Thursday, January 21, 2010

Rediscovering the Joy of Photography

Side Note:
All photographs were taken with a 4MP compact point and shoot camera, Kodak CX7430, which has died since early 2007.
All photographs were taken from the span of years 2004 to 2006, in my lovely hometown Kuching, Sarawak.

I have been so engrossed with the photography world lately that people probably see me as a camera rather than a human being. I believe it is so easy to be obsessed, and get carried away to an entirely different planet where the only sound audible would be the shutter clicks. My blog has become dangerously annoying for many during the first half of the year 2009, discussing heavily on my thoughts and experiences throughout my photography learning journey. Although there are plenty of new readers I may have attracted due to the drastic change of blogging style, I must have shun away just as many. Realizing this, I have made every effort; though slow, to tone down my contents to annoy you beautiful people less.

This entry shall serve as a push back button for me to reflect on my photography journey, to see where it all began, and to rediscover why I fell in love with photography in the first place. I draw immense amount of inspiration looking at these old photographs and I hope I can impart traces of that impact to you as well.

Kuching skies have always been dramatic. The cloud formation itself is breathtaking enough. Unker Francis Ho knows best how to capture Kuching skies.

A very beautiful sky can add great depth to your landscape photograph, even one taken with a mere compact camera ! The importance of the sky cannot be overemphasized.

Stash of Old Photographs

While I was cleaning up and rearranging my forever cluttered desk, I found a stash of backup CDs with photographs dating as far back as 2004, when I got my first digital compact camera. There were three CDs in total, with photographs taken from my precious Kodak CX7430, spanning from 2004 to 2007, before it finally died, and got replaced by another more advanced Kodak. I quickly inserted the CDs into the computer and found that all the old photographs were still in place !! Thank goodness I am a person who backs up photographs regularly.

One of the main reasons I take photographs was to document the food I eat. This is Sarawak Belacan Bee Hoon. Can't find it elsewhere, trust me.

Sarawak Laksa, beats Penang Laksa, and any other laksas elsewhere, anytime. No argument will be entertained.

The best way to eat the infamous Sarawak Kolo Mee is having it with the ocean wind blowing on your face.

One of the food tasting sessions I tagged along Georgette Tan.

Simple person, simple times

As I was browsing through the photographs, I cannot help but feel the tinge of nostalgic feeling. It did not just come from good old memories, but I was seeing myself as a simple boy, who was eager to point his camera at anything that he came across. The Kodak was a pure point and shoot, and I must have almost used the setting “Auto” most of the time. Who cares about shutter speed, aperture and ISO? The hell with high ISO noise issues, and the hell with harsh flash exposures. All I cared about back then was “having fun with the camera”. I did consider how my photographs turn out to a certain extent, and slowly my passion on photography grew bigger and bigger ever since. Nonetheless, what drove me was the excitement and thrill of making photographs, freezing time and memories into a medium which can be summoned and evoked at anytime you choose, even now, 6 years later from the first time I held up the camera.

It was simplicity that made photography such a fulfilling hobby, me not being a serious enthusiast, but as a simple guy, eager to have fun making happy photographs.

Sarawak River, looking as majestic as ever.

Simplicity works

Looking at the set of photographs, I must say, there are many qualities I should learn from my old self. Although my technical understanding of the camera was terrible back then, with a compact camera which I had no control over it whatsoever, I must admit there were times I managed to capture better photographs than I can today. I worked more with what my eye saw, and not having to think about so many things, I just captured the moment as it was. Sometimes, all that matters was being there at the right time, and having a camera with me, I had the opportunity to make photographs happen. Worry about photo quality later. Just keep your camera pointing on the subjects, and keep it simple.

Looking back at those photographs, beaches in Kuching is not that bad after all !!


