Photo Walk at National Gallery Singapore

The local weather has gradually turned hot after weeks of cloudy day and occasionally rainfall in the afternoon. I feel absolute rejuvenation to have the sunshine. Getting a good sweat out with much walking and exploring. It seems like a really long time. But I had a very enjoyable feeling to be able to bring my camera out for a good daylight street shoot on architectural and anything in general that caught my eye.

I have been browsing a book that wrote about architectural photography. The book compiles some very well established architecture photographers from the 19 century till today. I was blown away by their work of portraying architecture pictures. In term of composition, i learned a lot from the picture.

I wanted to observe a few scenes that offer many layers of an element from the foreground to the depth, how do i compose it in the best way. How do i balance the scene when there are many different elements in the picture? Where is the limitation i am facing from what gear i have? Then, visualizing it, before using the camera to capture it. Is part of a self-training to keep improving, learn to see a slightly more complicated scene on a deeper level.

My photo walks took place at National Gallery Singapore. My equipment for the day is the Canon 5D Mk III, a 16-35mm and a 70-200 f/4.

I was taking pictures in color, especially the sky was blue in hue, makes me more excited. The light and shadow can be clearly defined through proper observation. As i was browsing through all the pictures in Lightroom. I decided to covert the colors images to monochrome effect to share with everybody.  Then perhaps you can understand why i decided to convert into black and white?

Enjoy the pictures.

 

Interior architecture in black and white

When taking pictures in this low light condition. I don’t have a tripod, and usually such public place no tripod is allowed. I had to use a slightly higher ISO to compensate for the slow shutter speed. The second picture i was not afraid to rest my camera on the available space. It straight away corrected the perspective because it is straight. I would advise that don’t be afraid to make use of anything available to get the picture unless the security came up to say so. If not, the result will be so much better.


Maximum depth of field

Using a wide-angle lens requires a very good eye to compose the scene. Because everything will look small and far distance, or there are too many things in the picture. But wide-angle is usually the preferred choice for landscape or cityscape photography. I really like the dome architectural element to be fuse among the tall buildings.


Reflection in Photography 

Reflection is one of the most fun things to play in photography. That said, not many people will have a detail observation of the surrounding. For my case in the 3 pictures below. It would a huge mistake not to even notice it. The pictures provide a marvelous effect – some may think is a double exposure. In fact is a reflection from the glass and still water.

 


Composition

Earlier on when i took the picture of Swissôtel The Stamford. The lighting was decent to take pictures, the sky was in a blue hue, however before i leave the musuem. I saw the light was in even better condition than earlier. I make the effort to go up the roof garden again to check it out, the golden light was reflecting on one column of the building. I compose the circular building in the center, trying to fill up the frame empty space as much as possible, or “getting it close” in other words.

Photographers are battling with composition every day: Should i use a wide-angle or telephoto? Should i compose it in a rule of third or be in the center? Should i go for a high angle or low angle? Should i move back for a wider view or move forward? So many questions, yet the light won’t wait for you to get an answer.

The second picture (above) am using the rule of third technique. But anybody can easily do this kind of framing with the gears i have. I need to quickly find another way to make this scene a bit more special. Because the right side has an empty space, it would make a difference if i include another element in it. That’s why i included the plant that was planted on the roof. Rather than saying i want to create a balance. I would say is the co-share between nature and architecture design.


Light and Shadow in Architecture

Light and shadow in architecture work perfectly in black and white. It clearly defines the lines, shapes, patterns, and structural design. The play of light and shadow can evoke emotion to a certain extent. Offering a quality of aesthetic in a still form. The light is a concentrated source of focus. While the shadow shows a mystify, quiet and hidden potential.

Hope you like the mini gallery tour in this post.

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Raise from the East, Set in the West

The weather in Singapore has not been the friendliest for many weeks since mid-Sept 2017. I am dreading to have a good day of blue sky weather. Unfortunately, each morning is almost a full cloudy condition. The afternoon duration was basically showered with light drizzle or thunderstorm for a few hours (At least our reservoir had a good supply of water).  Then came evening, the cloud was moving very slowly, covering a large portion of the skyline. The magic hour seemed less magnificent.

