imagesHaji Lane, Singapore.

I spent most of 2014 out of Singapore, country hopping and wandering down new and old streets. Over this time it’s occurred to me more than once that I’ve not done my own country the same justice I have others – never bothered to see it as more than just a landing point, a home, instead of a place beautiful in its own right – and subsequently, ever since coming back to Singapore I’ve been adopting a more objective (this weather is still terrible!) and equitable (what a lovely country!) lens when out and about.

In any case, my old girlfriend Georgina was visiting from New York, and it seemed the perfect time to bring out the Nikon D610 on a photowalk along what is debatably one of Singapore’s most photogenic streets while showing her around and introducing her to my friends here.

The Nikon D610 is an old friend – I’ve used it throughout my grand New Zealand road trip in December, giving me time to get used to the camera. It seems I can never take a bad photo with it, everything turns out extraordinarily crisp and vibrant, and the camera itself is delightfully fast. It is also incredibly stable – which puts me to ease, handing the camera over to random passerbys for group shots: I always worry that the photos will turn out blur if I’m not there to handle the camera personally, possibly the result of my mild OCD.


Nikon D610 on a AF-S NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8G ED lens
ISO 100, f/5.0, Shutter speed 1/60

We started off by trying to hit up Elffin and Elffin, an art gallery cafe, which for all intents and purposes should have gone peachy since it was listed as OPEN TODAY! on google, Facebook, and their website. This goes to show that the internet does not know everything. After ten minutes of loitering outside their gates, the girl from the shop next door came out and demanded to know what we were doing there told us they haven’t been open for awhile.

Still, we got a photo. To prove that we tried.

No matter – the Haji area is nothing if not full of cafes. My personal favourite is the illustrious Wonderland cafe, but I have always wanted to try Stateland Cafe’s ice cream toast, so undaunted by the non-existence of our first cafe attempt, we hopped over a street to Bali lane.


Nikon D610 on a AF-S NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8G ED lens
Indoor photography: ISO 500, f/2.5, Shutter speed 1/25

I just adore the bokeh effect you get on the 35mm lens. I’ve been using the 50mm prime lens my whole life, but it’s very close up so you have less flexibility with it. With the 35mm I feel like it just hits the sweet spot between range and clarity, and I feel like I can never go back to my 50mm again.


Nikon D610 on a AF-S NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8G ED lens
ISO 500, f/2.0, Shutter speed 1/15

Stateland also owns the Honeycomb ice cream store a couple of doors down, and the staff ran out and grabbed us a soft serve on the house just so we could try it. I find myself perpetually miffed by the fact that all the honeycomb soft serves I’ve tried in Singapore beat the ones I’ve paid way too much for in Korea, where the trend apparently originated/ got popular.

Stateland Cafe
Address: 30 Bali Lane, Singapore 189866
Phone:9296 4997


Nikon D610 on a AF-S NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8G ED lens
Outdoor Outfit Photography: ISO 100, f/4.0, Shutter Speed 1/60
Taken by Martin.

Top: Eightslate | Skirt: Topshop | Belle full leather bucket bag: Sandytrove | Gold capped ballet flats: Zalora

Post brunch traipsing down Haji and being continually told how affordable our boutique shopping is here compared to in America. I listened to that refrain over and over again till I nearly left with a whole new outfit myself. Self control was only very barely implemented; I had to continually remind myself that half my outfit for the day already was new, product of giving over to my shopping impulses or otherwise – I’d gone a little overboard at the Topshop sale the day before and splurged on this gorgeous camel midi skirt. Perfect, I’d told myself, for going with my new black bucket bag.

Of course, I was making excuses for myself. Everything goes with the perfection that is this bag; I’ve been dreaming about it since I was fifteen.


Nikon D610 on a AF-S NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8G ED lens
Outdoor photography: ISO 100, f/5.6, Shutter speed 1/80.
From left: Georgina, Shane, Me, Martin, Warren.

Haji is very much a photo taking opportunity at every corner – each shop front is a canvas for expression, and the resulting cluster of coloured shophouses is collectively the nearest we will get to an italian neighbourhood here in Singapore, I believe. Still, the most iconic, jaw-dropping, show-stopping, human traffic hold-up is arguably the wall art bookmarking the streets. Virtually every hipster tourist has an instagram photo with these walls, and Georgina would be no different.

(You see what I mean about group shots turning out reassuringly focused, even when taken by random passerbys? That’s the stabilising function on the Nikon D610 talking, my friends.)


Nikon D610 on a AF-S NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8G ED lens
ISO100, f5.0, Shutter speed 1/100

I think the boys did it better, no?

After the boys served their function (ie. being brunch company), they left to do whatever it is boys do on a lazy weekday afternoon and Georgina and I continued boutique shopping, with her perpetually going This would have cost 200 dollars back in America! and myself going Goodness, I want to go to America. If she looks different in the photos below, it’s because she bought a whole new outfit on the spot and not because we went out on a separate day and I didn’t bother to change, thank you very much.

Unfortunately, with the weather being what it is in Singapore, the one day we tried threading our way through the outdoor shops was the one day it decided to storm down on all of us. And I do mean storm. We ran into another one of my college friends who was also bringing a backpacker from Germany around (i know! Guten tag!) so we decided to do as the Germans do and head to a bar at 4pm.


Nikon D610 on a AF-S NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8G ED lens
Indoor, side lit photography: ISO 250, f/1.8, Shutter speed 1/8
From left: Georgina, Me, Dominic, Julianne

Bar stories! I adore Bar Stories. Let me tell you about Bar stories. Instead of a traditional menu like most places do, the bartender asks you a series of questions about your personality/mood and then crafts you a drink he thinks you’ll like. All drinks range 20-25 dollars. The first time I visited the place, over two years ago, I was a sweet little thing with no idea what a cruel place the world was. I got a cotton candy pink cocktail infused with strawberry ice. This time round, I got this:


Nikon D610 on a AF-S NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8G ED lens
Close up, indoor photography: ISO100, f/2.0, Shutter speed 1/15

I have no idea what it is because the bartender made it up on the spot, but I do believe that’s rosemary on flames up there. The drink itself was a citrusy wonder. I loved it.

We went one round around the table and concluded that Dominic got the best drink though – this gold speckled concoction with hazelnut, a dash of peanut butter, and various other things they refused to identify for us. Trade secret, they said. Feh. Still, bar stories remains one of my favourite bars in Singapore to date for it’s gorgeous setting, incredibly warm bartender, and surprise drinks.

Bar Stories
Address: 57A Haji Lane, Singapore 189250
Phone:6298 0838
Hours: 4:00 pm – 2:00 am

We stayed there, kept hostage by the rain, and exchanged travel stories for a good two hours. I got to practice my (shamefully) inadequate German. Was möchten Sie trinket? and all that. It was lovely.


Nikon D610 on a AF-S NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8G ED lens
Indoor portraiture photography: ISO320, f/1.8, Shutter speed 1/60

After the rain had finally let up, we parted ways, made plans for introducing the internationals to our local concept of midnight dim sum in the future, and continued roaming around the area for a little while before nightfall. Haji at night is a whole different story – but one for another day.

One day in the not so hidden gem that is Haji – a lot of laughs, good conversation, and a gorgeous set of photos to remember it by. Not bad for a day out, as far as I’m concerned.

All photos in this post were taken with the Nikon D610, on an AF-S NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8G ED lens, and post processed in Adobe Lightroom 3.


*This post is written as part of a series of travel photography articles for Nikon Singapore and originally appeared on Hop over to Nikon Singapore for more!