Sunday, October 29, 2006

First ride after Ramadhan

It was just brilliant! Very refreshing!

Of course we went to our favorite Ulu Langat route. The weather was perfect and the sky was clear, haze-less. Totally haze-less.

I did quite well actually. I reached the top of Genting Peres (border of Negeri Sembilan and Selangot) first, ahead of everybody else.

2 possibilities. Perhaps my friends wanted me to taste the glory of reaching the top first, or I was riding with 2kg less of my body weight which was shed in Ramadhan. What ever the reason may be, I am very happy and it was a great ride.

Or is it because of my newly acquired carbon bike???

It was very refreshing to meet up with my riding buddies again after one month. We wished Selamat Hari Raya to each other. This is the kind of healthy camaraderie I really appreciate and enjoy.

Without fail, we talked about political and social issues (apart from our dream cars of course!).

A friend expressed his concerned about the youth back in his kampong with drug addiction and AIDS. He was disappointed to find out one of the oldest golf clubs in the country have been developed into some big property development project.

Unfortunately, the problem is very serious in many kampungs in Malaysia. I think the key to this is purely education and awareness. Our values have deteriorated. Present day leaders only interested in building physical infrastructure, buildings and bridges. Moral, culture and heritage are not in their top most priority.

I wonder what will be the identity of future Malaysia generations….

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Tips for great night time photography

Patty Hankins and Bill Lawrence are the co-owners of Hankins-Lawrence Images, LLC, a digital photography company based in Maryland. Visit them at

Tips for great night-time photography:

  1. Know in advance where you plan on doing your night-time photography session. Spend a little time planning your parking, driving routes, etc in advance. And remember, you'll be going in at least one direction in the dark.
  2. Be aware of when and where the sun will be setting or the moon will be rising if you what to include them in your photographs. Some of the best photography makes use of these two heavenly bodies.
  3. Check the weather forecast for the area where you'll be doing your night-time photography. Then you'll know how to dress appropriately as well as how much cloud cover to expect. It's very easy to get cold when you're just standing around waiting for the right photographic opportunity after dark.
  4. Use bug spray during the warmer months. If you're going to be anywhere near the woods or water, apply it liberally. You'll most likely to be sitting or standing in the same place for an extended period so there's no point in making yourself an attractive meal for the local bugs. Photography should be enjoyable. Fighting off insects makes it less so.
  5. Always bring and use a tripod. It's quite common to have exposures of an entire second or more during night-time photography. With exposures longer than 1/30 of a second, a tripod is essential in order to ensure that camera shake doesn't affect the quality of your photographs.
  6. Bring and use a bubble level. A level lets you make sure your camera is level so you can prevent the annoying problem of images running down hill in your pictures.
  7. Since you'll be using a tripod, also use a cable release for your camera. If your camera is equipped to use a cable release for remote operation of the shutter button, be sure to use it. On lengthy exposures, the camera shake caused by depressing the shutter button on your camera will often be seen in your pictures. If your camera isn't equipped for use with a cable release, a self-timer is a good alternative.
  8. Have your cell phone with you. You're going to be out in the dark after all, and things happen. A cell phone will come in handy if there is an emergency. If you're going to team up with another photographer, both of you should take along your phones. That way, if you get separated it's much easier to find one another in the dark.
  9. This one is a no-brainer: Bring along a flashlight. A pocket flashlight is essential when you're doing photography at night. Not only can it light up your camera dials so you can adjust your camera settings, but it can also help you find your way back to your car at the end of your photography session.
  10. Preset your camera settings. The more control you exercise over the camera settings, the greater your chances of taking some great night-time photographs. If your camera has automatic settings only, you may face some real challenges in your attempts at photography in the dark. Whether photography is a hobby or just a casual interest, you'll be well-served if you invest in a quality camera that allows for adjusting the basic settings.
  11. Don't use the flash. Most on-camera flashes aren't effective past five or six feet in front of the camera. So at night, it may overexpose anything that happens to be in the foreground while underexposing the primary subject of the picture.
  12. Use a higher speed film or adjust the ISO setting higher on your digital camera to allow the use of a faster shutter speed. The higher the ISO/ASA, the shorter the exposures you can use (very important for good night-time photography). For example, if you plan to use an exposure of ISO 100 for 2 seconds at F8.0, you can alternatively use ISO 400 for a 1/2 second exposure at the same F8.0. Some digital cameras show higher than usual noise levels for long exposures. See if your digital camera features long exposure noise reduction.
  13. Understand your camera's light metering system, or meter separately while using manual settings on your camera. Most modern consumer-class cameras, especially the higher level ones, tend to have very sophisticated metering systems. But night-time photography involves some pretty tricky lighting situations. There will be very bright and very dark areas in the same photograph. If you understand what your light meter is making its readings from as well as the type of exposure you are likely to get, you will end up with properly exposed photos. If automatic metering doesn't produce the quality of photos that you want, take control by using manual camera settings or using exposure compensation. If your digital camera has a histogram function, use it to help determine how well your metering is working.
  14. Always bracket your photos. If your camera can bracket shots automatically, be sure to use this feature any time you do night-time photography. I usually shoot the exposure I've set, then bracket the shot with a ½ shutter speed step-up followed by a ½ shutter speed step-down.
  15. You may be able to save time by using manual focus. Most likely, you're going to shoot multiple exposures of the same shot (a fundamental principle of photography), so set the first shot using auto-focus, then without changing the focus, switch to manual focus. That way, if your camera has difficulty focusing in the dark, it won't repeatedly search for a focus lock. The nice thing about photography involving monuments and buildings is they don't move. Once the lens is focused, you don't have to refocus with every shot. But you should still check every now and then, just to make sure that you haven't bumped the lens and altered the focus.
  16. Use the "mirror lockup" function. If your camera allows you to lock the mirror in place, do so. On some long exposures, the internal workings of the camera can actually cause enough vibration to make camera shake visible in the photo! Mirror locking reduces the chances of this source of camera shake.
  17. Take a lot of pictures, especially when you're doing night-time photography. And try using different exposures. If you take lots of photos, your chances of ending up with a few gems are pretty high. Always remember that film is cheap (and digital cameras have a "trash can").
  18. Try taking some pictures before it gets completely dark. Sometimes having a little color left in the sky can add an extra dimension to the photo. Some of the best photography takes place just after twilight.
  19. Review your shots. If you're using a digital camera, you should take advantage of the instant feedback available to you to see if you're getting the results that you want. And if your camera features a histogram function, be sure to check it often to make sure you aren't underexposing or overexposing parts of your images.

