Friday, December 29, 2006

Geek Rules!!

One learns from adversity. Like Rocky Balboa says, No pain, No gain.

In the recent digital troubles that I have had, I managed to turn a PC computer into a print server. Previously, my D-Link router had a print server, but only two of the pcs could access it. The new netgear router I bought does not have a print server. But using one pc to be the print serve has allowed all the computers in the office to print through it, Macs and PCs. So I learnt something new. Amongst all this learning, I found that firewalls, although important for keeping your computers safe from outside intruders, are the number one cause of communications not working.

When buying my new modem router from South Asia Computing, the salesman told me that the modems and routers do not last long if switched on 24/7. I should switch them off when not in use. I have been changing my router and modem like once a year. Now it gets switched off when the office is not in use, maybe it will last me a couple of years.

I have a PC that was used by the office manager. It was a made to order box from Sim Lim. It has been unstable for years. I got the power supply and graphics card changed but the computer still mysteriously rebooted once in a while. So I got the office manager a Dell which works well as is not the office print server. But the old computer is not a complete waste. I installed it with an extra drive that has been suspect as well. I put in the newest version of itunes and made a copy of all my music from my mac. I now have a music server in my room in my parent's home. :)
I am typing this entry on this relatively unreliable machine while listening to world music. It does not hurt me if the computer dies in the middle of unessential work. But it has behaved quite well so far.

As a photographer I have a huge amount of digital data. I bought enclosures that house 4 drives and connect by firewire to workstations I have. To be safe, I keep 2 copies of each set of information. My poor assistants spent a lot of time copying files from the workstation to one drive and then the second. I just found out that the Macs have can do Raid 1. This is where two drives are made to have the same information automatically. If one drive dies, that drive is replaced and the information is once again copied to 2 drives. By using the built in Raid 1 of the Mac OS X, I have made the assistant's job easier, and my digital files safer. The cost of this, free. And soon, I will have one copy of the information that will be kept off site.

As cool as these firewire boxes are, I will be switching soon to these Network Attached storage boxes by Infrant, the ReadyNAS NV+. These boxes have hardware Raid 5 and by being networked attached are accessible by all the computers in the office network. With this pronouncement, I officially admit that I am a geek. Eek! Well, if you understand what I just wrote, you are a geek too!

Here is another a couple of freebies I find useful. I shoot tethered to a computer. It used to be a Sony Vaio and now I have a Mac book Pro. It is nice to have the captured files on the shoot computer copied to an attached USB drive. (Yes, I am giasu, but I rather think of it as being professional.) But managing the copying of files from the shoot computer to a folder is tedious. There are free, yes free programs, that can sync the contents of 2 folders. On the PC, the program is called sync toy, made by Microsoft no less. On the Mac, there is a program called Filesync that does it. Whenever there is a break in the shoot, we get the sync programs to makesure that new files are copied to the external drive.

Ok. Enough. Geek Rules!!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Digital Trauma

I am so glad for the lull in work. I was expecting a really laid back Christmas holiday season but it was not meant to be.

A couple of weeks back my O2 XDA died on me. It was just dead. Trying to keep in contact and organised, I decided to buy an O2 Atom exec. I wanted the built in wi-fi. Dang, the Atom Exec started working up, and had to be put into the service centre for 3 days. :( In the mean time I went and got a cheap Nokia without a camera. I had to get it anyway because I have reservists end of January and I need a phone without camera. But I had to sync all my information from my laptop to my Atom a couple of times this week. I also sent in my old PDA to find out what happened to it.

Then my DVD player has been acting up for several months now. I went and bought a lens cleaner and it did not help. I brought the DVD player down to the service centre and was told that it would cost $40 for any servicing done. I decided to go buy a new DVD player, a Philips one, for $89. The cost between servicing and new things does not make sense nowadays. The best part is that when I got back with the new DVD player, the tray would not open. I had to go back to the shop to get a one to one exchange. What a waste of time.

Then my network router and modem decided to die on me. This is happening about once a year. I decided to buy an all in one from Netgear. The Linksys and D-Link equipment that I have bought before was really not user friendly. I bought a ADSL modem, router and wireless set at Funan. The salesman told me that all the boxes are about the same and we should not have the boxes on 24/7, they overheat and get spoilt. :( Wow, the high standard of workmanship nowadays is astounding.

Anyway, I got the Netgear box back to the office and it took me a couple of hours to set it up. It could have been much faster if the ease set-up wizard had not kept detecting the wrong settings for the ADSL service. I kept ending up at a page to enter a fixed ip address. I rang up Singtel and the only help I got was that Singtel does not have fixe ip addresses. Ahhh... yeah... thank you very much. And once the easy setup wizard started going I kept getting back to it in spite of the many things I tried. But I finally found the button to let me configure the Router manually, it took me all of 5 minutes. The easy setup wizard took me an hour and a half and got me nowhere. And yes, the Netgear Service Centre number for Singapore simply does not work.

I now have the internet and office network back up and working. My old D-link router used to have a print server. The new one from netgear does not. I wanted to buy an add on network print server, but was dissuaded by the salesman in Funan. He told me that in 90% of cases, there were issues and he does not want to be responsible if it did not work in my office. I understand where he is coming from. I have now got to find a way to share the printer in my office.

And with all this configuration and crazy stuff going on, the internet is hammered by the loss of undersea cables in Taiwan. I just cannot get the information I need. :(

Man, I need a holiday from my holiday.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Season's Greetings

xmas card 2006

This has been a challenging and rewarding year for me. So many things happening, some difficult, mostly good learning experiences.

My wish is that there will be less war and atrocities in the world. People will take positive action to save our world from global warming, super bugs and tyrants (incluing George Bush).

How is it in this world are so intelligent but so unwise? How is it that religions that should be promoting love, can cause so much hate? If there is one truth, why can't people agree on it instead of fighting one another? Why is the road to hell paved with good intentions?

I know very little and believe in even less. This much I know, I treat the people I meet with respect. I have to always act to keep my conscience clear. As much as my entire life is about photography, I will not abuse people or trust to get ahead. As mush as I use emotion to create my work, I will not suspend reason.

I know that I am fallible, but I am not a sinner. If I am going to hell, for what? For trying to treat the people around me well? For trying to love my fellow human beings? For wanting to be the best photographer I can be?

This season I celebrate life and humanity. I wish goodwill to everyone. Please don't pray for my soul, I will be fine. Hell is here on this earth, caused by our own ignorance, prejudice and our willingness to suspend reason.

Monday, December 18, 2006

The Income Gap in Singapore

Monday December 18, 9:05 PM
Income gap tears at Singapore social fabric
By Geert De Clercq

SINGAPORE, Dec 18 (Reuters) - When Wee Shu Min, the teenage daughter of a Singapore member of parliament stumbled across the blog of a Singaporean who wrote that he was worried about losing his job, she thought she'd give him a piece of her mind.

She called him "one of many wretched, undermotivated, overassuming leeches in our country" on her own blog and signed off with "please, get out of my elite uncaring face".

Wee was flamed by hundreds of fellow bloggers, but when her father Wee Siew Kim -- an MP in Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's constituency -- told a Singapore newspaper that "her basic point is reasonable", the row moved well beyond the blogosphere.

The episode highlighted a deep rift in Singapore society and was an embarrassment for the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) and prime minister Lee, who has made the reduction of the income gap one of the priorities of his new government.

"Coming from an MP in the prime minister's constituency, these comments really were political dynamite," political commentator Seah Chiang Nee told Reuters.

"If the political arrogance and elitism get any worse, the PAP will lose more electoral ground," he added.

Singapore is Asia's second-richest country after Japan with a gross domestic product per capita of about $27,000, ranking between EU member Italy and Spain. But in terms of income disparity, Singapore is in altogether different company.

Singapore's Gini index -- which measures inequality of income distribution among households -- of 42.5 puts it between Burundi and Kenya, the UN Human Development Report 2006 shows.

"Yes, the gini coefficient is very high. Through housing, health care and education, we have tried to narrow the income gap, but not through wages," National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan told Reuters in an interview last month.


Singapore pays no employment benefits, no pensions and has no legal minimum wage, but education is cheap and excellent, health care is subsidised and the government gives subsidies to first-time buyers of government-built flats.

