Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Swordsmanship Vs Photography


Side Note: All photos in this entry were taken with my Panasonic Lumix DMC-LZ8.

Having been involved in the world of photography for some time now, I cannot help but find it amusingly similar in comparison to Kung Fu, particularly Sword-fighting. Metaphorically picturing the situations together, the photographer can be likened as the kung fu practitioner, and the camera is being represented as the sword.



Here are my reasons why photography is the modern day sword-fighting kung-fu.

1) A swordsman’s identity (origin, school and rank) is defined by his sword. A photographer’s profession (landscape shooter, portrait, events) is portrayed by his choice of camera and equipments.

2) All kendo schools in Japan require their students to pick up sword fighting by using wooden sticks first. As the students progress in skills and experience, then were they allowed to use real swords for practice. We should learn from this. As a beginner, a photographer should start with basic camera and equipments, be it a compact point and shoot, or an entry level DSLR. It makes no difference no matter how good your camera or lenses are at this stage. This point is further elaborated in the point 3) below.

3) An inexperienced swordsman who is not ready in mind, spirit and body to control the power of the sword can only result in nothing good, but destruction. He has not the ability to cut what needs be cut, and refrain from cutting what needs not be cut. Inevitably he ended up cutting those around him and even himself. The conclusion drawn from this allegory is apparent: using top end/expensive/professional camera and gears will not get you anywhere, if you are not ready and sufficiently equipped in skills and knowledge to use it. There is no gain whatsoever by upgrading your lens or camera body, if you are not able to fully bring out its potential. By all means, if you are still a beginner, stay with your wooden sticks.

Goodness gracious, what are we teaching our children these days? To CAMWHORE? In public some more.

4) Mastering the advanced sword techniques is just one of the many factors defining a skilful swordsman. Additionally, the swordsman needs to be in tip-toe fitness, extremely fast in reaction and adapt to his fighting environments. Being able to read the oponent’s movements, and find the enemy’s weaknesses can lead to a clear advantage. Photography is not so indifferent. Understanding how the camera works, knowing how to use advanced techniques to capture amazing shots are just the first few steps. How good your photograph turns out ultimately depends on heaps of other factors, such as varying on-site lighting conditions, how quick you can think to adapt to your ambience, how you work around the points of disadvantage to your shooting, and how prepared you are in your tasks.

5) A student learns only 90% from his Master/Sifu. Nevertheless, there is nothing stopping the student from developing his own technique to overpower the Master. To create awe-worthy images, we should not be bound by standards set by our predecessors, we should instead, over-exceed their expectations.

6) Sword-fighting skills can only be improved by constant diligent trainings. The more you train the faster and stronger you become, and the more you can do with your sword. The same thing applies to photography. Photography skills can only be improved dramatically through countless hours of shutter clicking. Only on the field can you fully grasp the necessary actions and develop appropriate response to the related shooting conditions. You can never expect your skills to improve without much practice.

7) The largest sword may not necessarily be the best sword. If the sword is too huge and heavy it would hinder the movement and agility of the swordsman, compromising his fighting advantages. Similarly, large camera and lenses are not suited for all kinds of shooting conditions. In cases when high mobility and lots of movements are required, shooting with more compact, light and smaller set of gears would be the better option.

Working with just a mere compact camera to obtain the above shot was quite a nightmare.

8) Japanese swords (katanas) are the best swords ever made in the history. Unsurprisingly, the best cameras and lenses come from Japan.

9) A true swordsman lives by the sword. He carries one around everywhere he goes. A true photographer does pretty much the same, he carries one camera everywhere he goes in order not to miss out any photo opportunities.

10) A lot of the most powerful kung fu masters will have to undergo the process of losing part/whole of his genitals to accomplish the highest level of their art. With all my heart I am thankful this is not applied to photography. Or am I wrong in this regard?

Monday, December 28, 2009

Birthday Dinner @ Shogun


So how has everyone been? How was your Christmas celebration going on? Do share some stories !!

My celebrations for Christmas, and the subsequent day, my Birthday have been quite interesting this year. I dug out some old catalogs and promotional brochures that came along with the credit card statement and found that I could actually get quite a decent amount of discounts dining at Shogun. Since I have always been craving for Japanese food, and I have not had my regular dosage these days, I figured out, why not go there and eat my heart out? I asked Chun Chow and Wendy and thank goodness they were free for dinner, and so we went and feasted like there was no tomorrow. Alright, it was less dramatic than how I have just described it, really.



*click* image for larger view

*click* image for larger view

We visited The Gardens, Mid Valley earlier.

*click* image for larger view

*click* image for larger view

*click* image for larger view

Chun Chow, Wendy and me at Little Penang, Mid Valley. We had Ice Kacang each there.

