Friday, February 20, 2009

Needful Things

I've moved around a lot in KL since I first came here in 1998. UM, Pantai Dalam, Bukit Angkasa, Pantai Hillpark, Cheras and now Bukit Jalil.

I've accumulated some things which I will always carry around with me, no matter where I stay.

One is an ashtray I bought in Phuket. I was the first customer, so they gave me a good price for it. RM30, if I'm not mistaken. I could have bargained further, but that would be in bad taste. It is huge, able to eceive ash from three to four packs of cigarettes, and has a carving of two people fucking.

Another is a saucer. I wrote a review for an exhibit, without being asked, and the 70++ year-old artist was so grateful that he sent me a book of his paintings and a saucer that he handcracfted himself. I still have both. The book is on my bookshelf, and the saucer currently holds change on my dresser.

I have the complete Sandman trade paperback collection. It was the first thing I bought with my very first real paycheck. Over the course of a year, I completed the collection. Whenever I feel bad, angry or in any state of heightened emotions, I re-read Sandman.

I have a bowl I bought from Ikea. It can hold two packs of instant noodles and is quite tough.

And in my computer, I have songs and clips and stuff I have saved from the Internet since 1996. Each computer I upgrade to, I made sure I bring over a lot of stuff from the old ones.

At one time, I did not have money to buy the Sandman comics. My parents were never rich. And the reprints in Sun's Mega-Zine was often quite bad. So I went online and downloaded papers and an English Master's thesis on the Sandman comics. It was about signifying in literature, since Sandman is like thousands of years of literature condensed into a few hundred pages of comics. The ultimate meta-work.

I have that thesis somewhere in my computer.

Also, my own thesis. It was titled An Intelligent Tutoring System for Modern Anime Literature. Basically a fully customizable teaching aide with its own AI. Though most of the AI is hard-coded and none of the dynamics of PERL or whatever.

I used ASP and Oracle to do it, and it worked just fine when I presented the damn thing. Took me a year, man. A fucking year.

ASP used to be the SHIT. Now, I don't even know what the kids are using.

The system is fully functional, but I am afraid that the codes are all in a UM library somewhere, included in the back of my thesis, in an all-black CD-ROM.

I still have a copy of the source code somewhere in my hard drive, but I can't be fucked to know where it is. Though the thesis is still there. Had loads of fun doing it.

Also, I have my camera. A Kodak DX7950. A prosumer camera, not an SLR. Some of the pics I took with that thing went on the cover of Mail Motor.

If the price is right, and if I make some extra cash, I might be getting a proper DSLR later this year.

I learned the basics of photography by trial and error and reading websites.

If you are a complete beginner and want to learn, my advice would be not to go to Malaysian websites.

Malaysian forums generally have an uppity attitude, I discovered. A lot of people are scared you will be doing what they are doing, I suppose, and 'spoil the market' with your n00b rates.

I mean, they charge RM20,000 for company profiles - maybe more. Around RM6,000 for weddings.

Then along comes a n00b who is a friend of a friend and charges RM600 for the same shit. Of course some will get defensive, though the REALLY GOOD ONES won't give a fuck. Because REALLY GOOD photographers are one in a million.

And there's also the Malaysian disease of trying to laugh you out of existence. If you can't stand being wrong, don't go.

My advice - go to the international forums. They have more tolerance for n00bs. And they share A LOT of information. Just ask.

Then, when you have enough arrogance, but not enough knowledge, go to local forums and compete at who's the bigger idiot. If you want to.

However, if you're a gearhead, simply go to local forums to know where the best prices are (Singapore, Pertama Complex, etc). And also to network for second-hand gear.

What I've discovered is that, the FIRST thing you need to know about photography are the capabilities and limitations of your camera. This goes with a bit of know-how on the basics of technique and shit.

Then, train for composition. The Fibbonacci sequence and cowrie shell and all that shit. Composition is the most important part of it. Not how expensive your gear is.

For example, having a Kodak 7950 is like having a small penis, compared to the gearheads with their large and bulky Nikon D2X or whatever the fuck. But I got my pics on the cover - like scoring with Jessica Alba, with a small penis. YOU with the small penis. Not Jessica Alba.

My Kodak works wonderfully in well-lit places. It's really bad indoors and during night-time, especially without flash. Why? Because it can only go up to ISO(ASA)800 - and badly at that. For low light, you need to go 1600 or higher - the simulated grain are bigger and absorb more light. Or have a tripod or monopod(?) to minimize the shake.

A better example is Ken Rockwell. To prove a point, he bought a USD5 or was it USD25 second hand fixed-focus, fixed-zoom camera. He took pictures of Death Valley and those pictures are hanging in the Smithsonian.

It's not the camera. It's the man behind the camera.

I also keep in my PC scores of pictures of models and cars. I got requests from people to share them, and one even asked me to send him a particular shot because he liked the armpit of one of the models.

Sorry, dudes. I can't share pictures of people unless they themselves allow it. Especially if it's about their armpits.

I worked with part-time models and full-time models. The best ones can read the timing of my camera. It's a bit slower than most DSLRs (except Sony's. Sony's DSLRs suck ass.) So the best models can pose-click, pose-click, pose-click and turn a scheduled two-hour photoshoot into 15 minutes.

I am no expert. Not a pro. But I intend to pick up photography again after I save enough money to get a DSLR. I have reached the limits of my Kodak 7950. There are no more pictures I want to take with it, unless when I'm on vacation because it's easier to handle than the SLRs and their big lenses.

I want a Nikon DSLR. Why? Because unlike Canon, Nikon ONLY MANUFACTURES cameras and top-of-the-range optics. If you want to buy a printer, buy Canon. Well, at least that's what my brother says and he's been taking photos since I was five.

And an 18-200 2.8 lens - do they have such a thing? Nah. I'll go for the basics. Am no longer taking pictures in unlit theatre spaces anymore.