Friday, January 25, 2008


One of the most interesting festivals to witness for travellers to Singapore is the Thaipusam festival. It is a Hindu festival celebrated on the full moon in the Tamil month of Thai (Jan/Feb). This year (2008), it was held 21-22 Jan.

Generally, participants of the celebration make an offering of a kavadi (burden) to Lord Murugan either for tiding over some misfortune or granting of some favor. This kavadi can be as simple as a pot of milk, or as elaborate as a huge altar of sorts that is pierced into the devotee.

The whole process usually starts the day before , with the preparation of the kavadi and prayers and rituals at Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple at Serangoon Rd. Then a pilgrimage is undertaken along a fixed route to Sri Thendayuthapani Temple at Tank Rd, carrying the kavadi. The carrying of the spiked kavadi involves alot of piercing of flesh, tongue, cheeks etc, so it is really a test of their faith and devotion.

At the end of the pilgrimage at Sri Thendayuthapani, before offering to Lord Murugan, the devotees typically perform some trance like dances amidst lots of singing and prayer. Once done, they will proceed out of the temple to dismantle/remove their kavadi. The whole affair is very bonding for the devotees as the whole family will be around to give their support, and very colourful for tourists and bystanders. Of course, for those documenting the festival, respect must be given, and in no way should a person interrupt or hinder the ceremony. For tourists or locals alike, do check out Thaipusam!

Friday, January 18, 2008


For those who love scenics, landscapes, the outdoors etc, Tasmania is hard to beat. Not just one type, you actually get to see many types of landscapes...

From mountains

to meadows

There's rocky coasts

and sandy beaches

See forests

and nice streams

You can see it all!
This is best achieved by self-drive though. The roads are generally easy to drive and the tourist information over there is excellent, so do not be afraid to try! For my planning, I used this website alot :
For photographers who love shooting landscapes (like me), its a dream destination!!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Photography on the move

Travelling entails commuting. On the bus, on the train, or on the plane, you'll spend time on the move. Many a times, the journey passes through scenes which screams to be photographed. Well, you can! Here's 2 simple steps to help you get a shot while on the move.

Use the fastest shutter speed possible. You know a fast shutter speed will freeze action, and thats precisely what you want to do. Of course, for really fast moving vehicle (bullet train etc), you may not get the required speed. Thus it's best used when it's bright; you could also increase your ISO setting to bump up your shutter speed. For compact cameras without manual controls, the best bet is probably the Sports mode where the concept is also to freeze action. The image on the right was taken on the train ride from Hue to HoChiMinh!

The second useful trick is to set your focus to infinity. Typically, on the bus/train etc, the subject you want to capture will be a distance away. Thus you can preset your focus and not let your camera go wild trying to find your target. This is especially true when you have to shoot through windows in the bus/trains etc! Also, place your camera as close to the window/glass as possible to cut down those reflections seen in the window. This trick can be used on any window/glass situation, and not just on bus/trains!
For compact cameras without manual control, you can use your Landscape mode which automatically places the camera's focus to infinity. The above image of the Himalays is taken using a compact point&shoot using the Landscape mode through the thick glass window on a commercial plane!

While you may not get the perfect shot on the move, the above 2 steps does enable you to maximise your chances. So, whether you're on the plane or on a cruise, keep shooting!

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Travel + fireworks

First blog post of 2008! Sorry for such a late entry as I was in Taipei during the New Year countdown and was only back a couple of days ago. So, first off, a Happy New Year to all!

Fireworks seems to be pretty much everyone's favourite since every year, thousands would flock to the Esplanade area to shoot them. Or whenever there're some events with fireworks, lines of tripods would be seen stationed at various vantage points. So, during your travel, it would be nice to be able to have shots of fireworks at some travel destination. However, it will be slightly trickier....
How so?

Well, the following points have to be noted :
- Location
While in SG, you would have known where the fireworks would be. Hence, you will have time to look for vantage points and be prepared.
- Tripod
You don't bring your tripod on all trips (Although it is recommended :))
- Space reservation
You have to be early at the best viewing place; however, we all know we can't plant ourselves at the spot 3 hrs in advance because, well, we are sightseeing somewhere!

Well, here's a few things you can consider :
a) Bring a compact portable tabletop tripod in your travels like the Ultrapod or Gorillapod.
These can be attached to railings, poles and branches etc which definitely is better than handheld
b) A compact camera (point & shoot even) can take fireworks as well. Just use the timer mode, and it works really well with the compact tripod mentioned in (a). The above fireworks is taken with a Ricoh Caplio compact camera! Set to 2sec timer setting for faster firing. Then its a matter of anticipating the fireworks.
c) If you arrive at a destination in the day, where you know there'll be fireworks, then try to incorporate your recce in your sightseeing. Fireworks, of course, are fired at night, so in the day, go around and see which spots are suitable.
d) Better still, if you can afford a hotel room with a view, then you can shoot/see the fireworks from the comfort of your room! Eg. in Disneyland, there are hotels that afford fireworks view, which are fired every night!

My year end trip to Taipei of course allowed me to see/shoot the countdown fireworks at Taipei 101. So here's wishing everyone a Happy New Year again!