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CANDID PORTRAIT of MAWI ~ Malaysian Singer & Actor

Candid Portrait of MAWI.

Dance and Stage-Mawi-IMG_7603-Edited-24May2013, NJN667Z

Subject:  MAWI
Candid Portrait.
MAWI is a Malaysian Singer and Actor…Performing Artist.
This image is from my 2009 archives, and I just discovered it again.  I thought it was a good informal candid, which kind of captures his casual personality off-stage,

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This is what salt looks like when it bounces

“Salt Splash:  This is what salt looks like when it bounces.”

Copyright 2009 Nawfal Johnson Nur

Salt Splash:  This is what Salt Looks Like when it bounces, 2009 by Nawfal Johnson Nur

Salt Splash: This is what Salt Looks Like when it bounces, 2009 by Nawfal Johnson Nur

My New Book, Smoke Art, Arthritis and Depression

What does Smoke Art Photography, Arthritis and Depression all have in common?  Well, these are the main topics inside my new book (just published earlier today)!

The description in the photo caption (above) gives a really good indication of my book’s content.

  • My book shows 34 of my smoke art photographs, the Ethereal Dreams & Hope Collection, which includes photos taken between 2007 and June 2011.

Because I have suffered with arthritis for many years, a little over 30 years now, and have coped with long bouts of depression, I wanted this book project to be more than just a book of photographs.  I wanted to mix in words of hope, and together the photos and the words of hope make up this project.

  • I discuss a little about my beginnings with photography.  I also discuss very general details about ankylosing spondylitis, and depression.  I talk about some of my own personal experiences finding out that I have these conditions, and some story about dealing with these medical issue.

Over all, I just want to offer my book as a way to help other people dealing with pain and despair, a way to see things in terms of ‘hope’, and to stress the importance of ‘action’ to make ‘hopes,’ ‘dreams,’ and ‘goals’ to come true.

  • If nothing else comes out of my book, I will be very happy if someone, somewhere, has gotten some reassurance from my words, that things can be better even when living with pain and sadness.  It does not always have to be this way, but much of the effort will be up to you.

Perhaps by reading my book, this can be a small step, at least to see things in terms of ‘hope.’  You may also like seeing my photographs of smoke art – and that would be a real added bonus.

Thank you and take care!

 

ANT Apartment in the Sky!

This is a post that combines Photography and Entomology: The Entomology part of it I don’t know much about, but I’m curious about Ant behavior nonetheless.

Anyone besides me, and others of my generation, familiar with the TV sitcom, “The Jeffersons”? You know…”Movin’ on up, to the East Side, to that deluxe apartment in the sky…”

Well, George and Louise have nothing on the ants that have made a home out front, in my yard. Well, not in the yard, but high above the ground. OK, not so high, about two feet off the ground, but in Ant-size measurements, that is a big distance upward to construct a hanging ant apartment!

BLACK ANT HOME ABOVE GROUND AROUND CANS-Edited-March 05, 2009, btl

[Above Photo]: An engineering masterpiece. A colony of black ants (I don’t know the species) have outdone themselves with a hanging nest. From a framework of several aluminum cans hanging from wire (attached along the fence), the ants have carried up the fence various natural resources to construct their nest, including sand, dirt, leaves, grass, and yes, dead ants and other insects. They have plastered the materials all around and underneath the cans. This construction is how they have made their home in the sky.

This ant apartment is literally defying gravity. The mortar holding their home together is strong enough that the vast portion of the nest is hanging securely from underneath the cans. The ants have created numerous holes in the soil for entry and exit points. It appears most of the activity in the nest is from the holes in the nest’s soil, not the aluminum can holes. [See Below]:

BLACK ANT HOME ABOVE GROUND AROUND CANS, No2-Edited-March 05, 2009, btl

In my humble opinion, this species has done something quite ingenious:  Hanging above ground their home is completely safe from heavy rains (floods), and that is ‘naturally’ important because this is the tropics. A very big Neem tree provides much of everything these ants need, including shelter from heavy rain, and resources for building, and maybe as a food source.

I have observed the colony in the daytime and nighttime and they are always busy working. The next several photographs are from my nighttime observations.

Maybe ants build nests above ground all the time and I was never aware of this marvel. However, this is the first time I’m seeing something like this, where ants have used aluminum cans to secure an earthen fortress, strategically hanging above ground under a huge Neem tree.

