Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year 2011



Here's wishing you and yours and Very Happy and Blessed New Year! May all your wishes and hopes for the New Year come true!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas!



Merry Christmas and a Very Happy New Year to all my readers! I hope the year has been good to you, and here's wishing you a joyous and prosperous New Year too!

We'll be spending Christmas with a fellow Malaysian friend and her husband in South Lake Tahoe. We are looking forward to that weekend, because it will the first White Christmas for the kids and only the second one for me!

Also, the kids are looking forward to playing in the snow. This is going to be a treat for them because we live in the part of California where it doesn't normally snow. Snow is still a novelty for them!

Once again a very Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year to you!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Golden Gate Bridge



San Francisco is a favorite destination for first time visitors to California. Naturally when my old, school friend from Malaysia came for a visit we took her there.

It was foggy for much of the day while we were in San Francisco, but the fog and clouds cleared a little when we got to the Golden Gate Bridge park, as if in answer to my friend's prayer! Indeed she believed that it was an answer to her prayer!

We used what little bit of sunshine and daylight left of the late afternoon to quickly pose for pictures and photograph one of the most iconic images of California.

I told my friend to come again for a visit, but next time not in late fall or winter! wink

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Robins Silhouette



I was out standing in the cold this evening trying to photograph birds in my neighbor's orchard and around my yard. I surprised at the large number of robins today!

I wished we had longer daylight especially at this time of the year when there are all kinds of migrating birds foraging in my neighbor's orchard! I saw Western Bluebirds, White-crowned Sparrows, Yellow-rumped warblers, and lots of Scrubjays today.

I would have taken my camera out earlier, but the sky was overcast and there was intermittent rain. When the rain finally ceased, it was already late afternoon. Oh well.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Bristol in DWTS finals


Have you read about the unhinged reactions some people had over the fact that Bristol Palin made it to the finals of DWTS? It is simply amazing, and amusing, how worked up some people can get over the activities of the Palin family!

I voted for Bristol Palin throughout the season. I have always been a sucker for the underdog, and Bristol despite the poor scores she has been receiving from the judges, is not that bad a dancer. She is elegant,and her movements are always precise and except for the intangible emotions that the judges want to see, she is a far better dancer than the majority of the celebrities that have been eliminated in earlier rounds.

I have always been a great fan of Mark Ballas, and he has done a superb job with Bristol. I can see that he is a very good teacher and choreographer, and is very patient with Bristol. It is obvious for all to see that Bristol has improved vastly since the first episode. I wish the two of them all the best during the finals. Go show 'em, Bristol!

For those suffering from Palin Derangement Syndrome, SUCK IT UP! twisted

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Sandhill Cranes



Imagine my delight this morning, after dropping off the kids at their school, to see lots and lots of Sandhill Cranes at a neigbor's farm field!

As soon as I arrived home, I quickly grabbed my camera, and off I drove again to the farm field! At that moment I wished with all my heart that I had one of those super-sized zoom lenses! All the pictures that I took from the roadside were totally un-useable.



I decided to walk towards the cranes and started photographing them before they got too spooked by my presence. As you can see, some turned out good enough to share with you here.

Tomorrow morning, if those cranes are still there, I will go out again to take more photographs.

Monday, October 25, 2010

More Birds!


Top L-R: Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Northern Flicker Woodpecker
Bottom L-R: Nuttall's Woodpecker, Ruby-throated Hummingbird


What an enjoyable day it has been today! The air was fresh and filled with the scents of eucalyptus and pine, more so after the rain that fell all day yesterday.

The hummingbird on one eucalyptus tree was quite co-operative and allowed me to photograph it. A pity that I did not have a faster zoom lens!

I also managed to photograph two different kinds of woodpeckers and today I was able to identify what they were. There seem to be several woodpeckers hanging around my property. They have been pecking away at the old fence posts and the utility pole across my house. I even saw a couple drinking and bathing in the puddle of water on my dirt drive way!

The yellow-rumped warblers are also plentiful this time of year, and I think they still need to get used to seeing me walking around with my camera! I took some pictures but they were not as sharp as I would have liked. Not to worry because there are other opportunities!

I have not seen any Western Blue Birds this week. They were around two weeks ago, a family of five. I know they will come back, and I cannot wait to photograph them too!

What fun to have different kinds of birds to photograph right in my own front and back yards! mrgreen

Friday, October 22, 2010

Bird Season


White-crowned sparrow

It is the time of year when birds seem to gather in my front and back yard. And I love it! I take out my camera and try to photograph them!

