An owners review: Samyang AF 14mm F/2.8 FE lens

I’ve had some time with this lens, around 3 months now, so here are some of my takes from living with this ultra wide piece of glass:

It has the same sturdy black metal construction I’ve come to expect from Samyang.

N-7776301

It has become one of the 3 lenses that go everywhere with me, which says a lot.

The Samyang 14mm F/2.8 FE was one of the only two lenses I took around Sri Lanka, hiking, backpacking and catching public transport. As expected, most of the trip was captured at 35mm (probably the best street photography focal length), but some of my best shots were definitely on this wider lens.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Composing at 14mm has been a new skill to learn, there’s a definite challenge in the distorted reality, and certainly a lot more frame to fill.

N-7779457

For those like me who are new to the ultra wide world, it’s really eye opening.

I’d call it an absolute necessity for landscapes, and a useful tool for creative portrait shots.

N-5550733

N-5555068N-5555592N-7776120N-7776124

N-7775963

At this stage this may be the best ultra wide angle lens available for Sony FE, it’s certainly in the running.

Sri Lanka 2018 – Days 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Another early morning trip, this time to board the train to Kandy, we were treated to watching another beautiful sunrise.

_5552096.jpg

_5552100

Some took the opportunity to catch up on sleep.

_5552098-2

I had a long conversation with a monk on the train, who gave me his poetry as a gift, I need to get it translated.

_5552105-2

Kandy

Kandy was the last capital of the ancient kings’ era of Sri Lanka, and there is a lot of culture and history visible here.

_5552106

For a very reasonable price I checked into a hotel and settled into editing for the day, this was my view from the balcony (or my office).

_5552109

As well as my favourite feature, an open shower with the same incredible view.

I also walked into town and went shopping, finding a 6 story bookshop! Not my brightest moment, as I filled my bag with a lot more weight, but I did end up with some brilliant reads.

I set out before dawn hoping for a hike, unfortunately this was lost in translation to the Tuk Tuk driver I booked, who drove me to the top of a lookout over Kandy. Not a bad view though.

_5552115

Wanting a walk, I decided to journey back to town, and then explored the streets as the city was awakening.

By the way, new food favourite – Coconut Roti, perfect for breakfast.

I caught an AC (air conditioned) bus back to Colombo, wanting to be near the airport for my trip home, and squeeze in as much volleyball and relaxation as possible.

Luckily some kind locals on the bus helped me transition to the Negombo bus, and I checked in to another very cheap hotel right on the beach.

It was not as close to the volleyball courts as I was hoping, but the pool was wonderful on those hot days, and a walk down the beach is nothing to complain about.

The first walk down I  found a group of locals playing volleyball!

Some of them were really good, but I managed to prove myself enough to be invited back on the next two days!

In the morning I walked the length of the touristy street looking for a place with local prices and food, finding the Sea Joy, what a find too, string hoppers and I were reunited at last. (The next morning was another coconut roti)

It also had a nice view for street photography.

I was lucky to meet Milroy, a Tuk Tuk driver who wasn’t out to scam me. He drove me around to buy a volleyball, drink faluda, and see some special sights around town.

He even invited me to his place to meet his family, it was really nice. His wife can sure cook (Milroy helps out at home when his work is less hectic).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The next night at volleyball I learned why I thought the locals were so good, one was from the Sri Lankan national beach team! He schooled me that night without even using any powerful hits, which is impressive.

He was also really cool and we had beers, hung out, and also met his family who were great.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I was pretty ready to be home and see my friends and dog again by this point, especially because one of the resident dogs really looked like my Percy!

I checked in to another hostel to shower and charge my devices before the midnight flight, and said goodbye to this beautiful country.

Thank you Sri Lanka, and your kind inhabitants, you made this a special experience.

_5552372.jpg

Sri Lanka 2018 – Days 6 and 7

The train

Day 6

Another train journey, I’m giving out chocolates from Australia, although my stocks are running low, chocolate is more expensive over here, so they have been very welcome!

Colombo

Back to the capital of Sri Lanka, this time to explore it properly.

So far it’s loud and very busy.

We checked in to the Hangover Hostel in Colombo, a cool place near to the water.

Followed by dinner with some of the KnowSL team at a swanky hotel. It was great to meet the team and get to know them a little.

_5551603_5551608

Day 7

A nice hostel breakfast of eggs on toast, accompanied with coffee. By now Haaziq is hooked on Vegemite, (you’re welcome mate) and I pulled out another strange Aussie food experience, the classic eggs on vegemite toast. Okay, maybe it hasn’t caught on yet, but it will, a guaranteed classic someday.

We caught our usual mode of transport, the bus, out to explore Colombo.

