Brunei Darussalam

BEHIND THE SCENES OF ASEAN 100 FORUM PHOTOGRAPHY

The ASEAN 100 Leadership Forum is an annual congregation of leaders from business, government, civil society in Southeast Asia to discuss and debate on key issues and challenges facing the region and their implications to business and politics. This is the seventh installment of the A100 event of which I have had the privilege to photograph 3 of them—Indonesia in 2006, Vietnam in 2007 and this year in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Having I thought it would be interesting to share behind-the-scenes effort that went into producing these photojournalistic moments than just a gallery of static images. Having lugged my equipment across continents countless times for other destination work and holidays, I feel the travel experience may be useful to someone who’s considering doing the same. Also, as mentor, the ultimate test of an apprentice’s readiness is when he’s thrown into a live event and its associated challenges when photographing the Malaysian Prime Minister and the Crown Prince of the State of Perak.

MORE PICTURES FROM THE ASEAN 100 LEADERSHIP FORUM

You may be forgiven for mistaking this photo as one of Canon’s DSLR marketing poster. These bodies and lenses belong to me and my assistant and all but the EF100-400mm lens were utilized at the event. Equipment laid out on table of the Shangri-La Hotel Kuala Lumpur (click to view large pic.)
I packed my essential gear in a Lowepro Nova 5 bag: 2x5D Mark II bodies, 17-40mm, 24-70mm, 70-200mm, 580EX Speedlight flash, CP-E3/4 battery pack while I checked in the EF100-400mm, a second Speedlite 580EX flash along with a Slik Pro monopod, power extension cords. I packed 24 fully charged Powerex 2700mAh batteries for the flashes and left the chargers at home. Bag weighs ~10 Kg on full load.
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The Honourable Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib B. Tun Abdul Razak, Prime Minister of Malaysia was the Guest of Honour. Tight framing of the Prime Minister during his address while retaining visible background and foreground (front of rostrum) detail of the event including name of organiser ‘AsiaIncForum’ We can’t always choose how words and logos are ideally positioned but framing it right is always a choice.
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Still photography has always been about the decisive moment. Here Prime Minister Najib, the man behind the 1 Malaysia vision, I thought this hand gesture during his QnA moment appropriately complemented  the ‘1 Malaysia’ lapel pin. My choice of lens for this shot was the EF70-200mm f/2.8 IS.
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Videographers and press journalists from various media covering the Prime Minister’s address. I have had my share of press encounters at the  A100 events in Jakarta and Hanoi including events in Brunei where His Majesty, our Sultan attends.
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No Asia Inc Forum event is complete without these auspicious red signature name tags and lanyard. I have a collection of these souvenir items from the years of serving as official photographer.
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Name tags needn’t be mundane and you can easily inject life into them as Audrey sorts out the name tags in time for event pre-registration as guests arrive for the sponsors welcome dinner.
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Backdropped by Baiduri Bank General Manager Pierre Imhof in mid conversation, I offer an alternative perspective of this scene by placing emphasis on the glass of wine which is on the same focus plane as the person opposite Pierre. The hand gesture and inverted image in glass—sometimes less of the main subject say a lot more than meets the eye.
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The entire event was photographed using Speedlight 580EX flash with no light modifier yet careful use of bounced bare flash produces adequately diffused lighting. Here, Tan Sri Dato’ Azman Hj Mokhtar, Managing Director of Khazanah Nasional Berhad photographed in mid conversation during the sponsor’s dinner.
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Faces of subjects aren’t the only emotive elements in an event to capture. Hand gestures on their own speak volumes when photographing people at a table partaking a group conversation.
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Gift bags are part and parcel of corporate events. It’s a way for the host to thank their guests for their time and presence. These environmentally-friendly paper bags are courtesy of Khazanah Nasional Berhad at the sponsor’s dinner (more in Facebook album). Clients appreciate attention to details that are often ignored.
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A perspective wide enough to include all the elements during “The Big Picture” address by His Royal Highness Prince Nazrin Shah, Crown Prince of the State of Perak, Malaysia.
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Most corporate events are backed by sponsorships. The ASEAN 100 event has several major sponsors notably Alcoa, DHL and Goldman Sachs among other sponsors. Photographed here is Roger Crook, CEO of DHL Express Asia Pacific and Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa Regions (EEMEA)
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I’ve had times when clients asked to have their token of appreciation photographed for keepsake. I’ve also had times when clients assumed I would but didn’t. Arriving early at the venue meant I had plenty of time to pose the plaque with a relevant and meaningful background theme colour.
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Dato Paduka Timothy Ong (right) presents the plaque as token of appreciation to HRH Prince Nazrin Shah. A case of opportunity versus possibility. This precise moment as Prince Nazrin looks at the plaque appreciatively has to include a hint of the third member to complete the story.
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No matter how skilled or seasoned the official photographer is, he can only do so much if he were covering the event solo. My partner and I maintained communication via walkie-talkies throughout the event. My partner Gavin waited outside the door in advance of Dato Timothy and Prince Nazrin walking through the door. We also discovered that the AAA Eneloops lasted an impressive 10 hours powering the Uniden radios.
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HRH Prince Nazrin meets and greets with participants after “The Big Picture” address. Often times, capturing an overexposed scene as a result of another flash going off at the same time can lend a dramatic effect to the scene as illustrated here. This is one of my favourites.
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I love it when my subjects are very animated when they speak. It makes the job so much easier.
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As this is Gavin’s first-ever major event, I could only show him the sort of shots I expected of him to capture. In no time, he nailed this moment of Prince Nazrin, Manu Bhaskaran and a delighted Dato Timothy. (A glimpse of me on the left behind HRH).
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… quickly followed by another moment where Manu reciprocates in a light hearted conversation. Another great moment captured by Gavin.
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Don’t you just love the silhouetted lighting in this series? We’re on the lower floor of Shangri-La Hotel right outside the ballroom where strong yellow cast dictates the ambient. There’s also no outside light so the only way we’re going to get decent light onto our subjects is to light them up using bare flash (not to be confused with direct flash). Using light modifiers such as my trusty LightSphere would mean getting even diffused lighting at the expense of increase battery consumption. Neither one we want and we opted for the dramatic approach.
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Forums are all about knowledge sharing and networking. I know for fact that my client wants shots that capture the essence which begins with the cultural exchange of business cards. Here, Leng Lim, Managing Director of Pivotal Leadership meets Datuk Rohana Tan Sri Mahmood, Chairman of Ethos Capital and President of Kuala Lumpur Business Club.
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I thought I would indulge in an artistic moment with this shot of the all-male panelist during an open forum discussion. Leather shoes, bespoke clothing complements dark wood furniture sartorially.
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One of my favourite subjects to photograph at the A100 is Khairy Jamaluddin, Chairman of Barisan Nasional Youth and Leader of UMNO Youth. Khairy was selected as a Young Global Leader by the Word Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland and is regularly invited as a speaker internationally, has written for major publications including Time and the Wall Street Journal. This is to say I’m blown away by his captivating eloquence year after year.
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When he gets it, he gets it. I’m referring to this shot by Gavin. Shooting in pairs mean we have the luxury of coverin both sides of the stage and here, a tightly framed moment of my idol, Khairy Jamaluddin, who is usually very animated when he speaks. Hardly a dull moment when photographing him and truth be told, his eloquence recharges me as the long hours of hand-holding the heavy EF70-200mm f/2.8 lens begin to take a toll. Love this pic!
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Speaking here is Dorjee Sun, CEO of Carbon Conservation whose work covers energy efficiency, renewable energy, preservations of tropical rainforests, etc. Recently Time Magazine awarded Dorjee as TIME Magazine Environmental Hero for 2009 and the African Rainforest Conservancy named a newly discovered Tanzanian chameleon after him “kinyongia dorjeesuni”. This session is one of four Master Classes held in separate rooms and there was very little leg room to move around for a good vantage point. While Dorjee introduced himself to the audience, I snuck in and pretty much shoe-horned myself in between the oval table and one of the participants behind me for this 17mm wide-angle perspective.
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Off-the-cuff moments before commencement of the ASEAN 100 Annual Debate takes the edge off an otherwise serious topic “This House believes that enhancing ASEAN’s economic competitiveness requires learning from the East rather than from the West.”

