Friday, May 30, 2014

The Fly

The common housefly is something we don't often take a close look at, but in this extreme macro image you can really appreciate how colourful it is, with its rust red eyes and black and white stripes. I was surprised to see that the wings even have an iridescent quality to them, kind of like oil on water. Image is the result of a stack of about 6 images -- not perfect, but the best I could at the time. Nikon D600, AF Micro-Nikkor 60mm f2/.8 with Kenko extension tubes.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Yellow ladybird

As far as I can tell, this is a spotless yellow ladybird. This is the second test of focus stacking -- this is a stack of four images focussed at slightly different points to produce a final photo that has most of the ladybird in focus. Nikon D600, AF Micro-Nikkor 60mm f/2.8 with extension tubes.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Behind bars

The thing about photography (especially street photography) is that you always need to have your eyes open for opportunities. Looking at this photo taken in Siem Reap in Cambodia, you'd think that nobody would be able to miss such a prime photo opportunity, but you'd be surprised -- I was hurrying to a bus together with a bunch of journalists when I noticed this kid looking through the bars of an extremely colourful school window, but most of the journalists that were with me didn't notice it at all and walked right by. I only had time to snap about 5 photos but this last one was the best. The thing about a shot like this is that you need to make sure the framing is exactly square on to the windows otherwise it just won't work. AF-S Nikkor 24-85mm VR f/3.5-4.5

Focus stacking

One of the things about Photoshop is that the application is SO feature-packed that on a nearly daily basis, I am learning something new about it.

I've always been interested in macro work, but one of the biggest advantages of shooting digital and using the most recent versions of Photoshop is the ability to do "focus stacking," i.e. shooting many exposures of the same subject, but with each shot, slightly varying the focus.

These photos are then loaded into Photoshop and then with a bit of automated magic, the software will blend the in focus parts of each image into a seamless, sharp photo.

If you have Photoshop CC, doing this is pretty easy -- you just load up all the images into it, then go into Automate-->Photomerge and choose all the images you just loaded (uncheck all the check boxes below this).

Next, select all your stacked layers and then go to Edit-->Auto-blend layers and then check the "Stack images" check box in the dialogue box that opens and then wait for the magic to happen.

Nikon D600, AF Micro-Nikkor 60mm f/2.8.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Product + Portrait

I've been shooting portraits for my work for a while now and I realise I've not posted them online before except for the unedited portrait of Nellie (a couple of posts below). This is one of the better ones I've shot recently. Believe it or not there's very little editing that I did on it -- the work was to remove the background and turn it white. The lighting setup is pretty simple -- two softboxes with two Nikon SB-600 flashguns on either side and that's it. The main thing is to show the product (which is the Samsung Galaxy Gear on the model's wrist) so being able to see the watch clearly with its display is very important. I was just very happy with how the lighting turned out on this one. Nikon D600, AF-S Nikkor 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5 VR.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Inner Light

Sometimes I get inspired to shoot something in an unusual way. This is actually a 3D printed skull made by a team at Universiti Malaya in Kuala Lumpur for surgical training and research. I was there on assignment and while I shot the regular image of the skull, I thought that I could make it a lot funkier by putting a wireless flash in the skull itself and shooting that. It's not a studio shot by any means -- it was taken right at the table they had set up to display the item and the reason the background is all black is that the exposure from the flash is so bright compared to the ambient light that the background was underexposed and appears black. Nikon D600, AF-S Nikkor 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Red and green

I'm not really sure if this shot works or not, but I kind of like it. It's a bit of a rainy day project, where I had some lime seedlings I had growing in my kitchen. I put them next to a window with a red plastic bag I had as a backdrop and had a bit of wireless flash coming from the top to help illuminate the seedlings a little bit. Nikon D600, AF Micro-Nikkor 60mm f/2.8.

