A Glimpse of Lhokseumawe

View of an intersection from Hotel Harun Square

Stayed for two nights at Lhokseumawe before catching the flight home in Medan.  It was planned because  I was just curious.  I had been hearing the name for a long while.  Here are some pictures of the small town by the sea from my small walk around.

Finally, a photograph of the Islamic Centre in Lhokseumawe.  It made my day, because of its spacious ground that didn’t restrict my movements playing with the Samyang shift lens.  I took shots of this building left, right and centre.

 

Banda Aceh: Icons Of The Tsunami & Some Street Photos

The Grand Mosque, Masjid BaiturRahman – House of The Mercy Mosque became a sanctuary when it happened

It has been more than a decade since the destruction caused by the tsunami that hit Banda Aceh, the capital of Aceh Province, Indonesia. Life goes on. The city has been rebuilt and looks like any other city in Indonesia. Some scars still remain though. Not only as a reminder, but some, for its exceptionally withstanding the brunt of the force of the wall of water. They are now icons of the tsunami. I am sure there are many, but five of them are now very popular as tourist attractions.

I visited four of them. I missed the dome of a mosque that was swept more than twenty kilometres away inland and stranded in a paddy field.

Masjid BaiturRahim – House of The Merciful Mosque lies near the shore at Ulee Lheue

Masjid Rahmatullah – The Mercy of Allah Mosque at Lampuuk not far away from the shore. I was told that the water reached the dome

This is an electric generator on a barge

A stark contrast of a boat not on water but on a roof of what used to be a house

 

Here are some street photos.

Help On Manual Focusing For Newbie On The DSLR

These days you don’t need to know one of the important aspects of photography, that is, focusing to get a sharp image of the subject. It is done automatically by the camera. For those who have never used a manual lens before, will definitely find it a hassle to deal with when the time comes to deal with one. In the old days one needs to learn the process with the help of a few different types of focusing screens. Nowadays you don’t have that unless the camera has a changeable focusing screen.

The procedure for focusing is very easy. You just need to look at the screen, turn the focusing ring around and stop the focusing ring when the image is sharp. The trouble is, when to stop? Even with focus beep you will probably overshoot a little. What if you don’t have the time to slowly get it in focus? Easier said than done.

Here is a technique that will help you get by and get you a sharp image for wide angle lenses. You don’t even need to look at the screen for focusing. Here’s what to do;

1) Judge the distance of your subject to the camera
2) Turn the focusing ring to the maximum (the infinity mark right on top of the lens)
3) Select your aperture (depends on lighting, the smaller the aperture the better the result will be)
4) Turn the focusing ring until the infinity mark is adjacent to the aperture marking on the lens

Note: There are two similar aperture markings on the lens, they are called Hyperfocal Distance Scale.  You can only turn in one direction when the infinity mark is on top of the lens. The reading on the other similar aperture marking, gives the nearest distance that will be in focus. Everything from this point to infinity will be in focus. If your subject is beyond this minimum distance, rest assured that it will be in focus. Just make sure your subject of interest is not too near the minimum distance that will be in focus.

At F11 roughly from 1 metre to infinity will be in focus

I used this technique when I didn’t have the time to focus (also for candid snap) or when it was dark to focus. When using flashgun, choose the aperture that your auto flashgun is capable of. For manual flashgun, you need to know its strength. You have to check it out. You will probably need a bigger aperture when in the open or in a big hall, and will be able to use smaller aperture in a small room because the reflected lights that bounced off the walls help.

That’s for wide angle lenses. In general, the technique for focusing is to start from the maximum distance, infinity mark right on top of the lens. Slowly turn the focusing ring until you get the image looks sharp and then stop. At the focus point (hyperfocal distance), there will be some distance towards the camera that will be in focus and, much more distance away from it will be in focus too. It is called Depth Of Field. How deep or shallow this depth depends on the lens focal point and the aperture used. The wider the lens, the deeper it will be.  It could be just in front of the camera to infinity.  On the aperture side, you get shallower depth on bigger aperture and deeper depth on smaller aperture.  That explains the above technique. The reverse is true for a telephoto lens, the depth of field is shallow and the longer the focal length, the shallower the depth of field will be. The idea is that, if you missed the focusing and get it slightly forward towards the camera, the wider depth of field region behind the focusing point will increase the probability that the subject will still be in focus. Especially on a telephoto lens with wide opening, this technique gives better probability than the reverse method, that is to start focusing from near distance to infinity.

I am not a professional photographer, but in my younger days I was moonlighting a lot as a wedding photographer to help subsidise this hobby of mine. It was not cheap in those days.

