Venturing out of Auto

I’ve just started reading Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson and the first exercise in the book is to take a portrait. Although the book specified taking the photo in Manual mode, f/5.6 is indicated as the aperture and the shutter speed is to be adjusted based on what the camera deems to be the correct one for the optimal exposure. So in effect, it’s just aperture priority but hey, I’m taking my first steps out of the Auto mode of my camera.

The first time I attempted taking portraits, it was all in Auto mode which produced a somewhat dark exposure. I like the results of my second attempt better. Hubby was game as acting as my model although he did get a bit bored. Here are the best shots from this weekend’s practice session.

Published in: on February 24, 2008 at 11:28 pm  Leave a Comment  

Fairy tale art

I’m currently trying to build up a bit of digital art portfolio that can better represent what I can do, art-wise. That meant also doing art at a very high resolution. It wasn’t as easy as doing stuff real small. I really have to be careful with the lines I draw because I’m drawing them zoomed out and mistakes aren’t as easily visible. I only find out about these mistakes when I zoom in to look up close.

As subjects for these newer pieces, I followed Raquel’s suggestion of using characters for fairy tales. First one was Rapunzel and the latest one is Tinkerbell from the Peter Pan story. These two pieces were coloured and “inked” differently but that’s probably not too noticeable when zoomed out. I’m still experimenting with the colouring and I feel like I’m close to getting to a method I’ll be satisfied with.



Published in: on February 24, 2008 at 12:18 am  Comments (4)  

Train Chaos

Woke up to a pleasant cool morning today when we got a text message from Connex stating that “due to vandalism, trains between Laverton and Newport may be delayed up to 15 minutes. Buses are running between Laverton-Westona-Altona-Newport.” What sort of vandalism would affect so many stations? Nothing came to mind and we had hoped for the problem to be fixed by the time we get to the station.

We got ready as usual and went on our merry way to the station. As we walked to the station we got a glimpse of the first sign of trouble. There was a massive crowd of people in our platform – an indicator that the previous service either didn’t run at all or was by then terribly late. Then as we were entering the station, we saw a number of people milling about, asking Connex staff about where the trains are and there was a horde of people hurrying out of the station with frustrated looks on their faces. In short, chaos all around.

Hubby and I looked at each other then decided that we’d just drive to work today. Connex isn’t really known for providing great service at the best of times, let alone at a time when they’d have to organise buses for transfers.

So what really happened? As it turned out, thieves got to the electrical cabling yet again. I’ve written about a similar incident over a year ago and it seems like it’s still going on. Connex really need to re-think their security measures.

Published in: on February 18, 2008 at 8:31 am  Leave a Comment  

Fancy Valentine’s dinner

For Valentine’s Day, Raquel and I went out for dinner at one of the finest restaurants in Melbourne. People we know keep on gushing about this Italian restaurant so our expectations were a bit high. Personally, I would have preferred to have gone to a fancy Chinese or Japanese restaurant instead but I thought it was worth eating there once, specially since I have a $350 voucher for that restaurant, hand-signed by the owner/chef, as prize for winning an art competition a few months ago.

The restaurant itself wasn’t large but it was still quite obvious that it was a fine-dining restaurant. They had a headwaiter (or is it called maitre d’hotel?) wearing formal wear plus several more employees waiting on us, ready to serve. At the lobby, there was a whole wall with photos of the owner with various celebrities and hand-written letters of personal praise for the establishment. The toilet even had those stacks of folded hand towels which you dispose of in a basket after one use. We totally felt out of our element.

When we sat down, the maitre d’ offered (more like insisted) to take my blue backpack for safe keeping in their office. They probably just don’t want me to strap my backpack behind my seat or leave it lying on the floor. Raquel left her bag on the floor but soon, one of the waitresses came over with a small old-world upholstered stool where Raquel’s bag could sit. Very fancy.

While discussing what we should be ordering, they brought us what looked like breadsticks in a tall silver cylindrical container along with four slices of bread in a metal basket plus two varieties of butter: salted (which tasted like wonderful creamy cheese) and unsalted (which tasted like, uh, butter). We weren’t sure if the “breadsticks” were indeed breadsticks or some decorative plant with no leaves. In the end, we didn’t touch those. We did eat the bread in the basket but I found it really tough to bite. I even tried ripping it to pieces but still found it very tough. Anyway, the butter tasted great so it wasn’t so bad.

