It’s Time Of The Moon Again

The Moon - ISO200, f/8, 1/800s

Last evening, returned home from a lovely dinner gathering with Symantec, Cynthia was already in bed.  I opened the window, cool air greeted my face.  As I extended my vision from near to far, from the golf course on the other side of the reservoir to the pitch-dark sky, I saw a bright dot.  It was the moon!  Quickly I dashed to my dry cabinet, switched to my telephoto lens, set up the tripod, and started taking photos of our only natural satellite.  The moon does rise up faster than I thought, so does the speed of rotation.  And if I line up the photos I took in sequential order, I can see how the moon rotates.

Different photographers have different preferences on subject matter.  Cynthia’s brother for instance loves to take pictures of insects found in around his Jakarta home at the macro level.  He would proudly show me images of insect eyes and hairs and what not.  I could faint looking at those.  As for me, I enjoy taking pictures of the monuments, candid pictures of the moment, and celestial beauty like the moon.

Avid readers of my site may think: Wait a minute, is this a déjà vu?  I have seen a photo just like this before.  Indeed, that was last December.  I think the photograph of the moon then was a little bit too bright.  Also, no longer do I need to hand hold the camera now that I have a tripod.  Hence a different setting that seems to make the moon looks a bit more 3D.

Last night’s moon reminds me of Italo Calvino’s “Cosmicomics (1965)”.  The short story “The Distance of the Moon” is the most beautiful piece of literature I have read that is based upon our moon.  Italo Calvino remains as one of my all-time-favorite authors.  Some of his books I have read more than once.  His work has made it to Harold Bloom’s “The Western Canon (1994)”.  Unfortunately, my zest of writing book summaries did not quite take form until 2006.  Perhaps in this upcoming 2010, I shall have a book marathon on all his works of fiction and have the book summaries posted here.

PS. No post-processing on this photo.  It is as it is, cropped of course.  Exposure setting: M mode, 1/800 second, f/8 and sensitivity: ISO 200.  Now, I wish I have that 600mm lens (that costs nearly S$20,000!).

(Perfectly) White Balanced Portrait Photos of Cynthia at River Hongbao

Cynthia loves this picture the most, not sure why ...

Though I have received one good suggestion from a good friend of mine that I shall host my photo albums elsewhere until I am good enough to have them hosted here in my website, I thought it is good to show y’all my journey thus far.  Besides, I treasure constructive feedback from the seasoned photographers on areas that I can immediately improve upon.

Almost immediately.  As I do have to wait for the White Balance Reference Card to arrive from US.

One of the (many) tips my (mentor) Mathew has shared with me is that the white balancing is off in my photos.  What it really means (I think) is that the white color is not quite white from the photos I publish.  Fair enough.  Getting the properly balanced white color in digital photography can be a challenge under different lighting conditions.

Especially at the River Hongbao where there were lots of yellow and red and strange color cast onto the lovely face of my model.

You know, it took me a while to convince Cynthia to be my model at the Floating Platform.  I was there just days before this shooting session doing a media coverage for the opening ceremony.  I know all the angles and backdrop.  And I desperately needed a model to fulfill my dream.  Below are the photos taken to demonstrate the white balancing effect.  For high quality photos, visit my photography page.

This is extreme white balancing in action.  All but one photo showcased above or in my photography sub-site are individually white balanced.  See if you can tell which one is the odd one out.  Most of them are shot as-it-is with standard touch-up.  A rare few I have used a film effect to accentuate a certain artistic viewpoint.

Here is how I did it.  Because it was pretty crowded, I have to be creative in finding a right spot to take photo.  Having a wide angle lens help because the distance between my camera on tripod and my model can be pretty close.  Noticing the direction of the human traffic helps too.  Need not to say, it is better to align with the flow and not perpendicular from it.  The last thing I want is to have someone knocks onto my tripod or get in between my camera and my model accidentally.

Composition with tripod is hard.  Some say that shots with tripod is pretty boring.  It is of course not as flexible as hand held composition.  But hey, if I want to expose the photo for up to 1/2 second, I don’t really have much choice, do I?  I would take one photo with Cynthia posing in front of the camera and another one with her holding a White Balance Reference Card close to her face.  That latter photo I would use to take the reading for white balancing.  Extreme white balancing in action, why?  Because I did it for every photo – one for real and one for the card.  I keep the first one and throw away the second one.

I reckon I can still do a much better job with better flash lock for off-centered composition and perhaps a faster shutter speed (1/8 sec or faster?) compensated with higher ISO sensitivity.  Oh well, till the next time I guess.

PS. This is not a sponsored post on WhiBal.

Related Links: High Quality Photo Album of This Entry, WhiBal Card (external link)

Delivering the Wedding Gifts the Traditional Chinese Way (過大禮 / 过大礼) … In the Modern Day

Benny, My Dad, and the Wedding Gifts

Here is the thing, I am lousy when it comes to Chinese tradition.  Maybe I shall read more Chinese literature, maybe I shall date a … or maybe I shall just talk to my parents more.

We can talk about the six Chinese wedding etiquette here.  But if you are more of a visual person, here is the link to my personal family photo album.  Yes, in this tidy home of my parents in Hong Kong we have a dog named Tak Tak.  He is smart, he is adorable, and I will share a photo album of just my dog later.  How late?  I don’t know.  I still have my photos taken in Fraser Hill unprocessed, awaiting to be published.

One day I woke up at the apartment on the 5th floor – my parents stay on the 7th floor and it is a long story that you probably can skip – and Benny (my then-brother-in-law-to-be-now-brother-in-law) was loading the 5th floor apartment with gifts.  I looked at the gifts in my wildest curiosity wondering what on the earth he was doing.  Well, according to one of the Chinese wedding etiquette, the groom’s family delivers the wedding gifts (過大禮 / 过大礼) to the bride’s family days (or weeks?!) before the actual wedding date.  In the old days, it was meant to be an elaborate event.  When the bride’s family receives the wedding gift mostly with items in pairs – plus a letter or a book itemizing the gifts (?! … lots of documentations in the old days) – another set of gifts will be returned as part of the tradition.  If you wonder why coconuts, chickens, and even a pair of shoes can be considered as wedding gifts alongside with the gold and jewelery, phonetically, these items mean only good things to the wedding couple.

In the modern day, this tradition is simplified.  As seen in the photos I have shared, I recall Benny did bring wine, fruit, cakes, abalones, and … lots of cash!  In Singapore dollar!  And my parents also returned a portion of the cash received to symbolize the tradition.  When I saw that, I was like … don’t, don’t … let me have it!

At times I wonder, what dilutes the local tradition?  I tend to look at the era of colonization with puzzlement.  One day I may write a blog entry about it.  Perhaps after this ambitious photo trip my friend Ken and I have been talking about for ages – local culture and tradition at a crossroad.

Photo Album: Family Photos in Hong Kong

River Hongbao 2009 Opening Ceremony – A Media Coverage

A sample of photos taken during the River Hongbao 2009 Opening Ceremony

I am honored to be invited as part of the media crew to cover the River Hongbao Opening Ceremony.  Having no prior experience to cover event of such scale and significance, I followed closely to EastCoastLife, the president of our Association of Bloggers (Singapore), listening to her advice on who is who, what to anticipate, and the general tips to cover events and etc.

In this blog entry, I am going to share two photo albums with you. 

  1. Click here (or onto the image above) to view my personal favorite collection created using Nikon Capture NX2
  2. Scroll down to view the event collection created using Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2.2

On the Event

From now till Feb 1, there are many reasons to visit the Floating Platform just off Marina Square.  First, you get to walk around the platform built originally as a temporary location for the National Day Parade.  The last time I visited the same location was during the National Day Parade Preview back in 2007.  One fine piece of work built by the Singapore Armed Force, MINDEF, and DSTA.

Second, there are lots of photography opportunities.  Beautiful light with lots of color.  At the center of the Floating Platform is a performance stage.  Check out the show schedule here.  Lots of talents.  EastCoastLife and I enjoyed the cultural performance thoroughly.

Third, admission is free.  The venue is well organized and secured.  Tripods are allowed so bring your family and friends and take some memorable shots!  If you drop a link of your photo album here, I will gladly take a look.  Let’s learn from each other.

A Media Crew’s Journal

It was the first time I stepped into a Press Conference.  We were side by side with the traditional media.  And I am happy that my camera is of an industrial standard as compares to what the pros are using.  We are all Nikonians, we are friends immediately without the need to exchange words.

Peggy Chen, our friendly media point of contact, walked us through the program in Mandarin.  I tried very hard to understand what she said (I am a Cantonese) because she did give out useful information on what to expect, where to take your best photo shots.  I think I understood about 70% of what she said.  When she repeated the information a second time in English, I was in tears of joy.

The professional photographers move very fast.  We were dashing ahead, turning around to take some killer shots, and dashed out again – as our VVIP (very-very important people) walked amongst the crowd.  Over 800 shots were made on that evening and I am amazed on how Deputy Prime Minister Mr. Wong Kan Seng managed to smile in almost every photo I took throughout the entire event.

I was told that firecrackers were banned in Singapore and now recently lifted.  When EastCoastLife asked the security guards if we could get up close to the firecrackers and they were shocked, politely said no.  After seeing how explosive those firecrackers were, I personally am glad that I was nowhere close.

As you can see in the photos here, the performance was beautiful, professionally done.  Apparently, EastCoastLife has seen the preview and was tipping me on what shots to take.  Neat!  My personal favorite of the entire collection – besides the picture of a very pretty Chinese girl on stage – is the 6 men stacking up in the form of a totem

Sharing of Photography Experience

I have many photography mentors to help me with this learning journey.  So, I wish to thank Ken for the wonderful tip on: bring more than one lens for the event and change on the spot.  Because of this tip, I brought along my telephoto zoom lens as well.  I am so glad that I did.  I would have missed quite a number of shots that turn out to contain some of my favorites.

I also wish to thank Mathew to convince me that there are industrial strength battery chargers out there and with the right batteries, my camera can perform as though it is on steroid.  And just the day before, I invested S$200 for a charger and countless batteries (12 high capacity ones and 8 free not too high capacity batteries that come with the charger).  That makes my already heavy camera even heavier.  But that is no big deal, just need to do more weightlifting.  With all the quality batteries, my camera was shooting at 8 frames per second with the flash gun to match.

Two awesome tips!

Besides the two lenses – wide angle and telephoto – I brought my tripod and shutter release cable as well.  That night was also the first evening I tried the MUP (mirror up) function to minimize the mechanical vibration caused by the movement of the mirror inside the camera.  MUP only makes sense if you have a shutter release cable.

I have nearly underestimated the number of photos I would shoot especially with high speed shooting mode.  My 8GB Extreme IV memory card was barely enough (for over 800 shots taken).  I have completely depleted the 8 AA rechargeable batteries on the grip.  And I reckon my flash gun would need new batteries really soon.  Hence, lessons learned are:

  • Always anticipate where the VVIP will be heading.  And keep dashing forward (without knocking anyone down!).
  • Observe where the professional photographers stand (great tip from EastCoastLife).
  • If you can’t afford an extra camera body (like me), bring extra lenses for the event.
  • And if you are using one of the entry level dSLR cameras, do yourself a favor and get the 18-200mm lens (for my D700, I use the 24-70mm and 70-200mm, both at f/2.8).  It costs S$1,000 but you can almost shoot anything from any distance especially with the flash gun mounted.  Not large enough aperture is seldom an issue with flash.
  • Bring extra memory cards and batteries.  Even if you may not need to use them, they offer a good peace of mind.
  • Bring along an assistance to help you with your gears.  Better still, bring a pretty one so that he or she can be your subject if need to too.

Afterthoughts

As a blogger who participate in the New Media movement, I can certainly see the benefit of being part of a legal entity that complies to the Singapore Societies Act.  Much like how bloggers – myself included – get into company events through the PR companies, an association for the bloggers get us in touch with the events of national significance. 

Being bounded by the Societies Act does have its restriction, especially in the areas that touch onto Singapore politics.  But the upside is that not only the government, but also other established associations acknowledge our existence.  More doors will be open for us to “promote, protect, and educate” our members.  And inevitably, our key stakeholder list will expand beyond the Blogosphere – for the better I reckon.

At times I wonder how many active societies are there in Singapore.  I think in time to come, there will be more and more associations for the different groups of bloggers to cater for different special needs.  Is there a one size fits all?  Probably not, in my personal humble opinion.

Related Link: Personal Photo Collection – River Hongboa Opening Ceremony (A Highlight)

Association of Bloggers (Singapore) – This Is Your Secretary Speaking

Association of Bloggers (Singapore) - First Group Photo

Here is one secret of mine that no one knows except my mother.  When I was young, I dreamed of being a bus driver.  I would pace around my home in Hong Kong for hours imagining that I was shuttling my passengers around.  Little did I know that instead, I would become a secretary one day.

Maybe I could look cute in skirt.  That’s why our president EastCoastLife has appointed me as the association’s secretary.  When the prominent local blogger EastCoastLife – whom we have been dropping comments at each other’s sites for years – invited me to meet with other Singapore bloggers in person, I was curiously excited.  A series of events since the days of the Singapore F1 that lead to our association formally registered in Singapore – first of its kind.

Hooray!

Blogging is my passion.  And I am excited to be part of this association.  As a first generation immigrant of a country that I love (since 98), I am honored to take part in building something tangible here.  This is my sole motivation.  And as for the key stakeholders – in my personal view – they are (1) Singapore, (2) the public, and (3) the members.  My personal vision of success in mid term is to contribute in building a strong and sustainable blogging community in Singapore as the frontier of the New Media.  Some of you know that I have been a Management Consultant for more than a decade before moving into the industry and now helping to drive global initiatives.  I aim to bring along my experience of working with the leaders of the organizations – both profit and non-profit – into this new association.

Back to this secretary role, I hope it is just about taking minutes, co-signing cheques, answering phone calls, buying takeaway, babysitting bosses’ toddlers, taking pictures, and screaming at everybody but the bosses.  I mean, that is the job description of a secretary right?

Above are some of the pictures taken during one of our meetings (note: written consent required by the association before used).  Below are the links to the websites of our founding members.  They are really fun people to be with, so much talents from a diverse background.  I can’t say too much on the upcoming events now and we shall hear it from our media team later (hmmm … where have I put my media team hat).  Stay tuned!  This is a beginning of many great things to come ~ to quote EastCoastLife.

PS. Association of Bloggers (Singapore) is covered by Today’s TODAY newspaper, the morning edition.

Association of Bloggers (Singapore) – Committee Members