Christmas Wonderland

Happened to be there when the “Christmas Wonderland” at the Gardens by the Bay was officially opened on the 27th Nov 2015.

 

 

It's snowing! Bubbles showering the refulgent Spalliera.
Snowing – bubbles showering the refulgent Spalliera

 

 

Big crowd at the official opening
Big crowd at the official opening

 

Carousel
Carousel operator like a DJ

 

Festive Market
Festive Market

 

More info? There is an official website.

 

 

The Circus

The Circus in Town
The Circus in Town (Cirque du Soleil)

 

 

Santorini

Santorini consists of a group of islands created by volcanoes in Greece. Fira and Oia are probably the two most well-known towns in these islands. Fira is more like a city, which has multiple roads and access to the port on its eastern-side by cable cars or a steep Z-shaped footpath. Oia, pronounced as “EE-ah”, on the other hand is smaller but more scenic.

This is a late post and having only remember this place being really warm and dry during summer — I will let the photos do the talking.

 

We arrived in the morning by the sea and was greeted by this magnificence view of buildings on cliffs
We arrived in the morning by the sea and was greeted by this magnificence view of buildings on cliffs

 

Morning shot of Fira on top, with its port at the bottom edge of the caledra. The Z-shaped footpath is very obvious here.
Morning shot of Fira on top, with its port at the bottom edge of the caldera. The Z-shaped footpath up the island is very obvious here.

 

This cat seems like a mascot, welcoming visitors at the Fira port with ...um a "friendly" face.
This cat seems like a mascot, welcoming visitors at the Fira port with …um a “friendly” face.

 

Cable car, going through a wall!?!? Looks like they realize the wall was in the way??!
Cable car going through a wall!?!? Looks like they realized the wall was in the way??!

 

Oia -- its the white walls, the blue skies and beautiful coast that give this place an iconic view
Oia — its the white walls, the blue skies and beautiful coast that give this place an iconic view

 

I always wondered how they keep the walls so clean. Now I know!
I always wondered how they keep the walls so clean. Now I know!

 

The other view from Oia
The other view from Oia — now you can see some unpainted walls!

 

Dining place but probably going to burn your skin (and probably your wallet too)
Dining place but probably going to burn your skin (and probably your wallet too)

 

Windmills on the other side of the island, enroute from Oia to Fira.
Windmills on the other side of the island, enroute from Oia to Fira. Shot from a moving bus!

 

The view from the cable car station up in Fira
The view from the cable car station up in Fira. That’s our ship!

 

That's the big pulley that kept us alive
That’s the big pulley that kept us alive

 

Celebrated with a mug of local Greek beer (Alfa) upon successful descend
Celebrated with a mug of local Greek beer (Alfa) upon successful descend

 

Composition of the rocky island
Composition of a rocky island nearby

 

 

 

Not the Same Everyday

I almost didn’t get this photo had I lost the struggle to wake up early one Sunday morning! 😁

Pioneer Sunrise
Pioneer Sunrise

 

Background story: I noticed the sun was pretty well-aligned with the train tracks during my morning commute to work and I thought it might make an interesting photo. But I couldn’t do it but to wait till the weekend.

Besides looking out for such occasions, you could also use an app to tell how the sun is rising/setting on any particular day. Earth rotates at an inclined angle and (I think) this means the sun doesn’t really rise from the same place at all times. In Singapore, it seems to come from the southwest direction in the beginning of the year and slowly shifts to northwest as we approach June/July.

 

View from the Pinnacle

These are the views from the top of the award-winning building which features the world’s two longest sky gardens, on both the 26th and 50th floors. The Pinnacle@Duxton is a re-development of the Duxton Plain. The Duxton Plain was historically significant as the site of the first two ten-storey HDB blocks in the Tanjong Pagar area and they were amongst the oldest built by the HDB in the country.

 

Sunset over the eastern horizon, overlooking the Everton Park
Sunset over the eastern horizon, overlooking the Everton Park and NUHS

 

Port of Singapore, Brani Terminal. Sentosa Island in the shadows.
Port of Singapore, Brani Terminal. Sentosa Island in the shadows.

 

Romantic place to paktor, I guess? High ISO 6400 used here, but still not fast enough
Romantic place to paktor, I guess? High ISO 6400 used here, but still not fast enough

 

Port of Singapore, Keppel Terminal.
Port of Singapore, Keppel Terminal.

 

How to get there:

 

Ephesus

Ephesus was really ancient. Excavations found stuff dated back to the Neolithic Age (6000 B.C.).

It was located on the Aegean coast of present-day Turkey. The city was famed for the Temple of Artemis (completed around 550 BC), one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

In 268 AD, the Temple was destroyed in a raid by the Goths. The site is now flooded with water, and only 1 lonely column left of the temple’s pillars. We found a stork bird nest on top of that pillar (that’s the most interesting thing, at least for me…).

 

Stork bird nest on top of the 1 and only standing pillar of the Temple of Artemis
Stork bird nest on top of the 1 and only standing pillar of the Temple of Artemis

 

I was more awed by the main site of Ephesus where the Library of Celsius, Odeon and the open-air theatre are located. This site had access to the harbour but was slowly silted up by the river which explains why I saw no view of the sea at the end of harbour street. I did a quick check later on Google Maps, and found that the coast is now at least 5 KM away from this ancient site.

 

The open-air theatre with the harbour street on the right corner. How does one watch anything from here?!
The open-air theatre with the harbour street on the right corner. How does one watch anything from here?!
Open-air theatre, craved out from a mountain!
Open-air theatre, craved out from a mountain!
Scores of tourists making their way down to the Library of Celsius
Scores of tourists making their way down to the Library of Celsius
Found a LEGO piece... :-D
Found a LEGO piece… 😀
Shopkeepers selling wares to tourists near the House of the Virgin Mary.
Shopkeepers selling wares to tourists near the House of the Virgin Mary.
Apparently its not so uncommon to find Stork bird nests on tall poles!
Apparently its not so uncommon to find Stork bird nests on tall poles here!
Coast of Kusadasi
Coast of Kusadasi

Old Town of Dubrovnik (King’s Landing)

Just came back from a wonderful cruise!

One of the ports of call was Dubrovnik, located in the south of Croatia. Some 15 mins away from the port is the Old Town where the location is used for King’s Landing scenes in HBO-series Game of Thrones! I should have known when I saw so many GoT-themed tours being offered upon arrival at the Pile Gate. Alas, I brushed them aside thinking it must have been just a “theme” since the place looked and felt medieval.

So instead of photos of GoT points of interest, my focus was steered towards the mountainous landscape of its surrounding and the beautiful view of the Adriatic Sea.

Highlands of Dubrovnik
Highlands of Dubrovnik
Highlands of Dubrovnik (with Bosnia and Herzegovina in the background?)
Highlands of Dubrovnik (with Bosnia and Herzegovina in the background?)
Highlands of Dubrovnik (with Bosnia and Herzegovina in the background?
Highlands of Dubrovnik (with Bosnia and Herzegovina in the background?
Coastal town at Dubrovnik
Coastal town at Dubrovnik
Tower of a cathedral in the old town
Tower of a cathedral in the old town
Seagull feeling at home
Seagull feeling at home
Clear seas, wished I could join him for a swim. Maybe next time.
Clear seas, wished I could join him for a swim. Maybe next time.

 

Malaysia Boleh

Wilayah Mosque in the back drop of Kuala Lumpur -- capital city of Malaysia
Wilayah Mosque in the back drop of Kuala Lumpur — capital city of Malaysia

Malaysia seems to be in tumultuous times.

  • Sovereign debt fund instead of sovereign wealth fund
  • Murderers convicted, one fled, but murder motive(s)  unknown
  • First Lady of Shopping, as described by the Australian media
  • … <this list can go on, but that’s not my point>

 

I really hope Malaysia boleh overcome all these, that the people can stay united and prosper together.

On a positive note, I am looking forward to the proposed high speed rail to Kuala Lumpur!

 

Lee Kuan Yew (1923-2015)

Many things have been written and said about the great man, Lee Kuan Yew, who was Singapore’s founding Prime Minister. He died on March 23 at the age of 91. I have much respect for him — who was the head of the government that transformed this-once a colonial trading post into a modern metropolis which is also a beautiful & safe place to live in.

Remembering Lee Kuan Yew
Remembering Lee Kuan Yew (1923-2015)

 

Here are some notable quotes from him; some hard truths, some witty and some with no doubt stirred much controversies but all classics:

 

For me, it is a moment of anguish. All my life, my whole adult life, I believed in merger and unity of the two territories. (August 9, 1965)

 

Whoever governs Singapore must have that iron in him. Or give it up. This is not a game of cards! This is your life and mine! I’ve spent a whole lifetime building this and as long as I’m in charge, nobody is going to knock it down. (Rally, 1980)

 

Mah Bow Tan, age 16, took his ‘O’ levels – six distinctions, two credits. Mr Chiam, age 18 – 1953 I think – six credits, one pass. He passed his English language, not bad. The next year, in 1954, he worked harder, he got a credit for his English. So you see, it’s not because he doesn’t know English that he found difficult in expressing himself. It’s what’s inside here *tapping his head*. And you better search your inside here before you cast your votes. Goodbye and good luck. (Speech at Fullerton Square dissing Chiam See tong, 19 December 1984)

 

I am often accused of interfering in the private lives of citizens. Yes, if I did not, had I not done that, we wouldn’t be here today. And I say without the slightest remorse, that we wouldn’t be here, we would not have made economic progress, if we had not intervened on very personal matters – who your neighbour is, how you live, the noise you make, how you spit, or what language you use. We decide what is right. Never mind what the people think. (Straits Times, 20 April 1987)

 

You know, the cure for all this talk is really a good dose of incompetent government. You get that alternative and you’ll never put Singapore together again: Humpty Dumpty cannot be put together again… my asset values will disappear, my apartments will be worth a fraction of what they were, my ministers’ jobs will be in peril, their security will be at risk and their women will become maids in other people’s countries, foreign workers. I cannot have that! (Straits Times, 5 April 2007)

 

If Aljunied decides to go that way, well Aljunied has five years to live and repent. (April 30, 2011)

 

I have spent my life, so much of it, building up this country. There’s nothing more that I need to do. At the end of the day, what have I got? A successful Singapore. What have I given up? My life. (2011)

 

Source: Wikiquotes

Buddha Tooth Relic Temple & Museum

The following photo is deemed “mainstream” – this place has been probably shot to death but I had to do it. I was within the area yesterday for a photo walk (CNY night market) and the light was just perfect.

