News

Thank God, This Blog is Moving

As a result of my frustration of this wordpress-based blog, I finally decide to move the content somewhere new. Those annoying huge font will be gone, and so with the other limitations.

You can visit the new one through this link¬†http://www.muhammadfadli.com/blog/. Don’t worry about the previous content, it’s all there imported. And the best thing is how the blog is integrated into my new website

Feel free to browse the content ūüôā

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News, Travel, Travel Photography

A Note & Postcards from Pacu Jawi

A picture is worth a thousand words. Yes, you’ve heard it, and I’ve heard it too. But now a picture is also worth a thousand dollars.

If you’re smart enough, in today’s not-so-nice situation for emerging photographers, you still can sell a photograph for that amount. But here I’m not talking about that. Instead, by saying “a picture is worth a thousand dollars” I’m talking briefly of how a photograph can actually help a community to maintain their tradition. And they are the people of Tanah Datar, who held Pacu Jawi (you can read my description¬†here). The famous Indonesian bull’s racing in West Sumatra.

The Pacu Jawi © Muhammad Fadli

Yesterday, I visited Tabek to shoot Pacu Jawi for the countless times. This village is somehow really special for me since this was the place where I did the Community Development Participation (Kuliah Kerja Nyata or KKN) during my college years in back in 2005. Here, I experienced one of the most happiest moment in my life: shared a real life with villagers for two months. So when a good friend from Tabek called me few days ago telling Pacu Jawi will be held there, I felt like I was facing an offer I can’t refuse (citing The Godfather). Departing from Padang, I accelerated my car passing the winding road that decorate the land of Minangkabau.

“If you’re visiting, you’re guaranteed a tasty local food and the sweet ‘kawa’¬†without having to be ripped off.”


What I found surprised me. Pacu Jawi today, is being celebrated more than ever before. Three years ago, when I first shot Pacu Jawi, there were only very few outsider watching the raging bulls running through the wet unplanted ricefield. Most people were locals. But then, there were more and more outsiders came, especially after the photographs of Pacu Jawi were published widely (almost all were done by local photographers and you can see my first photo of the festival here). Yesterday there were two Indonesian national TV (with their beautiful hosts), a horde of photographers, and tourists. This is good!!

© Muhammad Fadli

The Pacu Jawi © Muhammad Fadli

The more ousiders come, the more of the local economy will develop (it’s pretty obvious, so I actually don’t need to tell you this). In Pacu Jawi, locals sell anything from foods to toys. If you’re visiting, you’re guaranteed a tasty local food and the sweet kawa¬†(like coffee but different) without having to be ripped off. And I can see that they are started making good business. By looking at this I couldn’t be happier.

So be sure to spend some of your money here.

P.S: If you’re a photographer, the local usually will also ask you to register as a guest. They will ask you for some donation too. Please kindly fill the box as you wish. Don’t mind. This will go directly to the community and making sure the bulls keep running.

(Pacu Jawi is held almost every Saturday somewhere in Tanah Datar. The series in Tabek will be celebrated until early February 2012)

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News, Photojournalism

Amok

Last night, as me and a friend were driving down a crossroad in Padang, ¬†we saw dozens of men gathered at the roadside. ¬†They shouted out loud indicating a trouble. My Indonesian curiosity led me to park my car at a distance. Before long, I was there among them, sneaked in just to find a man, without his shirt, sprawling and begging for his life on the road. “It’s an amok” I said to my friend. He nodded.

“The times when we have to deal with our own anger, we often show our most honest but barbaric features.”


The word “amok” derived from a remark in Bahasa “amuk”, which literally means a state of fury. But more to an uncontrollable form of it. Psychiatrist would be agree to address this state often occured towards a patient with Schizophrenia.¬†Some people may find it’s quite intriguing of how could an English word (by spelling) absorbed it from Bahasa identically. Most possible that was because they were unable to find a similar context within their society.

Amok © Muhammad Fadli

Looking back at history, there were enough account from the Dutch colony era, where the imperialist got used to see the native Indonesians doing the amok. If somebody got caught of stealing or involved in social distruption, then he is in a great risk, great danger. Even so, the act of amok actually wasn’t only originated in Malay culture. It’s no secret this also happened in many part of the worlds including in Europe.

