Sunday, November 30, 2008

Kellie's Castle


I have been away (yet again) for the weekend with a group of my dear colleagues to Penang to attend a wedding dinner of our fellow friend. Basically I was requested to help out to photograph the event, and that was the main purpose of my journey all the way up to the wedding venue. I did my job, and since we have had Sunday to spare, we decided to make use of it to do some sight seeing. Though I was born in this country, but there were plenty of places that I have not visited yet, and today was not an exception.

THE BACK BUILDING




We ditched the plan of going into the Penang Island since we did not have much time left, so we decided to explore the state of Perak instead. One of the places that we ventured into was the Kellie's Castle which was quite isolated from anywhere but worth every bit of your effort for a visit. To be honest I have never heard of this place before, and many of us in the group only found out about this unique castle today. I truly wonder why would the government keep such a potential hidden from the public. They could have made it into some huge tourism hotspot, if they really wanted to considering the historical significance.

ROOF TOP



VIEW OVER PERAK





The Kellie's Castle was built by an English man named William Kelly Smith, who travelled to Malaya at very young age to seek fortune. The Kellie's Castle was built with bricks and Marbles imported from Italy, utilizing 70 tough workers in the construction. It was intended to be the hub of social life for the area's wealthy colonial planters and administrators, a grand mansion with six storey tower, wine cellar, stately columns, Moorish arches and walls embellished with Greco-Roman design. Unfortunately Smith died before the construction was being completed, and the entire family traveled back to England, abandoning the entire place.

LOOKING DOWN




So here the castle is, standing proudly today in Malaysia, bringing back memories of old times during the colonial era. It was really an unexpected experience stepping into the entire place, I felt as if I was momentarily not in this country anymore. The atmosphere and accent of the whole castle and its surroundings portrayed the feeling as if you were in the foreign country. The adjacent lands being still on the wide open side and undeveloped added the depth to the previous statement. It was indeed pleasing to see that the place was still properly maintained, and if the right buttons were pushed without a doubt it could be a hotspot for photographers from all over the places !!! Come on guys, how many English standing castles can you find in Malaysia? Of course there was the Fort Magherita in Kuching, which is puny and nothing compared to Kellie's Castle !!

A GROUP OF US



COURTYARD




The place was beautiful, inside and out. The interiors was just stunning, and it was a rare chance to witness. The surrounding environments were lush green trees and grass. Perfect for wedding photography, or portrait shooting if you ask me. Of course it would be ridiculous to travel so far just for shooting if you were not from Perak, but hey, if you ask me, I would tell you I will pick one more chance to go there again and do a full out shooting. The visit with my colleagues was a rather brief one, and of course if I were there with a bunch of wacky photogs, it would easily be an entire morning or afternoon killed right there and then alone. The wall textures, the architectures, the landscape, even the walls were interesting to be photographed.

AN ARCH




It was a rather sunny day, with superbly strong sun hitting right from the above on a wicked burning afternoon sun. Not exactly suitable for any portraiture works, since it would cast unwanted highlights and shadows all over the faces. Even the people would have problem smiling, and opening the eyes wide under such intense sunlight. Nevertheless I did what I could, and of course, once you were in such an awesome place, you would definitely want to bring lots of pictures back with you. On the other hand, such clear sky and harsh sky were ideal for landscape shooting !!

CASTLE FRONT



Finally after months since I purchased the Circular Polarizer (CPL) I finally found the right chance to fully utilized them. Almost all the shots shown in this entry were taken with CPL (like a piece of sunglass for the camera lens). The effect was nothing less than stunning !! The contrast was deeply toned, and colours popping out crisply. The blue and green were somehow more intense and bold looking, providing very powerful impact on the landscape scenes. Darkening the sky improved the drama of the shots too. It was such a joy toying around with the CPL, since I could rarely use it in KL skies which were usually boring gray or white.

