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.