Sunday, June 29, 2008

Lets Go to the Zoo Negara



I have made it to a point for myself that I would explore at least one place of interest in Kuala Lumpur each precious weekend, to maximize the whatever limited free time I have. So this week, I chose to travel all the way to National Zoo of Malaysia, which was situated surprisingly much further than I have anticipated originally. I almost fell asleep in the long bus journey, for the first time of my life in taking any buses, the lack of sleep over the past few days due to late night outings finally chipped into my system.

WE SHARE OUR FOOD




BENT KNEE



SPLASHING IN THE POND




Why Zoo Negara? Blame all of it on that Brandon (click)!! He poisoned me several times with the pictures he took at the Zoo in Melbourne, so in the spirit of kiasu-ism he got me so inspired to try out shooting at the zoo. Yes Goodness, Brandon, see what you have done to me. After all, I am not quite done trying out my Zuiko 40-150mm (80-300mm equivalent) F3.5-4.5 telezoom lens just yet, and so far I am loving the pictures it is producing for me. Can't complain much for the first generation Olympus DSLR lens, it still performs well this very day.

Anyway, this was my second time to a zoo of any sort, the first time was at Perth, which was obviously much, much smaller and it had narrower animal variety compared to what Zoo Negara is exhibiting.

However, considering the small size, I did enjoy myself back then, since it was the first time I was seeing a lot of animals there. Unfortunately I did not have a camera back then, hence no records of pictures to show you guys. One particular animal attracted my attention, and I fell in love with it on the spot. It was the meerkat, gosh, it was darn cute and adorable !!!! If only I could keep one as a pet. Timoon from the Lion Kong, was a meerkat, the loud talkative creature who sticks to Pumba (the pig) all the time.

SEEING DOUBLES



WHAT HORNS



OMG LOOK I AM SWIMMING




The Zoo Negara was very, very huge. It took me whole afternoon to cover the whole ground, which was sub-divided into a few parts, such as the Mammals, reptiles, birds, Savana walk, and Aquarium.

The planning of the whole layout must have been very detailed, and the setup of the place was amazing, with the variety of animals available for show to the public.

I was quite impressed, though I am sure this will definitely not be anywhere near the standards you find overseas, but it was worth the money you are paying for, especially for someone like me who is not that exposed to wildlife and all.

LOOKING THROUGH THE GLASS



If you were there seeing this ape, you would have felt a tinge of sympathy for him (or was it her), because he was leaning on the glass panel, and the facial expression suggested that he wanted to get out very badly. And he was staring at the eyes of the people looking at him. I tried to capture that emotion, but I do not think the picture turned out quite like what I wanted it to.

WHAT A HUGE BIRD



IN THE SUN WITH GLEE



A problem with highlight clipping (overexposed burned out white part of the picture) here, the clouds must have quickly shifted and I was still locking on the Auto-Exposure just before I fully pressed down the shutter. Sudden weather pattern change can be nasty too for noob-photographers like me.

Taking pictures at the zoo was a bigger challenge than what I have initially anticipated. Since the entire place was man made to contain the animals, and plenty of safety measures were taken to ensure the animals are protected from the dangerous carnivorous human beings, ermmm, I mean humans beings are protected by the dangerous carnivorous animals, whichever way you want to see it, it was not easy to get the shots that I really wanted most of the time.

The cages with THICK steel bars, the separating terrains between the foot standing position and the animal platform, and and the artificial man made items being placed all around the places just added miserably undesirable distractions into the pictures. It was not easy finding a good framing spot to isolate the animals.

G'DAY MATE !! I AM AN AUSSIE



In Perth Zoo, I get to touch and pet them.

SOME RANDOM PLANT



I got tired of shooting pictures for few continuous hours, hence I sat down for a bit, and I saw this flower not too far from me. Check out the amount of details it captured, with the ants and the spider webs at the left side.

EAT GRASS



Something I end up doing too if I slack at work.

The animals hiding from the sun under the deep shadows at the corners also did not help much. Many of the animals would show their butts only, and I could not think of any way to make an artistic shot out of animal backsides. Or worse, some of the animals moved so fast that you could never really follow their movements. Or worse, some of them were sleeping under the broad daylight. No wonder kids like to throw stones at them.

I am sure many of you in KL have been to the zoo, and might think that theres nothing that special about it. In a way, its true, because its not the place you would want to visit again and again.

LOOKING TO THE SKY



PLAYING WITH WATER





When I was a kid, and when the Zoo was just opened (I think), there was this advertisement on the TV by KFC with kids going around the zoo singing the theme song happily that went something like "lets go to the zoo and bring you friends along too". I could not remember the exact lyrics, but it did get stuck in my mind even until now, more than a decade later. This shows how scary advertising can be, having a lasting impact on children's fragile minds huh?

