The Art of Seeing

I have never envisioned myself as someone who could write something that is worth reading or getting hyped about. Brought up by an audiophile dad who always strives to have the best audio setup to listen to his jazz and a sentimental mum who likes to keep memorabilia, I became a person who appreciates the finer details in life and am able to express myself differently. What was seen as two people having two different interests initially, soon changed, when I learnt that my dad used to own many film cameras while my mum was the president of the photography club during her school days. They even bought me a 110 format film camera sold at Kentucky Fried Chicken as a Kid’s Meal toy when I was three years old, something like this micro camera below, expect it was in red KFC colour. I guess, that was how I inherited “the art of seeing”. I am Redza Ridzuan, and this is a story of T&E shutterbugs. 

THE Micro Camera

Some of the photos I shot with the micro camera (I have featured these photos before, but hey, it’s a great time to revisit them again!)..

First ever image shot by me

Image shot by me

This interest of mine is also shared by like-minded individuals, one of whom similarly had an early beginning, Hor Wei Vern, a researcher in PETRONAS Research Sdn Bhd. “My dad bought me my first camera when I was 12 years old,” recalls Vern. She has fond memories of bringing the camera along for a family vacation in Sydney where she got the chance to capture a photo of a girl holding a joey (baby kangaroo). “That photo kind of spoke to me and since then, I became interested in freezing time to capture moments that I can share with other people,” she elaborates. 


For some, their journey started slightly later as their life unfolds. Sazali Zakaria, an executive in Petroleum Research Fund Secretariat, was introduced to a camera by a friend when he was working as a research assistant. “I was chosen to be the photographer every time we had any R&D activities to assist others in appreciating it.” He also made use of his PETRONAS Induction Programme for new Executives to explore more into this hobby by experimenting with events, landscape, sceneries, sports activities and group photos. Sharizal Azam, another researcher in PRSB sings a different tune than the rest. His habit of cataloguing the places and process units he visited led him to this hobby. Self-taught and enthusiastic, he admits that his superior encouraged him to include as much images that he had taken into their technical presentations thus providing the audience an enhanced project experience. 


In my field as a communication executive, the “art of seeing” enables me to help my unit to strategise our communication efforts for T&E differently. For a team in which creativity is an essence, we bounce fresh ideas off each other to evaluate the robustness of our approach based on the environment, people and technologies that we plan to feature. It allows me to extend my assistance to our engineers, researchers and marketers in planning the type of imageries needed to market their solutions and products. As for designing marketing collaterals, I am able to do an acid test on my own proposals to decide on which option provides an enhanced visual impact to the audience. With it, I get to avoid Nothing-New-Syndrome by constantly pushing the limits of my creativity, which happens to haunt many photographers and designers during their quest to deliver something different from the rest.


Spending most of our time being surrounded by people like family members, relatives, colleagues, friends and even strangers, it is almost natural for most of us to delve more into portraiture or people photography. We are surrounded by potential subjects and every subject is unique. For Vern and Sharizal, what fuels their passion in people photography is the authenticity of an emotion that one projects on a particular moment. They are honest expressions that happen in a split second that cannot be duplicated. Even photojournalism supports the basic idea of capturing moments during celebrations or conflicts. Sazali on the other hand, admits that he enjoys any kind of photography that is convenient especially when the only camera that he has with him most of the time is his smartphone. “By acknowledging the limitation of our gears, there are several ways to rectify it during editing. The photos I captured during lowlight condition might not have the right colour, but they have to project the right message and composition” he adds.


Upload from September 22, 2011

Most shutterbugs would agree that there is always an opportunity to explore the limits of our equipment and how to make the best of it. “You can pretty much do quite a lot with whatever you have. Once you have pushed your equipment to the limit, it makes you learn more about them and photography itself” adds Sharizal. True enough, my smartphone has become my main photography apparatus in the quest to capture unique sights, patterns and abstracts around me. Without it, I would miss capturing the moment when lightning struck KL Tower or spotting a candle melting into a shape of a heart. Nevertheless, it is curiosity that drives people to explore different types of photography and gears alike.


Being a hobby that one can easily pick up, photography has the power to make us more human. As photographers, we have been trained to notice differences that happen around us. Since small, I have always been fascinated with God’s creations. From lightning strikes to rainbows, or watching a lunar eclipse to gazing at the Milky Way, I could say that I have spent most of my free time observing changes in my environment. For me, photography helps to make these moments timeless. As we capture important snapshots in our daily life, photographs become our “breadcrumb trails” of who we are throughout the years. With it, we can learn how to be better in what we do, or even reminisce upon the memories we shared with certain people or at certain places. 


Photography also teaches us to plan better and anticipate chain of events while having an end in mind. Being involved in film photography, Sazali reiterates that one is required to have better planning on the imagery that he or she wants to produce before even hitting the shutter button. “Meticulous planning is an essence as processing a film, there are more costs (monetary and time) involve compared to taking photographs digitally.” Like Sazali, Vern views this hobby as a medium in making her a better researcher by training her to look at the big picture in addition to being focused on details. Being able to synthesise abundant information and witness how everything relates to each other prepares us to be exceptional leaders as we progress in the organisation.


One thing that can’t be ignored is how useful photography is as a social tool as well. With social media blooming like mushrooms after a heavy downpour, we are now able to connect dots to share something in common. Services like Facebook, Flickr, and Instagram allows enthusiasts to share their work and provide photography tips with the rest of the world. Back home, Sharizal shares his images to family members and friends, and their friends as well after certain events. By doing so, not only does he make new friends but is also able to share his passion with others.


Witnessing passing moments in front of our eyes day-in day-out, these are some challenges that we are bound to face. It can start from a fundamental question like “Should I take my camera along?” to some burning-a-hole-in-my-pocket decisions such as “Should I get this high end DSLR while it’s on sale?” to even more serious morale dilemma as in “Should I take a photo of a tourist who just got stabbed or should I go and chase the culprit who did that?” It is always a conscious decision for me to either capture the moment into a photograph or otherwise. I recall the time when I was on a photography outing with a group of friends when we bumped into a tourist who had just got robbed in the middle of the day. Some of us did take out our cameras to capture the tourist who was covered in blood, but others went for help by calling the nearby police patrol while our pack leader went to calm the tourist and gather information from witnesses. The act of observing is the core activity while the act of taking a photo is often the result of my observation. Sharizal and Sazali share a harmonised opinion about cameras being the tools or hardware, while people and their observations become the blood or software for this hobby.


At the end of the day, it all depends on one’s motivation in taking up photography as a hobby. People use photography to learn how to appreciate things around them as well as to help others to see things from their point of view. I got to share mine with my loving parents when I took them to my great grandparents’ house in Malacca, the house which they tied the knot in, for a photo shoot to commemorate their 29th wedding anniversary. It’s sufficient to say that at this age, nothing beats the feeling of a son being kissed by his parents for a job well done. Another school of thought suggests making some moolah from this expensive interest in order to sustain our thirst for new knowledge and skills or even for gear upgrades to unlock more opportunities. All in all, the key to having a satisfying photography journey is to be truthful to ourselves in the things that we look for. 


Happy snapping!


This was my first attempt in writing an article for an internal magazine. I was given the chance to write something that is close to my heart as well as about the people whom share the same interest in my division. Let’s hope that this is a proper comeback to the photoblogging scene after my long hiatus. ;)


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