Before heading to Singapore I did lots of research on possible photo opportunities as I planned to spend as much time as possible with my camera stuck to my eye! This research was mostly conducted through the internet and a convenient little travel app I subscribe too called TRVL – this app is actually billed as a photography app, but there is lots of useful information too, most of which you just don’t find in the usual guides.
While reading through this article I came across two photographs that really appealed to me, in fact, they appealed to such an extent that I wanted to try and reproduce both of them if the opportunity arose. The first image was of the Marina Bay Sands Resort Hotel, where each night a laser show takes place, lasting for around 15-minutes. I was not able to copy the image in the article, but I found something similar on the Internet:
I knew this would be a challenging shot to take as not only would I have to find a good spot to take my photos, but I would also have to really think about my camera settings. I did not have a tripod with me, so I knew that I would need to handhold my camera, and letting as much light as possible enter my sensor would be key to getting it right, especially as camera shake was going to be an obvious issue. I had watched a video about photographing fireworks before heading to Singapore, as I thought this would help me with the light issue, but of course everything I learnt here was forgotten and I basically went off on my own merry way to take these images.
Of the ten shots I took, only one came out well enough to share, although there are still issues surrounding this image:
As you can see, the shot is very orange, which is due to the length of my shutter speed (being one second in duration); my choice of white balance, which was set on sunny and the use of a very high ISO (set to 1,000); so the image was actually over saturated with light and full of clipped highlights. But by opening the shutter for that one second, I was able to pick up the lasers from the top of the hotel, which are quiet prominent against the cloudy sky – a good thing, and even though at first glance this image looks clear, if you look closely and zoom in a little, there is blur present – a bad thing. All of that said, I am still pleased with the photo and pleased to think that I was able replicate (up to a point) the original image I saw in the magazine.
To see if I could make this photo look better, I opened the RAW file in Photoshop and had a little play, nothing major, but I put into play a few of the procedures I have been learning over the past few weeks; the result can be seen below:
This is a far more pleasing image to look at, and a much better representation of what I saw when setting up the shot. To achieve this I made the following changes:
Firstly in Adobe Bridge I recovered the clipped highlights as best I could, and then changed the WB to Auto. In Photoshop, using the histogram, I lightened the levels slider a fraction and then darkened the exposure to bring everything back to an even keel. I then conducted a small crop on both the left and right side of the frame to bring the hotel slightly off centre, which in my mind makes the photo look more balanced. Even though I initially liked the original photo, I like this ‘newer’ version better as it is clearer than the original and more pleasing to the eye.
Feeling confident in my newfound abilities, I decided to take another shot, this time of a street scene outside of a food market called Lau Pa Sat, which is very popular with both the locals and travellers alike.
As with the image before it, this original photo is very bright and very orange, but I love the feeling of speed here and the way the vehicles have left ghost images, imbedded in the shot. Even though this is a very bright photo, I have been able to keep things quiet clear as you can easily read the road signs and the building names in the distance. Seeing what I was able to achieve with the previous photo, I again played with this image to see what I could come up with and to make the following photograph.
Using the exact same process as in the previous photo, I have managed to bring the colours back in line with those seen when setting up the photo, and by doing this it has provided more clarity within the image, defining the vehicles and making the ‘ghosts’ appear brighter and more defined. Again, I really liked the original shot, but I prefer this new image, as it is both cleaner and brighter.
The other images that really stood out to me were those taken inside the food market and included street scenes of people both cooking and enjoying their food, and I had a real urge to replicate this.
This is such a great image that has an exciting feel about it. This feels very raw to me and highlights a side of how people live and exist in the world. What makes this photo more prominent in my mind is the fact that I have been there, seen the people, eaten the food and loved the experience.
Moving on from this, I took a bunch of photos, of which I like the following three:
The colours are a little off in this image as everything has an orange feel about it (much the same as the previous images I took), but I did not make any changes to this in Photoshop. I did however recover the clipped highlights, which were present in the flames and lights, and by moving the histogram levels slightly; I have managed to brighten things a little. I have also made a small crop in the left of the frame, as there was lots of background information that was not relevant to the final image.
My favorite thing about this shot is the movement that has been captured in the fan – my husband thinks this looks very ‘national geographic’. Due to the slow shutter speed and the movement of the cooks, the only part of this image that is in clear focus are the sticks of satay, but I am happy with that as this is the main subject of the photo anyway and the slight miss-focus around the edges gives the image an added sense of reality.
There is little manipulation to this photo; again I have had to recover the clipped highlights 100%, especially around the lights, which still looked a little blown, but this adds a little extra charm. I have also lightened the area around the cooking station a little to highlight the smoke and flames, finally I cropped just a fraction either side of the men, again to take out the background information that was not relevant to the shot.
In my final image I moved a couple of steps closer and zoomed in a little closer on the cooks, enabling us to see what is going on in more detail.
As with the previous two vendor images, I have made only small tweaks to the RAW files just so that the lights are a little duller and the food a little brighter.
The longer focal length has helped to compress this image, throwing the background out of focus a little, which helps to highlight the foreground more.
When looking a photos like this, I am often left wondering what these guys talk about while they cook, and what their lives outside of their hawker station is like – I suppose that is the beauty of street photography, you should always left with a hundred question you will never know the answer too …
I was really pleased that I was able to replicate my two inspiration images whilst I was away, and I am really happy with the way my camera handled these three completely different types of challenges. It seems to have been able to perform well in low light situations and now that I have had decent results with this kind of photography, I am looking forward to trying this out again.
dts Lighting. (n.d.) Grand Opening of the Marina Bay Sands Resort, Singapore [Online Image]. Multimedia Gallery. Available at: <http://www.dts-lighting.it/MARINA_BAY_SANDS> [Accessed 13 May 2013].
Franken, E.A. (2013) Lau Pa Sat Hawker Stands [online image]. TRVL App. Available from iTunes.
Franken, E.A., et al. (2013) Singapore – Urban Layers. TRVL. [Online publication/app]. Available from iTunes [Accessed April/May 2013].
Browne, M. (n.d.) Photographing Fireworks [online video]. Picture This (Imaging) Ltd. Available from: <http://www.photographycourses.biz/photographing_fireworks.html> [Accessed 3 May 2013].
Brown, M. (n.d.) How to Photograph Fireworks [online video]. Picture This (Imaging) Ltd. Available from: <http://www.photographycourses.biz/how_to_photograph_fireworks.html> [Accessed 3 May 2013].