Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Mark IV snoot diffurser

I've began on a frantic pace to develop my latest snoot diffuser and learned that there aren't enough raw materials to go around.The housing material for the snoot tube was depleted and what's left of a small black plastic sheet is barely enough for me to build a light box.It took me nearly an hour to construct the new snoot head, which resembles a small bento lunch box.And for the diffuser material, I used a sheet of corrugated plastic board. This gave it a rigid surface, not like the earlier bio-degradable plastic sheet that is flimsy and frail looking.Since the black housing is flexible, I applied duck tape to fasten it.It shouldn't be too heavy to ease mobility.And what I like about the new snoot head is the fact that its now more solidly built.Speaking of light deflection angle, I cheated a bit by using my MKII housing and attached the bento box onto it.Now, test-wise, I can see a flash of light hitting the subject.So, the angle of deflection is almost there.And the results are also encouraging.Further tests would be done and with the design getting better, I will come up with a Mark V design soon.

A question of two formats..

A coupla weeks back, I was having lunch with one of our editorial artist.Then came a visualiser from the Marketing Services Department.I noticed that the lady has been taking some photos and had posted them on her facebook
account.This budding photography enthusiast is also a keen learner who is going to turn
professional.She then posed this statetment: "The Canon EOS7D is a lousy camera. My friend
recommends the Nikon D700.."I asked her is she realised that both cameras are different in many ways and that their
sensor size are also different."What is APS-C and full-frame? I don't understand," she said.The lady also added that her friend, some guy who is well off, had made some thorough
research on the Nikon system.He said the immaculate truth is that the EOS7D is an inferior product.I asked her if the guy had used or tested the 7D, in which the answer was: "No".Having summed up her findings, I conclude that most enthusiasts are fickle-minded and are
also easily influenced by personal opinions.Photography today, is a totally different game.Many enthusiasts labelled themselves as professionals because they own high-end
systems.I wouldn't consider them as pros because they don't make a living out of photography and
definitely would not agree to half assed statements like the 7D as an inferior product
because someone had combed the entire internet for an opinion to influence their purchase.Be it the D700 or the 7D, good results can only be produced by a pair of skilled hands and
eyes.Beyond that, the cameras are only tools.

The micro four-turd

How reliable are the micro four-third cameras?Late last year, I was contemplating on trying out the Panasonic Lumix GF-1 system, but was not convinced with its practicality.I think of the lot who produces the micro four-thirds, Panasonic has the worst representation in Malaysia when it comes to media relations.They suck in every aspect.Anyways, I went asking around about the GF-1 and learned that a basic system with two kit lenses covering wide angle and medium-telephoto has an asking price of RM4.5k.This is not including its external flash (small guide number) which is priced at RM800.I wouldn't give Panasonic a single sen for selling Indonesian-made accessories although their camera body and lenses are made in Japan.With the fridge and television maker out of the equation, the next best thing is Olympus.Now, despite what they have done about three decades ago with their OM system, Olympus had lost out to giants like Canon, Nikon and Pentax.The micro four-thirds are jointly developed by Panasonic and Olympus and till now, I don't see folks like Canon and Nikon following suit.I know for a fact that Sony had showed their prototype micro four-thirds, But then again, Sony is a failure in selling their A-series D-SLRs and having micro four-thirds would further sink them.Now, back to the Olympus, I was impressed with their latest offering - the EP-L1 camera.This is the more compact little brother of their EP-1 and EP-2 'pen' cameras that are heavily promoted.I don't know if they are effective, but seeing as it is -- the EP-L1 is more of a lifestyle camera.I am yet to see any superb images produced by the GF-1 or the EP-series cameras.And since it has a point-and-shoot kind of feel, the micro four-thirds are good as a back-up camera.One of the factor that is preventing me from sinking my claws is price.They are expensive and if you factor in accessories and after sales service, both Panasonic and Olympus suck big time.Anways, this is just my opinion on the micro four-thirds. They might improvise the system further by leap and bounds.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

March is a month of misery

Phew! I am glad that the month of March is drawing to a close.Why? Because its the most fucked up and stressful month in this year -- ever!I can't believe that I had literally ran my wallet aground with a slight miscalculation and lucky
for me, two things had alleviated my sufferings.First, there's the arrears from my increment and my cooperative resignation including the
last instalment of my camera loan.These are factors that will keep hope afloat for the months to come.I should have seen it coming, but underestimated the long, long month of March.It was 31 days of absolute misery.

