Category Archives: Street Photography

Just some monochromes from Fuji X20

After getting some low light yesterday, decided to push the cam harder and go real low in light. As expected, the performance was not exactly good, but the Fuji B&W has its own character.

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The above shot of a person imposed against the backdrop of the wharf, with an angled shoreline attracted me as it gave very strong dissection of the entire image.

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While the jetty was fenced off for construction, there were still a number of people pitching tents and enjoying a night out.

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The above image and the subsequent ones were taken in better light and hence much sharper and cleaner.

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Just another PnS? No! It’s the Fujifilm X20!

Yes. I traded in my trustworthy X-Pro1 set and got myself a Fujifilm X20. It was a hard decision that involved nights of tossing and flipping. My X-Pro1 was a stunner and has given me hours of delights with its portability and great colors. It has incredible ISO control surpassing that of a high-end APS-C or full frame camera. The colors are iconic Fuji-style, and its black and white astonishingly striking.  But still, I’ve let it go because as great a camera as the X-Pro1 may be, it lacks a range of versatile lenses and a good autofocus system.  I did not get much choice over the past year playing around with a Carl Zeiss 35mm and a Fuji 35mm. These two are fantastic glasses, especially the legendary Carl Zeiss f/1.4, but sometimes as a photographer, you will yearn for more versatility and range.  As for the autofocus, it’s a decent one but in low light, it kinda sucks…

image taken from Fujifilm Singapore website

Of course the Fuji X20 will not be my primary system. I will be looking out for a suitable one. My heart tells me to wait for a X-Pro2, hoping with a full frame sensor and blazingly fast AF , like the XE1 or 100s. My head tells me to go for the Canon 6D.  In any case, I am not in urgent need and the new X20 will fill the void in this period.

The Fuji X20 cost me $770 Singapore dollars or about $610 USD. This is slightly more expensive than the US set which goes for 599 USD at B&H. I was torn between this, the Sony RX100 and the Canon G1X. The Sony and G1X are cameras that received rave reviews, and their prices are not exactly that far from the X20 i.e. $640 USD for RX100 and $699 USD for the G1X. But the sample images from these 2 cams lack the emotive factor which the Fuji colors give. For me, Fujifilm have a strong color character – deep and arousing. Contrast that with a Leica which has a classic and refined character. But Sony and G1X just doesn’t emit those kind of sensation though they have very high quality built and glasses, and a much bigger sensor than the X20 (X20 only has a 2/3 inch sensor, compared to a 1 inch for Sony and a 1.5 inch for G1X) Find out more about the difference in sensor sizes here.

Anyway, it is naive to assume that the X20 can match up to its big brother X-Pro1 or the X100s. But it would also be silly to belittle this beast of a Point and Shoot (PnS). Technologically,  Fujifilm has somehow managed to shrink all the great stuffs from the X-Pro1 into this handsome retro-looking box  that weights only about 300+ grams. The upside is that you get the Fuji look with a cheaper and lighter package that rivals the performance of entry DSLR. The downside are the limited ISO performance, the limited DOF/bokeh and a missing BULB mode for those long exposures.

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I just got the X20 two days ago and gave it a test run out in the field yesterday – to see its speed, IQ and ISO performance. It’s neither scientific nor professional, just your average street testing with the naked eyes. And I must say that I am mightily impressed. The autofocus performs well in challenging conditions, and the IQ was very good. The ISO performance is about the same as a mid-range mirrorless or entry DLSR (usable up to ISO3200). This is where you realised that as mighty as the Fuji sensor may be, its 2/3 inch sensor still fails to match the  ISO prowess of a RX100 or Canon G1X.  Anyway, pictures speaks a thousand words, so  here are some of the image samples from yesterday.

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I ran a few tests at night to test the ISO from 800 onwards till 6400. I find the images very usable at ISO1600. However 3200 and 6400 is more suitable for black and white given the noise and artefacts. And don’t think about ISO12,800, it’s not palatable even in black and white, unlike the X-Pro1 which is usable even at ISO25,600!

Here are some images at ISO800, under low light.

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800Here are some at ISO1600

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Here are those at ISO3200

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And finally, these are the ISO6400

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So the verdict?
Small? Checked
Light? Checked
Great IQ? Checked
Fuji? Checked
This cam is staying!

Just a cat and its postures

The iPhone camera is really one of the best inventions in this century. Frankly, it had changed the way we go about our lives e.g. snapping away before we eat our food, and the way that photographers capture the stories around them.

