Photography: The importance of constructive criticism

Or as I like to call it, comments on how much you suck (or more enthusiastically put, where you can improve).

Imagine, if you will, you are showing photographs of yours to someone. These photographs are your favourite, or at the very least you consider them to be pretty good (and many others have told you so). This person you show your photographs to has very little to say with regards to how good they are. In fact, they mention how they don’t like the contrast, the positioning, the lack of meaning, and the averageness. Average. You considered to be pretty good photographs, but now you hear that they’re just average. It wounds your pride a little, a lot. Two options from here: feel offended or give your mind time to pause and listen to what your critic has to say.

This happened to me a few days ago and to say it wasn’t disheartening at first would be a lie. Who was the critic? My dad. In the end I realized what I had been missing out on since I got into UBC. Back when photography was a budding interest when I was in high school, I posted photos onto Facebook as any person interested in photography tends to do these days. Looking back, the best thing about doing just that was not the comments telling me about how nice the photos were, but having a small number of people telling me what they didn’t like about my photos. They answered questions like: What doesn’t work in this photo? What makes it lack a uniqueness? What makes it a photo that anybody could take? What could possibly make it so that it has a unique style? I would find out about their opinions through Facebook, MSN, Skype, and texts.

At UBC, I don’t recall many (if any) comments on how my photos lacked quality. It was always the same old “ohhh these are nice”. No wonder my photography has stagnated. That being said, I appreciate comments on how nice my photos are/can be, but one needs a mix of praise and criticism. This recent experience really exaggerated that necessity. Without criticism, one can still improve but it is a very slow process and isn’t a guarantee. With criticism, that process can be sped up and improvements will be had (assuming constructive criticism is listened to and considered). Critics don’t even have to be photographers themselves, though the hardest part is listening to people critique you when they know little of the processes and not try to defend yourself. Initially it’s hard, but once you start listening you can get some great ideas!

Your best friends are your critics, not the ones that praise you. This applies to almost anything one does in life! If you’re curious about the photos in question along with the reasons:

This one was the better one of the following three. When printed, some details in the dark areas are actually clearly visible. The lighting in the photo is very appealing and there exists a sense of movement with the water and the boat. The eyes follow it very well. There could be areas of improvement in terms of lighting.

One of the bad ones according to my father. According to him there is too much contrast and details in the dark areas are lost. There is nothing unique about this photo and it lacks a sort of meaning.

Again according to my dad this one is also nothing special. While it may look nice, there lacks a sense of movement and it is a photo that can be taken almost anywhere in urban areas around the world (supposedly). Again, too much contrast.

Opinions will be opinions of course. There is no right or wrong and sometimes a photo that looks great just looks great. Learn with an open mind! Situations will rarely be perfect, but knowing the “perfect” situations can give you an edge and not miss wonderful chances!


Music is so…amaz…actually no it comes and goes

Ever hear a song that makes you want to get up and dance? or seems to just portray your current mood so well? It’s a wonderful feeling, but how about when you want to skip pretty much all the songs being played? When you’re at that point, music kind of sucks. Cleaning out that music list seems like a good idea, but then that’s a bit of work so you can’t really be bothered to. Plus, maybe you’ll grow nostalgic towards an old song when you hear it again a few weeks down the road! So we tell ourselves anyway. The best thing is probably to clear out the songs one at a time. That’s pretty much what I’ve been doing fairly recently when I have my songs on shuffle on iTunes. Each time I hear a song I don’t quite like anymore, the delete option is not too far off.

It’s hard to work in a subject where you lack interest. That’s how it is for most people and a lot of people (not all) are still able to work pretty hard in subjects that aren’t interesting anyway. This year I can’t seem to do that. I find it increasingly difficult to pay attention in class and work hard. It’s strange, my first and second years were probably much more busy and chaotic than my third year is now. I dropped many things to concentrate on school and I ended up doing much worse than when I had absolutely no time to study. I have more time to study now and yet…studying is the hardest action to do. I find a very limited number of things that are mentally stimulating. My camera has seen little use these days, blogging is infrequent (if not nonexistent), questioning of myself is frequent, slight aversions towards the internet are abound, and the turning to books (not school related of course) as a source of comfort. Maybe I’ll try and do some book reviews in the future…

As for the music, I’m probably just gravitating towards a different style. What it is I don’t know just yet. Keeping posts short and simple for now.

Here’s a pigeon.


Welcome death like an old friend and you’ll be fine.

