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The biggest appeal of diving to me is the calmness I get when underwater, listening to nothing but the breath that I take and the bubbles flowing out from the regulator, the sense of weightlessness and the ability to move about without restriction in 3 dimension. It is a form of freedom you never get on land.

The magnificent seascape and underwater creatures, well, they are just a huge bonus. While no picture can convey that sense of liberty, here are some underwater pictures I took from various dive sites at Similan Islands.

My gears were Olympus E-PL3 with the underwater housing coupled, Inon UWL 100 & Dome port, and a single Sea & Sea YS-01 external flash.

swim through, Deep Six
swim through, Deep Six

I logged 14 dives over 4 days of diving living aboard M/V Vilai Samut operated by Liquid Adventure. (previous year experience here). The boat departs from Khao Lak at night, so night one started before day one. The sites we went to were:

Day 1:

  • Stone Henge
  • Deep Six
  • West of Eden
  • West of Eden (night)
Day 2:
  • Elephant Rock
  • Koh Bon
  • Koh Bon
  • Ko Tachai (night)
Day 3:
  • Richelieu Rock
  • Richelieu Rock
  • Ko Tachai
  • Koh Bon (night)
Day 4:
  • Koh Bon Pinnacle
  • Bon Soon Wreck

tiny black reef fish atop table coral
tiny black reef fish atop table coral at West of Eden

We were lucky to have excellent visibility of at least 30-40 meters in more than 70% of the dives, and had at least 20 meters in the rest of the dives too. Comparing with Pulau Sembilan/Lumut’s 5-10 m visibility…

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the pics, and say no to shark’s fins!

giant spiny lobster, night dive at West of Eden
giant spiny lobster, night dive at West of Eden

sea snake, Koh Bon
sea snake, Koh Bon

the reef at Koh Bon
the reef at Koh Bon

clown fish in anemone, night dive at Elephant Rock
clown fish in anemone, night dive at Elephant Rock

an unmoving cuttle fish, night dive at Elephant Rock
an unnerving cuttle fish, night dive at Elephant Rock

lion fish, night dive at Elephant Rock
lion fish, night dive at Elephant Rock

Dave convincing a lion fish to pose for him, Richelieu Rock
Dave convincing a lion fish to pose, Richelieu Rock

cleaner shrimps, Richelieu Rock
cleaner shrimps, Richelieu Rock

chevron barracudas, Richelieu Rock
chevron barracudas, Richelieu Rock

star fish on coral, night dive at Koh Bon
star fish on coral, night dive at Koh Bon

boxer shrimp, night dive at Koh Bon
boxer shrimp, night dive at Koh Bon

porcupine fish, Bon Soon wreck
porcupine fish, Bon Soon wreck

Bon Soon wreck
Bon Soon wreck

ghost pipe fish, Bon Soon wreck
ghost pipe fish, Bon Soon wreck

Olympus E-PL3

By the time you read this, I’ll be on MV Vilai Samut and diving somewhere near the Similan Islands, and hopefully underwater enjoying a bit of compressed air. (last year’s trip here)

The difference is this time, the good people at Olympus has loaned me the following gears to pair with my E-PL3:

Olympus PT-EP05L underwater casing with UFL-2 flash
Olympus PT-EP05L underwater casing with UFL-2 flash

That’ll be the original PT-EP05L underwater casing for the E-PL3 and the UFL-2 underwater flash, coupled with a sync cord and a short arm. Together this makes a very compact underwater photography system with picture quality that should rival the much bulkier underwater SLR systems, not to mention at a price that is quite a lot cheaper. (the casing is retailed at around RM 2k, while you can hardly find any SLR UW housings cheaper than RM 5k).

In fact, this is so compact you can essentially operate with just one hand, great for when there’s a current, or that your buoyancy skill is a bit suspect. 😀

all buttons are  clearly labeled and quite easily accessed
all buttons are  clearly labeled and quite easily accessed

When considering moving from compact camera system (I also use a Canon S90 with Ikelite underwater casing and a Sea & Sea YS-01 flash) to SLR or 4/3 format, the underwater accessories was always a consideration for me. After a bit of research, I came to like the Oly even more.

They are one of the very few companies that offers complete underwater photography solutions. Check out their underwater accessories page.

Arm, bracket, flash systems, housings, conversion lenses, and even weights. All theses saves a lot of hassles trying to mix and match products from different manufacturers and hoping that it all gels together.

Olympus UW casing with Inon UWL 100 & dome port, ikelite S90 casing
Olympus UW casing with Inon UWL 100 & dome port
the bare Oly casing isn’t really much bigger than S90’s 

That being said, the PT-EP05L casing does play well with third party accessories too. I’ll be fitting it with my Ikelite bracket from my S90, and even the Inon UWL 100 & Dome port fits right on the the casing and should give me a very good wide angle coverage. (I put the Sea & Sea flash just as a demo and most likely won’t be using it on actual dives).

