On the last night of Chinese New Year 2009, the question I asked myself wasn’t whether I was going to use additional lighting when we lit the firecrackers but how many. My dad, the torch bearer, wasn’t going to wait for my decision so I quickly put together one light and a couple of Pocket Wizards into the mix and we had lift off. If you believe in coincidences, you’ll be delighted to know we had a full moon too just as we did last year.


The additional of a directional strobe made this moody event significantly dramatic. I shot this on the EOS 20D using EFS 10-22mm ultra wide angle lens so you can imagine how near I was—too near for comfort. Hope you guys like this shot!


As I was going through the images, I noticed the smoke rings and thought it’s fascinating to share. So far I had only seen rings made by cigarette smokers and never crossed my mind that they are possible at such high velocity. The backlight from the flash seems to have made it a lot obvious.



The first day of Chinese New Year is by traditionally and culturally celebrated with family members. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a situation where I spent the first day with people other than family although one of my associates (in a unique situation of his own) accepted an Open House assignment that started lunch time and lasted till late—great ang pow incentive too!


The morning of the first day has always been the busiest for us. Unlike  last year, this year I wanted something where my relatives would enjoy themselves and perhaps even entertain themselves while I spent time with the adults. With so many teenager and young adults in the mix, I set up my backdrop, one 60-inch umbrella and lighting powered by Quantum Turbo and wirelessly triggered by Pocket Wizard.

Satay on Chinese New Year? If you thought this is a little odd, check out my Hong Kong buddy Roland whose pre CNY dinner consisted of “a simple dish, Alaskan King Crab Legs Salad with Perilla and Yuzu dressing” followed by “Panfried Iberian Pork Chop, Pancetta Dolce, Chinese Noodles with Apricot and Madeira Sauce” then “Panfried Australian Lamb Cutlets with Raspberry and Port Wine Sauce.”—SHEER INDULGENCE is what it was! :D


Back to earth, the satays were a hit esp the chicken sticks. Not many satay vendors get the beef right though I know one that does beef just nice. I took this picture because I happened to be the one handling them and shot these right before my guests arrived and then it was chaos!


Interesting thing I noted. The Pocket Wizard is a universal fit on DSLR hotshoes. Knowing that my guests would bring their Nikon D cam, the first test shots had blue casts in them. Not wanting to waste time troubleshooting, I switched Tity to shoot with my 20D and 24-70mm instead. Why there was a blue cast in the Nikon pictures I have no idea .. I’ve had my partner’s Nikon D3 with similar setup it was OK and we were dealing with JPEGs straight out of the camera too.




Tity had fun posing her subjects against the backdrop though I suspect she would rather do what she does best—cupcakes! You may have come across her blog where she showcases her works of art. For the ones below, it was her first attempt at writing Chinese characters and the attention to detail is simply amazing. It appears that she had written more Chinese than I had in my lifetime!



Anyone wondering about the lightsource behind the 60″ umbrella … it’s just one Speedlite 580EX in Manual mode triggered by a Pocket Wizard II Plus. In a small room setup, I could have really used the Canon ST-E2 as a trigger as it supports E-TTL but the original idea was to have the setup work on the Nikon too. But it was not meant to be.


Here is another side of the setup with a view of the custom “buddy bracket” I had ordered from the US. I had hoped that it would arrive in time for Steven’s wedding but I now know better what  $16 “flat rate” Global Priority Mail translates to—four weeks! Yesterday, I brought home a reputed JINBEI ™ 800W studio light and a 70 x 100 cm soft box to complement my setup. Though a costly solution, the Pocket Wizard triggers give you the creative freedom to work with different cameras without being bogged down by proprietary technology.


Chinese New Year and red cushion covers seem rather stereotype. While at my in-laws, one of my wife’s nephews started wearing glasses and I couldn’t help noticing the rather interesting FCUK signature frames. Wonder if his classmates are old enough to play scrabble with the word!


One of the most anticipated attraction of the celebration is non other than the lion dance. It has also become a family tradition to have the blessings of the lions. As you may know, the noise from the firecrackers, lion dance performances were believed to scare evil spirits away and bring good luck, health and prosperity.  And so the tradition carries on from one generation to the next.

Firecrackers are dangerous and I put myself at great risks going really near them. Though it seems that this picture was shot with a tele lens, it was in fact shot on the 24-70mm on my 5DII so you can imagine how near I must have been to capture the explosive moments—not forgetting to also mention how loud these ones were! It’s common to get hit by flying remnants. The nearest I’ve ever gotten to a long string of firecrackers was this—5D and ultra wide angle 17-40mm—just take a look at the number of red debris on the road afterwards!

The kids loved feeding red packets into the lion’s mouth. Jamie and Jewel seen here having a blast. For about 30 minutes of so, relatives and visitors from various kampongs congregate where the little ones enjoyed themselves immensely.



Performers from the Chinese Chamber of Commerce on their way to a neighbour’s house.



Related Chinese New Year posts


Tip for Bruneians traveling to Singapore: Accessing DSTinternet abroad.
As you may know, the Nokia E71 has essentially replaced my laptop for e-mails and instant messaging when I am on the road. As a DST 3G Prima subscriber, I discovered that DSTinternet access point worked when roamed to SingTel network (Starhub and M1 failed). I also happily discovered that establishing a 3G data connection in Singapore had been consistently quicker and more reliable than doing the same at home. The only thing I have yet to discover and something I don’t look forward to are the killer roaming charges!