4th Oct 2017

This mark the day of Mid-Autumn Festival, in the lunar calendar, is Aug 15. The moon was in perfect circular shape, the light reflected from the sun is making the moon shining ever so brightly. As time ticks, the moon made its journey to raise from the thick cloud without trouble, it was a gorgeous sight, it seems so near to me – almost touching it, yet knowing how far it can be.

I witness some families bring their kids out to have a walk – kids carrying paper lanterns, father and his kid lighting up the candles to appreciate the light moment. Is nice evening for to nibble on mooncakes or have a sip of tea. Honestly, it was less rowdy and fun as compared to the old days.

I even came across the entrance of a house was beautifully decorated, but no one was at home.

5th Oct 2017

The sky was clearer, some stubborn cloud remains. Is been a more than a week since i made a night scene image. Despite knowing the weather is going to be cloudy. I knew the moon is going to be clear once it raises high above the cloud. I made a gamble to travel up to the northern part of Singapore to take some pictures in the evening. The previous night i already did my scouting and i thought the view was a stunner.

6.25pm

I reached my first location after a quick dinner. Hastily made my way up to the first location. There was no cloudy above my head, but from far there was cloud hovering. I was surprised to see the sunset setting down in the west without any obstructive view. I quickly took out my 70-200mm to make a few frames, then decide to set up the tripod for a more consistent composition.

The sun quickly disappeared into the thick cloud that was caught in-between my framing. I thought, “if only that cloud was not there.” But hey, this situation was expected, not much of disappointment. Well, this is the fun of photography, there is a hiccup in the process – is about trying to make it happen or have a go again. The picture title, “A Dark City” came up to my mind when i was capturing it. The feel was kinda of dark because everything is backlighted. An industrial factory nearby was omitting combustion gases from the industrial chimney, for a moment i felt living in an over-polluted city for a moment. The buildings below is a development from Johor Bahru, Malaysia.

6.45pm

I need to make a decision, should i stay or should i go? Because on the other block i will need time to prepare. The type of nervous moment to make an immediate answer. My final answer is to leave immediately because that sunset view is not my priority.

I quickly wrapped it up. Dashed from one block to another. Popped out of the lift to see this amazing sight, the sun finally emerged from the thick layers of clouds, blended with a mixture of red and orange colors. The mist in the foreground continues to build up in the surrounding.

 

 

 

 

Just so good………..

 

 

 

7pm

I had set up my tripod, this is the first time setting up this position as you see in the picture (right). The purpose is to have the camera extend out a little more than the usual. I was worried that it would drop, is normal to have such feeling. I double check to ensure everything is in the right order – tighten the knob, check the whole set up is very stable before i mounted up the little black digital box.

After the camera is mounted up, i did the necessary micro adjustment for the composition. I was more eager to see how the exposure turned out, this picture (left) was the first image capture.

You can see the moon in the sky is shining so brightly. It seems like the cloud is moving towards the moon’s position. You can try doing a long exposure for a min or two to get the motion effect of the moving cloud, that also depends on how fast the cloud is moving, ND filter is recommended if you want to expose a longer period.

715pm – 725pm

The sky is beginning to turn deep blue as the sun set, i wish the cloud wasn’t a hinder that evening, not complaining as it was expected. As i said earlier i went to this location is because of the full moon. The picture (below) is my selected picture among 10 frames. Honestly, this is not my favorite picture because of the big patch of cloud in the center portion of the framing. But i may never know, this may be the best picture because if i return in future the weather may be even worse.

 Exposure: F/14, ISO400, 30 seconds

730pm

I usually stayed put after the magic hour ended. From my experience, photographers usually started to pack up. There was this once i stayed back longer and i was rewarded with a great picture beyond my expectation.

I decided to wait for the moon to surface out from the cloud again. My patience yield result. I was greeted by an even brighter moon in the sky. The surrounding clouds were very soft, many areas of the night sky were visible. I love the good balance between the foreground and background from my exposure. This was the picture (below) that i like!

