Chinese New Year 2017

Dear friends,

Happy Chinese (Lunar) New Year!

Once again, CNY has swung round the corner again to park in our houses dozens of unhealthy cookies, reminding us that yet another year has passed, and that it’s time to take a breather. To me, CNY pretty much hammers home the New Year message and reminds me that the festive season (in many Asian countries) is soon coming to a close. In case some people (including me) didn’t get the memo during Christmas that 2016 was approaching its end and hadn’t fully felt that New Year’s (on 1 Jan) truly marked the start of 2017, CNY made it excruciatingly clear to me that this was a new year. Worse still, CNY officially marks the end of a month-long string of festivities that all started with Christmas.

In any case, CNY in Singapore comes with a carnival at the Marine Bay Floating Platform named River Hongbao. Hongbao (红包) in Chinese means Red Packet, which is the quintessential CNY item. For those unfamiliar with the festival: while people buy and exchange gifts during Christmas, CNY is characterized by the gifting of money in red packets. Parents and elder relatives pack cash in these red packets and gift them to younger relatives.

And so, the main content of this rather brief post is  going to be about the River Hongbao 2017. Over the span of CNY, I had actually visited the carnival twice. The first was with my family since they wanted to take a look at the CNY decorations while the second was by myself to photograph the attractions present. I didn’t photograph much the first time I visited the place, but because it sorta gave me an idea as to what the place had to offer, i decided to return two days later to photograph the carnival rides. More specifically, I was interested in photographing the Ferris wheel, but things didn’t exactly go according to plan. While I had hoped for a normal-sized Ferris wheel to shoot, and somehow thought that the Ferris Wheel was pretty huge the first time I saw it, alas I was disappointed by my own failing memory. The Ferris wheel was underwhelming small and had only 6 carriages for children. Pocketing my disappointment, I set up my tripod and camera and pressed on to finish the show. And so I got these on my Sony A7 (digital):


Honestly, I found it pretty difficult to photograph the Ferris wheel. It was my first time trying to take a photo of a Ferris wheel and the underwhelming size of the actual ride didn’t help the conceptual photographs I had already prepared within my brain. I had no idea how to frame the shot – low angle? waist-level? Should I shoot it straight on or from the side? But as any photographer would attest to, our passion involves a great deal of thinking on our feet. Whether its changing weather, lighting, or fleeting moments that are gone even before you can bring your camera up to your eye, photography has always been about trial and error. And that’s exactly what I did. Besides trying out several different angles, I had also brought my film camera to experiment with long exposure photography on film. For those who are unfamiliar with film, film has a unique characteristic called reciprocity failure. Basically, in low light situations and long expoures, light no longer hits the film emulsion evenly and equally. This results in a darker than expected exposure at long exposure times. So while the correct metered exposure (let’s say from your digital camera) is 10s, film will require a longer exposure in order to “absorb” the same amount of light. And so, with reciprocity graphs and equations I found online for portra 160 (the film I was shooting at that time), I got this:


The first thing I thought was how lucky I got with my first try at long exposure photography with film. The shot wasn’t under or overexposed and there weren’t any significant color shifts (the carnival lights were already blue-green). But my second thought was how I should have used another film instead. Portra 160 is known for its muted colors that are extremely sought after in portraiture, and those under-saturated colors certainly showed up here. Ektar 100 would perhaps have been the better choice here.

Well, there isn’t much I have to say about this short shoot that I’ve done over CNY, and the images aren’t that spectacular anyway, so I guess this post shall be a short one and end here. If you’re wondering where the rest of the photos from my roll of Portra 160 are, stay tuned, for it too will have its own post.

‘Till next time, friends.


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