Sunday Breakfast at the Dragon Kiln

A cloudy sky and gently blowing breeze complemented the perfect setting for our Sunday breakfast under the grand old banyan tree. Our hosts, Mr and Mrs Tan of Thow Kwang Pottery Jungle invited a group of potters and friends for a breakfast get-together at the tree house. Mrs Tan cooked her delicious lontong (Malay rice-cakes with spicy coconut gravy). The rest of us brought other local favorites and tidbits like soon kueh, chwee kueh and homemade salad. As always, there was plenty of good food to keep us through lunch!

Thow Kwang is home to one of the two remaining dragon kilns in Singapore. This kiln is more than 60 years old. The kiln spans over 27m long and 2.3m wide. In the past, the kiln was used by the Tan family to make latex cups for the rubber plantations.  Presently, the kiln is fired occasionally by a group of potters who is reviving the art of wood firing. I participated in one such firing in 2003. The firing lasted 25 hours reaching a high temperature of 1250 degrees Celsius.

The Tan family runs a ceramic and porcelain business. Located in the west near the Nanyang Technological University, Thow Kwang is a charming place to spend a day. Planters and pots of various shapes, sizes and colors scatter the grounds adds to the character of the place.  You can find a wide range of Chinese ceramics for everyday use as well as fine porcelain for sale. There is a good selection of Nonya porcelain too. So pay a visit to the Pottery Jungle and potter around, and chances are that you will find a vase, platter or figurine that will catch your fancy.

I couldn’t ask for a better way to spend my Sunday morning – in idyllic and rustic surroundings in the company of friends. And yes, did I mention the food? 🙂


Streets of Singapore – HDR

I’m back home in Singapore and have been doing a number of HDR shots of buildings – hardly a surprise as Singapore is considered as one of the world’s most densely populated countries. It was pleasant to revisit my favorite street haunts and see what I can capture in this cityscape.

Thian Hock Keng Temple (Temple of Heavenly Bliss) at Telok Ayer Street is one of the oldest Hokkien temples in Singapore. It was built in the early 19th century at the edge of what was once the waterfront. Chinese immigrants would pray at the temple for a safe passage to and from their homeland.

Thian Hock Keng with its Southern Chinese architecture of dragons, phoenix, door gods, colored porcelain tiles, granite carved pillars and wooden beams, provide interesting subjects for any photographer. So be prepared to spend some time here.

Another area to “let your feet do the walking” is Club Street in Chinatown. Here you will see rows of colorful shophouses. Shophouses are unique to the urban landscape of Southeast Asia. As the name implies, you will find the shop located on the ground floor and the living quarters on the upper level. Club Street gets its name from the numerous clan associations or clubs that can be found in the area. Some of these shophouses have been converted into restaurants, cafes or offices.

This bank of buildings was taken along the Singapore River. Here, you will find the tallest skyscrapers in the financial district. Unfortunately, my 18-55 kit lens is simply not wide enough. 😦

There are plenty of photo opportunities if you take the time to walk and explore the streets of Singapore. All you need is a pair of comfortable shoes. And yes, do remember to dress cool in the humid tropical weather.

High Dynamic Range (HDR) Images

I have been inspired by Ben Willmore’s series of HDR images of Route 66 since I first saw them on his blog.

Ben calls himself a “travelling Photoshop hack”. He travels the country in a converted Prevost bus giving Photoshop seminars and enlightening thousands of students about the complexities of Photoshop. Ben is a wonderful teacher and is able to explain the intricacies of Photoshop in simple-to-follow steps. For Christmas, I received Ben’s HDR tutorial and Photomatix Pro software (thanks, Jim!) and tried processing some photos using Photoshop and Photomatix.

Here are my first HDR attempts to achieve an illustrative look for my photographs:

Page, Arizona

Rock Tower
Page, Arizona

Tucson, Arizona

Old and New
Thian Hock Keng Temple, Singapore

Dragons in the Sky
Thian Hock Keng Temple, Singapore

Zion National Park, Utah

I still have a long way to go to refine the images and will need to spend more time working on the details and enhancements. Nevertheless, this is fun!

Note: If you are interested in Ben’s HDR techniques, you can get his DVD tutorial here.