Saturday, September 30, 2006

Thursday, September 28, 2006



All I can say is that this guy blows me clear away.

Panoramic Singapore

I think Tay Kay Chin is one of the most important living Singaporean photographers. Not just because he is a great photographer that has captured a unique vision of Singapore, but also because of his commitment to improving the standard of photography in Singapore. He has just published my favourite series of his work in a book. Check it out on his web site

Surviving Refinement by Alec Soth

This is an article pointed out to me by Kiampa. Surviving-refinement

I find a lot of what is said in it very true. From my own personal experience in dance and photography, my artistic loves started in a very raw form. The attraction was in the spontaneous emotions that characterised my forays into dance and photography. And as my technical work improves, I loose some of the spontaneity. Crazy isn't it?

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Total Photographer - Intro


I first started taking photographs when I was 19 or 20 years old, on my first trip to India. I was on holiday after my first year of undergraduate in London. I was studying to be an engineer, a 'real' job. It never crossed my mind that photography would be a career for me. It seemed too simple and frivolous to earn a living from clicking a shutter. I think I could understand why someone would pay a painter lots of money because the technicality of painting took so much effort. Now I am on the other side, a professional photographer for seven years, and I know I was wrong about the simplicity of photography. I admit, it is not rocket science and the basics should be within the grasp of any normal person.But the subtleties of light, equipment and capture medium are infinite. Entry into the realm of photography is easy, mastery of the medium is elusive. It all happens in the click of a button, but there is much to learn and prepare before that click.

It seems obvious, but photography begins with someone having a vision, seeing something that strikes a chord of resonance. Then there is an attempt to render that vision into an image, an object that can convey the photographer's resonance. Some people will be content with a simple image documenting what they saw, but others will want to convey more. Then the photographer will look for a way to better convey the inner resonance, be it a sense of awe, of happiness, of beauty. There is a search for knowledge, a way of capturing the image or rendering the image to get closer to the photographer's inner vision. Seeing an image, the photographer's understanding of the original impetus deepens. The inner vision becomes stronger and the process of learning begins again.

I have been making photographs for twenty years now. And I have been through a few iterations of being inspired to shoot, to create an image to convey a vision, and have that vision refined and then refine the process again. To be a total photographer, I think we need to cultivate the inner vision, have the right equipment for that vision, know how to render that vision into an image and make the whole exercise economically viable.

To be continued...

Sigma SD14

The Sigma SD14 is a 14 megapixel camera based on the Foveon chip. A chip that uses layered silicon sensors instead of the one layer Bayer pattern. Sigma is still not among the big boys of camera makers, but if the colour accuracy of this camera is good, this could be a really compelling camera. Can't tell till we see the actual images.

I wanna be with you

I heard this on the radio and remembered how much I liked it.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Epson Stylus Pro 3800

Epson Stylus Pro 3800 has been announced by Digital Outback Pro. This could be the dream machine for my office. :) It uses the K3 inks but allows nine catridges with auto switching between matt black and photo black. The only slight issue is that it does not take roll paper. But I already have the 4800! Muahahahaha!!!

Sunday, September 24, 2006

On Wedding Photography by Eadwine

People think that it is easy being a photographer and it has become cheaper with the advance of digital photography. Wrong on both counts. A true image maker is not a monkey or even a technician, a true image maker is a passionate and talented individual. Digital photography may have removed film, but has become much more expensive because of constant equipment upgrades and time spent on processing and treating digital images.

Please read Eadwine's article. It is tough to be a professional in any field today. Wedding photographers don't have it easy.

Lawn by Splinter Group and other arts


I went to watch a dance piece called 'Lawn' tonight. It is done by a group of Australian dancers named Splinter Group. They have all worked overseas and choreograhed a piece of physical theatre about lonliness and dreaming in a foreign country. I have seen physical theatre before but these guys were literally crawling over the walls and producing awe inspiring pieces of imagery. The type of stuff that really fires the imagination. To me the set was great. A large room with peeling wall paper and lots of rubbish along the top of the wall. With great lighting, an obviously fictional room, takes a life of its own.

There is a photographic point here, styling and attention to detail is an absolute must for an engaging image. Yes, digital textures are tacky. I want to have more elaborate sets and more organic textures to use in photoshop.

I must also add that I saw Singapore Dreaming on Thursday. One of the most poignant Singaporean films I have ever seen. The film itself is raw. But the depiction of the Singaporean aspirations and dreams hit close to home. I know why I am uneasy in my present state. It is because as a Singaporean, I find it imperative to suceed. To me that means that my photography business has to be a viable one. I don't need to become rich, but I want my business to be in the black.

If you are Singaporean, go see Singapore Dreaming. The main cast does a fantastic job. Yeo Yan Yan who acts as a pregnant mum who is completely reliable was good. She is also acting in the play Thunderstorm at the end of the month. The play is being staged by Theatre Practice. I think it is worth catching too.

