Developmental Process: Pandora’s Box

This series was based on the research done in BA3a, of conceptual artists and sculptors who have used mirrors in their works, as well as the influence of images and films who of Iceland. I decided to expand the series in tandem with the Allenmanstretten series. That is, I brought the mirror cube out to Iceland for a spin. In this post, I discuss the developmental process of how these imageries were achieved, in chronological order.

Preparation

There were many things I could not execute due to severe logistical constraints. Hence I took more of an experimental approach, in the sense if it works, it works. All these starts with the preparation of the mirror cube.

Contrary to popular believe, getting the mirror cube to Iceland was relatively easy because I was using the regular self-adhesive mirror tiles bought from Wilko, which was used in other photography projects earlier on. I  had only used 4 tiles to build the cube, as I want it to be as light-weight as I could carry, and also the lightest configuration I could lug around when I’m there. I only needed to show the sides where it would be photographed. It was necessary to ensure that it was packed comfortably into my check-in baggage. The other item I needed to bring along was duct tape. I would borrow scissors from the hostel staff.

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Equipment-wise, I used 5D MKIII and 16-35mm lens for all of the shoot for this series. I had the 5Ds as my second camera but it as meant for the telephoto lens. I didn’t plan to switch up my equipment because I didn’t want the elements to dirty the camera sensors if I had to change them on the ground.

The Iceland Trip

While packing these mirror tiles were relatively easy, setting it up was actually “difficult”. Firstly was because I arrived at my hostel in Reykjavik and I was immediately brought out to catch the Northern Lights. I didn’t have the time to unpack and set the mirrors, though I really wished I had. I didn’t know what to expect from the northern lights and I’m kicking myself for not setting up the mirrors. Secondly was because I was out the next day and I had to drive on to my next destination on the following day and then spend a night out in the car. It was exhausting and I didn’t have the chance to set it up until I was almost leaving my first hostel outside Reykjavik.

It was a good weather with plenty of the sunshine and blue sky, only a little windy. I wanted to seize the chance to set up my mirror cube for a couple of test shoots if I could. I went around the vicinity to scout for location and found a pile of gravel stone that might work in front of the mountain ridges. The idea was to find a stable, high ground vantage point. As I did a couple of test shots, the wind picked up and the mirrors kept falling. This became an early indicator that my cube was too light and not really suitable for shooting in the rugged terrain. So I moved on.

On post process, I felt that many of the shots from this scene could have worked well if I set up the mirror tiles properly. It seems bits of its interiors can be seen. Also, there was one frame where I thought it might have been able to work out better if I spend more time shifting my camera angle and the mirror cube to a more symmetrically and that the reflection of the mountain peak would become more prominent in the image.

I managed to get my cube up again much later when I had reached Vestrahorn in Hofn, due to my travelling schedule. The problem was, I was hit by a blizzard storm whilst driving towards Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon at night. As it was my first time experiencing such condition, I was both physically and mentally drained from the intense drive. I had only get on to Vestrahorn the next day after a full day’s rest at Hofn area.

While at Vestrahorn, I had a rough visual idea how I wanted the image to look like. It was cloudy that day, and I had recced the area until it was almost sunset and went out to try my luck. On the ground, the lighting conditions became more terrible. I came out of my car and set up my cube while other visitors were looking at me like I’m the mad Asian guy. At that point it didn’t matter to me which particular spot was the best since the landscape was so vast, I just randomly plot the cube at different positions and decided on the best stable composition before shooting. However, The lighting conditions were quite terrible and I didn’t like that the black sands were sticking onto my mirrors when I place them on the ground. I only took two exposures and immediately deemed it a failure.

It was only when I got back home for post process that I realised how wrong I was and I should have taken more exposures and explored much more while I was there. Do I call this a lucky shot? No, obviously there was some compositional planning before I took the image and I’m well aware of the unevenness of the mirror cube which I had to straighten it out before the shoot. But I’m still kicking myself for capturing only two exposures in this location.

The next location was at the Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon. This was on my way back eastwards towards Reykjavik, I just had to give the glacier lagoon a visit before I leave. However, the weather never improved. In fact, it got much wetter and colder with the intermittent pelting of tiny ice hail but not to the point of a snow blizzard. It was really frustrating that I had not been able to do much for this series as it was extremely challenging. At that point, I decided to “brave the storm” and see how it turns out.

There were a lot of small icebergs that were washed up on the shore. I spent a bit of time figuring out the best way to fit the mirrors and again, I picked a random spot, further away from the main tourist crowd. Everyone came to see the icebergs with their cameras, and I was the only schmuck who carried the mirror cube and cameras out. I did get many odd glances, but at leat one of the visitors thought I was trying something weird but interesting.

With the terrible weather, nothing looked great on my camera.  I went on to figure out if I could fiddle with the bits of ice and arrange them into a more “compositionally-pleasing” manner. And that was it before the rain came and I had run all the way back into my car.

The next one was done on the next day, my second last day because after spending the whole afternoon at the glacier lagoon, it took me almost 5 hours of drive to reach my last destination at Laugarvtan before heading back to Reykjavik. I reach my hostel at 12 midnight, exhausted. By this time it was the end of my Iceland journey and I was hell-bent on making these mirror cube series work by hook or by crook.

On my second last day, it got bright and sunny. I found a stable platform with vantage point. This was an ideal place to set up my mirror cube. I carefully aligned the cube with the straight path below and experimented with various height and angles. I was more careful not to reveal the mirror interiors this time. I took brackets exposures hoping one of them might work. A couple of visitors came by at different times and found the mirror cube to be strangely amusing until i explained to them it was meant for Uni work.

During the last week of the Easter break, I had the chance to head out to Thetford forest for a walk. I decided to take the mirror cube out for a walk. It was a huge forest and I didn’t know where to start. I just pick a random part of the forest, along Brandon Road and did a couple of shots. However, the motivation to push and explore just wasn’t there.  I thought somehow it just didn’t have the same feel as I did back in Iceland. Perhaps I was trying out a “Finn Beale” style; perhaps it was because of the cloudy weather which gave a soft diffused lighting in the woods that I felt it didn’t work for me. Or perhaps it’s just “Finn Beales” style wasn’t cut out for me.

on post process, I thought cross-processing would fit the mood of the image, but still, I didn’t quite like it. Maybe it’s a little too green, I don’t know.

 

Post Process

_MG_5437Edit_BA2On post process, heavy editing wasn’t required. Though I could have cleaned out some of the details out the foreground but I liked the mess of details to be authentic. Just the usual method of opening up shadows and decreasing highlights and that was good enough.

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1. This image is a result of blending three exposures together. I didn’t really had any visual concepts of the end results, after blending the images together with some adjustment curves. I thought it was nothing much.

2. I then applied the detail extractor filter in camera Effex pro to push more details out of the camera raw, and the pro contrast filter to compliment the amount of raw details being forced out. This is when the image truly pops out. Then I did a bit of colour adjustment to remove the colour cast and clone out some unwanted details and repaired the mirror edges to make it neater.

3. Then I did a bit of colour adjustment to remove the colour cast and clone out some unwanted details and repaired the mirror edges to make it neater.

Conclusion

Bringing out a mirror cube out for the shoot, it was quite a fun experience to work with. It’s something I would not normally do when I shoot landscapes as it was more of me trying my luck and see how it turns out. Have I got any failures in my shoot? definitely yes, I did in fact considered most of it a failure on the ground because of the ideal weather condition and timing at the location did nut turn to my favor, however the some of the images turned out to be surprisingly strong after post processing that I actually want to kick myself for not continuing it when I was on location. With those images, I could easily say I got lucky but was it a lucky shot? I think no. Sure the landscapes were magnificent, to begin with. The rugged terrain is still considered an exotic place for many people. The weather condition may be unpredictable. However, I still accessed the situation on location and tried to make full use of the time while I was there. I experimented with camera angles and composition in hopes to increase my chance of successful shots. Not all was lost and some of the images turned out good unexpectedly.

This series has enabled to me to learn that I could plan my shot as much as I want with all the concepts and ideas and visuals built in my head. But there are some shots that come naturally from constant experimentation and when I least expected it. It’s a bit like “the decisive moment”. Although I did not achieve the vibrant colourful visual which I hoped to get out from, but it does fulfil the “provocative landscape” research I had set out to explore. I think I could still bring the mirror tiles back to Singapore after graduation and try it out with cityscapes. Combine it with my vivid approach in photography and perhaps I might get interesting results with it over there.

 

My visual editing process was inspired by a Thai (presumably) a photographer, by the name of CoolBieЯe’s Folio on his facebook page, who had put up some visuals to explain the editing process of his images. The comments section were all in Thai and I do not understand what they were saying, but it garnered a lot of positive responses and I thought it was a good way to show people how the final result of an image was achieved and the thoughts behind.

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It’s a bit similar to a print map in the analogue photography, where it the photographer make markings on the image on a piece of paper as to how he/she wants to interpret on the negatives. The photographer would then go on to develop the negatives. The difference is that I’m editing my photos digitally and it is much faster compare to the analogue process.

I decided to try it out for my BA3a. The downside was that it required extra effort to prepare the screenshot images and compile them into a single image. However, I had found it to be extremely helpful in illustrating my thought processes for my edits.

Hence I will be doing it again for BA3b, on selected images.

 

In an effort to push the boundaries of what landscape is to me, I want to explore the realm of the bodyscape; something which I would not typically do. I might try to inject my style of vibrant colours and structural elements into the genre, or do a more subtle approach.

