Thursday, January 26, 2006

9 Lives ads

I have seen my photographs in The London Underground, on the back of buses and in the usual places. This is the first time they have been plastered around the bus!! Not the original shots for the buses but pretty cool still. :) I will know that I hit iconic if I could ever shoot a photo as famous as the one of Che Gevara.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Wedding Day Photographers in Singapore

I have heard that some people are sad that I have stopped taking on wedding day assignments. It is just too tiring the way I shoot actual day weddings. I am constantly on the prowl on a wedding day. However, I am still shooting Bridal work as I take them to be portrait assignments and each work is unique. However, there are actual day photographers in Singapore who I think are individuals and bring the passion for photography to their work the same way I do. I guess I cannot be replaced directly, but these guys are photographers I can identify with and respect.

Here goes,

Kuang from 39 East Images
Eadwine from Plush Photography.
Ron from Ron Lee Photography.
Wan Sheng, a freelancer.

The Past and Present colliding

(listening to Glen Gould playing Bach's Goldberg variations)

I am on sabbatical now. A place where I am taking stock of the past and preparing myself for the future.

Some of you may have read the article, journey of an accidental photographer on the last version of my web site and realized that I kind of stumbled into photography via the arts. Just what made me start taking photographs? It was my first trip to India that got me started as an amateur photographer, taking holiday snaps. My interest deepened with the candids that I took at my sister's wedding, enabling me to capture the moments of humor and human interaction. I kind of stumbled along for almost 10 years with holiday snaps and friend's weddings till I started working at The Esplanade. I started taking pictures of my first love, which was dance! I had to but a fast f1.4 lens but that was when I became aware of the art of photography. I left The Esplanade to find that there were people,mainly in the performing arts, who actually thought that my photographic skills were worth money! So started my career as a photographer.

I joined photography on the eve of the digital revolution. With the best intentions, I bought a Hasselblad 503 medium format camera, because that is what professional photographers used. I think such a camera in the previous generation would have lasted 2 decades. However, soon after the Hassie, I reluctantly moved to digital, buying the disastrous Kodak Pro 14N. I sold it a year and a half later and switched from Nikon to Canon. I bought the Canon 1d MK II which I just sold at the end of last year to buy the Canon 5D.

There is no debate on which camera of format is the best for me. I still have 35mm film cameras, my Hassie system and a Sinar 4x5 camera in addition to the 5D. I have also not discarded my x-pan, Lomo LCA or Holga. It all really depends on what I want to shoot and why. As versatile as digital technology is nowadays, film cameras still have an emotive impact that can theoretically be recreated in digital, but is actually harder to achieve than people would admit.

Still, for commercial assignments there is no debate that digital delivers high quality that is easy to use. So a lot of my preparation for my next phase is to ensure that I will be able to perform in the digital age. The challenges I foresee for my commercial work is

1. Managing color. This used to be a choice of film and lab in the film age. Now it falls to the photographer deciding what color space to use, how his equipment reproduces color and how the equipment is calibrated. The most used color space for professional photographers is Adobe RGB. Still I just came across a book completely dedicated to Photoshop LAB color and how manipulations in LAB can produce much better results in some classes of images. And I have not even properly explored the complexities of Adobe RGB...

2. Physical archiving of images. The cheapest solution for younger photographers is to archive work to at least 2 sets of DVDs. Truth to tell, there still is no guarantee to the longevity of DVDs. Personally, I am going to archive to 2 sets of hard drives. I have tried retrieving work before and It is just madness.

3. Cataloging the work. I suspect that many photographers have been like me, archiving the work and perhaps writing down the name of the jobs and DVD number onto an excel spreadsheet or Word table. I will not be surprised to be generating 1 tetrabyte of files a year from now on. Just try keeping track of that in a table and a stack of DVDs. You may just as well throw you old files away. I am going to burn a whole in my pocket and time to bring all my work into a cataloged, graded and keyword applied database. My choice is Iview Media Pro. To initiate me into this world, I have bought The DAM book by Peter Krogh. I am also going to get all my negatives and slides scanned so that I can catalog them properly. I hear that collective groan of photographers going 'Who's got the time and the money?'. Yeah, its a tough pill to swallow, but like your vitamins, its good for you. You can avoid it but you will be a sick photographer for the rest of your life if you don't set the ground work right.

4. The struggle for creative vision and integrity. That is an ongoing one. I think that the one point that photographers in the digital age should take note of is not where digital fails, but where it exels. To me trying to make digital do film is possible but brings less benefits than seeing what digital is good at and pushing it to the limit.

