Thursday, June 24, 2010

Best char siew in PJ?

Toast & Roast
No. 20, Jln SS2 / 72, PJ

Upon recommendation by a friend, we went to test the claim if the char siew at Toast and Roast in PJ is indeed as good as it sounds.

The drinks there are quite pleasant. I order a small cup of hot milk tea, elegantly served in the cups and plates which are synonymous with Old Town Ipoh White coffee..

My brother ordered the chicken and charsiew rice. For its asking price (RM 6), it is indeed quite meagre.

I ordered the 'turbo rice' consisting of char siew, siew yoke (crispy skin pork) and roast chicken drumstick for RM 7.50.

Whats so special about this char siew? It has a caramelized appearance, with a crispy, sweet surface, and its very tender. Quite distinctive from the typical char siew that you get from normal shops.

Would I return here despite the steeper price and the small portions? On occasions, I would :)

I did a bit of walking around the area too. I note with interest how break ins can easily occur through these small little alleys if someone just comes and snaps the locks to your back door.

I guess the folks of KL are very insecure. If you'd like to visit a friend, Sometimes you have to present your identification card, and they give you a big 'visitor' sign. Unfortunately, its not just one neighbourhood. They're everywhere! And yet, break ins are still rampant around here. How ironic. Such neighbourhood patrols are unheard of in Kuching where I come from, and yet our crime rates our lower (duh, smaller city, less crime).

Thats about all for today. Cheers.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


Sometimes when you think you've hit rock bottom, someone still throws you a shovel.

I guess its not easy to express this sinking feeling. Its time for you to fly as free as a bird, yet a heavy lead weight still clamps your wings.

Oh how I long for that freedom. I could have played my cards right while I was in Melbourne, but now its time to face the music.

Lets see how it goes from now on.

Monday, June 21, 2010

A revolution?

Brandon puts on the gear head mentality once in a while and rambles about things that don't really concern the non-SLR enthusiast. He sincerely apologizes to the people concerned.

There's always something very desirable that lights up your eyes when a pro gives glowing remarks about his newest work horse. UK Canon ambassador Jeff Ascough remarked in his latest blog post recently that the Canon EOS-1D mark IV has 'revolutionised the way how I shoot'.

Of course there came many reader questions afterwards that wanted more details of this 'revolution':

The camera allows me to shoot images that were impossible to shoot previously. The high iso permits the use of zoom lenses in a low light environment which is revolutionary in itself. This means less time thinking about lens choice and more time thinking about the image. The AF system, particularly in AI Servo mode is exceptional and after 15 years of shooting Canons in One Shot, I now shoot all the time in Servo. This has allowed me to shoot far more non static subjects than I would normally.

My images I feel are more creative than previously as the camera allows me to take risks with the images, and as complicated as a 1DIV is in terms of technology, I never have to fight it or compromise with it. The complexity of it actually simplifies the picture taking experience which is good.

The 5DII was always a compromise particularly with the AF and handling. The earlier 1 series you had to fight them to get what you wanted; the 1Ds3 could produce stunning files but it was always a camera you had to be patient with.

Of course many online sites are a bit cautious in their reviews. Its a little hard to be impartial when Canon is one your biggest clients. I shrug when I think of one of my Canon friends who happens to own a 1D3 and 5Dmark 2 thinks that getting a 1D IV will solve all his woes.

Popphoto says:

If there’s bad news from our lab tests, it’s the 1D Mark IV’s lowlight autofocus performance, which lagged significantly behind the Nikon’s D3s.

Because the 1D Mark III suffered from AF problems in some units from its inception, we weren’t surprised that Canon created a completely new AF system for the Mark IV. We were surprised, though, to see that the new system proved slower in our tests than the old one, even in bright conditions. This isn’t to say that its performance was terrible, but in a camera of this caliber, we expect more.

Dpreview has also been conservative in their final words.

We're not in a position to give the camera's AF system a clean bill of health but we found little to criticize in our testing. The true picture won't become clear until more are in the hands of practicing pros. Its complexity and flexibility make it a difficult camera to configure and learn and for that reason we're not yet ready to join the naysayers.