We went to Sunway Pyramid, and it was already 6.30pm. Dinner session for Shogun commenced at 6pm, by the time we arrived the place was already jam packed !! We have to be put on the waiting list. The number was not very encouraging, and they told us we had to wait for quite a while. I asked if we could go and have a stroll elsewhere, then when the seats were available, could they give us a call on the mobile and have us there. They did not allow such requests, and the patrons will have to remain there waiting until the seats were available. Bad luck for us, and our tummies were grumbling already considering the light lunch we all had earlier.

*click* image for larger view

*click* image for larger view

*click* image for larger view

At Sunway Pyramid on the night of my birthday, I bumped into Jian aka Miao aka Akiraceo and SleepyHao !! What a coincidence !!


We also noticed that there were many empty tables in the premise, and no surprise, many people have made early reservations but have not turned out. So we were told later that, in half an hours time, if the reservations failed to turn up, slots would be open for us. It did not take that long, and soon enough we found ourselves storming the buffet tables and helping ourselves to platefuls of food. Oh, bliss !!

I know I know, I can be such a glutton at times. But hey, it was my birthday, so cut me some slack will you?

Photography is prohibited in Shogun, it was a rule we all knew. Knowing that we were not allowed to take photos, I was somehow tempted to do so. Call me rebellious, but we all get kicks out of doing something wrong. The Spartans believe that it is not wrong for one to steal, and he would only be considered a thief if one gets caught. Therefore the trick here was plain simple: do not get caught. It was a challenge itself: discrete and stealth photography. Hiding the camera in the bag when the staffs were walking around, and when they were out of sight, or not within the zone if sight (where they can visibly see the camera) I would pull the camera out and start shooting like crazy. Then when one of the staff came along, into the bag the camera went.

I know I must be crazy.

But it was hell fun !!

*click* image for larger view

*click* image for larger view

*click* image for larger view

*click* image for larger view

Salmon Sushi, Prawn/Vegie Tempura, Unagi Sushi, and Soft Shell Crab

*click* image for larger view

*click* image for larger view

*click* image for larger view

*click* image for larger view

Baked Cheese Oyster, Baked Salmon Chunks, Lamb Shank, Dory Fish

*click* image for larger view

Of course, not to be missed, deserts: Sago Honey Dew, Fruit slices, and cakes.


Considering the fact that I was shooting the photos in a hurry, the composition of the food was a little off. Nonetheless, it was nice to see what I have eaten. Of course there were a lot more plates without photographs taken, simply because they were the same food, or the arrangements were too messy to be presented.

On photography note, the lighting condition was quite horrendous. I did not use the external flash, and I shot all the photos in this entry with no aid of flash. By using natural lighting, the photos come out more natural and pleasing, but there are some issues to be addressed:

1) Slow shutter speed, even at F/2.8 and ISO800, an adequately exposed photograph would require shutter speed between 1/8 seconds to 1/15 seconds. This was a nightmare, since shooting handheld with shutter speed slower than 1/60seconds are subjected to hand shake. I decided not to push up my ISO to 1600, because my Olympus cannot handle the noise very well at that setting. Hence, I had no choice but to steady my hands.

2) White Balance under tungsten light. It was difficult to adjust the white balance accurately, and I refused to shoot in RAW, which many people would hammer me for. Nonetheless, a little post processing can salvage the shots.


Shogun may not exactly be the best choice of Japanese buffet in KL, in comparison to the likes of Jogoya or Tenchi, but the lower pricing attracted poorer people, just like me. I cannot justify the fact of spending near 100 bucks just for dinner, no matter how good it is. For the price of Shogun (RM60++ weekend dinner) there was compromise in terms of variety, but the food was not too bad. My stomach capacity cannot fill in everything anyway, so I only took in those food that I really like, and if I managed to stuff in every single thing I like, I would go out of the restaurant happy and satisfied.

*click* image for larger view

*click* image for larger view

*click* image for larger view

*click* image for larger view

After Dinner exercise activities, with Chun Chow and Wendy.


After dinner we decided to take a stroll at Sunway Pyramid, and do the mandatory camwhoring activities. We visited the newly opened Full House, and just went in to take photographs. We even had to wait in line for that to happen. I do not quite get the hoo haas of that place, but I guess I will have to find it out myself next time, and see if it lives up to its reputation.

I think I have eaten too much good stuff this month. Not that I am fully at fault, I blame it on the holidays. Food is meant to be enjoyed, and I have confessed this a couple of times before, I will say it again: I live to eat. Period.

If you do not enjoy food, something must be wrong with you.

Friday, December 25, 2009

TGIF Christmas & Birthday Dinner


Just when I thought I was going to have yet another lonely and emo Christmas, having dinner at KFC and then staring at the computer LCD screen endlessly throughout the night and the day of the festivity, I suddenly received an SMS from a dear friend Ivan. There was this dinner organized at TGIF and he was kind enough to ask me to join in. I figured, why not? It sure beats the hell out of emo-ing at home.

