Purple Blossom

It’s annoying to be caught in the rain while photographing outdoors. But as I review my shots taken after that terrible downpour on that faithful day, I can’t help but admire the glittery raindrops that roll off the petals of the orchids. The raindrops just make the flowers come alive, probably serving as a lifesaver amid the humid weather.

Picture taken with the Nikon D800 and the Zeiss Makro-Planar 100mm f/2.

Ginger Flower

I wasn’t expecting to see ginger flowers blooming in the National Orchid Garden. Most people just walk past them, without bothering a second look. When you think of gingers, you usually think of the brownish dirt-covered rhizome root. In today’s modern times, not many of us get the chance to see the entire plant itself, least even its flower. We get them neatly arranged, root only, on shelves in the wet market or supermarkets. And that’s what I like about my visits to the Singapore Botanic Gardens. There is always something new to spot, to learn and grow in my understanding of nature.

Picture taken with my Nikon D800 and the Zeiss Makro-Planar 100mm f/2.

Cattleya Hybrid Orchid

So I was down at the Botanic Garden, which just recently got its UNESCO world heritage site status (yawn.), and the place was filled with orchids. Literally bursting with one single family of flowers, no exaggeration. Well I was there shortly after Singapore’s National Day so no surprise how the place was decked out to celebrate both occasions, the overrated UNESCO status and the island’s golden jubilee. Because National Parks has so kindly graced local residents with free admission to what is usually the paid section of the gardens, the place was packed with people.

Mural at French Road

This mural seems pretty new, probably done to commemorate SG50. I’m unable to get any pings online on this mural or the artist(s) responsible for it. The mural depicts scenes of the past in Jalan Besar, which includes New World Amusement Park, heritage shophouses and transportation mode of yesteryears. The mural extends to merge with imagery associated with Singapore’s national day parade, with a strong focus on depicting a strong army.

To me this mural is blatant propaganda, but it’s still nice to see something decorated on the walls of public housing, withstanding the content (Yup, I am partial to graffiti. If it looks good, why not?). Considering the mural is located near the offices of the ruling political party and its partisan grassroots organization, I am not surprised at all at the staunchly nationalistic content in the mural. It’s fascinating how if you were to look at the mural from left to right, what starts off innocently as a reflection of the past heritage of the neighborhood ends up an heroic ode to national solidarity. I’m not sure what sort of genre within propaganda art this mural falls under since it’s such a mishmash of ideas and intent. Regardless I am not surprised if a new genre will be created one day to describe the sort of government sanctioned art seen here. I guess there’s some validity to the tourism slogan “Uniquely Singapore”.

 

Picture taken with the Fujifilm X-T1 and the XF 23mm f/1.4R.

 

Old man riding past Children on a Bicycle

“Children on a Bicycle” is one of Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic’s iconic street art in Penang, and is really popular with tourists. There was a group of Chinese national tourists hogging the mixed media graffiti for their numerous selfies when all of a sudden an old man speeds down the road nonchalantly at top speed, sending the tourists to the safety of the dessert shop conveniently located opposite the mural. I nailed my shot and proceeded to cool off by ordering a bowl of chendol, but was told they were swiped clean by that same group of tourists. :(

 

Picture taken with the Fujifilm X-T1 and the XF 23mm f/1.4R lens.

Scarlet Skimmer

The Scarlet Skimmer, also known as crimson darter (sounds pretty superhero-y to me), is a species of dragonfly native to Southeast Asia. I saw plenty of these during my visits to the Singapore Botanic Garden… But not so often do I see one perched from a leaf right next to me.

Picture taken with the Fujifilm X-T1 and the Nikkor MF 55mm f/2.8 Micro lens. Tricky to manual focus on Fuji’s X series cameras, but the X-T1 is more of a breeze compared to the X-Pro1. I rarely used this combination, or mount any manual focus lenses on my Fuji cameras because manual focus can be quite a pain on them. I know that there is now a peak focus feature for the X series cameras, but the noisy outline that confirms focus makes me second guess my focus accuracy instead. I primarily rely on live view to nail manual focus. It takes quite a bit of practice to bring it to pace.

Guggenheim, Tourists and Daily Traffic

I was looking through my archives when I spotted this picture from my last trip to NYC in 2013. Guggenheim is one of my favorite museums, both for its collection of art works as well as the building itself. I like how easy the circular ramp slope leads you up to the top of the museum. The architecture itself is perhaps the most significant artwork on display at the museum. Unfortunately you can’t shoot much of its interior apart from the glass dome ceiling. The building looks striking exteriorly, despite its age, and does not look dated at all. I guess that’s the beauty of Frank Lloyd Wright’s timeless designs.

