Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Ying En - My Niece

As you might have noticed, I have been doing lots of portraitures and not much of other genres since I got my new camera. Will try to venture into other genres when I have some free time.

Featuring in this post is Ying En (my eldest sis' daughter):

IMG_2272 (by changyang1230)
See a camera there? That's your uncle.

IMG_2236 (by changyang1230)
So you wanted to walk?

IMG_2219 (by changyang1230)
Should we let her walk on the road?

IMG_2221 (by changyang1230)
Don't be afraid, it's not too hard...

IMG_2217 (by changyang1230)
That's it!

IMG_2216 (by changyang1230)
A closer look (one of my most favourite pic so far)

IMG_2257 (by changyang1230)
Okay, now you want mummy to carry you. What caught your glance there?

IMG_2255 (by changyang1230)
Ahh it's dad gesturing to you.

IMG_2251 (by changyang1230)
But, but... You don't like to be carried by dad, do you?

IMG_2185 (by changyang1230)
Oh come come my dear, stop crying, we shall just take this family photo and go home okay? :)

Technical note: All taken with Canon 50mm f/1.8 II.


General Election 2008

I have been a bit busier than usual, so I haven't been writing much in this blog apart from the occasional photography ramblings. However, I guess my work amount is peanuts compared to that of the 1000+ politicians and their helpers campaigning for the Malaysian General Election to be held on 8 March. They ARE the real busy people and are doing the REAL business.

At the moment, I don't really have time to write a lengthy comment about this coming election, and when I do write about it (if at all), I expect the length to be rather unsavoury for most people.

If you are interested to find out more about this election, please visit this fantastic Election 2008 Resource prepared by tvsmith. This web page links to all the information you need about this election, and it gives equal coverage for both the incumbent government and the opposition. Do pay attention to the blogs section, there are a few blogs which I read regularly.


Monday, February 25, 2008

Pei Yun - My Niece

Flickr - Pei Yun Portraits

It's quite challenging to take pictures of my niece running about and not stopping at any second. While it seems that she posed for all the pictures, she didn't. It's all spontaneous.

For the technically inclined, among others, there are a few things that make indoor kid shots possible:

1. AI-Servo mode, which is just the fancy name of "continuous focus". It's one of the good things about DSLR - this mode makes the camera focus all the time on the moving object, and thus ensures an in-focus and sharp picture.

2. The relatively faster autofocus. It's "relatively faster" because my current lens isn't the best performer in terms of focus speed. But it's still leaps and bounds faster than a compact camera. With my niece running about, it still manages to get the focus right 70 to 80 percent of the time.

3. External flash. It's a must-get for indoor shots, especially those that involve moving subjects like kids. If you don't have an external flash, either rely on built-in flash (with unsatisfactory result), or forget about taking photos of kids at play.

Comments and criticism are welcome. :)


Friday, February 22, 2008

Of Photos and Photoshop

Have you ever looked at a good picture, and upon knowing that it's been photoshopped, said that "Chehh like that hor"?

I had. In particular, I have more than once been disappointed that in real life, travel destinations look blander and less interesting compared to pictures in travel websites. I have always blamed photoshop for that. However, as I learn more about photography, I am starting to see the other side of the coin.

I learnt that every single photo, no matter how original and pure, must have been photoshopped by the time it appears in front of you.

When we took film photographs in the past, we thought that our pictures all turned out bright and colourful. But that doesn't mean that the colour and exposure of our pics must have been right in the first place - the people in photo shops have been "photoshopping" colours, brightness and levels for decades before Adobe Photoshop came along. That's precisely where the software's name came from. All your pictures in the good ol' albums, regardless of its quality and age, had been photoshopped.

How about digital pictures, one might ask. In most digital cameras, the pixels of a picture are recorded with digital sensors, processed by a processor and converted into a jpg file. The quality of the picture coming from the process is largely dependent on the quality of the lens as well as the processor. When I visited St. Kilda beach with my friends last time, when I compared the same picture (e.g. group picture) taken with different cameras, I noticed that my Canon A70 produced much more vibrant colour out of the camera. Colour, contrast, saturation, sharpness etc, they have everything to do with the lens and the processing of the camera.

So my point is, every picture (apart from professional unprocessed RAW files, but that's another story) has already been through some level of processing, sharpening, colour-changing, white balance tuning etc. Some photo-purists take pride with not photoshopping pictures to the extent that they have this holier-than-thou attitude towards the whole practice of photoshopping. I feel that it's a bit ignorant for them to do that. Yes it's a good thing that your pictures are already beautiful straight out of the camera, but that doesn't mean that you are naturally better than people who do more post-processing. Probably unbeknownst to them is the fact that their cameras have already done a fair amount of "photoshopping" in the 'original" version. Unless you are talking about composition (which can't be changed with photoshop except simple cropping), or you are comparing two photographers using the same camera system, it's hard to make any meaningful comparison based on the usage of photoshop alone.

Also, with regards to the "cheating" travel photos - I came to term with it with the realisation that they were never meant to paint the actual picture for us anyway. Photos are now more a form of art than an item of realism.

