A short holiday in Ho Chi Minh City

My partner was very generous to give me a free air ticket to Ho Chi Minh City as my birthday present. Thank you dear!

I haven’t visited Vietnam since 2015 i think. This is the first time we are traveling to this Ho Chi Minh City. Much has changed in the city, the familiar walkway i used to travel is going to be removed soon, the Japanese restaurant i often patronize was gone, many shops were starting to close down, all these are due to the development of underground train.  Is kinda of sad, but the country needs to continue to develop to improve the life of the local.

I bought a DSLR camera and a tilt shift lens with me on the trip, nothing more. I was more interested in the local architecture since i took more interest in architecture after my last VN trip. Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t the best throughout the trip, i didn’t bring my camera out most of the time. I only managed to make less than 15 pictures on this entire trip, and only a few pictures barely can make it.

My mindset from the start was the outcome of the picture was least important, i already knew the weather was going to be less friendly. But i want to see the local popular architecture through my camera using a tilt shift lens, i want to have a feel of it in overseas. Other than that, it was mainly bonding time, my partner and i were tasting lots of very delicious local dishes, gosh this is another food heaven country.

Only 4 pictures of architecture from Ho Chi Minh City to share and one night scene from my hotel swimming pool

A very interesting building that is filled with cafe and living space, can be seen along the street of Nguyen Hue

Palace Saigon hotel along the street of Nguyen Hue

The very famous local landmark must visit is Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon

The Myst Dong Khoi is an upscale hotel with a rooftop bar and swimming pool. I love how the building is embracing greenery all over it.

From my hotel, Liberty Central Saigon Centre Hotel. I placed my camera on the ledge to capture this night scene, probably the most difficult thing i ever did because there is no auto focus on my lens, no cable release, no tripod. Extremely hard to compose as the live view from my 5D MK II old camera is spoilt.

There are lots of hotels and budget hotels in Saigon, depending which area you wish to stay. If you are not really on a low budget, want to stay in a mid price but a good hotel. I would like to recommend you to stay at Liberty Central Saigon Centre Hotel. Is only less than a min walk to Ben Thanh Market. Lots of delicious food around the streets, In my opinion, this hotel is very centralized for me as i can head to many places easily. In the past, i was staying in backpacker street and i have to walk a pretty far distance to Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica and so on. This was also my first time swimming in a hotel pool on the roof, the view is really scenic in the night.

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Check out my Ho Chi Minh City travel pictures too.

    

 

 

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Featuring Singapore ‘Hidden Door’

Singapore ‘Hidden Door’ is featured once again, this time in India. An editor of Colour Quotient from Asian Paints wanted an interview of my personal work and feature some of the ‘Hidden Doors‘ series. I was more than happy to grant his request and assist whatever is needed to support.

Featured articles

– Singapore ‘Hidden Door’ in 畅游行, Singapore first Mandarin travel magazine
– Singapore ‘Hidden Door’ in ArchDaily, with more than 10 million viewers internationally
– Singapore ‘Hidden Door’ in Lonely Planet Travel News
– Singapore ‘Hidden Door’ in 42 magazin, an online magazine in Siberia
– Singapore ‘Hidden Door’ in Metro daily newspaper at Russia with 1.9 million readers
– Singapore ‘Hidden Door’ in Nine Australia
– Singapore ‘Hidden Door’ in Asian Paints, Colour Quotient

Singapore Chinese Guardian Lions

The Chinese guardian lion or Chinese stone lions is a unique animal to the Chinese’s tradition since the Han Dynasty. A pair of stone lions, male and female can be often seen in front of the Chinese imperial palaces, imperial tombs, temples during the pre-modern China.

The positioning of the male lion is on the left with his right paw resting on a ball, and the female on the right with her left paw fondling a cub. The lion was regarded as the king in animal kingdom, representing power and prestige. These stone lions were believed to have powerful mythic protective benefits.

In today modern society country, such as Singapore. These lions also stood in front of shops, private residences, restaurant, high-rise building, offices and so on. With one lion sitting on each side of the entrance.

The “Chinese Guardian Lions” will be shared concurrently with viewers rather than waiting for the whole project to end. Am curious to see what are the interesting “lions” i can capture, and perhaps an interesting story.

Travel Collection – 5 in Vietnam

Four weeks in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam back in 2011.

Was visiting a local famous temple for prayer. The art director wanted some pictures of the locals selling prayer items. So been a non Vietnamese, i can’t speak their native language. The art director spoke to them to get them agree for pictures. Vietnamese always love to have their picture taken, i wonder why, something that still mystify me till today.

I’ve composed in a way to capture more of the background environment in what they are selling, rather than focus just their close up portrait. It depends what story you wish to tell. As this was done indoor, i turned the subject around to the available natural light source. No flash was require to capture the 2 different scenes.

I liked the pictures because both ladies were very pleasant and i like the various details in the background of their work place.