AT THE TOP OF THE CASTLE






Like I have mentioned a couple of times, I have a thing for landscape photography, but it is definitely a challenge. I wish I have a wide angle lens !!!!!

All in all, the weekend was truly a hectic but tremendously enjoyable one. Attending a wedding has always been a cheerful side of any story, and being able to explore new places (new to me) was an added bonus over the weekend activities. I have been running out of KL for a couple of weeks now, and I should really start to glue my butt to the chair soon. My weekends were gone just like that, not much time for proper rests !!! Nonetheless, it was because of those travels that I have lovely pictures to show you guys !!!

Anyone else has been to Kellie's castle?

Friday, November 28, 2008

3 Years and Counting



“Nothing’s comforting in change.” Joshua, Lifehouse

It has come to the near-end of the year again, when everything started to slow down and there were moments I would just sit still and set my mind to wander against the clock, remembering all the significant events that have happened in my life throughout the year as if it was a video playback inside my head.

It is time for reflection.



A lot has happened, a lot has changed. Most of the parts I went through I have had not much choices, but limited to where the wind of fate chose to propagate me to. I admit there were times I felt as if I was being forced to walk down a certain path, or make certain decisions without having much say whatsoever. In the end, I was only left with the consequences; some would trail me for the rest of my life.

I guess the biggest change this year, also the most difficult would be the change in career. The contract for my previous job in Perth ended, and not having a PR, it was almost impossible to hunt for a job there. My family wanted me to return to Malaysia as well. I returned with a very heavy heart, and pursued an entirely different career path in KL. It was not easy starting all over again right from the beginning especially at a new place where I was not familiar with at all. After listening to the disheartening stories on how astonishingly cruel and harsh life can be working in a big city, it was not exactly the most exciting decision I have made. But I made the decision, and here I am in the big city, threading a completely different line of work (previously Structural in residential developments, currently Geotechnical in mostly commercial projects) and making my way through the busy-ness of the rush hours to the office everyday.

The second most significant point in this year, would be giving up the empire I have built over the years in Perth. I believe it is not where you are that matters, but the people around you that truly hit the counts. There were many circles of friends I have formed over duration of time, and some have become close and precious to me. While I am losing touch with my older generation friends from Malaysia, I have gained many wonderful ones in Perth. There were tennis buddies, shopping buddies, DOTA kakis, blogger friends, uni friends, and also the really really awesome church friends. Sadly, all that have been unwillingly left behind and I am now moving on to a totally new, alien environment.



The third, but the most interesting development in my life would definitely be my unexpected sudden jump into the world of photography. After my old compact camera died, with some savings earned from my previous job, I got myself a DSLR. That was the starting point, and it went deeper and deeper and deeper… and it just does not seem to want to stop !! Call it an obsession, but I see it as a result of coping with my situations and dealing with all the changes. Every time I went out for photo shooting, my mind was taken off from all the worries and burdens as I was trying really hard to lock on that precise focus. Photography has become a drug, a sort of temporary cure. Although the problems will not go away, but at least I can still hold myself together, and smile with contentment at the end of the day. Picking pieces of this up, little by little, I gained just enough strength to move on with my life. The way I see it, things could have been worse if I chose more harmful ways to deal with my problems.

After all those times of learning and pushing myself in taking photographs, it is rewarding to finally get a handful of positive feedbacks on my work. I take pride in this, though my photography skills may still fall short of the pros, but I am glad I have come this far because all I am able to do now were self-taught. I guess this is one good trait in me that many people do not know of, I may not learn very fast, but given time and patience, in the end I am usually very good at what I am doing.

I do not give up easily.

So the big question now that everyone is asking is how am I doing now?

To be honest, things have gotten a lot better over the past couple of months. The people I have known through work are tremendously lovely !!! I guess this could be a rarity itself working in KL, and I am starting to appreciate the good things around me. In less than two weeks, I already know everyone by their names, and this was a stark contrast in comparison to my previous company in Perth where I worked for over 6 months and embarrassingly did not even know half of the staff there.