Lets hope there are already some decent underwater photos in my memory card by the time you see this. Will post the results soon!

P/S: the dive trip is from 3-8 February and we’ll be on radio silence. I’m gonna miss the Superbowl. Hope you had a great Chap Goh Meh too!

Take a look at the photo below and what do you see?

In the frame t here are two very sleepy cats, the bigger one being our resident alpha (castrated) male – Cendawan the Bengal, with Belimbing, one of the two kittens we rescued from the neighborhood.

happy moment - brrrrrrrrrrrr good morning!
happy moment – brrrrrrrrrrrr good morning!

And if these cats could speak and label a photo, both of them would title it “My Happiest Moment”

Nothing beats a lazy evening nap right next to the window facing the garden with running water from the pond. Especially if you are a cat.

a slightly failed attempt in forcing a Happy Moment out of Tembikai
a slightly failed attempt in forcing a Happy Moment out of Tembikai

The photo above, on the other hand, is a slightly failed attempt to get Tembikai to cooperate with Haze in executing a good Happy Moment capture.

So picture one – score!

Picture two – maybe not so much…

happy photography

Which brings us to the Happy Photography Contest by Olympus. The idea is simple, we want to freeze those happy and awesome moments in our lives, but barring a technological break through in cryogenic and time freezing nonsense, we have photos.

The mechanic of this contest is as follow:

  • Write a blog post titled “My Happiest Moment”.
  • Include a photo in your blog post that describes your happiest moment. It can be a pre-existing photo, or you can go out and shoot something that represents that moment
  • Download this file containing Olympus Happy Photography logo variations, choose one of the colour variations and include it in your blog post as well
  • Upload the photo of your happiest moment and submit the permalink of your blog post in this form.
And by doing that, you stand to win these prizes:
1st prize – Olympus PEN Lite E-PL3 Kit
2nd Prize – Olympus PEN mini E-PM1 Kit
3rd – 5th Prize – Olympus PEN Leather carry-all bag

A pretty awesome deal, yes? There is no purchase required to enter this contest. Do head to http://www.nuffnang.com.my/olympus2011/ to check out more details.

Olympus E-PL3 with 40-150 mm lens
Olympus E-PL3 with the 40-150 kit lens and external flash

Some 1.5 years ago, I got my hands on an Olympus E-PL1 camera and did a review, the camera was small, responsive, and produces quality that rivals much bigger SLR cameras.

Now I got with me the latest iteration of the same line of Camera from Olympus – the Olympus PEN Lite E-PL3. Not only this camera spots a bigger 3.0 LCD that can tilt (very useful for events), full HD video recording, faster auto focus, more focus points, higher ISO, faster shutter speed… etc etc..

And the amazing thing is, they’ve made it even smaller!

Look at the photo above, I don’t have a big hand, and even then the PEN Lite with a telephoto lens and the external flash (included) sits comfortably in my palm. Technology is amazing.

more product information at http://www.olympusimage.com.my/products/dslr/epl3/

You know that this camera can be won by joining the Happy Photography contest right? 😀

under low lighting condition
pretty impressive output on low light condition – Haze at work

I took the camera for a bit of a test drive and these are some of the test shots. The PEN Lite is pretty easy to handle, and the autofocus is now much faster too. Compared to my old SLR rig, this baby is only some 1/3 in weight and I would have no trouble taking it everywhere (will work handsomely underwater, with the Olympus PT-EP05L housing)

diorama art filter, outside Pavilion KL
Diorama art filter, outside Pavilion KL

The much loved ART filters is now expanded. There are six to choose from, with art effects to add composition effects as well as ability to do art filter bracketing too. With the art filter bracketing, you can generate multiple pictures with different Art Filters from a single shot, allowing you to experiment with different effects to see which one works the best. Pretty cool feature isn’t it?

The six filters are:

  • Pop Art (i & ii)
  • Soft focus
  • Grainy Film (i & ii)
  • Pin Hole (i/ii/iii)
  • Diorama
  • Dramatic Tone

soft focus - how cute can a car get?
Soft Focus art filter – how cute can a car get?

The photos on this post (except for the one with the PEN Lite in it, duh!) are all taken with the PEN Lite with no extra processing on the computer. I only re-sized them before posting.

If you haven’t seen one of these baby in real life, do try your hands on one at any camera shop carrying Olympus. It is amazing how technology has advanced and be able to pack so much in such a small body.

Pin Hole art filter - a street less traveled
Pin Hole art filter – a street less traveled

Since I work with food photography quite a bit, I also took the PEN Lite for a test run on some food shots.

Penang Curry mee and Char Kuih Teow
Penang Curry mee and Char Kuih Teow

The shot above showcase the advantage of the big sensor found in the PEN Lite, a compact camera will not be able to create that out of focus effect (bokeh) of the char kuih teow while focusing sharply on the curry mee. This was done with F/4.0, now imagine if you use a prime lens with bigger aperture. *slurps*

wine and dine at Favola, Le Meridien
wine and dine at Favola, Le Meridien

The second picture is a simple shot of a glass of wine taken at 1/10s, ISO 1600, 58 mm at f/4.4. This again showcases the ability of the PEN Lite in handling very low light situation. The image stabilizing system works superbly, and the CMOS censor processes ISO 1600 without much (if any) noise at all. I’d have to use a tripod for this with an older DSLR, but this is done with my bare hands. 😀

Now I wish to have one complete with underwater housing and underwater flash,  Happy Underwater Moment?

In the mean time, I have more candidate photos for  “My Happiest Moment”.

Cendawan as my scarf
Cendawan as my scarf 

Before going to Sunway Pyramid, I was trying to wear Cendawan as a scarf, obviously the kitteh wasn’t very impressed with my fashion sense, but kitteh did not use claw attack. *phew*

Haze with gingerbread man
Haze with gingerbread man

Hooo look there’s a gingerbread man! Haze actually had to line up to take this photo, who doesn’t love gingerbread man? 😀

Mr. Sunway duck and me
Mr. Sunway Lagoon duck and me

This is a very very distant cousin to the more famous uncle, Donald, or is he? Niether of them wears pants that’s for sure.


specially decorated Olympus PEN Cameras

Olympus is also running roadshow at Midvalley Megamall from 26-30th Oct. If you want to get your hands on the PEN Lite or check out other Olympus PEN systems, this is the perfect time.

Furthermore, there’ll be specially decorated Olympus PEN Cameras on display at the roadshow too, so do check it out.

Oly is artistic!

April 21, 2010 41 Comments

One very nifty feature of Olympus PEN E-PL1 that I reviewed just a while back is this ART filter function. Basically with this function, you completely remove the need for Photoshop at least 95% of the time. All the sample photos shown are straight out of the camera without any post processing. Efficiency!


the art filter function on Olympus PEN E-PL1

Let me explain!

Switch the dial to ART mode on the camera, and immediately you are presented with the screen that looks like the above. Using the up/down button, choose the desire ART filter, click OK, and start shooting like normal. The photos will turn out dramatically different from the usual way.


100% Arabica – sepia filter

There are six different art filters to choose from. The above was shot using the Sepia filter to give it a bit of a rustic look.


making a living – pin hole filter

One of my favorites would be the pin hole filter. Some might view the on-purpose vignetting a cheap way to make photos looking artistic. To me, if it looks good, why not? I love it.

olympus pin hole filter
Pulau Tenggol, 2010

Here’s another pin hole effect, on the left is without filter, and on the right you can clearly see the dramatic effect.

The plus point is that you can set the camera to record both original jpeg as well as jpeg with art filter at the same time. Of course, there’s always the RAW + jpeg format too if you want to retain even greater control.


toy city – diorama filter

The diorama filter effect is kinda cute, taking from an elevated vantage point, you can make the scenery looking as if it’s a scaled model, very cool.


daily commute – grainy film

I kinda like the grainy film filter too. I tend to shoot quite a lot of street photos (when I’m not shooting food, that is), and the B&W shots it generates works pretty well. Very usable.

olympus grainy film filter
after dive relaxation at Tenggol

The smaller size is a huge advantage when doing street photography, unlike a huge SLR, this isn’t as imposing and people tend to not notice it as much. Not to mention the lighter camera won’t strain your arms nearly as much.


jaclyn – soft focus

I have a feeling that the soft focus filter will be girls’ best friend. Not that Jaclyn isn’t a hot chick, but the filter just make post processing completely irrelevant in this case. Nice kan? 😀

There’s also the pop art filter that makes colors really stand out, think balloon party.

olympus pen e-pl1 pop art filter
pop art filter with lord of the rings!

Lacking a chance to attend any party lately, here’s a demonstration of the pop art filter effects with Lord of the Rings midget figures. You can see the amplified color saturation in this filter to make bright colors stand out more.

olympus e-pl1 art filters

Here’s four different types of art filter and their amazing effects in a nice little collage to sum it up! Pretty cool isn’t it?

Oh! and these function works on VIDEO mode too!  Check out this little video demo that I made while at Tenggol island.

