A Photographic Journey: Scotland

Scotland is a big place. There is so much to see, always not enough time to explore them all. When I visited Scotland for the first time, it was mainly for my photographic assignments and partially a wanderlust to explore the region. Driving from Glasgow through parts of the Scottish highlands and around to Edinburgh, I’ve seen the magical landscapes of the highlands, bewitching castles, rugged coastlines, whisky, wildlife and of course, the friendly locals. On my second visit was purely for holiday as I brought my folks around. It was also a second chance for me to return back to places I have missed before.

This article documents my experiences in Scotland and some of my favourite images I have captured in this region, presented in a narrative order. These journeys were truly once in a lifetime experience. If you have never been to Scotland highlands or want to but haven’t got the time, it is time you should really consider!

 

Huge windmills looked like miniature toys from above. When the weather is good, you can see a lot of details of the landscape from the plane windows.

 

An aerial view of Glasgow city, where the second longest river in Scotland, River Clyde flows through the city in the distance.

 

A street scene from St Vincent street, Glasgow city.

 

St George’s Tron, Church of Scotland from West George road. Glasgow has a rich and varied architectural heritage. It’s wealthy past has also left a legacy of the finest Victorian architecture in the UK.

 

Buchanan Street is Glagow’s main pedestrianised shopping street where there is no shortage of mega malls, well-known brand names and speciality shopping. As the largest retail centre in the UK outside London, all lined with big names you’d expect from the great British high street.

 

Glasgow has been consistently voted as the top place to shop in the UK outside London’s west end. The cobbled streets and lanes are where you will find a mix of vintage stores and independent boutiques.

 

High end retail shopping mall, truly a shopaholics’ paradise!

 

Visiting the carnival during the summer are some of the favourite activities for the children.

 

A family patronises a candy stall. Notice their shirts had the same colour as the stall.

 

A twelve-year old Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky in a Stag shaped decanter on oak wooden  stand, spotted in a souvenir shop in Glasgow.

 

Tarbet lies on the west shore of Loch Lomond some two thirds of the way towards its northern end. When driving out of Glasgow and into the highlands, many people tend to overlook this interesting and attractive location as they simply see Tarbet as a passing, en route to even more spectacular scenery. The weather was ridiculously good that day and I just had to stop by to enjoy the picturesque scenery of Loch Lomond.

 

As Elvish as it may sound, the Falls of Lora is actually a tidal rapid, a popular destination for kayakers and divers as well as a stunning sight for visitors and photographers watching the eddies and swirling waters. Connel Bridge is a cantilever bridge that spans Loch Etive at Connel Village. Interestingly, there was never such a person called “Lora”.

 

I loved the beautiful pastel colours of the sunset as I happened to pass by Oban. As a small resort town, Oban is protected by the island of Kerrera and beyond Kerrera, the Isle of Mull.

 

The water in Oban bay is clear enough to see marine creatures from the harbour. We spotted a handful of fishes and moon jellyfish, a common jellyfish found in many estuaries and harbours in the UK.

 

The brilliant sunset at Connel made us stay longer than we intended. We got hungry decided to try out some food at the Oyster Inn restaurant nearby. By our experience, it has excellent food and services.

 

Fish and Chips from Oyster Inn Restaurant in Connel. In my humble opinion, this is by far the best chips I have ever tasted, beating Norwich Grosvenor chips and Manhatten fish Market (which I still loved), even the chips in Portree, Cromer and London, hands down. I think its because the batter on the fish was done differently. Perhaps it was a special cooking oil. But whatever it is, if you have the chance to pass by this area, I recommend giving it a try.

 

A pot of steamed mussels in coconut milk and chilli. I know, it sounds like a weird combination for mussels with coconut milk, but it was delicious to our taste. We’ve tried mussels of other flavours in other parts of Scotland and still think coconut milk was a great combination. I’d probably try and find the recipe online and see if my mum to cook it at home.

 

The Corran Ferry crosses Loch Linnhe at the Corran Narrows. We stopped by this little area to take a breather as we head up north towards Fort William.

 

New housing structures were being built along the coast of Corran, most likely accommodation from a nearby inn. Against the backdrop of the mountains on a sunny day, it sure looked as though we were in another exotic place such as Hawaii or New Zealand.

 

If you are a Harry Potter fan, you would be familiar with the Hogwarts express train scenes. Glenfinnan is where those train scenes are located. The train passes through the viaduct at a regular intervals everyday. I didn’t had the time to explore paths near the viaduct though.

 

Glenfinnan is a small village with many paths linking the village to the loch and the viaduct. It is possible to walk everywhere but it will require some time to explore them. Above the visitor centre is a vantage point which most visitors would hike up to. It is possible to go higher up a little beyond the designated vantage point to where I took this photo.

 

A memorial tower was erected here in Glenfinnan in tribute to the Jacobite clansmen who fought and died in the cause of Prince Charles Edward Stuart. However, the statue of an anonymous highlander, commonly referred to at the point of commission as Charles Edward Stewart, was added much later.

 

A beautiful stag was spotted near the Glenfinnan monument. Much care was taken not to go too near to the animal.

 

Fort William is the second largest settlement in the Highlands of Scotland. It is a centre for hillwalking and climbing due to its proximity to Ben Nevis, the tallest mountain in the UK. You can put your feet up in a cosy traditional pub and enjoy a distinctly flavoured Highland single malt or even a traditional ale straight from the local brewery. You can also indulge in the local delicacies at shops, cafés and restaurants along the High Street.

 

Halfway up Scotland, I met a Scottish busker performing with his bagpipe and apparently he sells his own CD albums.

 

Once during my journey midway, I was stopped by a patrol police. As with the drivers before me, I was asked to pull over one side to allow an incoming vehicle to pass through. I complied, not knowing what happened initially. A while later, as it turns out, a long vehicle appeared from the opposite side. It carried a huge blade-like object, which looked like the wings of an aircraft. Just as I thought that was it, two more vehicles appeared. As I continued my journey though the next harbour town, it then occurred to me that these long wing-like objects where actually windmill blades!

 

The thing about staying in the highlands is that I always preferred accommodations that are slightly off the beaten track. It is more quiet and tranquil, which gives me more opportunity to relax and enjoy the view of the highlands in isolation. This accommodation in Ratagan is a perfect choice, with friendly staff and well maintained facility. Its slightly challenging to get to this neighbourhood though.

 

Common dinning room of my accommodation in Ratagan. Although the facilities here were basic, but they were really well maintained!

 

Part of the mountains which make up the Five Sisters of Kintail. When I showed this image to the folks in UK, many were impressed by the mood and atmosphere I was able to capture. Some suggestions I received on improving the image was to add a human element in the landscape, to which I appreciate the feedback, but not feasible in this case.

 

You see, these mountain peaks were actually shot from Ratagan, across Loch Duich, which is at least two miles apart. To include a human element in the shot would be quite difficult and dangerous.

 

Low tide over Loch Duich. This fantastic view is right outside my accommodation in Ratgan!

