Month: August 2007

The 50th Merdeka, Vespa Scooter Convoy from Terengganu: A Photo-Essay of their Stop in Penang.

“The 50th Merdeka, Vespa Scooter Convoy from Terengganu: A Photo-Essay of their Stop in Penang.”

 

Story & Photos by Nawfal Nur

Copyright 2007

All Rights Reserved

 

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KSK, Vespa Club, Frame 94-BTL

Photo One: Yellow Scooter – Close-up of “vespa”, chrome trim and red light. The yellow paint was fairly dirty, so I took a tissue and wiped it down, and no one seemed to mind.  After all, the group had already traveled several hundred kilometers and a little dirt on the scooters would be natural.

KSK, Vespa Club, Frame 79-BTL

Photo Two: Orange Vespa with stormy sky in the background, Malaysian flag hanging down into the frame of this shot.

KSK, Vespa Club, Frame 83-BTL

Photo Three: KSK Member sitting on his Vespa and an array of other scooters around him.

KSK, Vespa Club, Frame 87-BTL

Photo Four: An elaborate eagle decoration on the front bumper of a Vespa scooter.

KSK, Vespa Club, Frame 112-BTL

Photo Five: A decorative hand-stamped chrome visor: The design is of a Vespa scooter.

KSK, Vespa Club, Frame 97-BTL

Photo Six: An Abstract shot of a pink Vespa’s front bumper and chrome horn covering.

KSK, Vespa Club, Frame 109-BTL

Photo Seven: An intimidating fixture of a Viking Warrior – Maybe it’s Thor!

KSK, Vespa Club, Frame 96-BTL

Photo Eight: This is the oldest Vespa in the group: It is a circa., 1964 Vespa scooter, in almost perfect condition.

KSK, Vespa Club, Frame 101-BTL

Photo Nine: Just me adding a little “bling” to the shot, by using a ‘lens’ effect to highlight the Malaysian flag. The light falloff was expected; and this shot I took from standing in the first lane of traffic between short pauses in the zooming by of vehicles.

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© 2007 Nawfal Nur, All Rights Reserved

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Little did I know that my wife would be coming home with an interesting photography challenge for me. However, proved to be a much needed break from the monotony of the day, and an educational-cultural experience that I had not expected.

KSK (Kelab Skuter Klasik), from Kuala Terengganu, is a branch of the Classic Vespa Scooter Club, here in Malaysia. This group was on a Vespa Scooter Convoy, in honor of the 50th year of Malaysian Independence (Merdeka).

Their ride started on the 22nd of August and would finish up on the 31st of August. They traveled from Kuala Terengganu to various stops, and ended up in Penang on the 27th of August, I had the opportunity to take some photographs of their classic, Italian Vespas. Their next destination was somewhere in Kedah.

Now, take into consideration that my Penang dialect of the Malay language is kind of atrocious, so I was trying to communicate badly with my Penang dialect, with dudes who were speaking perfectly great Terengganu-Malay dialect – what a fantastic interaction we had!

Here’s how this whole photo-shoot came about: My wife was coming home from work and noticed a group of about 20 guys, milling around a colorful array of vintage Vespa motor scooters. She naturally knew that I would want to photograph their bikes, and get a story out of it – that’s just the way I am!

The group of riders were resting near our home, about a 10-minute walk away. They had all gathered in an empty parking lot, out front of an unscrupulous night club: It gets shut down about every year for violations of various laws – that scummy place is a true ‘Menace To Society!’ However, where there’s scum, there is filth, and the two seem to exist in a symbiosis that benefits both sides, and leaves the neighborhood in disgust, but that’s another story.

My wife arrived home and told me the story of the scooter riders from Terengganu. After hearing her ‘CLIFFS NOTES’ version, I knew I needed to drop what I was doing, grab a camera and race over to the gathering.

It was 7:00PM when I left the house and the light outside was transforming into a light tobacco color. I knew I had little time to take some shots with available light, which is naturally my preference for this type of work. Artificial light coming from the camera, when shooting objects that range in distance from near to far, it tends to wash out the nearby objects and leaves the distant subjects in a fog of darkness. With limited time and no way to gather additional lighting equipment, I had to make due with my camera with a built in flash.