The entire photo shoot ended after 830pm. Landscape/cityscape photography can be rather busy because of the fun finding a good balance of exposure and micro adjustment, the 2 hours may seem like a very long time, but it was a whizzed to me.

7th Oct 2017

The sun never seems to shine lately. If i did not wake up at 4.30am for an intense workout. I may not have seen this glorious view.

Morning light passing through the foliage, if not for the low temperature and the dew in the air, this would have never been seen.

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Improving my old pictures through photo editing

Photography is a skill that requires many years of practice to improve the visual art, or even a lifetime to master the art of seeing. The art of seeing is the most important factor to master in photography, rather than the type of medium one is using to take pictures.

Editing has become a very important work process after i had finished my photo assignment. Uploading the pictures into the computer. I am relaxing in my environment, able to have a clear view on how my pictures are like in detail on a large screen.

Recently i was browsing at the Hong Kong images i capture in 2009. Oh yeah, it has been a really long time. I realize many of the pictures weren’t to my standard anymore. However, i see the hidden potential to improve my old pictures through better photo editing skills that i learned over the years – with the help of Lightroom, a brilliant software to make digital photography editing easier. More importantly, i am able to see how to make my old pictures look even better than before.

The following will be a series of pictures that i have made an improvement using Lightroom only. I am going to highlight some images of the before and after, sharing some technical editing process on how and why i adjusted it.

BeforeAfterI dislikes how the lines were converging. So i adjusted the scene to be more properly vertical. Is more pleasing to the eyes as well.

BeforeAfter
Major distortion in this Hong Kong styled old building picture. Despite making the vertical adjustment, the top of the building was cut off. Keeping the building straight is my way of photography in the last few years. The original colors were pale, so i improve the colors saturation in minimum. The decision to edit this image is because of the unique facade. This was also the first building i capture in Hong Kong

BeforeAfterImproving on the contrast, saturation, and clarity in this image. I want to clearly see the reflection of the buildings from the tram glass panel. If this picture is printed in a bigger size, you will also be able to clearly see the tram driver too.

Before
After
Basically, i love how the red cloth and signage is placed in the picture. I like it symmetrical style that time. The picture before was not straight for my liking, i need to make an adjustment to make the scene balanced. Also, increase the contrast a bit more to make the red color more punchy

BeforeAfterTaken in the mid afternoon, the entrance to Tai O village was in shade because of the cloud coverage. Is not possible to have a balanced exposure in the front and back due to the lighting condition in the camera. The entrance was distorted and corrected. I really like this scene because of the fishing village style, and the welcome sign to invite the visitors, this is a very nice tourism touch to it.

BeforeAfterIn this scenic view of Tai O fishing village. I have adjusted the perspective, increase the blue and orange colors to make the scene a bit more eye catching, also slightly increase the shadow to see more details. Increase blue sky by +45

BeforeAfterReduced the highlight to -100 so the sky would not be flat out, as least i can see some layers of cloud. Increase the saturation a bit more to bring out the overall dull colors.

Before
After
The statues were hidden in shadow in the original picture because of the sun position. The picture was slightly distorted. Colors were pale. By increasing the shadow i am able to see more of the sculptures, the red colors is more stand out as well.

BeforeAfterAdjusted the temple entrance to be vertically straight, increase contrast and saturation. Pull out a bit more blue color from the sky as well. But if you over do it in pulling out the colors, image noise will be very obvious.

Before
After
Pull out the shadow from the under exposed area, increase yellow to bring out the shine from the sculptures. Next, i import the picture to Photoshop to fix the pagoda distortion due to the wide angle.

Before
After
Basically to make the scene a bit more saturated. Over the years i saw many beginners would edit their landscape scene in over-saturation, such result is awful and not realistic. 

BeforeAfterFor this night scene, i was using a wide angle of 24mm to take picture of Victoria Harbor, but it was distorted, the horizon was slanted, i lose a bit of sharpness due to the strong wind for the season. Vertical perspective was shifted, rotate the scene to make the horizon straight. Increase sharpness and reduce noise. I also increase a bit of saturation to make it more vibrant.

