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Category archives: Photography

Engagement of Dennis & Valerie

Dear friends,

Happy Mothers Day to all of you and all of the wonderful mothers all around the world. Without the sacrifices, the unforgettable 9 months and many more years that follows, through joy and sorrow, your selfless contribution is a big reason why we managed to gain our current altitude in life.

Congratulations Dennis & Valerie!

Back to the story, the story now is about Dennis and Valarie, where their love blooms around 7 years ago. They met through the Catholic Student Society (CSS) GIFT (Growing In Faith Together) of UTM Skudai. God done their magic, and thus the two has fallen in love with one another, and the rest is history. Dennis, hailing from Kpg Bayur, Padawan, or should I call, Braang Boy, is around 800km from Valerie, whose hometown is Miri. However, God’s miracle can work in many ways, and the distance does not stop the two from forming a serious relationship that leads to 11 May, their happy day.

The celebration of engagement begins with the arrival of guests, as far as Kuching, particularly Dennis’ side, with some from Limbang. Since both families are both Catholics, the ceremony is done in accordance to the Catholic’s way of engagement, which was lead by Cathecist Janet from St Dominic Taman Tunku. The intro song is one of the most recognisable of all, which is commonly known as “Hari Ini” (Today) by Sarawak Christian community, or originally titled as “Kasih Yang Mempersatukan” (The Uniting Love), written by Kretarto Hendro Wibow & Niken Woro Wulandari from Indonesia. The lyrics with its literal translation are as follows:

Hari ini ku rasa bahagia (Today I am feeling happy)
Berkumpul bersama saudara seiman

(gathering with brothers & sisters of the same faith)
Tuhan Yesus mempersatukan kita (Jesus’s Love has united us)
Tanpa memandang di antara kita (without looking into us)

Bergandingan tangan dalam kasih (holding hands in love)
Dalam satu hati (in one heart)
Berjalan dalam terang kasih Tuhan (walking in the light of His Love)
Kau sahabatku, kau saudara ku (You’re my friend, you’re my brother)
Tiada yang dapat memisahkan kita (nothing will separate us)

After the words of advise from Catechist Janet, it was followed by the ring-blessing and the passing of the ring into one another before the event take its pause to give opportunity for everyone to have their dinner and a bit of entertainment by yours truly before proceeding into the next session – which is the advise session by the elders from both sides. Then there was a cake cutting ceremony as well as the non-stop music, intermixed with Poco-Poco and ngajat performances.

The blend of the audiences is a mix of mainly Bidayuh, Kayan and Melanau (from Valerie’s side), but that doesn’t stop Sarawakians from being Sarawakian, where there is a free flow of beer, open-mic session and open dance floor, where you are most welcomed to dance. Even the sudden haze from Kuala Baram road also can’t stop us from having fun in the evening.

Once again, congratulations to Dennis and Valerie for the engagement. Always remember this: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails” – (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)

8
Dennis with his nervous face.
Catechist Janet
Starting them young (drinking tuak)
That’s a lot of cake.
Payback time.

One for the road.
How low you can go?
I walk alone, I walk alone.

Your Tukang Rantek,

Claudius Weson

© Claudius Weson Photography (2019). All rights reserved. 

Bonus: 3D Taruh Dari

Started as an ordinary bidayuh boys who love music, these ‘taruh dari’ (three boys in Bidayuh language) then formed a band, known as ‘3D’ (short form of ‘taruh dari’, also taken from their nicknames initial, Del, Dennis & Dio). Initially they cover Muse songs. But then, inspired by the Bidayuh headhunter spirit, they came out with their first song, Headhunters of Hornbill Land. This was followed by ‘Dayung Salau’ (beloved girl in Bidayuh, ), ‘Buran’ (Moon in bidayuh, reference to a lost lover), I Don’t Care (hate version) (a song about frustration) and a song to our Creator, In Lord I Trust. After a break for about four months, 3D is ready to rock and unleashing their fury as what they always did during any gig or battle that they have participated in. Currently, they have recorded a new version of their beloved songs, including Dayung Salau, Buran, I Don’t Care and In Lord I Trust. Yakinlah Oh Sayangku is their latest song ever recorded and it was planned to make it’s debut during MJCC Film Festival (MJFF). YOS is a song about a promise of a boy to his girlfriend. During the MJFF Award Night, some technical problems occur, where the bass drum lacks of grip, thus kept on moving on its own. The last performance was during Hornbill Night 2012, where there were no performances after that.

3D – Taruh Dari – Dio, Del, Dennis
Suria Showdown Feb 2011
Rock Performance at SCC – 2012
Best Bassist, Best Rhythm Guitar & Second Runner Up
BOTB UTM International Johor Horse Show 2011
Finale – Hornbill Night 2012
GIFT Christmas Celebration 2011
Fenomena Art Festival 2011
“Joget” with Rayner and Alvin
Malacca-Johor Coordinating Council (MJCC) BOTB and Choir Festival 2012

One thing that I learned from running a band is that first and foremost, you have to love the music, you have to really love what you are doing. The music has to come from the heart. Most of the time in our performances, we improvise. There are no similar performances. We fall in love in performing to entertain ourselves, as part of our self-expression. Then, regardless of the crowd’s reception to our music, it doesn’t matter because we love what we are doing. That is the fuel that we need.

Even if now we are no longer active, but who knows, in the future, 3D will be revived, or make our next performance. In the meantime, I’ll express myself using my Leica. 😉

Ivanna’s Family Moments

Dear friends,

How was your week? I hope you had a good one, and now enjoy your weekend with your family and friends after a long week of toil and hard works. Just a week ago, the theme was fashion and runway. Fast foward, this weekend was all about family – another favourite topic of mine.

