Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Lynx Spider

We have a Lynx spider living on a Jasmine tree planted by Mrs Samo.
I took some photographs of it earlier but it was a boring creature.
Well, not until today when I managed to capture the spider and its meal.
This predator with a voracious appetite for pest insects is actually helping out with the pest control on our plant.

The Book of Eli

Denzel Washington's latest movie opens worldwide today on February 25.
I made it my mission to watch it and I loved it.
The story may be long and drawling, but seeing a story told through the eyes of a man who had to deliver the words of God by following his faith gave me much satisfaction.
I pity those Ah Bengs who spent RM7 for this film with expectations of a fast-packed action movie.
There were shootings and fight scenes in the movie, but I guess if you expect some slam bang shit, it won't cut it.
The Book of Eli tells the story of a man who walked the scorched Earth for 30 seasons (three decades) in hope to deliver a book from the east coast of the war ravaged United States, to a location in the west which was later revealed as the Alcatraz prison.
I am a big fan of Denzel and had thoroughly enjoyed the performance of Gary Oldman who played the bad guy who is obsessed with getting the book.
Mila Kunis, the leading lady of this movie was also impressive.
There's also the more mature Jennifer Beals (of Flashdance) whom I think, looked much, much better with age.
Way I see it, Denzel's Book of Eli may fare well on the box office.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Disappointing bug hunt

Its hard to believe that there are not much insects to photograph in Taman Negara.Absolutely zilch! This was a major disappointment because I was told by one of the rangers there that a
healthy population of bats have whacked everything.There were Cicadas but they seemed to play up at the wrong timing.And some of the spiders there were too common. I can find them around my house.All the hoolabaloo aside, I only managed to capture a coupla of ants with my camera.That was all there is on my macro outing in Merapoh.I hope that my luck would change in the months to come..

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Taman Negara was a blast!

At Sungai Juram basecamp with the boss
Sungai Juram National Park HQ, Merapoh, Pahang.

With the boss in Gua Gajah

Age has caught up and my present physical condition is no help.I found myself very unfit and this was apparent at a recent hike in Taman Negara.The trip to Sungai Relau - the Merapoh side of the national park was a blast as the activities
there had superceeded my expectations. On the third and last day, we made a hike to Gua Gajah which rated as medium in terms of
difficulty.I found myself running out of breath and my feet hurts after trekking for more than four hours
to reach the cave.But the journey itself was rewarding as there's plenty to see in the park's attraction.Vincent, my brother in-law has made plans to scale Gunung Tahan next year and Michelle, my wife is game for this trip.So, for the next 12 months, it looks like I had to shed the puppy fat and get in shape for my third summit attempt on the Peninsula's highest peak.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

One more day left..

Today is another glorious day for shooting bugs.
Went to the neighbour's garden and shot at least one more dragonfly for my album and keepsakes.
Was very surprised that the morning had yielded some really good insect shots - dragonflies in particular.
Tomorrow, we will be heading to Taman Negara where we will spend a few days just chilling out.
I am thrilled with the prospect of more bug shots and hope that my 50mm compact macro lens would yield some good results!


Dragonflies are the only insects I can shoot with a 50mm compact macro lens.
Getting the whole critter in frame is not an issue.
But if I want to work closer, I would have to double the length of my focal area.
So, the Kenko DG extender that I had recently acquired came in really handy.
This allows me to get details which can never be achieved with a normal lens.
I used a diffused flash for fill-in and the results are pretty satisfying.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Double or nothing...

I've overcome my shortcomings on my Canon EF 50mm compact macro lens by adding an extension tube.
This means, extra length for more close-up shots and after trying it out in the field, its beginning to yield some really good results.
Like most of the gurus have said -- the best focal length for working with insects is a 100mm macro.
I've overlooked this for the fact that I had always wanted a 50mm macro.
With a 36mm extension, I get about 86mm focal length on the lens without sacrificing focus quality and sharpness.
This mean, I can yield extra sharp and crisp shots with the lens.
And with RAW file post-processing, I am beginning to see the results.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Incy wincy jumping spider

NOWADAYS, I have more reasons to walk around my neighbourhood.Jumping spiders contributes to that and I am enjoying my Canon EOS7D every day, hour
and minute because it is able to capture something as small as 8mm and reveal some
astonishing details.Right now, I am working with very basic equipment.I have a 50mm f2.5 compact macro lens which gives a 1:2 magnification.To get even closer, Canon has manufactured an EF-lifesize converter to go with the 50mm,
but unfortunately, this became obsolete.The only option I can forsee, is an upgrade to the EF100mm F2.8L IS lens. Going back to jumpers, I found that there are at least 10 different species of jumping
spiders lurking around my neighbourhood.I was very lucky to get some really good photos of the spiders and as a stop-gap measure, I
will be adding an extension tube to get a higher magnification of the arachnids.

