An evening at Thean Hou Temple

While searching the web for places of interest in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, I came across a website that mentioned a Chinese Temple called Thean Hou.  Since I’d already made a special trip to go see a Hindu Temple, I figured I might as well go see what the Buddhist/Taoist/Confucianist were all about.  I knew there would be some excellent photo opportunities there so I waited to go until about 3 hours before sunset so that I had enough time to scope the place out.

This was the best location I could find to show you the whole temple.  Using my Rokkor-X 24mm, I shot multiple frames to later build a panorama in Photoshop.  I don’t usually travel with a tripod so I just plant my feet and do the best I can with a hip swivel.  50% image overlap and The Horizon Level in the viewfinder of the A7R do a lot of good to increase the “stitchability” later in post processing.

Sony A7R w/ Minolta Rokkor-X 24mm f/2.8
Sony A7R w/ Minolta Rokkor-X 24mm f/2.8

Chinese lanterns are so neat looking.

Sony A7R w/ MD Minolta 35-70mm f/3.5
Sony A7R w/ MD Minolta 35-70mm f/3.5

From the ground floor I followed a set of stairs up to the main courtyard area.  Coming out of the whitewashed stairwell, your eyes are welcomed by a spectacular show of colors and shapes.

Sony A7R w/ Minolta Rokkor-X 24mm f/2.8
Sony A7R w/ Minolta Rokkor-X 24mm f/2.8
Sony A7R w/ Minolta Rokkor-X 24mm f/2.8
Sony A7R w/ Minolta Rokkor-X 24mm f/2.8

The neatly arranged courtyard is nothing less than I expected – tidy, symmetrical, and the heavy scent of smoking sticks of potpourri.

Sony A7R w/ MD Minolta 135m f/3.5
Sony A7R w/ MD Minolta 135m f/3.5

The setting sun provided such a wonderful glow to this scene.  The Minolta 135mm f/3.5 lends its signature presentation of color and buttery smoothness to this shot.  Once you get to know these old lenses, you learn to appreciate their special qualities and how best to harness them in your image making.  Over the years I’ve certainly owned sharper lenses in this focal length but none that I’ve enjoyed as much this little pocket-sized gem.  Not bad for a $25 lens eh?  Sharpness is no longer king of my list of qualities a lens must have to earn a spot in my bag.

Sony A7R w/ MD Minolta 135m f/3.5
Sony A7R w/ MD Minolta 135m f/3.5

Off to the side of the Temple Center Stage was this neat circular walkthrough to a small garden area.

Sony A7R w/ MD Minolta 35-70mm f/3.5
Sony A7R w/ MD Minolta 35-70mm f/3.5

In this garden, a shrine of Guan Yin, the goddess of mercy, stood at the end of an arbor which was richly decorated with bright pink flowers.  I first tried a shot with my MD 35-70mm f/3.5, standing midway in the arbor.  Even at 70mm, it just didn’t provide the effect I was after.  Out came the 135mm lens.  This time I stood at the far end and shot through the arbor, compressing the foreground elements into this cool looking flowery frame.  Going to the trouble of swapping lenses rewarded me with this shot.

Sony A7R w/ MD Minolta 135m f/3.5
Sony A7R w/ MD Minolta 135m f/3.5

I got such a kick out of that walkthrough I had to shoot it again, this time from a more symmetrical perspective.  I liked the balance of the flowering tree on the left and the bonsai on the right.  Wish they didn’t have those blasted handrails there to clutter my shot!  Safety first.. or second.. or something like that.

Sony A7R w/ MD Minolta 35-70mm f/3.5
Sony A7R w/ MD Minolta 35-70mm f/3.5

On to the indoor area of the main temple.  After removing my flip flops, I climbed the steps and went inside.  Meet Mazu!  In this religion, she is worshipped as goddess of the sea, protecting seafarers.  She is also called Tianhou, empress of heaven.

Sony A7R w/ Minolta Rokkor-X 24mm f/2.8
Sony A7R w/ Minolta Rokkor-X 24mm f/2.8

The ceiling inside was exquisitely detailed and colorful.  After asking for permission to shoot inside the temple, I laid my camera on the floor and set the timer to get these shots – with the Rokkor-X 24mm and another with the MD Minolta 135mm.

