Thursday, July 31, 2008

Tao Japanese Dinner


After much walking around and snapping pictures in the serene island of Penang, it was already getting dark, and hunger was in full attack mode. All those awesome hawker and famous Penang food was playing in my mind, but for some really unexplainable reasons (queue the X-Files theme) I ended up having Japanese for dinner. No kidding, I seriously did. Do not worry folks, I did have my fair share of Japanese food pigging out session, which I will be blogging in coming entries.

TAO JAPANESE DINNER @ PENANG



Ooohhh simply love the cozy ambiance...

I have been having huge cravings for good Japanese food lately, something which I have not really gotten over with after coming back from Perth recently. Back there, I used to have at least one Japanese meal a week, though the super budget and cheap servings that you could find easily at any corner in the city. Unfortunately. in Malaysia, people practically worship Japanese food, and they are somehow regarded as something very special and priced ridiculously higher than other common food found everywhere. Godammit Japanese food is not supposed to be that expensive !!

SASHIMI MIX



I like the way the food comes in really small portions, which means we can order other food without the expense of filling up our stomach too soon !!

GRILLED PLATER



For a Japanese place, they serve darn good grills.


So me and Yiaw Wei (aka Fishtan, my partner in crime photography) went to this restaurant called Tau, and we had a buffet dinner. The style of buffet is dissimilar to the ordinary ones that place the food out in the open for your self selective picking, but rather custom unlimited ordering option at a flat rate. Looking at the menu, the variety is not entirely that impressive, but once you have tasted the food, you will notice that plenty of effort and care were put into preparing the dishes. The standards being presented here may not exactly be anything near the highest expectations out there, but for the price you are paying, and the unlimited order to cook option, I do believe it is very worth it. I do actually enjoy some of the dishes tremendously.

Obviously we ate a heck lot more than what you see in those pictures. It is buffet for goodness sake !! The food that we like, we had multiple orders.


SCALLOPS



Oh.my.gawd.... the scallops were sooo fresh, and the sauce was sooo addictive.... *slurp


UNAGI SUSHI



We actually ordered the real unagi set itself, but it freaking came with rice.. wtf.. such a cheap trick to counter the repetitive orders for buffet patrons.


I really do, must dedicate a special thanks to this dear friend of mine, Yiaw Wei whom I have known since secondary school times. He has taken so much trouble bringing me all around Penang and the cool places with his car, and was also a photo/camera/crazy person. The whole trip would not have been possible without him. he owns a Sony DSLR, and an avid photo-enthusiast that has spent a great deal of time indulging himself into the world of photography. He however, has quite interestingly dissimilar approaches when it comes to taking pictures, and we have quite opposite expectations at times. Nevertheless, he has got really good potential, and in such short time, I am quite impressed by his level of skills that he has managed to accomplish.

Do check his blog out at http://fishtan.blogspot.com

YIAW WEI aka FISH TAN




Do not insult his Sony or he will make you regret you were ever born in this world.

It is always refreshing to see another person getting really passionate into photography, and are actually serious in getting their points of views right. I still have plenty more to explore and learn in the camera-sphere, but of course, I am allowing myself plenty of space and time to do just that. Somehow, having a DSLR does take away some of the irreplaceable freedom that I used to possess abundantly previously while using just a mere compact camera. The kind of freedom that allows you to just shoot the subjects as they are without caring too much about the settings or trying too hard to turn the picture into something it is not. I noticed that the harder I try, the more unimpressive my shots come out in the end, and I think it is wise to sometimes just take a step back and not to think too much.

PRAWN PASTE??



Something made from prawn... it sure tasted great !!

TEMPURA MIX




After all, I believe photography itself in whatever level or forms, should be fun, and fulfilling. Should you take this important part out of the equation, then the output will be drastically affected too, though you may not have realize it.

So yeah, I believe I should be taking things at my own comfortable pace. That means, no lens upgrade, no external flash, no expensive equipments for me at the moment. The very reason why I thought through the decision of getting a DSLR in the first place was because I do not quite think my level of photo-taking is anywhere deserving such a powerful camera. But I have decided to make that leap, and I am glad I did, but now there is plenty of catching up to do. I may not produce superb output like what people would usually label as "good shots" but hey, you have to start somewhere, go through all the bad ones first... before finally achieving that certain standard.

