It has come to the time of the year again, when any blogger would usually do a summary post to round up the happenings throughout the entire year, and share his reflections and thoughts on his journey so far. My blog has been around for five solid years now, I have never anticipated myself to last this long when I first signed up with Blogger. I am not showing signs of stopping, in fact, I believe I am merely seeing just the tip of the iceberg. Many great things have yet to come, and I am excited knowing that more opportunities will be opened and I shall not waste them.
What has happened through the past 12 months of my life? The year 2010 has been rather kind to me. Instead of describing my stories with endless words, allow me to use a selection of my past photography work being spread throughout the year 2010 to aid me in highlighting the points I want to tell here. Those photographs may not be anything special in particular, but they were certainly my favourites. I shall elaborate on why I chose the photographs, and what significant meaning they carry.
The incense coil was shot in a temple in Batu Pahat, Johor, which I have visited earlier this year. It was raining heavily. This is a rather special, symbolic photograph. The cruel and aggressive weather was fighting against the incense from burning. At the beginning of this year, I identified myself strongly with the incense coil, when I was thrown into a whirlpool of uncertainties. I was very clueless on my employment with the directions the company was leading me to, I was also very unprepared for the challenges I was facing in my growth in photography. How can I burn, if the constant wind was blowing at me, and the rain water kept splashing mercilessly?
Long Journey Ahead
The jetty platform was taken in Batu Pahat, Johor, during a cloudy sunset. When ever I see this photograph it reminded me of a journey that seems to stretch forever, but somehow, you know where the end leads to. There is nothing at the end of the jetty but the sea water itself. My pace would be slow, but I will get there somehow. This applies vividly to my goals in life, and the things I intend to accomplish. They all seem so far ahead, and out of reach at the moment.
That object, if you cannot recognize it, was a ripped out CRT from an old television unit. Throughout my relationship with friends and family, sometimes I do feel left behind and unwanted. Many people have chosen to discard friendship which they feel "unimportant" to them. I have had more than a case of such tragedy. I guess I am one of the few weird guys who treasure and admire loyalty. Have you had a friend who changes circle of friends as often as he changes his underwear? It happened to me this year, which was a sad case, but I have moved on now. Screw that ungrateful jerk, I am done being emo because of him.
The photograph of the plane about to land was taken at a beach just next to the Phuket International Airport. There was a communication hiccup between the group of friends I went to Phuket with and I got an earlier flight ticket to Phuket, alone. I spent my time at the nearby beach and witnessed such awesome scene of planes flying at dangerously low height by the majestic seaside view. Not something one can see every day elsewhere in the world. This was an important moment in my life, because I was truly alone, in a place where I could not find a single signboard with English words, and I never felt more out of place in my entire life. Yet, I enjoyed myself, in some odd ways.
Swim before you Walk
I was at Maya Beach, a smaller island outside of Phuket, the place where the movie "The Beach" starring Leonardo di Caprio was filmed. I found these crutches being left on shore, while the person was most likely swimming joyfully in the ocean. This particular image sparked something within me. A limitation, or a restriction which was positioned around oneself should not be an excuse to stop that person from going further. Though the person with the crutches was possibly injured or handicapped, nothing stopped him from being able to fully enjoy what the possibly best beach in the world could offer him. Sometimes, we can run, before we can walk. I always look back to this photograph to remind myself of what I could have been, if I truly put my whole heart and soul into what I am doing.
I have decided to push myself harder in my learning curve for photography. I picked up Pseudo-HDR technique, which was to convert a RAW file into a fake-HDR looking output. This experimentation process defines my characteristics as a growing photographer. The results from such trial and error techniques may not wow many viewers, but it is an important step, no matter how small, to progress in photography. I do not want to sit still, and be stagnant in my progress. Whenever I have the opportunity, I will try out something new, something different, to add a new perspective to my photography development. I am glad I decided to broaden my choices of photography subjects.
The Art of Seeing
Throughout the year 2010, I have also discovered one of the important secret in making better photographs. It is not about what camera or lenses you use, it is not even about your technical skills, and experience is overrated anyway. The secret is in the art of seeing. This is not exactly something new, it has been taught in art schools or any traditional photography classes. The old buildings at the image above may look dull and mundane by itself, but I saw it from a different perspective. I saw vibrancy in duplicity which was portrayed in the perfect reflection, created by nothing more than a simple puddle of rain water. Seeing those building through the reflection has turned an otherwise boring looking old buildings into something different altogether. The photographer's eye is the most powerful weapon in photography.
I have had the opportunity to photograph a Malay Wedding. It was quite a refreshing experience, and the wedding ceremony itself was an eye-opener to me. I particularly like the way the Malay culture and tradition come to work when they handle large events and ceremonies. There was so much togetherness, so much closeness that you practically feel you are a part of the large community. There were so many colours and everyone was so happy, the feeling of joy was overflowing.
Capturing moments was not an easy thing to do. You have to be extremely alert to your surroundings all the time, and as you saw the opportunity coming, you must react quick, because moments, especially the great ones do not repeat themselves. Unless you are some intrusive offensive photographers who would inconsiderately interrupt the wedding ceremony and annoyingly request the couple to repeat those lost moments, just to photograph. I saw the bride walking slowly towards the baby, I instantly switched from my 14-42mm (standard wide zoom) to my 40-150mm (long tele zoom) on my Olympus E-520. As I pointed the camera on them, I extended the zoom to its longest reach, and just in time the bride was about to kiss the baby, I locked on focus and fired away. Should I have been one second later, the moment was lost. I admit, luck played a part too in this shot, alongside with pre-planning, anticipation of opportunity and fast response. This has remained my favorite for a long, long time.
