SPARKS of joy often happen when like-minded people group together. That was evident from the joyful expressions of the 15 participants who turned up at the recent BRATs photography and journalism workshop.
The participants were mostly from the Klang Valley, with a few travelling from Penang, Negri Sembilan and Melaka.
Held in Menara Star, the workshop began with presentations by The Star’s deputy chief photographer Kevin Tan and chief reporter Christina Chin.
It was followed by hands-on activities carried out at 1 Utama Shopping Centre where the participants were tasked with: 1. Interviewing movie-goers at Golden Screen Cinemas (GSC) about their movie expectations; and 2. Taking photos to bring out the best of the Secret Garden on 1 Utama’s Rooftop.
At the end of the activities, the group sat together to share their experiences, with Christina, Kevin, and The Star’s photo editor Ng Kok Leong providing their feedback.
Read on to find out what some of the participants have to say about the workshop.
‘Truly an honour’
“Yes! I finally found a bee! Come, guys, take pictures!”
Four of us hovered over the “model” with our cameras at the ready, as we tried to apply unique elements to our photography.
I crouched, leaning against a pot of cactus for support as I took a shot of the bee.
Earlier, I had carried out interviews at the waiting area of GSC. Even though I was brushed aside by some movie-goers, I felt it was an experience that was necessary for me to go through as a budding reporter.
I found Christina’s presentation particularly enriching as it gave me new insights into the whole journalistic process, from identifying story angles and pursuing potential interviewees to conducting interviews and finally writing the articles.
Although I attended Kevin’s photography workshop last year, I still found fresh ideas to take away from his session. It also refreshed my memory on the techniques that could help make my photos look better.
It was truly an honour to learn from these seasoned professionals. I came away from the workshop feeling determined to use my newfound knowledge and skills to improve the articles and photos I submit for BRATs assignments.
Learning aside, another memorable moment for me was bonding with other BRATs members.
Despite our age difference, we got along well and had no problems expressing our opinions freely.
This is what makes BRATs so special to me – meeting a group of people with shared interests. I will continue to contribute actively as a BRATs participant for as long as I can.
– AMELIA JADE MAE-XIAN LIM, 15, Wesley Methodist School Kuala Lumpur (International), Kuala Lumpur‘
A valuable platform’
Every time I attend a BRATs workshop, I gain new understanding of the world of journalism. This time was no exception.
Photography being my hobby, I had looked forward to the workshop, in hopes of getting some of my questions answered. More specifically, I wanted to find out the difference between prime lenses and zoom lenses.
Like any other digital native, I had turned to Google for clarification on numerous occasions but the answers varied from one website to another, often adding to my confusion.
Fortunately, Kevin was able to explain the difference in layman’s terms – the focal length of a prime lens is fixed whereas that of a zoom lens can be constantly changed, which offers more flexibility.
When it came to Christina’s session, I learned a lot about the qualities expected of a journalist. There were two things that stood out the most for me: 1. We need to persevere in the face of unresponsive or reluctant interviewees, and handle the situation in a professional way without taking it personally; 2. We should always think in-depth and strive to make an impact with our stories.
All in all, it was an enriching experience for me. I enjoyed the hands-on activities as I got to do face-to-face interviews and applying different photography techniques.
The BRATs programme is definitely a valuable platform for those looking to expand their writing and photography horizons.
– BRENDAN MAK, 17, SM Stella Maris, Kuala Lumpur
A step out of comfort zone
I have been a participant of the BRATs programme since early this year. While I have contributed to assignments, I often stayed away from interview angles. I just wasn’t ready for it.
So when the workshop came up, I saw it as an opportunity to learn more about the work that goes into producing an interview article.
Being introverted, I was apprehensive about how the day would turn out. What complicated matters was that my phone started acting up as I was about to leave for the workshop. Not just that, the zip of my bag snapped.
My dad had to stop by at the nearest convenience store to buy me a huge paper bag. I felt embarrassed carrying that paper bag around but that was the only choice I had.
When I finally entered the meeting room in Menara Star, I was sweating bullets but I managed to keep it cool. Soon, everyone else arrived and we broke the ice by introducing ourselves. It was then that I realised that some of them have been participants of the BRATs young journalist programme for a year or more!
During Kevin’s presentation, he showed us some of the pictures he had taken and talked about the different kinds of cameras used in photography.
