Memories – each and every one of us has it. It is something to be remembered from the past. Inside our 2.5 penta-bytes brain, there is a lot of faculties which our mind stores and remembers information. Some of these faculties store memories that we wish to forget, while some contains those that we wish to remember, always. Accessing these memory faculties clears its neuron path, while less accessed one will have an undergrowth in its path, much like a less travelled road. Soon, it will become secondary jungle in our brain, where the faculty will eventually be forgotten over time, which results in us not remembering anything about that particular incident. Unless somebody came with the map to that faculty of memory, which is a picture of the past.
Imagine that you have a wonderful childhood. Realising the importance and value of photograph in the future, your beloved parents or family members (in my case, my aunty) set aside an amount of money to buy film camera despite life difficulties. 3 decades gone by, no one remembers what happened at your 5th birthday party. But when you saw the pictures of the happier times, suddenly all of these memories came back rushing in, as if the dam that holds it back collapsed and you memories overflown. At the back of your head, you remembered your family and friends happily singing “Happy Birthday” / “Selamat Hari Jadi” to you, with your little niece mistakenly singing “Selamat Pagi KP” (same tune by the way). But it does not matter, because it was memory of a happy times.
Same goes for the memories of our departed beloved ones, which is captured using photographs. We tend to forget them, because they reminded us of the pain the left us, but let’s not forget the wonderful memories they gave us throughout their lifetime on Earth. They are the one that supports us, they are family. Their pictures are family treasure, so that the younger generations know how their ancestors looked like.
Time flows forward, one second at a time. Our perception might change, but time flows steadily. In our good times, time seems to gone by so quick like lightning, but when we are in pain, times travels slowly like a tortoise. We can gain back our lost money, but we can’t gain back our lost time. Once it’s gone, it’s gone forever. If we don’t seize the day, we’ll lose out.
Me and the rest of the photographer community are aware of this fact, and that’s why we love to create photographs. Our intention might be different from one another, but fundamentally, we helps people to remember the memories of the good time we had. Be it wedding, engagement, funeral or just simply to remember that you once had this particular look (6-packs, flawless skin, hourglass-shaped body, you name it). For me, I call it “immortalising memories” – to ensure that our memories are eternal, at least in a digital format that we can see and enjoy. Just like our fingerprints, each and every one of us is unique. We have our own ways of looking at things. A single picture might evoke a different memory to different person. That’s why people say, a picture is worth a thousand words. For some, prefer it to be hung at their wall so that every day they can admire it.
Similar to our existence in this world, with a unique path and way of life, every photographer has a different things they want to achieve. Some has an immense passion to achieve glory by winning international awards, while some just want to make a living. A lot of photographers that I admire has the passion for photography itself, and by being genuine to their passion, they are able to achieve greater heights. For me, my passion is to immortalise memories, with a focus to make people look beautiful/handsome in the photographs that I have created. When people came back to me and tells me that they love the pictures that I have created, I am happy “tukang rantek”.
“Immortalising Memories” 📷
Tukang Rantek, Claudius
Note: Claudius is a portrait “tukang rantek” (photographer in Bidayuh Pichin) based in Miri.
In the recent times, often we heard, seen and read about depression. Before that, it is quite common for us to hear people talk about it and dis it as if it is a laughing matter. I am pretty sure you also have your experiences dealing with such negative emotions. I have not dealt with depression yet, and I am lying if I said I understand how it exactly feels.
Definition of Depression
From American Psychiatric Association’s website, depression (major depressive disorder) is a common and serious medical illness that negatively affect how you feel, they way you feel and how you act. It can cause sadness and / or loss of interest in activities once enjoyed. It also can lead into various emotional and physical problems and can decrease a person’s ability to function at work and at home.
The symptom includes:
Feeling sad or having a depressed mood
Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
Changes in appetite – weight loss or gain unrelated to dieting
Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
Increased fatigue or loss of energy
Increase in purposeless activitiy
Difficulty thinking, concentrating or making decisions
Thoughts of death or suicide
As you can see from the lists, it is quite severe, especially the thoughts of suicide. As you can see in the movie Joker, various mishappening in his life turns him into society-hating person, that stays in the shadows and unknown, and that is his greatest weapon against Batman in the future.
Don’t confuse depression and sadness or grief because the latter are a normal emotional cycle in human, but depression is not. Even if that person is living the ideal situation may even succumb to this, as they are facing a threat and hazard unseen to us – the price to be paid for fame. The more famous you are, the more important is the your emotional strength.