Last fall, I thought about getting myself a hunting blind so I can hide in it and wait for the birds. This year, I WILL buy that blind!

A blind is not all that I will be getting this year. I am learning all about digiscoping where you use a digital camera with a spotting scope. While studying on that method of photography I discovered that some are using a telescope with their dslr cameras and the output from that set up seems to be very encouraging. That is why I will be getting myself a telescope that is suitable for digiscoping! Oh yes! mrgreen

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Of Birds and Bird Videos

Ever since I successfully took some beautiful pictures of birds in my backyard when I first got my bridge camera, I have been quite obsessed about photographing birds and learning more about birds. It is now the time of year where the birds seem to gather in large numbers in my yard.

I have even started reading up on digiscoping (the use of a digital camera and a spotting scope) and am seriously considering getting a good quality spotting scope so that I can photograph the birds several yards away from my back patio.

Yesterday as I was browsing through some digiscoping videos on YouTube, I decided to look for some bird videos done by David Attenborough. There were several videos there and I was quite entertained by them. The video of the Lyre bird (such a beautiful tail!) of South Australia especially captured my attention. It reminded me of my friend's mynah that was able to imitate the sound of a car alarm.

You must watch both videos! Absolutely amazing!





Friday, September 17, 2010

Bug Eyed



I was really amused when I saw this picture of a dragonfly that I'd taken. I did not know that even insects get the dreaded red eye when its picture is taken with the flash! Now I know!



I've been trying some close up and macro photography using a conversion lens, and with the teleconverter lens. I think, between the two, the results are much better with the teleconverter lens on a standard fixed lens for close up photography. I just ordered a used, 50 mm f3.5 manual macro lens and I cannot wait to try it out! Coupled with the 2x teleconverter, who knows what kind of results I will get!

I saw some really impressive close up pictures of the dragonfly with all the fine details clearly visible, and I just cannot wait to try to achieve that kind of pictures!

Friday, September 03, 2010

Camera Accessories



Look what came in the mail yesterday! That was just one of several arrivals throughout the week! Yes, I have been on a shopping spree! For camera accessories, that is!



This little beauty was in one of the packages that came in the mail yesterday. It is called a super macro conversion lens. This little lens is attached to a telephoto lens (as in above pic) and with it you can do some incredible macro photography. Macro photography without spending big bucks on a macro lens!



This unfortunate, and rather dead, earwig was caught in a spider's web. I brought out my tripod and shot a few pictures of the earwig. Yes, with the Raynox conversion lens attached to my telephoto lens! The filtered evening sun falling on the subject really helped with the overall picture, don't you think so?



This beautiful picture of a little spider that was waiting for its prey under a chair was also shot with the Raynox conversion lens. Amazing what one cheap (comparatively!) lens can do! mrgreen

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Another Dragonfly


I am so pleased with the output of an old manual Pentax 50mm lens that my mother-in-law (picked up from a thrift store) gave me. The Olympus 50mm manual lens that I bought from an online store some time ago was given away to my niece. I thought about getting another one to replace the one I gave away, but now I don't think I need another similar Olympus lens. The Pentax lens performs just as well if not better than the Olympus lens!

Today, I took several pictures of a dragonfly that didn't mind my getting close to it to photograph it with the 50mm Pentax lens.


Initially I thought the bokeh from the Pentax was not as smooth as the Olympus' (based on earlier photos I had taken) but I was wrong. Today I shot a few pictures of the dragonfly with a background that was creamy smooth. I learned that the faster the speed, the smoother the bokeh.

The next time I use the lens, I will use it to take portraits of my kids.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Another hot day


Today is the third day where the mercury hits above 100°F. It is days like these that makes you thankful that some smart person invented the air-conditioner!

The kids and I went to our town's weekly market this morning a little after 9.00 a.m. We walked up and down two aisles and decided that that was more heat than we could handle!

I bought assorted vegetables, some nectarines, two cantaloupes and an Indian top (quite pretty!), and called it a day. The shopping took us less than an hour, but due to the heat, it felt like we had spent a much longer time at the market.

According to the weather forecast the weather is going to cool down quite a bit by the end of the week. Thank goodness for that! By all accounts this summer has been a lot milder than previous years'. I am not complaining!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A dragonfly and a hummingbird


This morning I saw a dragonfly perching at the end of a withered gladiola branch through my window. I quickly gathered my camera, left my coffee on the table in front of my computer, and sat on a chair on the patio facing my little garden patch.

Well, when no dragonfly decides to perch any where near you, you tend to get bored. So I went back into the house, grabbed and carried the small patio table in the back patio to the front. Then I went back in again for my coffee, and a radio.


My patience was rewarded. Not only did a dragonfly find a spot to perch on, a little hummingbird kept coming back to feed on the nectar of the morning glories! I took several pictures of the dragonfly and the hummingbird!

Patience is something you have to learn to deal with when you want to photograph birds and flying insects!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Durians in KL



I told Doug to hold off on the durians when he was in Miri. In Miri, durians are so expensive and if you did buy some, you are never sure that the ones you bought are any good. In KL, the vendor opens up the durian for you, lets you inspect it, and if you are satisfied you can go ahead and buy it.

That was exactly what we did at a Pasar Malam in SS 2. We bought five durians which only cost us RM 37. The vendor opened up all the durians and packed them in styrofoam containers for us. We brought the durians home to my friend, Margaret's, place and had a feast.

"That's your Malaysian durian for the year", I told Doug!

Friday, July 23, 2010

An evening at the beach


Last Thursday, I took the kids and two of their older cousins to the beach. My niece and I wanted to photograph the sunset but the clouds were so thick in the horizon that you could barely see the sun.

Since there was no interesting sunset to photgraph, I took pictures of the horizon and the sky which had some interesting cloud formation.


My niece took many more pictures of the kids playing on the beach than I did. The few that I took did not turn out as well as those taken by my niece. I mostly used my wide angle lens from a distance, so the pictures that had the kids in them did not have them as the main focus.

There's a resort right smack in the rain forest not far from here that we hope to go to once Doug arrives. My niece and I are already imagining the things that we would like to photograph - the waterfalls, the critters in the forest .... !

Friday, July 16, 2010

Frothing!



For the last couple of weeks or so, this is what I usually get every time I want to look at my blogs. I don't know if this only happens to Blogger hosted blogs using custom domain names, or if this problem is unique to my blog using my particular broadband modem, because when I click on friends' blogs using blogspot.com their blogs load without any problem.

The blogger dashboard loads without any difficulty though, except after posting a blog entry, I cannot view the blog - something about error timed out bla bla bla.



But the strange thing is, the cache copy works fine, and the latest post appears in the cache copy seconds after it has been published. I am only able to view my blogs hours later, and then it will do the same thing again.

This is beginning to bug me! evil

An Evening at Mariner Bay


Last Thursday evening, I took the kids and a good friend to a place by the beach. I wanted to photograph the sunset, but unfortunately the sunset wasn't as spectacular as it could be. You could barely see the sun setting because it was hidden behind some clouds. The colors weren't as bright as they could be either. The presence of the coconut trees in the foreground of my photographs made up for the disappointing sunset! mrgreen


I did not bring my tripod with me that evening. However, I was pleasantly surprised at how well the pictures turned out. I am still learning how to photograph things in low light by setting the ISO and the shutter speed myself. In daylight, I usually rely on the auto settings, and be done with it.


When it got quite dark, I set the ISO at 800, turned on the self timer, pressed the shutter and held my breath! In order to minimize shake, of course! wink Like I said, I was pleasantly surprised at how well the pictures turned out.

After the photography session we had dinner at Taman Selera, a popular eating place down the road from Mariner Bay. I'd heard the food at the restaurant at Mariner Bay was quite pricey, and I didn't need to spend a lot of money to enjoy good food so off we went to Taman Selera.

When Doug arrives at the end of the month, we'll spend another evening at Mariner Bay. I don't think Doug will be willing to spend good money at the restaurant there either! mrgreen

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Street Photography


Since I arrived in Malaysia, I have not done any street photography. I love my dSLR, and it is not as bulky as some other models, but still it is not easy to carry around with you in your purse! Like it or not, I still carry my trusty Fujifilm Finepix point and shoot in my purse all the time.

Yesterday, I took my mother to the ethnic market in town, and it was only as an afterthought that I took out my point and shoot camera.

One thing I noticed, which I never did before because I had never photographed the local vendors, was that not every one liked to be photographed. I tried to minimize anybody's suspicions and distrust by pointing my camera generally and at no one in particular.


However, one lady was upset that I photographed some of the stuff that she was selling. I think what she was most upset about was that she could not charge me for photographing her things though she did say rather loudly to her daughter that if I continued to photograph her things, the daughter should start charging me 10 ringgit for every photo I took! eek

I think that the law, in Malaysia, regarding street photography in public places is no different than the law in the US. I think that as long as you are in a public place, there cannot be much restrictions on what you can photograph.