In order to improve your editing in photography, not only you have to shoot in the subject that you are passionate in. You also need to practice the editing as many times as possible till you are so good at it. It would be great to invest in a good monitor for your picture editing if you do not have one.

I also provide photo editing service to turn your not-so-fantastic picture into a good one, provided i see there is the potential to do it.

If you are not sure whether are you doing it correctly? Or you need help with your old travel pictures editing. You can always drop me an email for advice.

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Winning architecture photo competition in Singapore

Am extremely humble to be one of the many winners of SkyVille@Dawson photo compeition organized by WOHA. I never thought i would have win anything, my objective was to document some really fantastic pictures from various angles and lighting i had observed, post it up in my Instagram account and particpate in the competition.

WOHA is Singapore famous international architect firm behind the design of SkyVille@Dawson. WOHA has also designed many projects that can be seen by the public, naming a few are, Park Royal Hotel at Pickering street, School of the Arts Singapore, Stadium MRT station, Crowne Plaza Changi Airport.

Below are my three winning image and clips created by WOHA instagram. You can check out the pictures in my instagram as well.

Selected for “Most Powerful Story”

Selected for “Most Powerful Image”

Selected for “Best Photographer”

I did not study architecture for a living, my knowledge of architecture is very limited. But belt with more than 10 years of photography experience. My approach towards architecture photography was to capture the essence, in the most profound way from various angles. Spend time to study it, repitive journeys – till i have the feel to “interact” with the architecture.

There is a proverb saying “Less is more”. With one picture, relating the entire story in a single frame, it is very empowering especially in photojournalism, street photography, landscape etc. However, for architecture, there are many way to showcase the building. Using different ideas to compose it, i can opt for a symmetrical format if the design allows, using a long lens to shoot details, using a tilt shift lens to capture is amazing as seeing the building in a non converging manner etc. So you see, there is almost no dead end to it quality if one can see the possibilities out of it. A building is not just a piece of concrete block placed there for it’s usage purpose. But people living and working in it, generate useful ideas to create a better world.

Singapore Industrial Photographer’s assignment on site

I was approached by Jason Marine Limited in Singapore to execute an on site industrial photo-shoot. My client’s idea is to show their engineer working on the field. The purpose is for the cover of Singapore Marine Offshore Oil & Gas Directory 2014. I even sit down with the chairman to discuss about it, as it is really important for the company, the pressure is on!

After listening and understanding the client’s requirement, with a few questions throw back. Next step is to quickly determine the date and location. Initially it was planned to do it overseas. But the timing of the execution and delivery of images was closed to due date of submission. Not forgetting the logistics and traveling time through and fro. In the end it was arranged locally.

The challenge is client’s wants me to execute the shoot on the pre-determined date. Hence, it gives me no time to scout the place for potential shooting sites. Secondly, there is no art director for input. I will be required to generate my own experience to do the art direction, follow by actual photography. Very busy man i was on that day!

You might be thinking, if there is no time to scout the place for potential photography sites (in this case is on a ship), how would i actually determine where to shoot? Is important to have a pre visualisation for potential background. It is the basic and most important factor to start. I start clicking my camera if i noticed a scene that is potential, rather than walking around the ship to pre-determine the various locations. For this assignment, i started to arrange the engineers when we stepped on board. Telling them clearly exactly what i wanted.

Playing with various angle and composition on deck for the first batch of images.

I always enter into the work site without any expectation. Not expecting the place to be spotless clean since is an industrial shoot. I don’t expect the weather to be friendly as weather here in Singapore is usually sunny, average temperature is 30°, my wear will be soaked if staying out for a prolong duration. Plus, industrial photographer must gear up in industrial clothing for safety purposes like many others working on board, everyone takes safety very seriously here in Singapore.

Inside the cockpit where the engineers check on their equipment.

