麦里芝蓄水池追日记

Perception can make a small offshoot as big as a big tree. Sometimes we view our problem as a mountain when it is really just a pebble.

Time and tide waits for no man. Like a sunrise or sunset that is the most golden for only a short while, so is youth and life just as fleeting.

A goodbye may be the start of a beautiful beginning. hope is the eternal sunshine.

Don’t chase after the sun to be on the bright side. It’s exhausting and it burns.

到乌敏岛迎夏

 

Stranded in the City

A late afternoon presentation to a client wrapped up during the end-of-work-day rush hour and I found myself stranded in the heart of Singapore’s financial district. I waited for about 40 minutes but couldn’t get a cab back to my office.

Since I couldn’t get a taxi, I decided to diffuse and distract my misery with some snaps. This photo is the strapping UOB Plaza reflected on a building hobbitised by the former’s height.

Failing to out-queue the suits for a taxi, I decided to take the long walk to Clarke Quay MRT Station and prepared myself to slip into the sardine jacket that is our public transport since our population has burgeoned to the current 5.31 million from 4.59 million just under 5 years ago. And we are not stopping.

The recent White Paper projection of 6.9 million by 2030 has brought Singaporeans out on the streets to protest.

Singapore River was very muddy and brownish today but after applying a fliter from Instagram, it turned gold!

Having been a Singaporean for almost 4 decades, that was the first massive protest I can recall, crowding during last year’s hotly ‘contanted’ General Elections not counted.

What’s my stand on the government’s population ambition? When 69 ceases to be a position but a survival proposition, will we still be having fun?

Elgin Bridge. It’s one of the oldest bridges in Singapore believed to be present since 1819 as a foot bridge, the only bridge across Singapore River. Today, it is a vehicular bridge and makes for a rather beautiful retro photo in black-and-white. But of course, standing in the middle of the road to take a picture is foreplay with the Grim Reaper!

Personally, I feel the world is so borderless now. We are kind of a global tribe. If population growth is identified as the way to go for economic sustainability especially for natural resource-poor Singapore, my question is whether do we have the long-standing power to attract high-calibre foreign talents to take root here in competition with other nations who are also tapping the same pool to boost their demographic reliant GDP (as opposed to an economy supported by agriculture, export and industry)?

We are not the only country facing the woes of a low birth rate and rapidly greying population. According to a 2050 projection by the Taipei’s Department of Manpower with data drawn from a 2009 population survey by the United Nations, Singapore is amongst the top 5 fastest greying population (also making the list are United States, Japan, Hong Kong and Taipei). Competition for young mouths seems perched to heat up. Why will foreign talents want to come here? Will they stay? Xenophobia is definitely not going to make Singapore attractive. So is congested roads, packed public transport, and living so close we can smell each other’s laundry.

As the sunset begins to fade, street lamps along the Singapore River flickered to life.

Will Singapore end up as a country of massage parlours? They are everywhere now. Not that I’ve anything against legit businesses that knead and soothe our high-strung backs crushed by inflation and rising costs of living, but my concern is more of the make-up and credentials of foreigners being offered the Singaporean citizenship. I’m proud of my country and I just don’t wish to see our citizenship being lelong-lelonged just so we can meet a quota.

Anyhoo, I’m not a political analyst or population specialist. Not being able to get a cab, of which there could be many reasons not linked to our need for headcount, just ruffled my feathers since I had lots of work to complete. Singapore is facing another prosperity challenge, like it always had, and instead of protesting or asking questions, what solution/s can we as a people propose?

No wonder Yusof Ishak looks pensive on our dollars. He isn’t smiling. Who can when our nation’s growth, or any country for that matter, is dependent on foreign investment, trade and internal consumption. We have no natural resources  such as land, produce, petrol, precious metals or gems to sell, remember? Ours is a people economy. If Singaporeans are not delivering more Singaporeans because of high living costs, long working hours and no fire to stoke the libido (pornography is outlawed and sex remains a taboo subject), how can we turn Mr Ishak’s blank stare into a triumphant glare? What’s our Vendetta agenda beyond anger?

The colourful underpass linking Riverwalk to The Central Mall at Clarke Quay. I’d seen illegal graffiti with more soul than this.

Unknowingly, I’ve walked through a key part of our country’s history that started at the very mouth of this river where many of our ancestors first stepped foot on Singapura.

A vibration of the old, neo-colonial and modern footsteps of Singapore coursed through me. We have always been a population of immigrants. Our today is the light from yesterday, and tomorrow, is what we set aglow today. 🙂

Day 351 : Living Rituals


I’ve always found Hindu temples to be somewhat overpowering. If not because of the cacophony of figures on the gopura, then it’s the half-naked temple sages who serve the gods. The temples echanted, but at the same time, intimidated me to go no further than the door.

One of my biggest worries of stepping into a Hindu temple or mosque is that I may upset some rituals or sacred rules. I’m not sure if photography is considered disrepectful except during Thaipusam and if it’s okay to be wandering around the temple halls like a lost soul.

Photographed here is the side wing of Sri Vadapathira Kaliamman Temple along Serangoon Road. As a boy, the giant statue of Hanuman (the monkey god) was the object of my profuse fascination. To this day, whenever I pass by it, the huge green figure continues to be the only thing I see of the temple.

I’ve never once been inside the temple even though I’d pass it by so many times. I hope me and my camera will be welcomed.

Day 311 : Flush and Flash

Work today brought me to the recently revamped NEWater Visitor Centre. I’ve been assigned to shoot the centre and its new exhibits since I have some experience with photography. It is not within my job scope but I don’t mind helping my company, Digimagic Communications, save some cost.

Procuring clean and safe drinking water for an ever growing population has always been a strain on our land scarce petite nation and a politcal tumour with Malaysia where we import most of our water supply from.

To satisfy our thirst, Singapore began recycling water in 1974 for industrial purposes to free up reservoir catchments for human use. More than 20 years later, water purification technology came of age and the reclamation of wasterwater from sewage was made possible. In 1998, NEWater was born.

The NEWater Visitor Centre traces Singapore’s hydro-struggles and the evolution of NEWater as our long-term solution to hydrating the nation through a highly interactive gallery and a peek into the wastewater treatment processes.

More than 70% of earth is covered in water but only less than 1% of that ratio is fresh water. A human can generally survive for 3 weeks without food but only 3 days without water. That’s why clean water is so precious!

Getting to the NEWater Visitor Centre can be inconvenient as it sits at an obscure location. I took a cab here.

Reception lobby of the centre with a mosaic of images showing people’s relationship with water.

The gallery comprises 2 zones – 1 zone features a hive of interactive exhibits to help visitors learn about water conservation; the other is a walk-in tour of the NEWater factory that helps visitors understand the various filtration and purification process that NEWater deploys.

The night soil man brings back memories of my childhood staying at my grandparents’ shophouse at Bencoolen Street. Back then, our toilets didn’t come with a flushing system and we depended on these men to clear the wastes daily. The stench was unbearable.

Visitors can take a self-guided tour of the NEWater production facility to learn about the various steps in reclaiming sewage water.

These are not bolsters for a mega pyjamas party but a magnification of the filtration barriers that block large sediments.

Purification capsules at work to clean wastewater.

A commitment hall where visitors can post a digital pledge to conserve water.

This replica of a deep sewage tunnel links one zone of the gallery to another.

Learn more about water usage and wastages in our daily life with this installation to identify areas and ways to conserve water.

Partial pano view of the interactive zone of the gallery which features some pretty cool games.

My company produced the floor-to-wall interactive map projection where visitors can learn about where our water sources come from. Known as the 4 National Taps, Singapore gets our water supply from reservoirs, purchases from Malaysia, desalination of seawater, and NEWater.

It’s a long way in and out of the NEWater Visitor Centre. After my photography session, I waited for a long time but no cabs came to the centre so I walked all the out to the main road to get one. Shortly after I got into a taxi, heavy rain came. Phew!

NEWater Visitor Centre

Address : 20, Koh Sek Lim Road, Singapore 486593

Tel : 6546 7874

Opening Hours : 9am – 5pm (Tuesday – Sunday)

Guided Tours : 9am, 10.45am, 12.30pm, 2.15pm, and 4pm

Admission : Free

Day 218 : Lian Shan Shuang Lin Monastery

This used to be my playground. From age 8 to 28, I stayed at Block 195 Kim Keat Avenue, which is right next to Siong Lim Temple. That’s how I used to spell the temple’s name until 莲山双林寺 ‘Lian Shan Shuang Lin Monastery’ (Twin Groves of the Lotus Mountain Temple) emerged as its official name when I Googled today.

Back in those days, the temple grounds provided much enjoyment and playthings for us neighbourhood kids. It used to have a huge pond which we used to come by often to catch guppies and small shrimps as pets. The place was also overgrown with wild balsam plants and vegetation, providing endless hours of acquiring butterfly and spider specimens in addition to our aquatic keepsakes.

Photo circa 1991, age 17. Wearing a big cross to the temple… what was I thinking?!

The other thing I remember fondly of the temple is the gong. Everyday at 6am, the temple bell will chime and its solemn signal of a new day accompained my morning routine of getting ready for school.

To this day, whenever I hear the timbre of a Chinese monastic gong, I’m brought back to those teenage reveries. But how things have changed. The temple ground is beyond recognition to me now. These old pics, abett only partial snippets, showed how the temple looked like back in the early 90s.

It is good that some things never changed… my displaced fashion sense. What I wore for today’s photography outing to the temple continues to be comic. I used to be very skinny and favoured long-sleeved garbs to hide the twigs I had for arms. That explains the hooded jacket I had on despite the tropical heat!

LOL at the hilarious Puyi sunglass that was all the rage back then.

Wahahahaha… this pose is retro and revolting, it makes the hair on my arms stand!

Looking back at these old photos taken at Siong Lim Temple, I wanna dig my eyes out. Such a poser! And an obiang (awful) one at that. This series of photos were taken with my ex-secondary school classmates who initiated me into camwhoring.

Twenty-one years later, Siong Lim Temple has gone through a major restoration and comestic overhaul. While the improvements made it look very good with the manicured bonsai trees and stone pathways, it felt devoid of life.

There were many things I used to be able to do here but were amiss. I used to be able to take photos in the temple, but now, photography is prohibited in the monastery. I used to interact with the surroundings, today I just admired how neat and proper everything looks.

The organic pond I grew up with used to be just a huge hole dug into the ground and home to scores of tortoises, fish and small prawns. Now it is a much smaller fountain feature enlivened only by water spewing from dragon-headed spouts.

I wanted to cry “murder!” seeing how my growing up memories were defaced, but I guess it’s about moving with the times and getting reacquainted with an old friend who ordered every item on the plastic surgery menu.

New, plumper stone lions replaced the old, skinnier ones. The yesteryear gate guardians were green in colour with a rotatable sphere in the clutches of the male lion. The new male has no movable ball. It is the belief that visitors can change their luck for the better by physically spinning the ball.

Holding in heaven. The entrance used to be just a brown dirt road with rough-hewned concrete slabs leading a path to the temple’s entrance. Now there’s this elaborate wall that creates a courtyard before the entrance.

Bronze lotus-shaped incense holder within a huge censer in the central courtyard that separates the entrance prayer hall from the inner Buddhist sanctum.

Burning pearl adornment atop the censer that symbolises the sun.

The grand Mahavira Hall of the inner sanctum framed with the inspiration that christened the monastory’s name.

The bamboo-carved Chinese characters reads 惜福 (xi fu), which is a call for gratefulness of one’s blessings and to treasure them, but not be indulgent in the good fortunes. There were quite of few of these tablets hung at the door.

佛在心中莫浪求。When we have God in our hearts, whether it is Buddha, Jesus, Allah or Khrisna, happiness and contentment need no longer depend on external torrents of possessions, needs and desires. This shot is an attempt to reflect that message by using one of the bamboo tablets as a frame.

Interior of the Mahavira Hall. Photography strictly prohibited inside but it’s okay to take a shot at the doorway.

Buddhism believes that time is cyclical in nature where mortals are trapped in the eternal cycle of reincarnation until one attains enlightenment.