Have fun! Photography is a wonderful hobby as well as an exciting way to make a living!

Colors of Chow Kit II



table cloth

dried cendol

colorful sago (at least that's what I think it is)


sata - mixed fish and coconut based, wrapped in banana leaves and grilled and otak-otak, fish in coconut leaves and grilled

Colors of Chow Kit I

ketupat for Hari Raya

Hari Raya sales

meat market

colorful keropok

colorful keropok

ketupat for raya

hot red chillies among lady's fingers

ketupat nasi

kueh Raya, bahulu

kerisik, (dry) fried coconut. One of the main ingredients in Malay traditional dishes..

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Chateau Chenonceau

These pictures were taken during my Loire Valley cycling tour in 2002 using my conventional NIKON F601M SLR. My favorite chateau, I went again to Chenonceau in 2004 before touring Brittany for one week on my bike.

The entrance to the chateau was about 1km long. Beautiful! I could imagine a convoy of wagons past thourgh it during the chateau glorious days.

I was lucky to be in this beautiful hall right before closing when everybody has deserted the area. Still remember a couple were still lingering about for a while before the hall was empty. Can't blame them, this chateau is very very romantic.In fact it is also know as the "grande dame" of Loire Valley chateaux

Excerpts from Wikipedia
The Chateau Chenonceau, near the small village of Chenonceau, in the Indre-et-Loire département of the Loire Valley in France, was built on the site of an old mill on the River Cher.

The chateau was seized by King François I for unpaid debts to the Crown, and after François' death, King Henri II offered the chateau as a gift to his mistress, Diane de Poitiers who became fervently attached to the chateau and its view along the river. She would have the arched bridge constructed, joining the chateau to its opposite bank. She then oversaw the planting of extensive flower and vegetable gardens along with a variety of fruit trees. Set along the banks of the river, but buttressed from flooding by stone terraces, the exquisite gardens were laid out in four triangles.

After King Henri died, his widow, the strong-willed Catherine de Medici, had Diane de Poitiers removed to the Chateau Chaumont. Queen Catherine made it her own favorite residence, adding a series of gardens as well. As Regent of France, Catherine would spend a fortune on the chateau and on spectacular nighttime parties. In 1560, the first ever fireworks display seen in France took place during the celebrations marking the ascension to the throne of Catherine's son François II.

On Catherine's death the chateau went to her daughter-in-law, Louise de Lorraine, wife of King Henri III. At Chenonceau Louise was told of her husband's assassination and she fell into a state of depression, spending the remainder of her days wandering aimlessly along the chateau's vast corridors dressed in mourning clothes amidst somber black tapestries stitched with skull and crossbones.

Another mistress took over in 1624, when Gabrielle d'Estrée, the favourite of King Henri IV, inhabited the castle. After that, Chenonceau was abandoned to a forlorn darkness for more than a hundred years until a wealthy noble bought it in 1732.

George Sand's grandmother, Madame Dupin, saved it from destruction during the French Revolution. She was able to preserve it from being destroyed by the Revolutionary Guard because it was essential to travel and commerce being the only bridge across the river for many miles.

In 1864, Daniel Wilson, a Scotsman who had made a fortune installing gaslights throughout Paris, bought the chateau for his daughter. In the tradition of Catherine de Medici, she would spend a fortune on elaborate parties to such an extent that her finances were depleted and the chateau was seized and sold to an American.

In 1913, the Menier family, famous for their chocolates, bought the chateau and still own it to this day.

During World War I the gallery was used as a hospital ward; during the Second War it was a means of escaping from the Nazi occupied Vichy zone on one side of the River Cher to the free zone on the opposite bank.

An archictectural mixture of late Gothic and early Renaissance, Chateau Chenonceau and its gardens are open to the public. Other than the Royal Palace of Versailles, Chenonceau is the most visited chateau in France.

Kuala Lumpur

It has been almost 3 years we have not gone back to Terengganu for Hari Raya and I am getting used to it.

It true that I don’t have the thrill of spending the last day of Ramadhan surrounded with temptation of kampong delicacies (like koleh kacang, khasidah, pulut lepa, my favourites) around you, last berbuka puasa with the whole family on Hari Raya eve, or the busy preparation for hari raya like going to the market and get the ingredients for our signature dish (nasi to be served to our guest during pagi raya. Most of my immediate family is here and by the day after tomorrow, everybody will be here for a family BBQ.

*right after sunset, at a lookout point on the edge of Ampang, on the way to Ulu Langat.

Even though this is not my home town, this is home to me for now.

I have a bunch of friends here who also celebrate Hari Raya in KL. So, it’s not kampong, it’s still Hari Raya and it's home, nevertheless.

Besides, the traffic in KL during this time of the year is just excellent!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The people of Chow Kit - II

The people who make Chow Kit, Chow Kit - I

To some people its disgusting. But I enjoyed my recent trip there. People were friendly and all and many have no problem to pose.,,, except for this one towkeh who sells buckets and plastic products. He asked me for a duit kopi (token). I just smiled politely away.
I saw cat fish which was still a live, struggling while suffocating being above the water.

Some of the alley were rather dark and surprisingly a lot quieter and a bit dark. I stop to buy something for the house and the traders were actually very polite. I guess they are not in the stiff competition with the busy area.

You can get hypnotized when you look at the butchers doing theur work cutting the meat. A chicken only took them seconds to chop it up into small soup-sized pieces.

The floors were a bit wet. They sprinkle water on the fish to keep them fresh, hence the wet floor.

Typically, at this time of the muslim year people were busy shopping for Hari Raya. Not only you can find ketupat daun for sales. Scores of women were actually weaving the ketupat by the road site. Malaysians do take Hari Raya very very seriously.

Most of the people there look quite rough and mean, but the y are actually friendly. I guess that’s a prerequisite for doing business.

Even though they are making only a couple of ringgit, they seemed happy with the way things are. At least they have the initiatives to do some entrepreneurial activities and earn some money instead of begging, or just hoping government’s “assistance”.

Even though it is not as old as, or great as the Grang Bazaar, but it has the character that defines Chow Kit.

I will never want it to change, NOT even a bit.

Chow Kit the market

I have been going to Chow Kit several times this year since a friend introduced me to a little authentic Kelantanese restaurant called Pantai Timur or also known kedai Sahabat Kita that serves delicious dish itik kerutuk. I have always wanted to snap some pictures around the restaurant which is located at the edge of the market.

To tell you the truth, I have never entered the market as it looked quite dark, gloomy, wet, and smelly from the outside.

Over the weekend, since I am celebrating Hari Raya in Kuala Lumpur this year, I took the opportunity to explore Pasar Chow Kit. It was not as smelly as I thought it was. For those of you with faint hearted, you have to brace yourself before you get into the little maze with countless local delicacies.

I have to say the prices are way more competitive than those of TMC and Cold Storage. And the choices of local produce are far superior.

I would like to share with you m very own visual experience of the famous market. These images, divided into 2 parts (the people of Chow Kit and the colors of Chow Kit) are not fair representations of the market. You have to experience yourself the sight, sound and smell of the market.

It was a bit chaotic, but, that’s Chow Kit for you. Organized chaos in action.