Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Albert Park in blue

Click here for large size image

Click here for large size image

Click here for large size image

Preperations for the Formula 1 circus are under way...

Click here for large size image

Bundles of tyres painted and stacked, ready to be installed as tyre-walls

Safety barriers
Click here for large size image

Labels: ,

Thursday, February 22, 2007


A lone figure walked through the silent night, his tired figure weakly outlined by the setting moon. He had a long day - the particle accelerator’s data loggers had refused all attempts to get them working. The physicists gave him quiet hints, the Centre Director was practically glaring at him, the technicians were less than cooperative, his assistant was an enthusiastic but useless post-doctorate newbie, and his team-mate was on Chinese New Year holiday.

Damn computers.

How he longed for the past, when the world lived in a rush of petrol-induced flamboyance. It was not just the petrol and the cars. It was the entire lifestyle. Distance was never an issue – the private automobile could zip through enormous distances in a matter of minutes, and the aeroplane was on a completely different level.

To him, the past would mean being able to visit home every year. Petroleum allowed people to fly, cheaply. The one thing he missed more than anything else in the world was his family. To a great extent, telecommunication technology alleviated his alienation, but technology could never invoke the intense peace that a child sitting contentedly in your lap would stir.

That child was also in the past; she would be in her 30s now.

As he continued walking, his shadow and the past were indistinguishable. He was out of the tiny city centre, and the landscape gradually opened to reveal vast tracts of urban farmland interrupted with clusters of dim lights.

Suddenly, four robbers leap out from the side of the path. They overcome him and take all his belongings. They then strip him naked and tie him to a tree before fleeing the scene, laughing.

The next morning, a passer-by freed him from the tree. He thanked the kind soul, and began to savagely beat a calf that was sleeping on the grass nearby.

The shocked passer-by tried to stop him, but he was unstoppable in his anger. Kick after kick landed on the helpless calf, and he kept screaming obscenities at the poor animal. "All night, I was telling you, I am not your mother. I am not your mother!"


Feedback please.

Did the ending spoil a potentially interesting short story?


Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Level up

Cue magnificent but brief sound effect, a transcendental shaft of light shinning down from the Eta Carinae and speckles of dust twinkling within the said shaft. Just like Warcraft III and WoW.

I found a new approach to tune my knife.

Not merely sharpen. Tune.


Tuesday, February 20, 2007

I'd rather be home now

New Year’s Eve ‘reunion’ dinner was at Jean’s place. She had organised a reunion dinner for ‘orphaned’ people like myself.

I installed myself as the de-facto knife handler. 1.5 bulbs of garlic, half an onions, one capsicum, 2 cans of fruit, 2 bunches of choy sum, 3 chicken hind quarters, 1 chicken breast, 1 box of tofu, ~500 g of fresh salmon and 3 large strips of char siew passed under the blade.

She cooked most of it, and they were quite fantastic. I also learned how to make chicken rice.

While buying pandan leaves for the rice and barley tong sui, a Hokkien CNY song played over the shop’s speakers. I looked at Jean, and she had a “what?” look on her face too.

When a bunch of Chinese Malaysian students talk about their previous schools back home, discussion will inevitably turn to the education system, leading up to racial (in)equity and social-political issues.

I got to drive a brand new (~1500 km) Toyota Corolla and a slightly older 1.8l manual Corolla. The manual box sucked, nothing like Corollas and Civics of the 90s.

That brings the count to 79 cars driven.

The First Day was horrible. Temperatures went to an evil 38 C, and I mostly hid at home packing things into boxes.

Graphite on paper

The restaurant had their CNY dinner on the Second Day at a Shanghai restaurant. If T and R did not go, I think I would have died of boredom.

The delivery guy, who appears to be still going steady with his existing girlfriend, is having an affair of sorts with the new waitress.

R summarised the situation with a succinct “men are really detestable,” while glaring at me.
“Why are you staring at me?”
“That’s because you are a man,” remarked T.
“He’s one too,” I replied, pointing at D. D is homosexual and occasionally flirts with gay customers.
“Nah, he’s different.”


Sunday, February 11, 2007

Friday, 8.15 am

I wait for my tram, an unexpectedly cold morning breeze fluttering uncomfortably through my cotton shirt.

The tram arrives, a boxy sheet-metal carriage with indistinguishable front and rear ends. Passengers climb on board, a warning bell rings and the doors pull shut. The tram moves on, its steel wheels thumping noisily over the track’s expansion joints.

The passengers were mostly heading for another day of work, and anticipated it with quiet idleness. A few were absorbed into their own MP3-created universe, and some flipped lazily through magazines.

As I stood in the cramped, non-interactive tram, I suddenly recalled another place…


It was bitterly cold outside, and a mist of condensation had formed on the windows. The young one was repeatedly writing her name on the condensation, and I was trying to out-write her in terms of aesthetics.

We moved on to writing in Traditional Chinese, and tried writing each other’s names. We got bored after several iterations, and she called out to my brother.

The Little One: Yee Hou, does your name have a 繁体 writing?
Yee Hou: Err…
Lao Chen: (interrupts) Yes. You put a 囗 around the 豪, then add a 氵 to it.

Graphite on paper; text size 9 mm

The Little One humoured me with a laugh at this absurdity, but the brother gives me an expression of appalled disgust. When the laughter and disgust faded, a residual ‘WTF look’ was clearly visible.


The memory evaporates, and I my consciousness returns to the tram. The reversible sheet metal vehicle is still jarring over endless expansion joints.


