FUJIFILM XT20 – An hour with XT20

FUJIFILM XT20 – An hour with XT20

I rarely had the urge to write something about a camera that I try before but this one is an exception as I felt that there is a few points that I need to put out.

A week ago, Fujifilm did a camera hands-on session which include a small street photography workshop done by one of their brand ambassador (I think). To be honest I do not expect much from the workshop but the chance of trying out Fujifilm high end equipment on the street of Georgetown is much more interesting, and it’s free.

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Fujifilm XT20 – the camera that I tried for an hour. 

Ever since I continue my study in Penang, I never got the chance to explore the street of Penang as much as I thought I would be. Project submission and curricular activity has made me very occupied throughout the week. So this is like killing two bird with one stone, a chance to explore Georgetown with a better camera and to actually try Fujifilm recent offering.

Since it’s free and doesn’t seems to restrict only to Fujifilm camera user. I decided to give it a go.

MORNING SESSION

The event was held at Gayo Cafe, next to the Chinahouse. A cafe that doesnt seems to bother to check their location on facebook, which made many of us late for the event as we scramble to find the exact location of the cafe.

As I was late, the talk already gone through halfway and the place was literally packed with people. The talk was done by Thomas Phoon where he gave a basic introduction on street photography.

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Street photography talk by Thomas Phoon. 

Street photography in general is a very difficult genre to dissect. Even the speaker try to keep it simple while at the same time entertaining to the crowd. It keep up with the basic approach to street photography while at the same time showcasing why Fujifilm X series camera are the best camera for street photography.

But I am not expecting a talk from Alex Webb here.

CAMERA LOANING SESSION

The only experience that I had with Fujifilm camera before is their X100 model. A camera which I was planning to get before getting a second hand Sony a900.

But that was back in 2012, where the autofocus was not up to standard and the control is a bit tedious compared to what I heard recently. For this session I was hoping to try the X-pro2 or the X100F in which I was unlucky as I was one of the last few at the back of the line.

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Due to my phone camera quality, the thing that the girl was holding is actually the Xpro2 Graphite. 

So for this, I have to settle with the Fujifilm XT20 with some random zoom lens that is left with them. The girls in front of me manage to use the Xpro2 Graphite, damn.

We left our MyKad with the organizer before taking the camera off to the street of Georgetown. I also ask one of the brand representative to teach me how to use the camera and to adjust the setting in which I find the camera control to be similar to my Olympus OM-1.

THE STREET 

After a 10 minutes of basic Fujifilm camera session with one of the Fujifilm representative, I head out with the usual intention of taking photograph of whatever that I deem interesting.

This is also a good way to try the camera where in the recent year, saw many hardcore Nikon and Canon enthusiast to switch to the X-series system. On first impression, the camera control is pretty direct and simple with most of the necessary control are put on top of the camera plate. The most noticeable difference compare to the usual DSLR is the classic look of the camera which resembles the SLR back in the 70’s from the like of Olympus OM and Pentax LX. The camera is also surprisingly solid with the lens built quality is stunning, similar to a solid classic analog lenses made from stainless steel. Even though my loan lens had some used mark here and there.

You can refer to more information on XT20 at Dpreview.com, as this blog is never meant for a scientific camera review. I used to like Fujifilm for its 400H Pro film.

 

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One of the first frame that I took after I went out from the Cafe. Autofocus is blazing fast, no complain on that matter. 
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I believe I was struggling with the EVF response rate. The camera has a rather annoying turn on rate when I switch from using live view to the EVF. Perhaps there is a problem with the sensor. Solved the problem by using only EVF for the entire time. 
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So while testing the camera, I bump into my long lost senior back when I was studying for Diploma. On a side note, the camera retain the highlight details perfectly well and this is converted from RAW. 
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I think this stray dog develop a sort of bond with the community. So chill. 
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I was hoping for a Daido Moriyama kind of head turn from the dog. But no. Again, the camera retain great detail from this image file. 
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Chill dog, enough said. 
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The camera is not exactly discreet but the shutter sound is definitely quieter than what I am used to. The guy was talking something about California.  
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More chit-chat on California. 
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His name is Syed Mahathir. I did chat with him for a while. Wish to talk more but I am in a rush to return the camera soon. 
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More people on bicycle around Georgetown. Again, great detail and sharpness from the camera. Wish I have some spare 8K under my pillow. 
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Miscellaneous item. 
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I wish to take this one with my TLR but somehow the shutter is stucked few days ago. 
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One final picture before I return the camera. The kid was cute as she pose for her mum. Should have try a higher ISO for this. 

CONCLUSION 

In general, mirrorless camera is a very viable option as a serious workhorse camera. For me that is. But this is not a surprise considering that Sony has somehow conquer the market with its mirrorless full frame camera, the RX1r and A7 series camera.

My point here is that I used to have some doubt on mirrorless camera, not in term of image quality but more on the actual shooting performance and I am glad that the technology for the camera is getting better.

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They were giving out comment on a selected 2 image from the outing. The selected 2 image were given some sort of prize. But the first selected image is interesting though. 
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The end of the workshop. 