Monday, September 23, 2013


It's been awhile since I've posted here. I'd say I've been busy, and it'd be true, but then that's no real excuse not to post here. Anyway a lot of stuff has changed in cameras since I started this photoblog, not least is the rise of the retro camera. I've got a new camera, but it's not one of those -- in fact, I've recently upgraded to an even bigger DSLR-- the Nikon D600 -- and I couldn't be happier with it. The move to a 24MP full-frame is a real big change and believe it or not, it's a lot sharper than I ever thought it'd be. Anyway this photo is an unretouched shot I took for one of my camera reviews. Since the beginning of this year, I've been using a 2 soft box set up which gives a nice even, soft light to studio shots. For lights, I actually use two Nikon SB600 speed lights set to wireless mode. It looks pretty darned good, if I say so myself. Nikon D600, AF-S Nikkor 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5 VR.


Wednesday, July 18, 2012


One more shot with the 8mm fisheye. Another look at Publika in Solaris Dutamas. Nikon D7000, Samyang 8mm f/3.5

The wheels are turning

Publika at Solaris Dutamas is an interesting, very arty place. For example, in the public square between buildings, there're old cable spools which have been turned into art pieces. The thing about using super wide angles like the Samyang 8mm is that you really have to get close to stuff if you want to show it larger in the frame -- even though it doesn't look like it, I was only about one foot from this giant spool. Nikon D7000, Samyang 8mm f3.5

The world through a fisheye

I recently bought a fisheye lens. Usually, fisheye lenses, which have a 180-degree distorted view of the world, cost more than RM2000, but recently Korean company Samyang introduced an 8mm f/3.5 manual focus lens for just RM1200 (with built in aperture and distance microchip for Nikon compatibility). So after reading many positive reviews, I bought it and I have to say I'm really impressed. Wide open at f/3.5 it's a tad soft, but stop down to f/5.6 and everything is as sharp as you could want. The best thing about fisheye lenses is that manual focus is not a problem -- if you set it to minimum focus and set the aperture to between f/5.6 and f/11, everything will be in focus! Nikon D7000, Samyang 8mm f/3.5

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Shooting star

This is an image converted to black and white using the D7000's built in image editor and I have to say it turned out exactly like I wanted it to. When taking this photo, I had in mind one of those many Ikea photos that you can buy for your wall. Nikon D7000, AF Micro-Nikkor 60mm f/2.8.

Purple trumpet

I've known that 1Utama in Petaling Jaya had a "Secret Garden" on the rooftop, but it was only recently that I had time to visit it. Pretty interesting place and it's surprisingly well maintained for a rooftop garden. Just like the two other photos below, taking macro photos of flowers (and bugs) in the field is practically impossible without the help of flash, so all these shots were taken with me holding my camera in one hand while having a wireless flash pointed downwards with my other hand. This shot is exactly as shot with no editing or cropping. In macro work, careful framing and focus is really important -- I'm always acutely aware of the background, the framing and the focus. Nikon D7000, AF Micro-Nikkor 60mm f/2.8

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Stars and heart

As you've probably noticed by now, I'm a big fan of macro photography. In macro at least this is where a DSLR with a purpose-built macro lens excels over compact cameras. Anyway, this shot is almost a direct conversion to black and white from the original colour image. I shot this with the intention of turning it into a monochrome image. Not much to say about it except that I just liked this composition. Nikon D7000, AF Micro-Nikkor 60mm f/2.8.

Thursday, February 16, 2012



It's sad that a company that has contributed so much to photography as Kodak has is now in such dire straits. However, technology marches on and we either adapt or die. Here's something which I would not have been able to do in the days of film. Yes it's a regular picture of two droplets of water (the other one just hit the surface of the water) which could have been taken with a film camera. However, in the old days, when I was still using film, I would never have tried such a shot because the trial and error just to get one or two successful shots would have taken many rolls of film which cost a lot of money then. With digital of course, I'm now free to shoot as many as I want AND be able to immediately see whether I got the shot or not. This shot was set up simply on my kitchen table with a flash bounced just off camera. It took maybe 40 or 50 shots before I got maybe three that were properly in focus and was aesthetically pleasing. While this kind of shot has been seen many times before, it's always fun to give a try yourself. Here's the other shot:

 Nikon D7000, AF Micro-Nikkor 60mm f/2.8

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Come into my parlour

My dad's garden is a treasure trove of macro subjects. This pretty little spider was only about 2mm  and actually quite willing to let me sit there and shoot photo after photo. As always, it's nearly impossible to shoot a proper macro in available light, so I had an SB-600 held in one hand above the spider, while my right hand held the camera to shoot. The photo was taken with my 60mm macro lens at the nearest focus, while I rocked back and forth slightly to get the spider in focus. Getting the eyes in focus is the most important thing, and I had to shoot quite a few shots before I was satisfied. The image is slightly cropped to make the composition a little tighter. Nikon D7000, AF Micro-Nikkor 60mm f/2.8.

