Update 1: 17.12.16
Update 2: 01.01.17
Update 3: 10.01.17
Update 4: 12.01.17

Places

Growing up in Singapore, we are used to seeing high-rise flats and tall office buildings around us. With more shopping malls and more people, one cannot help but think about escaping the fast-paced environment. This is even more so, with the exposure of fantastic locations in popular movies, videos and images. Hence, the desire of wanderlust seems to have taken interest by many, including me, who wanted to explore beyond our urban surroundings and see the wonders of the world.

This sense of travelling to explore and discover new places is what motivates me to take landscape photographs. With every new destination I visit, I use the sense of the “tourist eye” to explore, wanting to capture the best form of its beauty. It creates an emotion in me, in the sense that I have been to this place before, and I know it because of my approach to photographing it as to how I might define as provocative landscapes.

Project Planning

Studying in the UK have provided me such opportunities to explore new places, and everywhere is new to me. After my study trip to Barcelona in January 2016, I started planning this endeavour for the summer break, in preparation for my year three works. For landscape photography, location is king. This means the more research and planning there is about the concept of a location, the higher chances of producing the ideal image without breaking my bank.

I am known for my high tonality and vibrant images as my photographic style. in most of my photography trips I adopt a street photography approach to my landscapes and I knew I needed a lot of time to process my images. I needed to work that to my advantage. I knew I needed a lot of time to process my images and it would be too late when year three begins as I foresaw I wouldn’t have enough time to complete my works as I had to factor in almost three weeks worth of time away from school to attend family matters back in Singapore.

Hence, I had to plan out my schedule strategically, of the places I thought would be relevant to what I am doing for my year three while balancing my academics. So even when I am on school holiday, I am effectively still ‘doing work’. 🙂

Barcelona – January 2016
London – May 2016
Scotland – June 2016
Singapore – October 2016
Berlin – February 2017
Iceland – February 2017 *
Norwich – All year round

* My original plan for an Iceland photography trip was to be held in December 2016 before the Christmas holidays. However I could not get a third person onboard with me on time, hence I had to postpone the trip to February. On hindsight, although I did not go Iceland, but I was able to use the time to catch up on my other photography works and refining my dissertation. 

References

There are many channels of references as I started planning my endeavours. There is a hoard of landscape photographers in 500px whose works inspire me and they continue to do so. Epic movies have been an inspiration for me. Even travel magazines; during my flight back to Singapore, reading these magazines and watching movies is what I do for 14 hours, other than sleeping.

Here are some of my inspirations and analysis of the things the influences me:

Ted Gore | Trey Ratcliff | Finn Beales | James Bond | Harry Potter | Lord of the Rings  | Prometheus | The Secret life of Walter Mitty | Qatar airways Magazines | Singapore Airline Magazines | Kai Pictures

Barcelona

Barcelona was the first European place I have visited, and it was with a small cohort of photography students on the study trip. I did some research and planned my own itinerary of the places I wanted to go within the short span of five days. I wanted my trip to be as fulfilling since I may not come back here again anytime soon.

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I was probably the only person in the group that went up the tower that evening. The entrance fee into the cathedral hall costs 16.50 Euros. However, access to the tower cost a whopping 35 Euros. The price of the tower ticket had raised all of a sudden, and as much as I was reluctant to shell out the money. However, I thought I would not come by again anytime soon hence its do, or never. Being a popular tourist attraction, security in the cathedral was tight. Visitors had to place their belongings in the designated locker room before going up. Not even my camera bag or tripod was allowed. I carried two lenses and a set of GND filters in my jacket. upon reaching the bridge of the towers, it did not seem like a crowded place.

My idea was to capture an evening view of the city, just as its lights come on. After surveying the view from the tower, I found the sweetest spot I could find and stayed for an hour, waiting for the sunset, until the closure of the cathedral. This image was created with three exposures, handheld.

There were many images I have captured. Some were interior shots or familiar scenes of Barcelona such as cathedrals, familiar tourist spots and street scenes which did not quite fit the theme of “provocative landscapes”. I also did not pick the panorama image because it would be the old one out  I eventually picked only this image to represent Barcelona.  As far as I have researched, no one has taken this view during dusk. It shows the depth of the bustling city from a vantage point during the blue hour. For industry relevancy, this image sits nicely with stock images and travel magazines. This image was edited to make people feel that they had seen this image for the first time, they would probably feel compelled to visit the city.