Another reason why my photographs come out with a different appeal from what I produce these days can be quite obvious: change of lifestyle. I strongly believe that our work, whichever field we are doing, can reflect our current state of mind, and well being. Our emotions and life stories can be evidently shown in how we express our feelings, and photography is just a platform for that. Most of the photographs were taken during my university times, and the time before I started working. Those were the times when so many new things were being discovered. There was a sense of freshness and newness in the photographs, and a touch of uncertainty to the environment. I was quite hesitant, and reserved in my approach on the photographs, as opposed to my increasingly aggressive manners nowadays. What I shot back then looked a lot more passive, but gentle and peaceful in another perspective. I did not make the shots happen, nor did I try to alter and control them, as they were already there, and my job was to record it. Nothing more, nothing less.

I used to take the bus a lot.

And I camwhored in the bus too.

Cat in a Cat City

In addition to the above, most of the photographs displayed in this entry were taken in my hometown, Kuching. Yes, I deeply miss Kuching now that I have been away for so long. I was born and raised in Kuching, hence the place was no stranger to me. Although I may adopt a reserved approach in photography back then, I can still capture Kuching and present it in a way I can call it my home. I belong to this land, and the sense of belonging was evident throughout the photo series. My set of photographs taken in KL may be colourful and bright and awe-worthy in some other ways, but they lack the “you are there” feeling. They do not engage the viewers as strongly as my older set of photographs. This also shows how connected I am to my hometown, despite of me being so far away.

Back to Basics

Now that I have picked up a DSLR, I must constantly remind myself why I started photography in the first place. It was not to please anyone, it was not an excuse to show off, and certainly, it was not an obsession. I wanted a camera so I can use it to capture wonderful moments, and immortalize great times. I want to remember, and I will make every effort to remember through the photographs. Photography has evolved into a lot more than just that to me, but my philosophy has never changed: simplicity works best. If I can produce such loveable results with just merely point and shoot with virtually zero photography knowledge, why do I find it so difficult to make a photograph that I can feel happy about these days?

I just loved looking into Kuching Sky.

I want to return to the basics again. I want to rediscover the joy of picking up a camera.


  1. Good stuff robin. I was also in a sense "innocent" when I was taking photos with my Nikon compact, and I can say that I'm proud with some of my little achievements. Yes, we should return to the essence of why we take photos, to treasure memories and 'immortalize great times'. And it was much lighter and smaller back then! :p

  2. tat's why i got myself a LX-3... WOOO HOOOOOOOO...

  3. hey brandon,
    thanks !! Yeah, it was those times that we do not worry much about anything else but just click the shutter button.
    But we have all evolved, have we not?

    hey LKM,
    LOL.. LX3, good on you. At least its not that overrated S90.

  4. Btw LKM, what happened to your blog? you deleted it??

  5. lx-3 is more fun thn E-3 man... wakakakakka...

    i deleted it... now using this blog

  6. Hey LKM,
    then give me your E3.
    why delete the old one? I thought it was pretty good.
    I shall update my link to your blog soon. Cheers.

  7. You made me miss Kuching even more T____________T

    I wanna go homeeeeeee

  8. hey Jian,
    Come come lets fly home together !! And attack the laksas and kolo mees !!

  9. hey chong,
    yeah man !! Blue blue sky !!

  10. i have followed your blog religiously ever since your compact camera days and i am still awed that you are a self taught photographer!

    anyway, not sure how sarawak laksa tastes like but it sure looks different from spore laksa!


  11. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  12. hey marcus,
    thanks man !! ahaha, laksa rocks !!
    You must try it one day !

  13. i accidentally deleted all my post... thought of removing some of the old ones only...

    but since all the post missing.. lazy to continue since that address has been used since like 6-7 years ago or more...

    start new one la... better :P

  14. Hey lkm,
    wow, deleted all entries! Scary.
    But i agree fresh start is good. Btw link updated haha

  15. i think u just need to take a short break from photography and come back refreshed! OR maybe u just need a change in scene altogether like going back to australia! LOL


  16. hey marcus,
    You have read my mind too well my friend !!

  17. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  18. Good to have you back Robin.