I have picked up something new this year. I have started to explore the world of Street Photography. Before this, I have not truly immersed myself with street photography. I grew more and more in love with street the more I delved deeper into it. I have learned so much, and grew to be a better photographer, especially training myself in the "art of seeing". On the streets, the techniques are important, but what matters more would be the choice of subjects. I have also discovered more about myself, and understand my journey and progress in photography better, thanks to my routine of attacking the streets weekly. Yes, I have become addicted to Street Photography, something I never expected to happen.
The things to photograph on the streets are endless. People full of emotions, stories and characters are readily available to be attacked by you. I found myself deeply attracted to the streets of Chow Kit. I must have been there a few dozen times, and I never got bored of it. The place was just full of photography opportunities in every single corner. It was a place of truth, some can be quite sad and depressing, the opposite of what we can find in the news or television projecting the image of Malaysia through the modernized developed places such as Bukit Buntang or KLCC. Chow Kit, is the true Kuala Lumpur at its heart. I felt strongly to capture such truthful pictures and share it.
A photograph showing a homeless man getting up in the morning. One of the truths I was referring to, was the massive amount of homeless people living on the streets, especially Chow Kit. It was quite interesting to discover this, because I thought living standards in Kuala Lumpur has improved over the decades and has become one of the developed cities with hundreds of concrete and steel skyscrapers standing proudly. It was sad to see that the community here can be this ignorant, as they walk by the streets closing their one eye to the existence of the homeless people sleeping by the street side. Have we become so arrogant that we decided to neglect those in need? Is this the true characteristics that define what Malaysians are? Have we forgotten that, regardless of who anyone is, homeless or not, beneath it all, they are also human?
An old couple, walking side by side, even at such old age, was something very moving for me. This shot stirred something inside me, and it gave me hope that there are loyal people too out there, and not everyone cheats. Or, am I wrong? I have heard so many breakup stories from my friends throughout this year. Seem like it is THE year for breakups. So many heartaches, so many cheatings, so many unfaithful encounters. So many lies and deceits. Why is it so hard for us to stay loyal?
No Shoes on my Feet
No shoes, no magic carpet, no roof, and no friends. The reason why I am being attracted to such depressing and cruel scenes would most possibly due to my own fear of becoming one myself. I too, have many worries about my future. Anything can happen in life, something so awful that can rip apart everything way from me. The fear manifested itself as subjects for me to photograph on the streets. It was painful, witnessing the homeless as they struggle through their lives. It was this pain, that gave so much energy in these images.
Shedding New Skin
The photograph shows a Cicada in a molting process, shedding the old skin. I too, have been going through quite a number of changes in my life lately. So many things have happened that I was forced to shed my skin and transform myself to adapt to such changes. Firstly, my change of job from an office based engineer to full time site engineer, and of course, my increasingly active photography assignment to top that up. Compared to 2009, there was certainly a lot more drama going on my career life, a lot more have I gone through and experience. Similarly, in photography, I have progressed further now. I feel like a new person, and heck, I even had a new haircut.
I found myself being gravitated more and more towards wedding photography. I am still not sure if wedding photography is something I would want to specialize in the future, but for now, I sure do enjoy taking photographs of actual wedding days, tremendously. Capturing special moments, happiness, laughters, and tears were just something that touched my soul every single time I photographed a wedding. I have received more and more assignment now, but at the same time I dared myself to move forward to take up the challenge. This was part of my aims which I have set for myself, to push myself further in photography.
Besides Pseudo-HDR, I have also experimented with panorama technique. The above shot was a stitched photograph of originally 12 images (4x3), which were all shot hand held. The stitching software was a freeware: Hugin. I used this technique to compensate the lack of having an ultra wide lens, which would cost a bomb.
The Catch of the Year
The photograph was taken at my room window, as I woke up one morning hearing the buzzing sound of the wasp. I believe the climax of this blog, as well as my photography development for the year 2010 happened when I was approached by Olympus Malaysia, and a loaned unit of Olympus E-5 which I did a user-review on. Subsequently, due to massive amount of positive response from all over the world, Olympus Malaysia has decided to present me with a complimentary Olympus E-5, which I am actively using today. For the first time, after constantly blogging for so many years, going through all the struggle in photography (which a lot of people thought all was useless and empty effort that yielded no return, a complete waste of time), I am finally seeing the larger picture. It was as if all the smaller pieces are starting to fall nicely into place, and this was a taste of greater things to come. I was overjoyed to say the least, the day I received the Olympus E-5. This, was a defining moment in my life. At that moment, I felt like the giant wasp that has just clasped the delicious ant on his jaws.
No matter where I am, no matter where I have been, my heart will always belong in a place where I call home. I have only returned to Kuching twice in 2010, which was not as frequent as I intended. I miss my family, and I must make a note to return more often in the coming year.
I have already summed up my 2010 year in this entry. I could not ask for anything better this year. I have had my accomplishments which I am very happy about, and as a motivation for me to drive myself even further.
A special thanks to all you beautiful readers who have supported me all this time, and gave me encouragement to go on. It was because of you all that I truly felt my effort and time spent on photography and on this blog have been worthwhile. I only wish more people would respond/comment (I know there are many silent readers around, heh !!) because I really want to know your thoughts and hear your ideas.
Should I start to prepare my resolutions for 2011? Or should I stay resolution-less like my previous years?