Tale of the Blue Tiger Beetle

I was out snapping shots of insects at a pandanus patch near my house one afternoon and
noticed that there was a strange-looking bug making its way around the foliage.It has a metallic-blue coloured body with red coloured legs.I wasted no time by removing my Raynox DCR-250 close-up attachment on my Canon EF
50mm f2.5 compact macro lens and started taking shots of the bug.It was moving around so much, I managed to cap off two shots and that was it.My primary focus was a large jumping spider that is on the prowl on the green patch.There are at least two species of spiders thriving in this small area.I also noticed a large aphid that was mating on a patch of leaves. On any given day, I would have squashed this ugly pest. But seeing as it is, I left the aphid
alone as its not in my way.While I was tracking the jumper's movement, I saw the blue bug resting on a cowgrass. There, it stood elegantly, as if it was waiting for me to photograph it in full glory.I took aim with my camera and shot at least 60% of the beetle in frame and used my pop up
flash diffuser to give it a softer lighting. Now, it turned out that the blue coloured bug was a tiger beetle.I was told by macro photographer Liew Wai Keong that the blue beetle is very hard to
capture because its a sensitive bug.To make matters worse, it has a mettalic body which reflects light, making direct flash
photography very harsh.In total, I managed to get six shots of the blue tiger beetle and the following day, the bug
was nowhere to be found.Maybe someday, it would wander around the pandanus patch again and this time, I will be
waiting with my camera and close-up lens.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Dangerous curves ahead..

I guess that by being a late bloomer, things are really slowly getting started for me.This year alone, I forsee a slow career growth.There's much to be done and personally speaking, I don't really give a fuck about 'going with the flow' or 'moving
with the pack'.Come what may, I'll take it with my stride.And on the column that I produce on a weekly basis, my collaboration with Lam Soon had came to an end and
there are plans to extend their sponsorship.We've had talks and I floated some ideas. I guess that the sponsor was looking for a way out without being too direct about it.But seeing as it is, I feel that the future with this one is rather bleak.Sink or swim, the show must go on.I've done considerably well in 2009 and hope to maintain a steady course throughout the year.

No more knives?

Jokes aside, I think this will be a year with very few knives on the horizon.Earlier, I've planned to get at least two folding knives from Strider knives and Chris Reeves Knives.But with the acquisition of my Digital Single Lens Reflex camera and a couple of lenses including accessories,
the need for knives have taken a backseat.Late last year, I was eagerly anticipating the release of Strider's Framelock AR. After seeing its initial batch of 100 sold by an on-line retailer in the US, I was kind of disappointed with its fit,
finish and pricing.So, that said, I might just pick one up from the secondary market because I don't think I want to pay the full price.Even more disappointing, was the special suspect edition of the Strider SMF folder.I just don't see a point in having a folding knife with carbon fibre scales and a bronze goat bead. Its just not my style.So, the right thing to do, was to back out and let someone else step up into the queue. I kept my word as the person who started it all to oblige in taking names for an order list.Now that the project is nearing its completion, I can rest at ease.On the other hand, I can't say the same for a small Sebenza with doggy paw print that I am eyeing from Chris
Reeve Knives.This knife is more appealing to me and I guess that if I am disciplined enough, I might land one sometime before
Christmas.As for the rest of the year, I forsee even fewer knives.My focus now, is photography and two trips to the US to catch up with some friends.


Newton's law: everything that goes up must come down.I guess that's what Toyota is feeling right now with so many of their vehicles recalled in the US.It takes the gas pedal to bring down an automotive giant and I do sincerely hope that this experience would humble them.Back here, Toyota car salesmen are the highest earning people in the sales fraternity.They don't need to hardsell their vehicles as the branding had done most of the work.With that factored-in, its no wonder why most Toyota sales people are retarded.Now that their stocks are still dropping, only time can tell is this Japanese giant can weather it out.

Along came a spider..

Spiders aren't easy to photograph.I learned this the hard way and am still in the midst of getting the techniques correct.Even more challenging, are jumping spiders.These critters are small and getting them to stay still is no easy task.I found much joy in capturing them in their fragile environment as these insects reminds us that everything can just
go in a flash.Spiders as it seems, are sensitive to the changes in the environment.Over the past month, I've had loads of fun capturing images of jumping spiders around my neighbourhood, near
the office and two outdoor locations.I've had some success using my Canon EF 50mm f2.5 compact macro lens.But there are some major shortcomings as the lens is already defunct.To get a 1:1 lifesize shot, I need to add an EF lifesize converter.A marketing staff from Canon broke the bad news by telling me that the product is no longer in the market.Now, the tussle is between getting the all new hybrid image stablised EF 100mm f2.8L macro lens or the
magnificent 5:1 MPE-65mm lens.Right now, that'll have to wait and my immediate task is the get the technique right.