Olympus 17mm f1.8

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Western Australia – Margaret River – Exploring the Town Center

The Margaret River town center certainly looks a lot more developed today in 2017 than I remember it from 2003, with lots more shops and eateries, and also more human and vehicular traffic than before. We had plenty of opportunities over the five days we stayed to visit shops and check out restaurants. There are plenty of carparking lots littered throughout the center especially around the side roads, in addition to those that lie along the main road parallel-parking styled.

The speed limit slows to 60km/h nearing the center, 50km/h within the center itself, and 40km/h at the further end where there is a school-zone, and there are numerous side-roads that branch out from the main road (Bussell Highway). It’s an easy drive but do it’s was still necessary to keep our eyes opened for vehicle doors opening!

The Fudge Factory, which produces chocolates and candies.


We arrived at Margaret River on a sunny day 5 of our stay.


Wide pavements.


Stopping by the town center’s outlet of Millers Ice-Cream. It’s cheaper here than in the farm some 15 minutes away. Odd!


Cafe with a sense of humor? LOL.


A small mall that houses a gym and some sports shops. Didn’t see this before in the last trip.


The well-reviewed Southern Crust pizza had closed for a winter break, so we settled for Kappadokia Kebabs which was just next door.


The lamb (top) pide, and chicken pide, both about AUD15 each.


Chicken and lamb pides for dinner – yummy!


The ubiquitous Target store. We stocked up on children’s clothes here again.


Squid Lips – what a name for a restaurant! This one’s tucked a little beside the Target: Country department store.


We had the Barra and Snapper Fish & Chips at AUD16 each.


Dinner @ Morries Anytime: The adults had the Half roast chicken, with Israeli couscous, pine nuts, turmeric yoghurt and chermoula butter. Priced at AUD44 – but Ling said it’s worth every penny!


The kids had the cheese burger from the children’s meuu and love it too.

Not all the eateries are opened past 6PM though, but there are sufficient places to have dinner – quite unlike Pemberton. In the worse scenario, both Coles and Woolsworth are opened till the early evenings, so you won’t starve.:)

Western Australia – Pemberton

Many tourists don’t really spend more than a day in Pemberton, if at all even – a sentiment also shared by Collin, our guide during our half-day tour with Pemberton Discovery Tours. Most of the time, visitors are just going past the small town on their way to the more touristy Valley of the Giants spot. So, we’re glad we spent four days in Pemberton, as it really provided us the time to drive leisurely rather than rush from spot to spot, and also time to explore Walpole, ride on the Pemberton tram, and of course visit the Warren and D’Entrecasteaux National Parks.

The town itself though isn’t quite the size of Margaret River. It has the minimum necessities: a petrol station, a supermarket (but that closes early), a few restaurants, and a pharmacy – so if you’re a diner with requirements, some advanced planning might be necessary.

It’s a small town center. This photo captures about a quarter of the shops in the center.


Yep – barely any traffic in Pemberton albeit on a weekend morning.


Lawns for the kids to explore.


A World War II Memorial at the town center.


A small cluster of eateries: we ate at both.


We had Fish & Chips and burgers at Atlas Take-Away. Let every where else in WA, the Fish & Chip helpings are enormous.


Shopping for microwavable food, breakfast, and groceries at IGA. The supermarket closes at 6PM though.


Ling’s green fingers have really rubbed off on our two kids. They are excited at even simple things like looking for interesting leaves on the ground!


If we come all the day from Singapore to here and end up eating Indian food, you can see how limited our dining options really are. The food was a little pricey and not everything was available, but it was very delicious nonetheless.


Look carefully and you’ll see that only one of us four is eating the paratas like a pro LOL.

In all – Pemberton was a very quiet and laid back town. Well-worth the time we spent here before we headed to the much busier Margaret River!

Shooting with the Olympus E-PL6 + 17mm f1.8

The two month old Panasonic GX85 has been a ball of fun to use and I’m gradually adjusting to some of its quirks: for instance, ghosting in its EVF, and that I don’t even notice its occasional tearing anymore. Despite that, I still find that the E-PL6 with the 17mm f1.8 provides me more keepers than my other m4/3 bodies with the other lenses. And this is despite the challenges my particular E-PL6 copy brings about: that both its touch-screen and rear mode dial have become finicky and occasionally having a mind of its own by deciding to change command settings on its own, and the loud shutter release sound it produces when I trigger a shot.

