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Unboxing My Little Wonder

Having gone from film camera to digital prosumer to 4 grades of DSLRs, I have lots to comment about the usability & practicality of such systems. My passion for different hobbies (photography-driven) has motivated me to acquire different camera bags to accommodate the needs of each excursion. At times, I have to carry two cameras or run the risk of losing that photographic opportunity. I’ve swapped the heavy DSLRs for the smaller hybrid system just to maximise my efficiency on the field. If you are into motorsports or any sport that requires speed shooting, then I would recommend that you stick with DSLR-usage. If you are a foodie, a blogger, a traveller, a journalist or an enthusiastic photographer who uploads photos for the enjoyment of watching your friends comment on them, then all you need is to understand how the functions work to your benefit.

When Samsung contacted me about the Samsung NX series to complement my travel lifestyle, I took on the challenge to let the camera bring out the best of my travel shots. It’s equally important that it’s not only what you shoot with that makes the picture but how you use the little wonder that makes the difference. I will experiment with this marvel & teach you how to make memories!

Unboxing my Little Wonder was half the fun:-

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Ta-daaaaa!!! My Little Wonder! Personalisation begins the moment I include the NX100 into my travel kit! Surely it deserves a unique bag! Maybe even a case but let’s see how the camera fairs outdoors.

Some of the shots I’ve taken from NX100 are so stunning! Combining 3 exposures shot in Bracketing mode, I got an HDR photo that brought out the tones & contrast. Here’s one shot at a park:-

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To establish the functionality that would fulfill my shooting style, familiarisation with the modes is paramount to prevent myself from fiddling too much. The settings are adjustable on the lens via the iFunction button which is pushed by the left thumb with the left forefinger swiveling the lens ring to get the appropriate values. The ISO, White Balance & Exposure Values were literally at my fingertips! I went to Mid Valley to test the camera with the various lighting conditions & subjects on display. Just as well, the promoters of Pirates of the Caribbean have made the ship into a spectacle, an almost life-sized ship at the centre of a shopping complex! Here, I snapped the stern of the ship & everything else using the Samsung NX 20 – 50mm kit lens:-

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20mm, F3.5, 1/30s, ISO 800.        

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20mm, F8.0, 1/40s. ISO 800. – A bit of rustic charm in Jack Sparrow’s paraphernalia….

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28mm, F4.0, 1/13s, ISO 800 – The food was so life-like in the pictures! A definite boon for food bloggers!

I like it already! Photography should have minimal post-processing on the computer when you get the shots right. Next, I will explore the filters & Scene modes to get some artistic shots & I might do a field trip or a walkabout event soon. If you would like to maximise the potential of crafting your creativity, come explore the Samsung NX series with me!

How to Get Paid As A Writer – Start By Blogging Properly

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It won’t make you rich but it would enrich you to create masterpieces that editors will call you when they know you have what they want – articles that would astound your readers, selling the magazines & making their advertisers happy. So have you got what it takes to become a writer? Here are tips to make you one even if you don’t think you are cut out for it:-

  • You are deemed a writer the moment you document your thoughts in a readable manner but what sets you apart as a good writer is how well you engage your readers, making up what I call ”˜your audience,’ to keep them glued to read what you have to say. Capturing their attention means you have gotten their interest & you have only so much time to keep them attentive. Once you understand the basic principles of engagement, you are on your way to becoming a better writer & get paid for it.
  • Make blogging your tool. This is what I would encourage you to do to hone your skills if you are a budding journalist or a poetic-scribbles aspirant. A full-fledged writer is one who can sell the art of literary creation to media, publications or portals.

Be an author of your subject.
If you want your blog to count for anything, then be an author of your chosen subject. This subject matter does not cover politics so if your niche is in spinning propaganda, the information detailed below does not apply to you because you are probably paid as a ghostwriter for spinning already. Get your friends who aspires to get published, to read this article.

