Man's Best Friend

Taking a portraiture of man's best friend was a first for me; let alone taking photos for two of them. Don't be fooled by their petite sizes and adorable faces. These two are very playful and hyperactive.

Phoebe the chihuahua was tougher to shoot as she wouldn't sit still. Bailey the poodle, on the other hand, was more interested in the food offered by her owner than the whole set-up of the lighting and camera.

Initially, I was afraid that the flash might cause irritation to their eyes or scare them. Thankfully, they did not react to the flash at all as their eyes were focused on the treats instead.

The concept and style for this shoot was inspired by Andrew Zuckerman, a well-known photographer specialising in animal portraitures with a clean white background. I was intrigued by how his style was simple yet effective in showing the expressions and emotions of animals. Hence, I decided to give it a shot.

Hope the series of photos below will bring smiles to many of your faces, just as it has done to mine!

A flash trip to Thailand

It's always troubling if you are a photographer or a photo hobbyist and you would like to bring as little gear that is lightweight with you on a trip. You will usually end up bringing tons of equipment as you start considering the lights and lenses you need 'just in case'.

I gave myself a mini challenge, to bring as little as possible on this trip to Bangkok. And so, after careful and excruciating consideration, I decided to bring 1 x Canon 600EX II-RT(Flashlight), 2 x Kupo Grip, 1 x Canon 5D Mark III, 1 x Canon ST-E3-RT (Light Transmitter), Full CTO & HALF CTB gels and a Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II. It all added up to a mere 4kg! 

I've always had this idea in my head - if I only have one flash at a given location, what can I do with it ? So for this short vacation break, I made use of whatever I had.


It's always a challenge to shoot a portraiture during mid-day. Usually you will need a diffuser or a scrim to diffuse the harsh sunlight (which can also mean an extra hand needed). However, we were lucky enough to have Mother Nature help us with that! A natural diffuser of earth, clouds. And so we waited patiently for the right time to capture the image. All the images taken at the sunflower field were lighted with our little flash.

Here is how I setup the light! Use whatever I can find :)


At this particular hotel, Modena by Fraser Bangkok, they had a captivating lift lobby, which was a  vivid yellow coloured container. This was shot at UTC+2am and the security guard even came out to check on us because we were stacking chairs along the walkway, just to clamp the camera at the right height. Haha! All for the photo right? Again, we only had one light for this location.


Rod Fai Night Market, a night market that sold antiques & vintage items, and was also lined with bars & various eateries. We came across a lane right at the end that displayed all the vintage and used items. It was such a lovely location for another shoot. Of course, all the items belong to the storeowners and you have to handle them carefully if you want to touch them.

There were so many interesting compositions to shoot at this location but you have to be daring enough to pose amidst the swarm of tourists walking by and looking at you. Also, please do ask the storeowner for permission first. 

Can you guess which image below did not make use of a single flash? :)


We came across this little cozy cafe while getting lost. A happy accident as our stomachs were screaming for food and we went in to grab a bite. The interior was lovely and we could not resist taking an image before leaving.


Primo Piazza, a small and quiet place with not many tourists. It is definitely a great place for a simple photoshoot especially if you are looking for Mediterranean architecture with a hint of the country side influence.


The Paz Khao Yai, one of the most chilling place I have ever been in Thailand. It was so relaxing, cooling and quiet. As I sat at the sky bar thinking I was done shooting for the day, I saw a little glimpse of light in the sky and could not help but do one last shoot. So I used a full CTO (Colour temperature orange) gel with my flash and clamped it onto the railing on our far right. It was pretty dark so the ISO had to be at 6400. 


The following images were taken at random locations at different days. All of which were lighted up with the sole flashlight I brought.

I have to say, it was pretty satisfying to be able to create a set of images with whatever you have and  can find on location. It forces you to think out of the box and solve problems by adapting.

This was simply a fun challenge for myself and I am definitely going to do this again on my next trip. Why not try it for yourselves too?

Marvel's Dr Strange

Have any of you ever wanted to possess the mystical powers of Doctor Strange? Opening a teleportation portal anywhere, anytime. How cool is that? Well, I definitely wish I could, and I can….. produce an image of myself opening the teleportation portal. Haha!

Inspiration

As obvious as it is already, this image was totally inspired from the 2016 MARVEL fantasy/science fiction film, Dr Strange, directed by Scott Derrickson.