To read more about my trip in Barcelona, click here.

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1. This image is a result of blending three exposures together. I imagined the final piece to be a high tonality image with the blue hour in contrast with the warm city lights. These streets at foreground are the main focus in the image

2. I open up shadow values in my camera raw and defringe chromatic aberrations caused by the city lights.I create masking layers over the dark and light exposure, painted highlight details over the shadow areas, and bring back the blown out highlight details with the shadow layer. I have also brought back some details of the hazy mountain ridges in the background.

3. I created masking layers over the dark and light exposure, painted highlight details over the shadow areas, and bring back the blown out highlight details with the shadow layer. I have also brought back some details of the hazy mountain ridges in the background.I used content aware tool to removed the stone detail hanging at the top of the image.

4. I used content aware tool to remove the stone detail hanging at the top of the image.

5. Once I’m happy with my exposure blending, I fine tuned further by adjusting the contrast and colour balance with radial gradient mask.

6. Last but not least, I corrected my image composition alignment by cropping to alignment with the horizontal stone at the bottom. The original images were captured handheld.

Norwich

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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.

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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.

London

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This was one of my favourite captures from my London trip. On my first day out in London, I visited Greenwich park. I decided to spend the entire day in the park as I was quite curious how the view of the city London would look like from that location. From my research, I have not seen the city lit up like this from Greenwich.

At that summer time, waiting for the last light would be quite torturous, when the sun sets at 8.45pm, and with a fifteen-minute window time before the park closes. I waited six hours in Greenwich park and it had been raining that afternoon. Cold, but worth it.

I picked this image as part of my theme because there is a sense of emotion in this landscape. The saturated bluish tone of the atmosphere was influenced by the works of Chloe Dewe Matthews’s “Shot at Dawn” series, where she shot locations of the execution ground where first world war soldiers who were shot for cowardice. Many of my images of London contains people in the form of street scenes. it sort of conveys a different meaning, as opposed to a landscape without human presence.

This image could sit well as a fine art print in gallery spaces if made into a different context. it might also go well in travel catalogues or even large format prints on walls.

To read more about my trip in London, click here.

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1. This image is a result of blending three exposures together. I imagined the final piece to be a bluish image with the contrast of warm city lights at the background. These city lights are the main focus in the image. First, I adjusted the same exposure in each individual camera raw file and reduce a bit of clarity to give it subtle softness feel. I would then bring these images into a three layer file in

2. I created masking layers over the two exposures and brush out the dark parts and lighter parts of these image over the neutral one. I would paint in a way which the lighter and darker areas would lead the eyes to my focal point. I imagined a triangle composition would be most ideal in building up the image.

3. I have also used the dark exposure layer to paint out a subtle vignetting around the edges of the image, and the lighter exposure to paint subtle highlight detail over the fences.

4. I then clone out the excess light streaks caused by aircraft landing over the distance. For finishing touch, I create a tonal curve adjustment layer with and applied a gradient mask to highlight contrast over the sky only.

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Another one of my favourite captures from my London trip, taken at the Millenium bridge. this location is quite popular for pre-wedding shoots. My impression of the location was largely influenced by a local photographer, Kai Pictures. I didn’t have any couples with me, so I did the best what I could, making it into a sort of street scene. I observed the man sitting down with his dog, in contrast with the flow of the crowd movement. I instantly thought of translating this into visual.

I set up my tripod and camera as quietly as I can without intruding anyone, fixed my angle with my wide angle lens, with leading lines building towards the big dome in the middle. this creates a strong triangle composition. I used a GND filter to slow down the movement of the people, taken with multiple shots. The idea was to blend the various blurred movement into a seamless image in photoshop. After combing through roughly 30 odd images, I picked 6 images that had the movement that I wanted and had them marked with green coloured tags.The man did not notice me at first. but when he eventually did, he got up and left with his dog.

As I framed my camera, I had aligned the centre of the pavement to that of the dome at the background. However, considering that the sitting man at foreground, I didn’t want it to be a perfectly centralised image. I gave it a slightly off centred composition towards the right, to allow a bit of breathing space, a balance of empty space on the right side.

My initial thought of how this could be relevant to the industry, as a stock image, but also with an activism intend; A connotation of the inequality of the society. However, the identities of these people are not revealed.

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1. I opened up more dynamic tonality in camera raw, by adjusting highlight and shadow values in opposite directions. I would then bring these images into a six layer file in photoshop.

