For the first few months of 2015, I pretty much took photos from same as before: standard JPEG settings only in the camera and mostly on aperture priority, which means I decide on the aperture I want to use for a photo and the camera automatically calculates the shutter speed. I think it was some time in March I decided to seriously think about the types of photography I like and I came across Japanese street photographer Daido Moriyama, known for his gritty and blurry photos of urban Japan.
Not everyone agrees to Moriyama’s style and aesthetics but I enjoyed the very natural and often unposed shots which he did- often he just snapped the photo and walked off casually. It led me to buy the Ricoh GR series camera which was inspired by him as he often used the film versions of these compact cameras. I also started to watch videos on the fundamentals of photography, not so much techniques but on the history and early pioneers, especially on YouTube channels like The Art of Photography (which I highly recommend, especially on the history of certain cameras and early pioneers of different styles of photography).
By around June I already decided to shoot in RAW setting as it gave me more ‘room’ to work with during post-processing but of course it depleted memory space much faster. But it is not a bad thing as photography is about being precise and producing quality work, “not spray and pray” that you will get a good shot out of hundreds or thousands. A critical part of being inspired to produce better photographs was learning from someone who is a professional, which I can say I had the privilege of experiencing with Wei Yuet during the 28th SEA Games cycling events’ coverage.
28th SEA Games
It always pays to be prepared for the shots you are going to take: that means researching and paying attention to details and timings. For instance, Wei Yuet and I will sit down and discuss what shots we wanted to get, how to approach certain the different races and predict the timings the riders/peloton would appear at different timings (we were lucky as it was a circuit style race so we just had to nail the timing for each lap and plan the shots). Although it was exhausting for the 4 days of cycling coverage, I must say I learnt a lot from Wei Yuet, from being precise with shots and the fact that you do not have to have the best gear to get the best shots. Wei Yuet had minimal gear but the shots he got were way better than those who had much higher-end equipment than him.
I shared in some detail before about how being a first time wedding photographer was like. I can’t say I am totally comfortable taking on covering a wedding on my own at this stage but I definitely know about what gear best suits my style/approach of shooting and which positions to adopt to get the shots I want. I agreed to help a close school friend to take his wedding photos in November 2016, so I have 11 months to level up and hopefully produce work I can be proud of!
Canon Photo Marathon Singapore 2015
This is probably Singapore’s largest one-day photo competition with up to 2500 participants and I decided to take part in it for experience and use it as a way to level up my skills. Never did I expect that I would actually win the top prize for the final theme of the competition. It definitely felt good to win something in a competition as I had not taken part in and won any competitions in a long time. The prizes I won (thanks to Canon Singapore) also enabled me to have my ideal set up for covering weddings, which is a really a great blessing.
Weekly trips (for a few months) to Funan Centre/Peninsular Centre & Plaza aka ‘poisonland’ to check out camera gear were mostly done with Samuel. We went for countless photowalks as well, took part in Canon Photo Marathon together, done some paid shoots together and I must say I learnt a lot from him, especially on the technical side of photography which comes very naturally to him. Having someone share the same passion and interest in photography really helped me level up and work towards being a better photographer.
Japanese street photographer Daido Moriyama is one of my personal favourites but closer to home, I am really inspired by fellow Singaporean Sim Chi Yin, who is a full-time freelance photographer and a member of the prestigious VII Photo Agency. Her resolve and drive to bring out migrant/labor issues in her work (which often puts her own life and safety at risk) as well as dwelling deeper into her own family’s history is simply amazing. I was glad to have attended her talk in September for her photo book launch “Roots” as well as her film screening, “Dying to Breathe” at the Singapore International Film Festival in November.