 

Picture taken with the Nikon D800 and AF-S 24-70mm f/2.8 lens.

Sek Tek Tong Arch

On my way to a dessert shop, I spotted this pretty ornate arch sandwiched between shophouses, serving as an entrance to the ancestral temple of the Cheah clan association. There were restoration works going on in the temple while I was there, so I skipped going in. Numerous delicate and detailed ceramic trimmings deck the beams and ceiling of the arch, each serving as a diorama of taoist mythology and auspicious symbolism. It’s plenty of fun for me to spot each of the tiny details as I look upwards at the structure.

I tried reading up on Fujian architecture, of which this temple arch is broadly categorized under, but there seems to be little found on Google. Much of what I’ve found details on Hakka architecture in Fujian province, but of course Fujian consists of more than just the Hakkas. I tried my luck searching up on Mazu architecture to see if I got any related pings, but instead I got search results for unique architecture on the island of Kinmen. Makes sense in retrospect considering this temple is not dedicated to the goddess Mazu, for which the people of Kinmen patronize.

All that online sleuthing made me wonder if Fujian architecture is too diverse a topic for discussion or if the internet has yet taken much interest in it. I think it’s pretty relevant a topic to dabble with, considering most Chinese in the region have Fujian ancestry. Yet we are barely scratching the surface on it… Well, appreciating architecture is not something folks this part of the world commonly do. At least the situation isn’t that bad in Penang, considering how structures such as these are being protected. But in Singapore, too many buildings are going the way of demolition for “progress”.

 

 

Picture taken with the Fujifilm X-T1 and XF 23mm f/1.4 lens.

Hocus Pocus Scream

I can’t find the exact name of this graffiti or the artist(s) responsible for it. The style of the caricature reminds me of 1980s anime, and seems to play on surreal humor on the classic box cutting magic trick. The idea of the magician’s boxes plays off nicely on the grid surface of the shophouse shutters. This graffiti seems particularly popular with tourists, despite the clutter surrounding it. Despite its popularity, I wasn’t able to get a ping of its name or creator from the internet, unlike the other graffiti I took along Armenian Street.

Picture taken with the Fujifilm X-T1 and XF 23mm f/1.4 lens.

 

 

P.S. Quite oddly, I found the screaming girl resembling a friend of mine.

Learning Hokkien

I was walking around Penang’s Armenian Street when I chanced upon this graffiti. The mural was created by artists Jim Oo and John Cheng, collectively known as Penang I-Wall, back in 2014. The street art extends all the way to the concrete drain covers at the bottom, which used to feature speech bubbles of common daily life Hokkien phrases. But as you can see in my picture, most of those speech bubbles have faded away. The wrought-iron sculpture next to the mural is part of a series of wall sculptures called “Marking George Town”. Each wall sculptures narrates the history of the oldest roads in Georgetown.

Picture taken with Fujifilm X-T1 and the XF 23mm f/1.4 lens.

Pensively waiting for the bus at KOMTAR

There’s so much going on at Penang’s KOMTAR bus interchange… There are plenty of commuters going about to work, trishaw peddlers double checking their rides and then there’s this dude sitting by the side of the bus ticket kiosk deep in thought. He seems to be the only one not particularly in a rush to go anywhere.

Picture taken with Fujifilm X-T1 and the XF 23mm f/1.4

Pagoda of Rama VI

The architectural style of the Pagoda of Rama VI, also known as the Pagoda of Ten Thousand Buddhas (万佛塔), is an amalgamation of Chinese, Thai and Burmese influences to reflect Kek Lok Si (极乐寺) temple’s embrace of Mahayana and Theravada Buddhism, along with trickles of Taoist traditions. The octagonal base of the 7-storey pagoda is distinctively Chinese, while the middle of the structure draws reference from Thai architectural design. The pagoda tops off with a stupa with Indochinese (Burmese) influence.

The pagoda was built to house 70,000 sacred scripture bestowed by Qing China’s Emperor Guang Xu (光绪). Thailand’s King Rama VI (otherwise known as Vajiravudh) laid the foundation for the construction of the pagoda during his visit to Penang, which explains why the pagoda was named after him. I guess the design of the pagoda paid homage to the benefactors of the temple. The medley of cultural influences makes the pagoda the most unique structure within the sprawling temple complex and makes the temple clearly distinctive from other Buddhist temples of the region. Tiger Balm’s Aw Boon Par and Aw Boon Haw too have contributed to the expansion of the temple. Which utterly makes sense in retrospect since much of the landscaping on the temple grounds are reminiscent of the design seen at Haw Par Villa.

