Exploring Pulau Lang Tengah

At a recent Olympus event for bloggers and social media influencers, I was requested to conduct a night photography workshop at Pulau Lang Tengah – an island off the eastern coast of Malaysia. Since it was the start of the monsoon season, we anticipated rain and cloudy weather which is counter-productive to night sky and landscape shooting. I had most of the day before sunset to myself – a good opportunity to explore the island. I’m a land creature, allergic to the presence of water. So scuba diving or snorkeling was a non-starter, but given the great location and my purpose for being there, landscape photography was the natural answer!

Growing up in Kuching, the nearest beach was about an hour’s drive away but the waters were never as blue or as clear as you see here. Now that I reside in Kuala Lumpur, the nearest beach is Port Dickson where the waters are always muddy and uninteresting as well. During my university days in Australia (aeons ago), I fell  deep in love with the deep blue waters of the ocean. I have been yearning to see those blue waters again and while we do have some great beaches and islands in Malaysia, they’re too far off for a quick spontaneous adventure. And since I avoid water-based activities, there is no reason for me to visit any of these islands regularly. So special thanks to Olympus Malaysia for the opportunity to explore Pulau Lang Tengah!

I was on the island for 3 days but as expected, we had rain and clouds for half our stay. I only had clear skies on the second morning for about 3 hours (before a thunderstorm swept over), but that was more than enough time for me to take some quick snaps around the island. I like that the water was clear and there were not many people roaming on the beach. I did not have specific plan for this shooting session, it was a relaxing day off (a much needed respite) and the last thing on my mind was a serious shotlist of images. After all, as I have always mentioned, photography should be fun!

During the day, I armed myself with the Olympus M.Zuiko 12-100mm F4 IS PRO on the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II and captured anything that caught my attention. For me shooting landscape is not always about going as wide as possible – some reach and compressed perspectives can expand your landscape photography quite a bit. For the night shots as well as sunrise I used the M.Zuiko 7-14mm F2.8 PRO lens instead. Naturally, I used a tripod for long exposure shots.

I took advantage of the rain, a time when others put their cameras away and took long naps in their rooms, I ventured out into the shores with an umbrella in one hand and camera in the other. I managed to capture the islands in 4 different conditions: 1) late morning with perfectly clear sky with deep blue water, 2) during a heavy downpour, 3) nightscape with some visible stars and 4) the beach at the break of dawn. I only managed this after being out there shooting for so long. If I were to return to the same spot in the future, I will have a more structured mini photo project to effectively display the variance of all these different situations and times of the day.

I don’t shoot landscapes often, so I am not equipped with expensive filters to smooth out water even in the middle of a sunny day. However, that did not stop me from wanting to create a similar effect in my shots. The alternative to filters, I figured, was to shoot early in the morning before dawn. Sunrise was just before 7am, so I woke up at 6am and headed to the shooting spot. As expected, even as early as 6.15am, the sky was no longer pitch dark. Taking advantage of the small amount of light and long exposure photography I was able to produce the smooth water effect in the ocean water. I am not saying this beats shooting with an actual ND filter when there is more light available, but hey, it is still a good and effective alternative.

Also, while in the rain, the light level dropped significantly, allowing slower shutter speeds to be used. The black and white shots in this article were shot during the rain, with shutter speeds varying between 1-2 seconds.

For the night landscape shot, I originally intended to do star trail photography. Milky Way is out of the question during this time of the year, not to mention the extensive amount of light pollution coming from ships in the ocean as well as the resort nearby. Constant cloud cover made it difficult to produce a complete trail and I had to settle with just a single shot of a rock on the beach, with stars overhead.

Am I satisfied with the shots I have acquired from this trip? Not entirely – I wish there was more sun, and I wanted to shoot the sunset as well. I had so much fun shooting in a wide, open space and there was just something therapeutic about the ocean but I don’t think my photography successfully reflects this. I suppose in the presence of all that nature, shooting became secondary and I did not want to live through the viewfinder. After a few shots, I simply put the camera down and dipped my feet into the warm waters and imagined myself being taken away into the unknown.

I guess the best photograph to describe my state of mind while on the island, is the peaceful sleeping cat below.

The Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II  and M.Zuiko 7-14mm F2.8 PRO lens are available from B&H

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Images and content copyright Robin Wong 2018 onwards. All rights reserved

Comments

  1. Hi Robin,
    This comment is not about this particular project, but reflects some thoughts about Olympus I had during my recent photo trip to Sicily, so no need to post it.
    I have always used Olympus, ever since my first second-hand OM1 and I appreciate their design and technology. I like the small size of the OMD cameras and their lenses. I have many of the latter – zooms and primes. I like to take different styles of photographs (as you can see at my website) and my EM1mk1 and mk2 can do them all. But I find there is a missing area in the lens range. The f1.8 primes are good and small, but they are not waterproof, and I do love photography in damp conditions (there some unusually wet days in Sicily in October). The f1.2 primes are excellent – I use the 45mm a lot, but they are large. I would like some f1.4 PRO lenses – in my case 17mm and 25mm – which are waterproof, and have a focus clutch and a lens Fn button. They would be intermediate in size between the f1.8 and the f1.2 lenses. These would be ideal for street photography, especially night photography in the rain! Any chance Olympus might be considering this?
    As a professional industrial designer I also have many thoughts about the design of the OMDs, but I think I’ve exhausted your attention here!

    • Robin Wong says:

      Hey Micheal,
      Thanks for the feedback and I think you are right to suggest having weather-proofing for the smaller prime lenses. I have no information about the roadmap of lenses yet at this time being, but I will be sure to suggest to my contact to have weather-sealing in the F1.8 lens line-up, who knows, maybe there will be a Mark II updated version for 12mm, 17mm, 25mm and 45mm lenses! I think having them splashproof will open up a world of possibilities.

  2. Beautiful shots, Robin. I especially like the early morning long exposure and the first shot. Any tips on aperture and focus point to getting everything so sharp from front to back on that one? Thanks for the mini vacation!

    • Robin Wong says:

      Thanks! Since shooting scenes/subjects that far away, using any aperture number should not be an issue, but I stopped down to F5.6 for optimum results (better sharpness). The further the subject is from the camera, the less you have to worry about the depth of field.

  3. Kristian Wannebo says:

    Some lovely photos from a nice place!
    – – –

    Reminds me of the northern part of the Swedish west cost – except we have no palms.
    E.g.
    (Photo by Mikael Svensson)

    P.S.
    https://image.bokus.com/images/9789188056726_200x_langa-katter-krymper-inte
    ( The book title means Long Cats don’t Shrink)

    • Kristian Wannebo says:

      Apologies for that photo appearing instead of the link!

      How does one put a link in a comment, so that it isn’t executed but still clickable?

      • Robin Wong says:

        Honestly, I have no idea, hah. But having the photo displayed is fine, since it is within the context of our discussion and making your point.

  4. The winner shot for me is the second one, vertical with lots of sky. I happened to play with that idea a few weeks back, it won’t fit on insta because of the aspect ratio. https://photos.app.goo.gl/sBqrfVx9ku17Cpu79

    • Robin Wong says:

      Ananda, for that second shot, I was drawn to the sky, the cloud was so dramatic! Yes Instagram doesnt like vertical images very much.

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