mostly sweet, sometimes sour

Abstract Photography

More pictures from overseas

I took this one night when heading to Brickfields in KL for dinner with my colleagues. I was drawn to the peeling paint and torn paper that was hanging off the phone booth. It was pretty late, and I had almost no light so you see a loss of detail to the right. Thankfully, this is pretty abstract, so it works well. I’d preferred to have a better transition from the sharp foreground (on the left) to the blurred background, especially since I’ve rendered the entire image so that everything looks flat- you can’t really tell which is the foreground. But I still think it works.

On my second day in the Philippines, my colleagues brought me to eat mixed rice. Turns out I picked the right dishes- one of the pork dishes (mildly spicy) I chose is apparently like one of their national dishes. It’s made from Pork Cheek, and tastes awesome. I also had an entire fried fish. Total damage? Less than SGD$5. Yumm!

I’m quickly realising that a major advantage of shooting in the day is that you can get really sharp pictures at small aperture sizes. This was taken at F9, out of the office window. Burned in the picture a bit to get more blue in the sky, but it was really sunny- hence the golden cast in the picture. With a view like that, it’s not a wonder that our Philippine office is doing so well!


When an ordinary picture just feels right

This picture is nothing special. There are no special filters; no fancy colours and no intriguing (or really, ANY) subject matter. But for some reason, everything seems to come together. The sky is washed out and the white looks ominous not distracting. The ‘feel’ of the picture, taken at twilight then converted to black and white, is also like that of a horror movie- macabre and surreal. I added the vignette for better effect, to juxtapose against the bright centre. This isn’t a great picture, but I really love how the spotlights from below are shining a harsh (and creepy) light on the entire scene.

I saw this picture and immediately thought it had great potential as a graphic shot. The monster looks darkly comic, and I added the fancy border for better effect. Taken at Haw Par Villa. The real size of this picture? About 1.5 times my height, and about 5-6 times my width. I shot this from quite far out, using a tele lens. Processed using an infrared black and white filter.


Weekend trip to Haw Par Villa

Haw Par Villa (now Tiger Balm Gardens) was one of my favourite childhood haunts. It was Singapore’s only theme park for a long time, and I really loved the water ride there, and the strange fantastic world that the park brought me to. These days, the park is almost completely dead. I saw an article in the newspapers the other day, that a (not-free) museum on Chinese heritage in the park was now closed down. So I decided it was time to pay HPV a visit before it closed for good…

Getting there: Turns out the park is literally 10 seconds from the Circle Line stop, “Haw Par Villa”.

PS, in Marymount’s circle line station, there was an advertisement of the ‘attractions on the circle line’. Among the ‘greatest hits’ were, ‘Shunfu Mart’ (Marymount), ‘NEX’ (Sembawang), ‘Junction 8′ (Bishan), ‘Old Airport Road Hawker Center’ (Dakota), and… No Haw Par Villa. This park is really doomed, if malls and hawker centers are deemed as better attractions.

The park: As I entered, I heard loud Hokkien music blasting from the caretaker’s office. It really fit the ambience, actually. It felt like some of the right generation was in charge here. (Although when I left, I heard Tamil music…. Erm, don’t ask me why. Maybe the caretaker is multilingual?) The rides are all gone. The museum is closed. All that’s left is (very) old statues, many looking like they need restoration and repainting, and looking like they really shouldn’t be outdoors.

It was raining lightly when I got there, so I was surprised to find that I wasn’t alone. Together with me were some Japanese tourists; some other Caucasians; and a smattering of visitors from elsewhere in the world. Basically, no other Singaporeans. Sad, right? I guess that’s why this place is closing.

The statues themselves: Just as I remembered, many statues were straight out of Chinese mythology. There were many, many Buddhist statues, and many stories of chinese Myths and ghosts being depicted. But there were also a few strange ones, like the Statue of Liberty… two Sumo wrestlers… some baby seals and mermaids…

Anyway, I would have taken more pictures, but it was raining. Good thing W was around to help shelter the camera with an umbrella. :) Anyway, I leave you with these four shots… Enjoy! Be sure to check out HPV before it’s gone!