THE DESERT



Maybe I should grab a compact, and start rediscovering the joy of using significantly lighter and smaller camera again. I do miss those days.

Good days.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Penang: The Temple and Greenery


I have received quite a handful of comments and questions lately regarding my sudden and unexpected visit to Penang over the weekends, and whoah.. never have I known people would actually keep track of where I am going and what I would do. Seems like people do care after all, so yeah, pardon my spontaneity and unpredictability at times, but life is short, we just have to make the best out of it as we can.

KEK LOK SI TEMPLE





The original plan was to travel up to Penang with a group of friends, but due to some odd happenings and unforeseen circumstances, we were unable to freaking get a cheap accomodation since every single budget hotel was fully occupied for that particular weekend. God knows whats happening in Penang at that unusual moment, thus the initial plan of going in a group was cancelled off. The plan was ditched at that instant, and I was making other plans to travel down to Malacca instead.... but Yiaw Wei asked me.. why not go Penang alone, since I could crash at his place for the night if I go by my own self. Therefore... after all the dramas (plus all the other things that happened around me) I decided I should have a weekend away from all this... and just to refresh my mind, take a pause.. relax... and enjoy myself.

INSIDE THE TEMPLE




THE LONG STRETCH



I took the earliest bus I could find down to Penang on Saturday morning, and Yiaw Wei grabbed me off the bus terminal at Sungai Dua. Time we wasted not, and off we went exploring the island of Penang.

The first destination was of course the infamous Kek Lok Si Temple, which was sitting majestically on the hill, overlooking the town of Penang. Unfortunately the temple was under heavy reconstruction/maintenance work, with most of the prominent architectural features and displays being closed down for renovation. Nevertheless, the temple itself was rather magnificent, and the entire place does feel like somewhere outside of Malaysia. One can truly take a moment to appreciate the Chinese ancestry cultures and the on-going practices being passed down through countless generations, spread all over the world, even to this part of Malaysia.

There were plenty of places to walk around the temple, and the view over the city from up there was just amazing. I shall post up the pictures of the city view in another separate entry, so do check back for that !!

YOUTH PARK




HAPPY FRIENDS



Yiaw Wei has some fetish for botanical gardens and anything to do with natural outdoor parks. I have the privilege to tag along and discover the remarkable serenity behind the deep greenery you can almost find everywhere in Penang !!

The entire island is so green, and you can see the protruding hill high up at the middle of the island everywhere you turn to. I am very impressed with the fact that those greens have been preserved and not chopped off for some lame-ass development by our beloved gahmen.

HEALTHY OUTDOORS




So the next stop was at the Youth Park, and we had a walk around. Goodness gracious, for some reasons, I do believe the greens surrounding the entire place was somewhat very different, and more radiant from the green you find elsewhere. I do not know quite how to describe, but they give you the very soothing and calming effect, even under broad daylight. You do not get this kind of parks much in Malaysia... No wonder the Penang folks flooded the whole park !! It is interesting to see so many people walking around, exercising, enjoying the fresh air, and feasting their eyes on such serene scenery. If this place is anywhere near where I stay, I would have definitely made a few visits in a week !!

Having enough greenery from the Youth Park, we moved on to another green place, the Botanical Garden.

PENANG BOTANICAL GARDEN







The botanical garden itself is of its own class. Walking around the entire place, once again made you forget that you are anywhere near the cold city life, but more leaning towards the nature and feeling really in tuned with the environments. There were some jungle trails that are covered with thick canopy of tall trees, and the air there was just so fresh and even the coolness can kind of tingles your skin.

And I keep asking, why don't we have such nice places in Kuching????? Come on.. reservoir park is damned pathetic in comparison with what Penang is offering, seriously.

EMO TREE



I love this picture so much I gotta make a black and white version. It evokes a feeling of... sadness somehow.. not sure if you guys see what I see.