Talking about this, there are time where I feel so unmotivated for no particular reason, where I just feel like lying in my bed, listening to Fur Elise all day. I believe this is quite common, except it came in a different form or activities. I would imagine a singer would want to scream their lungs out at studio when they feel frustrated or depressed. Or runner, just ran until they are tired across the field.
Could there be a solution for this?
Disclaimer: whatever that is written here is by no means absolute cure or prevention for depression. The words written following this are only the opinion of Claudius Weson, and should be taken as a layman's point of view, not a professional in field psychology.
Photography, Sense of Purpose & Self-Liberation
For me, this one is dealt with in a way that I treat photography as my main outlet to express myself, to tell the stories that I am unable to tell in words, and once I have done that, I express it in words. I like blogging, mainly because I can write things that I don’t get to talk in my everyday conversation. Not everyone that I know wants to talk to the level that I expect them to be. So, for me, I just keep it to myself, type it out here and post it. Who knows it might help someone out there.
I also have a passion in expressing myself, which is why I loved to join activities such as public speaking, debate, battle of the band and latest is photography and blogging. Back then, adrenaline was running wild, unchecked, and therefore I have to channel it somewhere. Being heartbroken, rejected few times, I use that frustration to create songs, such as Dayung Salau, Buran, I Don’t Care and our Taruh Dari’s (3D) main song, Headhunters of Hornbill Land. Duirng that time, I thought that we can go on as a team. However, that honeymoon period did not last and we have to separate after we finished our schooling (I probably will write about that in a next post).
That is also why I come with my own brand, Tukang Rantek. Why? It makes me joyful inside when people call me Tukang Rantek, which makes me excited to go on day to day life. Back in my village also people started to call me Tukang Rantek, like yesterday when I go to church of Pichin, Holy Trinity Church.
The sense of purpose comes in the form of competing with myself. I have quit competing with everyone else because I don’t like where it is heading. Some people don’t mind sacrificing relationship just so that they can win extra job, extra medal, extra recognition and even extra acknowledgement. If that “extra” means I go home unsatisfied with my art, but expressing in the way I become a crowd-pleaser or even social media victim, I rather go without anything but being happy in whatever art that I create. If I am comparing myself to other person’s current state, I am insulting my own potential. Why? I can achieve so much more if I become my own ally, creating the art that pleases both myself and my inner self.
I also do acknowledge that my elders are getting older, therefore I decided to create as much image when I am back at my hometown because no amount of money or regret can give me back that opportunity once I have lost it. How many times have you thought about this in your own family?
Seize the day.
I am Award-less Photographer
Again, this is another source frustration, left unchecked, it can become another source of depression. For me, being a Leica user for few years already, it is not uncommon for me to dream about winning Leica Oskar Barnack Award (LOBA), the most prestigious award for Leica society. Only one photographer can win this award every year. What happens to the rest of the photographer if they don’t win any of it? Did they just lost their puspose in life? Of course not; different photographer has a different purpose. For me, I want to create the best image. I strive for this goal in whatever situation that I am in. In that sense, I have a purpose. I further define it to create the best image in whatever situation I am in, given the poor lighting condition, given the gear I am using. For me, using Noctilux would be too easy because I can just blow the background away thanks to its atomic bokeh and leaving the subject intact. That is why I use Summicron recently, be it the first or the latest one. I like to make it difficult for me to capture the image, so that I can learn to control my M better.
In my off day, I like to call myself family photojournalist, capturing the day-to-day actitvities of my family. Sounds trivial, but few years down the road, we will miss these times, the time when the little one is no longer little.
Whether you realise it or not, each photographer reflects their own personality and emotion in the images that they created. If you are sad, you tend to create an image of sad people, and if you are happy, you tend to create an image of happy people. Therefore, before any event, it is better for you to find a good reason to be happy. Due to the emotional load (dealing with peoples) and time constraint, not many wants to be a wedding photographer. But for those who loves all of those, they really thrive in it. That brings us to the next topic.
How about Money?
This one is tricky because for some people, photography is the way for them to make money. If they can’t make money, they cannot provide necessities for their family. When that comes, whether they like it or not, they have to find another sources of income, trading hours for money, which is unsustainable.
From my conversation with some of the established photographers, they don’t rely solely on photography as their main source of income. They take commissions from every camera gears that they sold, they organise courses. Not surprisingly, Youtube is also part of their income, especially if you are creating a good, niche content. You also can always be part of the bigger community of photography, where you can become the second photographer for their job, provided they want your assistance and they trust in your ability to assist them.
