Monday, March 23, 2009

Chinatown Revisited

A couple of weeks back, I followed two photogs around Chinatown for a small photowalk.   It was a very interesting walk for me, one, because I have always have the passion and love for old buildings and relics of the past era and I am always excited to shoot them before they are bulldozed to make way for new developments, and second, because I get to learn from the sifu of KL city, who goes by the nick of KLguy and knows all the selok belok of any part of KL including all the lorong-lorong belakang and attractions most people are unaware of. 

Anyway, without much talk, here are my humble pics.  May not be that  great la, but since I am still a novice, give chance la, k?

1.  Doors, Windows, Buildings, Street Series

Doors and windows are always mysterious, and often, are the defining elements of a building.  I am often intrigued by the design of the windows and doors, and wonder to myself, who used to live behind those old windows and doors, and what lurks inside the building now that the doors and windows are no longer in used.  I always believe that behind every man, every building, every thing, there’s a story of its inception, the glory days and the downfall.


The window above reminds me of the old rumah tumpangan in my hometown.  Probably this building was built around the same era too.  This one is no longer occupied, and the downstairs portion has been demolished.


This is one of the windows of an abandoned building somewhere in the corner near the Pasar Seni Balai Polis.  Again, this is not a special design window, most Malay rumah papan of the same era carry the same design too.


This is the building of that window.  Take a guess what was it before it was abandoned?

Ps:  I suspect was a post office coz I saw a sign that says “Kaunter Setem”


Sorry for overblown highlights at the wall below the window.  But actually, I think its still alright la, no? I think stained glass is not a Chinese/Asian thing, it was western culture I believe, no?  But the iron grilles are definitely local design because my late grandparents house use to have those rusty iron grilles too.


Blue louvred-panel windows on a backlane row of buildings.  These days, people dont paint blue anymore.  Especially THAT shade of blue.  And its either louvres, or panels, no two ways about it.


Those doors are NOT backdoors, they are actually the MAIN entrance to the individual units in the row.  First, because the door opens to the living/main area, and secondly, they have backdoors at the kitchen that leads to another smaller lorong which is the real backlane.

I wonder, were these buildings exist during the reign of the Kapitan Yap Ah Loy and how glorious were they during they heydays.  I imagined miners hanging out for opium and wine after a hard day’s work.  The poor goes to the moneylender’s lair and default payers get their hands chopped.  Gangsters rule and prostitution was rampant.  I imagined….


I call this, The Door and The Alter.  Very, very old school alter.


We were fortunate to get to enter one of the old shophouse at that backlane-that-is-actualy-a-front-lane.  It was classic and I really, really loved the setting and interior of the house.  It was a hangout place for some very friendly old folks who enjoyed what I enjoy too – Guinness Stout!  Haha.


“I met a man who wasnt there…”  Freaky tagline, aint it?  I love the way the light falls on the rotting wooden staircase, and the walls with its paint peeling off.  I love the nostalgic-ness of the building.  Um um.


Bamboo door at another backlane. 

Man, we walked through so many backlanes, yet, KLguy said we only covered 20% of the area!  My, I’m curious to know what treasures we can find at the other 80%!


“Mes Yow Loo”.  Wonder who was she (I have the feeling this place used to be a massage parlour in the 20s.  Mes probably is masseur? What say u?


The colours of modernity. This part of Chinatown has a large population of Indians (ironically!).

2.  The Temples @ Chinatown

I must admit, that I am not a big fan of temples and I cant stand the smell of incense and the smoke that pierces my nose like a pin poking my nostrils.  And the idols there are freaky to me, because I was never a Buddhist and am not used to been surrounded by so many foreign gods.  But nevertheless, I went, for photography sake and to capture the beauty of man-made architecture.  Which was a good thing actually, because one of my favourite shot was captured in the temple. 

And I didnt backslide from my faith and God after the visit.


This window was so susah to take because of the very wide dynamic range between the dark temple interior and the very bright sky outside the window.  Nevertheless, I managed to capture both details.  Ah.

Oh ya, this temple is one of the oldest temples around – and was pioneered by the very very big shot Kapitan Yap some 140 years ago.  Though the exterior has been renovated quite extensively to the point that its ancentral identity is almost lost, but nevertheless, if you look hard enough, remnants of the past are still very much present for those with discerning eyes  *chewah, macam expert*


Just for fun, curiosity and for the record lah.  No 4 from the right, I suspect is THE famed Kapitan Yap Ah Loy (damn, everytime I say Kapitan, the first thing in my mind is…Kapitan Curry! Haha).  Because he’s the oldest (1830s) and secondly, he was still in his Manchurian outfit and the ah chai hat.


