Sepang F1 2011

It started out with a friend who bought early bird tickets to the race last year end and had commented the price was really good. We had not been to the circuit for over 6 years so I tried to plan a trip over. Surprisingly, the Le Meridien at Kuala Lumpur had a promotion package and I booked that along with tickets to the popular K1 Grandstand. Naturally it was to be a drive up.

Play forward 4 months and it was time to set off. Maps were no longer free so it was with Google maps we did our homework on driving in.

The 4 hour drive up was uneventful. I satisfied my Malaysia KFC crave during lunch and the chicken was still as tender. When closing to KL city, it was time to look at hardcopy maps which was tough. I tried to use my smartphone HTC Maps which failed miserably as it reported requiring a data connection which costs RM20 per MB that was a no go. Additional help came in the form of Nokia Maps, something I pre-loaded on my old phone and it worked fine too. With it, we zoomed into the right road to head to our hotel which had a another surprise. We circled 2 rounds and still could not get “in”. Help came again from a friendly Malaysian who in the end guided us in his Proton Saga to the hotel.

KL Breakfast @ The Oldtown Coffee


After check-in to our 29th floor room, we took the plunge to try the Commuter train to Midvalley since KL Sentral Station is right next to the hotel. The train looked like a fusion of the Netherlands’s NL train and Singapore’s MRT and crowded. The frequency was at least 20 minutes so much so that we forfeited our return fee and took a taxi back. Which the ride was in short bad since we detoured like 3 roundabouts before reaching our hotel.

A good discovery was across the station were some streets with plenty of local delights. After breakfast in Oldtown Coffee, we had a second breakfast of pratas made the way we imagined the best to be. We also came back for wan ton mee local style which tasted simple but good.

Braised Noodle with Pork Belly For 2 nights straight, we ate at Jalan Alor, the famous road open air food area. We picked the first restaurant by the side by gut feel and the food was cheap and tasted fresh and delicious. At first we were conservative and in the end we had lala, hor fun, friend vegetables, chicken wings and satay. Second round we had braised noodles and sambal pork intestines on top of chicken wings. Grilled Fish

F1 action wise, the view at K1 Grandstand was the best of the seated locations we went so far. K2 hill has its own flavor and this year, the weather proved to be excellent with drizzle that provided cooling winds. I was not challenged on bringing my long lens over. Hence I was able to use for the first time in Sepang, my 400mm high-speed lens. Photography wise, since I had taken the mill of everything, I was more adventurous trying longer panning shots, since I am now on digital, burning memory disk space is not as costly as burning films. It was no easy take to balance speed of the F1 cars, camera speed and hand swing panning motion to come out sharp photos. Hence I was very happy with my capture of the overtaking of Mark Webber with Massa which seems to be the top photo taken this year.

NEX-5 anti motion blur function worked wonderful when I forgot to lug my tripod up for a night shoot from the hotel window. By keeping a relatively steady hand, the night photo taken came out sharp.

Le Meridien KL Hotel Night View

Night Scene

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Roaring Action

After like a 7 year gap, am heading out once more to Sepang Circuit for F1 excitement. More to come!

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The Rise of DSLR

The only 1 cosplay photo

10 years back, the era of DSLR was coming to it’s peak. When I went for the NPSS Perth Trip in 2002, about half the group were on digital. I recall with humor that the digital guys were always doing loads of stuff after dinner to prepare for next day’s shoot: charging batteries, offloading memory cards, backup to hard disks using shared notebooks.

Come today, notebooks and memory cards are cheaper, DSLR camers have longer lasting operation hours with better batteries. Also big major difference then and now: DSLRs are affordable to the consumer group formerly using digital compacts.

Yes, now whenever I visit a shopping center, I see people, be it local or tourist, slinging a DSLR on their neck or toting a camera bag about. Times have certainly changed.

The same goes for me too. My DSLR is now reserved for shooting events or activities that requires a higher level of quality. On a day to day, I carry the NEX-5 and snap photos in “dummy” mode. So the recent occasion after Japan trip that I took effort to carry the heavier gear was AFA X (Anime Festival Asia) and STGCC (Singapore Toys, Games and Comic Convention).

Had it not been for free tickets, I do not think I would have paid the $$ to enter. Interestingly and not surprisingly, I only took 1 cosplay photo for AFA. Reason was the venue was way too crowded to have the ambience for fun photo taking. There wasn’t open spaces outside the suntec halls for the cosplayers to roam as it was utilised for other events. I heard one empty was opened later for them but given the low lighting, it would be tough to produce good photos. I spent my time taking the figures and gashapons using my macro lens, handheld.