To finish off, I will show you one of my recent efforts in improving a photo with photoshop. The techniques and results are nothing to rave about, but it's just a concept I am trying to get across.

Mum and Dad (Ori) (by changyang1230)
This is my mum and dad. We were happily shooting some random portrait pictures in Ampang recreational park, Alor Star. We saw this stone structure which is perfect to sit on, and I snapped away with 3 shot-per-second continuous bursts to capture their expressions. This is the original picture that I got (actually already modified a bit of exposure, but not much different from the real original). The colour is not too great, but my dad's glance at my mum is priceless. It's not staged at all, it's one of the pictures chosen from the 20+ shots taken in 10 seconds.

Mum and Dad (Sepia) (by changyang1230)
In my attempt to make this picture stand out more, I changed this picture to sepia at a click of a button. Not too special but looks more nostalgic now.

Mum and Dad (Crop 1) (by changyang1230)
I tried black and white instead. Black and white pictures are good at capturing contrast and is occasionally used to remove unnecessary distraction from colours in the picture. I preserved the original composition, but cropped a little bit and performed channel mixing. Channel mixing is a slightly more complicated way of turning colour pictures into black-and-white, and it's able to manipulate contrast to our desired effect. With the right setting, channel mixer produces better looking picture than the ones you get with one-click change-to-black-and-white function. Learn more here, or google "channel mixer".

Mum and Dad (Crop 2) (by changyang1230)
This is my third, and final attempt at the picture. I cut out the legs and the background trees, leaving the limelight to the two of them. For those who are technically inclined, I also did some extra colour-burning, sharpening and level adjustment. This picture will not win me any award, but I like this picture so much that I am setting it as my wallpaper and planning to get a large printout for them. The full size gives you an even greater impact. Also, do compare this with the original pic above - it's definitely an improvement.

Ahh the joy of photoshop.


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

[frank2c] Why? Why? Why?

It gives me warmth inside but frustrates me at the same time.
If you are an invited reader, read it here.

If you have no idea what it is, read more about frank2c here.

Photography - A Journey

DSC03611 (by changyang1230)I have never been artistic. I have no idea how to colour properly, I do not appreciate art galleries, and I barely pass my arts exam in school every time. In fact I dreaded arts exams in secondary schools, because they tend to lower my average result by a significant amount. Not helping is seeing numbers like 60 on my result slip while others revel in scores like 80 or 95.

So, if you asked me six years ago whether I would pick up photography as a hobby, I would reply you with a loud guffaw, and "siao ah you?". Photography is an art, and art is never my cup of tea.

Alor Star Trip 070 (by changyang1230)
Kuala Kedah, taken with Xuan Ni's Sony DSC-P73.

As you can see, I am in love with photography today. Just how did that happen?

The story began when I got my first digital camera at the dawn of its popularity in Malaysia, back in 2003. Before the purchase, I did a thorough research on various cameras as it's a rather costly item. The amount of praises on Canon A70 greatly impressed me, so I ended up with one at the cost of about RM1500. (Today, similar but better cameras e.g. Powershot A560 cost about RM500) The main attraction of that camera was that while designed as a compact camera, it comes with various manual controls which paves the way for learning photography.

The articles I read during the research and the pictures I saw totally mesmerised me. I was intoxicated with such thoughts as "wow this is what I might be able to achieve!". It was so uplifting - the thoughts that I can also create art - it became the defining moment of my love for photography.

DSC08263 (by changyang1230)
Near Cape Jervis, South Australia. Taken with Xuan Ni's Sony DSC-P73.

My Canon Powershot A70 served me well for two years in Shah Alam and one year in Melbourne, before giving way finally to wear and tear (and falls). Throughout the three years of its honourable life, it took thousands of shots for me. Although not all pictures are good, the experience imparted me lots of knowledge about the technical and artistic aspects of photography. I learned to use manual controls like ISO, shutter speed, aperture, white balance etc; and with the great guidance from the legendary Cheok Quen, I was acquainted to the basic operations of Photoshop. My interest in photography grew over time - I often end up in photography section whenever I visit a bookstore, and I engross myself in everything from Digital Photography for Dummies to Photoshop Bible.

I make no claim of myself being a good photographer; but I am confident to say that after years of practice and theories, I am starting to take above-average pictures. In year 2006 I was attracted by the newly established "Fotoholics" which was a new photography club in Melbourne University. Eager to improve my photography skills and know more people, I joined the club. The experience turned out to be eye-opening. I witnessed how ordinary people like you and I are able to produce stunning pictures we see in magazines. Equally memorable is the amount of money some people can spend on the equipments. :P

IMG_8282 (by changyang1230)
Gibson's steps overlooking the Twelve Apostles, one of the greatest attractions along Great Ocean Road, Australia.

Over the last year, I became increasingly involved in Fotoholics activity. I helped organising a "photography workshop" where I actually gave one of the lectures about the basics of photography i.e. shutter speed, aperture and ISO. I am also currently responsible for the Fotoholics website. Besides, I participated in various outings and activities in the club.

