Sekinchan: The Fishing Village & The Paddy Field

Sekinchan is a small town in the state of Selangor, Malaysia. This town is known as “鱼米之乡” in Mandarin, which simply means “the village of fish and rice”. This name came about from the two main activities that happened in this small town, namely the fishing and paddy plantation.
I took the chance to pay this town a visit during one of the weekend, together with a photography group. First stop we arrived at the shipyard to check out the ship building and repair work, followed by visiting the fishing village. Fishing usually done in the early morning, by the time we arrived is already late afternoon, the fishing was already done and boats were back to the dock. The fishermen were busy repairing the fishing net, while the ladies and children were busy processing the seafood before selling them to the fish monger or the dried food and canned food industries.
A quick chat with them and I came to realize that most of them are not locals. They came from neighboring country such as Indonesia and Philippines in search for a living here. “The youngsters are not interested in this industry. They just can’t bear with the sun, the tiredness and the smell of the fishes. They rather work in the comfort of air-conditioned environment, far away from their hometown.” That was what the owner commented when I asked about his age and his children’s whereabouts. In his late 60’s, he can only rely on hiring others to help him out in his business.
“The business was passed down to me from my dad. During the old days we simply got no options, unlike today.” I asked the owner how much the workers get paid for helping out in processing the seafood. I was told that it’s based on the weight of the seafood one managed to process in a day. “Some housewives will just drop by for part time job. Well, they are free at home most of the time anyway, so it’s a good source of income for them as well. If they are hardworking enough, they can earn about 30 Ringgit per day, which is quite significant to feed a household in a small town like this.”
Later on, we took a ride to the paddy field nearby to take a quick look on the golden paddy field. Harvest season has been ongoing for awhile now, and some of the paddy has already been harvested. There wasn’t any harvesting activity going on in the evening, but from conversation with the locals, we get to know that nowadays all harvesting work will be done via machines instead of labour work. Harvested paddy will be sent to the factory nearby for further processing into packaged rice.
We also get to witness the field burning activities on the harvested field. “This has been the tradition that we followed since the old days. Upon completion of paddy harvesting, we burn the field to prepare it for the next plantation. The burning process will provide nutrients for the soil and to ensure good harvest for the coming season.” Said the 82 years old farmer who has been working for years in the paddy field. “As more and more of the harvesting work is taken over by machines, it helps to relief our workload as we are all getting older.”
Just like the fishing village, the paddy plantation is also facing the problem of aging workers. Fewer youngsters choose to work in the paddy field, which leaves a lot of the aging worker with no choice but continue to work. They love their job, and it’s hard for them to see it collapses. “Well, the good thing is that we started to see more youngsters working in the factory instead. As the industry gets modernized, they started to come back and work in their hometown.”
With more and more people moving to the big cities in search for a job with higher pay, better quality of living and more opportunities, it’s hard to imagine what will happen to these industries in the near future as the current generation of workers aged. Perhaps with modernization, machines will fully replace manpower from carrying out the job. However, the loss of succession in skills and professionalism for both fishing and paddy field plantation makes me feel a little… pity and unfortunate. I do hope in years to come, we are still able to show our kids on how things are done in the old and traditional ways, allowing them to appreciate and cherish the hard work from the older generation.

Getting closer and wider with Fujinon XF16mm F1.4 R WR

A big thanks to my friend Charles for lending me his XF16mm F1.4 R WR. With his kind heart, I managed to put this lens through some paces during my recent trip to Sekinchan, Malaysia. It’s a 2 days weekend getaway and I have managed to shoot on various scenes and getting to know the lens a little better.
This is the first Fujinon prime lens from Fujifilm that spots weather resistance and the all new Nano GI coating. It’s a 16mm lens, hence an equivalent focal length of 24mm. The built quality of this lens reminds me a lot of the also superb XF23mm F1.4 R. They share the same clutch manual focus mechanism, which is something I like about. The lens really gives you the solid feeling that it is ready to take on whatever challenge that you are about to throw to it, which is always a nice feeling that gives you that confidence to go out and shoot.
A notable feature from the XF16 is that the minimum focusing distance is 15cm from the sensor, which means your lens front element can literally go as close as a few centimeters away from your subject and yet the lens will still able to focus. The large aperture of F1.4 is good for astrophotography and some shallow depth of field shots to isolate the subject from the background. Focusing is quick for general shooting, though it still suffers a little under the low light (probably due to the sensor rather than the lens).
The good thing about this lens is the distortion is very well controlled. If you have shoot with the XF10-24 before, you will notice the distortion of the lens is quite obvious. But for the XF16, everything falls in neatly. I have been shooting the fishing village with this lens and it gives some very nice perspective as opposed to those provided by the XF23. Here’s a rather dirty comparison of pictures from both lenses on the same subject, as you can see, I can get almost identical framing and look from both lenses, which is why the XF23 was left in my bag all the time. There are of course some minor difference in terms of distortion and the pushing effect from the wide angle lens.
This lens is really good for shooting in tight spaces as get to cram in a lot of things into your frame. The ability to focus so close to your subject gives you a more intimate shot as you will need to get much closer to fill up the frame. Since distortion is well under controlled, this lens is good for environmental portraiture. I didn’t get to try out shooting some stars or milky way as the weather doesn’t favour me during my trip, not even some nice sunrise and sunset shot. Nevertheless, I still managed to grab some shots over the paddy field with this lens.
As a lens for landscape, the XF16 is performing well just like any other Fujinon lens. The only let down is probably the loss of flexibility of the zoom range from the XF10-24, and ironically, the distortion from the XF10-24 itself which can sometimes be quite useful to exaggerate your foreground to create more impact on your landscape shot. For now, I still don’t see this lens to be able able to replace my trust worthy workhorse XF10-24 for my landscaping work. But this lens does resulted my XF23 being stored in my camera bag throughout the trip, which is something to be pondered about.
So should you get this lens? I can’t give you an answer of yes or no, but I hope my user experience above will be helpful foR you to make your decision easier. If you want to go wide with fast aperture and on a budget, do take a look at the other offerings such as XF14mm F2.8 R and XF18mm F2 R. The Zeiss 12mm F2.8 is another good option if you managed to snatch a good deal for used lens. As of now, I will not get this lens yet. I’m tempted to test out the XF16-55mm F2.8 R WR and see how  it performs as compared to the XF16. Till then, I’ll continue to shoot with my XF10-24 for my landscape work and XF23 for my daily and streets work.