In this day, most digital camera is a good camera. With only differences is more on the features than the actual image quality. For a starter the only thing that I find irritating with the camera is only the following (nothing serious) ;

  1. The EVF still could not replace the actual experience of using a viewfinder. Which I believe the X100F or Xpro2 suits me more. I am the kind of person who use viewfinder most of the time.
  2. The organizer doesn’t even bother to provide a neckstrap for their camera. So basically you are carrying 7K equipment around the area by holding onto the expensive lens.
  3. I just wish to try the Xpro2 instead. 😦

Given the opportunity, I wouldnt mind using the XT20 all year long. Its a great camera with tons of feature but so far, I am impressed.

As for the event, I believe it was a success. I consider myself a neutral when it comes to camera brand but Fujifilm did a good job on this and they even have a free meal.

Looking forward for a Leica camera hand-on test in the future. Hopefully.

 

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MID-SEM BREAK 2017 | BAHAU

MID-SEM BREAK 2017 | BAHAU

I consider Penang street food to be one of the best in the world. The range of choice around the island and across over Butterworth is really just overwhelming. From the Chinese Hokkien cuisine and all the way to the famous Indian Muslim delicacy, the choice is really just endless.

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Her flight is delay from Langkawi and then she found out we will be stuck in Penang for another 2 hour. 

That is until my girlfriend says that the food at her hometown is better. Yes, there is more choice here in Penang but the taste, according to her, is different. Whereas at Bahau, the taste is simply better and the texture or smell is definitely more authentic. She was saying that they cook it much better. And so does the Coffee.

As a good boyfriend that I am, I simply agree on this matter. Simply because she has good taste towards stuff and she is usually right.

Chance came upon me to visit her hometown during the semester break. She invited me to meet her family and at the same time, brought me around Bahau, Negeri Sembilan. For those that are wondering, I am a bit nervous when meeting them and yes, I do find it awkward at first but it gets better over time.

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The flight delay took about 2 hours of everyone at the departure hall. Additional 30 minutes delay when we board the aeroplane. 

It is a week long visit to Bahau and it begin with a rather long trip from Penang, KL, and all the way to Bahau. But it’s just the beginning of very interesting trip in recent time.

I arrange all the picture that I took into one long post with caption in each photograph. That way it would be easier to view the entire post without bothering to read any poorly written paragraph.

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Since our flight was delay, my girlfriend family have to wait for another 3 hour before going back to Bahau. The ride from the airport to Bahau is about 2 hour in a half and we arrive around 2am in the morning. 
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Chin Seik showing off his bow and arrow set. Reminds me of my friends and cousin who used to play this in highschool. I am never much of a fan of static sports such as archery or bowling but I do appreciate the skill require to pull it off nicely. 
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Grabbing our morning breakfast nearby. I don’t really have much expectation actually. 
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But I was wrong, the coffee was great and the food was good as well. Wish the cafeteria near my dormitory can serve food like this, or at least the coffee that is. 
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One of the reason why I gain so much weight in one week is because of they let me try a lot of great tasting food around Bahau. I forgot the Chinese word for this but it is basically Bahau famous Braised Pork Oflal. I rate this in my Top 3 food to eat in Bahau, and of course from those that is famous among the local. 
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A friend of my girlfriend mum. Saw some great tasting bun and biscuit that is freshly made. 
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Like daughter, like mother. 
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I would rate this as my Number 1 food to try in Bahau. I have a very soft spot for tasty sweet cold dessert and this one is really one of the best that I try so far. Its called Wan Toa Lang if I was not mistaken and it consist of Jelly mixed with shaved ice and condensed milk, top off with a dash of lime. 
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Not done with what we  eat that evening, we went on to try this delightful Tom Yam that is somehow cooked/serve in coconut. Not sure if this is unique to Bahau but the taste is alright. 
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Coconut Tom Yam.  My stomach is pretty full now, barely able to breath. 
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After the Tom Yam, they brought me to the famous Roti Canai shop. Again, I forgot the name of the restaurant but its near some clinic. As you can see, there is 3 different Roti Canai which my girlfriend say she find it to be very good. 
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Her parents met their old acquaintance. 
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Apparently they were neighbor 2 decades ago.  
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Roti Canai with ICe-cream. Never thought it taste so good.  
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The restaurant is just next to the place where my girlfriend and her siblings used to practice their musical instrument. This is her teacher doing some classes on harmonica. 
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2nd day, and this is our breakfast. The food is good as expected. 
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They say we just going to take a quick breakfast. 
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They ended up showing me around the town area. 
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I dont understand why she is like this. 
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We discuss something about people wealth and house design. The house looks unique though. 
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We are suppose to be visiting a temple here but the gate is closed. We went out to take a picture of the panorama view. Can’t see much actually. 
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The grass is tall. 
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This tree is taller. 
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Okay, she is shorter. 
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On our way to an abandoned golf park. 
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Another interesting stuff to take picture off. 
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Lembu Bahau. 
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The golf coursed used to be owned by a Korean If I was not mistaken but it was left like this for no reason. (according to a local source) 
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I think we can make something out of this. 
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The guard dog. 