I was captivated by the photos but was clueless about technical terms like ISO (the international standard for photography), aperture and shutter speed. But by the end of the workshop, I had a better understanding of the terms and the criteria for good photos.
I liked Christina immediately when she came on as the next presenter. She was humorous, and taught us how to write newsworthy articles and interview people.
At 1 Utama, we got into groups of three as we worked on the interview task. My group was nervous initially and hesitated to approach the people lingering around at GSC.
But in the end, we managed to interview two families, a couple, and two children who came with their mother. They were excited to watch Men in Black: International, The Secret Life of Pets 2 and Aladdin, respectively.
We then headed to the Secret Garden where we were spellbound by the myriad of flowers and plants. I was so excited to take in all the sights that I shot at least 30 photos.
During the subsequent feedback session, Kevin and Kok Leong commented on our photos and showed us how we could improve the shots. Seeing our original photos contrasted with the improved versions really helped us to see the difference in quality.
As I stepped out of Menara Star that day, I was sad to leave my new friends. But I’m sure we will cross paths again.
– NIEHA MITRALLINI, 16, SMK Taman Desa, Rawang, Selangor
to practiceA perk of being a BRATs participant is getting to join workshops that teach us how to become better young journalists. At this workshop, I picked up a few tips on how to take photos from different angles and how to solve problems arising from conducting interviews.
From Kevin’s presentation, I learned the importance of maintaining a low ISO in a bright environment to prevent images from being washed out by light. I then applied it during the hands-on photography session at the Secret Garden.
I had a multitude of angles to choose from when capturing some of the 600 species of tropical plants on 1 Utama’s rooftop.
Kevin’s photo editing and Kok Leong’s comments certainly elevated my perception of photography. I was also reminded of the importance of including human elements in my photos, as they would bring the pictures to life.
The experts’ photo comparisons also made me realise the limitations of smartphone cameras compared with the digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) models.
In addition, this workshop taught me how to be more sensitive towards my interviewees. While carrying out the interview task at GSC, I learned that approaching people in a large group can make them feel intimidated, resulting in their refusal to share their thoughts.
With Christina’s tips in mind, I tried to make my interviewees feel comfortable by observing their body language and attempting to speak in a language that they were most fluent in. As a result, they opened up and provided better responses.
This workshop has definitely enhanced my knowledge about journalism and resolved the issues I had faced throughout my journey as a BRATs young journalist. But my experience has been enjoyable mostly because of the company of other BRATs participants with whom I have forged strong friendships.
– WONG ZHI YONG, 19, Taylor’s College Lakeside Campus, Subang Jaya, Selangor‘
Beyond any typical classroom learning’
Having been in the BRATs programme for almost six months now, I must admit that there’s still much room for improvement for me when it comes to writing interview articles and submitting quality photos for my assignments.
Hence, when the opportunity to learn from The Star’s award-winning photographer and journalist came up, I was simply ecstatic.
I was also excited to meet the other participants for the first time. We introduced ourselves and got to know each other better.
As the talks began and the hands-on activities followed, I found myself enjoying every moment of it immensely. This was an experience beyond any typical classroom learning could offer.
It opened my eyes to the fast-paced world of journalism where getting interviewees to give you the “right” kind of comments is not as easy as it seems. I had to battle my anxiety and at the same time, get the movie-goers to open up to me.
My photography skills were also tested at the Secret Garden, which was so gorgeous that I had trouble deciding the kind of shots that would bring out the best of the garden.
I am truly grateful for the time I spent at the workshop. Who knew my phone had so many useful filters and apps for photography? Interviews will also be much easier from now on with the tips I received.
I hope to provide better content for the BRATs readers in the near future.
– ZAHRA MOHD ZAKI, 15, SMK Sri Permata, Petaling Jaya, Selangor
BRATs is a young journalist programme organised by The Star’s Newspaper-in-Education (NiE) team. Throughout the year-long programme, the 70-strong participants from all across the country experience life as a journalist, contributing ideas, conducting interviews, and completing writing assignments.
To read articles written by BRATs participants, sign up for the NiE pullout. Published on Wednesdays, NiE is available only through school subscriptions of The Star.
Subscribe through your school or call The Star’s Customer Care Unit at 1-300-88-7827 (Monday to Friday, from 9am to 5pm). To be part of our online teen community, head on to facebook.com/niebrats.