A glimpse of the original guardian lions through a makeshift workshop by the side of the temple. Built in 1902, Lian Shan Shuang Lin Monastery is the oldest Buddhist temple in Singapore and is gazetted a National Monument. The first phase of the temple’s restoration commenced in 1991 and completed in 2002.

I was so excited at the unexpectedly rare opportunity to see part of the decorative 剪粘 (pronounced ‘Jian Nian’, meaning cut and paste) roof ridges at an intimate range. It was taken down for restorative work and I could study closely what I’ve seen from afar for many years. The artform is also called 剪花 (Jian Hua – cut flower) and sometimes 鱼皮像 (Yu Pi Xiang – fish scale sculpture).

Jian Nian sculptures frequently depict celestial beings and auspicious icons in Chinese legends and mythology and are used to decorate the roofs and eaves of buildings, usually temples. Originating from the Ming Dynasty Wanli period (circa 1600), great masters are not only skilled at the laborious production method where porcelain shards are painstakingly cut and pasted into moulds of sticky rice lime, but must be knowlegeable about fabled characters and their symbolism as well.

This boulder was the backdrop in the retro photo where I placed a thumb on my chin earlier in this post. It used to sit atop a well in the inner courtyard of Shuang Lin Monastery. Looks like it will be given a second life seeing that it has been ‘saved’ for restoration (I think).

Dragon Light Pagoda. This is a relatively new addition to the temple site.

View of the pagoda from the Guan Yin Dian (Godess of Mercy Hall). The religious site is made up of three temples with Shuang Lin Monastery in the middle and flanked by Guan Yin Dian to the right and Cheng Huang Miao to the left. See map at the end of this post.

Age 38. I’ve also gone through some renovations over the last two decades from a brown stick insect to a white… hmm… dugong?

Lotus motifs leading to the entrance of Guan Yin Dian.

The centrepiece is a 11.2m bronze statue of the thousand-hands-and-eyes Guan Yin (Goddess of Mercy).

The Goddess of Mercy is the bodhisattva of compassion and her thousand hands and eyes manifestation represents her all-giving, all-seeing nature.

The deity’s actual name is 观世音 (Guan Shi Yin) – 观 (Guan) translates as observe / view / watch / see; 世 (Shi) meaning the world; 音 (Yin) being the word for sound or voice. So the goddess’ name means someone who monitors the world of its lamentations and offering help.

A leap back in time!

It felt rather surreal being here so many years apart. It’s a pity I arrive only about an hour before closing time and didn’t get to explore more familiar grounds. Besides, the last section of Shuang Lin Monastery was hoarded up for renovations.

Nonetheless, there was still enough points of interest to explore for a late-afternoon photo outing. Do check out this old, well, now it’s new playground of mine…

Getting Here : From Toa Payoh MRT and Bus Interchange, take feeder bus nos. 232, 237, or 238 (less than 10 minutes journey)

Address : 184E Jalan Toa Payoh, Singapore 319941

Tel : +65 6259 6924

Opening Hours : 8:30am – 5:00pm daily (Free admission)

Click map to enlarge.

Day 211 : Sun Chasing at Southern Ridges

Living in the urban jungle provides many conveniences but robs us of unobstructed views to admire the beautiful sky cloak at the end of every day. Unless one stays atop a west facing skyscraper, places to catch the full splendour of sunset are few and far in Singapore. And one of these few, and not so far spots to frame the dusking hues of a dusk would be at Henderson Waves.

Part of a 10km green spine that connects various parks in the southern ridge of Singapore (collectively known as the Southern Ridges trail), Henderson Waves is a 274km long pedestrian bridge that qualifies as one of my favouritest sunset destination on our tiny country-state.

Although we can’t really see the sun dipping into the horizon, the organically-shaped bridge offers an awesome vantage point to admire the colour parade as a day bids its farewell. So goaded by the recently anointed princess of nauture and adventure, I came on a photo outing and here’s the celebration of they evening’s colours…

Entrance to Marang Trail. Love the secret garden feel.

Rolling into the deep of Singapore’s manicured green fingers where even the wilderness observes obedience.

The sun batted its leafy eyelid at me.

Have I discovered Jack’s beanstalk?

Trying to e cool on a scorching hot day.

Along the way, we passed by Mount Faber that offered a smattered aerial view of Sentosa, a.k.a. Pulau Belakang Mati (Back island of Death).

‘S’ marks the spot. Stepping onto the boardwalk of Henderson Waves with Juliana’s kick-s gorilla sneakers. This gal is so full of monkey business!

Artistic, stylish and organic… Henderson Waves is paved with all-weather timber and a lot of character.

Love how the lines and curves look so dramatic in photos.

Spotted! Butterfly on the bridge bench. Or is that a caterpillar?

Keeping the photo outing light and handy with my Casio Exilim ZR200 digital compact camera.

What a great place for romance while CCTVs keep a close watch over any hanky panky.

Goodbye Sunday… Although the sunset was obscured by a tree and the hillside ti sits on, the celestial palette was delicious nonetheless. Shot with in-camera Sunset Mode to enhance the orangey warmth.

I’ve been to Henderson Waves on a few occasions but this is the first time I shot a sunset here. And I have a feeling this won’t be my last 🙂

Day 207 : Singapore War Memorial Park

Had a rare opportunity to get off work on time after a series of meetings and visited the War Memorial Park while waiting for my Thai language class to start.

Piercing the City Hall skyline like a needle that pricks at our nation’s tumultuous past, the memorial stands as a tribute to all civilians executed during Japan’s World War II occupation of Singapore between 1942 – 1945. It was estimated that 100,000 young Chinese civilian men were killed by Japanese forces all over the island in what came to be known as the Sook Ching Massacre.

So many innocent lives snatched from the cradle of their youth. No wonder an eerie aura of sombreness hangs in the air of this cenotaph. But it does feel kinda peaceful within the hollow enclosed by the four towering columns though. May peace mass acre every corner of our world… and beyond.

