Tough and Competent

Hi everyone,

I was doing some research today and came across a passage which really hit me deep inside and gave me such a clearer understanding of the essence of responsibility and what it takes to make a difference.

I wanted to share this with all of you.

Gene Kranz was a Flight Director of the NASA Space Program. In 1967, the space rocket Apollo 1 caught fire before it took off. It resulted in the death of 3 American Astronauts. Following that disaster Kranz called for a meeting of his branch and flight control team and made the following address:

“Spaceflight will never tolerate carelessness, incapacity, and neglect. Somewhere, somehow, we screwed up. It could have been in design, build, or test. Whatever it was, we should have caught it. We were too gung ho about the schedule and we locked out all of the problems we saw each day in our work. Every element of the program was in trouble and so were we. The simulators were not working, Mission Control was behind in virtually every area, and the flight and test procedures changed daily. Nothing we did had any shelf life. Not one of us stood up and said, ‘Dammit, stop!’ I don’t know what Thompson’s committee will find as the cause, but I know what I find. We are the cause! We were not ready! We did not do our job. We were rolling the dice, hoping that things would come together by launch day, when in our hearts we knew it would take a miracle. We were pushing the schedule and betting that the Cape would slip before we did. From this day forward, Flight Control will be known by two words: ‘Tough and Competent.’ Tough means we are forever accountable for what we do or what we fail to do. We will never again compromise our responsibilities. Every time we walk into Mission Control we will know what we stand for. Competent means we will never take anything for granted. We will never be found short in our knowledge and in our skills. Mission Control will be perfect. When you leave this meeting today you will go to your office and the first thing you will do there is to write ‘Tough and Competent’ on your blackboards. It will never be erased. Each day when you enter the room these words will remind you of the price paid by Grissom, White, and Chaffee. These words are the price of admission to the ranks of Mission Control.”

It is this kind of attitude and belief that resulted in the succesful landing and safe return of Neil Armstrong in 1969 and the ‘successful failure’ of Apollo 13 in 1970 (Kranz was Flight Director during the critical phases of both missions – In Ron Howard’s movie Appolo 13 Kranz was played by Ed Harris).

Anyway, it affected me deeply and I hope you guys get something out of reading it.


I have just moved everything from the previous blog to this one. The reason for moving is that I think calling it betterpictures would limit the blog somewhat. I also want to to start The Right Eye’s brand and presence on the net. Lessons and guides are starting soon and I am writing the first chapter.

It’s an interesting experience so far as I have to constantly ask myself how to deliver the lesson and guides in a simple way that can be readily understood. Also I want to make sure that there are immediate improvements when people read it. The theory is to have people do an assignment (which should be something that can be done in less than 5 minutes) and then get a debrief as to the point of the lesson, the theory and the take-aways…..

Do let me know if my writing style needs to be improved. Feedback is always appreciated…..

Welcome to The Right Eye’s World….


Hello and welcome to Anybody’s guide to better portraits with any camera (well most cameras anyway).

I remember when I started photography just over a year ago, I scoured the internet for resources and materials to help me improve my photography. Over a year later I have managed to take my portrait work to a level where people are willing to pay me for my work.

A friend of mine told me recently that one of the ways to ensure that you have mastered something is to see whether you can teach the skills to another person so here I am willing and able to share my learnings and experience for others who care to learn.

Who is this for?

Well, if you answer yes to the following questions then this may not be for you:

– you understand the relationship between aperture, shutter speed and ISO
– you know what 18% grey means
– you own more than 2 lenses
– any lens you own costs more than your camera body
– you know what dynamic range is
– you know the difference between a full frame and a crop frame
– you know why an 85mm f/1.2 L costs about 3 times more than an 85mm f/1.8
– you know how to achieve a narrow or a wide depth of field at will
– you now when and why you need to change the white balance setting of a camera
– you immediately get rid or burn and pay someone to take away your kit lens
– you drool at Canon’s L lenses
– or you drool at the equivalent Nikon lenses

This is for you if you answer yes to the following question

– you’ve bought a digital slr and always shoot at P and you don’t know what AV, TV and the dreaded M means
– you don’t buy an external flash because the camera has a built in flash and you don’t know the different results it gives
– you are satisfied with the kit lens of your camera and don’t see any reason why you have to buy another one
– you shoot in jpeg all the time because only pros use RAW
– you didn’t know that your camera can shoot in RAW
– your current pics look like it was taken with a digital compact and don’t understand why
– you think digital compacts can’t take great pictures
– don’t want to spend a lot of money on equipment

Portraits Of Family

Get the idea? Some of you may ask what’s different about Anybody’s guide to better portraits with any camera (well most cameras anyway). Well, when I searched through the internet I found a lot of sites which I consider caters to advance beginners. I want to cater to the absolute beginners. Those who do not necessarily want to know all the mechanics of taking the portraits but just want to take better ones. Sort of like the ones who will say ‘look. Just tell me what to do and what setting to use and I’ll do it’. You could say the first baby steps to greater and better photos.

Although I will try very hard to also cater for digital compacts for those of you out there that don’t have a digital slr and/or don’t want to buy one you, most of the stuff here will be easier dealt with a digital slr. So beg, borrow or steal…… but please remember to take the camera’s instruction manuals and keep it within reach. One of the things I won’t do is tell you how to operate the camera.

Portraits - Ezah (My favourite)

I am a Canon user so I will be most familiar with Canon terminology although again I will make it generic for people with cameras from other manufacturer.

My camera equipment is all exotic and can rank as some of the best currently on the planet (see the About Me page somewhere on this website) but for this purpose I will revert back to my old 300D digital camera and one of the cheapest lenses ever, the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 and I will also try to find a used kit lens EF 18-55 mm f/3.5-5.6. This set up will cost roughly about RM2000 or about USD500 used ( I think).

Though I have a rough idea of what to do (and the order I’m going to do it, I’m going to keep the lessons pretty loose. Maybe do something like 1 or 2 lessons a week for 10 weeks. I am not going to follow conventional ways of ‘teaching photography’ as I believe in starting slow but with a bang. You should be taking better portraits by the itme you go through the first week. Most of the time we are used to going through the theory which is then followed by an assignment. I’m going to show some pictures (often a before and after) and give you some time to replicate the picture. You will find it hard which is the intention. That’s when the best learning take place. After some time I will begin the lesson (or tips) and show you how exactly the pictures were produced (before and after). That’s the general plan.

Second thing I am going to is take some portraits with my 300D and 50mm f/1.8 and/or the kit lens lens just to inspire you about the potential of the equipment that you already have.

In the meantime, feel free to see my pictures here on this website or at my flickr site…

Being Kids