Monday, July 28, 2014

My New DSLR Journey

A few years ago, I asked myself this question, if the world were coming to an end tomorrow, what would I have regretted not buying when I have the means to get it? (Yes, I do ask morbid questions). So I’m eliminating stuff like a ticket around the world, visiting the moon etc and the answer hit me immediately: a DSLR.

I’ve been going through this internal debate for years (it’s worse than me trying to buy a phone since a DSLR is not a necessity). If I start on this DSLR journey, I’ll need to then add on stuff, I’ll need to be able to keep it in a dry box to prevent mould and goodness, it’s darn heavy to carry it while I’m travelling!

Last year, an acquaintance found out he had stage 4 pancreatic cancer. The chances of survival were very slim and he had less than a year. So what did he do? He went ahead and bought a new expensive car, tried to travel as much as he could and still purchased properties. He passed away earlier this year but I must hand it to him, he really lived life to the fullest. He once said of me, "Analysis paralysis!" when I was sharing with him my struggle to own a DSLR.

This got me thinking, what am I so fearful about getting it anyway? My problem is that I regret something before getting it but know that after I get it, I will have no regrets.

So when there was a promotion to get the one I’ve been eyeing on, I took the plunge and now am very happy to announce that I have purchased my very first DSLR – the Canon EOS 700D!

KS suffered through the whole process with double intensity, “Should I REALLY get it? Should I get the zoom lens or not? What, you mean Nikon has better reviews for the same price range camera?” until I finally took half a day off to ensure I went to buy it on the last day of the promotion.

Poor Angku has been the main subject of my testing out my camera. After taking the first few shots, I was quite happy with the bokeh. Until I downloaded it and viewed it on my computer. The picture was blurry! Even on Auto mode! Oh the horror!

Seriously, these were the only two shots out of like 30 which were closest to being clear.

These were taken at night so of course it was trickier. My other daytime shots fared better but I don't intend to just use my new camera for outdoors now, do I?

Clearer shot in the day.

One day, I walked past this camera shop looking for silica gel when I noticed one wall displaying gorgeous black and white photography. Thinking they belonged to the owner, I was surprised to read the different names of the winners. Upon asking, the shop said they hold lessons and these are their students international award winning work. And oh, a new beginners class just started in English which is very rare since the teacher usually teaches in Mandarin, would I like to join?

I debated for about 10 minutes. Compared to my other decision making durations, I'd pretty much say this was an instant decision. SOLD.

Okay, sure I'd love to be able to have one of my photos published one fine day but for now, I think I'm just happy to be learning the basics of how to handle my camera.

Sharper focus on her annoyed face. She looks like she's saying, "Again?!"
Learning how to use f.22 to make the water "smooth"
Learning about lighting

Pretty excited about my new journey! And of course, the gear suggestions pour in every lesson. 50mm lens, various filters, solid tripod, dry box... I'm going to see how long I can resist not getting new stuff!

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Overnight in Halong Bay

For our trip to Halong Bay, we took the Royal Heritage Cruises arranged by the Hanoi hotel we stayed.
Red in the van on the way to Halong Bay

It was a two day one night trip, with 4 hours travelling one way from Hanoi in a van. Our tour guide told us interesting Vietnamese stories and facts along the way such as why are the houses in Vietnam tall but thin? Something to do with the space that is allowed per family so they build at least 4 stories high for that narrow space given, ground floor for business, second to fourth floors for three generations staying together.

We left at about 9 a.m. and made a pit stop at this place built for tourists, a centre showcasing beautiful pictures made from sewing colourful threads onto the canvas, lacquered wooden items, food stuff, huge sculptures and heavy wooden furniture.

That's a picture sewed with thread. Very stunning.
When we reached Halong Bay’s ferry terminal, there were hundreds of people milling about waiting for their boats to arrive. We were escorted to a tender who then brought us to our boat for lunch after checking in. There were 13 (+2 who joined us the next day) of us for that night from far flung corners of the world, Brazil, Canada, Melbourne, France, Russia and another family from Malaysia (who were sitting beside us in the plane when we flew from KL, how about that?).

At the ferry terminal with all the boats lined up.
Activities included in our trip was a visit to the Surprise Cave, going to a beach, swimming, making Vietnamese rolls, karaoke, squid fishing, taichi in the morning, kayaking and passing by the floating villages.
Lookout point before entering the Surprise Cave
Villager selling her wares
Floating village
Inside the Surprise Cave
Still inside the Surprise Cave
Is Halong Bay a must see? I found it crowded, everywhere you looked was another boat, the cave was packed with people, there was rubbish in the waters and the mist was almost always present so I couldn’t really take clear shots of the limestones.

Boats everywhere
The mist adds a mysterious calm to the place 
More boats!
To me, I grew up with Langkawi at my backyard somewhat, so this experience was rather similar. The food was also close to home. For many, it would be a new experience so it would be worth it.

Of course the limestones were beautiful, I loved how they all had this parallel diagonal lines running around it, the calmness of the water where we stopped for the night, the peaceful hours just gazing at the stars from the top deck.

Can you see the diagonal lines on the top right? Most of the stones had it.
Our room
The dining room
Selfie at Halong Bay!
We also got the biggest and most expensive room which was lovely (I think we were fleeced because the amount we paid was exorbitant – but anyway...). And I also got to know the Russian guest, Orga, since I didn't join in the kayaking. She’s lovely and a little scary as she asked me very direct questions such as, “Why don’t you know Russian language? Is it because Malaysians don’t like Russians?” lol

Meet Orga!
The first thing she asked me was whether I heard some of them singing the night before at the dining room while I was star gazing, "Did we sing good?". Thankfully I didn't have to wait hours for the right answer to pop up, "You all sounded like you were having loads of fun!" and she laughed out loud. She also tried to teach me some Russian words (she's a Russian language teacher) but I did warn her I couldn't even speak my own mother tongue.

We disembarked right after an early lunch so effectively, we were on the boat for 24 hours.