Day 162 : Frame of Mime

Dropped by one of my favouritest rooftops in Singapore en route to dinner and filled up on the evening hues with my Casio Exilim ZR200. It wasn’t a planned visit but we were in the vicinity of Orchard Central and that Sunday’s orangey farewell was just too delicious to resist not catching some shots.

Whenever I’m here, the wireframe humanoid sculptures by artists Victor Tan and Yayoi Kusama never fail to fill me with a spur of energy and movement. And the changing sky is a perpetually evolving backdrop that fills up the hollowness of the wire men. If I’m not careful, a trance would take over me as I stare at the sculptures. They have this meditative aura that magnetises me. I feel at once wistful and wishful…

How are you wired? Suspended in mime, the empty space formed by the wires is filled with the moods of the sky, seeming to taunt our power in resisting the effects of external forces on our inner being.

Forget the Great Singapore Workout. Here’s the great camera exercise!

Stomp stump.

Bewitched by the seductive evening blushes and flamboyance.

Sunset Mode of EX-ZR200 deepens the colours of the evening palette as the wire man heads off to infinity and beyond by staying where he is. The mind is the greatest traveller.

The floating field of water hyacinths were in bloom. I’ve never seen so many hyacinths flowering at one place… Quietly spectacular.

Another camera workout : Exercising the abs. I think photography leads to a healthy lifestyle as it works the mind when you’re thinking about your shot and the body when taking the photo!

Just as pretty in black and white.

Enough of sky, wired sculptures and hyacinths. Now for some ‘fashion’ shots with the queen of queens of a thousand looks, Juliana. Check out her fashionlicious blog spunktitud3.wordpress.com. It’s a really good read with out-of-this-world dress sense and accessories!

The girl in pink had a Prometheus moment when she stumbled onto Juliana sitting on a passageway leading to the toilet. She looked so shocked, it’s hilarious. The photo doesn’t show it but she actually turned back and forth a couple of times as she struggled with not disrupting our shot. As you can see, Juliana was totally oblivious to the drama behind her.

It was a spontaneous trip to Orchard Central’s Rooftop Garden but I guess the place is so nice, any time is a good time to come by. Maybe one of these days, I shall try coming up here for a picnic. Or maybe camp overnight since access to the garden is 24/7!

Related Posts :

Orchard Central – The Art of Shopping

天长.地久.永生.

Day 131 : Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple

Faith can not only move mountains but build them too. Here’s the Gopuram of the Sri Perumal Temple along Serangoon Road (Little India) which I pass by almost everyday to office. The temple was built in 1966 and has been gazetted as one of our national monuments. Whenever I go pass it really close, I will always try to pick out one different figurine from its ornate Gopuram each time. So far, I’ve yet to study all of them.

I take it as giving my eyesight a daily workout. I think by the time I can clearly see the decorations at the top, I would have super vision!

Day 126 : Gardens by the Bay Preview

As our Garden City prepares for its next biggest bloom, I had a chance to tour the new bud before it fully opens and I think it is going to be a major landmark that will have people falling in love with Singapore all over again.

This new destination for adoration is Gardens by the Bay, a sprawling waterfront attraction set to bring out the inner butterfly, or bee, in anyone who visits. This post documents my privilege of being one of 25 photographers and bloggers invited for a special preview and sunrise shoot before the Gardens officially welcome visitors from 29 June 2012 onwards.

5:15 am. I haven’t woken up so early in a long time. Then again, I didn’t really sleep the night before so I guess it can’t be considered waking? The rain was such a damper.

Getting a special invite like this is very exciting, but it has its perils. I had to get up at 4:30 am to prepare for the shoot. As much as I love the photo opportunities dawn presents, my bed usually trumps over all will power to rise at the wretched hours that sunrise shoots demands.

Adding to that, I was working till about 1 am the previous night and a cool storm washed over Singapore starting at 2:30 am, all strong magnets to keep me in bed. But I’m glad I made the shoot and here’re photos to share with you. For the shoot, there’s a sort of embargo for us to not post photos as we are supposed to submit shots for an exhibition so the organisers preferred that we didn’t let our cats out of the bags too soon.

However, I don’t think I got any good shots so I won’t be submiting my mediocre photos to dilute the high standards that the pro photogs will be maintaining. So here are the shots to share with you a sneak peek of what’s coming up at the south of Marina Bay…

Arrived at GBTB at 6 am. The place was still under construction so it took a bit of wayfinding. Thankfully, Juliana was kind enough to pick me up on her way to GBTB. Else, I would’ve gotten lost and ended up in JB!

Supertrees all powered up!

Foyer area that links the two conservatories at GBTB – Flower Dome and Cloud Forest.

Inside the Flower Dome at pre-dawn. Felt kinda surreal to have the place all to myself.

The air-conditioned Flower Dome houses temperate and mediterranean plant species.

Sunrise was a no-show due to the rainy weather. Such a disappointment after waking up so early and all the trouble of getting here. Sigh.

Flower Dome looks like the mouth of a gigantic clam emerging from the ground. Since the sky was mild, I decided to convert some shots to black and white.

View of Flower Dome by the shoreline. This is a great spot to appreciate the architecture of the dome up-close.

Fish-eye of the Flower Dome. To the left is the sea.

GBTB offers quite a few trails to discover different sights, smells and breathtaking moments.

I can’t get enough of the Supertrees. They resemble some alien lifeform.

If the sky was blue with bright sunshine, I think this photo of all the Supertrees will be super duper!

Attempting to be artsy… heh heh.

The Supertrees tower over GBTB at heights between 25 and 50 meters. Their trunks act as a vertical canvas for gardening.

Tree climbing takes on new meaning with the Supertrees. A spiral stairway leads to the mid-point where the Skyway is. For those who prefer not to sweat, there’s a life available.

The Skyway is a suspended corridor that weaves around the Supertrees.

Crown of the Supertrees Instagramed.

His equipment is so long! One of the reasons I prefer not to shoot with pro photogs or serious enthusiasts is because I get an inferiority complex looking at the size and quantity of their equipments. That often kills my mood to shoot.

Thanks to Juliana for capturing me in action shooting with three cams – DSLR, Instagram (phone) and Casio Exilim ZR200. If only I have three heads and six limbs!

Thanks to them, we have our beautiful Gardens. The construction workers at GBTB were so friendly.

View of Marina Bay Sands amongst Cattail grass blades. GBTB brings nature that much closer.

Other than exotic flora and beautiful landscaping, another thing to spot at GBTB are the sculptures. They range from naturalistic stone formations to masoned fauna to abstract wood carvings.

Carving of a smiling Buddha under a Bodhi Tree at the Chinese themed garden within GBTB. Other themed gardens include Indian, Malay, Fragrance, Fruits, etc.

From the outside, we now go inside. The air-conditioning at the Flower Dome provided a welcomed respite from the heat. The plants here very hoh miah (good life)!

Dunno what tree is this but it looks like a dwarf Frangipani Tree… so comical!

This plant is called Devil’s Blush.

It sure doesn’t look shy at all. I think Devil’s Lipstick more appropriate.

Called Birthday Candles, this shrub is native to Australia.

Make a wish and blow out the candle.

Purple Haze.

Majira.

The next creature inspiration for some apocalyptic alien movie.

Who says Mother Nature doesn’t like some S&M?

Blushing Bride.

The following four photos are taken with the Casio Exilim ZR200 compact camera (Super Macro Mode). I’m amazed by the photo quality of this point-and-shoot camera!

Heart of the Giant Rose Mallow (I think) Hibiscus. The blooms are massive!

Pistil and stamens of another monster Hibiscus of the ruba (ruby, red) variety.

Despite the bland weather and muted daylight, the architecture at Gardens by the Bay, both manmade and by Mother Nature, made us all very trigger happy. I would say that Gardens by the Bay is about 70% completed during this visit so when it gets finished in two months’ time, I am sure it will become the next hotspot for photography and lotsa nature lovin’ in the city!

Related Post : Flower Dome and World Orchid Show

Day 106 : MacRitchie Reservoir with Casio EX-ZR200

I posted in Day 054 that the generous folks at Casio Singapore had given a set of their latest innovation in digital compact camera, the Casio Exilim ZR200 (EX-ZR200) to use and keep. Since then, I’ve been taking photos on and off with it because I’m still using the Casio Exilim ZR100 won from a blogging contest.

Right up till now, almost all the photos in the FUNicating daily shot series have been taken with either EX-ZR100 or EX-ZR200. The cameras have become my handy companions and I seldom leave home without either one of them. Although I’ve been using the EX-ZR200 for some time, abett sparingly, I haven’t actually test-driven the camera and put it to use for different shooting situations.

I had wanted to take the camera for a good shoot-out but work had been crazy busy and the weather went cranky rainy of late. So today, blessed with good weather and a release from work, I took EX-ZR200 to MacRitchie Reservoir to see how well it performs for an outdoor cum sunset shoot. And here are the photos…

MacRitchie Reservoir was completed in 1868 and was originally known as the Impounding Reservoir of Thomson Reservoir. It was renamed in 1922 when it underwent expansion works by an engineer, James MacRitchie. Shot with EX-ZR200 P Mode.

When I was younger, I used to come to MacRitchie Reservoir for jogging. The reservoir and its surrounding park looks so much better now. Shot in P Mode.

The scenic reservoir attracts many joggers as well as photographers and families. Shot in HDR Mode.

Donut chains. Testing how the place looks in black and white. Shot in P Mode.

Shot in HDR Mode and converted to black and white in Photoshop.

Shot in Best Shot (BS) Scenery Mode.

Shot in High Speed Mode.

Shot in BS Scenery Mode.

After some scenic shots, I tested the camera on floral and fauna with the Macro Mode and I must say the camera does a really great job at capturing details.

Shot in BS Macro Mode.

Under the fronds of a BIrd’s Nest Fern. Shot in BS Macro Mode.

A man and his accordion filled the air with a sort of county fair flavour. Shot in P Mode.

Though his tune was light, the uncle didn’t seem happy. There was no joy in his melody. Maybe he’s playing the favourite tune of his wife or loved one who has passed on. Shot in P Mode.

The iconic pavilion and a zig-zag bridge of MacRitchie Reservoir. Shot in P Mode.

Shot in BS Scenery Mode.

Like my nail polish? When I came to MacRitchie Reservoir, I said a prayer for good shots and I found this little fella on my T-shirt while crossing the zig-zag bridge. Thank God for sending me this beautiful subject! Shot in BS Super Macro Mode.

This Jumping Spider is so cute! Shot in BS Super Macro Mode.

What an unforgettable encounter. After some shots, I placed it amongst some bushes even though I was so tempted to bring it home. But that would be betraying the trust the spider had on me. Shot in BS Macro Mode.

Shot in HDR Mode.

Shot in P Mode.

Shot in BS Blurred Background Mode. One of the awesome settings EX-ZR200 comes with is the Blurred Background Mode when you can achieve DSLR quality photo of a sharp subject (be it a person or item) in the foreground and blurring out the background. Absolutely luuurrrvvvveeee this feature in the camera!

Reflection of sunset. Shot in HDR Mode.

Shot in BS Sunset Mode.

Shot in BS Sunset Mode.

Shot in BS Sunset Mode.

Shot in HDR Mode.

Shot in HDR Mode.

Shot in HDR-ART Mode.

As you can see from the modes I’ve been using, P Mode and HDR Mode turn up tops (if you are unfamiliar with HDR imaging, click here to find out what it is). The camera is so intelligent, it automatically selects the mode and settings to get a great shot regardless of the shooting requirement. That’s one of the improvement EX-ZR200 have over EX-ZR100. The former activates the HDR Mode automatically so long as it detects a need for it when shooting in P Mode. With EX-ZR100, I had to turn on the HDR Mode manually.

The other feature I really like is the Blurred Background Mode. It’s really amazing to get DSLR quality effect with just a small compact camera. However, the Blurred Background Mode needs a certain technique in capturing images to get the effect. There were some photos I took in that mode but the camera wasn’t able to process it.

Apart from those features, what I also like about the EX-ZR200 is its start-up time when turning on the camera. It’s super fast!

Overall, I think the EX-ZR200 is an easy-to-use digital compact camera with good imaging capabilities and useful shooting modes pre-programmed for all kinds of photographic situations.

All photos in this post has gone through minor Photoshop post-processing such as Shadow/Highlight adjustments, Brightness and Contrast, Colour Saturation, and Sharpness. I do these to all my photos regardless of what camera I used. I consider that as make-up for the photos… just like how pretty girls can enhance their beauty further with some mascara, powder and rouge.

If you’re thinking about getting a compact camera, consider Casio Exilim ZR200. It’s a really smart gadget that idiot proofs idiot-proof cameras!

Orchard Central – The Art of Shopping

Just got hold of the new Casio Exilim ZR100 a couple of days ago because I was lucky enough to be 1 of 4 selected bloggers to take part in a contest about the compact camera. The blog challenge doesn’t start till next Friday but I was eager to take the camera out for a test drive.

A few locations to shoot came to mind but since I’m recovering from a seriously bad-ass flu, I didn’t want to venture too far. I needed some place that can offer lots of photographic opportunities as well as dustbins for me to throw my mucus-soaked tissues. I also wanted it near home because it’s icky to be carrying a wet, snorty handkerchief in the pocket for too long a time.

My nose was starting to turn red from all that sneezing and unstoppable nose slime. I was Rudolph for a day. This self-portrait was shot using Casio Exilim ZR100's one-touch HDR mode. The wide angle lens made it easy for cam whoring without needing ape limbs. The angle was so wide, I had to crop off about 40% from the original size.

So I settled on Orchard Central. I came here once last year to take some shots of the enchanting Sky Garden but I’ve not taken photos of the shopping centre’s interior. To me, the mall is perhaps the most esthetically captivating of all the malls in Singapore.

Taking panoramic shots for the first time. I've always been intrigued by pano photos but I don't own the equipment or software to do it. But now I can with ZR100. I can't believe how incredibly easy it was to take theese 2 photos!

The key highlight at Orchard Central is the Roof Garden (Level 11 and 12) which qualifies as a minor tourist attraction offering an aerial view of our famous downtown shopping district and high-rise skyline. According to the mall’s website, the garden is operational 24/7. I think that means it’s always open. And it’s FREE to visit!

Wonderfully well-maintained. When I was here in January 2010, the park was immaculate. Back after almost 2 years, the Roof Garden still looks pristine. Great job at maintenance!

For my test drive, I wanted to see the image results from the different modes that Casio Exilim ZR100 offers. Especially the one-touch HDR and HDR-Art mode. HDR (High Dynamic Range) imaging is a photography technique that combines photos with different exposure levels into one picture. I’ll talk more about HDR in an upcoming post.

The photo above as well as the one below and the one after it were taken in the HDR-Art mode which yielded some pretty interesting colour results.

View converging on Mandarin Orchard Hotel with the iconic Chinese roof of Tangs visibile in the background.

Installations by Singaporean artist Victor Tan and Japanese visual artist Yayoi Kusama converts the space into a whimsical oasis amidst Orchord Road.

Really liked these wired human figures that seem to ask the question, "How are you wired?" The figurines turns when the wind blows, thereby generating multiple angles to admire the sculptures from. This photo is taken in the Best Shot (BS) Sunset mode. The Roof Garden is a great place to experience sunsets.

Testing out the camera's Super Macro mode. I think the result is pretty stunning!

Starburst spray from an aquatic plant. The Roof Garden is decorated with walls of vertical green, full-height trees and various water plants.

From the open air outdoor garden,  I next tested the camera inside Orhard Central. Indoor photography without flash is always a headache because the pictures have the propensity to turn out blurred and very pixellated from high ISO settings. The interior photos were shot with ISO settings ranging from 100 – 400 to keep the pictorial noise level down, yet achieving sharp snaps.

Inside the glass lift well while going down from the Roof Garden to Level 1. Shot in BS (Indoor Party) mode.

Lift lobby sporting an interesting cluster of cube lights. Shot using Normal mode.

Level 4 of the shopping complex features an indoor rock climbing wall. I took a shot with the Normal mode and tried another in the HDR-Art mode. This photo is from the latter mode. I find that HDR-Art is very useful in places with fancy lightings as the saturation of colours articulates the spectrum with dramatic outcomes.

Looks like an organic metallic spaceship taking off. HDR-Art mode.

Ingenious use of light and shadow to create a patterned wallpaper. While Orchard Central has lots of interesting lightplay within, it still can't quite alleviate itself from feeling rather claustrophobic. Shops are closely packed together, making the place a maze.

The ceiling reminds me of the Polish folkart of paper-cutting.

Closed for business. There was this eatery with a beautifully elaborate gate and cool interior design that I had wanted to try but is now gone. Such a pity. During my visit, quite a lot of the shop spaces were vacant. Photo of the locks shot with Flower Macro mode.

Love this octagonal lampshade adirming it's on beauty. Shot with Normal mode.

I've never seen tribalness given such an elegant treatment. Nice! Shot using Premium Auto mode which intelligently balances out lighting conditions to achieve an evenly exposed photo.

Peek-a-boo. Super Macro close-up of Orchard Central's feathery Christmas decor. The mall's yuletide theme this year is 'Christmas with an OC Attitude'. I couldn't agree more. This place sure has sass.

Done shopping for shots inside Orchard Central, I wanted to head home when I realised I haven’t taken a photo of the mall’s visage. Out of tissues and my hanky protesting any more gooey deposits, I pressed on to finish some exterior shots…

Casio Exilim ZR100 is the star! Shot in Manual Mode (f/4.4, 1/8 sec, ISO 400). I wanted to test the image quality of using a slow shutter speed to capture motion blur of the traffic while keeping the star and background in focus to provide a contrast. I'm amazed I can achieve this effect at a high level of sharpness without using a DSLR or high ISO setting which will cause noise on the photo.

Later, I reflected on why I carried on shooting despite being relatively sick and realised that I’m developing an addiction to the camera. We all know how addiction works. It overpowers better judgement and even though we know we shouldn’t do something, we continue to do it anyway. Yikes! First time using it and I couldn’t put it down. Hope I don’t have to go into rehab later.

