Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Happy New Year

It's hard to believe that it's going to be the new year already. This year has been such an incredible one. There were so many things that happened and now that I think back... I can't really think of any other way to describe this year other than EVENTFUL. :)

A couple of reasons why: 1. It's the year I graduated and started work. Oh the PAIN of work and the burden of having to experience the responsibilities as a working adult. No longer can I just take the afternoon off if there are no tutorials or if I just FEEL like taking a break and going off for some foot reflexology. God, I miss those days. But I suppose, there's nothing like finally receiving some money every month that can be put towards travel. ;p And while there have been so many tiring/trying/downright depressing days, I have survived this far... and in a way it's a relief to think that the most difficult Intern year will be finishing soon... ok in another 4 months but that's a teeny detail.

2. It's the year I had the most incredible graduation trip(s) with my mum and a group of the craziest/best travel buddies I could've asked for (recall New Zealand ;p). 'Nuff said. I love those guys I travelled with and I always feel like giving them a great big hug everytime I look through out photos. Ever tried driving a 5 person caravan through the long winding NZ roads for miles and miles with a wonky sound system? Hilarious.

3. It's the year I got to do some great traveling with awesome experiences. :) Not only did I manage to have a great time with my mum in Europe, my grad trip group in New Zealand, but I was also able to go to Montreal, one of my favorite cities, for the Osheaga Festival. That was pretty amazing because it was something I had decided on almost on a whim, after seeing the incredible line up for the 3 day festival. And after I had bought the tickets to the festival it was like... ok now I need to buy the plane tickets. And then everything else fell into place. I loved seeing everyone's shocked expression when I told them I was going to Montreal over ... 8 days? :) I had maxed out my leave for that period of time to travel but it was so worth it. And I DID sort of wipe out the paltry amount in my bank account since I had just started work as well but really... I have no regrets at all. It was such a wonderful, relaxing experience for me. Well, a lot of it was just me walking the streets of Montreal, enjoying the gorgeous late summer - early autumn chilly weather, popping into cafes, finishing up that tome that is The Wind Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami (and I would definitely recommend that it you're looking for a book to lose yourself in) and walking up early in the mornings feeling slightly stuffy because there was no air conditioning in the Air BnB room that I was staying in but it was so peaceful and quiet nonetheless. Ok after recapping it briefly in my mind, I'm all prepared to go back again. :) But hopefully with some people this time. Montreal is too fantastic a place to experience alone.

4. It's the year of counting blessings. I started this ritual of posting on Facebook every few days something about work that I was grateful for, because I knew that if I didn't actively do something like that, I would just become depressed and full of angst very easily since I don't particularly look forward to work. But counting blessings really does help lift one's mood and overall outlook on life. :) I'm so grateful for the tiniest of things... perhaps a text message in the night while I'm on call that keeps me company... friends/colleagues who can sympathise with everything and who offer an invaluable well of emotional support... warm barley water cooked by my dearest Ahpo (grandmama) when she knows I'm tired out from work (that I happen to be sipping now :D)... the joy of going on leave and packing my luggage in the middle of the week when everyone else has to go in to work the next day hehehe...

Oh it's just a whirlwind of emotions all the time. For every bit that's that much more trying, there's always something else to be grateful/thankful for which buoys my mood and helps me get through things. It's something that I want to continue doing for the rest of my life. Always being grateful for things.

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(Happy Christmas. Taken while in Ginza (probably) in Tokyo, Dec 2013.) 

It took me awhile to remember the circumstances around this photo because at first all I could see were the lights... then I saw the person in the photo with her handphone and then it hit me. We were walking around at night when we spotted a bunch of prettily lit Xmas trees that were part of the 'Illumination series' of Xmas decor across town. There were so many tourists taking photos of the same tree and while Donald was not particularly impressed, I thought it would be fun to take a photo of someone taking a photo. :) I'm just glad that the bokeh turned out nicely! Quite unexpected and another reason to love film.

Now it's time for me to settle down and get ready for work tomorrow. Yes, working on New Year's Day and through the night as well. But hopefully it'll be incredibly uneventful and smooth-sailing. I'm just grateful for these quiet moments at home tonight that allowed me to reflect on the past year of events. Facebook's 2013 in Review thingamajiggy sort of prompted this rumination as well.

Here's wishing everyone a blessed New Year ahead. :) Would love to hear about your thoughts on the year past/ahead as well.

Happy New Year.