Chilling in the weekend.

Why family? Basically it is the first unit from which you receive your first love, be it from your parents or your siblings. Home is usually where your heart resides, and that is family.

Time is the true resources that we have, and all of the other things that we have in life is a result of our transaction that we have done, be it in the form of material or relationship. I believe that one of the best was to spend time is with family.

Sometimes, we often spend get caught with our work life that we are unable to switch off, fearing that we will lose our momentum. Thus, we keep on running this rat race. However, we often forgot that we are not getting younger. So is our parents, they are not getting younger as well.

If you are away, please make a conscious effort to pay a visit to your family as frequent as possible if it is not too difficult. I know some of my fellow friends, working far away from their home, only go back during Gawai (Harvest Festival). Some might say that is a long gap. However, taking into consideration his/her difficulties, it is better than none. At least the effort is there.

In our day to day life, we often interact so much, and we are normalised that we forgot that we also should immortalise the family moments, in the form of pictures – a job that can be accomplished using various image-creating tools nowadays, from VGA phones to the latest Huawei P30 Pro. As for me, I would entrust this kind of job with my favourite gears – my very own Leica M10 and Noctilux as it creates the image that I would call my own expression of photography.

Regardless, the most important thing is that we are immortalising the memories of our loved ones.

Enjoy the pictures below and have a blessed weekend!

Your Tukang Rantek,

Claudius

© Claudius Weson Photography (2019). All rights reserved. 

Miss Mermaidopia Ambassador 2019

Dear friends,

How’s your 2019 so far? Are you getting closer to your dream than yesterday? For me, being a “tukang rantek” (photographer in Bidayuh Pichin) took me into a different path in life as part of my self-discovery photography career. Thanks to Trisha, I met Aldrin, a gentleman who runs  Aldrin’s Flair & Events Decor and managed to get my hand into his next event which they organise, Miss Mermaidopia Ambassador 2019, an event sponsored by Boulevard Shopping Mall, Miri Events and Décor Specialist, Wan Soon Florist and Love Mermaidopia as well as the kind Miss Eva Mae (Miss Asia International 2008). 

Love Mermaidopia is a brand with mystical mermaid theme that aiming to enlighten beauties that beautifying can be affordable and easy with natural yet safe range of products. They are proud Malaysia brand, based in Selangor and currently have super agents around the country. They are also still making waves to share the love with their Serum Hair Mist, Coral Curl Duo Mascara, Aqua Glow Cushion and more to come.

As for the competition, the winner will receive RM700 of cash, crown, sash and will be the ambassador of Mermaidopia. First and second runner ups will win RM500 and RM300 respectively along with crown and sash.

Coronation ceremony.

Personally I have never been involved in this kind of event before, therefore this is a new learning for me and I am thrilled to be able to cover such event. Armed with my Leica gears, this time only with M10 and Noctilux 50.

The event itself is a combination of both Singing Competition and Beauty Pageant. As for singing, it was participated by Vivian Garvin, Harith bin Habib, Hezron Joseph, Patrick Unchu, Awang Mohd Faiz Ashraf, Chia Chai Ying, Elia Mitchell and Mohd Faizul bin Mohd Maidin.

As with any other competitions, it is not complete without a line-up of wise and experiences judges. For Miss Mermaidopia Ambassador judges, they are Angelia Vanessa (Winner GCM Miss Cultural 2018), Emily Elizabeth (Winner Miss Youth Festival 2018) & Emily Chieng (Winner Miss Vibrant 2019).  For your info, Emily Elizabeth herself is an accomplished chef. She is such an inspiration to those who wants to make their dream a reality. 

Emily Chieng, Eva Mae, Spanski, Angelia Vanessa & Emily Elizabeth.

For the singing competition, which is organized by Miri Events & Décor Specialist, the judges are Jeremiah Udan and Dayang Bismi. I have a feeling that she is related to Dayang Nurfaezah. Anyone can confirm? Please write in the comment below.

Event Flow:

The event will not be lively without a good emcee, and that is where one of Miri’s most sought after emcee, Spanski Steven come into play. With his deep bass voice, he ensures that the event runs smoothly as a hot knife cuts through a butter. Behind the scene, running around here and there with Aldrin are Hayes Collin, Trisha Joe & McGrable Diwan to make sure that the event runs smoothly. 

Mr Spanski Steven

The singing competition is quite straightforward where every participants only need to sing a song. But that can be a tricky part as you need to pick the song that can represent the best of your vocal abilities as well as your mastery in fully utilising the stage, which can be a daunting task for the new ones. Anyway, that doesn’t stop Harith to bag the championship and win, followed by Hezron and Elia.

As for the beauty pageant, after few rounds of cat-walks and two sets of Q&As, Miss Mermaidopia Ambassador 2019 winner goes to the talented Nicole Goldy, with runner-ups won by Abigiel Lawai, Noria Anah, Veronica Michalle and Cindy Balang. There is also a subsidiary title of Best Opening Dress, won by Helena Telun, followed by Njzallina Supand and Amelia Kassim.

Congratulations to all of the winners, and to those who participated in the event because it takes a lot of courage to be part of this exciting competition as well as to answer question on the spot, in front of the public. Not to mention singing.

From left: Jeremiah, Elia, Harith, Hezron & Dayang Bismi.
The winners and the Aldrin’s crew. Alvin said they never had any event photos, so this is to break that tradition.

Below is the gallery of the event photo. Enjoy!