Entrance to Orchard Central all styled up by 2 flambouyant fuschia reindeers. Hot foreign visitor not included!

Why would I need to go into rehab? Photography is a healthy addiction compared to many other vices right? Well, you see, this camera is not mine. At least not yet. It is on loan from the good folks at Casio for the blog contest period and I have to return it at the end of December.

But you can help keep me out of rehab 🙂 There will be a voting segment in the contest which you can help vote for my photos to make the Casio Exilim ZR100 permanently mine. Will keep you informed when the time comes and hopefully, I’ll get your support.

Bold use of LED screens give Orchard Central an ever-changing skin and creates a striking architectural profile that resembles a giant block of quartz crystal. It looks like a towering amethyst with the violet hues here. Truly a gem of a shopping mall.

Meanwhile, I’ll be shooting more and sharing with you the strengths and weaknesses of this camera as well as user tips. The photos on this post have been shot entirely with the Casio Exilim ZR100 and minor Photoshop processing has been done to adjust brightness, contrast, and sharpness. I’m treating photos taken with the ZR100 like the way I treat other images before posting up.

But one thing’s for sure, I have no problems with a washed out sky now thanks to the camera’s in-built HDR function.

In upcoming posts, I’ll go deeper into the HDR, HDR-Art, High Speed shooting (the ZR100 is built for incredible speed) and the camera’s unique Zoom capability to bring far objects closer. The photos put up in these posts will have ZERO image editing done except resizing file sizes. That’s the requirement by Casio. All photos for the contest proper must not be manipulated in any way to show the true potential of the ZR100.

So stay tuned as I show you where my fingers have been with this nifty camera in the coming weeks!

Singorepore 2011 – Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Singapore

If there’s one thing I love more than watching horror movies is being in one! And with Universal Studio Singapore’s (USS) inaugural Halloween Horror Nights, my fantasy took to life in the form of cavorting with man-eating zombies, maniac clowns, butcher doctors, terrifying mummies and many more diabolical creatures from the realm of darkness. Awesome experience!

I’m so thankful I was given a ticket by my company, Digimagic Communications Pte Ltd, to attend the movie theme park’s first ever Halloween event. Our company is the producer of various experiential and multimedia stations at the recently opened Maritime Experiential Museum & Aquarium at Resorts World Sentosa (RWS), so my boss bought 10 passes in support of this event, as well as letting staff have some fun and gain exposure.

Now, at S$60 a ticket, it doesn’t come cheap. But IMHO, I think it’s totally worth it! Turning the place into one huge outdoor haunted destination with 5 scare zones, the ticket price includes admission into 2 thematic haunted houses and 4 rides to get your adrenalin boiling. Halloween Horror Nights terrifies over 2 weekends (21-23 Oct and 27-30 Oct) from 8pm – 12am.

Scare Zones : Carn-EVIL, Post-Apocalyptic Rage, The Void, The Edge of Darkness, and 44 Sins

Haunted Houses : Vengeance of the Matriarch and Pestilence

Rides : Battlestar Galatica CYLON and HUMAN, Accelerator, and Revenge of the Mummy

Carn-EVIL zone creeps with monstrous clowns and circus freaks... totally the kind of stuff nightmares are made of.

Real evil wears a checkered shirt.

Lights. Camera. Act cute while the rest scream! Show your best face of terror at this photo-taking set. The great thing is, it's free! Now, that's a reason to scream.

Post-Apocalyptic Rage zone.

Great staging to create a very immersive experience. USS closes at 7pm and takes only 1 hour to dress up the place for Halloween Horror Nights before re-opening at 8pm.

There are more than 300 scare actors to make the whole experience as realistic as possible.

All the actors were unrelenting in their portrayal of the ghoulish characters. Really first-class acting!

Who's Dead (That) Girl? Elisa was such a natural. Will the real zombie please put down your hands?

This actor was really physical and dramatic in his zombie act. Love it! I wonder where can I get contact lenses like these.

Atmospheric fog and lighting design ups the shock ante. Watch out for scare actors who'll materialise out the shadows to milk your screams.

Entrance to the Vengeance of the Matriarch haunted house. Absolutely freaking LLLOOOOOVVVEEEE TTTHHHIIISSSS! There was quite a long queue but totally worth the wait. The visage of the Peranakan mansion where the haunting took place was simulated with perfection and the boo! tactics were well executed. My favourite was a dining scene. I shan't tell you why so as not to spoil your fun. Heh. Do note that flash photography is not allowed.

Took the Revenge of the Mummy ride and again, absolutely freaking LLLOOOOOVVVEEEE TTTHHHIIISSSS! The great looking set and seamless blend of pupperty, surprises and visual elements made the indoor rollercoaster ride a thrill to remember. Opposite the ride attraction is the 44 Sins zone, a sort-of disco for guests to party. But who would stay at one place to club where there's so much to explore and the park closes at midnight?

My boss Donald says, "Mummy, it's finger licking good!" He was really taken with the mummy costumes and even resorted to 'feed' one of them with his tumbler of blood. But mummies feed on brains, not haemoglobin! Makes you wonder who's the real terror here, doesn't it?

Bringing the heat of hell to 44 Sins are these hot... erm... non-ghouls. I bet people would want to get closer rather than away from them. These 2 have committed the sin of being sexy.

The Grim Reaper with wings and in a Jesuit priest outfit? That's a first. Overall, my take of the Halloween Horror Nights was a 2 thumbs up experience!

I’ve never been to Universal Studios Singapore and I was really bowled over by the standard and fidelity to realism in this wonderland on steroids. My only grouse was that 4 hours isn’t enough time to explore everything that the Halloween theme event had to offer at a comfortable pace. Other than the Mummy ride, I didn’t get to go on the other rides and the ushers at the haunted houses were rather pesky coz they kept ‘pushing’ me to move along instead of allowing me time to take some shots.

Also, the rides and attractions can take some time to queue so do chrono budget if you’re planning to visit. Other than those minor misgivings, this fright conception seemed poised to take over Night Safari’s Halloween Horrors as Singapore’s next scream farm. 