It is a fact that the new of the passing away of the man in the SUB is spreading rapidly. To me he was always known as “that guy who sits in the chair in the SUB”. It wasn’t up until I found out about the news of his passing that I learned what his name was (might be). It is, dare I say tragic, to learn of his passing but then it is also curious. It is curious to read all the comments regarding his death. It is curious that his death has impacted not only those who talked with him, but those who never did. It is curious that not all that much is known about him. It is curious that he read and sat in the same chair for so many years. It is curious…well everything about all this is curious.

All this eerily reminds me of a previous experience (in a good way though). There always was longing to go and talk to him (and possibly take his photo, what? I like photos) and I wouldn’t be the first one to admit regret over not doing so. It seems that his passing is a shock (of various degrees) to many at UBC. Logically speaking, it really shouldn’t be such a shock. People die/pass away all the time, strangers, friends, family, and acquaintances. Even then though, the feeling from the knowledge that we won’t be able to see this silent man again is…peculiar. Future UBC students may only hear of him in passing or his memory may end up becoming a story.

In a way, he was more than just a person sitting in a chair, reading a book. For anyone who came to UBC on a regular basis (and especially the SUB for that matter) he may have represented a sort of consistency. Seasons change, courses change, faculties change, servers change, friends change. As people, we’re all stubborn towards change (think of Facebook style changes), some more than others. Among all the mid-terms, social conflicts, renovations, and graduations he was generally there; his chair was always there. Day or night, I can’t even count how many times I may have walked by him. I can say that he may have represented one of the many anchors that keep us from drifting to and getting lost in open waters. For those of us who noticed, he may have been an uncomfortable sight, a familiar sight, a curiosity, a quirky secret of UBC, or a mysterious person who was just there. He could have been just about anything for anyone. Or he could have just represented nothing at all. Perhaps it is just the silence and mystery of his past that makes him so memorable. Whatever he represented, he was a part of the UBC campus for many students and staff both past and present.

 

Credits to Miya Gu

Let no one weep for me, or celebrate my funeral with mourning; for I still live, as I pass to and fro through the mouths of men.
-Quintus Ennius

It’s curious that I have been affected enough to go visit that chair tomorrow and visit I shall. There are already many flowers and cards, my own share shall join it soon. It would be very curious indeed if nothing was made in his memory. I do hope UBC or its students puts that into consideration.

With credits to the UBC Campus Security Facebook page


Oh look it’s 2012! What a difference! No.

Hello internet, it’s been a while. First off, I’d like to share this video:

From the looks of it, it’s gone pretty darn viral already and these guys will probably get caught within the week (that is assuming this is a real video and I don’t doubt that it is real). This video doesn’t show it, but the victim does end up running away. If the video outrages you, good. You still have some sense of morality. If it doesn’t, well I dont’ have much to say regarding that. However, now that some of you are outraged I’d say take a minute (or a dozen minutes if you have a slight temper) and just chill. Relax. At first one would like to see these guys (punks, cowards, losers, assholes, scumbags, pussies, pick your adjective(s) from the lot or add your own) have the same thing happen to them. Probably not the best as it only just makes the problem worse and make violence justified. Will they end up getting what they deserve? Yes and no.

It is likely that those responsible may get a light sentence (relatively speaking). I do not believe the legal system works 100% of the time, but that doesn’t meant these guys won’t get what they “deserve” in court either. Now the question is: who do we blame? It’s simple to say that it is entirely their fault. I could also be the devil’s advocate and say that the victim in the video did do something to evoke that sort of response from the “attackers”. That is highly unlikely of course. One could also blame societal structures, bad parenting, education, the music industry, the government, xenophobia, poverty?, human nature, aliens, or the bad burritos they ate beforehand. Some “causes” are more plausible than others and the point being is that while it is easy to place quick blame, it isn’t so true in reality.

What do these guys deserve? Death penalty? Life in prison? An equal sort of beating? Public shaming? A combination of everything? It can be both easy to say and hard to say. Why this video was uploaded onto Youtube originally is beyond me. One would imagine people would have been smarter than that by now. What I do know is that events like this happen more often than people realize or care to admit. This video was just luckily (or unluckily from the other viewpoint) found on Youtube and a combination of circumstances allowed it to spread and be re-uploaded after the original was taken down. Is it good that videos like this pop up every once in a while rather than all the time? Probably. Otherwise we’d most likely be accustomed to seeing events like this. We might not be so shocked if that were the case.