2. I create layer masks in each of these layers and brushed in only the blurred areas I wanted. The focal point is the subject sitting in foreground, and the image is composed of a triangular composition.

3. I then apply three special filters in Colour Efex Pro 4, Nik Google. They are Brilliance/ Warmth filter, Detail Extractor filter, and a subtle touch of Cross Processing filter.

4. Once I got the right feel of the image, I went further to shape the contrast and brightness of the overall image from top to bottom using a radial gradient on curve adjustment layers, as well as colour balanced with a cool colour value.

Scotland

The trip to Scotland highlands during the early summer break was my biggest endeavour yet. This trip to Scotland highlands was largely influenced by Finn Beales Photography as well Harry Potter Movies and James Bond movie, Skyfall. Planning for the trip was challenging at first, as there were so many places to see and yet so limited time and budget. It took me three months to work out the best options to explore and my route of advancement. I decided to fly into Glasgow, rent a car and drive around the highlands through Inverness and Aberdeen before ending at Edinburgh. I’ve got a travelling buddy so he could navigate while I drive.

Things did not go well as planned during the trip, and I had to make some changes to my itinerary. However, it was also because of this change that I was able to catch a few good moments there. Given the opportunity, I would like to drive around Scotland again.

After the trip, it took me about three full weeks to process those 55 GB worth of images. I selected my best images only after about 3 months after because I wanted to give myself a break from seeing these images and I would see them again with a fresh pair of eyes after a long break. I picked four images from this album to represent my diversity of knowledge in techniques and contexts.

To read more about my trip in Scotland, click here.

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This was taken in the Ise of Skye, near the Old Man of Storr. I was a slightly lost, but I found this spot where the cow happens to be grazing over the peak. I got off the car and took this as a couple of snapshots. I zoomed in as much as I could with my 24-105mm lens and framed my shot in the way that the cow would be most prominent. What I liked about this image was that the colour palette was a harmonious combination of blue, brown and green colours. Even the house in the foreground is the same hue as the brown patches of grass.

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1. This image does not require much post processing. On my camera raw, I opened up a bit of detail from shadows setting. The only major adjustment I did was just the adjust certain colours luminosity of orange, yellow and green tones, to give it more vibrant colour.

2. I also applied a gradient filter in camera raw to bring back more details of the sky and to give it a more dramatic effect, pulling focus back to the cow at the top of the hill.

3. Last but not least, I adjusted my composition by slightly cropping off the bottom, framing a little more to the right.

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This scene was taken in Glasgow, Scotland. It was an opportunity for street photography as I walked around the city centre with my camera. There were many people that day, and I happen to pass by this interesting red telephone box amongst the crowd. I saw a familiar composition and decided to try out the same technique as I did back at the Millennium bridge in London. Notice that the two lampposts have helped me anchored the telephone box nicely in the middle of the frame.

The original raw files for composite was still too bright and I had to tone it down quite a bit to bring back a bit of detail of the sky.

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1. For this scene, the idea was to blend various blurred movement into a seamless image in photoshop. of the 10 odd images, I picked 6 images that had the movement I wanted.

2. I opened up more dynamic tonality in camera raw, by adjusting highlight and shadow values in opposite directions. I would then bring these images into a six layer file in photoshop.

3. I began my composite by creating layer masks in each of these layers and brushed in as many blurred figures as I have. The focal point is the red telephone box, and the image is composed of a rule-of-thirds composition.

4. I then used two curve adjustment layers to shape the contrast and brightness and applied detail extractor filter in Color Efex Pro 4, Google Nik.

5. Last but not least, I corrected a bit of distortion with Adaptive wide angle function and a bit of rotated cropping.

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This image was taken at Holyrood Park, Edinburgh, Scotland. Initially, I had wanted to capture the blue hours of the landscape, similar to that in Barcelona. I imagined that would quite beautiful with this sort of wide-ranging view. However, the sunset at that time (summer) was about 11 pm. I was on top for about two hours and could not wait any longer. It got quite cold as I was without my jacket and I had to come down. I settled for a golden hour instead, focusing the transition of the golden evening sky into blue.

The key element in this image was to create the very shallow depth of view using a wide aperture. In this composite of three exposures, there happen to have a tiny white car driving across the road at the foreground.

For industry relevancy, this could be an image as part of a series of car advertising or a travelogue book. It could also be used as large format prints on walls of corporate companies.