Standing Guard

Good Seat

Meditation

Something Sinister


Photos of my offices

I travel a lot for work, and decided one fine day that I should take pictures of where I do it. After all, good architecture all around. Only have two now, but may have more to come…

Malaysia- View from Office

Philippines

Malaysia- View from Hotel


Exploring Punggol Park

So over the weekend I went to Punggol Park. It’s really interesting. It’s quite new (and super far away), so people don’t seem to have caught on to it as an interesting destination yet. So it was relatively empty. But lots was going on there- the weather was perfect, having just rained, and the sun was setting. I took a few pictures, but is my style, I don’t really care for realism. Hey, I want nice pictures. I’m not a journalist.

Sunset at Punggol Park

White Oysters on Black Rocks

“Harry Potter”


Photography 101- Fill the Frame

I’ve realised that more and more of my audience is now comprised of amateur photographers like myself, so I thought I’d write about the easiest and most important tip to improving your photography- Filling the Frame.

When most people start photographing stuff, their first instinct is to ‘get as much into the frame as possible’. They try to keep their subjects wholly in the frame. What they don’t realise is that this killing their shot. There is a lot of ‘dead space’ around the main subject, and has the end effect of making the viewer feel like they are completely removed- and disengaged- from the action.

Instead, get right into the thick of things. Keep your edges right at the edge of the frame- and preferably spill out of the frame if you have to. The more of the frame your subject takes up, the more people feel like they’re involved in what’s happening. This is like the trick that writers or movie directors use when they start off the plot in the thick of action. Nobody wants to navigate past the empty space to get to the good stuff. Just give it to them already.

Above: I came across this motorcycle in Little India. I was immediately taken by the tones of the paint on it. It really looks like the flames of a fire, gently enveloping the entire vehicle. Notice that you can’t see the whole motorcycle- the wheels and handlebars are cut off, and the result is that the bulk of the picture is taken up by the most subject of most interest- the paint on the body.

Above: This is another version of a picture I took a few weeks ago. The statues on the left are leaning left, and it looks like they’re doing so to make room for the lamps on the right. Note how I composed the picture so that everything just fits into the frame. In fact, the statues on the left are partly cut off. This adds to dynamic motion within this static picture- I am showcasing an off-balance lean, not a steady pose. Thematically, the two elements of the picture, statue and lamp, are united by a single bronzed color cast across the entire scene.


Abstracts at night

My approach to photography in the past has mostly been ‘turn the camera off once the light goes off’. There’s good reason for that- I really deplore using flash, since I can’t be bothered to use off-camera flash (too much trouble once you add in reflectors, gelling, and so on), and on-camera flash makes everything look like you just hit them in the face with a spotlight.

Indoors, however, there is just enough ambient light so that you can use the appropriate (read: large aperture) lens to achieve good results. You can even do this outdoors, as long as the image is well-lit. Buildings for instance are good candidates for photography, and taking stuff illuminated by street lamps works too.

Above: As the sun begins to set, you get opportunities to photograph it. In this case, it was slowly setting, although still too bright to photograph directly. But I got lucky. I spotted a window of opportunity when the sun began to hide itself behind an ominous-looking cloud. When I was young, my mom used to tell me that they used to call a lunar eclipse 天狗吃月亮 (roughly translated: “the heavenly dog devours the moon”). When I showed her this picture, she said it reminded her of this.

 

Left: This was the building I was photographing that night. The diagonal lines you see are the results of stray light from a street lamp hitting the lens and resulting in lens flare. Technically that makes for a poorer picture, but in this case the effect was wonderful, so I kept the picture. This is the Westin, and the round circles you see at the top of the building are of New Asia Bar. I made everything look dark, and with a purple tinge, so it looks more like something out of a comic book, than a real-life building. What can I say, I have a preference for very graphical pictures.

Above: At the restaurant that I was at for dinner, I looked down and saw the light under the counter. This was being reflected off some metallic surfaces and I thought it was worth photographing. I waited for a waiter to appear on the right of the frame to balance out the picture before taking the shot. Notice how I timed it so that his feet are both off the ground- he’s reaching up for something. This frozen movement adds some dynamism.

Right: This picture was taken at Shanghai Tang. Whenever I’m feeling uninspired, retail never fails to wow me. It seems there’s always good design- of colours, of ambience, and of lines- to be seen at retail outlets these days. Shanghai Tang is definitely one of the those that focuses on design. Their look is a vibrant, almost futuristic look- using smooth reflective plastic materials for their furniture, and using cool lighting to set the mood. I took this picture without the head of the shop assistant to simulate the look of a mannequin. His body position also fits this interpretation- it is passive, like an unmoving plastic model.

Above: I took this picture as I was leaving the mall. The reflection of the brights lights in the glass, contrasted with the solid shapes of the people through the other side of the door, makes this an interesting shot with a lot going on. You can see both the McDonalds sign as well as the menu options in the reflection of the glass. It’s not immediately clear that this is a reflection, however, which adds some intrigue to the shot- what are all these lights doing in the middle of the shot? This picture tempts you to look twice, which should be the aim of any good photograph.


Graphical Abstract Photography

I enjoy taking very graphical photographs. These pictures deliberately lack realism, so a viewer is forced to focus on the shapes, textures, and mood of the picture. These are some examples that I took last weekend at Punggol Park. (Part 1 here and Part 2 here)

Above: This flower was taken against a clear cloudless sky, and I just changed the colors from blue to pink- I think it suits the color scheme of this post better. I like how everything is so clean. Apart from changing the color of the sky, almost nothing was done to the shot. I love the gentle transition from red to pink to white- that comes from the different intensities of colour in the sky that day.

Above: You can see every texture on the beams of concrete in this picture, and they’re so evenly spaced out that there is a real rhythm to the picture as the eye moves from up to down across the scene. If the picture looks a bit 3D, that’s ’cause it is. This was not a flat scene. It is the underside of a set of pillars at the park, taken from an angle. There is a gap between each pillar, but the scene has been carefully composed so you can’t see the gap. I also applied a purple cast to everything to take out the realism, and focus the eye on the strong lines and beautiful textures here.

Above: I took this picture of children playing in the water fountain at Punggol Park last weekend. I used a slower shutter speed to convey the flurry of activity and movement in the scene. It was getting dark, and the darkness of this scene provides some ambience- as does the soft yellow light of the street lamps. I love how this looks very hand-drawn- the shapes of the children are so smooth that they look more like a hand-drawn cartoon, than a high-resolution photograph.


Restaurant Review: Wild about Wings

A while back I took a trip to East Coast for wings. I ALWAYS love wings. It was my roommate in college who got me converted to these. I didn’t use to like them (they are way more trouble than drumsticks), but as he put it, it’s all skin, what’s there not to like?

Yup. So anyway this place was offering a deal a while back. The deal validity ended 13 Sep, but when we visited recently there were zero people there at dinner time. Zero. So much for Groupon-type deals driving repeat business, huh? Sure, we got there a bit earlier (6pm), but it was a Saturday night, the carpark was full, and by the time we had finished eating, there was a queue forming to eat the Korean BBQ buffet opposite this restaurant. Our choice for dinner? Still empty. Yikes. Doesn’t bode well.

But anyway we didn’t know all this when we got there. There were two guys about my age there running the place, so I assumed they were young, enterprising guys with a fantastic product (why else would they open such a shop? It’s not like this will earn them millions). So just go in and try, lor.

The wings themselves are ok, quite well priced. $1.59 per wing- not winglet. $0.99 if you go during happy hour (we missed it). Although really, given their traffic… maybe every hour should be happy hour. Haha. Anyway, shan’t be so mean.

You can choose some interesting flavours, including cajun jerk, wasabi, and so on. We tried cajun, since I’ve always loved jerk chicken (you had to tear me away from them in college… Yum…) That slightly sweet and tangy sauce, blackened and smokey flavour.. mmmm!

This is what we got:

"jerk" chicken

Erm, this is just deep fried chicken with chili powder. It is not blackened in anyway whatsoever, and it is certainly not cajun. The Wasabi chicken was no better:

"wasabi" chicken

As you can see, it’s a (very similar) deep fried chicken with wasabi mayo. Honestly, it’s like something you expect from a cheap-KFC, not from true aficionados of chicken wings. Tip 1: not everything has to be fried. Tip 2: go for authenticity with your sauces please.

