Monday, February 28, 2011

My Philosophy on Marriage Series #2 of 5

Ron Mueck Exhibition-48, originally uploaded by Mervin Chiang.
Note: In case you were wondering, the photo on the left is not real! It was taken at a Ron Mueck Exhibition of extremely detailed and confronting sculptures.

Ok, this next section is pretty self explanatory you would think. However, there is a reason why I used the word "extreme" before "honesty". In order to understand what this means and how to try this in your marriage you must first have a good foundation on unconditional love taken from the section above. Soon you will notice that each layer builds on each other...

Firstly, let's understand something I borrowed from Patrick Lencioni's book The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team (with written permission to use it here). He calls it the concept of "Invulnerability". Let me explain...

In no matter what circumstances, we tend to avoid being vulnerable (a.k.a trying to be Mr/Ms Invulnerable). Since I am Chinese, it's even more prevalent in our culture. We call this "saving face". Or simply put, we don't want to get hurt. It's a self preserving reflex we have. However, too much of this in a work place actually starts to incite politics! And its the same at home. If we try to "beat around the bush" or "be a princess" about the issues, we then tend to tip-toe around them. Or worse, we sweep them under the carpet!

Let's look at it from another angle. I normally say that if an issue cannot be "gossiped" or talked about directly with your spouse, but you find yourself only secretly telling your best friends or anyone other than your spouse, then you are "being the princess". And you must wear a tiara on your head! (Yes, even the guys!) This means you are, as Lencioni puts it, trying to be invulnerable. For guys, you may call it "swallowing" it. Or tolerating. Or taking the pain. "It's ok, I can take the unhappiness, I'm a guy..." you might think. Internalising an issue is equal to sweeping it under the carpet.

So why is unconditional-love-resulting-in-trust combined with the concept of NOT being Mr/Ms Invulnerable have anything to do with Extreme Honesty? These are the 2 key concepts to practising Extreme Honesty in a relationship. It means to NOT fear the ridicule of saying something's wrong in the relationship. It is to call something that is not right out without fearing a lash back. It is to discuss something that is difficult and confronting without any fear of rejection and judgement. If you are sharing something that is bothering you in the relationship with someone else, don't! Your spouse should be your best friend. If you are trying to tolerate something and internalising it, don't! To sweep something under the carpet is actually more cowardly than to confront the issue head on!

Wait a minute! Am I saying that you guys should argue and fight? Absolutely! Yes! I am saying exactly that. I am saying that you should have a strong and healthy "robust conversation". To argue and fight over a topic in an objective manner and never personally serving "low blows" are the best thing that can happen to a relationship. Why? Because it teaches both of you more about each other and how each other thinks, feels, process information and deal with situations. To tease that out in an "Extreme Honesty Episode" gives a great insight into your spouse that you married! If you objectively and respectfully try and hear each other out to seek a resolution, you will learn so much more in each episode than 30 years of sweeping under carpets and never finding the root of an issue with each other.

If you both need to join a course on conflict management, go for it! "Conflict Management in a relationship" is a whole topic in itself which I won't go into here. However, remember this when going into an Extreme Honesty Episode: "Is this fight we are about to have, trivial?" In trivial I mean, does it really matter if the socks are on the floor next to the bed? Will both your worlds end if either don't win on such a trivial event? Is it worth sacrificing your love and a good night together over the issue? Fight, but be sensible about them. No one likes being picked on. This comes comes back to the first layer - "Unconditional Love"!

The key to all this is to fight it out in an Extreme Honesty Episode and endeavour to never repeat the same episode again! Learn lessons from the episode and respect each others' differences and learn to apply unconditional love on them. At least in this way you are both getting more clarity and "mental intimacy" upon each episode of an Extreme Honesty session.

"Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger" 
- Ephesians 4:26 -

Referenced permanent link here:

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Improving my technology use

In an effort to satisfy my laziness, I have applied IT to my solution :P In my day job this is called "Automation". I've tried to hook my instagram on my iPhone to a tumblr account. I then hook my tumblr account to facebook...

