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Archive for December, 2010

Long long time ago before the galaxy exists, I already decided not to write about politics because politics is like religion, once you have a believe, it is hard to debate with you, argue with you, challenge you & change you…

[A kind note from AhYap: Grammar and Spelling don’t matter as well. What’s really matter is whether I can communicate the message to you. Sorry for the lame excuse to not write proper English, kekeke.]

Does democracy really matter? Is it an important factor to the success of a country? Well most people believe so. For me, I don’t. It doesn’t matter. I will explain why it doesn’t matter and tell you the 2 factors that are really matter. Please give me the time to explain before your “religious” political believes try to block your mind.

Democracy means every people has the right to choose whatever they want, which bring us to another magical word freedom. Freedom to choose, freedom to do…

Most people think democracy is good because they think it is fair. But is it? Nope, sorry. Democracy doesn’t equal to fair, democracy simply means the majority win. If the decision is always made by the majority, how can it be consider fair to the minority?

Example: A family with 4 children can vote someone to wash the dishes, clean the toilet, throw the garbage, massage the other kids… The 3 old brothers voted the youngest brother to do all the job. So everyday they vote the same, so everyday the small boy will be bullied to do everything for his elder brothers. Is this fair? Nope. But this is call democracy and this is the weakness of the system.

Now the second thing is, there is no such thing as 100% freedom. 100% freedom simply means 0 freedom. Why? If everyone can do whatever they want, they will definitely do something that you don’t want them to do. If a man can do anything they want, they can rob from you, they can rape your woman…

Freedom never exist, the closest thing to freedom is just half freedom. You can do this, but not this. Everyone can drive on the road but you need to obey the traffic lights. You can speed but there is speed limit. You can sing Karaoke loud but after please shut up after 12. So if there is no such thing as 100% freedom, democracy simply cannot be freedom. It cannot be something that never exist.

Now, the most scary part on why democracy sucks. If you give a man the freedom to choose, most people will choose a foolish or selfish choice. If you let your son choose whether he wants to play PS3 or study, what will he choose? If the government let the people decide whether they want to pay tax or not, which will they choose?

As written in the Bee and the Fly post (please read if you haven’t done so yet), most people on earth are flies. So if you give them a choice between honey and shit, what do they choose? SHIT!!! :(

That’s why democracy doesn’t really work that well, at least it doesn’t matter at all when it comes to determine the success and prosperity of a country. So what’s really matter to a country? Two things – VISIONARY LEADERS + GRIP OF POWER.

The best examples are China and Singapore. China has 0 democracy but they have full grip of power and they have the most visionary leaders in the world. Singapore is a “democracy country” with an “emperor”. The old one was Lee Guan Yew and the new one is his son (passing throne?). And both of them are visionary leaders with full grip of power, they can execute all the plans without interruptions/distractions from the opponent. Their country prospers.

Malaysia? We used to have an emperor for 20 years who have full grip of power. Yet, he lack the first factor – VISION. We do have something call “Vision 2020” but that is better known as “Dream 2020” [Dream is something that you hope is real but is not].

A leader with full grip of power and yet not visionary can be very destructive to a country. Look at our own country, look at Myanmar who is lead by a junta (at least they don’t have snatchers and don’t need to live in iron grilled house and you can jog around the street 5am in the morning and leave your bag unattended in the airport while you got to the toilet), look at the pre-reformed Indonesia under Suharto. Indonesia now has visionary leaders with grip of power. India has one now. Malaysia?

There might be visionary leaders in Japan, but none of them have a firm grip of power. They change their prime minister more often than we change our car lubricant. Japan has had 0% interest rate for so many years because they still can’t find a way to boost their economy yet. Without power, no matter how visionary you are, you are useless. Abdullah Badawi might be more “visionary” than the other prime ministers but he didn’t have the power. So as Tengku Razaleigh.