 

Takengon – Tanah Dataran Tinggi Gayo

Berada di kabupaten (perbandaran kiranya di Malaysia) Aceh Tengah, Takengon adalah salah-satu kecamatan (daerah) di kabupaten ini. Terletak pada ketinggian 1200m dari paras laut, ia dikenali juga dengan nama julukan Tanah Dataran Tinggi Gayo. Untuk sampai ke Takengon, banyak khidmat jalan darat yang disediakan oleh berbagai-bagai perusahaan perjalanan di kota Medan. Jalan-jalan di pergunungan tidaklah luas dan tidak pula mendatar serta berliku-liku, oleh itu, digunakan van untuk perjalanan siang hari dan bas pula digunakan untuk perjalanan malam hari. Pergi saja ke Jalan Gajahmada, Medan, di sana terdapat banyak loket-loket (kaunter) untuk pembelian tiket bus atau van ke Takengon. Perjalanan udara dari Kota Medan ke Bener Meriah, daerah yang bersebelahan dengan daerah Takengon, baharu sahaja diadakan. Buat masa sekarang, hanya Wings Air sahaja yang mengadakan perkhidmat penerbangan ini. Untuk keterangan lanjut, sila cari atas talian.

Bandar Takengon letaknya di pinggir barat sebuah tasik yang bernama Danau Lut Tawar (Danau Laut Tawar – Adalah lebih baik jika namanya Danau Laut Air Tawar, kerana air yang ditawar itu obat/penawar, semoga sihat sesiapa yang meminum airnya, jauh dari membuat tawar hati). Ia tidaklah begitu besar. Kalau tidak ada masalah kesihatan, boleh saja keliling kota ini dengan berjalan kaki.  Pada mereka yang mempunyai semangat ‘adventurism’ yang tinggi dan mempunyai banyak waktu, teruskanlah berjalan kaki mengelilingi danau Lut Tawar. Cuma hati-hati di jalan kerana ia tidak mempunyai kaki-lima (ruang) untuk pejalan kaki. Boleh juga gunakan khidmat becak motor.

Penginapan boleh dipesan atas talian. Saya telah membuat ‘booking’ melalui sesawang Agoda untuk dua malam di Hotel Bunda. Hotel yang sederhana tetapi sangat memuaskan dari segi hidangan sarapannya, tempat terletaknya hotel ini yang agak ‘central’ (boleh melihat pemandangan sekitaran bandar Takengon dan danau dari atas bumbong hotel), cafe dan rumah makan bersebelahan, dan kedai untuk top-up kartu prabayar berada di seberang jalan. Tidak lupa juga terminal bus dan van yang tidak begitu jauh. Saya telah berjalan kaki ke sana untuk membeli tiket perjalanan saya selanjutnya.

Cuaca di Takengon sejuk tetapi tidaklah keterlaluan. Akan lebih terasa pada malam hari dan pada awal pagi, lebih lagi terasa apabila ditiup angin. Gabungan hawa sejuk ini dan tanah yang subur membuat penghasilan tanaman kopi dari bijiran Robusta dan Arabica yang baik mutunya sehingga bijiran kopi Arabica Tanah Gayo ini boleh mencapai harga yang lebih tinggi dari harga-harga bijiran kopi Arabica dari negara Brazil atau negara-negara Amerika Latin yang lain. Untuk melawat dan melihat kebun dan kilang kopi di Takengon, tanyakan saja pada abang-abang becak, banyak yang tahu dan boleh membawa buat lawatan tetapi tidak semua.

Kopi Gayo pastinya boleh dibawa pulang sebagai oleh-oleh. Oleh-oleh selainnya adalah hasil kerajinan tangan dari orang-orang suku Gayo. Saya tidak memasuki kedai kraft tangan ini, cuma melihatnya dari jauh. Dari yang tradisional, terdapat juga yang baru seperti tas tangan wanita dan tas-tas sandang belakang.

Akhir kata, Takengon adalah tempat kunjungan yang sesuai buat berehat sambil menziarahi dan melihat kebun dan kilang penghasilan kopi (agro tourism kiranya). Menikmati rasa kopinya di cafe-cafe yang terdapat merata, selain dari menikmati hawa dingin, pemandangan serta semestinya rasa masakan Aceh yang tidak banyak bezanya tetapi ada kelainannya. Ada lagi tempat-tempat yang boleh diziarahi seperti air terjun, tempat yang ada cerita legenda dan acara tahunan seperti pacuan kuda gayo. Itu semua mungkin pada ziarah yang akan datang jika diizinkah Allah.  Amin.

Going Distance On The Cyclo-Cross

001

I decided to test the cyclo-cross and build up my strength and stamina cycling a slightly longer distance last Sunday to the town of Pontian Kechil shortcutting the  main road by going through palm oil plantations which have a mixed of paved and dirt/gravel roads.  It was a leisurely ride as I didn’t  have the required fitness yet and obviously there were lots of stoppages in parts due to rains, photography, tiredness and lastly as I expected, saddle sore.  All in all, it took me four and half hours to reach Pontian Kechil.  On reaching Pontian Kechil the bike became slightly heavy  which I found caused by the brake pad touching the rotor.  Without the necessary tools, I was unable to readjust it.  The only tool that I brought along was the air pump.  Tired, sore butt plus if I were to cycle home, part of the journey will be in the night and if I were to go by the main roads, the distance will be longer, I decided to get a taxi home.

