On Having Fun Doing Street Photography

Aside

Ever since I got my NEX 7 I have been doing a lot of street photography. The camera is small, thus easy to carry around. The angled viewfinder screen also allows me to take candid photos without the subjects barely noticing. Kind of hard to do when you have a huge dSLR aimed at them.

And the picture quality is just excellent.

One area in particular where I like to do street photography is in Singapore’s Chinatown area. The place is teeming with so many photo opportunities it’s dizzying. For example, there’s the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple with its frequent ceremonies and relic showcases. Behind the temple you will find a spot frequented by senior gentlemen with colorful personalities who like to play a form of Chinese chess. Nearby from these spots a colorful Hindu temple called the Sri Mariamman Temple can be found. And there are the alleyways. Plenty of alleyways with their own unique characters. And from the 2-3 times I visited the place I believe that I’m only scratching the surface in terms of all the photo opportunities the area offers.

I must confess that until recently I rarely do street photography, which at times would require one to warm up to your subjects. My naturally shy bearing, coupled with language barrier (people here mostly speak Hokkien which I know zilch about) would get in the way of my confidence in taking close ups of people. But I tried my best to blend in the background, not draw attention to myself, and take candid shots (have I mentioned how I love the angled screen viewfinder?). If any of the subjects notice I’d try putting on a smile, hoping that they were not too annoyed with my taking photos of them. We’ll see if a few more visits can embolden me further to interact with them.

Even though most of the time I tried to keep to myself, in almost all of my visits to Chinatown photographers would strike a conversation with me. All of them ang mo (this is the Singaporean’s term for caucasians). Then a lengthy discussions would ensue, mostly regarding the gears we have and great places to visit for photography in Singapore. I just find this kind of funny that instead of having conversations with my subjects I instead have conversations with fellow photographers.

I do, however, enjoy them.

As soon as I have a newer laptop I’ll be posting the photos I got (lame excuse, I know, but 24 MP is huge and my 2007 MacBook just couldn’t cut it anymore). In the mean time, I’ll still be visiting Chinatown often.

Travel Recollection: Kiyomizudera Temple, Kyoto

I had a slight mishap on the second day of our honeymoon/adventure in Kyoto. We were thinking of going around Tokyo by bicycle. The problem is, I only learned how to ride one recently. I was a nervous wreck, and after 10 minutes of trying to recall how to maintain my balance (and failing miserably), we cancelled our bike rentals and went on by bus instead. I guess it was not wise of me to insist on trying even though knowing that I was not comfortable enough.

Anyways, the morning’s mishap fortunately didn’t hamper our excitement one bit. Our trip to Fushimi Inari shrine on our first day in Kyoto has emboldened us to find more interesting places in Kyoto and maintained our excitement level very high for the entire duration of our stay (read: we were acting like chipmunks on caffeine most of the time). After a very short bus ride we arrived near an alleyway that led us to the entrance of one of Kyoto’s famous temple: Kiyomizudera.

The alleyway leading up to Kiyomizudera entrance

Common among many tourist attractions anywhere in the world, we saw a lot of souvenir shops along the sides of the alleyway leading up to the front gate of the temple complex. This area was actually quite lively and we actually spent quite some time window-shopping as there were a lot of interesting things like snacks, little trinkets, etc. Before wasting too much of the morning hours we reminded ourselves that our main destination for the morning was the temple and moved along. But of course we’d be revisiting the area again after we finished our temple sight-seeing. After all, shopping IS part of traveling, right? 🙂

The wooden stage

As soon as we entered the complex we arrived at a large wooden stage that jutted right out of its main hall. This particular place was quite the tourist flocking area. A lot of the visitors could be found here. Some were busy taking photos, and a lot of them were found sitting down on the steps between the main hall and the wooden stage. The massive stage seemed to be one of the temple’s main attraction. According to Wikipedia, it was a common practice during the Edo period to jump off from the stage 13 meters down to the ground under it. Apparently there was a saying that if a person survives the jump, he/she would have his/her wish granted. Well, I say that if their wishes were cracked skulls and broken bones I’m sure they got what they wanted. Such practice is, of course, prohibited nowadays.

Can you imagine how beautiful this place will look like during cherry blossom or in autumn?

Looking around at the foliage surrounding the temple the cook and I can only imagine how beautiful it would be during autumn, where the leaves would turn brown-red. If only we planned our honeymoon at least two weeks later… The place would probably look very beautiful as well during the spring cherry blossom season. A good excuse to visit the city again next time. Preferably with better timing.

Water from Otowa falls channeled by three bamboos with tourists taking a sip from any one of them. They say doing so will grant whatever wishes they have.

There was another main attraction of the temple complex right under where the wooden stage was located. It was a small waterfall which runs off from a nearby hill. This waterfall is from which the name of the temple was derived from (Kiyomizu = pure water). The waterfall itself is named ‘Otowa’. A lot of people lined up to drink the fall’s water (chanelled through 3 bamboo pipes). Legend said that drinking the water would grant the drinker his or her wishes. This is definitely safer than jumping off 13 meters down from a wooden stage. I sure am seeing a pattern here. Also, a lot of the people lining up for a drink were teenagers. Go figure.

Jishu Shrine

There were also smaller temple/shrine buildings surrounding the Kiyomizudera. One of them is called Jishu Shrine. A pair of so-called ‘love stones’ can be found within this shrine. The stones were placed about 6 meters apart. A lone visitor may try to walk from one stone to another with his or her eyes closed. If he or she could reach the other stone with eyes closed, it is said that they will find love, or true love. Try guessing from which age demographic most of the shrine’s visitors were that day.

Someone behind me?

In case you’re wondering, the temple also sells a lot of trinkets, souvenirs, and other wish-granting objects.

Kiyomizudera with Kyoto in the background

Exploring the whole temple complex did not take us long. Soon enough we found ourselves traversing the alley from where we came earlier (the alley’s called Matsubara-Dori). We discovered that the area leading to Kiyomizudera has a lot of other interconnected alleyways and lanes and it was famously known as the Higashiyama district. The district lies on the lower slope of Kyoto’s eastern mountains. We could see that it has some historic significance as almost all of the shops and buildings lining the alleyways were of traditional Japanese designs and were also decorated in a traditional manners. We also found many smaller shrines and temples in the district. This place sure invoked a certain nostalgic feel to it, and it’s highly recommended to visit this area if you happen to be traveling to Kyoto. Anyways, if you’re traveling to Kyoto then you know you’re looking for these things as Kyoto is a city well-known for its combination of the old and new Japan.

For more information on Kiyomizudera (and various interesting places all over Japan), go to Japan Guide’s website. They have tons of very useful information there. This is one of my go-to site when the wife and I were researching our trip to Kyoto.

Enjoy the photo gallery. Hope it will inspire you to visit Kyoto 🙂

Hello World! (And yeah, it’s been awhile)

Hello world!

It’s been awhile since I last put down a post here in this blog. Things have been pretty hectic for me at the office that I had to bring work home. Physically and mentally. Not a good thing, but something that I just have to deal with for the time being. Hopefully not for long period of time.

Still, not a good excuse for not updating the blog.

Anyways, managed to sell off my D300. It was the first dSLR I ever owned. I still have my D3 with me but I think I won’t be lugging that around like I used to anymore, especially when I want to travel. A tourist lugging a full-frame pro body camera sticks out like a sore thumb.

I’m planning to get a smaller but capable camera like the Sony NEX 7 with the money I got from selling the D300. But alas, all the stores in Singapore currently don’t have any stock left. Hopefully this situation changes soon. In the mean time, I’d like to also consider whether or not Olympus OM-D E-M5 (quite a mouthful!) is a worthy alternative.

But there’s a good news! The cook has started taking orders for some of the cake she made. And it made her really happy. The money isn’t much but I would think that it’s an acknowledgement that people (well, her office friends at least) like her cakes.

Anyways, enough about me and this sort-of-filler blog. I’ll put down some REAL post within this week (I hope!). In the mean time, enjoy another flower macro photo I took in Singapore’s Botanic Garden some time back. Have any comments/critiques? Just drop them at the comments section. I’ve only started doing macro photography recently, so I have a long ways to go. It’s definitely fun!

Blooming in Green (Macro Photography)

Image

A macro photo that I took in Singapore Botanical Garden. I was in the Orchid Garden but ended up with this photo of a little white flower as the best of the bunch.

Some technical details regarding this shot:

Exposure: shot at f/8 with shutter speed of 1/60s and at ISO 200

Camera: Nikon D3

Lens: Nikkor Micro 105mm

Speedlight: SB-900 (on-camera)

The View Outside

It was a sunny Friday, and I was glad that the gloomy, mostly-rainy week was over. I headed back home after office hour was over. It was still bright outside and as I was about to go in my flat I saw the cloud overhead. I thought that it would make for a dramatic panorama so I whisked out my iPhone, opened AutoStitch and started taking pictures. This is the result after some editing in Camera+ (the ever magical ‘Clarity’ filter) and Snapseed (the usual tweaks: additional contrast, ambiance, saturation, dramatic filter and a bit of sharpening).

I’ve taken a similar photo back in January with my iPhone, with the same exact workflow. The sky was different back then as it was only late afternoon (unlike the above photo, which was taken early evening). The clouds were also different back then. The result was, of course, quite different.

Anyways, it’s weekend! Time to let go of all the stress and have fun. Hope you all have a blast!