Sunset by the Bay

I do not produce much sunset photos. I personally find sunsets difficult because my foreground will turn into dark silhouette with little details if I would expose the photo for the burning sky. Or my sky will be washed out if I exposed it for the foreground. It seemed like techniques such as luminosity masking are the only ways to achieve desired HDR landscapes as seen/observed by our eyes. But not today.

Instead of using HDR techniques, I gave the Sony’s raw file (.ARW) a try in recovering details in the shadows. In the following shot, I exposed for the sky with a little compromise on the foreground. I later adjusted sliders available in LR and the result:

 

Sunset by the Bay
Sunset by the Bay

 

I find this is quite satisfactory and in fact very amazing how much can be recovered from the raw file considering it looked like this…

 

Original export from the ARW file
Original export from the ARW file

 

The blue hour is a much easier time to take landscapes although its not hour long but only lasts less than 15 minutes in Singapore. Blue hour refers to the twilight period when the sun is below the horizon (which occurs in both mornings and evenings – so you have two chances a day ;-). The sky will be predominantly in blue hue and this has something to do with the wavelength of blue light being short than that of the red light. 

 

Sunset by the Bay
Sunset by the Bay

 

Marina Bay during the Blue Hour
Marina Bay during the Blue Hour

Port Dickson

I believe everyone who grew up in the KL would know the local stretch of beaches at Port Dickson. This place has a little spot in my heart and this is our to-go destination when we are up for a 2D1N retreat. There are several resorts or hotels along Jalan Pantai (translates to Beach Road) but I have my personal favourite. This time however, we went for something different — just to give Thistle at Port Dickson a try (and also slightly cheaper than the favourite).

Some features I like about this resort:

  • Ample parking spaces, far from the main road but near the resort building. Somehow this gives a good sense of security.
  • Large and clean pools. There are shallow areas near the slides — safe for children.
  • Nicely mowed green pasture lined with coconut trees (perhaps great for weddings).
  • Great view of the Straits of Malacca.
  • Complementary bottled water available everywhere!

 

View from my room
View from my room
View of the sea with a bit of the pools
View of the sea with a bit of the pools

 

We forgot to bring our underwater P&S (Olympus uTough) as it was a spontaneous decision to come here — so we put my almost-a-year-old Xperia Z1 to a real test. It turned out OK underwater. The capacitive touch screen was good enough to sense my touch when fully submerged. It gave a little detection problem if the screen is half submerged (I guess the touch controller can’t deal with the un-leveled noise floor). The rest of the images were taken by the mobile phone.

 

Virgin dip for the Xperia Z1
Virgin dip for the Xperia Z1
Giant Snake & Ladder game
Giant Snake & Ladder game
Perfectly timed leg shot (done by the built-in Timeshift Burst app)
Perfectly timed leg shot (done by the built-in Timeshift Burst app)
Found thousands of these little sand bubblers out on the beach (low tide)
Found thousands of these little sand bubblers out on the beach (during low tide)

 

I enjoyed our stay overall. But I think I should note that these were not something I appreciate:

  • Narrow beach.  I think it has to do with this part of Port Dickson. The sand was tough and hard (like clay).
  • Lots of birds finding home at this resort building. Quite a undesirable sight of their droppings
  • 9-hole golf course. I am not a golfer nor did I observe any golfers during my stay. The area could have been better used
  • There was no bath tub in the room. Thought this is a pre-requisite for a 4-star property but Thistle is a 5-star resort?

 
 
How to get there:

 

Dinosaurs: Dawn to Extinction

This exhibition has been operating at the ArtScience Museum since January 2014 but I only found out about it now that it is the semester break / school holidays. It will end soon in July, so I feel kind of fortunate that we did pay a visit to it. 🙂

The ArtScience Museum is part of the Marina Bay Sands. The lotus-like building is one of my favourites and in my opinion, the only nice looking building among all the Marina Bay Sands properties. Underneath this building is a vast pond filled with beautiful lotus flowers overlooking the Marina Bay. Nice place to relax because the Museum is a big shelter, providing much needed shade from the sun.

 

View from the ArtScience Museum
View from the ArtScience Museum
Sweet looking lotus flower -- something irresistible by the bumblebee
Sweet looking lotus flower — something the bumblebee found irresistible

 

Tickets were below $20/pax after discounts for citizen/residents and also NTUC membership — I think the visit is worth the price. We met a group of students having their excursions via a guided tour and so we tagged along; listening in. This is a quite a fruitful trip for me because I learned a few things:

  • Herrerasaurus was one of the earliest dinosaurs. Its name means “Herrera’s lizard”, named after Herrera the cowboy who discovered the first specimen.
  • If the species is named after a  female name, it will end with -saura instead of -saurus.
  • There were several versions of the Triceratops
  • My fav: Tyrannosaurus rex can’t run! Due to its weight and the bent knees, it can only walk.

 

Museum Lobby / Exhibit Entrance
Museum Lobby / Exhibit Entrance
Herrerasaurus
Herrerasaurus
Battle scene
Battle scene between a giant Lessemsaurus and a carnivorous Fasolasuchus
T. rex can not run
I am glad to know that T. rex can not run

 
How to get there:

 

Milky Way from Bidadari

Inspired by a local photographer on his success of capturing the Milky Way in the heavily light-polluted Singapore sky, I joined a group of friends on the night of 31st May to an ex-cemetery now called Bidadari Park. We did not choose this place for the spooks but this place seems darker than other parts of Singapore and has very interesting trees which we thought might be good for foreground.

