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Davie Gan – Featured PMPE Alumni Member

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The Lady of Arbore Tribe in Ethiopia

As an alumni member of PMPE, I was recently featured by Photosafari.com.my in an interview with Maxby Chan (Administrator of PhotoMalaysia.com) about my passion for photography. The original article could be read here. However I re-blog the whole article here for your convenience. I seldom post my travel photos in this blog as I mostly share them in my facebook page with my friends. You could catch a glimpse of some of my recent travel photos in this interview. Note: PMPE is the acronym for PhotoMalaysia Photosafari Experience.

Below is the article reproduced in full.

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Children of Kuro Tribe, Ethiopia

Davie Gan is an advanced amateur photographer. He has joined our many photosafaris to The Old Silk Road, Ha Giang in North Vietnam and Ethiopia last year. He is one photographer who has developed his own unique style of telling his own visual story.  We have watched Davie’s photography progress over the past 5 years and when we say that we are impressed, it is an understatement. We have got lots to learn from him. We are now sharing his experiences and what goes through his mind with our readers. Hope that you all enjoyed it.

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Crescent Moon Lake @ Dunhuang. (Old Silk Route in China)

As part of our journey along the Silk Route, we made a half day journey to Mingsha Shan sand dunes. Amidst the shifting sand dunes lies the Crescent Moon Spring that has been a vital source of water here for thousand of years.

Ever since that day, I had been captivated by the beauty and tranquility of this dream destination. This Ken Burns Effect video is my own little dedication to Dunhuang and the Mingsha Shan’s Crescent Moon Lake.

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Life is about your journey, not your destination.

Sometimes a photographer's greatest moment is not what he could capture on film, but a little compassion that could only be captured by the heart.

Travel photography is sometimes random, exciting, fun and for the most part hard work. Yet many of us traverse the world and explore the many unbeaten paths for that elusive “the best” photograph that we could capture in our lifetime. And then we would hang up our camera and live our life happily ever after. Precisely just like a fairy tale!

So when I traveled about 1,800 miles from Kuala Lumpur to Chengdu, China and then another 800 miles from Chendu to Lhasa and then being driven a few hundred miles more to some remote locations in Tibet, the last thing on my mind was to put down my camera and walk away from a potential perfect photo opportunity.
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Enchanted Christmas in Kuala Lumpur as viewed via a circular fisheye lens

1 Utama Christmas Theme for 2011: Splashing over the big blue

‘Tis the season to go shopping! What better way to go shopping than to visit out local shopping malls and be thrilled and entertained by the many decorations and fun activities put up by the management of these malls. I have always been curious by the theme selected by these malls, especially during the Christmas season. As usual, they have never failed to impress me year after year, with their creativity, intelligence and budget.

This year, the 2 shopping malls that impressed me the most are 1 Utama and Pavilion KL. Countless hours have been put into their planning and execution that one can spent hours just to admire their themed decorations and to snap some pictures with your kids.

As for me, this year at least, I am attempting to document all these beautiful decorations with my circular fisheye lens. Technically, a circular fisheye lens could capture 180˚ view of a scene with a very decent depth of field. In most cases, I stepped up the f-stop to get an acceptable DOF.

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Mogao Grottoes – Caves of the Thousand Buddhas

A replica of painted mural inside Mogao Caves. Going through some of the mural paintings were like going back in time and they do tell the story or stories of historical proportion that is so precious and priceless today. This replica was painted by one of the famous painter that is based at the Mogao Grottoes.

If you would like to listen to the music of Silk Road by Kitaro, click on the play button below.

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Romancing the Mingsha Shan Sand Dunes at Dunhuang

The weather was chilly, just right for a stroll along the Crescent Moon Lake (Yueya Quan) in Dunhuang. The sun was bright and low on the horizon. The Chinese ‘pampas’ grass was being blown by the ever hard-working wind that never seemed to cease. The shifting sand and tiny white pollens from the swaying grass were in a state of suspension, floating in mid air as if they were dancing with grace and purpose for all the spectators to see. The world seemed so peaceful, so still yet so lively, so lively yet so serene. My mind was thousands miles away in a far away land, in a far away place and in a far away dream. Am I dreaming? Am I asleep? I hoped not. I wished for the dream to go on forever. I wanted the dream to last a lifetime.