What is writing?
Writing is not scribbles on paper or random thoughts on your word processor. It is a process of fact-finding, collating, research, documenting & deciphering the information at hand to create your own expression of that work. Sure, it’s not easy but it should not be difficult if you have passion for the subject. Blogging is a good way to stay in practice. It’s also a showcase of your work & personality. It’s an extension of your opinion on the world wide web. It’s to let your audience understand what you represent, who you are & what you stand for. What you put in your blog will determine the impression people will form about you, be it good or bad. The instance they do, you would be branded immediately so be aware of what you put on your blog so that it wouldn’t create the wrong impression if you seriously want to be considered as a writer. When you write for a publication, you represent the image of that company or establishment. To be held in high regard, your work has got to reflect that you are worthy of carrying that regard too. Companies wouldn’t pay you to represent them if you possess a blog that spews out profane references to anatomical parts of anyone’s mother or make any carnal suggestions to send someone somewhere. You are what you create & you can only spew out what you are full of.

Developing character, not ABCs….
Do you have enough respect for yourself to remain honourable & presentable as a creator of your literature? A good tree produces good fruits but a bad tree can’t. Neither can a good tree produce bad fruits. In my experience of being a writer & eventually an editor & publisher, I find the most desirable trait of a writer is his/her passion. Other than that, the most important aspect a writer should develop is themselves. What can you write when all you do in real life is maliciously slander, curse, criticise & judge others? The true nature of a person is found in the mental & moral qualities that they exude. Everything else is secondary because writing communicates your thoughts & even emotions to your readers if you care to be creatively expressive enough. If you haven’t learnt qualities of others in articles & findings that you read, then you should really be questioning yourself if you have anything that others would like to read about your work. There are writers, however, who thrive on writing criticisms & cynicisms but if you want to paid as a serious writer in publications, forget about these exceptions because they are not the rule.

How to write?
Since I’ve substituted the pen with the computer, I can hardly write singlehandedly with it. I use a magnificent journalling application called MacJournal. For today only, you get a 50% discount if you click on the banner on the right to purchase it at US$19.99. I got mine when it was US$39.99. Plan your article. Write your ideas down. Collate information. Build your plot. Stick to facts & accurate information. Accredit the right people with correct spelling of their names. Read & re-read your article many times & make sure it makes sense to you. Learn to edit yourself. Editors are anal. It takes one to know one. If you have to read tons of manuscripts each day & you catch grammatical mistakes in 9 out of 10 of them, you would be anal too!

The body of your article would have to be the meat that your audience have to chew on. How tasty it is in their mouths would depend on how creatively you put it. The stroke of the pen (keyboard, in my case) should wave electrical synapses to zap them with emotions & give them a reaction that you want. Otherwise, why would you spend your time writing if you are not going to have fun with them???

Develop Your Own Style
Your flair would come as you put your thoughts down naturally. This is why blogging will help you set the stage for it. How you express yourself, describe situations & define your characters will be indicative of the kind of writing that you have passion for. Be creative with words. I coin terms off the cuff to describe things not-yet-found in the dictionary, which I term, Pummkinology. My aim is to wowify (pummkinology) my audience with humour as I lead them through a voyage as if they were living it themselves. Develop substance. Keep your audience entertained. Even dumb blondes have an interesting perspective of life worthy to be told in their blogs.

Connect with your readers. Write as if you are writing to ONE person, irregardless of how many are reading it at the same time. Am I addressing you as a crowd? Or do I speak to you as if you are the only one here? You lose connection the moment you start your article/blog with ”˜Hi Everybody!” unless you are writing an email addressed to several people at once.

How to get published.
There’s nothing wrong with blogging as long as you keep your profession separate. Blogging tends to be informal & lighthearted, sort of like an insight to one’s life & thoughts through personal logs. To a writer, blogging cripples the use of Queen’s English, unless you choose to use it all the time, which means, strict adherence to proper grammar, punctuation, spelling & define all colloquial & slang. You would want your article to be understood across genres, generations & cultures of an English-speaking audience not just a select few. Notice I seldom write informally because I have audience from the world over stopping by to see what I’m up to & what marine creatures I’ve managed to haul up in my camera. Be remembered for something in your life.

Send your articles with a caveat to editors. Include pictures. There are dozens of writers who produce articles but what would make yours standout would be what I had described in paragraph one. The attention-grabber. And lots of pretty pictures. You skip that & you would have lost your pitch.

