Saturday, June 22, 2013

An Epic Waterfall in Peninsula Malaysia

Deep in the heart of Hulu Terengganu, it is really hard to believe that there is a waterfall of this magnitude here in Malaysia.
The question is how long can this unknown waterfall remain isolated? Well, the answer is grim. While I was there, deforestation has begun in this remote part. Here are some pictures that may sicken you.
WARNING! Graphic Images

Centuries old trees cut down for your teak furniture
Shame on the developer

I tried to do what I could to stop the destruction of the forest.
Chased away a bulldozer by throwing rocks.Just like the Palestinians during the First Intifada

We had to drive along a logging road to reach the campsite. If it rains, it is not advisable to drive in. Along the way, we passed by several rivers and saw elephant dung strewn along the road.
Crossed river
Spotted elephant dung
EDSI:Elephant Dung Scene Investigation. Horatio wannabe

We could have camped at the logging camp but because I have my reservations with logging companies,
Logging camp site

we moved far away from them and decided on a river bank. Although we had to cross a fast flowing stream with slippery rocks, it was worth it because this is how the scenery looks like :
Our campsite

We set up camp at 2pm and Siang Hui started fishing. He did quite well as he landed around 8 river fishes.
The Chinese Version of Jeremy Wade

Here are some photos from in and around our campsite
Crossing the stream
Bloody hard when the rocks are slippery and both hands are carrying stuff
Camping food that can beat any 5 star Michelin restaurant

We started at the break of dawn the next morning after a perfect night of camping complete with stars, running stream, small bonfire, wine, beer and thick wooly blankets. Snug as a bug

Crossing the stream in the early morn
Start of our trek

Because only a handful of people have gone into this part of the world, there were no trails. We had to rely on the eye in the sky aka the bird aka the satellite. We had 2 GPS with us and Jan brought his ever reliable Spot Satellite Messenger

Nifty device in case of emergencies

We did a lot of walking through the thick jungle in the first 2 hours and the next 2 hours was all about maneuvering rocks/boulders. The latter portion uses a lot of upper body strength and flexibility. So, it's no walk in the park. Here are some photos of our journey :
We had to cross several rapids. Always good to have a rope and a strong swimmer with balls of steel to get across first. That person would be me
Exotic plant

Finally, after hours of knee bending hell, this is what we saw :
Awesome isn't it? One of a kind in Malaysia

Most people would stop at the place where I took this video because it was another hour or so to clamber over the boulders to reach the bottom of the pool. We carried on simply because is there.. echoing Edmund HIllary's answer as to why he wants to climb Mt Everest.

Thank God for the raisins we brought along to fuel us during the last few metres. Suprisingly, we arrived at a totally different landscape from what we went through the past 4 hours. This time, instead of jungle and boulders, we were greeted by light green moss landscape and totally surrounded and dwarfed by mountain ridges. And not to mention the epic waterfall in front of our eyes.
Moss landscape. Almost look like a scene from Jurassic Park

It is almost impossible to take a photo so close to this thunderous waterfall. The camera lens just cannot cope with the intense heavy spray of mist.
Video of moss landscape

Finally reached the pool. An amazing feat

The epic waterfall from afar

After spending 30 minutes at the bottom of the waterfall, we slowly trudged ourselves back but before leaving this enchanting remote wonderland, we had to take a group photo.
5 Brave Lions

A truly satisfying exploration

Note : Some of the photos in this blog were taken by the Godfather Of Waterfalls, Mr Jan Stuivenberg. No joke carrying a DSLR slung around his neck
A true and much respected adventurer

Friday, June 21, 2013

My Simple Underwater Camera

Before I begin the story about my underwater camera, I want to inform the newly certified divers that taking up underwater photography is at your own risk. Bringing an underwater camera when you go diving will be

1. Expensive
2. Risky diving
3. Expensive

Why expensive? In no time, you will be adding new strobes, macro lenses, fibre optic, etc and that will cost a bomb !!!


Risky diving. No dive buddy will wait for you to take a photo of a candy crab for a duration of 20 minutes. If you're an underwater dive photographer, be prepared to be left behind by your group.

I bought my underwater camera 3 years ago... not because I was influenced by my underwater photographer friends nor was I mesmerized by their photos of underwater marine creatures. I was going to dive the Red Sea in Egypt and knowing I won't be going back again, I might as well make it memorable and snap some underwater shots of the famed Red Sea
In Dahab, Egypt

After the Red Sea, I went to Mabul Island, Sabah for the first time and that was for work. I finished work on that Friday and went diving on the weekend and brought along my underwater camera.
Stayed at Big John Scuba

I dived for the first time on Mabul Island and man oh man, I've never been so excited before in my entire underwater life. There were critters everywhere !! Frogfishes, dragonets, flamboyant cuttlefish, colorful nudibranches, ribbon eels, etc. What a blast !

I knew I had the God given talent for underwater photography when I produced this money shot of 3 mandarin fishes in one frame. Mind you, the mandarin fishes were in a coral, not in the open as the photo suggest and they're as big as a grain of rice. The current was quite strong that day. It did not help that a lionfish was quite near my face and a sea urchin lurked nearby my leg. I steadied myself, sucked in the air, lowered myself to the coral without startling them and SNAP !!!
My First Money Shot - Three Mandarin Fishes

No strobes, no macro lens, no Photoshop/Lightroom software.

And after that, the rest is history. I was hooked.
Anyway, enough of blowing my own horn. Here are some of my favorite photos from my simple underwater compact camera :

Will I upgrade to a better camera?

No. Because it is not the camera, it is the cameraman.
Spoken like a true underwater photographer dive snob