In spite of the economic downturn, I made an effort to visit Singapore  to have coffee with friends and colleagues  who are  in the photography profession. ‘Bad times’ is no reason to network any less. If anything, this is the time to establish more networks. It’s become somewhat of a year end tradition for me since Starbucks Rendezvous two Decembers ago followed by a solo parenting experience in A Day At Sentosa last year where Jamie and Jewel had a blast—wanted to bring them along on this recent trip but we had a different mission—much needed Retail Therapy!

This trip, a short and terribly exhausting one I should add, we stayed at one of my late father-in-law’s relative’s HDB flat and the view from their living room is simply beautiful every night. On our way there from the airport, we experienced a stormy night with loud thunders and streaks of lightning bolts accenting the illuminated skies. These were photographed from the 16th floor in Kallang and the only photographic documentary equipment that I brought along was my EOS 20D, a 50mm f/1.8 lens and 4GB CF card on a single battery.

↑ click on image to view larger version

The lightning effects are simulated. By the time we settled in the flat, the storm had somewhat disappointly cleared up. I get beautiful sunrises from my Seria house but a Singapore nightscape on a stormy night would be quite something to capture.

↑ click on image to view larger version

↓ Dotted lift buttons designed for the convenience of the blind. As a kid holidaying in Singapore, I would occasionally stay at an aunt’s place when she used to live there with her husband. For as long as I can remember now, our more recent trips had seen our share of stay along Orchard for a different sort of convenience—shopping.



Because we stayed away from the Central Business Districts, our morning routine is closer to home—fresh market, buzzling coffee houses, noodles, etc instead of Starbucks, McDonalds, Subway and the likes along Orchard Road.

This owner was kind enough to cut open a fresh jackfruit for this photo op. I know for a fact that pictures like this would get jackfruit lovers salivating in a sec. So ladies and gents, this one is dedicated to your craving taste bud :)

↓ Coffee Museum @ Tiong Bahru.
Right place, right time for coffee lovers like me. The yellow slimy fruit just doesn’t do it for me.


RETAIL THERAPY continues …

I visited Orient Photo at Sim Lim Square to pick up some stuff and ended up walking away with more than I planned. Women always say they cannot have enough shoes or bags, this store has enough camera inventory to make your head spin. I walked away with some Pocket Wizards, a long overdue ND8 filter and a Crumpler-made CANON EOS neckstrap from Canon @ Vivocity.

↑ While at Orient Photo, I tested a 50mm f/1.4 with the photo above when I really should have tested the 50mm f/1.2 instead. What was I thinking?

↓ I was being a busy body and couldn’t help eavesdropping a conversation between the store owner and a Caucasian photographer who was testing a Carl Zeiss 85mm f/1.4 on his Nikon D700. It didn’t take him long to confirm it and I ended up keeping the box: Carl Zeiss Planar T* 1,4/85mm ZF—I won’t disclose the price he paid for the piece but suffice to say, it’s still a lot cheaper than a Canon EF 85mm f/1.2 II.

↓ My EOS 5D with 70-200 f/2.8 fitted with Pocket Wizard Plus II and Crumpler Canon EOS neckstrap. More Canon poison? Need directions, Glenn? :)

↓ On the morning of the Singapore Marathon 2008, a peek out of the window at 6.50 AM overlooking an early Tai Chi session in progress.


I took a walk from the Kallang HDB flat, and a rather long walk I should add, to reach the cordoned off intersection of Kg Bugis where I was early enough to have seen the  first runner run past. I think I stayed long enough to see about 50 runners before I decided to walk back to join my family for breakfast. Getting lost on my way back was a lonely experience but an experience no less. Being a Sunday, the roads were pretty much deserted with the occasional bus or taxi passing by. Instead of back tracking where I came from (which was very easy) I chose a direction that I thought was shorter forgetting that I was born without the benefit of a GPS DNA (men and directions!).

Quite literally a truck load of spectators!

↓ The title of this post “marathon” refers not only to the Singapore Marathon event but also the every day marathon rushing from one venue to another. Chaotic madness above ground, equally nuts below the tarmac. What interests me about Singapore and about the one thing that has kept me sane is the variety of people and their lifestyle that I find interesting and cannot get enough of. Someday I might even be crazy enough to walk around Singapore with my 5DII and 70-200mm … endless supply of people photos! (Did I just drop a hint there?)

↓ OK this one is a weird one but I can explain. I had lunch with two photographers who happened to drive Honda Stream only one of the two is a newly launched RSZ model. “CC” is a proud owner of the RSZ and I got to ride in one to some hilly part of Sg for a casual “twin Stream” shoot and fortunately, mosquito bites were by far the more unpleasant experience.

↓ This was shot on the last night of our stay—exhausted, worse off credit ratings, homesick … er .. umm .. maybe not homesick but were definitely exhausted. Our host had been very generous and the location was great with accessibility to food and transport just a stone’s throw away. I have to get some work in Singapore to visit it more often.

↓ Go ahead Starbucks. Surprise me with free coffee delivered to …. BRUNEI!
This was the only Starbucks joint I managed to drop in for a quick shot of Cappuccino.


RELATED SINGAPORE LINKS (in case you haven’t had a chance to click on the links above)