Libreria Acqua Alta

Totally not in our agenda, but I am glad we stumbled into this when we were exploring the alleys towards the east side of Venice.

Dubbed (or rather claimed) to be “the most beautiful bookshop in the world,” I find it most intriguing or interesting than beautiful. It is in fact a big mess inside with an unused gondola in the middle which holds hundreds of books. There is another room with a bathtub full of books. The mess is not necessarily bad, because it did add a lot of character to place — but I can’t imagine anyone really shopping for books here.

Maybe a postcard?

 

Entrance to the bookshop. Off-focus, opps.
Entrance to the bookshop. Off-focus, opps.

 

Books embedded into the walls
Books embedded into the walls

 

It has access to the canal at the back, offering very nice light. Unfortunately I couldn't recover the highlights as much as I desire.
It has access to the canal at the back, offering very nice light. Unfortunately I couldn’t recover the blown highlights as much as I desire.

 

More books
More books

 

The resident cat is not too happy ;-)
The resident cat is not too happy 😉

 

Should add this to your list, if you’re going to Venice…  🙂

 
How to get there:

 

 

Chinatown in B+W

These photos were taken during my visit to the night marketing a couple of weeks before the Chinese New Year. Instead of the usual red and yellow colour palette, I would like to show the B&W side of the people here. Although our world is not B&W, I find it true that B&W captures the essence in people and colours may add distractions in our focus e.g. the clothes they wear.

Photos were taken with 85mm FDn lens from Canon paired with the Sony alpha7.

Seniors tend to take a break here at the inner side of the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple & Museum
Seniors tend to take a break here at the inner side of the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple & Museum
Details of the back door to the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple & Museum
Details of the back door to the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple & Museum
Fortune teller
Fortune teller
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Making decisions — to buy or not?
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Soaking in the atmosphere
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Solemnly waiting

 

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

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.

Canon FDn 85mm f/1.8

This post is about Canon’s “New” FD or FDn 85mm f/1.8 lens which I got from Japan via eBay. There are not many articles on this lens on the Internet; some stuff I found out: it is constructed with 6 elements in 4 groups. The angles of view are 16° vertical and 24° horizontal. The more popular 85mm Canon lens would be the f/1.2 one which is probably why information is so scarce.

Canon FDn 85mm f/1.8
Canon FDn 85mm f/1.8

I find colour reproduction of this portrait/telephoto lens very acceptable, perhaps due to lack of ghosting and/or flare. Overall sharpness is also good but I often get slightly blurred images due to my own movements when using maximum aperture — couldn’t always nail sharp focus on the eyes when shooting portraiture at 0.85m distance. Will probably need to work more on this, or I could make use of a monopod.

The following photos are taken with Sony Alpha7.

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Children warming up before their swim lesson
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Portrait done with shallow depth of focus
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Too bored; took photos of essential oils with lush greenery as the back drop. Love the bokeh.
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Splash
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Let’s jump!
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Knocking off on a Friday evening at One Raffles Quay
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Making a call or surfing Facebook?
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Sculpture
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One Marina Boulevard
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Facades of the Chronos and Helios buildings at Biopolis
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Facade of the Chronos building at Biopolis. This is my current desktop wallpaper 🙂

 

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

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)

Pandas at The River Safari

Went to the River Safari this morning and got some of these shots at the Giant Panda Forest with the Vivitar 200mm.

Red Panda (Ailurus fulgens)

The red pandas (close relatives of the raccoon and weasel) were very active this morning — showing off much of their tree climbing skills. Their quick movement proved a little difficult to manually focus with the Vivitar telephoto lens (the focus ring is a tad tight). By anticipating their movements and drive mode set to continuous, with some luck, I did manage to capture some reasonably sharp images.

Red Panda
Red Panda
Red Panda
Red Panda
Red Panda
Red Panda

 

Giant Panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca)

The Giant Pandas were easier; Kai Kai was just lazing around at one spot and Jia Jia was moving in and out of her den slowly. She was too shy to stay out at the public exhibit area. The eyes were large but dark — can hardly see if the eye lids are opened or closed without zooming into the picture. These pandas are a sign of the twentieth anniversary of friendly Sino-Singapore relations. They arrived on September 2012, are on a ten year loan from China. [source: Wikipedia]

Kai Kai
Kai Kai
Kai Kai
Kai Kai
Kai Kai
Kai Kai
Jia Jia
Jia Jia

 
How to get there:

 

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

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:

 

Pre-CNY Photowalk Chinatown (2)

Continuation from Part 1.

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CNY-theme pin wheel
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Makeshift stage in the middle of the roads, by Mediacorp
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Besides the Horse, money is always in favour.
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Visitors keep coming!
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Selfie
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I think this man with the two dogs come every year
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Cosplay for dogs
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The fish that got away
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More decors
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Getting ready to bless
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13.08.08
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Zoned out
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Great bonding
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Waiting for free sample
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Amused by the promoter
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Towers of goodies
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Balloons have customers afterall
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Other photog spotted
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Passing for a photo. They look happy
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Attempting long exposure (with 28-70mm kit lens)

Pre-CNY Photowalk Chinatown (1)

Normally I wouldn’t even consider going to the Chinese New Year (CNY) Market at Chinatown. But the night’s temperature was probably hovering around 23-25°C (yes, weird for Singapore) and the humidity lower than the usual figure — the walk quite enjoyable although the place was packed with people.

One of the anchor products this season seems to be jelly candies form Taiwan. The profit margin must be high that they were able to let customers sample them freely. And competition was not really a challenge — there were at least 10 large stalls selling these candies.

There were also florists who offered refreshing sights & scent. Other stalls offered Chinese New Year decorations like banners, buntings, ornaments, scrolls, greeting cards and also red packets.

All of these photos were shot using 50mm Minolta MD at fully opened aperture (f/1.7), manual focus. Minimal post processing done, if not none.

2014 is The Year of the Horse
2014 is The Year of the Horse
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Cute bags for your ang bao collection?
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“Will I get ripped off?” she must have wondered
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Air humidifiers
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Taiwanese jelly candies, free sampling
So so crowded
Promoter for Taiwanese Jelly
Freshness in a bag
Basket-full of goodies
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Undecided
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Willows
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Not so much biz for these traditional snacks
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Shot this behind a hanging ornament. Love the outcome.
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Singtel selling their services
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Do you wonder who will buy balloons?
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Traditional paper cut outs as CNY decor
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Off with their loot

First Weekend with the Minolta MD 50mm f/1.7

Bought this lens off eBay. It has a minimum aperture lock, so according to a Wikipedia entry, it should be a post-1981 lens. I’m using it as a manual lens on the Sony Alpha 7 body.

Alpha7 with Minolta MD 50mm
Alpha7 with Minolta MD 50mm

The Alpha 7 has a couple of features which help manual focusing i.e. focus peaking which highlights the in-focus edges in red, yellow or white, and magnification which blows up a small area to fill the whole EVF or rear LCD (I prefer looking through the EVF). Having said this, I had some time struggling to shoot at f/1.7 — nailing the focus probably only 70% of the time during the first weekend. Hopefully my hit rate will improve.

I found it nevertheless fun. 🙂

Girl Getting Ready for a Swim (50mm, f/1.7, 1/2000s)
Girl Getting Ready for a Swim (50mm, f/1.7, 1/2000s)
Pre-swim Shower (50mm, f/1.7, 1/1600s)
Pre-swim Shower (50mm, f/1.7, 1/1600s)
Umbrella (50mm, f/1.7, 1/400s)
Umbrella (50mm, f/1.7, 1/400s)
Texture (50mm, f/1.7, 1/400s)
Texture (50mm, f/1.7, 1/400s)
Planks (50mm, f/1.7, 1/1250s)
Planks (50mm, f/1.7, 1/1250s)
Penchai (50mm, f/1.7, 1/60s)
Penchai (50mm, f/1.7, 1/60s)
Cheers! (50mm, f/1.7, 1/60s)
Cheers! (50mm, f/1.7, 1/60s)
Construction along River Valley Road (50mm, f/1.7, 1/1000s)
Construction along River Valley Road (50mm, f/1.7, 1/1000s)
Passerby's (50mm, f/1.7, 1/1600s)
Passerby’s (50mm, f/1.7, 1/1600s)
Alighting (50mm, f/1.7, 1/800s)
Alighting (50mm, f/1.7, 1/800s)
Taking a Break (50mm, f/1.7, 1/5000s)
Taking a Break (50mm, f/1.7, 1/5000s)
Making Sure the Kids Finish Their Homework (50mm, f/1.7, 1/200s)
Making Sure the Kids Finish Their Homework (50mm, f/1.7, 1/200s)

I’m looking forward to more weekends with this 50mm prime lens. Meanwhile, I have also managed to snatch a 200mm off eBay and now waiting for it to be delivered! 🙂

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)