When I approached the riders, they seemed a bit perplexed: I can imagine some were thinking, “Why is this Mat Salleh (White Guy), coming up to us and checking out our rides?

I noticed that there were more scooters than riders, so some people were missing from their group of some 20 bikes. Maybe some had already gone for a bite to eat. Nevertheless, about 12 members had stayed behind with their rides.

I started by giving the group, the traditional Muslim “Salaam”, and no matter where you go, no matter what your ethnicity, or color of skin, a Muslim can break the ice with another Muslim by giving a heart-felt “Assalaam’mualaikum!” (Meaning: “Peace Be Upon You!”)

After that, I began the conversation with “Apa Khabar?” (How are you?), and then things went from there. I ran into some bumps and hills along the conversational journey, but I was generally making “heads & tails” of what was being said.

I asked them if I could take some photographs, and they were obliging. It didn’t appear that they had made any announcements to the Press, or had any Public Relations Plan for their trip. I assumed their long trip from Kuala Terengganu to Penang, and then Kedah, was simply out of patriotism for Malaysia’s special 50th birthday celebration, and for comradery with other Vespa club members.

The club members comprised of a mixture of seasoned, older riders, and very enthusiastic younger men; I would estimate their ages from 25 to 60 years old. Not that “fine lines” or “deep crevices” in the facial skin is a major concern of most men, you can still get a general estimate of a man’s age by their degree of “face linage.”

The younger club members were riding their father’s motor scooters. And, I imagine, the fathers had made similar trips for previous Merdeka Day celebrations. The scooters they were riding, were from the years 1964 to 1979. I’m sure that some of the club members were considerably younger than the older Vespas in their convoy.

Each bike had some elaborate decoration on it, along with one or more Malaysian flags (Jalur Gemilang), and were fastened somewhere on the handlebars or the back ends of the scooters. Each scooter, I noticed, was equipped with a spare tire, a few tools, bottles of water and odds & ends that may be necessary for a long trip.

By the time the chit-chat was over, and I had received their permission to take the shots, the sun was dropping behind the hills and it was already 7:10PM. I knew I was dangerously close to running out of usable ambient light, and I had to quickly pick a theme for this photo-essay, and then shoot as many shots as possible to cover the theme. If that wasn’t enough, to do it all in less than 30-minutes was a chore, but a pleasant one.

I chose to concentrate on the details of the antique Vespa scooters. And, coming from a Fine Art background and preferring that style, I decided to shoot this story in that way. Daylight was burning away fast and I didn’t want to depend too much on the flash in my camera, a very trusty and dependable Canon A620, that works fantastically in the studio for my Fine Art work, but not ideal for photojournalism. Nevertheless, it was the camera I had in my hands, and I was adjusting and adapting as I lost light.

The bikes were parked haphazardly in the parking lot, so I weaved in and out of the bikes looking for outstanding examples of Vespa craftsmanship, and handmade scooter accessories. There was a decorative eagle gracing the front bumper of one bike. A metal viking decoration on the front plate of another, and a hand stamped chrome visor with an outline of a scooter gracing the headlamp of another bike. It was a treasure trove of photographic goodies.

It wasn’t the most organized photo shoot I’ve been involved in, I have to admit that. All that I knew was that I had about 20 minutes to photograph. Plus, these guys weren’t paid models, so I didn’t want to take too much of their time; they were tired after a long, hot day’s ride and were still looking for a hotel where they could rest for the night.

Before it was time to “call the game due to darkness,” (See Note 1, below), I thought it may be nice to get a group shot of a few of the members with their scooters. The only suitable spot to line them up was on the sidewalk. That also meant that the only suitable spot to take photographs was from the middle of a very busy metropolitan roadway! It wasn’t the safest spot to plant myself for taking photographs, but I’m a bit crazy, and thought…”Why Not!

By this time, my wife had come back to observe the shoot: So, I put her to work!

She became the translator for me, to explain what I wanted from the members, and where to place the bikes. She also helped with the art direction: She’s multi-talented!

Yeah, OK! Technically, at this point, I should have been setting up some extra lighting: I’m a disgrace to “Strobists” everywhere! (See Note 2, below).