And I have also come to believe, after all I have gone through this year, it takes time before the bigger picture will be fully revealed. While a lot of people, even myself sometimes were led to believe that leaving the job in Perth behind and coming back to Malaysia was not exactly the best thing that could happen since everyone is pretty much trying to get out of the country. In contrary to that, take a good look at how things have turned out in the end. With such horrific turn of economic conditions in Australia now, it would take more than a miracle for me not to be retrenched, since I was one of the few who did not possess a PR. Losing a job at such critical time would have caused even more depressingly severe consequences. Subsequently it would not be that easy to hunt for a job now in Malaysia as compared to half a year ago. Therefore, if you care enough to view the picture in full, you will realize that, somehow there is a pattern running through all the things that have happened in my life leading me up to this point.

“Whatever that have happened, have happened, and could not have happened otherwise.” Morpheus, the Matrix Reloaded




For that, if you see what I see, things were not that bad at all in the first place. Sometimes, you have to be forced out of your happy zone in order for you to see what is really out there. It is either you resist the change, and be miserable all you want, or adapt to it as quickly as you can and make the best out of your life. There is no time for regrets, because everything happened for a reason and even if you do not see it now, it does not matter. Persistence and perseverance (I am still struggling with these) are not easy to practise, but if you succeed in making them a part of your life, you would most probably succeed in everything you do already.

So people, how have your lives been so far? Any lesson learned to be shared?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Silence


It seems that suddenly this place has become so, quiet.

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us



Peace can be a good thing, no?

I wish I can find peace in me some day, I truly wish.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Chasing Butterflies in Malacca


Bright and early Saturday morning, under the superbly clear blue skies of Malacca....

I regretted big time for not carrying my standard zoom lens with the circular polarizer with me on this particular trip. Every single time I ran away to Malacca, the sky would be freakingly white and blanketed with uninteresting thick murky clouds, casting a soft light over the scenery, taunting my landscape shots. I have a huge thing for landscape, though I am nowhere near good at it now, but there is just something about capturing something far away out there that soothes the soul. Honestly, landscape photography is a real challenge, and I am more than willing to take on it.





Alas, I only had my pancake (25mm, or 50mm in 35mm format equivalent field of view) and with the limited wideness of the lens, I tried my best to produce what I could with such a rare, and beautiful weather throughout the day !!

The clear dramatic blue sky somehow brought out the outstanding colours of red and green prominently across the frame. Placing the redness of the old building, the green of the background hill, and the deep blue sky together, I really like the outcome of the combination. All the primary colours coming nicely together. Of course, having a polarizer would have helped to add more depth to the colours and contrast, sue me already for not carrying one.

So it was a sunny and nice day, what did we do?





For the photocrazy people like us, me, Fred and ChunChow went to the Butterfly Park for serious macro photography, without macro lenses. Call me crazy, but I have done this so many times that I think I might just chuck the idea of getting a macro lens anything soon, in favour for flash or maybe a longer telephoto zoom lens.








I have made quite a loud complaint about how unrealistically difficult it was in using the combination of tele lens + close up filter for macro shots, especially when I was only left with a manual focus option. I am also not that keen on using the particular single coated filter, since it is very susceptible to a lot of issues such as heavy chromatic aberration, and the overall picture comes out really soft. Technical jargons aside, I believe the most challenging part would be using manual focus all the time, meaning there is no convenience of pressing the shutter halfway down, you have to do the job yourself.








For some really weird and unexplainable reasons, I have become accustomed to the tele lens + close up filter combo. I have become comfortable with the manual focus, and this attempt, I have had more hits than misses, and though troublesome, but I knew what to do, and what not to do when I come to certain circumstances. I have mentioned that using a tripod would help, but as stubborn as always, I shot everything handheld. Call me lazy, so what?





Note: Dragonfly again. I can't seem to get enough of them.

