Photo Essay

Leica Akademie Workshop: A Fisherman’s Life

Leica Akadamie Workshop, Mathias Heng, Fishermen, Boats, Malaysia, Jamie Chan, No Foreign Lands

Early September, I spent a weekend in Malaysia, Pahang with David and Dick for a Leica Akademie Workshop led by Mathias Heng. As mentioned in my earlier post, I was really fortunate that Leica loaned me a brand new M9 with the Summicron 35mm F2.5 for this workshop and I had so much fun washing the M9 in saltwater shooting with the M9! As the title suggests, we were supposed to document a fisherman’s daily life in this 3 day 2 night workshop.

The Leica Akademie Workshop taught me a lot about working with constraints.
Each of us followed a different fisherman and his crew on their boat out to sea and we went in different directions. Which means I was working alone in the open ocean and it takes about an hour to get back to shore.

The way it works was that the fishermen had to first cast 1km worth of net and then they have to start pulling the net in while sorting the fishes (according to their species and weight) that got caught in the net. This process could take hours depending on how many fishes were caught in the net.

Since I followed the ‘most hardworking fisherman’ in the village, he cast his net 3 times…
I was on the boat for 7 hours; in the middle of the sea; under the sun which threaten to burn me alive; in the middle of the monsoon season.
The funny story was that I bumped into Dick’s boat and he asked if I was alright. I held my head high and proudly answered that I was still going strong when half an hour later, my stomach started churning like the waves and I got seasick…

I was literately puking my life away on the left side of the boat while the fishermen carried on fishing on the right side of the boat. With my limited vocabulary of Malay, I did my best to assure the fishermen I was alright by saying: pagi makan nasi which I think means morning eat rice. So they more or less got the clue that I ate too much that morning… I should have shared more food with the cats T_T
That and the waves were so choppy it was really hard to balance and work my angles without falling in the ocean with the M9.

In the end, I just had to suck it up and push through whatever I was feeling and shoot.
No excuses, just images(:


Day 2 of the Leica Akademie Workshop

l1001482 1 Leica Akademie Workshop: A Fisherman's Life Jamie ChanI still have so much to learn but I guess am pretty happy with the images I made!

Now that the heavy part of the post is over, here is the fun part(:

l1000021 Leica Akademie Workshop: A Fisherman's Life Jamie Chan

The twin-propeller flight!

To get to Pahang, we had to fly via Firefly to Kuantan from the budget terminal and drive for about an hour.
It was my first and last time in Singapore’s ‘Budget Terminal’ as they finally closed the giant warehouse they call a terminal…

The last time I flew in a twin-propeller plane was when I flew from the North to the South of New Zealand and I honestly thought I was going to die. Back then, the wings of the plane looked like they were about to tear off while the entire plane rattled really badly due to the turbulence from the storm. All the passengers were saying prayers while I clung on to my seat for dear life.
Needless to say, when I saw the plane that was going to take me to Kuantan, my first instinct was to scream and cry but I resisted because I’M A LADY!

l1001246 Leica Akademie Workshop: A Fisherman's Life Jamie Chan


Pahang itself is a really relaxing place as you can stare at the sea under a coconut tree and feel the sea breeze caressing your skin. A plus point would be the adorable kitties who use their large eyes to beg for food. Guess who is a sucker for kitties with big eyes </3
We stayed in a chalet and since we were really close to the mangroves; after our critique session, we went firefly watching!

l1001209 Leica Akademie Workshop: A Fisherman's Life Jamie Chan

The last time I saw fireflies was in a cave in either China or New Zealand. I sat in the darkness on a boat as our guide explained how the caves were formed while the fireflies mostly kept really still on the wall. With a dimly lit torch, our guide showed us the larves of the fireflies. He then proceeded to eat one of the larve telling the group how delicious it tasted… 1800-dial-a-hero

l1001226 Leica Akademie Workshop: A Fisherman's Life Jamie Chan

It was really dark!

My firefly experience this time around was definitely a lot better than the last.
We sat on a boat with our lovely orange life jacket as we proceeded deeper in the mangroves where it was so dark you could actually see stars!
Next thing I knew, I saw them. Like a dancing fairy, they flirted with us and left as soon as they came. Mathias tried to catch them and one landed on his Leica and refused to fly off. We then made a joke about how his camera is now the one and only special edition, Leica M9 Firefly.

Watching the fireflies really brought back fond memories of Hotaru Koi a Japanese children song arranged by Ro OguraI had the fortune of performing that song in Carnegie hall and I must say it nailed the movements of the fireflies while making me miss my choir.

l1001233 Leica Akademie Workshop: A Fisherman's Life Jamie Chan

Artistic impression of fireflies

l1001243 Leica Akademie Workshop: A Fisherman's Life Jamie Chan

David and Dick!

To end off, a huge shout out and thanks to Max our correspondent, David, Dick and Mathias for the trip(:

Huge thanks to Leica for letting me have so much fun with the M9!
I mainly work with the Mamiya 645AFD3 with the Phase One P30+ digital back right now so to work with the M9; an unobtrusive, silent camera that does not compromise the image quality is just a hallelujah moment for me. Who wants to buy my kidneys It is indeed one of the most beautiful camera ever and I would definitely recommend signing up for a Leica Akademie workshop with Mathias! He looks like someone from a Red Indian tribe but his images and experience speak for themselves. I am ever so grateful and fortunate that he is my mentor since my school days(:

In any case, I’ll be heading to Cameron Highlands, Malaysia today for strawberries, tea and to clear my head.

A lot happened within the past month but bear with me as I get my life back together and start blogging/ shooting/ working again!
I have a final photo essay which I shot with the M9 so you can look forward to that post!


l1000044 Leica Akademie Workshop: A Fisherman's Life Jamie Chan

David, Mat and Dick(:

5 replies »

  1. great post, your photos tells it all…
    It truly were some fantastic days in Pahang, I learnt alot from Mathias, David and you…hope we can do something like this again!
    enjoy the strawberries 😉

    • I was really fortunate that the workshop was under the Leica Akadamie so every participant got to use a M9!
      It really is a beautiful camera<3

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