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)

 

 

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:

 

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.

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.

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).

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