On April 1st 2020, the Malaysian Movement Control Order was extended and security tightened. The private Sutera Harbour Marina and Country Club estate, which spans approximately 1.6 square kilometers, employs 100 security personnel to manage the marina, golf course and private residences on this reclaimed land.
This is my second one-hour photography project during lockdown in which I give myself 60 minutes to play with an old legacy lens on my Sony A7iii (you can find my first one by clicking here). This time the lens was a Canon FD 85 f/1.4.
I’d been waiting some weeks for this delivery, which came all the way from Sweden, and arrived a few days ago after sitting at the local DHL office for a week. 85mm is considered by many as the perfect portrait focal length, but I bought this particular model because it has been modified to a cine lens. That is, the focus wheel has been adapted to a standard cine 0.8 gear pitch and the aperture wheel has been declicked. Of course the 1.4 aperture produces extremely shallow depth of field too, so this project was as much about trying to nail very shallow depth of field, manually, on moving objects. All images are shot in raw, not jpg, and therefore require processing. I kept this to a minimum using auto settings only. None of the images are cropped.
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I guess our one hour wander should start with Roslan, who’s one of many security who sit at the top of the small boats pontoon. This is the only gate with continued 24 hour security within the marina complex itself. Roslan is a real character.
Whilst he may share a joke with the yachties he takes his job seriously and you’d be forgiven for thinking he has a military background. Surely only trained personnel could keep their uniform this well pressed inside a hot cabin with no fan or AC!
As we walk through the car park and out of the marina complex we’d normally see another station manned by security, allowing traffic in and out. Sometimes, just for fun, the barrier was opened for us cyclists, which was completely unecessary as we could cycle round it, but the game of us ringing our bells and security opening the barrier kept us all amused. We can’t play that game any more as the building now sits empty. The gate remains open for cars exiting but the entrance is blocked off.
The three main stations around the marina are empty because security is now controlled at the main gate. This is the only entrance into the entire estate and it sits between the golf course on top of a small hill decorated with bougainvillea.
Before the lockdown this station was manned by ‘normal’ security but now that this serves as the only entrance, auxiliary police are employed.
The staff here work eight hour shifts, with a sixteen hour break in between. Under a blue gazeebo is a table with hand sanitiser and a clocking-in ledger.
This afternoon Al-Gaddafi is armed with the 25mm.
Al-Gaddafi comes to work on his bike, which is an hour’s drive away. He stands by the station where his job is to operate the barrier.
His colleague Hadzrul is on duty taking people’s temperatures.
This afternoon they are accompanied by Salim, who heads up security for this sector.
This police security arrangement is an unusual concept for me coming from the UK. Hadzrul and Al-Gaddafi are employed as security by the marina, but they have been formally trained by the police. Thirty five of the 100 security have received police training and are therefore auxiliary police with a license to carry arms.
Between them, Salim and Hadzrule take it in turns to check each person’s temperature.
Salim makes a point of showing the drivers their temperature before indicating to Al-Gaddafi to open the barrier.
Despite the movement control order I was surprised by the amount of traffic that passed through this check point in the half hour I was there.
Of course the marina and the hotels still require maintenance and at the far end of the complex is a large, private housing estate, so most of these vehicles were staff or residents.
One of the cars I shot belonged to a high-ranking police officer. After being photographed he pulled over and approached me for a chat. He wasn’t in the least bit bothered by my presence or the camera. He was more concerned about whether I was in the country legally and that I had undertaken the usual immigration protocol upon entry.
This was my first time using this lens and I forgot to take the lens hood, which meant some angles introduced a bit of unwanted flare. Overall, however, the 85mm produced some great results, even shot wide open, with minimal vignetting. I’m sure I could have further improved each photograph in Photoshop but that wasn’t part of the exercise.
In an ideal world I would have shot an hour or two later in the day, but I’d arranged to photograph these guys earlier and they clocked off at four, so all photos were taken around 3.30pm. I found the exercise fun but sweaty as I kept my mask on throughout the project. These guys stand in the sun for eight hours but at least they have a fan plugged in for a bit of relief.
The lens was a new experience with the declicked aperture and larger focus wheel and was quite comfortable to use. IQ is pretty spot on with edge-to-edge sharpness when closed down and no noticable chromatic aberation. My only issue with Canon FD lenses is the breech-mount lock mechanism. I found I was grabbing that instead of the aperture ring. Since both turn smoothly I couldn’t tell which was which with the camera to my eye, but I guess that’s just practice.
My plan now is to get hold of the Takumar 85mm f/1.4 and compare these two lenses. I suspect that the Takumar will be sharper but cooler. Even these old FD lenses have that desirable Canon look. Whatever, in the current climate it’s going to be a while before I get hold of one so in the meantime I look forward to more shallow depth of field fun with the Canon.
With thanks to Rick Blackie, general manager of Sutera Harbour Marina and Country Club, for giving me permission to photograph his security.
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