There are several questions for which I have no answers…yet:

  1. What ant species is this?
  2. Is this behavior peculiar to this species?
  3. Is this a survival strategy…to keep the nest off the ground away from other competition (earth diggers), and also protected from natural elements (i.e., Rain)?
  4. Was this construction purposeful or just a workable accident?
  5. What does this ‘Ant Apartment in the sky’ look like on the inside?
  6. Do the aluminum cans provide more purpose than just as a  sturdy and hollow construction material?
  7. If the colony increases, will the size of the sky apartment increase?  Will the ants build further downward, or outward?  Or, will the ants abandon the nest?
  8. It looks like these ants have used their own dead as part of the mortar: Is the “recycling nature” of using dead ants as part of the nest mortar a common thing, or unusual?

Well, so much for Ant Sociology & Ant Engineering:  That’s all I have for the moment.

I find this hanging nest quite interesting.  I knew that ants were great diggers, but now I also know they are skilled engineers as well.

BLACK ANT, no1-Edited-March 05, 2009, btl

This ant (above) stopped and tried to look menacing at the camera when I accidentally touched the can it was sitting on. It is all important to guard the nest.

BLACK WORKER ANT AT NIGHT 7418-Edited-March 08, 2009, v2,BTL

[Above]: An ant carrying…ah, something…not sure what that is, maybe food. Anyway, he’s heading back to the sky apartment with this “thing”. This is a nighttime shot.

Black Worker Ant at Nighttime 7419-Edited-March 08, 2009

Here’s another ant with another one of those ‘things’ (hummm…could it be a weird egg sack, but I always thought ant eggs were more smooth and whitish…). This is also a nighttime photograph.

Black Ants at Nighttime, IMG 7426-Edited-March 08, 2009, v3, btl

[Above]: Nighttime activity all over the aluminum-earthen ant apartment.  The best I can guess, this nest is about 4 weeks old.  At least, I first noticed it about 4 weeks ago.

Light in Hand, v.2, Edit C

 

    

Light in Hand, v.2, Edit C, originally uploaded by Nawfal Nur.

Special Effects, Creative Tabletop Photography.

This type of photography takes considerable patience. You have to take several photographs of a scene, some with light and some without, and hope that the main components “play well” together in the end.

In the most basic terms, all the photographs that make up this shot, in this case, only two were used, need to be aligned precisely; and also, the layers need to be strategically worked with to get the proper amount of opacity in the correct places.

The following video clip is a track from one of my Favorite Metal Bands, SHADOWS FALL, a performance at DownLoad Festival 2007. The song is called, “The Light That Blinds,” and I thought it was kind of appropriate to accompany my photograph, with also a “Light” subject.

 

Alrighty Then…Enjoy…Photograph…Metal-Out…and Go F’en Crazy!!!   It’s definitely, a weird day in Mr. Nawfal’s Neighborhood!   LMAOBMFT!!!

Aurora Borealis over Ice, v1, Edit C – Small Colored Light Source Streaks Photography!

Aurora Borealis over Ice, v1, Edit C, originally uploaded by Nawfal Nur.

A small-scale, tabletop version of the Aurora Borealis. Green streaks of light shine and flare over a large cup of ice.

INGREDIENTS FOR THIS PHOTOGRAPH:  a.)  a tabletop, b.) dark room, c.) some sort of BLACK material for the background – I used a black plastic material, d.) sturdy tripod, e.) camera, f.) small light source(s) – I used penlights, g.) some sort of transparent colored material – gels, colored plastic, etc., h.) a large metal cup – I like the Zebra brand metal cups made in Thailand (very nice), i.) ice cubes filled to the top of the cup, j.) patience! 

This is an example of what you can do with long-exposures, small light sources, and some experimentation, in order to get colored light streaks in your photographs.

This is an “available” light photograph, meaning, that I used what small light sources were available to me, to create the streaks of green light during a long (1-second) shutter speed.

Don’t expect amazing results at first:  It may take a few (or 20) tries until you get good patterns that are pleasing, and enough streaks to fill the frame.

A flashlight (torchlight) with a colored bulb, or covered with colored transparent plastic material (gels), even powerful, colored LED lights may work well to create the special light necesary for this work.

Of course, “tripod” your camera and get it ready to go:  On this shot, I used a 1-Second shutter with an f/8.0 aperture.  

You may need to punch up the contrast and saturation of the streaks to make your final touches on the photograph:  I used Paint Shop Pro to saturate the colors, and this is a personal preference.

You don’t need to use green…use any color, use several colors, combine final images, GO CRAZY!

 

“The Magic Pill” – RA DAY, 6 July 2008, Edit F

“The Magic Pill.” Well, there’s really NO “magic pill”, but for me with combating Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS), my weapon of choice is Voltaren, thus the big-“V”. It is an OK choice for AS.

However, there are OVER 100 types of Arthritis out there now!!! One source claims 171 types of Arthritis exist. Thus, depending on what you have, certain drugs may or may not relieve the swelling and pain.

