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


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.


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

SG-çoise Salad

This is a SG-çoise salad.

What’s that?

It’s a not-Salad Niçoise made from ingredients found in Singapore.

Ingredients like ‘granola washed’ Brastagi potatoes from Indonesia, ‘crunchy crisp tomatoes’ from Malaysia. Bottled olives from Spain, Carrefour mustard from France and Kewpie mayo from Japan. The eggs are brown not white, are never refrigerated and sold only in multiples of five, not twelve.

Why is it not Niçoise?

A classic niçoise is made with olives, tomatoes, beans, eggs and anchovies – never potatoes. I don’t like anchovies. I do like potatoes.

What makes it Singaporean?

That not an ingredient is made or grown in Singapore.
That everything is imported.
That it’s a mixture of savory, salty, bitter and sweet.
That it’s food and it tastes good.

Is it there a recipe?

There can be. But it is here and not here. Because this not a recipe blog.

Singapore. March 2017

Getting the Shot


In my last post I talked about the many temples of Myanmar. Have you ever wondered what’s it like to take these pictures? Where for instance does one go on the level Plains of Bagan to get a horizon shot?

You go up of course.

If you have a couple hundred dollars to spare, you take a hot air balloon ride.

Or you climb to the top of a pagoda.


Sometimes the pagodas have steps on the outside leading up. Other times the ascent is from within.

Remember though that these pagodas were built hundreds of years ago. People were a lot smaller then.  The steps and stairwells for these internal  ascents are … interesting.

Narrow, dark and steep best describe them.

At 155cm I am not a big person but even I felt cramped in the stairwells.  My size 7 feet barely spanned the  steps and the sharp sixty degree rise made for a precarious ascent.

The good news was that with the walls so close, I could brace my shoulders against them for support.   I really appreciated this  when,  at one point the floor fell away to a patchwork quilt of air and brick.

“Watch your step here,” our guide said.  His tone I thought, too casual for the situation.

On the way up, I didn’t take any pictures of the stairwell.

I was a bit preoccupied.

But here’s a picture of me contemplating the descent.


Bagan, Myanmar.  January 2017

Land of a Thousand Temples


Scrolling through my Facebook page I realized that I had posted not one but five sunrise photos of Myanmar.

True, the images were fantastic – that’s not a vanity, a  good camera and tripod is all that’s needed – but it made me pause. What could I say about these photos that was more than the picture? What could I say about the place? Myanmar, the land of a thousand temples.

Over a thousand years ago Bagan was the center of the Pagan empire.  It was a kingdom that united the regions of what is now Myanmar.  Between the 11th and 13th centuries more than  10,000 Buddhist temples, pagodas and monasteries were built.  The empire fell with the Mongol invasion and in the millennium that followed earthquakes, war and destruction reduced the number of temples to 2200.  Even so, present day Bagan is the  most dense location of temples in the world.  Sheer numbers exceed the  wats of Angkor in nearby Cambodia.

Traveling through Bagan it is impossible to not see a temple.  It is part of the landscape.  They stand by the road ways, in villages, in single homesteads, in fields of cultivated crops and wilderness brambles.  Cow herds shuffle by isolated pagodas on the way to watering holes.  Goats tread on the platforms surrounding  restored temples. Farmers use the courtyards to dry shafts of sesame seed bushes. The temples are venerated but common place. Ancient, old and restored.

Evidence of restoration is everywhere.  In August 2016 a powerful  6.8 earthquake hit central Myanmar and damaged hundreds of Bagan temples.  Today many of the pagodas are under construction and restored buildings show a disconcerting mix of ancient and new facades.

Enter a caption

I asked our guide how the restorations were supervised.

He replied that all of the temples are centrally managed by the Ministry of Archeology and that anyone could fund a restoration.  The tribute stones at the temple indicate donor names and dedication.

It was a fine answer but  it didn’t address my question.


Perhaps the truth lay in that restorations are somewhat supervised.

Certainly more so than in the 1990’s when the military junta initially applied for UNESCO World Heritage status.  They were refused, partly for political reasons but also because of corrupt management practices and shoddy, makeshift restorations   The 2016 earthquake destroyed many of these faulty renovations.

Today Myanmar has UNESCO support for repairs honoring archeological integrity. The new government is committed to steady and measured restoration.  There is renewed hope in getting heritage status by 2018.

Bagan, Myanmar.  January 2017