When the bug becomes a monster.

Have you ever driven around, merrily minding your own business, when suddenly you feel the urge to slam on the brakes, get out of the car, and take a photo of something beautiful? Have you ever felt like you need climb that hill, or scale that water tower to take the best angle of something that seems bland on street level, but would make an awesome shot from up top? Have you ever weighed the safety of life and limb versus the chance to catch the perfect moment in time?

Then you must be getting the photography monster. Not a bug, but a monster.

For me, moments like this comes beckoning not once in a while, but every waking moment of every waking day. You won’t get spectacular shots in the safe confines of a familiar environment. The spectacular shots comes from being able to be in the right place, at the right moment of time, and most importantly to us, the right amount of light falling onto our CCD sensors. To that effect, all three criteria can be directly attributed on where you, the photographer, are standing and where the camera is pointing.

I’ve slammed on my brakes and got out of my car to set up my camera just because the cascading sun light from the edges of the huge cloud formation looks almost like fingers descending from the heavens. I’ve camped out over-night in a rain soaked tent just to climb up a steep rocky hill at 4am to get photos of the sunrise pouring down from the Sarawak side to the Brunei capital, with cramped feet to boot. I’ve considered stopping at an elevated highway right here in Gadong just because I wanted to get a long exposure shot of the roadway below.

It’s apparent that the photography knowledge sharing conducted by Ahim Rani left a lasting impression on me. Angles, he said. Always get the angle that gets your message across. Even that e-mail forward that was posted online on a blog about the photographer jumping onto a rocky outcrop with just his camera and a plastic bag full of his equipment was an inspiration. That’s utter dedication to the art.

I’m not encouraging everyone to jump into traffic or go base diving with a dSLR, but we all know the limitation of the lens when it comes to capturing what we want to convey. If a different angle makes your picture stand out much more, why not. If a different tilt captures everything that you want in the photo, go ahead. If the message is easily absorbed by the audience, then all the more important.

Risking life and limb to get the ultimate shot is the sole reason most photojournalists can come out with timeless shots again and again. Some carry their SLRs into a battlefield. Some into tense riots. Others flying over the Serengeti with para gliders. Some onto aforementioned outcrops on top of hills hundreds of metres high. Some deep, deep under the sea. And every time we pick up a copy of National Geographic, we get a deep sense of emotion emanating from its pages. Not because of the words (initially), but because the pictures transports the reader to some place they have never thought to be in, the photographers lens becomes the window to other worlds far apart from ours.

And this is why the photography bug can sometimes become a monster. Sometimes we are too caught up that it may come back and bite you in the derriere. A stray step or an unlucky situation can, in fact, hurt you more beyond a broken lens. Remember, sometimes taking your eyes off of the viewfinder is a good thing. A story is no good if you can’t take out your memory card or your film at the end of the day.


  1. KantaLensa February 19, 2007

    SoulJah, I know this feeling. Last week when i was on an ascending escalator i saw something interesting, so i faced the “victim” with my back towards the end of the escalator. With both hands on the camera, i fell backwards and landed on my wrist with the other hand naturally saving the camera from hitting the hard marble floor. i stood up unscathed but i could have injured/broke my wrist/elbow or hit my head against the floor. shutterbug monster or what?

  2. SoulJah February 20, 2007

    An injured wrist would do the photographer no good. I’ve injured my wrist recently and it took months to heal.

    Yep. We baby our equipment too much 🙂

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