Going Around In Circle…well kinda

Map from Google showing the places I travel. A is where I start and end

It had been about two weeks since I returned from a trip to Pekanbaru in the island of Sumatra. It is the capital of Riau Province, Indonesia. The trip was a result of my initial planned trip to Penyalai, Teluk Dalam in the island of Mendol to photograph a pair of White-bellied Sea Eagle which I came to know on my first visit to Penyalai a few months back.

Speed leaving Penyalai

From Singapore, I boarded a ferry at Harbour Front Ferry terminal to Tanjung Balai, Pulau Karimun. I then immediately continued onwards to Tanjung Batu, Pulau Kundur and spent a night there. The next morning I boarded a fast boat called ‘Speed’ by the locals for a short half hour journey to Penyalai.

Penyalai is a small town, similar in size to the towns seen in cowboy movies. There is only one accommodation and a very humble one for that matter. Since it is a monopoly, the price for a night is not cheap, Rp 60000 for a room with fan and Rp 100000 for a room with air-conditioning and you only have electricity when it gets dark. I paid Rp 60000 in Tanjung Batu, far more better room condition plus air-conditioning and 24 hours electricity. That said, it is just a note here, I am not complaining. I like the place and what makes me like the place is the eagles that sometimes fly low and very near.

Market in Penyalai near the pier

A reminder of my childhood

Strong current in the strait

The pair of eagles appeared at the area around the pier at about the same time as before, in my previous visit, at about an hour after noon. Since this was my second encounter with the birds, I was getting better but still not perfect. I felt much more composed. Maybe next time I should offer them some goodies.

White-bellied Sea Eagle

Its partner

Old habits die hard but bad old habits need to change. People need to wise up. I was surprised to see two young ladies on the bridge merrily walking and talking to each other, each carrying a box. They then edged closer to the railing, flipped the box over and emptied it over the sea. 50 years ago this is not a problem, they are all organic, and the weather and time will take care of it. Now there is plastic and sadly in a hundred years it is still plastic. People attitudes are the same wherever they are. There are the good, the bad and the ugly. I do see people with good habits in Penyalai. They burn their rubbish. No truck collecting rubbish in the island.

The plastic trash is an eyesore

The next morning I boarded a Speed for a six-hour long trip up the river to Kerinci, stopping at Teluk Meranti1 for lunch. I did not feel like spending the night in Kerinci, maybe next time, so I continued on to Pekanbaru. The van that ply the route between these two towns is known as ‘Siputih’, named after its colour white.  The journey took more than an hour. I spent two nights in Pekanbaru and did some shopping and walking around.

Somewhere in Pekanbaru

I obliged to the request of these young entrepreneurs

Morning rush hour in Pekanbaru

I did my shopping at Ramayana

Man fishing at Siak River

The Grand Mosque of Pekanbaru

Motorcycle park

Avian for sale

headgear for sale

On the third day at about 10.00am, I left for Dumai on the east coast of the island of Sumatra. Another six hours of road journey plus stoppage for lunch. I told the driver to drop me at the ticket office for the ferry to Malacca. After I had bought the ticket I checked in at a hotel just next to it. I was too tired to walk around looking for cheaper alternative and furthermore it was nearer to the ferry terminal.

Dumai town. The ferry ticket office is just behind this van

Dumai International & Domestic Ferry Terminal

Next morning I decided to walk to the ferry terminal which was about two or three kilometres away. I left Dumai for Malacca at about 11.00am and from Malacca I boarded a bus to Johor and home.

Melaka Sentral Terminal

Shops inside Melaka Sentral

On my way home


  1. At a certain time of the year there will be huge waves rolling-in up the river called Bono. I sure would like to see this phenomenon but I do not know if they have enough accommodation for the influx of seasonal tourists there in Teluk Meranti. Click here to have a look at the phenomenon.

Sigma 150-500mm – Getting The Hang of It

Juvenile White-Bellied Sea Eagle

My initial feeling of this lens was that it was a little heavy. But, after a few outings, the weightiness is now less of a concern. Either my hands have become stronger or that I am now more accustomed to it that it is out of my mind. In fact, during outings my mind is more on the job and to get it right. When there is no bird in sight I just put it aside.

Autofocus is quite fast if the subject is near the focus point during the initial framing and from then onwards locking on is a breeze. Otherwise the focusing mechanism will go hunting high and low. This is not good for shooting birds in flight. Almost impossible to get a lock on focus. I know that I can easily get a good and sharp pictures of birds by just visiting the aviary but somehow I just don’t like the idea. I prefer to shoot wild and free birds. It is more challenging and I get to learn more about them. I am now more interested in birds, so when I know a place where the not so common birds often seen, I shall keep note of it and will go for an outing to that place when I have the time and will to do it. If a place that I will be visiting, there are chances of eagles sighting, I shall bring along my Sigma telezoom lens.


My outings with the Sigma telezoom lens are still few, but I am now more than comfortable with it. Lugging it around for short distances with the camera attached, I just grip the tripod collar with my left hand. When I want to shoot, I lift it to eye level simultaneously lifting my right hand to grip the camera. As a precaution, the camera strap is wound around my wrist. With the weight of lens and camera resting on my left hand palm and four fingers gripping the tripod collar, the thumb is free to rotate the focusing ring. If during the initial framing the focus is totally out, I shall pull the focusing ring down (to infinity focus point) and then up clockwise. When the view is almost in focus, the shutter is then pressed halfway to let autofocus kicks in. The focusing method for BIF that I am experimenting now is continuous focus coupled with continuous frame exposure. Occasionally, I do have a hard time getting the bird almost into focus manually before letting the autofocus takes over and lock on. When this happened, I quickly swing the camera to focus elsewhere which is approximately about the same distance as the bird and then get back to the bird.

Heron at Lido Beach, Johor, Malaysia

All said, I have yet to get a good and sharp picture. I am still learning. After going through all of the pictures, I found that most of it were below 1/2000th shutter speed unless it had higher ISO. In fact many were below 1/1000th. I try not to use high ISO because I do not want the picture to be too noisy as I am not doing any serious post processing at the moment, just a little bit here and there. Now that my stock is growing and whether I like it or not, it has to be soon. One of the reasons I am not getting good and sharp pictures of the bird is probably that I was too excited as the case with the eagle seen here. I was on my way back to Tanjung Batu from an island in Riau, Indonesia. As I was waiting for the ferry at the pier, I saw two White-bellied Sea Eagles flying and at times very near just above my head that it filled the whole frame in the viewfinder. On checking the exif, some were at 150mm and few others at F11.

Egret at Lido Beach

One thing I want to mention about the Sigma 150-500mm telezoom lens is that the hood is not tightly fit. Just recently on my way from Penyalai to Tanjung Batu in Kepulauan Riau, Indonesia, I noticed a group of birds flying behind and following the ferry. I grabbed the camera, attached the Sigma telezoom lens and started shooting. Through the lens I saw the birds were looking down and occasionally dived down to the water. There was probably food for them found at the still water that sloped down just after the turbulence caused by the propeller. After indulging myself shooting the birds, I lowered the camera. I felt something hit my right foot. I looked and saw the hood bounced, landed at the edge of the deck and rolled into the sea. There goes my sigma lens hood. Is it just my Sigma lens hood that is not tight-fitting or all of the others too? On closer inspection of the mount system on the lens, there is a small mount near the edge of the groove slot probably for locking. I guess it needs more force turning the hood when attaching it. Anyway the hood itself is quite fragile. It is made of plastic, large and thin. If it is expensive, I shall go for metal from the independent accessories maker.