We had a difficult time deciding what to get. We basically have $350 to burn there but after looking at the prices of the dishes, the money probably won’t go a long way. We ordered two appetizers to begin with and the portions were smaller than an entire cheeseburger at McDonald’s. It tasted okay but for $40 each, I would have expected it to have tasted like something that fell out of heaven! Or at the very least, the portion should have been bigger. Ah, well, it’s free anyway, we justified to ourselves.

After the waiters got our empty plates, one of them approached us with a plate. On the plate were two very small salmon-topped pastries. Apparently, those were also complimentary. I didn’t realise you get a lot of free food eating in fancy restaurants. Although I don’t personally like salmon, I wasn’t about to let a freebie get away so I took one anyway.

Anyway, due to the small food portions, we were far from being full. So, we ordered our next meal. We both got entree-sized risottos. These were about $48 each if I remember correctly. The portion of the risotto wasn’t big either. We weren’t surprised at this point. We did get an extra side dish which the waiter suggested: a small bowl of spinach with a bit of parmessan cheese for added flavour. It actually tasted quite nice. But again, we couldn’t stop thinking about the cost and portion size of what we had just eaten. For that much money, we expected more or something that was delicious by far.

Still not full after the risotto. I had wanted to eat something with meat this time. When I looked at the menu, I saw an entry called Wagyu beef and was immediately drawn to it but then saw the word carpaccio after it and thought to myself, “oh no, you don’t!” I recently went to an office lunch where I ordered an angus beef carpaccio and when the dish finally came, it was a thin shaved piece of beef which looked raw. In fact, it was raw! There wasn’t much meat there and there was a bit of a salad and all that for a whopping $20! I won’t fall for that again.

Okay, so no beef carpaccio. But there was a 1kg rib steak in the menu for about $160. That would probably be good. Although I’m sure I won’t have problems eating meat, I felt like the 1kg steak might just be too much for both of us. We might end up being too full.

In the end, the waiter suggested the 500g lobster they had on special for that day. I can’t remember having ever eaten lobster before so that was a good time to give it a go even if it did cost $120 (as far as I can recall). We have a $350 voucher anyway.

The lobster finally arrived. It was nice of them to split the lobster to go into two plates for us. They also set aside the bulk of the lobster flesh aside for convenience but still left much of the lobster’s carapace and limbs for us to slurp clean, I assume. What I didn’t expect was to be slightly grossed out by the sight of the lobster itself. It reminded me of an oversized insect and taking it apart with my cutlery and nutcracker silverware only added to the gross factor, for me. In the end, I only ate the lobster meat that was already set aside and that tasted good. It certainly went well with the extra bowl of spinach that came with the lobster.

That must have been the only time I’ve eaten that much spinach in one single day. I asked Raquel if they had a dedicated “kangkongan” (place where you grow spinach-like vegies in the Philippines) out in the back of their restaurant. At least, the spinach tasted good.

After the waiter took our plates away, one of them placed on our table two bowls of what looked like hot water with a lemon in the middle. We looked at each other, wondering whether this was another free dish or was it for washing one’s hands with. If it was for washing hands and we sipped it, that would have been gross. If it was actually some kind of broth and we washed our hands in it, that would have been embarassing. We ended up just ignoring the two bowls. They soon took the bowls away which sort of proved that those were for hand washing.

To finish off, we decided to have some gelato for dessert. Each order was about $24 and what we got was a plate with four scoops of sorbet/ice cream, each one a different flavour: mocha, lemon, apple and licorice. I admit that I’m not a fan of the actual licorice lolly but I found that the licorice-flavoured gelato was the best tasting of the four. The mocha probably comes in second. The lemon was too sour for my taste and the apple was a bit too sweet.

After that, Raquel had a cup of coffee and that came with 3 small treats. A small cube of lamington, a small piece of nougat and a small heart-shaped biscuit with jelly in the middle. I was too full to even take more than a few bites from these treats.

Finally, we asked for the bill. The total cost of our dinner was $380. Since we only have a $350 voucher, we had to still pay an additional $30 out of pocket. Ah, well. It was a good experience. At almost three hours, it was the longest time we had to sit down for dinner. At $380, it was the most expensive dinner we’ve ever had. Would I eat at such a fine-dining restaurant again? Not if I can help it. If I ever win a voucher for such a restaurant again, this time around, I’ll try to sell it off to my friends first.