Anyway, if somebody is quite adamant about not being photographed, I will try to stay away from such a person! No point getting assaulted over a photograph! mrgreen

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Rainy Days


It used to be that June was the driest month in this part of Malaysia. But it looks like June is no longer the driest month of the year. Two years ago, I observed the many rainy days in June. Likewise last year. This year, in the month of June and in the early days of July, rain is almost a daily occurrence.

I don't mind the rain all that much except when it gets too humid! I love it when there's a nice wind blowing before and after it rains. It makes the day pleasantly cool.

But I would hope that the weather dries up when I am ready to leave the country! I want to be outdoors visiting places around Kuala Lumpur and rain can be a real spoiler for such activities!

So how's the weather in your part of the world?

I miss talk radio

I went for a month without listening to any conservative talk radio. I thought about some of my favorite talk radio personalities but I realized I didn't miss them all that much.

But after a month, I started checking out their podcasts and archives. Then I started listening to a couple of radio stations via internet live stream. I realized that a month was about as long as I could go without listening to any talk radio!

Yesterday and today I listened to KSFO and KTKZ, listening to Brian Sussman, Hugh Hewitt, John Gibson and Bill Bennett. I wished I could stay up late and listen to Rush Limbaugh too, but every night I feel too tired to stay up past midnight. Rush's show only begins at midnight Malaysian time.

I was surprised at how good the connection to the internet live stream was via Celcom Broadband! I don't know if the radio listening will rake up the limit allowed (fair usage policy) but we'll soon find out if there is going to be any curtailing of the internet connection speed, right?

For now, I am enjoying the ability to listen to some of my favorite talk show programs via internet live stream.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Jailbroken and Unlocked. Again.

Today, about a month after I arrived in Malaysia, I am finally able to use my iPhone (which was locked to AT&T) with a DiGi sim card. Woohooo! mrgreen

Yesterday, I updated the iPhone firmware to the latest firmware, the iOS 4. I did that because I learned that there was a software to jailbreak that version of the firmware as well as a software to unlock the phone on ALL basebands.

I lost the previous unlock because my iPhone crashed and the only way to get it going again was to restore it to default factory setting. The iPhone hackers did not want to release the unlock software until after the release of the iPhone 4. Well, the iPhone 4 has been released, and after patiently waiting for the jailbreak and unlock softwares, my patience has been rewarded.

The instructions for the jailbreak and unlock were clear and easy to follow. Since this was not the first time I had jailbroken and unlocked my iPhone, the process was a breeze. mrgreen

*****


Jailbreak with Redsn0w.

Unlock with Ultrasn0w.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Photography with an ultra-wide lens


When I bought my dSLR, I only bought the body so that I could spend the amount saved by not spending extra on the kit lens on a 12mm-60mm lens. I love the ultra-wide angle on this particular lens and have been reading up on how to use an ultra-wide lens.

According to Ken Rockwell, the ultra-wide lens is not for "getting it all in"! He continues on to say that they are for "getting close and bringing the viewer into the photo, not for fitting a subject into a photo".


Oh well. I did try to get the viewer in with these two pictures but they also appear like I tried too hard to get everything in!

One of the things I love about these ultra-wide angle lenses is the distortion it brings to the subject being photographed. The distortion adds interest to the subject especially if the subject is a structure or a building.

I can't wait to get to Kuala Lumpur so I can try again with the Petronas Twin Towers. Last year, I took some pictures, but that was before I had my dSLR!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Swimming


I took the kids to the local public pool this morning. There were no other kids at the pool this morning, which was really nice. It was cloudy most of the morning, and so the sun wasn't beating quite as fiercely as it could.

The water looked cool and inviting, but I wasn't even tempted! I didn't want to mess my hair with the chlorine and also when the sun did shine through the clouds, I wasn't interested in being baked by the sun.


Anyway, the kids had a great time. It was hard to get them to leave the pool. There's always another day, I told them. The pool is opened every day except for Mondays, but it is not likely that I will take them during the weekends. Weekends are always popular with most people. I wanted to avoid the crowds, that was why I waited till the school break was over before I took my kids!

The kids only paid 50 sen each to swim in the pool. It only cost a ringgit for an adult who wanted to swim. I didn't have to pay anything because I wasn't going to swim. That's a very reasonable fee for the use of the pool.

Before we left for Malaysia, I promised the kids that I would take them to the pool more often this time. Last year, I don't think I took them more than a handful of times. So this year, I will keep my promise and take them more often!