River Hongbao 2009 Opening Ceremony – A Media Coverage

A sample of photos taken during the River Hongbao 2009 Opening Ceremony

I am honored to be invited as part of the media crew to cover the River Hongbao Opening Ceremony.  Having no prior experience to cover event of such scale and significance, I followed closely to EastCoastLife, the president of our Association of Bloggers (Singapore), listening to her advice on who is who, what to anticipate, and the general tips to cover events and etc.

In this blog entry, I am going to share two photo albums with you. 

  1. Click here (or onto the image above) to view my personal favorite collection created using Nikon Capture NX2
  2. Scroll down to view the event collection created using Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2.2

On the Event

From now till Feb 1, there are many reasons to visit the Floating Platform just off Marina Square.  First, you get to walk around the platform built originally as a temporary location for the National Day Parade.  The last time I visited the same location was during the National Day Parade Preview back in 2007.  One fine piece of work built by the Singapore Armed Force, MINDEF, and DSTA.

Second, there are lots of photography opportunities.  Beautiful light with lots of color.  At the center of the Floating Platform is a performance stage.  Check out the show schedule here.  Lots of talents.  EastCoastLife and I enjoyed the cultural performance thoroughly.

Third, admission is free.  The venue is well organized and secured.  Tripods are allowed so bring your family and friends and take some memorable shots!  If you drop a link of your photo album here, I will gladly take a look.  Let’s learn from each other.

A Media Crew’s Journal

It was the first time I stepped into a Press Conference.  We were side by side with the traditional media.  And I am happy that my camera is of an industrial standard as compares to what the pros are using.  We are all Nikonians, we are friends immediately without the need to exchange words.

Peggy Chen, our friendly media point of contact, walked us through the program in Mandarin.  I tried very hard to understand what she said (I am a Cantonese) because she did give out useful information on what to expect, where to take your best photo shots.  I think I understood about 70% of what she said.  When she repeated the information a second time in English, I was in tears of joy.

The professional photographers move very fast.  We were dashing ahead, turning around to take some killer shots, and dashed out again – as our VVIP (very-very important people) walked amongst the crowd.  Over 800 shots were made on that evening and I am amazed on how Deputy Prime Minister Mr. Wong Kan Seng managed to smile in almost every photo I took throughout the entire event.

I was told that firecrackers were banned in Singapore and now recently lifted.  When EastCoastLife asked the security guards if we could get up close to the firecrackers and they were shocked, politely said no.  After seeing how explosive those firecrackers were, I personally am glad that I was nowhere close.

As you can see in the photos here, the performance was beautiful, professionally done.  Apparently, EastCoastLife has seen the preview and was tipping me on what shots to take.  Neat!  My personal favorite of the entire collection – besides the picture of a very pretty Chinese girl on stage – is the 6 men stacking up in the form of a totem

Sharing of Photography Experience

I have many photography mentors to help me with this learning journey.  So, I wish to thank Ken for the wonderful tip on: bring more than one lens for the event and change on the spot.  Because of this tip, I brought along my telephoto zoom lens as well.  I am so glad that I did.  I would have missed quite a number of shots that turn out to contain some of my favorites.

I also wish to thank Mathew to convince me that there are industrial strength battery chargers out there and with the right batteries, my camera can perform as though it is on steroid.  And just the day before, I invested S$200 for a charger and countless batteries (12 high capacity ones and 8 free not too high capacity batteries that come with the charger).  That makes my already heavy camera even heavier.  But that is no big deal, just need to do more weightlifting.  With all the quality batteries, my camera was shooting at 8 frames per second with the flash gun to match.

Two awesome tips!

Besides the two lenses – wide angle and telephoto – I brought my tripod and shutter release cable as well.  That night was also the first evening I tried the MUP (mirror up) function to minimize the mechanical vibration caused by the movement of the mirror inside the camera.  MUP only makes sense if you have a shutter release cable.

I have nearly underestimated the number of photos I would shoot especially with high speed shooting mode.  My 8GB Extreme IV memory card was barely enough (for over 800 shots taken).  I have completely depleted the 8 AA rechargeable batteries on the grip.  And I reckon my flash gun would need new batteries really soon.  Hence, lessons learned are:

  • Always anticipate where the VVIP will be heading.  And keep dashing forward (without knocking anyone down!).
  • Observe where the professional photographers stand (great tip from EastCoastLife).
  • If you can’t afford an extra camera body (like me), bring extra lenses for the event.
  • And if you are using one of the entry level dSLR cameras, do yourself a favor and get the 18-200mm lens (for my D700, I use the 24-70mm and 70-200mm, both at f/2.8).  It costs S$1,000 but you can almost shoot anything from any distance especially with the flash gun mounted.  Not large enough aperture is seldom an issue with flash.
  • Bring extra memory cards and batteries.  Even if you may not need to use them, they offer a good peace of mind.
  • Bring along an assistance to help you with your gears.  Better still, bring a pretty one so that he or she can be your subject if need to too.