Here in Malaysia, there is a launching of National RA Day…6th July. This is good because it will help bring awareness to the general public as well as help those who suffer from arthritis, and in this case, Rheumatoid Arthritis.

I wanted to do my part to spread the word, make people aware, and do something creative with my art photography to advertise the National RA Day.

If you are concerned about, experience RA, or know someone who suffers from RA, then please, get yourself educated on this disease so you can help yourself, or someone you care about!

What I couldn’t quite understand, however, was why would they hold an Arthritis talk-event in the early morning, and 8:30am is early for many of us, because it takes longer than that, some days, to start feeling halfway human and moving looser.  1PM  or 2PM would be a better time to have an Arthritis event, well, in my general opinion.

On a different note:  If you publish a blog from Flickr, DON’T believe it when it says it failed to publish the blog.  It told me that three times, and I came to WordPress and it was published three times.

Balance Conceptual, v.4

Balance Conceptual, v.4, originally uploaded by fine-grain.

This is a concept photo I did today, and as the title states, it’s all about “balance.”

I wanted the image parts to connect in purpose and convey a similar message.

There are four main connections: 1) Color: Yellow and gold emphasized, and the black and white push those colors out into the foreground. 2) Shape: The shape of the egg and the shape of the spirit bubble are the same. 3) Line: The lines in the spirit level help gauge the viewers understanding of how level a surface, and these lines are augmented by the straight set of lines on the egg. And last but not least, 4) Balance: The spirit level bubble is approximately in the middle of the two lines; and, the egg is balanced on top of the level.

This image is cohesive because of the connections, and its ability to convey a specific message. In this case, the message is one of Science/Physics and can be applied to “Balance”, as well as, “Equilibrium.”

Getting in Close

Cat’s Eye, Edit B

Our eye must constantly measure, evaluate. We alter our perspective by a slight bending of the knees; we convey the chance meeting of lines by a simple shifting of our heads a thousandth of an inch…. We compose almost at the same time we press the shutter, and in placing the camera closer or farther from the subject, we shape the details – taming or being tamed by them.” – Henri Cartier-Bresson – on composition. “American Photo”, September/October 1997, page: 76

Another way of getting a very close view of your subject, as in this shot, is to crop the image to include the ‘main subject’ AND DISCARD the rest.

The cropping method is also a safer way of photographing when your subject is an ‘eye’, which is highly sensitive to light (don’t want to damage anyone’s eye by being careless). I backed up the light considerably on this macro shot, and then positioned the light at a slight angle (the light is off-camera). In the final image (shown here), the main subject remains, and the rest was cropped. You can see the ring-flash makes a cool catch light in the eye.

The freedom to liberally crop brings up an important point in favor of high megapixel cameras: A high-MP camera (12 or 16 megapixels for example) is beneficial, because there is plenty of room for cropping…the original image will give you more leeway for tight cropping than a camera with less megapixels, naturally.

This image was shot with a Canon G2 (4.1MP), so the original image was not very large; thus, the initial image needed to be very accurate and the main subject positioned to take up more space in the frame. Therefore, less cropping was necessary. It would have been nice, however, to have the “freedom to liberally crop.”

Over all, when shooting for detail, move in close; and if that is not possible (or safe), then considering cropping the image to get to the main subject.

Ball-Splash-IMG_1922

Ball-Splash-IMG_1922, originally uploaded by fine-grain.

In photography, the smallest thing can be a great subject. The little, human detail can become a Leitmotiv (recurring phrase or theme in a work of art).” Henri Cartier-Bresson

This shot combines Physics (waves, collisions), Art (form, color, design), and Photography (High-Speed, Stop Action, Macro). This is a prime example of Action & Reaction, Cause & Effect. The Waves in this image are, I suspect, the “recurring phrase” that holds the water droplet image together, and links it to my other water droplet images.

A Few Series I’m Working On!

A Few Fine Art Series in the Works!

Ethereal“, “ONE Glass” and “Penang Trees” are fine art photography series, which I have been paying particular attention to over the past several weeks.

Click on the photograph (above), and the link will take you to the Artist Statements for these three series. I thought I would provide a little more information behind the works. If you are interested, please have a look.

Thank You!

 

ONE Glass – Sarong Material-Blues, Edit C

ONE Glass – Sarong Material-Blues, Edit C, originally uploaded by fine-grain.

Series: “ONE Glass”.
Title: “ONE Glass – Sarong Material-Blues”.

This is the third work in my “ONE Glass” Series. This is another ‘high-key’ sample from the collection.

Again, the glass blends into the bright, seamless background; but in this case, the sarong material kind of looks like it has transformed into a solid, thus, making up the rest of the container (as if there is no glass). Only when you see the rim of the wine glass, do you really notice the glass again.

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.