Saturday, September 30, 2006

Photography field day in Stratford Upon Avon

For the whole week this week, I have been SO looking forward to the weekend. Believe it or not, it has only been around 4 days since I acquired the 400D. During the weekdays I haven't had much time to get more acquainted with the new camera.

However, much to my disappointment the weather in England today was horrendous! Overcast skies, rain, poor visibility and the occasional sunshine. Yeah, much like any other day in England really.

Not to be discouraged, I reminded myself that an overcast day is also good for low contrast photography and so, I dragged the family on a photography trip to ... where else? Stratford-Upon-Avon again.

Good 'ol Stratford. Nice place for a photography field day

I used fill-flash for this picture to highlight the foreground statue (thanks Uncle De for the tip). It brought out details of the statue BUT looks too highlighted and unrealistic I think.

Experimentations with depth of field, I used an aperture of 5.6 for this picture.

Sarah doing a "top-model" impression

Like daughter like mother

Finally a picture of the camera shy Amar on the blog!

On the way back from Stratford we dropped by the town centre (we're planning something for tomorrow, please look forward to it!). It was still rainy, and the kids were cranky so apart from doing our shopping I wasn't able to take much pictures. That, and because I have already filled the 2Gb CF card with 400 pictures from Stratford! (gasp!)

During the evening, Sarah and I had an excursion to a "non-specific" coffee shop nearby (sorry DITH, Nnydd etc2 - but my last cup was when DITH posted this on her blog!). Anyhow, the "non-specific" coffee shop has a new hot chocolate drink, and MAN! Even the normally fussy Sarah liked it.

My first ever long exposure night photo, manual setting too! Okay I agree the composition is not very good, but that's why it's called an experiment. For this picture, I placed the 400D on top of a book on top of the roof of my parked car. I took an exposure reading using the "P" setting. It showed F5.6 and shutter speed of 4 seconds. I then went to the manual setting and set the aperture to F11 and compensated enough stops for the exposure. The result was the above picture - yesss! I can't wait to take a proper picture of something more interesting now. Oh, any tips about night photography anyone? (ISO was 200)

Much to my amusement, PMS managed to take this shot. Compare it with this extreme photographer:D
After one whole day of experimentations with the 400D I have to say I am still struggling. Taking pictures with it is like squabbling with a friend, or wrestling. The 400D wants to take pictures one way and I wanted the pictures to turn out a different way. One thing that extremely confuses me is the Auto Exposure mode (when I set the camera to the "P" setting). Often times I feel the 400D is SEVERELY underexposing the picture. What I often had to do was switch to manual and overexpose by several stops. It really is weird ... any pointers anyone? Or was it because it was a dark, overcast day?

Anyway tips & pointers are definitely most welcome. Even from you Naja :p

  1. Great photography tutorials at photoxels: Link.
  2. This is a sample of what I meant by the 400D's tendency of taking underexposed photos:

This shot was taken with the sun right behind me and on full AUTOMATIC mode. WT heck??

Another sample of an underexposed picture. This time under Aperture Priority mode. I set the aperture to 5.0 supposedly to make everything behind this ?goose/?swan/?duck blurry. I was hoping for magic but instead got this dark, sharp-ish picture. ???. (in other words, i was aiming for Bokeh, but got Vignette <-- sorry, photography joke)

Friday, September 29, 2006

Borakphoto Assignment: Salam Ramadhan - Completed!

All done! This image is actually a composite of images of memorial statues in Coventry. I saw the bound devil, and immediate thought of how devils are all bound and constricted during the holy month of Ramadhan. Perfect for this month's borakphoto assignment:)

The picture is GIMPed from the following ones:

This is the background (i.e bottom-most layer) image. I wanted the three colours - blue, red and black to subconsciously convey heaven, hell, and the dark pits of hell.

These are the statues I was talking about, right at Coventry's cathedral. I sampled the image of the "winged creature" from this image. I isolated the winged creature, and using curves I increased the highlights and reduced the green (to make it appear white, shiny and glowy).

I isolated the devil from this accidental/test image. I used curves to increase the red colour, and reduce green.

A discarded image.


Video of the day: Cellular Visions

I thought I was in no mood to update the blog tonight, since there was a massive traffic jam on the way back from work and I had to spend THREE AND A HALF HOURS trawling over obscure parts of the motorway -- almost reaching LONDON, lost, hungry and with only half a gauge of fuel remaining (no mood to be optimistic tonight, hehehe).

That was until I had a look at this video: Cellular Visions - The Inner Life of a Cell.
[click the video link, Flash player required]

If there was an Oscar for web videos, I would put my vote behind this one. I am still picking my jaw from the floor - it is simply amazing and a must see especially if you (i) like biology (ii) are a medical student (iii) interested in science.

The video is a high definition 3D rendered animation of the internal organs/micro machines in a cell working dynamically to maintain cell functions.

I had (traumatic) flashbacks of biochemistry and physiology (argh, Ganong!) throughout watching this video.

Highly recommended.

  1. Enjoy!
  2. Challenge: Try and name as many organelles, proteins and processes as possible - see how many you could recognise!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Experimentations with the exposure triangle

Canon 400D 54mm 1/4 F11 ISO 800 <- I've always wanted to write something like this (;p)

To learn about the exposure triangle read here at

I'm starting to really see how a DSLR edges out on a point and shoot. This shot could not have been done with my previous Sony. The only light source is the lamp you see in the picture, this photo was just an experiment of several things:
1. metering
2. choosing an aperture for maximum depth of field
3. compensating the exposure with the appropriate shutter speed
4. compensating with ISO.

I'm quite impressed that at such a high ISO of 800 the picture is acceptably not grainy.

1. In retrospect I should have illuminated the flowers from the front.
2. This is actually a significant step for me, as I am stepping more and more outside of the automatic functions to more manual controls...
3... and the epiphany about understanding the exposure triangle came to me only this morning, while driving to work :)

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

400D : Further experimentations

Just to share with you guys some results of my experimentations today. The weather was beautiful today as I was getting back from work, and the first thing I asked PMS when I got home was, "want to go anywhere??". Unfortunately, the little one was cranky near his bedtime which didn't allow us to go out. Instead, I just grabbed my camera and together with Sarah we explored the neighbourhood. Here are a few sights from the 'hood:

Now that I have a DSLR I feel as if my senses for what kind of weather, light conditions, time of day and cloud formations have become ever so slightly more acute;p. I just love photographing the skies though.

Okay, I'm going on a tangent here and it is not my intent to start flame wars - I respect you all, I really do. But just in case you guys are wondering: have a read. (I was just curious to know the differences, that's all).

Monday, September 25, 2006

Field day with the Canon 400D

I loaded up the 400D into the Crumpler today and went for an outing with the family. Originally, we planned on going somewhere more ambitious but sadly, the day turned out to be a rainy, overcast one. In the end, we compromised by going out just locally and save the more ambitious destination for another day.

I'm finally able to do a somewhat macro picture, yipee :)
Part 1: Using the Crumpler
The Crumpler worked as advertised. I loaded the Crumpler with the 400D, and a few other knick-knacks (but I removed the laptop). The Crumpler was really comfortable to carry around especially with the nicely padded wide shoulder slings. The slight rain meant I was able to demonstrate to PMS the waterproof characteristics of the bag. The camera compartment was easy enough to access, although it did mean I had to stop walking to open the compartment. I also think the camera should be secure enough.

Overall - very happy with the Crumpler. PMS said it looks good too.

Part 2: Moving to a DSLR
Migrating from using a point-and-shoot to a DSLR, to me, is quite a headache inducing process. One of the first things I noted about a DSLR is that -- argggh, there are just SO MANY buttons and functions! One button for white balance, one button for ISO, one button for selecting where to focus, one button for flash, one for depth-of-field preview and of course - one for releasing the shutter. There are dials as well, one dial for making the selections, and one dial to choose modes. And then, there are like 10 different modes of shooting pictures! One for every situation you could possibly imagine (<- note: exaggeration).

I hope by now you could imply that using a DSLR is EXTREMELY technical. It reminded me of my first few days trying Linux. Despite having read the manual (yup, I've RTFM) I was overwhelmed and was even lost in all the different buttons and dials.

Another thing is for someone who is used to a point-and-shoot like me is, the camera is so much bulkier than the much more pocketable Sony Cybershot.

Having said that, using a DSLR compared to a point-and-shoot is such a pleasure. The camera feels solid in my hand, and it is just SO responsive. Zooming was achieved with just a few wrist flicks and using a viewfinder is such an improvement over the tunnel vision that was using a 1.5 inch LCD viewfinder screen. Being able to burst photos at a rate of around 3 frames per second is also very convenient to finally capture the ever locomotive Sarah.

Part 3: The Pictures
To me, this is the make-or-break part: the picture quality.

Truth be told, I was actually underwhelmed by the pictures. All the pictures I took today does not even compare by a tiny fraction of the picture quality I've seen on Flickr (using the same camera) and some of the talented people on borakphoto. Not even close. Perhaps it was the dull weather, and most likely it's my poor technique but I was so hoping to see a major change from pictures taken with the previous camera.

Infact, I am so ashamed of the pictures that I am reluctant to show them in this post. Maybe once I get more familiar with the 400D beast, and when my pictures improve I'll post more.

Not to disappoint though, above are some sample pictures taken with the 400D.

A few things I was flabbergasted about today:
  1. Urgh, how come I cannot use the viewfinder to preview the picture???
  2. How to capture video with this camera, huh?
(LOL, I hope you got the joke)
Related links:
  1. Review of the Canon 400D on DPreview
  2. Review on
  3. Review on PCW
  4. Review on The Digital Picture
I am still trying to get over the irony of shrinking a stupendous 10 MEGApixel picture to a 400x400 pixel (i.e less than VGA resolution you could get with your mobile phone) in order to display it on this blog.

The Journey Begins: Unboxing the Canon 400D

Finally, my camera has arrived today! It was delivered by Parcelforce at around 10am. It took 10 days to deliver from the promised date. However, being 25% cheaper than high street prices I am well satisfied with the purchase :)

Let's get on with the unboxing, shall we?

I was surprised that the Parcelforce box is small and light

The actual Canon package is wrapped in bubble wrapper. There's also an invoice from

The package (getting more excited.....)

The first layer inside the box contains the discs and instruction manuals (which I've already read way in advance thanks to the internet)

All the documentations and discs

More bubble wrap inside protecting the lens and camera body

Close up of the insides - you could already see the shape of the camera body, as well as cables for the charger.

Everything in the box laid out - manuals, discs, battery and cable, video cable, camera strap, camera body and kit lens.

It deserves another angle :)

Close up

The front of the Canon 400D. I was immediately impressed by how light it is yet it feels solid and well crafted.

The posterior side - notice the BIG 2.5 inch screen :)

How the camera and lens fits into the camera compartment of the Crumpler bag (plenty of space to spare for extra lenses -- ehem!--)

Close up of the 400D inside the Crumpler

This is my previous camera - a 3 megapixel Sony Cybershot. Fun memories indeed and it has served us very well. It's not the end for this camera though, I still see myself using it for adverse weather conditions/places or when I couldn't bother lugging a bigger camera around.
Can't wait to take a picture (the battery is still charging at the moment)

I can't sleep

Hopefully today!

Saturday, September 23, 2006


Putra Jaya Mosque, Malaysia (by no means my submission for borakphoto's latest challenge)

As of tomorrow, Muslims in the UK are starting the month of Ramadhan. Many of my non muslim friends at work are curious about Ramadhan and have been asking me what Ramadhan is all about. Well, Ramadhan is the month when we Muslims refrain from, among other things, eating and drinking from the time before sunrise (called Fajr, around 5am) to sunset (around 7pm). During this time we are nil-by-mouth and yup: not even fluids, or smoking cigarettes.

We fast simply because it is part of our faith to fast, and during this time we remind ourselves of the hardships of the poor and needy.

To all my friends: may we all have an excellent Ramadhan this year, full of ibadah and blessings. Amin.


hehehe ;)

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Thanks for the memories

Another package arrived today, only a tiny one

It's the compact flash memory card. I got it very cheap on eBay. It's 2 Gb, but unfortunately (according to Uncle De) it's very slow as well ;( hu... probably I should have spent slightly more for a faster one, eh? I wouldn't have mind spending slightly more as I know I'd be using the card for years to come. Oh well ... (however, some studies has shown that a faster memory card doesn't really make all that much of a difference, I don't know)

ps. The memory card is here, but where's the *bleep* camera??

On a more cheery note, Borakphoto has come up with another assignment entitled "Salam Ramadhan". What an appropriate topic eh? The cool thing ladies and gentlemen, is that Borakphoto's assignments are open to public. The rules are simple really:
  1. Anyone could submit a photo, and the photo could be taken using "any kind of camera" ; point and shoot or SLRs. (mobile?)
  2. To submit, just put a link to your contribution in the comment box.
  3. If you submit three or more assignments, you're automatically promoted to a member, and a link to your site would be placed on borakphoto's sidebar.

The assignment has really got my brain spinning and storming for ideas. Pity in this country there are not many beautiful mosques as in Malaysia ;(

I would really2 like to encourage my blog readers - especially those who are even remotely interested in photography- to submit photos as well, especially YOU GUYS : O-K (&KKL), Uncle De, Ikelah <- (show em how it's done Ikelah!), Moby, Dyanna, Xitayx, and ?Pycno? I would really like to see how you guys would interpret the assignment. Let's work on it guys! -Mynn is in brainstorm mode- (but tomorrow in weekend-oncall mode, again!) ;(