Thursday, August 31, 2006

Timeless Exhibition is up

Kuang, Ron, Wan Sheng and Eadwine. Their first photographic exhibition. Catch it at Citylink from now till the end of October.

Hong Kong Land let me put my images there until the end of the year. But I think these guys are good and deserve some promotion. :)

More pictures of the setting up shot by Wan Sheng here.

I can see Clearly Now

Jimmy Cliff Lyrics - I Can See Clearly Now

I can see clearly now the rain is gone
I can see all obstacles in my way
Gone are the dark clouds that had me down
It's gonna be a bright bright bright bright sun shiny day
It's gonna be a bright bright bright bright sun shiny day

Oh yes I can make it now the pain is gone
All of the bad feelings have disappeared
Here is that rainbow I've been praying for
It's gonna be a bright bright bright bright sun shiny day

Look all around there's nothing but blue skies
Look straight ahead there's nothing but blue skies

I can see clearly now the rain is gone
I can see all obstacles in my way
Here is that rainbow I've been praying for
It's gonna be a bright bright bright bright sun shiny day
It's gonna be a bright bright bright bright sun shiny day
Bright bright bright bright sun shiny day
Oh yeah
It's gonna be a bright bright bright bright sun shiny day
It's gonna be a bright bright bright bright sun shiny day
It's gonna be a bright bright bright bright sun shiny day.

Dedicated to the fellow hand wavers at Fort Canning during the WOMAD 2006.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Josh Kurpius

Josh Kurpius

Blood of a thousand was just a fun side project. My idea was to shoot something that looks more like lifestyle but has an incogrous element in it. But the response from a world of people who are so used to blood, shock and gore, is that I should go way way more out.
Pei Yee and Yue Min want to lend me their collection of shock movies and Shin sent me this link.

I am actually such a nice sweet guy, but I will expose my mind to blood and gore for my art. I think I am going to push it on the next few shoots for Blood of a thousand. I am already crazy, just hope I don't become crazy dangereus. :)

Botanical Gardens Infrared Version II

Kiampa has commented that my original infrared shots lack a glow. I have processed these files differently. Comments? I may go one step further and soften the images with a little gaussian blur. But what I have presented so far has all been straight out of Camera raw.

Calibrating the camera

I wrote about the colour deficiency of DSLR sensors in the
Pond Musings: The Digital Divide

Today I tried out Tom For's calibration script. I actually went so far as to shoot a Gretagmacbeth chart for 5 lenses on three different light banks. I have only got one lens and light bank calibrated so far as the calibration process takes about half an hour. All I can say is that the results are promising. Not only is the image neutral, the red, green and blue patches on the chart look really good. My assistant's skin tones were more natural after calibration as well.

I am excited about this. After calibrating the lenses with studio lights, I intend to calibrate the lenses with my Cosmopro fluorescent lights and outdoor daylight.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Kelvin and Kelly - Just because

I could not sleep last night and wanted to share this image on my computer. Darned Blogger acted up again while uploading images. So here it is now.

Monday, August 28, 2006

The Pond is looking for a 2nd Assistant

The Pond has an opening for a full-time position of second assistant. The Pond is a commercial photography studio specializing in portraiture.

The position of second assistant requires knowledge of digital cameras, Photoshop and studio lighting equipment. The main duties of the second assistant will be to handle digital workflow and assist the first assistant in setup and take down of sets.

Knowledge of computer operating systems and networking is an advantage.

The Pond is only looking for Singaporean candidates.

Interested parties can send a resume to .

More Infrareds of the Botanical Gardens

Botanical Gardens in Infrared

Friday, August 25, 2006

Go Figure

I have put a new section in my web site. Go Figure. It is in the personal section.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Money makes the world go round

As good as digital cameras are, there is still an issue with tonal range and colour rendition. Whenever photographers look at chromes or a good black and white print, they fall in love with photography again. Believable colour saturation and exceptional tonal gradations are just so beautiful. But because the consumer, and that is where the real money for camera/film manufacturers is, wants the convenience of digital instant gratification, the manufacturers pander to them. In real terms, to me, the quality of the image has deteriorated. I just hope that in time digital capture will improve to provide a richer better colour palette.