Two lessons learned from this trip, one is that I need to set aside a generous amount of time for the trip and rest if I’m not spending the night and bring along tools to do repair/adjustment.  For longer distances, spare tube is a must.  The other, cycling on dirt/gravel road is more tiring due to lack of traction and rolling.  It is akin to running on a beach, nevertheless, it helps build up strength and stamina.

Actually three lessons learned…I read how to avoid saddle sore.

Birds at Sungai Rambah

01station

When they say you need patience in birds photography, I did not know that it could run for a few days in a row.  I only knew it when I started to present myself at the same spot over and over again for a few days straight.  As I did not use hide nor did I wear camo painted military-like apparel, I must have stuck out like a sore thumb.  They kept their distance away from me and the kingfisher totally out of sight.  Only when I’m starting to become a familiar sight that they started to move nearer and appear.  Lesson learned and I’m starting to enjoy and appreciate the rewards.

Here are a few photos from the recent successive trips to Sungai Rambah at Pontian, Johor.

The river mouth

The river mouth and the mudflat at low tide

12mangrove

The mangroves at the river bank

03greategret

Great Egret

04striated

Striated Heron

06lesseradjutant

Lesser Adjutant

07greyheron

Grey Heron

08threespecies

There are three species here

09greatnlittle

Great and Little Egrets

10king

This one just beginning to show itself and far away

Plain Sunbird

Sunbird feasting on the nectar of the coconut flowers

14wbse

White-bellied Sea Eagle

15Brahminy

Brahminy Kite

There are a few others.

DIY: Camera Belt Clip

Beltclip

At times I needed to be mobile with two cameras at hand and instant swapping between the two.  Two cameras on a single twin shoulder strap is fine if stationary but not when moving around.  To solve this, I decided to have the primary camera in hand attached to a shoulder strap while the secondary on a clip attached to the belt.  I have read some articles, promotion and advertisements about those clips but decided to build one since I have the components needed.

The components

The components

It consists of a belt, an old Taiwanese made quick release, a camera bag partitioner and a quarter-inch flat head screw with flip handle.  The quarter-inch screw of the quick release only have a slot for tightening it to the camera, I swapped it with the quarter-inch screw with the flip handle.  A hole is punched through the partitioner and the belt, then the original quarter-inch screw of the quick release made to hold the whole components together.

The screw with flip handle replacing the original screw with slot

The screw with flip handle replacing the original screw with slot

...and the original screw hold the pieces toghether

…and the original screw holds the pieces together

I have used it and surely it beats having two cameras on a single twin shoulder strap.  The camera with the primary lens (150-600mm) attached to a single shoulder strap was held in hand and another camera fixed with a secondary lens (24-105mm) was at hip level, and it was a joy to walk around.  I felt that I could even run with less hassle.  Attaching the cameras with zoom lenses will cover a wide range of focal length which is good for covering event besides walking around looking for wildlife and at nature.

Note:  This is a new belt hence this article.  The original clip made with an old worn out belt.  The rest are the same.

Receding Shoreline: What Gives?

receding1

Shoreline at Pontian town facing the Straits of Malacca

I had observed receding shorelines in the east and west coasts of peninsula Malaysia.  In the state of Kelantan up north on the east coast, the beach there had been fortified with granites entrenched behind the shoreline to prevent further erosion.  Kelantan is facing an open sea and the constant pounding of the waves is understandable.  Unlike Kelantan, the west coast of the state of Johor is only facing the narrow Straits of Malacca, surely the waves should not be hitting beaches as in the east coast.  Still there are pounding waves said to be caused by passing ships and similar measures taken to tackle the problem.

The thing is that it does not only pertain to peninsula Malaysia, on my recent trip to Lombok, Indonesia, I observed that it too is experiencing receding shoreline.  Nothing to be concerned about because it’s a natural occurrence phenomenon but what set me thinking is the rate. When I was growing up, in a decade I practically did not see any changes, but not now.

Same thing here in Tanjung, Lombok

Same thing here in Tanjung, Lombok

Some Pictures of Lombok

Here are a few pictures shot in Lombok somewhere from Tanjung to slightly further up pass Bayan.

Lombok

The majestic Mount Agung in Bali as seen from Tanjung, Lombok

The majestic Mount Agung in Bali as seen at Tanjung, Lombok

Lombok lies next to the popular island of Bali.  It belongs to West Nusa Tenggara Province of Indonesia where the capital city Mataram is in the island of Lombok itself and the famous Komodo dragons island just east of the province.

Most of the hotels are located on the west coast and concentrated at Senggigi area, no problem for food and public buses from the airport to Senggigi especially for backpackers.  At Tanjung, further north from Senggigi, there is a recently opened small hotel called Mina Tanjung Hotel.  Nice and quiet, a good place to relax next to the sea but apparently no choice at all for eating out except at the hotel restaurant.  Then there is Kuta, not the one in Bali but a beach in south of Lombok which is said to be pristine and a place for a good quality of surf.  Last but not least, there is Mount Rinjani, fifth highest mountain in all indonesia.

This is my first time in Lombok and I am looking forward to tour part of it tomorrow.