Right now, I see an online petition going around. The phone numbers, addresses, Facebook accounts, and Myspace of some of the perpetrators (and their parents) available in the info of the video. Public vengeance is…quick. This could easily get out of hand in the near future. I do not doubt peoples’ abilities to obtain personal info using online methods, nor do I doubt the ability for people to harass these individuals and their families for the next month. Do they deserve it? Maybe, maybe not. I am not the judge of that. I do not believe in the “eye for an eye” idea, but there is a fine line between a slap on the wrist and excessive punishment. How fine? Probably more than razor thin.

Yes, this act is disgusting, terrible, horrible, unnecessary, devastating. Throw in any words that you would use. Is humanity going down the drain? No. Let’s say these folks do get caught. Justice is “served” and public shaming online goes on. What then? We give ourselves a nice pat on the back? Feel whatever it is you’re feeling, but don’t give yourself that pat on the back when they do get caught. Keeping ill thoughts does not make one any better.


Hi there, I’m something different today

During exam season it is stereotypically true for students to be stuck indoors “studying”. Be it at home, in libraries, coffee shops, and any other spots that are considered fit for studious business. Generally it is eat, study, sleep, and/or the transit from whichever place of review. As far as I know, crazy stories of social life don’t generally come from this time. Going out is pretty difficult as the rational brain says “Oh jeez, I should probably spend the time it would take to go out to just study” when in reality you don’t really get much studying done in the amount of time it would have taken for you to have some fun and chill outdoors. It’s always the “what if” problem!

Instead of staying home to study today, I took 2 hours to go out and walk around Broadway. I grabbed a bite to eat at McDonalds (I try to be healthy) and ended up having a complete stranger sit across from me. There is something about small crowded spaces that provide a greater chance of conversing with a stranger. Yeah it’s the smallness and crowdedness. Simply put, the man who sat across from me wasn’t the most handsomely dressed man in the world and I wonder how many people would actually feel uncomfortable being beside him. Food for thought. He had ordered an ice cream cone and it was starting to drip all over the place. Having his hands full, he called out to a McDonalds worker who was where the napkins were located. Said worker didn’t hear the gentleman sitting across from me and I asked if a napkin was what he desired. He said yes, so I jumped off my seat and grabbed him one. An exchange of “thank you” and “no problem” occurred subsequently. We both ate in silence for a few minutes with the occasional exchange of smiles. He started further conversation first, asking me if I was happy about Vancouver winning the Grey Cup. I regrettably declared that I did not watch football, but did say that if it made everyone else happy then that’s probably all that really matters. I then asked him if he followed hockey and he replied that he followed it here and there. In my head I thought “well there goes the use of hockey for conversation” but it wasn’t a total loss as hockey isn’t my most desired topic of discussion. A few moments of silence again, and he asked if I was studying to be a doctor. The thought of that put a smile to my face and I corrected the notion and revealed that I was actually studying Political Science at UBC. This somehow lead to me mentioning that I was learning some Russian at UBC as well and he responded by saying that he used to be able to speak a fair amount of Russian. Catching my interest, I asked if he had been to Russia and lo and behold he had been. This then jumped towards Russian literature. Quite fitting.

At this point the scruffily dressed gentleman proceeded to talk much on Russian literature. When someone gets to discuss something that they are knowledgable about, boy is it great to listen! One thing I got out of it, was a greater interest in Russian literature. The second, a chance to observe and listen to the way this wonderful gentleman spoke. When discussing Russian literature he spoke with clarity, confidence, and passion. His choice of words flowed perfectly together and there were no filler words such as “um”, “like”, “you know”, and “uhhh”. Being very much accustomed to hearing people speaking using the word “like” (I myself am guilty at this and I kick myself in the brain each time I catch myself using it improperly) it was a breath of fresh air for my ears and brain. A very encouraging experience when one wants to improve his/her speaking ability. In case a reader is curious, the gentleman talked mainly about The Cherry Orchard by Anton Chekhov and how it eluded to the problems Russia had before the Communist Revolution. Very very interesting.

So taking 2 hours out of supposed “studying time” and being out and about on a whim was truly worth it today. If the loss was a full letter grade, heck even 3 letter grades, then I wouldn’t really consider it a loss. It was more of a gain for myself as that experience worth more than any mark I could possibly get. I reinforced my value on speech ability and the age old expression of never judging a book by its cover. We all know the latter and former but we all need little reminders of it here and there throughout our existence on this rock that is earth. One won’t get any reminders if they aren’t out and about. Ain’t that the truth. The only regret I have? Not having the courage of asking him for a photo. His eyes were clear and a wonderful sight.


