Sunday, May 30, 2010

13 Things I Did in Malacca

For the weekend, my friends Chun Chow, Wendy and I decided to make a brief run-away to the nearest town, Malacca, to unwind, and de-stress. We met up with our friend Frederick who was kind enough to let us bunk over at his place, and become our host for the stay. This was a much needed break we were all looking forward to, considering the dry season of public holidays.

1) Stroke Balls

I have not had tennis for God knows how many centuries !! It was really refreshing to finally picked up the dust covered racket and start stroking some balls. The grip has dried up, and peeled off, and the friction has caused some blisters on my palm, which turned into an exploded streams of blood. Not something very sightly, but the joy of tennis overwhelms everything else. I wish I can play tennis every day !!

2) Ate a clone of something similar to Sarawak Kolok Mee

If you know Sarawak kolok mee, you will feel peculiar looking at that bowl of noodles, it totally resembles it !! However, it was not, and the taste was missing some ingredients, such as the must have "brown vinegar". Nonetheless, I can always try gobbling it down with my eyes closed and imagine I was eating with my mates at home Kuching at Tabuan Jaya Siang Siang food court. Ah such good times.

3) Had a Cendol which was consisted of 95% ice

To wash down the Kolok Mee Clone, we had the Cendol, which was not one of the famous ones. It was rather bland, but that was the best we could do for the moment since the other few stalls were swarmed with vultures who would not hesitate to incapacitate your head if you dare to fight with them over the cendols.

4) Walk at Jonker's Walk

Jonker's Walk in Malacca is the busiest street, and the most happening place to be at night. People from everywhere, both locals and tourists (like us aliens) flood the place, rubbing each other's shoulders with hot sweat secreted due to the ever-hot and ridiculously humid Malaysian weather. Such a joy of spending a night on the streets, browsing through some pasar malam items. As for me, I was happy even just by being there, drowning myself in an atmosphere full of people, and blending in the street.

5) Did a little Night Street Shooting

The weekend was supposed to be my time off, and just spending time hanging out with friends, chilling and relaxing. Nonetheless, a little camera clicks wont hurt anyone. As I was already there contributing to the ever-flooded human traffic of Jonker, I figured why not just grab some shots. Shutter therapy must find its place even in the midst of such a relaxing and joyful breakaway. I was pleased to find the people on the streets to be so photogenic. The lightings on the street was so bright that I can just shoot most of the scenes without the use of flash.

6) Met up with Jasonmumbles and Akiraceo for supper

Asam Ikan Pedas for supper.

Later in the evening of our first day, I had the chance to meet up with Jasonmumbles and Akiraceo, both bloggers whom I admire very much. Jasonmumbles, if you do not know him yet is the reference I would look up to when it comes to food photography, and Akiraceo aka Jian has diligently delivered the world with a box of laughters every single time he updated his comic blog entries. It was great to catch up with them.

7) Ate Chicken Rice Balls

Shot this photo of the uncle holding the kid on his arms, while waiting for our chicken rice balls. He was fully aware of my lens pointing at him at that time, but I was in the shop and he was standing at the five foot way. I do not know how to explain, but I can tell that the look in his eyes tells a lot about him, and his characters. You just have to interpret them yourself.

Frederick and Robin. Yeah we love Olympus.

That was 60 rice balls and a full whole chicken. *burp

Chicken Rice Balls would be the dish I never miss out every single time I visit Malacca. We have grown so fond of it that we had a whole chicken. I am not sure about you guys, but I think it beats the crap out of all other chicken rice variations in Malaysia, even Ipoh Chicken Rice which I think is overrated anyway. Sorry Ipoh guys, I just really can't find anything special in your chicken rice.

8) Had Tau Fu Fa with Cendol for Desert

Renee, Frederick, Chun Chow and Wendy

This Tofu-Fa comes with all sorts of variation. I think the original one was served warm with ginger in it, or something like that. These days the menu comes out so ambitiously varied that there was even a tofu-fa with sambal !! I kid you not. I had mine with cendol, which was pretty alright. Just the right desert I was looking for after the chicken rice meal.

9) Late afternoon tea at Nadaje Patisserie

I find the pattern on the seats rather inviting.

Sorry, I cannot help it, I just had to capture this photograph, it was so compelling !! Such bond between (most likely) father and son.

This place was packed, we had to wait for 15 minutes before getting our own corner.

