Category Archives: Nature & Landscapes Photography

Just scorching hot under the Sun

It’s been so long since I take to the streets for some shooting. We had a shooting outing on Saturday to cover the Brietling Air Display at Sentosa, Singapore. But as I had to be the babysitter that day, I brought along my 2 year-old…

Not sure whether anyone had tried a shooting outing with a kid this age, but trust me, my X-Pro1 spent most of its time in its pouch rather than out in the sun. Anyway, I managed to shoot a bit of the beach before the kid surrendered to the sun and signalled to me his intention to retreat back to the comfort of the car. Hence I did not cover the air display in the end…Remember! Rule No 1 for all photographers – Do Not Bring Toddlers to Shooting Excusions! So maybe next time, my dear X-Pro1…next time…

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Just finding art in nature – cloud formations

Couldn’t resist taking some photos of cloud formations while I was out yesterday. The recent weather was kinda erratic and it’s quite common to find thick fluffy clouds that has different tone colors i.e. dark clouds and white clouds. This was heaven-sent as the color contrast and 3D-ness made great subjects for dramatic photos.

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Invisible Singapore |01| On a Quest for Dragons

Singapore is known for many things but definitely not for “mundane‘ playgrounds. That’s why I was pleasantly stunned when I read that one of our playgrounds was listed as Emily Temple’s 15 amazing playgrounds in the world. For info, Emily Temple is an editor at Flavorpill, a blog affiliated to The Atlantic, covering cultural events, art, books, music, and world news. If you want to find out which 15 playgrounds she was referring to, you can check out the blog. What was so intriguing in
her listing was that she shortlisted, not one of those modern playgrounds that could be found around Singapore, but a very old playground from the eighties. That was more than 30 years ago! And I guessed many shared my relief as her unexpected nomination breathe new hope for these antique playgrounds, especially when these were on the verge of being evacuated to pave way for newer, more modernized playgrounds.

I remembered these old playgrounds with the shapes of mythical and your average creatures, such as dragons, pelicans, elephants and so on. In fact, I came from that era where I enjoyed playing on these amazing structures. Unlike today’s modern playgrounds that are equipped with everything that you could ask for, the old ones were simple and that forced us to unleash our creativity. Hence these playgrounds could sometimes be the wilderness, a pirate ship, an aeroplane, a safari – it’s all in the mind. Now that these playgrounds caught my attention again after 30+ years, it’s time to seek them out, perhaps while they…or I still stand…

I had to do quite a bit of research on these playgrounds given that there were only a few left standing. Lucky for me, Emily Temple’s article raised some buzz and there were already hyped-up enthusiasts and photographers who had wrote and took some shots. I also realized that there was a wonderful article wrote by a writer, Justin Zhuang, titled Mosaic Memories. It was a gem commissioned by the Singapore Memory Project and it detailed the history of these old playgrounds in Singapore. From his documentations, these playgrounds were designed in-house by one of the staff of the Housing & Development Board (HDB). His name was Mr Khor Ean Ghee. In the late seventies and early eighties, HDB wanted to create spaces that are fun and yet instill in users a sense of the local identity and life. It was along this design philosophy that the old iconic playgrounds were birthed. There is the dragon playground, a symbolism of Asia, bum boats and rickshaws. It was unfortunate that in 1993, HDB stopped designing in-house and imported playgrounds from overseas suppliers due to higher production and maintenance costs, as well as new regulations to meet international safety standards. The tipping point came finally with an incident at one of these old playground.

For my search, I centered in on the most iconic of all the old animal-themed playgrounds – the dragon playground. There are only four dragons left – two in Toa Payoh Town, one in Ang Mo Kio Town and one in MacPherson area. The first dragon that I found was also the most authentic one left. It is located at Block 28 Toa Payoh Lorong 6. The authenticity being that the playground still uses the traditional sand instead of synthetic materials for its base. The majestic dragon head was created out of orange terrazzo and glass tiles. Referencing from the Mosaic Memories, it appears that the idea to use these materials was for easy maintenance – they don’t need annual paint jobs! How ingenious! Besides, it gave the dragon a cheery and inviting face. The body of the dragon was bathed in colorful metal railings that raises the adventure-bar for users as they try to make their way through in the fastest of time. The dragon incorporates a slide in its body too! Edging closer, you can see the age of the playground where time and harsh nature elements had made a graceful mark on it.

The second dragon was a mini-me of the first dragon – without the long slender metal railing body  Instead, the slide took on the modified shape of the dragon’s body. The Mosaic Memories recorded that these mini-me dragons were devised to fit into some of the smaller spaces in public housing estates. Incidentally, this dragon was also orange-colored and everything seems yester-year, except for the new synthetic base that the dragon rests on. This dragon is located at Toa Payoh Lorong 1, between Block 201 Block 240.

The third dragon took me round the town of Ang Mo Kio for 30 mins before I realized that it was so right in front of me. The playground is located at Block 572, Ang Mo Kio Avenue 3…which is just by the main roadside…Well, this is a full-sized dragon similar to the one at Toa Payoh Lorong 6. However, this dragon sports a more colorful head in orange, blue and red. It has a long yellow metal body and more slides for users. In fact, it is the largest of the four dragons. It was also the first dragon that I find kids playing on it, possibly because Ang Mo Kio Town is a more populous location. I recalled that the many corners of these dragon playgrounds are also great hiding spots for the occasional hide-and-seek game.

