Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Click and Run

Note: All photographs in this entry were taken with a compact point and shoot, Panasonic Lumix DMC-LZ8.

Have you ever come across a photographer wannabe friend who professes how much he knows about camera control and settings, and using such knowledge to create wonderful shots that he claims to be "good photographs", but all you can do as a friend, was replying politely how you agreed with him despite the fact that in your heart, you found nothing good to say about his photographs?

Yes, technically his photographs were perfect, down to the correct exposures, accurate white balance, noise-free and smooth, spot-on focus, good composition, decent sharpness, etc etc. Then you started to question yourself, what were you really looking at in his photograph, just merely pixels, or was there something else?

Therefore, for one session recently when I went out for shooting, I decided, screw all the technicalities, for once.

A sweaty hug under the hot sun.

No place to sit? No problem, just squat.

Five-Foot-Way vending.

Lost not only sight, but life's vision as well.

I admit it is extremely important to know your camera, how it works, and the settings to control it inside out, and you should be able to command your camera at will, even without much effort in getting the shots you want. Nonetheless, I cannot deny the fact that 99% of the photographer friends I have come across (mostly new to digital photography) will comment on the "quality" of your pixels captured, and then give you some feedback on the subject of your photograph. Most of the time, the later was completely ignored. The focus has been placed heavily on "how to shoot your photograph" in comparison to "what you have shot", or "the subject of your photograph". Learning how to shoot with a camera is not exactly rocket science, with diligent reading, open mind and lots of on-hand practice, anyone can master the camera settings and know how to handle it well.

However, what truly sets apart an extremely awe-worthy photographer would be what he photographs, or rather his art of seeing things. In other words, the "photography vision".

Abundance of food, on the streets.

School in the morning, balloon vending in the afternoon.

Guitar, or violin?

Friendship. I felt a huge pang when I saw this scene.

Everything starts with vision. Photography is all about vision. You have to be able to see it with your eyes first. Then you capture what you see with your camera. The captured vision is then reproduced in prints or presented on the computer screen to be seen again. A successful photograph generally gages the viewers attention, in a way that they can see what you are seeing, and to a certain extent, like what you see. Please note the present tense. So let me ask you, if you fail to see the "something" to be photographed in the first place, how can you produce the photograph to be seen? If the first step was not successfully accomplished, all subsequent steps are being nullified.

It is extremely important to SEE, all the way from the beginning, before you even point your camera at whatever you want to photograph.

Loudspeaker to annoy the ears of passer-bys.

Killing time.

A hearty guy-to-guy talk.

A smile, which we do not find many on the streets.

You can give a photographer the best equipments in the world to produce the technically perfect photograph. Nonetheless, if he did not know what to see, and what to photograph, all that he is able to produce would have been merely digital pixels with no depth and meaning. There would be absence of substance and art. The photograph serves as representation of what the camera can produce, rather than what the photographer is seeing. Those kind of photographs are merely showcasing the prowess of today's digital imaging technology instead of expressing the photographer's artistic vision. Yes yes, your 24MP photograph is so sharp. Yes, the full frame bokeh is so delicious, yes you can shoot at ISO 100000000 with noise-free output. But the point is, what the heck are you trying to tell with your photograph?

My goodness, that is a LOT of things !!

People seem to hang out a lot just by the street, and they seem to be enjoying themselves. I must ask them how.

By the road, literally.

Riding on a truck.

Therefore, realizing how important it is to develop my own photography vision, which I do believe is still very much lacking at this point of my journey in photography, I decided to leave my Olympus armada behind, again. Forcing myself on the streets with a compact camera truly put my mind and heart to test. I have to push aside the technicalities, and the complexities of obtaining a technically perfect photographs. Screw the technicalities, screw the camera controls. I want to concentrate on what I want to photograph. I want to see. I want to capture what I see. I need to open my eyes. As well as my mind and heart.

A kid, and a bicycle.

A man, and a motorbike.

Forced child labor.

Standing still.