Monday, November 28, 2011


I didn't set up this shot. I just noticed that a kid had just left his wet footprints on the sand and snapped a couple of quick shots. I'm not even sure why the footprints only had a wet outline and wasn't wet all the way inside the print as well. I kinda laugh when I look at it because of an old Archie comic that revolved around the phrase, "footsteps in the sands of time." Nikon D7000, AF-S Nikkor 18-105mm f3.5-5.6 VR

Down by the seaside

Yes I'm not sure why but I'm still in a black and white mood. Anyway, I made a trip down to a seaside location to test out my 10-stop Neutral Density filter. What does it do? Well essentially, it's like dark glasses -- it makes things a LOT darker, and in a camera, this means slow shutter speeds, and the effect is that the sea is rendered as a smooth blur like this. The photo was converted from RAW and edited in Nik Silver Efex Pro 2 and slightly cropped. You'd be surprised how little editing there was to get it to look like this-- the major work involved removing many dust spots. The image was shot at f/32 so every little bit of dust that normally doesn't show up on wider aperture shots all made an appearance here, despite cleaning my image sensor before going on the photo shoot. Nikon D7000, AF-S Nikkor 18-105mm VR

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Fire in the sky

Not sure if I ever mentioned this, but I'm a great admirer of the work of renowned B+W landscape photographer, Ansel Adams. Adams' mastery and understanding of the relationship between light and dark tones has always left me in awe and has always inspired much of my B+W work. Anyway, this shot was taken in Seattle from the top of the Space Needle. On that day, there was an amazing sunset in progress and I was lucky enough to capture this. Obviously, there has been some contrast and brightness adjustment done here (as Adams did-- his was a mastery of the darkroom as much as the framing) but the sky really was mostly like this. I'm quite happy with how this photo turned out. Nikon D7000, AF-S Nikkor 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6 VR

Monday, October 31, 2011

Electric dreams

This shot was a simple grab shot with an Olympus E-PL3 I was testing. The subject is a friend's daughter who was totally engrossed playing Angry Birds on his smartphone. Originally shot in colour, I felt the image was better served in B+W so I converted it and did some minimal contrast adjustment. Olympus E-PL3, 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Shinjuku Sunrise

Woke up at sunrise, looked out my hotel window and saw this amazing sunrise over Shinjuku in Tokyo. The problem with trying to capture a scene like this is that you can either get an exposure from the sky and get buildings dark or get an exposure for the buildings but the sky will be too bright. The answer? High Dynamic Range (HDR), where you take two shots -- one with a proper exposure for the sky and another with a proper exposure for the buildings then join them together. I don't have any special software for doing this right now and just manually pick the areas that I want and layer them over the other using PhotoForge2 on the iPad. Nikon D7000, AF-S Nikkor 18-105mm f/ VR

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Image stabilization

This is the first video I've ever posted on this blog, but I thought since I've been showing photos taken with the Tamron SP 70-300mm f/4-5.6 Di VC USD, I might as well also show you a video I did showing you how effective the optical image stabilization in the lens is. Nikon D7000, Tamron SP 70-300mm f/4-5.6 Di VC USD

