Going Distance On The Cyclo-Cross


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


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


The mangroves at the river bank


Great Egret


Striated Heron


Lesser Adjutant


Grey Heron


There are three species here


Great and Little Egrets


This one just beginning to show itself and far away

Plain Sunbird

Sunbird feasting on the nectar of the coconut flowers


White-bellied Sea Eagle


Brahminy Kite

There are a few others.

DIY: Camera Belt Clip


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?


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.


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.

Independence Day Drive

Patriotic display

Patriotic display of Malaysia and the State of Johor flags

31st August is Malaysia independence day and it was last Monday. On late afternoon that day, I decided to go for a drive to Pontian to shoot sunset and some wildlife if possible plus whatever that grabs my attention.  I am trying to familiarise myself looking at the trees to find interesting image for the camera sensor if the forest is not.  A practice session in scrutinising a bland landscape for an exceptional image.

Pontian is the southernmost region of mainland Asia but the honour for the southernmost place belongs to Tanjung Piai (Cape Piai) and it is gazetted as one of the places to go for a tour in Johor.  Not far away across the Tebrau Straits lies Singapore, linked to Peninsula Malaysia by a causeway and a bridge. A quick check on the weather, it was forecasted to be 15% cloudy, but then I forgot to check on one other thing, that is the tide.  Last I saw there were a group of otters swimming upstream into the river when the tide was getting low but on this trip when I reached Sungai Rambah, the tide had totally ebbed and the birds were very few and far away.  That left me with just the landscape and the sunset.  Anyway, I did stop by the pineapple field on the way to the small town of Ayer Baloi and at Sungai Ayer Baloi for some snaps though.

Note:   In this region, you are never short of clouds.  The problem is, there are too many of it. If it is not above, then on the horizon.  Also on a glance, the sky may look clear but there’s probably a thin layer of it.  As a result, it is hard to get dark blue sky even if you use a polarizing filter.  I easily get very dark blue sky in Mecca without using any polarizing filter on a wide-angle lens. (After watching Walter Lewin’s last lecture For the Love of Physics, I guess the particles in the atmosphere here are moist as compared to Arabia causing less blue light reflection.)

My Thought On The New Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary

The old and the new Sigma super telezooms

The old and the new Sigma super telezooms

I should say that on many occasions, I am not patience enough when snapping shots .  This is due to the fact my early experience in photography hinges on covering events, namely weddings.  I try to present a story without much or any manipulation of the subjects unless it is a pose shot.  No problem at all in getting sharp images because the maximum focal length that I use at that time was 135mm for half body and head & shoulders portraits.  Eventually, I learned to shoot quickly and be done with it without the subjects knowing my action in advance.  Now that bird photography is one of my favourite subjects, I have to slow down and not getting too excited because photographing birds require a totally different approach.

The Sigma 150-500mm f/5-6.3 APO DG OS HSM, that’s quite a stretch, is the lens of my choice after some reading and consideration.  It is sharp when I’m relaxed and just trying it out, but on my outings, very few turned up good.  I have to admit that I’m quiet new to bird photography, thus I may still be lacking in techniques and experience.  I have yet to try using hide and/or give tips to the birds, that is food in return for pictures which I am sure that I can get good results but I am not going in that direction at the moment. Hence, I always wonder what could be wrong with my way of shooting or that I am missing something.  I have no other lenses to compare until I got hold on the new Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary.  Just after one initial outing, my heart fills with satisfaction when I review the images on the computer screen.  I now know the reason why and am sure about it.

Being the successor, the Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 has many improvements over its predecessor. On paper, it has focus limiter, more reach, zoom lock, sharper image and programmable via Sigma USB dock, but on trial, well…I like the taste of the pudding. It is faster in focusing and less hunting, quick and snappy stabilisation and a much more silent motor.  Even the lens hood has improved.  It is much more thicker, the locking mechanism is now a ring and the hood attached to it.  This makes the mounting end of the hood stronger and harder to flex.  Many have complained about the thin and flexible hood of the 150-500mm lens detaching, mine decided to jump into the sea while I was in a ferry shooting at the terns following it.

Unedited image of Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary converted and resized into Jpeg through Faststone

Unedited image of Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary converted and resized into Jpeg through Faststone


The hood of Sigma 150-600mm (left) and the hood of Sigma 150-500mm sharing the same type of locking mechanism

My only critic is that the base of the tripod collar is short, resulting in less grip in holding down the lens with the camera attached and extra care must be given to hold it and not to let it slip while holding.  All said and without doubt, Sigma 150-500mm f/5-6.3 APO DG OS HSM is a good lens but Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary is better. Probably Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Sport DG OS HSM is the best of them all.

Tip For Long Lasting Tripod & Light Stand


If your tripod or light stand costs a lot of moolas, you don’t have to worry, it should last.  This tip is for the average tripods and light stands and those below average aka cheap.  It comes from my own experience dealing with both items.

Basically, my principle in buying product is cheap and good, or as others say, best bang for buck.  The important things for me are function, built quality, performance and price.  No point in buying cheap but not good.  Those high-end tripods and light stands, you pay premium for not only the quality but also for the brand name.

Light Stand & Tripod with cracked locking mechanism

Light Stand & Tripod with cracked locking mechanisms, incidentally the light stand is now a branded name

The tip is just a fairly simple thing to do, that is, don’t stress it when not in use. So, when in storage or travel, release all the locking mechanisms, free it whenever possible.  The locking mechanisms are probably made of plastic albeit a strong plastic and others may be of metal, usually not of a strong metal as in steel, considering the price paid.  Plastic will increasingly becomes brittle and constant stress on metal will weaken it.  When this happened, it will crack and later on break.  This applies for the clip-locking type only, as for the twist-locking, I don’t have it long enough but still, it can be stressed out and break especially if it is made of plastic. The other problem that I could think about is that the wedge/grip inside the twist-lock mechanism might lose its elastic nature after being held down constantly for a long period of time.  Probably, it is still a good idea not to tighten it so much when not in use. (Note: I saw a newer tripod with a single twist, might also be a good idea too just not to lock it while in storage or travel.)

That’s all about it, let it free, or in the case of the twist-locking type, let it loose.

Pentax: I Still Have A Spot For It


I started out photography with a Ricoh KR1 and its Rikenon 50mm F1.4.  After that I moved on to Pentax ME Super, MX and LX.  I still have the MX and LX bodies, its motor drive and winder respectively, plus all the K-mount lenses that I bought except for the Rikenon 50mm F1.4. Sadly I missed it now.

It is nice to know that the Pentax brand is now owned by Ricoh and keeping the Pentax’s name alive.  Kudos to Ricoh.   My present photography gear is now based on Canon, hence I seldom check on Pentax news only once in a while.  Just then I read that a full frame Pentax is coming out by the end of this year or early next year, I am thrilled.  It is my hope that Pentax will not price this up and coming camera like Sigma did with its SD1 originally but to follow the later pricing of the SD1, that is not pricing it too high so as to be able to penetrate the market.  All those manual K-mount lenses that I had will still be manual, I have no problem with it cause I’ve been through with it and can deal with it without any problem and that image stabilisation is in the Pentax body itself, surely is a plus.

Time to start skimping.