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That New Chapter

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Been years since I last write this blog. I even almost forgotten the password! No longer know what to say or write, really. Wasn’t sure I have something useful to share. But maybe I do now. Let’s see..

Late last year, I was asked to join some colleagues in my old work place, as they are setting up a photo school. Some of the high places people in that work place weren’t so sure about the idea, and even doubted them. Challenged to make it happen, they somehow ended up in asking if I wanted to join them. Thankfully, we weren’t really caught up in the spirit of showing to that high places people that we can do it and prove them wrong. Proving people wrong has been and always be the worst motivation in doing something good. So instead, we were so sure about the idea from the get go, we didn’t care what others think and we just do it like Nike said we should.

As we were having our first meeting, ideas rushed in my head, and just a week later, I managed to made 3 modules for basic photography that we are now been using for our 3 batch classes.

Teaching wasn’t new for me, but to know that I am also shaping a group of people’s mind to understand what I do, loving it as much as I do, and actually drive them to be better than I do, in 5 meetings time, was a nerve wrecking. But, I actually love it!

I call the participants in my photo class, my children. And they call me (somehow willingly), Kanjeng Ratu, means Your Highness Queen. pfffttt.. my sassiness partly caused that.

The fact that I actually turned out learning more from them, is what thrills me. And that learning curve in this new chapter of my career in photography is what I believed, worth to share.


Written by nickmatulhuda

August 22, 2016 at 9:50 pm

Faith in What We Do

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Okay, maybe I’ll just use I, instead of plural We. Who am I, ranting about something and speak for many?

I was visiting an office where I used to be an intern. Met a photographer friend who was drowning in his own thought and suddenly asked me, “Why are we doing this? What for?”.

He’s working for a photo agency that requires him to either shoot; edit and publish photos of the day on the web for clients; and even teach students in the school also run by the agency. I sat with him for a while, trying to understand his questions. “What difference have we made with our work?” he asked again. “Have we even make any difference at all?” again he asked. “I used to believed we’re doing this to make a change, but now?” he again, asked. Those are rhetoric questions. There’ll be no single answer that can suffice him, I get that. But as someone who still (want to) believe that one should have faith in whatever he or she do, I was morally can’t just let myself easily agreed to his “why bother”-ness.

I told him that I was in a forum once, where one international famous photojournalist once said, “I no longer believe that my work can actually change the world, BUT I KNOW that the works (his) still take parts in the process of it. Changing the world”. I think that is the most reasonable answer available.

Photojournalists, in my opinion, (should) have some creative sense. We don’t need to present only beautiful things in the world, because that would be a total lie. But we do need to creatively engage our audience, drawn them to the work, so that they can have a say on it. So they can be moved. And in the end, they can be part in changing the world. But on the downsides, every people that involve in creative field, would always end up doubting themselves and their own works. It’s bad enough that photojournalists often have no confidence in presenting their work to the world as if they not (ever) good enough, whats worse would be, that every now and then they have to doubt themselves on whether or not their work even matter.

I recently propose a story to a magazine. Big hot shot magazine. The editor said he loves it, he thinks it was a great set of photos and story, but too bad it doesn’t cut out for the magazine. He suggested me to aim higher and propose it to other international publication. So I send the emails to other editors. But they still stood me up.

I liked that story very much. I have something for others to see, know and understand from my perspective, while still report it as it is. I also think it is somewhat important, and interesting. But seems like not everyone share the same idea. Am I bitching about it, right now? Not really. I’m just upset. I worked hard for a week, convincing strangers to let me into their homes, and their friends and families, walked for miles away to cut the expensive taxi fees for this story. And yet I can’t publish it because I can’t find a media who wants it. Sheryl Crow sang, first cut is the deepest. But The Passenger was right, that the rest still flipping hurt.

So here I am, listing more medias who might want the story, because though I often raised in my head, the same questions as my photographer friend, but I STILL HAVE FAITH IN WHAT I DO. I’m not gonna give up. I have more stories to show and tell, and I won’t give up on them either. Let others find me pathetic, I know sometimes I feel that way. But having faith in what we do, is SOMETHING, right? … Right?

Tan Thach (jumping) learns Parkour solely from youtube, and practice every morning in parks of Hanoi, Vietnam, because he has a dream to be an actor with specialty of Parkour acrobatic moves, even though his family and society gave him a frowned upon.

Tan Thach (jumping) learns Parkour solely from youtube, and practice every morning in parks of Hanoi, Vietnam, because he has a dream to be an actor with specialty of Parkour acrobatic moves, even though his family and society gave him a frowned upon.

Written by nickmatulhuda

July 31, 2014 at 8:50 pm

My Heart Skips a Beat

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Everyday, I count my blessings. Tried. Never worked. They’re just too much.

In between irritations for being stood up on works that being promised, nor rejections when proposing works, photography continues to give me jolts and keep my heart beeps.

But there are times when my heart skips a beat,

Mba Eka ini, Nickmatulhuda kan? Kemana aja mba? Kok sekarang fotonya udah jarang keliatan? Udah ngga di Tempo yah?

Some guy in random events or occasions that just pop up infront of me and claimed to missed my by-line appear in my previous media, Tempo. Yes sir.. I miss that too. Hope I can hide my blush knowing that someone out there do recognize my works. Or at least my name.

Hi, we came across your website and was wondering if you want to share some of your work to our audience?

My heart stops right there. Wondering if that means another re-publication that will get me paid or receive a small notes of thank you instead.

Eka, tanggal 12 jangan lupa yah.. Motretin acara gue. 

Ah.. Nothing more exciting than doing less frustrating work, like shooting an event of a bunch of camera frenzy ladies. Easy money. Love it!

Am doing a story on labour, did you shoot last week’s protest?

My God! Is that why God set me up a meeting with a friend in a mal, and made me took pictures of that labour protest while I wait up for him to arrive? Subhanallah.. I HAPPENS to have the picture that fits perfect for her story!


Hey girl, I got a job for you, to illustrate my story about Jakarta..

I told you people.. be organized. Your pictures are your babies. Only with a stack of stock photos, I can take this job without too much hassle.

Googled my name and found these from previous work opportunities,


Shooting for Badzine, on a Badminton Superseries in Johor Bahru, Malaysia.