As a photographer who wants to create final product art, I will need to:

1. Learn how to be a digital printer

2. Learn how to maximize the scanner to get the best out of images shot on film

3. Explore new ways to getting my work seen and sold, especially on the internet.

I am glad that I had my break. There is a long road ahead of me, full of challenges. I am a lazy person at heart and would rather things just fell into my lap. :) But I have always risen to the challenges and I will continue to get myself out of bed and find that path to my dreams and visions. And the goals are just reasons to take the journey. It is on the journey I make friends and discover real joy. Once again, I am leaving a safe port, one of a career in wedding photography, and striking out into the unknown of commercial portraiture. This is not a road to financial riches, but it is a road that is good for my soul.

LIfe's Simple Pleasures

Name five of life's simple pleasures that you like most, then pick five people to do the same. Try to be original and creative and not use things that someone else has already used:


1. A good cup of coffee after dealing with stress
2. Listening to music at night under the stars
3. Catching up with one of my close friends for a meal
4. Waking up late on a day with nothing to do
5. Sitting on the beach watchin and hearing the waves break

Don't know who to tag really, unless Ron, Geoff or Eadwine would like to try?

Sunday, January 22, 2006

One2One Introduction by William Hannigan- The Digital Journalist

One2One Introduction by William Hannigan- The Digital Journalist

An article on how portraits can become really great when the subject and photographer are given the space to play. I really love the shots of Nicole Kidman by James White, and I am not really fan of Nicole Kidman either.

Sicilian Portraits

I have taken down Tete-a-tete from Citilink mall. I have put up portraits from my easter trip to Sicily. Do drop by if you have the time. The next change will be the Rajasthan pics! :)

Friday, January 20, 2006

KONICA MINOLTA is stopping photo business

Press release details | KONICA MINOLTA

More digitally induced death.

Aquarius Horoscope

It's an excellent forecast for you, dear Aquarius! Although no specific events will occur, there is huge promise of freedom for the next seven months. In your chief occupation and in your love life, a fundamental shift is about to occur. As the months unfold, you can expect to be more visionary, more creative, and perhaps more rebellious. This time, you'll be much more effective than in the past two or three years.

:) I know it's just a horoscope. But I really hope this one is true. On the other hand, you can't real say that going to Chicago for 3 months is not a specific event...

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Rajasthan - Epilogue

Jodphur Fort

When shooting for clients, any clients, I am looking for creative solutions. There is a craft to this type of work but it does not feed a need inside me. There is in me, a need to be unbridled, completely without fear, completely free to shoot or not shoot. This is what 3 weeks in Rajasthan has done for me. It stopped me from being a problem solver and let me just be me. I also realized that on such a journey, I can only take companions that would give me the space to let go, or I have to go alone. When I return to work, there is a brief and expectations, but the results are greatly enhanced if a part of me is still 'free' to play and shoot as the situation developed. Photography is not a career for me, photography is my life. I do commercial work so that I can have the space, time and finances to live. The more I live, the better my commercial work is as well because I bring a life to my work that photographers who only shoot for money do not have. I guess that the ultimate dream would be to get paid for being.


I think that the two ends of photography are represented by the lomo creed and the photographers that actually know the zone system. On the one hand you have people who shoot without thinking, without framing. On the other hand you have the people that meter the zones in an image and control the process from end to end. I think that my truth is somewhere in-between, a knowledge and control that will allow me to say what I need to say. From this competence is the confidence to let the spontaneous enter the moment, to capture a moment of grace with the with the visual scope of a Michelangelo. Like flying a kite, photography for me requires a responsive tension.


The last time I felt this good about a trip was when I went to Venice by myself. At that time business was young and I was totally without worries. On this trip, it was with the help of my assistant Betty taking care of business for me and my parents keeping an eye on me that allowed me to travel unhindered by the baggage of daily life. I was also fortunate enough to find a good travel agent over the internet who provided me with a dependable driver who ensured my comfort while in Rajasthan. It took a group of dependable and kind people to enable me to be myself again. On my part, I tried to respect the people I photographed and if I promised them a photograph, I did all that I could to get them the photograph. (It is now out of my hands and in the hands of the Indian Postal service.) I think that it is important to nurture the people around you and find people that can nurture you. It is a question of cultivating real love and sharing it.

