Friday, September 11, 2009

d'NA Pangkor 2009

In mid-July (17-19, to be precise), some of the d'NAers went on a weekend trip to Pangkor; we'd not been on a trip since Cameron Highlands in December 2007.

Indeed this time it wasn't an exclusive affair; we were joined by two significant others, Shen Han and JX, and one old friend, Steph.

We put up at the Nipah Bay Villa near the beach of the same name, Teluk Nipah.

Here's a glimpse of what happened on the island:

Yen turned 23 a couple of days ago, so we decided to light up the beach for her. There were some initial plans of drenching the sand in kerosene and literally setting Teluk Nipah ablaze, but we eventually settled for tea lights; not quite so dramatic, but a lot more charming!

It was also a night lit subtly by some bioluminescent zooplankton in the waves.

The next morning, I set out early in an attempt to catch the rising sun. It was, unfortunately, quite a cloudy day with none of the glorious orange streaks I was hoping for. However, all was not lost and I found myself in the company of quite a number of breakfasting hornbills.

If I am not mistaken, they were Oriental Pied Hornbills (Anthracoceros albirostris).

Of my many hornbill shots I like this the most. It was actually an accident; the shutter speed I set was too slow for freezing the hornbill on the wing, but I like the abstract depiction of motion and the contrast between the light-coloured hornbill and the rust-coloured shutters.

Hornbills rise earlier than shopkeepers!

Close-up of a branch of the tree upon whose fruit a hornbill was feeding. A feather was stuck between the twigs.

I like the subtle hint as to the identity of the tree's avian guest.

Jon Hwa a.k.a. Wolverine, lying in a hammock at the entrance of the Villa.

Zheng a.k.a. Nathan, also lying in a hammock at the entrance of the Villa.

The Hwa cousins go well with hammocks.

We spent much of the second day off Pangkor. First we went to Pulau Giam, but it was overcrowded with other trippers and there was hardly any beach. So we got our boatman to take us to another island, and ended up on Pulau Mentagor.

In contrast, Mentagor was deserted and had a short stretch of beach.

Tien and the man from the sea; Jon's adjusting his snorkel in the background.

This, and the next two, shots were taken on the rocks fringing the coast of Pulau Mentagor.

JX and Joan.

This was a challenging shot as the rock surface was sloping, though it isn't quite evident in the final shot. It wasn't much of a problem for Joan, I think, but JX was practically upside-down for a few minutes!

Mich, Han and the Holga.

Zheng on the beach. I liked the way the leaves framed him.

Yen in the sea, with Tien and Mich.

Steph, old friend of Tien's and Mich's, from Kluang.

A holothuroidean sea cucumber in the waters off Mentagor.

This was, for me, the highlight of snorkelling that day. I'd seen sea urchins, but this was my first time seeing so many sea cucumbers up-close. It's quite remarkable how much their bodies expand on the sea bed, compared to the immense contraction upon being picked up.

Back on Pangkor, it was quite a lazy evening.

David and I borrowed bicycles from the Ombak Inn, some two or three doors away from Nipay Bay Villa. The bikes were in pretty bad condition, but they could be used.

We went as far south as Teluk Ketapang, south of Teluk Nipah, and found a beautiful beach there. Then we headed north to Coral Bay.

David liked the sand very much. "This is real sand," he said, so we did some sand art.

I like the texture of the leaves and the sand in this shot.

Back on the beach at Teluk Nipah, the whole company caught the sunset.

It wasn't the best of skies, but it was a pleasant sunset nonetheless. I photographed it in black-and-white, wondering if a sunset could still maintain its character without its characteristic golden glow.

David, SooT and Jon on a swing.

The sunset, interpreted by Steph. This picture reminds me very much of Henri Cartier-Bresson's legendary 'Behind the Gare St Lazare'.

The next morning, Steph and I arose early. I told her about the hornbills and she wanted to see them.

We took a walk on the beach and found lots of these polychaete worms washed up along the shore. They were quite small, only about 2cm long.

I filled a film canister with some sea water and put a couple of specimens inside. Immediately they started fanning their setae (hairs) in a very graceful, undulating motion.

Biology lesson: generally polychaetes are either predatory or filter/suspension-feeding. I suspect this species belongs to the latter; they did not have a well-developed head with eyes and jaws.

Hornbills waddling along the beach of a scrumptious wormy breakfast.

I justified my collection of polychaete samples by the simple logic that it was either death in formalin or death in the gastric juices of a hornbill's stomach.

The Hornbill Hunter by Steph.

Another one for my extremely small, but growing now and then, collection of profile pictures. This was a little out of focus so we took a couple more, but none of them could replicate the gesture in this.

Back at the Villa, we joined David, SooT, Joan, JX and later Tien for service, led by none other than the Bishop himself.

Sunrise: an alternative interpretation.

I like how the sun motif on (I think) JX's slippers is bathed in the light coming in from the doorway.


Half-boiled and scrambled eggs. (For some reason, Yen likes this picture.)

So much red, one might erroneously think that Malaysia was turning into a neo-Communist state or something.

On the return ferry.

Detail from a fishing boat.


Film lives on!

I'm not exactly sure when this was taken, but I think it was upon Mich and Han's return to the mainland very early Sunday morning.

It was a good retreat. Not quite as contemplative as the trip to Kuala Pilah and Sri Menanti, but slow enough in the spirit of Mersing, and with enough excitement to justify being called a d'NA trip!

* * * * *

The earlier colour pictures were shot on Fujichrome Provia 100, the black-and-whites on Kodak TMAX 100, and the Sunday morning pictures on Fujichrome Velvia 50. Sea cucumber shot on the underwater Fuji Quicksnap with ISO 800 film.

All pictures by Benjamin Ong, except the colour sunset and Sunday morning pictures on the beach, by Stephnie Yiau on a Canon Powershot A1000 IS; and the medium-format final photo, by Michelle Hong on a Holga with Fujicolor 400 film.

For what it is worth, the film images looked really good straight from the scan, such that I barely needed to edit them except for some cropping (the fishing boat and Yen's '23' photo) and brightness compensation due to scanning infidelity (hornbill abstract, hornbill feather, sunrise slippers and fishing boat).

Otherwise, details like colour, sharpness and tonal definition were spot-on. You don't get this in digital!

I'm also proud to say that the black-and-white roll is my best set of 36 exposures yet. In there are some things I've never done before, and some things nobody else is likely to do. Some of the photos closest to my heart are slow-burners, taking time to leave their mark fully, but permanently imprinted in memory once there.

Till the next trip!

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