Bonus: The Power of Family

As I was shooting around to get the photos, I noticed that there is a lot of family members and friends who came to show their support to the contestants. Coming from a family that emphasises a lot in family values (subtle expression of love), I like this situation. It is from a strong and loving family that we can generate enough willpower to move forward, especially to achieve a seemingly impossible goal. Be it to pursue your dream of becoming an accomplished fitness coach like MarvInspire Fitness, or a chef and beauty queen like Emily, family is a powerful unit that can brings that extra power, and make you realise your full potential. They are also your fallback plan, should things doesn’t go as per your plan. I love to enjoy my uninterrupted off-day by my family side, especially now that I have two new family members, thanks to my sister (yeah, keep it coming) and snap my family photo.

Nicole and her family.
Inik pan datai mega. Amat stidi, support ucu. 😀

For me, I love photography because I want to immortalise my family moments. With my skills also, I can immortalise the beautiful moments in your family, be it wedding, birthday party as well as festivities.

Until next time, have a great week ahead!

Your Tukang Rantek,

Claudius

All photographs are © Claudius Weson Photography (2019). All rights reserved. No content should be used without prior approval from Claudius Weson. 

Reigniting Love: Donny & Debra

13 years. 4748 days. 113,952 hours. 6,837,120 minutes. 410,227,200 seconds. It’s just beginning of more love stories between Donny and Debra. The love that was blessed in holy matrimony 13 years ago.

I, for one, always love to capture the love expression between couples because it reminds me that life is beautiful, no matter what malicious things being spread across the media nowadays, be it mainstream or social media. All of those sometimes sways of focus on more important stuff, which is to love the one who loves us.

Amidst the business of daily life, sometimes we forgot to tell our loved ones that we love them. Some opted to express it through actions, some opted for reverse or indirect word selections to express love. But most impontly, a strong married life is an accumulation of smaller love expression, just like looking after one another in joy and sorrow. It doesn’t have to be a bombastic one-time event, and thinking that it will be carried out throughout the years. That is not sustainable.

The best one is to express it daily, no how busy you are. And when the time comes, year-by-year journey should be immortalised, for memories in the form of images tells the best story, for a picture worths a thousand words, just like how Debra and Donny, and daughters in the pictures below. Enjoy!

P.s. May God bless Donny, Debra and family. 😀

Your Tukang Rantek, Claudius Weson.  

Claudius Weson is a Miri-based “tukang rantek” (photographer in Bidayuh).

Angelyna & M9-P

Greetings friends,

First and foremost, Happy International Women’s Day to all great ladies out there. May God bless all of you always! Today’s story is the continuation of my experiment with M9-P and my effort to combine flash into my outdoor photography. Ideally, this would be simple if I have a dedicated helper. But, due to limited resources, I just have to make do with whatever I have.

Introduction

On this beautiful Saturday morning, me and local talent from Miri, Angelyna had a photoshoot at Coco Cabana, because I love how that place is. It is usually crowded with people over the weekend. To avoid this, we did out photoshoot in the morning before everyone comes out.

On my way there, I can see a lot of health-conscious Mirians, young and old, and their family jog in the morning with their family and friends at Marina’s pavement. Some did it solo, with Airpods accompanying them. Others, with a band of cyclists. For me, I usually exercise in the evening to keep my for any upcoming photography jobs, especially weddings, because you have to be physically fit and active to catch all of the decisive moments.

Gears: M9-P & Noctilux

About the gears, I am using my M9-P and a Noctilux lens. My camera is a 9 year’s old rangefinder, serviced at Leica Store Malaysia and the CCD sensor that its own signature look out of the camera, something like the Kodak film. That’s no surprise, because the maker of the sensor is Kodak. On a side note, its first successor, M-240 has a different rendering that does not appeal to me, hence the reason why I skipped it until M10 came, where Leica finally got it right. M10’s image is much closer to M9’s rendering than M-240, although a bit too “clean”. However, if the job is not so demanding, like dimly-lit places or event, I will just stick to my M9. Another reason is because M9-P is my first Leica camera, so the emotional attachment is there, just like any other artists with their favourite paintbrush, microphone, plectrums etc.

I was frequently asked this question: what is the best Leica camera to start with? I would say, M9 – first, it is full-frame and secondly, it is relatively cheaper compared to the older bodies, although you can find its advertisement popping up in Mudah ever once in a while. Also, the next question is, the technology is already 10 years old, so is it still relevant? My answer is yes, and I have been photographing weddings using it. I love the colour that it produces. Also, if you do it right, it is not prone to be soaked by water. I did headhunter run and SMEP Fit For The Future Run coverage using it, under pouring rain. As long as you do not purposely expose it right under rain water but only receive splashes, you should be alright. Make sure to dry it right afterwards, and put it either inside dry box (best method) or container of uncooked rice (cheapest method).

King Of The Night

Also, I am using Noctilux for obvious reason – I love the bokeh that it produces. I tried f/1.4, but it is not pleasing enough for me. Also, Noctilux’s low-light performance is second to none in the world of rangefinders, considering the maximum effective ISO that I can use with M9-P is only 800, so I have to rely on high aperture to get the same light input. With f/0.95, it is a staggeringly high number, that my beginner-self “fought” to acquire 3 years ago. I did get few comments from other fellow photographers that what I am doing is not correct because the norm is you should not blur out the background too much. I did tried to follow their advice, but as time goes by, I realised I keep on reverting back to it, and after that, I just do it. Why should I stop doing what I love most? Also, that will be my signature style. Bokeh. After such a long time operating it, the relatively long focus throw no longer bothers you as your left fingers and your left eye, in a beautiful synchronisation, automatically adjust the rangefinder to find the right focus as the target moves on. Once the target it set and found, the trigger is pressed, producing the beautiful M9-shutter tune. It is like a Termignoni exhaust to a Ducati afficionado.

On the other hand, when I am doing day-time street photography, I prefer to use Summilux 50 or APO-50 because it is much lighter that 700g King of the Night. 50mm has always been my favourite focal length, and it has shaped how I created my images, be it wedding or events, or even photoshoot like this.

Photoshoot:

First thing when I do is to get the white balance right, which will minimise my time when I am doing post processing later. The good news about Leica is you will get the best skin tone rendering, natural looking if you get the white balance correct. I am using a simple white balance card and then set it manually. After that, we just proceed with the photoshoot. You can see the sample images below.

Closing:

Overall, I am quite happy with this photoshoot but I admit that there is so much to be learnt about this particular field. Being so used to event photography, where you just “react”, this one requires me to think and plan ahead for the shoot. To make an image is the easiest part compared to planning a successful photoshoot. This sort of challenges makes life became so much interesting and I am looking forward to work with more talents in the future. I hope you guys enjoy this post.

Inspirational note here – Make sure your dream is big and do not be afraid or shy to make it happen. A thousand miles is just an accummulation of 63,360,000 inches. So make your steps counts.

Have a good weekend! 🙂

All images © Claudius Weson Photography (2019).

Claudius Weson is a wedding/event “tukang rantek” (photographer in Bidayuh language) based in Miri.

Sunday Strobes and Smiles

Greetings friends, 

The month of March marched into our life, signifying the end of the first quarter. But the year still has long way to go, with everyday is an opportunity to learn something new that will make a change. For me, it took my time to learn a new set of skills in photography. It was a warm Sunday morning at Padungan area of Kuching with fellow photographers from Kuching area at Great Wall Photo. Since this is a masterclass, the participants are limited to 8 peoples only to ensure that the learnings are well-delivered and so that everyone has the opportunity to learn. Few of those are Alvine of Mambu Bauh Photography, Lipina (EOS R lady), Michael of D’Moments, Fidelis of Mata Kucing, Ben Foo and Pauline Pui, with one of Kuching’s best – Edwin Lay as the instructor.

Introduction:

The session started with introductory words from Edwin about flash photography and their functions. Essentially, there are two main types of light producers, which is the speedlights and strobes. If you want more power, get studio strobes. But this beast is not cheap, it can easily fetch more than RM500. The higher-end brands like Broncolor and Profoto can easily reach thousands, but these are made for professionals. For beginners, it is a safe and economical bet to start with Godox.

Edwin the Sifu, with Ben as the Model.
Lipina is getting first-hand lesson from Edwin.

Edwin then move on to explain about the types of lights used in studio or in flash photography, starting with the most important of it all, the main light, or the key light. Then it is supplemented with fill light, head light and kicker light. These terms are used to decribe the types of lights and the effects that it has to the final images.

Once we have the light, then we need to move on to the movement of light, or as what my SMKT Physics teacher used to say, the propagation of light, which refers to the manner in which the electromagnetic wave transfer it’s energy from one point to another. In this case, from flash to the subject, or model. The moment flash is lighted up, three processes occurs – transmission, reflection and refraction. If the refractivity index of the medium is similar, then there would be no refraction observed. However, this effect can be used for some creative photography, which I might explore in the future.

Studio Strobes 101:

For flash photography, the one that we need to control is the transmission (the power of the flash/strobe) and the reflection. The reflection bit is the one that is indeed a lifelong learning. To make sure that we get the desired effect, this is the part where Edwin taught and gave demonstration on how to used these unique light modifiers. We are very lucky because we managed to experience this using Profoto light modifiers. Its build quality really shines though, and it feels solid. A bit more on the theory, we learned about the camera setting, selecting the effective ISO, shutter speed and the right aparture. From there, we learn about the placement of the strobes and we went on playing around with the controller and did some modelling for the rest of the team. The most lively member, Pauline offers to be the first model. Her cheerfulness really shines through. Michael also posed for the photos, which I managed to take. The first session was done indoor using the strobes, and the subsequent session was done outside with professional model, Adeline.

My Comfort Zone – Natural Light

I love these bokeh. Anyone?

For me, this is a new experience because being an M photographer, I am so used to work with available lights in my paid works, be it weddings, dinners, birthdays, outdoor modellings or even street photography. Even my lens selection and camera selection reflects the need for my niche, the ability to shoot any events using my Leicas (currently still using M9-P during leisure shoots and M10 for some serious photography needs). For day time, I will be using my Summicron and for night time, I will be switching to the Beast of the Night, Noctilux. Those combinations are the ones that created my images and it is more about the joy in shooting, the feeling that you get your focus in your “messucher” or rangefinder in German. Doing hyperfocal shoots and sometimes crazy bokeh is the secret ingredient of the M-shooters life. And yes Ben, it is fully manual – from its ISO, aperture, and shutter speed. Manual all the way. The best part about shooting in this manner is that everyday is an exciting day. You will never know what you will get. This is also the reminds me to the exciting days that I has last year when I attended Thorsten’s photography masterclass – first-hand experience of becoming a Leica photographer.

Happy Leled.
Happy evening.
Dayung Timengen masu Kpg Taee (Kambut nyeken ganan neh).

Stepping Out The Comfort Zone:

For flash photography, it is a different story. You are in complete control. Quoting Edwin Lay, if you can master around 50 to 60% of the content, you can go to any studios around the world and you will always get that consistent result, a mind blowing result. That is the beauty of the flash photography. I started to enjoy flash photography. I admit that this field is a new playing ground for me (pardon my half-cooked flash photos), but with the right guidances, tools and lots of practices, it holds an interesting future.

