Friday, April 30, 2010

My hotshoe diary

Father Joe came knocking by my door recently and reprimanded my use of available light. Nah.. I'm kidding. I needed a softbox and I didn't want to rely on cheap China brands, though they may be of a usable quality. Hence by sheer chance, I got myself an oversized 30" x 30" Lastolite.

14mm, ISO 125, f6.3, 1/200sec. FL 50 flashgun triggered at 1/8 power, 12mm

I believe I'm one of the first few in Malaysia with the new Lastolite 30" x 30" Ezybox hotshoe kit. It's so new that it hasn't been even featured on their website yet. Wonderful wrap around light. The kit includes the EzyBox Hotshoe (with plate), 4 section stand, tilthead bracket, extending handle (24cm - 48cm), padded shoulder bag and circular carry case.

Their website claims that this softbox is easy to pack up, has very low light loss (only half a stop), and is colour balanced.

The steel air cushioned light stand is quite impressive. The legs of the lightstand can be folded out to an admirable degree for maximum stability, though I doubt it will be able to prevent the rig from falling in strong wind. (You wouldn't want a broken flashgun, do you?) The lightstand can be raised to a height of at least 2.5 meters, but I doubt you would want to go any higher in case the rig topples due to instability.

The monster sized 30 x 30 inch softbox has a reflective silver interior, and its sealed on all sides compared to the Westcott Apollo I've used before. There are 2 layers of diffusion material which you can mount to soften the light output. Otherwise you may remove the inner 24 inch layer for harsher light. The softbox feels quite durable and should be able to withstand some abuse. It can be neatly folded to be packed into the circular carry case included with the kit. Quite compact indeed.

I would have liked it better if the Ezybox hotshoe and the tilthead bracket featured some lightweight steel construction instead of the plastic that I see now. Supporting a full sized flashgun with a softbox that big is bound to break the components if not handled properly.

The new Ezybox Hotshoe plate (2414) is now compatible with the Nikon SB900 Flashgun and most flashesHowever, without a cold-shoe mount on the bottom of some wireless receivers (most of them have a 1/4" metal socket for use on tripods), you may need adapters to mount it on top of light stands or flash clamps. A simple solution would probably be to go to your hardware store and purchase a 1/4" screw to be able to mount the flash receiver.

The extending handle is a useful feature for those who would like to use a voice activated light stand (VALS), as some folks call it. For better handling, a monopod is still recommended, as the handle is quite short. I'm not sure how durable this extending handle is, but preferably handle it with care if you're holding up a softbox that big.

I guess this is what I can say so far about the kit. I don't claim to know everything, but I'll try to explore this kit more in the future.


Sunday, April 25, 2010

Alpha Conference, Kuching (Day Two)

If you haven't read my blog post on the first day of the Alpha Conference, you may do so here.

Jamie Haith presented the seminar - Small groups on Alpha.

It is indeed enlightening to see and hear the presenters convict the audience on the Alpha ministry and explain it in greater detail.

Al Gordon meanwhile gave the talk on "What happens after Alpha?" in the old TMC hall.

Its interesting to note how small the old church hall seems today compared to its successor which can accommodate a thousand people.

For the afternoon workshops, I managed to get a brief picture by the Alpha India coordinator, Varada Raj. He was conducting the "Prayer on Alpha" workshop.

John White was in the main sanctuary running the "How to run Alpha in cell groups" workshop.

One of the more popular courses was "Woship on Alpha" handled by Tim Hughes and Al Gordon, who are both Worship Directors at Holy Trinity Brompton, London.

My parents wanted a photo with Rev. Nicky as a keepsake, so fortunately we managed to meet him for a little while in the back office before he went on stage.

Thats about it for the Alpha Conference. It was a huge success, but I guess we would have to wait pretty long for the next one if it were ever to return to Kuching.


Alpha Conference, Kuching (Day One)

Kuching held its first ever Alpha Conference from the 16-17 April at Trinity Methodist Church. It was truly a sight to behold, with more than a thousand delegates from other parts of Malaysia as well as overseas (Indonesia, India, Australia, etc) streaming in to attend the conference. The main Alpha team leaders such as Nicky Gumble, Tim Hughes, Al Gordon and Jamie Haith also flew in all the way from the UK.

Click these links for an overview on the Alpha Course and Nicky Gumble.

There were also plenty of assistants from all churches around Kuching, wearing purple shirts helping in the running of the conference.

The bishop says that he invited Nicky Gumble six years ago to speak in Kuching. Its definitely a worthwhile wait, in my opinion.

Participants listening earnestly to the opening speeches.

Tim Hughes led most of the worship sessions just with an acoustic guitar. Popular songs that he composed were sung, such as "Here I am to worship" and "Consuming Fire".

Its lovely to see Christians from all denominations coming together in worship and praise.

Rev Nicky Gumbel and wife Pippa joining the congregation in worship.

A closer look at Tim Hughes. I was stretching the capabilities of the Olympus Image Stabilisation system by keeping shutter speeds around 1/100. It can get a little challenging to handhold an E-3 + HLD-4 + 35-100 combination which weighs around 4 kg.

Nicky Gumbel finally takes the spot light with the talk "Principles of Alpha". The seminars were clearly and coherently presented.

The church was packed to the brim, even with the addition of extra seats. Truly a magnificent sight to behold.

As the seminars were presented, the audio visual team was busy working in the background diligently recording the event on video.

With wide angle lenses, such as the 7-14 (14-28mm equivalent), it was possible to get sharp handheld shots at around 1/20 secs.