And so I have done my tourist thing for this week. I wonder where will I be exploring next week.

WHAT SEXY RED LIPS YOU HAVE



Any good suggestions and ideas?

The place I am going to must be a good place for photo-shooting too, or else my Ollie will be throwing tantrums.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Silence of the Night


Plenty of things suddenly popped out in my life very recently, and many of them were rather unexpected and just happened very abruptly. I have been out almost every night of the week and came home at really ungodly hours, and there were times I almost woke up too late for work in the morning.

It was because I was out at night, and I happened to bring along my Ollie that I managed to capture this picture of KLCC twin tower under the night sky.

TOWERS IN THE DARKNESS



Do take note that I was in a car and my friend made a very brief pause somewhere outside the towers, hence while waiting for other friends I was making my Ollie work for a bit, so very restricted movement. I even had to use the Live View to bring the camera down to a lower angle, shooting from the car window.


Usually I would not even think of taking night shots like this without using a tripod. I have a special thing for night landscape shooting, ohhhhh I just love playing with long shutters, and I have not done much with my Ollie yet, besides the night scenes I have taken back in Kuching. Unfortunately, working life did not provide me with much freedom to travel far at night, and this giant city is not exactly a safe place for a guy like me to bring a huge camera around at weird times.

One of those weekends, maybe I shall head down to KLCC with a tripod, and really take some shots.

I know everyone must have been tired of the sight of KLCC already, day or night, but hey, I am still new to KL !!!

And so Robin, welcome to Kuala Lumpur.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Death Penalty in Malaysia


Malaysia, is such a nice place to live in.

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Translation:

"You will die,
by the hanging rope,
one tragedy/unfortunate event
for your family:
because that's the only
punishment for anyone
who is involved in drug trafficking
in Malaysia... "


So we welcome you with a huge grin.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

KL Wedding Expo: Part 2


Side Note: My life has suddenly become so unexpectedly happening these days... not much time to read and catch up with you beautiful people's blogs out there... my apologies !! When things clear up I shall try my best to keep track of whats happening in everyone's blog, and what I have missed out so far.

Here is the second part of the Bridal Fashion Show entry, a continuation from the previous one (click). I shall address the camera settings I have chosen for this particular shooting, and my reasons for the selections.

CHINESE THEMED DANCE PERFORMANCE








Apparently the results were no where near high grade yet, but do take into consideration the lower end equipments I am currently utilizing, but the purpose of all these shutter snapping frenzy I have been doing lately is to push myself further, and explore different categories of photography.

I have always had a special thing for photographing people, either portraits or any random events, and capturing the facial expression and the mood of the moment can be incredibly rewarding in many ways. (I know Brandon is going to suggest Macro 50mm F2.0 lens…this is getting predictable) However, it is not very easy taking pictures of people as subjects, and more often we undesirably fall into the norm conformity and the pictures will come out very, very ordinary.

I mean, come on, there are millions of pictures (thanks, and no thanks to digital photography) taken by anyone out there, and it takes a hell lot of effort and thoughts to produce stunning images that stand out from the rest. It is no simple task, and obviously I am extremely far from accomplishing that kind of level, but we all have to have something to aim for to nudge us towards the right direction, have we not?

FEATHERS












I am fairly new to this sort of sport, hence it is good to share and learn, to improve my control over the camera and gain valuable insights from you beautiful people out there. Any feedback and suggestions are welcomed, but do bear in mind that I am no superman and I cannot just turn pro over the night.

The only way to get where I am seeing myself to be years from now (God knows where that is) is to walk down the hard way, learn by mistakes, trial and error, and eventually I will do better and better. One huge part of learning process is listening to the honest opinions from the others, and I may not be totally open to negative comments (no one deserves to be demoralized), but anything constructive will be very helpful.

Here is the summary of the settings I have chosen for the fashion show:

All photos shot in Aperture Priority mode
ISO fixed to 800, with noise filter set to High
White Balance: In camera customized daylight, some shots Auto
Center focus zone, one point (mid) AutoFocus
Center-weighted metering
Underexposed by –0.3EV to –0.7EV
All photos shot in JPEG

AMBER CHIA !!!! WOO HOOO











First of all, let me start explaining why I was not shooting in RAW. I do not exactly have the most powerful computer in the market, and processing the images shot in RAW format would cripple the whole system so badly that you will think you are running on Intel Pentium 2 with 32Mb SDRAM.