A lovely combo: the E-PL6 and 17mm f1.8.

So; just for illustration, I shot our kids with this combo exclusively over this weekend, and here’s a selection from the series of pictures.

I took a similar shot with Hannah almost exactly 4 years ago, and while both of them were at the same age: 3 years 9 months.

H doesn’t get bored too easily. She’ll always have something in hand to read when we’re waiting for food (this one’s at Coffee Kaki @ AMK Hub).

The weekend early afternoons have been slightly more humid than a week ago, though the two of them are obviously not bothered.

These kiddie sunglasses used to belong to his big sister.

She’s about 2/3s done with the first Suzuki Method book, and got me to load up the second book of pieces into her MP3 player.

Peter getting his first taste of Suzuki Method piano pieces.

The 17mm focal length on the m4/3s sensor is also useful to get a good deal of context and surroundings in without making the shot look too wide-angle.

This picture of H on the children’s see-saw was actually slightly over-exposed out of the camera, while the others taken in quick succession were fine. Seems that the E-PL6 misjudged the metering for this shot. Corrected it in post-processing.

Taken from across the dining table. Shots like these are always tricky, as the thin depth of field makes it easy for one of the two kids to be out of focus if he/she is learning a little backwards.

It might just be that Olympus out of camera rendering is just a bit more to my taste than Panasonic’s, and that the older 3 axis image stabilisation the E-PL6 uses is particularly effective with the 17mm. The low light advantage of a f1.8 stop helps a lot, as thus also the lens’ very quick focusing mechanisms. And lastly, the particular combo looks great together – though the lens and camera body are actually two different color tones: the lens is silver, while the body is chrome-gold.

This was actually a pretty fun of picture series to do for these couple of days. Next weekend or so I’ll do a next post – perhaps the almost 5 year old-now E-M5 with the Panasonic 25mm f1.4!

 

Kids @ 17mm, 25mm etc. – Part 30

The routine of the new 2017 year has settled in nicely over the last two weeks now. Peter is now in his second year at his childcare/kindergarten, and displays none of the separation anxiety he briefly showed a year ago. Interestingly, his teachers at the last Meet-the-Parents meeting said he’s very well-behaved in school and mixes well. But at home, he’s continuing to drive us (or rather Mommy) up the wall with his antics, which include all manner of variations of “not listening”. When we recounted his behavior at home to his teachers, they quipped that it just might be because our second born is socially intelligent, and recognizes that there are different forces at play when he’s around friends, teachers and other people. And while at home, he slips into his normal, real self LOL.

Hannah is now also in Primary Two, and doing pretty well in school – if the couple of academic and study awards she picked up at the end of her first year is any general indication. Though just two months into lessons, she’s coping with her music lessons, and – from what her teacher says – and is very musical, something that pleases us both to no end and we’re both claiming more genetic credit than the other for it! Well, like Daddy at least, she has good musical memory, picks up new pieces quickly and transpose them back on the piano by listening, and can improv – so there.

Funnily, between the two though, it just might be Peter having as strong a music gene as his sister, going with what Ling is observing. P sings and hums. OK, so all kids probably do, but this boy does it a lot. And at his young age, he can also recognize music pieces and say where he heard them. At the moment, much of his recognition comes off the numerous piano pieces I’ve been playing at home, and some of them would seem fairly complex music for young kids to digest.

Photo collage coming out of a bed-time series. The two really enjoy each other’s company, with P especially looking up to his “big sister” (X70 + Meike MK320).

CompassOne, the newly refurbished Compass Point, has re-opened, and it’s been one of our weekend hangout areas. This shot was very near the minimum focusing distance, and incredibly the X70 didn’t trip its AF point.

Beneath that cheeky grin lies a raging force of destruction (E-PL6/17mm f1.8 + Meike MK320).

Both children beds have got new quilts that Ling sewed over the December period. Ya, Mommy pattern like badminton.

The two of us actually compete for time on the piano on weekday evening.

