Continuum

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There are years that ask questions and years that answer. ~ Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God

Having passed my 55th birthday last month makes me sometimes wonder what’s ahead for me. Frankly I’m not too worried about it as I’m happy with the way life is going so far. There’s a roof over my head, I have clothing, I make a decent living and most importantly I have health. And what about happiness? To quote a cliché, happiness is a state of mind—we decide how much and when we want to be happy. I’ve reached the point where I’m content to take each day as it comes, not glossing over the past or the future. Some days I’m on a high and conversely some days I’m not so…but even then there’s always something to be thankful for every day.

I’m grateful to the people who understand me and my weirdness (I say weirdness as a compliment to myself) I know my likes and dislikes and don’t make any apologies for them. I’m not a people-pleaser and I don’t have any intention to be one, not now, not ever. Instead, I like my own quirkiness (again, a quiet compliment to moi)

Life’s good so far.

Back to Nature II

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I took these shots with my Canon 6D using a variety of lenses, namely the Canon 100mm f/2.8L Macro and 70-200mm f/4L IS. Sometimes it’s hard to see the beauty of a place, especially when you’ve been there practically every day. But I’ve trained myself to spot a potential picture. Sometimes I succeed and sometimes I end up deleting most of them in a photo shoot. Nonetheless, it’s a fun and learning experience. For the above picture I saw this large fern perched on the river bank. Using a large aperture of f/4 on my 70-200mm I focused on it while blurring the background to make the subject stand out. In the picture below I saw this glorious reflection in the lily pond. I positioned the sole lily flower on the intersection of thirds to add a touch of pink among the sea of predominant green. Shot with my Canon 70-200mm f/4L.

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(Above) I happened to be at the right place at the right time for this sunset. I let the camera judge the exposure and it came out with a perfect silhouette of the trees. Believe it or not, I used my 100mm f/2.8L Macro lens to take this shot!

(Below) The wind was picking up; fortunately I had my tripod with me and shot this using a slowish shutter speed, which blurred the movements in the water. 70-200mm f/4L.

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(Above) Not many people know where this is, but it’s a lovely place to take some pictures, especially with the sloping gradient of the ground. I focused on the tree and placed it at the intersection of thirds. 70-200mm f/4L.

Back to Nature I

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Canon 6D, 24-105mm f/4L

Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it. ~ Confucius

There’s no doubt about it. I am blessed to have the Botanical Gardens right at my doorstep. Having Nature so close to me is wonderful. And so I’ve been taking a lot of walks in the gardens and its surroundings. I especially like it when the rainy season begins and the temperature drops by a few degrees. Needless to say, I’ve taken countless pictures here. Wait, I hear you say…don’t you ever get bored with taking pictures of the same scenery? Ah yes, sometimes…I have to be honest about that. But that’s where my creative juices kick in and I start looking at Nature differently—using different lenses, exploring different angles, shooting at different times of day, stuff like that. So to start off this series of posts, I’ve chosen to show the gardens and its surroundings.

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Both photos above: Canon 6D, 24-105mm f/4L

Perhaps the best thing I like about the gardens are its waterfalls. They are particularly resplendent during the rainy season, when the surge of water from the nearby hills makes the waterfalls “sing.” I find the sound of waterfalls to be very calming—to me it’s akin to white noise. If the temperature here could magically drop by at least 10° I could sit and listen to them all day.

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Canon 6D, 100mm f/2.8L Macro

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Canon 6D, 70-200mm f/4L

I love that quote by Confucius. I feel a little sad when I see people coming to exercise here and they have their headphones on, or they are talking loudly to one another or trying to appear busy with their cellphones. Uh uh…not me. I leave the electronics at home. I do have my watch but very often I’m so carried away with my photography that I don’t even realize the time. Anyway, it’s having a creative eye that makes me attempt to take different pictures every time. So yes, I see and I photograph dead leaves. Just because they’re dead doesn’t mean they have lost their beauty.

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Canon 6D, 70-200mm f/4L

The lily ponds are a treat for me. I like to take pictures of the reflections in the water, particularly when it’s raining. I’m so glad that they have got all the fountains working again. More about that later.

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Canon 6D, 100mm f/2.8L Macro

Here’s a shot of the nearby hills during a very rainy morning. Yes, that’s fog coming down the slopes. Makes for a very atmospheric shot, yes?

A trip up Penang Hill

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It’s been more than 30 years since I last visited this iconic Penang landmark. I remembered as a kid, my brother and I would go up and stay in one of the government bungalows with my other cousins or friends during the school holidays. I’m sure a lot has changed, so this morning I took a ride up using the modern funicular railway—very nice, no lines. The train was air-conditioned and went quite fast. After reaching the summit of this 2300 foot hill the exit erroneously led me to some coffee shops and an Owl Museum…no, I didn’t pay to go in. I managed to find the proper exit and went out. Nothing much to explore, there was a Hindu temple there, a playground, and some buggies with drivers waiting for tourists to hire them.

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As luck would have it, the weather wasn’t that ideal for photography; it was rather hazy and murky. I bolted a polarizer onto my lens and tried to make the best of whatever blue skies there were. Visited this nearby platform where there was a long fence and couples chained locks to it with their declarations of love. Um, in other cities having this kind of thing, they are usually on bridges and once you’ve snapped the lock shut you’re supposed to throw the keys into the water. So what would they do here when there’s no water source? Just wondering. Sorry, I’ve become a little cynical of love lately.