I can see their life is not easy, but their smile showed hope and calmness in life.


Feel free to check out other of my travel collection articles
1 in Beijing
2 in Bangkok
3 in Sri Racha
4 in Nepal

Travel Collection – 4 in Nepal

“Namaste”

When i was doing my travel photography at Kathmandu, Nepal. “Namaste” was the only nepalese language i spoke of in the entire trip. Is a respectful greeting to the local people.

According to Wikipedia.

Namaste means “I bow to the divine in you“. Namaste is usually spoken with a slight bow and hands pressed together, palms touching and fingers pointing upwards, thumbs close to the chest. This gesture is called Añjali Mudrā or Pranamasana. *fascinating*

Capture this picture using a 24-70 lens. Wanted a out of focus background, aperture set to F/3.5, shutter speed running at 1/1600. The morning light was rather heart warming than alluring in the capital. Life in Nepal seems less unsophisticated to me, travelling in a city there feels rural yet, basic modern accessibility is in place.

I spotted this man during my morning walk, the temperature was still chilling. I stopped, observed him. He was selling some products on the street to make a living. I approached him. Said:”Namaste”, hand gesture for picture. He agreed.

“click click”

Share with him the picture, smile.

I capture this picture because of the difficult situation he is in. Been alone in the street trying to make a living can be challenging due to the weather condition, no shelter for him unlike retail shop. His wrinkled face showed how difficult life can be, rather than aging. Or a rather true story of life in Kathmandu.

Yet, he never forcefully try to sell me his product.

Feel free to check out other of my travel collection articles
1 in Beijing
2 in Bangkok
3 in Sri Racha

Travel Collection – 2 in Bangkok

Not sure had you read my Travel Collection – 1 in BeijingTravel Collection – 1 in Beijing

Now here goes another one of my picture story telling of why do i make this particular image and how do i approach towards the subject during travel in other countries.

As many of the pictures were taken years back. I may not remember all the small details anymore, but the scene still linger in my mind.

Portrait of a Monk

I was like a street hunter, with an eagle’s eye looking for picture opportunities in Bangkok. I can’t remember which temple i was at, there are so many temples everywhere in busy Bangkok. A Buddhism’s country that much devoted to the belief.

I wandered into this temple where i can see a row of golden Buddhas in line. I took the opportunity to rest myself from the heat of wave. While i was cooling down under the shelter, my eyes was scanning for my ‘prey’, not many visitors at that moment, kids were running around, a few monks making their way to the exit.  I capture some still life street photograph and that was about it. Something was lacking. But i don’t know what is that hollow point at that moment.

Often when i search hard for picture opportunity, that situation never appear. The moment i stopped seeking, the chance is presented and is up to you to grab it. Why do i say this? Is because much patience had already dry up while waiting or expecting for something to happen. If nothing occur as you visualise,  you may end up being frustrated, disappointed and even a waste of time.

What is the disparity between Waiting and Expecting?

Waiting – Not knowing what is going to happen next, unable to control the situation. (negative)

Expecting –  A desire to see a situation that is going to unfold. (positive)

Back to the temple. As i as was about to leave, i noticed a monk by himself standing in-front of the Buddha statue. Somehow that particular moment caught my attention. I  boosted up my confident, approached the religion man. Is a do or die moment, i don’t want to moan later why i did not even asked about it and regret for the rest of my life.

I can’t speak Thai, except for the basic “Sawadee kap”, palm together. I spoke in the most simplistic English and hand gesture to ask for a picture. Hoping he will understand. I was not nervous, but neither will i be disappointed if he rejects me.

The monk smiled, nob his head *throw fist on air*

I recalled having some difficulty in the composition, whether should he be standing at the side or the centre. I quickly made a few frames and concluded that standing in the centre would be better. Everything is all centralised from the background to the key subject. Is the the student being humble in-front of the Buddha’s teaching.

He did not smiled throughout, neither i want to control his expression. For street/environmental portrait. I decided to let the monk to be himself, and be respectful to him is important.

Personally i like this picture so much that i printed out 12 x 8 inch and hang it up on the wall.

Hope you enjoy this article, drop me a comment if you like it or how to further improve it.

Travel Collection – 1 in Beijing

Travel Collection is a group of photos from various travel trip i did in Asia countries.  I decided to select my favourite pictures, open up another folder in my website and put my favourite all together. Photoshelter function allows me to seamlessly handle large number of images in a breeze. The purpose for this blog is to share why do i make this particular image and how do i approach towards the subject during travel in other countries.

Portrait of an old lady 

I was exhausted after squeezing and exploring around the Temple of Heaven, Beijing. I headed to the park within the premises. Taking my time to rest and enjoy the lush of lighted greenery that embraced me. This old lady sat beside me, one bench away. Somehow we started chatting a bit through my mandarin language and their own Chinese dialect, i always love to have a conversation with a kind and good stranger. She was all smiling and laughing, you know the sunshine personality. I thought she would make a good portrait picture for my travel documentation,

She was already unreserve and relax, i asked her permission whether can i take her photograph? She agreed, wooohoooo! I took out my trusty long lens and started shooting. While am still making minor conversation to make it even more natural. I only asked her to look at the camera, and she was smiling all the way.

