Monday, May 31, 2010

Comin' Home 2

I am actually pretty excited now at the thought of going home. The more I think about it the more I become convinced that this move would be for the better good personally as well as professionally. I can also tell that the Singapore office seriously needs it's mojo back. It doesn't hurt that my new T&C are quite agreeable too considering the circumstances.

So much to look forward to. 2 weeks in Alaska and then the move home. However there seems to be two conflicting versions on when I am actually expected back. My future boss tells me that there is no real rush but the MD and HR director says to return after I complete my trip to Alaska. I think it best to heed the instructions of the MD. After all why stay here longer then necessary?

I am disappointed though that I would not be able to travel this region as I wanted to.... Shiraz, Petra, Jerusalem etc. But on the up side, being in Singapore would place me that much closer to places like Bali, Manado, Lembeh and even Ambon to indulge in my main love of scuba diving and underwater photography.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Mobbed in Angkor - It all started with an Apple (and a melted Snickers bar)

The one thing that seems to be common in Siem Reap these days are the street touts. They basically consist of very young children of around 7 to 12 years and they can be very persistent as they surround you and break into their chorus of "You buy one for one dollar, ten for one dollar, very nice you see, one two three four five six seven eight nine ten, you buy ten for one dollar, you give your wife you give your girlfriend"...well you get the idea.

As Heisham and I emerged from Preah Khan (I think), we like every other tourist there would naturally be surrounded by these touts and the only reprieve we could look forward to would be to get into our waiting car and drive off. But no, it was not to be. Our driver Sok Pee had decided to play good samaritan to a fellow driver in getting said driver's car jump started... so all Heisham and I could do was sit it out in the car and the kiddie street touts seeing how we weren't going anywhere surrounded the car and began their chorus with renewed vigour! One big mistake we did before getting into the car was giving away our goodies, an apple in Heisham's case and a melted Snicker's bar in mine. I mean hey it wouldnt hurt we'd be far far away before the kids let on to their mates on their good fortune but as mentioned it was not to be.

Our driver Sok Pee at right..

In other words, we became sitting ducks. Some other kids learnt that some goon tourist were giving away their goodies and all wanted in on the action. So hence the chorus surrounding us in the car changed to something like "Apple! Give me Apple! Apple Give me Apple! Apple! Apple!"

Being Mobbed while taking refuge in the car.

At this point I wanted to throttle Sok Pee by the neck. Gosh who would have thought that these kids would be so enthused by a simple apple and it then hit me how underpriviledge these kids must be. After a while I started to feel bad that these kids were still giving it their best shot at getting a sale or an apple out of us and decided to come out of the car to try and chat with them. I found that chatting with them and asking about their lives breaks away their persistent tout personae to reveal them for what they really are - kids with hopes and aspirations like kids everywhere. I think one wanted to be a teacher and like most other kids there, they get pulled in to help out with sales after their schooling in the mornings. Gosh it made me wish I had a sack of apples with me then (Probably not wise as we'd really be swamped then). However before I got the chance to get melancholy about this, the kids sensing that chat time was over launched into their chorus of "You buy one for one dollar, you buy ten for one dollar...etc" all over again. They just don't give up do they? Thankfully by this time, Sok Pee sensibly agreed that said driver's car was a lost cause and we got out of there.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Comin' Home

It seems that our time in Dubai is coming to an end. I am to be posted back to Singapore and can expect to be gone by mid July. Obviously I have mixed feelings about this. I will dearly miss the life style I was able to live whilst in Dubai, the peace and quiet of the apartment, the wonderful view (as above), having a set of wheels, the large amounts of personal space, and friends particularly Kamar and Shireen.
However I am looking forward to a few things like being able to catch up regularly again with Heisham and Beaver, easy access to better dive sites, film developing lab down the street, better access to good food, and joking around in the office.
I think I will do well in Singapore.... I feel like a coiled spring here. I try to learn as much as I can but hardly have the chance to pratice what I learn. I can only hope that what I've learned so far will put me in good stead there.
I guess we all knew this day will come sooner or later...we just didnt expect it to be sooner.

Monday, May 17, 2010

One more month..

It's a month more 'til Alaska. To some extent I feel guilty at going off on leave again after having just returned from a long one (even if half of it was on no pay). But an opportunity to see Alaska is just too good to pass up. However despite any excited anticipations we may have, we do have to mentally prepare ourselves for a few things. Like for example,

1. We cannot expect a comfy hotel room and bed after a very long flight.
2. There will be a lack of privacy on the RV.
3. We will all have to share a bathroom/toilet.
4. We will have to eat meals prepared in the RV's kitchen.
5. We will be on the road often.
6. We may not even feel comfortable on the RV.
7. We may not even get along with Bill's friends or daughter.

Just the same we intend to make the best of every situation. It's not everyday one gets to go to Alaska!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Scuba Diver Australasia Photo Competition

Back in mid April, I finally got around to submitting some of my photos for an underwater photography competition with Scuba Diver Australasia. Half the challenge was actually learning how to tag metadata to a photo and copyrighting it. I think it would be too much to expect my photos to get anywhere within the competition but hey, if one of them gets published as part of a collection of of submitted entries, then it'll be good enough for me! If one gets nominated for an honourable mention then I'll be over the friggin' moon.

Results will be out in July so we shall see what happens.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Alaska in June?

So my mom's wedding will be in June in Alaska and my brothers are going. There is really nothing major stopping me from going... the 32 hour travel time there is really off putting and the travel time back may even be a whoppin' 43 hours! And there are a total of two layovers involved each way.
But a chance to photograph Alaska is just too good an opportunity to pass up and can only add to my "portfolio".

I have already decided what cameras and lenses to bring.

1. Nikon D700
2. Nikkor 14-42mm f2.8
3. Nikkor 70-200 mm f2.8
4. Nikkor 60mm f2.8 Macro.
5. Leica M8
6. Nokton 35mm f1.2
7. Color Skopar 21mm f4
8. Leica Elmarit-M 28mm f2.8

Heck I can even look forward to renting a car there.

Shooting Underwater

One thing that is pretty evident from looking at underwater photos is how easy it must all seem. I must admit that if creative intent was not an issue, all one has to do was just ensure one's camera and strobes are set up correctly and then fire away.

However there are always a few difficulties encountered when shooting underwater that are easily forgotten when reviewing the best of one's photos in the comfort of one's home.
I mention the "best" because for every one decent photo taken, there are probably five out of focus, disjointed, crap looking ones that accompanies it.
Some of the difficulties I personally have encountered are as follows,
1. Strobes not strong enough (Diffusers left on)
2. Auto Focusing cannot lock on even with bright focus light especially when shooting at a 105mm focal length.
3. Subject keeps moving.
4. Underwater camera rig getting heavier and heavier causing arm to ache.

Take these cute little Hippocampus Denise Pygmy Seahorses for example. I was shooting with a 105mm macro lens, had both strobes on and had a huge focus light on. I guess because the subject itself is ridiculously small, the auto focus function of the lens had a heck of a time locking on to the subject, and in this case I wanted the eyes to be the tack sharp. The seahorse kept moving which didn't help and at this point I will stress the importance of a really good dive guide who understands your needs enough to do what is necessary without going so far as to traumatising or injuring any marine organism for the sake of getting the shot.
And all this while my rig kept getting heavier and heavier and my arm muscles felt close to breaking point!
Hence after careful review of what transpired, I realised that for the really small stuff, one really needs to go manual on the focusing. Secondly having buoyant strobe arms are an absolute must.
These are lessons I hope to build upon as I plan for next year's trip to Bali and Lembeh.
As for the subject itself, I was thrilled to have been able to photography these guys and if diving physiological concerns were not an issue, I could have stayed on for hours.