Shooting for Greenpeace on Citarum story in West Java, Indonesia.

people daily

Sentani Lake Festival pic published via Xinhua.

Am doing some stories, can you shoot for me?


Felt cool to have my picture on a story in a language I barely understand. *dumbface*

It's getting harder for me to get the opportunity of shooting spot news and being published! SO everytime I do, I felt good to be part of history.

It’s getting harder for me to get the opportunity of shooting spot news and being published! SO everytime I do, I felt good to be part of history.

The art director likes your work and would love it if you were responsible of taking the photos. 

I work by references, most of the times, and I try hard to maintain that good cooperation with someone who trusts me. And I cant be enough grateful for being surrounded by people with such fair and great working environment. Thanks guys.. Thank you so much.

The photos are wonderful! 🙂 Thank you! I’lll keep you posted with our final selection once we start the page layout. You can send me your bill directly.

Ah… Payment.. New sets of numbers in my bank account… Ah.. how I love thee.

I also enjoyed the interview and thank you for the pictures!! Am not really a camera face, but I really love this picture!

Receiving a thank you from the subject of your last shoot, was also breezing. You can tell when they actually mean it and show respect for the work, or just being polite in between their crazy schedule.

Whoops! reminds me, I still have a list of people whom I’ve promised to have their pictures send by email.

This skips a beat thing can be really addictive!

Written by nickmatulhuda

February 22, 2013 at 10:07 am


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Can you tell how productive you’ve been for some period of time?

How d’you do it? By always arrive on time at work? By how much money you made?

Well, as a freelancer, I can tell how I’ve been productive, or in this case, NOT productive for a month-for example-, when I realize I have watched the same replay of X-Factor Indonesia auditions more than 3 times. And I did. (sighed).

Two weekends ago, am proud to say that I have been a productive young lady. (my age, not your concern, really..). Well, at least, I didnt watch tv for two days straight. Because I was in Garut, West Java.

Tantyo Bangun, a very well respected photographer in Indonesia (and other countries, of course..), asked me to join his team in mentoring some group of high school students to do photo hunt as a series of workshop that he established with a group of journos in Garut, and sponsored by Chevron. I heard this GarutPedia workshop has been on since December. And I get to be part of it with Dian (GarutPedia caretaker), Oom Toto and of course, Oom Tantyo. They’re in Oom-oom age anyway.

We off on early start for surveying the route we’re gonna do the next day, and I cant help but realized how organized Tantyo Bangun is. He has an idea in his head, and he sure know how he wants it to be done. I felt.. small.


Some 20s students and Chevron employees or family members, took part in this photo hunt. (sounds like boar hunt or deer hunt, but its totally different, because we weren’t hunting photos with spears nor in a game of spotting differences from 2 simillar photos! We were out hunt some subjects to be photographed. How exactly do you say it in english?) And I get to be the shepherd for 4 lost sheep with cameras. Oom Toto was there to make sure we didnt trip and fell off the cliff.

EKA_4822Too bad, one of my sheep (a student in our team) innocently just forgot to tell us during briefing, that he didnt bring cameras with him. (Grrrrhh…) So I ended up borrowing mine, and he left me “naked” without camera and made me felt so uncool. How can a mentor in a photography team, not bring a single camera? I mean, how can I brag about my own shoot? hehe.. Well.. maybe it was for the best anyway, since later on I found out, that they actually make wonderful pictures in less than two hours! If I turned out unable to make photos as good, am in deep trouble. My credibility is at stake.

So, those wonderful sheep (why sheep? because Garut is famour for sheep) — I mean, workshop participants, in my team, were some of the greatest ones!! Ho ho.. Am sooo happy.. Those four wonderful young photographers, made pix that selected as some of the best pix of the day. All of them! Ha! And two of which got small gifts for their excellent work, and one of those two, was the winner for the best picture on that workshop! Yeay.. Their fingers on the shutter, I was just there as their shepherd. 🙂

Have a look at here : and see that pretty valentine romance on top? One of my team did that! His name is Meldani.

And today, as I watched another replay of X-Factor, a thought crossed my tiny lazy brain. What will happen with the winners of X Factor? Or those who win on that workshop? Does being part of it do any good to them? I honestly dont know.

Tantyo told me that he saw huuuggghh progress in the way those kids take pictures. Compared to the early days of the workshop, now, they tend to be more focused on what exactly they want to show through their pictures. And I can sense of proudness in his voice. I was proud just to have them for a day, and I can imagine how he felt for having a team that try to nurture them for months. But of course, the kids’ progress are their own truly. It’s their effort, and Tantyo or anybody else in that team, just there to help.

No one can tell, if X-Factor winner one day gonna be a great musician, or just a one time thing. We wont know today, if Meldani gonna win a world press photo in years to come. I mean, who knows? But does these so called workshops do any good? Am sure they do.

I was also in a photo workshop, and how I felt can totally different from how other participants felt about it. Some actually think it was useless, because it doesnt ‘give’ them anything. Am sure they didnt mean it though.

In my perspective, such workshop can give you the chance to meet some extraordinary people. Whom you probably never knew you’d meet in person! If I were in X Factor, I would hug Anggun just to sniff her, or since I was in the Angkor Workshop, I get to see the editor who rejected my photos via email, but turned out asked me to join his (was) photo agency once he saw my pictures right in front of him. So magic things happen! But your own kind of magical moments.

Workshops give you shortcuts. To where and will you use it? You decide.

Spot me! Spot me!!

Spot me! Spot me!!

Written by nickmatulhuda

February 21, 2013 at 3:58 pm

Where to Fix Your Camera in Jakarta

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Unfortunately, this isnt advertisement.

I still havent reach to the point where all my blog posts can reach to million viewers, that people would pay me to put their ads here.

Thankfully, I dont really care either.

So, where would you go to get your camera fixed if you have some problems with it, when you’re in Jakarta?

This is the only place I’d go to. Harpa Camera Service & Repair :

As you can see on their board, it’s located at Pasar Baru. Apparently it’s a commonly known place for photographers in Jakarta. Antara Foto School of Photojournalism and its gallery also located in Pasar Baru area.

Have no idea why they named it after a music instrument, harpa –for harp.

