learning

Nature Nurtured - Listening to Mr. Subaraj Rajathurai

On Monday night, at the SG100 Foundation Meeting, our speaker was Mr. Subaraj Rajathurai, a lifelong naturalist and a wildlife consultant. Honestly, I can think of very few professions cooler than that.

When he took the platform, I could feel the passion behind his words as he told us about his humble beginnings and the immense work he had done to push for the conversation of what we now know as Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, amongst other little-known but no-less-massive efforts to preserve Singapore's wildlife and its habitats.

He highlighted some of his favourite animals and showed us that Singapore, despite being a tiny country, has some of the richest biodiversity in the world due both to our geographical location (close to the equator) and the age of our rainforests (older than even the majestic Amazon).

When he came to the topic of rapid development and urbanisation of Singapore, he emphasised that he saw this as a necessary part of Singapore's growth, though he was firm in his belief that it needs to be done in a responsible manner and with respect to the natural environment.

To this day, he works in his favourite classroom - The Great Outdoors - both as a teacher and as a student. He gives guided tours, conducts nature programmes, and does field surveys alongside other researchers and nature enthusiasts.

Mr. Subaraj is a man I highly respect. He lives his life in the pursuit of learning and passing on what he has learned, and he encourages others to do the same.

He reminds us that we cannot live apart from our natural environment, that if we care for nature, nature takes care of us.

Thank you for sharing your life and your passion, Mr. Subaraj. Through your words, I am inspired.

Mr Subaraj

Meeting (and Shooting) Wesley

A few times in your life, you meet someone who inspires you to become a better version of yourself.

A few days ago, in the Google office here in Singapore, celebrating the launch of his book 'Finding Happiness', I met just such a person - Wesley.

Just prior to his book launch, there had been media stories about Wesley and quite a bit of fanfare surrounding this event, especially on social media. Nevertheless, being intentionally blind to the large amounts of information bombarding my news feeds on social media, I would not have paid much attention to it if not for my contact with a friend - one of the many people who wanted to help Wesley. Through him, I got a chance to know a little bit more about Wesley, his book and this event.

It was also through this friend that I volunteered to help during the event - as a photographer.

Through my own eyes and the lens of my camera, I saw the many people who were brought together with a common cause - to become a support and help to Wesley and his wife.

During the book launch, Wesley thanked everyone for their help, especially those who had come beside him since many years before. At numerous times, many were moved, some to tears, at the stories that were related on stage.

Through the event, his story, and by observing him and his interactions with others, there is no doubt that Wesley is a man of immense grit and determination. He has a great sense of humour and a charming personality. Though he is not always able to express it easily, all you have to do is look into his eyes and see how they sparkle with a light that has helped him overcome so very many difficulties that, for a weaker man, would have been insurmountable.

I will not relate Wesley's story here. He does it incredibly well on his own and there is no need or place for my take on it. If you haven't read or heard his story, I strongly encourage you to. There are numerous articles and other forms of media already online about him.

Most of all, I encourage you to get a copy of his book. You can do so here:

www.wesleycan.com/book

Wesley, thank you for showing us that, with dedication and resolve, we, too, can cross hurdles that once seemed too high for us. Thank you for sharing your story with us, that we may learn compassion and how important it is to show love and be of assistance to others who are in need. Most of all, thank you for being you, that we are able to draw inspiration from you and your faith in God.

Wesley and Lorena

There are No 'Talented' Photographers. There are Only Disciplined Ones.

Photography is not about how good the camera is. It's about how good the photographer is. 

This has been my belief since I started snapping pictures with a simple film camera when I was in Secondary One.

I didn't realise it then but the pictures I took of my Secondary School are priceless treasures today, especially since CCHMS now looks very different after the numerous 'upgrades' it has gone through.

From that simple film camera, which I believe I still have somewhere, I moved on into the digital age with a digital point-and-shoot camera. At that time, a 2-megapixel camera was about the best that a typical person could get without spending thousands of dollars. That's what I got.

