40 years ago when I held a SLR it was like holding a precision machine with very accurate engineering to be able to do what it was designed to do. Today, a DSLR is still a very precise machine and more. It comes with a computer inside. This is the kind of power in the hands of a photographer.
40 years ago I was messing around in the dark room all alone, with chemicals and fearing a little ray of light sneaking into the room. And the processing of the negatives and printing were mainly done manually with a lot of guess works. Manipulating them for different effects was tedious and failure rate was extremely high. Today, every thing a dark room processing can do can be done much better and easier, with more control and refinement using a processing software loaded into a computer. No more messy stuff and expensive errors that had to be thrown away at great cost. The software can work practically at anywhere with no fear of sneaky lights. And any error can simply be erased and redo again at practically no cost.
The tools of photography and the nature of photography have taken a qualitative leap to allow photographers to do many things that they could not do before. With such powerful tools and computing power, there are many avenues to explore for the photographer. I was not content with just doing and repeating the same thing all over again, shooting the best portrait, the best bird in flight, night photography, sports photography, travel photography, macro or micro photography. In many of these areas, everything has been done and shot by the professionals.
With two computers, one in the hand, one sitting on the table, and a more power third computer in the head, I started to explore and experiment with the untouchables, the taboos, the things that were frowned upon, striking out into new frontiers, to capitalise on the power of 3 computers. Photographers must do justice to the enormous creative powers their tools are able to perform today.
The first step I took was to embrace refraction, something that was nearly totally disregarded by photographers for the distortion it caused. Conventional photography is all about reflection, shooting an object to get a clear and crisp image. At times blurring and zooming effects were introduced, bokehs etc, but still an act of reflection.
Refraction is about seeing light travelling through more than one medium of different density. The bending of light through a prism to reveal the rainbow colours is a basic example of reflection. Light contains many things that the naked eyes could not see. Light is after all an electromagnetic wave. The signals received on radio or the television, through the phone, are all electromagnetic waves with information of sound and images embedded in them. The decoder in the TV unscrambles the information to make them visible and audible.
Light entering and exiting a medium like water are distorted by refraction and reflection. It also picks up other information that we could not see but exists. If only such information can be translated into something visible, revealing what they were like a TV image through a decoder, the final image can be stunning and unpredictable.
The Art of RAR or Reflection and Refraction is a technique that I have developed exactly to do this function. The images taken in the water will not be seen through the naked eyes or the camera sensor. The water will still appear as an image of water in the sensor. Through processing, the multiple images hidden in the light that came out of water can be seen in all its glories.
The Art of RAR is a key or a decoder to do this job. Many unseen images cannot be obtained from a seemingly non existence object in the water. With this methodology, photography is now able to do something new, something that was impossible and now possible. The images that came out from this technique can still be like a photographic image or an image that looks exactly like a painting with no trace of it being a photograph. It is a new field of photography that modern technology makes possible with the help of the creative and imaginative mind of a photographer. The possibilities are unlimited and photographers, with their creativity and imagination, could move beyond the confines of conventional photography, to explore new frontiers using the camera to produce new art forms.
The Art of RAR is not the only new technique available and more creative usages of the camera and technology would likely to lead to more innovative ways to expand the art of photography and how to use the camera. The art of photography is beginning to see new light.
Chua Chin Leng