Sunday, 1 December 2013

Minolta #1

Something I've been meaning to share with you guys for quite a while now :D -- I bought my first proper film camera a few months back! And boy, has it been such a joy ride shooting film. I had been meaning to get myself a film camera (in fact, I remember spending hours at lectures towards the final months leading up to the exams, googling film cameras and pondering about just which one to get as a starter. the more boring the lecture/the most stressed I felt, the more frantic the googling and the wilder those internal flights of fancy would be) and it just felt like my graduation trip (s) would be the perfect time to make use of one. So I ended up getting a Minolta- X370 off eBay and thankkkk goodnessss it's in great working condition. There WAS a period of time when it got a little wonky causing a 'capping' problem (i actually googled - 'what causes the photos to have a portion unexposed and black??') but miraculously that seemed to have resolved by itself. The camera doctor I brought my baby to see actually said there was nothing wrong physically wrong with it and that I would just have to continue and see how it went, "as that is the nature of film". I remember walking out of The Camera Hospital (trust me, I'm not kidding about the name. ;p) feeling slightly perturbed and more than a little worried. After all, I didn't want to keep shooting if it would only result in close to half the shots cut off and unexposed. But then, amazingly, that problem hasn't really surfaced very much at all anymore. Perhaps it has to do with the fact that when it's extremely bright outside, I tend to make the shutter speed its maximum 1000 rather than leave it to Auto. Who knows? I'm hoping it'll continue performing admirably as it has all this while. :)

There's something incredibly addictive about shooting film. Granted, it IS a more expensive hobby but there are so many facets to it that make it worthwhile. First of all, it's all about delayed gratification. That was something I took awhile to get used to at the beginning. That flustered feeling of uncertainty as the thoughts 'did I manage to capture that shot the way I wanted to??' whizzed through my head. There are times still when I take a second shot if I really REALLY want to capture that moment and I wasn't sure if the first one was taken well or not. Because with film, there really isn't the opportunity for second chances. Each shot is the final product in itself (to a large extent). But in that uncertainty, lies the allure. Because each shot is its end in itself, every shot is unique and cannot be duplicated. With digital cameras, you can take a multitude of shots, often carelessly and in a trigger-happy fashion because there is very minimal opportunity cost in taking yet another, less well-thought through shot. There's always the delete button and there's photoshop. But with film, since every shot does cost that extra bit of money and IS that much more precious, I realised that I started to really think about my shots. I started asking myself each time, is this something worth capturing? Does this moment mean enough for me to want to capture? Am I taking the best shot I can take? Should I take a step back and make sure that the framing and composition is better before I press the button? And in asking these questions, I think I've become a more careful, deliberate photographer. Every photo has to mean something. Every photo that I capture on film has to be a moment or feeling special enough for me to want to hold on to and look back on for years to come. So with the photos I take with film, I tend to be able to associate my feelings about that memory more easily because of all the extra thought I put into it before taking that shot. :) It's definitely a different feeling. For sure, shooting digital is way more convenient and cheaper, but there's a discipline that comes with shooting film that probably benefits me as a someone hoping to grow as a photographer...and as a person.

Plus, with film, I don't feel the need to edit my photos very much. I'm usually really pleased with the colours and the way the photos turn out that after getting them scanned in, usually the most I do is bump up the brightness...maybe tinker with the contrast/exposure a little. Pretty minimal changes. In a way, I just want to keep those photos are authentic as possible. I like the raw feeling of film. It is what is it, for everyone to see.

So here we go, some shots from my very first roll of film. :)

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#1. Living Room. (In my best friend's place in Heidelberg)

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#2. Buck. (The sweetest, calmest, and possibly oldest, dog that I've known so far.  He belongs to my best friend. I hope he's still going strong now. I love how he always chills on his doggy mattress in a patch of sunlight after breakfast. That's the life.)

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#3. Waiting. (In a great cafe called Cafe Nerd in downtown Heidelberg.)

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#4. Bicycles. (Spotted along a street in Rio Maggiore, one of the 5 towns that make up the seaside towns of Cinque Terre in Italy.)

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#5. Manarola. (I was soooo happy when I was able to capture this shot! :) I'd seen the shot of these incredible houses in the town of Manarola when researching on Cinque Terre for my graduation trip. It was a dream to take a similar shot of all these colorful houses by the cliffside. That day, it happened to be drizzling and my mum and I were trudging along the hiking path, trying to take whatever photos that we could amidst the drizzle. Then as we reached this vantage point, the rain stopped (almost miraculously so!) and out came the sun, bathing everything in a gorgeous patch of sunlight. It couldn't have been more fortuitous.)

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#6. The crashing of waves. (At one of the Cinque Terre towns.)

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#7. Stairs toward the marina in the town of Corniglia. (Man those stairs were a killer. But they were so, so pretty. There was practically no one taking the same trail so it was a quiet, beautiful, peaceful walk. Those walks where the times when I really got the chance to catch up with my mommers and bond during the trip :))

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#8. Manarola flowers. (There were so many lovely flowers all over the Cinque Terre towns! This was at the vantage point in Manarola... where I also happened to bump into a classmate from school. What were the odds eh? But it's a small world after all.)

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#9. Rose garden in Corniglia.

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#10. Manarola bird.

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#11. Sleepy Corniglia cat.

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#12. View from our hotel in Paris. 

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#13. Just another Parisian street. (I love how so many buildings are many beautiful with the intricately designed grills outside windows.)

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#14. A little closer to home.

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#15. Lost, possibly forgotten. (After a trip to 7-11.) 

That was just the first of many rolls of film I've taken so far. :) Nowadays I just end up using my Minolta whenever I go out because most of the time even if I do take photos with my digital camera I end up not having the time to edit them quickly enough and they end up in the memory card for months down the road (as you probably have noticed). But with film, I'm always soooooo eager to develop them to find out exactly how they turned out. Each roll is a surprise - not all have turned out right (I'm still working on my focusing since it's a manual lens) but whenever there are a few shots that come out just the way I'd hoped for... it's such a great feeling. 

More soon. :) 

Though I had to work both Saturday and Sunday this weekend, it was still pretty great in the after-work hours. It's really only when your weekends aren't guaranteed off that you appreciate every single second off work to the absolute core. I suppose there is some truth to how life's greatest happiness can only be tasted after going through suffering. I never used to like that idea because if there's an option, I'd rather not suffer at all. But there's nothing like the feeling/thrill of fleeing the workplace/switching off the work phone and going off to finally have some fun after work. This weekend I managed to go to this really great exhibition called Google Translating Tokyoto, by the family/art collective, Holycrap.sg. :P Don't you just love the name? It was held in this gorgeous space in Temporium a place that's part gallery/part cafe/part retail store and has possibly one of the prettiest cafes I've been into so far. I've taken a few photos with my minolta and hopefully they come out nicely. It was a cozy exhibition about the family's first trip to Tokyo with their two young kids and armed with a point and shoot camera each, they decided to document their travels and eventual came up with a family zine (FAMzine) to share with others. I think it's such a great idea. And the kids are totally creative and darling. But more on that with photos soon. :) 

Here's to a great week ahead.

best coffee between the earth and sky

One of the most gorgeous places I've been to in my life. EVER.

View from the Mount John Observatory at Lake Tekapo. I guess most people would make the journey there to gaze at stars in the night sky but it's also a perfect place to enjoy brunch in the day with good company.

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The waters were THAT clear and the skies a perfect blaze of wispy clouds. I kid you not.

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And atop the mountain lies the Astro Cafe , a place that claims to have the best coffee between the earth and the sky. :D Not too sure about that because I tucked in to a deliciously warm cup of hot chocolate since it was cold and chilly up there. The food was regular fare - sandwiches, cakes, financiers... made all the more special because of the location. I wonder how many couples come to this spot for their first date. Wouldn't it be amazing to watch the sunset and then enjoy a feast of stars after? SIGH. 

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Meet a regular's adorable god! :) I'm pretty sure he was a regular because well he was one of those congenial old men you'd imagine to be retired but spends his free time walking his dog to funky places to meet new people because he can. And the dog definitely knows his way around the observatory point - look how at home he is. 

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Agh if this was a few months ago I would definitely be able to recall his name but for the life of me, I can't now. Gosh has it already been... 7 months since my graduation trip? Time flies so much faster than we ever realize.

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Mmm-mmm nothing like hot chocolate with marshmallows for brunch! 

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I love the colour of those pretty blue cups against the slate grey stone table. 

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What a way to enjoy summer vacation for a kid eh? For anyone, for that matter. 

So once again, another recommendation for your NZ trip. Seriously, I would put this on a bucket list/list of places to visit in one's life!


Ahhh it's the first of December already. I feel like I should be reflecting a little more since it's that time of the year when resolutions need to be made in order to make some improvements in life. But boy, has it been a crazy busy past few months of work. Most days after work all I want to do is either lie in bed doing absolutely nothing but enjoy the peace, quiet and comfort of my blankets or the solace of a good book/tv show. The amazing thing is that I've managed to read more books (for leisure) in the past few months since starting work than I have read probably in the past 1-2 years as a student. ;p For now, it's great because I don't have to force myself to study. There are always pros and cons of any situation and now while the obvious con would be work that I don't always enjoy and find overly draining at times, this is also the year when I can kick back after work and simply do whatever I want to do. I need to remember that and enjoy these times while I still can. 

See? Always in need of more reflection.