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I had to take the obligatory selfie to prove I was here. And it’s also because I carried my tripod along for this trip. It was so warm, I was sweating buckets, blah blah blah. You get the picture (pun intended).

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After that I went for a long walk…needless to say a lot of tourists were hiring buggies and having themselves driven around. Not me, I like the exercise. I like the solitude and I can do without all that useless chatter.

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Here’s a view of downtown Penang. As I said, the weather wasn’t cooperating but what the hell, I’m already here.

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I was also disappointed because I wanted to try David Brown’s restaurant (supposed to be good) but when I got there it was closed. And it looked like it was closed permanently. Ah well, lunch will have to wait. I think the nicest shot was of these colorful leaves.

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There was a huge crowd of mostly noisy locals when I wanted to make the trip down…I had to stand inside the train since it was packed like sardines. I don’t think I’ll be making another trip up here again…nothing really much to see.

 

Synchronicity

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The way I see it, life is all about risk. We take a risk when doing almost anything…eating our meals, driving (especially here in Penang!), work and play, relationships, etc. However, we are akin to ships—we can feel safe and secure docking in the harbor of our comfort zones, but that isn’t what ships are built for. We need to be cruising along the oceans of life, sometimes encountering violent storms (for sure) and sometimes being in the doldrums. Those times are inevitable, but there will almost definitely be times where the winds are kind to us, and we’re sailing along at just the perfect pace.

I’m quite the introvert. Apart from my piano teaching (where I talk a lot) and my hotel work, I keep pretty much to myself. When I eat out I eat alone most of the time. Very typical of me is that when I return home, I have a simple meal, some tea (or wine, if I’m so inclined) and then curl up with a good book or go online (nope, no TV). Yes, I’m not the sociable type since I have an innate dislike of crowds and noise—so my home is my fortress of solitude, so to speak. However, I like to travel when time and finances permit, so this recent trip (although brief) has been very good on the whole.

I’ve met some people for the first time. With some I’ve felt a stronger connection than others. That’s fine—I’m not going to get along with everybody I meet, and there are some who will avoid me the moment they set eyes on me. But…there are others who ply the same frequencies as I do…and without taking a risk of meeting them, I’d simply be in the dark. So I go for it. Take a chance. If it works, it works. If not, then I learn from it and move on. So far I’m happy with my single life, even though sometimes I do feel a tug of loneliness. However, with photography making a comeback in my life (it never really left, I guess) all I want to do is to take more pictures of this beautiful world. And the beautiful people that I meet.

Life is short, and as a dear friend said, too short to sweat the small stuff. Jettison the junk. Keep sailing.

A State of Mindful

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Those of you who know me well will know that I’ve gone through some bad patches in my life. You feel like there’s no escape when you’re burning in hell but then, time (as always) proves to be an unseen but a felt friend…with the passing of time I’ve learnt to accept, forgive the past, and to forge ahead. To quote a cliché, life has its share of ups and downs. So I’ve tried to show that with my photography. I capture what is out there, without post processing or any of that crap. I like my pictures straight out of the camera, just like real life.

And speaking of real life…well, I have to admit something—I’ve been doing very well lately. Not that I’m earning loads of money or any of that what-successful-people-have-done shit. I’ve learned to become more mindful of who I am, and to keep tuning myself towards it…a state of bliss and contentment with myself. I don’t take life so seriously any more…of course there are times when bad things happen or things don’t go the way I want them to go, or people don’t react the way I hope they do. But here’s the thing—we can’t control the world, or people, or situations, or whatever. However, we can control how we react to them. It all sounds very Zen but the thing is, I’m going with the flow of life. And like a boat flowing with the currents, life suddenly seems much easier without the constant tugging and fighting with whatever is thrown at me.

I’m really enjoying being with myself…and to do the things I like to do, such as my photography. So what if I’m the only one who likes my pictures, I don’t care, LOL. I’m just happy doing what I love. And I’ll continue doing it…period.

The Joy of Single

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As 2013 draws to a close I am still a singleton…and proud of it. There is something uniquely empowering about being alone and independent, doing things on my own without having to rely on someone else. Traveling alone has been fun, because I can do whatever I want at my own leisure. For the most part it has been a good year, with my move to FF (Full Frame) in the form of the Canon EOS 6D and my trip to San Francisco. Of course, there are times when I feel pangs of loneliness (is there such a term?) and long for some companionship…but clichéd as it sounds, it’s better to be alone than to be stuck with the wrong person. If she comes, she comes. Searching for a soul mate? Hmm. The secret of searching is that…there is no search (me and my Zen-ness).

I’ve enjoyed doing what I want, when I want, and sometimes I do absolutely nothing…without having to deal with the considerations of another person. Is that selfish? Maybe, but oh, it’s so much fun, especially when I’m caught up with my photography. I believe in doing whatever makes one happy, and if that doesn’t go down well with some people, screw them. Life’s too short for what ifs.

The new year brings with it certain hopes. Travel will play a big role, together with my photography. I’m just going with the flow, and really, I don’t care what other people think anymore. Here’s to a happy 2014, people.