Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Morning Folks

I am not one who shoots random people photos regularly. However, due to recent traumatizing work experiences (if coming home from work at midnight is not traumatizing I do not know what is) I have started to pick up odd and unusual photography habits. Yes, to a certain extent I do believe the photographs do reveal parts and pieces of the photographer and his current state of mind.

If you do a quick research online, or reading guides on people photography on the streets, you will find probably a few dozens of guidelines, many of them contradicting themselves.

Engage Your Subjects, or Shoot Stealthily?

Some would suggest shooting from a distance, being as discreet as possible so you will get a natural looking outcome with the people going around their usual activities, without the slightest hint of the photographer being present. naturalism works at its best in this approach. On the other hand, some others would suggest the photographer to approach the people before photographing them, asking their permission, and making small talks to engage a more personal feel to the overall result. This would often produce images with impact especially photos with direct eye contact with the people you photograph. Adding the drama and story behind the photos may seem like a good approach, no doubt. However, I believe if you go to a beggar at the KL back alley, you might most likely end up going home with an empty camera bag and probably a few broken fingers.

Therefore, keeping a safe distance away from unpredictable psycho maniac beggars out there on the streets should be my priority. Screw all those engaging the subjects techniques, I am not buying it.

Fixed Focus/Prime Lens, or Long Tele-Zoom Lens?

Some strongly recommend the use of a fixed focus lens, or prime lens. 50mm, or 35mm are popular choices to be used on shooting people on the streets, since their visual coverage is closely similar to human eye's perspective. It is encouraged to move yourself as you compose the shots, since zoom is not present on this category of lenses. I used to own a 25mm and 35mm lenses (50mm and 70mm in 35mm format, which were my pancake and macro) but I dare say I did not find those two lenses to be much of use on the streets. On the move, I treasure the ability to zoom, and reach my subjects at any point of location I was standing on. The ability to reach to far places that you are probably physically limited, for example standing behind a fence, or on the opposite side of the road, the zoom lens come in really handy. I am not saying which is better, zoom or prime, but to my preference and shooting style, I would choose tele-zoom anytime.

Black and Whites

I do not know why, but 9 out of 10 street people photos I have come across on the internet or magazines, were in black and white format. For some reasons, B&W is favored over all other types of treatments. I can clearly see why, on the streets many distractions are present, such as the trash bin at the road side, the leftover chicken rice polystyrene white box on the walkway, or that busybody aunty staring from the side. By converting to B&W all the distracting elements composed of different colors are reduced, and your main subject is drawn out as the main attention. I am not exactly a fan of B&W myself, but I do convert my photos every now and then when I see more benefits of doing so. Nonetheless, B&W can produce very powerful people photographs, especially being shot at close range. I have not made any of those shots in this entry. I shall try harder to grab those close-up shots in the future.

Morning Walk

It was the weekend, and life seemed to slow down a pace or two, and I found myself waking up extremely early. I know I should have slept in till at least past noon right? I must be crazy or something to wake up too early.

I made my way to the city, and found myself strolling down a busy street not too far from a wet market. I found a cool shady location to lay my huge heavy ass on, and got my gears ready for shooting. For the first time, I was not actively stalking my subjects. All I did was wait for something to happen. It was a little bit like fishing, I have got to be alert and waiting all the time. When I saw some opportunities coming by, I had to ready myself, and start snapping away. Some shots I managed to capture, but there were misses too. This went on for hours, until it was close to noon.

The shooting process itself was quite enjoyable in this session. I did not have to sweat, and it was really fun watching people from a distance, and immerse yourself in the daily walk of the people in the busy street. Observing their actions, and their facial expression were more than rewarding for me. Gosh, am I getting old?

I am not really a people person. In contrast to that, I do however, enjoy shooting people. I should do this more.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Shoot to Impress

I believe one of the strongest reasons why many young (beginner) photographers are ripping their hair off their head was due to the fact that they tried too hard to impress.

Lets not overanalyze things, and allow me to illustrate with a simple model case.

A photographer wannabe bought a DSLR. He was glad with his purchase. He then snapped some photos. He was happy with his photos, and he wanted to share his work with his friends. He thought his shots were pretty good. He showed his photographs to his friends, and asked for comments. One friend said: “I could have taken better photographs with my camera phone.” Another friend said “Your DSLR is cheap, you should try use a full frame and a F2 lens.”. Yet, another complained about “lousy composition, no drama, and no story behind the photograph”. One more friend said “There is nothing special about your photograph.” Finally, one guy just hammered the last nail into the coffin and said “Your photo sucks.”

Oh dear, what went wrong?

Was it true that the photographs he took were so bad that everybody had something bad to say about them?

Did he try to show off too soon?

When is the time to show your photography works then?

Was it because he was so new to photography that he tried his best but people around him did not see the fact that he was trying, but simply hammered him down because they knew if they said something good it would inflate the photographer’s ego so much that he would frighten a whale?

Did he deserve any of the comments?

I would like to see the fault being partially laid on the newbie photographer himself. His mistake was, trying too hard to impress.

I knew, because I was probably one good example, well, not to such an extreme extent but it was sufficient for me to relate. I can say this could most likely be the similar case for most people out there, undertaking the same path as I did.

Sometimes, we just need to remind ourselves that we are not born to make everyone around us happy. This fact applies not only to photography, but to most things in life generally. Seriously, would it matter that much if that friend of yours think your photos are not really “suiting his preferences”? Why do you need his approval in the first place? The first question you have to ask yourself is this: Do you like your own photographs? Then you ask: Is it really good, by your own standards? You do not need others to convince and tell you how good you are. Unless, of course, you are one attention seeking whore, who demands appreciation and praises all around you ahemmmm shyly hides myself.

Seriously, comments and feedbacks should be tools for further improvements, and being as constructive as possible. They should never be seen as morale breaking self devastation.

Of course, in practice things were never that simple. We all care too much of what people say. There are also circumstances when we never invited any comments at all, but people still intrusively shoot their bullets and arrows at you mercilessly.

I have been through quite a few stages and changes of mindset as I travel through this world of photography, as new as I am to this alien place. There was a time when I do care about what every single person said, and that was the time when I could be badly affected especially being hit by a few friends who do matter to me. There were also times when I would defend myself so brashly, and counter attack the offensive comments with my own stand and justifications on why I presented my photographs the way I did. It even came to a point that I had to explain why I loved shooting what I chose to shoot, and why I deviate from the mainstream stereotype of photography style. I am glad to say that, those trends are slowly coming to pass. I am seeing things more clearly now, and I have less concern on what others have to say about my work.

I shoot for myself, most of the time. I have even named my own photography sessions as shutter therapy. Shutter therapy means a lot of things to me. Firstly, it has to do with cameras, and a whole lot of going around heavily on photography. Secondly, it is a therapy, both to my mind and soul. I shoot photos to refresh my mind, to temporarily exit this world full of sadistic people and cruel intentions. I entered a world void of negative emotions, and free of troubles and fear. This is the perfect therapy for my mind, it worked like drugs, and as far as I would go into this state of mind, it calmed myself and allowed me to clear my thoughts, seeing things in a better perspective. This is the main reason that drives me so deep into photography.

The main person I should try to please, would be myself. Not you.

Of course, I should not brush people aside if they do feel like giving their feedback. I am not saying, I should take comments lightly. That was not what I meant at all. However, the days when I would lose sleep just because someone said my shots are “sub-standard”, are behind me. If you think you can do better than me, you do not even have to say a word. Just show me your photos, and let your photos speak to me.

Having said all that, I must also acknowledge that photography is a form of art. Art is a medium that communicates with people. Therefore, I cannot be entirely just be shooting for myself alone only. My photography works should be able to connect to people, and send out messages that I have implanted inside the works. How people choose to see the story behind the photographs, would be entirely up to them. The interpretations are left wide open, and why limit yourself? If people can see your photographs in ways that you could never imagine possible, that also means your piece of work has achieved certain artistic value.

I am far from being called, a good photographer. The journey has merely begun. Like I have mentioned many times, I am not in a rush. The journey itself matters to me, and every single step I take, no matter how small, leads me forward into this wonderful world. Each step I take I learn, and improve. It is the journey of learning, that I enjoy the most. The rewards of photography is not so much of what people tell you what they think, but the whole process of the experience in making wonderful images.