_5551619

First stop, the Second World War Memorial. Not many know this, but a number of Sri Lankans fought in WW2.

It warmed my heart to see the same writing that we have in Australia, and I impressed Haaziq by reciting it all without looking at the wall. Years of working at the Australian War Memorial have paid off here.

_5551631.jpg

Next we set out walking around the town.

We stopped in at a sweet shop, to try a really refreshing drink called Faluda, I found it similar to the Indonesian drink ‘Es Cendol’ (a long lost favourite of mine). It’s ice cream, milk, rose syrup and sago, and delicious!

Next we went into the markets, which were immense, spanning blocks and blocks, and teaming with energy and life.

I have been taking portraits of vulnerable people here, and paying them a small amount for each. I had also been having my doubts about this, as exploiting people is the last thing I want to do.

_5550733

However last night, I met Muhammad again (pictured above) and showed him the portrait I had taken of him, he was almost in tears he was so overjoyed, an kept repeating ‘thank you thank you’.

To have such a positive outcome from one of my favourite images from this trip has been a true golden moment. So here I share some of the others, who I hope can see these pictures someday.

We had the chance to enter the impressive Jami Ul-Alfar Mosque too, which was an interesting sight.

Two tips for catching Tuk Tuks: always agree on a price before hand, or even better, catch a meter Tuk Tuk, which has a fixed price per kilometer, much cheaper than a price you can bargain for.

_5551706.jpg

Back at Hangover Hostel, another friendly Aussie was sharing his beer, and we were lazing around on bean bags in the sun, I thought the day couldn’t get better.

I was so wrong, because Sri Lanka delivered a signature magical sunset, and we walked the short trip to the beach.

 

Haaziq and I soon had a bus to catch, and sights to see, and we left the others to their night.

_5551793

I have a lot to show, and a swim waiting for me at the moment, so here is a gallery from our trip into Colombo at night.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Sri Lanka 2018 – Days 4, 5, 6 – Find Your Freedom

Ella

We continue from day 4 where we left Little Adams Peak.
Being a photo blog, my accompanying images are usually edited during the day between attractions, so there will of course be overlap.

We caught a bus down the mountain to Ravana Falls, Ella translates to waterfall, and this is THE waterfall. Heavy rainfall meant that scaling the waterfall was off the cards, but we could certainly get up close and waterfall with this enormous natural wonder.

There were small shops and merchants along the road leading to the waterfall too.

_5551348.jpg

We made our way back to Hangover Hostel to recuperate.

_5551356

Later it was time to sample Ella’s nightlife.

At the recommendation of a KnowSL fan we tried a place called 360 Ella, it was really nice, with a good food selection and live music, we stayed far too late!

Day 5

We paid the price for our late night, when waking up long before dawn to climb Ella Rock, a steep mountain overlooking the town and surrounds.

For this walk we had a driver / guide for the walk, Michael. 


After getting us as close to the mountain as possible, Michael set a blistering pace.

We first walked along the train tracks, navigating the sleepers, then through tea fields, and past a temple where the chanting gave us a tune for our walk.

The terrain soon became slippery, and steep. Heavy rainfall the previous night had turned rock and mud path treacherous. The dark did not help at all.

I may have lost my Aussie Mountain Goat title (dubbed from the previous days rock climbing), because I was the one lagging far behind on this mountain. I struggled with the pace and was soon breathless and sweat soaked.

It felt like I hit my second wind near the bottom and the rest was trudging along, working to get one foot in front of the other and stay moving, light was creeping through the trees and we wanted to be at the peak before the sun.

Somehow we made it, with mere minutes to spare. Impossibly there were already relaxed hikers waiting, with dogs! These dogs hang around the base of the mountain and actually lead people to the top where they nap in the sun.


We caught the sunrise.
_5551410-HDR
_5551409

And spent some time letting that pure gold sink in.

Descending, we made a new friend.

_5551446.jpg

A group of tourists were shooing a guide dog away, thinking it lost and trying to send it home.
We happily took it on.

_5551434_5551441

The walk down was really pretty in the morning light too.

_5551452-HDR.jpg
_5551481.jpg

More friends.

_5551448
Can you see it?

_5551455_5551470

Halfway back on the railroad, a seller had set up a stall with fresh King Coconuts, few things have tasted sweeter in life.

_5551472

The rest of the day was writing and editing, with a last night in Ella. seeing some lovely misty rain.

Day 6

Another early morning train, this time with a farewell to Ella, and heading for Colombo, the capital.

Sri Lanka 2018 Days – 2, 3, 4

Day 2 – Traditional food and the national sport

We had a great start in the form of a traditional string hopper breakfast provided by our hostel, we stayed around our rooms washing clothes, playing Carrom with the other backpackers, and watching cricket with our hosts.

String hoppers are clumps of rice noodles, which you can put dhal, curry and boiled eggs on top of, then mash it around with your fingers and eat it by hand, only the right hand of course!


We also visited a local eatery for lunch, and enjoyed some authentic egg fried rice.

_5550627.jpg

For the afternoon we made our way to the beach, where my day became made, and my love for Sri Lanka solidified – Beach volleyball!

Haaziq photographed while I played, dressed impractically, but hey, another bloke was in jeans!

4 glorious sets later, I was exhilarated, but parched, did you know Sri Lanka is a little on the warm side?  A local selling trinkets along the beach approached me with the usual “hello sir” shaking his bag of wares. I’m not very interested in filling my bag at the start of the trip, so I declined, but did ask if I could pay to take his portrait, he had an interesting face.

_5550733

The missing piece for our Negombo assignment was nightlife, perfect, I was in dire need of a drink. We headed for Lewis street, the tourist area of Negombo.

We tried out a couple of bars, including Lords, which had a lot of culture.

Then we went on to the Rodeo bar, where locals and expats, as well as the many visitors were clustered around televisions showing the football. I asked one of the nearby groups who would win, and they confidently replied with Chelsea, it was looking pretty grim as they ended up trailing 1-2, but right at the end managed to tie it, to raucous cheers from the watchers.

We have also been taking recommendations from fans of the KnowSL blog, and to fulfill this, we went into the back streets searching for the Tuk Tuk Wine and Dine.

It was worth the trip, with great food and a nice feel to the place.

Our night journey was soon cut short by torrential rains!

It’s not even the wet season, but it sure felt like it to us. By the time we got back to the hostel we were wiped, and had a 4am wake up planned, to be able to make the train to our next location.

_5550989.jpg

Day 3 – The train to Ella

4:30am.

A taxi takes us to the train station in Colombo.

The cafeteria sells my new favourite Sri Lankan food, vegetable roti, it’s roti bread folded into a triangle, around a potato curry center. They are sold on streets everywhere, and I made two of them my breakfast.

We walked the train station, taking in the sights.

Sun rose while we were on the move, and ended up setting while on the train too.

The windows were all open, and most people waved a hand out the window, or leaned out entirely, it was a great experience to feel the wind and the world rushing by.

I saw incredibly innovative caterers on the train too, they would board with hot food fresh from the wok, and disembark later to be replaced by a fresh seller with more food.

There were several hours of delay too, while the track was repaired, but it wasn’t so bad, it’s all part of the experience.

Something that brought a beaming smile to my face each time was the way everyone would shriek when the train went through a tunnel, it would echo off the close walls, through the open windows, and many people would answer the wailing calls, it was something else.

The train to Ella goes through the highest station in Sri Lanka, and passes above many clouds.

Ella had been talked about a lot by backpackers in Negombo,  so we were keen to see what was in store, we checked in and quickly went out to stretch our legs, encountering a pleasant street, catered to the many who travel to the area.

Traditional food and street vendors vie for position with trendy bars, and hostels are everywhere.

We had a popular street meal of kottu roti, which is roti bread cut into noodlesque strips, and mixed in with vegetables and chili.

A small walk found a bar with cold beer waiting, is it a positive or negative that beer only comes in large bottles? I’m not the type to complain.

_5551209.jpg

Day 4 – Ella

Birds and insects provide a soothing morning song, and our view only adds to this pleasant effect.

Breakfast provided by the hostel was a tasty feed of scrambled eggs on toast, we would need the energy.

_5551219

Still stiff from the long train journey we set out walking, destination: Little Adams Peak.

Regular Adams Peak was closed due to heavy rainfall, but our replacement mountain was hardly disappointing. Word to the wise, the directions send you right at the gate, if you’re there you’ll know the one I mean. Take the left, they mean the next gate!

We did not know this.

Faced with the challenge my stubborn nature took over, and I ended up rock climbing to meet up with the correct trail, Haaziq was more sensible, and not in the footwear to climb, so we reconvened near the top.

Small Adams Peak brought spectacular views of the surrounding countryside, and it had so much more to offer, with tracks leading to other peaks.

We explored them, including this final one, with views that span from near the centre of Sri Lanka, all the way to the sea. Today there was too much cloud to see the water, but it’s easy to believe from the vast landscape stretching further than the eye can see.

_5551324.jpg

The walk back was exhausting, with the sun starting to beat down on us, and around 2 hours of hiking and climbing now behind our boots. We stopped for a King Coconut juice fresh on the trail side, and I made a new friend.

 

_5551328