JUNGLE TRAILS




IN THE THREE



The only complaint I had during my visits to those places, like most other times I have countlessly mentioned in this blog, would be the terrible weather. It was cloudy and overcast the whole time, and the milky white/grey sky was just uninteresting to photograph. A pure disaster for landscape photography if you ask me, but it is always hard to spot clear blue sky, anywhere in Malaysia I supposed. Looking on the bright side though, since it was cloudy all the time, walking around was a pleasure, and not having to sweat as much during harsh sunny days meant we could walk the extra mile. So all was good.

This was my virgin visit to Penang, hence do forgive all my 'whoah's every time I do find something worth shouting about. Of course, there are many more to write about, and I shall tell the stories and share the pictures in more entries to come.

Until now, I am still not fully recovered from my bus-lag (yes, there is such thing as bus-lag, especially traveling over 5 hours). Rest, I must tend to now.

More Penang filled entries will be coming up, I promise !!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Back From Penang


So many things have happened in the past week, quite a handful of them were quite unexpected especially dealing with the usual few that I would not have thought becoming difficult. Things happened, there was nothing I could do otherwise, thus, all I could do at the moment is just to slow things down a little, and run away while I figure things out.

Hence, there was a trip to Penang for the weekend. FishTan was my host, and plenty of great times I had during my short trip to Penang.

There is so much to blog about, thus I shall not cramp everyhing in this one entry. This particular post will only be a preview of what I will be blogging for the next few entries.

HELLO PENANG !!!



KEK LOK SI TEMPLE



BOTANICAL GERDEN



JAPANESE DINNER (don't ask...)



BACK-STREET




PENANG FOOOOOOOOODDD OMG OMG OMG !!



NIGHT ENTERTAINMENT (Again, don't ask...)




In short, what do I really think of Penang?

I think, it is such an awesome place, that I wonder why have I not been here anytime earlier. Seriously, of all the places I have been to in Malaysia (not that many yet though) I would definitely rank Penang as one of the top in the list. There is just so much to love there, and more details will be splashed here when I have recomposed myself and regained some free time to properly pen down my thoughts and feelings.

Until then, much rest is needed !!!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Creative Food


Did I not mention that I will be posting more food pictures? So here is an entry full with food, but rather unusual kind. Unsusual, because they do not exactly look like food to begin with, and you will wonder for a moment if they are actually edible. But I can assure you everything you see on the pictures in this entry were REAL food.

FREEDOM



Do not ask me why, that's the name of the food exhibit.

LITTLE MOUSE



Man I love that pumpkin house !!

LOOKS LIKE... EERMM NEVER MIND




I happened to be at the Mid valley for my usual window shopping activities (don't ask) when I accidentally stumbled upon an event happening at the convention center, the Malaysian International Bakery and Confectionery exhibition. It did seem like an international event, and the time I was there the whole exhibition hall was used for displaying food art works, mainly on bakery and confectionery based food: chocolates, bread, candy, and all those sugar crazy stuff that almost got Hansel and Gretel eaten alive by the witch. If you do not know the story of Hansel and Gretel, gosh, I pity your childhood, seriously. Heck, they should have built that house made of candies and bread !!

RED EYED DRAGON



KUNG FU PANDA: SLIMMED DOWN VERSION



MARLIN AND DORY



Where is Nemo?


I do think that the food displays were very, very artistic and creatively crafted. Obviously a lot of the ideas and inspiration driving the creations were not exactly original, since many were derived from popular culture and movie themes. But it was indeed a very rare opportunity to witness something like this out in the public. Some of the exhibits were really impressive, while quite a number of them looked rather plain and uninteresting. Nevertheless, I believed a lot of people who were there had their "WOW" as they skimmed through some of the more outstanding displays.

Oh and imagine the amount of food coloring and god knows what chemicals being used to shape and construct those exhibits. They do not exactly look that safe to be consumed, no?

OLYMPICS 2008



IN A ROW



CHOCOLATE RINGS?



Jasonmumbles boldly complained (ok, I exaggerated) that these pictures output in this particular entry were somehow lacking the standards that I would usually produce. At first, I was half laughing at his idea of my standards, because I have never thought there was any to begin with. Nonetheless, there were truths in his claims to a certain extents, and I have my reasons: I only carried s aingle lens with me, my tele-zoom lens, since I went there unprepared, thus composition and framing options wise were uncomfortably limited. And secondly, imagine the horror of steadying a tele-zoom lens under such low light condition. I wasn't particular stressed out about the pictures I was capturing at that moment, since all I wanted to do was to record the odd and unique craftsmanship of the displays, and share it with you beautiful folks out there.