Today, I learn to open up my mind, not to shoot to impress, and move beyond the traumatizing, non-constructive and worthless people who do not appreciate art or photography.

From now onwards, I shall put my heart and soul in my photographs. I want to climb to the level that, people can actually recognize part of who I am, just by seeing my photographs. Someday, this might just come true.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Curry Noodles, Sugar, Coffee and Friends

So besides the PC Fair chicks photographing marathon I had last weekend, it was finished off with some quality time spent with friends.

With Coffee, Sugar, and Curry Noodles of course.

Oh, and cameras too. Look, everyone's holding one.

Why can't life be this simple all the time?

Sunday, April 18, 2010

PC Fair April 2010

Life has not exactly been smooth sailing since I have returned from my recent trip home to Kuching. Work has picked up from an unsightly high pile on my desk, reaching home at 10pm is actually considered early by current standard. It did not help when my home PC was starting to cause a few problems to a point it failed to even boot up and enter the BIOS setup. that explains my less than frequent blog updates. Then nasty ants decided to nest inside one of my speakers, rendering my only woofer unit in my room useless at the moment. I guess these were the days where everything just seemed to go wrong.

Nonetheless, the weekend came, and it was the PC Fair I was looking forward to. With friends, Fred and Chun Chow, we went into the halls and got our cameras clicking, flash firing at the PC Fair girls, who were already so readily available for posing. Their heavy make up with fake eye-lashes, probably half baked modeling poses and the forced smile were the only consolation I could be getting for myself over this gloomy week. Spending quality times with friends was just what I needed to end the week off.

So yeah, it might take a while before I return to my usual pace again. Life can throw punches at you at times, but sometimes, you just have to hit your fist back square on Life's face and make its nose bleed so hard that it will just start to get better and better from there onwards.

Until then, do enjoy the photographs I have taken in this session. All photographs were taken with Olympus E-520 with 11-22mm F2.8-3.5, and FL-36R flash.

So amongst all the girls, which one is your favorite PC Fair Girl? Do tell.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

April Fool Birthday

It was on April Fool's day, that a group of crazy young engineers decided to celebrate the birthday of a colleague. Some of us had serious pizza cravings not me I swear and we all know Pizza Hut sucks, hence we were left with not that many options. Domino's Pizza came in mind, and we all headed to Mid Valley right after work. No no, the birthday actual day was not on 1st April, we just celebrated it on that day out of mere spontaneity, and for the heck of it.

I have to admit it was not exactly an ordinary day, when almost ALL junior engineers of the company (excluding only one member, who had other commitments on that day} came out in full force and flocked a dining place, eating together and celebrate an auspicious occasion such as a birthday. Even the staff at Domino's were kind of scared looking at how ridiculously loud we were chatting over our pizza, and how bizarre engineer's laughters can get at times. The screaming kid next to our table just could not compete. Darn, what have I become, seriously.

Wei Chen, Syazwan, Alvin

WyKeen, Nathan, Wei Chen

Azlina, Nathan, Ainaa, WyKeen, Diana

Since there were so many of us, we ordered eight (or more?) pizzas, and with this many number, we had almost all flavours, toppings and types of crusts ordered. It is not an everyday thing to see this many pizza being laid on the table, especially dining in. Take-outs do not count, and take-outs are usually cold, with soggy crusts. Having the pizza right out fresh from the oven is the way to go.

Wei Chen and Me

Jamie, Ben, Diana, Wei Chen, Azlina, Ainaa, Nathan and WyKeen

We had cake in office, hence there was no cake here. Nonetheless, we did something really interesting for the birthday boy, Nathan. When we were all squeezed into the elevator, with probably almost a dozen more strangers, suddenly we all started singing the "happy birthday" song. You should have seen the horror on the faces of those other people who watched us, with their jaws practically sagging low to the floor. Yeah, seriously, if you are dating an engineer, you should question yourself why.


Back: Sim, Alvin, Ben, WyKeen. Front: Azlina, Diana, Ainaa, Nathan, Jamie, Wei Chen, and Syazwan

It was just a few days before I made my trip home to Kuching, which I have blogged extensively.

Damned, Broadway Pizza, where art thou?

I need Thee, Broadway Pizza !!! I need Thee desperate-ethly.