So how was the Malacca Butterfly Park? For a butterfly place, it sure has a lot of non butterfly display items. Snakes (LOTS OF THEM), tortoise, leopard, crocodile, birds, lizards, fishes... it seemed more appropriate to be called a mini zoo instead. As for the butterfly part, we were a little disappointed with the lack of varieties, especially with the colourful ones. Though you could not find so many other animals besides butterfly in KL Butterfly Park, they have more different species flying around than the Malacca one.






The weather was too harsh for taking pictures of animals, or even the butterflies being exposed directly under it. There were many overblown highlights (areas whitened out by extreme brightness and contrast) as well as shadow clippings. Of course, it was rather a welcome, in comparison to gloomy, rainy days, which I have encountered in so many of my visits before.

I am getting more and more fond of macro. Somebody please end my misery and buy me a macro lens.

So it was a fulfilling morning of deep blue skies, and cheerful butterflies scattering around the park. Of course the adventure did not end there. That, shall be for the coming entry.


Sunday, November 23, 2008

I Ate Malacca over the Weekend


Side Note: I am starting to have a slight case of food poisoning at the moment, do not ask which one of the food I am blogging here caused it, but all I am hoping for now is for the symptoms to clear off before work on Monday.

I know I have just been to Malacca not too long ago, but this trip was not last minute spontaneous stunt like the one I did the previous time. I have promised a friend to stroke balls (tennis) all we can, and eat like we have never eaten before with him, together with another long time friend all coming together in the historical city of Malacca. I must say, that city has become my favourite over so many visits I have had there this year.

BOILED EGG with ROTI BAKAR



Basically I have tried out most of the famous food that must be tried by visitors like me, and no matter how many times I come here, I always do enjoy the variety and the unique taste of them. Nevertheless, there is always something new for me to sample, and that is the fun of having superbly brief trips each time. There are just so many kinds of food, available only in Malacca and cannot be found else where. The best part of it, most of the food comes really cheap comparatively to KL food, even to Kuching food in general.

SATAY CELUP




I have come with an aim of consuming Satay Celup. I have only had Satay Celup once before this, and that was quite pathetic considering how many times I have visited Malacca. I have grown to like it very much, and each time I went down there I would crave for it, but unfortunately circumstances were always against me. I am in love with the idea of selecting whatever food (wide variety here guys) you want being stuck into the satay sticks, and dipping it yourself into the rich, slightly spicy and savoury Satay Sauce to be cooked. We have had a few Satay Celup attempts in Kuching though, but I have not heard much of the news there ever since. Anyone had any idea what happened to those outlets in Kuching?

CHICKEN RICE BALLS



One of the outstanding food would be none other than the Chicken Rice Balls. I do not quite understand the necessity of forming the rice into balls, which would have made the process of serving the customer a few steps more cumbersome. Since the emphasis was heavily placed on the rice ball itself in selling the chicken rice, it has become something truly special, and for a non-frequent eater like me, it seems that no matter how many balls I have placed into my mouth, it was never going to be enough !!!

Note to Brandon: We had a whole chicken, with extra extra rice balls and it only cost RM9 each person, including drinks. Come to Malacca man, stop eating Chicken Rice in Melbourne !!!!

BABA LAKSA



CENDOL with OVERFLOWING GULA MELAKA





Baba Laksa was quite an unexpected dish for me, as a non-local in Malacca. Being brought up with the infamous (and of course better special in its own way) Sarawak Laksa, this version of Baba Laksa seemed rather unusual, yet interesting. The gravy was based on completely different ingredients, and the noodles and fillings were nothing similar to what we call as Laksa in Sarawak. Tuna in the laksa, who would have thought of that? I do quite like the refreshing dissimilar take on Laksa though, surprisingly, unlike how I trashed Penang Laksa.

