31. August 2009 · Comments Off · Categories: All Posts, At Home, Baby Blues · Tags: ,

Ling had the idea of trying to set Hannah on her tummy to give her the opportunity to get used to the sensation. Babies apparently at this time are about the age where they start learning to roll over. Unfortunately, Hannah’s first attempts saw her struggling for most of it, and she seemed more interested in sucking her thumb when we set her gently on her tummy on our bed.

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Apparently it’s good exercise for her to try using her neck muscles a bit. Still, when we were done, there was a 10 cm wide pool of drool on the bed.

Oh well – it’s Ling’s side of the bed anyway, so… :)

(Taken using the Sigma 18-250mm and the Lambency diffuser.)

Ling always complains that she doesn’t look so good when I take pictures of her and Hannah. She’d look at her oily skin, eye bags, wrinkles, unflattering lighting, pimples, acne, black spots; then cringe and grumble that I didn’t take her ‘good’ side.

Truth to tell, it’s possible to remove a lot of those, er, skin ‘features’. You could always open the aperture wide-open, but sometimes photographic conditions make that unwise as there’re always trade-offs. The smarter way is to do photographic post-processing. E.g. consider the two pictures below: the before, and after post-processing:

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Now you see it, now you don’t! And no, I didn’t correct everything… it would have taken too much time.

And Ling is grumbling again now while I write this post – she’s asking why I didn’t remove her crows’ feet LOL.

31. August 2009 · Comments Off · Categories: All Posts, At Home, Baby Blues · Tags:

Just 2 days before Hannah popped in June, I managed to get a set of decals to decorate her room. I got it from a shop at Parkway Parade Shopping Centre and its asking price was cheaper than other decals available online.

As a busy working and pregnant lady then, to decorate Hannah’s room was an non-essential item on my checklist of ‘Things to Do before Hannah’s Arrival’. However, I really liked to have more than just a functional room for Hannah. Something pretty here and there. (That explains why I did the cross-stitch of Hannah’s name too.) So as my expected due date drew closer, I tried to squeeze out time to do the non-essential stuff. I bought the decals during my lunch hour and boy, I felt so big and heavy as I hurried to accomplish my little task. Sometimes I felt like a penguin in the way I walked!

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I had an enjoyable time deciding on positions of the birds, leaves and flowers on the wall. I look forward to the fun of re-decorating the room with Hannah one day. :D

blog-wildlifephoto-bookI finally set aside some time over Sunday evening to begin reading the second of two photography books I’d bought from Kinokuniya during the 20% members discount a week ago.

Lonely Planet has a couple of photography-theme books. I like them for a few reasons: they’re slightly cheaper than similar books from other publishers, the pictures in them are invariably annotated (more on this later), and most importantly – the books are novel sized. As much as I enjoy reading Tom Ang’s How to Photograph Absolutely Everything, hard cover books of that size just aren’t much fun bringing around to read when I’m eating dinner alone at Kopitiam.

I found Wildlife Travel Photography by Andy Rouse a good read. The author has certainly traveled widely, and the book is broken down into many chapters, and then into bite-sized sections. Not essay-like like Joe McNally’s The Hotshoe Diaries whose author uses a writing style that doesn’t appeal to me.

All the pictures in this book are annotated with equipment identified: the SLR and the lens used, alongside shutter speed, aperture, and ISO settings. What I like even the more was that the annotations also note the location where the picture was taken, and the full name of the animal or critter in the picture.

The little descriptions finally also include the author’s explanations of challenges he faced in taking each picture and how he got through them. Some of those anecdotes elicited chuckles from me, like one picture he took in which his subjects – inquisitive wild dogs at a South African private game reserve – bit the DSLR he’d mounted to take remote-trigged pictures, leaving teeth marks on the wireless transmitter unit.

That said, there’s also lame humor, as though Rouse is trying hard to be cute when writing. E.g. when describing the usefulness of angle finders, he says

“It (an angle finder) allows the camera to be flat on the ground without you having to be, which is great for those tuxedo-wearing photographers out there.”

Duh. The humor works better when it’s part of a situation he encountered taking pictures.

I’ve got a couple of other little gripes I’ll make a mention here.