Back to the man who’s begging for his life, he was accused of stealing a bird. Indeed, a bird. He ran into trouble when he and his friend failed attempt came into light by the resident of (how unlucky he was) an Indonesian Armies residential complex. This is smelled not like a good place to steal. He fell from his motorcycle and got punches galore by a horde of amok’s fans. His friend was lucky enough to escape the crowd.

The times when we have to deal with our own anger, whatever the causes, we often show our most honest but barbaric features. While the unlucky guy laid helpless, some people still manage to kick him hard. I also saw a muscular man stomped him on the face which likely broke his jaw. We did try to stop, but this step often as dilemmatic as we were hushed. There’s always risk of those violent behavior would turn towards us in no time.

A sad, tragic, embarassing, but true post for a weekend.

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News, Travel, Travel Photography

Our Modest New Year’s Eve

For you, what is the best experience of enjoying the New Year’s Eve? Do you feel like to party? Do you feel like to fill yourself up with some beer? or may be driving along the coast while pushing your horn into the deafening decibel right at the 00.00? Well, as long as you’re happy, there’s nothing wrong with that.

Last year, I spent the night before 2011 begun in Sikuai Island, off the west coast of Padang and left disappointed. The party was lame and poorly organized. Rather than experiencing some inspiring moments, I felt like I was putting a bad start for my 2011. I could’ve just stayed at home for a solitary moment.

So, when 2012 was approaching several days back, I was thinking about what to do. And I gave up the any idea about another lame party. Before long, I¬†decided to go on a trip with few friends (me, Faiz, Zhu, Aciak, and Rio). The destination shouldn’t be too far, but it had to be interesting and fresh. The only thing that crossed our mind was Kerinci, a highland in Jambi province famous with some of the best natural and cultural diversity. Actually, the initial plan was to go there mid-December ago. But I was getting back to Padang quite late from the date of our departure. So we’d better make it for our New Year’s Eve.¬†Since Kerinci would be too vast for us, we then picked Gunung Tujuh (Seven Mountain). ¬†The plan was we would camp there, celebrate the incoming of 2012, and make some pictures out of it.

***

Mount Kerinci 3,805m © Muhammad Fadli

The trip to Kerinci from Padang took us about 6 hour. After some hundred kilometers and tons of winding lane we finally arrived at 2 a.m in Telun Berasap, a small village near the border of Jambi province and West Sumatra. The night was cold and the only person we met was a guy working for Indonesian Transportation Department who seemed didn’t want to share the fire and space with us. Here, deep inside Sumatra, you really don’t have much choice. We then pulled out our sleeping bag and try to sleep right in front of a closed shop under the threat of scattered duck shit.

A Trekker Rests on a Collapsed Tree © Muhammad Fadli

High on the mountanious Kerinci, the sun shone earlier. To my surprise, I woke up at 5.30 a.m to find that Mount Kerinci was looming right behind the place where I slept. This was not my first encounter with Kerinci, but this was the closest I ever came across.

At 3,805m above sea level, Kerinci is the highest volcano in the South-East Asia. From Telun Berasap, I could see it rise up from the lush valley into a perfect cone. But what I admire the most is its massive size. Before Kerinci, I never saw a volcano that huge. By the time Kerinci coughed up its brown ashes that morning (30/12), I was both mesmerized and anxious.

***

Lake Gunung Tujuh © Muhammad Fadli

Lake Gunung Tujuh © Muhammad Fadli

Starry Night at the Lake of Gunung Tujuh © Muhammad Fadli

At 8 a.m, we finally arrived at Pelompek, the last place where we can purchase anything that we forgot for the hike to Gunung Tujuh. After an hour or so, we then started heading to the gatehouse of Kerinci Seblat National Park few kilometers away. Thanks to Mario and friends from Kerinci Photography Community, we just need to sit at the back of motorcycle which saved us some valuable energy.

The hike to Gunung Tujuh was my first since 2009. After my trip to Everest Region in Nepal on October two years ago I almost never set my foot on any hiking trip. Mostly, time was the reason. I wasn’t too busy, but it seemed that I’ve always had some problem organizing my time. By the time we ascended the path to Gunung Tujuh, I know that I missed mountain a lot.

