Those who know me would know that I don’t personally go on a beach/island holiday. It’s not because I don’t enjoy such a holiday but my parents’ place in my hometown of Kuala Terengganu, on the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia, is located just like 5 minutes’ drive or 15 minutes’ walk to a popular beach in town. I have however never shied away from a beach/island trip whenever I get an invitation from any party. That is despite me being able to turn probably 100 shades darker in no time at all the moment I land on an island. 😅
So when Olympus Malaysia emailed and invited me to a getaway to Lang Tengah Island, I simply jumped at it. Okay, I actually hesitated a bit because I wasn’t at first sure if I could avail myself during the proposed dates but the moment I knew I could, I didn’t wait to let them know.
Now, Lang Tengah Island is located in my home state of Terengganu but (until recently,) I’d never been there due to the reason I mentioned above. So although the name of the island is familiar to me, I really had no idea where it is located on the map until I googled for it. It’s rather embarrassing considering that I was born and bred in Terengganu. But anyway, in case you didn’t know and are wondering too, it’s located between two of the more popular islands of Terengganu – Redang and Perhentian. Considering the location, I did wonder why Lang Tengah is not as well-known as the other two. Could it be because it’s less beautiful?
On the appointed day, I joined the Olympus Malaysia group, which arrived by bus from Kuala Lumpur, at the Merang Jetty from where we took a boat to Lang Tengah. It was October and monsoon season was approaching but the sea was not as choppy as I was afraid of.
The moment we arrived at the jetty of Summer Bay Resort where we’re staying for 3 days and 2 nights, I couldn’t have been happier seeing the empty white sandy beach. The view from the resort entrance towards the jetty and the sea was just postcard-like.
After a hearty buffet lunch and room check-in, we had a class on underwater photography. I had brought with me an Olympus OM-D EM-5 Mark II (on loan from Olympus Malaysia) but each of us was given an Olympus compact camera, Tough TG-5, for the purpose of the class. The class instructor, Jacky, a scuba diving instructor, an Olympus camera trainer and photographer, spoke mainly in Chinese (which I, unfortunately, don’t understand) but thanks to my roommate and table-mate during the class, Robin Wong, who also happens to be an Olympus camera trainer and photographer), I still managed to pick up a few tips on using the macro and underwater features of the compact, waterproof camera. Jacky later came to our table and when he found out that I actually hail from Terengganu, he started speaking to me in Terengganu-speak, with quite a thick accent. Apparently, he's originally from Terengganu as well. It was a rather jaw-dropping moment for me as I’m still trying to get reacquainted with the dialect after all these years. Thank goodness, I still could understand him, heh heh! (By the way, later, I found out that his name is Jacky Chan. It would have been dead funny if I had told him my real name (instead of just RaW) when he first introduced himself to me. “Hi, I’m Jacky. Jacky Chan.” “Hi, I’m B-ruce Lee! Nice to meet you!”) 😂
The organiser changed the itinerary and moved snorkelling session to the first afternoon we’re on the island because the weather was good and they didn’t want to take the risk of rain on the second day. So all of us got ready with the life jacket, goggle and Tough TG-5 in hand before hopping on a boat and travelled around the island before anchoring at one corner.
I jumped into the sea and instantly went “Phwoar!” – Okay, so that’s a lie, I didn’t say that because I had a snorkel in my mouth. But you get what I mean, right?
I’ve snorkelled in various marine parks in Malaysia – Redang, Payar Island, Tioman, and a few more islands in Sabah – but this was my first time trying to use a camera to capture colourful fish and corals whilst snorkelling. After several failed attempts (including at an underwater selfie, heh heh!), I believe I started to get hold of it. However, the current was quite strong, and as I don’t really know how to swim, I struggled a bit with the camera, trying to juggle with not being swept by the waves further away from the boat.
Nevertheless, I did manage to capture a few shots, some of which I’m quite happy with as a beginner and a snorkeler.
As this was my first time trying to capture the underwater world whilst snorkelling, I began to understand what Jacky had mentioned earlier on during class – photos taken during a dive are better because they’re taken at level, or face-to-face, angle while photos taken during a snorkelling session tend to look flat as you can only take photos from above.
As such, I started to (attempt to) take photos at an angle from above, just so that the photos don’t look too flat. This, however, added the distance between the camera and the subject, and with Tough TG-5 being a compact camera, I could only rely on its digital, and not optical, zoom feature.
The results, however, are not that bad, if I may say so myself, haha!
The results, however, are not that bad, if I may say so myself, haha!
I spent the rest of the first day and some part of the second day exploring the island and the beach on my own, playing with the Tough TG-5, mostly trying out the macro and landscape modes. I especially love the camera’s beach/snow mode as, I think, the AWB captures the contrasting colours just nice, keeping everything real, just the way I like it.
It rained for the large part of the second day – so I guess the decision to change the itinerary and go snorkelling on our first day was right. We learnt portrait shooting (taught by John Leong) and light painting photography in the afternoon while in the evening, we attempted at nightscape photography and capturing star trails with Robin, using the unique Live Composite mode that is available on Olympus OM-D cameras. Unfortunately, it was a cloudy night and there was also some light pollution coming from a few ships on the sea. It didn’t help either that it started to rain again soon after we arrived at the spot picked for the stargazing activity.
All in all, though, I still enjoyed the trip and managed to pick up a few photography tips & tricks from Olympus camera trainers like Jacky, John and my roommate during the trip, Robin. And thanks to Olympus Malaysia for introducing me to Lang Tengah Island – which one marine biologist friend has described as one of the finest for non-divers (while Tenggol Island is a heaven for divers) – and also to their compact but powerful Tough TG-5.
Two questions remain, however. Should I try and take up diving next? Should I also get hold of Olympus Tough TG-5? What do you guys think?
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