mostly sweet, sometimes sour

Black and White Photography

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

Morning flights at the airport- everyone has a coffee

Catching the first flight out again for work. Zzz.

coffee at the airport

Abstracts of a Bridge at Punggol Park

I got to the newly built Punggol Park this last weekend and really enjoyed taking pictures that day. Among all the fantastic shots I got, one particular bridge- on the flyover above the park- really captivated me.

Above: This is the first picture of the bridge that I took as I got to Punggol Park. I love the strong curvature in the structure, and the single lamp-post balances out the emptiness of the landscape. I was lucky- the drama in the clouds made the background look exciting. In fact, the clouds at the bottom of the picture make the whole structure look like it’s at a very high altitude- which it’s not. And leading the viewer down exciting, ‘impossible’ paths is something I always enjoy.

Above: One thing I always try to do is to get different angles of a subject. This involves more legwork, but there are times when the subject is just worth it. In this case, the bridge had a vertical arc extending upwards, but also a horizontal one where people could stand and look out at the park. You can see the shadow of a rail on the left hand side of the picture- this adds a bit of drama to the monotony of the shot, so I left it in. This rail is part of the flyover above the park.

Above: This is a view of the horizontal arc where you can see what it was meant for- sight-seeing. It was a beautiful day out, and there were lots of people walking about enjoying the view. Ironically, I spent so much time walking around and taking photos of the bridge that I never actually went on it. But that’s what you gotta do when you only have a short window of time to take pictures with (I got there late afternoon, and the light was starting to fade).

Above: One good thing of getting there in the late afternoon is that if you’re lucky, you get to take a picture of the sunset. I took several pictures of the bridge at this time- some with people, and some without. Ultimately, I chose this one. I think the Punggol Park is a place of community, for families and friends to gather, and having people in the shot emphasises this more. I was lucky with this shot: a boy on the right can be distinctly seen pointing towards the sun. This adds dynamism and motion to the picture, and also (together with the two lamp-posts in the centre-right) provides a leading visual line into the center of the frame.

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.

Black and White, both day and night

I’ve continued to explore black and white photography more. I’ve always loved washed out, graphical abstract black and whites but I’ve also recently begun to enjoy shooting darker pictures that force one to explore different tones of gray. This picture is like that. Kinda like a grey portrait of cars. I love the spotlight on the cars, and I love how everything is in shades of gray. Really reminds me of a stage. This was taking at night, with the street-lamps masquerading as ‘spotlights’.


This last weekend I also went to botanic gardens. It is really convenient to get there now- the MRT gets you right to the doorstep.

gate to botanic gardens

Botanic gardens is really boring to me. Greens are relaxing, but for me they really don’t make good pictures. Nonetheless, I guess I couldn’t leave the botanic gardens without taking some pictures of greens. But argh, I hate the yellowish-green color of leaves. They look sickly and pale- not inspiring at all. So I took these colours out, and I was left with a ‘sin-city’ style grey and red.

children and flowers

Happy Birthday Dad!

Just celebrated my dad’s 61st birthday at one of his favourite restaurants. Yay! Happy Birthday dad!

getting to the restaurant

lobster bisque starter

foie gras and fillet mignon entre

dad's birthday cake

even greenie pok and his girlfriend were present

everyone except Joleen! awww

New photos with old lenses

If, like me, you like all things retro, then you’ll definitely appreciate how the new mirrorless cameras allow you to breathe new life into old lenses. Since they don’t have a mirror, adapters of all thickness exist to either simulate the extra distance a mirror would have taken up, or just to mount the lens on the camera.

Vintage lenses, like old cinema, don’t have as good sharpness, contrast, and eye-popping color as their modern counterparts. But they come with lots of character, unique color, and romantic notions of where they’ve been before. Some of the lenses I’ve been using date back to the 1950s or 1960s! Think old black and white cinema vs HD movies. The latter looks much more arresting, but the former will always have a special place in my heart.

Isco Göttingen Westron 35mm 2.8

Part of the fun has also been finding out about the history of the lenses. This lens was manufactured by the West German company Isco, based in Göttingen. It has been manufacturing lenses since 1936, and I have certainly never heard of it. It has a 35mm field of field (70mm equivalent on my camera), and a max aperture of 2.8. I love it for its deep color and sharpness.

PS, just look at the sharpness of the leaves on that last black and white photo…

Fujinon 75mm 1.8

This lens is not actually that old. They’re still selling it. But it’s typically used for commercial high-resolution manufacturing purposes. Since the whole name of the game is ‘finding another use for lenses’, it qualifies. 🙂 Apparently, as far as such lenses go, this one was specially built for a ‘higher-resolution’ of 5 megapixels. That is of course far short of the 12 megapixels that my EP3 can shoot, but the extra resolution really comes through in the ability of this camera to resolve tones well. I have not seen a more beautiful black and white/ single-color tone lens. It has very pale and muted colors, but when those are translated into black and white, it shows an ability to differentiate between the many subtle shades of grey very beautifully.

First up, a color picture that I downloaded from the net taken with this lens. (Credit goes to Yu-Lin Chan from Toronto for the picture). Notice how the colors don’t really ‘pop out’ at you.

Panasonic Lumix G Vario 7-14mm F/4 ASPH 

As they say, a picture speaks a thousand words, so here’s a picture taken with a modern lens to show you the contrast and sharpness they’re capable of, and the VERY different look that ends up being created.

Abstract photography from Formula One

After rushing out the more ‘reporting-style’ previous post from the Formula One proceedings, I went through my pictures to pick out the type that I really like- abstract. These kinds tend to be more hit-and-miss, so I don’t have many of them.

pictures from Formula One- Friday (23/9), first set

I just got back from Formula One. It was a fun experience, more for the shows than for the race itself (today just practice for the F1 drivers, but even then it’s more fun to watch on TV cos’ you’re not stuck seeing just one stretch). It was also very very loud, so it’s not really like you can make much conversation either. Well, at least I got pictures. 🙂 Hope you enjoy this quick first set!

PS, If you’re wondering why there are so many different styles, it’s because I like different styles of photography (see this post for more). All of these styles, (black and white, sepia, vivid), were created by changing my camera’s color settings- they were all done in-camera, rather than post-processed. I changed the setting, then took the photo that I wanted. Unfortunately my post-processing skills aren’t there yet for me to get there after-the-fact in the post-processing. So you’re left with varying different styles of pictures.

Because of this, I didn’t use the most logical way of ordering the pictures (Which would have been cars first, then performances next). Instead, I ordered them visually/ aesthetically. Within each set of pictures, the black and whites come first, then the sepias, then the coloreds. It just looks more interesting to me that way. Ha.

Set 1

intense action

formula one car breaks down


fernando alonso, once a world champ

Set 2

off-track entertainment (venetian dancer)

venetian clown

everyone has a mask in venice- either painted or plastic

venetian ballerina looks to the heavens

venetian ballerina caresses an inflatable moon

venetian jester

...and she ends with a flourish

Set 3

off-track entertainment: broadway spoofs. first up, jersey boys

the lion king

the little mermaid

elphaba from wicked 'defying gravity'

glinda from wicked 'popular'

Set 4

no standing in the grandstands

vroom vroom!

my mom enjoying formula one!

formula one cake (yummy!)

pop-art in action: the artist on the right created that pop-art in 10 minutes using his fingers and six brushes!!