It is an immense pain working with RAW at the moment, and processing hundreds of shots after one event is not exactly something I am looking forward to. In comparison to that, editing in JPEG is more than twice the speed, since the files are much smaller. Plus me having limited memory on compact flash (2Gb only, gotta get more soon) just made the idea of shooting in RAW quite unattractive.

Since I have no Image stabilization on my camera body or lens, I have to employ a few options to achieve blur free pictures. In stark contrast to what others may think, I do not exactly have super steady hands. I wonder who started that myth.. hmmm… One of the alternative would be boosting the ISO up to 800, and I could get shutter speed of more than 1/100s under the given lighting condition during the fashion show. To compensate for the increased noise level, I set the noise filter control to HIGH, hence I did lose some details, but much to my surprise the pictures still turn out reasonably crisp and clear. hah !! noise filter control is something only OLYMPUS dslr has at the moment… sucks to be you non Ollie users

Besides that, I cranked down the exposure compensation value to –0.3EV or even –0.7EV to obtain higher shutter speed. The models are moving constantly, and pausing for a short while for the standard poses, hence getting quicker shutter speed is an added bonus to freeze movements.








I think the noise level in the photos are safely on the tolerable side, and pretty much cleanable if I spend more time editing the pictures. Somehow, I do think that some of the pictures come out very dark, and I should not have underexpose the shots with longer zoom range too much. Lesson learned, and I shall adjust the exposure compensation accordingly to the zoom range in the future. I know I can edit the pictures in a way to enhance the brightness overall but hey, I would prefer to be able shoot a good picture on the spot, and the editing process is utilized not to save a wrongly exposed picture, but to enhance and improve the already good picture.

White balance is another issue. Usually I would capture the light color cast just as what I see naturally whithout much adjustments. I know the professionals would advise against this move, and trying to make everything as “white” as possible. To me, changing what you see into something more accurately white may seem to be a good idea to retain more details, but somehow, you will tend to fail to record the original feel and ambience.

TRADITIONAL WHITE










Looking at my pictures, I may have overdone the tungsten cast of the spotlights, leaving everything overly orangish. I know this can be easily corrected in Photoshop, but I chose to present it this way to remind myself that I must pay more attention on my white balance setting the next time I go out shooting under artificial lighting conditions. For now I prefer to produce warm images.

Autofocus of my Olympus E410 was quite reliable, and very snappy.

I generally would set my focus to the center zone, hence I would lock the autofocus and autoexposure by clicking the shutter halfway and recompose my picture quickly before releasing the shutter button. This is a common practise, and usually more accurate and reliable than the in-camera settings of multi-zone focus system and multi-pattern evaluative metering.

AMBER CHIAAA AGAIN !!








Depending on what kind of pictures you are taking of course, but for this event, the aforementioned settings worked just great, and as the pictures suggested, most of them are accurately focused and properly exposed. I would have tried spot metering, if I was standing at a more auspicious position.

Using my Ollie for a while now, I dare say that as an entry level DSLR, it is quite a capable one. The Olympus lenses I have may be in the lower end category, but the picture output was reasonably good. You would not expect it to out-perform more expensive and newer DSLRs out there, but hey, it does not mean you cannot take great pictures with it.

FINAL GROUP SHOTS








So guys, do give me your thoughts about the pictures I have taken so far (not limited ot this entry) and keep the comments coming. For some of you more experienced DSLR users, your precious opinion on the camera settings would be very, very much appreciated. If you ask me on how I could improve the shots, I can say two very obvious points: white balance, and composition/framing/timing wise (choosing a better spot for shooting would help a great deal). I am putting a lot of effort and thoughts in my phototaking lately, so feel free to say something !!

Man you gotta love Ollie.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Bridal Fashion Show @ Mid Valley


Side Note: Again, extremely heavy graphics loading ahead... but I am loving HUGE, bright colourful pictures these days. I just do not know why... do bear with me ya?

UPDATE: I changed my mind. I am not going to re-edit the pictures anymore. Coming home after 8pm from work did dent my motivation to redo the batch of photos that I have already done yesterday.
Nevertheless, I shall try to present better color casting in the coming batch of pictures, the part 2 of the fashion show. This way, we can do comparisons as well.
I shall leave the pictures in this entry as they are... Man I am becoming lazy... See what working life is doing to me.


I have always had a thing for fashion shows, and I have attended a few during my time in Perth when they were showcasing free of charge in the public. I believe it has something to do with sexily gorgeous models being dressed up in ridiculously fancy and overly exaggerated outfits, doing their thang on the stage.

