Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Whose tour is it?

First off, Merry Christmas to All!!!
I'm a strong believer of self-organized trips. I shun packaged tours. And I'm not even talking about photo travel!!
There are many reasons people travel. Some travel to savour different cuisines while others travel to taste different cultures. Some travel to trek the world's mountains while others may just want to walk the cities streets. Yet some others may just want to get a stamp on their passport, to say that they have been there, though I don't think they have "done that".
But for whatever purpose you want to travel, you would want to meet and satisfy that purpose. However, my experience with packaged tours is that they are created to satisfy the travel agency's purpose (ie. to earn money), and not to satisfy yours. And I'm often reminded by people's complaint about being ushered to shops they do not want to go, and being left with too little time at the various scenic destinations. Sure, there are people who love jet-setting to various places just to spend 10 min there so that they can plant their flag of 'I was here'. But for alot of others, the itinerary just doesn't seem to suit them. Yet, they are willing to fork out their hard-earned (generally) money to suffer these injustice, in the name of convenience, fear and laziness.

So, whose tour are you going? If its your own, take charge of it! Why do you have to follow an itinerary fixed by some travel agency? Isn't it your holiday? There is no issue getting an agency to manage/book the trip as long as you customise your own itinerary. It'll cost more but isn't it better that you pay more for a trip you want, than to pay less for a trip you did not want? That's why for me, in order to save costs, I do-it-myself.

Read up in the library. Surf for info online. Ask your friends. Make your next trip your own. And for those who doesn't have time to do all that "research", why not take a trip without an "itinerary"? Just go and explore and immerse yourself locally. You may enjoy your trip more than you expect! :)

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Dramatic weather

Dramatic weather, like storms & lightning, makes wonderful photography! I still remember an incident......

Location : Coles Bay, Tasmania. Was hoping to catch the sunset, but the dark clouds look evil. The winds are screaming strong too, as the waves crash angrily onto the rocky beach.

I felt drops of water hitting me, from the rain or the sprays from the waves, I dunno. The winds showed no signs of stopping and the clouds are looking more ominous by the minute....

I cursed as my camera got wet. Should I go back to the car to get my ziploc bag to protect my camera? Ziploc bag?? The winds seemed to laugh and blew even harder. The setting sun shone hard, trying to break through the clouds, and the clouds danced and raced forth, aided by the howling wind.

Perhaps the sun, the wind and the clouds were having such a ball of a time, the rain decided to join in. I threw caution to the wind (pun unintended) and continued shooting....

As the sun dipped over the horizon, it seemed to signal the end of a game as the wind blew the dark clouds away. Like a child sticking to the mother, the rain clung to the clouds and dispersed as well. I stood looking at the stark contrast of the scene in front. What a rush!

Dramatic weather gives dramatic photos. For those who are afraid that your cameras may get damaged by water, you can always pack a ziploc bag with you which can act as a raincoat for your camera. Also, the scenes just before and after a storm may be well worth waiting for. After the above display, I waited/rested in the car for a while as it was evening time, where the light is best. At the same time, I did some emergency cleaning of lens since it got wet. What followed is one of the most beautiful, serene, and magical scenes I've seen in Tasmania.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Early Christmas Gift!

Greetings all!
Every year, I've always made my own personal calendars using my travel images. This year, I've decided to share my calendar, and make it available free for personal use!! All you need to do is download my image files and print them. Detailed instructions are further below. Here's a preview of the calendar :

The images are all shot in various countries I went in Asia and I've tried to include various genres in travel photography, from landscapes to architecture, and people to wildlife etc. Perhaps next year, I will do a themed one, eg. Landscapes of Asia, but for now, I'll just have this "Best of Asia" :)
Please note that these images for download are granted for PERSONAL USE only. They are NOT for resale or commercial use. Thanks!

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Instructions for creating the calendar
  1. Download the image files here. There are six 8x10 images which you can print either using your own home printer, or you can send it to your favourite lab. Sending it to the lab is probably more expensive, but printing on your own, you may need to adjust the colors if they don't come out right. For paper, I think thick matte paper is best.

  2. Each 8x10 print consists of two square images. Cut them out so that you'll have 12 square prints for 12 months. If you're printing it at home, note that the image properties is set to 150dpi, and if you just follow that, you'll end up with 4.75in (12cm) square prints which fits right into a CD case.

  3. Get a CD jewel case. Remove the jewel case cover gently, reverse it, and connect it back. Becareful not to break the "tooth" that clips the cover in place.

  4. Insert the prints as appropriate and there you have it!

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Winter Travel Photography

I think it has been asked countless times. And usually towards the end of the year. No surprise, since most Singaporeans would be planning for the December holidays, in some winter destination somewhere. Being in a tropical country, our most common question would be how the cold would affect our photography, or even, whether our cameras can survive/operate under the winter conditions!