I knew that I should have a couple remote speedlights to get a decent group shot. But Hey! I was just trying to time traffic properly, to “safely” jump into the middle of the speedway for a few seconds; grab a shot, and then leap out of the way before getting run over by lunatic drivers. Attempting to set up strobes in the middle of the road seemed like lunacy to me, so I ditched that idea and just took a few shots with the tiny internal flash, and hoping for the best.

By 7:40PM, the sun had dropped out of sight behind the hills and the shooting was over.

We said our goodbyes to the members and wished them luck and safe journey for the rest of their convoy around North Malaysia. At that point, my wife and I were about to head home. It was sort of funny, as we were about to leave, one of the guys asked my wife, who I am in relationship to her. She explained that I was her husband. I guess, I just assumed they knew she was married to the crazy white-dude!

I spent the remainder of the evening getting the shots reviewed, edited, and then re-edited. I drafted a letter to a local newspaper, believing that this story would be a good Merdeka, local interest item. Links to the images were provided in the email to the Editor, so it would be easy for them to view the shots online, and at their leisure. I made it clear that if they did not reply to my correspondence, then I would be publishing the story and photographs to my Photography Journals (“Behind the Lens“). Sad to say….I didn’t hear anything from the Newspaper.

Well, their loss, I guess. I suppose if another newspaper or magazine wants to pick up this story, then that would be great – just contact me with details.

Otherwise, I’m just happy to know that I fulfilled what I felt was a “mission” to get this dedicated group of Vespa Club Members, some exposure about their historic, 50th Merdeka celebration, scooter convoy.

Note 1: An old Baseball ruling [started around 1930’s], where during doubleheaders, a daylight game could be stopped by the Umpire due to darkness, because the stadium lights weren’t allowed to be turned on during the daylight game. In the 1950’s, this ruling was relaxed.

Note 2: “Strobist” is a photography blog on professional lighting with Speedlites and other small flash units.

Photography Details:
Camera
: Canon A620
Place: Penang
Time: I only had about an half hour with them, from 7:10PM to 7:40PM. It started getting quite dark, so shooting conditions were NOT ideal. I had to use higher ISO settings and weak flash caused some problems (ARGH! ) However, under the circumstances, I did my best!
Software: Some retouching (reduce digital noise ) with Noiseware, and Lighting/Contrast adjustments with PhotoImpact 10.

Photographing Indoors to Achieve Streaks of Colorful Light – And a Rant

Abstract Streaks of Light during Radin Mas Performance, by Nawfal Nur

Photographing Indoors to Achieve Streaks of Colorful Light

 

Abstract of RADIN MAS, Frame1208, Edit B, originally uploaded by fine-grain.

Abstract, Fine Art Photography: Streaks of colored light recorded during the performance of “Radin Mas,” a cultural and Historic Malay drama.

This is a result of a long shutter speed and allowing the performers on stage, to move around long enough to form the colorful streaks.

This is not as easy as it seems. The easy thing to do when taking this sort of shot is to overexpose the image. Getting it perfect, is the trick.

You can make these sorts of shots by moving the camera; or, by keeping your camera firm, and let the subjects move around. Or…both.

One trick you may want to remember, however, is to use some sort of support (tripod, monopod, beanbag, etc.).

When shooting indoors, under the subdued hues of the artificial lighting coming from the stage lights, there is no problem with making long exposures. Being that digital photography has now made it “SO EASY” for anyone to instantly check if they “got it” or not, there is usually time to take a second, third, fourth or fifth shots, until you get the best effect without overexposing the image.

Start by setting your camera on Manual Mode. Set the shutter speed at 1 second, and adjust your aperture until you see a nice balance in lighting (nothing blown out in the highlights): You can check this in the LCD for most Point & Shoot Users and those of you using Olympus DSLR’s with the real time viewing technology (if I understand their cameras’ capabilities correctly).

If you are using a regular DSLR, then GUESS! f/8.0 is a beautiful and perfect aperture – start with that, and adjust as you “Chimp” and see the images on the LCD after taking each shot.

Sometimes, it takes a good 2, 3, or 4 seconds to create good streaks, and that will make it necessary to adjust your aperture also, so keep that in mind. But hey, digital film is cheap, so take lots of shots, check your results and adjust from there.

