Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Swordsmanship Vs Photography

Side Note: All photos in this entry were taken with my Panasonic Lumix DMC-LZ8.

Having been involved in the world of photography for some time now, I cannot help but find it amusingly similar in comparison to Kung Fu, particularly Sword-fighting. Metaphorically picturing the situations together, the photographer can be likened as the kung fu practitioner, and the camera is being represented as the sword.

Here are my reasons why photography is the modern day sword-fighting kung-fu.

1) A swordsman’s identity (origin, school and rank) is defined by his sword. A photographer’s profession (landscape shooter, portrait, events) is portrayed by his choice of camera and equipments.

2) All kendo schools in Japan require their students to pick up sword fighting by using wooden sticks first. As the students progress in skills and experience, then were they allowed to use real swords for practice. We should learn from this. As a beginner, a photographer should start with basic camera and equipments, be it a compact point and shoot, or an entry level DSLR. It makes no difference no matter how good your camera or lenses are at this stage. This point is further elaborated in the point 3) below.

3) An inexperienced swordsman who is not ready in mind, spirit and body to control the power of the sword can only result in nothing good, but destruction. He has not the ability to cut what needs be cut, and refrain from cutting what needs not be cut. Inevitably he ended up cutting those around him and even himself. The conclusion drawn from this allegory is apparent: using top end/expensive/professional camera and gears will not get you anywhere, if you are not ready and sufficiently equipped in skills and knowledge to use it. There is no gain whatsoever by upgrading your lens or camera body, if you are not able to fully bring out its potential. By all means, if you are still a beginner, stay with your wooden sticks.

Goodness gracious, what are we teaching our children these days? To CAMWHORE? In public some more.

4) Mastering the advanced sword techniques is just one of the many factors defining a skilful swordsman. Additionally, the swordsman needs to be in tip-toe fitness, extremely fast in reaction and adapt to his fighting environments. Being able to read the oponent’s movements, and find the enemy’s weaknesses can lead to a clear advantage. Photography is not so indifferent. Understanding how the camera works, knowing how to use advanced techniques to capture amazing shots are just the first few steps. How good your photograph turns out ultimately depends on heaps of other factors, such as varying on-site lighting conditions, how quick you can think to adapt to your ambience, how you work around the points of disadvantage to your shooting, and how prepared you are in your tasks.

5) A student learns only 90% from his Master/Sifu. Nevertheless, there is nothing stopping the student from developing his own technique to overpower the Master. To create awe-worthy images, we should not be bound by standards set by our predecessors, we should instead, over-exceed their expectations.

6) Sword-fighting skills can only be improved by constant diligent trainings. The more you train the faster and stronger you become, and the more you can do with your sword. The same thing applies to photography. Photography skills can only be improved dramatically through countless hours of shutter clicking. Only on the field can you fully grasp the necessary actions and develop appropriate response to the related shooting conditions. You can never expect your skills to improve without much practice.

7) The largest sword may not necessarily be the best sword. If the sword is too huge and heavy it would hinder the movement and agility of the swordsman, compromising his fighting advantages. Similarly, large camera and lenses are not suited for all kinds of shooting conditions. In cases when high mobility and lots of movements are required, shooting with more compact, light and smaller set of gears would be the better option.

Working with just a mere compact camera to obtain the above shot was quite a nightmare.

8) Japanese swords (katanas) are the best swords ever made in the history. Unsurprisingly, the best cameras and lenses come from Japan.

9) A true swordsman lives by the sword. He carries one around everywhere he goes. A true photographer does pretty much the same, he carries one camera everywhere he goes in order not to miss out any photo opportunities.

10) A lot of the most powerful kung fu masters will have to undergo the process of losing part/whole of his genitals to accomplish the highest level of their art. With all my heart I am thankful this is not applied to photography. Or am I wrong in this regard?


  1. Well said, coming from a shutter god like Robin! Haha. With your skill, I am pretty sure you can write your own skill book already. :P

    So, when are we crossing swords? :P

  2. hey chong,
    LOL !! what about it?

    Hey jasonmumbles,
    yerr... I am just an apprentice !! ahahaha.. a young one though.
    Cross swords? Cannot lah.. ur "sword" is damned huge weiii

  3. Dude.... u and your olympus fetish!
    Best optics come from them ugly Germans!

  4. hey fish tan,
    I did not even mention olympus LOL. Canon L Lenses rock, remember?

  5. then wat about japanese samurais who carry 2 swords. one for battle and one for committing suicide?


  6. Marcus !!! You are so brilliant !!
    One camera for shooting generally, and one dedicated camera for shooting yourself, which we call CAMWHORING !! simply genius.

  7. HAHAHAHAHA nice reply nice reply! shooting yourself indeed! LOL