 

Eilean Donan Castle perches on a tidal island where three sea lochs meet. It is without a doubt one of the most popular visitor attractions in the Highlands. It is also recognised as an official James Bond location. I remembered the fourth time I passed by this castle, I saw a glimpse of golden light of sunset. Unfortunately I had to rush back to my next pit stop and wasn’t able to capture the magical light. Eilean Donan’s setting is truly breath-taking.

 

The bridge to Isle of Skye from Loch Alsh Viewpoint. There are many viewpoints around Scotland highlands roads where you will be able to pull over to one side and admire the scenic views. The only thing is that you can easily drive past the viewpoint without realising and miss it altogether.

 

The lonely road ahead. The Old man of Storr can be seen in the distance. These roads look like suitable for racing like the Fast and Furious. Over here, the clouds changes very quickly. With the unpredictable weather conditions, and sheep, much care must be taken when driving along these roads.

 

The Old man of Storr is a rocky hill on the Trotternish peninsula of the Isle of Skye in Scotland. Famous for its magnificent scenery and views, the Old Man of Storr is a popular hotspot for hikers, hill walkers and photographers. It is also the location where the opening scenes of Ridley Scotts’ Prometheus was shot.

 

This gigantic pinnacle is called the Old man of Storr. Twice I have visited here, and twice I had not been able to hike past this spot. The first attempt was due to the in-coming morning fog and I felt my safety would be compromised as no one was around with me  at the time, and i had no map and compass. The second attempt was due to raining clouds and high winds which discouraged me from hiking further up.

 

This was the spot where the steep trail splits into two directions: one eastwards and the other westwards. The Needle Rock is where the eastward trail begins. I regret not being able to advance further from here as the conditions were not favourable to me.

 

Loch Mealt is an inland fresh-water loch. The viewpoint is located close to the sea and its eastern side comprises of the spectacular tall sea-cliffs of Kilt Rock, a dramatic waterfall created from the outflow of Loch Mealt.

 

The cliff edges of Loch Mealt and the Kilt rocks are pretty well fenced, but visitors should take particular care in walking near the edge.

 

It was summer time and I did thought of setting up my tent outside. The temperatures were cold in the morning, and I thought I could endure that. But when I saw how much midges there were, I changed my mind.

 

Loch Mealt with Beinn Edra in the background. Days like this its hard to predict how heavy the rain will fall. Better to head back early than getting stuck outside with low visibility.

 

Two visitors standing  on the cliff of Lealt Falls looking over the coast.

 

Lealt Falls from above the first viewpoint where you can look into the depths of the gorge and see the waterfall finding its way down the gorge. The trail has no fences so it can be quite dangerous when there are high winds. There are more sights to see at the bottom of the gorge, but I didn’t have enough time to explore.

 

A view of Uig village from vantage point. So I took the wrong turn at Portree and reached Uig instead. As I followed through route A855, driving up the narrow path at such a great height can be a frightening experience. I continued my journey through the same route and only to find out later that I had driven around the whole isle and back to Portree, missing out the Quiraing.

 

The adventure of driving around the Isle of Skye and not knowing exactly where I am. I happened to find some cattle grazing on top of the hill at a random location which made me stopped my car. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a highland cow. I didn’t manage to see any throughout my trips.

 

The colourful town of Portree is the largest “small town” in the Isle of Skye. It’s the ideal base to explore sights around the island.

 

Portree is also a natural harbour, and the shape of this rugged coastline of peninsulas and bays, sea arches and stalks, has been likened to a lobster’s claw and is rich with wildlife. With the unpredictable weather conditions in the highlands, the view of its surrounding landscapes are always different every day.

 

Street lights reflected onto the boats moored at Portree harbour as the clouds cleared at twilight, offering a contrast of colours.

 

Morning breakfast at Café Arriba, Portree, Isle of Skye. Its menu changes every once in a while, and I was deeply saddened this delicious burrito was no longer available on my second visit.

 

Langoustines, or scampi, at the Sea Breezes Restaurant, Portree. They’re basically delectable mini lobsters.

 

Fish and Chips at the Sea Breezes Restaurant, Portree.

 

Have you tried a venison steak before? We had one for diner at the Portree Hotel. It was delicious!

 

Chargrilled Cod fillet, Creamy Mushroom Gnocchi and Crispy Onions at the Portree Hotel.

 

Lunch at Seuma’s Bar, Sligachan was delicious!

 

Lunch at Seuma’s Bar, Sligachan was delicious!

 

The Sligachan Bridge is on the main road to Portree, in the heart of the Cuillins. It is situated at the junction of the roads from Portree, Dunvegan and Broadford. The hotel was built in around 1830 at this road junction. Many early climbers chose this as a spot to start their ascents of the Cuillin. Today there is also a campsite and bunkhouse adjacent to the hotel. There is also a small microbrewery, which is operated in the same building as the hotel.

 

I was inspired to visit this location because of the works of a British photographer, Julian Calverley, as well as a brilliant Johnny Walker ad made by two students. Legend has it that if you dip your face in the river water by the Sligachan Bridge, you will be granted eternal beauty.

 

The Sligachan trails are long. There are two hiking trails towards different directions with no circular paths, yet both trails offer stunning views of the peaks of the Cuillin. The Cuillin is a range of rocky mountains dominating the landscape on Skye: the Black Cuillin and the Red Cuillin separated by Glen Sligachan.

 

The iconic ridge of the Black Cuillin is considered as one of UK’s most challenging mountain range.

 

Marsco, a red Cullin mountain. Red Cuillin hills are lower and, being less rocky, have fewer scrambles or climbs.

 

Waterfalls along the Sligachan trail.

 

Can you imagine playing Pokemon Go in this setting?

 

My longest hike at the Sligachan trail was only up to about 7th klick, and then back to the starting point. If you can see a tiny white peck near the horizon, that is the Sligachan hotel, the starting point of the trail. I had only brought a litre of water with me.

 

An interesting view of a neighbourhood in Sligachan; a patch of trees amidst the seemingly barren land.

 

The weather had been ridiculously good that afternoon. As we drove out of Isle of Skye through the Skye bridge, we were treated to a stunning view of the bridge and its surrounding water. The nearest village Kyle of Lochalsh is visible from where the Skye Bridge. On foreground is actually a tiny island called Eilean Bàn.

 

A woman walks through the coast of Stonehaven with her dog on a windy day. Stonehaven is a pretty harbour town south of Aberdeen, famous for its Hogmanay fireballs ceremony. The storm had just passed and the winds were high, I stopped by this little town out of curiosity.

 

On the way down from the highlands, we chanced upon a wine distillery called the Dalwhinnie Distillery. We stopped by to take a look at the visitors centre for a short while. I was driving, so couldn’t taste a bit of whisky.

 

Dalwhinnie is the highest distillery in Scotland, at 1,164 feet above sea level. The name Dalwhinnie is derived from the Gaelic language, meaning ‘meeting place’, referring to the meeting of ancient cattle drovers’ routes through the mountains.