 

 

The moon represents my heart….. and I left my heart at Mingsha Shan Sand Dunes @ Dunhuang.

Dunhuang is a small oasis town, once prospered as the last stop on the Silk Road before it splits into 2 routes (North and South) to basically  skirt the Taklamakan Desert.

About 6 km south of Dunhuang, lies the Crescent Moon Lake, a miraculous oasis at the base of the Mingsha Shan Sand Dunes.

The climb to the top of the sand dunes is not for the faint hearted but the view across the undulating desert sand and row of tourists straddling the camels are a spectacular sight to say the least.

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Close Encounter with the Terracotta Army at Xi’an

Pit 1 has the most imposing display with over 6,000 warriors and horses, housed in a building that could fit a few NASA’s space shuttles. All the warriors are in full battle formation and are facing east.

Our first leg of PMPE’s Silk Route PhotoSafari brought us to Xi’an. As the capital of present Shaanxi, Xi’an has served as capital to 11 dynasties over a period of 4,000 years. They includes the Western Han, Qin, Wei, Northern Zhou, Sui and Tung. Xi’an is also the Eastern-most city of the famous Silk Road which brought foreign merchants and various faiths into China.

However, a visit to Xi’an would not be complete without a visit to the Terracotta Army pits. These awe-inspiring life-size pottery figures, modeled from yellow clay, were created to guard the tomb of Qin Shi Huangdi, an absolute ruler who unified China more than 2,200 years ago.

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Emei Shan – A Heavenly Mountain on Earth

Wanfo Ding (3,099m), the Ten Thousand Buddha Summit with a sea of clouds below it.

Emei Shan is situated 130km southwest of Chengdu and is one of the Middle Kingdom’s four famous Buddhist mountains. At 3,099m, Emei Shan is considered holy by Taoists and Buddhists since the Eastern Han dynasty. Many of the temples along the mountain’s lush slopes are dedicated to the Bodhisattva of Universal Benovolence, Puxian, who is said to have ascended the mountain during the 6th century atop a six-tusked elephant.

To reach Emei Shan, you will have to take a 2-hour bus journey from Baogao to Leidongping. You could clearly see that the Baogao bus station is managed by some really die-hard communist party members – you have to go through the automated gate where your mug shot will be taken, counted like lambs going into the slaughter house and then packed like sardines into a bus appropriately from hell.

And to top it off, I have the pleasure of sitting next to a gentleman dressed in expensive wool jacket, whom in the entire journey up to Emei Shan, probably have dug out half a kilo worth of gold from his nose. And that’s not the end of the story – he generously deposited all his golden loot on the head-rest cover made of cotton in front of him. And I have the photographic evidence to prove it should a CSI investigation be initiated. So be careful where you touch the next time you take the bus to Emei Shan. You may strike gold!

But on the serious side, Emei Shan is really a beautiful place. I am a little disappointed because I do not have the skill to capture all the beauty and splendor of this heavenly place. Below are some snapshots to share.

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People of Leshan through my lens

This old man was riding his tricycle along the busy tourist streets, rummaging through the dustbins at every corner. He seems lost in his own little world and his thoughts must be the difficult task of putting food on the table for himself and his family.

Yesterday my trip to China brought me to Leshan which was a convenient stopover en route to Emei Shan. Leshan is world famous for its sitting Grand Buddha. This historical venue is packed to the brim even on weekdays. So instead of shooting too much of this monument today, I instead concentrated more on the locals and their surroundings.
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Huawei E5832 Wireless Router – On Demand 3G Internet access for the Global Travelers!

The latest Huawei E5832 is truly an indispensable wireless mobile router for the global travelers among us. Not only is the device light and compact, it is also designed to meet the internet requirements of the most extreme gadgets freak who may be lugging a notebook, an iPad, an iPhone and a Sony PSP to the most far-flung places on earth. (provided there is 3G or EDGE/GPRS mobile services in those locations).

