Tabi basa and greetings,
Dear family and friends,
Today I would like to write about fragility of our dreams. When I was still in primary school, my class teacher would distribute a form where it will display our performances so far. Let’s call it our KPI card. The best part about that card is the section behind it, where it I can write my ambitions, what I want to be when I grow up. For me, it varies. I remember that I want to be scientist, then a WWE wrestler (no kidding, I wrote it). I think it was highly influences by The Rock’s popularity back then. As I became more mature, it became more realistic. When I was in Primary 6, I even wrote I want to be teacher because I was highly inflluenced by Great Teacher Onizuka. I want to be a badass teacher, just like him.
What I am doing now though has nothing to do with what I write there. It seems like my ambition evolves over time. If you ask me five years ago, I would answer a different thing. I want to be like a big bike racer. That is why I bought my first big bike, a Kawasaki Z800, sold it, then get my Ducati 916. It costs me a lot of money though, so I sell it because it serves me no purpose, partly after I discovered that I have more important things to do; namely contribute as part of the bigger community in Malaysia oil and gas industry, and a bigger thing in mind – I want to be Tukang Rantek.
Origin of “Tukang Rantek” Terminology
The name of Tukang Rantek came from the sound that old film camera used to make. It makes that funny sound, that goes like this – krek, krek, krek. My villagers has no pronoun for it for they were farmers/hunters, so they created a new name for it, which is “rantek”. “Tukang” is a name for the person who is specialised/in charge of something. In this case, Tukang Rantek means, photographer.
However, I think only Kampung Pichin uses this term in Serian area. Therefore, due to its rarity, I adopted that name to be my moniker.
Tukang Rantek’s Dream
I always believe that everyone has their own wildest dream. Probably, one of you want to be a famous person beyond everything else. Or rich beyond measure? For me, I used to have a wild dream of buying and owning every single Leica lens in the world. After collecting and tried the best 50mm ever produced by Leica, my dream was stopped for a while. It seems like it does not fit to be a dream. I also realised, if I were to dream, it better be something that push my limit, beyond my current potential, the one that forces me to stay awake to make it a reality. I also cannot attach it to something that will be made obsolete in few years’ time as our technology improves. It has to be something wild.
Then I realised, I have a simple dream. I want to create the best image. Therefore, it not bounded by time. The definition of “best” may change from time to time. As our technology improves, it helps me to create the best image. However, I still stick to the essentials, which is ISO control, aperture control, and shutter speed controls. Also, focus controls. All manual.
One Camera, One Lens
That is my philosophy, as much as I can. I love to use 50mm lens for my photography purposes. It forces me to be creative, and many would smile when I always take few steps back to fit in more items in my composition. But it’s alright, and I don’t think I owe anyone an explanation. Fellow photographers would understand that.
I am always happy when I am behind my own M camera. To use other’s camera feels awkward, as if I have the sense of loyalty to my own camera. Familiarity makes thing automated to you, as my muscle memories moves my finger to focus automatically without even thinking. I only have to wait for the right moment, and voila, I have the shot. The sound of the shutter is like a music to my ears. The sound of M9 is the best, and that is why I still keep the M Monochrom, though I still use M10 for other purposes.
Heading For Tomorrow
Initially, it is normal to feel want to belong somewhere; to a group, band, society, community. However, for the wild ones, they will realise that they have least control when they are in group. Like Tetris, once they fit in, they disappear.
I don’t want to disappear. I want to make my presence known, in the right way. I may not have my own CW Clan now, and it makes me like a lone wolf with all of the community. However, none of that matters. All that matters is in the end of the day, I still can go back to my family and capture the photos of my growing niece and nephew. I will groom them to be a useful person. With my core family behind me, I am willing to move forward alone. It is difficult, but it is the one that makes you stronger.
In The Beginning
When I started my CWPhotography, I faced quite a number of condescenders that told me it is a pointless path to be made. I still remember it vividly 2 year’s ago. However, I forced myself to be stubborn and I move along, and focus only to the weak signals of those who supports me. They are like the tonic ones that I need, especially my other half, with genuine connection that exists outside social media; unseen, unheard, but it is real. Fast forward, 2 years, I have achieved a level that I can only dream back then.