The food, while it tasted nice, wasn’t the most delicious thing I’ve ever eaten. I could get food that is a lot tastier and has a bigger serving size for less money. I just don’t get the point of eating in such a place. I’ll probably be more willing to spend the same amount at a very fancy Japanese or Chinese restaurant than at a Eurpoean restaurant (well, maybe except Spanish or Portugese). At least in a fancy Asian restaurant, chances are, we can order lots of rice and whatever fancy dish we wanted. I also don’t have to worry about all the fancy European table etiquette.

In conclusion, we’re not going to try that again unless it’s free and we can’t absolutely help it.

Published in: on February 15, 2008 at 12:53 am  Comments (2)  


The government finally said sorry to the stolen generations of aborigines today. About time too, as it was long overdue.

Published in: on February 13, 2008 at 9:41 pm  Leave a Comment  

Lenten penance

It’s Lent again and for Catholics, such as myself, it’s a time for penance. This traditionally meant abstinence from meat flesh and fasting. We are also encouraged to abstain from other things we like as a form of penance during the the forty days between Ash Wednesday and Maundy Thursday. This time, I’m abstaining from chocolate snacks. And people who know me knows that I love chocolate goodies. This is going to be a tough challenge.

In years past, I also drew/digitally-painted religious images nearing Holy Week as a sort of offering to the Lord. I’m planning to do the same this year but I’m going to be more ambitious by doing more than just one image. I’m thinking of drawing the 14 Stations of the Cross which was something I’ve been wanting to complete for a long time now. Alternatively, I’m thinking of drawing Parables, Beatitudes, one of the Mystery-grouping of the Rosary.

I still haven’t started drawing any religious art because of other things I wanted to finish drawing first. But now that’s done, I can finally start with this in the coming days. Let’s see if I can accomplish this goal this time.

Published in: on February 13, 2008 at 6:59 pm  Leave a Comment  

Fun with my camera

I’ve been reading some photography books borrowed from the library and as always, most advocate practice and learning more about the camera. Sad to say though that I’m still not out of the Auto mode but I’m trying my hand on composition and some portraits. Here are my favourite shots from last week.

Gabriel in front of the glass water wall in front of the National Gallery of Victoria in St. Kilda. We originally wanted to see the Modern Britain exhibition for which we have free tickets for but was told that the gallery would be closing in 45 minutes and that there won’t be enough time to view the entire exhibit.
I’ve been lurking around and was intrigued by some self-portraits featured there. Here’s my first try on the old photographing the mirror trick. I almost deleted this photo because it wasn’t sharp enough but it quickly become my favourite among the lot later.
Gabriel posing in front of the tallest building in Melbourne – Eureka Tower. We were initially attracted by the giant golden bugs decorating the building but what I like most about this photo is that gorgeous blue sky.

Published in: on February 9, 2008 at 9:01 pm  Leave a Comment  

Going into the art business?

I love drawing and sketching even when I was young child but I had never thought about earning any money for my making art. I had always envisioned myself as being in computers either as an engineer or a software developer. Fast-forward to the present, I’m now a programmer by day but I still love drawing in my free time.

I actually love drawing so much that it makes me think about the possibility of earning a living solely from doing freelance art. In the short term, I seriously doubt that any money I can possibly earn from doing art can match the salary I get paid monthly from programming. So, if I do decide to concentrate on my art, I would certainly be taking a pay grade dive. It’s something that I can’t consider specially since I want to have a kid soon.

But maybe I can start by getting into the art business as a part-time thing. Maybe I can take on simple commissions at first. Maybe I should make a series of art pieces I can make prints out of and sell them at the local Sunday markets here in Melbourne or sell them at online sites like Etsy and eBay. Maybe I can compile a series of sketches and publish it via Lulu and call that an art book. Maybe I can go back to making comics and publish that via Lulu too.

I’ve already started doing some research into this commission work thing. I wanted to know what doing digital art commission work entails. I wanted to know how much other DA artists were asking for for their work. How much are people willing to pay for a certain level of art quality? I use these artists as a sort of a price guide. I wonder if anybody out there is interesting in commissioning me for some art.

Last weekend, I went to the Arts Centre Sunday Market at the city to check out what the artists there are offering and how much they are selling their stuff for. Again, I’m hoping that this would give me an idea of how to price my own pieces when the time comes (if it ever does) to sell my own. I even learned about Giclee prints while there. I need to look into that a bit further but it seems like a more expensive way to make prints.

