Portraits

Portrait

There’s an interesting story about this image. I had taken some pictures in RAW and was going to process it on the MAC so I took out the CF card from the camera and I thought I had put it in my pocket. But I’ve now been looking for 3 days and I can’t seem to find the CF card. Luckily I had made sure that each image I took was also saved in low jpeg format in the SD card.

This one is processed and converted into black and white from the JPEG low resolution. I’m sure I will find the CF card somewhere and when I do I’ll reprocess the RAW version of this image. I am sure the image will be better.

This was taken with the flash bounced on a wall directly behind me.

Canon EOS 1d Mark III
EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L
f/2.8 1/40 ISO 800 Manual Exposure Flash fired and bounced

Featured Portrait – Man of Jama Masjid, New Delhi

Man of Jama Masjid

I am learning some new processing techniques and have been experimenting quite a lot. This one went through some new processes, the most significant of which is the blending of several layers of the image. Basically, you have the primary (background) image. Duplicate it twice. Desaturate the first duplicate and put the blending mode for the top most layer as soft light. You’ll see the colours change. I love the blue socks here.

Canon iD Mark III
EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS

f/4 1/125 ISO 200 Aperture Priority

On subsidies and prices

A long overdue post. One of the things that I have always looked at with some amount of worry are subsidies and prices which is why I was glad when the new Minister of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs said that there will be a revision on pricing regulations in Malaysia (see The Star).

Subsidies are good as an interim strategy but it is not a long term solution. The more (and the longer) the government subsidises, the more the price of our products and goods becomes distorted so much so that the price does not reflect the true cost of these products and goods. But of course its not as simple as removing subsidies because people will suffer. A more effective way will be a gradual reduction of these subsidies with the ultimate intention of completely removing them within a specified time period. During this time, we should look at helping our local lads reduce their cost of production or achieve economies of scale.

Anyway, those are my thoughts. Hope our new YB Menteri has a plan in mind to manage this issue as its one of those things that can bite us in the future.

Terengganu Menteri Besar

Well. The saga of the Malaysian General Elections is continuing (and has now become much more interesting than the American primaries). The Terengganu State Menteri Besar (Chief Minister) appointed by The Regency Advisory Council of Terengganu has appointed someone else instead of the incumbent MB. I don’t want to say much here other than that the only body who is able to call any of these acts as unconstitutional would be the Judiciary. Someone has to go the judiciary and ask for a declaration that the appointment is unconstitutional. The only question is who will that someone be?

Could it be the incumbent?
Could it be UMNO?
Could it be the ADUNs?
Could it be the Executive?
Could it be the Attorney General?
Could it be a concerned citizen?

But the more interesting question would be, who will answer the case?
Could it be the Sultan (or the Regency Advisory Council)?
Could it be the State?
Could it be the newly appointed ‘rogue’ MB?

Looks like the courts are going to have a storm coming their way soon. Worrying? Yes. Of course but also exciting times. The unpredictability of the situation is going to change the future of this country as the implications are enormous.Anyway, that’s my musings for the day.

Featured Landscape – Sunset in Johor

Sunset in JB

The 5D and EF 35mm L combo is brilliant for landscape. Unfortunately, I have since parted company with both of them (sigh). This one was taken 2 years ago and i still continue to revisit it and re-process it based on new processing techniques I have learnt since. The colours here was obtained by pushing the white balance was to the left.

Canon EOS 5D
EF 35mm f/1.4 L

f/22 1 sec ISO 100 Aperture Priority

Tok Mun has proven her point

89 year old grandmother Maimun Yusof was defeated in her bid to take the parliamentary seat of Kuala Terengganu. She managed to get only 685 votes compared to her opponents combined total of 63000 votes. Never mind Tok Mun. Not only have you fulfilled your life ambition of running in the election, you have also inspired the many people who followed your campaign. I mean how many people would have done what you did? Not many I think and that makes you a bright star in my books. I am sad that you lost your money but I am glad you fulfilled your dream.

Results of Malaysian General Election 2008

I stayed up till 4 AM this morning to catch the results of the general election. It was already apparent that things are changing and that something new is brewing. When I got up this morning to read the results from the online papers, all I could  say is ‘wow’. Malaysia woke up to a new world today as 5 states are now in the hands of the opposition (see The Star).I’ve always thought that a stronger opposition is not necessarily bad for the country so it is interesting now to see what happens. I hope everyone would take stock of the messages sent by voters and make some changes to the way things are done. Whatever the case, the future looks different now. Whether its good or bad remains to be seen.

Afterthought

One of the things I await with anticipation is how things will change both from the parties in government as well as the parties in the opposition. It seems that Malaysian voters are now not afraid of sounding their views and opinions (at least at the polls). To me, this is probably the most important day on the history of this country. The opposition parties now have their chance to put their money where their mouth is in 5 states. The parties in government now has to go back to the drawing board and change their philosophy and ideology. All in all, its good for Malaysia. There was a shroud of fear before this day, but now that fear is a little bit less and that is marvelous.