Last month, Singapore's first parliament session since the May 6 poll was dominated by the inequality theme.

PM Lee ruled out the introduction of old-age pensions, a minimum wage or European-style welfare.

"We have treated welfare as a dirty word. The opposition, I think the Workers' Party, has called for a 'permanent unconditional needs-based welfare system'. I think that is an even dirtier five words," he said in a speech on Nov. 13.

But he acknowledged that since the Asian financial crisis in 1997, the income gap had widened, and said that his government plans to "tilt the balance in favour of the lower-income groups".

While Lee's ruling PAP is in no danger of losing its stranglehold on parliament -- where it has 82 out of 84 elected seats -- the growing income disparity has hurt its credibility.

In the May 6 poll, the Workers' Party scored its best result in years, with chairwoman Sylvia Lim winning 44 percent of the votes in a multi-seat ward. Lee lost 34 percent in his ward to a group of unknown candidates in their early thirties.

"They (the PAP) are concerned about the fallout if they don't do anything about the income gap," Lim, who entered parliament as a non-voting MP under a best-loser provision, told Reuters.

In parliament, Lee said he plans to improve healthcare and boost housing subsidies for low-income families. He added that he wants more "workfare" schemes, under which the state tops up low-income workers' pay.

On May 1 -- five days before the election -- the government paid out S$150 million to about 330,000 low-income workers, and Lee promised a similar package for next year. Details would be released in the 2007 budget on February 15.


Critics say that much of the outrage about the teenage blogger's comments is due to a perception that Singapore is ruled by a privileged elite that's out of touch with the people.

The road to a top job in the Singapore government or civil service leads through elite junior colleges and prestigious government scholarships for university studies abroad.

While access to these schools and scholarships is open to all and based on academic grades, critics say the children of the elite are well represented. Wee Shu Min attends a top school, Raffles Junior College, as did her father, an MP and a top executive at state-owned arms maker ST Engineering.

In a report about "elite envy", the Straits Times daily quoted official data showing that in the last five years, one in three students on government scholarships came from families with incomes of more than $$10,000 ($6,500) a month, while such families make up just 13 per cent of all Singapore households.

Students from households on incomes of less than $2,000 made up only 7 per cent of scholarship winners, the paper added.

Colin Goh, founder of satirical website, said that while the first generation of post-independence PAP leaders was seen as close to the people, this is no longer the case.

"The source for much invective in the Wee Shu Min case is that there is a real sense the PAP is composed of people in ivory towers; that they are a bunch of Marie Antoinettes," he said.

The Photographic Pecking Line - Where's my whip?

Thursday, December 14, 2006

A good three Days of photography

I have been plodding along with my career in photography and trying to bring to life my own visions. Every shoot seems like a battle for me, trying to connect with an inner vision and bringing that vision to life. But for three days, with hard work and a good team behind me, my photography was fruitful. On a Sunday, my hard work with shooting the Singapore Dance Theatre paid off as Robert and Alexa came to my studio for a session of dance shots. Not everything worked but there were some great shots. I am looking forward to more dancers from Singapore Dance Theatre playing shapes with me.

TNH_061203_0580 bw copy.jpg

Then on Monday, I did a model test shoot for a Phantom model, Savannah. It was the first time I was using my new profoto portable lights. It was also my first time shooting a poolside Bikini shot. I had an idea of what I wanted but I have never done anything like this before. And once again some things worked and some things could have been done better. But the things that worked were wonderful.

TNH_061204_0825 copy

Then on the third day, Tuesday, my student Lisa Eagles, from my Portraits as Visual drama came to model for me for a figure session. I asked her to bring her children along and we got some nice figure work with her son and daughter. Then I changed the lighting and did some abstract poses and her body was simply amazing. She has a very angular body and she does yoga. I have seen a lot of figure photography before and I always have this feeling that what I have done has been done before. But some of Lisa's photos are truly different.

TNH_061205_1300 bw sq copy

I am so happy when I am creating interesting images. At this point time I feel that I have become competent as a photographer. I am still following in the footsteps of giants. But I am happy that my work is beginning to have the look and feel of the photographers that inspire me. I hope that in my constant practise, I will finally do some work that is original and unique.

Monday, December 11, 2006

The Total Photographer - Putting it all together

TNH_061203_0674 bw sq copy.jpg

Some well meaning people have told me that I should get a proper job and do photography in the spare time. I am told that I should be 'practical' and think of my future. And even those who do not oppose my career in photography, would question what type of photography I do. I should not do all that worthless art photography but do something like shoot portraits for school children as it will make money. I think that if I wanted to be practical and have a relatively safe way of making a decent income, I would have stuck to engineering.

I am in photography because I like to take dramatic, artistic portraits. I did not pursue photography to shoot events or even weddings for that matter. In my pursuit of my own version of portrait photography, I have learnt skills that enable me to earn a living from shooting commercial portraits. And yes, I shoot wedding work to pay the bills. It is not a bad way of earning a living. But for a couple of years, wedding photography took over my life and made me unhappy. Not because the work was bad, I was fortunate to have nice clients, but I simply was unable to create the work I want to create. I worked like a dog and had no energy to do personal work. It felt like a part of me had died.

However, I have a fair amount of photographic equipment and 3 staff in my office. None of this is free. I have to pay salaries and pay for my equipment. To pursue my passion, I have to fund the studio. The margins in weddings is too low. I have proven that I could make a viable business in the wedding field, but it was a grind. I am now moving to commercial work which is more exacting but the returns are higher. In this way I hope to earn enough for the studio outgoings but leave me with time to do my personal work. In my heart of hearts, I hope that I will be able to spend half my time earning a living and the other half shooting portraits. The ultimate dream would be to shoot my quirky portraits and nudes and get people to pay me for it. But in conservative Singapore, somehow I don't think that will happen.

But the commercial work is coming to the studio and my head is above water, barely. But I am happy, because I think that I am beginning to shoot at the level I have always aspired to.

What I am trying to say in all this is that as a photographer/image maker, we have to find a way to create the environment that allows us to pursue our visions. There is no set method, and no success without a struggle. And the truth is that we will all struggle regardless of the career we choose, I think that I am fortunate enough to be able to struggle in a career that I am passionate about. And it is a balancing act between finding work that will finance the pursuit of vision and passion. If you have read my previous articles on The Total Photographer and realised the huge task of being a good photographer, then the reality is being in a position to practise is also part of the larger task of working and living.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Friday, December 08, 2006

The Demise of the Professional Photojournalist

Here is an article that explains why it will get harder and harder for photojournalist to earn a living. Actually, the digital revolution and the Internet is making life difficult for many different people from musicians to writers and even lawyers. The world is changing fast, and we have to find a way to adapt to it. But if everyone is doing everything and anything for free, then the world is going to grind to a halt. As much as I feel that the line between professional and citizen photography is blurring, I think that the long term model is not sustainable unless the images are paid for. If the huge media companies refuse to pay anything for the images they get and use, eventually, all they will have is free photographs, which will not be very goo.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

The worth of it

Photography is such an apparently worthless act that many photographers have issues of their own worth. I know, I have been there too. Here is one anguished soul, Joseph, wondering about the selfishness of photography, in his blog entry, 'fessing up.

And the editor of Lenswork, Brooks Jensen, thinks that his art photography is such a niche interest that he would not even consider given his work to his relatives! And there is much truth in his words.
As I continue making my personal images, I realise that fewer and fewer people will appreciate it. But what will I be giving my photography up for, a position in Hewlett-Packard? A volunteer for world peace?

I know that there is a group of photographers, the photojournalists, that want to change the world. Here is a website for the photographic humanists. But I am not altruistic, I am not even deep. I just like making pretty images.

Who are the icons of our time, film stars? Musicians? Miss Universe? What is their worth? Duh....

So should we be doctors? Lawyers? Engineers? Should we all wear loin clothes and be vegetarian? Should the whole world be populated by Saints?

Photography is something I am compelled to do by an inner need. I don't even begin to comprehend the impulse that starts my photography. I mean, what compels someone to climb Everest or paint a picture? All I know is that I am following a call, and I have no way to judge the worth of this pursuit.