After the desert, we went off to the city area, and had some window shopping at Dataran Pahlawan and Mahkota Parade shopping malls. You have got to marvel at the shopping scenes here, though not as grand as what you can find at KL, but the malls here can run circles around malls in Kuching. Malacca folks would think that the Spring is a joke.

After much walking around, to rest our feet, we sat our huge heavy asses at Nadaje Patisserie. I remembered Jasonmumbles bringing me there on my first ever visit to Malacca (OMG that was dinosaur years ago !!!!).

10)Found an RM4.80 Yaki Udon set meal, served with Salad and Soup

Malibu Bay

I did not intend to order anything much in the first place, but after seeing the first item on the menu, I could not just ignore it !! It was calling out to me, the Yaki Udon, which was served with soup and salad. For only RM4.80, I do not mind trying it out. Like many of us there, we thought it was just a small plate of something, or an appetizer, but it turned out to be a full plate of Udon noodles, fried with honestly I do not know what other stuff inside. Whatever they were, it tasted really good. Where else can you find such a similar meal? Definitely not in KL.

11) Ate Mille Crepe

Like all other patrons to Nadaje, we came here for what everyone comes here for. The Mille Crepe, which was originally from Japan, made into something like a layered cake. I was hoping to had my hands on the original flavour, but it ran out, hence we just made do with whatever random flavours left there were.

12) Gobbled down 30 sticks of Satay Celup

This was purely sinful. Since I had the Udon late afternoon, I did not anticipate myself gobbling down so many sticks. Oh well.

13) and finally... a round of dim sum breakfast, before heading home to KL.

We woke up on a rainy morning, but the rain passed on, and we headed for Dim Sum. The chilly wind, and the cool touch on the skin mixed with the "just-up-mood" could not match the dim sum session more perfectly. Hot Chinese tea was a welcome on any of such mornings.

So guys, that was all I did for my long weekend, starting from the Wesak holiday. Quite a handful, or shall I say mouthful? However, the gastronomical treat aside, I think the best of times was spent with friends, and nothing can replace that.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

I Fall Asleep

I fall asleep...

Only in hopes of dreaming everything would be like it was before....

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


I was rather amazed, or to a certain degree, amused by the reasons I have been hearing from many people around me who just got themselves that new cool DSLR. It was quite a wonder to witness DSLR gaining spectacular amount of attention and stealing the limelight at recent times, but on the other hand, when I started to look further and deeper into the actual reasons why the sudden insurgence of DSLR population, I was disheartened to say the least.

Here is why so many people bought that latest DSLR model.

1) DSLR is Fashion

The latest fashion trend dictates a DSLR to be worn as a decorative ornament, strapped around the neck. Diamond pendants or pearls are so yesterday, they are replaced with pure, high grade extra low-dispersive, ashperical elements of ridiculously expensive engineered optical glasses. Gold and silver necklaces are so obsolete, the nano-fibre fabric weight reducing thick, black camera strap is the in-thing. Oh and the camera brand must be visible too. The bigger your camera body, the longer your lens, the more people will awe and gawk at your awesome fashion sense. You can wear a DSLR proudly when you strut your way down the shopping mall, or sashay to the latest club scene. No one cares about that Gucci bag anymore.

I love blue skies, don't you?

2) DSLR is money making machine

Ever since DSLR dropped in price, the affordability scale allowed everyone to pick up a camera, and turned it into a “get rich quick” scheme. Gone are the days of pure photography masters who handle the camera like a pro, and now dawns the days of freelancers storming at every single opportunities out there, like vultures scouring for every piece of meat to make their living. “What, Ah Niu charged you RM500 for a whole day wedding shoot? How can he do that? He is spoiling the market value !! Ok ok, I revise my price, if you take me now, I offer you RM450, can? What? Still too expensive? Aiyoooo, cannot too cheap la. Ok ok, RM400”. There was a time when true photographers held certain status and did not sacrifice self-worth, but sadly photography jobs have been reduced to nothing more than a night market bargain trade.

3) DSLR is Gadget that Elevates your Social Status

Oh who cares what new models Nokia is coming up with? Your new phone won’t turn as many heads as a new DSLR. Oh and a new phone would cost as much, or possibly even more than that entry level DSLR anyway. So what if my phone does not have the latest functions or applications, or run on the touch screen? Try shooting with a DSLR at ISO10000000000000000 at night without flash and compare the photo output with the camera from that latest mobile phone. The lustful eyes and jaw-dropping expression on your friends would be priceless. By doing so, you have gained that extra 500 points in coolness factor amongst your buddies.