To go to this repair shop, from the entrance of Pasar Baru, with its gigantic welcoming gate written “Passer Baroe”, right after you crossed one of the stinkiest big gutter in central Jakarta, just go straight and enjoy the scenery of many many many textiles shops and shoes shops. Sometimes you can even spot one or two department stores displaying racks of bras. How could they actually planning to make us girls feel comfortable for lingerie shopping when they display them on the doorstep at the sidewalk?

Anyway.. after you wiggle on the sound of Hindi music or house music on the highest volume, you will reach to almost the end of the -sort of- tunnel. On your left, you’ll see shops selling hair and make up equipment. Thats where my twin sisters will go to, because they are make up artists (

While on your right, you’ll see a God Knows What shops. hehe.. Sorry.. I cant really explain, for that place can be extremely messy. Just make sure that you are in Metro Atom Plaza. —–Wait, both buildings left and right are actually connected.

Errr… okay, just go to the building on your right (if you are following my previous lead). Then use that escalator (hope it’s working by the time you get there.. if not.. just pretend they are stairs..). And on the 2nd floor, go find Aneka Foto shop. I would suggest you to not immediately ask Harpa Camera, because most likely the people who sits there like they do nothing, would only think you’re going to Harpa to sell some of your shooting equipment. They can be a real pain..

So, just go to the opposite direction after you reach the 2nd floor, and you’ll find Aneka Foto on your right. Thats one of a place to go to if you want to buy batteries, cameras, lenses, lighting equipment and so on. Most of the times, they actually give good price. But make sure you know the price tag on the market for the items you planning to buy.

Hendra, the nurse

Hendra, the camera nurse

After you passed the busy camera shop called Aneka Foto, VOILA! Thats where Harpa Camera is.

If you’re lucky, you will meet Hendra ;

His face would look like this, more or less. He’s a very nice and polite guy, and extremely talkative! And no.. am not describing myself here.

Hendra will ask whats your problem is. The camera’s, of course. He’s like a nurse. He will determine if they can actually fix the problem in your camera, or just send you back home and say, “Sorry.. we cant..”.

The real doctor, would be this guy ;

His name is TITO! And he’s a super magician!

Unlike Hendra, Tito barely say a word. He’s like an autism who prefers to sit in his corner and play with his toys. In this case, they are lenses, flashes, cameras, and so on. And he doesnt treat them like toys. He treat them with respects. He cleans them with his mop by heart, gently. He always amazes me, everytime I get the chance to see him work. For me, he’s an artist.

It took years of experience, tons of patience, and a real passion to fix camera equipment. And he has it all. He is so focused, you should be prepared if he’s somehow just ignore you when he’s working.

I think… Wait, I KNOW.. that Tito isnt a professional photographer. Maybe he was. I dont know. We’d tangled in jokes if we ever actually involved in a conversation. But he doesnt always joke. It took me a while to get him to make jokes. And sadly, they’re not always funny.

Tito has been fixing cameras for — I dont know, I never asked.. But I’m guessing from the early years of camera invasion to Indonesia. And he barely have a day off!! Yes.. You can come anytime, from 11 am to 6 pm, everyday! And you’ll find them there.

“I am paid per day work. So if I dont come, I wont get paid,” said Hendra once. And since Hendra is only the nurse, he wont open the shop without the doctor. So, they’ll definitely there.

Even after Eidul Fitri!!!! Seems like, Tito always has a thing to do. A camera to fix. Piles of what I would think of junks, just sit infront of him on his desk, and he would drowned in full concentration to fix them, one by one.


The reasons why I always go to them ;

  1. Sometimes, I can be clumsy, that everytime I borrowed someone’s equipment, I either drop it, bang it, or spill ice tea on it. Yes.. I do that.
  2. When I still work for a daily newspaper, some of my lenses can be very dirty, and I like them to be sharp clean for out of town or abroad assignment.
  3. They ask for reasonable price.
  4. They’re not a snob or a smartypants who would act like they know everything and make you feel stupid just because you dont know what the heck happen to your camera.
  5. They would first examine your equipment, trying to figure out what seems to be the problem, and give you a rough estimation on the repair cost. You can always have your camera back, if you think they ask for a lot of money.
  6. They would say no to some camera equipment, if they think the cost for fixing it is higher than a brand new items of the similar product.
  7. I respect them and they respect me as a customer and a photographer. They know my work demands for high speed, even when it comes to repairs. So they’ll immediately tell me if they think I should wait for a little longer, whenever they think there’s a serious damage.
  8. Even though they cant afford to give me a back-up equipment when they are fixing the damaged ones (for they dont have the responsibility to do that), they will not charge me for more, if I return in a day or two, when I found out something still went terribly wrong with the equipment they’ve repaired. It’s like a post-service thing. And since Tito is the only one who fix things, he’ll still remember the items and what he has done with it to fixed it. He even still remember most of my shooting kit that I’ve brought to him, either to be fixed or just cleaned.
  9. They are funny, honest, polite and sincere. Thats the true service that I would expect from anyone I have business with.

The reason why I would be grumpy at them ;

They cant always keep their promise. So, ALWAYS ALWAYS make sure they are on schedule and ask if they already even try to fix your camera. Because Tito is like a one man show. He can be drown in fixing lens A, thus make flash B and camera C to wait until he finished. It’s a good thing for repairing quality, but not good when you are in a hurry. I always checking on the phone everytime my equipment is in their hands. They’ll let you know when it’s ready for you to take it.

The reason why they would be grumpy at me ;

I ALWAYS ALWAYS forget to bring the receipt. So they need to ask for my ID everytime I want to take my stuffs back. It’s a good thing, really. They wont give your equipment to a stranger. Once, I asked a friend to get me my flash, and they called me up first just to make sure, and still ask my friend some questions. My friend found them irritating and went grumpy on me. So that makes three people who were grumpy at me all at once.

O well.. 🙂

Written by nickmatulhuda

April 23, 2012 at 8:00 pm

Travel-photographer And The So Called Vacation

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Sharing is caring.. unless you have STD. 😀

Anyway, people… meet Fadli and Hafidz. Both are –currently- young and –hopefully in long term– promising Indonesian photographers, specialized in travel photography.

Me, Fadli, Hafidz and Safir Makki from Jakarta Globe, decided to meet up for a coffee at one afternoon, and wind up discussing about their expertise. Errr… actually, Safir and I were nothing but a listener, since we were mostly just awed by their intense conversation.