Mainstream media have editors who are twice your age, have worked through thousands of articles in their decades of experience & will not tolerate improper usage of the language. If you don’t capture their attention in the first 30 seconds, you are as good as gone. What is mainstream media? Not just the daily newspapers but the magazines that have been around from your mother’s time. These are success stories in the publishing world so if you want to carve a niche in any area, start with writing what your audience want to read about & get to know your editor’s style. I have several editors who would call on me (whatever time of day & night) whenever they need a story on a given area of my expertise. Develop that relationship. It helps you get ahead as a freelancer later.

Identify & Select Your Publications

  • Determine the type of publication – cars, fashion, business trends, travel, men’s, women’s, lifestyle, entertainment, luxury etc.
  • Read through them before you decide on which one you want your articles to be published in. If it’s a magazine with lousy English, your association with them will bring you ill repute too.
  • Understanding your audience – look through the publication & identify the style & theme. Gauge your audience’s genre. Identify with their needs. Connect.
  • Plan your pitch.
  • Write to the editor & send teaser shots of the subject you would like to submit. When they reply, send your pitch & then follow up.

Points to keep in mind

Editors may or may not read your email. I received an average of 100 emails per day, half of those I needed to reply immediately, with manuscripts, plans & projects under my nose to read, edit & send back for rewrites, just to give you an idea of what goes on in a publication. There’s no guarantee what you had sent will be accepted so be prepared to send to other publications too.

There are copyright issues to note & what you submit may not entitle you to publish in other publications or media. That’s why a blog is important to establish yourself & to document the work that you do.

The rewards are not measured by how much or how little you make as a writer but by how others see your work in print & recognise you for it. No matter what you write, as long as you stick to the principles of staying noble & true, you will impact lives.

Footnote:- I am in the midst of pitching my travels to magazines & writing advertorials for my sponsors, which is great & this article breaks my monotony of writing on the same subject. It’s my way of staying relevant in the business. Next in the pipeline, is how to overcome writer’s block.

Scientific Solution for Atolls in The Indian Ocean

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Whisking pass the city on the KLIA Express is one of the least stressful part of the travel……when you are not rushing. Realising too late that my 24” luggage handle was broken by the airport handlers on my trip back from Egypt, I had to physically push it on wheels, amongst the crowd & my other bags. I spent the last fortnight in the most expensive resort island in the Indian Ocean where rates start from US$1000 per night to US$6,700 per night. Celebrities, royalties & anyone with cash to burn deserve to have unprecedented privacy.

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Managing the underwater work in a scientific project for the resort, we went out even in rough seas. The wind caused the boat to rock 45 degrees side to side. Internet connection here is via satellite transmission & with 600+ staff in the village, there was no way I could upload any videos of my previous work. I spent my time assisting the team of scientists in getting the job done on land as most of my work is in the ocean. Going out is a challenge & so is coming out of the water. There were moments where we decided not to climb back onto the ladder-less cruiser & swim 300m back to shore with the surf instead. By the time we return to base, I had become so exhausted. Imagine going out like this twice a day.

What’s good though, is the people I get to work with on this island with 200 villas. I got to see plenty of what I don’t normally see, such as the Manta Ray passing overhead while I was working at the bottom! I was too stunned to take a picture but I did shoot everything else in my line of sight though! Got a Honeycomb Moray while he was being cleaned. This picture was taken up close.

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Sneaking in a leisure dive or two yielded pretty good results as I got my chance to come very close to the most fearsome Titan Triggerfish & filmed it! The coral reefs are teeming with life & pelagics will occasionally swim overhead.

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Look at his teeth!!!

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Chancing upon a Cleaning Station, all these fishes congregate here to have parasites removed from their bodies. It’s like our car wash queue! God’s design for the reef is so beautiful & marvelous!

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That brings me to this observation. A typical female’s 5C’s are Cash, Condo, Car, Carat & Credit Card but the picture above contains MY 5Cs……can you guess what they are??? Clam, Crab, Christmas Tree Worm, Coral & Crevices! These are stuff that I live for! Even if only one of you appreciates my work & pursuits in obtaining the most bizarre footages in what I call a NatGeo phenomenon/encounter, it would be worth my while to keep producing them for you. I have achieved all that I’ve set out to achieve & nothing makes me happier than to find these & discover new things in my oceanic adventures. If you have nothing to live for, you have lived for nothing.

As we were bound by the contract, I can’t really say where I am but from my title, I’m sure you can guess where I’ve been for the last 2 weeks & pray that I get to return home for Chinese New Year! What a way to end January 2011!