After almost two years of going without my own camera, I decided to get a decent digital SLR. For the uninitiated, a digital SLR is a category of camera which you would usually refer to as the "pro" or "big" camera. I know that it costs quite a bit, so I started saving up for it through tutoring in Melbourne. After almost one year of sporadic tutoring sessions, I finally earned enough to pay for a decent "starter's package", and that's how I ended up with my EOS 400D.

A digital SLR doesn't automatically transform a bad photographer to a seasoned photojournalist. The photographer matters more than the camera - the most expensive DSLR in an inexperienced hand will produce a picture worst than a cheap compact in a good photographer. However, this is not to undermine the capability of DSLRs (why would I have bought it if it doesn't matter at all). A DSLR enables control over every single aspect of photography. When you master the control of a DSLR, you pretty much tell the camera to produce the picture as you have in mind; instead of clicking the shutter and wishing that the camera somehow gets the brightness, sharpness, colour etc right.

One of the aspects I liked about DSLR is bokeh, the "out of focus blur" effect. Consider these two pictures of Kangaroo in Tasmania (click to view larger version):
DSC09927a (by changyang1230) Sleeping Kangaroo (by fotograz)

The first picture is by myself using compact, second picture by a fellow Fotoholics with SLR.

The first thing you notice is probably the colour, but that isn't really related to the camera as colours can be easily manipulated with Photoshop. But look at the larger version, and notice the background - the compact version has a sharp, distracting background; the SLR version has a blurred, smooth, aesthetically pleasing background. That kind of bokeh is not achievable with a compact - and when I took the picture, I was like, "if only I have an SLR". There are also other aspects like the sharpness which would have been more controllable and hence better if I took it with SLR.

Enough with grandmother stories. So yeah, now with my new camera, I look forward to more exciting journey in photography in the future. If you are interested, do take a peek at my photos at my Flickr album. Comments and criticism are much appreciated.


Person Small Ghost Big

I can't believe that I missed this advertisement by Petronas for the 50th Merdeka! They are so cute! Does anyone know whether they are together in real life?

Note: Person Small Ghost Big is a literal translation of the Chinese idiom 人小鬼大, which means a kid trying to behave like a grown-up.


Sunday, February 17, 2008


I could never spell or pronounce the word chrysanthemum properly.

Until I realised that it could be broken up to



Saturday, February 16, 2008

Back in Melbourne...

I am back in Melbourne. Everything seems to be the same except that the house is so much livelier, with the addition of four new housemates - Thow Kong, Boon Phiaw, Kee Hong and Boon Hon! :)

I foresee the house to be abuzz with talks and actions in the coming year.


Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Going Back to Melbourne

I will be flying tomorrow afternoon from Singapore to Melbourne. Hopefully my second Tiger Airways flight will be a better one. In fact it must be, with someone on my side. :)


Monday, February 11, 2008

A Question

As I explore photography in the future, I think I will be posting some "photo stories" consisting of my favourite photos. Just a question for the readers:

Which of the following would you prefer?

  1. Keep all the photo stories in My Little Moments.
  2. Keep the personal photo stories (e.g. the prayer post) in My Little Moments, but post the non-personal ones in a new blog.
  3. Put all the photos in a new blog, something like
  4. Other suggestions... ?
Would love to hear your feedback in the comments. :)


Friday, February 08, 2008

Say a Prayer

We are not exactly devout believers of Chinese Folk Religions, but we went to the temple for prayers on the Lunar New Year.

Guang Fu Temple (广福宫) is one of the most popular temples in Alor Star. I never enjoyed my experience there because the smoke from the incense suffocates me badly.

For me, burning joss sticks is more of a symbolic gesture than any other thing. It symbolises hope, dedication and sincerity.

However, I am not too sure what it means to this granny. All that harboured in the gigantic stick could be her wholehearted wishes for the wellbeing of her family. Or the prosperity of the country.

Lotus candles, yet another way of conveying wishes to the Gods.

When a family does it together, you feel the harmony.

To wrap up the ceremony, one lights the paper money...

... and hopes that the well-wishes reach the Gods through the flames.

Note: I am using poetic license in the description above. It's not meant to be a perfect depiction of the meaning and implication of various ceremonies.


Thursday, February 07, 2008

Illegal? What Illegal?



Wednesday, February 06, 2008

CNY Greeting

Wishing you a healthy and prosperous year ahead! :) 祝你新年进步!


[frank2c] A Not-Too-Short List

You get the idea.
If you are an invited reader, read it here.

If you have no idea what it is, read more about frank2c here.

Monday, February 04, 2008

[frank2c] Of Not Politicising Issues

Well, I don't understand.
If you are an invited reader, read it here.

If you have no idea what it is, read more about frank2c here.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Work Together with Three Gears

- via Digg


Saturday, February 02, 2008

Some Recent Pics

I went shutter crazy on last few days.

Images from:
Flickr - Neighbour Wedding Feb 08
Flickr - Family Members Jan 08
Flickr - Visiting Alvin Jan 08


Friday, February 01, 2008


I have always loved to use the word "perspective" in my writing, but I could never have done this word as much justice as this page: