Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Am I such a masochist

That I consider choosing the path I do not want?

Maybe this is my suicide.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

10:23 on October 23

O LORD, I know the way of man is not in himself;
It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps.

-- Jeremiah 10:23 (NKJV) --

* * *

Blessed 21st, Nasha!

May our Lord continue to direct your steps as you scale greater heights and face the challenges ahead, both in and out of campus.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Dare to Dream!

Photo by Timothy Cheng, Bagan Lalang, Sept 2010.

Fujichrome Velvia 50. Nikon F80 with 50mm f/1.8 lens.

Early on in the preparation for the competition, Nasha said (on 22 Sept),

"Why don't we do something on how nature used to be our playground when we were young, but nowadays kids have artificial playgrounds and man made entertainment. I remember nature being a very strong memory of my childhood... [The competition] emphasizes quite a bit on green tech and eco products, so maybe we can find a way to work that in as well."

After a relatively failed attempt in Brickfields, we finally nailed it in Bagan Lalang, though I don't think we quite managed to connect any of it to 'green tech' and 'eco products'. Truth be told, I don't think much of those labels anyway. These children are playing in the natural environment; 'toys' don't get any greener than this!

While we were hiking up Sungai Chiling, Tim remarked, "What the mind does not know, the eye does not see," in describing the difference between someone who looks out for insects and other animals along the path that may appear hidden or invisible to someone who does not know they even exist.

I suppose that's what journalism is all about: picking out details in the messy fabric of our lives and the lives of those around us, and weaving those details into a persuasive narrative. All in all it was a great experience, and the whole process of putting everything together reminded me of T.S. Eliot's words in 'Little Gidding';

... And every phrase
And sentence that is right (where every word is at home,
Taking its place to support the others,
The word neither diffident nor ostentatious,
An easy commerce of the old and the new,
The common word exact without vulgarity,
The formal word precise but not pedantic,
The complete consort dancing together)

The team with judges Nelson Lin of the China Press, Janet Tee of the National Textile Museum and chief judge Raja Fuziah of the World Crafts Council Asia Pacific. We did not meet judges Wairah Marzuki of the National Art Gallery and Kenneth Lee of Philips Malaysia.

Our film portfolio totally smoked not only the competition from without, but also the competition from within, i.e. our other entries.

It was worth renting the fisheye at RM200+ for the week on the Big Island. It was worth buying both the N80 (RM165) and the F80 (RM330), as well as the 18-35mm (RM1150) and last year's 70-210mm (RM600). The total cost of all this gear would just about get you a D90 today, without any lenses.

As we joked, perhaps the D40+D50 was a better combination than the D90. *wink*

But Tim is right about one thing: film really makes you a lot more careful when shooting, and so you only shoot the winners. With this portfolio, we really did. We made a point about the relevance and enduring power of film in this digital age.

I guess Ken Rockwell is right: it is better to get everything right in the shot, than to dick around with stuff like HDR and other forms of post-processing.

* * *

And so we made a point, got our pictures and message out there for the public to see and hear. And we fattened our bank accounts along the way, heh.

A great campaign and, especially for Tim, a holiday well-spent I'd say.

Many thanks to Dr Zeeda for supporting us, and Dr Aziz for letting me know about the competition.

To Tim, Nasha, Yen, Fit and Ruth, congrats to all again!

Monday, October 11, 2010

October Babies

October is an awesome birthday month; possibly the second-most awesome in the year.

1st, 1972: Sivin

1st, 1988: Fitrah

4th, 1985: Joy

13th, 1959: Mum

16th, 2001: George the Dachshund

23rd, 1989: Nasha

25th, 1985: Titus

29th, 1988: George the Malayalee

Sunday, October 10, 2010

On Learning: Digital vs Film

I have often heard it said that digital is a better medium, compared to film, by which to learn and train oneself in photography. One can experiment and make mistakes at a lower cost compared to film. While I heartily agree that digital is the best medium to experiment (e.g. with long exposures and other arty stuff), I cannot agree that making mistakes at a lower cost actually helps a person improve his or her photographic skills.

While the cost of a failed shot is undeniably more expensive in film, each of those failed shots teaches the photographer important lessons which are less easily forgotten than digital mistakes. While the digital photographer more often than not just deletes the bad shot, the film photographer is permanently stuck with that bad apple staring back from the negative.

I suppose I speak partly from experience. I've been shooting digital since 2006, but film only since 2009. In the one year of shooting film, my photography gained a sense of focus (no pun intended), purpose and direction it never had in the three years of pure digital.

Maybe I had actually developed those skills in digital, and film just brought me to a higher level; that is, maybe a newcomer should begin with digital, some may say.

But consider this: digital cameras cost more than film cameras. A complete film set may cost about RM500 on the second-hand market, whereas the cheapest DSLR is about RM1800. By the time a budding photographer has shot RM1300 worth of film, he or she would've developed indispensable skills practically unknown to the newbie who blew RM1800 on the DSLR.

