Pulau Perhentian Bubu Long Beach Resort

Bubu Resort in Perhentian Hotel Rooms
Bubu Perhentian view from the jetty
The Bubu hotel viewed from the end of the arrival jetty.

After my trip to beautiful Perhentian I thought I would do a quick write up on my experience. If you have never been I have one word for you: GO!

How to get there: There are three ways I know of. Take the bus, drive, or fly. I have heard the bus trip is 9 hours, driving all the way is likely only an option if you have two drivers (please do not be the sleepy dead hero and do it solo in one go), or fly. I decided to fly with my preferred airline, Firefly. I like their aircraft and as a corporate account holder I get some small perks if I need to change flights/passengers. The fact you leave from nearby Subang instead of the horrible cattle shed waaaaaaaaaaaaaaayyyy out at the KLIA and dont have to worry about buying luggage allowance or food are also factors worth consideration. Also it was the cheapest!

One thing you have to watch out for on the firefly aircraft is that the over head compartments are very small. If you are a photographer a smaller Lowepro back pack will work. Into this I was able to fit the following: Canon 5DMk3, Canon 650D (backup), 135mm F2.0L, 85mm f1.2L, 24-70 F2.8, 16-35mm F2.8L, Speedlight 600EX. I could probably have gotten by with my Nikon D3, however it is a taller and noticeably heavier camera, all part of the price for being more rugged.

If you check in to the same hotel I used then you will get picked up from the Kota Bahru airport and driven south for about an hour to the jetty. You will be asked to pay an RM5 tax by a customs officer before boarding your boat. This is supposed to be put into a fund for the protection the marine environment. I have no idea where you can find updated information on what these efforts may be.

The fast boats takes 30 minutes to get to the island. Make sure you know which island you are going to as there are two of them.

Where to Stay: If you are on a tight budget or want to “slum it” you have lots of options. Most places have fans and likely have hot water for limited times during the day. My own criteria was:

  1. Must have an in room safe so I can secure my camera equipment.
  2. Must be a place I want to come back to at the end of the day
  3. Have decent food.
  4. Accept credit cards (just in case)

My back packing days are more or less over and with over 25 countries under my belt by the time I was 25 I think its time to have some comfort now and again. With these as my criteria there was only one location that would foot the bill: Bubu Long Beach Resort on the small island of Perhentian Kecil.

Bubu Hotel Perhentian Island

Welcome to the sun bleached Bubu resort on Long Beach

Boat times do not sync very well with check in and check out times however that will give you time to chill out and take in the venue.  Below you can see the general layout. The ground floor rooms open out towards the beach front while the middle and top rooms open towards the rear. They are accessible via staircases either end and an open walk way facing the hill side jungle, and if you are over towards the right of the photo you will see the power generators. My room was the one in the top right of this photo and despite being the closest to the generators I didn’t find the noise disturbing.
Bubu Resort in Perhentian Hotel Rooms

The lower rooms of the Bubu have entry ways that lead towards the beach.

The beach bar offers two free cocktails every evening if you are staying there. Either alcoholic or non-alcoholic, so the kids can join you too. Be warned that a long day on the beach will make that second Maitai a wee bit more relaxing than you were prepared for   🙂
Bubu Resort Bar free cocktails

Two free cocktails EVERY afternoon from 5pm.

Bubu Hotel Perhentian room view of beach
View from my room in the Bubu Perhentian

My room view was simply awesome. I could wake up to this every day and reminded me of my childhood home. The breakfast area is in the thatched building to the left. They have a proper coffee machine and barista which translates into: Best coffee at any resort I have been to up to this time.
Bubu Perhentian room interior

Interior of my 3rd floor room at the Bubu.

Here’s a look at my room interior. Good air conditioning. Clean interior. No phone. No TV. Comfortable bed. Perfect.
Bubu Perhentian bathroom interior

Bathrooms were small, nice and clean. Hot water all day.

Bathroom was clean, has hot water all day and good pressure in the showers. I did find the shower floor slightly slippery and it nearly caused me a problem. There is a compound available in hardware shops that can alleviate the slipperiness. I hope they apply it soon…hint…hint
Bubu Perhentian room safe

The Bubu guest rooms have an in room safe. Probably the ONLY hotel that does on the island.