There’s a slow motion effect with PIN hole, and a fast forward effect on Diorama filter when you apply them on video mode. The others will be running at normal speed, makes for pretty cool video, no?

I absolutely love this function, put post processing to bare minimum, saves time, and be artistic! 😀

If you’re thinking of getting this baby, do also check out the Evolve contest for a chance to win an Olympus PEN E-PL1! The contest runs until end of April, 2010. Check out evolvewitholympus.com.my for more!


this post is brought to you by the awesomesauce Olympus Pen E-PL1

Other than enjoying a good meal and traveling, the one other passion that I have is photography. I’ve owned an SLR for a few years now, and recently just bought a compact camera for traveling too.

These two gadgets each have their strengths and weaknesses, the big device produces better quality photos, but is bulky, complicated to use, and a drag to carry around when traveling. On the other hand, while the compact is tidy and convenient, you lose quite a lot of flexibility in terms of what you can do and the photo quality is generally subpar to an SLR.

Then i got my hands on this camera, the Olympus E-PL1. The latest Micro Four Third system from Olympus.


Olympus E-PL1 with 14-42mm kit lens (equivalent to 28-84mm)

The Micro 4/3rd format isn’t exactly a very new thing, but the Olympus E-PL1 incorporates every major features I have been looking for in a camera.

  • small size (it’s only as big as those “prosumer” compacts)
  • interchangeable lens
  • SLR image quality
  • ease of use (very important when you ask strangers to take photos of you)
  • built in flash
  • image stabilizer
  • very good HD quality video

The sensor size of this camera is the same as other 4/3rd SLRs (such as the professional dSLR E-3) so you can be assured of the image quality. Compared to a compact camera that usually employs the 1/2.5″ sensor, the E-PL1 lets in almost 9 times as much light. The more light, the better, it’s very simple.


Live Guide feature

OK enough tech speak, there are a few features on the camera that I want to highlight.

First, the Live Guide. This feature makes using the camera quite a lot simpler, on the iAUTO mode, you get into Live Guide and choose the item to adjust – color saturation, white balance, brightness, field of depth, and so on.  This way, you get to see the effect live on the screen and make adjustment before shooting. Don’t need to remember things like to increase depth of field, you have to increase aperture, etc. Very nifty.

Food, food, food!

It doesn’t take a genius to know that I take photos of food in great quantity, it is basically the backbone of this blog anywaythat and the maps, right? :P)


nasi ayam – Wisma Central

The little camera that could, the E-PL1 takes excellent photos of food, SLR quality, no doubt. Even with the more challenging indoor shots, you can always use the Live Guide feature to correct white balance (to get a more natural color instead of overly yellow, for example). Furthermore, nice bokeh (blurred background) can be achieved pretty easily.


a pint of goodness

This picture demonstrates the ability of the camera to pick up amazing details even in pretty low light condition. The photo of Guinness was taken at Berlin Beirgarten at Solaris. Love the way water droplets around the glass is emphasized here.


four treasures (at DucKing)

While the previous picture of Guinness with it’s slightly off white balance still works out pretty well, you often want to get the correct natural color when it comes to shooting food. This is where the Live Guide comes in handy, I was able to use the feature to correct the white balance (hit Start/OK button then choose “color”) right there and then and get the picture I want.

Camera Size and Street Photography

Other than shooting food, I do quite a bit of street photography, and one thing about this genre of shooting that might not be apparent is the size of the camera one chooses.


hello mom, I’m in KL already!

With its small size and less imposing outlook, the E-PL1 excels in this form of photography. The heavier SLRs, while giving you good image quality, also leave you with sore shoulders and very tired arms after a day of hauling the equipment walking around town.

Other than being lighter, the camera is also quite a lot more stealthy and less intruding, a subtle but important factor in this case. When you have a big camera, people tend to be more aware and react too much to your equipment, the smaller Olympus lets the subject act the way they are and this makes shooting on the streets that much easier.


tower reflection

When fully extended, the 14-42mm kit lens shoots at an 84mm equivalent to traditional 35mm film camera. I was able to get this shot of KLCC with its reflection of one tower on the other. Again, even the most minute of details stands out.

HD Video

This baby also shoots video at 720p HD format, that’s 1280 x 720, or a gazillian times better than VGA especially on the bigger LCDs that we use these days.

The other advantage is that this SLR quality video is much better than basically any compact camera and most dedicated video cameras. You get to change different lenses to suits your need, and get the depth of field a compact can only dream of.

This is the camera to go if you want the best of both worlds, check out the microsite at http://evolvewitholympus.com.my for more information. Now is there anyone who wants to sponsor me to a photography trip? 😀