How to Choose a Faculty Based on how You’ll be Perceived

A little fun bit that’s been in my head for a while. This by no means applies to everyone (and isn’t meant to offend anyone, but if it does I’m kind of sorry. No not really. I’m not), but stereotypes are stereotypes sometimes! I would like to see my other Blog Squadders write something similar.

In no particular order: 

Applied Science (Engineers): The most respected faculty. Known for having the most time consuming and the hardest workload, but still somehow being able to have fun, party hard, and have a social life. Vocabulary will end up consisting largely of terms on electrical circuitry, physics, and mechanical parts. Most time is spent where all the engineering buildings are on campus. Visits to other parts of the campus are generally unlikely. Rarely gets made fun of. Faculty with the largest feeling of community, based on outside impressions at least. Most likely to obtain crazy stories of university life from an engineer. Boasts the highest guy to girl ratio and the craziest stories (car off a bridge and cow in the clock tower to name two of the best ones).

Science:  Second hardest faculty and possibly the worst dressed faculty (which is generally ok as students are usually indoors). Vocabulary will often consist of terms taken from chemistry and biology for the average science student. Things get better when a science student is involved with the SUS or other extracurricular activities that are outside the faculty (it is often hard to tell that they are science students in this area). Good portion of students are assumed to be aiming for medical school. A constant stream of mid-terms almost up until finals, making studying/cramming a consistent habit. Boasts a lab rat as a mascot.

Sauder (Commerce/Business): Possibly one of the most isolated faculties now that its building is finished renovations. Stereotypically dressed in formal attire and have a reputation for having stuck up attitudes, aiming for money, using people, and generally looking down at most other faculties (except for engineers). Those that take Arts courses (it is required) will often take either psychology or sociology courses. If not one of the two (or both), it will be in EOSC, English, or any course that is considered a grade booster. Knowledge of world issues is limited (unless it relates to commerce courses). However, this is offset by the fact that Commerce students are the most likely students to get things done well. Generally will take more initiative as a whole (supposedly and stereotypically). Boasts the most expensive building.

Arts: The faculty that is the target of the most jokes. It is the most uniquely dressed faculty containing hipsters, hippies, fashionistas, and bicycle fashion. Vocabulary will include terms from, but are not limited to: psychology, sociology, economics, philosophy, english, and art history. Will generally have all papers due around the same time of the month, making last minute paper writing an inevitability. Generally speaking, there is no spot on campus where all arts students are able to “chill” in or congregate at. Arts students will be found all over campus and in the buildings of other faculties. Also the most likely students to get impassioned over a lack of knowledge of world issues and social injustices. Obscure hobbies are abound in this faculty. Movements/projects started by arts students are generally meant to help others and communities. Boasts a 3:1 girl to guy ratio.

Music: Faculty of Music. Kind of incorporated into the Faculty of Arts, but at the same time not at all. The smallest faculty as far as this writer knows. Boasts…I’m not entirely sure, great music!

Kinesiology (formally known as Human Kinetics): One of the smallest faculties, but among the most outgoing ones. Students are generally buff/muscular/fit. Best people to go to to obtain information on working out. Boasts the most healthy group of students (go figure).

Land & Food Systems: Arguably the least known faculty. When a student in this faculty mentions they are in Land & Food Systems, the listener will often do a double take and then will often ask “So you deal with food eh?” Boasts obscurity and field trips.

Forestry: Trees. Trees. Trees. Students here have the best chance (in theory) of landing a local job in BC. Students are well versed in various types of plants and trees. Dress style is generally just comfortable. Generally hard to find on campus even if one tries to find a forestry student. Boasts the best looking building and the most comfortable lecture halls.


When life gives you lemons, burn them.

And by that, I mean get rid of what is making what you want troublesome for you as soon as possible. It helps. Really. GO!

Of course that only helps when you know what you want. I don’t particularly like talking about myself, but it’s been a while and there is a distinction between bragging and just laying out facts right? Right??…Sure. Some of the enjoyable things I’ve ever done has been on a whim. Bump into some friends on campus as they’re about to head over somewhere to eat, chill, base jump off Buchanan Tower and we end up exploring, drinking (for the first time), having philosophical discussions, and generally feeling content about life (just to name a few things). That being said, here’s a topic that is completely on a whim and something I hope I will not regret sharing.