The dinner was also something I can look forward to at the end of such a dramatic and tiresome week at work.

*click* image for larger view

*click* image for larger view



Just as I thought I could leave work early on the eve for the dinner at TFI Fridays, The Curve, there was a presentation being held at my office, which I could not exactly run away from. Hence, there was quite a delay, since I got off from work around 6.15pm, and the dinner meet was at 8pm !! Travelling from my work place to The Curve was not exactly that easy, I had to take a train, and then a bus ride, which would easily be more than two hours journey, considering the holiday traffic jam, horrendous waiting times for the arrival of public transport and walking durations. I made my way to TGIF, and I was late, but thankfully I was not the last one to arrive.

We found ourselves a spot in TGIF, after some wrestling with the staff about how we should get a table first although not all of us were present. There has been this odd trend of restaurant chains for not letting the patrons having their seats, although they have made early reservations prior to the dinner, just simply because not everyone is present at the moment of seating. Smart move for keeping the place as full as possible since there would virtually be no empty seats if every single person who made reservations turn up and walk in at the same time. Nonetheless, it was rather inconvenient since we all would arrive at different times, and sometimes it is nice to be able to sit down and have a glass of drink while waiting for the rest of the group to arrive. Perhaps a light snack or appetizer to kill off the unbearable hunger as well? This system is not something I entirely agree with, but what the hell, it has been practiced in TGIF and Chili's.

*click* image for larger view

*click* image for larger view

*click* image for larger view

Thanks guys for the gifts !! I really, really love them.

The three guys, Ivan, Sun and me arrived before 8.30pm, and we waited for the girls to arrive...... Sammie and Yuki... at.... an ungodly... 10pm!! It was totally understandable since the night was Christmas eve, and commercial places such as the Curve would definitely be flocked with creatures and vultures from God knows where, creating massive jam and the near impossibility to find a parking spot. Thank goodness for the refillable drinks, though we almost died of hunger waiting for the girls, there was water to gulp down.

However, the main purpose of us going to TGIF was because their main Christmas special menu listed Turkey as one of their options in the main course set meals. It is not an everyday thing for Malaysians to have Turkey, as we do not celebrate Thanksgiving that prominently like the Americans. Nonetheless, it would be more Christmas-y to have Turkey. Much to our dismay, the turkey has already ran out at the time we placed our orders !!! It was quite unfortunate really, but we made the best we could with the rest of the options offered in the menu. For RM65, you get to choose one appetizer, one main course and one desert. Quite an expensive set price, if you ask me, but since it was Christmas, I guess it is alright to splurge a little just for the occasion. The choices for the main course are Chicken, Salmon or Spaghetti. I opted for the Salmon, since I seldom have it. For appetizer, I had chicken strips with Jack Daniel's sauce, and mud cake for desert.

*click* image for larger view

Me, Yuki and Sammie

*click* image for larger view

*click* image for larger view

Ivan and Sun

*click* image for larger view

Sammie and Sun


To be honest this was my first visit to TGIF, since I am quite a poor engineer. I do find their serving portions rather large. The baked salmon was quite good, with the outside being crispy but the inside still soft and tender, without losing moisture. I rate the salmon very, very good and satisfying. It was served on top of bed of yellowish rice, which I could not figure out what it was. There was some freshly steamed broccolis at the side with butter-mushroom sauce. I love the HUGE broccolis !! I am a salmon lover by the way, I actually would prefer eating salmon raw, but I know well the fact that raw fish can lead to many health hazards.

Nonetheless the same case cannot be commented on the chicken which Ivan, Sammie and Yuki had. They claimed that the chicken was too dry and hard, and even cutting it with knife was a challenge to them. Good thing I opted for Salmon.

*click* image for larger view

*click* image for larger view

*click* image for larger view

Appetizers: Nacho Chicken, and Chicken Stip in Jack Daniel's Sauce


*click* image for larger view

*click* image for larger view

*click* image for larger view

Main Course: Jack Daniel's Chicken, Grilled Cedar Salmon, and Chicken & Shrimp Diablo.

The Jack Daniel's Chicken photo was taken by Ivan. What a good composition man !! You should be using s DSLR. I am serious.


I did not realize that Ivan actually remembered my birthday !!! The eve was not my actual day, and I was born on the Boxing Day anyway. It was two days in advance, but cheeky Ivan just could resist it an alerted the TGIF staff. They came out with a slice of cake with a candle lit on top of it. I know this was my first time in TGIF but I have heard scary stories of my other friends who went there for birthdays before. I was asked to stand on the chair, give a speech, and then the others would sing Happy Birthday to me. So much for not wanting to attract attention, but yeah, it was interesting to have really wacky friends so willing to see you do crazy things. I guess it did come by surprise but what a splendid surprise it was !! Thanks guys, all of you for making the night quite a special one for me. I truly appreciate it, heaps !!