I recorded it in a video, but since they’re not really pretty, I dont think watching them talking actually have any use. hehe.. You can, however, just read the transcript of their conversation. I wont be bother to translate everything in english, since google translate has already been invented. So, if you really want to know what they were talking about.. you need to figure it out yourself. But trust me, it all worth it.

Who are they?

Fadli is both Padang and Jakarta based photographer. He was a photographer for Tempo magazine (creating awesome portraits), before a magazine sponsored by the biggest airlines here, Garuda Indonesia, hire him to cover 12 travel destinations for them. His latest project was Taipei.

Hafidz is a National Geographic Indonesia / National Geographic Traveler photographer based in Jakarta. And for a brand like National Geographic to actually want to make him their photographer, it must be of course, for a very damn good reason. From how I see it, he’s a hardworking photographer who’s very keen to learn!

[All photos courtesy of Muhammad Fadli. Check his website to see more of his work. And enjoy this Taipei coverage in April edition Garuda Indonesia in-fligt magazine]

**What is the first thing you do before you go on assignment like Taipei, one of your twelve destinations?

Pertama riset. Biasanya lihat di koleksi Getty Images karena mereka yang paling banyak database fotonya dan variatif.
Setuju! Sepertinya Getty memang yang paling pas. Dalam artian, stylenya tidak terlalu kaku kantor berita, walaupun mereka news-stock agency.
Selain Getty, saya juga lihat foto-foto di Flickr. Menggunakan search engine di Google Images juga bisa, bedanya, di Flickr kita bisa lihat karya-karya foto yang diupload oleh fotografer profesional juga. 
Tapi yang perlu diperhatikan saat meriset, jangan menggunakan kata kunci yang terlalu umum, seperti “Taipei-Flickr”, dimana hasilnya bisa terlalu acak, karena ada terlalu banyak foto yang bisa masuk dalam kategori ini.
Coba cari dengan kata kunci “nama lokasi” dan “fiveprime”, yaitu situs yang mendata foto-foto terbaik di Flickr.
Foto-foto yang menjadi hasil riset tersebut, gunanya untuk jadi panduan kita, untuk tidak lagi hanya memotret seperti itu di tempat tujuan kita nanti, tapi justru nanti pada saat memotret harus bisa berbeda dari yang sudah ada di database situs itu. Nanti kita coba terapkan pendekatan memotret detail, atau mencari sudut-sudut pemotretan yang berbeda. 
Tapi perlu diingat, dalam memotret sejumlah obyek foto iconic, ada yang sifatnya mandatory shot. Tidak banyak variasi yang bisa dilakukan pada obyek iconic tersebut. Contohnya, Candi Borobudur.
Sulit untuk mendapatkan variasi angle yang berbeda sama sekali dengan yang pernah diambil oleh fotografer lain, apalagi dari ke-empat sudutnya, yang kira-kira begitu-begitu saja. Kecuali mungkin, bila kita memotret Candi Borobudur dari atas bukit. 

**When you do your research, do you have other reference besides Getty Images?

Saya banyak melihat foto-foto Destinations, Travel and Leisure, National Geographic Traveler.
NYTimes Travel juga bagus, karena perpaduan yang apik dari foto travel dan foto jurnalistik.

**Technically speaking, what exactly that makes a good travel photography?

Foto-foto travel yang bagus, bisa terlihat sekali stylenya, dari karakter Depth of Field foto-fotonya, dan warna black di foto-foto mereka yang tidak terlalu pekat. Hal ini bisa dilihat di histogramnya, dimana black pointnya tidak boleh 0, jadi bagus kalau nanti dicetak di majalah yang background nya hitam juga. (see reference “professional digital compositing : essential tools and techniques“). 
Ya, saya juga tahu prinsip itu dari Getty Images. Mereka punya aturan bagi kontributor stock photo, black point foto-fotonya tidak boleh 0, sedangkan highlightnya (white) tidak boleh di 255. Jadi saat edit, dibuat satu layer di atasnya, dimana black pointnya di taruh di 3, dan whitenya di 252. 

The whites are not too white.. The black isnt pitch black.

Untuk urusan teknis fotografi dalam memotret travel, kita bisa mempertimbangkan untuk mengaplikasikan teknik HDR (High Dynamic Range imaging). Asal foto yang dihasilkan dengan menggunakan teknik HDR itu, hasilnya mendekati pencahayaan aslinya. Bukan semata-mata menerangi yang bagian gelap dalam foto atau sebaliknya.
Jangan sampai, misalnya, menggelapkan langit dengan HDR malah hasilnya jadi ke-ungu-an. Beda dengan warna aslinya.
Kami di NG juga menggunakan HDR, tapi disesuaikan dengan warna-warna aslinya. Karena HDR digunakan untuk mengatasi keterbatasan kamera, dimana dalam satu frame foto tidak selalu bisa mendapatkan hasil foto yang sempurna pencahayaannya bila kontras pada shadow dan bagian terangnya terlalu tinggi. 
Kecuali bila anda seorang fotografer yang kaya dan mampu memiliki filter mahal dan bagus untuk mengatasi kondisi pencahayaan tertentu saat memotret. Tapi kan tidak semua orang mampu untuk itu. Jadi salah satu caranya ya menerapkan teknik HDR dalam memotret. 
Tapi menurut saya, ada keuntungannya juga kita tidak bergantung pada filter mahal.
Seperti NG yang sangat memperhitungkan logika cahaya, tidak akan membuat kesalahan kecil yang bisa dilakukan fotografer manapun dengan filternya itu. Contoh, pada foto yang langitnya gelap, tapi di refleksinya, justru langitnya terang. Yang namanya refleksi kan selalu lebih gelap.
Detail seperti itu yang NG selalu perhatikan dalam menerapkan HDR di foto-fotonya.