I try my best to keep myself positive and, for the most part, look at life from an objective point of view (getting information from as many different sides as possible). I do my best to not take things personally and look at the best in people. The best part of this style of thinking? There is no one I dislike and very rarely have I come close to being angry at anything or anyone. The not so good part is that I often have a “meh” attitude towards many things and it sometimes takes some pressure before I really get into doing anything. That’s me though, and I’m not really complaining. I’m happy for the most part. I wasn’t always like this though. Back when I was younger (hey I sound like I’m 50! Can’t wait till I turn 50), I was generally a depressed kid that either didn’t fit in well with others or didn’t really feel like fitting with others. Yeah, I really don’t even know which even though it was myself. I guess that’s pretty serious, but ANYWAY. Elementary school blew and I never felt like I was part of a group. High school sucked up until grade 11 (more on that later) and I was still shy, reclusive, untrusting, and suspicious of everyone and still didn’t feel like part of a group (this includes my own family, any moments there were felt quite temporary)! 7 year story short (I count grade 4 to grade 11), I never really liked life. Something in hindsight, quite ridiculous in its own way. Life has a funny way of working that way.

Come grade 11 and I had discovered photography, probably one of the most defining moments in my short life thus far. Now comes Jeff. He’s a guy I’ve known since grade 8 and honestly speaking, also a person who has had a big impact on my life. Looking back, he was the one that encouraged me to join yearbook class the following year. I can think of two things that make it so important. First, he was the first person to encourage me to put my photography to use and for a meaningful cause (and feeling useful/meaningful is one of better feelings one can have). Two, as far as I’m concerned, he believed and trusted me with something. I didn’t recognize it in the moment, but really thinking about it now that made for a huge change. I never felt connected to academics (though one can argue that no one really is) and I was on a downward spiral that did not make me want to put any effort into my life. Having something to be decent at and having someone who believes in you and is encouraging you to pursue it further made such a difference that I ended up becoming a different person. I shudder to imagine where I would be if these two wonderful coincidence didn’t come into my life the moment they did. I know for a fact that I wouldn’t be in UBC, I wouldn’t know all the people I know now because of being at UBC, and I sure wouldn’t be the me I am today. Of course, one can ponder the possibility of my existence had I gone to SFU (yes I probably would have gone there, that is a very likely possibility). It could have been better, I could still be the way I am right now, and who knows perhaps I would have met even more amazing people at SFU. That’s all a “what if” though.

Whatever happened to me and Jeff though you might ask. Well, we both went our separate ways. We co-blogged in our first year and then things just drifted, as one would say. If you asked me what I thought about him in grade 12, I would have said that he was one of my best friends. Ask me now, and all I can reply with is a shrug. The last time I really talked to him face to face in a meaningful way was back in the beginning half of first year. I still see him around here and there, but it’s never more than a “hey, how’s it going? Great, yeah me too” kind of thing. This kind of result of something so meaningful can be described in a multitude of ways: disappointing, sad, undeserving, insane, ridiculous, or stupid. It can be blamed on lots of factors. I could be blamed for it too. Is there any point in blaming? Not really. Things are the way they are and in the given context, disappointing but not worth really crying over. I see it as one of the wonderful realities of life. A concept that produces both sadness and joy, a kind of grace in sorrow. I don’t know if Jeff will ever read this. It probably doesn’t really matter, if does it would be quite interesting. If he doesn’t, it’s still quite interesting. Nothing lost, nothing gained, nothing wasted.

And with that, I shall end. A story that I would say is common, but uncommonly told.

If only papers were this easy to write…I would be halfway through one of them right now with this many words in this one blog entry. Sheesh. And in case anybody was wondering, I really do not regret writing this, and in fact it has brought me out of what was a depressive state.

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It may be worth questioning everything in life even to the point where it depresses you. Just maybe.

One may question many things. High school, university, academics, friends, relationships, family, parents, siblings, the media, work, existence. When one finds meaning in what they do, then there is no problem. It is when one feels that there is no meaningful contribution from what they do or understand that causes problems. Everyone goes through this feeling a multitude of times in their lifetime. Anyone who says they haven’t is either ignorant or extremely lucky in the probability sense of the word. That all being said, these are my thoughts on “feeling meaningful” and I will NOT be talking about how to get past a lack of “meaningful feeling”. It is my belief that everyone has to find a solution to their problems on their own, whether it is literally on their own or through the help of others (or just plain random luck). Understanding why the feeling comes to be helps with finding your own solution.

At a university level, this feeling tends to show up during mid-terms, papers, and finals. Go figure.

With a lack of words, I shall leave off with this (dare I say it) inspiring trio on Youtube:

It’s gotten a lot of views already in the 7 days it’s been out and it probably is trending. By god I hope it continues to trend. Assuming it’s legitimate, then danggggg kids these days rock.