Tuesday, June 30, 2009


Geisha are professional female entertainers who perform traditional Japanese arts at banquets. Girls who wish to become a geisha, have to go through a rigid apprenticeship during which they learn various traditional arts such as playing instruments, singing, dancing, but also conversation and other social skills. In Kyoto, geisha apprentices are called "maiko". Geisha are dressed in a kimono, and their faces are made up very pale.

Gion is Kyoto’s most famous geisha district, and one of the city's most popular attractions. The district lies in the city center around Shijo Avenue between Yasaka Shrine and the Kamo River, and is filled with ochaya (teahouses where geisha entertain), theaters, shops and restaurants.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Kedai Makanan Yut Kee

There's nothing to beat a Sunday visit to one of KL's old-style kopitiams (coffee shops) such as the renowned Kedia Makanan Yut Kee on Jalan Dang Wangi. Take in the local atmosphere as you dine on traditional staples such as noodles, fried rice, curries, french toast and that curious holdover from colonial days, 'chop'. Chicken chop, lamb chop, beef chop, pork chop, fish chop - this plate of pan-fried protein doused with a thick gravy and served with potatoes, peas, and carrots, is one of Yut Kee's most popular items.

The area also has some interesting old shophouses some of which have been renovated into offices, others like this just left to ruin as the modern KL grows up around them.

You can also still see some traditional old Malay style houses down close to the river.

Cap Square is a new development in this area comprising up-scale apartment residences and a new shopping centre with restaurants.

Sainte Chapelle

The Sainte Chapelle ("Holy Chapel"), located within the Palais de Justice complex on the Ile de la Cité in the center of Paris, is a diminutive yet perfect example of the Rayonnant Style of Gothic architecture. Sainte Chapelle was founded by the ultra-devout King Louis IX of France, who constructed it as a chapel for the royal palace and to house precious relics.

The palace itself has otherwise utterly disappeared, leaving the Sainte Chapelle all but surrounded by the Palais de Justice. Despite its small and humble exterior above the Palais de Justice buildings, Sainte Chapelle is among the high points of French High Gothic architecture. The interior gives a a strong sense of fragile beauty, created by reducing the structural supports to a bare minimum to make way for huge expanse of exquisite stained glass.

The result is a feeling of being enveloped in light and color. Sainte Chapelle stands squarely upon a lower chapel which served as parish church for all the inhabitants of the palace. This chapel, which is rather plain, is dedicated to the Virgin Mary. A souvenir stand often occupies most of the chapel today.

The most visually beautiful aspects of the chapel, and considered the best of their type in the world, are its 6,458 square feet of stained glass windows of the upper chapel, surrounded by delicate painted stonework. The windows are in deep reds and blues and illustrate 1,130 figures from the Bible. The rose windows added to the upper chapel in the 15th century.

Saturday, June 27, 2009


What is HDR?
In image processing, computer graphics and photography, high dynamic range (HDR) or high dynamic range imaging (HDRI) is a set of techniques that allows a greater dynamic range of exposures (the range of values between light and dark areas) than normal digital imaging techniques. The intention of HDR is to accurately represent the wide range of intensity levels found in real scenes ranging from direct sunlight to shadows. High Dynamic Range Imaging was originally developed in the 1930s and 1940s by Charles Wyckoff. Wyckoff's detailed pictures of nuclear explosions appeared on the cover of Life magazine in the early 1940s.

Tone Mapping
The process of tone mapping together with bracketed exposures of normal digital images, giving the end result a high, often exaggerated dynamic range, was first reported in 1993, and resulted in a mathematical theory of differently exposed pictures of the same subject matter that was published in 1995. In 1997 this technique of combining several differently exposed images to produce a single HDR image was presented to the computer graphics community by Paul Debevec. This method was developed to produce a high dynamic range image from a set of photographs taken with a range of exposures. With the rising popularity of digital cameras and easy-to-use desktop software, the term "HDR" is now popularly used to refer to this process. This composite technique is different from (and may be of lesser or greater quality than) the production of an image from a single exposure of a sensor that has a native high dynamic range. Tone mapping is also used to display HDR images on devices with a low native dynamic range, such as a computer screen.

The technique of taking HDR photos means taking bracketed shots at different exposures; one at the correct exposure and others which are underexposed and overexposed to create a number of images covering a range of exposures, e.g. -2EV, -1EV, 0EV, +1EV and +2EV. This technique is particularly useful when taking a high contrast scene - I’m sure we have all experienced those difficult shots with deep shadows and bright sky where you either have no detail in the shadows or blow out the sky completely.

Single RAW HDR
However rather than taking a number of bracketed shots when shooting in RAW format you have the opportunity to make a pseudo HDR image from just one image. As a RAW image has a higher dynamic range compared to a normal jpeg image you can produce a number of jpgs or tiffs from one RAW image at different exposures. You can produce 3 images at -2EV, 0EV, and +2EV or if you use 5 images, -3EV, -1.5EV, 0EV, +1.5EV and +3.0EV then use these images at different exposures to create a pseudo HDR image.

There are a number of HDR processing applications but I use Photomatix which has a number of tools to assist you in this process.