Alright folks, this is all for this entry, and there shall be a continuation on food, hopefully after the following few entries on the places I have visited in Malacca. I have taken heaps and heaps of photograph too, in the midst of feasting and stroking balls and strolling around.

Also, it is refreshing to finally blog about food again. I do enjoy eating, and it has been quite a while since I last shared the joy with you guys.

Anyone had a better weekend than me?

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Story


Alright I have unexpected garnered weird amount of responses regarding the previous entry I have posted in black and white, in less than 12 hours after the post, more than 10 people asked me what the picture actually meant !! I was really taken aback.

It is very subjective really, there is not an exact right or wrong answer, I am sure everyone has their views and ways of interpreting the meaning of the picture. Nevetheless, this was what I really thought of when I was taking the shot, and the real story I wanted to share through that KL Tower photo.





It was all about being out of place and out of time.

The guy walking pass the old building symbolizes myself. The background is a contrast of an old building, blending completely out of place into such a modernized giant city of KL, and of course the tall prominent KL Tower literally proves the location of the photo being in KL. The person appearing in such a small scale in the frame looks so misplaced in the picture, everything just felt so disconnected there.

I guess the whole story was about me and what I feel about myself now. I do not exactly know if I am sure of what I am doing currently, and for what I know, if I do not make the right decisions soon enough, I will be living my next 10-20 years in regrets. Out of time is the second thing I am portraying in the picture. The old building has already been abandoned in favor of the peaking development in the city. I might be left far behind, if I do not catch up with the world. And it does feel as though the luxury of time is running thin somehow.

So yeah, does that explain the picture?

I do not expect anyone to see it completely though, I mean, it was my picture after all, and I was the one planning and taking it, and it may not necessarily get the message across right away, but what I found rather unusual was that, it got quite a lot of people into deep thinking. Which was a good thing, in a way, I supposed. The one guy closest to guessing the true meaning was Jason Lau, and it was no surprise because he is one of the few remaining old friends I have now since secondary school days.



I shall leave you guys with another picture here, taken not by me. It was shot with a superzoom Olympus SP-570 by Frederick, he has started his blog here, so do go and visit. I think he has some real potential.




I do think this is a powerful shot he has produced. I did some cropping to erase the cluttering top portion of the picture, and over sharpened the image to bring out the bold look.

Nevertheless, those were just minor tweaks, and the picture has to be done correctly in the first place to give the maximum impact. Kudos Fred !!!


Weekend is around the corner, more opportunities to snap pictures I must say. I am currently moving more and more comfortable to the way my pictures come out to be, I sure do hope you guys feel the same.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Tower


This is one of my favourite shots. I had quite a lot of patience in waiting for this scene: 1) For the busy road to be emptied of cars, 2) For someone to walk pass the front of that building, and the most challenging of all.... 3) Having both 1) and 2) coinciding each other.



Of course, the building was slanting a little, thanks for me getting overly excited when pressing the shutter as I saw the opportunity and forgetting to make sure the vertical was vertical. Also, my timing was a little off, I snapped the picture a split second too soon, should have had the person smack in the middle of the pillar. Oh well, I shall be more precise the next time I attempted something like this. I do like the outcome of the scene very much though.

It does tell an interesting story. Can any of you guys figure out this picture?


Gosh it is only mid of the week and I feel like I am immensely burned out already. I wonder if I would ever recover all the energy I have lost.

I think I am getting old.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

FlyFM 3rd Anniversary Celebration Concert


I have been very tired for no reasons lately, I have no idea why, it is like no matter how much I sleep it does not seem to be enough.

Hence until I recover to my usual self, I shall refrain myself from talking much. But I do have pictures to show you guys, especially those ones I have taken during the FlyFM 3rd Anniversary Celebration Concert. This entry will cover all the artistes and local bands that performed before Jaclyn Victor. Of course, after Jaclyn, I made an exit from the show since I was relying on the not so reliable public transport in KL to get back home, and it was already unspeakably late.

I do love some of the pictures, hope you guys like it too !!









