Struggle against all odds

Gate to heaven. 1994. Pre commercial era.

How do you measure success in some one’s life ? Is it by how much materials he/she possess, the outer appearance, financial statement each month, health, dream come true, or is there anything deeper than those things ?

I have been a photography enthusiast for nearly 28 years now and in commercial photography for 20 years. Being an amateur one is easy, I just shoot whatever comes to mind, do it according to my taste even when others consider my art as nonsense, and carry on with my life. On the other side, being a commercial photographer is completely different matter. I read lots of how to, do’s and don’t in professional photography from books and magazines before I got into it. There’s so much rules and even if they are easy to apply, I live on the other side of globe which means most of the rules are not applied in here. So in the end, I could just lived with it and keep going for that moment. After several years shooting varieties of objects, from consumer goods, industrial, food and beverages, people, architecture, machineries, etc, unconsciously I began to forget who I am, of my true identity as a photographer, of my most desirable object in photography.

Fruits & Wine. 1997. Sinar F1 with Rodenstock 150/5.6 on EPP 4x5”

Years rolled on and all I gained from each assignment was only money, and a slight sparks of pride when my images appeared in print ads or other media. That’s all. What I didn’t realize was I killed my true self and passion inside. I wouldn’t know it until in 2005 I became a total robot photographer, yes, someone who just shooting for money, nothing more.

Robotic photography. 2004. Couldn't do any more improvement upon this image.

Don’t you think it’s strange when I wanted to do a still life, something I love the most but the moment I see through the viewfinder, all I felt was a stressful feeling. It really struck me deep and only by luck I finally find the mistake.

I met a fellow photographer and he talked lots of phylosophy to me, sharing his inner thought and encourage me in pure way a friend can be. Needless to say he’s one of the succesful photographer at the time. He’s also into general photography as everyone does in Indonesia.

Slowly I progressed through painful trial and error again to find my inner self back. You see, being in commercial photography will dictates you what may or may not be done in order to survive, it’s like someone has filtered your mind. You just shoot in a way or more like everybody else does. If the trend of some style is in, you better be able to do it. This circumstances drove my mind like a robot and for years I couldn’t listen to my heart in creating an image. This was disaster to me and made me a stressful impotent photographer.

After some encounters with my friend, I tried to make images not using my brain but more of a heart inspired. It’s tough at first but slowly I could build a new way of working and honestly it was really a huge relief. I began to feel happy about my images even if it’s not been paid. I became my self again, dare to apply my ideas instantly into the image and I gained back my lost years as a robot, now as a full self respect photographer. Lots of experienced occured during 2005-2007 that brought new path to my liberation in my photography. I couldn’t thank enough my friend for what happened in my life.

Chopped mushrooms. Simple object with no objection about technique, esthetic matters, just grabbed it and shoot !

Vintage weigher.

Ever since 2005 my horizon was widened and I got some famous client that truly is a company with professionals. Usually when a company hire you to shoot their products, the boss would be the one who meet you or look up at your portfolio, dealing with the price and in the end is the final decision about hiring you or not.

But once in my life this time they sent a professional brand image manager to meet me and saw my portfolio. She was the one who decide to hire me, not because of my price but because my photography style suit her concept for the intended campaign. Later the marketing department would called me and asked for a quotation for the campaign. And the boss was not directly involved in negotiation. The session also ran smoothly with a manager in charge during photo session. This is the company I long to work for in any time of my life.

And obviously they never ask such thing as “what camera you use, what lights brand you use etc.” What they care is whether your image could help promote their product and become a strong marketing tool.

From a client's assignment. After 2005.

A set up on location this was originally a furniture factory with two L shaped walls only.

After 2005

What I learned in the next stage was it is also important to find my self identity, of who I am and what am I suppose to shoot as a photographer. As I believe each persons have each purpose on this earth to accomplish as we complete each other to create harmonious life on earth. So the search of my true self went deeper and deeper.

After several nervous breakdown and a stroke in 2007, in August 2010 I went to Bali on a spiritual journey to rediscover my self. You can read it here : https://storythroughthelens.wordpress.com/2012/03/21/travel-journal-resurrection-in-bali-part-1/ and here : https://storythroughthelens.wordpress.com/2012/03/22/travel-journal-resurrection-in-bali-part-2/ also here : https://storythroughthelens.wordpress.com/2012/04/14/travel-journal-resurrection-in-bali-part-3/

May be my odyssey is not done yet, as I always have a tendency to seek more, to discover more just like a child who is willing to learn, craving for more.