You can also use your zoom lens on long exposures and really go wild with the colorful streaks!

Have at it! Have fun!

Remember, you don’t have to have $5,000, $10,000, or $20,000 cameras and lenses to make fantastic photographs; that hype is just a bunch of camera manufacturer bullshit!

The creativity is in you! If you don’t have a creative bone in your body, a new D3 or Mark III or some Medium Format with Digital Back, isn’t gun’na do a damned thing to help you take better photos. It’s like I’ve said before: “If you give a Chimp a $5,000 camera, you’re still going to get photographs of bananas; Or, he’ll bust the shit out of it!”

Do I seem a bit grumpy today? Maybe…

I think consumers have bought into the digital camera propaganda, hook, line and sinker. You buy a new digital camera today, and 9-months later, these same people are telling you your camera is obsolete and out of date, you better buy a new one. Hell, I have a circa., 1960’s Nikon F that, in a total destruction contest, could outlast any of the new digital cameras, and it still takes fantastic film photographs. It will only become obsolete when the film companies stop making film! But in the meantime, it has gotten, roughly, 47-good years of use out of it! Try that, with any digital camera! Good Luck!

Yeah, yeah, yeah, fancy smamcy advertising agencies want to see the photographer with the Hasselblad and Phase One digital back and all that, because it may be today’s norm. And hell, it looks f’ing cool, right! Stock Agencies use to say 8MP image files were required; then it was 10MP; then it was 12MP; then what, 16MP; and then what…?

I’m not sure how the hell this Journal Entry started out with How to take Nice Color Streaked Images, to a Rant on Digital Imaging, but it sure as hell got there one way or another.

F’, I love digital imaging! No doubt about it.

But I’m sick of the idea that we need to upgrade our cameras to become better photographers! That shit just don’t fly with Homeboy here! Ah…no way!

Cameras don’t make the photographs, Photographers do!

And, it isn’t about you, anyway! It’s not about vanity and “Oh, you are so cool!”

It’s about this type of reaction when someone looks at your photographs: “F’en A! I can’t believe those people are taking justice into their own hands, and stabbing the shit out of that guy for “whatever”!

You just happened to be the Photojournalist or Street Photographer with whatever camera you had in your hands, and you captured that EXTREME MOMENT IN TIME, that MADE A POTENT STATEMENT, and TOLD A POTENT STORY with your photograph!

** It’s about the picture, not the photographer. It’s about the photographer, and not the equipment! **

So, with that said, I’m finished!

I’ve got to go cool down and do something else for awhile….

No need for comments on this one…I just wanted to state my thoughts, no one has to agree with me!

Peace! And, “Live Long and Prosper!”

Penang Trees

Penang Trees, originally uploaded by fine-grain.

The “Penang Trees” Photography Series, 2007, is a Black & White, Infrared Images collection, featuring, of course, Penang Trees.

These images show many amazing details that I’ve discovered just by looking upward into the trees of Penang.

Details is what this Series is about.  I’m attempting to illustrate with these images, what I see when looking up into the trees of Penang.

Typically we spend most of the time looking out in front of us; and, I suppose forward looking is a wise thing to do, otherwise, we would be tripping and falling a lot of the time.

By the way:  This reminds me of one of a favorite quotes that Brooks Jensen says quite often:  “Even those people who fall flat on their faces, are still moving forward!”  Very wise advice!

Nevertheless, one day, I stopped and decided to take a more serious look at the lines, the angles, the contrast and patterns the trees made, and this took my focus away from what was in front of me, and moved my focus up into the great heights of the tropical trees of Penang.

I hope you enjoy this collage. This is an on-going project, so, I will be high-lighting more tree photographs…soon.

Jamilah Bee, Portrait, v1, Edit B

Jamilah Bee, Portrait, v1, Edit B, originally uploaded by fine-grain.

One of my cats, whose name is Jamilah Bee – She’s a Mamak Cat with a “real” Mamak Name! ;^ )

“Mamak”, by the way, “basically” refers to an ethnic-cultural group of South Indian Muslims who settled in Malaysia.

This was shot outdoors with off-camera flash (and in-camera flash), and against a blue-green glass background.

I didn’t record the exposure, but I’d guess (now) that it was 1/60 sec., at f/4.1.