I was glad that I have my iPhone with me wherever I go since I can’t possibly lug around a DSLR, or even my portable X-Pro1 in and out.  Just like earlier this afternoon, I spotted a cat lazing in the corner of my flat’s void deck. It was just sitting there ignoring me as I approach it to take a few shots. As if accommodating to my “request”, it shifted into a few poses, and when I stopped, it just stood up and walk away…what a cat!

Just scorching hot under the Sun

It’s been so long since I take to the streets for some shooting. We had a shooting outing on Saturday to cover the Brietling Air Display at Sentosa, Singapore. But as I had to be the babysitter that day, I brought along my 2 year-old…

Not sure whether anyone had tried a shooting outing with a kid this age, but trust me, my X-Pro1 spent most of its time in its pouch rather than out in the sun. Anyway, I managed to shoot a bit of the beach before the kid surrendered to the sun and signalled to me his intention to retreat back to the comfort of the car. Hence I did not cover the air display in the end…Remember! Rule No 1 for all photographers – Do Not Bring Toddlers to Shooting Excusions! So maybe next time, my dear X-Pro1…next time…

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Just finding art in nature – cloud formations

Couldn’t resist taking some photos of cloud formations while I was out yesterday. The recent weather was kinda erratic and it’s quite common to find thick fluffy clouds that has different tone colors i.e. dark clouds and white clouds. This was heaven-sent as the color contrast and 3D-ness made great subjects for dramatic photos.

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Invisible Singapore |02| A Taste Of The 70s

Hidden in a corner near an army camp is a rundown kopitiam (coffee house) that’s simply called Canteen 398. This place is totally like a relic from the 70s, when Singapore still housed a number of kampungs (rural villages). In this age of urban Singapore, this is a rarest sight that not many have seen, especially the younger generations.

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The place has the typical kampung look and smell. I lived in a kampung once, and this visit brought about a gush of memories long forgotten. On the exterior, the kopitiam was clad in zinc sheets that has browned over time with rust. Grass was allowed freedom to grow and that adds to the nostalgia in the air. You can’t find a signboard anywhere – and there was no need to. The name of the place was written big and bold across the front of the metallic wall – graffiti-styled.

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At the side of the kopitiam, seats are abundant and you can just get your food and drinks and dined out alfresco. The kopitiam gets its business from the workers around the vicinity, as well as the army camp located beside it. With the development ongoing, including the demolitions of the nearby colonial houses, and the constructions of the aviation industrial buildings, business seems to be quite good.

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Stepping into the kopitiam, you are greeted by a sense of tranquility and time seems to move at half the pace. Canteen 398 was helmed by an middle-age high-spirited man. There are a couple of stalls in the kopitiam, but most of them seem unmanned, or perhaps they only start operations at a later time.  Despite the unforgiving hot weather outside, the kopitiam is amazingly cool on the inside. Given the time, I do not mind to just sit around, read a paper or watch the old shows on the old CRT TV.

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Previously, there were rumors that the kopitiam was going to be closed down to make way for the new developments, but a few words with the owner who was so ever complying (for photos or conversations) confirmed that there was no intention to move at this juncture. I guess his cat agrees too.

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Just a fishy experience at the S.E.A Aquarium, Marine Life Park

I worked at a great place, alongside a bunch of great colleagues. During festive or key occasions, we have cohesion activities so that everyone can get together & have an enjoyable time to kickstart the festive mood. To get the mood going for Christmas, the lot of us went to the newest attraction in town – the S.E.A Aquarium at Marine Life Park, Sentosa RWS. It was a world-class aquarium that gave you a panoramic view of the living environment of sea creatures. My favorite? The jelly fishes 🙂

There were also some exhibits of the ancient marine history that were just so incredible.

Invisible Singapore |01| On a Quest for Dragons

Singapore is known for many things but definitely not for “mundane‘ playgrounds. That’s why I was pleasantly stunned when I read that one of our playgrounds was listed as Emily Temple’s 15 amazing playgrounds in the world. For info, Emily Temple is an editor at Flavorpill, a blog affiliated to The Atlantic, covering cultural events, art, books, music, and world news. If you want to find out which 15 playgrounds she was referring to, you can check out the blog. What was so intriguing in
her listing was that she shortlisted, not one of those modern playgrounds that could be found around Singapore, but a very old playground from the eighties. That was more than 30 years ago! And I guessed many shared my relief as her unexpected nomination breathe new hope for these antique playgrounds, especially when these were on the verge of being evacuated to pave way for newer, more modernized playgrounds.