Look at Thailand, a democracy country. It doesn’t matter. Instead, it is too democracy and too much freedom that everyone can wear red shirt and go BBQ your car on the street [freedom?!!]. As I say, too much freedom = no freedom. If everyone has the freedom to voice their dissatisfaction, there won’t be any freedom for others. There is no one that is 100% satisfy with anything. Look at Greece, the origin of democracy!!! What happened to them now?

We live in a world that everyone has their own thought. What you want is not what other people want. This has been discuss in my post why the world cannot be perfect with thousands of examples (please read). If A wants X and B wants Y, how do we decide? How to be fair? The democracy system try to address this by letting the majority win. But as I have said, how can this be fair to the minority? Can an Indian be the Prime Minister of Malaysia if everyone votes? Dream…

Not only that it is not fair and as inspire by the story of the bees and flies, most people are FLIES and they only want to eat SHIT. They make foolish and selfish decisions when they can choose. Ask everyone should we just have 4 workdays and 3 rest days. Or even better, 3 workdays and 4 rest days. Or maybe just don’t need to work and get pay by the government.

That’s why the brutal truth is that, you can’t let people choose too much for their own good. This didn’t sounds good to the ear but unfortunately it is the reality. Most people don’t have the discipline, they are still like kids. Be democracy and let your kid choose whether to go to school or go to play and see what he chooses.

Take Singapore as an example. This country has one of the strictest rule in the world with the most heavy punishment for all sort of offences. Littering is one of them. You can be fined thousands of dollars and asked to sweep the street wearing colorful T-Shirt. I am sure they have the less littering problem in the world BUT still everyday the government can collect thousand of fines from littering and every week you can still see people “volunteer” to clean the street for free. Why? Most people are stubborn. Most people cannot discipline themselves. You have to really kick their ass and let them feel the pain before they can wake up.

Democracy has failed miserably in many European countries. The government can hardly do a shit because the flies people are too strong. In America, most news are political news, a lot of time and effort are spent by the leaders to strengthened their grip of power, instead of how to make their country better. This is similar to all other democracy country where the leader need to focus their energy to fend off their opponents. [Just see how much effort and time is wasted by BN and PR to attack each other before they can do real things for the people? See what happened in Perak assembly?]

Why we can always hear story such as China can build a new hospital in 2 weeks, build hundreds miles of railroads in a year, execute a disaster rescue plan within hours … and yet why Malaysia need 6 years (guaranteed to be extended with over budget) to build only 60km MRT network from KL to Kajang?

Without the grip of power, nothing can be done. Politicians will need to spend their effort on protecting their rice bowl. China and Singapore doesn’t have such problem. They can focus on doing the right thing all the time. So they can have full efficiency and productivity.

With the grip of power, you need to be able to do the right thing. And this rely on the ability of the leaders. It may depend a lot on “luck” and Singapore and China has been very “lucky” so far. Leaders with grip of power and yet not visionary (or brutal) can be very destructive to their country and even the world. Look at North Korea. “Same” government system as China with strong grip of power and yet lacking visionary leaders.

Any suggestions for Malaysia? Sorry none. At first I got high hope when Najib took the seat. He can easily have the grip of power and at first he is able to do a lot of right things, but after the last announced budget…

How about our opposition party? They first need to worry about the power, then only then can do things. But who and how many can be the visionary leader(s)? haha. You think yourself.

Pakatan Rakyat announced their missions to be accomplished within 100 days if they win in the coming election. Please bear with me that I don’t really read newspaper so I only got a few points from glancing that day.

- Raise teacher salary by RM500 each
- Waived water bills
- Waived toll!!!

How interesting? Why they offer to do such things? Because they don’t even have the grip of power! They need to offer sweets to flies rakyat in exchange for the power. Of course all flies rakyat will be happy to get those shits sweets but those are not what visionary leaders will do!!!

Did Singapore waive toll fee? They build more tolls. If our leaders are visionary, they should focus on the traffic jam issue and the poor public transportation system. Not waiving toll! Why still need to “touch” then only can go? Why can only reload on so little places? Why no setup some side reload station upon the road so everyone from every entrance can reload instead of just somebody who enter at specific entrance?