The Motorola Android phone is here...

Its a pity how Motorola, the telecommunications giant that started it all, is now in the gutter.
They tried to compete with Nokia, a world leader and Sony Ericsson, who makes useless phones and now, Blackberry and the Apple iphone for a market share here in Malaysia.
I am a fan of none and view the cellphone as a tool solely for keeping in touch.
And like I said earlier, I have no need for pushing emails onto my cellphone.
I even rejected the offer for a RM120 data plan where reporters can claim for their monthy network fees.
Now, that said, Motorola's smartphone operating on Google's Android OS has attracted my attention.
A recent media release stated that it will be on sale for RM2.3k.
For something that goes on sale in the US for a few hundred bucks, I don't think Motorola is going to get a single sen from me.
So, the Android phone can go eat some shit.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Eric Wong on Starmetro's Timeout

My buddy Eric Wong has done very well.He was featured today on page 15 of Starmetro.Wong has been collecting knives for more than a decade and had amassed a sizeable
collection of custom-made tactical knives.He is based in Shanghai, China, and comes home to KL every year to be with his sister, his
only sibling.And each time he makes a visit, we will catch up and talk about knives.Eric is also the co-founder of the Malaysia Knife Forums. Well, sort of, Its my forum anyway.His knowledge in edge tools simply amazes me and what I can say is that I am very proud of
having him as a friend.

Surviving the office war..

I learned that through a recent spat between two management staff, I ranked high on some people's hate-list.Why? Partly because I came up too fast.I was hired as a senior writer two years ago and was promoted to the rank of chief reporter last year.And seeing as it is, I don't think I did that bad with a 4.7% increment. The quantum is between 5 - 7% and in extreme cases - 10%.I guess that this has been the grouses of most executive employees and coming from a background where the yearly increment is about 0.5% yearly, I am not complaining.Infact, life is so much better now.I don't have to put up with idiots and inexperienced people on the desk and folks who are hired to run the show because of their political alignment.As it is, there is no escape from office wars and politics.It amazes me to learn that some folks are not happy with my performance. But then again, they don't pay my salary, so they can fuck off!For me, the challenge here -- is to stay on course and hold a steady position to face the months to come.Like the saying goes: "Better safe, than sorry", this will be my credo for the rest of the year.

Oh no! F-1 Fever is back..

Wow! Its hard to believe that the Formula One race is back in KL.After 18 years, Malaysia is still hosting this prestigious race and for what? Frankly, I don't
know.To me, its an utter waste of time.I don't think the F1 is enjoying brisk ticket sales and most corporate citizens are arm-twisted
to get seats for their clients.Petronas, our big boy in the oil business has pumped-in a lot of money to promote Malaysia
as a motorsports destination and my question is this: How does it benefit the layman?As a pre-publicity ploy to hype up race day (which is one day in a weekend), lots of company
sponsors of the F-1 race are holding parties.I just came across one that reads: "By invitation only: covering celebrities, prominent
businessmen and corporate personalities".If I translate this correctly, it literally means: losers, wannabes and bloodsuckers.The F-1, despite its glitz and glam shit, will be around even long after I am gone.I for one, am sad because there are so many fake people out there who buys this F-1 shit.Money being put into the race track can be utilised for more good like better public housing
and roads.And like my brother in-law who is a Petronas employee once said: "The F-1 image is good
for selling petrol and lubricants.."