Anyway, it was disappointing. Also, minimum order per flavour is five huge wings. Even though I eat a lot, I still couldn’t finish. Again, considering the lack of clients, maybe these guys should have some ‘sampler’ type dishes so we can try more flavours instead. These two weren’t up to mark.

If you come expecting KFC-type chicken, though, they’re okay. Plus gotta admire their passion for food, starting a cafe at such a young age. Anyway, afterwards took a nice walk around East Coast Park. A pasar malam was going on: very happening! Maybe next time I’ll try the Korean BBQ Buffet :)

carnival

Above: This carousel was part of a carnival/pasar malam (night market) that was going on. You know, those make-shift ones you pay a few dollars for.

flea market

Above: This being a flea market, there was lots of stuff to buy. It’s a bit early for Christmas, but well, why not, eh?

Above: There was also a McDonald’s in the vicinity. For some reason, I was most interested in Ronald McDonald’s feet. hmm…

Wild About Wings

#A-10 Marine Cove@East Coast Park

1000 East Coast Parkway

(near McDonalds)


Halloween at Community Service

So this week I went to the place I volunteer at, and they had a Halloween party all planned. It was very nicely done! The whole place was very scary- really gets one in the mood. These guys are definitely more artistically inclined than I am. Anyway, we’re not allowed to take pictures of people (privacy concerns), but here are some pictures of the decorations. Most of it was hand-made, too! The pictures are in black and white for more effect.

Above: This macabre doll reminded me a bit of a game I used to play as a kid: Grim Fandango. The game itself was modeled after the Mexican festival, “Day of the Dead”.

Above: This mix of a Spider & Crab looked really strange. More cute than scary. The dry ice makes it look like it is emerging from a swamp, misty effect and all. PS, that ‘dry ice’ is really cotton wool.

 

Above: This hand was REALLY life-like. They had a wound painted in, too, to make it look like the hand had been cut from some dead corpse. Good stuff.

Above: Another sin-city style shot of a scary idol doll. I really like how the fresh red blood contrasts against the grey and black doll.


Above: What is Halloween without a pumpkin? This Jack O’Lantern had a spider crawling all over it, for added effect.

Above: This red lamp was like the genie in the bottle. I guess you just gotta rub her the right way? Yuck, count me out.


Golden pictures

Apart from black and white, I’ve started to explore single-color photography in, well, other colours. They’re all similar in that they’re primarily explorations of tone, texture and line, but the tone sometimes gives a very different feeling. Black and white can be calming but sometimes aloof and a tad intellectual. My second choice is typically sepia. The yellow, golden colour makes everything feel warm. Kinda like summer.

door

Above: This first picture has a beautiful golden tinge. I love the layered shadows, and how contrasts against the golden light. I can almost feel the warm metallic texture of this car door. Notice how the picture has leading lines from the bottom left to the top right of the frame. This adds some motion and dynamism to the shot.

spotlight

Above: Here there is a warmer, more orange, spotlight shining on the colourful balls of light in the background. It’s as if a powerful spot of light suddenly illuminated this scene, not unlike a spotlight on a stage. Actually, the image that comes to my mind is an alien ship shining a light down in search of someone to abduct. On a technical note, I like the lens flare through the glass.

butts

Above: I took this picture of a statue at a restaurant. I think the old, washed-out look fits the roman-ancient subject, and I framed the image such that we see only the middle portion of their torso- easily the most interesting part, IMO. *wink*

gold

Above: This gold panel was taken at the same restaurant as above. I preserved its more shiny look- makes it look like it’s really made out of gold. PS, it’s just wood.

moon scenery

Above: This picture of the full-moon was framed against some trees and leaves swaying gently in the wind. Some leaves are blurred as a result. The sky was also quite ominous that night- eerie dark clouds scattered across the sky. I like the strong lines of the branches. If I had a chance to do this shot again, I would take a longer exposure to get rid of the black fringes. Or even use a HDR shot. As it stands, the center looks okay, the rest- not as much.

bowl

Above: This is my take of the myraid pictures of landscapes being reflected off of water- here is a reflection from a table. This bowl was taken in Chinatown, with a red cloth as background. I used the table as a prop to explore the reflection of the red cloth, then filtered everything with a pale red-orange color for effect. The picture is taken in a style very unlike my norm- I normally go very dark, or very saturated. Seldom do I come up with pictures that are very pale. This fits both the subject matter (old bowl in an old hawker center) and the colors (red, white, orange, yellow), though.


Black and White, both day and night

I’ve continued to explore black and white photography more. I’ve always loved washed out, graphical abstract black and whites but I’ve also recently begun to enjoy shooting darker pictures that force one to explore different tones of gray. This picture is like that. Kinda like a grey portrait of cars. I love the spotlight on the cars, and I love how everything is in shades of gray. Really reminds me of a stage. This was taking at night, with the street-lamps masquerading as ‘spotlights’.

cars

This last weekend I also went to botanic gardens. It is really convenient to get there now- the MRT gets you right to the doorstep.

gate to botanic gardens

Botanic gardens is really boring to me. Greens are relaxing, but for me they really don’t make good pictures. Nonetheless, I guess I couldn’t leave the botanic gardens without taking some pictures of greens. But argh, I hate the yellowish-green color of leaves. They look sickly and pale- not inspiring at all. So I took these colours out, and I was left with a ‘sin-city’ style grey and red.

children and flowers


Pictures of Metallica

I’ve long wanted to do a series on metal objects. They reflect light; the paint on metal frequently has amazing tactile properties; and of course they are oh so smooth. Metallic objects remind me of techno-inspired, futuristic object. They’re bright, synthetic, and unnatural. Love it!

carousel

Inception (how the world tilts)

pillars and chains

motor

lizard friend of the green hornet

dash of white


New photos with old lenses

If, like me, you like all things retro, then you’ll definitely appreciate how the new mirrorless cameras allow you to breathe new life into old lenses. Since they don’t have a mirror, adapters of all thickness exist to either simulate the extra distance a mirror would have taken up, or just to mount the lens on the camera.

Vintage lenses, like old cinema, don’t have as good sharpness, contrast, and eye-popping color as their modern counterparts. But they come with lots of character, unique color, and romantic notions of where they’ve been before. Some of the lenses I’ve been using date back to the 1950s or 1960s! Think old black and white cinema vs HD movies. The latter looks much more arresting, but the former will always have a special place in my heart.

Isco Göttingen Westron 35mm 2.8

Part of the fun has also been finding out about the history of the lenses. This lens was manufactured by the West German company Isco, based in Göttingen. It has been manufacturing lenses since 1936, and I have certainly never heard of it. It has a 35mm field of field (70mm equivalent on my camera), and a max aperture of 2.8. I love it for its deep color and sharpness.

PS, just look at the sharpness of the leaves on that last black and white photo…

Fujinon 75mm 1.8

This lens is not actually that old. They’re still selling it. But it’s typically used for commercial high-resolution manufacturing purposes. Since the whole name of the game is ‘finding another use for lenses’, it qualifies. :) Apparently, as far as such lenses go, this one was specially built for a ‘higher-resolution’ of 5 megapixels. That is of course far short of the 12 megapixels that my EP3 can shoot, but the extra resolution really comes through in the ability of this camera to resolve tones well. I have not seen a more beautiful black and white/ single-color tone lens. It has very pale and muted colors, but when those are translated into black and white, it shows an ability to differentiate between the many subtle shades of grey very beautifully.

First up, a color picture that I downloaded from the net taken with this lens. (Credit goes to Yu-Lin Chan from Toronto for the picture). Notice how the colors don’t really ‘pop out’ at you.

Panasonic Lumix G Vario 7-14mm F/4 ASPH 

As they say, a picture speaks a thousand words, so here’s a picture taken with a modern lens to show you the contrast and sharpness they’re capable of, and the VERY different look that ends up being created.


Abstract photography from Formula One

After rushing out the more ‘reporting-style’ previous post from the Formula One proceedings, I went through my pictures to pick out the type that I really like- abstract. These kinds tend to be more hit-and-miss, so I don’t have many of them.