“When the night was falling, our only friends were the stars, the slow ripple of Lake Gunung Tujuh, the packs of cigarette, and some old songs from Iwan Fals.”


The path to Gunung Tujuh was quite easy. However, there’s no shortcut to heaven. Like any other volcano, the path is mostly ascending. Compared to the trek in Everest Region which has a combination between ascending, some steep descending, and walking at the same level, volcano trek is virtually only ascending. The only way is up. That’s what make it somehow somehow more sternous.

***

Our Night at the Camp © Muhammad Fadli

Fireworks © Muhammad Fadli

Bathers at the Lake of Gunung Tujuh © Muhammad Fadli

Bathers at the Lake of Gunung Tujuh © Muhammad Fadli

We finally reached one of the seven peak of Gunung Tujuh around 2 p.m. We then descended to the lakeside at the altitude of 1,950m. After some puff of cigarette, we set our camp and had some lunch with a great view: the deep blue water of one of the highest caldera in South-East Asia region. When the night was falling, our only friends were the stars, the slow ripple of Lake Gunung Tujuh, the packs of cigarette, and some old songs from Iwan Fals sung by Faiz. And there’s only one thing we should patiently wait: the very first second of 2012. We had some packs of fireworks from our childhood to be burned, that was how we celebrated the New Year’s Eve.

The complete series of the photographs will be uploaded soon in http://muhammadfadli.com/.

(Special Thanks to Zhu, Mario, and KOMPAK)

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News, Photojournalism, Portrait Photography, Street Photography, Travel, Travel Photography

2011: My Year in Review

After more than a month without any posts, this one will be quite long (I’m not so sure whether the content is important or not). It’s true that I’ve been quite busy lately with all the travels, pictures editing, and the writings. But near the end of this year; of our raged year; of our year where we witnessed tsunami in Japan; of our year with disastrous global economic situation which seems leads to nowhere; of our year with massive riot over The Middle East and North Africa; of our years where Ghadaffy and Kim Jong-Il or even Steve Jobs no longer in charge: I feel that I need to reassess myself, what I did and still manage to do this year. So I made a sort of list mixed between my travel, editorial assignment, and any other experiences.

Here they are:

1. Moving to Jakarta

As most of you already knew, I based myself in Jakarta since last March. My impression of the city remains the same. It’s big, ugly, infested with traffic congestion, which made it extremely boring for staying. However, this is one of the only few better place in Indonesia if I really want to expect more from my photography. So I started commissioned mostly to shoot portraits. As opposed to my earlier thought, this kind of photography is somehow really insightful. It helped me to broaden my view while it also put my communicating skill to the next level. I uploaded some of those works¬†here.

Agnes Monica © Muhammad Fadli

Rhoma Irama © Muhammad Fadli

2. Visiting China

I finally visited China, I mean small fraction of it. Being invited by the organizer of Humanity Photo Award, I never thought that I would ever won that Grand Prize. It’s also because when I saw the contest’s entries, I was looking at some of the best photographs from around the world. So I wasn’t expecting much. Basically being in China would be enough. Apart from the ceremonies of the contest, the organizer also arranged the trip for us the winner and nominee. The 4 days trip was somehow frustrating, but now, when I look back, espceally when I’m looking what I am having in my harddrive, it was a relief. There are probably some pictures we couldn’t ever made without the help of the organizer.

The dancing Old Couple, Chengdu

I then extended my stay to almost a month. I traveled for a while to see if China has something more to offer. My last week in China just got better when my mother finally joined me in Chengdu. We traveled together ever since. One good question crossed my mind: when did the last time you travel with your parents? My answer would be like “ummm, well, I forgot”. So the trip with my mother really important to me. ¬†It seems that we’re just renewing our bond. One thing that I will be really glad to do over and over again. Sadly my father couldn’t join us at that time for a funny reason: he is not yet having a passport. WHAT???!!

3. Glimpse of Europe

2011 is seemed to be my year of travel. Last May I was invited to go to Germany by my friend who were getting married. Who can refuse? Even basically this was planned long time ago. And to be honest I really wasn’t sure that I really would ever be in Europe or not until the last few weeks.