There is the indescribable feeling of glamour and prestige, seeing the models parading and showing off on stage, under the bright spotlights and cheers of the lovely audience. Being there while the whole thing was in action, never failed to give me a kind of rush, and photographing the event just brought the whole experience to the next level !!

OPENING DANCE

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I guess it is a good thing for me staying and working in KL now, since this giant city always has fashion shows happening everywhere, during random events. The trick is to stay updated, and know when to catch the shows. I happened to be in luck last Sunday, and I made it to the 7th KL Largest Wedding Expo at Mid Valley Exhibition Centre. There was a fashion show with wedding theme, organized by the Ivory Romance, being presented to the public in the afternoon. Since Mid Valley is not too far from where I am currently staying, I headed for the event with no dramas.

This was yet another golden opportunity to put my lovely tele zoom lens to test !! Talking about maximizing the equipments I have... hmmmm...

AMBER CHIA @ Bridal Fair



GETTING CLOSER..



HEADSHOTTTT




Since it was mentioned that the event was the Largest KL Bridal Expo, I was expecting something rather grand for the Fashion Show. I was not disappointed, the fashion show turned out a heck lot better than what I have initially expected !! Everything about the presentation just clicked to well, starting from the opening dance performance, to the models doing the parades, down to the selection of music themes, the whole thing was just simply fantastic.

The fashion show managed to capture, and project the overly bright and cheerful mood to the audience. The whole thing felt really grand, and you could feel that this was no ordinary fashion show. The overall presentation from the beginning to the end did a wonderful job in engaging the crowd in the happy and joyful atmosphere.

SOMETHING FURRY AROUND THE NECK




I particularly adore the opening dance/performance, which managed to build up the hype and suspence just before the main models made their debut on stage. Oh the models were very, very beautiful !!! The selection of wedding gowns on show was just superbly stunning, incorporating almost all colours you could think of, making the whole thing a true work of art. Instead of watching a fashion show, I felt like I was watching a major live theatric performance.

FULL OF COLOR VARIETIES






Surprisingly there were not that many DSLR users shooting for that event, I made a rough count of less than 10 people. This could very well be due to the fact that the event was not very widely advertised, not so much on the papers or other media.

Another reason could be the stereotypical thinking of bridal fashion shows being boring and redundant, seeing models wearing white gowns walking up and down again and again from beginning to the end. It was very unexpected that this particular bridal fashion show broke the norm, and seriously immersed everyone there in a different approach.

WE LOVE ORANGE TOO





Of all the DSLR users, only one guy used external flash, while the rest, including me shot the pictures without flash support. The entire place was brightly lit by spotlights, covering the whole stage. The models walked in rather comfortably slow pace, hence taking pictures at any point was not really much of a difficult task. I was not exactly standing at the best position, I was a little bit off to the side, hence my composition of angles and views were rather restricted, since I was facing the models from their sides.

There was a huge crowd, and I did not dare to move around much, since I was already right at the front line. Nonetheless, I did what I could, and try to isolate the models using plain backgrounds. Having a tele lens helped a lot in this area.

ZOOMING IN





This was not my first time shooting fashion show. The previous encounter was obviously in Perth (click for the entry) during the Fashion festival, and I was using my trusted Kodak C875 back then. It was a disaster shooting a fashion show with a compact camera, since the performance was rather sluggsih, with very lame autofocus, and horrible shutter lag. A lot of good shots were missed, and not to mention the ISO performance under low light was terrible. I did pull out some pretty useable shots, but on the whole, I knew I could have done better.

This time around, armed with my DSLR, and a new lens, I was expecting the pictures to come out a lot better. Focusing was a heck lot faster, and that allowed me to capture almost any shots at any given time without much difficulties. Picture results were very pleasing too, though the colors were a little too saturated for some people's liking, but I just have the fetish for intense colors at the moment. I might change the color theme on my blog soon, after getting tired of superbly bright and vivid pictures.



This was also the first time I realize that 2Gb of memory was not enough for shooting freely in a huge event such as this fashion show. It was shocking to discover how fast I could drain the memory, leaving only a few available shots after the whole thing ended. I must stock up spare memory cards, if I were to cover the whole of another event.

And so this was my first attempt on fashion show in KL, and I was generally very happy with the turn out of the photos. I have taken so many pictures, and obviously it would be ridiculous to fit everything in this entry.

THE TRIO



Therefore, there will be a continuation from this post to the next, and I shall update more pictures of the lovely models really soon !! Do stay tuned for more pictures folks. I shall talk more on camera settings I have chosen to adopt for my shooting, including why I chose such orange-ish cast in that next entry. Any suggestions to improve the shots are kindly welcomed.