I remembered these old playgrounds with the shapes of mythical and your average creatures, such as dragons, pelicans, elephants and so on. In fact, I came from that era where I enjoyed playing on these amazing structures. Unlike today’s modern playgrounds that are equipped with everything that you could ask for, the old ones were simple and that forced us to unleash our creativity. Hence these playgrounds could sometimes be the wilderness, a pirate ship, an aeroplane, a safari – it’s all in the mind. Now that these playgrounds caught my attention again after 30+ years, it’s time to seek them out, perhaps while they…or I still stand…

I had to do quite a bit of research on these playgrounds given that there were only a few left standing. Lucky for me, Emily Temple’s article raised some buzz and there were already hyped-up enthusiasts and photographers who had wrote and took some shots. I also realized that there was a wonderful article wrote by a writer, Justin Zhuang, titled Mosaic Memories. It was a gem commissioned by the Singapore Memory Project and it detailed the history of these old playgrounds in Singapore. From his documentations, these playgrounds were designed in-house by one of the staff of the Housing & Development Board (HDB). His name was Mr Khor Ean Ghee. In the late seventies and early eighties, HDB wanted to create spaces that are fun and yet instill in users a sense of the local identity and life. It was along this design philosophy that the old iconic playgrounds were birthed. There is the dragon playground, a symbolism of Asia, bum boats and rickshaws. It was unfortunate that in 1993, HDB stopped designing in-house and imported playgrounds from overseas suppliers due to higher production and maintenance costs, as well as new regulations to meet international safety standards. The tipping point came finally with an incident at one of these old playground.

For my search, I centered in on the most iconic of all the old animal-themed playgrounds – the dragon playground. There are only four dragons left – two in Toa Payoh Town, one in Ang Mo Kio Town and one in MacPherson area. The first dragon that I found was also the most authentic one left. It is located at Block 28 Toa Payoh Lorong 6. The authenticity being that the playground still uses the traditional sand instead of synthetic materials for its base. The majestic dragon head was created out of orange terrazzo and glass tiles. Referencing from the Mosaic Memories, it appears that the idea to use these materials was for easy maintenance – they don’t need annual paint jobs! How ingenious! Besides, it gave the dragon a cheery and inviting face. The body of the dragon was bathed in colorful metal railings that raises the adventure-bar for users as they try to make their way through in the fastest of time. The dragon incorporates a slide in its body too! Edging closer, you can see the age of the playground where time and harsh nature elements had made a graceful mark on it.

The second dragon was a mini-me of the first dragon – without the long slender metal railing body  Instead, the slide took on the modified shape of the dragon’s body. The Mosaic Memories recorded that these mini-me dragons were devised to fit into some of the smaller spaces in public housing estates. Incidentally, this dragon was also orange-colored and everything seems yester-year, except for the new synthetic base that the dragon rests on. This dragon is located at Toa Payoh Lorong 1, between Block 201 Block 240.

The third dragon took me round the town of Ang Mo Kio for 30 mins before I realized that it was so right in front of me. The playground is located at Block 572, Ang Mo Kio Avenue 3…which is just by the main roadside…Well, this is a full-sized dragon similar to the one at Toa Payoh Lorong 6. However, this dragon sports a more colorful head in orange, blue and red. It has a long yellow metal body and more slides for users. In fact, it is the largest of the four dragons. It was also the first dragon that I find kids playing on it, possibly because Ang Mo Kio Town is a more populous location. I recalled that the many corners of these dragon playgrounds are also great hiding spots for the occasional hide-and-seek game.

The last dragon is located beside Block 58 of Circuit Road in MacPherson. This was a mini red-colored dragon. Though Circuit Road was a small area, this was the dragon playground that was most heavily used, at least when I was there. There was a wonderful bunch of kids playing around there, all of them game for photo shoots. In fact, their smiles were among the best that I have seen! Kids in play are always the best as they are fully in delight in their own world. The dragon here is similar to the mini dragon in Toa Payoh, except for the color, and of course the location.

Hopefully, the authorities will continue to preserve these iconic structures of the past and would not let the speed of economic development erase these memories off the facade of nation. To me, these playgrounds are still as functional, if not even more fun than their modern counterparts! I believe those kids playing in these playgrounds would agree with me wholeheartedly.