An afternoon at Planty Park, Krakow

Old Wooden mosque, Kruszyniany

The story was after the wedding I extended my stay for three weeks longer. From Wernigerode, where the wedding was held, I traveled to Berlin, passed Warsaw in Poland, and finally boarded the train as far as Kruszyniany, near the Belarus border where I found a old wooden Lipka Tatar mosque. The actual plan was to do a more specific project. But I screwed up my own schedule by the means of screwed up research. The project will remain unfinished until my next visit to Poland. But the travel pieces will be getting published this January.

Rynek Glowny, Krakow

A club scene at Rynek we WrocŇāawiu, Wroclaw

Moreover, from there, I made my way back to Bialystok where my friend Jedrzej¬†(he’s a photojournalist too)¬†made me feel like home in his flat. From there I made my way to Krakow to meet Anna, my friend who also the one who urged me to travel few years back. With her and Olek, her boyfriend, we went to Auschwitz (I posted some photos here). The trip wasn’t over yet until I made my stop in Wroclaw where I spent some days with the so kind-hearted Gosia. With some 50GB of photos, this one of my biggest trip. It’s fruitful

(Thanks a real lot to Yvonne, Knut, Anna, Gosia, Iga, Halim Shahab, Jedrzej, and Ozgun)

4. Singapore by the Street

For photography, I am a long time admirer of India, or China. But Singapore just never made my finger crossed. Well, I was wrong. Now I have to admit that it has its own charm, just like any other place. Sometimes you just need to be there to take a look at yourself. ¬†At the end of last month, I was assigned to do the coverage about the grand opening of Transformers: The Ride in Universal Studio Singapore. Well, I was never a big fan of these autobots, so better talk no further about that. Then, I was also assigned to do a travel feature about Singapore (will be published early next year). But the topic required me to explore the place deeper since no one will ever want to hear about Orchad Rd again. In this chance, I mostly explore Singapore by walking combining with public transport. This was where I found that the city is so alive with its street scene. Need some good street photos? O.k, I’ll look no further.

Street Scene, Clarke Quay, Singapore

5. Ignoring a Decent Publication

WTF? I must be crazy. But that’s what I did. If you have followed this blog for a while, then you already knew the story. I’m glad that I ignored them. The past few years we are witnessing the declining numbers of good pubcliation for us photographers. The jobs are rare while the amount of us are more abundant. May be they thought because now everyone can get a new camera then everyone can shoot. Buy this body and buy that lens and they can make good photos. I totally have some difficulties to understand why such a decent publication values our work that low. ¬†So that was a big NO. Period.

6. Building a Website

You may say that I am late, and I actually am. I should have built one long ago. For so many reasons photographers need a website, a choice which is not that popular in Indonesia. As far as I know, in other part of the world, like the US and Europe, even a starter in photography have his/her own website to showcase their work. It’s an important tool to publicize your works and your vision. I finally made this step last month, at the end of November. I did a quick design, oh sorry, it was modification from a flash portfolio template. I did aired it for two weeks before I decide that I don’t like it. The reason is simple: the design. I need a more intuitive and better navigation. Also what’s the point of making a website if you are hard to be found. For a starter in WWW world like me, that’s absulutely important. Doing the SEO is harder with flash. So, then I made my way back to a more traditional structure without having to sacrifice the look. And it’s finished here (you can also click on the picture to get there).

Screen Grab for the new Website

And then there’s something that I feel after building a web. It’s about quality. When I have my very own website, that’s also mean I have to be really careful selecting the photographs. I have to show the best I have. This kind of feeling is totally positive. I bet.

So that’s some update for the end of this year. This year might not perfect, but who want to be so perfect anyway. This year was good to me ūüôā

See you again next year and of course HAPPY NEW YEAR 2012!!!

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News, Opinion, Photojournalism, Travel Photography

The Crooks Around Us and How They’re Trying to Make Fun of Me (and probably you too)

“Well, O.K, this one is going to be published” said one of a Indonesian magazine (We name this magazine Stepping Stones for now) editor to me this week, and that’s a good news. I finished selecting the pictures, so with the writing, and it’s a travel feature from my trip a while ago. Now I am the last phase of the work; seeing the things in the newstand. But wait, since I know this editor quite well‚Äēhowever, this is going to be the first time my feature story getting published in Stepping Stones‚ÄēI forgot to ask about the going rate.