Bhanwar Niwas roof, Bikaner

As I struggled with photography, a few readers of the blog reminded me to experience the journey. Thank you for the advice for it is true. I know how to take a photograph, it has become second nature to me. As I left the fears of living behind me, the need to get a shot became unimportant. I was just taking the journey and took photographs as a natural extension of the journey. This is an important point, being there in the moment, vital, interacting with the place and people is what counts. As a photographer, the images are a by-product. I know that I did not let go of the camera completely, but I feel that I got a respectable distance along.

Rickshaw, Jodphur

Letting go of myself in Rajasthan, I realized the tough life of the people of this desert region. I sympathize with the harsh plight of these people but I also realize that I cannot be responsible for the plight of these people. Not going to the country is also not an answer in my mind for there is a legitimate help in the tourist cash. Like any other group of people in the world, there are good and bad people. So there are good and bad tourists, and there are also good and bad people in poor countries. There is no binary answer to this problem. The world will not be a better place when one group of people solve the problems of another group of people. The world will be a better place when everyone takes responsibility for themselves and the people immediately around them. We are all human and that is the best we can do. When everyone nurtures love, we can overcome entropy.

Love be with you all. :)

Rajasthan - Parting Shots Part II




Patwon-ki-Haveli, Jaisalmer

House in Jaisalmer fort. Jaisalmer is apparently one of the last remaining 'living' forts in the world.



Baba Ramdev Temple, Jaisalmer

Near Gadi Sagar, a water tank, Jaisalmer

Rajasthani women, Katariasar

I just got back home and am uploading these photos from my father's computer. After 3 weeks of Indian communications and computers, my fathers laptop on wireless simply zips by!! Sometimes going away makes you happy about certain things back home. :)

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Random Rajasthani

This trip to Rajasthan was quite an adventure for me, although it was not back packing by a long stretch. It was also a personal journey but I think that I will leave those thoughts for a last post on Rajasthan. There are plenty of random thoughts on how this trip was done. :)

1. I booked a car and all my hotels over the internet, on the Rajasthan Travel Guide. It was a real gamble but it paid off well. In fact the best hotel I stayed in, Jagat Niwas in Udaipur, was recommended by the manager of the web site, Manuj! The worst hotel was the Hotel Khadim in Ajmer which was a hotel I insisted upon. It was the cheapest hotel though and really not bad if I was in backpacking mode.

2. When I used to shoot film on holidays, I used to plan for film and batteries before the trip started. For this digital trip to Rajasthan, having a camera with flexible iso was great! Not having to worry about x-ray machines is cool too. There was a daily ritual of charging the camera battery, the Epson P2000 battery and the handphone battery. Adaptors are very important. I brought a multisocket adaptor but it was too heavy to use. The multisocket was so heavy that it and the adaptor would just fall out of the power point. Next time I will bring the adaptor and a multi-socket attached by wire.

3. In this digital age, don't leave home without a dust blower. It was essential to try and remove dust in the desert!! I know that there are images that I will have to do cloning work on when I return but I did manage to get rid of major dust spots when I needed to.

4. I used the tripod, which incidentally I bought for the trip, all of once. And the shots of fireworks during the Bikaner Camel Festival, just did not make it into my highlights.

5.I managed to finally plug the Epson P2000 into most of the computers that I used by downloading the win98 driver from the Epson America web site. Strange but Epson America is the only Epson web site with the driver. I had to use google to find it. Why could it not also have been mirrored on the Singapore, Europe or Australian webiste? I just don't know.

6. With the P2000 and heavy on camera editing, I only needed 1 2gig card. I did not find myself stretching for a second card once. I am bringing back about 20gigs of raw files. If I had kept everything I shot, I would want to show about 1 in 15 shots. With real time editing, I think that I will still only want to show 1 in 8 shots. The rest are interesting maybes that I may just look through in my twilight years.

7. My promise to give photos to people whom I shot has made me look for shops capable of printing digital files and back tracking to my subjects. I managed to print the photos in Jaipur but I was stumped by the fact that I could not buy envelopes to send the photos at the Jaipur post office! I finally managed to buy envelopes at Delhi airport and mailed off all the photos I promised I would. I must really think about that portable digital printer.

8. The light in Rajasthan can be beautiful, but it is harsh. So often, I loose the eyes of people even if the sun is behind. I think that the best solution aside from having an assistant carrying a screen with diffuser cloth, is to move the subject into an open shade. I must admit that I lost a few really good portraits to this problem.