Thursday, February 08, 2007

Super-Takumar 50 mm f/1.4

All test images were done using Fujicolour Superia ASA 200 colour negative film and scanned using a Fujifilm Frontier 340 digital minilab. Film cost: RM 9.50. Processing and scanning: AU$12.00.

Click here for large size image
Like all normal people, the first thing I do upon taking delivery of a lens is to admire the glass and aperture. The second is to mount it on the camera. The third, is to take photos of it.

The Super-Takumar 50mm f/1.4 lens is a very fast, sharp and widely available lens from the early 1970s.

By some (probably biased) accounts, it is the sharpest standard lens ever made.

The scene used for the sharpness test, with a $20 note for resolution tests and the paper as a metering and data-logging area. This particular shot was taken at f/1.4, where the lens is at its fuzziest. Note the brightness falloff towards the edge of the photo.

A close view of the centre of the test scene at f/1.4. The focus was probably incorrect, hence the incredibly soft image. As later tests would show, the focus is extremely sensitive at f/1.4.

A close view of the lower left corner at f/1.4.

The scene at f/5.6, where the lens is at its sharpest. Note the very even brightness across the frame.

A close view of the centre of the test scene at f/5.6.
"OMG, the sharpness can cut atoms!"

A close view of the lower left corner at f/5.6.
The slight gap between the $20 note and the white paper can be resolved, just barely.

There are more advantages to the f/1.4 than mere light-collecting ability. The huge aperture causes the depth of field to be extremely shallow; inconveniently shallow in some circumstances. This shallow depth of field causes objects outside the area of focus to be heavily blurred, which can be used to the photographer's advantage.

Depth of field at f/1.4.

A close up of the above image.
The region in focus is approximately between the 170th and 179th mm marks. The ruler is inclined at 45 degrees from the optical axis, thus the depth of field is 9 / sqrt(2) = 6.4 mm. The 175 mm mark is 47 +/- 3 mm away from the camera.

Depth of field at f/5.6.
Compare the clarity of the ruler's tick marks with the preceding scene.

Depth of field at f/16.
Note the sharpness of the blue photo frame on the right side. Compare with the above images to see the effect of shallow depth of fiels.

The lens mount is an M42, which is a 42 mm diameter screw thread. An adapter (usually inexpensive) is required for M42 lenses to fit onto other cameras mounts, such as the Canon EF, Nikon F, Yashica/ Contax, Pentax K and Olympus Four Thirds.

If autofocus and aperture-coupling is not a critical requirement, M42 lenses are excellent value for money. Well cared-for lenses are widely available on ebay at decent prices. The M42 era was before the age of plastics, and the lenses are (almost) completely constructed of metal and glass.

This might prompt some to say, “look at the quality of lenses in the past. Compare that with the cheap plastic cladding on those horrid Canon EF zooms. Where has all that quality gone?”

This is a completely misguided train of thought, as the original price of the old lens was not considered. Also, purchasing power in the 1970s is much much less than today. Buying a 50mm 1.4 was a major investment. And do you really want to bag full of metal prime lenses?

A major disadvantage of the Super-Takumar 50 f/1.4 is the use of thorium in one of the optical elements. The addition of thorium gave the glass some desirable optical properties (higher index of refraction) that made it require one less lens (hence better clarity), but the thorium glass is susceptible to browning.

The decay of thorium is radioactive in nature, although the emissions are negligible compared to background radiation. The decay causes the thorium lens to brown, sometimes severe enough to render the optical assembly useless.

This browning can be reversed by supplying energy in the form of UV radiation to the affected area. The following composite image compares the same lens before and after UV irradiation. The background is a sheet of white paper, suitably exposed to produce the same shade of grey in both cases.

Before and after UV irradiation.

As can be seen, the dark yellow cast in the lens has been greatly reduced by treatment. It is expected that further treatment will remove all visible traces of thorium decay products.


The Super-Takumar 50 mm f/1.4 is a fast lens with maximum aperture of f/1.4.
At maximum aperture, depth of field is extremely shallow, and vignetting is visible. The image is also appears to be slightly fuzzy.

The lens is extremely sharp at f/5.6. Sharpness at the image's edges is not compromised. There is no discernable vignetting, even on a sheet of paper.

The lens contains a thorium-glass optical element which darkens over time (in scales of decades). However, the process can be be rapidly reversed with UV irradiation.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Fuji Provia 100F


Sunday, February 04, 2007

Going Up

Click here for large size image

Going Down

Click here for large size image

Click here for large size image

Melbourne, An Overview of

Click here for large size image

Click here for large size image

Labels: ,

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Blink three times, and another week is almost gone. Where did all that time go?

Oh yeah, I sold most of it to some consulting company for $ z per hour, for which I received my first pay today. A portion of time was spent sleeping. The rest simply evaporated.


I’ve finally got hold of the slides of photos I took in Beijing. Now I know why professional slide film sells for RM 22 compared to the RM 10 consumer negatives. The colours are simply amazing.

Processing the film costs RM 25, and scanning would cost another load of money. So here I have a box of 36 slides with neither prints nor scans. A bit of optical black magic was used to obtain these images from the slides. By the way, the slides are the same size as film negatives - small.

老张 and 小龙



The Great Wall
Cosina 19-35mm f/3.5-4.5

A close up of the previous image
Click here for large size image

The prices in Australia are terrible. A shop I went to quoted $25 for a roll of Provia 100F, and $18 to process. Bloody hell, I can live with $18 processing and mounting, but $25 for the film is just obscene. Ebay comes to mind (and rescue)…


Blink nine times, and 5 years have passed. Where did all that time go?

Labels: ,