In the end, do what you love, and love what you do. Have a good day ahead! 🙂

Do Not Undervalue Yourself

This is an interesting topic that we had during our photographer’s lunch at Feast and Furious. Ben brought up this topic and he shared his side of story on managing clients. That reminds me my own share of experience as well, where the common argument is that I am charging much higher than other photographers. For info, we, photographers in general are not only charging for the short session that we have with you and your event, but also the countless hours that we spent behind the scene, before the computer screen just to get your final images correct and beautiful. Not to mention the equipment maintenance fees, transportation, bills, helpers (if there is any) as well as the trainings that we have to attend just to keep ourselves sharp and relevant to the business. Therefore, if a photographer charges you a tiny amount of just RM300 for the entire event, he is actually shooting himself in his foot and will damage his reputation, morale and economics. It is what we always call – “kacau market” (distrupting the market).

For info, reasonable charge of a photographer is RM2500 and above per wedding job, if he really want to make a living out of it and after taking into consideration of all of his charges. However, if you already made a promise onto anything lower than that, do honour your words because your reputation also depends on your words.

Most importantly, enjoy! We live in the golden age of photography, where the innovation never seems to stop. who knows what comes next? A tin-can sized 500W strobe?

Story of a Sape Maker – Matt Linggi

Dear friends, 

Sarawak is a beautiful land. As the son of the land, I am always proud to tell the others where I came from when I am being asked, which is from Kampung Pichin, Serian. Growing up in the south, surrounded by my fellow Bidayuh clansmen, I am not really exposed to the other peoples in terms of day-to-day interaction during the first 12 years of my life. As I grow older, I met more peoples from all around the world, which is an eye-opening experiences. Currently residing at the northern part of Sarawak, Miri, I have the best opportunity to get to know more about the people of the North, which is the Orang Ulu (literally upriver peoples).

Orang Ulu is the term used by Sarawakians to refer to the ethnically-diverse group in the north, including Kenyah, Kayan, Kelabit, Punan, Penan, Lahanan, Kiput,Kajaman – to name a few. Due to the vast history of these culturally-rich peoples, it deserves its own story in another post. Interestingly, the Kalimantan Indonesians that has the same historical and blood ties with the Sarawak’s Orang Ulu still call themselves Dayak. Dayak, in Bidayuh Biatah/Padawan dialect means “people”.  Orang Ulu is the term popularised by Orang Ulu National Association (OUNA) which was founded in 1969. In Sarawak, Dayak refers to either Land Dayak (Bidayuh) or Sea Dayak (Ibans), which was introduced during James Brooke time, making it easier for them to identify us. However, I have no knowledge of the separation of these Dayaks and Orang Ulu. Perhaps if there is any reader that has the knowledge can share it in comments below.

Anyway, there is one aspect of Orang Ulu that I want to touch today, which is their most famous musical instrument – Sape. Sape is originally three or four stringed instrument and is scaled in a way it is pentatonic, but modern variations has more strings and frets. Among the famous Sape players are the Sape Masters – Matthew Ngau Jau, the Sape master behind Lan E – Jerry Kamit and Kelabit beauty on a mission, Alena Murang.

My journey to find the more about this unique musical instrument leads me to the down-to-earth Sape maker of Miri, Matt Linggi from Iban tribe. He is actually an oil and gas professional, famously known as PLS – project liaison supervisor – at Central Luconia, but during his off-day, he dons his Sape maker outfit and grinds on.

Matt Linggi’s signature trademark
Close-up of Matt Linggi’s personal sape.
Sape and I.

Background:

He liked Sape music since his early childhood when it was played over the radio or cassette player. He have not seen any real sape instrument until he was in his 20s. His first sape was bought from a Kenyah Sape maker and also seasoned sape player, the late Usat Ulai from Tatau, Bintulu. The sape has a beautiful acoustic sound and authentic in design. He owns that sape for a couple of years before he gave it away to someone from Kuala Lumpur.

His inspiration of making sape came after I watched Jerry Kamit’s sape on his video clips album and in Youtube. He was amazed by its modern shape, handy and mobility. Since then he was trying to look for one of those kind but to no avail. He scouted around wherever he saw handicraft shops. He saw few sape but did not find them to be satisfactory to his expectation even though they are well- built Sape, well-designed and has various types of wood selection and range of prices.

His father has experience in crafting sape body for Orang Ulu tribe of Kayan from Belaga when he was young. Despite being experienced in crafting few sape, his father never learnt to install the strings and frets nor attempt to play any song whatsoever.

Entry Into Business:

His official entry into business started one day in early 21st century, sometime in 2005 when he asked his father to make one sape for him. His father did one for him, but then again, its shape and design was not up to his preferences. This sparks something – he was thinking maybe he can make one himself. With his father’s help, they managed to find the wood (Kayu Pulai/Pelaie) and he designed the shape and dimension to his preferences. His father made one and he also made one himself at the same time.

HIs first attempt of making sape was quite an experience for he have never seen and observed the real processes involved. His first Sape, visually is not so bad, acoustically was not impressive as he expected. The body construction was not ideal. Back then, he has no idea of how thick is thick or how thin is thin.

Since then, he is always thinking of making another, and better Sape but the ideas always come to a halt because he is always working abroad in oil and gas industry. When he works abroad, he is donning his coverall and focuses into HSSE aspect, but his heart and soul is always at the land of Hornbill and of course his Sape.

Reigniting the Flame:

In 2008, once again, he finally has a career based in Miri. That was where he began to materialise his dream. This time, he has better ideas after observing few sapes from different makers. His traditional ornament design was still very basic and simple. It is meant for his personal uses. He made Sape out of his hobby but then of few of friends showed strong interest in his Sape and asked him to make one for them. 

That was how he began to make more Sape whenever he is available and has free time to spare.

Way back in 2011, his friend Hezekiah Asim gave him one Sape made by William Balam, a Kelabit guy. The Sape’s shape was so unique and has a fascinating ornament design. Hezekiah asked him if he can make one sape for him with something similar in design. He said He cannot promise but will do the best in his ability. After a year or so he managed to produce one of his own version very much inspired by William Bala’s Sape design.

From then on his Sape design has been transformed from basic and simple to more complicated and fascinating ornament design.

Sape-Making Processes:

The following are the processes involved in making sape, in their sequence, from paper to the finished product.

Comparison between Sape, mini-Sape and an acoustic guitar.

Challenges:

As of now, he personally feel that we need more Sape maker to cope up with demand from the ever-rising players request. This mean not only massive in production but also in term of quality that also has to be ensured. Through the quality of the Sape, it will be the Sape makers’ signature and their ambassador though people may not have met us personally.  

Four-stringed and six-stringed sape.

Sape has evolved as time change. He said we hardly keep up with the pure traditional cultures because we are brought up in different time and place. But we ought to make an effort to preserve the traditional value of this precious instrument by reflecting the place of origin.

According to him, we could have modern version sape which reflect the traditional assents. This is where the new generation need input from the Sape masters or experienced maker/player because believe it or not, a Master’s was once a beginner too. 

Also, due to severe deforestation, searching for the right and suitable wood also pose another concern. 

Future:

Personally, he foresees that Sape will soar further than it already was. There are many young enthusiast that is eager to bring it up to the next level be it in craft design or ways of playing. Just like the performances made by the Alena, or even Nick of Sada Borneo. Beside local peoples, there is also a huge demand from international level for sape instrument. For example, the lute collectors from European regions. There will be no limit to this future because different player might want to have different Sape from different maker just like other instrument, where there is a need to be unique. Unlike others, most, if not all, Sape maker/player that he knew are very generous in sharing ideas and tips. They always compliments each other and should there is any “competition”, it will be a healthy one. In this way, the Sape players community can ensure the growth of Sape music throughout the world.

Ordering:

Should any of you are interested to get Sape of your own, you may do so and contact Matt Linggi via his Facebook . However, due to high demand, one will have to bear a long waiting list, especially if your Sape of request is beautifully decorated.

Alena and her beautiful sape, handcrafted personally by Matt Linggi. (Snapshot from Alena’s Instagram). Follow her IG account to know about her latest updates.
One for the road. Matt Linggi plays a composition before I left.
(Leica M10 & Noctilux – wide-open)

© Claudius Weson Photograpy (2019), unless stated otherwise. Matt Linggi’s personal images are used with his permission.

Claudius Weson is a freelance “tukang rantek” (photographer in Bidayuh) based in Miri, with passion in immortalising memories.

CW & Wedding Photography

Dear friends, 

How was your fourth week of the year? Was it a bit of self-searching or you have found your track and are speeding up? Regardless, I hope you have a fruitful days in 2019 and have the things that you would like to do. Let’s not forget that everyday we are blessed with 1440 minutes and it is very important for you to make full use of it. In this post, I want to write about my experiences with wedding photography.

Introduction:

I have been doing wedding photography since 2017 on part-time basis since I am actually an engineer by profession, with photography as my passion. When I first started out, I did not intend to be wedding photographer, but more like event photographer and other activities that I like. The more I do wedding photography, the more I like it. It seems like there is something about it that is close to my soul. There is so much that we can relate to weddings that we will have to list it down to make it a complete sentence for others to fathom out thoughts. Let’s write it down here.


What is Wedding?

First and foremost, what is wedding? A wedding is a ceremony where two people are united in marriage. As a Catholic, I am close to this bible verse – Genesis 2:24: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” In another persepective, it is more than just the union of two person, it is actually the union between two family. When a man marries to a woman, it is the day he becomes her parents’ son, and vice versa. It is common for Sarawakians to call his parents in-law as father or mother. In Bidayuh language, it is andu-amang, in Iban, apai indai, and so forth. There is no limit to it, depending on your family and tradition.

Wedding Photography:

It is a well-known idea that wedding is a special memory, hence it needs to be captured somewhere. I still remember the day when my aunties and uncles get married in the late 90s and early-2000s, where there was no proper photographer since the main idea at that time is cost-saving. But back then, the idea was to rent few plastic camera from the nearest camera shop and save the shots only for the most crucial moments. Sometimes, the cameraman, Kochat, will come and offer to take photo, where we can choose from the following day. In the end, we can only get a few photo album, the one that you have to put talc powder to prevent it from being damaged over time. Most of the photo albums are missing. For my parents, there was only two photo of their wedding that I can find, but that makes it is the most special of all the images I posses. Having seen the hardship it causes, it makes me realise that every moment is precious. Subconsciously, it is another reason why I am passionate about capturing moments, so that I can immortalise memories.

Wedding Photographer:

Some might think of them as the one that lunge a camera, or two and ran around the room. Sometimes they come in a group of person with distinctive roles and responsibility, like in an established photographer organisation. Some – like me – comes alone dressed in black and trying to be discreet like a ninja and work alone. In my words, he is the person (or persons) who was given the honour to capture the moments throughout the event. Honour is a strong word – why? I am using honour because in the wedding itself is not something that you can just arrange in a whim. It requires an elaborate planning, resources, time and energy to pull it. Forget about planning, without any money, you cannot bring it forth. Although it is “just an evening”, but it actually is 1 year, or months in the making. Because of the planning and resources, and the importance it signifies, wedding photography is the aspect that one should not put lightly. Imagine this case, because you want to save cost, you took whatever photography that can fit your budget, in the end, you get what you paid for. To randomly listing down any potential worstcase – the composition is out, the crucial moment is off, and the colour is distasteful etc. that would make one nightmare of a wedding images.

Consider the alternative scenario – let’s say you have to pay a substantial amount of money to get an experienced , and award-winning photographer. You can be sure that the images that he/she took will be pleasing. That images, will be handed over to the younger generations to see the beauty of the precious moments, the wedding of their grandparents half a century ago. This is another reason why some people do not mind of spending a sum of reasonable amount of money for their wedding photography because it is a good investment. We can earn our money back, but not even a trillionaire can bring back even a second from his past.

Claudy’s Wedding Photography Style:

Whenever I was given this honour to be wedding photographer, I always put it in my mind – how would I do it if it is my wedding? I would give my best. There is something that I realised, each of the photo created is a reflection of the photographers’ personality. All of the photographs with people smiling in it is because their soul interacts with the soul of the photographer. Just imagine if I am putting a serious face, I bet the person in the images would be neutral. But if I am smiling and interacts with them before I capture the images, the person would be smiling.

I believed, and I have experienced that photographer also plays a key role in the event, particularly in the department of immortalising memories. We can always make the event merrier, trust me. You have the power to make a difference.

Since I am operating solo (being a freelancer), mobility is a must-have. In terms of style, there is no specific school of thought that I employ, but I am doing it without the usage of any light-modifiers or external flashes. This was heavily influenced by the other Leica M photographers. In fact, for my jobs, I am only using prime lenses. That is the style that I have been using since 2017 and because of that, it sticks with me. Habit dies hard.


Among the fun part of wedding photography is its time pressure because you only have few hours to edit and create the montage for the evening. Also, let’s not forget that it is one of the best time to have fun – because you are actually part of the key person who is celebrating the event. Enjoy!

Conclusion:

I realised that it is not about the gear that you are using. I truly appreciate the human elements in carrying out the wedding photography job, and without it, the final images won’t be as lively as you intend it to be. But there is no denying that the correct tool makes your life easier, and that is the reason why I am using Leica M.

Last one – be the change that you wish to see in this world. Be the photographer that you wish to see running around taking images of your family members during your wedding, the one that brings them joy on their big day.

Until next time, take care.

p.s. images of in this post are taken from Melanie and Ruben’s wedding. May God bless the two of them.

Regards,

Claudius

Be Fearless

Greetings friends,

How’s your life been doing? I hope you enjoy your week as much as I do. It is just another day to be great. No time should be wasted on living in fear. I have been following Eric Kim’s blog, and his recent post in being fearless made me awakened. You can read it here. For your info, he’s a great street photographer and he is on a mission to enlighten as much people as he can in the field of street photography. 

Terran’s Pylon.

In his post, he mentioned about a life where we took the safest option to live. What would that life be? It would be a boring life and you will not make a difference. To make a difference, you need to be fearless. You have to swim against the flow. Only dead fish go with the flow. 

Why do you want to be fearless? You want to be able to achieve whatever you want in life. The thing that is stopping you is your fear, and for many people it is of being rejected. You don’t want to express your feeling to that beautiful lady because you don’t want to be rejected. So what happens if you she rejects you? GG? No – You lose nothing. In fact, you learn something in expense of your time and energy spent. You learned that she is not interested in you and you are free to move on. It is one thing someone I know failed to do and ended up a virgin though been living for more than half a decade. Do you want to be like that to? No? Good. Speak your mind. You become more fearless the more you practice your fearlessness. Another case is you have stage fright. Good. Now speak in front of the public. Do you feel good after that? That is the feeling that your dopamine gave you. Your reward circuitry is triggered. You earned a new skill. Congrats. GGWP. 

Translated into photography, when everyone shoots colourful bokeh, be different, shoot a small aperture in black and white. When some  people shoot beautiful lady from afar using zoom lenses like peeping Tom, go and approach them and ask for permission. If they rejects you, move on. I for one will be reverting to black and white once again as my niche and be different. Why? Because I can. So what if I want to shoot in black and white? No harm at all. I still can shoot in colour because my camera sensor enables me to do so, but the final images is always in black and white. The worstcase is my business is not going to breakeven. But it was never intended to be a business in the first place. It is just a hobby that I took seriously to the point I meet Thorsten at Nürnberg.

Thorsten and I.

Again, the common fear that we all have is fear of being different, fear of being heard, fear of being uncomfortable, fear of being ridiculed, fear of being criticised and many other ridiculous fears that seems to be weird and has no value to your life. It only controls you and inhibit you from achieving your true potential. You can achieve so much more, if only you did not limit yourself and make yourself more unavailable for success calls. 

I am not sure what his name is, but he is one of the friendliest guard I have met at KL.
Learn how to jump from your fear, and fly afterwards.

Whenever I see successful peoples in their career of choice, be it inside or outside of their profession, I see peoples that has made sacrifices. Most of these peoples has an admirable set of success-magnet traits, e.g. not wasting time on talking about someone else or dropping toxic comments. Those toxics should be identified as such and you should keep a distance from them if you don’t want to be poisoned by them, and eventually normalised by being one with them. So avoid that trait.

To be fearless, you have to have a strong mental strength. The world seems to be trying to take you down at all cost. How to survive all of these waves after waves of attack? You need to refer back to your “why”. Why you want to be fearless in the first place? For me, my answer would be, to achieve my dream. Fearless is not being rude, speaking in a loud manner or bullying others. It’s just a state of mind – where you have no fear. Now, live on and be fearless.

Face thy fear!
Don’t let your life be controlled by fear, whatever it might be.

I hope this composition gives value to your life. Have a great week ahead!

Be Fearless!

Regards, 
Claudius

This used to be the scariest thing to do for me, once upon a time.
Combat your fear. Learn a Ninjutsu. Katon: Goukakyuu no Jutsu

An Adventure with Durian Hunters

Dear friends,

Happy new year to you. I hope you had a good new year celebration with your friends or your family. New year is not just about the change of year, but it is a start of something better for you and your family as well as your friends.

For me, family is very important. Fair-weather folks will flee when something bad fell upon you, but not your families, as they will be there for you. Family, for some people transcend beyond blood since blood fails them. Regardless, treasure your family.

Anyway, today’s blog is not about family, but about durian – The King of Fruits. Actually, I had a lot of journey throughout my short holiday, but the one that caught my attention the most was my durian-hunting journey with my uncles and brother-in-law.

I believe most of you are familiar with durian fruits. It is called the fruit of Gods by those who loves it texture, smell and taste. I personally loves it. In fact, my hometown, Serian has a huge durian statues, where the new one was relocated to Tarat. The other one was still at the near Serian fish market. During this time of the year, there was a lot of durian sellers. The truth is, there is so much durian that it can be bought for a cheap price, as cheap as RM25 for around 20 durians, if you manage to find the right dealers. Normally, if you are willing to go the village, they can sell it cheaper compared to those by the roadside.

There is a huge demand of durian all year long, except it can’t be provided as and when we wanted it to be, specifically for kampung durians. Locally here, durian season only come every two years. Last year was the traditional fruit season, therefore you can see a lot of others fruits ripening as well, such as rambutan trees. I love rambutan as well and ate it so much during my holiday to the point I no longer have any interest in eating it again. It’s like you have an all-you-can-eat fruit buffet, with lots more left hanging at the tree, left rotten as not enough Pichin population to consume and finish it.

For Bidayuh peoples, these fruits are normally planted at our dedicated orchard, which we call it “kabon”. Other than fruits, Bidayuh people of Serian district are well-known with black pepper. My family still operates black pepper plantation, but the demand for it is not as high as before. One common dilemma that is facing many older generations are the successor to their farmer lifestyle. Many younger generations, myself included are more interested in high-paying, urban-based employments. I deviate even further, where I took photography into the equation.

Not forgetting my past, I decided to document it this time. It is not a norm for anyone to go to orchard and brings any professional camera in my area. This is where a small sized M camera makes a difference because it is light and can operate easily despite being manual. I decided to use an APO-50 lens for this trip as it is the smallest in my kit.

We started off our journey in the morning, around 10am. The journey from Kpg Pichin to Tubih took us around 5 minutes. It is not a long journey if your driver is a “figher-jet” driver from Kpg Bugu Mawang, my uncle. Upon arrival, we are served with a beautiful scenery of the mountains, one of the limestone formations that is of the same Lenge Kiburan hill range.

Landing time.
Adventure begins.
Target locked.
Target acquired.

From the roadside, we took less than half an hour to reach our “kabon” site. The area is a bit shady, so for my camera setting, I use ISO 1600 whilst maintaining aperture of f/2.0 for a bit of bokeh. Shutter speed varies, as I need to balance out between the highlights and shadows. There were a lot of durians spotted at the little valley, but we decided to shook the branch so that we can pick it up later.

Tiring way up.
Further up.
Spotting position.
Leave no man behind.
It’s getting near.
Thank you for the shoes. Adidas Tarun. “Jungle Adidas” – the best one for this terrain.
Durian family hanging out.
More durian.
Rokop.
Creating the tool to make our life easier.
Searching for the fallen durians.
A 1.5kg durian found.
Finally, toil of the day.
Climbing rokop tree.
Choosing the best ones.

Safety note, durian fruits has a high hazard. At my work place, it falls under gravity hazard, as it is a stationary object at rest, but at any moment the stem fails, it will become a dangerous projectile accelerating at 9.81 m/s2. Therefore caution has to be exercised when walking beneath durian trees. The good news is usually the durian fruits will fall at night time, producing a satisfying sound – “res-dub”. It is the sound that a durian fruit will make as it thrashes through the branches or leaves and hit the ground at high speed.

Feeling model.
When one bamboo shoot is not enough for the big family, get another one.

Durians are then collected and gathers. To carry a lot of durian back is a waste of energy as you cannot sell all of it. Buyers are only interested in ripe durians. Therefore, using a sense of smell, sight and touch, ripe durians are carefully chosen and put at our backpack. The rest are opened. Flesh are separated from the husk as the husk carries no value to us.

This is the right way to open a durian. You don’t need a hacksaw, chainsaw or an axe. Just a machete or boko, cutting through God-made cracks of a fallen durian fruit.

On our way back, we pick up a few of fern spikes for our dinner. It is one of our staple food. In fact, majority of Bidayuh foods are vegetables, with meat came from jungle beasts, poultries and once in a while, pigs. We do eat river foods too, like catfish, prawns. I guess I need to revisit my competencies in jungle survival with my uncles. That night, I had a good night sleep, thanks to the unexpected fatigue.

Time to go back. Did we forget something?

I hope this story would be an informational one for you and shed a bit of light to the unpublished life of a kampung folks. Even though times are changing, let us not forget our past. I am looking forward to more adventures in 2019. As I move on in my journey, I truly appreciated the words of support and words of comments/feedbacks from all of you. Thank you very much.

May 2019 brings more prosperity, joy and wealth to you and your family. God bless!

Regards,
Claudius
Tukang Rantek Bidayuh