I actually only brought along my usual document bag, which was quite small in size. But in the bag I managed to stuff my Olympus E-520 with the pancake lens 25mm F2.8 attached to it. I did not want to make such long travels with a separate gigantic camera bag. Somehow I find it working really well !! I managed to hide my camera inside such an innocent and ordinary looking bag, and who needs the Think Tank Urban Disguise anyway? But I don't mind having one if you give it to me as a Christmas or Birthday present. *wink *wink

*click* image for larger view

*click* image for larger view

Deserts: Mocha mud pie and Small Deserts

*click* image for larger view

Sammie Enjoying her Sweet Chocolate treats.


After the dinner at TGIF, as we were heading off from The Curve, witnessing the aftermath of degenerated/reversed evolution process of human beings, we were pulled into the crowd of madness. Not long after that, we found ourselves shaking our body and banging our heads to the club mix in the nearby bar. What an unexpected turnout !! I know I know, I have been preaching all the time about the real meaning of Christmas and partying is not an appropriate way to symbolize the celebration of Christmas. It was such a spur of the moment thing, we all just went in and grabbed the moment. Not a bad crowd, and really awesome in-house music.

*click* image for larger view

*click* image for larger view

*click* image for larger view

Happy Birthday to Robin Wong !!


After the head banging activity we had, Sun and Yuki left. Ivan, Sammie and I stayed on, joining Yat and his friend for a teh tarik session at a nearby outdoor mamak place. It has been quite a while since I pull out an all nighter like this. It was quite interesting because my biological clock was asking me to sleep sleep sleep, but my mind was so awake that I can feel my mind and body fighting. After hearing wonderful, wild and juicy stories Sammie brought forward from all her previous encounters and out of the world experiences, it was worth staying wide awake for. We were there until the place shut down, and it was already near sunrise.

I arrived home at 7.15am in the morning. I took a quick shower, and found my bed inviting me.


What a Christmas celebration that was !! I sure had a great time with the gang of awesome people, thanks to Ivan for having me, and most of all, thanks Sammie for staying with us all the time. I do hope you guys had as much fun as I did.

*click* image for larger view

*click* image for larger view



So yeah, Merry Christmas to all of you beautiful people out there, and Happy Birthday to me !!

OMG I am OLD !!!!!!!!!!!! Help.. somebody.. help...

(you can help by giving me lots and lots of presents)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Party with Office Folks


Earlier this evening, there was a Christmas Party at my work place, where good food and awesome activities were being served. I have just arrived home not too long ago, hence I shall not go into lengthy story-telling like what I would usually do for my blog entries. Nonetheless, I shall try to describe briefly, and let the photos tell the rest of the story this time.



This is what happens when you ask engineers to create Christmas trees. Not too bad actually, considering the almost non-existent creativity but I can guarantee you the tree may be able to stand after earthquake or a tornado hit. Or maybe not.



The highlight of the night was the BBQ Lamb, which was custom-ordered and cooked on the spot. It has become a customary tradition for the company to order at least two whole lambs to cater for everyone in any occasions with feasts. Mind you those lambs are not cheap, considering the festive season.




The door gift this year is pretty good, everyone gets a santa hat, with Cadbury milk chocolate bar hidden inside. I can hardly find anyone who hates chocolate, or can say no to free chocolates.



Christmas Caroling, or more like lip-syncing.



A game that requires the participant to stuff as many marshmallows as possible in the mouth. I have got many shots of this game, which was pretty interesting, but rather disgusting at the same time. To save the pride of my workmates, and save your appetite for your coming meal, I decided not to post up those vomit-inducing photos, though some can crack you up pretty badly.



We also had a game similar to charades where the some of the participants need to act out certain scenes and the others to guess what the movie was. Take for an example, the photograph below. If you do not know what movie that was, you must have had a very miserable life.




And the winner goes to the group......



The last item of the night was the gift exchange. I got quite a pretty lousy one, which is quite shameful to be posted up here. Nonetheless, there were some really really good stuff out there to be grabbed, and this lucky girl got herself one good garfield thingy !!!




I was the photographer for the night, so I did not have any photos of myself taken. Not that I would look great under heavy sweating and oily face anyway.

Looking back throughout the night's celebration, I could not help it but wonder what went missing. Right, in Aussie land, we must definitely have beer, or wine to complete the festivity mood.

So do you guys have any huge plans for Christmas? Or just laze at home and probably stare at the computer LCD monitor screen throughout the entire day?