Edited at 10.30 Delhi time while waiting for flight back to Singapore.

Rajasthan - Parting shots Part I

The first kids that I shot in Rajasthan, Jaipur

Waiter from Kerala. India Coffee House, Jaipur

Brhama Temple, Pushkar


Holy man, Pushkar

Jain Temple, Ajmer

Horse cart drivers, Ajmer

School Children, Udaipur

Market, Udaipur

Rickshaw decorations, Jodhpur

Monday, January 16, 2006

Bikaner - A city engulfed in noise

Karni Marta Temple, Deshnok

This temple is in Deshnok which is near Bikaner. It is famous for its holy rats that are supposed to be the descendents of the goddess Karni Marta. The rats are quite scraggy and are not frightening like in a horror movie, but it got to me after a while. I originally thought of skipping this little temple, but thanks to two new friends, Jens and Jenny, whom I met at the hotel, we had an exchange of ideas. They went with me to the 'touristy' Camel Festival, and I followed to the holy rat temple. I must say that this is the most unforgettable part of the whole journey. :)

Old town, Bikaner

In a tut-tut, Bikaner

Old town, Bikaner

Old town, Bikaner

Old town, Bikaner

Old town, Bikaner

Old town, Bikaner

Some type of food factory near train station, Bikaner

Bhanwar Niwas Hotel rooftop, Bikaner

Like I mentioned earlier, I thought that Bikaner Camel festival would be the highlight of my trip. My driver, Bhawar, was surprised that I had booked 4 nights in a second rank town. Yes, the camel festival was a let down, but I had some fun anyway. I had a day to walk in the old town with my new friends. The fort was nice, but enough of fort photographs. :)

I stayed in an old heritage hotel in the old town, Bhanwar Niwas Hotel. It is a grand place but stuck in time. It was the only hotel in the whole trip without a television in the room. It is stuck in the back alleys of the old town and they did not have a map to the location. The price of the room and dinner were steep, but undeserved so.

The room that I had was next to a small Hindu temple. There was a prayer every evening and morning at 7 o'clock, accompanied by loud, loud drumming! I got so used to it after 4 days that it did not completely wake me up this morning. The old town must be full of mosques, for in the evening, as the sun sets, you are surrounded in the sound of the call to prayer if you are on the roof of the hotel. At night, the mosques and temples continue to give out holy music which is just about muffled in my room. But the bed in my room was a steel four-poster bed that seemed to act like a stethoscope, amplifying the drum beats of the music through the night.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Bikaner Camel Festival - A Tourist Presentation

Dr Karni Singh Stadium, Bikaner

Dr Karni Singh Stadium, Bikaner

Dr Karni Singh Stadium, Bikaner

Dr Karni Singh Stadium, Bikaner

Dr Karni Singh Stadium, Bikaner

Dr Karni Singh Stadium, Bikaner

Dr Karni Singh Stadium, Bikaner

Dr Karni Singh Stadium, Bikaner

Katariasar Village

Katariasar Village

The Pushkar Camel Fair is one of the two most important camel trading fairs in the world. So it was with a lot of anticipation that I traveled through Rajasthan, waiting to enjoy the Bikaner Camel Festival. What a disappointment when I ended up at the festival to find out that it is more a tourist showcase than a real fair. Bikaner is famous for its camels, apparently rearing half of the camels sold in Rajasthan. But this camel festival was a 3 day tourist thingy. The good part is that as a foreigner you get to see camels dressed up and their fur cut with cute patterns. The down side is the whole thing is decidedly tacky. Rajasthani men dress up as warriors and enter the Mr Bikaner competition. Couples dress up and have to answer trivia about Rajasthan in another competition. All this is an elaborate show for the foreigners. The first day was held at the Dr Karni Stadium in Bikaner. Over the next two days, the festival continues in Katariasar Village, which I went down to check out. I left when I found out that the wedding ceremony on the schedule was for foreigners participation. With the hordes of local Indians looking at white skinned tourist in wedding clothes, I seriously had no idea who was watching who.

The festival was great for capturing images of the local color and culture, but in a completely plastic manner. Somehow it did not feel like an honest transaction. The nicest part was Katariasar Village though. The people there I suspect have not had much experience with tourist yet. They were curious about tourist and enthusiastic to be photographed, but they did not demand rupees or a pen in return.

As humans we are such romantics at heart and hope for the ideal experiences, but the truth always turns out to be something mixed. But on the bright side, I rather have this mixed-experience than none at all.