I am here assuming, of course, that the photographer in question would eventually explore both film and digital, and I am suggesting that it is probably a better idea to begin with film, then move on to digital, instead of vice versa. Again, this is only if one is pursuing photography for its own sake; if the camera's main function is merely to record events and serve a family or a bunch of friends, then digital is of course the more practical workhorse.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

If I could be...


Sunday, October 03, 2010

Photography Today

Has become, in so many ways, democratised. I remember film point-and-shoot cameras being very popular up until 2003 or so. The next couple of years saw a surge in digital cameras (then called 'digicams') amongst the general public. Today, we simply call them 'cameras' and their film predecessors have more or less been relegated to history.

Lately, the trend in Digital SLR (DSLR) acquisition is nothing short of alarming. Around almost every corner in any given public space or shopping mall, are people with DSLRs hanging around their necks. Whether this is because the masses have suddenly discovered a passion for photography, or because DSLRs are a lot more affordable these days, or simply because it's 'cool' to carry/own a 'high-end' camera, I don't really know. It's probably a mix of all three, plus the fact that many compact cameras have gotten pretty ridiculous with features that are really not integral to photography.

When I started out with my DSLR in 2006, the cheapest models retailed for about RM2700 or so. Today, that money can fetch very decent cameras like the Nikon D90, and most entry level cameras fall into the under-RM2000 bracket.

As the DSLR market becomes saturated, especially with more DSLR-as-accessory users than actual photography enthusiasts, I have over the last year or so forced myself to consider what photography really means to me, and how I can distinguish myself from the hordes of trigger-happy enthusiasts. Someone once said that unique images are made when one points the camera away from where everyone else is pointing theirs, or something to that effect. For me, that 'somewhere else' was film, and the journey has been a very rewarding one so far.

Mr Tomohisa Ikeno, designer of Nikon's flagship film SLR, the F6, said:

I think the essence of [film's] appeal can be summed up as "the value of unique pictures." With a digital camera, the number of pictures you can take is infinite, in the sense that there is no limit in the number of shots to take, unlike shooting with film. Some photographers reject the prospect of such ease, as they desire a more careful, rigorous approach to taking pictures. They want to treasure each picture-taking opportunity by etching their vision on film.

Over the last few weeks and months, I've seen a sudden profusion of DSLR owners; among them, Noel and his D40, Melody and her D3000, Adelene and her D90, Suzanne and her 550D, Louise and her 550D, and Lee Fui and her Lumix G1 (which is not an SLR, but an interchangeable-lens camera nonetheless).

Talking to Suzanne at Len Yi's housewarming, I thought about the days of film, when high ISOs were unheard of. When there was no such thing as Image Stabilization or Vibration Reduction. When pictures could not be previewed and the photographer was limited to 36 exposures of the same ISO at any one time. And, if you go further, when autofocus did not exist (let alone today's insane 39-point or 51-point DSLRs), and when burst mode was a figment of the imagination.

With all those limitations, the photographers of the past produced some really legendary images. If there is one reason why I still find photography exciting, it's because I know I'm not there yet. There is still so much to learn, and so much to accomplish.

A friend recently shared,

Now that there are DSLR toting folks everywhere, I think it's good for you to venture deeper [...] You could dabble with more conceptual and challenging photography. I think it's attention to things like sense of place that set apart the truly great photographers who produce the photographs that really stick around as classic, from all the rest who can take a pretty picture and...that's it, a pretty picture.

It's a challenge I joyfully accept. I think, like Jia Hui, photography does keep me alive and help me stay sane in certain ways.

Emily at Tennis

Em, at the ready.

Em, focus.

Em, service.

Em, after the game. They won 9-7!

Shannon, UM's veteran player.

* * *

I never knew tennis could be this engaging.

SUKMUM, 11th College, 2 October 2010

Friday, October 01, 2010

Merdeka Eve, 2010

A very-much backdated entry.

I spent Merdeka Eve this year doing what is becoming a sort-of discipline for me during the Merdeka season: walking around the streets of Kuala Lumpur. It started with Merdeka Day last year, when George, Hannah, Hyma, Ruth and I walked around town, exploring everything from a part of the Pudu Jail exterior, to the Old Railway Station.

This time around, I started in Pudu, having collected the (still problematic) FM10 from YL, and ended at Dataran Merdeka.

The FM10's meter was faulty, but the service centre would be closed on Merdeka Day. I wanted to take some photos either on the Eve or the Day itself, and so I chanced it (as I once did at Tanjung Tuan on a field trip) and used the camera without a meter, guessing at exposure.

To make things slightly more complicated, I intended to cross-process my roll of Fujichrome Velvia (i.e. develop it in print, instead of slide, film chemicals), and this required that I underexpose each shot by about one stop.

Anyway, what follows is a summary of the adventure. ;-)

* * *

Bus stop, Jalan Pudu.

Jalan Sarawak, between Jalan Pudu and the Pudu LRT station.

On the platform, Pudu LRT station.

Roadside stall, intersection of Jalan Sultan and Jalan Hang Jebat.

Buses, Pasar Seni LRT station.

Queue, Pasar Seni LRT station.

The biggest Jalur Gemilang in town this year belongs to the Agro Bank, Leboh Pasar Besar.

Buka puasa at Dataran Merdeka.