The visual of the iconic portal opening up to reveal an entirely different location on the other side was just breathtaking to me. Especially with the orange sparks rotating and opening up the portal.

Creating the Sparks

Unlike the conventional dark purple colour often used in association with sorcery, Doctor Strange’s magic is bright and gold, and the circular teleportation portal conjured by him has golden sparks flying around the circumference.

I did not want to create a fake spark portal by using any stock image or photoshop filter, thus, I started googling on how to create sparks that moved in a circular motion. Turns out it was pretty easy to achieve. All you need is a kitchen whisk, a glove, some steel wool grade 0, a stainless steel cord (flexible enough to tie around the whisk), a lighter and a huge deserted area (trust me, the sparks can reach great distances).

With all the tools on hand and a location to create the sparks, it was time to experiment. The first few times involved troubleshooting with the camera settings and the way you should spin the contraption. Note: PLEASE WEAR THE GLOVES AT ALL TIMES! As the metal whisk will get extremely hot after the burning the steel wool.

PORTAL LOCATIONs

Before I began this project, I already had the image composition and location in mind. The location would be from my home office. Doesn't it just feels so good to teleport anywhere you want from home? All I needed to do was to tidy up the place and have the proper outfit for the photoshoot depending on the location I am 'traveling' to. Since I wanted a winter location on the other end of the portal, my outfit would consist of boots and winter wear such as a wind breaker (all of which are from G-star. Sponsor me maybe?).

All that was left to do for the scene would be to plan the lighting and simulate the effect that the orange sparks from the portal would realistically have on the surroundings by illuminating certain parts of the room accordingly.

I used a Profoto B1 attached with an umbrella and a diffuser. A full color temperature orange gel (CTO) was used to create the warm lighting given out by the portal. That was pretty much about it. Now all you had to do was to perfect the pose.

Post-processing

After the shoot was done, it was time to composite the two images (the portal sparks and the home office image) into one. And of course, not forgetting the image of a winter location that was going to be shown in the portal.

Below is the final imagery:

Triumph-Group-2016-.jpg

We thought it would be cool to do a cinemagraph for the portal so, why not? :)

I really wish I had such powers but I guess this image will have to suffice for now.

Till then, let's keep experimenting and creating interesting imagery! 

ROOSTER YEAR 2017

2017, the year of the Fire Rooster.
As we welcome in the flaming new year, we got down to business. Every year, we try to come up with our own interpretation of the coming Zodiac sign and this year was no different.

The year of the Rooster pushed us in the obvious direction of the chicken. However, we decided on going to its earliest tangible form, and that is, the egg.

An egg symbolically represents the birth of a chick or chicken (after it grows up). We felt that the idea of birth was very apt as a new year is like a new birth into another period of our lives for everyone and a new beginning as well.

We started brainstorming several concepts that would involve an egg. How do we go about making something so mundane and basic like an egg, into something more?

We came up with 2 concepts and couldn't decide on which would represent the new year best. So we thought, why not do both?

The first one was a lava concept with its cracks leading from a glowing egg. A shadow in the shape of a rooster is seen inside the egg. This concept represents the bursting energy of the coming year.
The second concept was much more minimalistic. It was an inspiration from the Star Wars poster that depicted a Darth Vader shadow being casted by a young Anakin Skywalker. We felt that it was a strong depiction of showing what is to come. Therefore, we decided to show the egg casting a shadow of a rooster to represent the coming year. The red background was a symbolism of the Fire Rooster and of course the classic belief of bringing us luck in the coming year.

 

We hope that everyone has a prosperous, blazing year ahead and here's wishing all a
Happy Lunar New Year!

Chinese New Year

等, 团圆

This project was completed within 2 weeks from start to finish. The planning, casting, filming and editing done in time for the day where Chinese have their yearly reunion dinner.

It was like a mini challenge for us to execute our idea within the short span of time and we were glad to have been able to bring our idea to fruition.

Reunion dinner, a time and place where every single person who is a Chinese should come home to their families and simply sit down to have a meal together. However, in this day and age, where everyone is ironically connected online but disconnect in reality, people have begun to forget the importance of spending time with their families. Many place the commitments of work and other relationships above family time while others simply feel that there isn't enough time. The need to keep up in the rat race for status or monetary values has long replaced the priority and need for family reunions. Of course, this does not apply to everyone out there but a majority of you would have to agree.

This story depicts an ordinary housewife and a mother, who is looking forward to have a yearly reunion dinner with her children. How will the story progress? Do scroll on to watch the video.

