Thursday, February 17, 2011

Reunification Palace, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

The site of the Reunification Palace (or Reunification Hall) has a very long history, starting from the mid 19th century.  It has always been the administrative centre for the region until the end of the Vietnam war in 1975.


This site has marked the end of the Vietnam war when the North Vietnam Army’s tank crashed through the gates.  Until today, they have two tanks in the large front lawn of the grounds facing inwards.


It is an unusual sight as you would expect that any guns would be facing away from the palace.  However it signifies that, with the tanks crashing into the ground and its turret facing inwards, the war ended.


You will probably be able to find many pictures of the Reunification Palace online, displaying the South Vietnam’s President’s office, some replica of the official Mercedes, the east and west dining room setup, the underground chambers and so on.  The building is well maintained and serves as one of the main tourist site.


What I find interesting is actually not the rooms or replicas but the overall fittings.  The building itself is a basic boxy shape but the large number of windows, coupled with “sun shades” are interesting.  A view along the corridor:-


And a closer view of the window architecture.


That’s all for now, more on Saigon … oppss .. Ho Chi Minh City, later.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Lion Dance, 2011 Lunar New Year

Another year, another opportunity for some “snapshots” of the traditional lion dance.  This is the third opportunity I have (in 3 years) and I am still trying to figure out what would be the right style for me?  Why?  Previous attempts in 2009 provided me with my first taste using a DSLR on the sharpness that can be achieved.  However, most of those shots were on stationary or with little action by the lions.


In 2010, I tried to capture shots of the fast moving lion dance, with very little success, if at all! So, for this opportunity, I tried to capture most of the shots using Aperture Priority and using high ISO settings, up to 1600 but most at 800.


Managed to freeze some shots of the lions leaping and overall, I am quite satisfied with the shots although I still need to get the focus right to obtain sharper shots.

The Leap

Leap 2

Freeze Shot

Some candid shots of the lion “bullying” some spectators …

Back Against the Tree

And a shot of an “auntie” to the rescue!  Looks like the lion is getting a telling off!

Auntie to the Rescue

There were 5 lions on that day, here is a shot of 5 of them (only 4 in view).

4 In Row

A nice close up shot of one of the lion head.

Close Up

And to round it off, the fire cracker shot!

The Cracker

So, high ISO is also used during the day! =)

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Tanah Lot, Bali, Indonesia

DSC06800A visit to Bali will generally entail multiple visits to the many temples on the island.  Each with its own unique story or situation.  Pura Tanah Lot is one of them, situated on the west coast of the island with a dramatic ocean front and with limited access governed by the ocean tide.


Being one of the most visited and probably interesting sites of Bali, the path to the temple is surrounded by shops selling souvenirs, handicrafts and snacks.  There are some interesting items that are quite unique and may be worth sometime to browse through.


It is quite a walk to the temple itself.


Entrance to Pura Tanah Lot

Although we arrived around mid-day with the sun blazing down directly, it didn’t feel that warm due to the sea breeze.  One thing to note that because we were rush for time, we went at mid-day, otherwise for photographers, the best time would be at dusk.


Of course, the most common picture must be taken.  On a search for Tanah Lot online, you will most probably be greeted with this picture, the seemingly “floating” part of the temple.


When I arrived, it was high tide and hence we were not able to walk across to the temple.  Below is an image which may give you an idea of the distance to walk on low tide.



The picture immediately above was taken from the other end of the crescent shaped grounds.  The temple is also known in the past (or is it also in the present) with the abundance of poisonous snakes!  The picture below is a “seemingly” harmless snake that is on it’s way to have itself wrap around tourists for photo taking sessions … which of course, yours truly stayed very VERY far away from.


I would like to suggest that if you ever do go there, bring a bottle of cold water and spend sometime walking around.  Other than the gargoyles (which are everywhere in Bali), there are some very detailed architectural crafts.