What has got me writing this piece of gripe is the news that Fuji is going to stop supporting the frontier lab machines and hand over the print lab business to Noritsu. But the Noritsu machines have a large dot and puts down colour in a blotchy manner, resulting in soft images with a plastic look. This seems to be the beta/vhs battle again, where it is not the best format that wins. From what I hear, although the Fuji Frontier machines are superior, the Noritsu's are more easy to operate and enables the operator to punch out more images for the clients.

Money 3 Quality 0

In this age of quick and easy, we are losing our appreciation of the finer things in life.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Blood of a thousand - Episode 2

Japanese housewife cooking a family favourite, Ladies and gentleman's fingers.

This is my first try at this type of work. Forgive the bad photoshop collage. That is one thing I will have to work on.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Back to Panoramics

I have been trying different formats while travelling. I have been trying to use digital cameras because they are easier to archive and make money from by selling as stock. But somehow that X-pan film format speaks to me. I think that I will return the x-pan for my travel photography. I cannot get a similar result from the digital cameras. And from the people who have seen my work, I think that the x-pan images are much more outstanding than the digital images.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Portrait photography with Sherman

Timeless - The Art of Wedding Photography

I have this space in Citylink where I display my photographs till the end of the year. It has become hard for me to keep changing the display myself and I thought that I would put up the work of some photographers that I respect. So I am letting some wedding photographers put up images from their actual wedding day photographs. The exhibition is Called Timeless and will be on at Citylink on September and October 2006.

The photographers whose work will be on display are
Hwang Chi Kuang
Eadwine Lay
Ron Lee
Chen Wan Sheng

I have been selecting the images with the guys and it is coming along nicely. I hope that this will help them and be inspiring to other photographers and couples.

Friday, August 11, 2006

This and that

I am at a point in time, pregnant with possibilities, impatient to go forward but mindful of the foundations I need to put in place. It is like the time I left London and returned to Singapore, with all that education. So many possibilities but overwhelmed with those same possibilities.

I am a bit older now, am more certain of my path and wiser to the pitfalls in front of me. I would love to throw myself headlong into the middle of commercial photography, but the entrance is hard to find. And I am afraid that if my studio is not prepared, the exit would not only be much easier to find, it would present itself to me.

It is funny though that I have met several photographers who have heard of me. At least one photographer who thinks I am established and is surprised that I went to intern in Chicago. I know the worth of my work and I know that I am worth more than I charge at the moment. But I also know that I am nowhere close to where I want to be eventually. And I am not even talking about being 'successful' in the normal Singaporean sense. I am talking about having the vision and know how to take exceptional photographs. On Paul Elledge's reccomendation, I have subscribed to communication arts. I received the photography issue today. Turn to any page and I can see how lacking my work is. I have always believed that in something like photography, the day you think you have arrived, is the day you die. To continue improving, there is a continual hunger in you.

I have several ideas actually on how to make money from photography and be 'successful'. But that has not been the aim of my photographic practice. It has been to earn enough money to run a studio so that I am able to make the best images that I can. And even if I want to be a commercial photographer and succeed, I will never ever become rich from this pursuit. And looking at the conditions and hours that photographers have, this line of business is not glamorous. Even if you are fortunate enough to become a fashion photographer and shoot a supermodel, it does not mean that the experience is going to be wonderful or that your social life is going to be rated X. So many commercial photographers are so busy it is hard for them to retain a relationship, at least in the normal sense. In many instances, the wives of great photographers are also involved the photographer's business.

Oh heck. I am just plotting a path between shooting projects from my heart, running a business, maintaining an office, keeping healthy and eecking out time for friends and family. Honestly, I could spend all my time honing my photographic skills, but that would be the death of me as everything else around me crumbles.