Sony A7R w/ Minolta Rokkor-X 24mm f/2.8
Sony A7R w/ Minolta Rokkor-X 24mm f/2.8
Sony A7R w/ MD Minolta 135m f/3.5
Sony A7R w/ MD Minolta 135m f/3.5

As the setting sun began to sink lower in the sky, this amazingly warm light shot through the windows near the ceiling.  I bumped up my ISO to 1250 so I could get a 1/200th shutter speed for handholding the 135mm for this photo.

Sony A7R w/ MD Minolta 135m f/3.5
Sony A7R w/ MD Minolta 135m f/3.5

Inside this area there were numerous columns about 10-12 feet tall, each with all these nooks in them to hold these little dolls.  Not sure what it’s all about but it looked interesting enough for a photo.

Sony A7R w/ MD Minolta 35-70mm f/3.5
Sony A7R w/ MD Minolta 35-70mm f/3.5

After that, I headed back outside to check out the rest of the temple.  I thought the ceiling of the outdoor part of the main temple was pretty cool looking.

Sony A7R w/ MD Minolta 35-70mm f/3.5
Sony A7R w/ MD Minolta 35-70mm f/3.5

One of many dragons that decorate the roof tops of the temple.

Sony A7R w/ MD Minolta 135m f/3.5
Sony A7R w/ MD Minolta 135m f/3.5

Now the lighting is starting to get good!  I was fortunate to have a bit of clouds to help diffuse the light.

Sony A7R w/ Minolta Rokkor-X 24mm f/2.8
Sony A7R w/ Minolta Rokkor-X 24mm f/2.8

A view from the other side of the courtyard.

Sony A7R w/ Minolta Rokkor-X 24mm f/2.8
Sony A7R w/ Minolta Rokkor-X 24mm f/2.8

In the shot above, the right-most structure is some sort of a bell tower.  Here’s a shot of the bell inside it.

Sony A7R w/ Minolta Rokkor-X 24mm f/2.8
Sony A7R w/ Minolta Rokkor-X 24mm f/2.8

From this viewpoint, you can see downtown Kuala Lumpur.  Just beneath the roof section (frame right) you can make out the Petronas Twin Towers.

Sony A7R w/ Minolta Rokkor-X 24mm f/2.8
Sony A7R w/ Minolta Rokkor-X 24mm f/2.8

We have birds like this in North Carolina.  They chase and peck children who have anything in their hands that resemble food.  We call them geese.  I don’t know what the Chinese call this one.  Nifty looking, whatever it is.

Sony A7R w/ MD Minolta 135m f/3.5
Sony A7R w/ MD Minolta 135m f/3.5

Sunset? Check.  Interesting foreground?  Check.  Mission accomplished.

Sony A7R w/ MD Minolta 135m f/3.5
Sony A7R w/ MD Minolta 135m f/3.5

That 135mm handled this direct-into-light shot very well.  No defined flare yet still some good visible reaction to it.  I like this one a lot.  The exposure latitude of the A7R is just ridiculously good!  I don’t ever shoot multi-frame HDR.  With the A7R there is hardly any reason to go to the trouble, plus I don’t need to carry a tripod.

Sony A7R w/ MD Minolta 135m f/3.5
Sony A7R w/ MD Minolta 135m f/3.5

Once the sun gets near that horizon it’s all over in just a few minutes.  With my light gone I squeezed out one more shot.  Not the greatest but it does have some strong, pleasing shapes to it.

Sony A7R w/ MD Minolta 35-70mm f/3.5
Sony A7R w/ MD Minolta 35-70mm f/3.5

Ok, last shot for real.  I’d be angry too if I had a ball stuffed in my mouth.  Kinda looks like my Labrador Retriever when he has a tennis ball he doesn’t want to give back ’cause he’s tired of me throwing it every time I take it from him.

Sony A7R w/ MD Minolta 35-70mm f/3.5
Sony A7R w/ MD Minolta 35-70mm f/3.5

I sure hope you enjoyed the photos!  They were a lot of fun making.  Next post will be from my trip to the Kuala Lumpur Bird Park!  Stayed tuned – I hope to have it up by tomorrow evening.

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