Friday, September 02, 2011

A Day at the Zoo

I haven't been to the National Zoo in Kuala Lumpur for a number of years now. The last time I went, it was pretty disappointing -- animals kept in cement enclosures with very little in the way of mental stimulation. However, when o went back today, it was a completely different story -- the Zoo has had a major remodeling and the animals have now been moved into properly landscaped enclosures with a more open concept, mostly without bars, very much like the Singapore Zoo or Taiping Zoo. One of the reasons I went to the zoo was to test out the new Tamron SP 70-300mm Di VC USD, a telephoto zoom that's reasonably priced yet offers some amazing images when used properly. Even at 300mm wide open at f/5.6, as this image is, results are really impressive with only a hint of softness and chromatic aberration which goes away if you stop down one stop to f/8. This photo is slightly cropped for balance and some contrast adjustment was made, but no sharpening. Nikon D7000, Tamron SP 70-300mm Di VC USD

Get back

One thing I never noticed about tigers until now (probably because I've only looked more at the front than the back) is that tigers have white spots on their ears! Nikon D7000, Tamron SP 70-300mm f/4-5.6 Di VC USD

Portrait of an Orangutan

The thing about shooting at the zoo is that you really need a long telephoto lens to get really tight portraits of animals. Here, again, I shot at 300mm with the Tamron, and the results were pretty good. The image has been cropped slightly on the right to better balance the composition. Nikon D7000, Tamron SP 70-300mm Di VC USD

Lazy leopard

This photo really bothers me a lot -- frankly, if I had gotten the leopard's right paw in the frame, the shot would've worked. As it is, my eye keeps getting drawn to the fact that the paw is just out of frame in this photo. Nevertheless, something to learn here apart from proper framing, is that even though I had a busy wire mesh between me and the leopard, shooting with the telephoto lens with the mesh quite close means that it'll be rendered completely out of focus in the shot, except for a slight greenish blur over the leopards back. Another thing to note is that the Tamron performed admirably when stopped down to f/8. Nikon's D7000, Tamron SP 70-300mm Di VC USD

Fighting flamingoes

I decided to go against conventional wisdom to present an image of flamingoes in full colour and instead decided to convert this shot into a more stark black and white image. I think stripping the colour away produces a more arresting image of these fighting flamingoes. Nikon D7000, Tamron SP 70-300mm Di VC USD

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Getting a tan

This shot is presented unedited just to show you how good the Tamron SP 70-300mm f/4-5.6 Di VC USD is when at it's best. I have to say that's pretty darned sharp. As for what this stork is doing, I think it is getting some sun to warm itself up after getting wet in the pond. Nikon D7000, Tamron SP 70-300mm f/4-5.6 Di VC USD

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


This shot only works because of the amazing bokeh -- the buttery smooth blur of the out of focus background -- and the almost painterly effect that you get because of this. I recently bought the Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 which has the advantage of isolating the subject matter thanks to a shallow depth of field. In reality, if it were sharper in the background, you would clearly see the ugly wires holding up the flower pot and some other extraneous detail. With this shallow depth of field, I simply shot between two other leaves, made sure the front 3 flowers were sharp enough and blurred everything else out. Nikon D7000, AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Monochrome orchids

Yes I'm still in a monochrome mood. This photo was taken with the express intention to turn it into black and white. I noticed how these two orchids are very similar in position and wanted to shoot a monochrome image to emphasize this. The image was then converted to B+W and adjusted in my iPad. Turned out pretty good I think. Since I did not have my usual 60mm macro I had to borrow my dad's Tamron macro lens. Nikon D7000, Tamron SP 90mm f/2.8

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Retro couple

I was waiting for my ride in Seattle when I saw this couple waiting at the taxi stand, dressed in what looks like 1920s or 1940s style hats. looks kind of sweet and I waited till their position was just right and snapped a few photos. Again, this was originally in colour, but I converted it into black and white in-camera with a virtual red filter. I was standing right behind the couple btw. Nikon D7000, AF-S Nikkor 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 VR

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Sleeping in Seattle

I've been saving this title for years, I think, waiting for a shot that would fit it! Anyway, unlike the accordion photo, this shot was converted into monochrome in-camera, using the D7000's black and white conversion feature, which is surprisingly powerful -- for example, shooting in RAW, I can not only convert it to monochrome, but simulate a red filter to darken other colours and lighten skin tones in black and white. I actually shot another version of this where the father's face is visible, but I quickly realised it would be better to focus on the kid more, so I quickly zoomed in a little closer and took this one. There are lots of split-second decisions to make when shooting a photo like this -- this photo is not cropped at all, and I had to decide at that moment not to include the father's nose and yet make sure his lips are not cut off. I was standing practically right next to the father and son, btw. Nikon D7000, AF-S Nikkor 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6VR

