Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Flood of Pictures: Paris

I have finally finished my oncalls, but currently I'm too tired to even press the keys on my keyboard. So here are as usual, a flood of photos from the recent trip to Paris.

Flight to Paris: We left from home really early in the morning at 5a.m. Poor kids, here Amar is seen flat asleep, PMS also looks slightly dazed yet Sarah was busy digesting her newly bought magazines. The guy sitting in front of PMS was praying we'd reach the destination alive (I guess). The flight was very cheap: a total of 74 pounds for all four of us. Flight to Paris took 1 hour from Coventry.

Upon arrival we were reminded that the time in Paris is one hour ahead of England. We reached Paris early morning, while the sun was still casting golden light. We were darn excited upon touchdown, finally Paris!

We took a 20 minute drive on taxi to our hotel. It costed around 30 euros. However, taking a train would cost around the same for all 4 of us and weigh in the inconvenience of our huge luggage and semi-sleeping children travel by taxi was definitely the better option. Surprisingly our taxi driver was genuine, helpful and genuinely helpful. Coming from a local, we had learnt during the 20 minute drive more than what we read for hours in the Paris Guidebook (the book was also excellent). During the journey, our kind taxi driver was showing us all the beautiful landmarks (including the famous Guillotine - unfortunately not pictured), explained how to get around and advised us to invest 14 euros for the three day "metro pass". For around 14 euros we were able to travel unlimited on the underground trains and busses to all destinations within zones 1-2 in Paris. Excellent.

We found out why the taxi driver was so kind and helpful: he was from Malaysia.

Checking in: This is a view of the lobby of our hotel room. The hotel rates were relatively cheap so we really didn't know what to expect for the money. We were pleasantly surprised that the hotel owner was quite friendly and helpful. We were even more surprised to see our room:

... pleasantly surprised that is. The room was better than we imagined. It was huge and had more than enough space for the 4 of us, fully en-suite, had a TV, air-conditioning (all pictured above) and had an excellent view of the Gare du Nord:

View from our hotel window; Gare du Nord: We (rather, PMS) chose quite a strategic place to stay. Our hotel was just opposite this famous train station, famous to UK travellers that is. Gare du Nord is easily reachable from Orly Airport and had direct underground veins to major attractions including Disneyland, Eiffel Tower, and the Basilisque Sacre Coeur. My deepest regret about the recent Paris visit was not being able to visit the beautiful, white, mosque-like cathedral despite it being only 3 stops from our hotel! (In comparison, the Eiffel Tower is like 15 stops away). Click the links and see for yourself.

Much to our relief and delight, there were at least 3 (I bet there were much more) Halal shops in Gare du Nord. Above was one, only several doors away from our hotel. Food wasn't a problem at all.

After spending much of the day recovering we went out together to Point Neuf for the night boat tour of the river Seine, and above was PMS in front of the Eiffel Tower at night (taken using the "night portrait" mode on the camera.

The next day, with barely time to recover from the night before, we were again resuming our tour. Above was taken just near the Louvre. Eiffel tower in the background.

That's all folks!

  1. Right now in the UK, we have begun what is called the "daylight saving time". This is the time when we very curiously put our clocks one hour ahead of normal. The rationale, as the name suggest, is so that we savour the daylight for longer than possible if time was "normal".
  2. Daylight saving time starts at 2am on the last Sunday in October. Confused? My early years in the UK, I really had trouble adjusting to the daylight saving time. There were instances when I came to lectures one hour late, not knowing that time has changed to daylight saving. Those were extremely embarrassing moments.
  3. The reason why we need to enter daylight saving time to begin with, is because the day is so short nowadays in the UK. Daylight begins at around 7am, and ends at 5pm.
  4. Imagine coming back from work in total darkness at 5pm! 5pm in Malaysia is when the children starts playing football outside, enjoying the sun.
  5. That is why many people in the UK are affected by what is called Seasonal Affective Disorder, which in English simply means "depression especially in Winter due to not having enough sunlight :p"
  6. For me though, I love these times. I love coming back home when it's dark. There is a nostalgic, magical feeling that I could not properly explain :)
  1. Firefox 2 has just been released. Make sure you guys download it ASAP; many improvements from Firefox 1.5.
  2. Picasa 2 also has ALOOOOT of improvements in their latest update. Make sure you guys do the update.
  3. One of the best features I love in Picasa 2 is the Web Album integration. If you guys love photos, do give Google Web Album a try - it's excellent. I've already uploaded lots of pictures, but for the moment I'll keep the address a secret - it's for PMS' and yours truly's parents & family only, so far.
  4. Fuh!