The need for internet access has become one of the most basic requirements for urban living. Email access via mobile phones and blackberry devices has become the norm instead of exception. Facebook and Twitters popularity has only added to this mad rush for 24×7 internet access. Now with the crazy success of iPad from Apple, we now have a sudden urge to use the internet for most of our installed Apps on the device. The Apps are the main reason for the success of the iPad. Therefore when we have all these fancy Apps installed, whether paid of other wise, naturally they will be used to their fullest potential. And most of these Apps depends on internet access to update and refresh their contents and information. So all of a sudden, we now have a new requirements for continuous broadband access, adding to our already insatiable needs.

What do we do?  We sign up for data and voice plan for our iPhone. Then we sign up for data plan for our iPad. And we already have a broadband plan for our homes. So how many plans do we need and how much do we need to pay just to be connected to the internet? Apple should have allowed iPhone/iPad tethering! Maybe Steve Jobs is under pressure from the Telco players not to support this function. Or maybe he just want to make more money for Apple’s shareholders. (Of course you could jail-break your iPhone/iPad to get this feature, but that is another story). Whatever the reason, we the consumer should not be forced to pay double for essentially the same service.

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Breathtaking Summer Blooms at Biei and Furano in Hokkaido.

A beautifully manicured flower fields at "Panoramic Flower Gardens Shikisai-no-oka". You could visit this flower farm from 8:30am to 6:00pm everyday during the summer months.

I have read that Hokkaido is famous for its flowers, especially lavender during the summer month of July/August. I was looking forward to the lavender fields when I arrived in Hokkaido but nothing prepared me for the breathtaking views of the rolling hills covered with the various colors of summer blooms when I arrived at Biei and Furano in Hokkaido. The rows and rows of beautiful rainbow-colored flowers cultivated for the sole purpose of attracting the tourist to this part of Japan is to me a success in meeting its goal. I would gladly pay to spend a day among the flowers and to be one with nature – breathtaking and fulfilling my every senses – sight, sound and smell. The various farms meticulously maintained their flower fields with typical Japanese precision, made famous by the Japanese manufacturing culture.

I would definitely make another trip to Biei and Furano in the near future and I will make sure I spend a few days there to enjoy the scenery and to really spend some time in the flower farms. You could rent a golf buggy or a 4-wheeler to move around the farms if you are too lazy to walk. For me, photography would be the main aim of my next trip. For this trip I have less than an hour in each farm. It’s too short for any serious photography and too long, to not taking any photographs. So spending a day or 2 in the various farms around this region would be perfect. To me, the beautiful flowers farms are the highlight of my trip to Hokkaido.

They are many flower farms around this region. So do some research first before embarking on your flower journeys. The most famous farm has to be “Farm Tomita” or Tomita Farm. You could see all the various flower fields during the month of July only. After July, there are not much flowers left. You would be truly disappointed if you are there after July – as I was. There are not much to see there, even during early August. The flower farm that impressed me the most is the “Panoramic Flower Gardens Shikisai-no-oka” Although I was there in early August, I could still see a rainbow selections of the various summer blooms, including lavender.

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Bayview Hotel in Hualien – a home away from home

The entrance to the Bayview Hotel - Visitors were transported to a virtual world of beautiful Santorini Architecture (a group of the Cyclades islands in the Aegean sea) where white-painted walls with blue doors and windows were the order of the day.

After a nerve-wracking and max-out adrenaline rush of the more than 6-hour taxi ride from the serene hot spring village of Lushan to beautiful Hualien via the breathtaking Taroko Gorge, the last thing on my mind would be the architecture or the interior designs of my next hotel – Bayview Hotel. However when we reached the hotel, the first thing we noticed was the bold white and blue color theme of the hotel’s exterior walls. Its simplicity belies what we would normally expect from such boutique hotel. But still we placed high anticipation on what to expect from this hotel. It truly doesn’t disappoint.

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The Wild Yehliu – The Most Amazing Seascape in Taiwan

This unusual candle rock formation was "sculptured" by the constant pounding of waves against the limestone.

The North Coast of Taiwan is famous for its unusual rocks formations and alien looking seascape. If you are visiting Taipei, it’s worthwhile to make a day trip to this area just to witness the amazing work of art by the forces of nature. The unusual rock (limestone)  formations and seascape were created by sea erosion, weathering and possibly earth movements.

Most of the rock formations were given fanciful names. You could find candle rock, ginger rock, mushroom rock, queen’s head, elephant rock just to name a few. However the most high profile of them all has to be the Queen’s Head Rock! It’s side profile could possibly pass off as the head of Nefertiti, the famous and beautiful ancient Egyptian Queen. Tourists are willing to line up for hours just to take a photo with her majesty the “Queen of Rock”. Well, if you happened to be in Taipei, this is a must-see sight in Taiwan.

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Claustrophobic at Cu Chi Tunnel Complex

Vietnam or Saigon specifically, is famous for its vast multilevel tunnel complexes built over a few decade of war with the military superpower of the world. Above: a man in uniform demonstrated to the group of tourists how he could vanish without a trace into a small entrance to the vast tunnel complex in Cu Chi.

Visiting Ho Chi Minh City (aka Saigon) without dropping by at Cu Chi Tunnel Complex would just be like eating a hamburger without the ….. beef. The preservation of Cu Chi Tunnels is really about the reminder of the never-gave-up spirit of the Vietnamese people, especially in times of trouble. They have proven time and time again how they could persevere against the ‘evil forces’ trying to dismantle their communist way of life. Rightly or wrongly, they have defeated the French and the American invaders with their very unique tunnel warfare.

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A glimpse of the atrocities committed by Khmer Rouge at Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum

A remnant skull on display at the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. It was from the atrocious Khmer Rouge period from 1975 to 1979.

The stacked collection of skeletons, the bare steel bed frames against the hollow marbled-floor rooms and the eerie silence of the ghastly stained walls really provided everyone that visits the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum a glimpse of the atrocity committed by Pol Pot, the leader of the former “Democratic Kampuchea” from 1975 to 1979. This dreadful prison was the equivalent to the Nazi concentration camp where prisoners were detained, interrogated, inhumanly tortured and killed after confession were forced and documented from them.

The prison was formerly the Tuol Sleng Primary School and Toul Svay Prey High School and was also known as Office 21 or S-21. The classrooms were turned into either small prison cells measuring 0.8 x 2 meters for individual prisoners or larger 6 x 4 meters rooms that were each furnished with a very “comfortable” bed for the purpose of torture and killing.

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The faces of Angkor

A young Khmer girl holding on to her toddler's sister in front of the Banteay Kdei temple. The intense eye contact with the two young native girls made this my favorite photo of my short trip to Siem Reap.

Cambodia – the land of wonder. This is truly an amazing and wonderful country and I am totally in awe. It’s hard to believe that today, Cambodia is still a backward and under-developed country considering its glorious past. It’s the people that make a Country and not the Country that make the people. Given time and effort I am sure this once great Country could rise again to be the great cradle of civilization that it should have been. Its past glory should be taken as the guiding light to return the country to its rightful place in history – the kingdom of wonder – minus the notorious Khmer Rouge or its infamous Killing Fields.

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Sunset over Phnom Bakheng Temple in Siem Reap

Spectacular Angkor Sunset as seen setting over Phnom Bakheng Temple in Cambodia. Photo taken with Canon EOS 5D Mark II & Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 IS lens. (ISO 100, 1/15 Sec, f/14 at 200mm)

Your trip to Ancient Angkor would not be complete without a visit to the Bakheng temple for a view of the beautiful sunset over the Phnom Bakheng Temple. For photographers, you need to be there before 5pm if you would like to secure a front row seat for an unobtrusive view of the spectacular sunset over the temple. I suppose you could take decent sunset photograph with a point and shoot compact camera but for spectacular result, you really need to use a DSLR camera with multiple ND graduated filters. As I arrived late (after 5pm) for the short climb up the temple, I really did not get an optimum spot to photograph this spectacular event. However I managed to overcome some of the unfavorable obstructions and human heads with the use of my Canon EF 70-200mm lens at 200mm. The 200mm reach allowed me to shoot between heads and zoom in directly to the setting sun. It would have been better if I have a longer reach with a 300mm or 400mm lens. But heck, the best lens is what you have with you at the point of time.

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Siem Reap – the gateway to Ancient Angkor

Sunrise as seen from the moat fronting Angkor Wat.