A Chinese Newstand

Yes, here, now we’re talking about money. “This is how much you’re going to be paid, and we always pay everyone at the same amount” the editor said. And I was shocked, almost collapsed. I won’t tell you how much, but it was much less than I used to get in the other publication. It was less enough to make you stop dreaming of becoming either a contributing writer or a photographer. And what I also took into account, this is a decent magazine.

Some people tend to disregard what we’re actually doing, whether intentional or not, and that’s a bad news. These people are seemed born to this world, and out of nowhere, find themselves appointed as an editor. The bad one.

There’s a saying ‘if you want to be rich, then stop being a journalist (writer, photographer, or whatever)’. It’s bad, but it’s true. When I started few years back, money was the last thing I ever thought about. I need it so I could go on traveling, which more often I need to do something else too, let’s say wedding photography that I still do it frequently. And when you find an editor who put you on the edge by those tiny sum (even giving it for free will be better), it’s truly disgraceful. Nothing worse than that.

What’s worse is things won’t end this way. If I agreed the rate in the Stepping Stones (Let me tell you again, it’s far away too low), it’s not only me who’s going to suffer. Next time, there will be other fellow contributors submitting their works, and for sure they will be paid the same amount (or a little bit more if they are famous). We’re killing each other, and I don’t want it happens.

Of course, there are still so many good publications as well as good editors out there. They realize what kind of things we’re facing on the way. And what is most important, they realize that the relationship between them and us is mutualism. They know their publication won’t be interesting without good pictures and writings. And Us, we need to publish our work so we can continue living, wandering around and…(you fill this for whatever your reasons are).¬†This kind of editors are willing to discuss everything, including an agreable fee. And a relief always they are.

I finally prefer to cancel my publication with the Stepping Stones, at least for now. Period.

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Gear & Equipment, News

The Shitty Things About Fuji X100

Well, as the title suggests, this is not a review. Or at least, not yet. For now, it’s more of my personal disappointment toward Fuji X100 which I happily purchased about (or a little less) two moths ago.

Here I wouldn’t like to talk about its pictures quality which is surprisingly fantastic (even for a DSLR standard). I pushed quite often into ISO 3200 and the result is amazing. Even 6400 still usable for some case. Of course it will never surpass the 5D markII in term of picture quality. The X100 is still far in the game into this. But for street photography, for the discreet and being unobtrusive (for the cliche & pretend to be the pricey Leica), this is a small beast. Oh wait, I just went too far. So where’s the disappointment?

My Jaded Fuji X100 & a pack of Chinese cigarette

The shitty thing about Fuji X100 (the one mine) is it started to fail since¬†a week ago. I was traveling in China and for some cases I need this compact monster. The China trip was also my reason forcing myself to get one. And yet, for the first two weeks, X100 was combat proven. I managed to shot some of my favourite image of the trip with this camera. But suddenly it started to shoot inconsitently. I could get three very different exposure at the same setting (ISO, shutter speed, and aperture). At first, I thought the bracketing was turned on. But that wasn’t. The control was in full manual. Without Auto ISO nor auto-else. What the hell was happening?

I then started to analyze some of my photographs. My habit of shooting in the street , I usually stop the lens down to f8 or f11 in order to gain wider depth of field. But some pictures ended up nasty blurry while over-exposed at the same time. And there was another trial. Shooting portrait at f11 will never get you a perfect out of focus background. But it did happen. By then, I knew that the aperture is stuck.

Sample: Unconsistent Exposure during Motion Panorama Mode

(The unconsistent exposure is also seen from panorama of the Leshan’s Giant Buddha. I adjusted the contrast to see the problem more clearly. Click to see it larger. Notice the left corner and the Buddha’s head. This problem occured in all shooting modes)

I started to browse about this problem over the web. I found this and that. And this means I’m not the only one who experienced the very similar problem. So what I have (hate) to do is waiting to get home and send this monster back to Fuji Indonesia. I will not be able to use it perfectly until it is fixed. Shit does happen when you travel!!!

However, there are some positive comments regarding how Fuji responding to this situation. Let’s see.

Anyway, I will try to compile a deep review about Fuji X100 later, complete with its service report.

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