 

Club Med @ Bintan – The Pictures – Part 1

Of the whole bunch of us, I reckon Hannah probably got the most out of our Club Med Bintan stay. Ling wanted to try out a couple of activities (e.g. trapezing) but was trapped down by Peter who clung onto her and refused to let her go. But she was able to venture out to the beach several times to hunt for sea life. Peter was probably just thrilled to lots of things to touch (and eat).

As for myself, aside from swimming and archery, I pretty much spent all the rest of my time taking pictures and reading. In fact, on the latter, over five days I finished four books including one on the battle for Iwo Jima and written by the late Robert Leckie and whose story was told in The Pacific mini-TV series, and a quarter into a fifth –  Forgotten Ally by Rana Mitter, a critically acclaimed and compelling account of China’s role in WWII, the struggles between early politicians like Mao Zedong, Wang Jing Wei and Chiang Kai-shek and why China is the way she is today. The National Library of Singapore’s eReads is a godsend!

Of the whole bunch of cameras, lenses and accessories I brought along for the trip, surprisingly, usage largely centered on a few key pieces of all the gear I carted, and they included:

E-M1. This camera body was given a real run for the money, and didn’t disappoint.

Olympus 40-150mm f2.8. Of the slightly under over 1,300 frames I shot, about 80% were on the E-M1 (the remaining were using the E-PL6 and also Samsung Galaxy Note 5), and of these, almost all were on this 40-150mm lens.

Billingham Hadley Pro in its first substantial outing. The National Geographic messenger couldn’t comfortably hold the 40-150mm.

Joby Pro Camera Strap: worry-free tethering!

Surprisingly, the equipment that I used little of or barely touched included the:

Olympus E-PL6/Olympus 17mm f1.8: I took several dozen low-light shots in our dimly-lit rooms and also a couple more at the restaurant – but that’s it.

Olympus 12-40mm f2.8: used it only for a small handful of beach and walking about shots and also our usual family wefie shots on the last day.

Nissin i40: never got brought out.

This trip was probably an odd one, since we didn’t do any sight-seeing at all. Rather, the majority of the 950 or so shots using the E-M1/40-150mm were of Hannah’s activities, and also at the evening concerts, where the combo really shined and producing amazing pictures under limiting conditions. Here’s the first bunch of them; I took so many concert pictures that they’ll have to go into a different post later!

Cloud Summoning 101 by Peter. Or rather, those are soap foam clouds.:)

Cloud Summoning 101 by Peter. Or rather, those are soap foam clouds.:)

Kids on the beach.

Kids on the beach.

Peter loved the pool, and wanted to swim everyday.

The 40-150mm aptly showing that it has near-macro abilities.

The 40-150mm aptly showing that it has near-macro abilities.

Our girl has a lot more guts than daddy in this sort of thing.

Our girl has a lot more guts than daddy in this sort of thing.

She liked the trapeze so much that she did this three times, and even (nearly) accidentally jumped queue in her enthusiasm!

She liked the trapeze so much that she did this three times, and even (nearly) accidentally jumped queue in her enthusiasm!

No tripod or self-timer needed. Just the Billingham Hadley Pro propping it up for support, and the Android client of Olympus Image Share.:)

No tripod or self-timer needed. Just the Billingham Hadley Pro propping it up for support, and the Android client of Olympus Image Share.:)

Concert pictures next!

 

Kids @ 17mm, 25mm etc. – Part 27

Monsoon has passed since the last week. The weather has been gradually warming up during the day alongside rain becoming an infrequent occurrence. And while nights remained quite cooling, it won’t be long before the island creeps into daily temperature highs of 33°C and beyond. The transition in weather has also made our two kids more vulnerable, and Peter experienced mild-temperatures on and off in the last fortnight, and Hannah is just recovering from a week long bout with skin rashes, possibly an allergic reaction to seafood at a family dinner we had a fortnight ago.

Ling was remarking that Peter doesn’t look like his age at all. At past 19 months now, he still has a baby-ish look about himself and were it not for the fact that he has a healthy pair of legs that let him run around, could be mistaken for an infant that’s just a year old. While he’s unable to say words beyond “jie jie” (“big sister”) and “daddy” and loud Homer Simpon-like “DOHs”, he’s better able to understand simple instructions we give him. Like:

“Peter, put that toy back on the table.”