As a blogger who participate in the New Media movement, I can certainly see the benefit of being part of a legal entity that complies to the Singapore Societies Act.  Much like how bloggers – myself included – get into company events through the PR companies, an association for the bloggers get us in touch with the events of national significance. 

Being bounded by the Societies Act does have its restriction, especially in the areas that touch onto Singapore politics.  But the upside is that not only the government, but also other established associations acknowledge our existence.  More doors will be open for us to “promote, protect, and educate” our members.  And inevitably, our key stakeholder list will expand beyond the Blogosphere – for the better I reckon.

At times I wonder how many active societies are there in Singapore.  I think in time to come, there will be more and more associations for the different groups of bloggers to cater for different special needs.  Is there a one size fits all?  Probably not, in my personal humble opinion.

Related Link: Personal Photo Collection – River Hongboa Opening Ceremony (A Highlight)

Second Batch of Photos from Our Bandung Trip – Cafe Sierra at the Peak and Our Last Day of the Trip

A Lovely Waitress at Bumbu Desa

OK.  This photo of the waitress at Bambu Desa looks lovely.  The authentic Indonesian food from the lovely city of Bandung is lovely too.  Now before I get into that, here comes the second batch of our selected photo collection.

If you notice from the previous batch, I have reversed the order of the batches because … I simply want to do something anti-chronicle.  On the last evening of our Bandung trip, the sky had finally opened up after days and nights of rain.  So we headed to one of the cafe at the peak.

Year 2000, I was at the exact spot.  To cut a long story short, it was my first meet-Cynthia’s-family session, and Cynthia’s mother passed me her antique van to drive up to the peak.  Looking back, I often joked that it was one of the tests to assess the suitability of erm … you know lah. Both Cynthia’s mother and brother are better drivers and are familiar with the Indonesia road structure while I …

OK.  I stalled the handbrake-less van once at one crucial steep hump and the villagers were kind enough to help us to hold the van while I engaged the first gear.  Ahem!

8 years have passed and instead of the same cafe we have visited in 2000, we chose the more classy Cafe Sierra.  You can see from the evening photos at the peak.  A lovely cafe.  By the way, I love that photo of the balcony with kids running round.  Look closer and see if you can see Cynthia and her mother!

The next day, we had our lovely lunch at Bambu Desa (Bandung) before heading to Jakarta for an overnight stay.  As you can see, we took the SIA flight.  I love the last picture a lot (the one with Cynthia holding a Starbucks coffee and the SIA plane as the background).  It was time critical as the plane was moving away as I was trying hard to adjust the flash setting.

Thanks for viewing!  More are on the way.

Note: the dude in our collection is Tong Kiat, our good friend.

Related Tag: Bandung December 2008 Trip

First Batch of Photos from Our Bandung Trip – A Teaser and More to Come

Shooting from the Back of the Car - Cynthia and I

I know I have been slow in publishing the photos from my trips and now that I am heading to Hong Kong in less than 72 hours’ time, it’s a high time to release the first batch of … erm … teaser. Recently, I have added a telephoto zoom lens into my collection. Though it is rather chunky and heavy and make my entire setup (with flash) weights more than 3kg, it adds a lot of fun to what I couldn’t have done with a wide angle lens. The widened space between my subjects and I have created new means to articulate my vision.

In this collection, half of the photos are created using the telephoto lens, from the casual pictures taken inside Indonesia eating places to the garden of Cynthia’s home in Bandung. Inside the car, I use the wide angle lens (see picture above). I took a picture of that “Satay Building” (the government building with a pole that looks like a satay stick on top) and later at night, I attempted to capture the light of the sunset around the estate, hand held.

Coming soon, I intend to share sets of the selected photos from the close to 2,000 shots I have made during the trip. At the end of this mini-series, I am pretty sure that you would fall in love with what Bandung has to offer. Proposed blog titles are as follows.