Aahh... the joys of social networking, micro-blogging, photo-blogging and anything techie rolled into one!

Now I can pretty much do a photo > upload to my site > lie on my bed > use iPhone to grab the photo > parse it through instagram > bounce it to anywhere (e.g. tumblr, flickr, facebook, foursquare)... Perfect!

I must really get onto completing the marriage page of my site...

Monday, February 21, 2011

Is Sharpness Everything?... Not in the Holga World

Holga Trial-16, originally uploaded by Mervin Chiang.

The one thing I'm about to say will make any sharpness nazi faint... I don't believe that a sharp photo is everything. There you go I've said it. Thanks Kevin, for pointing that out to me. It's not an excuse! Don't get me wrong. If I am engaged in a gig and especially doing portraits, that's quite a different story. It's about capturing a moment. Capturing a story in the photo. The fact that it's sharp I feel is secondary. Along with technique and exposure. That is why I find comfort in my Holgas (yes, I have 2!) But what I am now finding, is that I am still searching and challenging myself to look for the niche in my Holga images. I just don't know what to do with them yet...

Featured image: taken from my Holga 120N on Medium format 400 B&W film with frame attachment removed mod. Taken at Movie World. Look like fisheye, but it's not. :)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

First Studio Shoot Family Fun

The studio kit is finally set up! I wasn't going to test anything or take any photos, but Mikaela started bringing her chairs and toys in front of the backdrop and wanted to take photos!! I wasn't going to let the chance go, so I quickly set the 2 soft boxes to the right height and turned them on. Picked up the camera and away I went...

Lessons learnt?

- For some reason it is still not enough light. I had to drop down to ISO 800, 1/60 speed on f/4 aperture.
- Above setting is no where fast enough for kids...
- Is it because of the "cheapo" gear I got? Hmmm...
- Creases as still visible on the backdrop (lightroom's gradient filter is my friend...)
- I don't really have a good place in my house for a studio. Would have loved a bigger room with a nice big window for day time's natural light... My reading room is too small :(

Anyway, I think we had fun. A good 30-40mins with the family. One 7D and 2 iPhones :)

My Philosophy on Marriage Series #1 of 5

Mikaela Portraits Series, originally uploaded by Mervin Chiang.
The first of the 5 guiding principles, I believe, is the topic of unconditional love. That is easily said but not often easily done! And this is important because I believe it forms the basic foundation of a relationship. Remember, you got married because you chose this partner, no one else forced you. You chose to love and get married to your partner. And this commitment, when elevated to marriage, means unconditional love!

Unconditional - This means "no matter what". Learning from "the Love Dare" book, as long as you start saying "I love my spouse because...", you are placing a condition on your love. Saying that he or she is handsome, cute, loving, kind, etc.. are all conditions. So does that mean that when they are no longer these things, you stop loving them? Unconditional love means literally - NO MATTER WHAT.

How do we do this practically? I read somewhere (can't remember where), that the "honeymoon" period is literally a chemical thing in our brain. When we first fall in love, for the first few months our body is riding on this "fuel" of chemicals that make us "think" we love our partner. Once this "fuel" runs out, we have to WORK (yes, work), to love that same person and its no longer a chemical "morphine" that keeps us going, but hard effort. Now realising that I have to work to love Kat makes a whole mind shift on how I learn to love her in our marriage. Love is not a feeling anymore, but an action!

"The good, the bad and the ugly" of "working on" love means you need to change your mindset on how to love your spouse in a marriage. Its an inward change and not a reciprocal one. You cannot be thinking, "I need to change him/her on how to love ME", but be thinking "what can I do differently to love him/her unconditionally". Coming to the challenge of the word unconditional. This means no-matter-what! Even if he leaves his socks lying around. Even if she doesn't pick up the mobile when you call her. Even if he is insensitive to your feelings on certain things. Even if she doesn't understand your need to be with your mates to do something. Even if... [fill in blanks here, you get the pattern?]