 

Limited edition Dalwhinnie whisky bottle on display. Quite tempting to buy a bottle of whisky back, but unfortunately our baggage had limited space.

 

Mannochmore 12 Years Old Flora & Fauna, surprisingly clean, dry and refreshingly direct, which makes it a good apéritif. Auchroisk 10 Years Old Flora & Fauna, an apéritif whisky, pleasant and light, which opens sweet, fresh and balanced then dries to a short finish.

 

An interesting drinking apparatus on display.

 

A special released, limited edition Dalwhinnie 1989, 25 year old bottle on display. Deliciously fruity, with notes of plum, greengage, strawberries and melon, and a touch of toast and liquorice.

 

One can hear the sound of the sheep’s call from the wine distillery, only to realise a heard of sheep right beside the wine distillery!

 

Our next pit stop was Perth, Scotland. It took us a while to figure out the location our accommodation was actually inside the University of the Highlands and Islands Perth College. As it turns out, these apartments were let out during the summer break as the college students would have gone away for holiday. How cool is that?

 

Edinburgh is the capital city of Scotland. It is a city with amazing views, hidden courtyards, secret gardens and stunning architectural details to be discovered almost everywhere you look. Here is a skyline of the old town of Edinburgh.

 

The most common way of visiting Edinburgh from London is through the train. Edinburgh Waverley railway station is the principal station serving Edinburgh. It is believed to be the only railway station named after a work of fiction.

 

This Scott Monument is a Victorian Gothic monument to Scottish author Sir Walter Scott. It has a series of viewing platforms reached by a series of narrow spiral staircases giving panoramic views of central Edinburgh and its surroundings. It is the largest monument to a writer in the world.

 

The New Town contains Edinburgh’s main shopping streets. Princes Street is home to many chain shops, as well as Jenners departmental store, an Edinburgh institution.

 

Beautiful interiors of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. The art museum holds the national collections of portraits, all of which are of, but not necessarily by, Scots. The museum’s collection totals some 3,000 paintings and sculptures, 25,000 prints and drawings, and 38,000 photographs.

 

Let’s Circus performing in the city. The Edinburgh castle stands proudly in the background.

 

From outside, the Tartan Weaving Mill looks like just another souvenir shop in an old mill house. But  once inside, my goodness, it is really a labyrinth!

 

The Royal Mile is the name given to a succession of streets forming the main thoroughfare of the Old Town of the city of Edinburgh in Scotland. It runs downhill between Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood Palace. The Royal Mile is the busiest tourist street in the Old Town, perhaps rivalled only by Princes Street in the New Town.

 

The Royal Mile especially the higher end near the castle, has many tourist-oriented shops selling Scottish souvenirs from postcards to whisky and kilts.

 

The streets which make up the Royal Mile are Castlehill, the Lawnmarket, the High Street, the Canongate and Abbey Strand. During the annual Edinburgh Festival, the High Street becomes crowded with tourists, entertainers and buskers.

 

It is common to see buskers performing with Scottish bagpipes. Here, a pair of buskers performs with harp and flute on the streets.

 

Near the Edinburgh castle is the The Scotch Whisky Experience, a visitor attraction  which offers tours and whisky tutoring sessions, alongside a shop, corporate spaces and Amber Restaurant & Whisky Bar. On the first occasion I visited, the streets were so crowded I couldn’t get in. The second time I came back up, I had not been told that the streets were closed due to some major event going on. I never got taste the scotch whiskies..

 

A view of Edinburgh city from Holywood park, a short walk from the city centre. There can’t be many cities with a volcano (albeit dormant) slap bang in the centre, but Edinburgh is one such place. During summer time, the last light could be near 11pm.

 

A brilliant sunset over Edinburgh city, from the Salisbury Crag in Holyrood park.

 

Carlton Hill in a distance. When the weather is clear, the Forth Road Bridge connecting Edinburgh can be seen over the horizon.

 

Ahhhh, Zavenya!!!!

 

Edinburgh city at twilight, from the Salisbury Crag in Holyrood park.

 

In attempt to capture the evening skyline from another vantage point, here is a view of the old town of Edinburgh city from Carlton hill.

 

The city lights lit up at twilight invokes a mystical feel of the Edinburgh city. Here, You can see peaks jutting out of the horizon. It is called the Lomond hills, also known locally as “Paps of Fife”.

 

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There Are Places I Remember

Spending two years of my time studying in the UK has been an amazing journey. Not only have I had the opportunity to explore many new places, but have also experienced new cultures and made many new friends. In this series contains the various places I have visited within the UK which have now become a part of my memories. The intention of curating this series is not about seeking out touristy locations in the effort to put my own artistic spin on the area, but more as a means to record my personal experience of visiting these places as to how I would remember them. The significance of it is that I would not have the chance to revisit those places again after returning back to Singapore.

I have not really explored the UK landscape extensively throughout my two years stay because half the time was spent working on my photography assignments and based in Norwich most of the time. Sometimes I would take a breather from my stressful schedule and head out for a walk outside my home or travel out of the city to nearby places with friends. It is only through such opportunities that I was able to capture landscapes scenes that were outside my assignment works.

At first, I didn’t know how to group them as all the images seem to be in different approaches and all over the place. I feel that every image captured are visually strong as an individual as I have tried to build every image its own narrative. Sometimes I would be influenced by images that motivated me to edit them in a certain mood, sometimes I would capture these scenes street photography-style with no particular concept in mind, pretty much like Henri-Cartier Bresson.

This series of 36 images arranged more according to places I have been to, but by no means in chronological order.

Norwich

Norwich is the city I was based in during my time in the UK. There are many parts of the city I have explored over the four seasons and I have come to fall in love with the largely quiet environment away from the city centre. This was the place I have also made my photography works with my housemates and photography peers, many of which I have had fond memories of.

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The “Bag Lady” of Norwich, in contrast with the largest cathedral in Norfolk. This was one of the first few images taken during my first walkabout exploring the city.

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Eaton Park during the early winter months, a quiet environment away from bustling city centre and the lovely landscape as the seasons change. A dad and his teenage child exit out of the colonnade pavilion and I saw the symmetricity of the building structure against the barren trees was yet another photo opportunity.

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A distinctive view of the city centre from the Norwich Castle one autumn evening while searching for vantage points. It has been a rainy week, yet I was able to see glowing rays of light piercing through as the cloud break. The Norwich City Town Council is where the clock tower stands.

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A cherry tree blossoms at the arrival of spring, taken outside my neighbourhood. Spring is my busiest period and I hardly have the time to properly look at these spring flowers. Yet when I do get the time, I appreciate the fact that it was my first time seeing them up close.

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Throughout my entire stay in the UK, I have lived near the second largest Roman Catholic cathedral in England. As it was a huge landmark, it was pretty easy navigating my way back home from the city centre even late at night. Every day I get to see different facets of its stunning exterior as the lighting conditions differ almost throughout all four seasons. Yet not once have I entered its premise. This was the first image of the cathedral I had captured but didn’t publish. The view of the cathedral building has etched onto my memory so much that I wanted to capture the building in my ideal light condition before my departure. I wanted to revisit the shoot again but later realised I hardly found the time to revisit due to my hectic schedule, even though I still pass by everyday… 

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A view of the Wensum river flowing through the city centre one evening after the rain had subsided. A warm glow appeared as the sun sets behind the clouds, creating a beautiful palette of colours of the scene. This was one of the rare moments I felt I was at the right place at the right time.