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1. This image is a result of blending three exposures together. I imagined the final piece to be a high tonality image with the warmth of the city in contrast with blue sky. These buildings at mid ground are the main focus in the image.

2. On my camera raw, I opened up the shadows and adjusted colour luminosity. I pulled in a gradient filter cascading down from the top left side. Also, I have removed chromatic aberrations and applied post-crop vignetting. I would then bring these images into a three layer file in photoshop.

3. I created masking layers over the two exposures. After applying a gradient masking on these layers, I brushed out the dark parts and lighter parts of these image over the neutral layer until the visuals appear natural to me. I realised the overall image was too cold, hence I used colour balance to bring back some warmth towards the right side of the city building.

4. I went on further to saturate the colours using the filters in Color Efex Poro 4, Google Nik.

5. Last but not least, I noticed the ghosting effect of the car at foreground. I used the clone tool to remove the ghosting.

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This has to be my strongest image of all the images I have taken in Scotland.This was the kind of style I hope to produce while in Scotland: a moody Scotland highland with a foreboding element. The weather had been inconsistent throughout the week with intermittent sunny and rainy weather. To replicate such style had proved to be quite a challenge for me. Hence this came as a surprise shot, taken just outside my hostel in Ratagan. I used my zoom lens to focus on the three peaks across the lake and above Invershiel village. I had used my zoom lens to focus on the three peaks across the lake and above Invershiel village. Large apertures were used to give the rock textures a crisp, sharp edge.

I selected this image as part of my “provocative landscapes” 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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1. This image is a result of blending two exposures together. I imagined the final piece to be a dramatic scene of the ominous clouds looming over the peaks. I create a dynamic contrast on my camera raw file by reducing highlight and opening up shadows. Increased some white values and reduced some black values. In this situation, I would boost up a lot of clarity values to increase the crisp sharp texture of the rocks. I would then composite these images into a two layer file in photoshop.

2. To reveal more dynamic tonalities into the image, I would paint in more details from the dark exposure over the blown out clouds and add a tonal curve adjustment layer to accentuate the contrast.

3. The secret sauce to the punchiness of the final image is that I used an Indian Summer filter from Color Efex Pro 4, Google Nik to produce an orangey-alienish landscape on these mountain rocks.

4. Because of the nature of the filter is a warm tone, I used a cool colour balance adjustment layer over the clouds to add balance to the image, via gradient mask.

Dubai

My trip back to Singapore in October had been an epic journey. Because of this opportunity, I was able to visit Doha and Dubai and capture some snippets of the desert landscape in aerial shots from above the plane. Although I shot quite a bit here, I did not pick any of the images in this album as I did not see how most of them could fit in my project theme and photographic style. I did contemplate choosing the panoramic view of the sunset in Dubai for a while, but in the end, I decided not to because I could not find it coherent with my other images as a series in the portfolio.

To read more about my journey, click here.

Singapore

While I was back home for about 2.5 weeks. I did not manage to take many photos during my time here as I had been extremely busy tending personal matters. however, I did manage to capture a typical Singapore landscape in all its sunshine glory. tall office buildings and high rise flats dotting the horizon. I got quite picky as I looked for locations. Given how small the size of Singapore is, finding unique locations for landscape shoot can be quite challenging. As a local, we are so used to our environment that we hardly see anything special.

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A view of Singapore cityscape from a vantage point. This spot was unique to me because it was a complex with the residential area above it. I come hee to shop often, but I never had the urge to explore the views above.

I have taken many great images during my short stay here, but this particular piece stands out to me because of the high tonality and vibrancy of the hues, and its complex architecture but somewhat clean image are what represents my style. Hence I have included it as part of my portfolio.

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1. This image is a result of three exposures blended together. I imagined the final piece to be a high tonality image with much vibrancy and saturated colours.

2. I reduced highlights and push up more shadows, reduced a bit of clarity to give a touch of softness. the trick to making those colours pop out lies in the saturation and luminance settings, where I would be able to control individual colours without affect the overall values.

3. Another trick to straighten these architectural buildings is to use the manual lens correction function to correct the perspective. in this case, I corrected the vertical angle to compensate for my lens which was pointed downwards during the shoot. I would crop out those excess part later.

4. In photoshop, I created mask layers over the two exposures and brush out the dark parts and lighter parts of these image over the neutral one.

5. For the finishing touch, I added a bit of contrast with tonal curve adjustment and reduce a bit of warmth with colour balance adjustment layer.

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