Also, to practice unconditional love your natural "side effect" should be trust. And I don't mean, "I trust that he/she won't cheat on me", type of trust in this case. Or even "I trust that he/she will do the right thing when told" kind of trust. What I mean is, because of the unconditional love attitude I am placing on my spouse, I trust that whatever he/she says or do has never any ill intent, is malicious or is purposefully done to cause hurt or harm physically or mentally to me.

This type of what I call "heightened" trust is quite different to what we normally understand as trust. How does this look like in practice? To trust in this case then means you must and should never be looking for any "hidden meaning" in your spouse for the things he/she do, say or writes. In other words, trusting that he/she are always doing things with neutral or good intent. Even if it is so apparent that it is not so! This is where "unconditional love" comes in. Even when wrong is done to you, you must love unconditionally!

No one says working to love someone is easy... Remember, we're in for the long haul and not chasing that morphine chemical called "feeling of love". It may sound hard, but this first "layer" of foundation sets a firm one for the next 4 sections.

Referenced permanent link here:

Monday, February 14, 2011

Gearing up!

David and Anne Night Shoot, originally uploaded by Mervin Chiang.

My backdrop and stand set came from eBay! That was really quick. I've got to now figure out how to straighten out all the creases. Ironing a 3 x 6 meter piece of cloth is going to be fun! :P

The stand is 3.1m X 2.8m. Just realised that my room is not that wide... Now have to figure out where is the best places for it. Anyone of you photographer enthusiasts want to come over for play around with the setup? Any volunteer for models? :P I should be getting my 2 soft boxes continuous light set this week as well, if all goes well. Perhaps a play this Saturday morning. Let me know if you are keen!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Researching on newborn photography

Mikaela using liquid chalk, originally uploaded by Mervin Chiang.

I now have at least 4 jobs to take photos for family with a baby or a newborn. The pressure is on! I thought I'd document some of my "self-reminding-tips" for myself, being forgetful as I am, so that I remember what I've researched on. Most of them are pretty basic knowledge stuff. Stuff that a enthusiastic photographer would know already. But I guess doing it "professionally" takes it to a whole different level.

Disclaimer: these are notes for myself only. Different people need to develop their on styles and believes. So please don't take this as the absolute recipe or anything of that sort :)

So here we go, 7 tips to taking baby photos:

1. Go down low - go to their level and take photos at the same level as them
2. Go natural - Nothing beats natural light on a baby's body. I agree with this statement. I think artificial light, although sometimes needed, cannot mimic the sun's light made by God.
3. Newborns don't pose! - We have to pose them. I have to think about some poses and positions if the parents don't have something they want to try already.
4. Trigger finger - :P in a digital age, we can afford to take lots of photos! You never know when they make that priceless expression. This also means that I need to be solid with technique so I am not fiddling with the camera when the moment arrives.
5. Post process - Lots of people do black and white photos for babies. That's because as a newborn, their skin may have spots and blemishes you might have to take out or "airbrush" off.
6. Go Macro - Close ups are my favourite. I like tight shots and you'll notice that about my photos. I don't do too well when I need to "get everything in the frame". A close up on a feet, ear, hand would look very nice I think.
7. Use Props - Introduce something that can show the contrast or context to the baby. Tell a story with it.

Another interesting distinction I found out through reading on-line is to decide whether to take portraits or documentary shots. Portraits are the ones that needs setup time and posing (duh!). Documentary are taking more candid "spur of the moment" shots.... OK, enough ranting for now.

Notes on featured photo: Mikaela was using this liquid chalk thing. Kat allowed her to draw on the shower's glass in the bathroom. Pretty cool stuff!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Sequence shots

Peter and Melissa, originally uploaded by Mervin Chiang.