**So tell us about your shooting process in Taipei

Seperti yang tadi saya katakan, pertama-tama saya melakukan riset, dan memberikan ke klien, daftar obyek-obyek foto yang akan saya ambil selama saya di sana. Misalnya, Taipei 101 di pagi hari dan sebagainya.
Sementara untuk saya sendiri, saya pegang yang namanya shoot list. Daftar detail eksekusi foto tentang obyek apa-apa saja yang akan saya foto, kapan dan bagaimana saya menuju ke tempat obyek foto tersebut, akan difoto dari angle mana, dan siapa contact person yang harus saya hubungi. 
Lalu tahap selanjutnya menentukan icon yg akan difoto. Biasanya arsitektur. Kalau di kota-kota besar, iconnya gedung tinggi, seperti Taipei 101.
Kalau tidak salah, menurut Barry Kusuma, ada tiga rumus “tur” penting dalam travel photography, culture (daily life), arsitektur dan nature (landscape). Rumus ini juga sangat berlaku di stock-photography. Foto yang diserahkan ke klien, akan dianggap komplit, kalau sudah memenuhi tiga rumus itu. 
Salah satu foto Taipei 101 yang berhasil saya foto dan rasanya belum saya temukan di stok foto gedung ini, adalah ;

When you look around carefully from where you standing, you can get nice image as well.

Kebetulan pas di depan penginapan saya, pemandangannya terlihat seperti itu. Malam ketika sampai di Taipei, kita diberitahu oleh orang di sekitar penginapan, yang namanya Taipei 101 yang itu. Lalu saya pikir, pasti paginya keren nih. Tapi karena besok paginya masih mendung, terpaksa saya tunggu sampe pagi lusa nya. 
Tapi perlu diingat, walaupun kita perlu menghindari foto-foto klise, kadang-kadang foto klise itu juga diperlukan dan sayang juga kalau kita tidak punya.
Misalnya, kita ke Taj Mahal, masa sih kita tidak sempatkan foto Taj Mahal dengan refleksinya di kolam?
Lagipula kita juga harus punya foto “aman” karena kita memotret untuk keperluan klien, meski begitu, kita harus selalu berusaha agar sedikit beda.
Ada caranya supaya motret foto-foto yang klise itu agar sedikit beda.
Misalnya bromo, kita foto vertikal yang ada pohonnya, itu satu, lalu geser 5 langkah, foto lagi kali ini dengan langit di frame, lalu di zoom in, pake asap. Jadi, 2011 fotonya bisa dijual ke A, 2012 dijual ke B, 2013 dijual ke C. Begitu caranya motret stock photo..
Ya, contohnya pada foto ini ;

Take a simple image with certain approach.

Menurut saya, foto ini mirip dengan foto promo Taipei, dimana semua orang punya foto seperti itu.
Tapi yang membedakan, saya motret siang-siang dengan filter ND yang sangat gelap, dan memungkinkan saya untuk set up kamera dalam slow speed, meskipun memotret di siang hari. Hasilnya, bisa buat awannya jadi terlihat bergerak. Karena dengan filter itu bisa turun sampai 12 stop, saya pun bisa memotret dalam mode bulb selama 3 menit, menggunakan remote, di siang yang terik. Saya berpikir untuk membuat kesan bergerak pada awannya, karena saat itu, awannya terlihat kurang bagus dan rasanya lebih baik dibuat slow speed, semacam time lapse.
Biasanya, saat riset dan melihat foto-foto Taipei yang sudah ada di Internet, saya berusaha dapat gambaran, dimana-mana saja spot terbaik untuk memotret. 
Bahkan kalau bisa, saat riset kita sudah ada gambaran gedungnya menghadap kemana, bisa pakai GPS untuk itu.
Ya, karena memang sangat berpengaruh. Ketika kita belum mengenal lokasi dan memotret, hasilnya akan beda. 
Perlu juga antispasi waktu dengan datang lebih awal. Misalnya bila kita akan memotret matahari terbit, beberapa jam sebelumnya kita harus sudah di spot memotret.
Saya jarang shoot and kill, datang, memotret dan selesai. Bahkan kalau memungkinkan, saya akan memotret di tempat yang sama, berulang kali sampai dapat foto yang diinginkan.
Untungnya, seperti di Taipei kemarin, sama seperti Singapura. Gampang ke mana-mana jadi bisa balik lagi ke beberapa tempat yang sama untuk memotret lagi.
Biar tidak bosan datang ke tempat yang sama untuk memotret, ganti timing memotretnya.
Satu waktu datang siang, lain waktu datang malam, jadi bervariasi dan keluar warna yang beda.

Fadli came to this place a couple of times to get the shot he wants.

Dan kalau kita ingat bahwa kita motret ini ada uangnya, jadi tidak akan males atau bosan.
Kalau hujan malah tetap mau motret, malah justru mencari spot yang kalau motret hujannya bagus, difoto dengan slow speed misalnya.
Satu hal yang saya hindari dalam memotret travel adalah menyesal belakangan.
Jangan sampe saya tiba-tiba ingat ada hal yang kurang dan menyesal kenapa tidak motret di angle a atau b.
Itulah sebabnya, sebagai pengingat, kita punya shoot list.
Sesampainya kita di tempat, bisa tenang dulu sebentar baru mulai memotret, karena kan sudah punya shoot list dan merencanakan dengan matang akan memotret apa.
Travel photography memang tidak enak kalau diburu-buru.
Tapi meski demikian, unsur surprise walaupun sudah riset, tetap perlu. Jadi walaupun sudah punya gambaran akan tempat itu, karena ada elemen surprise nya jadi merasa, oh ternyata begini ya. 
Expecting the Un-expected. Seperti contoh foto gedung Taipei 101 ini ;

Expecting the unexpected. But luck is only for those who are prepared.

Foto itu adalah salah satu contoh foto yang un-expected.
Dalam perjalanan pulang, kami melewati satu sekolah yang ada anak-anak bermain basket. Ketika saya lihat, rasanya akan bagus kalo jadi foreground untuk framing gedung tersebut. 
Kalau memang tempat yang kita kunjungi tidak ada icon, kita bisa memotret detail dan portrait. Sebagai contoh, saat kita akan memotret perkebunan teh, jangan hanya foto overall perkebunan tehnya, tapi juga detail seperti tangan yang pegang teh.
Kita harus ingat, karakter foto editorial dengan foto penugasan travel ini, beda.
Kita akan perlu memotret beberapa foto yang sepintas terlihat simpel.
Secara fotografi jurnalistik, foto-foto sederhana itu mungkin akan terlewat karena tidak terlalu bernuansa jurnalistik, tapi kalau di layout, hasilnya bisa sangat menarik. Apalagi yang termasuk dalam foto-foto stock. Seperti contohnya dua foto yang sudah di lay out ini ;

Composite images for better lay out, from simple images.

Karena dalam memotret travel itu, kita sudah harus berpikir secara desain.
Misalnya kita diberi tahu oleh editor, nanti akan ada foto yang dibuat spread horizontal. Tips nya : saat kita cari foto yang akan disesuaikan dengan desain, obyek yang menjadi point of interest jangan ditaruh pas di tengah foto, karena kalau spread, nanti bisa terpotong di tengah halaman.
Tidak perlu langsung terapkan rule of third juga sih, cukup geser point of interest nya agak di luar area tengah foto.
Lalu untuk motret detail, misalnya tangan yang memegang teh di perkebunan teh, jangan difoto benar-benar tight hanya tangannya saja, tapi kasih space juga, sehingga nanti ketika di layout oleh orang desain bisa dikasih tulisan.
Jangan lupa buat foto yang vertikal dan horisontal.
Makanan juga masuk ke dalam shoot list, selain icon itu.
Khusus untuk Taipei ini, saya juga harus buat foto untuk review resto. Untungnya bisa motret di dapur restorannya, jadi tidak hanya dapat suasana pengunjung restoran.

"Behind the scene" of food photos.

Sebenarnya sekarang saya sedang belajar buat foto makanan yang menarik dengan available light yang hanya mengandalkan penataan makanan dan angle pengambilan foto.
Biasanya fotografer yang memotret seperti itu, gunakan tenaga food stylist, dan tidak pake lighting lagi.
Lalu misalnya, sebagian makanan juga sudah ada yang dimakan, biar terlihat real.
Saya juga sedang belajar itu, tapi tetap gunakan additional lighting walaupun minimal, jadi masih terkesan natural.
Hal ini supaya ada sensasi bagi pembaca, dengan melihat foto yang terlihat natural di tempat makan yang di foto, bahwa mereka juga bisa makan di situ. Sedangkan kalau difoto terlalu apik dan sangat bernuansa studio, makanan itu jadi seperti makanan brosur saja.
Meski begitu, motretnya harus tetap dengan kualitas motret foto makanan brosur lah. Yang bagus, bersih dan tidak berantakan.
Jadi intinya, tetap di foto di tempat aslinya makanan itu berasal, tapi tetap ditata yang apik.
Sebenarnya kalau mau bikin foto makanan dengan background putih, gampang. Foto saja makanannya dengan settingan over setengah sampai satu stop dengan background yang terang, jadi backlight. Apalagi kalo makanannya warnanya gelap, jadi lebih oke.
Sedangkan kalau warna makanannya terang agak sulit kalau difoto dengan background terang karena akan berbaur dengan foregroundnya.
Jadi, sebaiknya motret makanan yang warnanya terang dengan background yang gelap, karena akan pas dengan sendirinya.
Lalu pake bukaan besar, supaya banyak blurnya.  

**What else should we remember if we want to be a travel-photographer ?

Pokoknya hal terpenting setelah riset adalah kita harus bertanya ke orang lokal, karena mereka lebih tahu dan biasanya mereka punya cerita-cerita unik.
Apalagi untuk 12 destinasi ini, saya juga harus menulis. Biasanya tulisan yang tidak ada obrolan dengan orang lokalnya akan terasa hambar, makanya saya coba masukkan percakapan saya dengan orang lokal itu dalam tulisan.
Enaknya sih, hanya memotret, karena terkadang konsentrasi memotret jadi terpecah karena saya juga harus menulis.
Pengalaman di Taipei, ada satu hari dimana cuaca begitu bagusnya, tapi dihabiskan justru untuk wawancara.
Narasumber mengajak saya naik motor seharian keliling Taipei. Tapi karena dia bukan fotografer, agak sulit. Misalnya ketika saya memotret terlalu dekat, dia merasa kurang nyaman. Jadi saya hanya sedikit memotret. Tapi ada beberapa foto yang sifatnya detail, justru baru bisa ketemu karena saya banyak ngobrol dengan orang lokal.
Untungnya lagi, banyak cerita dari dia yang bisa dijadiin bahan tulisan. Tulisan pun bisa jadi hidup, seperti yang dilakukan Paul Theroux di the Tao of Travel. Agustinus Wibowo sepertinya terpengaruh dari Paul Theroux itu dalam bukunya, karena gaya bertuturnya yang kental.
Selain itu, saya bisa tahu lokasi-lokasi yang tidak terlalu turistik.
Seperti di Taipei kan ada pasar malam Shilin, yang ternyata isinya turis semua karena sudah masuk Lonely Planet.
Segala sesuatu tentang Shilin night market sudah ditulis semua di mana-mana, padahal masih ada pasar malam yang lebih bagus dan lebih berwarna yang didatangi orang lokal dan terasa lebih hidup, walaupun mungkin agak lebih kotor.
Akhirnya, saya menulis tentang night market lain dan bukan tentang Shilin lagi. 
Lalu sekarang, saya punya kebiasaan baru, yaitu membuat foto panorama, terutama untuk foto-foto icon. 
Dan satu lagi, saya sedang mencoba membiasakan memotret dengan angle foto yang lebih banyak. 
Menurut saya, memotret dengan banyak angle itu sudah menjadi kewajiban. Misalnya ketika memotret di pantai, ada angle-angle yang sudah wajib dalam stock photography. Satu shot yang suasana pantai, shot selanjutnya dengan memasukkan pohon ke dalam frame, shot selanjutnya yang orang lewat, belum lagi struktur pasirnya yang rata dan miring. 
Metode memotret yang saya terangkan sebelumnya, selalu saya terapkan walaupun bukan dalam assignment. Karena sejak setahun belakangan ini, mind set saya sekarang sudah berusaha membangun stock photography.

**What equipments that you usually bring during assignment?

Kamera yang saya pakai, 5D MarkII, lensa 24-70mm, lensa 20 mm 1.4 untuk portrait dan makanan.
Saya juga pernah gunakan 50 mm 1.4 untuk landscape, misalnya motret patung dengan background yang ngeblur.
Lalu saya selalu bawa tripod, ballhead dan cable release.
Tapi dalam memilih tripod, juga harus hati-hati, karena walaupun kameranya bagus, tapi kalau tripodnya jelek, baru di set 30 detik saja bisa goyang karena tripodnya tidak steady. Dan tripod yang jelek, kalau jatuh bisa patah.

 **Any favorite picture from your trip to Taipei?

Shoot through glass.

Saya suka foto ini karena dapat sensasi saya memotretnya dari luar. Tidak terlihat kalau saya memotret di kaca dari dalam ruangan.
Tips untuk memotret di kaca, agar terlihat bening sehingga tidak ada refleksi sama sekali ;  lensa jangan pakai hood, lalu tempel lensa di kaca dan pastikan area belakang kita itu warnanya gelap.
Di sekeliling lensa pun kalau perlu di tutup dengan tangan atau jaket, supaya tidak bocor oleh refleksinya.

**Anything else you want to add?

Ya, kadang yang menyebalkan dalam urusan memotret travel itu, karena terlalu konsentrasinya kerja, kita lupa beli oleh-oleh. Bingung juga mau beli apa.
Padahal, membelikan oleh-oleh ke klien itu perlu loh. Jadi semacam pengingat biar klien tidak lupa kita kalau butuh suatu obyek yang kita foto, suatu hari nanti. (*wink wink)

 **How do you feel about your work in Taipei?

Sebenarnya saya menjadwalkan pergi ke Taipei untuk memotret festival lampion di malam pertama saya sampai. Tapi karena ada kesalahpahaman dalam hal visa, saya jadi terlambat sampai di Taipei dan kehilangan kesempatan untuk motret itu. Tapi secara keseluruhan, saya tergolong puas untuk hasil-hasil yang saya dapat dalam liputan Taipei kali ini.

Damn… You know something? After spending an afternoon with them and for once, be a good listener, I could only say one thing to my self. “You think you knew.. But you have no idea..”

You’re a fool, if you ever think being a photographer is just a matter of click click and having fun.

Written by nickmatulhuda

April 9, 2012 at 10:23 am

Reading (Winning) Pictures

with 5 comments

When I was in college, I got a few semesters of photojournalism classes. But back then, it was only about how to operate cameras, how to developed the film in dark rooms (which I still cant do by myself until today, for I consider me as a digital kid), and what does one set of aperture makes different effects in image’s depth of field, comparing to another set. They never taught us to read pictures. It is the internet that offers -sort of- unlimited communication to see and read what others have to say and think, even if they are from another part of the earth, which finally gives me an understanding, that most of the best images of all times, are more than meets the eye. And that you have to read in to it.

Who have the rights to claimed a picture as THE BEST picture in the world? Well, when it comes to photojournalism, one of the most acknowledged group of people who are granted such rights, would the the members of the jury in World Press Photo. The annual photo competition that involves submission from thousands of photojournalist around the globe. I only entered the competition once, knowing that I couldn’t possibly win any category, but at least, I can get a copy of the book showcasing all the winning pictures. –pathetic, but true–

I still dont think I have enough knowledge to bare my own opinion as I am still learning to read pictures. But since every pictures winning the World Press Photo always raised such controversy, I would like to share some of “the pros” (pros as in professionals, sadly not pro to the jury’s verdict) thoughts and comments I have read in a few blogs and forums. (thanks to twitter and google to make it easier for me to find these)

Below is a shared opinion about World Press Photo winning picture, by Oscar Motuloh, one of the most respectable photojournalist of all times, here in Indonesia, also a curator in Galeri Foto Jurnalistik Antara (Antara Photo Journalism Gallery). — it’s a translation – which I tried not to reduce the meaning :

Photo of The Year 2011 – World Press Photo version


Members of the jury of the most prestigious photo awarding in photojournalism, World Press Photo, in its 55th annual events took place at its headquarters in Amsterdam, Friday (10/2), declared a picture by Samuel Aranda, a Corbis contributor from Catalunya, as the best picture or World Press Photo of The Year 2011. The picture taken at a field hospital in Sanaa (Oct 15, 2011), showing a woman wearing black burqa holds a body of a man (her relatives) who was injured in a big scale demonstration against Yemen government ran by the President Ali Abdullah Saleh which then fled to US. It is a piece of simple photojournalism work, yet contains a deep humanity meaning. The image itself is one of the images taken by Aranda during his assignment for the New York Times.

A woman holding a wounded relative during protests against president Saleh in Sanaa, Yemen October 15, 2011. Photograph © Samuel Aranda for The New York Times

Aranda’s work is a metaphor which raised in a form inspired by a famous sculpture during Renaissance era called “Pieta” (1498 – 1499). It was a masterpiece by Michaelangelo Di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni (1475-1564) which now hang in a corner of St. Peter Basilica, in Vatican. This famous work of art which carved in Carrara marbles, depicts the body of Jesus on the lap of his mother Mary after the Crucifixion in Golgota. La Pieta was made as a monument in French Cardinal Jean de Bilheres’ tombstone.

photo copied from website

Michaelangelo’s Pieta has inspired a number of photojournalism works, long before Aranda took that winning picture in Sanaa. One of the most recognized was Eugene Smith’s when he made an essay about mercury poisoning in Minamata which showing Tomoki Eumura who was helpless from suffering the Minamata disease and being bathe by her mother, Ryoko. The picture itself later on known as the Minamata Pieta.

Tomoko Uemura in Her Bath (Minamata, 1972). Photograph © W. Eugene Smith.

another example of picture with resemblance of Pieta, A boy experiencing severe pain from TB meningitis is comforted by his mother at Svay Rieng Provincial Hospital, Svay Rieng, Cambodia. Family members provide much of the personal care at hospitals in the developing world. Photograph & Caption © James Nachtwey/VII.

Even though Aranda’s picture wasnt showing the expression of the woman, for she was hidden under the black burqa, nevertheless, her two hands holding the weak victim can still strongly showing compassion. Which is the basic of humanity itself. Also a representation of a struggle made by the weak. A fight from the heart, which spread fast as a form of revolution in the Middle East, which called by the term, “Arab Spring”.

One of the WPP jury, Koyo Kouoh said,  “It is a photo that speaks for the entire region. It stands for Yemen, Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Syria, for all that happened in the Arab Spring. But it shows a private, intimate side of what went on. And it shows the role that women played, not only as care-givers, but as active people in the movement.” Mean while, the jury Chairman, Aidan Sullivan added, “The winning photo shows a poignant, compassionate moment, the human consequence of an enormous event, an event that is still going on. We might never know who this woman is, cradling an injured relative, but together they become a living image of the courage of ordinary people that helped create an important chapter in the history of the Middle East.”