Screw ISO settings. I set it to Intelligent ISO (with maximum of 1600). Who cares about aperture and shutter speed, I used Programme Exposure shooting mode. Let the camera do the calculations. We should learn to trust our cameras more, provided we know what we are doing. I did not care if my photographs were not perfectly levelled, or have perspective distortion. I just want to capture what I want to capture. I want what I see to be captured, and I want to show you guys what I see on the streets. To be able to do so, I have to walk extremely close to my subjects, and fire away the camera at an arm's length, or even less. Yes, I did "hip-shots", secretly snapping photographs without even looking at the live view on LCD screen, without looking at the subjects while firing away.

I see what I think is worth to photograph, and I walked as close as I can to the subject, and just simply "click". And run. Ok, more like walk away.

Push and pull.

Sweet corns.

On a kopitiam table.

The vision I have had in my mind would be the natural expressions on the faces of the people I see on the streets. I want to be able to record them at such a close distance, that what I see at such intimate level can be translated into my photographs. No, zoom lens does not work. Using zoom lens kills off that "intimacy" factor in the whole equation, which is very, very important. With zoom lens, you can evidently see the distance between the photographer and the subjects, and that distance is the unwanted separation and block between the subject and the viewer.

This could probably be one of the few times you find excessive high-ISO noise and massive amount of distortion in this blog entry in a long, long time. I know, the photographs here really suck, if you perceive it entirely from pure technical standpoints. May I suggest you push the technicalities aside (if you are one of those technical freaks), and just see what I was seeing. There were so many things to see on the streets, so many truths, so many hidden messages that we tend to just lay-by and ignore, there is so much emotions, so stories to read and tell.

Empty seat.

The towers from a distance.

I just wish this thought came to me a lot earlier in my photography journey, not just recently.

There is still a long way for me to slowly develop this "photography vision" in me. Nonetheless, there is no need to speed things too fast. Sometimes it is not the ends that matters the most, and the journey itself can be just as important, and thrilling too.


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

  2. Where are the photos that you screwed all the technicalities?

  3. Dude, text me when you're going compact frenzy again. Might wanna join. :D

  4. Completely agree with you!

  5. hey Rustie,
    All the photos as shown in the entry. Shot with Auto ISO, programme mode, composed without looking on the screen, lots of ISO noise, colour inaccuracy, out of focus shots, blurred due to hand shake, etc etc. Not the usual photos you would usually find me adhering to certain standards I have set for myself.

  6. hey Chong,
    sure thing. Raya holidays you free?

    Hey Nelson,
    Thanks mate.

  7. im looking forward to your first photo essay!


  8. hey marcus,
    LOL I do not think it will happen ahahahah not so soon.

  9. I like this golden words "I just want to capture what I want to capture. I want what I see to be captured, and I want to show you guys what I see on the streets".
    I have been thinking about this long time ago..Thanks man,,,,

  10. hey Awang,
    Thanks mate !! Yeah, it is all about what we see.

  11. For once, I am a person who always rant about my photos. LOL.

    Its so hard to have the what you've called 'photographic vision' or posses the 'artistic' element in the photos that my dad always bugged to me about.

    Sometimes, when I'm not with a camera, I always see things and think 'Oh this scene would look great if I snap it'. I turned all visionary. Aha! But, with a camera, its all gone. Weird.

    Nevertheless, with all technicalities, I just follow Ken Rockwell's advice. Use P mode and put the effort into composing. :)

    (eh wtf I'm blogging inside your comment. LOL. Sorry. Happy holidays!)

  12. hey Snowfire,
    Do not worry, I encourage opinions and open thoughts !! We should all speak up and share our inner ideas so we all can share and learn.
    Photography vision and artistic sense only come through lots of practise. They do not just happen. YOu have to be out there shooting more and more and soon you will find yourself developing your photography vision and artistic sense.
    We must make a shutter therapy session, probably after the raya celebration has quieted own a little.

    Oh and Selamat Hari Raya dude !!

  13. well said robin!
    as usual, i think u speak for the most of the normal photography enthusiasts, if not, at least for me.

    screw the FF / ISO10billions n 100fps burst / bokeh, in street photography especially i think its story behind the photo that is important, not the equipment that produces it.

  14. well said robin!
    as usual, i think u speak for the most of the normal photography enthusiasts, if not, at least for me.

    screw the FF / ISO10billions n 100fps burst / bokeh, in street photography especially i think its story behind the photo that is important, not the equipment that produces it.


  15. Hi Mike,
    thanks so much !! It is soothing to know people do share same viewpoints with me !!