April 26, 2011

Hawaii Five O

I turned 49 last month and very soon I am going to be “half a century” old … and the theme song of Hawaii Five O is already repeating inside my mind. Get it? Hawaii Five O? … the big Five and Zero!

I remember when my ex-boss turned 50, I sent him a big poster titled “SHIT 50” … it stands for “So Happy I Turned 50” Not sure whether he was happy turning 50 years old but like it or not, it will come (that is, if you live up to 50).

For me, I am actually looking forward to it. Hey, there is actually a lot to look forward to at age 50 … first, we (those who are eligible) can withdraw part of our savings from our Employee’s Provident Fund account. If I tell you I am not excited about that, I would be lying. I am not going to tell you how much I have in that account but I can tell you for sure that the money is coming in very handy. OK lah, money is one thing … we cannot deny that it does increases the level of comfort in our lives. But there are other aspects of life that we want to experience from age 50 onwards.

For me, going into 50 and looking forward to more in my life is a lot easier … why? Because I have the time and I am still physically able to do a lot of things. Many people said “Oh Shiek, you are so lucky to be able to stop working at your age”. Let me tell you luck has nothing to do with it. I did not strike a lottery OK? I slogged for many years to build what I have today. And then (the important thing is), I stopped chasing … I told myself I should be prudent with what I already have and that should be enough.

“So you are retired now?” people asked me. I don’t like the word “retired” … sounds mundane and dull. I would like to just say that I don’t have a permanent job with a fixed salary. I stopped working a few years back because I needed quality time and I needed to regain my health. Some people said to me “Shiek, you are going to be very bored when you stop working … with so much time and nothing to do”. Alright, I am not working … that doesn’t mean I have nothing to do. I have a lot to do … I am actually very busy keeping myself healthy, allowing enough time for my wife and kids and also spending quality time with other family members and friends. On top of that, I also need to be a handy man at home, a driver for my kids and a stand-in cook when my wife is not available. Then I have to find time to catch up on my reading as well as learning and practicing my “erhu” (Chinese violin). Now that is a busy man, don’t you think? OK, maybe I exaggerated it a bit … I don’t have to do all that every single day. 

Hey, if you are of my generation heading towards the big Five Zero … no worries, there are still plenty to look forward to. If you can afford more quality time and maintain a healthy lifestyle, I am sure you too will be dancing happily to the theme of Hawaii Five O.


April 08, 2011

The first rule ...

Not many people knew that I was once making a living as a photographer ... for a few years during my mid 20s, I dabbled in photography. Those days I had 12 cameras, ranging from 35mm Nikons to 120mm medium format Hasselblads to a large format bellow-type Horseman. Cost me an arm and a leg to acquire these babies ... but that career did not last long and at the end of it, I sold all but one medium format Mamiya which I still have in one of my drawers somewhere.

OK, I am not here to talk about my short-lived photography career. Actually what I wanted to talk about is the first rule of photography and how this discipline influenced the way I look at things in my everyday life. For those who don’t know, the first rule of photography is “Never shoot a photo at eye level” ... why? Because everyone sees it at the same level ... so an object (or subject) of interest photographed at eye level is no different than how it was seen by others when it was photographed. This rule is always on the top of my mind. So very often I don’t see things the way people normally sees it. I am a curious person and I like to approach things a little off the centre. At times people find it difficult to understand this and they think I am wandering too far out of the comfort zone. That is exactly the point ... when all others look at things at eye level, a good photographer will get out of his or her comfort zone to find a different angle and make the difference. So I ask the same ... for people to look at me from a different level too ... that way, they may be able to understand me better.

Everyone likes to see things at their comfort level and always think that people will see things at the same level ... that is the norm. Sometimes one needs to get out of the norm ... don’t look at things the way everyone looks at it and also understand why some people look at things differently ... maybe then one can actually “see the whole picture”, so to speak.

So the next time you want to photograph something, apply the first rule ... try squatting or lying down for a different angle or maybe stand on a chair for a top view ... it may turn out (if not better, at least it is) different than how others see it. And also when you look at a photograph and thought it looks a bit out of the norm, try to appreciate why it was shot that way ... and maybe do the same for the way you look at things in your everyday life ... it can be much more appealing this way.