Two more jumper pix

Here's two more jumping spider shots taken from Taman Rimba Kiara.
I used my version 2.0 of the snoot diffuser design and hope to improve it further.
After two months of taking insect shots, I realised that its no easy task especially when you are working with the bare essentials.

Food Trail 3.0 rollout

Ahh... Already three years and still kicking.
My first article rolled out sometime in March 2008 and since then, I have been keeping a regular weekly column on the pages of The Star's Metro Central section.
Like any other columnist who has to meet datelines and get their topics right, there are challenges.
How to keep ideas fresh, pictures, leads and sustain the column where issues that I had to face from time to time.
The purpose of the food column is to keep readers informed of outlets especially when it comes to street food.
I am proud to say that in the two years that I have been doing it, I have never taken any payment for the outlets featured nor ate for free.
Yet, people can never be satisfied.
Over the course of time, I do get some good and bad feedbacks.
Most of the readers are fine with my presentation with some exception from readers who want to be entirely spoon-fed.
They could not be satisfied with the fact that the location was given without an address or phone number.
A senior advertising man from the company had clearly stated that if such information are added onto the story, its purely advertising.
I also stayed away from callers who promoted their food outlets.
What I eat, if its good, then it will be shared.
Last year, the column did earn money.
But as soon as the contract had ended, the Food Trail is now free from commercial influence.
That said, I can surely look forward to more eating adventures and hold on to running the column for as long as I can...

Soggy and smelly doggies

Thrashed: the gurl having her nap

Stoned: my boy, after a chewing down his lamb bones...

I guess that sometimes, you'll need to pamper your dogs.
And when you have a sackload of lamb bones in the freezer, there will always be a nagging question on when to treat them.
Over the weekend, Michelle gave the kids each a piece of bone.
They spent the entire day chewing it down and the rest sleeping it off.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Shedding time..

Sir Naughty sheds again..

The kidz at play..

Our boy is shedding heavily again.
After two weeks, I finally managed to bathe the kidz and found that Sir Naughty is shedding a lot especially his basecoat.
I raked in a bag full of fur yesterday and continued to do so after the boy's fur had dried up.
There's still plenty of raking to do as he is shedding heavily.
Huskies shed at least twice in a year and this is the most stressful period because it will give
your vacuum cleaner a run for its money.

Another ant mimic jumping spider

The ant mimic with a large mandible, a rare find..

This shot is unevenly-lit, but from the Press photographer's point of view, its showed that the spider is indeed a spider, not an ant.

While I was testing my new diffuser snoot yesterday evening, I came across another ant
mimic jumping spider.This one is unique because it has a mandible instead of a long snout.Its black in colour and was harder to differentiate with other ants that as roaming on the
same area.The first thing I noticed is the fact that the jumper was shy and it hid away when I
approached it.I managed to fire off two shots before it made a run and disappeared.Hopefully, I will find this unique jumper again.

Frankenfuser mk III

A small jumping spider shot at 1:1 scale

Another jumper, slightly overexposed..

Weaver ants

This is a challenging shot because the ant has a reflective exoskeleton..

The Frankenfuser mk III with a large diffuser.

Version 3 of my diffuser snoot was successfully tested over the weekend.But there were some snags.Light was not reaching the subject at 1:1 magnification resulting in an uneven flash
exposure.So, that said, its back to the drawing board.I was satisfied with the results and felt that the deflection angle of the diffurser head should
be adjusted.Now, the task is to build a proper diffuser housing that connects to the flashgun head and a larger diffuser bowl at the end of the snoot.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Many faces of the coonster

Queenie, four weeks old

Here she is at eight week's old

Our girl, all grown up..

Our girl is turning four this year and we are very happy to have her as part of our family.
Queenie came into our household as a pup back in 2006.
She was the only black and white Siberian Husky in her litter and her parents were actually showdogs.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A colourful ant mimic

One of the initial shots -- lighting on the subject is very harsh..