What I do know is that world peace begins at home. My worth as a person is not tied up in the photography. It is tied up with how I treat the people I meet and work with. Do I give a fair deal to my clients and do I nurture the people whom I work with?

My father, wise man that he is, has always asked me, ' Have you robbed anybody?, Have your raped anybody?, Have you Killed anybody? If the answer is no, then you are doing OK.' Life is not that simple, but the crux is there. And I don't think it is just photographers that miss the point. It seems so important to people to be successful and be rich, but what harm do we do others to reach success? The point is NOT what we do, but how we do it. We need to live our lives with love and respect. The photography, taxi-driving, banking, is just an opportunity for us to live a life.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

A tenacious cold

I thought that the worst of my cold was over last week, but it has lingered on for a while now. My cough does not keep me awake the whole night but does wake me up once in a while. I hear a lot of people have got this bug. I am impatient to get back to health as there is always so much to be done. Unfortunately, I am struggling through the days. Not completely out of it, but not completely in the pink of health. It is true, health is such an important thing in our lives. What use is fame or fortune if one is not healthy enough to enjoy it?

I want to do portraits of a couple of cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy. I know that I cannot do it with this bug I have as they may get it. Life is hard with a cold that I know that I will recover from. Having cancer is so much more serious. I hope my friend and my friend's wife recover from their cancers. I guess that we all have to be grateful for the miracle of waking up each day. And we have to live each day respectful of the miracle of life.

I wonder why sometimes, there is so much hate, anger and negativity in this world. There are enough things that truly give us physical pain, why do we create more pain with our prejudices and internal anger?

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Digital Future

It cannot be denied that the internet is changing our reality. It has a life of its own. For myself I do the following on the internet,

1. I have a website to promote my business
2. I have a couple of blogs for my writing and my latest photos
3. I share my photographs using Flickr
4. I listen to music and watch videos on You Tube
5. I have bought books and camera equipment over the internet
6. I have bought second hand goods off E-bay
7. I listen to Pandora, hoping to learn about new music
8. I use a Yahoo home page as a news aggregator
9. I read forums and surf other photographers web sites and blogs
10. I check up maps on the internet
11. And there are daily living faciliites that I access over the internet
12. It is so obvious that I almost forgot, I use email
13. I am on msn messenger

The internet is changing the way we read news, interact with people, get entertained, learn, work. And the old paradigms of power resting the hands of the few is changing. That is with the old television, radio, newspaper paradigm, what people read, saw and thought rested in the hands of a few editors and moghuls. Although with corporate power, much power still rests with the global corporattions, the informed netizen has a lot more personal choice. The consumer can decide whether or not to listen to the marketing spiel. Companies have to be more transparent as news travels almost instantaneously through the internet. The downside is that lies and scams travel just as fast.

The internet is here to stay, but the information out there is overwhelming. The netizen has to have a critical mind. New was of viewing media means the death of the older media, at least in the way it used to be. So new ways of viewing and charging has to evolve. The internet bubble burst, and there will be other scandals in the future. But there is digital gold to mined by those who can tame the new digital frontier.

Is it a matter of time before the internet becomes concious??

Thursday, November 23, 2006

The Pond recommends ColorLab

I have been a customer of Fotohub for longer than my career as a professional photographer. And I have been loyal to them. Unfortunately, they stopped using the Fuji Frontier machines. And the Noritsu machines simply have too large a dot to give realistic skin textures. Evrything just looks plastic. So I am now using Color Lab and recommend that any of my clients wishing to print their photographs go to there too. The details for Color Lab are

Colour Lab Photo Finishing
Address : The Adelphi, 1 Coleman Street #01-11 Singapore 179803
Tel : +65 63382345
Mon - Fri 10am to 7.30pm, Sat 10am to 4.30pm

Castrated Reindeer

Oh for a decent camera phone. But the O2 phone sucks so I don't have pictures for this tale. But perhaps it is better for those of faint heart.

There is a Christmas display at Parkway Parade with Father Christmas and reindeer.
In terms of anatomical accuracy, the reindeer has an anus and testicles, but seems to be dickless. With such attention to anatomical detail, it is hard to believe that such an important part of a male reindeer can be ?forgotten? I can only assume that this is Dickless the Eunuch Reindeer.

What can a castrated reindeer in Singapore mean? All balls and no thrust? Oh pity such a sturdy specimen of male potential, nipped at the bud.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Some Home Truths

The Pond has been back up for five months now. And I am glad to say that I have been able to keep the business going. I have taken Bridal work, shot portraits, an annual report, shot a building, shot family work, taught 3 classes at Objectifs. Nothing glamorous really, but the income has been paying the salaries and the bills. I am a dreamer dreaming of the big shoot or a big project. I dream of being a successful commercial photographer as well as an arts photographer. I demand a lot out of myself and my staff. But the key to my survivability is not a defining photographic identity, but a reputation for getting the job done. A minimum lower quality that I can deliver day in, day out, regardless of my personal emotional state. The work that I am doing right now is not going to win me any awards, but it keeps the office running. And that in itself, is a truth.

The complimentary truth is that I am in photography because I love it. And it is easy to loose the soul of image making, when all you do everyday is practical photography. And inspiration does not well up everyday. So each day, I take time to look at other photographers and visual artists work. And I shoot for myself as much as I shoot to earn money. And whether or not I am completely inspired, I keep trying things. Some projects are still born and end up sitting on my proverbial shelf. Some projects start small and take on a life of their own. There is seldom any point of time that I have any clarity in the direction of my personal work, but I just continue to shoot. Trusting that the direction comes from going forwards.

I shoot for only three reasons,
1. Because I love the subject and want to shoot it
2. I can learn something from doing the shoot
3. I am being paid for my professional services

These are the main reasons I shoot. Yes, I do shoot for altruistic purposes like charity, but I do my best to have fun under such circumstances. A win-win situation. But I will not do a shoot if I think that the results do not reach my minimum standards. I will have to be paid an extraordinary amount of money to shoot something which I believe to be substandard.

Basically, to engage in an activity, it has to have a positive direction and hopefully outcome.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Song of India

I am recovering but the cough from an itchy chest forces me awake at hourly intervals. I sit up and look at photographs in a state of stupor.

Here is Song of India by Miki Alcalde.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence - Ryuichi Sakamoto

The Spastic Children's Society is using this piece of music for an advertisement on cerebral palsy. The music brought back a lot of memories for me. And then I found this live performance on youtube.

I wonder how many people remember the film, Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence, starring David Bowie and Ryuichi Sakamoto? And if people remember the vocal verison, Forbidden Colors, sung by David Sylvian. I don't know why it was not David Bowie?

All I can say is this is one of the most haunting pieces of music I have ever heard. And it brings back lots of memories for me. Ironic that an advertisment on Cerebral Palsy does this for me.

Friday, November 17, 2006

A Long Week

This has been one of the toughest weeks of my life. A couple of weeks ago, I had a stomach bug. That got better and then I caught a chest cold that became apparent to me last Friday. This week I was teaching an intensive course on lighting and decided to lay low over the weekend. I more or less stayed home over last weekend, coughing a bit in the early morning. It was a cold and physically did not feel too bad. But one weekend was not good enough to finish it. Monday was prep day for the course, called Portraits as Visual Drama. The course lasted for 4 days, from Tuesday to today Friday. The first two days were lectures and practical sessions in my studio. The third day was a practical session at MOX. And we had a day of photoshop today. I hardly got any sleep at night this week. Everytime I had slept for a couple of hours, a deep chested cough would wake me up. And even with the able assist of 3 assistants to do the heavy lifting on course, having to give 3 hour lectures with a lungs that felt like they had been sandpapered was tough. There were points today when all I could manage was a squeak.

I wonder if I should have cancelled or postponed the course on Monday. But nine students had signed up, MOX was booked, and Cathay was loaning us equipment for the course. I did not think that not carrying on the course was an option.

Although I have taught basic studio photography before, this was my first intensive. I was pretty pleased with the way the first three days went. On the first day I taught the class basic studio lighting. On the second day I introduced them to advanced techniques like portable lighting, using nets and flags and using an LCD projector to create textures. I even rented a smoke machine and a mirror ball to increase their fun. Then we went to MOX for them to try out lighting in an actual environment. I think it was a real challenge for the students, but in a good way. The students did appreciate the assistants knowledge and help. Thanks, Betty, Anvin and Mark. You three rocked.

