Camera Clinic at Limkokwing University, London campus

Explorenation recently conducted a half-day Camera Clinic at the London campus of Limkokwing University, with a group of 20 students from the Faculty of Communications in Kuala Lumpur. As part of their 3-week ‘Global Classroom’ teaching, their stay in London include visits to local business and historic sites, talks and seminars.  It has become evident that the camera phone has substituted cameras for many people when they travel, as more than half of the group rely on their portables to record and capture photos. With the increase use of photo apps and filter effects to obtain dramatic looking images on the fly, and the ease of it, it is little surprising that so many are drawn to this new medium for their photography needs.

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(Thanks to Kimberly Sammy for the slide pics)

It is also surprising that for those who owned digital single lens reflex (dSLR) cameras, the majority of them did not fully comprehend the various mode setttings offered by these devices; how to set aperture, shutter speeds and ISOs, how these relate to exposure, and how to get the best out of their cameras. There is no simple way around this. I would advocate that current practitioners learn how to use simple basic manual film cameras like the K1000, OM1, FMs or FEs if they wish to master exposure, or learn how to read an external light meter. It seems that the basic photography concepts have been bypassed by the modernity of cameras, and in some way, I blame the manufacturers for designing their cameras with buttons rather than dials. Call me old school or whatever, but I am a tactile and visual person. I like to see and understand how aperture blades work, as they close down. I like to understand what a focal plane shutter is compared to a leaf shutter.
The next question to ask is this : does knowing the workings of a modern-day camera enable you to take better images? My answer is no. But, it does help in understanding why your images are blurry or dark when you did not intend them to be. It would help you understand about sync flash speeds, managing depth-of-field, fill flash, hyperfocal distance, and much more. Simply put, knowing how your equipment works will help you get the most out of its capability, know its limitations and using the correct settings for different scenes.

French Flair

The French are inherently a stylistic lot when it comes to fashion, even attending a church service, like the one I encountered today at the basilica in Nice. However, it wasn’t the usual Saturday mass, but it was a mass confirmation service for 140 new confirmants, both from the black and white community. The black commmunity are mainly from Northern African countries, and less so of Carribeans like in the UK.

I love the way the Africans dress for church. They make an effort. Smart sharp suits, cool leather shoes for the guys, huge colourful hats, flowing dresses for the women, and pure white silk garments for the confirmants. And its a whole family affair too from the very young to the elderly.

C’est tres chic.

Something old, something new

Penny for the Guy, Columbia Road market, London 1998

I’ll start with the ‘old’ first. I was just looking through my archives looking for a suitable image to update a website this morning, and came across this photograph of three cheeky boys with their ‘Penny for the Guy‘. I had to stop and think about this street photograph shot in 1998, in the busy Columbia Road flower market in the East End of London. I vaguely remember making this photograph. It was a very chilly November morning, on Guy Fawke’s Day and I know it was the weekend, as the flower market is at its busiest. I shot it on film, yes, film, in those days, only 36 shots per roll.Fujifilm Neopan 400, Konica Hexar. I remember developing the film, printing and scanning it at home also. I doubt we shall see little boys wheeling pushchairs of Guy Fawkes nowadays in London, perhaps I’m wrong. I wonder what has become of these three boys today. I wonder if they will appreciate this photograph if I ever bump into them again on the streets. There are probably in their mid-20s today.

Some things never change in England. Like this 1970’s ice cream van. Kinda groovy isn’t it? I made this photograph just a couple of days ago in the Isle of Wight. The funny thing living here is that retro is so much alive. You can see these vans all along the coasts and beach resorts in England, selling 99 Flakes, homemade jams and cakes, fudges, tea  and coffee, and Walls Ice.

Blackgang Chine, IOW, 2011

I often photograph these scenes so as to remind myself that I don’t need to make ‘real meaningful’, award winning, social change photographs, all the time. I see many photographers nowadays seemingly pushing the boundaries to which they are comfortable with to make ‘impactful’  and ‘meaningful’ images, often leaving behind the more mundane everyday shots. Without the groundwork, and observational skills which need time to develop, many photographers try to run before they can walk.

Blackgang Chine, IOW, 2011

I reproduce what Eric Peris, a close friend and much respected photographer has to say recently in his introduction printed in the KL Photoawards 2011 catalogue which is most relevant to this post.

“There is of course no formula as such how to capture those special moments that tell a story. The images comes from within you. They are of what you see. An important factor here is patience. Rush work produces poor results. What is missing is, perhaps, looking out of the box. At most times we in some way do mirror images that have been captured by leading photographers of the past. We respect their work and in some similar way try to apply it to our work. There is nothing wrong about this but one must take that bold step to “re-structure” what one sees to express what we really want the viewer to see.”

Singapore Youth

I made a short trip to Singapore recently, during my stay in Malaysia. The Island city has always been an interesting place to visit, simply because I like reminiscing the years I was here as a student at St Patrick’s School in Katong, and checking out the places I used to visit during the weekends, Bras Basah Road, Newton Circus, Chinatown, Orchard Road etc. Most places have changed, and indeed, so have the youth today. As I type this, the results of the nation’s 2011 General Election are coming in, and it appears that despite a very vocal and vociferous opposition campaign, the ruling party PAP, have come through again. Many people, especially the young have dared to challenge the status quo by supporting the opposition parties, and they are surely disappointed that their voices were not heard. Perhaps, they will be, in 5 years time.