Airwells, skylight, whatever you want to call it.  I’m still learning to capture smoke.  This spot is very the famous among photogs because at certain time of the day, sunlight will shine through the airwells and ‘befall’ upon the devotees like a light of enlightenment descending from heaven.

I somehow imagined it to be like how the sun shone on Jesus after He was baptised and a voice from heaven saying “Behold My Son, Whom I am proud of”.  Or smthg like that.  Minus the Chinese temple setting.  Keke.


Kit lens also can do bokeh.  I think this was at f4.4.  Every self-respecting photographer MUST have a shot like this with some hebat-hebat bokeh.


This is my favouritest of the favouritests pictures for the day.  The burning spiral. 

Let me pause to admire the image for 3 minutes k.

1, 2, 3…


Cant help lah but to make fun of this picture.  Hehe.


This one also.  Big guy looking at small guy, probably communicating some secret mission for the day ;p

3.  Jalan-jalan Street Shoot

I must make another confession here.  While I always wanted to do street shoot, I am not a good street-shooter because 1)  I am too technical to the point that I take a long time to frame, adjust the setting, chimp and re-shoot.  Paiseh want to make my subjects pose, re-pose and thinking what lousy photog this girl muse be.  Haih.  But lucky got the other two guys, or else nobody will layan me leh.


Old Chinese Unker frying big currypuffs.


Mamak guy selling tose.


Yindian Unkel wateringg flowess…


Steam, steam…..


“Where all the good people go?  I’ve been changing channels I dont see them on the TV shows..” – From  Jack Johnson’s ‘Good People’


Peeped through an open window and saw….Yee Mee hanging in a row!


Vege grinder machine.  Never seen before leh?  I also lah, first time seeing such a thing.  I thought people use pastel and mortar, or blender these days.

So that’s all for now.   Do comment and wait up for my next entry.  Goodnite.


Francis said...

I see that you've got a most productive trip; quite a number of good fotos here.

Here's my comments on some selected shots :

“I met a man who wasnt there…”

This is your best image by far; maybe coz I'm a b/w freak. Love the way the light falls on the staircase. Yep, there appears to be a small boy hanging on the corner of the staircase!!!

temple window

love the composition here. Actually you don't have to worry about blownhights here. Let the white be blown out - it'll add to the ethereal feel of the image. As it is, your version had too much blocked blacks - no more details left in the shadow area. There's actually loads to see in the blackout area. Try pushing up the exposure by half a stop to one stop.

golden incense paper

Very nice - the bright orangey colour and selective focus adds to the feel of the image. This is one of the times where you ought to have carried a tripod!!!

Hamsup shot - lol - can't help likeing this shot - good eye.

Mamak with the floating roti - nice timing - the roti sure looks like it's tossed in the air !!!

Stim, stim - (my version of spelling) - this could have been a good shot - sad that you took too long to frame and focus that the auntie is looking straight at ya instead of concentrating on her cooking. You had missed the moment!!!

A tip off for you - dun worry just take a shot when she's looking at you. Then lower the camera to chest level, smile at her and pretend to chimp your shots. Then when she gets fed up of looking at you and goes back to her cooking, you immediately raise you camera, frame and shot. Dont touch the settings - only do framing and focusing. This is where if you switch to manual focusing, you only concentrate on framing and clicking alone. I used this technique very often to get that candid look.

Vege grinding machine - nice selective focus. A bigger aperture, throwing the background oof will do wonders here. Composition is good too.

If you don't mind, here's a bit of advice for you :

I've observed your style of shooting and you do take a very long time to frame, focus, check settings etc before you click the shutter. All this is very good as it shows that you are concentrating on the image and not snap-shooting. The bad thing is that you concentrate so much that you became in a world of your own, not knowing what is happening around you.

One time a car almost knock into you (I had to almost pull you up from your kneeling position).

As such, please do not shoot alone - you may end up being a pick-pocket victim or worse, a snatch thief victim. Most of those who join me on foto walks will know that I keep a close eye on all the participants, watching the backs of those who are shooting.

Petrina said...

i like the commentary on the pix, and it gives the photos so much more depth. no mention of the muzzled dog, though ...

looking fwd to the next instalment, hahaha. :)