I had prepared notes for the photoshop day and knew what I wanted to teach. But there were so many technical hiccups and flaws in my teaching methodology. The first thing was that I asked my students to shoot in RAW. And the Adobe Camera Raw could not open some of the newer raw files. Then the colour of the projectors was not good enough for me to illustrate certain things, like how to reduce the redness in skin. And I tried to introduce my students to the newest digital workflow, including working in Prophoto RGB. I know that in America, the pro photographers are being converted to this workspace, but it may have been overkill for this course.

Anyway, it was an action packed course and I really put my students through a grinder. But they seem to have liked it. There were some amazing shots from my studio that I had never done. Cool. And at MOX, we had some actors and actresses from Fly entertainment to model for the students. And I also got a couple of dancers from The Arts Fission Company. I think the students really loved the dancers Scarlet and Bobby. I think I probably have a few converts to the art of shooting dancers. :)

I also taught them my ideas on the methods of translating a vision into an image. I know that things like this are taught in art school, but photographers rarely talk about it. Photographers seem to be either tech geeks or inspired artists. But I truly believe that having an idea of the elements of translating an idea into an image, will speed up the process.

So the entire course was done and people had a good time in general. I just feel like my lungs were put through the meat grinder a couple of times... But the next time I conduct this course, I hope that I will be well, and I will be more organised in lecturing Photoshop!!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Intern

This was a test video montage that I did using my client's, Charlene and Voon Jiet, bridal images. It was based On The Mood for Love and so I choose the title track from the show for the music.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Shooting amidst everyday life

I have always enjoyed the Lenswork podcasts by Brooks Jensen, editor of Lenswork. I guess its novel. But I want to share this particular podcast, an interview with Chris Anderson, who shot clouds in his spare time.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Ken Miller on Intelligent Design

This is a two hour video which I sat through. It was very engaging. There is a movement by Christian Fundamentalist who are trying to get creationism, also known as Intelligent Design, to be taught in schools. Ken Miller, a Roman Catholic scientist, is strongly against this. Science has to be based on observable fact and is continuously fine-tuned by new discoveries. The people promoting Intelligent design would stop the scientific questioning and ask people to believe in the supernatural.

Miscellaneous Inspiration

The Internet is a wonderful resource. And having a group of photographic friend's who keep recommending sites is kinda of nice.

Anyway, from Eadwine, I learnt of this really nice commercial photographer, Michael Muller.

And from John Teoh, I was recommend a Magnum photographer, Constantine Manos, poetic take on American Color. Being a commercial photographer, it is not often nowadays that a street photographer catches my eye. However, Manos work has a sense of mystery and tension that is beguiling.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

The Total Photographer - Mastering your tools

Camera manufacturers would like people to believe that modern cameras are intelligent enough to automate everything for the image maker. This has lead to the illusion that it is the camera that takes the image. So much so that there are people who think that a pro camera is all that is necessary for making engaging images. And I think in terms of taking snapshots, this may be true. In many common everyday situations, a digital camera set onto automatic mode actually produces a decent image. And this has had a direct impact on working photographers. Nowadays, things like covering a small event, or documenting a house for sale can be done by a non-professional. However, I would argue that besides making money, there is no real value in pursuing such work that is mainly documentary in nature. Weddings are events, and given the potential to interpret this event, photographers with vision continue to get work and be paid a premium for their vision.

Anyway, all the great photographers, whether they use a Leica all their lives or use a multitude of equipment, know their tools intimately. And the irony is that the digital revolution has actually made it more important for the working photographer to understand their equipment and editing software. There is a good and bad side to this. The good side is that the photographer has gained much more control over how their images will look. The down side is that they will have to work harder to produce their images.

The digital age has changed the carrier medium for the image, that is from a piece of film to mathematical numbers in some form of electronic memory. But the knowledge a photographer needs to know about aperture size, shutter speed, ISO values, depth of field, the effect of different lenses remain the same. The first step in creative control of an image maker is in understanding the trade-offs between the basic camera settings that are common to both film and digital cameras. For example, I like soft images because in portraits it is usually more flattering to my subjects. I tend to shoot at wider apertures of f2.8 or f4. And when I shoot in low light, I prefer to use high ISOs with more image noise than using flash with a lower ISO. These things are the same for me in both film and digital.

But in the past, once the image is captured onto film, a lab processes the image for me. For my black and white images, I had a professional black and white printer make my prints. I do know that there are professional photographers who make their own prints, but I think that by and large it is for their own personal work. Photographers in general use professional labs with whom they have a close working relationship with.

In Singapore, the amount of creative interpretation I had over my colour film is the choice of colour film. And Singaporean labs, that used minilab printers, the operators tended to produce a unified look to the output prints, regardless of the film. One thing I liked about Chicago is that the lab tried to tailor the output print to the taste of the photographer, including burning and dodging. I had more say over the output of my black and white images, but the overall look was still very much in the hands of my printer.

Today, shooting on digital, I have much more control over how my images look, even the proofs. I can vary the saturation and contrast of a digital image and even burn and dodge colour images to my heart's content. And cleaning up skin blemishes on portraits is much simpler than it ever was. I think that on this score, digital photography has advanced the ability of the photographer as an image maker. However, it means that most working photographers will have to spend much more time on their own images than they used to. They also have a larger technical learning curve as they need to understand how an image sensor works, how to convert a raw file to a working file and how to edit the file and produce a file for printing or delivery. To be fair, film photographers needed to know how their film worked, and how it is processed and the best way of making prints. The thing is that the chemical process for film was basically the same for decades and the difference between one set of chemicals and the next did not vary all that much. But digital file processing and editing keeps changing almost daily. What we learn today becomes obsolete the next day. And even if you are happy with your version of camera and software, you are forced to change because your client or your printer has to follow the constant upgrades that the digital world is going through.

I have said it before and I will say it again. The professional photographer today has to be part computer geek. I believe that there will be digital photo labs that will be willing to process raw files and do edits for working photographers. But I think that it is the photographers who embrace the whole process of digital image making that will be at the forefront. It is for this reason that I have decided to hire a digital assistant in my studio. Someone who is able to do basic file processing and editing to my specifications. But I do intend to take digital image making to another level.

I believe that even if you are an enthusiast of speciality cameras like the Holga, you will most probably scan the negatives and make digital prints of the images. So knowledge of Photoshop will become a basic skill of the working photographer.

I see digital photography doing two things. For the consumers, it makes it easier and easier to take a decent, sharp and well exposed image. For the creative, it is a brave new world, with a steep learning curve. It is a mistake for working photographers to believe that digital cameras are one for one replacements for analog cameras. It would be like saying the computer is a one for one replacement of the typewriter. The creative potential of the digital revolution is astounding, but only if the photographer works his way out of the old analog paradigm.

And have I talked too much about the technical challenges of the creative photographer in the digital age? I don't think so. Following from the preceding entries on The Total Photographer, an image maker needs to have a vision, must know how to conceptualise the image to fit the vision, and have a mastery over the equipment to make the vision a reality. It gets to be a bit of a jaded cliche, but vision without skill is stillborn. Skill without vision is souless. The total photographer has to have both.

Ceasefire Campaign

Dear friends,

I just took an action on the internet calling for a stop to the war in Iraq, and I thought you might be interested…

From the Ceasefire Campaign:

Dear friends,

This week the American people voted overwhelmingly to reject President Bush’s war in Iraq, and yesterday the key architect of the war, US military chief Donald Rumsfeld, announced his resignation. The winds of political change are sweeping the US, and the US-led Coalition in Iraq may -- finally -- be realising that they cannot win the war, and that they lack the legitimacy to bring stability and peace to the country without more help from the international community.

With a newly elected US Congress and a President who is finally in a listening mood, we now have a unique opportunity for a global public outcry to change the course of this disastrous war. It’s the perfect time to act.

To seize this opportunity, we want to place ads in US and UK papers with a new global petition calling upon the Coalition to accept a larger role for the international community and a phased withdrawal of all its troops from Iraq. We’ll publish the number of signatures we get in the ads, so we need AS MANY PEOPLE AS POSSIBLE to sign the petition in the next 48 hours. Please tell all your friends and family, and sign below:

This is our chance to make sure the pressure of global public opinion is being felt by Coalition governments as they rethink their war in Iraq, pressing them to accept a larger role for the international community and to withdraw their troops.

We know why it’s so important to act. A shocking study released by Johns Hopkins University last month suggested that hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians have been killed in Iraq -- more than anyone thought -- and experts warn that the civil war is about to pass a point of no return. October was the worst month yet for civilian casualties, with death squads moving house to house. The killing could place Iraq alongside Darfur as one of the greatest human catastrophes of our new century.

We must not let that happen. And if we each act quickly this week, we can each play a role in stopping it.

We can reach our goal for this campaign by spreading the word. Please forward this email to as many of your friends and family as you can, and act now to add your voice to this urgent call for action:

This may be our best chance for peace yet. Let’s take it.

With hope,

Ricken, Ben, Rachel, Paul, Tom, Amparo and the Ceasefire Campaign team

Be Still My Heart Lyrics - Silje Nergaard

My heart is not lonely or broken
It's not of ice or of gold
Nor has my heart ever spoken
To me when a love has grown cold
I felt not the faintest flatter
When you brushed my cheek as you passed
Nor will I willingly clutter
My life with these thing that don't last

Be still my heart
My heart be still
Be still my heart
My heart be still

If our eyes should meet then so be it
No need to trouble the heart
That is hidden where no one can free it
Only to tear it apart

Be still my heart (my heart be still)
My heart be still
Be still my heart
My heart be still

Beware, beware
(be still my heart)
to care, to care
(be still my heart)
beware, beware
(be still my heart )
to care, to care
(my heart be still)
beware, beware
(be still my heart)
My heart

oooh aaaa
Be still my heart
My heart be still
Be still my heart (my heart)
My heart be still
Be still my heart
My heart be still

My heart
Be still


My heart
Be still

Friday, November 10, 2006

Response to Diary of a Wedding Photographer

Eadwine from Plushphotography has put down his short history of a Wedding photographer. Well I think that he is vision and I hope that he succeeds both as a photographer and as a businessman.

I met a young wedding photographer recently who asked me if there is a market for Black and White photography. I was a bit taken aback because I do not like the idea of following the market. I told him to find his own vision and create a market for it. When I started taking black and white wedding photographs I did not do it because there was a market for it. I did it because I thought that Black and white images helped me capture the personal interactions at a wedding. I created my own market because clients saw my personal investment in the photography. Now I see Eadwine, Ron and Wan Sheng shooting digitally, sometimes converting their images into black and white, sometimes making de-sautrated images or even keeping the colour and doing something else. They are finding their own visions and I applaud them. They are individuals who are committed to making the best images they can. And for that reason, they can and should command a higher fee. They are not mere technicians, they are professional image makers. Their clients are paying for their talent as well as their photographic skill.

And this is my journey too, to keep pushing the boundaries of my image making. I was once told to learn all the different lighting tecniques so that I would be able to recreate lighting from any International advertisement. I went totally against that idea. I have kept myself interested in visual ideas and been inspired to shoot different things. Nowadays my lighting armoury is sizeable. But this knowledge did not develop in limbo, out of the need to know all lighting styles. It came from visual ideas that demanded that I learn how to light them. I guess that I probably have a smaller lighting armoury than some commercial photographers, but I have a clear idea of how my lighting techniques work and where I can use them.

In short, it is the art that dictates the technique, and not the technique that dicttates the art.

I am glad that there are younger photographers who are committed to their visions.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Inside Singapore Dance Theatre

I found my love of dance at the age of twenty when I went to London to study engineering. At the age of thirty I spent a year at London Contemporary Dance School dreaming of being a full-time dancer. But I knew that it was too late for me.

From this love of dance I started taking photographs of dancers. And it was my photographs of dancers that started my career in photography. Although I have taken publicity and archival photographs for Singapore Dance Theatre, I have never had the opportunity to shoot the company in rehearsal. Dance is the most unforgiving performing art. The dancers
train daily, not only going through physically gruelling regimes, but also digging inside to find the soul of their art.

My photographs, stripped of the magic and glamour of the staged performance, hopefully conveys the spirit of the professional dancer. Dancers who daily choose to challenge time and gravity to create beauty with their own bodies.

The exhibition of Inside Singapore Dance Theatre will be on at Citylink Mall from 10 November to the end of December.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Flying Spaghetti Monster

This is an interesting response to the Kansas School Boards decision to allow the theory of intelligent design to be taught along with evolution. This is an alternative theory of creation by a Flying Spaghetti Monster.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

The TragicTruth-Of-Me

Victoria Sims or The TragicTruth-Of-Me is a wonderful image maker by any accounts. What is amazing is that she is nineteen years old and shoots with a canon 350D. I think that she is definitely someone to keep an eye on.

No more Blood

I was surprised by the response to the first 2 installments of Blood of a Thousand. I thought of continuing the series but raising the bar to something more serious. But to take Blood of a Thousand to the next level, would mean a heavy investment literally. The props and staging would be much more complicated and costly. As I was putting together my portfolio, I realised that Blood of a Thousand would not figure in it. I have decided to stop the series because I cannot afford to spend heavy money on a series that will not result in portfolio shots or an exhibition. I mean honestly, I am not a shock horror kind of guy. Nudes and textures, that is much more me. So I know where my personal work is going next. Sorry to dissapoint, but there are a lot of frighteningly good jap movie makers doing choko bloodo. :)

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Sinking and swimming

This news report says that Kodak Eastman has posted a loss of $37 million this quarter. It total it has lost $2 billion since it last made money as a company. :( Wow. And I thought that I had problems.

On a personal side, I have actually had enough work since I returned from my sabbatical to pay 3 staff! I am putting together a portfolio to show people and generate more work. Hopefully, I will be able to actually make some money for myself next year. But the equipment outlay is going to take a few years to recoup.

Monday, October 30, 2006

The Frontier bows out

So I hear from Fotohub that the Frontier printers will not be used from next week onwards. So I have to make prints on the Noritsu machines. Bad news for portrait photography. I am contemplating buying the Epson 3850 so that I can make glossy prints in house.

People are using digital photography to push down the price of photographic work, pointing to the lack or film, processing and scanning. But the amount of time spent on buying and learning new equipment and software constantly is a challenge. Every time there is a new camera, computer, software upgrade, there is a cost and a learning curve. With the constant upgrades, the truth is that film is cheaper and more stable because it was a known quantity for a longer period of time.

The potential of the new digital equipment is very good, arguably much better than film scanned. But the learning curve to master the new equipment means that it will take time before a photographer actually can harness the full potential of the new equipment.

There is a lot of debate on whether the standard of photography has dropped or improved with the digital era. And in general, I think that a lot more people have gotten into photography because they do not have to pay for film and there is instant gratification of seeing things on the monitor. But the truth is good photography is undervalued nowadays. I hear that some of the older and more experienced photographers cannot command the prices they used to. The younger photographers shoot with really simple technique for large ad agencies who are trying to keep the price down. They depend on sweatshop photoshop artists to create the images. So 'Where is the love?'.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Focussing in a digital age Pt II

The second part on focussing on the digital age turned out to be a let down for me. The techniques described are more for landscape and still life photographers. As a portrait photographer whose subject is constantly moving, I cannot do something like take 5 shots at different focal lengths and stitch an image back together in software. At least not for most of my portraits. i will take note of this if I have a commercial use for it though.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

A sense of community

Sometimes when you begin, you have your nose to the grindstone and all you can focus on is getting your work done. When you first start being a photographer, you know nothing and getting an image out of the camera is a success in itself. Then you get to a certain stage where you are comfortable with your equipment, but there does not seem to be any way to improve your ability or your way of thinking. No man is an island. It is important to engage with your community, people who may or may be in the same profession as you, but people who can help to widen your horizons.