Firstly, there’s some incongruity between the book’s intended audience and the kind of equipment that non-professionals are likely to use. Rouse makes no bones about the value of expensive glass. Ok I get that; but not everyone has the moola to own a 500mm f4 – which costs a very cool USD5.8K. If this book is written with advice and ideas pitched at entry-level enthusiasts, then I think the author should have provided more material advising non-professionals how best to maximise their consumer-grade equipment to take the best pictures. Like what Tom Ang did in his Absolutely Everything book.

Secondly, the book was published 3 years ago, and there’s a bit of information in it that isn’t as correct as it once was. Not the author’s fault of course though. But still… for instance, Rouse discourages the use of laptops for field use and makes a pitch for portable photo storage devices.

But 2006 was before netbooks came about, which has made photo storage devices look so yesteryear. Netbooks are cheaper, have better and larger displays, bigger storage space, potential photo-editing abilities, better battery life – and most importantly, don’t cost an arm and a leg. Just take a look at the Epson P-7000 photostorage device. It costs USD740. For that money, you could get two netbooks that can do everything the P-7000 does, and better too.

Still, I’m happy with this purchase, considering that it costs just SGD24 for a good read that I can bring along with me. I’ve got another Lonely Planet photography book on order, and this time it’s the new edition of Richard I’Anson’s Travel Photography. Hopefully the next one’s just as good.

Someone was saying that while macro photography is reasonably accessible to amateur photographers, it remains one of the most difficult themes in photo-taking for amateurs.

There’s some truth to that: you’d want specialized equipment for starters – dedicated macro lenses, close-up filters, extension tubes or lens attachments to reach the necessary magnification factor first, then a steady tripod with a ball head that won’t sink under the weight of a heavy DSLR with a macro lens / attachments, then finally a remote trigger while shooting in mirror-up mode to eliminate the minute vibrations that come with using finger triggers on the shutter release.

But now I have a different opinion: taking baby pictures is even the more !@#!@%%^@! difficult! The lens equipment, accessorizing, framing and composition is all easy: it’s getting the subject to cooperate that’s crazily tough.

We can get Hannah to coo and make cutey noises at home easily enough when we’re playing with her. But of late, she’s (somehow) smarten up to the presence of a camera and will do anything but look cute. She’ll instead grumble, look away, fidget, chew on her thumbs, widen her eyes (like she’s seeing a ghost).

Case in point: it’s been raining for most of this Sunday weekend today, but after the rain mostly subsided at 4:15 pm, we made our way down to the poolside to see if I can get some nice outdoor pictures of Hannah and Ling. And out of the 120 exposures I took, just a measly 4 pictures turned out with Hannah not making one of those funny faces.

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So, I’m gonna make an order for this book and see if I can outsmart Hannah in the next photographic outing. There’s a lot of books on this theme (the one I’ve linked seems the most well-reviewed one), which only suggests that there’re probably other equally as exasperated parents / amateur photographers trying to take pictures of tots.

There’s some difference in color temperature BTW between the two pictures above. It’s probably impossible to tell from looking at the exposures, but the one on the right was taken with a pool table umbrella over us.

(Taken on the Sigma 18-250mm).

Prior to marriage when I was living semi-alone in my Perth studio apartment, my laundry schedule was roughly about once every 7 days. The laundry machine I was using was one of those huge almost industrial sized ones that could wash up to 7-8 kg loads at a time.

Now, after marriage and moving to The Rivervale, our laundry schedule was roughly about once every 4 days for the first 2 years. Ling had twice as much clothes to get through as I did, which is on account of the fact that it’s humid in Singapore + classrooms in her school weren’t air-conditioned. So she perspired a lot each day. She’d occasionally grumble that my entire faculty – outside the lift lobbies and the common concourse level – is air-conditioned. All the tutorials rooms, labs, auditoriums, lecture theatres – heck even the corridors and the faculty canteen.

One thing that’s changed with Hannah coming into our family is the laundry we’ve got to do now. The little tot goes through anywhere between two to four changes of clothes a day (you’ve guessed it… it depends on the number of times she poos in both solid and liquid fashion, and if she merlions), and that’s just the rompers, jammies and clothes she wears. There’s an equivalent number of support materials, including waterpoof sheets, bed linen, napkins, nappy clothes, flannels, mittens, booties, bibs etc. that support the day to day operation of Baby Maintenance.

Here’s a picture of the amount of laundry Hannah goes through in 2 days…

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… and that’s not including the bed linen and waterpoof sheets that have to be washed on demand whenever Hannah does her ‘thing’. Our poor washing machine and dryer – which used to work once every 4 days – now has to work just about every day LOL.