The MAS flight from KLIA to Siem Reap took roughly about 2 hours. The flight was delayed by about 30 minutes due to technicalities but we really had a blast with the service and food provided by Malaysia Airlines. This was the first time we took a short regional flight with MAS via KLIA. For roughly the same fare (if not less) it’s really better off than flying with Air Asia. Now everyone can fly…. and fly with style…. And KLIA is so much more comfortable than LCCT by miles…..

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Colors of Halong Bay, Vietnam.

Halong Bay or “descending dragon bay” is truly a magnificent collections of over 3,000 islets along its 120km long coastline. Its breathtaking view and beautiful emerald-green coastline are really a sight to behold. A trip to Vietnam is never complete without a visit to Hạ Long Bay. Below are a few photos to represent the artistic colors of Halong Bay as envisioned by the author.

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Green

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Yellow

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Blue

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Travel and People Series – Kids of Sapa.

Kids of Sapa.

Kids of Sapa.

Kids of Sapa. They might be poor. They might be messy and dirty. Their clothes might be in tatters. But their determination to eke out a living from the tourists and their “never-give-up” attitude is a sight to behold. How can you not give in to their demand when they asked you to buy some souvenirs from them? How can you say “NO” to such faces of hope and perseverance? And they DID NOT BEG! I couldn’t. And I gave in. And I did it happily.

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Travel and People Series – Yogyakarta III

This is literally: Snack-on-wheel.

This is literally: Snack-on-wheel.

A snack vendor pushing his weather-beaten cart along the street of Yogyakarta. Fast food entrepreneurs hawking their wares on road-sides and street corners are a common sight in most Asian cities and they contributed their share of ‘wealth’ towards the local economic vibrancy of the cities. So you see, good food also meant good economic model for the country.

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Travel and People Series – Yogyakarta II

This is the most popular mode of transport in Jogyakarta.

This is the most popular mode of transport in Yogyakarta.

5:36pm – Traditional pedal-powered trishaws (aka becaks) are perhaps the most popular mode of transport in the city of Yogyakarta. It’s cheap, fast and easy to maneuver in the ever narrow stretch of roads in the city. Even horse cart and taxi have to give ways to them when they are in motion. So, if time is of the essence, they will not let you down, ever!

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Travel and People Series – Borobudur

An early morning view of the trees and landscape as viewed from the main stupa.

An early morning view of the trees and the serene landscape as viewed from the main stupa of the Borobudur Temple.

7:40am – Early morning view of the secondary forest surrounding the Borobudur Temple. If you would like to have a taste of man-made nirvana, then this place is for you. Be there at around 5am and walk up the stairs to the upper level of the temple and enjoy the serene atmosphere, beauty of sunrise and the quiet contemplation of your own life.

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Travel and People Series – Yogyakarta I

fruit-vendor

A fruit vendor eking out a livelihood on the street of Yogyakarta. Her weather-beaten face spoke of a life full of hardship and personal struggle to maintain a dignified existence. She glanced at me just after I snapped her photo and gave me a friendly but reserved smile. In her heyday, she might just be a classy lady with a smile to die for!

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Impression of Liu San-Jie performance at Yangshuo, China.

This is a nightly performance directed by Zhang Yimou (2008 Olympic fame) where a cast of more than 600 local fishermen, farmers and performers acted out a light and sound show that depicted the life story of “Liu San-Jie” or “Liu’s third sister”. The stage is actually the Li river with the multi-color karst mountains as the backdrop. It’s really impressive and my photo could not do justice to this spectacular performance. You have to see it to enjoy it.

Yangshuo is about 2-hour drive or 5-hour boat ride from Guilin. Air Asia now has direct flight from Kuala Lumpur to Guilin and I could see many Malaysian tour groups there. This is a must visit part of China and although most of the tourist attractions in Guilin and Yangshuo are over-commercialized, its attraction lies on the natural wonder of this region rather than any man-made structures.

The performance is sub-divided into 5 Impressions that portray the legend of Liu San-Jie. They are the Red, Green, Blue, Gold and Silver.

The performance is sub-divided into 5 Impressions that portray the legend of Liu San-Jie. They are the Red, Green, Blue, Gold and Silver.

The men and women will sing to each other via the Q&A approach.

The men and women will sing to each other via the Q&A approach.

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