Although its high ISO performance is only as good as the D3, I guess some can't get over the fact that they're receiving outdated technology which is two years late. It's battery performance is also a little less than desired, at 1,500 (CIPA standard), which is even less than the 2200 shots on the mark III. This is due to the increased sensor resolution and the extra processing power it requires from the dual digic 4 batteries. The D3x battery on the other hand is rated at 4,400 shots (yes, its CIPA standard).

For wide angle addicts like myself, mounting a 16-35 L on a 1.3x crop sensor will only yield a 21mm equivalent lens at the wide end. Ouch! That's not the reason why I'm getting ultra wide angle lenses in the first place.

A revolution ? Not quite, in my opinion.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Photowalk 20 June '10

As if one photo outing at Chow Kit yesterday wasn't enough, Robin and I decided to shoot together at Dang Wangi today.

It's located very near KL tower.

But before we could shoot, we had to ensure our stomachs were full. I had some RM 1 home made nasi lemak, which was very good.

I then was treated to my very first 'abandoned house' shooting session in KL.

Its indeed a feast to the senses to see mother nature repopulating these abandoned buildings. All the timber components of the building (floor boards, roof trusses, beams, columns have decayed over the years, and whats left is an empty shell.

Despite being abandoned, these house still remain home to some of society's rejects. Perhaps they brought in this toy to make themselves remember the good times when they were still children.

The entire structure will collapse sometime in the future, but while it still can, this house will still attempt to withstand the natural elements.

We then paid a visit to Kampung Baru, the only remaining Malay village in the heart of Kuala Lumpur. It has seen the wrath of many developers trying to evict the villagers because it is seen as one of the last pieces of prime real estate remaining in the city.

The other local residents also tried to be as welcoming as possible.

It's as if time stopped for the local residents, where 12 year olds are thought to ride a motorcycle around the neighborhood (not on the official highways, of course), and the locals would happily smile or wave to strangers like us.

I'm even more utterly convinced that the 'No Parking' culture has fully pervaded KL, right down to the grassroots. Are we that inconsiderate to park while directly blocking other people's houses?

We even made it to the top of the apartments at Kampung Baru, where there's a nice view of the whole village and the golden triangle.

Yes, the rusting iron balustrades may give an impression that its not very steady, but its perfectly safe to stand there.

As I've mentioned before in my previous pose, Kuala Lumpur can be a city of dichotomies. Humble timber dwellings with corrugated iron roofs coexists with the gleaming steel structures of KLCC.

I'm glad that places like Kampung Baru still exist. They remind us of our countries humble beginnings, and the true meaning of a 'One Malaysia' culture where no one cares whether you have a bigger house, a new car, a bigger garden, or a bigger LCD Tv.

Are we so lost in our so called 'development' towards vision 2020 that we've neglected something more essential along the way?


Saturday, June 19, 2010

The city of dichotomies

Kuala Lumpur is a city of dichotomies.

The fair and lovely exist beside the filthy and foul. We just merely turn a blind eye to what we do not want to see.

Our dear government has recently announced the allocation of RM 90 billion and RM 91 billion respectively for expenditure in the first two years of the 10th Malaysia Plan (10MP). This however raises more questions rather than answers.

Will the man on this motorcycle be guaranteed to see his son attain a good education at primary school, secondary school, and thereafter university?

The roti man will still have to ply his wares for a few ringgit a month.

This gentlemen will still have to continue sharpening knives for a meagre sum, even though he is well of age and should be enjoying his pension.

The street peddler will have to market these stolen shoes just to have a meal to survive each day, and he will not receive a single slice of the pie.

Will the ridiculously enormous allocations for the 10MP benefit the fish monger? Of course not. Life will go on as usual.

The mak cik that you see selling kuih muih will have to continue her trade for as long as her health and age permits.

This chinese lady selling fruits will have to be content with this small, humble stall for the rest of her life because the 10MP will not help her to get a proper shop to sell her goods.

Many people will still have to go on living in these occupationally unfit shop houses because their small salaries can't afford them to live in a more decent residence.

Beneath the lovely, velvety appearance of the 10MP, a more serious issue persists.

It is moral decay at the highest levels of administration.

These poor people above will continue to be abandoned by the rest of society. They have no hope, and will never receive the benefits of any _th Malaysia Plan.

Can we ever expect any justice and assistance from a core that blatantly exclaims "Do we have a deal or not?" and "I help you, you help me"?

They say "what goes around comes around". I guess for those of us who're remaining in boleh-land, we have to wait a bit longer than expected for that to happen, if it happens at all.