Streetside Accordion

Seattle's Pike Place is a street photographer's dream, I think -- it's got lots of interesting people doing interesting things. This shot was converted to monochrome using Photogene on the iPad, with a slight contrast adjustment and a bit of cropping and sharpening. Amazing what you can do on the iPad these days. Nikon D7000, AF-S Nikkor 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6VR

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Wesak 2011

Seems like I'm here every year. I'm not a particularly religious person, but I'm at the Thai temple every year for Wesak day to take photos and partake of the excellent Thai food. :) This year, I challenged myself not to take exactly the same photos as I did in previous years, which means I'd have to actively think of new angles and new things to shoot at a place I've visited and shot for many years now. This is one of the first shots, taken at a lower angle than I did before. Nikon D7000, AF-S Nikkor 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6 VR

For luck

This is perhaps one of the most often shot images at the Thai temple on Wesak day. These donation pots are often shot by numerous photographers and every year, I shoot these as well. This year, instead of taking a shot of the coin going in, I thought this one, of the person hoping to get a blessing by touching the pot instead, was interesting. Nikon D7000, AF-S Nikkor 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6 VR

The dragon's back

Again, instead of the obvious shot of the dragon's head, I thought I'd focus on something else. Nikon D7000, AF-S Nikkor 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6 VR


It's interesting, but Chinese people tend to hold their joss sticks this way while Thai people tend to keep them close to their chests as they pray. Nikon D7000, AF-S Nikkor 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6 VR

Solitary candle

Sometimes taking a shot of small details that people would normally miss helps to avoid the many similar shots that popular events like Wesak day produces. Nikon D7000, AF-S Nikkor 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6 VR

Let there be light

In keeping with the challenge to shoot the same things in a different way, this time I chose to shoot the oil lamps from a top down angle by just lifting the camera over my head and pointing it straght down. Nikon D7000, AF-S Nikkor 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6 VR

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Moonshot 20/3/2011

This shot was taken at the period when the moon is supposedly the closest its been in many many years. Taking photos of the moon requires the longest telephoto lens that you have, a steady tripod and spot metering. Contrary to what you might think, the moon travels across the sky at quite a speed and between each shot I have to reposition my camera or in just a minute or two the moon would be out of frame. The shot could be sharper if I had a better lens, but considering that I'm using a cheap Kenko 800mm f/8 mirror lens, it turned out ok. A bit of tweaking of contrast and sharpening to help bring out more detail is required as the Kenko tends to be lacking in contrast. Nikon D7000, Kenko 800mm f/8 manual focus mirror lens.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Welcome to New Zealand!

Probably the most travel-filled month of my life, February was a month where I visited Hanoi in Vietnam and also Queenstown in New Zealand. You'll find the Hanoi photos further down. This is one of the first shots I took when I arrived on a bright sunny morning in New Zealand. Needless to say, the view is simply breathtaking. A little walk down from the hotel in Queenstown, NZ and you get this view. One of the reasons I love taking panoramas is that I naturally like to frame photos with stuff on the sides, and it works really well with panoramas. Nikon D7000, AF-S 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6 VR

Monday, February 28, 2011

Lake Erskine

Ever seen one of those mountain scenes with a beautiful mirror-like lake? Well I've actually had the privilege to visit exactly that in Queenstown, New Zealand. Lake Erskine is apparently a UNESCO World Heritage site that sits right on top of a mountain. In a word, it's breathtaking especially since it's only easily accessible by helicopter, and above a lot of clouds. The chopper landed on a narrow ridge on which I shot this photo. On the other side of the ridge is yet another breathtaking view:
Yes. This view. I think I've died and gone to heaven. In fact, the view is just so great it's practically impossible to shoot a bad photo. So here's another one:

Nikon D7000, AF-S Nikkor 12-24mm f/4, AF-S Nikkor 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6 VR