Now let's take this image of Ta Phrom temple in Siem Reap, Cambodia and see how we can do a pseudo HDR technique. Here is the photo taken at 0EV exposure and as you can see we have some very dark shadow areas and a very bright sky overhead resulting in an average exposure which does not bring out any detail in these two areas.

So taking the original RAW image in Aperture we can adjust the exposure setting to a number of settings such as here, -3EV, -1.5EV, +1.5EV and +3EV to produce four more jpg images.





We then import all the five jpg images into Photomatix where we can run through a tone mapping process which blends these 5 images into a single image. Here is the final HDR image which you can see clearly has well defined exposure of the sky and the dark shadow areas.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Antoni Gaudi

Antoni Gaudi's architectural work that I had the opportunity to see in Barcelona recently has got to be one of the most unique I have ever seen and appreciated. Architect and designer, Antoni Gaudi (1852-1926) is the most internationally prestigious figure in spanish architecture. Born in Reus, in Catalonia, he graduated in Barcelona in 1878 and this city became the center of his activities. One important aspect is his capacity as designer.

This led him to create, in close collaboration with some of the very fine artisans of his time, all those elements making up architectural space - wrought iron, furniture, stained glass, sculptural work, mosaics, ceramics and so on - within an organic concept of decoration and with the integration of these elements into the construction process. The sea landscape was one of his most preferred inspirations.

In his own time, Gaudi was both admired and criticised for the audacity and singularity of his innovative solutions. His fame on a world scale has become an unquestioned fact both in specialised circles and among the general public.


Sagrada Familia
The Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família often simply called the Sagrada Família, is a massive, privately-funded Roman Catholic church that has been under construction in Barcelona, Spain since 1882 and is not expected to be complete until at least 2026. Considered the master-work of renowned Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi the project's vast scale and idiosyncratic design have made it one of Barcelona's (and Spain's) top tourist attractions for many years. A portion of the building's interior is scheduled to open for public worship and tours by September of 2010.


Casa Mila
Casa Milà, better known as La Pedrera (Catalan for 'The Quarry'), was built during the years 1906–1910, being considered officially completed in 1912. It is located at 92, Passeig de Gracia (passeig is Catalan for promenade) in the Eixample district of Barcelona.
It was built for the married couple, Rosario Segimon and Pere Milà. Rosario Segimon was the wealthy widow of Jose Guardiola, an Indaino, a term applied locally to the Catalans returning from the American colonies with tremendous wealth. Her second husband, Pere Mila, was a developer who was criticized for his flamboyant lifestyle and ridiculed by the contemporary residents of Barcelona, when they joked about his love of money and opulence, wondering if he was not rather more interested in "the widow’s guardiola" (piggy bank), than in "Guardiola’s widow".


Palau Guell
The Palau Güell is a town mansion (translated literally a "palace") in Barcelona designed by Gaudi for the Catalan industrial tycoon Eusebi Guell.
It is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site "Works of Antoni Gaudi".
The home is centered on a main room for entertaining high society guests. Guests entered the home in horse drawn carriages through the front iron gates, which featured a parabolic arch and intricate patterns of forged iron-work resembling seaweed and in some parts a horsewhip. Animals could be taken down a ramp and kept in the livery stable in the basement where the servants resided, while the guests went up the stairs to the receiving room. The ornate walls and ceilings of the receiving room disguised small viewing windows high on the walls where the owners of the home could view their guests from the upper floor and get a 'sneak peak' before greeting them, in case they needed to adjust their attire accordingly.
The main party room has a high ceiling with small holes near the top where lanterns were hung at night from the outside to give the appearance of a starlit sky.
In 2004, visits by the public were completely suspended due to renovations; some of the stone used in the original construction was weak and has cracked over the years causing structural problems within the building. As of February 1, 2008, Palau Güell has been partially reopened to the public, with access to limited parts of the building only.
It was used in Antonioni’s film The Passenger as a backdrop for the first meeting between Jack Nicholson and Maria Schneider.


Casa Batllo
Casa Batlló is a building restored by Antoni Gaudi and Josep Maria Jujol, built in the year 1877 and remodelled in the years 1905–1907; located at 43, Passeig de Gracia (passeig is Catalan for promenade or avenue), part of the Illa de la Discordia in the Eixample district of Barcelona.
The local name for the building is Casa dels ossos (House of Bones), and indeed it does have a visceral, skeletal organic quality. It was originally designed for a middle-class family and situated in a prosperous district of Barcelona.
The building looks very remarkable — like everything Gaudí designed, only identifiable as Modernisme or Art Nouveau in the broadest sense. The ground floor, in particular, is rather astonishing with tracery, irregular oval windows and flowing sculpted stone work.
It seems that the goal of the designer was to avoid straight lines completely. Much of the facade is decorated with a mosaic made of broken ceramic tiles that starts in shades of golden orange moving into greenish blues. The roof is arched and was likened to the back of a dragon or dinasaur. A common theory about the building is that the rounded feature to the left of centre, terminating at the top in a turret and cross, represents the sword of Saint George (patron saint of Catalonia), which has been plunged into the back of the dragon.