  1. Last Day of Our Trip and Sierra – A Cafe at the Peak of Bandung
  2. North of Bandung – Air Terjun Maribaya (Waterfall) and De Ranch
  3. South of Bandung – Kawah Putih (Volcano)
  4. My Family My Friends & A Good Driver / Tour Guide to Recommend
  5. Pigeons, Lots of White Pigeons
  6. Shopping at Rumah Mode & Paris Van Java
  7. High Speed Street Shots
  8. Wildlife at Taman Safari

I Faced the Moon As My Block Leave Began

Camera : Nikon D700 Lens : AF-S VR Zoom-Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G IF-ED Exposure : M mode, 1/1000 second, f/4 Sensitivity : ISO 200

I have been holding back on writing the crazy drama and frustration I faced at work questioning why some people have this lens that see the perspectives in life that is so different from mine.  But I choose to focus on the happy things in life.  It was hard till the very last few hours countdown to the start of my compliance leave and it is all worthwhile.  I always see my work environment like a game of survivor.  Season 2 begins unexpectedly even before I wrap up this meant-to-be a wonderful year at work.  I still hold firm to my belief that do the right thing and I will be taken care of.  So I do just that and the moon has smiled at me tonight.

So I am happy, very happy today.  I can’t tell you too much about a Singapore entity I am involved that is officially registered today, nor I can tell you too much about the fruition of this global initiative that I have poured in 18 months of blood and sweat.  Just take my word.  I am a happy man.

My brother-in-law-to-be called me if I would be his best man for his wedding with my sister in Hong Kong.  Certainly I am honored to be.  I have known him for so many years ever since I have stepped into Singapore.  I can’t think of a better man on moon earth to marry my little sister.  That reminds me.  Wasn’t I the emcee for my guitarist’s wedding with my band manager just earlier on this year?

Life is good.  I am happy.  By the time you read this, I shall be inside a jeep taking pictures of the wildlife in an Indonesian Safari.  I still want to see the volcanoes although Cynthia told me that recently, these volcanoes have coughed out poisonous gas.  Some tourists have died.  Maybe we could … wind up the windows and hide inside our jeep?

I will have Internet access, however limited it is going to be.  So, do keep the comments coming.  This is going to be an exciting block leave.  All the way till Jan 4 next year.

~ 12/12/2008

PS. A casual picture taken from my window.  No post production work has been done to the … moon.  Actual image resolution after cropping.  The picture of the moon does look better on a Google browser, less jagged than on IE.  I wonder why.

Photo Shooting at Singapore Night Safari – No Flash, Hand Held, Total Madness

Knowing that I will visit Taman Safari Indonesia next week, I managed to purchase the perpetually sold out Nikon zoom lens and wanted to give it some practice at our Singapore Zoo or Bird Park during the long weekend.  I stared at the sky everyday and willed the rain to go away, without success.  So one evening I took my Nikon D700 with my new lens and headed to Night Safari, alone.

I have totally underestimated the challenges ahead.  Before I left home, I was very pleased to finally leave the flash gun behind since it is morally irresponsible to shoot these lovely animals with flash.  Flash photography has been a steep learning curve for me; shooting moving wildlife hand held with no flash in near pitch dark and less than ideal light source is very hard.  It is hard to describe unless you try it out yourself.

I have seen many visitors gave up after some test shots (all black, grossly under exposed).  Looking at my LCD, they were amazed at what I took; but I was less than thrilled by the results of this trip.  Sorry guys, I promise to do a better job next time.  Perhaps with a monopod and a different setting.  Below are 28 pictures selected out of close to 500 shots I took that one evening (no Photoshop, no cropping).  I have put in some captions to better describe the condition.  If the OVI player moves too fast, feel free to mouse over it, click pause, and manually forward the slide.

After the first few auto shots, I was stunned by the result (in a negative way no fault of Nikon).  Bear in mind that I have just invested don’t know how many years of my future Christmas present budget into this one lens, I stood still trying to figure out what to do next.  Auto focusing option is out because it was too dark for my camera.  The animals kept moving and the shuttle speed could not be too low.  Some animals kept moving towards and away from me and I had to keep changing the composition (i.e. zoom) and the focus.  Basically my left hand was busy with the two rings on my lens.  I have to go for full manual mode anyway because it is not a question of getting the right exposure, it is a question of how low you can possibly tolerate.  I learned as I shot.

Most of the shots I was shooting at a focal length of 200mm (widest aperture of 2.8 for all).  That works out to be an ideal shutter speed of 1/200s for hand held condition (please let me know if I talk rubbish)?  VR – vibration reduction – can slow down the speed for 3 stops for those who have steady hands (I leaned towards stationary objects whenever possible) and I had to go even lower than that.  Most of the shots, I used a speed of 1/15s.  Some I manage to up it to 1/30s.  Still, it is very hard to get a good shot with that speed at 200mm.  I tried to get a better ISO whenever I could but rarely could I go below 3200.

I had no prior experience nor read anything on manual setting prior to this trip. Most definitely, I have committed a lot of laughable mistakes.  My last manual focusing practice session was when I was a very small boy.  I did the best I could and figured the above out through experiments on the spot that one moist evening.  How glad my scientific mind kicks into action when I need to make my art works.  As always, all online and offline feedback is welcome.