19 October: Tim, Fit, Zilah and I attended the Merdeka Award ceremony at the Dewan Filharmonik Petronas (DFP) in KLCC.
It was really quite eye-opening to see how they transformed the Ground Floor foyer of the DFP into a hotel-like buffet area, in less than 30 minutes as soon as the red carpet was rolled up after Najib.
A replica of the trophy.
It wasn't particularly a pleasant meeting, but the Experimental Theatre hand-over meeting on Wednesday 21 October was a landmark meeting (no pun intended) in a number of ways.
First of all, it meant we then had to deal with the contractor (Sunissa Sdn Bhd) for the ET Photo Shoot. But the meeting itself was quite interesting, as Fit and I witnessed first-hand how ill-prepared the University was for the commencement of the construction work. The architect, Mustapha Kamal, fired many questions at the Department of Asset Maintenance and Development (JPPHB), which were either unanswered or else miserably answered.
And this was the same JPPHB which made it complicated for us to gain access and permission to photograph the ET.
A couple of days later, Tim, Fit and I dropped by Italiannies for lunch after PKV, to pay a visit to Cassandra who was working there for a few months as a trainee chef.
It was the last day of the semester, and I had just received a prize for a photography competition; more on that later.
5 November. Ashaari, if I could say it again, I would say it in this one line:
"Compassion is about being merciful, for we have been shown mercy."
During the study/exam weeks, I had an unusual companion: a giant centipede which Alan spotted as we were walking down the corridor from the Bilik Bacaan.
I fed it a lizard on the first night, and crickets subsequently, but I think I have a lot to learn about keeping centipedes, as it eventually died. Perhaps it needed space? A cleaner captive environment (for I had not removed the remains of the dead crickets)?
We bade (small) Yee Siang farewell on 13 November; he's the guy holding the cake.
He is called 'small' because of his age, not his size. There was another Yee Siang in college who was a year his senior.
After the Ecophysiology of Marine Organisms exam on 16 November, I attended the talk by Dr Mahathir, organised by the Asia-Europe Institute of UM at the Nikko Hotel along Jalan Ampang.
Toh Puan Aishah Ong said it was a very nice picture of Dr M.
There were five of us from the Council who attended; Fit, Zilah, Atiqah and Nash.
Second mass outing at the DFP, after 2008's roaring Lord of the Rings success.
17 November: Igudesman and Joo's A Little Nightmare Music. It was a very good show, albeit rather short, unfortunately. It would've been nice if they'd extended it by 20 minutes.
Ah, the simple joys in life *wink*...
... like good friends...
... great drinks (Sarawak's legendary three-layered tea, now nearly everywhere in the Klang Valley)...
... and the best acronym for BFM (the radio station Business FM) yet.
Today is New Year's Day. It just occurred to me that New Year's Day is also the 8th Day of Christmas.
On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise him, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he had been conceived.
-- Luke 2:21 (NIV)
It is the day of Jesus' circumcision, though I wonder if anyone in the world actually celebrates this!
But truly, this verse speaks to me in a way it never had until a few minutes ago. He was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he had been conceived. It is a verse that confirms the angel's prophecy, and a verse that testifies to Mary's faithfulness; "I am the Lord's servant. Be it unto me as you have spoken."
We recall that, when it was time to name John the Baptist, Jesus' cousin, something dramatic happened;
On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him after his father Zechariah, but his mother spoke up and said, "No! He is to be called John."
They said to her, "There is no one among your relatives who has that name."
Then they made signs to his father, to find out what he would like to name the child. He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone's astonishment he wrote, "His name is John." Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue was loosed, and he began to speak, praising God. The neighbours were all filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea people were talking about all these things. Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, "What then is this child going to be?" For the Lord's hand was with him.
-- Luke 1:59-66 (NIV)
And so the 8th Day is a day to remember God's faithfulness, to remember God's awesome power, to remember that in Him the impossible can happen.
If not for the grace of God, that photograph at the beginning of this entry would be nothing more than a page out of a self-help book; then again, given the nature of self-help books, it may even constitute an entire volume!
I can imagine that many people would have told Jesus he couldn't, and many who say he can't today. And I can imagine that he must have at least thought those words, if not said them aloud; "Watch me!"
And I believe those words ring true today as they did 2000 years ago.
So here's to all of you, to all of us; for all those times we think we can't. By the grace of God we can, and we will.