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When time allows, I would often climb up Mousehold Heath with my camera to capture the amazing view of the city; sometimes on bright sunny days, sometimes on wet rainy days with high winds, other times on cold freezing winter days. St James’ hill is arguably the highest vantage point I could find in Norwich. It is a popular viewpoint on bonfire night or whenever there are fireworks exhibitions from the centre of Norwich. In this image, I found an old couple, photography enthusiasts, capturing the magnificent sunset. I was there too.

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December is the time when shopping streets would be decorated with mesmerizing Christmas lights and displays. This is a corner of a shopping street in the city centre I would pass by almost every day.  This was an attempt at capturing a scene of the festive mood during the blue hour. Notice that there were two Christmas trees on two levels of the building, one in a lighted room, and the other in a dark room.

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On Guy Fawkes night, also known as the bonfire night is an annual commemoration often celebrate at large organised events with extravagant firework displays. I went up the St James’ hill to capture the fireworks. I originally wanted to capture those fireworks in contrast with the crowd in the foreground, but unfortunately, I could not manoeuvre in time as the spot become rather crowded and the fireworks ended much quicker than I expected. Following the aftermath of the fireworks display, most people would have descended back to the city. I decided to turn my camera around to look for interesting results if any.

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Winter months are usually warm and mild in Norwich as snowing is a rare occurrence. When it does, many folks would have gone berserk at the sight of it. Yet one early morning was the heaviest snowfall I had seen. Having not seen any proper snowfall in my life, I was absolutely excited about it. Treading on snow in my boots for my first time was an amazing experience. Except that day was also the deadline of my assignments and I had not slept the night before, so I had not been able to properly document the wintery wonderland. However, I managed to snag one image of the snow at one of the campuses of Norwich University of the Arts, after my submission.

Great Yarmouth 

Great Yarmouth is a coastal town in Norfolk. I’m glad to have the opportunity to visit the small town on a couple of occasions because I have had some friends living there. This was taken on my first visit to the town centre during my summer break, a wide, pedestrianised avenue leading all the way from the town centre to the seafront. Despite many negative opinions for a non-local to visit that region, I found that exploring the main street to be a rather pleasant experience.

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An old couple resting on a bench in front of a local candy shop.

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Strolling along the marine parade, exploring the sights while waiting for my friend to turn up. A scene of a takeaway food stall along the promenade near the pier.

Cromer/Sheringham

Cromer and Sheringham are yet another coastal towns in Norfolk which I had visited, particularly for its Norfolk coastal path with a group of international friends. I have enjoyed the hiking experience as well as the fresh fish and chips from the local restaurants. Yet I remembered my first visit there was due to a project collaboration work that enabled me to visit places outside Norwich city for the first time since my arrival.

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A scene in Sheringham, where the start of our hiking towards Cromer begins.

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The promenade in Sheringham, during my first visit to the coastal town for project work. It was a windy and cloudy day.

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Rocks and rails along Sheringham beach during the summer time

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Hiking towards Cromer from Sheringham, the first challenge was to climb up what the locals call the Beeston Bump. It was a picturesque walk along the cliffs, especially on a bright and sunny day.

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Strong light and shadows casting over the coast, adding vibrant colours to the cliffs and landscape. Things like this make me excited about exploring places through the tourist’s eyes.

Cambridge

Cambridge is about 1.5 drive from Norwich and I have only been to Cambridge twice. The first time was for the punting tour during the summer break, and the second time I explored one of the university campus grounds over the Easter break. Yet twice is not enough to warrant a total familiarity of the university city, as there were much more parts of the city I had not explored. Nevertheless, I had thoroughly enjoyed the experiences on both trips.

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The Corpus Christi College is one of my favourite part of the university campus to photograph, as stripes of green lawn are particularly striking against the blue sky. It is also perhaps one of the more iconic spots in Cambridge photographed by visitors.

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Marketplace in the city centre of Cambridge, taken from a high vantage point. I loved this vantage point as it shows a section of the city in an overview.

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An evening light hits part of the Corpus Christi College, framed by the entrance hall. It reminded me of the iconic Taj Mahal as framed by its entrance gate.

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A scene of a punting tour along the River Cam, a popular activity in Cambridge especially during the summertime.

Nottingham

The only reason I had been to Nottingham was due to a visitation to an art exhibition at the Nottingham Contemporary gallery during the Christmas period with a group of international friends. It was a great opportunity as not only I toured the exhibition but also had been able to explore the Christmas market at the city centre.

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Outskirts of Nottingham town, on a train ride. A new neighbourhood is under construction.

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Crossing the road outside the Nottingham train station and towards the city centre.

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A scene of the Christmas market at daytime, taken from a vantage point. It was my first time visiting a Christmas market as I have never seen a similar market in Norwich. Looking at the crowd, I could not imagine just how much people would have visited the Nottingham Christmas market.

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It gets a lot livelier as night falls. The insane crowd meant it was harder to get around and I had to choose my vantage point beforehand. The night activity here is definitely a lot different from that of Norwich during the festive period.

Manchester

I never got to fully explore Manchester city as I was only in the area for a day with my travel buddy after our Scotland leg. He was there for personal matters while I spent the entire day touring the Manchester United stadium. The funny thing about this experience was that I was too naive to think I could walk all the way to Old Trafford from Victoria Station and back, assuming that the distance would be similar to Norwich. I was dead wrong, and I found it the hard way. Half the day was spent under the hot sun figuring my way around and then went on the stadium tour.

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This image was taken at the Old Trafford station while on my way back to the city centre via the metro tube as I became hardpressed for time to catch a train back to Norwich that evening. It was a good weather and I loved the view of the cityscape from the station platform. In the end, it only took me a mere 15 mins to reach the city centre. Apart from the images of the stadium tour, I did not take any photos of the city due to the fact that I had mismanaged my time.

London

When coming to the UK, one should visit London city at least once. As one of the most visited cities in the world, London is half a size larger than Singapore. It is busy, vibrant and there is really a lot to see.  Yet in the light of the recent terror attacks in London, one cannot help but have security concerns about the terror threat. With two hours train ride from Norwich, I seldom arrange a full day trip to the city unless I have specific matters to do there. Expenditure in London can also be relatively quite expensive. I can remember I have visited London in at least five occasions.

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This scene was taken on the tube station platform of Hoxton, a district East of London. The cloudiness in the sky is a typical weather in the UK. From this vantage point, I could see parts of the metropolitan and parts with construction works. Then there is the London tube coming towards the train station.

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The morning rush in Stratford, a district east of London. Commuters were heading towards the railway station or the bus interchange. Whenever I pass by this area, I would be awestruck by the beautiful decors of the shopping centre. I arrived early in London that day to see to some print matters and captured this scene as a remembrance.

