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)

 

 

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

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:

 

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

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).

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