Liberate Yourself From Bondage Called Expectation
A self-explanatory topic, your true liberation comes when you are really, and genuinely do photography for yourself, when you are really doing it because you like it, because you love it and you don’t care about those superficial stuff that we are being fed constantly with. The amount of likes or shares won’t pay the bills. Don’t worry about your post that doesn’t even go viral. Don’t worry if you don’t have or won any award. Don’t worry if you are not making any money yet. Do what you like, create the images that make you happy, make memories and make images your life as much as possible and share it with the others. In the end of the day, all you want to achieve is that little joy when you look back at your harvest (images created) and can go to sleep soundly. For non-photographers, just focus on your art, be it writing, singing or playing in a band.
I hope this sharing is useful to you, and able to empower you. No matter how high you have reached, don’t forget your roots. Have a great week ahead!
Your Tukang Rantek, Claudius Weson
Note: Claudius Weson is a Pichin-born tukang rantek (photographer) based in Miri, mainly doing portraiture (indoor / studio / outdoor photoshoot), weddings and event photography.
All of the images on this site are protected by copyright laws and are the exclusive property of Claudius Weson Photography. Images may not be copied, reproduced, manipulated, used or altered in any way without written permission. The use of any photography as the basis of another photographic concept or illustration is a violation of copyright.
Today is Saturday, and as usual, it is a time for us to spend our free time with family and friends. Do spend the most time with the elder ones, for their time is running out and the younger ones, for they would really need the guidance from us to kickstart their life in a good shape and in the best knowledge.
I would like to take this opportunity to inform you about Dayung Laut competition, which was inspired by Emilia Shander’s viral post. The current leader of the pack is Sandra, overtaking Sabahan beauty thanks to the strong support from her family and friends. However, it is too soon for me to say who is the winner to you because there are still one more week to go. Anything can change since the competition is public, and if someone acquires the hordes to vote for them, then it would be good.
The faces of the candidates are as follows:
I will make a separate announcement for the winner next week. Stay tuned!
Playing with Colours
Today’s session is special because it is my first time doing my own studio photoshoot at my own accord, at my own playing ground. The last session was when I attended the Studio Flash Photography Masterclass by Sifu Edwin Lay at Great Wall Camera. Edwin is a good sifu and he patiently teaches us the basics of playing with studio strobes. That is the time I met my fellow photographers based in Kuching area, such as Anathasia Lipina, Alvine, Fidelis George, Ben Foo and Pauline, all with one passion for photography. I wrote about this back in March this year. You can read it here.
This time, I am alone, and I have to direct the lighting myself. It is challenging, because when I am out there, I only have to control the light from my strobe. When I am with Thorsten, it is even different ball-game. Thorsten taught me to find the “magic of light”. When you found it, you will know that your photograph will be awesome.
As for today’s session, I do play around with red and blue gel, as it is the most common, and it is my personal favourite for this kind of photoshoot. It reminds me to the clip video of In Venere Veritas by HIM, which for me is a cool love metal song. There was a lot of experimentations going around the room, where I being an experimenter has to tweak and tinker before I hit the sweet spot. Once I am in the “zen”, it is also easy to find the right balance.
As for the gears I am using today, I am using my trusty M10-P and APO-Summicron 50mm for this job. I love to use Leica gears since it gave me the flexibility to work with the “Leica” look as well as it is light and easy to move around with. I always move around back and forth to adjust the strobes that I am using. 50mm has always been my favourite focal length for all occasions.
I am joined by Divabiz Ambassadorz founder, Priscilla Nissie and some of her talents, including Dranadillos and Sylvia, as well as Averia Vella, whom we call “Amoi”.
First session was a simple white t-shirt at a black background.
The next session is using the dress of their choice and this time, I included blue and red gel. Why? I like it. No rocket science behind it.
After enough time having fun using black background, I changed the black background to white background.
Dresses and Accessories
Pua Kumbu Blouse & Black Glitter Evening Dress is designed by Samdoh Beads Boutique. Cocktail Dress is designed by Priscilla Nissie. The
For us today, and just like the previous sessions before, we talk about work only. Priscilla and her talents are professional and main topic of conversation is on how to make full use of the session this afternoon. This is well-understood because we only have 24hours per day, and if we start to talk about something other than self-improvement, then it is a waste of our time. That is another reason why I advise my mentees (I do mentoring also) to be very careful in calling someone else your best friend. As we grow older, we realised that we only have so little true friends. The rest are just colleagues or acquaintances, which is fully understood since we only spend the time with those that really matters. The least of all, if you know someone is toxic, just keep it professional and don’t add more salt to the wound.