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Due to the heavy congestions in London, many locals here choose to travel by either the tube or bicycles. Cycling is a great way to save money on travel expenses, explore the city and get some exercises at the same time. There are cyclist lanes everywhere in London and even the roads can get pretty congested with cyclists during peak hours. Here is a street scene along Westminister bridge.

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The Orangery, in the Kew Gardens. I made Kew Gardens a top priority during my first visit to London during my summer break. This was partially due to the influence of Sir Attenborough in his three-part documentary series, “Kingdom of Plants”. The Kew garden is a huge and beautiful place, very much different from the Singapore Botanical gardens. I pick this image because apart from the usual garden photos we are expected from the garden, I wanted to show the garden from a different perspective; although I could have picked other images from my collection. In this case, it was the scene of the visitors resting after a day’s tour, but signs of plants visible and the airy structural building, hopefully, enough to suggest what the place is.

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One London Bridge is a high quality refurbished office building located right beside the London Bridge. I was attracted by the unique design of the building and the particularly reflective surface of the office windows on a bright sunny day. This image would form a visual impression of a distinctive busy London office in my memory.

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The iconic St Paul’s Cathedral is an Anglican cathedral and the mother church of the Diocese of London. Beside the cathedral is a shopping mall with an accessible rooftop garden which one can view the breathtaking London skyline at any time of the day. After a couple of visits to this area, often in gloomy weather, I’m glad that I was finally able to capture the bright blue sky against the dome of St Paul’s, causing vibrant reflections on both sides of the window screens of the shopping mall. Unfortunately, I have not entered the cathedral as the entrance fee for visitors was too expensive for me.

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A moment in time at the Bank junction, the historical and financial centre of London, at which nine streets converge in the heart of the city. It is also where the Bank of England is located. Behind the Royal Exchange London stands the Leadenhall building, an office building iconic to the skyline of London. Nearby construction works were in underway for a new office tower.

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While exploring the Camden Town Market, a family looks for direction on where they are going to visit next.  This image was taken through a window on the second-floor vantage point.

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As the train heads towards Norwich from London central, a man glances out to see the London stadium. This scene sort of depicts my afterthoughts every time I travel back to Norwich after spending a day in London, even there are interesting scenes to see while on the way back. Parts of the ArcelorMittal Orbit can be seen on the right side of the window.

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Stairs leading to the basement floor of One New Change shopping mall. Apart from the classic shot of St Paul’s Cathedral, I found this image to be a distinctive part of the shopping scene in the One New Change, where shoppers are almost everywhere.

Other Contenders 

Curating images for this series has been a challenging process for me. There are some images that I felt could have been part of the series but falls short on certain elements. For me, having a coherent style or not wasn’t as important as selecting interesting visuals of places that had impacted me during my time in the UK. Instead, I took much care in arranging the series as a whole, not too much and not too little.  Here are some images that I felt did not make it to this series, I’m including them here as part of sharing my developmental process.

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Sheringham, taken from inside a coach. I thought this scene here kind of gives it a character, an impression of the busyness of the small town.

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When I first explored the Camden high street, I was intrigued to see that almost every lamppost has got banners on, enticing customers to patronise their shop due to its close proximity.

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Picadilly Circus, taken outside the metro station. being able to see these old building structures first hand is an awesome experience. but the fact that has become a crowded touristy spot and a shopping district, hence the omission of this image.

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London Chinatown. I enjoyed the experience of walking through familiarity, at least once.

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On my way back, I happen to chance upon a rather interesting architectural design of the Stratford ONE student accommodation by Unite Students. I thought there was very little narrative element in this image, hence the omission.

Conclusion

In my previous research which explores the concept of “The Provocative Landscape”, I investigated the representation of the landscape through the tourists’ eyes and question how images of cities and landscapes could provoke reactions and thus relate to these images from a personal perspective. As my journey in the UK has come to an end, it is then I realised the significance of these photographs I have captured during those two years. By adding the element of my own personal narrative to my images, I started to see how they could somehow come together as a series.

Final Conclusion: A Summary of BA2a, BA2b, BA3a & BA3b

Through this two years of intensive research and development of my photographic practices has finally (almost) come to an end. I love my course. I love photography. I loved the people and environment. Most importantly, I loved doing what I do. Thus concludes all the experiences I have accumulated and all works I have done thus far. I have divided my thoughts into six key areas to look into.

  • The Provocative Landscape

  • Photographic Practices

  • The Industry 
  • Self Promotional and Business Plans
  • Collaboration
  • Post University Plans

The Provocative Landscape

In my BA2 works, I explored colours and structural elements in my body of works and “A kaleidoscope of colours” was the result. As I developed my focus into landscape photography later on in BA3, it developed into “The Provocative Landscape” and much of my research had revolved around it.

In my essay, “The Provocative Landscape”, I have proposed that there could be three approaches to reading provocative landscape images: The controversial Image, The Dialectical Image and The Rhetorical Image. These approaches have been helpful in identifying what landscape images can be considered provocative, though sometimes images do not fall into a single category. Thus, I have decided to use many landscape photographers’ works to further elaborate on my point.

I  not only look at landscape photographers, but also at art installations, films and listen to music, and to an extent, the photography works I have done have been a response to those influences over the two years of my course work. It is not a matter of straightforward references but rather a subconscious accumulation of experiences which finds its way into the pictures.

As artists and photographers have engaged with a wide variety of techniques and continuously sought to evolve their photographic practices through time, I have found that for some landscape photographers, it is not the technique that makes an image provocative, but the interaction between the image (how it was created) and the audience (what kind of emotion does it evoke) that makes the image provocative. Provocative landscapes could also be from a religious point of view, as though a sign from the heavens, since the chances of encountering such phenomenon are very rare. How these research has informed my photography works was through my two series, “Allenmanstretten” and “Pandora’s Box”.

In the pursuit of better quality in my photography,  I have sort of evolved from full frame cameras though exposure of other works and understanding the limitations when I consider for large prints. Though I have not used a medium format camera for most of my landscape works due to logistical constraints, but that should not stop me from dreaming bigger.  I think I am ready for medium format cameras!

Photographic Practices

Just like the many photographers before me who set out to explore the potential of landscape photography. We wished, for a number of reasons, to work against, or at least question, some of the accepted conventions of landscape photography, and I certainly realised that there was much ground for me to explore. As my experience in research and planning continue to evolve with my knowledge of the landscape constantly with paradigm shifts, This has grown into a sort of personal preoccupation, to a point where it has become one of my primary interests. This was also thanks to the pieces of advice from the tutors and peers and industry professionals whom through these critique sessions have constantly challenged me to outperform myself in surprising ways.

Though this is only a point of my photographic practices, it is a never-ending learning experience. These practices will continue to change and evolve. Who knows what future holds when my practices evolved again!