Friday, June 18, 2010

So you think you can shoot?

I've recently read a book by Monte Zucker, a master of the craft that has been in the business for at least 60 years.

Monte continually asks professional and aspiring photographers to what extent are they willing to subject themselves to in order to become the best photographers that they can be. As always, most of us would enthusiastically exclaim "I'm ready to go all the way!" or "Bring it on!"

Thats a pretty passe response isn't it? I mean most of us don't mind saying it, but doing it is another thing because we are afraid or unwilling to push ourselves too much, and learn from timeless, proven techniques of the trade.

Some folks who profess to be from an artistic background would say " I want to be my creative, individual self! I don't bother about what other photographers have done in the past, or who're doing currently. I'd rather experiment and find out on my own what makes things work for me and my clients." I humbly profess that I've gone through those thoughts at times.

I mean, seriously, do you think anyone can figure it out all by themself, just by simply getting a DSLR and racing out there to shoot a wedding for a few hundred ringgit for the sake of their "college assignment"?

I guess we have to ask ourselves, where do we stand on the issue of mediocrity. Are we willing to study hard, practise hard, and to obtain the necessary equipment to do the job? Are we willing to make the effort to learn through the proper avenues and put them to practise? Are we willing to struggle through the various stages of becoming a photographer in whatever genre we aspire to be, and find our maximum potential?

Like our instant noodles and disposable plates, most of us at times would prefer an instant route to success. Unfortunately there is none. We can try our own hit and miss techniques until we stumble on something miraculous that will work once in a while, but the outcome is totally our responsibility.

Until then, I choose to be safe and put my money on the masters of the craft, and continually learn from them so that I can be the best that I can be.


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

No tripod? No problem!

I've been meeting up with several friends in KL over the last few days. Eating overpriced nasi lemak (at least RM 7) and other hawker dishes at supposedly authentic, franchised cafes has made me a little disillusioned.

Nonetheless, after meeting a friend today for dinner, I decided to conduct some night shooting on my own. With the Olympus E-3, I needed to lug around my tripod, or risk the possibility of very noisy images at ISO 1600 and above. With my new rig, a pair of steady hands (despite the lack of Image Stabilization), and proper control of exposure in manual mode, the above issues can be avoided, although you will not be able to shoot very long exposure images (eg. light trails).

Lots of businesses open late here other than cafes and restaurants, which can be a pretty reassuring thing if you need some medicine late at night.

I reckon the cafes here are a little too clean and clinical. Although most of them try to distinguish their menus, you ultimately return to some similar dishes, such as the durian pancake you can see on the far left. Its not bad though. I reckon it will be some time before this dessert makes its way to Kuching.

Some families can spend their entire lives eating out instead of a decent home cooked meal. Yes, we're all busy, who isn't? I find those who claim they don't have time to cook a very sloppy excuse, because in Melbourne, I can prepare my own home cooked meal in 20 mins without being fussed about stirfrying or cleaning up numerous plates.

Each section has its own hawker center which sell their food at a relatively cheaper price margin. The Hokkien noodles here aren't bad.

The shop house architecture in Malaysia hasn't change for eons, and they will continue to be available well into the new millenium. Not everyone would prefer setting up a business in a large shopping mall where you could be paying RM 15k for a small lot in the corner.

Ironically, snatch thefts are pretty rampant here despite the availability of neighborhood patrols. Make sure you look back, left and right while walking through these lanes. Not many are willing to come to your aid if your belongings get snatched.

To some shots, getting attention from the streets is essential, hence the appearance of multi coloured neon lights and fancy signboards.

Do beware of shooting sport cars with darkly tinted windows. It was only after I moved on that I noticed there were a pair of eyes staring at me from the driver's seat.

The local petrol station seems pretty desolate.

Bridal houses are in abundance in this area. Each of them have their own unique 'stories' even though they look pretty regular on the outside.

It is unfortunate that some of the bridal houses produce images which look as lifeless as these mannequins.

This budget restaurant is pretty popular. You can feed at least 6 average sized Malaysian stomachs here for at least RM 100. The food arrives pretty fast too. Just don't expect lush interior decor and quiet waiters pouring wine into your glasses.

Well, this is my new turf. It can be pretty cold and unwelcoming if you don't have any friends around, but thats life in the big city isn't it?



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