On Having Fun Doing Street Photography

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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.

Taking the Monday Off from Work

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Personally, the best kind of holiday is the one where you’re the only one having it. And that’s exactly what I had yesterday. After dropping my wife off at the airport early in the morning (she’s on a week-long business trip to Tokyo, Japan… lucky her) and putting an ‘Out of Office’ notice in my Outlook, I decided to go out to Chinatown area and test drive my recently-acquired Sony NEX-7.

You probably heard that I managed to sell my Nikon D300. I used the extra cash to get myself this wonderful mirrorless camera from Sony. For those of you who don’t know what an insanely great this camera is, try reading reviews from sites such as dpreview.com and photographyblog.com. Unfortunately, Sony’s NEX series camera system suffers from meager selection of available native E-mount lenses (E-mount is Sony’s NEX lens system). It’s a great camera, however, if you have a collection of legacy lenses. I’m planning to get a Nikon lens adapter so that I could use my Nikon lenses on this camera.

The test drive was fun. It was easy to get myself used to shooting photos using this camera. The Tri-Navi system works wonderfully. After roughly 4 hours of street photography I came away generally impressed with the easy handling and great results. I was not that happy with the AF, but maybe that’s just because I got used to being pampered with my Nikon D3 lightning-fast AF.

I should just create a separate blog entry for the impression before I got carried away talking about this camera.

Anyways, I had a great time enjoying my Monday off from work. Aside from filling my SD card to the brim with photos I also got myself another Transformers figure (Generation Wheeljack, a classic character!) in one of the shops in Chinatown Square Center. Yeah, I just geeked out there.

That’s all for this aside. For now. I’m planning to post my impression of the Sony NEX-7 in a later blog. Here’s hoping that all of you are having a great start of the week so far!

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!

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!

Singapore Quarry

It was a blistering hot Sunday morning when we visited the quarry around last year’s April. My wife and I, along with some friends, were hiking Bukit Timah Nature Reserve that day before we got to the quarry. It was my first visit ever to the place and as it turned out there would be many more to come, as we often visited the place for a bit of a workout.

Somewhere along the hiking trail in the nature reserve there is a split in the path that allows you to go to Dairy Farm. From there, if you continue on towards the southwest you will get to the quarry, which was what we did that Sunday. It was late morning, and the sun was already high in the sky.

The former quarry is now a wetland, with a viewing platform for visitors to observe the local flora and fauna. They are not allowed to feed the fish though. Below the platform is a small lake, and in front of it stands a cliff where people probably used to mine minerals from. Various plants now grow on top and in the face of the cliff.

The Singapore Quarry. Click the photo above for a bigger version

While we were there to rest our legs and enjoy the view, I went out to the platform’s railing and decided to take a panorama photo. I took it using ‘Pano’, an iPhone panorama app that I often used before I found out about AutoStitch. The original photo looked a bit washed-out and the sky was over-exposed (it was a very sunny day). I used Camera+ to try and make the photo look better. I added ‘Clarity’ and applied the ‘Emo’ filter. The ‘Clarity’ scene option added sharpness and brought out the, err, clarity of the photo; while the ‘Emo’ filter added saturation to the green color in the photo. The sky was overblown, but the blooming effect is actually quite pleasant, at least for me.

After a year or so of living here in Singapore I’ve only visited the Quarry twice. The walk there can be tiring, not only because it is quite far from Dairy Farm, but also because the trail was out in the open with little protection from the scorching heat. There’s nothing much to see there, but at least I’ve managed to take this photo as a token of my visit there.

Suvarnabhumi Airport

I captured this image using my iPhone 4 when I was waiting for my flight from Bangkok back to Singapore. We were there quite early and I was getting bored waiting at the gate. So I decided to walk around and see if there was anything interesting to occupy my time with. And I found this.

This is a photo of the large hallway where our boarding gate was located. It’s basically a panorama I took using an app called ‘AutoStitch’. The app is easy to use. What I like most about it is that I don’t have to manually align the photos I took, and the photos it stitches don’t have to be taken using the app. That means the app can actually stitch photos from your photo library (provided that they can be aligned, of course). I used a filter from Path to give the photo a sepia tone.

Suvarnabhumi Gate F2

Initially I was thinking of going for a symmetrical look. As I took the left-most photo a gentleman walked by in front of the camera and down the escalator. Him being in the picture would definitely break the symmetry. I thought of redoing it, but decided to continue taking subsequent photos and see the stitching result. Turned out that the gentleman’s silhouette created asymmetry that actually made the panorama photo looks a lot better.

Anyways, I hope that you all have been having a great week so far!