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


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


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 🙂


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.