29. August 2009 · Comments Off · Categories: All Posts, At Home, Photography & Cameras · Tags: ,

The Gorillapod Focus arrived yesterday via USPS Postal Service after spending around 8 days in delivery – I purchased it from a small Montana-based shop selling photographic accessories. Ling has been anticipating the tripod’s arrival and already has ideas on how to make use of this to take pictures and videos of Hannah when she’s least expecting it.:)

More notes to come after I’ve played with it. In the mean time though, the usual pictures. The first is its size in comparison to my D300 / MB-D10; the second sees it with the D300/MB-D10 + Sigma 24-60mm, the SB600 – all mounted on a Manfrotto 488RC2 ballhead. I should have got a tape measure to see how high the thing stands – I’ll do it in my notes post later.

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Larger sized pictures on the Flickr link to the right of this page too.

29. August 2009 · Comments Off · Categories: All Posts, At Home, Baby Blues

It’s the start of the weekend again, and from the calendar, Hannah is exactly just past 12 weeks, and starting on her 13th week today.

She’s been starting to move quite a bit when she sleeps at night. So, we could set her down at the middle of her cot at night, and the next morning, she’d be kissing the wooden bars along the side of her cot! We’ll give it another week or so, after which we’ll no longer be able to leave her relatively unsupervised when we set her down to our bed occasionally for quick breaks.

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She’s also started to form fragments of her first words: she’s been able to mumble what suspiciously sounds like “OK”, and just the yesterday uttered what sound like a “lah” behind that OK LOL. Yep, she’s 100% Singaporean already at 3 months. The second word seems to be the early signs of “Hello”, but we could be mistaken on that.

Me, I’m trying to get her to learn to say “Mummy” and “Daddy” quick. Especially the “Daddy” word first! :)

This is an emo blog.

The joys of motherhood (okay, I know that it sounds unbelievable with all the challenges mentioned earlier) made me forget that Hannah does not belong to me (and Yang too). I was rudely awaken to this fact just recently when I read another mother’s blog.

I feel sad to think that she would have to leave us one day. But it is good to keep in mind of this fact and be thankful to God that He has given Hannah as a gift.

And what an extraordinary gift. If I use it well, there would be growth in grace, patience, humility, perseverance, integrity, wisdom, understanding and love (unconditional & long-suffering). A source of joy and hope, she is a gift to be enjoyed as well. At the moment, her ‘ga-ga’ smiles make my day. Hannah is also a mirror that makes me see myself more clearly and I pray that will cause me to improve for the better.

So as our bond deepens with each passing day, I must remember to trust God and let go when the time comes.

28. August 2009 · Comments Off · Categories: All Posts, At Home, Entertainment

Continuing from my previous post.

There’s a song that gets regularly played off the MP3 deck of our car, and it goes like this:

This song comes from Curse of Monkey Island in 1997, and in it you’re supposed to try somehow to get your three pirate crewmates to stop singing and start sailing. The trick to solving this puzzle in this 1997 game is to choose a singing line which is impossible to rhyme – which our hero character does, hilariously, at the end of the song.

This little sequence comes from another pirate-y game that Matt and I both enjoy: the Monkey Island series. The series has been running for decades now, but I only got into it from the third installment towards the late 90s.

The series is essentially a humorous take of the entire 16th to 17th century Carribean pirate-era. You have a lovable Pirate wannabe Guybrush Threepwood who’s the hero, and in his adventures he’ll meet his nemesis, an evil undead pirate called LeChuck, and his eventual wife Elaine Marley.

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The series has quite a cult following over the years for its great story-telling, music and voice-acting and that graphical adventures are few and far between considering that real-time strategy and first-person shooter games are now all the rage for modern video gamers.

The game over the years has also transited from low-resolution 2D sprite imagery, to the beautifully hand-drawn Disney-esque animation (pictured above) to fully 3D generated animation (below):

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What hasn’t changed though is that playing through each game’s adventures is as enjoyable today as it’s been over the years. Monkey Island is thoroughly non-violent, takes cracks at everything and sundry, has full of running gags, and spoofs everything in modern culture. Sort of like a video-game version of the Asterix comic books.

And to prove a point: lines from the game figure even into Matt’s daily speech LOL.