I used a slip-on diffuser on my Canon 430EXII flashgun and the results are slightly better. You can see the colourful ass of the spider in this capture.

I found a very colourful ant mimic spider around my neighbourhood and have been tracking it for a while.
It seems that this female is fond of hunting ants on an Angsana tree and a few other spiderlings were also seen on the same area.
I was lucky enough to squeeze a few shots on my Canon EF50mm F2.5 compact macro lens and since then, the only opportunity I had was another shot.
It was very active and since it moves around quite a bit, there were some frustrating moments capturing some good shots of the spider.

Canon MPE-65

The only close-up lens that can go beyond 1:1 magnification is the Canon MPE-65.
This beauty can yield shots up to 5:1 close-up and is a preferred tool to many macro photography enthusiast.
In Malaysia, it carries a price tag of RM3,950 which is quite decent.
Its also the only lens in its class to offer 5x magnification for small objects and for a macro photographer, its the ultimate tool to achieve crisp and clear shots of insects that are smaller than 10mm in length.
I have seen the works of master photographers Liew Weng Keong and Kurt G who utilised the lens to its fullest capacity and the results were breathtaking.
Having said that, the MPE-65 is not for everyone.
Its a manual focus lens with a maximum aperture opening of F2.8 and there's very little room
for error even at 1:1 scale.
So, to make room for this lens, there's plenty time to practise my manual focusing skills.
Hopefully, I will get my hands on it and produce some decent shots at high magnification.

The marvelous MT-24EX

In my quest to get better shots on my Canon EF100mm F2.8L IS macro lens, I learned that one of the essential accessory is a flashgun.
And to most macro photography enthusiasts, the Canon MT-24EX is the holy grail in their
pursuit for the ulitmate lighting accessory in flash photography.
This twin light has proven itself by yielding some really fantastic shots up close.
And in Malaysia, it commands a retail price of RM2,950 and is one of the most expensive rig in its class.
The only competition is the Nikon SBR-200 which is wireless.
But most macro photography enthusiasts complained that the rig was not up to the mark.
I guess that the only way to go, is the MT-24EX and this will be my quest for the third-quarter of this year.

Skin bacterial infection

Our kidz have very few medical issues, but they have been prone to skin problems

Now, my boy is having some skin problem..

An acquaintance once asked me: "Err, is it easy to keep a Siberian Husky?".I gave him the lowdown and actually persuaded him not to take in a Sibe as a pet especially
in an apartment.Huskies need space and plenty of care and if you fall into the category of people with an
active lifestyle, half the criteria is fulfilled.Apart from its high prey drive and wanderlust instinct (Huskies are excellent escape artists),
this breed is also prone to ear, eye, skin and hip problems.And recently, I found that my boy is having bacterial infection on his skin.I didn't notice it until Michelle had told me about some scabs under the boy's base coat."Its running down all the way through his spinal area," she described.The only way to curb this issue is to send the pooch to the vet for a closer inspection and
get him under a course of antibiotics.We are gonna do this over the weekend. So far, only the boy is showing signs of skin infection. Our girl is doing okay.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


A couple of days ago, I witnessed a meltdown at the workplace.
There were some exchange of words and tempers flared.
I took a deeper look at it and concluded that there should be a compromise somewhere.
Now, the person who threw a fit was also a primadonna.
She was known as a drama queen and what happened really befitted her image.
Dealing with people is no easy thing and that's what we as desk persons would have to deal with everyday.
I had a good mentor who was more than willing to teach and I truly respect the said person for staying true to his calling.
He cares and it showed in his work.
And when you someone throwing a fit at a gentle person, you see someone turning from zero to ugly in a split second.
Shouting was uncalled for and to raise your voice shows that you are not in control.
And I was given a heads-up that the same drama queen will fester tomorrow at my workplace.
There's nothing I can do about it but brace for impact.
I just don't want to blow my top because things can get very, very ugly in a short time.
So far, I've been mellow. If all goes bad, the monster in my would surface if push comes to shove.
Let's just see what would happen...