The Blogs

Ok. For the time being I have decided to keep 2 blogs, Pond Musings for the musings and Pond Images for the images. I have moved Pond Musings to Blogger beta so that I can add labels to the entries. I will do that slowly.

Do let me know if you all prefer that I combine the blogs or if the 2 blog format is good. I know some of you don't like checking 2 of my blogs. I also know that there are people who only want to see my images and cannot bear my long wordy musings. :)

Can't please everyone.

Please note that I have included an RSS feed into the right column of this blog. It has the last 5 entries from Pond Imanges so that wehn you are reading Pond Musings, you can also check to see if there are new images on Pond Images. Quite cool no?

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Working on a new blog format

I realise that my images are not being well represented on this blog format. I am experimenting with a new one. I am using Blogger beta instead of the original blogger because I finally get to use tags!! Wooo hooo.

Anyway, the postings there are just test. Please give me some feed back on the layout. When I am happy with the layout, I will migrate pondmusings to the new format.

The beta layout is at

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Double Portrait

Portrait of Kiampa from Midnight Tales. Portrait of me.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Lucky Number Slevin

I have watched a few movies recently. Lucky Number Slevin is one of my favs.

An interview with Josh Harnett.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Of Cameras and Art

Of Cameras and Art

I think many of the photographers out there have been following Alan Briot's articles. This one on the percepiton of how good cameras make good photographs is a really good read.

Seitz 6x17

Seitz 6x17

I was dreaming of the day when someone would make a digital panoramic camera. And the dream has come through, but it is S$60,000! It takes 160 Megapixel images and is comparable is size to a laptop. I don't know what to make of this camera?

If any of you know me, you know that I think that digital capture is still lacking. At $60k, the colour saturation and dynamic range of the camera had better be brilliant!

Monday, September 18, 2006

Alex Pryde Test

From the archives - Michelle Stortz

Like most artists, I get bouts of insecurity. Then there are days I look at my archives and find a shot that seems to make it all seem worthwhile.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Dude! Where is the Ansel Adams Button?

I love the title of this article by Pete Myers on the state of digital photography. I am not sure if I agree with what he says, but it gives me food for thought.

In a nutshell, I think that Myers is saying that the digital technology is stabilizing and that people are finding out that images are made by artists, not the technology. So, the average aunt or uncle will be happy with their snaps, and the more serious semi-pros and pros have to dig deeper to improve their work. I sincerely hope so. But sometimes I look at the whole world situation, where everything is going faster and people prefer soundbites to actual news or images should be pretty, not illuminating. Then I realize that modern life is pretty superficial. After reading ' In praise of slow', I think that we need a more major perspective change. The world needs to appreciate the quality of live, instead of quantity, before superficial gloss is recognized as empty and unfulfilling.


Naughty by Nature

How do I put this? I think I was just put through a hard sell. It leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

I got a phone call from a lady named Joanne saying that I won a free make-over from Naughty by Nature. She said that I had won this at the Great Singapore sale but honestly I cannot remember entering any competition for this. They would do a shoot for me and give me two free shots on CD. She told me that this was a once in a lifetime chance and the package usually costs $550. I was not that interested but she was quite insistent. Work is a bit slow so I thought ah what the heck, go down and see what it is like.

So I brought down 2 suits and went to their office in Circular Road. The reception area is pretty huge with several tables with iMacs to show clients. On the walls are cheesy portraits with packaged templates. An image consultant named Chloe attended to me. It looked really busy and we could not start immediately. With time to kill I asked her if she was from Lasalle design college or something like that, and she just smiled and told me its a secret.

We finally get to the make up room. They powder my face. Chloe tells me that my green t-shirt and jeans would be good for a casual shoot. So in my jeans and t-shirt, I get shot in a room (one of several) by a Russian photographer. They have a light with a small softbox and another light with a gridspot. The lights by Eclipse. I have never heard of them before. There is a couch and several chairs in the room. There is a red coloured wall, a white wall and a wall with a black backdrop on it.
She put me through some poses that made me feel out of sorts. But I managed to get a couple of ok shots from this session which you see.

Chloe then asks me to try something different, like a Chinese costume. Yucks. I said no flatly and wore my suit next. Then put more powder on my face and gelled up my hair. I was shot by another photographer, a Chinese guy named Chris. Oh my god, he contorted my body even more. I hated the images. Made me look like a real goof ball.

Once I had changed back to my clothes, Chloe brought me in front of an iMac where she tried to touch up my eye bags, really badly. Oh my, my eye bags look better than the crap she was doing. She smiled and said that actually she is not that experienced and asked a manager over. He started talking to me and realized that I was a full time photographer and there is no way he would be able to sell me any photographs. He put the above 2 images on a CD and gave it to me. I think they realized that doing a hard sell on me would be a waste of time. But I googled Naughty by Nature on the internet and found the following horror stories.