The in room safe was perfect. Easily big enough to accommodate all of my camera gear and then some. It provides peace of mind when you are out and about. While crime is certainly not in your face like in a big city, I heard petty theft is an issue and a friend who goes there regularly knows of someone having their camera stolen. Better safe than sorry.
The beach area in front of the Bubu Resort

The beach area in front of the Bubu Resort

The primary purpose of going to the island is the beach and sea. The beach is very nice powdered coral and the water is very clear compared to the Klang river and Port Dickson, so you will find it an amazing experience. Right next to the Bubu there is a dive shop which takes out several boats in the morning so you can snorkel. It costs RM60 for the full morning with gear rental additional. The gear rental covers mask, snorkel, flippers and life vest. Most people wear the life vest while snorkelling for safety sake however if you are an experienced free diver you don’t need to wear it when in the water. There are 4 locations they take you to see. The first is usually turtle bay. This is a sandy bay with a sea grass growing on the sea bed. It is about 4m deep and we saw two good sized turtles I would estimate were 1m across and 1.5m long. If you are a good free diver then you will love diving down to the sea floor to get a closer look at the turtles. Just be careful coming up as there are a LOT of boats and other divers. Someone mentioned there had been someone hit by a boat a few weeks earlier so please stick with the crowd.

The second location was above a reef which had myriads of fish. They were very friendly and delighted many of the snorkelers as they swam up to have a closer look at us.

The next location was Shark Bay. Hopefully you will be able to see black tipped reef sharks here. They are harmless but most people feel a tinge of trepidation about going in. That’s normal so don’t worry. Swallow your worries and head on in. I was fortunate enough to see one on our trip. It’s not guaranteed. Water is about 5m-6m here.

The last location was a sandy bay had completely different fish, made for speed and agility.

I was keen to get some photos under the water. I rented a Canon G9 from a diving instructor (RM100 per day) along with Canon’s underwater casing for it. It was a good job I did as I found the Dicapac DCP-WPS10 totally unacceptable due to its buoyancy, poor focusing and near impossible control system. The G9 was marginally better. After shooting with a DSLR the response speed of the G9 when in its underwater case the control system was soft and sluggish. Under water it was pretty much spray and pray. All of these photos were taken in water easily accessible and only waist to shoulder deep.

Pulau Perhentian underwater photography of fish
Underwater photo of some interested fish (Canon G9)
Pulau Perhentian underwater photography of fish and reef
Underwater photo of a reef and some fish (Canon G9)
Pulau Perhentian underwater photography of clams
Underwater photo of some large clams (Canon G9)

Perhentian fish

On Perhentian you do not have to go far to swim with the fishes. This is from the jetty.

Perhentian Honeymoon “Trash the Dress”

Perhentian Honeymoon Wedding Photographer

Perhentian Honeymoon Wedding Photographer

Last week I endured the heat and severe sunburn (left the sunscreen in the hotel room aaargh!!!!)  on Perhentian for a honey moon shoot…OK endured is a harsh word….in reality ENJOYED is a the totally accurate term!  :-)  I was approached by Pina and Ahmed’s close friend Zina from Germany a few weeks ago and asked whether I would be open to heading up to Pulau Perhentian Kecil to cover part of their honeymoon. For those outside Malaysia reading this “Pulau” is Malay for “island” and “kecil” means small, important as there are two islands in the Perhentian group.

The photography shoot was going to be broken into two parts. First was above water portraiture and the second part was a trash the dress. Above water was going to be no problem provided I compensated for the very bright sunshine which tends to give very harsh shadows. The way to do this is usually to use a diffuser to shade the face to eliminate “squinting” and then use a fill flash to rebalance the shady parts with the strong sunlight. As there was only me and no assistants we did what we could. Big thanks to Ahmed for being my impromptu lighting stand!

Perhentian Honeymoon Wedding Photographer
Drown the Gown!

Part of the plan was to trash the dress or “drown the gown”. This can be fun and romantic. While we were shooting some Malay girls in Tudungs from one of the dive boats walked over to have their photos taken with Pina, and later on the main beach we certainly attracted attention. It’s only when you get in the water that you realise how buoyant a bridal gown really is. Safety was also a primary concern for me  as swimming in a gown isn’t something you can do with any real conviction….not that I have tried!  😀

Perhentian Honeymoon Wedding Photographer
Solid emphasis of my shoots is fun!!
Perhentian Honeymoon Wedding Photographer
….and romance….
Perhentian Honeymoon Wedding Photographer
…and more fun!!
Perhentian Honeymoon Wedding Photographer
The classic wet hair flick photo.

Perhentian Honeymoon Wedding PhotographerWe planned the trash the dress shoot to include underwater photography. A lot of people were really supportive for this. One of my scuba diver friends loaned me her Canon Ixus which came with an Ikelite underwater housing and my good friends at FujiFilm Malaysia loaned me one of their waterproof cameras. Unfortunately both are jpeg only cameras without the ability to shoot in RAW so editing after the event would have been exceptionally difficult. This is because a jpeg photo has very little additional information that is crucial to properly editing afterwards.  Shooting underwater imposes challenges due to the rapid fall off of light and absorption of the red to yellow part of the colour spectrum in the first metre or two underwater. With jpegs you lose all the important info so I really wanted to use a camera with RAW support for the underwater images. More on this further down the page. BTW ALL of these images were shot in RAW and developed in post production. I don’t like the word photoshopped as that implies major fakery. I develop images in a similar fashion we used to do in the darkroom, brightening and darkening parts of the image and either increasing or reducing contrast. That’s it.Perhentian Honeymoon Wedding PhotographerPerhentian Honeymoon Wedding PhotographerPerhentian Honeymoon Wedding Photographer