That was all for my coverage of the event. I thought it was rather enjoyable, and I am really falling in love with concert/live performance photography !!! Capturing the lights was just simply thrilling, and doing so while enjoying great music being played right in front of you, blasted at extreme volume was just my kind of thing.

If I were to go serious into this category of photography, oh well, plenty of upgrades on my collection of equipments are absolutely needed. And I have not the cash, life is so unfair.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Jaclyn Victor Live @ One Utama


It was finally the weekend again, time to just forget about all those dreadful work and just delve into stress-free world, and of course, not forgetting to trigger the shutter of my camera. As I was checking through all the event listings of the happenings around KL area, I found one rather outstandingly striking event being held at One Utama Shopping mall, and the best part of it was... open FREE to the public. The event was the 3rd Anniversary FlyFM Celebration Concert featuring live performance by local bands and artistes.





The most notable artiste, and one of the few female singer that night was none other than Jaclyn Victor, the first Malaysian Idol champion. To be honest I have no idea how she would look like, or how she sounded like, since I have not seen her or heard any of her songs before. When she fought her way up in the music career I was already out of the country, studying in Perth, thus not really keeping in touch with the local music scene. As she was gaining fame and establishing her music career throughout the subsequent years, I was totally absent from Malaysian music. This was my first encounter with Jaclyn. Rather an astonishing encounter I must say.



Since Jaclyn was performing alongside other local bands and artistes, she was only on stage for two tracks. I would say she was quite attractive in comparison to many local Malaysian female singers, and gosh, her voice was no joke at all. When she opens her mouth wide enough to swallow an entire set of microphone piece, you can actually feel the speakers peaking to its limit containing her voice !!!! I could see why and how she became the Malaysia Idol. Not many people can scream the way like she did.







Considering the fact that Jaclyn was only performing two tracks, I had very little window of opportunity to photograph her. I honestly can tell you that taking her pictures was a total nightmare. She never stopped moving !!! And she moved really FAST, and very randomly, making it very difficult to predict where she would be heading. It was quite unexpected for me to be able to freeze some of her movements, since the songs she was performing were very up to beat, and fast paced.

My difficulties faced this time in taking her pictures are:
1) Terrible lighting conditions, varying intensity, and unevenly spread throughout the stage.
2) Mixed lighting colors, resulting in terrible color balance control.
3) I have no external flash, so it was not an easy job in freezing movements
4) I had to use high ISO, hence noise issue.




What I did to overcome the challenges:

1) Stand at the first line. I went extremely early, more than an hour before the show started and charged to the first line of the crowd, and there was NOTHING blocking my view, nothing at all, providing me full flexibility in compositions, and getting as close as I could to the face of Jaclyn.

2) Sticking to ISO 400, and still shooting without an external flash (no money to buy one yet) or the built in flash (coverage very poor). Olympus cameras are weak in ISO-noise performance, so I would not push it too far unless I absolutely need to.

3) I used spot metering. Since the background was very dark, using matrix (evaluative) or center weighted would have yielded much slower shutter speed, and consequently over-exposed skin. Spot metering, and fixed focus point in the middle as I pin pointed the face for the accurate exposure not only worked out lovely skin tone, but also faster Autofocus speed.

4) Since I was at the extreme front, there was a railing that went high up just below my chest, and I conveniently used them to rest my elbows on as bracings to stabilize my shots. It helped me heaps especially shooting under such horrendous lighting and fast paced motions.




All in all, I do think those shots come out pretty alright, and I am quite happy with them. I did very litte processing on them, mostly only on adding contrast and adjusting a bit of color correction.

It was a night of pure entertainment, I was totally immersed with loud crowd cheers and awesome music. There was no other better way to enjoy a Saturday night. I even had the chance to work my camera.

Coming up next would be the other local bands, and the radio DeeJays of the FlyFM. Stay tuned folks, and support local artistes !!!!