As technology sped forward, cameras became loaded with more and more features as well as more and more megapixels, which, as it turns out, don't really matter when it comes to image quality unless you are printing movie poster sizes.

That's right, all those camera salespeople you've been listening to? They've been selling you what is effectively a useless feature.

I traded up into the prosumer level of cameras in the late 2000s. I got myself a Panasonic FZ28, which resides in my dry cabinet to this day. The reason I didn't go straight into the world of DSLR was that I didn't feel it was necessary to do so and that I didn't have that much disposable income at the time. The image quality of my Panasonic was pretty good as it was, the camera was light and fairly compact, and I was still learning the art.

It was only after a few more years that I felt ready to shoot with a DSLR. By this time, I had learned a few things:

1) To see the shot before making it

2) To follow the rules before breaking them

3) Above all, to be patient

To make use of what I've learned, I bought a second-hand Nikon D90 and have been using it for the past 6 years. In that time, I learned:

4) To work with light before manipulating it

5) To change settings according to the scene

6) To post-process photos without over-processing them

On Friday, after more than 6 years, I made my latest upgrade. I got a second-hand (though still new enough to have more than 10 months of warranty left) Nikon D7500 - a model that was just released in June this year.

In the few days that I've used it, I was able to tell why many people make constant upgrades to their camera bodies. My newest camera made it much easier to capture what I wanted to capture without having to constantly change settings or manipulate light and the surroundings. 

That said, an advanced camera can only produce results that are as good as the eye behind it. Without the years of conditioning and training to make better pictures, I would only have a great camera that produced pictures that were a little above average at best.

I still have a long way to go in learning photography and I hope that, some time soon, I'll be able to add another 3 points to the list of things that I've learned.

Curving Lamp

Photographing the SG100 Carnival

A week or so ago, I was asked by a fellow trainer to help photograph an event at Our Tampines Hub. 

The event was put together by the SG100 Foundation, a society with the aim of engaging both the youth and the pioneer generation of Singapore to create a bright future for our beloved country.

Not being too sure about what to focus on, I asked the event organiser, who asked me to focus on the participants and the guest of honour, Mr Baey Yam Keng, as he visited the different stalls manned by organisations and companies which have involved themselves in social contributions and other worthy pursuits.

Once the performances began, people started getting into the swing of things and I was free to photograph on-the-ground activities, which I much prefer over stage activities.

I've posted the better photographs in an album on my Facebook page after spending some time correcting the colours (the lighting was orange). 

Apart from once again exercising my over-long-dormant photography skills, I got to speak with some entrepreneurs there. We may be working on some projects together in the near future.

A couple of things I learned while photographing the event

1) Unexpected things almost always happen at events

An individual with (I presume) her family was shouting and demanding to see the organiser when she and her family were asked to give up their seats to a large group of senior residents who were attending the event. In essence, she was saying that the organisers did not put in enough thought into the number of seats provided. 

While I find her behaviour ridiculous and self-entitled, I shall bear this in mind in the planning of my next event.

2) All you have to do is ask

Although I prefer to take shots silently, some of my photos were posed and they turned out very well - a result of my asking my subjects for a shot.

Perhaps it is the introvert side of me that overthinks the asking part, I usually assume that asking for a picture is bothersome to the other party (since I don't like to be in photos myself).

Well, it turns out time and again that many people are quite happy to pose for a photograph if asked. Perhaps they, too, think that it would be presumptuous to ask a photographer to take a picture of them and prefer to wait to be asked instead - a little flattery to be asked to be a model, maybe. I'm not too sure but, from this experience, I figure that it's all up to me to make the request.

The worst that could happen is that they say 'No'.

That said, the majority of my pictures were not posed. I still enjoy the 'captured moment' style of photography and I'll continue to improve my pursuit of this style.

Before I end off this post, Happy 2017! To more learning experiences and more sharing!

Group photo at SG100 Carnival
Mouth Painting
3D Pen