I believe pictures tell great stories. And the artistic work of the food exhibition has their own stories to tell.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Out in the Open


Since I was already out shooting for the whole afternoon at the Wedding Fashion Show in Sunway Pyramid, I just did not feel like cutting my day off yet, thus making my way down to the city center, stopping at the Central Market. After all I only have the time to get out and make my Ollie work during the weekends, so I must take full advantage of whatever limited time I have left. It has been quite a long time since I last visited that place, must have been years back, when I came visit with my family. The place looked remarkably the same, hence I decided to take a walk around the area... and my oh my... little did I expect to find quite a few interesting spots within walking distance.

GREEN LIGHT




The Dataran Merdeka is just probably 5 minutes walk away from Central Market. Under the bright sun, I took the following few shots. I guess most people must have been bored seeing those buildings over and over again in TV or other promotional tourism media for Malaysia. Nevertheless, it was great to be there, though the place and the looks of things were somewhat, less appealing in actual real life. Funny, but true.

I noticed that I have not exactly talked much about myself lately, and most of my entries focused on my recent noob photography works and experiments. I used to spill heaps of my thoughts and feelings into this humble blog of mine, and i still feel strongly to do so, just that probably I have become a little distracted with Ollie. I always believe it is good to open up, take a pause and reflect at the things that have happened up to a certain point in our lives. Taking a good look at the situation, is worthwhile and it could reveal things that could have been overlooked.

THE CLOCK TOWER



So, how am I doing as of late? I strongly believe I am doing fine, considering the amount of trauma I had gone through leaving Perth behind, and starting a new yet unexpected journey in this giant city called Kuala Lumpur. This was sure an unexpected turn, and unanticipated but it happened, and so far, everything has been really good to me. Work is fine, and to my surprise, life in KL for now seems not too bad at all. I do get to go around and explore much in the weekends, and the vast list of activities and events everywhere always keep my time occupied, and this somehow aids in the process of moving on and leaving Perth behind.

It was not easy seeing the empire you have built over the years come crashing down in front of your eyes, and you are hopelessly helpless as everything falls down. Giving up something that you have loved so damned much was never easy.

ALONG THE ROAD




Damned coconut trees !!!!!


Making friends is on the slow pace. I am not entirely that keen on putting myself out there desperately with the sigh above my head "come get to know me I am new here !!". Do not get me wrong, I love getting to know new people, make connections, get to explore their thoughts, share opinions, listening to the life stories, and tapping into the great minds. The thing is, I am perfectly fine with the way I am now, and I do not exactly wish to do anything differently.

So where do I go from here?

I seriously do not have much of an idea of what to expect. I am comfortable with the flow of things at the moment, which scares me. From previous encounters, when things seem too good to be true, the next that would happen will be nothing pleasant. Lets just hope that feeling of mine is wrong.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Wedding Wonderland@Sunway Pyramid


I woke up ridiculously early this morning, though it is a Saturday. Funny, maybe all those waking up early in the morning finally crept into my never changing biological clock. I am starting to feel my life slowly wasting away with not having sufficient sleep. Go figure that out.

So I did my usual web surfing, blog reading and catching up with some buddies who were also up at such unusually early Saturday morning. Then suddenly I came across the events page of Sunway Pyramid, announcing the one huge event happening on this very day, the Wedding Wonderland, organized by the Touch bridal collection.

Skimming through details of the activities lined up for the event, there were three rounds of Fashion show, and the earliest one was at 1230pm. It was only 10am in the morning the time I found this out, thus I quickly prepared myself, and brought my Ollie out for work. I am getting strong impressions from everyone that I have been overworking Ollie. Should I be slowing down???

GOLD GLITTER



PLAIN AND SIMPLE




It has been some time since I last went to Sunway, and it was amazing I could still find my way there by bus, since no direct train of any sort stops by anywhere remotely near to Sunway Pyramid. I arrived rather early, before noon, and it was just the time when people started to flood in the shopping for their weekend window shopping spree. The event was held at the concourse area, so it was rather easy to spot. When I was at the stage, there were already a few photographers getting their cameras ready, with all those HUGE lenses and external flash units attached to their HUGE camera bodies. Man, why does everything have to be so HUGE? My tiny Ollie is not happy.

