Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Photographing Old Penang

As promised earlier, here's the entry on my recent trip to Penang for the PCP-Nikon Photography Workshop.


So what's so amazing about a few portraits in a moving bus? It depends, I suppose, on who the photographer is.

The guy who shot this set of pictures was actually trying out my recently-acquired Nikon P5000 Digital Camera (a high-end camera with a low-end price). He is also the person who shot the pictures used in the advertisements of a certain mobile service provider...


Introducing... Kelvin Chan, also Creative Director for Photo Creator Publication (PCP; and yes, it's 'publication', not 'publications').


* * * * *


While walking along the north-east coast of Penang, along the way back from Fort Cornwallis at the end of the second day, I chanced upon this rojak seller. His name is Mohd Rafi and he worked in the agriculture section of a Japanese company before leaving his job to start the rojak business.

Apparently he earned about RM7000 a month in the company but said rojak was more lucrative. His fruit is extremely fresh and he maintains a high standard of cleanliness at his mobile stall. Probably the best rojak I've tasted in awhile, except that it was rather soggy by the time I ate it as I was already late for dinner and had to rush back to the hotel with Bee Sze, my newfound friend.


On the way back, Bee Sze and I passed the headquarters of the Municipal Council a.k.a. Majlis Perbandaran Pulau Pinang. The building glowed so brilliantly against the darkening sky; she graciously held my rojak while I quickly composed this shot.


This was an experiment in long exposure. The Shell station along Jalan Penang (opposite Hotel Continental where we stayed) is probably the smallest petrol station I have ever seen.

While I made these exposures, Kelvin passed me on the way to meeting some of the group at a nearby pub. Once I was done, I had sup lembu and bandung barli panas at a nearby mamak shop. The man who served me was grinning from ear to ear when he served the bandung, just like the guy at the Maulana restaurant where I first came up with the concoction.


That's my roommate Wesley, who is a Malaysian working in Singapore. I'd say the hotel was a semi-budget one (the 3D/2N trip only cost RM280 per person, everything included) but nonetheless comfortable.

I learnt that most hobby photographers stay in backpacker hotels when they travel; apparently the air fare virtually drains their resources, and as we know they like to travel far and wide.

* * * * *

We were sent on two photo shoots; the morning session took us into the heart of 'old' Penang (the equivalent of Malacca's Jonker Street and KL's Petaling Street) where there was much Eastern influence (e.g. temples, Little India, a mosque and Chinese mansions) while the evening session was mostly a coastal affair with much Western influence (e.g. churches and colonial buildings).

Evidently much planning went into the choice of accommodation, as the neighbourhood was really very photographable and, above all, accessible by foot.

We each received a cap and T-shirt from Nikon, and I must say the T-shirt is a real breakthrough. It sports a collar which can be flipped up nehru-style to provide padding for the camera strap (SLR straps tend to hurt after awhile) and is made of jersey-like material which allows for excellent ventilation.

* * * * *

The following photos are my personal favourites. They have not been doctored in any way, save for some brightening on the Fort Cornwallis shot.


Shot early in the first session. I felt the plant brought some life to an otherwise 'dead' shoplot. The weather was much better when we went shooting; apparently it was cloudy earlier in the morning.


I have heard it said that when God closes one door, He opens another. I guess the same goes for windows. ;-)


This man was resting on the terrace of the Masjid Kapitan Keling. His 'reflective' look seemed to be echoed in the reflections on the well-polished marble floor.


This is one of my favourites from the second session. It was taken in the Cathedral of the Assumption, which has a working pipe organ; probably one of the four (it is said) existing pieces in this country.

The candle's flame 'folded' into quite a perfect shape; the Fire of the Word.


I shot this because Fort Cornwallis was closed for some 25 minutes by the time I reached it. Not wanting to leave without a photo, I chose to 'frame' the closed gate with one of the ropes on the 'drawbridge'.

This picture drew favourable comments from Greg Yang (editor of Advanced Images Magazine, published by PCP) who reviewed the photos during the review session on the third day. It also prompted a participant to dismiss all the other participants' photos as 'not appealing' in comparison.


And now, for what I regard as the best shot of the trip.


Walking along the coast towards Fort Cornwallis after buying the bubble gun for Li-Shia, I came across pigeons and crows on the beach, mostly scavenging for food.

Kelvin commented, during the review session, that this was "actually quite good." As the participants were reviewed alphabetically, I was the third in line and it was nice to see 20 of my shots projected onto the screen (many had less). Elina (Sales and Advertising Manager for PCP) remarked that I was the youngest participant at the workshop after Kelvin's comment.

It occurred to me today that this shot probably represents 'Old Penang' better than any of my other photos. Simply because before the old streets, before Francis Light, before the Malay rulers, before the Chinese and Indian immigrants, before all civilisation... there were beaches.

And there were pigeons.

1 comment:

Siedne said...

love the pics! you should watermark them or smthg, cos ppl will steal. looks very pro :D