4) DSLR is Ticket to Sexy Chicks

Having trouble asking chicks for their numbers? Don’t even know where to look for one? Well, DSLR comes to the rescue. Your DSLR is your pass to events with chicks so ready for some camera whoring action. Who cares if you know nuts about portraiture photography anyway, the chicks will willingly pose and smile for you. Subsequently, they will most likely ask you for the photographs, hence instantly you have the access to their emails or Facebook account already !! Oh oh it gets even better. Now you can “act professional” and invite them for private shoots, and God knows what happens next. If nothing happens, well, you still have the chicks’ photographs in the first place anyway, right? It is no surprise; Malaysian hobbyist photography scene revolves madly at portraiture and model shooting only. If you ask them to explore other photography genres such as macro, streets, food, still life, abstract, landscape or all other sorts with no relation to chicks, you will be scoffed at.

If you do not already have a DSLR, what are you waiting for? It is like the must-have gadget of the decade.

Seriously, where is the love of photography? Where did it go?

When you sit down and chat with your “photography buddies” who also happened to just purchased that new DSLR system, most often you chat about that new body that has a million AF points and shoots ISO100000000000, or that new lens that goes wide at F0.95. You do not hear people wow-ing at great photographs; instead you hear them praising a shot of a trash can taken at night with no flash but noise-free. You do not hear compliments for a well composed photo of a model posing by a wonderfully blossomed pool of colourful tulips, you get complains telling you that the visible tulips in your background is a mistake due to your lack of bokeh. If your shot sucks, it must be the incapability of your probably lower end system, and similarly if you managed to impress your photography buddies with your shots, the credits are given to your wonderful set of expensive gears, not you. Generally, nowadays people care about what their DSLR and lenses can do, rather than what they are actually doing with their camera system. Is this photography?

Where is the joy of capturing the shot that you are so happy about that it made your day just by looking at the photograph again and again? Where is the joy of capturing the human features, their expressions, their smile and their laughter in your photographs? Where are the emotions, the feelings and the story which a photograph is worth a thousand words of? Where is the sense of art? Why are the struggles of creativity and originality unheard of these days? Where is the joy of taking photographs that soothes the mind and calms the soul? Where is the passion that drives the photographers to go out shooting more and care less of what camera system they actually use?

Is there anyone who truly bought a camera system, regardless if it was a DSLR or a compact point and shoot camera, or a film camera, who decided to get the camera system truly because he loves photography?

There is a need to really look into the moment when we reached out for the camera. The love, the passion, the heart and the soul should be in the right places, within the photographer.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Sifu-less Photographer

I have just come across an awesome read written by a dear friend, Brandon Eu, regarding his take on the significance of a photographer Sifu (Please give it a read if you have not, it is a wonderfully written blog entry). Brandon further described the importance of choosing the right master in photography to learn from and to encourage us to grow, keeping us in the right direction by distinctively minimizing the production of “digital garbage” along the way. While I do find myself nodding to the many arguments he openly brought forth, I cannot help but look at myself walking towards a very opposite direction.

I have walked the path of photography without a master or sifu. Shocking, no?

The rain was dying off, hence the waterproof cover was removed, and street sales resumed.

Finding customers on a rainy morning is difficult, I bet.

The best way to spend time on a gloomy Saturday morning.

Do not misjudge my statement, I do not mean to negate the necessity of having a sifu, or someone “professional” to guide a newcomer to photography. I have often compared the arts of photography to Kung Fu, and the camera as the photographer’s sword. It is the natural order of Kung Fu that dictates the students to learn everything from the strict teachings and practice them as hard as they can to perfection. The secrets and special techniques have been passed on from generation to generation. Having a Sifu is important, no doubt, but let me share with you what I have been through, and illustrate my story. I shall reveal the most important point at the end of this entry, so do bear with me.

You can Pick up the Basics on your own

Do you need a graduate diploma from a photography school to certify that you have mastered the basics of photography? With that in mind, do you really need a sifu to teach you everything from the start, even the very fundamentals of photography? There are so many articles published online to guide photography newcomers, especially the understanding of camera basic controls, and fundamentals of making a good photograph. By spending just a few hours reading and subsequently experimenting on field would definitely be putting you right on track. By self-learning, you actually can grasp the understanding better, since you form your thoughts all by your own. All you need is a little time and patience to do your own research, and try what you have learned to verify your basic understandings of photography.

The dude who refused to wear glasses.

A way to kill time while waiting for the rain to pass, read the paper.

This was one of the only few kids I found on the streets this morning. Where the hell did the rest of the children vanish to?

