Playing with Light in Black & White


I don’t usually shoot in black & white but in my last photo walk I decided to set my LCD to monochrome.  What a difference.  I saw scenes I wouldn’t normally have seen. The absence of color forced me to look at the shadows and light.

Some pictures, like the play on reflections below, I would have missed.  In fact, when I loaded the RAW files in Lightroom, I was startled at the display of color.

These are the pictures that I took in monochrome:


These are the pictures that Lightroom showed:


Color or monochrome, they both have their appeal.

But without the monochrome LCD, I would never have seen the view.


Singapore. June 2017

Ice Cream Sandwich

Ice Cream Sandwich

The Sandy Food Chronicles

The New York Times posted an article on The Joys of a Classic Ice Cream Sandwich,  It says

“Designer ice cream sandwiches, made with amped-up cookies, fancy sprinkles and crazy flavors, can be tasty, but the classic combination of a chocolate base and vanilla ice cream pleases everyone”

Singaporeans might disagree.

This is what a Traditional Ice Cream Sandwich looks like.

I had mango flavor but I could have had red bean, corn or durian.

It’s a thick slice of ice cream wrapped up with pillowy soft, rainbow colored bread because it’s a sandwich.

Singapore. June 2017

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Bit and Pieces of Singapore

Painted Ladies in Joo Chiat

Seems like there are a  lot of Challenges in the WordPress blogosphere. 

I’m not sure that I can participate in all of them all of the time but I will try some, some of the time. 

Let’s see how I do.

Today’s challenge is from Cee Neuner’s Share Your World

What is something that people are obsessed with but you just don’t get the point of?

Mobile phones.

I’m a child of the ‘70s when portable telephones meant long extension cords. Maybe that’s why I don’t get the current day obsession with connectivity.

In my part of the world where phone plans are cheap (compared to North America) and cars are expensive (entry price is $120,000), I see lots of commuters engrossed with their phones. So engrossed that they’ll walk heads down into traffic.

Worse are the ones who play games without ear phones; as if we all want to hear their pings, dings and noise emissions.

Most distressing are toddlers held mesmerized by their parent’s phone. Mobiles become electronic pacifiers and little humans are being trained to see the world through a 7x15cm window.

What quirky things do people do where you are from?

There is no fear of color in Singapore’s buildings. Historic shop houses are painted in pretty pastels, stodgy government buildings have crayola colored shutters and ugly apartment blocks are doused in exuberant playground colors.

Shop House in Bukit Pasoh
MICA Government building. Photo credit: Erwin Soo


What are some things you wish you could unlearn? 

It’s too easy to pick up terms & odd wordings when living in a foreign country. Lately, I’ve been forgetting to “off the lights” when leaving a room and more often than not, I say “can” when answering with an affirmative.

It’s not a problem, so long as I’m in Singapore. My friends in Canada though, they’re starting to look at me strange.

Who is someone that you miss having in your life?

In Singapore 72% of the population is of Chinese descent with many migrating from South China in the late nineteenth & early twentieth century. As such, Singaporeans have an ethnic heritage similar to my parents and grand-parents. I see it in the faces of people on the street. My grandfather’s eyes. My mother’s nose. It’s present too in the local food and traditions. Many Singaporean dishes recall flavors from long forgotten family meals.

My family history is not Singaporean but our Chinese heritage share a common root. It would have been nice to have my mother and grand-mother (long deceased) around to ask questions and compare memories.

Did you ever make that? What was it called? Do you remember this?

Singapore. 2017


Focus in Yerba Buena

This week’s Photo Challenge is Focus

The Daily Post says to choose a favorite photo of a moment in-focus or out. 
I have many pictures which  are blurry and out of focus but none of them are a favorite. Instead, I  choose this one.

focus  ˈfəʊkəs’
  • A center of interest or activity. An act of concentrating interest or activity on something.

“He was focused on a thought, on something within himself.”

  • The state or quality of having or producing clear visual definition
“The clarity of color, grass and stone brought visual focus to his form.”

Photo taken in San Francisco, California. 2015

Photo Challenge: Order

I’m going to try this.


The Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge: Order

I took this shot at Chow Kit Market in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.  It’s part of a series on local markets where I try to capture their look and feel.  I had a simple intent of showing a dry goods shop, different from the standard shots of vegetables and meat.

What caught my eye about this photo?

Originally it was the orange color of his shirt. The eye-catch which connected the passer-by to the shelves in the shop. But then the color became lines and my eye followed the network of lines within lines, the boxes within boxes. Unconsciously, my eye was drawn to the pattern within the picture, the order imposed on this chaos of small things. But then my eye grew tired of straight lines. It pulled back to follow the curves. The dark slope of the shopkeeper hunched over the counter. The blurred profile of the passer-by. The orange color of his shirt.

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.  2017

So that’s it then.

My first response to a Photo Challenge. 

But this program is Weekly. 

Maybe I’ll have the discipline to try it again.


Travel Planners and Pantsers

My mobile phone lights up and vibrates with a new text message.

“Packed and ready for you trip?”

Putting my paperback aside, I painstakingly thumb back

“Not yet. I’ll start tomorrow.”

“Aren’t you leaving tomorrow?”

How does she do that? Type so quickly, almost instantaneously. But we’ve had this conversation before. Maybe she has the text on instant recall. My phone doesn’t have this feature and so I slowly tap out my reply, backspacing and re-tapping my typos.

“Not until aftrtoon pm. ill pack in am.”

My friend and I are two different beings when preparing for a trip. She’s a Planner. I’m a Pantser.

A Planner is someone who researches and maps out every detail of a trip. They consider each aspect of their journey and etch out an itinerary with all hours spec’d out. They know the place’s history, the must have foods and must do activities. They pack their luggage three days ahead of time.

A Pantser packs three hours before departure.

OK. OK. Maybe I do myself discredit. I do have some short-cuts in preparing for a trip. I have a checklist of things I must pack and stuff I must do. I build on that list, incorporating corrections to mistakes from prior trips.

Mistakes like forgetting essentials, like reading glasses, toothbrush and toothpaste or preferred conveniences like full-sized bars of soap (to circumvent those evil slivers of hand soap and un-lather-able shower gel.) I pack first aid items of antiseptic wipes, antibiotic cream and miniature sewing kits. I have ziploc bags pre-filled with un-mime-able-in-an-emergency supplies of feminine product, antacid and Imodium. I also have a list of clothes (clean or near so) that I can throw into the suitcase just before leaving.

It helps that I know enough to not pack for activities that will never occur. I don’t pack for cruise ships and dinner theater. I don’t need strappy sandals, beady handbags or high heels.

I do pack hiking shoes, dark glasses and cotton scarves. Hiking shoes because it’s always hot, dusty or muddy. Dark glasses because traveling in an open tuk tuk is the surest way to get dirt in your eyes. Cotton scarves because they work as sunscreen, gear cleaner and ground cover for outdoor photo shoots.

I always bring a small purse to hold local currency. Something small enough to hold a room key, a take-me-home card and change for bottled water. I also scribble down the value of each bill note and sort them into bundles according to denomination.

Hmm. That last bit sounds almost anal retentive. Very un-pantser-like. Buu-uth …

I never adequately prepare for the places I’m about to visit. I used to buy travel books and pour over the glossy pictures and hi-lights. I used to tote these volumes on the trip, adding unconscionable poundage to my carry-on. But then I realized that I never actually read them. That anything listed was assuredly included in bus tours. Tourist expeditions for which I would assuredly never sign up. Not since that first time on the Yellow River Dam, where I was held captive in a tour bus and tortured with details of dam construction, shouted through a tinny megaphone in loud and incoherent Chinese.

Instead I do research after the fact, when I look at my pictures and review my trip notes. I look for the reasons why the Padaung women wear neck rings and why there’re so many refugees on the Thai borders. I read up on the Vietnam war and why my Hanoi Kids city guide had such a different view from my Saigon photo guide. I research the White Buildings of Phnom Penh and the withered ideals of Le Corbusier’s Utopian city.

Maybe in the process of not planning the trips, I miss the big ticket tourist items. Like The Grand Palace of Bangkok or the gilded Schwedagon Pagoda of Yangon. I miss the crowds and the press of tourists clambering for two fingered selfies.