Bayan Indah Culinary Retreat–X’mas Party

Sometime before Christmas 2010, I was very fortunate to be invited to a culinary retreat at Bayan Indah.  When I was first invited for it, I wasn’t too keen as it was on a weekday evening and we had to be there by 6:00 pm.  Knowing that it is somewhere in Kampung Penchala, which would mean that I had to leave my office early, go home and freshen up and drive a good 40 minutes (I thought) to the location …


After a smooth drive (by paying lots of tolls to ensure that we arrive on time), we got to Kampung Penchala and from there on, it was … how should I put it … an interesting drive that can only be done with very specific directions that we obtained from Bayan Indah.  The instructions were something along the lines of “when you see a large bins on the right, turn left, drive on straight and you will see a left turn with yellow houses on the left and right” (those were not the actual instructions but you get the idea).  And guess what!  We were the first from our group to arrive!  Upon arrival and entering the very serene “resort”, I was immediately rejuvenated even after having started my day early in the office.



The place was so well looked after and a very “tidy” jungle retreat.  As it was drizzling, we went to the main function area where the tables have been laid out and free flow of coffee was made available.  One thing I must say, although the coffee was instant coffee, being the an area surrounded by lush green “forestry" and with the slight drizzle … the coffee tasted so goooood.




I will not say too much about the place, it is just a very pleasant place to “retreat” to if you have been spending your time in the city, visiting malls, living in the concrete jungle, stuck in traffic jams … well, this is definitely a place worth visiting.

As it is a culinary retreat, part of our X’mas party was also to prepare the food ourselves.  To keep it short, my experience is beyond my expectations as firstly, they have a kitchen that was so inviting and so well laid out; secondly, our main host (Rohani Jelani) and her assistants were so patient and made the whole experience very relaxing and enjoyable; and thirdly, our group was just great! lively with some starting out shy about their lack of cooking experiences (but hey, just look at what they came out with in the pictures below!).


My station (above), the person who ended up without a proper recipe and a super-duper large fish with a vegetable that I have never cooked before!


Ok, enough about my “handiwork”, here are some other “professionals” at work!


IMG_3399-1Ok, ok … can’t help it … here’s MY FISH again … Smile


Back to other creations!


To get much better pictures from the event and to know more about Bayan Indah, you can visit their website at or even better follow them on Facebook!

As for the location … contact them to setup your culinary retreat!  It is definitely well worth the experience and I will definitely try to get back there again.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Which Premium Compact Camera? XZ-1, LX-5, S95 or Sony HX9V!

After dropping the idea of the EVIL cameras as they are not as portable as I would like them to be (a kinda neither here nor there situation for me), I have been toying with the idea of a premium compact camera. However, I find the cost is a little prohibitive for my light pocket Sad smile !


Lately, I have reading reviews of these cameras on (one of my favourite gear review sites) and they have a comprehensive Panasonic Lumix LX-5, Canon G12 and Nikon S7000 shootout, coupled with an in-depth review of the Olympus XZ-1.


As you noticed, I am leaning towards the Olympus XZ-1, mainly because of the super large aperture (f1.8 – 2.5) even at the telephoto end! and the hotshoe for external flash.  However, it is a tad too large in my opinion and the Lumix LX-5 seems to fit the hands better.

Anyway, it seems that the major players are coming up with large aperture premium “compacts” (they are after all not that small!), including Samsung … but I find it interesting that Sony doesn’t have a similar product (or am I wrong?).  Their latest being the 16MP HX9V, which seems like a superzoom camera to me and nothing fancy about it …


Waiting for Sony’s premium … when?  what?  … or are they going to position the NEX-3 as the alternative?

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Sigma Announces Price Reduction for 70-200mm F2.8 EX DG OS HSM

Does it really effect Sony users?  Well, not really as the price for the non-OS lenses were already at this price range … yeah, the advantage of having in-body image stabilizer, cheaper third party lenses anyway!


The lens have seen a downward price reduction of USD300, which I guess we will not see as much a reduction on the street price, probably half of that amount?  Latest price check on B&H photo states that they are selling it for USD1,399 (which is the price announced by Sigma, reduced from USD1,699). Nevertheless, it will make it a more attractive alternative for most users (including myself).  I wonder if they have also reduced the price for the 50-150mm F2.8 … to complement my current 18-50mm F2.8 on the Canon …