34. Learn the principles of photography


Complete! I actually knew a lot about the basics of photography, but it was really nice to just sit down, and understand how it all works from first principles on a blank piece of A4.

This is me talking from my own personal understanding, and it is probably not 100% correct, but it works for me. Let’s talk about exposure and how cameras work. Everything that we see is due to light, and it’s the same with cameras. Your image will reflect the amount of light that is going into your camera lens, but also the direction of that light. So light goes from the object, through your lens and hits a sensor in your camera, which records the image. There are a few things that you control in this process, and they can be balanced with what’s called the exposure triangle:

ISO – the sensitivity of the sensor to light. The higher the ISO number, the more sensitive it is to light, but the grainier the image. ISO can sometimes be used to compensate for poor lighting conditions, when balancing the exposure triangle.

Shutter Speed – the amount of time the shutter spends open, i.e. the amount of light that is able to hit the sensor over time. The thing to think about with shutter speed, is that the longer the shutter is open, the more things will move (unless you’re shooting something stationery on a tripod). You might end up with blurring in your photos if your shutter is open for long periods of time, and this actually might be what you want.

Aperture – how wide the lens is open. This is usually described with f-stops e.g. f/1.8 or f/3.5. The smaller the number, the wider the aperture. Aperture also has a bearing on the “depth of field”, which I should probably explain now. To oversimplify things, if your aperture is wider, you’re letting more light rays in, but you’re also letting more light rays in at different angles. Objects that are closer to the camera will have light rays that are more parallel than objects that are further away, so as a result, things that are closer will be more in focus, while things that are further away will be blurry. This is what’s called a shallow depth of field. If your f-stop is higher, the aperture is smaller (that is, the hole has a smaller diameter) and less light is entering the camera. BUT the light that does enter the camera, is more parallel, even the ones from a distance. As a result, things in the distance will be sharp as well, giving you the opposite of a shallow depth of field… a deep depth of field (this is grossly incorrect terminology).¬†As a case in point, my mate pixelpx recently got his hands on an 85mm f/1.2L for some amazing portraiture. The f/1.2 means he’s got a crazily shallow depth of field.

As seen below:

Composition is a whole other ball game, but the best way to learn about these things is to run through some case examples and then try it yourself! Here’s a really poor case example to understand what you can do to balance the exposure triangle.

Case: If you’re shooting a waterfall, and you want to blur the water so it looks smooth, then you probably want a longer shutter speed. BUT if your shutter is open for ages, you might wash out your photo, as there’s too much light going in and hitting the sensor. So what can you do? Close the aperture, and let less light in! But that has the issue of changing your depth of field. Which is why you refer to real photography teachers, and not a guy who takes pictures for fun sometimes.


One last thing – DSLR cameras usually have a priority mode, such as Aperture-priority, which lets you control the aperture, and adjusts the other two parts of the exposure triangle to give you the best results. From what I’ve seen, a lot of my friends shoot a lot in A-priority, because it means that they have control of the depth of field, and how much is in focus, and the camera can make sure enough light is getting in to give a clear picture.

This website is great, and has a better explanation for why things work the way they do, but I can cross this off the 101 list!


14. Settle on a time-management plan that works for me


This is a big thing for me, as I always end up changing the way I organise my time.

But I’ve finalised my workflow, and gotten into some decent habits that help me to organise my time better, and keep me on track with things that need to be done. I’ve broken it down into a few things that I’ve found helpful:

  • a weekly view
  • a to do list
  • arbitrary deadlines
Also it should be noted now that I work inside the Apple ecosystem, but I’ll mention things that are particularly helpful, especially if they’re cross-platform.

A weekly view

iCal. I used to print out sheets of paper that had a grid for the week ahead, Mon-Sun (because music rehearsal for Sunday was on Tuesday night) but now I just keep it all on iCal and plan ahead with recurring events. This means I’m never caught by surprise, and it also helps with keeping a solid work-life balance as I can see exactly where my time is going to each of the areas of my life (colour coded too).

Having iCloud has helped as well, and I’m sure those with Google Sync would agree that it’s great to be able to adjust something on my phone and have it automatically update on my computer. Google Calendar is a great alternative, but it’s browser-based which I’m personally not a fan of.

To do list

The Reminders app on iOS5 has been gold for this, but I’m trying out Astrid which appears to do the same thing, with the benefit of social integration. So I figure it might be worth using it in general, and taking advantage of the ability to send to-dos to other people. It’s cross-platform (Android and iOS – sorry BB) and this is also what makes Whatsapp such a winner. That being said, I’ve still kept the Reminders app around, firstly because you can’t delete it, and secondly because it retains the ability to set location-based reminders.

Arbitrary deadlines

The most important thing that I’ve discovered in terms of my own personal productivity is forcing myself to set arbitrary deadlines. If I say “I need to have this done by Friday”, even though it’s not due for another few weeks, it’s a strong motivator just seeing that warning appearing on my phone and calendar. The biggest productivity tip I learnt in high school studying for exams was “just get started, don’t wait for motivation” and the same still applies today.

Having a weekly view, an easily editable to do list and the foresight to set deadlines for myself has been of great benefit in the last few weeks, and although I feel like I’ve done a years worth of work in terms of extra-curricular activities, I haven’t had a years worth of stress doing it!

12. Give a very well written speech


I don’t really know if I can cross this off the 101 list, but the speech was well received, even if it wasn’t very well written.

It was delivered last Tuesday at the SMA Sundowner, and I outlined a few things that were important to address as the President of SMA, and was hoping that through my words God would set the tone of the year. I don’t quite have it verbatim, and it would make a very long post, but here’s a little bit about the name SMA, and why we’re keeping it despite poor marketability.

SMA stands for Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. Not a great organization name by any measure, purely because it’s really hard to remember for those who don’t know it already. And often we’ve been asked “does it stand for Student Medical Association?” or “Save more Asians”… But there are a few reasons why we keep this name. Firstly, these are the names of three men who stood up for their beliefs in the face of fire (quite literally – full account in the book of Daniel chapter 3). They didn’t compromise their faith, in a very antagonistic environment, and God saw them through it. The nation saw the glory and power of God through their act of obedience, and they were given positions of power – where God used them to bless others.
Finally, Shadrach Meshach and Abednego are actually the names given to them, and not their birth names. In the same way, in our marketplace, we might be called a Doctor or Dentist or Physiotherapist or Social Worker, but we know that our identity is found in Christ as a Disciple.