Perhentian Honeymoon Wedding Photographer
Sunset photos of the bride are always romantic

Perhentian Honeymoon Wedding PhotographerPerhentian Honeymoon Wedding PhotographerPerhentian Honeymoon Wedding PhotographerPerhentian Honeymoon Wedding PhotographerPerhentian Honeymoon Wedding PhotographerPerhentian Honeymoon Wedding PhotographerPerhentian Honeymoon Wedding Photographer

Sweet Sunset from Perhentian Kecil

UNDERWATER PHOTOGRAPHY: Ok, the glaring omission is the lack of the underwater photos. The sea didn’t agree to work with us and due to overnight rains and the inevitable rain water and soil run off the water was not clear at all  :-(   A big disappointment considering the amount of preparation I had done but it also showed some shortcomings in the gear I did eventually choose to use. I purchased the Dicapac DCP-WPS10 underwater DSLR soft case as I read some very positive reviews about it. Seems like the reviews were shot either in swimming pools or nice clear ocean water, as in less than optimal conditions it was hard to use and couldn’t focus even if its life depended on it. It may have been the camera I used, a Canon 650D, but I was not too keen to trust either my Nikon D3 or Canon 5Dmk3 to the Dicapac bag as they are very pricey cameras to replace! I am used to pressing a shutter button and the camera giving me a very positive feed back that a photo has been taken. The Dicapac was a big fail here. I had no idea whether it was firing or not…and it turned out it did, once in every 20 clicks….aaaargh! The other thing is viewing the images on the back of the screen was exceedingly difficult so I gave up on the Dicapac. It is now relegated to swimming pool shoots. One tip if using the Dicapac DCP-WPS10: when you open a Dicapac after it has been underwater be extremely careful as water is trapped in the folds so there is a good chance of some sea water falling on to your camera.

I also rented a Canon G9 along with Canons specifically made housing for it from a PADI diver on Perhentian. He was raving about how good it was until I told him I am a professional photographer. His “nOOb spiel” was then replaced with a more realistic set of expectations and afterwards we had a most excellent chat about underwater photography. The images I took were marred by the murk however it was an excellent experience for me. The “feel” was really not responsive and I wasn’t sure if images were being taken or not while shooting. I would say about 70% of the time photos were being taken but pressing the shutter and not being sure if it was firing was a curious phenomena for me. It was spray and pray…with many images deleted in post. Again the viewfinder was quite poor  (might be awesome if in deeper water – say deeper than 3m?) but it was useless for framing within 2m of the surface so it was a real cowboy shoot from the hip experience.  One tip when using the Canon G9. Turn it off when not shooting. The camera is fairly warm when on and fogs up the front plate really fast with condensation. A bit of tissue around the lens sort of helps but not a lot.

So where to from here? It’s time to drop about RM16,000 for a proper casing for my pro level DSLRs and get some underwater strobes. Professional is professional.

Annual Report Trophy and Award Photography

This is an ongoing project we are working on at present for an upcoming annual report. We are shooting on location and are bringing a full lighting set up and backgrounds on site. Being a photographer for trophies and awards has quite different challenges than photographing people. While there may be a lot more control over lighting, the reflections and transparency of the crystal and glass pose their own challenges. One of these is making sure the lettering is readable. White lettering on a white back ground poses the question of how white should the background be. If it’s too white then the advertising agency will have great difficulty in cutting the images out for later placement. Make it too dark and the clear glass awards will look dirty.

One of the images below, the blue one, took well over an hour to light properly due to its rounded base and sloping top. The writing on this award is immensely more legible in our photo than it is on the actual award!

Camera: Mamiya Phase One P30+. At one stage I was keen on getting a Nikon D800 due to its similar resolution to digital medium format cameras and comparatively affordable pricing, however viewing images side by side of these two cameras I would have to say there is no comparison. If you can go medium format and make money from your images, get one.

Annual report trophy and award photographerAnnual report trophy and award photographerAnnual report trophy and award photographerAnnual report trophy and award photographerAnnual report trophy and award photographerAnnual report trophy and award photographer

Matt and Susans Wedding at the Westin Langkawi

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Westin-langkawi-wedding-photographer-beach-resort-destination-0383
Sunset Wedding at the Westin Langkawi

Matt and Susan contacted me from Singapore to ask me to be their wedding photographer to cover their destination beach resort wedding at the Westin on the beautiful island of Langkawi. I love beach weddings as they are usually small, intimate informal affairs. The wedding photos speak louder than words so please enjoy. Cameras used for this wedding were the Nikon D3, Canon 5DMk3 and both the Fuji Xpro1 and XE1.