The last dragon is located beside Block 58 of Circuit Road in MacPherson. This was a mini red-colored dragon. Though Circuit Road was a small area, this was the dragon playground that was most heavily used, at least when I was there. There was a wonderful bunch of kids playing around there, all of them game for photo shoots. In fact, their smiles were among the best that I have seen! Kids in play are always the best as they are fully in delight in their own world. The dragon here is similar to the mini dragon in Toa Payoh, except for the color, and of course the location.

Hopefully, the authorities will continue to preserve these iconic structures of the past and would not let the speed of economic development erase these memories off the facade of nation. To me, these playgrounds are still as functional, if not even more fun than their modern counterparts! I believe those kids playing in these playgrounds would agree with me wholeheartedly.

Just that in Darkness, Light prevails – Clark Quay

Went on a night shoot recently with my two photography-crazed friends down to a popular stretch for nightlife – Clark Quay.  I was trying to get some long exposure shoot to see how far the X-Pro1 can go. However, I forgot to bring along the one most important thing for long exposure…the shutter release…And for X-Pro1, it uses the normal old kind of shutter release and do not accept the more “advanced’ remote shutter release. As such, I wanted to purchase an old mechanical shutter release off eBay, but the timing just didn’t coincide.

Anyway, I still continued with the shoot. Managed to get a few nice landscape shots but didn’t managed to get the silky smooth texture of the reflections off the river. Next time, I will be back…

Just strolling Woodlands Waterfront at nightfall

I love walking at nightfall, as it is so serene. Plus it aids in digestion… After a hideous night of working, I decided to grab my cam & get a few frames of the night. I did not have many destinations in mind – closest to me that I pictured has a great night view was Woodlands Waterfront. I have never been there at night, so there’ no contest.

I fixed the X-Pro1 on a tripod for these shoots. I was aghast that I did not get myself a remote shutter which was essential for Bulb mode to work properly. Tried using finger but can’t last for more than a minute without tiring out from the stiff posture. Also kicked myself for saving $$ on a ND filter which could have helped to smoother the ripples even more to get a great reflection. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the shooting as the colors of the night view was terrific, bringing truth to the words “in darkness, light prevails”!

 

 

 

Just to capture a memory of yet another disappearing landscape – Jalan Mempurong, Sembawang

The last Malay Kampong was next on my list of places to shoot after Vincent told me about it.  I only know about the one kampong in Buangkok Bahru, but was clueless on the  existence of this place.  Did some research on it. While there are some articles on the history of the place, most of the other articles are on the suspected paranormal activities around there. Nevertheless, the lure of the place was too great and I decided to pay a visit to the place before it disappear like many of those before it. Of course, I visited the place during daytime…

I realised that I visited Jalan Mempurong in Sembawang before – to dine at the now defunct Bottle Tree Village. If only I venture slightly further, I would have bump into the spot for shooting. I thought nobody will be there in the afternoon, especially when the weather was not exactly welcoming. I was proven wrong. There were a number of our Malay friends there fishing. Some were decked in Courts sales attire, I think they were there to take a break, enjoy the sea breeze and trying their luck at fishing.

I also went to take a few frames of the Masjid Petempatan Melayu Sembawang. This is the last kampung mosque in Singapore.

Though I did not really fulfil my aim of photographing the kampong, I did chanced upon a huge cluster of Black & White colonial houses nearby at the King’s Avenue & Queen’s Avenue. That will likely be next on my list 🙂

Just to capture a memory of yet another disappearing landscape – Seletar West Farmway

Singapore is a very urbanised country with very little natural landscape left.  Do not get me wrong. I am proud of our nation’s development, but I am much saddened by the sacrifice by mother nature. One of my favourite places that still has a bit of nature in it is Seletar West Farmway. But when I arrive at the place, I was astonished that there isn’t much left. Trucks and lorries were everywhere, transporting dirt and sand to make way for new buildings and structures such as dormitories for foreign workers. Nonetheless, I swiped out my trusty Fuji X-Pro1 and start shooting away. I set the filter to B&W(R Channel) – one of my fav.

There’s a couple of worker quarters within the Farmway Road.  I did not went close to the quarters as I think it required a permit to do so. Besides, there were some guards & police patrol cars nearby. I chanced upon an open pathway, with a small road leading up to some place. Due to time limitation, I can only take some shoots near the entrance where it seems to be some storage are.

Saw this solitary tree that just sprouted out of no where. Loved the interplay of light & shadow, in conjunction with the X-Pro1’s built-in B&W R Channel filter.

Just discovering everyday patterns

I have been gazing lovingly at my cam for the past 1 month, not being able to use it because of my hectic schedule. Today, I had the luxury of 30 minutes to shoot as I had to go somewhere for an assignment & that assignment was postponed 🙂 Due to the limited time that I had, I gave myself the challenge of shooting at the most mundane of places – at the void deck of a flat. The void deck is just like its name – a void…except for a resting corner. To bring out the void-ness, I chose to shoot in B&W and at varying ISO400 – 800.