The Industry  

The point of understanding how my practices are relevant to my industry is an important one.  Through market research, understanding differences between the UK market and Singapore market and setting up interview questions for those professionals already in the Singapore industry, meant that while I am in the UK,  I have to commodate my works to cater the interest of both groups of audiences. But when I return back home, I will cater predominantly towards the local group of audience. To survive in a small and competitive market, it has been the way that the more skills one can acquire, the better the chance of being hired. The current practice of the industry in the region is not healthy, but that is the way it is.

Self Promotional & business Plans

The point of understanding the relevancy of my practices to my industry is an important market research. Identifying the key differences between the UK and Singapore market and interviewing professionals already in the industry led me to a better understanding of how my industry actually works and how my business can fit in.

Figuring out a business plan that will work for me takes time and refinement. There are no hard and fast rules than I can complete this within a school semester. My original objective was to set up shop to make some money off my prints. Yet if I were to bring this business back to Singapore, the environment there is will not be the same. Setting up a business is a daunting task, especially if I were to bring the business back home. I have no experience in this area and it is going to be a different ball game. I could research as much as I can, but unless I tried it out and get some experience out first hand, I won’t know how it is really like. But in any case, if my business model doesn’t work out, I will need to consider other options, such as changing my plans, collaborate with another creative to sell products, etc.

Understanding the market needs also meant that my portfolio works have to cater to these groups of audience. Hence I opted for Press Kit boxes; a balance of digital and hardcopy prints. The reason I am favouring press kits over large portfolio boxes or photo albums is because in Singapore market has a different mentality compared to the UK. As for the mode of showing portfolios, both clients and vendor tend to prefer the convenience of the portfolio than showing something big. This means that the people generally prefers everything online and digital. However, if a tactile box with lots of interesting items might entice them to work with the photographer.

Collaboration
I have had an unsuccessful collaboration attempts in BA2 works due to my unfamiliarity of the UK work environment. But through the collaboration work with Fahim in BA3bhas enabled me to discover other fields of industries where landscape imagery can be relevant (other than car adverts) – the game industry in areas of environmental concept designs, as well as the movie industry. As game artists and visual effects artist have exemplified using references of elements of landscapes to build an imaginary landscape, it is possible to interpret a provocative landscape in the form of a utopian/dystopian world. In regards to the Singapore industry, game design and Visual effects companies are more prevalent there than car advertising. There is  LucasFilm and there is  ILM branch in Singapore. These are the prominent ones, and such projects are usually collaborative ones.

Post University Plans

“Carry on with life, get married, have children and grow old.”

No, seriously, a lot of people have begun to ask me about my plans post university. Industry professionals asked me if I could work in the UK. The answer is No. This is because of the current political situation in the UK. With the Brexit situation going on, major businesses are moving away from the UK and into Europe. This also meant that I will have to fight a lot harder and at a more disadvantaged position.

UK friends outside of Uni have asked me what I am going to do next. Most likely set up my own business when I get back home. Either that for I find a production company to get more photography-related work experience.

Peers have asked me if I were to continue Masters. The answer is No. the reason is two-fold.  Firstly, a year of degree course for a non-EU student is already a lot higher than what the local students are complaining about (imagine what you could do with £4000 difference) and I am not eligible for any bursary nor under any scholaship awards. Simply put, it is not sustainable for me financially. Secondly,

Secondly, Masters in Photography is completely unheard of back in Singapore, because photography in the sense isn’t recognised as a niche profession. what is important to do photography in Singapore is the work experience. If I were to study a Masters, most likely I would consider doing Masters in Multimedia locally, where both photography and film production falls under the same umbrella. perhaps, if I were to consider teaching photography as a profession in the longer run, I may consider. Hence I’m not pursuing Masters at the moment.

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Developmental Process: Allemannsretten

Allemannsretten is a Norwegian concept from the ancient times which means “the freedom to roam” in English. Simply defined, this traditional right takes on the form of general public rights which applies to open country, thus making it legal in most cases for people to walk through any piece of uncultivated land. This concept rings true for tourists exploring any new places for their first time, not just open spaces, as it may give them a sensory impression of the whole outdoor experience. I came across this term in a bookstore in Reykjavik, Iceland and thought it fitted well on how I made the majority of the landscape images and what I was interested in.

This series forms part of a larger overarching theme, ‘The provocative landscape’ whereby I have been working on for two years, accumulating the travels and experiences of roaming about these locations for my first time and exploring places through the tourists’ eyes, thus informs my impression of the landscape through personal experience and in turn translated into photography.

To know more about my travels:
London | Scotland | Barcelona | Dubai | Singapore | Berlin | Iceland

(Some of these image in the series were not printed out as part of the final series because I have to consider the balance of my portfolio in the bigger picture. I have three collections of prints hence I have to be conscious of omitting those with the weakest links.)

References

The references to this series is an accumulation of the photographers or image makers that I have analysed over the course of two years of endeavour; Some in the form of visuals and themes, some in the form of philosophy and photographic practices while some are cultural influences. But at the same time, I didn’t want to simply emulate their style, or copy them. Instead, I wanted my own photographic style to come out of its own, while still influenced by these photographers.

(For more information about my research and references, check out my bibliography page.)

Ansel Adams | His dedication, and experiences in capturing the landscape has left me captivated and wanting to understand what makes his images work. As I had first started with the love for landscape photography; his idea of pre-visualisation and his preference for black and white images had me re-look at my own practices in photography. [Analysis]

Saul Reiter | Believed there is such a thing as ‘a search for beauty’. He considers it worthwhile for one to pursue their perceived forms of beauty. [Analysis]

Edward Burtynsky | Heavy influence from Edward Burtynsky’s photographic practices: “[we] come from nature.…There is an importance to [having] a certain reverence for what nature is because we are connected to it… If we destroy nature, we destroy ourselves.” [Analysis]

Dan Holdsworthoften quite interested in dislocating the image from the place.  He was interested in is a psychological landscape’, not so much in where it is located. his works represent an updated notions of the Romantic Sublime, with “elements of awe, vastness, individual insignificance, of trespass even, are appropriate to these … wildernesses.” [Analysis]

Finn Beales | His image style always gives an authentic and natural feel, there isn’t too much heavy editing. He has a keen sense of how lights affect the landscape and use that to his advantage, thus using the lights to create the atmosphere. [ Analysis]

Richard Misrach | One those image which perhaps I felt most connected to was The Wall, Jacumba, California, an image Misrach captured in 2009 which depicts the U.S.-Mexico border often show a fence and desolation on either side. The clouds covering the mountain ridges suggests the scene with an ominous atmosphere. It has that depth which conveys the scale of the dessert terrain. It is not vividly coloured, but there are a lot of details hidden within the landscape which might provoke one’s response into thinking what is there within those vast spaces. Hence from this image, Richard Misrach’s works suggest a dialectical image. [Analysis]

Paul Seawright | Seawright’s works “Hidden” is relevant to my research because of his subtle and quiet approach in capturing the terrain suggests that where there lay a hidden malevolence of its landscapes and the spectacle of ruins which becomes aestheticized, an approach which contrasts against that of Luc Delahaye’s works. [Analysis]

Simon Roberts | By elevation, it lifts the mid ground and gave him a better opportunity to see the landscape and build narratives into it. By photographing the theatrical and using the atmosphere to his advantage, the less likely for him to get stopped taking pictures. [Analysis]

Other Research 

Toussaint (The Witcher 3: Blood and Wine) | This is one of the many beautiful video game worlds that I enjoyed watching. Though I’m not really a gamer myself, but the art is beautifully rendered, the stunning vistas and brilliant sunsets. Landscape images can be a source of influence for video game environmental designs and vice versa. This also shows another potential revenue for landscape images.