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Selamat Pengantin Baru: Muzaffar & Nani

Finally my family has sent pictures of Muzaffar & Nurhanani's pictures. What a nice wedding. The wedding was held on the 27th of October 2006 and here are the photos:

The picture above was taken at Nurhanani's house, after the wedding.

This was at our house with the wedding cake.

Pelamin with our aunt & husband


The wedding lunch

My father, uncle, PMS' father & brother

Family from Puan Mama Sarah's side

Finally, picture of Afar & Nani with their the kids

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Eid 2006 Revisited

Salams all. I'm sorry for the long silence without any updates but as Puan Mama Sarah has mentioned in the comments in the post prior to this one, I am currently oncall right after my Eid holidays. The oncalls are quite busy, and afterwards I tend to get really tired, hence the blog neglect.

However, I've come to thinking; rather than stay silent without any updates at all I might as well just put up something. And this update is that "something". I think from now on, whenever I get too busy to put up anything I'm just going to flood/spam my blog with topical pictures. And the topic for this one is: Eid Revisited.

Do bear in mind that these are pictures chosen lazily, and minimally edited due to the limited time. I'm just posting up pictures just so that I have at least something for the blog, and also I heard from some people (especially the family) that they would love to see more pictures of us. So, roll the pictures:

Puan Mama Sarah getting ready in her custom-made-since-one-year-ago-with-special-material-from-the UK-but-tailored-in-Malaysia Eid costume. I don't think it's pre-planned that this year's Eid would be pink/peach costumes for us but Along and family sent the little kids very pretty pink baju raya that we immediately chose pink as this year's theme.

Picture taken on second day of Eid, notice Puan Mama Sarah is wearing a different baju raya of a different style on that day (whereas the rest of us were wearing plain) . We the adults were gathered in the living room playing with the little ones and here is Amar asking Puan Mama Sarah to blow up a baloon. Notice the expectant twinkle in Amar's eyes and I like this picture as it conveys the relative size between Amar and an adult. Both were sat near the glass door and I like the slits of illumination (however, not done effectively enough in the picture in my opinion).

Puan Mama Sarah with Auntie Maryam aka Auntie Wa. Taken on the first day of Eid, Auntie Wa was preparing Nasi Minyak for expected guests.

Kak Wati in Eid costume busily preparing our Eid breakfast.

Auntie De in Eid baju kurung, Auntie De's family's theme this year was also coincidentally pink (and white). At this point I have to say that my problem with the new camera is that I am so far still struggling trying to take good portraits and I fall flat every try. People are just too unpredictable and dynamic and I find it pretty difficult to capture them at the right moment (That's why I prefer to take pictures of static, immobile buildings and architecture instead). I'll keep practising.

Uncle De with his high-definition Sony video camera, finally caught in a close up. I trying hard to tempt Uncle De to give in to buying a DSLR. I'll keep trying.

One of those *eye-rolling-upwards* moment as Auntie De was feeding Uncle De a specially made bread-and-butter pudding. Uncle De was laughing afterwards as Auntie De made sure there were lots of raisins, which Uncle De despises!

Auntie De helps Sarah with her hairclip as Safiya was watching.

Emyr. Another attempt of capturing someone's portrait. Emyr is really photogenic, I find, especially as he goes through various different emotions throughout the day. He's such a handsome lad.

Safiya. I was careful to frame Safiya's eyes which were further highlighted by light from the glass door.

Shafiq, as we were waiting for Eid prayers to start. I'm not sure why he was covering his nose and mouth at that time but I know he has asthma. It was also a cold morning.

Final picture of "our family". Amar and Sarah was refusing a family picture, so Puan Mama Sarah and I jokingly took their dolls and posed them instead of Sarah and Amar. That's why we were laughing so much in the picture and that also explains Sarah's confused and tentative expression. Look further in the background to the right, and notice in the mirror a reflection of Auntie De, also laughing.

Whew, that took longer than I thought!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Coventry: The Whittle Arch at Night

I braved the cold and the darkness tonight and went alone to the city centre in the hopes of capturing a picture of the Whittle Arch, one of Coventry's most famous structure, at night. I've seen before how the area lights up beautifully and I have been planning this for ages.

This morning we've had storms and heavy rain, and by evening the day became extraordinarily clear. Anyway, here are the results:

I've discovered something new from the experiment, which was how to create the "starburst effect" seen in the above series as the star-like emanations from the light sources. One way is to use a starburst filter, but I found that using very small apertures (e.g. F22) could create the effects seen above.

Quite a few people gave me puzzled stares, a teenage couple even approached me and asked for me to take their picture in front of the structure. Mental note: next time bring a friend for night photos, as the experience could be scary!

It was also an opportunity to test my new tripod: a SLIK Pro 330DX:

Overall, I'm moderately happy with the tripod. Features:
  1. Relatively cheap
  2. Comes with a 3-way pan-and-tilt head
  3. The handles are covered with foam for handling comfort, especially during winter (you know, the metal gets cold)
  4. The legs could be spread quite wide apart for really low heights, e.g. for macro photography.
  5. Weighs 1.5kg
It feels relatively solid, and it weighs relatively light and overall, for the price I'm quite happy with it. However, if I had more for the tripod budget I probably would have bought a Manfrotto 190Pro. However, the Manfrotto 190 costs £100, and comes WITHOUT a tripod head.

A good tripod head costs around £200.

Yup, photography is an extremely expensive hobby!

Across the continent back home in Malaysia my brother is actually getting married at the moment, so Congrats(!!) and god bless Muzaffar & Nani. Above all I wish you two happiness and a blissful marriage.

Unfortunately my parents have yet to send me pictures so I'm not sure how the ceremony went but I'll post pictures as soon as they become available.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006


This was orinally a warm picture of Amar playing in the garden this morning, making a mess of himself. In this picture I was experimenting with:
1. Photoshop (you heard that right, PHOTOSHOP[!] No more using the primitive GIMP for me :p)
2. The channel mixer in Photoshop to produce a black and white image
3. The dodge and burn tools.

My goodness, I couldn't believe how a black and white image completely transformed the original to this almost-like-a-murder-scene picture. The drama is definitely heightened, I feel, from the original:

Dyanna, seriously my friend - if you want full functionality it's time to abandon GIMP and adopt Photoshop!

Aidilfitri 2006

Eid morning, the second thing in everyone's minds was probably, "finally we get to eat breakfast!". Above was Puan Mama Sarah busy helping with setting out the morning feast for the family. The Eid must haves were mostly available: nasi himpit, rendang, lodeh, kuah kacang, beryani and kopi kampung.

The first thing in our minds was of course, getting ready in our traditional baju melayu and baju kurung to get ready for Eid prayers. It seems that one of us was a bit late in getting up...

We went to the rented local community centre for Eid prayers, the khutbah celebrated our success in completing the fasting month and reminded us of the blessings of islamic family values.

After Eid prayers, we took the time to shake hands and mingle with the community.

This year we are celebrating Eid with our sister angkat's (Auntie De's) parents: Uncle Zainal and Auntie Maryam in Nottingham. It may be our last Eid celebration with them in England since I'm soon moving back to Malaysia.

The rest of the family was patiently waiting our return from Eid prayers. We asked each other for forgiveness and then settled for a second breakfast. Above is our family in our Eid costume. The children's costumes were so very generously sent from Malaysia thanks to Along and family. Thank you Along!!! We deeply appreciate the children's baju raya :)

Uncle de, Auntie De, Emyr and Safiya had to be forced to pose in front of the camera :) When I asked for a picture of Auntie De to "salam & cium tangan Uncle De" they replied, "We don't do cheesy wedding poses :p".

Here's a picture of all the boys.

This is my favouritest picture of the series: of cute little Safiya. She is the female equivalent Amar in my opinion; quiet, settled, never a whimper and very sociable. She didn't even cry once when her parents left her under our care to go shopping. She's so cute too!

Sunday, October 22, 2006

The day before Eid 2006

Part 1: A visit to Sherwood Forest
As I have mentioned in a previous post, our Eid for this year is tomorrow (Monday, 24th of October). While waiting for Iftar, we went for a "short" journey to Sherwood Forest, of the Robin Hood fame.

I was extremely surprised by a number of things about Sherwood Forest; one - that the forest is very far away from Nottingham City Centre, around two hours drive and two - the forest is HUGE. No wonder in the movie Robin Hood Prince of Thieves they were not able to find Robin Hood hiding in the forest.

It is now Autumn in the UK, and soon (people say towards the end of October to the first week of November), the leaves are going to turn red and photography during that time is NOT to be missed (remember that, Rosli & Arep!)

Uncle De taught me yet another thing about the 400D - that I could increase the colour saturation, which I had for these series of pictures. In my opinion, the pictures are more vibrant and alive. I'll be using that setting from now onwards i.e +1 for saturation. In the picture above, I love the texture given by the green moss, and I tried to compose the picture so that the bark of the tree acts like a natural frame for the rest of the forest. However, I think the picture would work better if the background is slightly less blurry.

The forest was full of very ancient looking trees, such as the one above. Look very closely, and you could almost see a face, with the eyes staring back at you. The branches look like limbs, very much like the Ents in Lord of The Rings, eh?

PMS pointed me to these mushrooms which would make very nice close up shots. In this picture I again feel I included too much in the frame, I still have to learn to simplify my compositions!

All sorts of fungi making interesting photos in my opinion. In retrospect, I should have photographed the above from a top-on angle as well - perhaps the patterns could be seen better from that angle.

Part 2: Second Box of Fireworks

I mentioned in my previous post of the buy-one-get-one-free offer for all fireworks from Tescos. Above is the second box, opened for your viewing pleasure. Notice the variety of fireworks offered for the minute sum of money: various shooting stars, rockets and fountains.

Uncle De was generous enough to buy several packets of sparklers. Sarah, who was afraid of the fireworks last night, braved looking at the displays tonight. Finally, she even agreed to hold a sparkler.

Then she got braver, and burnt one sparkler after another until we finished two whole packets! I'm sure she had fun tonight. Uncle De and I were finally successful in creating "light trail" photographs - relatively easy really. Shutter was set to bulb, ISO 100, F8. I held the shutter open for around 2-3 seconds for the above picture.

Sarah was also much more assertive in lighting up the fountains and rockets tonight. I carried her while lighting the rockets and after achieving ignition, we ran away together - it was fun! Above was a "bulb" mode picture, but I experimented by coupling it with fired flash. I like the picture as the garden was illuminated enough. The above is a picture of a fountain spurting 4-6 seperate shots.

Hopefully you've enjoyed the pictures.

I think it's time for me to retire for now, as we have to wake up early tomorrow for Eid prayers. Eid mubarak, selamat hari raya & maaf zahir dan batin everyone!