Picture taken with the D800 and my favorite wide-angle zoom, the Nikon AF-S 14–24mm f/2.8G ED.

View from Bukit Bendera

The aerial view of the urban development on Penang island can be pretty awesome when viewed from the top of Penang Hill, also known locally as Bukit Bendera. On my way up the hill via the funicular, I met a Malaysian who was touring Penang, expressing his disappointment that the tram-ride up was devoid of decent views, too quick and too pricey. Perhaps he would have complained less if we weren’t packed like sardines on the tram. I just hoped the view up there would make up for it. Well, it is quite pricey for tourists to head up there, especially if the weather doesn’t play nice. While I found the summit cooling, dark clouds came quickly and I felt light drizzling. It proceeded to rain intermittently during my time up there.

Is the shot worth risking life over?

So I was just casually surfing the net, checking out non-serious news on my day off from work. Dealing with world news, albeit in picture format, makes me reluctant to surf anything but casual quirky reads. I was going about reading Jezebel, a blog known for its feminist content, when I chanced upon an entry on a freak accident happening to a teenager (girl, I know, there’s relevance still!) while posing for a selfie at Yellowstone National Park. Ok… Seriously what drama could happen at Yellowstone… Well, one of the worse sort in fact: Bison drama. I rank bear encounters the top of my list. If I see a bear from afar, I’m gonna make a pretty quick escape. This is no doubt the consequence of a traumatizing article I read on a Russian girl being eaten alive by a bear. Despite the level of gore I’ve seen at work, those words in that article scare the wits out of me.

Stairways to the Sky

It was a slow Saturday afternoon. I didn’t plan for anything much. I was walking aimlessly around the rooftop garden at Orchard Central when I chanced upon this sculpture by Victor Tan. This sculpture is part of a series of 5 figures contoured from steel wires, titled “The Stair, The Clouds and The Sky” that dot the open space on the 12th floor of this shopping mall.

As usual people were engrossed in taking selfies with the sculpture, more than they were appreciating how the sculpture and granite stairwell framed against the sky. The woman walking up the stairs had just taking her mandatory selfie with the sculpture, and was joining her companions on the upper level to take more selfies with the other sculptures. Alas the 3pm sun makes it pretty challenging to take a decent picture. Harsh light from the sun is a pain… Well that isn’t too much an issue with me, I take pictures at all times in the day. Well… With a little help from my circular polarizer! :)

Picture taken with my Fuji X-T1 paired with the XF 23mm f1.4 R lens and the Zeiss circular polarizer, with very minor tweaks. It’s my staple combination for this body, works well within my casual daily use.

Tadashi Up-close

A close-up view of the Tadashi (正殿), the main hall, of Shuri Castle (首里城). Shuri Castle served as the royal court and residence of the Ryukyu king (琉球王) for at least 450 years. That’s pretty impressive! Unfortunately, everything seen here is a reconstruction of the original that was completely decimated during World War II by the US army. Ryukyuan architecture bears much influence from Chinese architecture, as can be noted from the choice of color (red, auspicious!) , motifs (lots of dragons!) and construction materials. Of course you can’t compare this with the scale of the buildings in China’s Forbidden City, it’s much smaller  in real life than it seems in pictures.  I quite like the mix of foreign influences and those of its traditions. It’s clear to me the Ryukyu kingdom had close ties with China, more so than with Japan, for a long while and was able to incorporate what they saw as strengths into their culture and traditions. It’s pretty evident in their cuisine (some may say it’s plain, but they have the longest lifespan compared to the rest of the world!) and architecture. :)

Catharsis Through Photography

Sorry to disappoint folks, there ain’t any pictures for this post…

I’ve been exploring this topic on the Internet, well conveniently via Google, and surprisingly not much has been written on it. I don’t think I’m alone in this journey of using photography to capture and release pain from my life, much as its popular use to record our travels and sights in our daily rumble.

I got deeply involved in photography after temporarily losing my hearing in my right ear from a nasty ear infection some 6 years ago. My eardrum burst but has since recovered, thankfully… During that period of time, I took a break from music and focused in a different interest while letting my ear rest and recover. I never really fully recovered my hearing to the pre-eardrum busting level… I used to play a variety of instruments in school, and composed short melodies for the fun of it. Do I miss doing that? Well yeah, perhaps…  But I can’t imagine giving up photography now. What started innocently enough as a distraction, initially as a hobby, progressed into a life pursuit pretty quickly. Turning it into a viable career option? Quite incredulous in the digital era eh?