Story 1
Story 2

I guess the truth is that there is no free lunch.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Ella and Zul outtakes

Perhaps its time to take Ella and Zul out for more adventures too. :)

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Trajectories in Space

I have just been going on my way, doing what I have to for work. At times the description of myself going through my mind is workman like. I console myself with the idea that I will break through. But it is nice to see my friends making strides.

Greg Burns completed the Korean Iron Man competition. He's is crazy but I keep thinking that this guy on crutches is not letting it stop him from living. He is now off to China and Tibet. He gives inspirational talks worldwide. I think he is competely qualified.

Shin is coming to work for me in December. She just won a Lucie Award for one of her nudes. Rock on Shin.

And Kheng Li, a local photographer has a great exhibition of black and whites of Istanbul on at Art Forum. Honestly, I did not use to be impressed by his work, but this time round, I sensed something deeper in his work. A real empathy to life resulting in an exprience that comes over to the viewer.


What is also intesting is that Kheng Li hand printed some smaller prints. These smaller prints were scanned and then printed really large on an Epson printer by Chris Yap. You can go and actually compare handprints with the Epson prints. Yes, the hand prints are better, but the Epson ones are not far behind.

Life is for the living. :)

My soul, or at least what I would like it to be.

What Your Soul Really Looks Like

You are a warm hearted and open minded person. It's easy for you to forgive and forget.

You are a grounded person, but you also leave room for imagination and dreams. You feet may be on the ground, but you're head is in the clouds.

You believe that people see you as larger than life and important. While this is true, they also think you're a bit full of yourself.

Your near future is calm, relaxing, and pretty much what you want. And it's something you've been anticipating for a while now.

For you, love is all about caring and comfort. You couldn't fall in love with someone you didn't trust.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Here is the Love - Sangeeta and Charles

I don't know if it is because I am happier, or is it that Charles and Sangeeta brought their love into my studio. I like the portraits that I have taken on them. Technically, they are rather simple, but it is their love coming through that moves me.

The first Annual Report

Yesterday I shot the first Annual report shoot since I returned to Singapore. It went very smoothly. All the things that I have been learning and all the systems that I have been working on came together.

Sometimes I feel like throwing caution to the wind and just do the crazy shoots that I want to do and forget everything else. But I need a team of people who can help me achieve my goals. The commercial work pays for the team.

The team worked well yesterday. Thanks team. :)

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Reflections on Recent Digital Paper Offerings

Reflections on Recent Digital Paper Offerings

A damning assesement of today's photographic paper for fine art. Actually so much of it is true for photography in general. But we cannot go back... How do we go forward?

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Looking in ... Not

My close friends and my mentor see a disjoint in my photographs. In spite of the knowledge that I have gained recently and the improvement in my technique, there seems to be something not quite right with the images.

They probably can see the distance I have between me and the images that I am taking. What does that mean??

I was engaged to be married and called it off just over a year ago now. I have broken off relationships before but breaking off an engagement caused a fundamental change in me. I have always been a romantic at heart and probably was too naive for my own good. Breaking off an engagement was not like breaking off with a girlfriend. It was not like oh we cannot get along and then it ended. Planning to get married and stopping meant that fundamentally, something I believed in was wrong, and it hurt like hell. I believed in the goodness of people and that love can conquer the obstacles that most normal couples face. (OK, let's not get dramatic here and dream up war or plague scenarios.) I guess that emotionally I have been devastated and I have dug a deep hole and buried my emotions so that I don't have to confront the pain.

Perhaps not all my previous work was based on romantic love, there was also a lot of awe in dance motion and attitude of drama. But all my best work came from me connecting with my emotions. The way I used to shoot was based on being connected with myself. And it has been too painful to connect up to now. I think that I am finally able to move on. It has been a while and I feel awkward, like a person recovering from a major illness, but I have never lost hope. Or maybe I just do not know what else to do. But after the break-up, I did not want to sink into depression. I was at a point in my career where I had a lot of new things to learn. I have spent my time honing my photographic skills. I threw myself at work and at all aspects of photography, preparing for the day I can once again open up my heart. Going to Chicago for internship was an amazing experience, so was that holiday to Rajasthan. But I know that a part of me was unreachable. And if there are a few astute people out there who know my old work say to me,"Ngiap Heng I cannot see you in these photographs.", I can only say that I was not there.

Thanks to all the people who really care for me and wish me well. I know fully the issue that faces me. Not only have I taken steps to improve my technical photography, I have also been working on the way I look at life and live. But guys, there is no instant cure for this recovery. Just like any major illness or injury, its going to take me time.