No. I miss it not.

My mobile shudders again with a new message.

“Did you remember to get your visa?”

Aiyo! I forgot to check my checklist two weeks ahead of time.

I slowly tap out  “Visa requirements for …”

Singapore. June 2017

These shoes are made for walking


I think I have to throw out my walking shoes.

“Whaa … but they’re so comfortable,” my Feet said.

But they’re old and ragged. The insoles are worn and the under-sole is coming apart. There’s a tear in the front  and it gets soggy when it rains.

“But we fixed that, remember?” Feet said. “The cobbler across the street, at the HDB sidewalk? She used an old fashioned needle and hook to sew it up. You waited crouched on a 10inch high plastic stool and we wore borrowed flip-flops. Surely you remember? For $9 it was a deal!”

But the shoes are at least five years old and I’ve bought a brand new replacement pair.

“And what a five years! We’ve traveled to more than ten countries. Tramped through concrete jungles and tropical rain forests. We’ve toed them on & off  at over six hundred temples. We’ve trekked through mud, dirt and dust  roads in Chang Mai, Bali and Vientiane.  We’ve battled through waist high briar bushes to get to perfect sunset shots.  We’ve clambered over thousand year old ruins to take incredible pictures of Angkor temples and Buddhist monks …”

Yes, Yes. All this is true and we can do it again, with a new pair of shoes. To all good things comes its time.

“But can’t we wait a little longer? Just for one more season. Before we return to the land of mukluks and winter boots?”

Well, I suppose one more season won’t hurt.  The  new shoes will not spoil and these old ones are truly comfortable.

Hmm. I think though, I might need a new hat.

“Whaa …!”


Singapore. April 2017

Familiar Faces in Saigon

It’s hot in Saigon. At 10 o’clock in the morning it’s already thirty degrees with a mounting noon day sun. Rivers of sweat stream down my chest and my t-shirt is wet against my skin. We’re in the market area of old Cholon, the Chinese quarter of  Ho Chi Minh City.  I avoid a passing motorcycle and hug a shade on the sidewalk.

Up ahead Arnaud our photo guide,  is telling us to use f3.5 for close-up portrait shots.

“You muss go in cloze,” he says.

Arnaud is a Frenchman living in Vietnam and enjoying the life of full time street photography.   His enthusiasm is passionate and relentless. We’ve spent three hours walking  and he hasn’t stopped talking once. Lucky for me, he latches on to my Paris born husband and lapses into French.

Two street vendors set-up stalls across a narrow pathway; one selling food, the other selling flowers.  I take a quick shot of the flower vendor. She seems familiar. The set of her mouth, the curve of her nose, the slant of her eyes. She reminds me of my grandmother.

Her friend across the street calls out, laughing and a little jealous of her attention.  I take her picture too. I’m rewarded with a bright mischievous grin

Up ahead Luc and Arnaud are circling a bemused old man. He’s been caught waiting for his wife. Arnaud’s behemoth Nikon hovers near the man’s face. He catches my eye and I shake my head apologetically. After they’ve moved on, I take my shot from a respectable f5.6 and 35mm distance.

“Are you Japanese?” he says in perfect English.

I shake my head and un-mindfuly say “Chinese.”

“Wo shi hua ren,” he says. He holds his hand three feet off the ground. “Wo li kai zhong guo shi, hai shi ge xiao nan hai.”

I catch the words ‘zhong guo’ for China. I gather that he’s originally from China and that he left for Vietnam when he was very small.

Later when I look at the map of Vietnam, I realize how close it is to China. It shares a border with Guangxi, the southern most province and homeland of my great great grandfather.  Looking closer at the old man’s photo, I see the familiar Han nose and hooded almond shaped eyes. Clumps of stiff white hair bristle from his cheek.

It reminds me of my father, who at eighty three years doesn’t see or shave as well as he used to. In fact this man has an uncanny resemblance to my father’s friend, Uncle Louie. I call him uncle not because he’s a relative but because it’s the traditional term of respect for Chinese elders. When I was little I used to think that I had the biggest family in the world. Maybe I wasn’t half wrong.

Photos taken in HCMC, Vietnam. 2015