Hebe | Chinese Pop singer and Idol, Hebe and her Music Video: Insignificance

Impressionism and Romanticism Arts Movement

  

Paintings from these art movement have given me an impression of what the European landscapes could be like, therefore shaping my photographic practices and the preferential visual to dramatic landscapes and snowscape terrains, as I have subconsciously tried to emulate these art styles into my landscape photography. [Analysis]

A Curated Series

My approach to Allenmanstretten was to curate my images from all of my travels and look at landscapes in the opposite direction of my original photographic style. The vivid colours in this series are largely absent in my images. There is that certain element of detail hidden in the visual that I hope the viewers may take a second look. There is also that certain element of commercial value of travel photography amidst the fine arts approach. This is intended, as the essence of my travel is encapsulated through these experiences.

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A shortcut through the small canal behind the Berlin Zoo with sheets of broken ice in interesting positions. The calm water presented a serenity of the scene as a train passes through the vicinity, echoing its presence. That was the moment, Henri Cartier-Bresson style.

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  1. as usual, I blended the three exposures into a single image, colouring shadow area with the underexposed image and highlight areas with the overexposed image.
  2. I then use the curves to pull in more contrast, and colour adjustment filter for a cooler tone. This process is used throughout to balance the color of the snow.

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Wandering through the Tiergarten park exploring the wintry landscape of Berlin, I found a playground in the midst of the white open space, covered with a thin layer of snow. I  captured the scene in a two-dimensional form, utilising the strong visual lines of the playground and the trees at the background.

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  1. The image was originally framed with the rule of third in mind. I used bracket exposure to bring back some detail of the overcast sky.
  2. noting that there was a single yellow hue visible in the image, I used the HSL to push the yellow hue out.
  3. I applied curves adjustment to create a punchier contrast and colour balance filter with cool tones to balance out the colours in the image.

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A street scene off the edge of Tiergarten park just before the Holocaust memorial. Having submitted my dissertation report just before my Berlin trip, the subject of war tourism and the research of war photographers in my essay were still fresh in me at the time. These forests gave me the world war two impression vibe as it had reminded me of the calm scenes of the miniseries, Band of Brothers (2001), just before the bombardment at the Battle of the Bulge in episode 6. Having done my two years of full-time National Service stint, I cannot imagine myself in those circumstances and I do not want to put myself in that forest. I  captured the scene in a two-dimensional form, utilising the strong visual lines of the traffic lights and the trees in the background.

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At the black sand pits in Iceland, a strong gust of wind picks up and everyone froze still, not wanting the sands to hit on their faces. I wanted to capture the scene of the people heading in the same direction towards a cave but they are all in an awkward standing position, hands covering their face from the sands.

Edit_BA8Not much editing was done on this images, but largely to open up shadows and control the highlights in camera raw file.

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This was the first time I have captured fog at the Mousehold Heath forest, Norwich. I think this stems out from a conversation I had with an acquaintance of mine back in Singapore about “printing wallpaper for hanging”. What he meant was about wanting to purchase fine art prints from me, while I showed him a couple of random wallpapers as a reference to what he actually said:

I didn’t know the author of the misty forest wallpaper in the reference image, but when I on the ground shooting the fog, I was probably trying to emulate the same atmosphere in the panoramic format; the strong verticle lines of the trees, the same crispness in the foreground and the blurriness at the background. In this case, it was interesting yet strange that such wallpaper images had a bit of influence on me. For such large format prints, I would have to go for a larger format camera as opposed to a full frame digital format camera on hand.

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This image features a group of boats in the harbour in Portree, Scotland. Beyond the harbour lies a body of land, clouded in mist. The air of mystery surrounds what it could be.

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The editing process for this image was slightly different from my usual techniques. It is still a simple editing process on my camera raw file with addition graduated filter, and I added a cooling photo filter and toned it down a little to attain the bluish cinematic atmosphere. With the mist in the background, I figured this works the best for this image.

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Driving through a peculiar part of the landscape in the southern region of Iceland, what made this image more peculiar was that orange cube object among the pile of rocks and stones in the middle of nowhere. The cloudy weather only made the scene look foreboding.

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The editing process is fairly straight forward.

  1. Usual exposure blending process. the bottom half is largely the brighter exposure, while the top half the darker exposure.
  2. I didn’t want the orange cube object to stand out too much, so I desaturated the hue a little, so it blends in well with the surroundings.
  3. I added curves to increase contrast.
  4. And added colour balance to increase more blue hues. I used a gradient mask to control the filter and preventing the blue hues from overpowering.

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This was the most intense drive in my experience as I had unwittingly driven into a sudden snow blizzard while en route eastwards towards my next destination in Iceland. The roads became icy and poor visibility. I eventually found a closed petrol station and had to wait out until the storm had passed. This image shows the destructive force of nature in the form of the snow storm. At the time, somehow the heavy snow had reminded me of Ori Gersht’s sublime images of exploding flowers. I guess this would become the landscape version where the petrol station is going to be blown apart.

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Not much processing was done for this image. A large part of it was to pick the right frame. one determining factor was to find the images of the petrol station with sharp edges in contrast with the heavy snow. The other factor was the snow’s interaction with the lamp post. Many of the bokeh formed around the lamp post during the snow storm didn’t quite produce the perfect shot I was looking for. among all of the shots, I found one with an ‘X’ shapes light stood out the most for me. Below are the frames that did not make it to my list.

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I selected this image because the cloudy weather made the image foreboding, hence the cinematic approach to creating an orangey-alienish landscape. On industry relevancy, the first thing that came into my mind was computer wallpaper or a fine art print.

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This was captured during my photography trip to Iceland.

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A wooden cross stands firmly on a cliff in the night sky, away from the city lights. When I came to this vantage point in Barcelona, I was immediately reminded of the tomb of Jesus Christ after his crucifixion on the cross. At the same time, I also remembered the works of the German painter, Caspar David Friedrich’s “The cross beside the Baltic“, which seeks to express the power of nature and illuminate the beauty and significance of Christ through nature. This image was shot from a low angle up such that the light from the moon forms a significance to the cross.

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  1. The original raw files were still too dark even after opening the shadows and reducing the orange hues. hence I had to blend three exposures together.
  2. I slowly paint out the rock details out, as well as the lighten the exposure on the cross.
  3. last but not least, I created colour balance filter to accentuate the blue hues, I used a radial gradient mask to prevent the colour balance filter from overpowering the image too much.