 

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The brought some leftover to feed the dog. Such well mannered one as well. 

 

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Then they brought me to this lovely spot. Good place to take portrait pictures I think. 
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The squad for the day. 
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First group photo of the day. 
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Everyone is hungry. So we are going back home to eat some lovely home made food. 
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Nope, cancel that, we are going to Rompin. (I think its Rompin or was it Kuala Pilah) 
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This is their grandmother house yard. It is now rented by a movie director who doesnt seems to live there as much as they thought. 
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So sad. 😦
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Bye Bye… 😦 

 

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Trying out Chin Seik new bow set.
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The bow is bigger than her arms. 
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Chin Seik admiring his new hairstyle. 

 

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On our way to visit Ladang Gedis. 
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Can’t remember what Silo is this for. Was it grain or something. Not sure. 
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This is Ah Tong best pose. 
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She brought the grass all the way until evening. 
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SO cute. 
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An old english building build by the British owner from many decades ago. 
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Another group photo. 
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Ah Tong told me not to upload this pictures online or else she will lose her image. 
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Another group photo. 
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Then somehow Chin Seik suggest that we should visit Roti Abdul. Its one of the oldest bread maker from Bahau that has been supplying delicious bread around the area for years. 
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Found the Roti Abdul factory, but we can’t find the entrance. 
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Found it. 
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I love the smell of a bakery, and this is even more pleasing to my nose as the entire factory made bread and flavor filled bun like those gardenia. Roti Abdul buns and bread are cheap and tasty by the way. The entire factory is clean as well. 
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Enjoying the scene while making some joke about something and eating some Roti Abdul. 
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Ah Tong was showing her family palm estate area. She even told us how she used to play and help her family picking up the palm fruits into the lorry. 
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No car was harm in the making of this picture. 
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Happy kids. 
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Another group photo. 
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My girlfriend is a little kid on the inside. 
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The last group photo of the day. 

Eventhough my girlfriend show me around Bahau, her family was actually was very eager to let me try many great different food around Bahau. So every night they brought me to many different places which is great. Never felt hungry even for the next few weeks.

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I had assignment to settle that week. But we are having so much activities as well. 
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For Orang Semenanjung, 1 hour ride is actually very close. 
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A Char Kuey Teow that is made by using wood and flaming charcoal. 
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That smile. 
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The Char Kuey Teow taste good. But I was pretty full that time. 
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Check it out, the flaming wooden stove. 
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Her father showing me the places and building around the area. 
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This is on top of some hill. The temple seems to be working on something even though its late at night. 
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Chinese Architecture. 
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That color contrast. 

I did visit Kuala Lumpur that week. For those who lives in Peninsular Malaysia, their understanding between near and far is way different compare to us in Borneo, especially for me who have been living in a small island for less than a decade. For my girlfriend, she thinks from Bahau to Kuala Lumpur is okay, and quiet near. (it’s more than 8 hour trip).

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She made breakfast for me. Good effort though from her side. I want more. 
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Going to the bus station. 
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Those siblings were so excited. 
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Waving to her mother face. 
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And we arrive at the Seremban KTM train station.  Its an hour bus ride. 
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Going up. 
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Going down. 
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The morning passenger to Kuala Lumpur. 
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No seat for me. 
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Got a seat then we found our fellow classmate from Politeknik Port Dickson. 
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The kid was crying so we make some stupid face. 
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I think she call her friend to inform him that we have arrive in KL Central. 
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I purposely try to keep my stomach flat for this picture. 
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Expensive priced food doesn’t make for a great tasting food. 
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We took our lunch just next to the PAM Centre. 
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Just look at the color palette and detailing. 
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That smile. 
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We grab a coffee at KLCC. The machiato was great. 
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Went to Kinokuniya and bought a book by Stuart Franklin on Photojournalism. 
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Its a rainy evening. 
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Highlight of the day. Luckily I didn’t insist on getting one for myself, even with 4 of us we couldn’t finish the drink. 

Our highlight of the week was supposed to be a hiking trip to Bukit Broga. They say it is very near (1-2 hour trip is actually very ‘dekat’ to them). Instead since we arrive there a bit late with the sun high up on top of us, we decided to just visit the temple with Sun Wukong and enjoy ourselves.

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Our breakfast for the day. Not the best and the coffee was so-so only. 
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It’s only few weeks ago that Dota2 announced a new hero call the Monkey king. 
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Going into the temple. 
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The monkey king is still looking for something. 
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I forgot what she is called. 
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Sama. 
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I just love the contrast. 
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Orphaned kid. 
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Long. 
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I forgot what is the story for this. 
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Happy kid. 
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Chin Wei showing the double peace sign. 
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Wu Kong is still looking for something. 
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The sibling. 
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This is not Sabah. 
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We found a great tasting coconut shake along the way. 
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They have a regular customer it seems. 
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After having our lunch, we decided to visit this housing estate nearby where the houses could reach million of ringgit. Its a gated development complete with a clubhouse. 
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The show unit is fully furnished and expensive looking. Inspired by european style but I dont really like the design. 