While most camera manufacturers will state the optimal temperature where their products will operate, usually, they will perform beyond that. And I say this not just for my DSLR, but for those compact cameras as well! My coldest venture to date was a trip to Hokkaido Japan in Jan-Feb period. The coldest spell I had was -16 degrees Celsius - and that doesn't even include the wind chill. All I can say is that my photography gears perform better than my body did....

So, are there any special precautions needed? Here's a few tips :
  • Mostly importantly I feel is, protect yourself! Make sure you have adequate clothing - you're unlikely to produce any good photos when you're cold & miserable!
  • To add to the above point, get good gloves to protect your hands; I try to have 2 layers, one thinner inner layer, usually of polypropylene material. Then a thicker outer glove. Usually, those thick gloves will render your fingers shutter retarded, so whenI need to use my camera, I will take out the outer glove, and there will still be some protection for my hands to take some shots. I've yet to find a single glove that can suit my photography needs (my fingers are very susceptible to cold!)
  • Bring additional batteries! And store them well. Batteries perform poorly in the cold - it's not that they're drained out; put them into your pocket or somewhere warm, and after a while, they seem to have some of their charge back. Apparently, the cold impede the chemical reactions in the batteries, so you may have to change batteries a little more frequently, alternating between those "frozen" and those kept warm.
  • Keep your cameras into your bag when going between cold & warm places. These include going back to your hotel, visiting the convenience store, and going into shops/museums etc! The sudden change in temperature may cause condensation in your cameras that may cause problems later. Wait a while for the temperature to even out a little before taking them out. This is especially true when returning to my room in the hotel. We usually want our room to be really cosy after a cold day out, but that means the difference in temperature is even greater. So I usually wait an hour or two before taking my camera out of my bag!
  • Photography wise, just take note of your camera metering; it may give underexposure
  • If you're going to some mountainous area or some big expanse of land, sunglasses would be of utmost importance. The glare due to light reflecting off the snow is bad for your eyes.
  • Wear waterproof shoes/boots! Wet socks/feet spells trouble to you overall.
Ultimately, after doing all your preparation, do enjoy yourself and stop worrying over too many things. Winter can be really pretty you know!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007


Of Yunnan's popular tour circuit of Kunming, Dali, Lijiang and sometimes, Shangrila or Xiang-ge-li-la, Lijiang's Old Town is probably one of the best destinations for a nice photographic outing.

Lijiang is often part of the tour itinerary for many of the tour packages from Singapore. I've heard many people say that Lijiang is very touristy, and judging by how most of the tours are run, I have to agree. They bring you to SiFangJie, the main town square, and drop you there for an hour or two. Here, the whole place is lined with shops, shops and more shops. Of course, shopping is a favourite activity for many Singaporeans, but for some great photography, all is not lost!

Firstly, you have to wander off the main tourist square. All you need is possibly 10min of legwork, and you'll start to see the quieter parts of town. Without the bustle of the commerce and tourists, you'll start to appreciate the charming ambience and beautiful architecture of the old town.
Do take note that the old Naxi women (and men) do not like their photos taken. It's always good to ask their permission 1st, but if a picture screams to be taken, please do it discreetly and unobtrusively.

Another tip is, wake up early in the morning and take a walk in the town. Before the tourists crowd arrive, and before most of the shops are open, even SiFangJie is delightfully photogenic! With the morning light streaming down, it's street photography nirvana!

Some of my Lijiang images were featured in Asian Geographic magazine, when they had an article on Lijiang.

There are also a number of resources on the Net on Naxi history and culture.
I stayed 2-3 nights in Lijiang and enjoyed my photography sojourn there. However, being an easily accessed destination, and a popular tour stop, I believe anyone can have great experience there.

Thursday, November 29, 2007


I first came across this term in one of Galen Rowell's picture books. When I finally saw one, I was pretty excited to have a shot at it ... in fact, many shots... This intense red colour/glow is a result of light travelling through our atmosphere, and succumbing to the laws of nature (refraction, wavelength etc). I do not wish to go into the technical details, and in fact, can't because I'm not sure I can explain it well (see below). But twice a day, this phenomenon will occur if the sun's rays were unobscured on the mountain peak. The wondrous nature is further amplified by the speed at which the light changes!

For those going to mountain trips, esp if you're trekking, I urge you to get up before sunrise, at least once in the trip, to witness this show. Once the sun rises and cast its light onto the mountain face, it's spectacular! The above was taken in Nepal and the 3 shots were taken within 8 minutes! Similarly during sundown, just as the sun dips below the horizon, have your tripod ready!

Galen Rowell was one of the finest nature/landscape photographers out there, and was my inspiration for landscape photography. Unfortunately, he and his wife (who was also an accomplished photographer) died in a plane crash in Aug 2002. His book Mountain Light: In Search of the Dynamic Landscape was truly one of the most informative and inspiring books for me. You can read more about alpenglow and the explanation in this book.

Since then, I've shot numerous alpenglow. But my first exposure to alpenglow in this trip remains one of my most memorable, and this evening alpenglow remains one of my top favourites.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Where and when vs when and where?

This was taken at Peyto Lake, a well-known attraction in Banff National Park. One of the ways of getting a good travel image is, well, going at the right season! I was a relatively newbie photo enthusiast, but this trip to the Canadian Rockies was right at the best possible season - summer. The light is good, the weather is good, and of course, the scenery is fantastic! So with little effort, you get a really good image. Weather may be unpredictable, but it's about maximising your chances of getting the best!

Incidentally, this was also the trip where I got poisoned. I borrowed a SLR from my brother-in-law, bought some slide film, and took it along together with my prosumer digicam that I've been using for a year or more. It was considered early years in digital photography (2001), and my Canon Powershot G1 was high up in the prosumer category. But the feel of handling the SLR, its response, and the results - it's like a drug that had me yearning for the grasp, begging for the sound of the shutter, and longing to see the output. Of course, your mileage may vary :)

I found out later that there're tons of similar Peyto Lake images out there, since the viewpoint from where I took the shot was right where every tourist go. Nevertheless, seeing a beautiful image that you have shot yourself will enhance your confidence and belief, and would definitely provide motivation for better shots in your next trip.

While basic, this is still one of the key points while planning a photography trip - when is the best time to go? In fact, it used to be that typically, I will decide where I wanna go, and then find out when I can take leave or when I am free to go. But now, I'll rather find out when I am able to leave, and then find out during that period, where are the best places I can go that interest me......

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The things you see at void deck.....

Was going for breakfast at the hawker centre near my flat, when I saw a bunch of people at the void deck. The kaypoh-ness in the Singaporean me tugged at me, and I went closer to take a look. Imagine my surprise when I saw this :

Apparently, it is hurt, otherwise, it would not be just standing there staring at the people warily.

Someone had called the SPCA and soon, they came and captured it. It looks like a falcon of some sort, but I was really surprised to see it grounded at a HDB void deck. I believe its wings must be hurt somehow. It looks like a Brown Falcon which I've seen in Tasmania. Compare it here :


I hope it recovers and gets back where it belongs, wherever that is. If anyone can confirm what bird this is, would appreciate if you can tell me. Thanks!

Well, well, the things you see in void decks nowadays....

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Clubsnap-Olympus Zoo outing

Ok, this is not so much about travel, but on photography. The travelling I did was of course on our MRT and buses. A whole hour+ of it. Sheesh, plus waiting times etc, I can probably reach Ho Chih Minh city. But I only reached our Singapore Mandai Zoo.

One of the ways you can have hands-on experience with some cool gear is joining events organised by Clubsnap and its partners. They have co-organised events with the major players like Canon, Nikon etc. This time round, it was with Olympus, showcasing mainly the newly launched Olympus E3, and held at the Zoo. Details of the Olympus E3 can be found here.

It is also one of the ways you can try out some big lens as well. For travel photography, it is unusual to bring such bazooka lens unless its a specialised wildlife travel trip, for eg. My whole philosophy on travel photo gear is lightweight, lightweight, and still lightweight. So it was a good chance for me to try some big lens. Not that I would buy them though. My standard travel photo gear is mentioned at my articles section here.

As it turns out, after putting my CF card into the Olympus and shooting/testing some shots, I transferred it back to my Canon 10D. My 10D complained something about folder number full, but still able to take shots. Subsequently, I went to the other stations (they had 4 stations spread out around the Zoo with various lens for you to try out), and when I put my CF card into the E3's, all of them complained that the card being full. Strange. So in the end, I had only a few Olympus images to analyse at home. Not that I would analyse much though. No money to upgrade lah, so no point see so much....

Anyway, spent the whole morning at the Zoo. Don't go zoo often. Come to think of it, the last time I came was also another similar event, but with Canon, 2-3 years ago. Not bad, at least I see what other travellers come to Singapore to see. Oh, if you do come down, take a look at the Outback section. Apparently, it was helped setup by Steve Irwin when he came as a special guest in Mar 2006. And he got killed in Sep 2006 :(

Ok, leave you with one image of the animals I like, for its speed and grace - the cheetah.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Intro blog post

I am grounded! Boo Hoo!

So, anyway, I will attempt to post some of my pictures in this blog and share some information on them. You know, like where they're taken, any stories, histories on them. Photo tips if any on how they're taken etc etc
So, yup, essentially, I just wanna talk on anything travel & photography!

Since I'm grounded... Boo Hoo Hoo!


Welcome to Roving Light Travel Photography TravelBlog!