I recently attended the Art of Seeing Workshop in Sarawak, Malaysia. The photography workshop was conducted by Peter Sanders, internationally recognized as one of the leading photographers of the Islamic world.
Let me tell you a bit about why he’s so awesome. Peter Sanders started off being in charge of taking photos of rock musicians, the classic rockers like Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, The Rolling Stones, The Doors, The Who. Performers you would famously associate with the rock genre.
In 1970 though, he decided to travel around the world for seven months, photographing what he saw. Instead of becoming a photography trip, it was a spiritual odyssey, leading him to Morocco, and then, to the Holy cities of Mekah and Madinah, where he photographed the Hajj, at a time when there were not many professional photographers who were able to enter the Holy land.
Since then, he’s been sharing with the world about the diversity of Muslim cultures around the globe, and locally, about Muslim intergration in societies where they are a minority. He’s also had the rare chance of photographing Islamic scholars and living saints, which took a lot of trust and relationship-building beforehand.
The World Islamic Economic forum (WIEF) organized this event to cultivate creative talent within the scene of photography. It is meant to cater to people at all levels in their photography skills, so a beginner such as myself can easily sign up.
I managed to attend to the one held in Kuching, Sarawak. As a writer, my main job is to look out for good stories. A camera is just as powerful of a tool as a pen, to tell stories. I attended this workshop to help myself keep a good eye in finding the best stories to inspire the world.
In this workshop I was exposed to some of the basics of photography, masters of the art, and some really handy techniques to improve my photography skills. The workshop was structured in a way that we would have classes to teach us the theory and photography sessions to learn the art.
Here are some take away from the course.
1. Learn the Basics, Lights
To understand how photography work, we all need to understand how light works. So the first thing we need to understand is how much light enters into a camera. As some of the workshop attendees were beginners like myself in handling a camera, we received the dummies treatment of ISO, shutter speed, and apertures.
- ISO is how much light you allow in.
- Apertures the size of lens (eye of the camera) that will open up
- Shutter speed is how long your eyes (camera lens) will be open.
The only thing I had to do after understanding these 3 concepts was to go out and experiment.
Watch the movement and of the shadows and sun, and you will start noticing good lighting.
2. Portrait Photography
Portrait photography is a photography skill that requires a human connection more than it does in understanding technicalities.
Platon, a British photographer who has taken portraits of presidents and many world figures had said that his work is 95% psychology and 5% photography. His resume consists of names like Vladimir Putin, Michelle Obama, Ghadaffi, Christopher Walken, and Geroge Clooney. To Platon he said it is all about the human connection.
As we went around to some of the villages in Sarawak, Peter made us talk to the locals for us to get the best shots of them. Body language says a lot when people are looking into the camera. For you to capture their heart you need to make them feel connected to you, and they are more than just something you point a camera towards.
Understanding composition is key to creating visual arts. Where you place yourself and your subject can make a world of a difference when it comes to capturing a story.
I used to have moments where I would crop out an entire action when taking a photo and would miss the whole point of the photo in the first place.
I feel that this class gave me a better insight on how I should frame a photo. Treat it like a canvass you are about to paint a picture with.
If you are treating a photograph like a painting therefore colors is something you need to be particular with! The colors can definitely set the mood of a picture. Whether you want to emphasize on a feeling of hopefulness or despair, the color of the photograph can make all the difference.
My own personal style, I always do my best to capture the beauty of a journey we all take in life. The people we meet along the way, the struggle we face, and the triumph that comes out from it.
So I started looking for colors to set this mood during the workshop.
5. Movement and Stillness
The key to getting a good photo is a balancing act of movement and stillness. During the street photography session what I noticed is that we need to constantly be on the move to get a good photo.
You can never be in one spot if you want to find your million dollar shot! However, when the shot do come you need to be still to capturing the moment.
You need to stay calm while looking for the million dollar shot. Doing Dhikr is something Peter practices to help him stay calm, as he shared with the class.
This workshop definitely gave me a good foundation in starting out as a photographer and the mix of spirituality was a nice addition to the equation.
I would recommend this workshop to people who wants to either pick up photography, learn more about the art, how to use faith as a foundation to their art, or anyone who just wants to try something new with their life!
It was definitely an experience worth repeating, for one of the attendees has been to three of Peter’s workshop. He feels that he learns something new every time.
Do you have any tips in starting out in photography? Do share in the comments below.