For those of you who continue to stumble and struggle along, I dedicate Jewel's Good
to you.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Bevlyn Khoo portfolio shoot

I just shot Bevlyn Khoo for her portfolio last week. She is a singer trying to break into the music scene overseas. I hope that she makes it and comes back to hire me for an album cover shoot.

The Apple Store (Singapore) - Mac Pro

The Apple Store (Singapore) - Mac Pro

Salivating like a Pavlovian dog.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Infrared Nudes Pt II

The infrared photos were taken as an impromptu test of my infrared camera after a more gritty nude shoot. Unfortunately I am unable to post those images up because there is frontal nudity. I take nudes because I like the physical body. Yes I do find the body sensual, but it is not about sex. In this particular shoot, the model approached me, not the other way around. I find the issues with taken nudes in this country a bit hard to grapple with. I know that there are people out there who would like to be shot nude but will not do it because it will be an issue for the safety of their jobs. I just wish that we were a little bit more discerning in whether images are a celebration of what we are, or are they pornographic titillation.

We do live in the digital era, where pornography is easily accessible. I would like to think that educating people to be more discerning would be a better approach than banning art nudes. In my mind, you cannot deny the fact that people have sex, those babies are not brought in by the crane. It is not a question of sex happening. It is a question of responsible sexual activity and people treating each other well. After all, I think that all those advertisements for jeans, clothes and even food is much more provocative, and in full view of main street Orchard Road.

As an international city, perhaps we could also have a more sophisticated world view.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Art and commerce

The last exhibition in the Out of Focus series at Basheers is 'Finding George' by amateur photographer Teo Chee Shern. He kindly invited me to the opening of his exhibition last Thursday but I had to attend Parvathi Nayar's exhibition opening at the Arts House. (Parvathi's exhibition is called Drawing is a Verb and is very good.)

Well, I met up with Chee Shern last Saturday to see his exhibition and talk to him. The exhibition was impressions of George Town, Penang. He has taken images of the less common scenes, capturing a feeling of nostalgia. Very emotive. I saw 4 out of 5 of the Out of Focus exhibitions, and I must say I enjoyed them all. The photographers were young, but made up with guts and intelligence. Well done, Kay Chin, for spotting these less well known photographers and giving them an opportunity to show their work.

I guess that I was flattered by Chee Shern because he liked my exhibition 'Eyes Wide Open' a lot. We talked about an hour and a half about photography. One of the things that got me thinking was that he found my Rajasthan series pretty but not distinctly Ngiap Heng. He felt that the 'Eyes wide Open' series was more about me. And to a certain extent he is right. 'Eyes Wide Open' holds a special place in my heart. And the entire series felt like a gift from the powers that be. Nowadays, I am more technically proficient, but just maybe I am thinking too much. When any artists gets training, their work usually gets worse before getting better. The work gets more technically proficient, but the artists loses the connection to the world. That beginner's luck or childlike vision. At some stage, one has to stop thinking about technique and see with the inner child's eyes again.

The conversation continued to the artistic inhibiting properties of commercial work. Commercial work is about problem solving for a client. And as much artistic styling goes into the project, the problem solving part of earning money usually kills the uninhibited art spirit. And I guess Chee Shern was wondering why I am on a commercial path. The truth is that the images I want to take are big production ones, with sets, assistants, stylists etc. The type of work I want to do is more like David Lachapelle's or Richard Avedon. I cannot do what I want to do by myself, I need a team of people to work with me and people who are willing to pay for the work I do. I simply have to find commercial work to finance the work I want to do. And it is up to me to balance the art and commerce. I need to do some photography to pay the bills, some to keep the art in me alive, and some just to test out ideas and techniques.

Not everything that I will shoot will be high art. But I don't think that is selling out. It is a means to an end. And I also do not sniff at the learning experiences that commercial work offers me. I have solved a lot of technical issues from doing commercial work, which enables me to execute art photography the way I want to.

At the end of the day, the middle path between art and commerce is harder, but I believe that if I succeed, the rewards are greater.