I followed the ETTR method faithfully and took dozens of overexposed photos, not really knowing if the Milky Way will eventually show in those shots. Even though I took several compositions, all of them had skies looking like this…

 

Exposed to the right
Exposed to the right

 

All washed out. But after an eternity of post-processing… voilà! 🙂

 

The Milky Way
The Milky Way (or so I think…)

 

Now post-processing was not fun; and I don’t think I will do it again… so this will be the only photo, for now. Back to Bidadari, you can imagine how boring it was to point to the sky taking white images. I began to wander and started taking “landscapes” in the dark. The photos turned out to be quite satisfying for me, with some nice effects without any post-processing.

 

DSC05512_rs
30s exposure
DSC05497_rs
25s exposure
DSC05495_rs
25s exposure

 

Very soon the landscape of this piece of land will change into a bustling new town / housing estate. Glad that I am doing my part to document this intermediate stage.

Henderson Waves

Opened in May 2008, the Henderson Waves Bridge connects  Mount Faber Park and Telok Blangah Hill Park. This 274-metre long pedestrian bridge runs across Henderson Road  at 36 meter above the road. It is also the highest pedestrian bridge in Singapore (2014).

It looks impressive, doesn’t it?

 

Looks like a snake, but I like the call it a dragon -- oriental one :-)
Looks like a snake, but I like to call it a dragon — the oriental one 🙂

 

The south-western view from the bridge includes the luxury waterfront residential complex, i.e. Reflections at Keppel Bay which was designed by architect Daniel Libeskind. After taking that shot, I looked behind and found even more residential apartments and the Central Business District at the distance. Nice views!

 

The Reflections
The Reflections at Keppel Bay
View of residential areas of Telok Blangah, Bukit Merah, and the Chinatown. The CBD is in the background.
View of residential areas of Bukit Merah, Tiong Bahru and Chinatown. The CBD is in the background.

 
How to get there:

 

Xiaomi Redmi

Xiaomi launched the Redmi in Singapore in February 2014. Since then I have been wanting to get what is known as Hongmi in China which sports a quad-core 1.5Ghz ARM processor that runs a modified version of Android OS’ Jelly Bean i.e. MIUI. The 4.7”-inch 720P IPS display phone comes with a 8MP BSI camera (probably came from Sony, but if it was true — Xiaomi would have mentioned it all over).

The UI in the camera application does not look very different from other Android implementations. In other words, it looks clean and easy to use but there is nothing more to shout about. It offers a choice of simple UI or a slightly more advanced UI with more options selectable (white balancing, more shooting modes, EV setting, etc).

 

Simple mode UI
Simple mode UI

 

The EXIF data says that the focal length and aperture are fixed at 3.8mm (3.8mm is equivalent to 28mm – source) and f/2.2 respectively. This means the sensor size is approximately 76% that of the Xperia Z1. In the settings, the user can choose “standard” camera frame which fully uses the 8MP resolution i.e. 3264×2448 in a 4:3 form factor. Besides “standard”, there is also the “full screen” mode which comes in 16:9 form factor where the image will be cropped at 3328×1872 or 6MP.

All photos below are taken in “full screen” mode.

 

Photobook, shot indoors. (ISO431, 1/14s)
Photobook, shot indoors. (ISO431, 1/14s)
Diddy Kong (ISO143, 1/33s)
Diddy Kong (ISO143, 1/33s)
Love the red color on the benches (ISO115, 1/33s)
Love the red color on the benches
(ISO115, 1/33s)

 

From the previous two photos, the camera app chose lower ISO instead of higher shutter speeds which I found odd. This device is predominantly meant for handheld use and as such I would give priority to faster shutter speed instead of lower ISO. I suspect Xiaomi is trying to “hide” sensor noise at higher ISO.

 

Lizard (ISO115, 1/1859s)
Lizard (ISO115, 1/1859s)
Trying light trail handheld (ISO820, 1/8s)
Trying light trail handheld (ISO820, 1/8s)
Unimpressive Night mode (ISO920, 1/5s)
Unimpressive Night mode (ISO920, 1/5s)
Singapore flags (ISO122, 1/5917s)
Singapore flags (ISO122, 1/5917s)
A really simple distortion test. Quite OK!
A really simple distortion test. Quite OK!
Jurong East (ISO132, 1/50s)
Jurong East (ISO132, 1/50s)
Jurong East (ISO370, 1/20s)
Jurong East (ISO370, 1/20s)
Blue cloudy sky  (ISO136, 1/7092s)
Blue cloudy sky (ISO136, 1/7092s)
Portsdown Road (ISO115, 1/654s)
Portsdown Road (ISO115, 1/654s)
Church (ISO408, 1/17s)
Church (ISO408, 1/17s)
Singapore Flyer  (ISO115, 1/3215s)
Singapore Flyer from a moving car (ISO115, 1/3215s)
My lunch (ISO133, 1/33s)
My lunch (ISO133, 1/33s)
East Coast Park (ISO128, 1/4425s)
East Coast Park (ISO128, 1/4425s)
Some lens flare (ISO124, 1/124s)
Some lens flare (ISO124, 1/124s)

 

If you have also found the exposure numbers being odd or random or non-standard, me too! And I don’t know why Xiaomi does it this way!

As it is priced very competitively, I can conclude that it is indeed a very good replacement for your point &  shoot camera! And its more than just a P&S, its a smart phone! But if you’re expecting to buy a red phone, you will probably be disappointed as Redmi does not come in red (yet)!