Fresh From The Oven

Baker Mokhtar’s late father was Indian-Muslim and his mother a Malay. Like his paternal grandfather, they are from a long line of bakers from Northern India.

I was pleasantly surprised to hear him describe the filling of each type of bread bun in Cantonese. There’s Yeah Chi (coconut shavings), Chee Mah (sesame), Ngau Yow (butter), Kar Yang (kaya or coconut egg jam) and Tau Sar (bean paste); Mokhtar rattled away.

It may seem routine to Mokhtar but if you think about it, what a rich tradition he inherited. Wonderful to taste this heritage product that has adapted to local taste by blending recipes from different cultures.

Mokhtar also bakes regular white Bengali bread loaves but they weren’t ready at the time I was there.

Next: I asked him to show me the big traditional brick oven that he has hidden in another room.

Sony Alpha a7R, ISO 400, f4, 1/60 sec.

Anguish Of Attachment

Mummy has more errands to run and the boy is not allowed to follow.

I must commend the mother for not letting the kids run to the shop on their own, even though it is just a short distance. She waited until the busy father came out to get them.

Too many times, we see a driver letting kids wander to the doorsteps on their own because it is near. A curious child can run towards the middle of the busy street instead. Or in this case, run after the bike.

Photography Tip: When composing (or cropping) for a news, documentary or candid type of shot, select the visual elements carefully even when the moment is fleeting. If you can’t think fast, shoot a wider shot and crop later.

Emotional cues can move the viewer on a subconscious level. Firstly, get down and shoot at the child’s eye level.

It is easy to be drawn to the teary face and go for a close-up. I decided to include the face of the sister behind, as she shows empathy.

See how the boy’s hands (as part of body language) are flung out indicating helplessness and resignation?

The father’s hands are both restraining and comforting; conflicting in a way.

Taken as a whole, it is all such elements that make an image more powerful.

Sony Alpha a7R, ISO 100, f4, 1/320 sec.

Cat Roar

One of my cats getting up on a lazy Sunday morning. I saw him yawning in front of nice window light and went to get the camera.

To make him yawn again for the camera, I pretended to yawn a few times as he looked at me sheepishly.

Eventually, he yawned again. Don’t know if it is contagious yawning or he was bored by the whole thing.

Is cross-species contagious yawning even possible? Some scientists believe, in the case of humans, it is triggered by empathy.

Didn’t spend too much time wondering. We went back to sleep.

Sony Alpha a7R, ISO 500, f4, 1/60 sec.

Bak Chang

Today is Duanwu ( 端午节) or the Dragon Boat Festival or the Chang Festival for Chinese. It falls on the fifth day of the fifth month of the lunar calendar and as such is also known as the Fifth Month Festival in Malaysia, Singapore and Taiwan.

The festival commemorates the life and death of ancient Chinese scholar and poet Qu Yuan. He committed suicide by drowning to protest against the corrupt and dictatorial regime that ruled.

Legend has it that people threw rice into the river both as a food offering to Qu Yuan’s spirit and also to deter fish from eating his body.

Today, symbolic glutinous rice or sticky rice dumplings known as zongzi (粽子) are eaten to mark the occasion. It is a public holiday in China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan. Locally, the bamboo leaf-wrapped dumplings are known as bak chang (Hokkien) or choong (Cantonese).

Interestingly; the Chinese in Indonesia refer to the festival as ‘Peh Cun’ and it is known as ‘Festividade do Barco-Dragão’ in the former Portuguese colony of Macau. The dumplings are known as ‘Machang’ among Chinese Filipinos.

I like this simple dumpling from a roadside seller in Kampung Cempaka. It has salted duck egg yolk, fatty meat, dried shrimps (heh bee), mushroom and importantly for me; no mung beans.

The humble kiosk provides a no-bean option. Freedom of choice: Something which Qu Yuan stood for.

Sony Alpha a7R, ISO 2500, f6.3, 1/250 sec.

The Cheerful Durian Seller

Under the blazing sun and fasting, Norsiah Nordin is trying to eke out a living selling durians harvested from her own trees. I really respect that. Not just for her fortitude and adherence to religious obligations but also for her sunny disposition by the roadside.

Makcik wanted to give me a bunch of durians for taking her pics. When I declined, she wanted to give me cash to go print her pics at the 15-minute ‘instant print’ shop down the road.

Many younger people I photographed are happy to get the url to my website, Facebook or Instagram to look up their pictures later. Senior citizens without surfing skills or internet access do not have the means we take for granted.

I will make a properly-framed picture and surprise her later as I have done with a few others in past trips. Meanwhile, the encounter is another reminder to get a portable printer or a separate instant camera. Young or old, instant gratification brings joy.

Sony Alpha a7R, ISO 100, f2.8, 1/500 sec.