A time for ministry is essential after every seminar and its importance should not be overlooked.

After lunch, Al Gordon presented "Practicalities of Alpha"

There were several workshops in the afternoon around the premises. My dad asked me to cover the "family life" course at St Peter's church.

Mr and Mrs Yoong have been conducting marriage seminars all throughout Malaysia and actively advocate the Alpha Marriage course.

Downstairs, there was a seminar on Youth Alpha. The cushions offered a more relaxed and informal atmosphere, in my opinion.

After dinner, Nicky invited some delegates who attended the Alpha courses before to share their experiences on stage. It was indeed touching to hear some stories on how lives can be changed through Alpha.

Jamie Haith shared a Model Alpha Evening: Holy Spirit Weekend. Wikipedia states - The Alpha course has been criticised for a charismatic emphasis. A particular problem for non-charismatic evangelicals is what is seen as Gumbel's emphasis upon the person and work of the Holy Spirit. Of course, your mileage may vary, but in my opinion, what's more essential is that the teachings are focused upon aspects of the Christian faith where all denominations are in general agreement.

A session of ministry before ending the night session.

You may view more images of the event here.


Thursday, April 22, 2010

The little things

Sometimes we get so caught up with our schedules, families, friends, kids, etc that we don't take time to calm down, relax and appreciate the little things in life. What do I mean? Simple. Fresh air, sun light, drinkable tap water, food, etc.

Just observing these little critters makes me think that our lives can be as simple and meaningful as we want it to be. If we want success and an abundance of wealth, our minds can easily be consumed by them if we're not careful with our worldly desires.

We let the critters loose in the garden last week to have a fresh outlook of our garden. I guess they must have enjoyed it. Their newly developed noses are slowly taking in a whole new world of smells and sensations.

Last week, the critters were still pretty sleepy, resting every minute or so and spontaneously falling up to sleep wherever they were placed. Nowadays, they're very very active and its harder to keep them still even for a brief period of time.

Lets stop and smell the roses, and not let our busy lives take hold of us. Its worth it in the long run ;)


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Taipei 101,RH Plaza, Kuching

Dear folks, I apologise for the lack of updates. I'm in the midst of reorganising my life since a major occurence has happened in our family. I will still strive to update this blog whenever I can.

My family and some friends had lunch last Sunday at Taipei 101, at RH Plaza. It is situated at the corner of the main shop block, behind Expert food court.

Yes, Taiwanese food is becoming increasingly popular in Kuching, but as the number of outlets increase, there are bound to be mediocre ones. And I am afraid Taipei 101 is one of them. Like this dish for example: just fry some beancurd, pour on some soy sauce and sprinkle some spring onions. Thats it!

Prawn spring rolls. They're pretty small. I guess the only consolation is that they're crispy and are more artificially flavored than desired.

Pretty standard dumplings that you can't really go wrong with. Too bad there are only 5 pieces on each plate.

Digging in. There's rice available on request, of course.

Your standard fare chinese stirfried vegetables.

Milk tea with pearls. Didn't get a chance to try it but will attempt to in the future. About RM 3.50 a glass, a bit more pricy than your RM2 teh si peng.

Taiwanese noodles with some blanched vegetables and pork strips. Worth a try I reckon.

My ice blended orange finally arrived (towards the end of the meal!). Quite flavorful. I think I drank a little too much at one go until my brains froze momentarily and I got a headache :p

Overall, its a pleasant place to dine at, with timber chairs and tables for a more rustic feel. I'm just not sure if I would return to this place in the near future.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

An Easter experience

Every year, Sabah and Sarawak are the two fortunate states in Malaysia to be able to celebrate the Easter celebrations as public holidays. Most people take the liberty of the relatively longer weekend to go on vacation or just chill out at home.

Yes, 10 pups are still up for adoption. Do contact us if interested, otherwise we'll have to dispose them at the SPCA at 7 mile. Its just simply unfeasible for us to keep that many dogs in our house.

The pups averaged about 350 grams on the weighing scale. They've of course gained considerable weight since then.

Compared to Melbourne which celebrates Easter with chocolate bunnies, Easter in Kuching is quite subdued. Everyone just contributes a basketfull of hard boiled eggs. Considering how much eggs are nowadays, it can be a pretty costly affair ! :s

I used to remember in Sunday school as a kid, we used to paint the eggs in all sorts of colours and patterns. It was fun - until mom said that consuming coloured eggs wouldn't be too beneficial to your health. Oh well..

Two easter egg maidens watch vigilantly over the eggs. They appear to be pretty cheerful about it ^ ^

The Sunday school kids came up to give a short skit on Jesus' resurrection and a musical thereafter.

I used to be part of the children's choir in my former church a long time ago. I guess it became a bit repetitive and boring after a while.

After the eggs are distributed, no one's going to stop you from doing whats necessary, as illustrated in this image.

As mum and dad did their grocery shopping at 101, I couldn't help but notice this "No Name Signboard" as I was getting lunch.

I got some fried noodles and cantonese kway teow. They taste pretty good.

Had a photoshoot at Majlis Bandaraya Kuching Selatan (Kuching South City Council). The sky was blue and cloudless just like Melbourne in spring and summer. Its a dream which unfortunately occurs once in a blue moon.

I solely utilised the Zuiko 14-35mm for the whole session. As a zoom with image quality comparable to a high grade prime lens, there was no reason for me to leave it in my bag.

Gulped down a few glasses of teh si peng to quench our thirst from the hot afternoon sun.

What a wonderful easter. And thank you Lord for the great weather too ~



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