This is the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum standing in contrast among the familiar skyscrapers of Singapore.

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Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum,

 

To my surprise, this building is not ancient nor even a decade-old. Construction started in 2005 and it took 2 years to complete. It did fool me with its Tang Dynasty-styled architecture. Here is an excerpt of the location write-up from the government tourism site yoursingapore.com.

 

The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple & Museum is a Tang-Styled Chinese Buddhist Temple in the heart of Chinatown. The temple features many facets of Buddhist arts and culture of Singapore. It also houses what the Buddhists regard as the Sacred Buddha Tooth Relic in a stupa weighing 3.5 tonnes and composed of 320 kg of gold donated by devotees.

The building was conceptualised and designed by the temple’s Chief Abbot Venerable Shi Fa Zhao, aided by a team of local and overseas consultants. Its grand design is based on the elements and history of Tang Dynasty and the Buddhist Mandala, the latter which is a representation of the Buddhist universe. So expect to find lots of references to both aspects. It also houses other sacred relics of the Buddha, such as bone and tongue relics. The temple prides itself on the research done to ensure accuracy and authenticity on the design and architecture found here. Other highlights found in this temple include the Buddhist Culture Museum, Eminent Sangha Museum, Sacred Light Hall, and a Theatre which holds cultural performances, talks and film screening.

 

How to get there:

 

Hiroshima in B+W

So I was nominated by a friend in Facebook to do a 5-day B+W photos. This is a challenge where I post for 5 days and with 5 different images and challenge a photographer for each day.

I was in Hiroshima, Japan then and I decided to use the photos taken with my phone — and I had more than 5 photos. 🙂

 

Took three taxi rides in Hiroshima. Two of them were helmed by drivers not younger than 50-year-old (didn't ask, just an assumption).
Took three taxi rides in Hiroshima. Two of them were helmed by drivers not younger than 50-year-old (didn’t ask, just an assumption).

 

Hiroshima skyline during sunrise. Ohayou gozaimasu~. Besides being unfortunately famous as ground zero of an atomic bomb in 1945, did you know Hiroshima is also the home to the Mazda Motor Corporation?
Hiroshima skyline during sunrise. Ohayou gozaimasu~. Besides being unfortunately famous as ground zero of an atomic bomb in 1945, did you know Hiroshima is also the home to the Mazda Motor Corporation?

 

No lack of information, just not in English. This flight of stairs leads the noriba (platform) for the Shinkansen.
No lack of information, just not in English. This flight of stairs leads the noriba (platform) for the Shinkansen.

 

Besides driving a Mazda to work, cycling is the other preferred mode of transportation in Hiroshima.
Besides driving a Mazda to work, cycling is the other preferred mode of transportation in Hiroshima.

 

Curved pedestrian bridge
Curved pedestrian bridge

 

Chef at work, preparing the Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki or also known as hiroshimayaki. Hiroshimayaki uses less batter and soba or udon noodles as topping. One hiroshimayaki is good enough for a meal and it costs less than SGD6.
Chef at work, preparing the Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki or also known as hiroshimayaki. Hiroshimayaki uses less batter and soba or udon noodles as topping. One hiroshimayaki is good enough for a meal and it costs less than SGD6.

 

The Hiroshima city sits at the delta of River Ota which breaks into 6 smaller rivers. The multiple bridges give the city a rather scenic look.
The Hiroshima city sits at the delta of River Ota which breaks into 6 smaller rivers. The multiple bridges give the city a rather scenic look.

 

I was seated next to these in a restaurant one evening. I am not sure what are these... but looks like liquor.
I was seated next to these in a restaurant one evening. I am not sure what are these… but they look like bottles of liquor.

 

Under the Shinkansen tracks
Under the Shinkansen tracks

 

Old Playground

I was in KL to visit my parents in September. Brought the kids out for a trip of playground-hopping within the neighbourhood.

I also took the opportunity to be nostalgic. Here are a couple of photos of the run-down playground which I used to frequent, probably about 30 years ago.

This is Conservation a la KL-style.

 

I can't relate to the size anymore -- I don't think I can fit in this slide now!
I can’t relate to the size anymore — I don’t think I can fit in this slide now!
Tunnels with vegetation
Tunnels with vegetation

 

Quarter Moon

Moon shot at Third Quarter phase (I think), with Sony 70-300mm / a7.

Venue: Top of a multi-storey carpark in Jurong West, Singapore.

 

f/8, 1/320s, ISO-400
f/8, 1/320s, ISO-400

Cloud Forest

The Cloud Forest gave an entirely different experience compared to the Flower Dome. Upon entry, we were greeted by 35-meter man-made waterfalls which made the whole place very moist but still cool (the temperature in this dome is similarly maintained at 23°C to 25°C). Because it was so sunny outside, the water vapor created a mini rainbow where the waterfalls hit the ground — I had to get a little bit wet/moist to check it out but it was well worth it!

The visit continued with a walk along the path around this “mountain” to the lift lobby which later brought us up to level 6. This was followed by a short climb of stairs to the peak of the structure which has a corny name called “Lost World.”

 

Waterfalls greeting all visitors
Waterfalls greeting all visitors
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The mini rainbow
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Looking up
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Looking through
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Pitcher plants with reflections at the peak of the mountain

 

We later descended via two walkways in the barely visible “clouds” for an aerial view of the canopy and various plants which grew very healthily on the structure wall.

Somewhere in the middle of the structure, you will find the “Crystal Mountain Cave” which features some stalactites and stalagmites. I wonder which caves did they come from — my bad, didn’t bother to stop and read — only took some photos. 😉

 

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Looking down
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The Cloud Walk from a distance. Cloudless to me, no?
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Surface details of stalactite / stalagmite on display
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Another view, this time from the Secret Garden below
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Small falls along the “river” in the Secret Garden

 

We spent about 1.5 hours in the Cloud Forest. But since we could re-enter again by getting a stamp, we came back in the evening on the same day to check out the lights. The feeling was different and better looking against the deep blue sky. Unfortunately the “blue hour” in Singapore only lasts ~20 minutes and when the sky turned dark, most of the plants were not really visible.

 

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Exterior view at around 715pm
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The waterfalls again, at around 730pm
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Looking up again, the Cloud Walk, during blue hour
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Sky got darker now. A couple spotted admiring the view from the Cloud Walk.

 
How to get there:

 

Flower Dome

Spent the holiday (Hari Raya Aidilfitri) checking out the conservatories at the Gardens by the Bay. First stop was the Flower Dome. As the official sites says, it is the world’s largest columnless greenhouse. The glass sits on a steel grid that acts like an eggshell. What I enjoyed the most here? The cool air, definitely! 🙂

Inside of the Flower Dome
Inside of the Flower Dome. It was sunny but this place is air conditioned! Also in the photo is the “flower field” which is featuring the “Persian Garden” theme this time.

Temperature in here is maintained at 23°C to 25°C. It was really a nice place to walk about although the flowers did not really impress me much. Except for the daisies — quite dainty, I like them.

Daisies are thriving here
Daisies are thriving here

Inside the conservatory, there are 7-8 zones or gardens. The have names like “Olive Grove,” “Succulent Garden,” “Australian Garden,” “The Boababs,” etc. In the centre is the an area named Flower Field which is dedicated to thematic displays. And this time, it is about flowers and plants associated to the Persian Garden — which is said to be traditionally created to provide a sanctuary in the desert and was perceived as ‘paradise on earth.’

Found in the South African Garden
Found in the South African Garden
Caught a man taking a shot of a woman taking a selfie
Caught a man taking a shot of a woman taking a selfie in the Californian Garden
Found in the Californian Garden
The flowers which attract much selfies … in the Californian Garden
Now I realized I should have taken some notes...
Can’t remember… I realized I should have taken some notes…
From the Persian Garden Floral Display
From the Persian Garden Floral Display

Exterior in the evening
Exterior in the evening

 
How to get there:

 

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.

 

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30s exposure
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25s exposure
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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:

 

The View from East

This week, we “hiked” east-ward to Kampong Kayu. Like Farrer Park is to Farrer Road, Kampong Kayu is not found anywhere near Jalan Kayu but within the walking distance of the Mountbatten MRT Station (Circle Line).

The residents here appear multi-cultural, and I witnessed them living rather harmoniously and enjoying each others’ company. When I was setting up my tripod, one of them came out to strike a conversation with us. He showed us the photos he took using his Galaxy smart phone – impressive panoramic shot of the view during sunset.

The view is indeed impressive. City skyline in the background with lush greenery and one calm river. I just don’t like the ugly floodlights peeping out of the Marina Bay Golf Course. Just across the river is the new National Stadium due to complete in June 2014. That is less than a month from now. But the roof doesn’t seem to be done yet, so good luck to meeting the due date!!!

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Sunset over the upcoming National Stadium
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Singapore city skyline with Geylang River in the foreground.
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Construction still ongoing at night to complete the National Stadium in time due in June 2014!!!
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Cat on his throne

Labour Day

Not exactly on the Labour Day (1 May 2014), but these photos were taken a day before. Colleague and I got a new vantage point today at Bras Basah; but we stopped on the way to take some photos of lalang. These grass caught my attention lately because they are “blooming” with seeds.

Lalang "blooming" with Milnolta MD 50mm.
Lalang “blooming” with Milnolta MD 50mm.

 

Upon reaching our destination, the sun was setting and it casted a really nice orange hue on the sky. Really spectacular so I didn’t waste much time to set up the tripod — I just shot with high ISO which unfortunately came with higher noise as well. But I guess its better than nothing! After resizing, it looks OK to me lar.

 

Sunset over Tangs Tower in the foreground. With Vivitar 200mm.
Sunset over Tangs Tower in the foreground. With Vivitar 200mm.

 

Blue hour did not really materialize due to the cloudy state. So instead of trying to get the skyline, I pointed down mostly and managed to take some photos showing the urban facades in Singapore.

 

St. Joseph's Church with Minolta MD 50mm.
St. Joseph’s Church with Minolta MD 50mm.
Traffic along North Bridge Road. With Vivitar 200mm.
Traffic along North Bridge Road. With Vivitar 200mm.
Rooftop swimming pool at The Raffles Hotel with Vivitar 200mm.
Rooftop swimming pool at The Raffles Hotel with Vivitar 200mm.

Xperia Z1

I do believe that the best camera is the one that is always with you.

More than a decade ago, it was my Lomo LC-A because it is compact enough for me to bring it with me to most places. Today (in 2014) it is the Xperia Z1. I am so glad that we now have smartphones which are equipped with high-resolution sensors. The Xperia Z1 camera sensor packs 20.7 megapixels in 1/2.3-inch area. This sensor is among the largest in the smartphones’ market and should promise low noise (but not really…) and better bokeh. The phone also has a dedicated shutter button with half-press ability — something I like very much.

The default operation mode is Superior Auto which means the user just needs to compose and trigger.  The Manual mode on the other hand offers a little more flexibility to the user for EV compensation and setting of WB. It does not provide control/access to the shutter speeds and lens aperture (aperture seems to be fixed at f/2 in all the EXIF data I have checked for both Auto and Manual modes). Instead, there is a Scene selection. Also, full resolution 5248 x 3936 (20.7MP, 4:3) is only available in the Manual mode.

 

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Scene seletion in “Manual” mode

 

Although I prefer having some manual controls in my cameras, I seldom use the Manual mode. I stick to Auto most of the time because:

  • Noise at full resolution or 20.7MP is more pronounced
  • Smaller file obviously, with Superior Auto which locks max resolution at 8MP
  • 16:9 in Superior Auto crops out the soft corners reported
  • The phone doesn’t remember the mode which I last used! Each time I start the camera app, it goes to Superior Auto!

Besides these two modes, the camera app also accepts add-ons developed by Sony and third parties (e.g. Evernote). I rarely use any of them except for Timeshift burst. They’re downloadable from the Play store.

 

Modes and add-ons
Modes and add-ons

 

Below are sample photos, directly from the camera (unedited) but resized, shot in either Superior Auto or Manual and all handheld. You can probably tell which mode is used from the aspect ratio. Resized images often reduce the effect of noise (one conclusion – most phones are fine if you use the photos for web). The lens according to the EXIF data, has 4.9mm focal length. I read this is equivalent to 27mm (FF/35mm).

 

My son's collectibles (1/32s, ISO125)
My son’s collectibles (1/32s, ISO125)
Drink stall operator (probably also owner of) Blanco Court Prawn Mee (1/100s, ISO100)
Drink stall operator (probably also owner of) Blanco Court Prawn Mee (1/100s, ISO100)
iEat Burger by Aston's (1/64s, ISO64)
iEat Burger by Aston’s (1/64s, ISO64)
Blue hour at the Boon Lay MRT station (1/5s, ISO64)
Blue hour at the Boon Lay MRT station (1/5s, ISO64)
Café Swiss interior (1/50s, ISO500)
Café Swiss interior (1/50s, ISO500)
Rooftop of a carpark along Upper Cross St (1/2500s, ISO64)
Rooftop of a carpark along Upper Cross St (1/2500s, ISO64)
Two (1/125s, ISO160)
Two (1/125s, ISO160)
Hong Kong's cloudy skyline from the Peak (1/320s, ISO50)
Hong Kong’s cloudy skyline from the Peak (1/320s, ISO50)
Unimpressive low-light shot at a Lion King show (1/32s, ISO320)
Unimpressive low-light shot at a Lion King show (1/32s, ISO320)
Interior of the Fullerton Hotel (1/125s, ISO320)
Interior of the Fullerton Hotel (1/125s, ISO320)
Light trails at Clementi using Manual mode -- one of those scene selected with "long" exposure. My shaky hands are very visible. (1/2s, ISO50)
Light trails at Clementi using Manual mode — one of those scene selected with “long” exposure. My shaky hands are very visible. (1/2s, ISO50)
HK-style pastries at a hawker center in Whampoa (1/100s, ISO200)
HK-style pastries at a hawker center in Whampoa (1/100s, ISO200)
Hardworking hawker at Chinatown -- serves one of the best mee pok (I call it the local ramen) (1/50s, ISO200)
Hardworking hawker at Chinatown — serves one of the best mee pok (I call it the local ramen) (1/50s, ISO200)
The local ramen, dry variant. (1/50s, ISO800)
The local ramen, dry variant. (1/50s, ISO800)
Another unimpressive but decent low-light shot -- subjects, context maintained (1/20s, ISO1600)
Another unimpressive but decent low-light shot — subjects, context maintained (1/20s, ISO1600)
One of the 60 shots taken by the Timeshift Burst mode (EXIF n/a)
One of the 60 shots taken by the Timeshift Burst mode (EXIF n/a)
Panorama mode (EXIF n/a)
Panorama mode (EXIF n/a)
Blue hour at the Marina Bay -- noise very apparent (1/8s, ISO400)
Blue hour at the Marina Bay — noise very apparent (1/8s, ISO400)
Waiting at a bus stop (1/64s, ISO1600)
Waiting at a bus stop (1/64s, ISO1600)
Dawn at Boon Lay MRT (1/500s, ISO50)
Dawn at Boon Lay MRT (1/500s, ISO50)
Finally a late night shot in Auto.
Finally a late night shot in Auto.
On the way (1/50s, ISO320)
On the way (1/50s, ISO320)

 

To conclude, the camera produces sufficiently good images. With some post processing (noise reduction, sharpening, adjustments of shadows & highlights), the resized images should look great for web (or facebook, etc).

While the camera in your smartphone is not going to replace “real” cameras anytime soon — it should still be your best because you have it with you all the time — unless if you have dSLR with you all the time too.

Nifty Fifty

I love prime lens, and the 50mm focal length is one of my favourites. In my opinion, primes generally offer 3 main advantages — (a)  less optical distortion introduced, (b) have wider maximum aperture for those bokehliciuos portraits and finally (c) for the smaller package as compared to zoom lens.

50mm focal length (in full frame) is nifty because you can use it for many types of photography genres. If you’re new, 50mm should be your first prime because it can help you explore these various genres. You’ll be able to find what you like — portraits, street, landscape, etc before investing further in other lenses.

If you’re using a camera with APS-C sensor, you should be looking for focal length of about 35mm. Olympics and Panasonic mirrorless cameras use m4/3 format and the equivalent focal length is 24mm.

All photos  below are taken with the manual Minolta MD 50mm f/1.7 with full frame sensor.

Kid at the playground under mom's watchful eyes
Kid at the playground under mom’s watchful eyes
Children at the playground
Children at the playground
Lego car down the slide
Lego car down the slide
Man looking for a seat at McDonalds, King Albert Park
Man looking for a seat at McDonalds, King Albert Park
Gathering at McDonalds, King Albert Park
Gathering at McDonalds, King Albert Park
Status update?
Status update?
McDonalds at King Albert Park on its last night of operation.
McDonalds at King Albert Park on its last night of operation.
Group selfie
Group selfie
Barista at the CAD cafe
Barista at the CAD cafe
Relax lah.
Relax lah.
Not plain but fruity water
Not plain but fruity water
Cookies
Cookies
Barista at the CAD cafe
Barista at the CAD cafe
Blue hour at the junction of Alexander Rd & Queensway
Blue hour at the junction of Alexander Rd & Queensway

Wide-angle Saturday

More photos this weekend using the Nikkor-N 24mm f/2.8 lens.

The rain after a bout of dry season created a perfect environment for many of the trees here to  blossom. I would suggest that the National Parks Board of Singapore dedicate an area in the Gardens by the Bay planted with rows of these Tabebuia Rosea or the Trumpet Trees. This will create our very own version of Sakura Spring/Cherry Blossoms!

Saw these blossoming trees on the way to NUS Utown.

Singapore's version of Cherry Blossoms
Singapore’s version of Cherry Blossoms
Singapore's version of Cherry Blossoms
Singapore’s version of Cherry Blossoms

Then again, I do not think these trees are local. They could have been brought over from the Central/South America region about 50 years ago during the greening campaign.

Education Resource Center & Ngee Ann Kongsi Auditorium at NUS UTown
Education Resource Center & Ngee Ann Kongsi Auditorium at NUS UTown
Graduate Residence at NUS UTown
Graduate Residence at NUS UTown
Graduate Residence at NUS UTown
Graduate Residence at NUS UTown

Marina Reservoir

The Marina Barrage is a dam in Singapore built at the confluence of five rivers. By keeping out seawater, the barrage forms Singapore’s 15th reservoir and first reservoir in the city.

The Marina Barrage also acts as a tidal barrier to keep seawater out, helping to alleviate flooding in low lying areas of the city. When it rains heavily during low-tide, the barrage’s crest gates will be lowered to release excess water from the reservoir into the sea. If heavy rain falls during high-tide, the crest gates remain closed and giant drainage pumps are activated to pump excess water out to sea. [source: Wikipedia]

The Marina Reservoir, viewed from the Marina Barrage. Taken with Olympus OM-D E-M5 + kit lens (12-50mm).
The Marina Reservoir, viewed from the Marina Barrage. Taken with Olympus OM-D E-M5 + kit lens (12-50mm).

Nikkor-N 24mm f/2.8

The first 24mm lens designed specifically with a reflex F-mount was introduced in June, 1967. The Nikkor-N 24mm f/2.8 Auto lens has a retrofocus design, it was based on a creative design concept by Nikon optical engineers, combines a super picture angle of 84° and coupled with a fairly fast speed at f/2.8 (fastest lens among the same focal length lenses available during that period) [source: leofoo].

Nikkor 24mm f/2.8 adapted to the Alpha 7
Nikkor 24mm f/2.8 adapted to the Alpha 7

This first version has the “Nippon Kogaku Japan” label but mine was simplified to just “Nikon” — but it is still probably among the older 24mm Nikkor lenses because it has a minimal aperture scale of up to f/16 only (f/22 was later added in 1975). Anyway, I love the design — especially the deep ribbed “scallop” grip for the focusing ring.

Some sample photos:

One North Residences
One North Residences
Lucasfilm Singapore, the Sandcrawler building
Lucasfilm Singapore, the Sandcrawler building
Amazon Flooded Forest exhibit at the River Safari
Amazon Flooded Forest exhibit at the River Safari, at ISO5000
Singapore cityscape
Singapore cityscape
Marina Bay Sands
Marina Bay Sands, shot handheld at 0.5s!
The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands
The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands
The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands
The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands
Underneath the tiered seatings of my church
Underneath the tiered seatings of my church (ISO6400)

Taiwan

Taiwan, a sweet-potato-shaped island is once known as Ilha Formosa – Beautiful Island. This is what a group of Portuguese sailors, said to have been the first Westerners to lay eyes on the island, uttered upon seeing Taiwan for the first time.

Taiwan has been chosen as one of the top 10 best countries to visit in 2012 by Lonely Planet. I have been reading a little about Taiwan after the trip and found that there are so simply too much to cover in just 8 days. These photos were taken during a road trip / guided tour around Taiwan in October 2011. The sky during the period was extremely cloudy, and gloomy at times. I brought the Olympus E-PL1 with kit lens for its travel-friendly size; no tripod.

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Beautiful Taipei in the morning. That’s the Taipei 101 tower at the background.
Taken with Nikon P&S (S6000) from a moving bus.

Taroko National Park

Taroko National Park  is one of the seven national parks in Taiwan and was named after the Taroko Gorge, the landmark gorge of the park. The park spans Taichung City, Nantou County, and Hualien County.

The park was originally established as the Tsugitaka-Taroko National Park by the Governor-General of Taiwan on December 12, 1937 when Taiwan was part of the Empire of Japan. After the Empire of Japan’s defeat in World War II, the Republic of China assumed control of Taiwan. The ROC government subsequently abolished the park on August 15, 1945. It was not until November 28, 1986 that the park was reestablished.

The name, Taroko, means “magnificent and beautiful”. Long ago a Truku tribesman saw the beauty of the azure Pacific when he walked out of the gorge. On seeing the magnificent scene, he cried “Taroko!”. [source: Wikipedia]

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“Bridge of 100 Lions” at the Taroko National Park in Hualien.
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Flowers, Taroko National Park
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This is the view from the mountainside coffee house of “Eternal Spring Shrine” which is situated over the waterfall. Taroko National Park.
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Clam farm in Hualien

The Aborigines

Aboriginal groups are seeking to preserve their folkways and languages as well as to return to, or remain on, their traditional lands. Eco-tourism, sewing and selling tribal carvings, jewelry and music has become a viable area of economic opportunity. However, tourism-based commercial development, such as the creation of Taiwan Aboriginal Culture Park, is not a panacea. Although these create new jobs, aborigines are seldom given management positions. [source: Wikipedia]

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Performance at the Taiwan Indigenous Peoples Culture Park, Pingtung.
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Performance at the Taiwan Indigenous Peoples Culture Park, Pingtung.

Kaohsiung

Kaohsiung is the second largest city in Taiwan, with a population around 2.9 million. Also known as the “Harbour Capital” of Taiwan, Kaohsiung has always had a strong link with the ocean and maritime transportation.

The city sits on the southwestern coast of Taiwan facing the Taiwan Strait. The downtown areas are centered around Kaohsiung Harbor with the island of Qijin on the other side of the harbor acting as a natural breakwater. [source: Wikipedia]

koashiung_night_rs
Kaohsiung at night (taken handheld). Stitched panorama from the 62nd floor of The Splendour hotel.
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Local delicacy found in Liuhe Night Market, Kaohsiung
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On the way to Tsingtao Brewery (a thirst-quenching stop before Kaohsiung)

Sun Moon Lake

Situated in Yuchi, Nantou, the area around the Sun Moon Lake is home to the Thao tribe, one of aboriginal tribes in Taiwan. Sun Moon Lake surrounds a tiny island called Lalu. The east side of the lake resembles a sun while the west side resembles a moon, hence the name. [source: Wikipedia]

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The Sun Moon Lake which is located 748 m (2,454 ft) above sea level. This is a stitched panorama.
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We were playing with bubbles at the compounds of Wen Wu Temple (文武廟) located next to the Sun Moon Lake.
Supplies Delivery at FengChia Nightmarket (Xitun District, Taichung City)
Supplies Delivery at FengChia Nightmarket (Xitun District, Taichung City)
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Found this cozy place selling beef noodles near our hotel in Hsinchu. Had this for supper.

Yehliu

Yehliu is a cape in the town of Wanli, New Taipei, Taiwan. The cape, known by geologists as the Yehliu Promontory, forms part of the Daliao Miocene Formation. It stretches approximately 1,700 metres into the ocean and was formed as geological forces pushed Datun Mountain out of the sea.

A distinctive feature of the cape is the hoodoo stones that dot its surface. These shapes can be viewed at the Yehliu Geopark operated by the North Coast and Guanyinshan National Scenic Area administration. A number of rock formations have been given imaginative names based on their shapes. The best known is the “Queen’s Head”, an iconic image in Taiwan and an unofficial emblem for the town of Wanli. Other formations include the “Fairy Shoe,” the “Beehive,” the “Ginger Rocks” and the “Sea Candles.” [source: Wikipedia]

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Yehliu Geopark
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Close-up of amazing rock formations at the Yehliu Geopark
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Ship wreck off Yeliu

Taipei

Taipei is the capital of the Republic of China (Taiwan). Situated at the northern tip of Taiwan, Taipei is located on the Tamsui River; it is about 25 km (16 mi) southwest of Keelung, a port city on the Pacific Ocean. It lies in the Taipei Basin, an ancient lakebed bounded by the two relatively narrow valleys of the Keelung and Xindian rivers, which join to form the Tamsui River along the city’s western border. The city proper is home to an estimated 2,618,772 people. Taipei, New Taipei, and Keelung together form the Taipei–Keelung metropolitan area with a population of 6,900,273. [source: Wikipedia]

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The Martyr’s Shrine, built in 1969.
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Plane in Cloudy Taipei
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A Street Junction in Taipei
Taipei Streets in Grainy B&W
Taipei Streets in Grainy B&W (E-PL1 built-in “Art” filter)

The Enclave

The morning sun gloriously painted the buildings golden but I was unable to reproduce this straight out of the camera.

I shot this in JPEG and post-processed in Lightroom to add gradient filter (teal corners) to produce this.

 

Chinatown and Telok Ayer area, surrounded by skyscrapers of the Central Business District (CBD)
Chinatown and Telok Ayer area, surrounded by skyscrapers of the Central Business District (CBD)

Blue Hour at the Port

Woke up early for this shot. This was taken from one of the south-facing blocks in the Engineering Faculty of the National University Singapore (NUS).

This is the Pasir Panjang Terminal, part of Port of Singapore.

The Port of Singapore includes terminals located at Tanjong Pagar, Keppel, Brani, Pasir Panjang, Sembawang and Jurong. They can accommodate all types of vessels, including container ships, bulk carries, ro-ro ships, cargo freighters, coasters and lighters. The Pasir Panjang Terminal (PPT) handles mega container vessels of 13,000 TEUs or more with quay cranes that can reach across 22 rows of containers. Remote controlled bridge cranes allow each operator to handle up to six cranes. [Source: Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore]

Blue Hour - Port of Singapore
Blue Hour – Port of Singapore

Vancouver, BC

Had the opportunity in 2013 to visit Vancouver in the British Columbia, Canada. It offers among the best quality of life for urbanites, according to the 2013 Liveability report by the Economist Intelligence Unit. From my 3-day stay there, it feels so. In fact it was much better than the feeling I experienced when I was in Melbourne (touted 1st in the same list). My perception was nevertheless not significant because of the many factors considered e.g. public healthcare or the threat of military conflict which are intangible for a visitor/tourist like me.

I love the water bodies, the yachts, and the picturesque mountains in the background. Simply stunning. My short visit was way too short and certainly wish to return for a longer stay.

All photos taken using Olympus E-PL1 with 14-42mm kit lens.

Vancouver Sailing Club, Granville Island
Vancouver Sailing Club, Granville Island

Subsequent photos were stitched for a wider view.

Under the Granville Bridge
Under the Granville Bridge
Overseeing the Harbour Green Park & the Coal Harbour, from the Convention Center
Overseeing the Harbour Green Park & the Coal Harbour, from the Convention Center
Reminds me of Disney's TaleSpin
Reminds me of Disney’s TaleSpin

Vivitar 200mm f/3.5

This solid all-metal prime lens has the longest focal length in my collection today. Think it was made in the 70’s. It is super sturdy and heavy; this handsomely-built lens should easily last another 40 years or more.

I was worried that it may be too heavy for the alpha7’s E-mount adapter, but I’m glad it came with a tripod mount. It has minimum aperture of f/22 and provides adequate sharpness at wide open. I find focusing a challenge because the focusing ring is stiff. Turning the ring will shake the lens and that’s not helpful when seeing through the EVF at such long focal length.

Vivitar 200mm f/3.5 with alpha 7
Vivitar 200mm f/3.5 with alpha 7

However for the price I acquired it, the outcome makes it a real steal. Although it’s quite sensitive to stray light which causes overcast images when the lens points to bright areas, this is quite fixable by minor curves adjustment in post- processing.

Fullterton Bay
Fullterton Bay Hotel
Merlion
Merlion
LV
Louis Vuitton Island Maison
Weird vignetting
Weird vignetting at 1 edge when shooting the sun directly
Temple
Temple
Shophouses
Shophouses
Tooth relic courtyard
Tooth relic courtyard
HDB
HDB
Capitaland
Top of the Capital Tower bathed in morning sunlight
Nice stairs & colour
Nice stairs & colour

Cityscape from Textile Centre

Spotted this vantage point on my way to work, when the bus passed by Jalan Sultan. This area offers an unique view of the Singapore cityscape which is not so commonly seen in photos.

One landmark which is worth to take note is the Rochor Center which was built and completed in 1977. The building with colourful towers will be demolished to make way for the construction of an expressway by 2016.

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Sunset with the colourful Rochor Center on the right

I love skyscrapers. Some obvious ones: the Parkroyal, Gateway, Parkview Square and the Marina Bay Sands (in the left corner, photo below). Also visible is the construction site for the upcoming DUO. In the foreground, you’ll find the restored shophouses of Kampong Glam.

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Blue Hour
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Masjid Sultan at night
Shears Bridge & Marina Bay Sands
Shears Bridge & Marina Bay Sands
The Concourse
The Concourse and Jalan Sultan

 
How to get there:

 

Hello World

It was sometime in late 90’s when I first “blogged”. It was all manual and tiresome because there were no LifeJournal nor Blogger. It was also more like a tweet, because I don’t have much to say. Having to deal with all the HTML tags and photo uploading via FTP, it didn’t take long for me to stop.

Now I just want to be a regular user. Also because WordPress had gotten so friendly and at the same time so complex for me to hack. Installation is a breeze now that my webhost (referral) just requires a mouse click from me.

I’m going to start with this photo, taken during the Christmas-NY break weeks ago. It was moments before dawn, and among the first few shots taken once I’ve my tripod set up.

Jurong Town at 6:30AM (28mm, f/3.5, 20s)