Kay Chin kindly invited to speak on my internship in Chicago at a photographer's forum at Kay Ngee Tan Architects (Gallery). Also speaking was Ernest Goh speaking on his visit to the Perpignan Photo Festival. This used to be a photo festival for photojournalist to meet with editors of major publications. But now, the festival has grown much larger. There was also Sherman Ong, an artist who uses photography and film as his medium. He was talking about his experience of exhibiting his work in the Nordelicht photographic festival. Sherman also got a scholarship from the Goethe institute to do work in Hanoi for a month.

I think that as different as all the three of us are as photographic practitioners, we are all balancing our practise with survival. All of us have come to the conclusion that photography in Singapore is of an international standard. And as the market for photography is too small, we all have to find ways of working overseas or for overseas clients. This is the most obvious conclusion from the forum.

However, I was intrigued by Sherman's viewpoint of art photography. The idea that photographers in America, Europe and China have rich art cultures and histories to build on. Photographers coming from a rich artistic heritage are able to get a grasp on composition and technique quicker, and there work has more depth. I have to agree on this point. The work I see in Singapore has some technical merit, but tends to lack depth and/or a coherent aesthetic. But being a Singaporean, I have to believe that we have to either study aesthetics from more mature societies or create our own. Actually we have an artistic tradition in Singapore from people in the Nanyang School to the potter Iskandar. It is just that they are not as well promoted as Zoe Tay and Fann Wong. Ugh. Anyway, I believe that practising photographers need to explore rich art histories and derive their own visions. Being able to copy commerical styles is not going far enough.

On a side note, KF Seetoh was at the forum too and shared his own experience about his stock agency and his suing M1. He is now focusing more on his company Makansutra. Just listening to what he has done is breathtaking. You can't keep a determined man down.

Then on Tuesday I had brunch at my friend Juliana's home. Juliana had invited a group of arts people to meet French sound artist, Emmanuelle Loubet, working in Japan. She records sounds and makes interactive flash programmes to play the sounds. One of the other guest was Samuel Ong, a young pipa player who played a piece for us. And then there was Angela Liong from Arts Fission, Joyce Teo who heads a Gamelan group and Aaron Kuek, artistic director of dance group Ah Hock and Peng Yu. People that I have known for a while now. It was a chance for all of us to catch up and find out what is going on. And whether I do any photographic projects with these friends or not, I learn things about how they work and get inspired by their projects.

Aaron is setting up a studio in Kuala Lumpur. He hopes to teach classes there and also rent out space to other people who need studio space. He told me that his activities came about after what I told him at my dinner table once. When he was younger, he and his friends were always bitching about things and people. I told him that I was not interested in the bitching, I was more interested in people doing things and sharing their experiences. Now he is doing things in Kuala Lumpur and he is willing to share his experiences with other people. How wonderful.

We all need community to go further. Nuff said.

Ok Go - on treadmills

This is one of the hottest and funniest videos on youtube. I am busy with work so here is a piece of brilliant entertainment. :) Thanks Qian for the link.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Focusing in the digital era by Gary Ferguson

This is an interesting article on Focusing in the digital era.

It seems that the physics of lens and cameras have not changed, but the demands of larger prints nowadays, makes focusing a more demanding process. The first part describes the current situation. I am looking forward to the next article that discusses the tools that we can use to ensure sharpness in images.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

The New Portfolio revised

Hmm.. I put together my portfolio yesterday using what I thought was my latest and strongest work. But although the images are good, it lacked a theme and/or character. I decided to put away a few of the newer photos, which I think are more suited to a different portfolio, like a fashion one.

I have recalled some of my earlier work to put together a portfolio that I like to think of as a visual tease. :) I think its more fun, and it represents the quirky Ngiap Heng much better. My work is eclectic and mixed, so I cannot put together a defining look like some photographers. Instead I present a definig quirkiness of Heng. Muahahaha! I am not sure if it will bring more commercial work, but I think it is a more memorable portfolio.

Presenting Portfolio2, a visual tease.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

The New Portfolio

Portfolio1 (Please download the file and view it on Adobe Acrobat Reader)

I set about changing my company's direction in September last year. It has been almost a year, but the groundwork in my office is almost complete. I had to re look at my portfolio after Chicago, it just was not strong enough in general. So I did quite a few test shoots and some work since I came back in June. I finally feel confident to present my work. Some people will think that important chunks of my work is missing, and it may be, but I want to be a commercial portrait photographer. That is why my portfolio is put together the way it is.

Basically, this is where I draw the line. On this work my photographic career will continue to grow or it will fail. Plan B will be to have a garage sale of my photographic kit and raise funds to turn the studio into a cafe. :)

If you are interested, you can download the portfolio and view it. I do warn you, it is about 6.7Mb and you should use Adobe Acrobat 5 and above to view it.

Aquarius Horoscope

You have been working especially hard, and you are beginning to wonder if all your effort has been for naught. A restructuring at work leaves you wondering just where you fit in exactly, or if you even fit in at all. You may have a troubling few days, dear Aquarius, but will be relieved to learn that the higher-ups have big plans for you in the newly organized, streamlined company.

I guess that all those you will meet your ideal partner predictions just have not worked for me. :) But this prediction, man I hope it comes through.


I guess it is still a marketing pitch. But Dove is at least trying to redress the impossible idea of beauty that we are being sold by the media. This is a really interesting video.

Self Esteem

How Do You Photograph the Amish? Let Us Count the Ways

There is an interesting article on the Columbia Journalism Review. It is about how photojournalist shoot the Amish, a community who are not supposed to allow themselves to be photographed. Interesting.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Dare you to move - The Video

Last year I posted the lyrics to this song. I just finished presenting my work to a company. I was nervous, but I trust my work. As I sit having a coffee this song is played over the public speakers, and I remind myself to keep moving... or die.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Daily Candy Sample

Thanks to RoyalAppleBaconRoll for introducing me to the Daily Candy. Here is a sample.

19 July 2005

Lexicon XIV

Welcome to the DailyCandy Lexicon, a regular feature in which we provide you with new vocabulary. (There will not be a test). Today’s subject is the dating game — that labyrinth of mystery, intrigue and confusion that can leave you feeling lost for words.

So we’ve made some up for you.

bonk statement
n. the reply you must give to the question that every prospective lover will casually pose after you first have sex. (So, how many people have you slept with before me)?

n. the worst kind of foreplay, which rarely, if ever, leads to intercourse.

v. to regularly and repeatedly have drunken intercourse (never sober) with the same person. (If my liver could take it, I’d inebridate John for at least another couple of months).

n. a relationship based solely on proximity, such as with your neighbour.

adj. a quality in a man by which his behavior, sexual and otherwise, raises question about his sexual orientation.

textual harassment
n. a proposition via text message; received, generally speaking, quite late in the evening. Similar to a textual advance, only far more annoying.

Corinne Bailey Rae - Like A star

Absolutely mesmerizing.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Another Duck

So many photographers are putting What the Duck on their blogs. I have been resisting posting strips although it is on my side column. But I just had to put this one up. :)

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Total Photographer - Lost in Translation


So often in teaching photography, we go from vision to technology. But I think that there is a vital, crucial step, that many photographers stumble through. And although there is no way to completely by pass this step, it is often sub-conscious and turns out to be the weak point in a photographer's process. What am I talking about? I am talking about how a vision should be translated into an image.

What I hear very often of photographers is 'Ohhh, I like that look.' or 'That effect is killer.' And how an image is produced is generally a subconscious mixture of visual influences and chance. Although photography needs an element of spontaneity to remain alive, it does help if the photographer is conscious of how a vision is translated to an image.

What are the elements or tools needed by a photographer to translate a vision into engaging photographs?

1. Composition -
How is a subject framed in an image? A portrait of a person filling most of a frame and in the centre of the image is a still direct image. A portrait of a person only using a small part of a larger composition, places the person in a location and implies a relationship between a person and that place. Going in close and taking parts of a person's face, is an abstraction, and can provoke the viewer to engage more into why the image is not complete, or is it?

2. Design -
The rule of thirds is a very popular design rule in photography, based on the simple fact that people tend to look at things in the thirds of the image more than the centre. But that is not the only design we should be looking out for. As a photographer, taking the straight lines in an image as a diagonal instead of horizontal of vertical makes the image more dynamic. Or are there circular swirls in the image we are shooting that we can highlight. Are there repetition of objects like chairs or shoes that can add a pattern to the image?

3. Colour -
There is a psychology of colour. Red tends to get people excited, green tends to calm people down. Blue reminds people of water and the sea. Sunset light does not just add nice long shadows to an image, it also introduces a warm, living glow to an image. We, as digital photographers, have a lot more control over the colour and tint of an image that ever before. We should all know how to get a daylight adjusted look with our images, but we must also be able to add colours to create moods. Sometimes the absence of colour, as in a black and white image, creates its own mood. A black and white image, very often seems to be like instant history.

4. Harshness and Softness -
There are two things that can determine if an image looks hard or soft. One is the quality of the light. A hard light is quite often used to make contemporary, clean images. A soft light is used with romantic images or images reflecting on memories. There is also the sharpness of the lens we use. Although it is nice to have a really sharp lens, sometimes opening a lens up wide to have a short depth of field helps to create a soft mood. There are lenses that are specially designed to give a soft look while maintaining the ability to hold edge detail. So what type of look do we as image makers want?

5. Object relationships -
The act of putting a couple of more subjects in an image creates a relationship between those objects. Depending on the placement of the subjects, different implications can be read and the photographer must realise at least what the relationships imply. For example, in a group shot of a company, would you put the chairman at the front of the image, or put the chairman amidst everyone else. All these relationships matter.

6. Shooting angle -
If every image is shot while we are standing up, then there is only one view and it is a common view for adults. To see what a child sees, shoot from close to the ground. To have an overview of what is happening, shoot from a high location. Shooting angles can change how an object is perceived.

7. Story telling elements -
With what you are trying to say, you have to consider what people, if any, should be in your shot. You need to find a location for your vision and make sure that it is properly dressed up. If you have people they need clothes that are appropriate and they may need make-up and styling if your vision calls for it. Are props needed for the shot and how does one get these props?

8. The decisive moment -
When do we click the shutter? It seems more obvious in street of candid photography that we are looking for moments of drama and human interaction. Or we could be waiting for a moment of sunset or sunrise to create a dramatic landscape. People may think that portrait photography is dead, but the best portraits are moments of interaction between the sitter and the photographer too.

These are just a few things to consider when translating a vision into an image. Even a street photographer considers some of these issues, albeit on a different scale from a creative photographer. At a certain point of shooting, these types of considerations become superfluous, a hindrance to the immediacy of making an image. But just like driving, cooking, speaking a language, learning the tools of vision translation will enable the photographer to become a more complete image maker. For very experienced photographers, the tools of translation are internalised. But for young image makers who have the vision and know the technology, understanding translation is a vital step.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Blood of a thousand - Request for Help

I plan to shoot another installment of Blood of a Thousand in November. I am looking for a nursery room to shoot in. A room with pastel blue walls and pretty stickers on the wall. Is anyone willing to lend me such a room or have access to such a room. Apprecitae the hlep.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Singapore air quality in moderate range with PSI of 83

Saturday October 7, 4:17 PM

SINGAPORE: Singapore's air quality dropped back into the moderate range with 3-hour PSI of 83 on Saturday at 3pm.
The highest PSI reading for the year was 130 at 10am on Saturday morning, and the all time high was 226 in 1997.

The 3-hours PSI first entered the unhealthy range at 8am on Saturday morning, with a PSI reading of 101.

The latest satellite pictures showed there were 506 hotspots and thick smoke haze in Sumatra, mainly in Riau, Jambi and South Sumatra, and winds blowing in a southerly to southwesterly direction had brought smoke haze from southern Sumatra to Singapore.

NEA added that the prevailing winds are also transporting the smoke haze towards the Malacca Straits and Peninsular Malaysia.

"The prevailing winds are transporting the smoke haze towards the Malacca Straits, Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore," the agency said.

The Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur on Friday also reported unhealthy air levels, while flights were disrupted in the country's Sarawak province on Borneo island.

A spokesman for Singapore's Changi Airport on Saturday said the haze had not affected operations at the regional aviation hub.

Hundreds of firefighters in Indonesian Borneo, aided by police and volunteers, were Friday dousing illegal forest fires causing acrid haze that blanketed western parts of the island, officials in the neighbouring country said.

Indonesia's annual burn-off causes a haze that typically smothers parts of Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand as well as Indonesia itself.

The NEA advises people with existing heart or respiratory ailments to reduce physical exertion and outdoor activity. - CNA /dt

Well, the photographers shooting outdoors in these conditions are all going WTF??

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The Total Photographer - Vision


It is useless to study technique in advance of having a motive. Instead of establishing a vast stock of technical tricks, it would be far wiser to develop creative power by constant search for means particular to a motive already in mind, by studying and developing just that technique which you feel the immediate need of, and which alone will serve you for the idea or the emotion which has move you to expression. You will not only develop your power to see the means, but you will acquire power to organize the means to a purpose.In this form of study there will be no less familiarization with what is generally found in all technical study. You will acquire a habit and ability to select and correlate. You will become a master and organizer of means, and you will understand the value of means as no mere collector of means ever can.
Robert Henri

I read somewhere that people take photographs on holidays because in some way they want to own the trip, to have something physical like as if they owned land. There is no need for any vision for this type of photography. Evidence need only be recognizable.

For people who actually look at their holiday images, it is an aide memoir. On my first trip to India, I took a lot of pictures and some images stood out for me. India is a really easy place to shoot, with so much texture and wonderful characters, one only need point a camera with eyes closed to make an interesting image. The images that stood out for me though are the ones that conveyed an emotional trigger. When I first got back my photographs, I had no idea what all of this was about. Actually, the images that stood out were the ones with drama, a boy monk standing in a door way between the light and darkness was one image. This was the beginning of travel photography.

Was there a part of me that wanted to own the trip? Probably. But I liked the idea of adventure. I went inter railing in Eastern Europe, walking the winding streets of Amsterdam and Lisbon. All these were new experiences for me. Taking photographs was also a new experience, an adventure. And I guess my vision for my travel images has always been a sense of adventure. It helped me to find interesting angles and surprising subjects.

The next subject that set my vision ablaze was weddings. I shot my sister's weddings and picked out moments of human interactions. The romantic in me was drawn to the moments when people made contact. Not just the bride and groom, but mother and child, father and son or just friends. I have built a photographic career on shooting moments of 'love', in the largest sense of the word. From the vision, the choice of camera, film, treatment, printing, editing, all followed naturally. My choicest were made to embellish the love ideal.

But the vision that launched my career was that of bodies in dance motion, expressing the culmination of artistic and physical training. I wanted to be a dancer so badly. I watched some of the most excruciatingly beautiful dance when I was studying in London. And I spent a year in the London Contemporary Dance School training to be a dancer. Doing that one year of dance training felt like my body had been asleep all my life and the training was just about waking it up. But I knew that I would not have a career in dance and dropped it. But that love of dance has always been in me. To me there is a power and elegance to a body expressing life itself. And that was the intense drama and life that my performing arts photography tries to capture. There are moments in performances, where all the action and emotions climax, and framing it just right creates an explosive image. So much of my early work is informed by the passion and drama of dance emotion. My lighting and styling is often inspired by what I have seen on stage. And even for portraits in my studio, I will get a musician to play or a dancer to dance.

I have moved on and other visions haunt my dreams and are demanding from the inside that I birth them. But as Robert Henri says, technique is not worth anything without a compelling reason for creating a work of art.

To people who ask me how to improve their photography, my first answer is always to live a full life. Let things inspire you, give you the raw materials that will sprout into visions. And the visions will naturally tell you what you need to learn to birth those visions. And if a photographer needs to practise technique, then practise on a subject that is close to the photographer's heart.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Hasselblad H3D concerns

Wow. It seems that Hasselblad are trying to lock out their competitors with the introduction of their H3D. Read about it in

Hasselblad H3D concerns.

Just goes to show, making images is one thing, running a business is something else.

Is this for real?

I came across SGblog, a listing for Singaporean blogs and thought about listing there. Then I read through the terms of usages and under item no. 7 I found,

Submission of Content on this Web Site.
By providing any Content to our web site:
(a) you agree to grant to us a worldwide, royalty-free, perpetual, non-exclusive right and license (including any moral rights or other necessary rights) to use, display, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, distribute, perform, promote, archive, translate, and to create derivative works and compilations, in whole or in part. Such license will apply with respect to any form, media, technology known or later developed;
(b) you warrant and represent that you have all legal, moral, and other rights that may be necessary to grant us with the license set forth in this Section 7;
(c) you acknowledge and agree that we shall have the right (but not obligation), in our sole discretion, to refuse to publish or to remove or block access to any Content you provide at any time and for any reason, with or without notice.

I am not sure, but it seems like by signing on I am giving sgblog the right to do whatever they want with my writing and images. Or am I wrong??

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Thursday, September 28, 2006



All I can say is that this guy blows me clear away.

Panoramic Singapore

I think Tay Kay Chin is one of the most important living Singaporean photographers. Not just because he is a great photographer that has captured a unique vision of Singapore, but also because of his commitment to improving the standard of photography in Singapore. He has just published my favourite series of his work in a book. Check it out on his web site

Surviving Refinement by Alec Soth

This is an article pointed out to me by Kiampa. Surviving-refinement

I find a lot of what is said in it very true. From my own personal experience in dance and photography, my artistic loves started in a very raw form. The attraction was in the spontaneous emotions that characterised my forays into dance and photography. And as my technical work improves, I loose some of the spontaneity. Crazy isn't it?

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Total Photographer - Intro


I first started taking photographs when I was 19 or 20 years old, on my first trip to India. I was on holiday after my first year of undergraduate in London. I was studying to be an engineer, a 'real' job. It never crossed my mind that photography would be a career for me. It seemed too simple and frivolous to earn a living from clicking a shutter. I think I could understand why someone would pay a painter lots of money because the technicality of painting took so much effort. Now I am on the other side, a professional photographer for seven years, and I know I was wrong about the simplicity of photography. I admit, it is not rocket science and the basics should be within the grasp of any normal person.But the subtleties of light, equipment and capture medium are infinite. Entry into the realm of photography is easy, mastery of the medium is elusive. It all happens in the click of a button, but there is much to learn and prepare before that click.

It seems obvious, but photography begins with someone having a vision, seeing something that strikes a chord of resonance. Then there is an attempt to render that vision into an image, an object that can convey the photographer's resonance. Some people will be content with a simple image documenting what they saw, but others will want to convey more. Then the photographer will look for a way to better convey the inner resonance, be it a sense of awe, of happiness, of beauty. There is a search for knowledge, a way of capturing the image or rendering the image to get closer to the photographer's inner vision. Seeing an image, the photographer's understanding of the original impetus deepens. The inner vision becomes stronger and the process of learning begins again.

I have been making photographs for twenty years now. And I have been through a few iterations of being inspired to shoot, to create an image to convey a vision, and have that vision refined and then refine the process again. To be a total photographer, I think we need to cultivate the inner vision, have the right equipment for that vision, know how to render that vision into an image and make the whole exercise economically viable.

To be continued...

Sigma SD14

The Sigma SD14 is a 14 megapixel camera based on the Foveon chip. A chip that uses layered silicon sensors instead of the one layer Bayer pattern. Sigma is still not among the big boys of camera makers, but if the colour accuracy of this camera is good, this could be a really compelling camera. Can't tell till we see the actual images.

I wanna be with you

I heard this on the radio and remembered how much I liked it.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Epson Stylus Pro 3800

Epson Stylus Pro 3800 has been announced by Digital Outback Pro. This could be the dream machine for my office. :) It uses the K3 inks but allows nine catridges with auto switching between matt black and photo black. The only slight issue is that it does not take roll paper. But I already have the 4800! Muahahahaha!!!

Sunday, September 24, 2006

On Wedding Photography by Eadwine

People think that it is easy being a photographer and it has become cheaper with the advance of digital photography. Wrong on both counts. A true image maker is not a monkey or even a technician, a true image maker is a passionate and talented individual. Digital photography may have removed film, but has become much more expensive because of constant equipment upgrades and time spent on processing and treating digital images.

Please read Eadwine's article. It is tough to be a professional in any field today. Wedding photographers don't have it easy.

Lawn by Splinter Group and other arts


I went to watch a dance piece called 'Lawn' tonight. It is done by a group of Australian dancers named Splinter Group. They have all worked overseas and choreograhed a piece of physical theatre about lonliness and dreaming in a foreign country. I have seen physical theatre before but these guys were literally crawling over the walls and producing awe inspiring pieces of imagery. The type of stuff that really fires the imagination. To me the set was great. A large room with peeling wall paper and lots of rubbish along the top of the wall. With great lighting, an obviously fictional room, takes a life of its own.

There is a photographic point here, styling and attention to detail is an absolute must for an engaging image. Yes, digital textures are tacky. I want to have more elaborate sets and more organic textures to use in photoshop.

I must also add that I saw Singapore Dreaming on Thursday. One of the most poignant Singaporean films I have ever seen. The film itself is raw. But the depiction of the Singaporean aspirations and dreams hit close to home. I know why I am uneasy in my present state. It is because as a Singaporean, I find it imperative to suceed. To me that means that my photography business has to be a viable one. I don't need to become rich, but I want my business to be in the black.

If you are Singaporean, go see Singapore Dreaming. The main cast does a fantastic job. Yeo Yan Yan who acts as a pregnant mum who is completely reliable was good. She is also acting in the play Thunderstorm at the end of the month. The play is being staged by Theatre Practice. I think it is worth catching too.

The Blogs

Ok. For the time being I have decided to keep 2 blogs, Pond Musings for the musings and Pond Images for the images. I have moved Pond Musings to Blogger beta so that I can add labels to the entries. I will do that slowly.

Do let me know if you all prefer that I combine the blogs or if the 2 blog format is good. I know some of you don't like checking 2 of my blogs. I also know that there are people who only want to see my images and cannot bear my long wordy musings. :)

Can't please everyone.

Please note that I have included an RSS feed into the right column of this blog. It has the last 5 entries from Pond Imanges so that wehn you are reading Pond Musings, you can also check to see if there are new images on Pond Images. Quite cool no?

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Working on a new blog format

I realise that my images are not being well represented on this blog format. I am experimenting with a new one. I am using Blogger beta instead of the original blogger because I finally get to use tags!! Wooo hooo.

Anyway, the postings there are just test. Please give me some feed back on the layout. When I am happy with the layout, I will migrate pondmusings to the new format.

The beta layout is at

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Double Portrait

Portrait of Kiampa from Midnight Tales. Portrait of me.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Lucky Number Slevin

I have watched a few movies recently. Lucky Number Slevin is one of my favs.

An interview with Josh Harnett.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Of Cameras and Art

Of Cameras and Art

I think many of the photographers out there have been following Alan Briot's articles. This one on the percepiton of how good cameras make good photographs is a really good read.

Seitz 6x17

Seitz 6x17

I was dreaming of the day when someone would make a digital panoramic camera. And the dream has come through, but it is S$60,000! It takes 160 Megapixel images and is comparable is size to a laptop. I don't know what to make of this camera?

If any of you know me, you know that I think that digital capture is still lacking. At $60k, the colour saturation and dynamic range of the camera had better be brilliant!

Monday, September 18, 2006

Alex Pryde Test

From the archives - Michelle Stortz

Like most artists, I get bouts of insecurity. Then there are days I look at my archives and find a shot that seems to make it all seem worthwhile.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Dude! Where is the Ansel Adams Button?

I love the title of this article by Pete Myers on the state of digital photography. I am not sure if I agree with what he says, but it gives me food for thought.

In a nutshell, I think that Myers is saying that the digital technology is stabilizing and that people are finding out that images are made by artists, not the technology. So, the average aunt or uncle will be happy with their snaps, and the more serious semi-pros and pros have to dig deeper to improve their work. I sincerely hope so. But sometimes I look at the whole world situation, where everything is going faster and people prefer soundbites to actual news or images should be pretty, not illuminating. Then I realize that modern life is pretty superficial. After reading ' In praise of slow', I think that we need a more major perspective change. The world needs to appreciate the quality of live, instead of quantity, before superficial gloss is recognized as empty and unfulfilling.