As for STGCC, it was a more quiet period over that weekend, there were space for cosplayers to hang around the corridors and open areas. Less crowded too and hence I had some fun shooting. So instead of stopping in 10 years of cosplay, I had taken photos for the 11th year.

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Gundam Fever: Post

Hmm, would have thought after the visit to Gundam @ Shizuoka, the fever would be gone but there’s post effects, namely the Gundam 00 Movie: A wakening of the Trailblazer.

Read in Facebook that Singapore has same time premier as first country outside of Japan. Venue wise did not sound like a proper movie theatre to me so I tried my luck at nearby cinema and yes, it did show and there are available timings. So I bought my tickets and went to watch at 10.50pm.

The audience was different matter. It was a very quiet crowd. Even funny scenes did not elicit laughter so I guessed the Japanese folks here are very polite too when watching movies. It was 1am when the show ended. Due to my limited understanding of Japanese (no subtitles!) I only got a vague idea of the ending, will have to watch 1 more time in future.

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Gundam Fever: High

Entrance of Hobby Fair
Despite the hot sun and immense heat, the ground crew are hard at work, directing the random few people (me included) to the entrance. Feeling the heat, I re-armed myself with new coat of moisturiser and sunblock before walking about the area.

The brillant midday sun, coupled with cloudless blue sky was great takes and the phototaking frenzy began. 40 minutes later, this perfect occasion gave me the opportunity to eat shaved ice with 3 flavours to cool down. I somehow managed to impress the seller with my Japanese probably because I intentionally misprounced the fruit flavours 😛

It was a good 2 hours before sunset so rather than wait at this so very hot and open place. To inject more fever to myself, I listened to Gundam music…. scratch that, I was kidding! Anyways, I took the train down to 1 more station, Shizuoka. Had a nice late lunch and refreshments there and met a very good tea seller grandma and was sold to buying tea leaves back. Afterall this is Shizuoka, one of the places famous for tea. Returning back, I took a short walk to the opposite side to take some shots of the culture center.

Day End GundamThen is back to frenzy phototaking again (after shopping for limited edition goods). As the fair closes at 6, the last show is at 6 which means no night scenes. Still, this day was great as there were blue skies and lovely sunset. So the last show was captured both on film and video. Good thing I lugged my tripod to do HD movie.

It was with a wistful regret when I left the place as the ground crew quickly cleaned up the place and close the gates. The last few visitors too snap some more photos outside the gate like me before we tread home. For me, it was a long ride back to Tokyo which took 3.5 hours since there was only local train service left.

For photos taken on this day, please visit my Flickr site 🙂

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Gundam Fever: Start

Shinjuku station is huge boasting at least 4 Midori no Mado (Green Window) which only 1 of them converts the JR passes. After conversion, I tried to get train reservation unsuccessfully. The shinkansen Kodama is not covered by JR East Pass. Ooops.

Gundam Glimpse

View from Higashi-Shizuoka Station

It was only a little later in the evening that I realised my mistake. I was reading out from an old itinery planned using JR Pass. So I headed back to JR office to book instead the Super View Odoriko.

Day of travel. Weather got cloudy which did not look promising. Despite giving myself time, I had miscalcuated the time to travel at peak hour. So I reached Tokyo station with less than 15 minutes to find the train. Fortunately, the platform is immediately up the next stairs.

It was overcast weather but pleasant ride to Atami, the most western edge covered by JR East Pass for heading to Shizuoka. Had a quick look around the station area while waiting for the local train line.

After 2.5 hours of train ride, and double-checking the name of station, I alighted at Higashi-Shizuoka staton (also because I saw Gundam from afar!). The hobby fair area which was right next to the station was immediately visible with the key highlight model right in the center.

The weather had cleared into a very hot summer afternoon. The heat was incredible. After applying another coat of sunblock, I walked into the fair….

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Cat Room

This was a on the spot finding whilst walking alongside the busy streets of Harajuku.

Companion wise I got a cat lover friend whom immediately decided there and then to visit this cafe. So we followed the directions which were a little unclear, missed a landmark and U-turned. Going to 5th Floor, we followed instructions to sanitise ourselves before entering. Other rules to follow were not to carry and hug the cats, no feeding. Can dos are petting, taking photos, playing.

The place charges by time so we took a 30 minutes duration and had fun with big cats. They are all huge, well groomed, very furry, sleepy, very at home.

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