At this stage though, I don’t really have a lot of finished work to sell as prints that people will want to buy. That means, I need to first make more high-resolution detailed and coloured pieces that might attract buyers before I can even think of earning money from prints.

With my limited free time, it seems like that doing art commissions might be the more feasible option. My only fear is that I have absolutely no clue how to do one. I mean, drawing the actual piece might be the easiest bit because that’s something I know how to do already. But I don’t know what to put into a contract that would be fair both to me and to my potential customer. How exactly should I deal with the customer? Do I draw drafts first for his/her approval? Do I allow him/her to change his mind after he/she approved the draft?

So many questions. Maybe I should just take the plunge and wing it all the way.

Published in: on February 6, 2008 at 11:34 pm  Comments (2)  

Thoughts on Tasmania

They say that traveling opens up a person to new things and experiences and consequently helps in giving that person a different world view. This in turn makes the person grow, in more ways than one. Following are some thoughts on things that I’ve experienced and learned from on our trip to Tasmania. If nothing else, this entry is something like a note to myself to remember our trip by.

  • It is cheaper to fly to Tasmania then hire a car there in the short term than to ride the ferry from Melbourne and bring our car. A co-worker who has been to Tasmania several times has said that it only makes sense to bring the car on the ferry if we’re going to stay in Tasmania for a fortnight or more.
  • There is no easy way of going around in Tasmania other than by driving. Also, be prepared to drive on winding roads. Even major highways are curvy so the driver has to pay attention most of the time.
  • There is a lot of road kill, I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that there’s something that used to be a living thing splat in the middle of the road every few hundred metres.
  • Most of the wildlife around Tasmania are nocturnal. Consequently, we avoided driving around after dusk to avoid contributing to more road kills and possibly car-related accidents.
  • Tasmania is quite scenic and tranquil, perfect for relaxing. However, since we were after the magnificent natural views, we had to bush walk. The shortest walk we did was the 20 minute Enchanted Walk at Cradle Mountain and three walks of two hours each elsewhere. Now, that may be nothing for some people who regularly hike but for two couch potatoes who spend their whole day seating, it was quite tiring for us.
  • We only spent four whole days in Tasmania, visiting several towns and driving a minimum of two hours each way to our destination. It’s a wonder we actually got to visit most of the items in our itinerary.
  • We had our first encounter with an alpaca in the town of Sheffield – a town we only reached because we missed a turn at the highway. No complaints though as we love this little town of murals.
  • It was also in the town of Sheffield that we first saw the word spider on the menu of the local restaurant. We had no idea what it was and were intrigued. Unfortunately, the service was slow and we decided to eat elsewhere so we didn’t have the opportunity to order the mysterious menu item. We later found out through a free Coles brochure that a spider is actually what we’d call an ice cream float, that is, a scoop of ice cream on top of a glass of fizzy drinks, typically soft drinks.
  • The highlight of our trip for me is our visit to Cradle Mountain while hubby loved the Cataract Gorge at first sight. Also, we both enjoyed browsing and shopping at Salamanca Market in Hobart.
  • It was our first time to stay at a bed and breakfast (when we were in Swansea) and I have to admit that I was quite apprehensive when I booked the room. Hubby loves his creature comforts even while traveling and we learned the hard way that a nice, clean bed is worth a lot after a long tiring day. I’m glad to report that our first B&B stay was great – gracious host, clean bed, tidy room and a hot, filling breakfast almost made us feel right at home. The only thing that we were concerned about was our noise level while watching tv before bedtime. We ended up turning in early for fear that we might be disturbing the peace for the other guests. It was just as well since we needed our beauty sleep just then. Dunno how we’d fare though if we had to stay for more than one night.
  • Since we only stayed for a few days, we didn’t get to see the other amazing places in Tasmania. Some future destinations on the island that would be on our list are Strahan, Port Arthur, Russell Falls, Tasmanian Devil Conservation Park and perhaps even do the Tasman Island cruise featured in GetAway.

Overall, we had a fantastic time and would probably visit again given the opportunity.

Published in: on February 5, 2008 at 10:22 pm  Leave a Comment  

Palabok is now private

Due to personal reasons, we have both decided to make Palabok private for the time being. Right now, it is only open for viewing by family members and close friends. So, if you are reading this and find that you can’t access this in the future, I do apologise.

We might open it up again in the future but for now, we wish to keep it private.

Published in: on February 3, 2008 at 9:27 pm  Leave a Comment