Casting, logistics, scripting and directing were done by Priscilla Lim, from Chapalang and Co. As for the shooting and editing of the video, we were in charge. The story is based off on a true encounter that Cino, from 50nfifty Productions, has once witnessed and as such, wanted to show how it felt in his own interpretation.

We would also like to thank 2 vendors for kindly sponsoring us their amazing services.
Thank you Mouth Restaurant for sponsoring the dishes for the reunion dinner.
And Makeup Maestro for their hairstyling and makeup.

All in all, we sincerely hope that everyone will take time off to spend with their families and also cherish every moment spent together not just on the day of the reunion dinner.

Iphone 7 plus

Whether you are a hater, or a hardcore apple fanboy, there is one thing we can all agree on, Apple’s products are the epitome of sleek, style and elegance. If you do disagree on that, then your definition of style and elegance is wrong…. just kidding. As if their product’s sheer beauty isn’t a powerful enough marketing tool, their marketing is so aggressive as well. Look at their signature style of clean and minimalistic billboards, go online and see those ad-banners of their vibrant and rich Retina display LCD Screens and you will understand what I mean.

With the recent release of their iPhone 7 Plus, their marketing campaign is more aggressive than ever before. Looking at all those images, it makes me wonder whether Apple’s advertorial photos are created by photography, or rendered using CGI (Computer Graphic Image). With the advent of technology, it is no secret that photography is being pushed away in favour of image rendering by CGI. It is simply cleaner, more convenient and cost effective compared to the traditional method of photography. It is almost certain that Apple utilises CGI for their advertorial images. But as a photographer trying to keep the dying art of product photography alive, I challenged myself to see whether it is possible to recreate the same iPhone 7 Plus Rose Gold advertorial photo used by Apple, using a camera. And so, me and my assistant set out to produce three images, two replicating Apple’s product advertorial image, and the final one, our own rendition of the iPhone 7 Plus.

Getting our gloves on the new iPhone 7 plus Rose Gold proved to be quite a feat, it had been out of stock for many months in Singapore. When we finally got one, it was vital that we took precautionary measures to prevent fingerprints and scratches, hence, the gloves. Sure there is photoshop clone function, but why go through the hassle, right?

 

*Technicality warning, do not proceed if technical information and know-hows bores you.*

We used our standard product photography camera set-up, a Canon 5D Mark III paired with the Canon EF 100mm f2.8L Macro lens. For the lights, we used three lights - two Canon 600EX-RT and a Profoto B1. One of the 600EX-RT is attached to a 60cm x 60cm Lastolite Softbox with Warm Pink Gels. This light is to create the nice gradient rose gold backdrop. The second 600EX-RT was fitted with a small 22cm x 22cm Lastolite Ezybox Speed-Lite which acted as the key light. The Profoto B1 is mounted with a OCF 1' x 3' Softbox to create a nice streak of highlight on the edge of the iPhone. With lights comes the inevitability of light spills and reflection, especially with the shiny camera glass. We used some Lee Filter Blackfoil to cut the light spill, tracing paper to diffuse the light and white paper to act as a reflector to fill up some of the shadows. After many trials, we managed to achieve a satisfactory shot.

With every product photoshoot, there definitely will be post processing. Heck, with every photoshoot there will be post-processing. There was the usual focus stacking, and even though we took many precautionary measures, some dust still ended up on the camera. It wasn’t easy using focus stacking to obtain a uniformed sharpness just like in the advertorial images by Apple, but eventually, we did it. 

*End of Technicality*


Reference From Apple's website

Our TAKE


Reference from Apple's website

Our take


Here is our own rendition of a new perspective:


In the end, our conclusion from the painstaking photography process is that we highly believe Apple uses CGI to render their advertorial photos. One good example why we would think so was because of the iPhone 7 Plus Camera. On the image reference you are able to see the camera parts clearly but on the real product itself, it is extremely hard to see those parts.

Furthermore, rendering is able to achieve a shot of your product that incorporates a unique perspective which is tedious to create with a camera. By rendering, you are able to make changes to them quickly with maximum efficiency and minimum cost. This would definitely be ideal for a company such as Apple especially when they have multiple colours, sizes and types of products.

Nonetheless, we took home many skills from our trials, and besides, practise makes perfect. Let us triumph over CGI and uplift the authenticity of photography.

You can watch behind the scenes of the photoshoot here: