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? 

Point Block

A “point block” refers to a type of architectural design seen in public housing in Singapore. Not sure if this term is commonly used in architecture, or just one of the unique terms that Singapore’s Housing Development Board (HBD) has come up with. Such designs are prevalent among flats built in the late 60s up till the late 70s (correct me if I’m wrong!). There are typically 4 units per level… These ones look to me like 4-room apartment units.

Sherrene & Jake’s Wedding Photobook

 

This is the custom design flush mount album I compiled from the actual day photos of Sherrene and Jake’s wedding, which sadly I wasn’t able to attend due to work commitments. Nonetheless, I helped the couple out with post-processing… Which on hindsight were by far the most extensive and time-consuming editing assignment I’ve undertaken thus far. :S

My thoughts on the Fujifilm X-Pro1

 

A lil’ bit of backstory…

I bought the Fuji X-Pro1 in July 2013, and it’s been slightly more than a year since I’ve owned it. To be honest, I’ve thought of selling it off many times. I’m not exactly in love with this camera… But every time I’m about to put a listing to sell it off, I’ll be producing a beautiful shot from this camera. Gosh I’ve never felt such extreme fluctuation of emotions for a camera. Sometimes I love this camera, it feels like a “god-sent”, and the next thing you know… I hate the guts out of it.

Christmas Cupcake

Merry Christmas, have a cupcake!

I do wonder at times when will the cupcake craze fade away from Singapore. I’m sure we’re definitely on the plateau… More specifically, on the edge of impending decline. Nonetheless I’m grabbing my half-dozen worth of Christmas-themed cupcakes before they fade into oblivion. Pictured here is a chocolate mint cupcake from “Dessert Cup”, a cupcake & custom tiered cake store.

Photo taken with my usual combination of the Nikon D800 and Nikkor MF 55mm macro lens.

 

The Road Ahead

You really can’t see much of the traffic in front. It was such a horrible downpour, but I’m not sure if it’s the worse so far for this year’s monsoon season. I guess in a way it’s similar to my experience this year. An adventure into the unknown, a thick misty fog… Somewhat frightening, yet somewhat mundane. The year is drawing to a close, but it is hardly an end. Probably just the beginning of another journey… A journey, I hope, is fraught with less difficulties.

The photo was taken pretty much WYSIWYG. It is absolutely not overexposed, nor was that the intent. I usually get a nasty green cast when I shoot through the windshield from within the car (quite apparent with the Fujifilm X-Pro1 than the D800). I suppose the color cast is probably due the layer of coating applied on the glass to block out sun rays. The problem is noticeably absent after I fixed my circular polarizer on my lens. Of course after the picture was converted to black and white, any color cast would no longer be an issue.

Picture taken with my Fujifilm X-Pro1 and XF 23mm f/1.4R lens.

Monsoon Ride

I was running errands with my Mum yesterday when we were caught in a really nasty monsoon rain. Visibility on the road was about 20%. Couple weeks ago a pedestrian bridge near the highway we were traveling on collapsed from the impact of rain. Thankfully there weren’t any casualties. Crazy stuff just keeps happening up north. The car experienced aquaplaning for the entire stretch of the highway until leaving Woodlands. My Mum, being a super cautious driver, was driving under 50km/h and kept her hazard lights on. Oh well, at least we reached home just in time for dinner.

Picture taken with my Fujifilm X-Pro1 and XF 23mm f1.4R.

“Italian” Breakfast

Some hipsters like it rough… And that’s probably what brings them to Chye Seng Huat Hardware, the repurposed coffee joint. It’s nice seeing older buildings given a new lease of life instead of just getting demolished, as do many buildings in Singapore. The indoor dining area is pretty small, or at least felt that way when my food buddy HL and I were there. We were there on a weekend and obviously nearing lunch time. We settled with seating outdoors on stools and a rickety wooden table. Oh well maybe it would’ve been a better experience if it wasn’t warm (noon, no outdoor fans facing us) and the air was hazy.  Despite this being a coffee place, I have regretfully not ordered a cup of coffee during my time there. The menu just didn’t entice me to order one. Maybe they could throw in a bit of fancy Italian terms to whet my appetite like say cappuccino, macchiato, or maybe a yummy affogato. I can’t say the same about ordering coffee with espresso with water (americano? yucks…)  or espresso with milk (latte?); seemed all too clinical.

This brunch item was given the name Italian Breakfast. Hmm… Not very sure what makes it “Italian”. Is it the poached eggs? Nah… The crustless toasts? Doubt so… Oh maybe it’s the arugula placed casually on top of the eggs? But that still doesn’t make a convincing case to me. Alright, maybe it’s the minced meat with gravy that looks tomato-ish… But hey… They named this dish Italian breakfast but they couldn’t drop some Italian names on the coffee. This I don’t get it…

I have no idea how it tastes. But I did notice the disappointing choice of a dull blue melamine plate… I asked my food buddy HL how her her brunch tasted. I think she said ok or alright. Well, not quite a picky eater unlike me…

 

 

Picture taken with my Fujifilm X-Pro1 and XF 35mm f/1.4 lens.

 

 

ODP Burger

Probably the saltiest fries I’ve ever had comes from Open Door Policy. The burger was posh but the garlic fries… I can’t forget the ridiculous amount of sodium added to it.