Your own passion is the greater motivator

Passion is perhaps the most important ingredient in photography, and is unswervingly equivalent to faith in religion. If you truly have the passion in photography, you will self-motivate yourself to improve, and make wonderful images. While many others would require their sifu to spur and push them further, I believe the passion that exists within the photographer to be the greater motivator. Only with the passion that the photographer will push further beyond his limitations, and achieve greater heights. Your sifu cannot force you to become a better photographer; you have to want to become better on your own.

Be Inspired

If I were to learn from another photographer, I would not go and ask him “how do you make this shot happen? Please teach me.” Instead, I would ask myself “What do I love about this shot? What makes this shot work? What I can get from this idea to further improve my own work?” I unearth inspirations by looking at impactful and powerful images. Why restrict your inspiration source from one sifu, when you can draw your inspiration by studying the works of dozens of other great photographers? Saturate your mind by viewing awe-worthy photographs of great standards, and sooner or later your mind will start to work its way out towards higher standards.

Found this car, and I did not know the owner was actually nearby. He walked towards the car, and I turned and walked away and hoped he never yelled. He never did.

"Something" was happening inside this shady inn.

Again, so many lifeless vehicles lying around the backlanes. I never stop finding them each and every time.

Break the Norm

I find most of my friends struggling in keeping up with the rules and restrictions set by their Sifus. There are rules on getting the right exposures, and better compositions. There are even certain golden guidelines on how to make a great photograph. Funny, if everyone knows how to make great photographs, then the world would be void of “digital garbage”, no?

The problem lies with the sifu forming a set of rules for his disciples to follow. So the students follow the rules strictly, which in the end, limited their ability to think outside the rules. Their ultimate goal is to become as good as their sifu, and I am sure the sifu is not letting them surpass him by keeping some secrets to himself. So what can we do to beat the crap out of the sifu? Learn some new kung fu moves and kick him square in the ass. Seriously, why restrict your potential to one narrow path led by a sifu? You are free to explore so many other available roads.

Dare to break the rules, because rules are meant to be broken. Go to the extreme, and then you bring the best out of yourself, not what your sifu wants you to be.

Wheel-less proton.

It was not an everyday thing to find a guy leaning against a giant trash bin and laughed out so heartily.

This dude whores attention. I purpusely shot him from far. He posed for many other photographers who stopped by, and his poses were... not really photography friendly anyway. I'd rather have him captured unnoticed.

Be Original, be Yourself

How can you be yourself, or claim that your work is of your own, if you tell people that your skills and knowledge were obtained from another person? You have probably become a carbon copy of that sifu of yours. You may learn many tips and tricks from that sifu, but when you sell your work, are you selling your own work or your sifu’s?

Originality is of extreme importance, you should create images, not reproduce what your sifu has so successfully done so many times previously. There may be many sifus out there, but there is only one you, and you should choose photography as a medium to express yourself free. You speak and tell your messages loudly to the world through your works. It is this freedom that makes photography such a powerful tool. You can only maximize its full potential by being yourself, being original, and breaking free from learning everything strictly from a sifu.

Perhaps the Joker should try some yellow cream on his face, instead of white.

One man's trash is another man's treasure.

I caught this young dude hanging up the signboard. He was so focused that I could photograph him front-on.

I think by now all sifus out there are about to push the nuclear missile launch button towards

Instead of Sifu, I believe, photography friends would benefit me better. We learn, we share and we all grow together. This, my dear beautiful readers, is the most important point I was referring to at the beginning of this entry.

Photography Friends

Photography friends are the people who possess parallel interests and passion to nurture the growth in photography. They are always around to openly, yet politely comment on your work, give you constructive, productive and meaningfully consequential feedback. They encourage you and they empower you to go far. They speak to you as a friend, not someone superior or mightier than you, and their words are useful because they do not mind sharing and helping each other out, as friends. Rivalry may exist, and a little healthy competition amongst peers may essentially lead to expedited improvement and learning curve, which is a common benefit anyway.

Funny, even trishaws in KL looks more authentic than the ones in Malacca.

I originally did not intend to photograph this dude. But he was staring at me for minutes. Hence I returned his stare by sniping him instead.

Trying to break in?

Photography friends may not be as near to perfection as sifus, but I would like to think that imperfections are what make us human. Photography is human.

So there you go, if you have read this far, you must have fully grasped the reason why I do not have a photography sifu. I am blessed with so many wonderful photography friends around me, and to me, they are worth more than all the gold or diamonds in the world.