There was a generous depth in the background behind her. Technically is easier to isolate the background in order for the subject to stand out in it best. When people look at the picture, the focus is immediately on her, the greenery background became an aid to the overall composition.

I thought surrounded by greenery is a natural luxury.

‘Snap, Snap, Snap’

Check my LCD and was content with the outcome.

I really love that smile reflected on her facial expression, being positive and cheerful at her age. Is like an indication that her life is much peaceful. I showed her the picture and asked whether she likes it? We continued chatting a bit more before i headed for my next destination.

Camera setting
Focal length: 94mm
ISO: 800
Aperture: F/5
Shutter Speed: 1/250

Let me know if this is helpful, as i intend to write more (to improve my writing) of my experience to share with like minded photographers so that your can gain something as well.

Afro Asia Building in Singapore

Wandering in Central Business District during the weekend prove to be the most effective way for me to do architecture photography exploration. The area is almost free from human and traffic interruption, allowing me to be focus on capturing pictures. Is also a good idea to bring my not-so-light-tripod and set it up anywhere without hindrance and getting weird stares.

In Sept 2014 i came across Afro Asia Building, a commercial building in Raffles Place district. It has this old MPH bookstore on the ground floor, there ain’t many of it in left in Singapore as compare to more than 10 years back. The building gives me a feeling of struggling against the resistance of time against all the steep cost modernised building as the nation progress. Afro Asia building gives me a disciplinary design identity. It is also prominent and hard to miss for the first timer’s visit.

I went back a few more times throughout the months to capture the building in it most presentable moment,hopefully. If possible i want the light to be as beautiful when light reflected on the building with minimum traffic distraction. As is this a personal work, i can afford to choose the best time and day to return, or when am available for the day. Funny to say it never happen to have the best light, let’s say out of 10 trips, 9 doesn’t work. I started to study why it was so difficult to get it. Because the building is surrounded by tall buildings in a circle. Light is blocked from the east and the west. The only decent light is only from mid afternoon to about 2pm. I was extremely lucky to encounter a great shot in this time slot.

A beautiful ray of light shined right in the middle of the road, in the centre of the building. A yellow taxi came in to give a contrast to the almost dull color of the building. Lights were reflected from the opposite building to offer glittering effect. That was my first and last best light ever.

1 May 2015 i went back to check it out. The sky was cloudy as usual, i thought it was another unsuccessful attempt. As i was at the junction waiting for the red man to turn green. I took a step back into the shelter and looked diagonally across, tilted my head up to discovered these huge buildings behind Afro Asia Building. I changed my perspective of viewing it in landscape and adjusted it to portrait format. I looked into my viewfinder and was excited by the scene took place. I quickly set up my tripod to get the job done. As you can see below is the result.

I always enjoy going back to a particular area many times to search and explore, over the months i get familiar with the place and i get to see and learn more things, this process will result the fruit of labour.

Commercially doing architecture photography for client, doing a detail ground survey before the shoot is very important. Architecture photographer need to see for himself to understand/feel the building and it’s surrounding, where can he place his tripod, is there any possible high ground for an even better perspective, taking note of the light shifting, which particular spot is going to cause reflection/glare from the window at this particular point of time-is it possible to rescue in post-process, is this a decent season to photograph depending on the country season, checking the weather forecast for the next day. As all said, sometimes time is limited and i got to do whatever the time is given and budget to produce the best result.

Hope and Happiness

My trip to Kathmandu, Nepal was an eye opener. Use to travel around city in various countries. Nepal greatly lacks proper infrastructures and proper amenities. This would be the least pleasant place to visit if one hope for shopping spree or entertainment during the night. There is still a pure rawness in this country. Something primitive yet very slowly advancing. If you are interested in the mountain and landscape scenery, this is the perfect place to do days of trekking.

My trip to Nepal was rather impromptu as usual. Book an air ticket which is running on promotion, did some research (which is a must) for travel photography purposes. One of the day i was in an open flea market where traders were busy finalising business deal with interested parties. I came across this small pavilion where i saw a group of Nepalese children were having fun by themselves. I approached them to capture some images, i showed them the preview on my camera LCD screen. They seems delighted, suddenly the girls started to form up a line and started to sing. Somehow it becomes a private entertainment for me. I click for more pictures.

I was looking at my archive today, pondering which pictures to print. This image appear and a string of questions runs through my mind. Do they sing to break through poverty? Do they sing to have a happy face? Through their eye i recalled, i don’t see hardship in their character, perhaps they are hoping for a miracle of true happiness in life.