Singorepore 2011 – FrightFest at Singapore Flyer

Time to stock up on fresh undies as the season of uncontrollable green stool is upon us again! Yup, Halloween is here and this year, there seems to be an unprecedented number of hell portals opening up all over Singapore. I’ve heard of at least 5 major Halloween scare attractions going on or upcoming, and numerous clubs pushing out theme parties on the Hallowed night.

So who will win in this fight to soil our inner wear now that the brandname who’s defined our local Halloween scene since 2007, the Singapore Zoological Gardens’ Night Safari’s Halloween Horrors, has bowed out this year because purportedly, its new interim CEO likened a Halloween event to devil worship.

I don’t believe eating chicken rice will make you a chicken or wearing a cross automatically turns one into a Christian.

But do I believe, with a little effort, money, and a lack of self-importance, Halloween is the best time to celebrate freedom of the mind and have fun! I mean, it is not often that we can don a costume and let our secret desire to be a superhero, sexy nurse, or anything we wish itself to manifest right?

Wig (S$14.95) and ghostly make-up set (S$9.95) from Toys"R"Us. White cream make-up (S$3.00) from Yeo GM Trading at Rochor Centre, #01-550. Cotton nightgown from a neighbourhood shop at S$5.00. Guts to wear this out on the street and take a cab... S$8.00. Balls of taxi uncle who dared take me as a passenger... priceless!

Not that I secretly wished to be a dead cliche, but the traditional long-haired female ghost given a twist in the Ju-on and The Ring movies was my favourite.  Plus, it’s easy to look the part. When I got the invite to preview Singapore Flyer’s FrightFest where dressing up was encouraged, I was toying with the idea of going as the recently deceased Amy Winehouse. Or Smurf. But I can’t find the Winehouse wig and tattoos in Singapore, neither the Smurf hats.

So I decided on Kayako. Many people are familiar with Sadako (Samara in the US remake), the creepy little girl from Ringu (The Ring), but not many know the name of the ghost housewife in Ju On (a.k.a. The Grudge). Both female spooks are somewhat identical so I’m killing 2 birds with one stone in this costume! 



Let me tell you more about Kayako so you can understand the above video better. In the Ju-on trilogy, Kayako was murdered by her husband in a feat of jealous rage. Her neck was broken and she was stuffed into a black trash bag before her body was stowed in their home attic. She wasn’t dead at that time and was gasping for air that’s why whenever she appears as a ghost afterwards, there’s a continuous rasping sound that follows.

Her husband killed their son, Toshio, and cat too. Since they died such a horrible death, their rage turned into a curse, which is what Ju-on (咒怨) meant. And anybody who steps into their family house, dies. You can watch the full movie of Ju-on at the end of this post. (Wei, don’t skip to the end now huh!)

A classic Sadako/Samara sitting pose. Imagine opening your door and seeing this at home!

Okay, enough about my obsession with one of my fave Asian horror title, let’s look at the happenings during the preview. Singapore Flyer’s FrightFest runs from 28 – 30 Oct 2011.

The ticket charge of S$25.00 entitles you a visit to the Journey of Dreams Pre-Flight Gallery, a chance to be spooked at the Rainforest of Horrors, and a non-alcoholic cocktail, the Flyer’s special concoction Halloween Brew.

Time to clown around with Kurumi (http://www.ahgirlplussize.com) and her friend. They are really cute and fun to befriend.

Rachel and her baby. Undisputedly the most outstanding costume that night. She was one of the 3 winners for Best Bressed. Totally deserved it! Really loved what she did to her baby prop and she told me this was the first time she's putting on Halloween make-up! Kowtow to her.

Tragic Ah Soh.

Before going on the Singapore Flyer, we passed through the gorgeous and highly interactive Preflight Gallery. The company I work for, Digimagic Communications Pte Ltd, produced the multimedia components in the gallery and yours truly wrote some of the contents on the exhibits. Though I worked on the gallery, that was the first time I visited it. I had wanted to spend more time to take photos but as with media previews, always very rushed.

Journey of Dreams allows visitors to discover stories about the Singapore Flyer while they wait to board their ride. Do check it out if you're here!

It was my first time going on the Flyer too. I can see the iconic circle from my room's window every night (even while I'm writing this post!) and finally, I got a chance to experience it. My virgin ride was given to this zany bunch of people. I couldn't have asked for better!

Here with Audrey Hep-B and Poca-hantu (or Poca-haunt-us?).

Come with me... Let's get up high above the Singapore skyline...

OMG! Zao kerng (wardrobe malfunction)! This photo is just so hilarious! I swear I didn't do it on purpose for the result in this picture.

Fantastic unobstructed night view of the beautiful Marina Bay area.

I'm so proud of my country!

A wonderful backdrop to make for a Halloween to remember. Bring your screams to a higher level!

Entrance to the Rainforest of Horrors where the award-winning garden within Singapore Flyer is transformed into a lair for well-known Asian ghouls. Here are scares with a generous serving of local flavour.

一见发财!One look will huat (prosper)! I used to watch so many Chinese zombie movies (such as 僵尸道长、一眉道人、僵尸先生,etc) in my younger days.

Hot gals from the 18th level of hades.

It was a media preview so the horror trail was not fully completed yet.

Christina (huneyzworld.blogspot.com) and Hong Peng (hpility.blogspot.com) cozying up with a glass of Halloween Brew. The Flyer Lounge is the place to chill with a bevy of award-winning cocktails.

Joanne-Marie, my fellow travel buddy on a recent trip to Langkawi was ghost bustered in the white sack. She never looked better. Wahahaha...

The saying goes... hear no evil, speak no evil, see no evil... but I say if you haven't met the DEVIL, you haven't LIVED!

I struggled for a long time as to whether I should dress up for the event or not as I didn’t want to be the only one in costume. But looking at the creativity, gungho-ness and effort by the many bloggers and their guests, I wanted to kick myself for not doing more!

Then again, dressing up shouldn’t be a competition, but the key to unlocking fun! May you have fun watching the full Ju-on movie where the inspiration for my costume came from…:)

Previous Older Entries

%d bloggers like this: