Taking photography to new heights

40 years ago when I held a SLR it was like holding a precision machine with very accurate engineering to be able to do what it was designed to do. Today, a DSLR is still a very precise machine and more. It comes with a computer inside. This is the kind of power in the hands of a photographer.

40 years ago I was messing around in the dark room all alone, with chemicals and fearing a little ray of light sneaking into the room. And the processing of the negatives and printing were mainly done manually with a lot of guess works. Manipulating them for different effects was tedious and failure rate was extremely high. Today, every thing a dark room processing can do can be done much better and easier, with more control and refinement using a processing software loaded into a computer. No more messy stuff and expensive errors that had to be thrown away at great cost. The software can work practically at anywhere with no fear of sneaky lights. And any error can simply be erased and redo again at practically no cost.

The tools of photography and the nature of photography have taken a qualitative leap to allow photographers to do many things that they could not do before. With such powerful tools and computing power, there are many avenues to explore for the photographer. I was not content with just doing and repeating the same thing all over again, shooting the best portrait, the best bird in flight, night photography, sports photography, travel photography, macro or micro photography. In many of these areas, everything has been done and shot by the professionals.

With two computers, one in the hand, one sitting on the table, and a more power third computer in the head, I started to explore and experiment with the untouchables, the taboos, the things that were frowned upon, striking out into new frontiers, to capitalise on the power of 3 computers. Photographers must do justice to the enormous creative powers their tools are able to perform today.

The first step I took was to embrace refraction, something that was nearly totally disregarded by photographers for the distortion it caused. Conventional photography is all about reflection, shooting an object to get a clear and crisp image. At times blurring and zooming effects were introduced, bokehs etc, but still an act of reflection.

Refraction is about seeing light travelling through more than one medium of different density. The bending of light through a prism to reveal the rainbow colours is a basic example of reflection. Light contains many things that the naked eyes could not see. Light is after all an electromagnetic wave. The signals received on radio or the television, through the phone, are all electromagnetic waves with information of sound and images embedded in them. The decoder in the TV unscrambles the information to make them visible and audible.

Light entering and exiting a medium like water are distorted by refraction and reflection. It also picks up other information that we could not see but exists. If only such information can be translated into something visible, revealing what they were like a TV image through a decoder, the final image can be stunning and unpredictable.

The Art of RAR or Reflection and Refraction is a technique that I have developed exactly to do this function. The images taken in the water will not be seen through the naked eyes or the camera sensor. The water will still appear as an image of water in the sensor. Through processing, the multiple images hidden in the light that came out of water can be seen in all its glories.

The Art of RAR is a key or a decoder to do this job. Many unseen images cannot be obtained from a seemingly non existence object in the water. With this methodology, photography is now able to do something new, something that was impossible and now possible. The images that came out from this technique can still be like a photographic image or an image that looks exactly like a painting with no trace of it being a photograph. It is a new field of photography that modern technology makes possible with the help of the creative and imaginative mind of a photographer. The possibilities are unlimited and photographers, with their creativity and imagination, could move beyond the confines of conventional photography, to explore new frontiers using the camera to produce new art forms.

The Art of RAR is not the only new technique available and more creative usages of the camera and technology would likely to lead to more innovative ways to expand the art of photography and how to use the camera. The art of photography is beginning to see new light.

Chua Chin Leng


Anonymous said...

I still shoot on Chemical film. Medium format. Computers still can't do many things chemical film can.

For one the grainy effect on Ilford Black & white still needs feathering and burn in, in the dark room. Computers are lousy at training.

Maybe darkrooms are not cool any longer. But I much prefer the moment of serendipity that occurs when I see my prints days after I have shot them. I also like playing with the chemicals for unexpected results - once my dark room caught fire.

With the electronic format, my shots are notably always lousy. As I have unlimited number of shots. This creates a lazy attitude towards photography. Another thing that i despise with the digital format is over reliance on computers to undertake the key inputs.

With chemical since I only get 12 shots. I tend to be more fastidious and particular about aperture and speed settings. My brain seems to have to work harder on achieving the desired result. Hence usually my most memorable prints are invariably made on chemical film.

How did your exhibition go?

Darkness 2012

Ⓜatilah $ingapura⚠️ said...

I love the flexibility and cost of digital photography, but still am in awe of the "magic" of chemical based film.

One thing I do like about digital gear is that they can be "hacked" in ways that enable them to do things they were not initially designed to do.


In my case, a lot of my digital gear is hacked. I run customised OS's on my phones, tablets and 2 of my Linux computers. Haven't hacked the DSLR yet, but I'll get there :-)

Chua Chin Leng aka redbean said...

I agree that using films one tends to take very much care before firing as a mistake is a costly mistake. One has to do all the composition and mental pictures before squeezing the trigger. For digital it is like shooting from the hips.

I have never shot medium format. I tend to load my film very carefully to get extra one or two frames from each roll: ) Expensive stuff.

I do agree that prints from films are of better quality or have that different finess.

Working in the darkroom gives you that professional or conventional touch or feel, like a surgeon at work. As for grains, digital processing can deliver various types of grains and very convenient to switch them around.

Digital processing is very much more flexible but the final result between the two is subjective in many cases. It is like the audiophiles who swear by the warmth of old records and valves and find digital sound and solid state with that subtle difference.

A matter of preference and getting use to perhaps.