Infrared Nudes Part I

There is a huge amount of noise in these infrared files. And the colours are weird. I did not desaturate the colours or anything, they came out of the camera as you see them. The only thing I did was adjust levels. The think that get the infrared camera was worth everything that I paid for it. This is what I was looking for.

Friday, August 04, 2006

The Digital Divide

I have not been blogging because I have been working. So that is good. I think that I earned enough money to pay my outgoings this month. Not bad for the first month back at work, but nowhere close to what I am spending in terms of new equipment. I will be posting some of my recent shots soon, but I think that I want to talk about some of the challenges of digital capture.

So many people think that digital capture is as good or even better than film. And there are so many things that are so convenient about digital capture, like the lack of the need to scan the image for printing use. But like any technology, digital capture has its good points and bad points. I guess that the first thing we should all understand is that digital capture is just different from film capture. The characteristics of the capture media are completely different.

Let us start with the way our eyes see color. It is different from how digital sensors see light. Check out the demo at Tribeca Imaging Laoboratories. It is true that Tribeca labs are trying to sell you their software, but that does not mean that their explanation of the different response of the eye and digital does not hold true. Please note that film does not see colour like how our eyes do either. But as photographers, we have to be aware of the differing colour response between what we see and what we capture digitally. So in the best cases, our holiday shots with blue skies or water are not as blue as they should be. In the worst case, we have a product shoot of something in blue or purple and even with all the white balance controls in our hands, it simply will not solve the issue that the colour rendition from the sensor is inaccurate.

I am guessing that the reason why this is happening is because each color pixel in an image, is actually created by 4 sensors in a Bayer array in the camera. The bayer pattern has 2 green filters over 2 sensors and a red filter over another sensor and a blue filter over the last of the 4 sensors. How each coloured filter is made and how algorithms are used to deduce the final colour is subject to the designer, and it deinitely is not what our eye, or film does. And the Bayer array sensors are the most popular in the camera industry today. There is the Foveon sensor which has a more film like sensor because the Red, Green and Blue sensors are on different layers like film emulsion. But the big players are not using this sensor and there is still no garuntee that the colour response is what we perceive.

Well, what do we do? You can buy Tribeca laboratoiry's software. Or I am hoping that I can use a Gretagmacbeth Chart and Tom Fors script in Adobe Camera raw, to get a more accurate colour profle of the cameras that I use. Tom Fors script is free, but the Gretagmacbeth 24 colour chart is almost S$200.

And then there is the fact that digital sensors are placed in regular grid array, and when you photography regular patterns in real life, there is a tendency to have Moire patterns. I have heard suggestions of varying the distance between the subject and the camera, but it has a minimal effect in my experience. As a portrait photographer, I am tempted to just ask my subject to change his or her clothes. But if I were shooting fashion and had to shoot a piece of clothing, that would be a bummer! There are programs that help to lessen Moire, but they are not perfect and do introduce quite a bit of softness in the image. You may have to mask out the anit-moire filter in other areas to keep the sharpness in. The cool idea that I came up with while working for Paul Elledge is to change to a different camera with a different sensor. The Moire was still present but much less obvious. At one point Paul asked me 'What I think I should do? Shoot with film and then scan the image?' Hmm... we may still get Moire because the scanner has a regular grid pattern too. This is one digital limitation we are just going to have to live with.

And I have not finished with digital sensors yet. Digital sensors have a linear response to light, but our eyes do not. So the actual capture by a digital camera looks awful. They have to apply a gamma curve to the information to mimick the human eye. And this effectively distributes the information around such that half the digital information is in the first stop, the next brightest stop has one quater of the information and so on. The darker areas have very little information. So we have to shoot differently, even if we want a moody, dark image. We have to expose brigth images and create the effect in photoshop. You can read more about this in The Luminous Landscape article, Expose (to the) right. Good exposure is critical in the digital age, and people have yet to figure out what to do.

And I wonder, even if I get ontop of the technical challenge, it still won't have the tonality of film. I know it ain't film, but it is the quality of textures that turn me on.