The last day before going back was a bit relaxing, I just finished submitted my assignment and packing my stuff only took a short time to settle. We did manage to try her sister breakfast set before taking off to the airport.

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She is showing off her brand new shoes that she never got to wear, YET. 
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At the airport chilling with the Family Mart Matcha Ice-cream. 
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That double chin of mine. 75kg by this time. 
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That double cap style of her. 

So I got back home to my room with a full stomach. My girlfriend family has been extremely friendly and thoughtful for the entire week. It’s just that I wish I could be more nicer and less awkward during my next visit. Of course, there is a lot of other stuff to visit as well.

Next time, I gonna bring my Seagull and maybe my OM-1n.

 

OBSCURA PHOTO FESTIVAL 2016 – An experience | PART 1

OBSCURA PHOTO FESTIVAL 2016 – An experience | PART 1

Obscura Photo Festival is an annual photography festival that is held yearly at Georgetown, Penang. It is currently in it’s 4th edition which is also the number of time that I had missed the festival. I nearly missed the recent edition and somehow managed to salvage the remaining few days of the festival.

Like any other International Photo festival, it has became a great stop for a gathering among International photographer community prior to the upcoming Angkor Photo Festival this November. The festival has certainly grown a lot compared to its first edition where there is more serious photography discussion with the participant and at the same time with the public. It has also manage to brought in some great name in Contemporary Photography to share their view on current issues and also their perspective on their own work.

Among the program on the list that really capture my attention is the talk from Shahidul Alam on “Finding New Narratives in Photography.” and of course the International Photobook show.  I missed the talk due to my commitment for my University Faculty programs but somehow able to drop by for the International Photobook Show at INCH.

The Photo Festival starts on 15th August until 31 August although the first few days are for the Masterclass workshop while the exhibition is open to the public on 19th August 2016.

On 24 August, I finally managed to get myself free and spent the rest of the day solely for the Photo Festival. The morning was terrible as I was staying up late that night and only to get lost on my way to INCH.

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Alvin giving a stare to the camera. Looking forward to see his upcoming work on a visual diary of some sort next year. 

When I arrived there, the talk was already halfway through and the atmosphere were rather serious with a few casual laugh in between. Most of them are totally focus on the talk while some other were browsing through the books that is on display. A scan through the room shows a few people that I knew online mainly Daniel Boetker-Smith from Asian-Pacific Photobook Archives and also Sim Chi Yin who is rather famous recently with her works from China (I am a fan of her work). I didn’t notice anyone familiar until Alvin (a friend from KL who joined the masterclass workshop) say Hi to me.

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The crowd is very receptive during the talk by Teun Van der Heijden. 

The first talk was done by Teun Van der Heijden, famously known for his photobook design ‘Black Passport’ for Stanley Greene. He is a creative designer that works on photography editing and photobook design and to summarize his talk, it was more about how, why, and his preference in making a photobook. The talk was interesting as he keeps on showing example from his previous work (which is available on display during the International Photobook Show). There was a few interesting point that were discussed which I wish I did a recording of it. It was on how he recently working with a fine art photographer to conceive a photobook while despite all this, he still prefer or rather, more comfortable to work with Photojournalism type of work. There was also something that he mentioned on how working with the two genre is different and what we can learn from this and reapply to any other project in terms of visual presentation or impact.

Of course, the Q&A session were ruthless and perhaps rightly so since we are surrounded with talented photographers of such high caliber.

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The design process of the ‘Black Passport’, one of my favourite photobook ever. Current price for a copy is about 450USD. Wish I can have this on my wall for my room.
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Some of the visitor who decided to go through the books instead of taking their lunch. 
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Sim Chi Yin going through some of the photobook. She teach one of the masterclass for the Obscura Photo Festival this year. 

After the first talk were done, everyone were going downstairs to take their lunch. I already taken mine so I decided to spent my time browsing through the books that is on display. The main objective to go to such event was to gain inspiration and I am taking my time to go through someone else photography zine and dummy book. Not to mention some rare and expensive books as well.

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A collection of photobook on display. Spent a good solid hour going through the books. Immense stuff. Notice the Henri Cartier Bresson book on the bottom left corner?.

There was also a number of photobook on display and particularly those finalist and winner that have won some ‘Photobook Award of the year‘, can’t seems to recall the name of the award though. Just to name a few, there was also the super expensive Henri Cartier Bresson recently republished photobook ‘The Desicive moment’, the writing were good but I still can’t understand why it was that ‘famous’.

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Daniel Boetker-Smith giving his talk and view on the current state of Photobook Market especially in South East Asia and Australia. 

The second talk of the day is by Daniel Boetker-Smith, an enthusiastic photographer/educator from Australia. I knew him from Photobook Australia and he is also the Director for Asian Pacific Photobook Archive, big stuff.

Throughout the talk, he discuss the current state of Photobook market especially in Asia and how aspiring Photographer that want to publish a photobook can do so for themselves. There was also some discussion on the pro’s and con’s of self publishing where opinion were threw in by some of the audience. Since I had no such intention to do a photobook at the moment, I tend to ignore the whole talk apart from the Asian Pacific Photobook Archive effort in promoting photographer work to a wider audience.