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Dr Anies Baswedan, President of Paramadina University Indonesia, during a debate for the motion: “This House believes that enhancing ASEAN’s economic competitiveness requires learning from the East rather than from the West”. Along with Khairy Jamaluddin, Dr Anies is a great figure to photograph as you can expect liberal use of his hands when he speaks.
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Lim Leng, Managing Director of Pivotal Leadership argues for the motion along with partner Dr Anies Baswedan. I positioned myself behind an LCD screen at the corner of the stage and framed this shot enough to show the rostrum and projected image behind Mr Lim.
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One of many Dorjee Sun moments. A project in Aceh where Dorjee was a subject of an award winning documentary, “The Burning Season”, which explained how Orangutan conservation avoided deforestation could be tied in to generate alternative monetary incentives.

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Dr Anies Baswedan offered his perspective on “How different is Indonesia today?” during the Gala Dinner address. I saw the light and offered my client a different perspective!
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What more can I describe about this photo that it hasn’t already spoken? The right combination of opportunity with a dose of creativity.
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Dato Paduka Timothy Ong and Datuk Rohana with the Asia Inc Forum team, the force behind the ASEAN 100 Leadership Forum event. Thank you for having me and Gavin document the A100 photo journey!

5 thoughts on “BEHIND THE SCENES OF ASEAN 100 FORUM PHOTOGRAPHY

  1. Some very well executed and creative photojournalism! Actually being at the event and seeing how hard the conditions are- like you said no natural daylight, difficulty in getting around/ access to key speakers etc. I’m amazed at the close-up and natural photos you’ve got. Great job, great post!

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