2007 Photographer Of The Year

Digital Camera magazine has just released the results of their 2007 Photographer Of The Year competition. Sigh. 1 look athe contest winners of the portraits section (who is also the overall winner) and I know that my portraits have a long way to. Anyway, congratulations to all the winners. The photographer of the year 2007 is Andrzej Dragan of Poland with his stunning portrait of Marta who suffered from anorexia. As one judge puts it, ‘a heartbreaking photo that must have required a great deal of trust between the photographer and subject’. See Andrzej’s haunting image here…

Developing Your Portfolio

I bought several books on creating portfolios. I’m going to summarise parts of it here. If anybody knows of any other reference material (books, websites etc etc) please do shout it out. The best book I have bought so far is John Kaplans Photo Portfolio Success and a lot of his tips makes sense. I have summarised some of them here.

The first thing to do is to gather all your best images together. You can do this digitally and view through the monitor but the process is actually better if you make quick prints of your images (besides you will eventually want to make proper prints of them so being able to look at the prints, even quick ones, would help). Once you’ve gathered them all, find a working space where you can spread the prints around (floor, big table etc etc). It goes without saying that all the images must be technically sound. Keep your standards high. No compromise (unless there is some strong photojournalistic content where you may be forgiven but its gotta be one heck of story in the image). Call this step zero.

Step 1- Start Strong
Sometimes, for dramatic effect, we think it better to save the best for last but the opposite is true in this case. Your first image has to be your strongest. In every sense it has to be the page turner. The respond that you want from the viewer is ‘wow, I want to see more’. First impressions really count as remember, the viewer(s) will probably have gone through (or is likely to be going through) many other portfolios. This is the one that makes you stand out and should be your absolute very best. The analogy I like to use it to imagine you’re going on a plane journey. There is no journey if you don’t take off. The better your take off, the easier the rest of the journey will be.

Step 2- End Strong
Again, continuing the journey analogy, if you don’t land that sucker, you’re going to crash and burn. For this, you must remember that this is the final impression you will leave. Psychologically, the viewer would have already made up their minds about you earlier. The final image serves as a confirmation of their decision. Think about it. If you started strongly and had a good middle, the final image should seal it for you. On the other hand, if you started not so strongly and had a so-so middle and suddenly they are presented with a beautifully captured image at the end, then it might make them think twice about saying no (buf of course that wouldn’t happen here as you are going to start strongly ☺ )

Step 3- The Middle ‘must haves’
Begin selecting images that you absolutely cannot leave without. Do this quickly, almost instinctively. It doesn’t matter how many you select here. You don’t even need to justify your selection. Just select them and group them in a pile.

Step 4- The Middle ‘clients wants to see’
After the ‘must-haves’, you have to select images that is required to round of your portfolio. These images may not necessarily be your favourite but they are needed to make your portfolio ‘complete’. For example, you may like photojournalistic and dramatic shots taken at weddings, but your clients also wants to see some ‘formal’ group photo or formal portraits (which you may not like but do so anyway). Pile them is a group.

Step 5- The Middle ‘Eliminate repeats’
This is probably the most difficult part. Eliminating redundant images from the 2 piles that you have. Keep in mind that less is more. You want the ‘wow’ you created in the viewer to be sustained and not diluted by a similar image when he turns the page. If you have 2 similar images, choose the strongest one.

Step 6- The Middle ‘Elimiate so-sos)
Again, a difficult part of the process. You are after perfection and you want to project that perfection. All of us have great images which we think could have been brilliant ‘if only’. ‘If only I waited a few more seconds’, ‘if only I was quicker’, ‘if only the subject turned her head slightly more to the right’, ‘if only I had a reflector’. It does not mean that they are not great images, it just means that you want to show images which are flawless and decisive. And again, eliminate images which are technically ‘off’. By now, you will be looking at everything with a more critical eye.

Step 7- The Middle ‘arrangement’
By now, you should have a set of pretty strong images and you can start arranging them. Keep your opening and closing images in their proper position at the beginning and the end and start putting the rest in the middle. You can either group the images by themes of mix the themes within the portfolio. No fixed rules here. At the end of the day, you have to follow your instincts. Again, some images may not look right. Eliminate them if you find that they ‘bring down’ your portfolio or place them next to a strong image (if you really must have that image in). Make sure your absolute strongest images are well spread out in the middle.

Step 8- Demonstrate versatility
Your portfolio is about to take shape, The structure is there. Its all about arrangment now. Mix the wide angle and the telephoto shots, the tight and wide compositions, black and white with colour, portraits and landscape shots.

Step 9- Success is a function of correction
Now you should have a portfolio of your work. You have to remember, this must always be a work in progress. As you capture more shots and images, you may want to add or replace the images you have selected. Get feedback from friends. Some may be photographers who can give a critical eye, others may just be people who enjoy seeing a good photo. Ask someone you trust to be your portfolio editor (and listen to them). Also, absolutely do not take the portfolio to anyone who will judge your work based on it until you have had some feedback on it.

How may images?
No rule here. Maybe 20 is a good start. Its not the numbers that count. It’s the quality.

Anyway, when I went through this, 2 things happen to me. First, I was able to spot gaps in my photography which I can now fill. I realize that a lot of my images (especially the portraits) are too ‘similar’ and does not reflect variety and diversity (hence a lot of experimenting in my photography recently).

Second, I realize that I still had a heck of a long way to go technically. There were to many near misses, what ifs and if onlys and it was only a matter of time before I find them unacceptable.

Anyway, there you go. So far, this makes sense to me and I hope that it makes sense to some of you too. Even if you are not going to go commercial, you can start his process for your own growth and pleasure.