I gotta say I did feel a little out of place seeing all those dslr users at the front.

LAVENDER DAZE



SHE SMILES, BUT HE DID NOT



SOMETHING ORANGE





The surprising thing that I encountered, first time ever in Malaysia, was the punctuality of the events being carried out the whole afternoon. The fashion show was shockingly commenced right on the dot, at 1230pm, and this, has got to be something amazing, if you know what Malaysia time truly means. And so the models started to come onto the stage and parade their ways, flipping their fancy wedding gowns there and here, hit a few poses for the cameras... and yeah, the usual flow of things anyone could expect from a typical fashion show.

The scale of this fashion show was rather moderate, in comparison to the previous ones I have attended. There was the one at Mid Valley, which was one heck of a GRAND fashion show on the similar theme: wedding.

This particular one at Sunway Pyramid, however, was more toned down, and less sophisticated. The display of fashion was also very conventional, nothing overly abnormal or would make you go thinking.. "will I really want my bride to wear that thing on my wedding day?????" There were also many plain white stereotypical wedding gowns, which I have not included in this entry, since I believe they were getting a redundant already.. seeing white after another white....

CLOSING UP




WHITE WITH BLACK PATCHES




This fashion show did not exactly give me the "wow" feeling either. The music selections were also very relaxing.. and laid back, suitable for wedding mood in general. Hence it did not exactly get the blood in my veins rushing like the previous more fast paced and hyped up fashions shows I have attended.

I would not dare to say this being a bad side of things, but it does somehow slow the enthusiasm down when you are not in the pure drive to push yourself into the whole thing.

COLOURFUL??



MUCH LAYERS



STRIKING RED



On the photography side of things, I have tried to improve in a few areas, after learning from my mistakes in the previous shooting at Mid Valley not too long ago. Thanks for you people, I have had very useful feedbacks:
1) My pictures were too warm/orangish
2) My pictures were too dark/underexposed.

I was still stuck with the very same limitations as per my previous encounter, having no external flash to counter the low light condition, and utilizing the exact same tele-zoom lens. A prime would be reallllllyyyy helpful... owwhh the 50mm F2.0 Macro would be perfect... but but but I am still very cashless at the moment.

Sigh....

Nevertheless, I keep learning, and I can adapt really fast, and I will improve every single time I go out shooting pictures, regardless of the restrictions of equipments I have.

ANOTHER CAMERA IN ACTION



The background is the Violin Player.. playing a few numbers in between the fashion shows... VERY good he was !! I was impressed.

SIMPLY WHITE




What I have done this time differently, was shooting everything in full Manual exposure mode. That means I controlled the shutter and aperture fully, where as the last time I was shooting in Aperture Priority mode, and my camera gave me quite a bit of inconsistencies from time to time. The second and most important change I did, was using the manual custom white balance. I was using auto or daylight previously, but this round I was setting the white balance based on the Kelvin temperature scale, depending on the lighting and the color cast on the stage which changed as the spot lighting shifted.

These were the only two obvious changes, and the rest of the settings have been the same from the previous shooting. Since I have not much options to counter such challenging lighting condition, the only feasible solution would be cranking up the ISO setting, which I did mercilessly, so do spare me the lecture of noise levels, since this was my only option at that given moment.

From the pictures I have displayed, I do believe that there was a noticeable improvement.

SMILE?



BLACK FOR WEDDING??



Does Chinese Customs actually allow black during wedding day??

IN THE MOOD



Oohhh I love this pose. I should have zoomed in a little closer.

I have bumped into a few photographers that I have seen elsewhere, probably covering the same events previously. They seemed to be able to recognize me too, but I was just not in the mood to make conversations. Hey, I have been working all week, and Saturday is the day that I just want to go out to do the things that I love doing which I could not do during normal days... and not wanting to talk much, but just make things happen.

Alright, I know that was a lame excuse, but I was just being lazy I guess. Who isn't? Tell me who isn't???