“Peter, go to your jie jie.”; and of course…

“Peter, get your bu** over here NOW!!!”

He’s also less clingy to Mommy now too, after Daddy made a concerted effort to bond better with him, and will happily follow after me when he’s called to without the accompanying hollers and screaming from a couple months ago.

But then again, he’s also been doing quite a few stunts that’s been making us tear our hair out, including:

Upsetting Ling’s plants, and eating the soil that spill out.

Taking Hannah’s hair-clips and dropping them into the toilet bowl.

Taking an entire toilet roll, and also dropping it into the toilet bowl.

Taking Ling’s NASA stress ball, and biting pieces off it.

Ling was especially furious about the last one, since the stress ball was a beloved memento. We’re of course not to the point where we’ll punish Peter for misbehaving since he’s not fully cognizant of his actions, but it won’t be long now before he gets introduced to ‘time-outs’ for bad behavior.

All this said, Hannah has been a real help. As Ling put it on Facebook:

God gave us a healthy son albeit a very lively one. Sometimes I do fret over the stressful situations his liveliness brings and forget that he is a blessing. Over a peaceful dinner at home just now made me realised this and that God has also blessed us with a wonderful daughter who helped to keep Peter occupied so that the adults could eat ‘in peace’. Let me not forget that and be thankful!

Pictures.:)

Peter has de-stressed by taking out on the stress ball.

Peter has de-stressed by taking out on the stress ball.

Helping us keep an eye on Peter. After weekend brunch at Coffee Bean @ Greenwich Village.

Helping us keep an eye on Peter. After weekend brunch at Coffee Bean @ Greenwich Village.

Driving home at weekday's end. We love watching kids sleep; so peaceful and in their own world.

Driving home at weekday’s end. We love watching kids sleep; so peaceful and in their own world.

She doodles at least 2 pictures each 20 minute session on the SP3.

She doodles at least 2 pictures each 20 minute session on the SP3.

Hannah @ 5 years 8 months old, but looking older.:)

Hannah @ 5 years 8 months old, but looking older.:)

Looking cute now - but not so cute at home!

Looking cute now – but not so cute at home!

 

Kids @ 17mm, 25mm etc. – Part 26

Incredibly; more than 3 months have whizzed past since I last did a photo post on our two kids!

Hannah has been growing both in understanding the world around her and also in her sense of independence and decision-making. We’ve successfully taught her to shower on her own now since last month/year, though she still needs the occasional help bringing down the showerhead from its holder, or hanging up her wet towel in the yard. She also can easily find things on her own to entertain herself with, and – nicely too and something we observed from young about her – isn’t obsessed with TV or electronic gadgets. She’ll, very occasionally, ask if she can watch TV for instance (her current favorite are Tom & Jerry cartoons, no doubt a consequence of having watched tons of it over Cartoon Network while in Koh Phangan) or play her Mickey Mouse Clubhouse games on the iPad, but doesn’t mind if she can’t.

Peter on the other is quickly turning into more than four handfuls. At his age of 19 months now, we’ve concluded that the amount of care and labor that goes into managing him has long surpassed what Hannah required at the same age and even younger. Peter is a fussy eater (vomits food that he doesn’t like), doesn’t easily go to bed for naps or overnight, and gets into baby tantrums at the slightest unhappiness. Ling in fact quipped yesterday that the effort to take care Peter is easily twice that of Hanny. The difference between baby girls and baby boys – until this point we’d never realized how true such differences can be.

Kids @ Mcdonald's at the newly opened Paya Lebar Square. Nothing much in this mall (the neighboring One KM mall is much more exciting).

Kids @ Mcdonald’s at the newly opened Paya Lebar Square. Nothing much in this mall (the neighboring One KM mall is much more exciting).

Very inquisitive. Anything within his arm radius is likely to go missing.

Very inquisitive. Anything within his arm radius is likely to go missing.

Kids at home on weekends. The two of them play a lot together, though Peter often seems contend to follow his sister's lead.

Kids at home on weekends. The two of them play a lot together, though Peter often seems contend to follow his sister’s lead.

Hannah loves to look good and dress up whenever we head out - even if it's just for casual breakfast at a coffee shop!

Hannah loves to look good and dress up whenever we head out – even if it’s just for casual breakfast at a coffee shop!

Playing catch at the lift lobby - we were just about to head out for Hannah's weekend ballet classes.

Playing catch at the lift lobby – we were just about to head out for Hannah’s weekend ballet classes.

Hannah is already a little tall for her age. Almost too heavy for us to carry now too.

Hannah is already a little tall for her age. Almost too heavy for us to carry now too.

 

Kids @ 17mm, 25mm etc. – Part 25

We benefited from a long holiday/weekend last week by taking advantage of a public holiday with an additional day of Leave added on to do things with Hannah and Peter. The highlight of the four-day break was to bring Hannah out – on Children’s Day – for a visit to the Singapore Science Center, followed by a ballet appreciation performance @ Esplanade with the Singapore Dance Theater. Going to the Science Center especially brought about a huge sense of déjà vu. It wasn’t so long – alright 35 years ago – when my parents brought us to the Singapore Science Center, and now we’re bringing our kids there too to, hopefully, inculcate in them an early appreciation for science.

Hannah’s reaction to the ballet performance was a lot more mixed though. She enjoyed the first couple of numbers, and possibly because there were too many numbers in the about 80 minute performance, she got distracted and started fidgeting mid way through. From a look around the the reasonably packed theater, lots of other kids too were also getting restless. Still, at least for the attending adults, I learned a thing or two about ballet – like what it means and takes to earn the title of ‘ballerina’, the trust they need to have with their (male) partners, and why their costumes are adorned in certain ways. Watching the performers and especially the two or three lead ballerinas, left me again with awe on the kind of physicality their art demands.

Pictures.:)

Hannah is getting better at the art of taking selfies. She still has yet to fully get a handle on the zoom lever though.

Hannah is getting better at the art of taking selfies. She still has yet to fully get a handle on the zoom lever though.

Interacting with the exhibits at the Science Center. Ling was able to explain the science behind the exhibits, while daddy was easily distracted by everything. "Oooooh - shiny!!"

Interacting with the exhibits at the Science Center. Ling was able to explain the science behind the exhibits, while daddy was easily distracted by everything. “Oooooh – shiny!!”

Family Selfie @ Esplanade!

Family Selfie @ Esplanade!

Several of our FB friends still remark how alike Hannah and occasionally even Peter looks like me. Still just can't see the immediate resemblance though!

Several of our FB friends still remark how alike Hannah and occasionally even Peter looks like me. Still just can’t see the immediate resemblance though!

Coffee Bean @ Suntec City. We haven't gone by the very large mall for ages, and were surprised at how different the place looks today after years of refurbishment.

Coffee Bean @ Suntec City. We haven’t gone by the very large mall for ages, and were surprised at how different the place looks today after years of refurbishment.

We've started dropping Peter into the child seat on the supermarket trolleys now that Hannah has all but outgrown it. He finds the experience novel.

We’ve started dropping Peter into the child seat on the supermarket trolleys now that Hannah has all but outgrown it. He finds the experience novel, even if his facial expression here doesn’t show that.

 

Kids @ 17mm, 25mm etc. – Part 24

Our extended family had a wedding over the weekend when a cousin had her traditional wedding ceremony. The cousin is actually from Hainan, but has been working in Singapore for almost a decade now, and has become close to our family – especially parents – over the years. I guess it’s also Mom’s connection back to her birth country from so many years ago. Our cousin is a sweet lass and she married a local Singaporen who works in the infocomm sector and who during the groom’s speech at the banquet wowed everyone with his mastery of Mandarin.

Hannah was fascinated with the entire occasion; right from when the groom came to the family home to ‘win’ the bride (the gate custodians – who would have guessed – were her cousins and her, none of whom were older than 10 years old – to seeing the new bride in her gown, and the 10 course dinner – “Wow daddy – there’s so much food!!”

Peter on the other hand has been a little more cranky than usual in the last week. In fact, he whines and goes into mini-bawls too easily, which Ling guesses is partially because of his inability to articulate his wants and desires to us. Totally unlike Hannah at the same age, who was often contend to wait for us. We’re really hoping that come December when we go on our vacation, Peter would be better able to communicate and hopefully be a little less impatient.