Maybe Sullivan was right, but the truth is, for the people in the “East” which are “emotionally closer” with the domino effect erupted in the Middle East, Aranda’s picture is a symbol of a fight against arbitrariness, people who are fed up of endless corruption and the government’s negligence to its people who needs to keep on crawling to reach justice.

Aranda’s picture won the first place in People in the News category, and with it also selected by the international members of the jury (of 19 juries with Vice President Photo Assignment at Getty Images as the Chairman) as the Photo of The Year, means it represent the subjectivity of the members of the jury which practically can be concluded as a representation of testimony and voice of photojournalists around the world. Statistically, this year, there were 57 photojournalists from 24 countries (Afghanistan, Argentina, Australia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Canada, China, Denmark, France, Germany, India, Iran, Irlandia, Italia, Jepang, Mexico, Belanda, Norway, Polandia, Rusia, Afsel, Spanyol, Sweden, England dan US) who won the contest’s nine categories. They are selected from 5,247 photojournalists representing 124 countries, with 101,254 works which viewed by the jury in 13 days.

Again, Aranda’s work is a metaphor of strength of the weak people. An image that reminds us to the anti violent protest by Mahatma Gandhi, but also brings memory to such nightmares of violence against humanity which continue to erupt in Nigeria, and several places around the globe, and also in the corners of Indonesia. The spirit raised from Aranda’s picture would be some sort of a light that lit the world’s civilization which always stained by blood and endless anger. The picture clearly spread a tranquility which as if offered by a woman’s graceful touch and a form of true meaning of life. Because the soul is a blow of God’s spirit and life itself is God’s creation, thus it needs to be honored by mankind, no matter what his faith and ideology is.

Regarding to my lack skill in reading pictures, I found some blogs that is not as “approve” as Oscar is, with the WPP juries’ decision. for example, is a response of another opinion by two contributors of the website which made when the picture itself first appeared in New York Times in October 2011. Interestingly, it argues about the Burqa (a symbol of muslim women in Arab) and how it is related to Pieta, which is a form of Christianity work of art. As I quote ;

The Christian imagery may clash with the content, but it doesn’t drag with it the rest of the baggage you would associate with “religified” images of suffering. The bare style, the off-centered framing of the pair stop this suffering from becoming glorious or romantic. There’s something loose about it. To add to this contrast, the aesthetic is modernist. It has a dreamlike, surreal quality that speaks of an inner psychology rupturing through to the surface. The faces, swallowed by darkness, the strangeness of the white-gloved hands, the muscular shapes of the jaw and arms: it is an aesthetic that is current and interesting. The angles and shadows are almost cubist. It reminds me of a Francis Bacon portrait in its twisting expressiveness.

Another blog ( still relate it to such thing called complex politics of Islam. Maybe they considered it as a part of the Arab Spring.

Finally, how does this image encourage “understanding” of the complex politics of Islam? Not only does it reduce politics to the personal, it does that by assimilating the stereotypical burka-clad woman to deeply Christian iconography. We don’t even get universal humanism here. We here in the west are encouraged not to appreciate the realities and particularities of another world. Instead we are encouraged to see others as essentially just like ‘we Christians.’

IMO as a muslim, and a photographer, and even as Indonesian (the so called most populated muslim country), my tiny – simple mind dont even bother with the fact that a picture taken in the Middle East, showing a portrait that looks similar with an art work by a Christian made centuries ago. Inspirations can come from anything. When I read an interview with Samuel Aranda in , I cant even spot any remarks that showing he has the whole intention to do or truly being inspired by Michaelangelo’s La Pieta, which means Pity. He only stated,

“I got back to my place and I saw the photo in the screen and I was like, ‘Wow, The woman is not just crying. It was something more. You can feel that the woman is really strong.”

He was simply overwhelmed with what happen there, and shot a picture that from his point of view, can represent what he was seeing. The beauty of sadness, and a hidden message that he believed was there as he took the picture. And it just happens to have resemblance or have “the Pieta” moods.

Another blog with a different point of view, which I think is more interesting is not about the picture, but more to criticize the juries decision to make Aranda’s picture as The World Press Photo of The Year 2011. It sarcastically writes WPP as Western Press Photo and it’s one of my favorite blog : 

So we have a problem, a problem that has actually increased over the past few years. We have seen a great many photographers going to remote places, taking photographs. We have seen the news media, especially online, using more and more images to present events. But we have not seen any efforts to use these images to educate viewers what they are actually looking at. For this flood of images in the news to really make sense – to tell us more about the world – we need more context, we need better explanations, and we also need an increased visual literacy. We need to learn how to question images, to ask what we are actually looking at.

Funny thing that I found in the second link I mentioned above, the politicstheoryphotography blog, was in the comment section. One of the WPP jury, Nina Berman, actually commented,

I very much respect the comments on this blog. As a WPP jury member this year, I’d be curious to know which image the blog’s author, or any other commentators would have preferred and why.

Whoaaa… the comments are good reads as well though. And the reply for her was,

In all due respect, I think this is an ill-considered attempt to shift the burden of argument. Nothing I said suggests that the jury task is not enormous. But neither was I party to that enterprise. Nor were any of the commenters here. That said, Tom White offers an example in his opening comment above. That image, which I too find quite powerful, appeared along side of Aranda’s in the NY TIMES ‘year in photos’ spread. It suffers from none of the problems I point out in the post. I laid out what seem to me (despite disagreements from others) seem like quite reasonable qualms about the jury’s selection.

And the most interesting comment, in that same blog would be ;

Of course, the WPP is free to select any jurors that it pleases. But it should stop pretending that their collective wisdom represent some sort of universal standard of photographic excellence. In a world where the economic, political, and cultural center-of-gravity is rapidly shifting away from the West, the WPP’s insistence on using the word “World” to describe itself is looking decidedly provincial.

Hmm.. good debate is when we all agreed to disagree on something. Including when it comes to read pictures. The winning pictures.  🙂

Written by nickmatulhuda

February 13, 2012 at 12:58 pm