On the whole ODP reminds me of one of the hipster cafes/restaurants seen aplenty in New York City. It’s cool that Singapore’s F&B scene is getting more vibrant. But some things don’t change, table service is still rather abysmal. Seating was also really cramp.

I remembered the waiter asking me how I felt about the burger and why I didn’t finish up the fries. I told him I’ve no complains about the burger, it was pretty good. As for the fries, I thought the chef could probably go easy on the salt. I was thoroughly rebuffed by the waiter who thought I was being offensive to the chef. Well maybe I have a lower tolerance to sodium. However it didn’t make any sense for the waiter to ask the diner for their opinion and to only shrug off when he didn’t get the answer he wanted.

 

Picture taken with my Fujifilm X-Pro1 and the XF 35mm f/1.4 lens.

Truffle pies on the board

I recently revisited Windowsills Pies with my favorite food buddy HL and naturally ordered a slice each. I think these are white chocolate truffle pies, if memory serves me right. I like indoor cafes, you get shelter from bad weather and air-conditioning for the dastardly heat. We had lunch earlier at a semi-alfresco cafe earlier and boy do I not enjoy that experience… It was a hazy day and the bad air made me lethargic.

I asked if some of the pies on display were seasonal and decorated for Halloween. Haha, the pie we ate sure looks the part! One of the staff told me no. But the pumpkin pecan pie was “seasonal” since it was pumpkin season (not in Asia, I believe). It’s quite novel how your pies are served on wooden boards. They look like chopping boards to me.

The pie had texture and was rather crunchy, which I liked. However I found it too sweet, and could certainly kick down a few notches for perfection. Or maybe I could have a pot of black tea without sweeteners to compliment the pie.

Anyway… The pies at this place are fine, but in my opinion not that worth traveling often to Jalan Besar to patronize. Some people commented the pies are expensive (I think the slice I ate was upwards of S$7). Well if it’s awesome I’m fine ponying up for it. But honestly I think the pies I had in U.S. are way better… Donuts too. 😐

Picture taken with my D800 and my ole manual focus 55mm macro lens.

Orchids at Sunset

orchidsatsunset

Nothing beats the golden hues of light at sunset… The picture was captured after a rain at around 5pm in the National Orchid Garden. Who says you need strobes and flashes to creatively light your subjects? Nothing beats the flattering distribution of sunlight, unless ahem… The dastardly noon light. But even that is not entirely impossible to overcome.

Picture taken with a Nikon D800 and my trusty old macro lens, Nikkor MF 55mm f/2.8 Micro.

When turtles meet

turtles

I was at the Singapore Botanic Garden, photographing specifically orchids, as I usually do. I wasn’t expecting myself to shoot anything apart from flowers so I coupled my D800 with my macro lens along with my X-Pro1 (for anything else). On my way out of the garden, I caught sight of a kid feeding bread to critters in the swan lake. With all my gear packed away, the only available camera I could use in a split second was my iffy X-Pro1. Oh well, if I could predict the future, I would’ve fitted a longer lens instead of a wide 23mm. (Haha… I find myself saying otherwise when I have a long lens on it.) But beggars can’t be choosers, there’s no way I could replicate this moment on my next trip. What do I do? Lean in as much as I can towards the lake and pray I don’t fall in. With all the feeding activity going on, all the aquatic animals were gathering close to the banks. It was at this moment when I chanced on these two red-eared sliders (terrapins) cozying up to each other! Not sure what was going on exactly… Are they showing affection, confronting each other or just peacefully interacting? God only knows… But they do seem lost in their moment as the fish beneath the surface go about rushing for their share of crumbs. What a fleeting moment…

Manza Beach

Found the perfect view at a quiet spot after viewing Cape Manzamo… The view from the cliffs overlooks the beach and the ANA InterContinental Manza Beach Resort. The white boat on the far left looks to me like a semi-submarine. It’s funny how most of the tourist hog the view of Cape Manzamo but seemed relatively nonchalant about exploring other points around the cliffs. I’d love to hang out a bit longer and explore the surrounding village but was time-restricted. One of the usual woes of group traveling. But there’s nothing much I could do since I don’t speak Japanese, self-traveling on the island is going to be tortuous.

manzabeach

Okinawa is the livelier version of Esperance, Australia (I so loved the beaches there!) and more family friendly than say Phuket? Not suggesting that there ain’t vice in Okinawa, but it’s definitely not right in your face (except those Pachinko parlors) unless you deliberately seek it.

Picture taken with my D800 and the AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8G ED zoom lens. Wished I had a circular polarizer or a variable ND filter plugged in front of the lens to capture the clouds in full glory. The weather was mild and breezy when I visited fortunately. It would have been really disappointing if Neoguri hit the island during my trip. Typhoons are no joke…

Guanyin Shan

Guanyin Shan

Overheard a couple of mainland Chinese tourists talking about the mountain on the opposite shores of Tamsui River and got to know its name. The weather was just so terrible for the entire day spent at Tamsui. There was a mini-typhoon going on… The river was swollen, there was even reports of landslide in the neighborhood. I spent my time seeking shelter from cafe to cafe as the rain poured heavy and intermittently. Every time the rain came to a drizzle, I went out with my camera and continued shooting. Just as I getting into the groove… The rain hits back with vengeance. Ain’t that farcical.