I've been starting to do this lately. Finally had to blow off the dust on my Adobe Photoshop skills to do the website anyway, I thought I'd get off my lazy bum and do more of these "sequence" photos in my collection.

I've always wondered about these type of photos. You know, the ones that has a few or at least 2 photos in one, telling a story? I've always wondered how they are done. I think the hard answer more often than not is that it is most likely photoshop-ed... Something that takes longer than an average 3-5mins on post processing a photo. That is why I try to avoid it :P

Another point to note as well is that this is an effect that can be achieved only in the digital age. Although one can argue that we can use mutli-exposures on file to get a story... but I think the feel of the photo is different then.

Yet another thing that has been "floating" in my mind is twittering... Or is it Tweeting? Should I add that to my "things to do" for brokenvasephotos? Will anyone really "follow" my tweets? What should I tweet about? What I had for breakfast... :P Just kidding. I think my lazy bone in me says I won't keep that one up to date. Facebook's wall is good enough micro-blogging for me.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Lots of gear coming from eBay!!

I think it's no secret for people who know us as a family, we buy almost everything on eBay. I just ordered a whole bunch of stuff for my first "official" shoot on the 5th of March. Thanks Peter and Janice for signing up!

Right, gear check from eBay:
- Light stand
- Flash gun mount with umbrella
- Softbox attachment
- 4 bulb adapter
- Lighting stand bag
- Studio background stands
- 2 muslin background cloths
- Business cards! (yes! from eBay...)

Note: a little about this featured photo. I took this of Kat posing after our photo shoot with Desmond and Estella. She was supposed to be my assistant (eating chips!). Taken with the Pentax K1000 on ISO400 35mm film. Still love my dad's old camera!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Photo got featured

I was so excited when Kerry from akemiphotography contacted me and wanted to use one of my photos of the flood as on her appeal page feature. (Link added below) This really came as a timely encouragement!

Other encouragements were that we have now 26 "likings" in facebook! This means that I can have my own personalised facebook link instead of the ugly long one. The new one is Who would've known that you need 25 "likes" to get a chance to choose a personalised link?

The website received a really good response and I think I'll fill up my 7 free sessions very soon. This would keep me busy till June I think. It's all FREE though -.-" but that's part of learning. Paying with time to learn the art of the business - well worth it I reckon...

Monday, February 7, 2011

Free Sessions!

Mikaela-2, originally uploaded by Mervin Chiang.

Well, now the word is out. I think... I have "officially" launched brokenVase photos. So what does this mean? Well if I do my math right, I am prepared to run at close to zero cost on the first year. That means I'm in "gain experience" mode. That means I am GIVING SESSIONS FOR FREE!!! At least for the first half year. So...

- If 52/2=26months;
- That is 26 weekends / a further 2 = 13 weekend sessions
- Minus some personal weekend time with family... say 5
- Leaves? 7 FREE SESSIONS (Half-day pass) up for grabs!!

I've got roughly 3-4 sessions allocated already (I think) so that leaves a few more slots! Any one interested in taking family portraits, baby portraits or functions? Let me know... All you pay is the cost to print photos, canvases or frames if you want them (we can negotiate getting the DVD source files).

Check out the "Services" section on the site for more details.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Biting the Bullet

Mikaela-1, originally uploaded by Mervin Chiang.

Let's see... After about 3 years since getting back into SLR and getting into digital my passion for this hobby has finally pushed through above my other hobbies to turn into a somewhat serious thing. My family has been complaining that I've been spending too much time on the computer the past week after work. Why? I've decided to finally do something about recovering my cost to the expensive camera gear. I've decided through great encouragement by my wife Kat to, as they say... "turn pro"

So, I've...

1. Registered a few more domain names.
2. Setup
3. Got a smug mug power account
4. Hacked away for the past week at a website design
5. Loaded all my portfolio
6. Designed my branding the business card

:) Now there's only marketing left to do... That's next!