Four still-life’s, four styles

Looking back through my collection, I notice there are a few visual/ aesthetic looks that I enjoy a lot. So I’ve reprocessed some of my pictures in these styles to illustrate them. They’re all pretty different, but I guess they all share a main theme in that they err more on the side of ‘stylised’ than ‘realistic’. What’s your own visual style?

vivid colour

pop-art

black-and-white abstract

black-and-white realistic (in style, although the composition is more abstract than the one above)


A “beach” house, vespa, car, truck’s controls and a strange bush

During my walkabout last weekend, I compiled a series that was an homage to early abstract black and white film, but I also took some other pictures that were more modern. They don’t have that washed-out look, but all save the one are still in black and white. (What can I say, B&W is my current obsession!) Here they are- I hope you like them.

"beach" house

vespa scooter by the road

a car "painted" with scenery (reflections)- including myself in the middle

controls on a truck

bush of leaves and flowers (this image looks better if you click to see the bigger version)


My Olympus camera and I go on a little adventure- an homage to early abstract cinema

It was one of the weekend afternoons in Singapore. Hot and humid was the order of the day. And so I decided to do what I always do when I feel bored. I went on an adventure. I’m quickly discovering that I’m living in a neighbourhood that is fantastic for pictures. Lots of cars and different houses and scenes to take, since it seems every other house has a different (but beautiful) style and my neighbours all love to drive quirky cars. Throw in the endless renovation work taking place, and you’ve got a fertile industrial-cum-residential universe on which an Olympus camera can work its magic.

If you’re wondering why these pictures are in black and white, it’s because I saw some amazing tones that day that I thought would look great in the technique. I was trying to recreate some of the abstract black and white movies I saw as part of my film history classes in college. For example, one film I remember seeing was this classic by one of the early ground-making experimental female directors. Maya Deren was famous because she was female, her movies were abstract, and most importantly she was a very good filmmaker. That clip I’ve linked to is extremely haunting and surreal- definitely check it out. (The full version can also be found on youtube.) These early black and white abstract movies really explored the artistic vision of the directors and looked to make pictures that were emotive rather than realistic. The whole point of such film was an escape, to create an experience we can’t get in reality. There is a lot of abrupt cutting of the action that you won’t find in real life, and well, some things just look plain strange. (Seriously, watch it, you’ll know what I mean. Here’s the link again.)

Paying homage to these movies, I’ve processed these images in a washed out, overprocessed manner- to mimic the strong tones in the very early abstract films. Enjoy!

flag on a house

white wall and black drain

flowing water

portrait of a cistern


B+W photos and some of colour

I recently read a book about black and white photography and decided to try my hand at it. I shot these just today (been travelling for the week and so had no time), and I’m starting to learn to see in black and white. Turns out it’s all about seeing contrast and tone. Here are my beginner attempts.

magazine galore

water on grill

My last three pictures are almost completely opposite from the ones above- they’re primary explorations of beautiful, vivid colour.

impressionism- flowers

tree on bonnet on hump

jade in blue


Photos without people

I gotta admit, taking pictures of others just isn’t my forte. I much prefer looking at strange lines and colours, and creating abstract photos. A famous saying is that photography is the art of subtraction, and in real life our eyes and brains can’t cut things off just like that, and so we never ‘see’ in the way an abstract photo makes us see. Here’s another collection of abstracts. OK, maybe not all are abstracts, but all of them have one common thing- there are no people in them. I particularly love the first one.


The next three images are not abstract. Thought I’d end off with more ‘normal’ pictures.



Ever heard of Red Photography?

I bet you’ve never heard of Red Photography. Me neither. Well, that’s the theme for this next set of photographs. It is, after all, National Month in Singapore. All the photos in this set are red. They’re a bit more abstract, but I like it that way- puts more focus on the colours.

STA on Red

Airplane in Red and White

Shades of Blue on a Pole

Barricade Tunnel

Green Otah on Pink Background

Silver Rails on Red


My first Chinese Painting

I was out and about taking photos, and suddenly it struck me that I was seeing very beautiful light forming in the sky. So I turned my camera up, and came away with two shots I really love. The second shot in particular, struck me as ‘nothing much’ at first, but after looking at it for another minute or so, I realised how immensely beautiful it was. It really looked like a Chinese Painting!

Light On Plant

Tree. (Ink on Silk)


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