Archive for August, 2010

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Photoshoot : A little taste of Malaysia

August 22, 2010

The Tanjong Pagar Railway Station has been a subject of contention between Singapore and Malaysia for many years – the Malaysian-owned station and its tracks lie on prime land running right through to our city centre and, as expected, has been a thorn in the side of the Singaporean government.

Now that an agreement has finally been reached to move the railway, the photo buddies and I decided that a field trip to capture the essence of the place was in order.

The station – a remnant of our past as a part of Malaysia – is a surreal place that seems to be lost in time (and locality) amid the towering skyscrapers and spanking new facades of Singapore’s central business district. Just a hop, skip and jump from the city, Singaporeans can step onto Malaysian soil for a little taste of Malaysia without ever having to leave our sunny island. Quite literally too, for who can resist a Ramly Burger while there?

The building will surely be conserved after it ceases operations in July 2011. It will probably be more beautiful than it has ever been and may well become the next swanky hot spot in town (I have faith in the Singaporean government when it comes to things like this), but the genuine flavour we can still get there today will soon be forgotten.

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A lil’ something for bicycles

August 15, 2010

When I am out and about with my camera, I often find myself attracted to bicycles as subjects. I think, perhaps, it is because they hark back to simpler times and I am a sucker for nostalgia.

I first learnt to ride a two-wheel bicycle when I was three (I don’t know why some people find that hard to believe), and for a long time, it was my preferred mode for canvassing the neighbourhood or going to the nearby grocery store.

Unfortunately, I have not been on one for more than ten years, and although they say you never forget how to ride a bike, my love affair with the humble bicycle has waned.

Singapore is not a very conducive place for cycling for many reasons. I was very happy to hear, however, that they are intending to build more cycling paths soon. I have been an advocate of this since returning from Munich in 2004, where dedicated cycling paths run through the entire city. Given the size of our country, if cycling were made safe and convenient (our horrid weather not withstanding), it would seriously be a practical – and green – alternative means of transportation.

That said, while bicycles make good subjects in my mind’s eye, they are really more difficult to photograph than one might think. Having shot many disappointing photos of bicycles during my walkabouts, I finally made a picture that I am rather pleased with.

This picture was shot at the back lane of the soon-to-be defunct Tanjong Pagar Railway Station. And is it just me, or does it look interesting however you process it?

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Adventures in the Land of the Midnight Sun – The Final Chapter

August 14, 2010

4 July 2010 The Best of Svalbard

“Strange. There is always a sadness on departure. It is as if one cannot after all bear to leave this bleak waste of ice, glaciers, cold and toil.”

– Fridtjof Nansen, 1912

What a trip! The last three days really picked up the pace; I didn’t have any time to write, so I’m cramming it in while waiting to board the plane at Longyearbyen airport.

14 polar bears, I believe, was our last count. Not to mention countless exciting wildlife encounters and just being immersed in the immense beauty (each day a little different from the next) of the Arctic Svalbard.

I’m hard-pressed to find just five images that really encapsulate the experience for me, but I hope these come close:

Cruising the Ice

Jagged peaks

Curious Walrus

Whale Karma

Bear

And in true spirit of the expedition, just as we thought the trip was winding down after all the formal farewells on the last night, came one of the most magical experiences of a lifetime. It was past 11pm when, as we stood on the forward-looking decks under the midnight sun, white-beaked dolphins danced for us by the ship’s bow and a magnificent blue whale – the largest living mammal on the face of the earth and exceedingly rare – surfaced just a few feet from us.

An apt tribute to an absolutely amazing vacation.

Here’s the final list of wildlife sightings:

  • Polar bears
  • Blue whale
  • Fin whale
  • Sei whale
  • Minke whale
  • Beluga whale
  • White-beaked dolphin
  • Walrus
  • Reindeer
  • Ringed seal
  • Bearded seal
  • Puffins, and a bunch of other sea birds

Unbelievable!

All praise for the staff and crew of the National Geographic Explorer on Lindblad Expedition’s “Land of the Ice Bears” voyage from 27 June to 4 July 2010, especially our excellent expedition leader Tim Soper and the awesome team of Naturalists and Photographers. I’m also grateful to Chris Harter from AdventureSmith Explorations who helped us put it together – Chris really went out of his way for these somewhat troublesome and suaku travellers from the tropics. (To those who are interested, I would be happy to put you in touch with him).

Next dream vacation the boyfriend and I are working towards : a 24-day voyage to Antarctica, South Georgia and the Falklands on the Explorer by 2020.

For now, it’s goodbye to the polar wilderness that has so drawn us in over this short visit. Indeed, there is a strange sadness about it. And an even stranger longing to return.

Edit >> All photos are up on my Flickr site : Arctic Svalbard 2010

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Pig is at Longyearbyen airport, Svalbard. 78 degrees, 13 mins north, apparently.

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Adventures in the Land of the Midnight Sun – Chapter 8

August 11, 2010

2 July 2010 Ice Art

Looking for beauty in the frozen planet…

Ice Art I

Ice Art II

Ice Art III

Ice Art IV

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This post was written on board the National Geographic Explorer.

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Adventures in the Land of the Midnight Sun – Chapter 7

August 10, 2010

1 July 2010 In search of Big Foot

We finally saw a polar bear (or “ice bear” as they are called in this part of the world) after four rather frustrating sightings that we quickly lost.

We were beginning to think they were mythical creatures. The passengers sat around trading conspiracy theories over hot chocolate – like how Lindblad had merely placed a stuffed toy on the ice while we were not looking before promptly leading us into a fog.

This bear was sleeping out in the vast, open ice. It was quite a distance away, barely visible through my 400mm lens, but we managed to creep up on it a bit – at least, as much as a 6000-ton vessel breaking through the ice can creep – before it awoke. As we stood out on the decks in silent awe (I believe I was squealing under my breath), it decided the huge, approaching chunk of metal wasn’t something it was keen to stick around for.

The bear scampering / lumbering away while sneaking furtive glances back at us is a sight I will never forget.

Ice Bear

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This post was written on board the National Geographic Explorer.

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Adventures in the Land of the Midnight Sun – Chapter 6

August 7, 2010

30 June 2010 Into the Fog

Not much activity on board today as we sailed right into a fog in pursuit of a polar bear, and spent the next 12 hours trying to navigate out of it.

But I was grateful for the down time, and that I got to capture some pretty haunting images.

Eerie calm before the fog

Ripples

Midnight sun

Into the fog

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This post was written on board the National Geographic Explorer

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Adventures in the Land of the Midnight Sun – Chapter 5.2

August 7, 2010

29 June 2010 Apache Blessing

The boyfriend got me a bracelet from the ship’s Global Gallery which I absolutely adore to bits.

The lovely piece by San Francisco-based jewellery designer Jeanine Payer is hand-engraved with an Apache Blessing which reads:

May the sun bring you new energy by day / May the moon softly restore you by night / May the rain wash away your worries / May the breeze blow new strength into your being / May you walk gently through the world and know its beauty / All the days of your life

Apache Blessing

Apparently, it was meant to be for Christmas, but yes, he isn’t very good with surprises.

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This post was written on board the National Geographic Explorer

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