The path to liberation is not smooth and easy as we all have the tendency to live or hide in our comfort zone. It’s truly take a brave man to get out of his comfort zone to discover who he really is, to find a revelation about who he is. We live in an internet era when you can gain access to enourmous unlimited information anytime anywhere. Who you are, where you want to be, what you want to do next, is just a matter of a click away. Frankly I went to travel also with no cash and surely not in an ideal situation physically, financially, emotionally, but I dare my self to move on to next level, it’s been too long I stay in a nutshell and stay in my bored little world. So I am a happier person now with improved relationship with my wife, and two sons, have a better career in commercial photography with contracts and as am writing this, have a blog of my dream and can write my own article/stories which I learned from free ebook by Farnoosh Brooke here : http://clicks.aweber.com/y/ct/?l=CC816&m=LufS3Rf346VMCR&b=FXVC8_NTaP6FEJLazMj7Eg and about blogging here : http://www.howtomakemyblog.com/.

My other inspiration and also a buddy of mine is Doddy and I would like to express my gratitude to him, he is truly an amazing photographer, he has been through the craziest life turmoil and got out of the pit, alive and kicking ! And he helped me out, as well, and it’s amazing to have a help from fellow photographer. We discuss our dreams together, share our troubles, blockages and many more. You can check him out here : http://www.facebook.com/doddy.obenk he have plenty of amazing images in there.

It is pretty rare to have a fellow photographer who is willing to listen to your problem and giving some hints with a pure heart with no slight envious breath in them. We still keep in touch everyday and shoot some cultural events together.

Well my story end here but the struggle to be a better person will continue on, for other people, to share my talent, my skill and my passion about photography.

Travel journal : Resurrection In Bali (Part 3)

The late Maestro Jro Gadung Arwati. The famous Wiranatha dance took her travel around the world.

The cold wind blew softly and the leaves of the trees surrounding the yard of Puri Agung Peliatan also danced with the flow. Some Japanese guests already took their seats. Some people from Japanese magazine and media also attended and busy with their camera. I walked around and familiarized my self with some angles provided for photographers and media. We can only shoot from marked spots at the two corners of front stage, so audience wouldn’t be interupted. Time flew and less empty seats left. The ambience was perfect and I could sense a feeling of euphoria in my head. What a great moment ! I was in the center of Balinese art of dance where it was born.

The first performance of Langse. August 28th, 2010.

In search for my inner self spiritually after crisis hit me in 2010, I traveled to Bali, the land of gods and spirits, and attended “Langse”, an event of classic Balinese performance art in Peliatan, on August 28-29th 2010 which was presented by Yayasan Intan Budaya Negeri. I was invited by Doddy Obenk, a photographer who resides in Bali and involved much in local cultural growth and development, especially in Peliatan. He has been covering Balinese culture for long and work together with maestros of dance in Peliatan. It’s a long story and only those who know his dedication could appreciate his passion and love towards Balinese art. You can view his photography here : http://www.obenkografie.com/ and art program here : http://www.tetamian.org/ also his Facebook in here : http://www.facebook.com/doddy.obenk

Pendet dance, Puri Agung Peliatan August 28th, 2010.

After shooting scenes in backstage a day earlier the feeling of energy was even stronger as they were approaching the opening of this event. Little did I know about shooting dance photography but Doddy taught me to pay attention to the music, just recognize the music and its allure will tell also the movement of the dancers. I tried to cope with that and only can get perhaps a little hint. Long way to go I thought.

Chandra Metu dance, August 28, 2010.

Regardless of my first time shooting art performance in Bali, I felt absolutely comfortable and could enjoy both watching and shooting at once. Leaving all the technical stuff behind all I did was cliking the shutter all along the show. The years of unfeeded passion in me had peaked and finally I drowned in blissful realm in Puri Agung Peliatan, a spiritual and an art ambience blended together. Stains of corrupted mind gradually fell off and I could felt the sense of happiness and satisfaction again. Living as a photographer with no identity for 13 years was like a robotic life. Now as I could sense the good object with good feeling the rest was just easy.

