p pol The Adventures of Carboman: April 2009

Monday, April 27, 2009

Electcoms Tour of Malaysia

Not wanting to pay for the expensive parking in front of the Central Market, I opted for the shadier location behind the courthouse. Being free of charge made this a simple choice. Except my plans for a quick exit from downtown KL following the Tamron Workshop - more of that in my upcoming post - was derailed by the Electcoms Tour of Malaysia happening in the same area. That meant road closures for the duration of the 14-lap (I think) race. By the time I got to my car, it was 3:45pm and the rain put paid to the smooth running of the biking event. The already uneven tiled streets surrounding the courthouse were waterlogged and not quite safe. The conditions already claimed a few casualties. With 11 more laps to go, I perhaps selfishly prayed that the rains continued so that the race was abandoned or for the sun to quickly reappear from behind the clouds so that the event can get going. Well, the sun prevailed, which in hindsight allowed me to shoot some biking action. So for the price of a downtown drive, I’d attended a photography workshop and a chance to shoot some serious action. Not bad!

Prior to this, I’d no experience with capturing the biking action, so I had no expectations with regards to the results I was going to get. Even so I had some opinions of action shots:
1) The action must not be completely frozen – there must be movement, and impression of furious action

2) It’s OK to saturate the shots – in-camera or PP – to bring the subject out
3) Bold and dramatic is good

4) Gritty is acceptable if only to get the lowdown of the action.
5) 200mm is barely adequate, but my 200mm wasn’t the shortest one out there yesterday.

Some of the shots I reeled in surprised even myself. The “warp speed” effect was achieved by shooting bursts while pulling the zoom in or out. PP were on the saturation, a bit of the curves and in some shots I cropped to cut out the distractions. I’d wanted to avoid manipulating the curves but I had some trouble with the sun on one side and the ominous dark clouds on the other, which messed up the exposure a little. On some shots, I purposely slowed the shutter down to 1/40 to push the blur up to the point of movement of colours yet retain a semblance of form. Many of the ones uploaded look similar. That's because I want to refer to the very subtle differences in each frame. More for self reference than anything. I agree, however, that for portfolio building, one should just display the best few.

I regret not having more chance to catch the BMX stunt riders on the field due to the threat of rain – that would’ve made some pretty dramatic shots. Head on to my online gallery to take a look.

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Carbokid 1 Turns 6

Carbokid 1 was born in Penang via C-Section on Apr 22rd 2003. At 4.3kgs (9lbs 3ozs), he was the largest baby to be born in the Adventist Hospital in a long while. Looking at all his photos brought back so many memories only parents can feel. He brought us much joy (even winning RM100 prize in a Cadbury contest). Though he sometimes grates on our nerves, as most kids do when they grow up, I believe he's here to teach my wife and I as much as he is put here to learn from us. So Happy Birthday C1, Mommy and Daddy love you very much!

3rd month

1 year old. With maternal grandma and great grandma.

28th month. A-Famosa zoo.

29th month. Too abstract for me.

3 years old at the Sunway Lagoon Theme Park.

1st day heading to his pre-school.

With C2 who was just a couple of weeks old then.

Before they learned how to fight.


Monday, April 20, 2009

Pleased As Punch

A colleague went about the office instigating several non-runners and not-so-frequent exercisers to sign up for the Standard Chartered KL Marathon (the 10K category) and to my astonishment, nearly all of them went online and registered on the spot, hoping to enjoy the final day of early bird entry. I had told them that should they sign up, I'll commit to train them. In the end I had to honour my end of the bargain and charged RM40 - certainly one of the most expensive fees I've ever paid for a 10K - to my credit card.

Today was the first day of training and there was a 50% turnout, which was good to me. I knew that they would arrive late, so I'd gone ahead with my workout. All of us had to get back to the office after the run - our project is still running mind you. So the faster we got things done, the quicker we can return to work, not that we love the office.

My personal plan was to knock off 5K, 4 laps around the KLCC Park. And my message to the guys was just do 2 laps - 2.6K. Run or walk, just complete it comfortably. And they did! I won't change the menu just yet and will let them stick with 2 laps 2 to 3 times a week.

Had a great time catching up with Ajeep too, who had been long absent from the running scene. All in all, a very good outing. I'm just going to follow the development of the Boston Marathon online just for a little while longer before hitting the sack.


Sunday, April 12, 2009

Photo Essay: BHP Orange Run '09

My goal to run this morning's race was weak even though I like this race quite a bit. Besides being a free event hosted by the petroleum company BHP, the post-race festivities was quite good - a just reward after tearing through a hilly course. Since I wanted to get my feet wet with a sports shoot in preparation for next month's NB 15K, this was the only chance to test some ideas out.

I wanted to balance the typical posed shots with some which are usually not seen on the blogs and the results for the most part were OK to me. I carried just 2 lenses - the Sigma 18-200 and the highly rated and very fast Tokina 11-16mm wide angle. I'll put some links on this on my next post.

A mistake was lugging the pods. I'd feared that weak light will hamper the starting shots. But the comments of seasoned shooter, Chan Wing Kai turned out true. It was bright enough and after meeting the guys for a brief chitchat, I quickly returned the pods to the car. Lesson learned: You need to be very mobile out in the field especially when covering a sports event. So let's not wait any longer and proceed with some of the resulting shots. Click on any to enlarge.

Emerging from The Curve carpark, I saw this interesting shot. The parallel lines on the road, the lightening sky and the silhouette of the 2 girls.

I like these 2 shots. In fact I shot in bursts in this sequence. I kept the runner in white cap as the subject as there were no human obstruction surrounding him and his gear provided good contrast. Well-built too I must say. Daniel Tan is on the right in yellow.

I shot close to 10 frames in this angle and this is the best. I just wanted to catch the interesting shoes and this green/black adidas provided it providing strong contrast to the desaturated surroundings.

The lead pack was simply awesome. Made me want to join in! The eventual winner on the extreme left looked very relaxed. Shahrudin is the one in vermillon vest. If you want to know one of the secrets of running fast, see the 2nd shot. Notice the legs and form. All demonstrates the strong push-off, no energy wasting "sitting" position and long strides made possible by high knee lifts and high kick backs.

I like this shot as the yellow and red garbed runner stood out against the "typical" dull colours. I isolated just the legs as I felt that including the faces and upper bodies will dilute the shot. I wanted to focus on the contrast. I was on both knees for many shots in this stretch of the route.

A mildly successful shot. I'd wanted to catch long shadows and it wasn't easy as I was shooting into the sun.

Focus on the cop and blur out the runners.

Again, a very low shot and the result was quite surprising. I didn't notice the girl on the left and it turned out very well - she was smiling and in focus. The timekeepers on the right provided an interesting sub-topic while anticipating the return of the men's champion.

The run-in. You gotta be sure-footed as you wouldn't want to slip on the tiles storming towards the finish line.

A mountain of nasi lemak awaits

This uncle was nice enough to wait for my shot before covering the large container of teh tarik

The volunteers getting ready for the onslaught of finishers

I didn't know there are non-alcoholic versions of Kampai. Told you this run was happening!

He wasn't the champion but I like this shot of Shahrudin kicking to the finish

Michelle Tan who is training to qualify for the SEA Games moments after crossing the line. Her face said it all. And she lays it on the line at every race she enters. Talk about grit.

I shot this sweet girl so many times I felt like a stalker! Actually I was fighting the lens flare. The sunlight was creeping into the lens on the top left corner and only a crop took it off. She gave me 3 packets of the snack as I think she was eager to see me off! Bug off photographer man! Heheh!

Large, Medium, Small and Small

Not quite the Paris sidewalk cafe but the tables were well spaced out.

Runners coming in. Notice how sunny and hot it was.

Other than the building corridors, this small stretch after the finish line was the shadiest spot in the Piazza.
An overall view of the Piazza. From this angle it seemed to be nestled in between 2 building and an oasis. Wait, it is! Well, not the oasis bit.

That's it folks. A little debut photo essay. Your comments are most welcomed. I gotta hit the sack as it's been a loooong day.

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Saturday, April 11, 2009

PC Fair

Traffic was naturally horrendous on Fridays, made worse by the rain.

Traffic snarl whether you looked left or right. No escaping.

Spotted this nice position.

This quaint plant was just outside the side entrance to the hip Traders Hotel.

Nice lighting set up over the Samsung booths

Not as crowded as I expected. Probably they were delayed by the rain.

The crazy section of the expo where you had to play Clint Eastwood or Sondra Locke running the Gauntlet through in the silver bus. Only this time instead of cops, you'll be harrassed by the telcos.


Thursday, April 09, 2009

Gotta Fix Them Leaners

You’ll notice that my shots of the twin towers were plagued by the phenomenon called distorted perspective (or something like that). That’s when the top of the buildings lean much like a certain tower in Pisa. This problem will crop up when shooting tall structures. Squat short structures will not suffer that much from the effect. Dave Johnson of PCWorld describes it clearly here.

If like me you don’t have the costly Tilt-Shift lens, then your salvation lies in getting the software to correct the issue for you. When you’ve interest in historical buildings and architecture, you’ll need any help you can get. Bless digital photography!

After some trial and error, I corrected the shots I made last night and the result's what you see above.
Some useful guides and tutorials here: http://www.photoshopbox.com/photo-retouch/fix-perspective.html http://photography-on-the.net/forum/showthread.php?t=579968 http://livedocs.adobe.com/en_US/Photoshop/10.0/help.html?content=WSF65FB40F-00F5-445a-BD9A-38B3737A9A19.html

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Tuesday, April 07, 2009


Aperture Priority, Shutter speed 1/4 sec, f4.6 @ 28mm, ISO 400

Shutter Priority, 1/5 sec, f4.0 @ 21mm, ISO 400

Can you see the difference a solid platform provides? My previous post showed a handheld shot without PP and above are shots I made a few hours ago also without PP. Click on the photos to enlarge. The only difference was the 40 was sitting on 2 Italians, I mean a tripod and ballhead, both Italian-made. Individually, the ‘pod and head can kill a person when swung. Together, they provide some upper body workout.

Changed into my decommissioned 2120s and a t-shirt, I waited for sundown before heading out. I’d planned my “shooting tour” the day before and was a bit upset that the vendor didn’t deliver the RC2 head as promised yesterday. After pestering the fella 4 times today I finally laid my hands on the thing. In case you’re wondering, I opted for Manfrotto. Other brands that were in the shops I checked simply didn’t cut it. Playing with the other makes didn’t give me the confidence to attach my 40 to them. But with the Mannys, you feel the difference the moment you lay your hands on them – the build is typical Italian. While I can’t afford an Italian-made car, I’ll settle for their mid-range support system! I felt the pinch but it was a necessary “burn” if I wanted some decent shots and not waste my time committing basic mistakes. After all, unlike the camera, this equipment is for life. And I want to get on to the "serious" shots quickly.

Prior to my purchase, I searched the web and came across this review - http://www.cameralabs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=7063 . This shooter’s set up is
coincidentally exactly the one I have (the 40D) and was eyeing (the best-selling 055XPROB tripod and the 488RC2 ballhead)! You’ve to check his review out – not because he covered my gear but because I felt that’s how gear reviews should be done – with lots of pictures. I felt that he saved me some money as I had considered the Velbon, which isn’t really in the affordable range anyway. If I'd gotten the Velbon just because I wanted to save some cash, I might have regretted it. With photography, you’d want to get the gear that you’ll be satisfied using, and not having to change anytime soon. You wouldn't want to find out just a month after your purchase that the item just couldn't perform. Might as well get a good one from the start. My gear is just in the midrange. What's important for me is to have a reasonably good platform to start the learning process. There are potentially many other brands and make out there that have more value for money or performs better. So be sure to expand your search if you’re in the market.

As usual comments and critique are most welcome.

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Monday, April 06, 2009

Why The Tripod Is A Necessity

This shot shows why a tripod is necessary. When you look at this shot, you know what I was trying to achieve but several things were wrong:
1) Disastrous lens flare from the street lights. I had my hood attached to the 18-200mm but it was impossible to avoid it unless I moved further up from my shooting location. I didn't have time and since it was just a learning excursion, I left it at that.

2) It wasn't sharp. But of course! But if I had my tripod with me, I could've used a slightly smaller aperture for a longer exposure. That would've made a tremendous difference. I now understand why pros lug their 'pods even for day shoots.

The short outing today was supposed to be one which I wanted to put the Manfrottos to good use. But the RC2 head's delivery didn't happen and the 055XPROB had nothing to be mated with. But tomorrow is when I hope to lay my hands on them and I've already got some plans for the Mannys! Heheh...

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Friday, April 03, 2009

Lunchtime Shoot

Like I said in the previous post, I detoured to the neighbouring temple to try out some shots. Here are just 2 of them. Bottomline: I need to get a good pair of legs - I mean tripod. A good compo counts for nothing if the shots are blurry. For the 1st shot, I focused on the 2nd image from the left and blurred the rest. Click to enlarge.


Wednesday, April 01, 2009

My Diversion

I'd better learn to keep my mouth shut! I thought having the hawks circling will send the rodents scurrying off to their burrows earlier than usual but I was proven wrong. No critter gave a hoot. Today was the second consecutive day I left the office at 10pm. No shit. I told my wife that for the sake of the kids we must leave by 7pm tomorrow. See I didn't learn my lesson and just committed the sin again. Damn. Ever since the arrival of the 40D, I've had quite a few of photo ops. Since this is really a learning phase, I carried it along to a company function this afternoon. It took place in an auditorium and that gave me the chance to test out some learnings such as shooting under dimmed lights. Some shots worked and many didn't. No matter, it's all about learning the controls.

Tomorrow (sigh, it's now past 12, so it's technically today) I'll be heading to the Chinese temple just 2 doors away from my office. The temple has quite a number of ornate carvings and though it doesn't retain the rustic look due to the number of rich patrons on its roster, there are still some possibilities for interesting shots. Hope I'll be able to spot them.

Last weekend was a visit to the world's largest free-flying bird park (that's what it says on the banner, though I've no way nor need to verify it), the KL Bird Park. Brought the 2 kids along and they had a reasonably good time. Shot close to 200 frames and will post some up when I've the time to properly review them.
This diversion isn't really out of character for me. I've always been inclined towards the arts, having sold off a couple of drawings in my early to mid-twenties. I made that sound like it was long ago. Actually it was! My "specialty" was colonial and heritage buildings in technical pen. I still keep a few framed up and there was also a large oil pastel piece which is among my favourites. Drawings and paintings are no longer possible at least for now as they take too long. Photography provides quicker gratification for my need to offset the numbness of work.

Peering through the viewfinder, studying and composing the shots slows things down and calms me. When you slow down, things become clearer. You're able to play the role of an effective observer of the goings on around you. And hopefully at that precise moment capture and preserve a second of the life of the subject. I'm not sure which area of photography I'm most likely to find my niche. As I've said, I'm learning the skill-set necessary to dig deeper. And for that I can't choose. I need to be with the masses. And that means shooting closeups of flowers, insects, corny V-flashing folks (I never understood the need to flash a V), my kids, buildings, shot-to-death superstructures and inside auditoriums. If becoming a good lensman requires building the skills to recognize and respond to a particular situation by shooting everything, I'll do just that. But sidewalk photography like Dave Beckerman's amazing works appeals very much to me. To achieve that, the shooter has to blend himself in to the extent that he appears invisible (like the juxtaposition?) to the subject, and thus allowing the subject's true nature to surface. All very Zen like I admit but that's how I see it.

Equipment, other than the basic implements is really secondary to me. I've no brand affinity - probably because my budget dictates that. Before settling on the 40D, I'd wanted the D300. It started with my ex-colleague's D100, then D200 and I was hooked to the build and handling of the Nikons. But I never got to owning any of them. And so I settled for the (very) good Powershot S3 which is an amazing point-and-shoot with good IQ (image quality), excellent video capability and stereo sound recording no less. It was small, light and toy-ish, and a Canon. Granted its capabilities very rather limited as can be expected. I like the results of the Canon but my mind still wasn't settled because I was unimpressed with the 450D. Holding it didn't give me the "at-home" feeling. But the 50D was a different animal altogether. To cut a long story short, I settled for the 40 due to the price factor, the marginal increase of the 50D's capabilities over the 40, and my believe that we should always buy smart.

Only a few days of toying with it did I realize that the 40 is actually my 3rd Canon. The very first being the Prima 115 bought in 1998 at the Commonwealth Games Expo!

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