A summary on what Asian Pacific Photobook Archive has been trying to achieve in the past few years is to promote the joy of Photobook viewing in a form of travelling mini library. This is achieved by joining/involved in as much Photo Festival that they can afford to. Through their effort, there is some Photography project that manage to capture the attention of a Publisher and from what they said, there is a follow up collaboration with the photographer.

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Waiting for the program to start. Beer is on sale by the way.

The next program of the day is the Projection Night “Judgement of Line Orientation” curated by Anshika Varma, which if I was not mistaken, a Photo Editor for NGEO India.

One irritating things that I don’t really like with the Photo festival is that the programs doesn’t start punctually. But this is understandable and can be well tolerated as most of the participant and audience has probably been tired from following all the program for the past few days.

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The hardworking people behind Obscura Photo Festival and of course, the big ass projector. 

Before the projection night starts, they were giving out some handouts that gives some short description on the selected photography works and also the curator statement on the slideshow.

Here are some of the short writings on the projection;

“Judgement of Line Orientation stems from exploring social structures created for people to find a sense of belonging as a community. The works included explore and question the act of creating such norms. These questions become more relevant in the context of our current times when constructs are blatantly exploited by the politics of nations and its powerful to divide. The photographic interrogations included draw from a strong base in the photographers personal thoughts or politics. For the curator, it questions the need and relevance of these structures and its impact on how we choose to live our lives today. The curation questions the formation of our multipletures and its impact on how we choose to live our lives today. The curation questions the formation of our multiple identities for nations, religions, mythologies, families and gender homogenization and its subsequent politics.”

  • Aapo Huhta – Ukkometso
  • Alejandro Chaskielberg – Otsuchi Future Memories
  • Andre Fernandes – Killing Kittens
  • Diego Moreno – Guardians of Memory
  • Dragana Jurisic – Yu the Lost Country
  • Kosuke Okahara – Ibasyo
  • Laurence Rasti – There are no homosexual in Iran
  • Magda Biernat – Adrift
  • Vasantha Yogananthan – Early Times
  • Yoshikatsu Fuji – Red String

The projection showcase a bunch of visually interesting narratives that really challenge the common society thought on a bunch of issues such as cultural minority, mentally challenged, and also towards understanding the common theme such as love. There is a lot to learn from it as well and hopefully it could go through (in some way) to the works that I had been working on myself.

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Daniel questioned the narratives and objectives used for the projection. 

After the projection night was done, I was somehow been able to join a group of friend for late supper before taking our time to take pictures of some people burning offering to the god. It’s that time of the month in Chinese Calendar and the whole town seems geared towards it as well.

Another late night stay before tomorrow.

 

 

 

 

 

MID 2016

MID 2016

All is well so far for 2016.

As for my University life, all the thing that I try to do from my ‘New year resolution list’ is slowly being done but of course apart from my love life; which is as miserable as it always is. So far for this year, I manage to get into my first architecture competition at the end of last year and managed to get third place out of 20+ participant from all over Malaysia. I also got myself busy with some extra-curricular activities which I try to avoid before in the past, something that I try to actually get myself involve in a different circle of people and at the same time improve my time management skill.

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Part of my presentation board for my design studio.

The thing with my semester break this time is that I will be involve in a several events few weeks before the next semester start which means my ‘holiday’ is not exactly 3 months but only for a solid 2 months. It did force me to change my mid-semester plan short as I did plan to take several design commission but nevertheless, I happen to work at my old company instead since they are short in staff at the moment (a rather surprise decision actually). This in addition will help me ease through next semester financially and hopefully funds me to do something interesting on the next semester break.

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That final project feeling.

Coming back to Labuan for the semester break allow me to be more collective in thought, like considering how much had I progress so far in life (Current Level : 24, 2456 EXP required to the next level) and focusing on what to do next. Photography wise, it’s time to get back to my previous work and to actually review my past work. There is this wise photographer once told me that you need to detach yourself from your photograph that you took and guess what happen when you been away from looking at your photograph for like a year?, that awful nauseating feeling of seeing a newbie works!.

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A remnant of my past documentation work on Labuan. 

True enough that some of the photograph feels as if it works when I show it to Wu Bin last time but now I realize how true his opinion is, it just doesn’t work, composition wise or technical wise. Maybe it’s time to be more ruthless when it comes to editing my work and to be a more tougher critic of my own work.

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A rather slow process to get everything in perspective.

Going back to my contact sheet for my ‘The Promised Bridge’ long term photography project, maybe, just maybe I finally get a grip on what I actually been seeking through the project; that mundane melancholy of Labuan itself.

This will be another tiring mid-semester break all over again.

 

After thought on my Photography project : Between two sons (2014-2015)

After thought on my Photography project : Between two sons (2014-2015)

Few months ago, I finally finished a short photography project of mine where I have been exploring the use of old photograph with a new.

It started during my session with Exposure+ workshop program last year where I present a series of off-shore oil and gas worker in a ‘Diptych’ format. The idea was to show a contrast between the worker and its surrounding. During the early part of the workshop, I intent to capture it from a wider perspective but the main objective is somehow lost due to the subject size within the frame. I have been through some discussion with Steven Lee (my mentor for Exposure+) and we finally found a way to project the idea visually and that is through ‘Diptych’. In my opinion, there is probably a better way to use ‘Diptych’ format since it allow the viewer to subconsciously comparing the difference between the two photograph, similar to how photograph that is placed side by side on a photobook pages.
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 Earlier attempt in documenting the off-shore worker in public spaces around Labuan. It use similar format but different concept. Steven and I have this feeling that there is something off with the way the project being shown in this format.

‘Diptych’ is nothing new in the history of Photography but I always thought that the idea can be use on a different context. ‘Between two sons’ was initially started after a discussion with Zhuang Wu Bin, a renowned photographer and curator in South East Asia, during his workshop in early 2014. He gave his thought on my idea and point out the possible flaw of my approach. It prove beneficial as always and it took me a few weeks before I began taking pictures for the series. Basically its because of procrastination and nothing less.

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‘Between two sons’ was something that I had always wanted to do for a photography project, something that is personal and yet subtle in terms of visual presentation. It is used to show my relationship with my father and how our difference came to be due to the fact that we grow up from an entirely different era and circumstances. My relationship with my father is in fact great but this project is to show the little argument that we had throughout the year and the irony of the said argument. Perhaps the initial concept was to show the conflict of our relationship but it is in fact a subtle message of my love to my father. Our difference is in fact counterweight by our similarities.

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One of the few photograph from ‘Between two sons’.

Throughout the project period, all the photo of me was not a self-portrait but actually taken by my little brother or a colleague who happen to be with me for the photograph. There is something interesting from this process where despite me, the photographer, became a subject of my own idealogy, taken by other photographer, to conceive a narrative which is this project. The relationship is a peculiar one indeed and it reminds me of the discussion that we had at Chiang Mai on what makes a Photographer Photographer. The picture was not taken by me but do I have the right to claim the right for the entire series?. Perhaps the discussion could be decided on court (refering to the copyright issue between a monkey and some wildlife photographer) but I would rather not.

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My photographer on numerous session. Brought the tripod along but I found that having a human holding the camera is much more easier/quicker to execute.

I had received numerous comment and feedback after having it posted on one of Zhuang Wu Bin blog. The feedback from my audience on facebook can be categorize into humorous, interesting, and clever. Some people found it to be funny since our looks are similar (i am his son for god sake) and the fact that even at this age, I haven’t been able to settle with a decent relationship with the opposite sex. ‘Interesting’ is often mentioned for the fact comparing two different picture can somehow create an interesting visual narrative. ‘Clever’ was used for people to give me some credit on doing something that has never been done before (it’s not true, there is nothing new with Diptych and in fact the format is widely use in magazine and photobook).

Completing the project was a relief, it means I finally been able to conceive a photography project that I truly satisfied with the output. I am sure it can be better in many way but for now, the work stands for itself. I did plan to have it exhibit in some way but the scale is to small and most likely work better in a group exhibition of a similar theme.

Here I am sitting in my dorm room wishing for the Malaysia currency to bounce back so I could finally settle my long overdue Photography website of mine.

Hari Gawai 2015

Hari Gawai 2015

Earlier last month at the end of June, I decided to join a friend back to his home village to celebrate the Harvest Festival. Being a Sino Kadazan, I never been to a longhouse before but my friend assure me that although the longhouse nowadays are made from a much more contemporary material, the culture has pretty much remain the same.

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The town at Limbang is busy with people preparing for the Harvest festival tomorrow.

We took the ferry from Labuan and arrive at the Limbang Jetty in the next few hours. The ride was smooth while the immigration system is pretty efficient as well. Limbang is part of Sarawak therefore its jurisdiction is different compare to those from Peninsular Malaysia and Sabah.

The town however; although small, is pretty busy with people stocking all the necessary item for a feast. A longhouse usually hold at least 10 family but its not uncommon for some longhouse to have at least 50 family in a single row. My friend brought his family back to the village for the holiday and as usual, we will bring our own share of the celebration by buying liquor and meats.

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A pig head that my friend brought back for the barbeque.

After we were done with the shopping, the next agenda of the day is to visit their ancestor graveyard which is meant to pay their respect and praying for their blessing for the upcoming festival. It is a pretty common practice for most races in Malaysia.

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A Christian Cemetery
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Paying their respect for the elder. My friend grandfather who passed away few years ago.

The journey back to the village took us about 1 hour and half despite our aggressive driving. There is no proper asphalt road that connects the village with the main road but according to my friend, the road is in a much better condition than it was few years ago, plus there is electricity grid throughout the area.

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4WD vehicle is a standard choice for the people around the area. We are stopping by at my friend family orchard before continuing our ride back to the village.

The longhouse is actually really long. Its similar to the British terrace house design with a long corridor or ‘ruai’ connecting the house. The ‘ruai’ is consider as a public area where kids and elders usually hang out. I didn’t spent much time exploring outside the longhouse since the family has been very welcoming ever since I got there. Everyone is pumped up for tomorrow and preparation is hasten towards midnight.

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Part of the ‘Ruai’. Its big enough for the kids to play and surely big enough to hold hundreds of people celebrating the harvest festival.
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The backyard of the longhouse. Store were built to keep farming equipment away from the longhouse.

Iban people are known for being fond with alcoholic drinks and true to their reputation, we were serve with some rice wine and pork barbecue to freshen our day. I couldn’t remember much after that day since I haven’t been sober for the next few days. Drinks were serve like there was no tomorrow but falling asleep was pretty easy.

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Alcohol can do wonder to people.
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A family gathering.

The next morning I woke up with a terrible hangover. My mouth was dry and my stomach was hungry but that is pretty much what we do for the next few days; drink, eat, and sleep. Its holiday and many of the family relatives came back for the week to celebrate the festive occasion where having a great time being their main objective.

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Barbecue pork meat and a few shots of whiskey.
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Serves up!
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Again, Alcohol could do wonder and at a time like this I wish I was not that drunk to hold the camera properly.

Later on that day, I did got the time to explore some part of the village. The village is surround by dense forest with a river passing through in between. Back then, people of the village have to rely on the river as their main transportation method but ever since the road was built, it hasn’t been used much due to safety and convenience.

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Gathering some edible palm from nearby tree for tonight dinner. 
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The scenery around the area. 

My original intention to join my friend back for a visit is actually to have a look at their old wooden longhouse structure, which remain pretty much as it is despite being in ruin for a long time. My friend uncle brought me to the place and being drunk as hell, the three of us make a journey through the forest, barefoot.

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Entrance to the old longhouse.
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The inside of the longhouse with the top space being used as a place to keep harvested rice. Similar to how Kadazan people used to keep their rice.
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Drunk as hell. To be honest, I didnt remember how we walk out from that place.

The highlight of the harvest festival would be during midnight where blessing and prayers are given throughout the longhouse. Again, I don’t really remember how the night goes, my camera however are still by my side and somehow I manage to even change my memory card. Looking through the picture do made me realize that festive event should be fun for everyone while preserving our own culture and identity. The night last until dawn with people tossing their glass and laughing at each other jokes. During the last day of my stay there, they even hired a local band to entertain the people with everyone joining in for the dance.

A truly festive season that I truly enjoy which I wish I was not that drunk during my entire stay.

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Sarawak national flag.
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Before the praying session start. I didn’t ask about the ceremony in detail though.
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The younger people enjoying the drinks and music.
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DANCE, DANCE.

 

 

 

 

 

 

My experience with KLPA Exposure+ 3 program

My experience with KLPA Exposure+ 3 program

Few years ago, I thought mastering all the technical matter of photography will make me a good photographer but whenever I think about that thought this day, I couldn’t help but to smile on how naive I was back then.

There is more to Photography than just simply taking pretty pictures and it is in-fact it’s ability to preserve a mere fraction of a second of something that is perhaps Photography greatest pleasure. Photography helps the world communicate and this is one of the few reason on why I have been interested in Photography in the first place.

While I am still buzzing from the previous IPA Street Photography Workshop in 2013,  I have decided that part of my resolution for 2014 is to join more Project based Photography workshop and a friend of mine recommend KLPA Exposure+ 3 Program for a starter. A quick research on what the workshop could offer reveal a rather impressive line of mentor with a very flexible working schedule. The main objective of the workshop is to expose the participant in developing their own personal project with the help of their own mentor and by the end of the program, they will have to present it in a form of Exhibition and presentation; thus ‘Exposed’ (there is more to the workshop than that).

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My first public presentation during the KLPA 2014 Exhibition at Whitebox Gallery, Publika. (Picture courtesy of Steven Lee)

The workshop is a 3 month program with a monthly gathering in between. Each participant is assign to a mentor and will then be guided through the entire 3 months to complete a Photography Project. The mentors consist of a number of well known Photographer in Malaysia namely Eiffel Chong (not related to the Eiffel tower in Paris),  Steven Lee, and Cheryl Hoffmann. All 3 of them probably doesn’t need any introduction but its worth noting that each of them has their own main forte’ and I just can’t wait to learn more from them.

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Monthly discussion is done often and sometimes weekly depending on everyone schedule. Note how dedicated Steven is in keeping tabs on other participant works. (Photo courtesy of Nurul Munira)

Since I am based in Labuan, interacting with other mentors and participant on weekly basis is basically impossible and luckily they are offering an online session as well as online discussion. The registration is a straight forward task with a few words exchange through e-mail and a few weeks later, It was announced that I will be a part of this year KLPA Exposure+ 3 program. Suprised as It seems, my mentor for the next 3 months is Steven Lee, a rather familiar name but just can’t seems to recall from where (A friend of mine, Flanegan Bainon told me that he used to study under him somewhere during his degree study in Australia).

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Our usual Skype session (sorry for the printscreen Steven)

So basically my whole mentorship was done through Skype and to make it worst, my mentor lives in London so we always have to consider about our time zone difference whenever we decided to set our online session.

In a sense, those who are staying in Kuala Lumpur will benefit more from the workshop since they could discuss directly with their mentor but the online session isn’t that bad apart from the troublesome internet connection from our very own lousy internet provider. I update my work from time to time through email and only arrange a Skype session whenever we need to discuss about something important.

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Our group discussion with the rest of the participant plus another one from Australia. It was fun and all until the internet line went nuts.

I submit a few project proposal to Steven and when he went through all of my suggestion, he share his thought on the proposal and in the end, we pick the Oil and Gas worker as the Project main focus. The reason for this is because we need something that is interesting enough to work with and also to be able to complete the project within 3 months. Due to my work and family commitment, I could only take some pictures during the weekend (like I always do) which require a bit of planning to provide some space for the project to develop.

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My first few proposed approach on the worker in coverall.

We discuss a few method of approach for the project and I personally wish it could be taken in a more candid approach but Steven convince me in some way that such method is weak and it might prove to be difficult to work with within a short period of time. The stand-out of the subject is their different ‘coverall’ that they wear which is what we were trying to highlight throughout the series. Basically a Photography project needs to have a clear objective, consistent working approach and a proper time frame. Its interesting to work on the Project since it is different from what I am used to and despite some early difficulty with the project in the first few weeks, It became much easier as it progress towards the final months.

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We went through my work for the project and everyone gave their feedback from the session. I note down everyone comment on the ongoing work.

The project require me to interview an Oil and Gas Worker around the town area and asking for their permission to have their picture taken for the project. The idea is to show how common it is to find this worker in public spaces but also to highlight the uniqueness of Labuan as an Industrial Island. The coverall is unique to the worker as it represent the company that they are working with as well as their rank within the industry.

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My contact sheet marked by Steven during my first few weeks on the project.

While working through the project, Steven is totally aware of my progress and told me to treat this more as an exercise since I am not entirely comfortable with the new approach but nevertheless he gave me enough guidance and confidence throughout the 3 months period.

Some of the crucial stuff that I learned from the workshop is;

1) Awareness in Photography project objective as a whole.

During the earlier stage of the photography project, we took about 2 weeks before finalizing the project concept. The main discussion during this stage is probably the way we intend to see through the project when its finished. Steven taught me that this is an important matter to consider not only from a photographer perspective but also from the public perspective. The Oil and Gas worker approach shows a common scenery in Labuan that couldn’t be found anywhere else in Malaysia. This in turn will create an awareness on the impact of Oil and Gas industry in Labuan which have been the island main role in developing Malaysia as a developing country.

2) Experiment done right.

I begin the workshop at a state where my mind is deliberately filled with images taken by Alex Webb, Josef Koudelka, and Jun Abe. The idea of capturing a complicated composition with perfect timing is what I thrive to improve during the workshop but Steven bring me back to sense where he pushed me to become more self-aware as a Photographer. (note : refer to Alec Soth working method)

I am an introvert person by nature and asking people for a permission to have their picture taken is like living in a nightmare. Even when I am taking street photograph, I always let other people start the conversation before me. Asking for permission is a hassle but as week goes through, I find it very comfortable and I became much more confident with the project.

By the end of the workshop, my experience that I learn from doing the project is stucked with me and conversation with a stranger becomes more like a second nature (slightly). Sometimes its a good thing

3) Time management.

3 months might sounds like a whole lot of time to complete the project but like 99% people in this world, Procrastination is man worst enemy (or friend). As the title suggest, time management is important and I couldn’t have done it without making a target list handy on my notebook, and a huge calender.

 

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One of the picture from the ON-SHORE project.

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Steven suggest me to make a Photobook of my project and it looks awesome. Printed from blurb with help from Steven, straight from UK.

Past forward to a few months, the project is finally finished with 25 Portraits and we are ready for our public presentation on mid August 2014. The presentation itself provide a good opportunity for the participant to express themselves in a more open manner in which everyone will be getting a direct feedback from the audience. I receive some positive thought from other people after the presentation and it gives me a great deal of confidence for my next Photography project.

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Steven is getting warmed up for an interview regarding the opening and prize winning ceremony for KLPA 2014.

By the end of the workshop, I learn a lot from it. As usual, it took me a few months before I could digest everything that I just learned and hence this blogpost which has been in draft for a couple of months!. I printed a small book of my work which I had been showing around after the presentation and even by today I use it as a reference when explaining people about conceiving a Photography Project.

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Ramlen Salleh giving his presentation on his project for Exposure+.

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A picture of me during the photography presentation at the Whitebox Gallery Publika. (Photo courtesy of Shio Soon Yii)

Exposure+ photography workshop program is probably one of the most effective and reputable photography workshop in Malaysia at the moment although it might not specifically tailored for beginners photographer, the opportunity to learn Photography in a new perspective is certainly a refreshing than the usual camera technique workshop and their awesome network might help you progress forward as an emerging Photographer.

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Picture of me with Steven Lee, Ailsa Bowyer, and Anne Benedicte during the KLPA 2014 Exhibition and award winning ceremony.

I would like say thank you to Steven Lee for all the help during the entire mentorship and not to forget Erna Dyanty and Kak Nurul aka Moon for dedicating their time to keep everyone on track. Looking forward to see the work from the next Exposure+4 participant, they seems to be doing something interesting.