This research is still under development due to time constraint and will be explored further during the next semester of my year three projects. 

References

Photo Awards
Entry Title:
“Le Petit Olivier”
Name: Vincent Dixon , United States
Category and Expertise: Advertising, Professional

Scape 2 by BriDex Medija on 500px.com

Scape 2, BriDex Medija

 

Wild Grasses by John Poppleton on 500px.com

Wild Grasses, John Poppleton

 

Developmental Process: Concept 1

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.

My Post Processing Methodology

Post processing plays a big role in today’s photographic society. Photographers are expected to be familiar and knowledgeable with editing software such as Photoshop and Lightroom. It can be argued back and forth if this is right or wrong and whether such digital manipulation is ruining photography. But I see it as a tool, just as the darkroom was a tool to manipulate images. Whether it’s used subtlety, or for major composites, I think it is definitely an important skill to know.

As my photographic skills grew over the last few years, so did my thirst for better images. I have acquired a myriad of editing techniques that I use to process my photos in different situations. This is not a tutorial in Photoshop, but a brief explanation of my workflow processes, how I filter my images and process them from start to finish.

Initial Filtration 

1. Before importing the raw files, I would create a new folder album and strictly name it according to the date taken, follow by a name of the event.

2. After importing the raw files, I could create more new folders inside the root folder, such as “unpick” to filter out unwanted files, or a named folder if I am going to edit. If I have taken multiple images for exposure bracketing, panorama stitching, or time-lapses, I would classify them into new folders. New folders signify a new scene. Sometimes if I am rushing for time, I would pick images straight from the camera card. This reduces the additional process of transferring the entire album and filtering them again.

3. In these folders, I would create two more subfolders: “Raw” and “Workfile“. The Raw folder would contain the CR raw and the metadata files after editing, and workfile folder would contain all of my photoshop files. Sometimes if I have two identical images, I would determine the best one to edit and discard the other into the “unpick” folder. This is my way of selection before I start my editing process. If it is a large album like a few days worth of images of a single event, I would archive these images in folders (after culling the bad ones) before I start editing. These images in the unwanted folder would be cleared away to free up more space.

4. After my editing, I would reorganise my root folder before I archive the entire edited album into my hard disk (copying over the original backup files), On my Computer, only the best image will be kept in jpeg form. I would discard the raw files and working files in my computer when I feel confident I don’t need them anymore. In case I need them again, I would retrieve from my hard disk.

5. I would use coloured tags in Mac to sort out which folders are done and which requires attention. I would also use these coloured tags to pick the strongest images in my album and create “unwanted” folder to cull more bad images again.

Things to consider when I wrote my dissertation abstract:

  • Why did you decide to do this study or project?
    This field of research would give me a better understanding of how landscape photographers can promote new ways of thinking by adopting different stances of provocative imagery to influence people.
  • How did you conduct your research?
    By dissecting the complex visual culture through various references.
  • What did you find?
    Activism photography has changed the way we see images today and it has been employed in so many different aspects of our life, across a whole range of cultural and social uses that provocative imagery has become part of the norm in catching our attention and responses.
  • Why are this research and your findings important?
    This paper attempts to unravel aspects of ‘provocativeness’ in photography and assert its relevance to the landscapes.
  • What problem is your research trying to better understand or solve?
    However, the role of provocativeness in photography and its theoretical concepts have been a rarely discussed subject and cannot be ignored.
  • What is the scope of your study – a general problem, or something specific?
    The first part of this paper establishes the definition of provocative in the context of the landscape and further examines its philosophical concepts in relation to the Art of persuasion from cultural history, socio-political and personal perspectives.
  • What is your main claim or argument?
    The aim of this paper is not to present a study of how such images are made. Instead, the objective is to investigate the role of the provocative landscape by analysing the various strategies how such images are created to influence and persuade people today.
  • Discuss your own research including the variables and your approach.
    To examine the technological and ethical aspects of approaches contemporary landscape photographers have taken today.
  • Describe the evidence you have to support your claim

    The kinds of evidence I have taken ranges from books to journals, to articles and websites. the top few criteria I look for in my evidence are:

    1. Channels: To recognise the different platforms or channels the information may come. Identify if the source is scholarly/ academic, a popular magazine/blog or trade/ professional, and how are they useful to my essay. To consider what perspective and biasedness of the source.
    2. Relevancy: In what way the reference is relevant to my essay. Some sources may be outdated but contents of a particular article may still be a relevant subject or topic to my context.
    3. Credibility: Contain bibliographies or reference lists and other external sources cited, or that author and review board credentials and affiliations are given.
    4. Evidence: Clues and indication of where the original reference gets their information from, and whether it is comparable with another source.
    5. Recognition: Accolades and background history of the author or the quality of the source;  if the source is widely read by many people or if it is targeted at a specific group of audience.
  • Give an overview of your most important sources.
    Link here.