On the other hand, we’ve been trying whenever opportunity presents itself to let Peter exercise his little legs outside, under our and Hannah’s close watch though. It’s always fun to watch toddlers walk. They basically just baby-stomp around all over!

Peter stomping at Serangoon Nex. New-found freedom!

Peter stomping at Serangoon Nex. New-found freedom!

A minder on each hand. Won't be long before he discovers running - then we'll be in trouble.

A minder on each hand. Won’t be long before he discovers running – then we’ll be in trouble.

Peter at 1 year 2 months 2 weeks old.

Peter at 1 year 2 months 2 weeks old.

The kids wanted the groom to sing tracks from 'Frozen', but forgot about it the minute the groom fished out the ang pows.:)

The kids wanted the groom to sing tracks from ‘Frozen’, but forgot about it the minute the groom fished out the ang pows.:)

Dad with Peter. I haven't used the 45mm f1.8 lens a lot in the last few months, so the weekend wedding was one opportunity to get some shots in.

Dad with Peter. I haven’t used the 45mm f1.8 lens a lot in the last few months, so the weekend wedding was one opportunity to get some shots in.

Hannah had lots of fun with her En, her cousin who's younger by just a year - but loads more confident and chatty!

Hannah had lots of fun with her En, her cousin who’s younger by just a year – but loads more confident and chatty!

Kids @ 17mm, 25mm etc. – Part 23

Another three weeks since my last post on our two kids. The most significant development between the two is that Peter is now – for all purposes and intent – mobile. Yep, he’s able to confidently prop himself up and briskly baby-stomp around the house now, and only occasionally losing balance. That’s added a new spin to home safety, since one of us parents need to keep a loose eye on him when he’s awake and scurrying around our home – it’s not entirely baby proof yet – and it helps that Hannah is like a Meekrat, playing sentry and alerting us loudly if she sees her baby brother doing something dangerous!

The two kids have been taking turns becoming mildly ill over the last fortnight though. Nothing serious and just minor colds and some coughing on Peter’s part, but it might be again due to the changing weather over the last month from warm and humid to somewhat cool most days.

We’ve also been finding ourselves lightly comparing between our two kids at similar ages and developmental ages. Peter is of course a lot stronger as a baby and louder than Hannah was at the same age years ago. Must be a baby boy thing. Hannah on the other hand picked up simple words a lot quicker. In fact, at 1 year 2 months, we recall that she was able to call either of us, while Peter at this point is just managing “da… da”, presumably in reference to his daddy. Similarly, we had our small group friends over at our home last Friday, and observed that comparing him to another baby boy who was younger by a few months, Peter still seems… baby-ish, while the other boy was looking distinctly more mature!

Our small group gathering during the mid-autumn lantern festival. The baby boy to Peter's left is younger than he is!

Our small group gathering during the mid-autumn lantern festival. The baby boy to Peter’s left is younger than he is!

Dinner at Tim Ho Wan, the famed dim sum restaurant. During the restaurant chain's opening in Singapore, people lined up for hours just to get a seat. The crowds have tapered off, so we were able to walk right in without waiting for am early weekday dinner.

Dinner at Tim Ho Wan, the famed dim sum restaurant. During the restaurant chain’s opening in Singapore, people lined up for hours just to get a seat. The crowds have tapered off, so we were able to walk right in without waiting for an early weekday dinner.

The two kids at Hannah's kindergarten mid-autumn festival celebrations in Punggol.

The two kids at Hannah’s kindergarten mid-autumn festival celebrations in Punggol.

We haven't previously brought Hannah to an indoor playground, and finally did so earlier this week. This is at Pollywogs @ East Coast. The place has the usual suite of kiddie-play areas, is attractively priced, and parents can accompany their kids without additional charge.

We haven’t previously brought Hannah to an indoor playground, and finally did so earlier this week. This is at Pollywogs @ East Coast. The place has the usual suite of kiddie-play areas, is attractively priced, and parents can accompany their kids without additional charge.

Build sandcastles at East Coast park after Pollywogs!

Build sandcastles at East Coast park after Pollywogs!

Getting Peter to learn to drink from a sippy cup. Ling thought this might help Peter transit to learn to speak words.

Getting Peter to learn to drink from a sippy cup. Ling thought this might help Peter transit to learn to speak words.