RADIN MAS, v.1159: Malay Folk Dance

RADIN MAS, v.1159: Malay Folk Dance, originally uploaded by fine-grain.

Malay Folk Dance performed during the “Radin Mas” Bangsawan performance. Penang, Malaysia. (11 Aug 2007)

Abstract Photography or an Abstract Mind!

Updated Post: 4 March 2009:  Well, if I can’t find a way to change the url for this post, then I guess it will remain as is, but the topic of this post has drastically changed.

Yes, these are my Abstract Photographs.  And yes, if anyone has the desire to contact me for a purchase, I am very happy to discuss details:  Please send me a note.

Nevertheless, I once heard a photographer advise, “don’t do abstracts because no one loves them but the artist.” 

Is this true?  I don’t think so, but it may just take like-minded people to enjoy particular types of abstract work.

I could say the same thing about people photography:  I see an overabundance of really horribly (technically and interest-wise) designed people photographs, but I don’t go around telling people “don’t take photographs of people because no one will love them but the artist.” 

Perhaps it is just important to have an “abstract mind” to appreciate abstract work?  Could be…

These are abstract times…maybe people will start loving my work.

Just a few abstract thoughts for this update…

Making Thosai, v1, Edit B

 

THOSAI ON A HOT PLATE – Three Thosai being cooked on a hot grill / hot plate. A very thin, but large sized pancake of South India: Sometimes it is referred to as a ‘South Indian Pancake.” You can see how flat they are. The dough is kind of formed / spread out / poured – (not sure what the best term is for it) in a circular fashion. It is quite good, but I prefer “chapatti.”

Updated:  14 June 2008

I’ve noticed that quite a few people visit this entry in my photo-journal, so I will, when I find them, add some links to recipes I’ve noticed for Thosai – I hope this helps you find what you need to make some nice Thosai.

Thosai Recipe & How to Prepare!

Dhosai Recipe (please note:  This is where languages can sometime get tricky.  In the Malay language, the word “Dosa” means “Sin!”  However, I believe a more accurate spelling in addition to “Thosai” would be “Dhosai”, but I’m not the editor of this page for this recipe).  They have chosen to spell it “Dosa”. 

South Indian Pancake Recipe

Black Gram Thosai Recipe

Another Thosai Recipe…

Onion Chutney for Black Gram thosai Recipe

Things for Making Thosai & Other South Indian Goodies, v1, Edit B

Things for Making Thosai, v1, Edit B, originally uploaded by fine-grain.

Ingredients and Tools for Making Thosai and other South Indian “Goodies!” ‘Thosai’ is sometimes referred to as a “South Indian Pancake.” Here we have a roller, dough, flour and a big metal strainer for getting fried foods out of hot oil.

*The dough here is probably for chapatti – a very nutritious and low fat South Indian Bread – my personal favorite.  Atta flour is used for making Chapatti.

Thosai is much bigger than an ‘American-style Pancake’, but also thinner. I took this shot early this morning while photographing in Farlim, which is a planned township on Penang Island, Malaysia.

Here’s a recipe for Thosai if you are interested:

Ingredients : Makes 10-12

1 cup

1/2 cup

1 1/2 teaspoons

1/2 cup

1 teaspoon

1 1/2 teaspoons

2 teaspoons

1/4 teaspoon

1

1

Uncooked rice

Blackgram dhal (urad dhal)

Dried yeast

Warm water

Sugar

Salt

Ghee or oil

Mustard seeds

Small onion, finely chopped

Fresh green chili, finely chopped

 If you want to know how to put all these ingredients together to make Thosai, then go here – I have no clue – but maybe some day I’ll learn how!

“BLUE” Photographic Series

The “BLUE” Photographic Series - Images for Sale by Nawfal Nur

 

Hi All! I just wanted to mention that I now have my “BLUE” Photography Series on-line, and the photographs in this collection are for sale as prints and posters. Also, Royalty Free Licenses for these images can be purchased as hi-res digital files.

Please have a look: If you want to purchase a print or poster of a different size, one that is not listed, then please let me know and I’ll make it available for you. Click on the photo above, or here, to go to the “BLUE” Series Gallery to see the entire group of photographs. Thank You!