Theme for Young Lovers
There were one phase in my life where I cared so much about what others think about me, who I mingle with, what I wear, what camera did I use, etc. It is part of a normal teenage to adult transition. It includes all of those negative self-talks. As it names says, it did not make me happy though. It is toxic. As I move along with life, I always strive to make my life simpler. I wear black. I shot manually using Leica all the way. I created my own moniker, Tukang Rantek in honour of my own mother tongue. I charge people for my services as much as I value my time. I still have my own positive circle, I call it tonic friends – those who are crazy and passionate about their side hustle.
The real FREEDOM is to give no care about what others talk about you (unless it is life-threatening or it relates to life of others). If you still care about what others talk about you, you are a slave to their thoughts. Think about that for a moment. In Morpheus’ (The Matrix Trilogy) famous word, free your mind. You have to remember, you need to invest your time in the things that truly matters.
Certain bunch may not like your guts, tenacity, dedication and grit, but who cares? Did they pay your bills month in, month out?
I had this conversation with one of my colleague whom I admire his analytical skills and planning skill. But for himself, like many others, other than work, nothing else come to his mind. He admit it openly, and he also told me that he admires those who are passionate with their own craft; such as Marvin Gau with his MarvinInspire and journey to be Fitness Personal Coach, who is also Certified Personal Trainer under American Council on Exercise, which the journey to attain is equally challenging; and David Liaw, a Powerlifter and Nutritionist.
That colleague of mine reminds me of Shikamaru Nara from Naruto series. He is smart, but has no plan for his life apart from working in our company. I know a lot of people outside there whom academic is not their forte, but they are resilient and willing to learn something new and step out of their comfort zone.
They are not like everyone else. They set goals for themselves. They learn new things day in, day out. They may not living the life they want, but they strive to get where they want. I want to be more like those peoples.
Hope For Tomorrow?
I will keep on updating my latest stuff in my website because it is the only media that I really have full control in. My Instagram and Facebook will still be kept alive because most of my friends and family are still using it. Also, it is one of the easiest way for people to reach out to me, apart from contacting my Whatsapp Business.
Lastly, I do hope you enjoy the final images from our session today. Stay safe and have a great Sunday ahead!
Copyright Notice All of the images on this site are protected by copyright laws and are the exclusive property of Claudius Weson Photography. Images may not be copied, reproduced, manipulated, used or altered in any way without written permission. The use of any photography as the basis of another photographic concept or illustration is a violation of copyright.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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
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.
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?
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.
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.
The following are the processes involved in making sape, in their sequence, from paper to the finished product.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I hope this composition gives value to your life. Have a great week ahead!
Greetings everyone. In this day and age, almost everyone from various walks of life owns a smartphone, owing largely to the benefits it has to offer, including but not limited to; cross-platform messaging apps such as WhatsApp Messenger,; social media such as Facebook, Instagram; video streaming apps such as Youtube, mobile internet browser and many more. There is so much computing power in a single device compared to the first computer introduced by IBM back in 1981, with computing power of 16kb. Even so, with that technology, NASA launched the very first Space Shuttle mission and launched 2 men to space. Therefore, just imagine, with so much power at your hand in a form of smartphone, what are you going to do about it?
Some might stick to use for basic usages, i.e. texting, calling, social media etc. I always believe that in each and everyone of us, there is an unlimited potentials, like diamond in the rough. Only those who brave it out and put considerable effort onto it will be able to reap the fruit. One of a good example is Balkizz Sulaiman. She is an entrepreneur, a fellow photographer specialised in product photography using smartphone as her main tool of trade and also an advertising coach. (Note: I also have wrote about smartphone photography here. Some of my photos captured using only iPhone 6 is also demonstrated here, though I love to use my Leica camera for all photography purposes, e.g. events, weddings, portraiture and outdoors).
I was honoured to be able to join her final workshop for 2018 at Miri Malay Association building, Sarawak today and started my whole new learnings on product photography that I never ventured before. Since I started this journey last year, I was not doing any product photography at all as I am doing street, events and wedding photography. In general, people’s photography. As I enter building, I empty my cup and open up for new learnings that Balkizz passionately taught us.