Luckily the engineers were not stiff, i arrange them in a working manner so they are more comfortable, i don’t think is right to request them to pose like a model, since they are not, and it doesn’t work for what client had in mind. Anyway the two engineers were fantastic to work with! I have to emphasise again that is it important to work towards the client’s objective. It is a bonus sometimes to be more creative during the process. For this assignment i totally love it. Check out the various creative composition below.

At the bow for more pictures.

The client is not on site with me during the shoot, an experienced photographer normally have the initiative to capture more images. More images is better in this case for the client to choose. After the shoot is wrapped, client would love to see the initially batch of images soonest. I quickly uploaded more than 300 low res images onto my website for client download or viewing. Vetting is done by their management, follow up with the final edit of the selected image. Upload high res image onto my website for client to download again. This saves me productivity time to go to their office for discussion and back to editing table.

Final image

If you have notice a similarity in all my images, i focus on my client’s company logo. Hope readers who read this have a rough idea what life out there for an industrial photographer. If you have any question do drop me a message.

Composition technique

I always wanted to share my thoughts on composition technique. This objective is to share with you what i saw in order to capture that golden frame i had visualised.

I was traveling solo in Kathmandu, Nepal in 2012. It was my virgin trip to this very unique country. Where it is famously known for Mount Everest for the climbers. Many tourists visited the country for trekking/hiking purposes, admiring the stunning landscape our earth offer. My goal was to do travel photography. Exploring the capital, visit several UNSECO sites, soaked into local culture, food and shoot stunning images for my Asia travel stock library for sales.

Here i was wandering around Patan Durbar Square, situated at the site of Lalitpur City.

I came across this street in Patan Durbar Square, Nepal. I had instantly visualized how i want to fill the frame. Because it was fascinating to observe the different type of doors and windows, how it were design and structure. First thought was to compose the scene tightly so the viewers can study the entire space comfortably.

1. Compose in a “leading line” format where the side of the building leads you to the background details.

2. Breaks off from the rule-of-third. Divided into 3 vertical sections to study different elements, hence each element is treated equally.

3. The only element missing is a moment (my personal style). Example, a person walking across the street. I looked around to see was there anyone going to walk across my frame. Fortunately a man riding his bicycle was coming from my back. I quickly start snapping to capture that moment i wanted.

And now my picture is finally completed in this sense. Hope you like my write up.

Composition tip #1

Robert Capa once said, “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.” This statement to me weighs a lot of importance, a good picture, or a poor picture does depend how close one can get close.

In event such as seminar, conference, sport photography, Photographer is require to get a close up image of the person expression or the athletics in action. It create an visual impact for the viewer, understanding and feeling the person emotion or the dedication and explosiveness of their body of the athletics.

For street photography, beginners and some most amateurs i observe would deploy a telephoto lenses. Secretly, sneakily to snap the moment without disturbing the subject. Hoping for the best result. A wide angle lenses would capture the entire scene, usually a landscape and cityscape.

For me, i choose the specific tool that is needed for the shoot. Even if my lenses doesn’t zoom in enough, or not wide to an extend. Usually it will not pose any problem for the professional, depending on the location and situation.

I was in Dalat, Vietam for a short holiday few weeks back. I only brought a 24mm and 50mm prime lenses. As i wanted my visit to keep it as light as possible, so it will not cause me much fatigue for my leisure trip. Yet as an Asia travel photographer, visiting a new place is always exciting. No matter what must shoot, talk about occupation hazard.

I was wandering around the Dalat Cathedral church, i spotted this scene where people making their prayer inside. I was captivated by the beautiful warm light falling through the window inside the church, the lady closest to me was wearing a green jacket. Giving it some contrast in the scene. Immediately i frame it nicely and took a shot.

Picture #1

However 1 picture is not enough, i quickly look through my review panel, instantly knew it was not a great image. I quickly move close to get a better image that already form a visualization in mind.

Picture #2

See the different? Am not really a big fan of cropping in photoshop. As much as possible everything is frame nicely through my viewfinder. I choose to move in closer to get the final picture i want. I hope the quote and my illustration help.

Hope you like what i wrote. If you have question do drop me a message. Cheers!