I was in a jam and at my wits end, some of my knives came to my salvation.
So, good bye to my Striders and a few high quality prodos.
My car's insurance and road tax will eat up a big chunk from my wallet and a slight miscalculation in my expenses had caused a big ripple in my financial standing.
And just when I thought all was totally lost, the knives that I had in my stash came to the rescue.
I acquired them over a period of time and since they weren't my holy grails, letting go wasn't a hard decision.
And since I got into photography, I made a vow to ease off in buying knives.
I have more than I need and its time to put some of them into good use.
The fact that I am pulling through in this truly trying time is a testament that my investments are paying off.
To me, the knives will get better and when I am ready, its there for my taking.

A bad call..

I recall sometime back, I started this blog just for the heck of it.
Nothing really serious, but to rant and air some of my views about what's happening in my life.
But then again, who the fuck cares?
Anyways, recently, I had plenty of fun updating this journal of mine. Especially with my rediscovery of photography.
I learned that one cannot be complacent about life.
Learning is a process that will never go out of fashion.
And at the same time, a friend of mine who is a successful personality in the blogosphere had made some recommendation to a contact of hers in monetizing this little enclave of mine.
And honest to God, I had no idea what blog parties are all about and let alone, making money with it.
I write for a living and its a norm for me to cook up something without any inhibition.
Then when I gave it a try, it all came back.
I remember taking up a job for a small advertising agency.
They asked for a few drafts.
I did as told and at the end of it, their client changed everything.
I was supposed to get paid for it but felt that the end results were not entirely my work.
So, I politely declined the job and backed off. Never heard from the contact again.
Similarly, when I posted a thread earlier about some new product from a Telco, I did not realize that what that happened much earlier is basically repeating itself.
That said, I apologized to the contact and told her that I am not interested in pursuing the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
Anyways, that being said, a hobby should not be profit orientated.
It would just defeat its purpose.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Myrmarachnes - a small collection of images..

My latest find: a long snouted ant mimic

A black ant mimic

A two-tone coloured ant mimic

There's a lot of work to be done on cataloging and capturing the different species of
Myrmarachnes or ant mimic jumping spiders.These strange critters became an object of fascination to me and hunting for them requires
a keen sense of observation.At a single glance, the jumpers would look like any other ants, but when you take a closer
look, you will notice something different about them.The Myrmarachne has four pairs of legs and the tell-tale sign is this: the spider is slower
moving than the ordinary ant and when spooked, it will go underneath a leaf for cover.So far, I have managed to capture at least three different species of the ant mimic jumping

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The weevil

I consider weevils as pests.They crawl around my rice container and ate every grain they could find.But when seen under the magnifying glass, the weevil is an interesting creature.Yesterday, I shot one without noticing it.It was being eaten alive by a hoard of weaver ants.The weevil was literally 'invisible' under the naked eye as its exoskeleton is perfectly
camouflaged with its surrounding.Now that I have some extension tubes, I am inspired to photograph the weevils and make
the best out of my new mk II flash diffuser snoot.

Happy Birthday Mrs Samo!

Sometime today, Michelle my wife will celebrate her birthday.
I wish her a very Happy Birthday and many happy returns.
She will be making that long trip back from the United States and I am very proud of the fact that she had built a solid foundation in her career as a corrosion specialist.
And I am also very happy for her that she is one of the very few experts in this field especially in Malaysia.
Over the years, she had worked very hard for it and with blood, sweat and tears, she had taken her own business venture to greater heights.
If fate has not taken place that very first time we met, there wouldn't have been so many wonderful things over the past six years that we have build our lives together through marriage.
There wouldn't be adventures, Huskies and much more.
So, my beloved Mrs Samo, here's again wishing you a very Happy Birthday.
God bless you!

Another ant mimic jumper

And I thought I've seen them all.
The latest Myrmarachne on my picture collection is a red one with a long snout.
I've captured at least two of such jumping spiders on my camera and while I was still feeling euphoric about the ant mimic crab spider, I spotted its jumping spider cousin on a leaf.
It didn't take long for me to work on capturing at least two shots of the spider.
And like its crab spider cousin, its not easy to photograph this little critter because it moves around a lot.
I managed to squeeze a few shots and the shot turned out okay and I hope to record as many as possible in future outings.

The Ant Mimic Crab Spider

Today was an amazing day.
I came face-to-face with the Ant Mimic Crab Spider or genus Amyciaea lineatipes while taking snapshots of insects at the Kiara Rimba Park.
It was having its meal, a weaver ant and has a measurement of less than 5mm which made it hard to distinguish between an ant or a spider.
Nevertheless, I managed to get a good shot of the crab spider and later realised that smaller insects like mites are also sharing its meal.
Its not easy to photograph these spiders as they are very active and could never stay still.
I fired off a few shots and realised that most of it was underexposed except one.
The rest had to be post-processed and with its exposure values altered, I am able to show a picture of the ant mimic in its full glory..

Another weekend well-spent..

I made a follow-up trip to Taman Rimba Kiara with Master Kurt G and a few new friends Bernard and Derrick including my knife kaki Kit.
Made my way to the park and had my McDonald's breakfast and a cup of coffee before I begin shooting some insects with my Canon EOS7D and my EF1oomm F2.8L IS macro lens.
Seems that my new Samo Frankenfuser mk II is holding out pretty well and yielded some good shots.
Seeing the insects up close and capturing them on my digital camera made me forget about that measely 4.7% increment that I received yesterday.
It was an awesome de-stressing session and I was totally focused on getting my act together.
I also made some new friends and am glad that my circle of friends are getting larger.
Photography really helped me to pass my time and yielded some really cool results.
Now, I can look forward to a session of night macro photography outing in Bukit Gasing!

Friday, March 19, 2010

So, here we go again..

Everyone's abuzz today with the good news.
Some of my co-workers got promoted and a fortunate few had their annual increment.
I wasn't expecting anything out of the ordinary today and when my name was called, I picked up an envelope.
After reading its content, I was kinda expecting a normal increment.
I thought last year I did pretty well and all the effort put into it gained me a 4.7% raise.
My initial reaction was 'What the FUCK?'.
But after piecing it together with last year's percentage, it was consistent.
I don't know the minimum quantum because I had never spoken to anyone about this, but its certainly better than what I used to get as a Unionised employee.
On the average, I was given a 1.5% raise every year and it was automatic till I hit the top of the scale.
Increments were not the kinda things I looked forward to at the old workplace and it took me about 15 years to get to the top of the scale.
How scary!
With the 4.7%, I shouldn't rant cos its better than getting nothing.
I don't know if its the minimum quantum and at the present rate that I am going, I am just going to maintain a steady course to the end of the year.

Stalking the huntsman spider

Had a late dinner tonite after returning home from work.
After settling down the kidz, I went back to the same spot where I found a huntsman spider that was eating a beetle.
Took a while for me to locate the spider which was under the cover of some pandan leaves.
My powerful Fenix TK-40 LED flashlight had picked up the spider which was partially hidden from view.
I tried a couple of shots on my Samo Frankenfuser MKII, but the results were majorly disappointing.
But I wasn't about to give up.
With the normal conventions aside, I set up my camera's pop-up flash and used the wireless slave on my flashgun to trigger it off.
It was rigged for side lighting and getting a shot of the spider was an ease.
I also used the AutoFocus feature on my lens to get a clear shot.
Yesterday, I tried using the manual focus feature which turned out to disastrous.
So, the AF helped a bit in the night and I guess with the huntsman around, there will be more attempts to capture it in full glory..