She started off with the story about herself, where she mentioned that before this she was working with an oil gas company until she realisation hits her. Specifically, at her cubicles, she was surrounded by senior peoples who work day in, and day out; doing the same thing over and over again until retirement. That actually woke her up, and she refused to do the things she has no passion at all about. On 2015, the worst year for oil and gas industry, where oil price hits the lower than $40/bbl by the end of the year. During that time also, many personnel were released from their jobs due. She saw this opportunity to leave, crossed the Rubicon and never looked back ever since.
She started with selling Jamu Tun Teja, but it was not flying high like she expected. Then, she realised something is not right. That is when she understands the power of photography to boost her sales. But, due to physical limitation, she cannot use a big camera like those of DSLRs and others, although she was using it when she starts photography. Therefore, she opts to use smartphone to create an appealing images. Smartphone photography is the best tool for these small business owners as it is the most versatile. She is determined to empower small business owners, particularly women who runs online business, because she understands their challenges to manage work, family as well as online business. Using smartphone is also for practicality as well since not all of these women owns a DSLR. In terms of learning curve, using smartphone camera is much easier to use compared to any other professional camera. She even went on to learn with professional Instagrammers and social media sifus.
During this workshop, which is also participated by a participant from Brunei, she also gave an awareness to the participants the basic stuff, including cleanliness of the smartphone camera lens, basics in smartphone camera operations, software/apps to use (in this course, we use Snapseed) and image composition rules. Finally, it is time for practical session, where the rules mentioned before are made to be broken.
I find it interesting as many of the participants has their own creative sides, that was demonstrated during the practical session. The practical session lasted for an hour, to which we end with Q&A and finally group photo. As a wrap, this workshop it highly recommended to everyone who wish to learn more about product photography at an affordable price, especially if you are a woman doing online business. Even though I am doing freelance photography, there is a lot of learnings that I made from the workshop with Balkizz today, where the most important one is, follow your passion. Do the things that you are passionate about. For married couples, please do support your spouse, especially if he or she has a dream that she wants to achieve. In a way, that will make your bond stronger, and in return, you will have a better relationship. We rise not by putting others down, but by raising others up. That’s how we achieve excellence.
That’s all for now. Have a good weekend with your family and friends. Remember, immortalise your memories.
Have you ever wonder, what does it feel like when you go through a day without doing the thing you love most? It feels empty, right? As if there is a hole in your heart, that cannot be filled no matter how much you fill it with good food, or good laugh. It like a splinter in your mind. That is what my days go without taking any photos. That is why I bring my camera wherever I go. For portability, currently I go with my M10-P and APO-50 as it is the most convenient for me to bring around everywhere. You might think, Claudius is rich, Claudius has a lot of money. The truth is, there is only two types of person who bought a Leica. The first one, either you are crazy rich Asian, or you are crazy Asian (quote from my Bitcoin friend, Devon Buy). I am one of those Crazy Asian. Haha
David Liaw Says – TOO EASY!!!!!! M10-P & APO-50
Anyway, it took me a few years to go to where I am now. I start small, from Black Ice – and its cheap VGA phone that can be used to take a lot of photos. Seriously, a lot. That’s because its size is small. Now, every phone has a good camera. But I still stick to my iPhone 6 Plus because that is good enough for me. For more serious works, I just use my M.
Somebody cannot stand the sea-sick. M10-P & APO-50
Actually, now, I am away from land because of work. Time for photography is also limited. I miss the night walks around Lutong to hunt random photos despite the warning about Rabies. Now, the only animal that I can shoot around me is two crows.
So, what can I do? I just have to keep myself open for any photographic opportunities. Even the sunset can be very beautiful from where I stand now. Yes! Praise the Lord! God is great. Now, as an advise to young photographers out there (I am still young too, still 2 year’s old in this business) – bring your camera everywhere you go. In the immortal word of Viking God – Thorsten Overgaard – Always Wear A Camera. You will never know when Inspiration will hit you. It can inspire you, it may perspire you, but most importantly, never retire from your dream. You can do anything else to make a living, but for the love of the lens and cameras and Oskar Barnack, don’t give on your dream. That’s all for now.
As I drive back from home, I saw a guy running down the lake where I live. I don’t know who he is, but he is one of the familiar faces that I saw in my neighbourhood. I noticed that he ran daily, at the same time.
That instance hits me, and it came in a form of action. What is my after-work habits?
This is what I call – Happy Hour (Leica S2-P & Summarit 70).