I rode KTM for 3 times and it broke down twice. For the one severe broke down, I got free sauna for 1 hour inside a sealed cabin with no aircon and I can see my sweat dripped on the floor. If you already have traffic jam when you need to pay, what if you don’t need to pay? More cars will be on the road.

Did Singapore waive the water bills? They increase their tariffs. They spend so much money on creating their NEWater from shit water. Why? Because the government is visionary. They don’t want to rely on their neighbor for water but on their own. For us? We take things for granted. Free water will only create more water wastage.

Singapore did pay teacher very very fat salary but that is because they pick the best people to become the teacher! Can you increase someone teaching ability by simply paying them more? No, it has to start early with a lot of planning and choosing. There is no magic pill worth RM500 that can do that.

If you look at the history, most prosperous country are usually lead by strong king/emperors with strong grip of power. And to get that power, a lot of people have to die including killing their own brothers and sisters and anyone that is consider a treat. In the modern world, the treat is the opposition party.

Is there any hope for Malaysia? Let’s look at what rakyat we have right now.

1. Rakyat who simply don’t care 
2. Rakyat who care but don’t know what to do or lazy to do (AhYap)
3. People who care and thought they know what to do but actually THEY DON’T KNOW!!! [Most of our politicians]
4. People who care and know what to do but don’t have the power to do. [Abdullah? Kuli?]

Unless the fifth type of rakyat appear, we might have some tiny hope.

5. People who care and know what to do and have the power to do.

Who? Who? Who? Masih tak ada lar bang.

And what did I do? I invest all my money in China (learn why) . And if our country become unsafe one day, I will migrate to Singapore. :)

Am I selfish? You can say that. But this is a reality to me. There are so many things happening within the 27 million people in our country and how can you possibly control all of them? I once read an article that said why many people choose to leave Malaysia instead of asking the trouble makers to leave? Wow wow, tell me how to ask a snatcher to leave. Tell me how to ask a corrupted cop to leave. This is their heaven. If you can’t change them, change yourself. It is more easy to change one man (yourself) than to change 27 million people.

And how can 1 man AhYap changes something when there are only 9 people who LIKE AhYap.com in Facebook?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?? Click the LIKE button now damn you!!! :)

More and more people are shooting with SLR today. If you are new to SLR camera, how and what you should learn FIRST?! Photography is a never ending learning process but for beginners, there are things that are more useful to learn first before anything else.

As a newbie myself (owning an SLR since March 2010), I am surprise to find that most teaching materials for beginners are “exposure”. But after what I have gone through, I think the first thing to learn for a new SLR shooter is not exposure but something else. 

Exposure is something more technical and dry. Taking pictures are supposed to be fun, so as the learning process. I believe the best way to learn, is to start shooting immediately, come home, get disappointed and upset because your pictures don’t come close to anything seen in the magazine, and while blaming the camera for AF issues and suspect you get a bad copy, you start to admit that it is your own problem…

STEP #1 – LEARN HOW TO NAIL THE FOCUS

Please don’t bother about exposure (yet). Leave your aperture, shutter speed and ISO a side. Just set your camera to Aperture Priority (Av) mode and set it to the smallest number and shoot everything from that setting. I will explain why later.

Now, the first surprise many beginner SLR shooter encounter is that they notice their shots are not as sharp as their snapshots from the cheap point and shoot camera! How the heck it can be. You spend more money on the bigger and heavier SLR and it get lousier pictures than your compact camera?!!!

Point and Shoot camera doesn’t require you to have good focusing skill because no matter what you do (ok, unless you know how lar), you will have everything sharp from the foreground to the background! But for SLR, you have a choice to decide which part of the picture to be sharp and which part to be blur. I think you know that!!! That is the reason why we want an SLR, we want some part of the picture to be blur!!! Which I think you know is called bokeh. I repeat, most of us upgrade to SLR from compact because we want the creamy bokeh!!! [And this is the reason why beginners should shoot everything with the smallest number aperture to get the maximum bokeh to play/enjoy with]. Come on, you are paying for the bokeh man!