Maestro dance I Gusti Ayu Raka Rasmi performing Legong dance. August 2010.

The whole performance was just like a kind of long story unfolded and as the show went on I could caught the decisive moment along. It’s like path traveled and we have plenty of views left and right side. It was our decision whether to record the scenery of just enjoy the sight seeing. My main purpose was finding my long lost soul in photography while sharing about this journey to everybody in this world. So, shooting was part of the journey.

The other thing I absorbed was the spiritual aspect of Balinese people. They are surrounded by lots of religious symbols, rituals and any kind of people’s lives are also attached to religious value. Karma is the teaching in Hindu religion and it reflect into people’s behaviour thus scuplting the image of Balinese in the region. I never felt at peace and comfortable at once besides in Bali, the sense of safety, peaceful, comfort, and spiritual all in one place. It’s Bali way.

Oleg dance,August 28th, 2010.

Kebyar Duduk Dance performed by Maestro Ida Bagus Oka Wirjana (Gus Aji), August 29, 2010.

Ida Bagus began studying Baris dance since very young age under the mentorship of his uncle Ida Bagus Kompiang. He learned Kebyar Duduk dance from I Ketut Maria and he became most inspired by it. It is his specialization in such a way that almost every village in Bali requested his presence to dance the Kebyar as a prayer and tribute to meet their vows to Sang Hyang Widhi, the God. He danced before Soekarno and representing this country by his performance through out Europe, Asia, America, and Japan. I heard that the foundation Intan Budaya Negeri is going have a very special event in May for him. Please check the information on the program in www.tetamian.org for further details.

Kebyar Terompong Dance, performed by I Wayan Purwanto the successor to Ida Bagus Oka Wirjana, August 28, 2010

Topeng Arsawijaya Dance, August 28, 2010.

What I learned from commercial photography was we do our best applying technique, hours of experience, knowledge, style through good promotion and marketing in order to survive especially in this digital age. So the main cause is an effort to gain more jobs in order to get more income. It is completely different realm when I met Ida Bagus Oka Wirjana my self, his passion toward his calling had boosted his spirit to give himself more in Balinese culture which in turn brings him respect and acknowledge without him sweating for it. As the saying goes “give so ye shall be given”, it seems Balinese religious background have more cause for good deed and that’s what they call it karma.

After 10 days in Bali I went home completely exhausted, caught a mild flu, and needed long rest, but I also brought back wonderful experience loaded with mixed of culture, historical and spiritual value from the land of the Gods, Bali. I would never be the same person anymore. It seems my search for my lost identity had been fruitful though it doesn’t mean I will stop my odyssey. Thank you very much Bali. Om Santhi, Santhi, Santhi Om.

One Fine Morning

This morning I felt good and went out with 3 friends for some walk around Ancol, beach area in Jakarta. There’s a place where we can see many people and there are a lot of activities over there. It depends on what you want to do you can free your mind by meditation or just find fresh air by walking around, gather with some pals and chit chat, buy some fishes sold by fishermen near by.

For me and a friend, Marco, we took photos and enjoy fresh air with sun. After a week of working it is quite a refreshing being here.

I brought my Ricoh GXR-M with Nokton 50/1.1 and MIR 37/2.8 while Marco had his Nex7 with Nokton 35/1.2 Aspherical II. I wasn’t thought about doing any kind of review here, as my main purpose of going out was only having fresh air and met Marco and his girlfriend.

So I would just share my morning walk and my thought about using these lenses. It’s my opinion along with my taste about photography, so nothing to worry about, anyone can have a better scientific review at http://www.dpreview.com or http://www.photozone.de for more precise insight.

I would share my experience using Ricoh GXR-M using Nokton 50/1.1 and Nokton 35/1.2 Asph II while walking around the area. I used to many types of DSLR before since 2003, started with Canon 10D, Phaseone H5, Nikon D50, D80, Sony A350, Canon 550D, 60D, while among others I tried A850, A900, PhaseOne H20, H25, some digital back, Nikon D200, D2X, D300, D100, Canon 5D, 5Dii, 7D, Panasonic GF1, some Olympus 4/3 and so on but frankly it’s only early this year that I found a camera with low profile look but professional capabilities and result. Yes ! I am talking about GXR A12 (M mount).

For years I heard people murmuring about the photo being not film like, analog like, lack of three dimensional look, too digitized, too artificial, the list could go on, and we all tried hard using any manipulation possible to bring back that “film look”back to no avail, but hey ! The good news is here ! I don’t know where were I for this last 4 years as it was only this January that I really checked on Ricoh GXR A12 (after viewing it’s review mostly by Steve Huff, thanks Steve !) and after downloading real samples from Ricoh website and a confirmation from Eddy my buddy, I ordered my GXR A12 as soon as possible.

After some shooting sessions in Tenganan Bali, candid shots, commercial shots and other snap shots, I boldly declare this camera as a killer camera for black and white, and color as well when you use good Voigtlander lenses such as Nokton 50/1.1 and 35/1.2 Aspherical II and those lenses by Leica M. I am not over exagerating here if saying jpg out of camera set in black and white is already done. Yes just like well done in steak terms. It’s absolutely make people stunned, shocked, salivating and instantly wanna get one, IMHO. At least my search is over. I am not overstating here as the moment my friend look at the result in GXR lcd, he instantly ordered one. And for your information, he already owned Sony 5N and also A900, none of both can compete with film like image of GXR (black and white). Just this morning when I went to Ancol beach with some friends, a friend who brought Nex7 saw my images in GXR and he said with surprised tone, “This is what I am looking for in black and white”and he compared side by side shooting his Nex7 and my GXR-M using same lenses and alas, yes I gotta tell you the truth the Nex7 results look greyish and even bluish and also flat, and GXR could render the images in pure black and white just like film. The out of camera jpgs only cropped and posted for your eyes pleasure.

Falun Gong meditation. Nokton 35/1.2 Asph II. The actual pixel shows both men tack sharp inclusing their sandals. OOC jpg no color adjustment. No cropping.

Falun Gong meditation. This shot was post processed using DXO film pack3 to bring back the backlit lighting to the face and converted to black and white as well. You can see that GXR combo with Film Pack could make a perfect black and white with analog look.

Bikers and fishermen. I noticed this view and shoot using Nokton 35/1.2 set at 2.4 with ISO 100 and standard color mode. The focus points show tack sharp in actual pixel.

Fresh fishes from morning catch. Nokton 50/1.1 shot at 2.0 iso 100. Please check the actual pixel crop below.

Fishermen selling their catches. Fresh from the sea. Nokton 50/1.1 set at 2.0 iso 100. Out of camera jpg, no crop, no adjustment.

Fine fishes. Nokton 50/1.1 shot around F2.0 cropped to show good details.

Fishermen’s equipment. Out of camera jpg, no adjustment, no crop.

Another fisherman’s boat. Nokton 50/1.1 no adjustment, out of camera jpg.

A boy playing with locks. Nokton 50/1.1 out of camera jpg. ISO 100.

Dried salted  fishes. Nokton 50/1.1 at F 2.0 ISO 100, out of camera jpg.

Marco’s girlfriend. Out of camera jpg. Nokton 50/1.1 at 1.1 iso 100

A fine reflection too. Nokton 50/1.1 out of camera jpg.

My conclusion is my GXR-M will be long used camera for me and I will use it mainly for my travel photography, portrait, interior (with my Skopar 21/4), and even product shot. As I use manual focus lenses on it, the shutter lag is not too bothersome for me and when I want to capture moment I used to predetermine it so I just shoot away. Surely it is not a comparison against DSLR, but for a low profile look with no shutter sound it will help me get extra ordinary shots. And not forgetting the cmos specially build for Leica M lens design and no AA filter, this sensor surely will be able to deliver the most of any optics with original M mount, be it Leica or Voigtlander M. I used this camera with Skopar 21/4 for interior shot and the color output is more precise than Canon using the same lights set up.

The funny thing is this camera has not widely promoted and it is such a pity when people can enjoy this quality but end up buying other over promoted ones with no match quality to GXR A12.

One thing to hope for is that Ricoh may someday come up with may be a full frame new design module and updated for the shutter lag, buffer for raw shooting in continous mode, and perhaps a built in EVF (not a mandatory), a higher capacity battery, a repositioned tripod mount, and last but not least may be an added speed grip for those with big hands.