I still do, and I do acknowledge that I have a lot to learn. I am grateful to me a lot of people that has a positive impact to me, in photography space: Sifu Edwin Lay; from Leica community, Ng Chi Loon, Thorsten Overgaard, Craig Semetko, Fulvio Bugani, Anthony Barlan, Mathias Heng. Not to forget also Joyce, Daniel and Erica, and more recent batch, “Team Lead” Hanif and Harry. Outside photography community, Marvin Gau – the guy who challenges me to do something about photography. I will be forever grateful to him to him for the “push”.
Don’t Want To be a “Jaguh Kampung”
I remembered the TEDEx talk by Zung, Ninja Photographer. He said, don’t be a “jaguh kampung”. What he meant was, don’t be someone who is famous only in a certain place. This is a term coined by the Malay communities at Malaysia, which means, you are the champion of the village (Jaguh = Champion, Kampung = Village). My understanding from Zung’s word is don’t make “Jaguh Kampung” or even “Bandar” (City) as your final aim. It is like confining a shark in a tank. The shark baby will only grow as large as the tank. The smaller the tank, the smaller it will be. Wasted potential. In the open ocean, a shark can grow as big as they can be. This becomes the basis of Spielberg’s famous film, Jaws. Freddie Mercury would say, Jaws was never my scene and he don’t like Star Wars (but that is actually a lie. He likes both).
Likewise, your potential is only as much as you think it is. Your tank is your belief that you have framed in your mind. Therefore, your potential is much more than that. If you have achieved certain level of achievement, for example, you have done a talk or have your own private exhibition, aim for something higher, or bigger. Aim to have your personal TEDEx. I have always been invited to Curtin to give talk, but mostly on career. Echoing Simon Sinek, I always ask them, what is your “WHY”. Not knowing your why, you will not be able to push forward. It is the sole reason you are doing the things you are doing. For example, your WHY is your family. You may not like the job, but it pays good money. Therefore, because of your WHY, it overrides your discomfort and you stays on. It is also another unique trait of human to ensure longevity, we persevere when we required, or when we have to.
I don’t believe in competing with other people, because that does not make me happy. I am aware of certain unofficial rivalry or competition between groups, which is a strong reason why I don’t brand myself with such groups as it creates unnecessary friction because I always believe in creating positive connection with other peoples. The worst is when the other side is not compatible with the energy that I emits. Instead of tonic, it became a toxic connection. The best thing to do in that situation is to minimise contact and keep it professional. There is no point to take it personal because they might have their own reasons, or their life’s journey has framed their mind and behaviour to act in such a way. Regardless, it is not my worry. I should worry more about things within my control. I should be more worried about what is plan for tomorrow, and what I can improve next. I already branded myself as “Your Tukang Rantek”, with “Dayung Laut” as part of my brand.
Further to the topic, I believe in competition with myself, where I always strive to be better, faster and more efficient that who I was yesterday. For example, now it took me few seconds to focus using my M manual camera. My target is to be able to focus as fast possible, probably split second using M-lenses. Not possible yet, but I believe I can go as fast as I can. Now I am started to learn how to use lights in a better way. I learned the fundamental in a proper way from Sifu Edwin Lay. I am looking forward to Rarindra’s class next year.
I personally would not know my own true potential if I stuck at my village. Only when I step outside, get to know other peoples, that I know how large of a shark I can be. I rather be a lone, hungry shark in the open ocean than a well-fed shark that’s stuck in a zoo. Who knows I can get to meet Aquaman on my way to Atlantis?
I am looking forward to the winner of “Dayung Laut”, a competition that I created and was inspired by Emilia, a fellow oil and gas senior.
I hope my story will inspire you to do something about your dreams, whatever it might be. Remember, when you have a dream, just go for it. Many will not believe in you at first, but just be resilient, persevere and keep on pushing and improving. Something good will come out from it sooner or later. Have faith in yourself. You can do it.
Your Tukang Rantek,