So the very first thing to learn is not exposure BUT how to focus so we can decide which part of the picture to be sharp and which part to be blur. When you bought your new camera, it will come with a default setting that assume you are an idiot (which is a good assumption) and so all the settings are meant to be used by idiot (especially the little green box icon). You won’t need to set anything. The camera decide everything for you. How cool!

Depending on what brands and what model, your camera will have different number of focus points for you to use. Most Canon models come with a 9 point auto focus system including the high end 5d Mark II (sob.. sob…).

 af_points

Now in idiot mode (default factory setting), the camera will decide which points to use. “Usually” it will focus on the nearest subject. For example a girl with very huge breast, the breast is nearer to the camera so it will focus on the breast instead of the face. So the breast is sharper than the face. [Don’t laugh, this is true, just go to any forums with newbie shot on car show models. But some told me it is their intention to focus there and not miss focus...]

This is call something like “multi points selection”. There will be a lot of hit and miss, we want full control of the focusing so we will work another way round.

If you are shooting a crop sensor camera (Canon 7D and below, Nikon D300 and below, all Olympus and Pentax…) and you are using a zoom lens, forget about the extra focus points, you don’t need them, the more is not better here. All you need to do is to change to single point selection and just use the center point for all your shots and use the 1 million year old strategy known as FOCUS and RECOMPOSE.

[Something to ponder: Just because your Ferrari can speed to 300kmh doesn’t mean you have to… Just because you have 49 focus points doesn’t mean you need to use them all…]

Using the center focus point, you point at the subject you want to be sharp (face or breast, your choice) and half press your shutter button to FOCUS. Then you RECOMPOSE your picture by moving your subject to anywhere you want in the frame and fully press the shutter to complete the shot.

I have tried this on a few thousand shots and can nail down the focus 100% of the time [ok lar, 99%]. Why focus and recompose work? Because crop sensor has less “blur” (bokeh) than full frame technically and the best zoom lens has the maximum aperture of 2.8 [most others only 3.5 to 5.6] and so the “blur” is not strong enough to make your shots off focus using this method.

Focus and recompose won’t work when your gears has autofocus issue technically [no method will work other than sending back for service]. Focus and recompose becomes tricky when you are using Full Frame cameras (5d2, d700…) or when shooting with primes with very big aperture like the 50mm f1.8.

But since you are newbie, it doesn’t matter now. Just use the center point and do focus & recompose, focus & recompose, focus & recompose… and start to get impress with your 100% success rate.

STEP #2 – LEARN HOW TO USE WHITE BALANCE

As I said earlier, exposure is not the first thing you need to learn to shoot good picture, it is how to focus so you can decide which part of the picture to be sharp and which part to be blur (bokeh/soft/whatever term).

The second thing to learn is still not exposure yet, it is white balance. White balance (WB) can make a dramatic difference to your picture. But again, if you rely on Idiot Auto White Balance (AWB) setting to do the job for you, you will scratch your head and wonder why your shots are not as nice as other people.

White Balance is also known as Color Temperature. What you need to know is that YOU as the photographer must decide whether you want the picture to be more ORANGE/YELLOW or BLUE. It is called color “temperature” because it lets you decide if you want your picture to feel more warm [orange/yellow] or more cold [blue].

Camera white balance settings have funny names like shade, cloudy, tungsten, etc… that doesn’t tell you exactly what they do. Disregard of the name, they either do 2 things – add more orange/yellow or add more blue!!!

Shade – Add lots of orange/yellow
Cloudy – Add some orange/yellow
Daylight – Neutral, add nothing
Tungsten – Add lots of blue
Fluorescent – This one weird a bit, it adds something like magenta mix with something else… beginner just forget about this first.

Now here comes the MAGIC for you to shoot great pictures better than your friend who bought the camera together with you!!! In daytime shooting outdoor, do not use AWB but choose either cloudy or shade. It will add a warmer feeling to your picture that will instantly look better than AWB. Human skins look a lot better when they are warmer.

As a photographer, you want to take good pictures, not correct pictures. AWB might give you the correct white balance, but it didn’t give you the good white balance. We as photographers don’t want to fall in the trap of "correct” white balance, we are artist, we want the “creative” white balance, the one that make the picture POPS.

IMG_1268

Now, testing your understanding, if you are shooting a sunset, what white balance should you use? Tip: what color do you want to add to your picture? More tips: You can only add 2 colors, Orange or Blue? So which one?

Add ORANGE. I hope you get it right. Which setting give you the most orange to add? SHADE!!! Set your white balance to SHADE and you get beautiful orange sunset!!! If you have shot with AWB, you may be so disappointed that you will want to sell your SLR the next day on lelong.com.

Do you know why all the kung fu movies like Ip Man and Wong Fei Hoong can give us a kind of vintage/retro/back-in-time kind of feeling? Because the movie creator add ORANGE (warm) to the movies. Because old movies has this orange tint, new movies made with this orange tint will immediately “trick” our mind and bring us back in time. Black & white and sepia tone have the same effect. There is no color in old pictures and movies. So they always felt vintage to our mind. Steven Spielberg best Oscar movie Schindler’s list is made in black and white! Why? Trick your mind to feel back in time.

At night under tungsten light, everything appear very orange. Our eyes will tune to it and won’t notice it. But once you put it into a picture, it will be very orange. So if it is very orange what color do we need to add to “balance” it? BLUE! We want to add blue. So we choose the “tungsten” setting.

But due to too many types of tungsten light in the world with totally different type of orange… the best setting when shooting indoor at night, is still using the idiot mode – AUTO WHITE BALANCE. Wakaka. It can get the white balance better than manually selecting tungsten or fluorescent.

Another example of creative white balance in action.

 200906 - kktan

KKTan won the best picture of 2009 in PhotoMalaysia competition which this WOWing picture. Everyone will WOW. If you have shoot this scene with AWB, you won’t get the WOWing effect. So now, tell me, what color do you need to add to the picture? What is the best white balance setting to add that color? TUNGSTEN!!! You need to add a lot of BLUE. You use TUNGSTEN!!!

Good camera will allow you to select the exact color temperature you want in Kelvin, small number means more blue, large number means more orange. If you dial in say 10,000K to it, you will get very orange sunset.

Shade, Cloudy or Tungsten are just labels and they are actually just a Kelvin number. Depending on camera brands, Shade is around 7,000k, Cloudy 6,000k and Tungsten 3,500K. If you manually select your temperature as 7,000k, you get exactly the same result as choosing shade.

Camera makers have labeled them with names on when you should use it, shade when sky is shady, cloudy when sky is cloudy, etc. But it make more sense to understand what they do, as simple as “how much orange or blue do you want to add to your picture?”

And now if you look at your pictures (either on the LCD screen at the back of your camera or your computer) and notice that the picture looks BLUE, you now know you need to add in some ORANGE (warm it). On the other hand, if it appears ORANGE, you need to add in some BLUE (cool it).

All beginners will shoot in JPEG unless you are those geeky one. JPEG still allow you to fine tune your white balance in post processing (with computer software like ACDSee Pro, Lightroom, Photoshop, etc). Once you start to shoot more and appreciate the fact that white balance can make a dramatic difference to your picture, you may want to consider shooting RAW because RAW allow you to change your white balance later in post processing, which means you have 1 less thing to worry about when shooting. But still, for beginners, start with JPEG first and move to RAW when you understand why you need it because for everything you get, there is a price you need to pay, same for shooting RAW.

Conclusion

You see, for beginners, exposure doesn’t matter (yet), to let you fall in love in photography more, you need to be able to shoot more beautiful pictures quickly (at least better than your old point and shoot) and to do that, you need to know how to focus properly to get sharp picture (along with some bokeh, keke) and choose the most creative white balance to make your picture pop.

More to come later!!!

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