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This was captured during one of the supermoon phenomena where the moon becomes slightly larger and brighter than usual. The absence of street lights in the neighbourhood and the clear night sky heightens the bright white light from the moon to a dramatic effect, as though an apocalyptic meteorite has appeared. After seeing Joe Hilmarsson’s iconic image of the Aurora Borealis above Iceland which resembles an iridescent angel glowing in the night sky, I thought such phenomenon becomes a valid point for provocative landscapes.

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My editing processes for this image were also pretty much straight forward

  1. opening up shadows in my cmaera raw file
  2. toning down the orange hues and increasing blue hues
  3. I explored further with the detail extractor filter in Color Efex pro, but found the effect not suitable for this image. this was because when the details are opened up, the eyes would be led away from the brightest light source and wander around the image first.
  4. to prove the point above, I edited a few variations with a lighter rendition, the one with the darkest shadows still stands out for me.

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This was taken during the aftermath of a fireworks display during the Bonfire Night festival. I meant to capture some fireworks display from a vantage point in Mousehold Heath.The last year we I took them near the city, it was extremely crowded. I thought of doing from that vantage point, but I didn’t expect that the crowd and photographers turnout would be equally great. I lost the interest to capture fireworks itself and began thinking of placing human elements into perspective. The idea was to capture a scene, something which I would not see often. But these fireworks had ended as fast as it began. I decided to linger a while longer to see what happens next, still clicking on my shutters.

When I framed my shot on the ground, I didn’t think of what sort composition to use. It just comes naturally as I shot the image. I had used a dynamic composition, Root 2 Rectangle fits perfectly here.

I picked this image as part of my series because the scene sort of depicts a dystopian world, as though an aftermath of a battle had occurred in the city and two figures where watching the scene happening. There seems to have a Sci-fi feel to it.

1. This image does not have complex processing. On my camera raw, I adjusted the exposure slightly brighter with some contrast and pushed the shadows to the maximum.

2. Since this is a full night image, chances of noise would be present and I wanted to suppress it. I applied noise reduction settings and a bit of post-crop vignetting to control the unwanted light spill.

3. To enhance the image further, I cloned in a crescent moon from my previous images and cloned out the stray light streaks at the bottom right corner. I used the dynamic composition, root-two rectangle to position the crescent moon.

Other Contenders 

Some of the images I have selected to be included in this series but were not printed out as part of my portfolio because I had to consider the bigger picture of balancing out with the other series. These images, in my opinion, were the weaker links.

After the completion of my dissertation on “The Provocative Landscape” in BA3a, I realised there were many other areas I had not really talked about. Hence I wanted to address them in a post here. This is still relevant for my research.

Dubai’s man-made islands

One area was that man-made islands or landscapes could be one of the points that relate to the provocative landscape. In a Travel+Leisure article, author Danielle Berman talks about Dubai’s Man-made Islands, which were meant to pique tourism and expand Dubai’s coastline. The mastermind behind these massive projects was the United Arab Emirates’ prime minister and Emir of Dubai.

Perhaps the most recognised of the bunch, Palm Jumeirah is aptly shaped like a palm tree, consisting of a trunk and 17 fronds, and surrounded by an almost 7-mile-long crescent-shaped island which is home to many luxury hotels and resorts that dot the archipelago). A process called land reclamation, which involves dredging sand from the Persian and Arabian Gulf’s floors. What is provocative about landscape was that the sand was then sprayed and “vibro-compacted” into shape using GPS technology for precision and surrounded by millions of tonnes of rock for protection.

The World (another Nakheel project) kicked off in 2003, and consists of around 300 small islands constructed into a world map. The stunning image of the man-made archipelago was taken by an astronaut far above our Earth on the International Space Station. It shows the World Islands development sitting in shallow waters just off Dubai’s coast but never got to be completed.

Phenomenon in landscapes 

Another area was the signs of a phenomenon in landscapes. In Jon Hilmarsson’s iconic image of the Aurora Borealis above Iceland resembles an iridescent angel glowing in the night sky. It was regarded as a controversial image that caught the media’s attention and eventually made it to a book by Fiona Finn – “I believe”, where she discusses the various and different religious signs that have been seen in pictures.

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In Jon Hilmarsson’s iconic image of the Aurora Borealis above Iceland resembles an iridescent angel glowing in the night sky. It was regarded as a controversial image that caught the media’s attention and eventually made it to a book by Fiona Finn – “I believe”, where she discusses the various and different religious signs that have been seen in pictures.

It seems, provocative landscapes could also be from a religious point of view, as though a sign from the heavens. Of course, this is just one of the many examples out there and the chances of encountering such phenomenon are very rare.

Thinking back, this is something which I had not thought about at the time of writing my dissertation, and I thought this might well be an exciting topic to talk about which I think seldom talked about the photographic world.

In this post are a couple of post-processings done after my initial edits, in which I discuss some of the finer details of the image that I had to re-process. For the ease of identifying, all images are the result of the initial edits, and all images on the right are my re-edits.

                               INITIAL EDIT                                                   RE-EDIT

For more than six months, I have been contented with the initial edit. Recently I was considering to select this for my portfolio, but the more I looked at it I can’t help but notice the yellow petals on the bottom slightly distracting. So I had it removed. After re-edit, it looks cleaner now.  Other bits include stray bees and flies in the air. these details are negligible but I removed them out anyway.

This cube image, the more I look at it the more I feel proud of it. My initial edit was a simple opening up of shadows. I had put the initial edit up everywhere and showed everyone. When I got back to this image after not seeing this image for a period of time, I decided to try and take the edits a step further, by adding a detail extractor filter.  I must say, I quite like the effect after applying the filter. It was a complete surprise I could still get away with more details even with this single raw file.

For this image, I was already extremely satisfied with the initial edit. I  loved the contrast of colours, and the fact it was the building from this angle was almost symmetrical. If one thing I had to pick on, was the perspective of the building; somehow it still looked “flat” to me. I reviewed the image again under my own criticism and realised there were more details I had missed out: there were no lights in the window on the right side of the building, not very symmetrical after all. Even after I have printed after the re-edit, I discovered tiny red lights (from the building behind) on the right side of the dome. It’s a bit annoying because once I see it, I can’t unsee. I don’t know, somehow the building still looks flat, this might need to re-edit again. But I shall leave it as it is for now.

daddwd

When I showed this image in both digital and printed form, I get a mix of critiques. Some liked the atmosphere, while some picked on the over-saturation of colours, that renders the image “unrealistic”. These feedbacks prompted me to re-look at my image again. I decided to tone down the blue saturation and make it slightly more contrast. I didnt like the desaturated version because it looked more like AdobeRGB accidentally downscaled to sRGB. I decided to go for a less-saturated version but a slightly more contrast; a bit of both world (middle one).

Conclusion

It is true that mistakes may reveal only when the image comes out in large prints. Well, prints are expensive so I have to train my eyes to look for detail and spot the blemishes and/or “mistakes” before I actually print it. But sometimes, I really do have to reprint.