Calendar Project: Beautiful Places around the MRT
Since I moved to Singapore in 2007, the MRT has played a big role in my escapades around the island. Every year the Singapore government expands on new MRT lines, and I wanted to capture some of the new and old scenery/places you can find on the lines. My project team (Hersh, Amey, and I) plan to travel along 4 entire MRT lines getting off and exploring the nearby area. As this project is centered around the MRT lines, we hope to stay within a 500 meter radius of the MRT stations at all times. So much of Singapore is accessible by MRT, and we want to show what you can see.
As I am photographing a city as developed as Singapore, a lot of my photos will involve extremely modern, to colonial architecture. I want to use a variety of compositional devices including leading lines, and the rule of thirds, to create artistic and detailed depictions of the architecture I encounter. I hope I can get a good mix of old and new architecture as well as different types of structures (bridge, building, house etc.) The first image below shows what I want to attempt with building photography. With a low angle, the buildings loom over the picture, showing the height and impressiveness of the structures. I want to replicate this same kind of picture with my photos, especially those in Orchard and Marina Bay. The second image below is an image of a bridge in the Chinese Park in Singapore. I want to take at least one image of a bridge for the project, especially one over a lake/still water. The reflections bridges make over water are impressive and aesthetic, hopefully I can get an image like this for the project.
Source: Wikimedia Contributor Tuxyso
Source: Wikimedia Contributor Daron Dierkes
One of the things I want to focus on for this project is skylines, especially those with a body of water in the foreground. Almost ever major city in the world has a lake, river, or bay near it, and the images taken at these places often capture the city the best. The two images below that inspire me are of two very different yet similar cities. Both Shanghai and Miami boast impressive skylines that tower high over other buildings, which is exactly what Singapore has. The Singapore skyline, especially taken at Marina Bay is one of the best in the world. There are at least 20 skyscrapers in the Bay's vicinity that would make for a great shot. Besides Marina Bay, I also want to find another place in Singapore that has a "skyline", especially one near water. There are many lakes and reservoirs in Singapore where I can capture such a photo and I hope there's one near an MRT.
Source: Matt Paish
Source: Tom Schaefer
Group Tank One
We decided on our plan of action (below) and what we wanted to focus on in our first group meeting. What we want to achieve is photos that characterised the area, and show how accessible some of the scenery around Singapore is. We developed our theme (detailed above), as well as found some individual inspiration. Hersh suggested that we should focus on a few lines in order to maximise the amount of places we can get to, and Amey suggested that we split our locations between new and old Singapore.
Plan of Action
My plan of action for this project involves travelling around Singapore using the MRT line. We plan to go to these places:
At each of the stops we will spend around 30-45 minutes exploring the area within a half kilometre radius from the station. We will visit the purple-line first, then cross to the blue line at Chinatown, then to the yellow-line at Promenade, and finally going back to Orchard and Somerset on the Red Line. Raffles Place and the Botanic Garden are both easier to access from Chinatown and Orchard respectively, so for the purposes of the project we will walk to these locations. If we have a lot of time left, we will visit the Chinese Gardens and Little India, but both of these locations are detached from the others and we might not be able to get there.
Hopefully we can take all these pictures over one weekend, but if we can't get to all of them we will use pictures from the same place multiple times. To take the photos I will use a 18-50mm lens with my Nikon D5000 and a tripod which I will carry with me to all of the locations.
Digital Contact Print
The images bordered in red are the images I think fit the theme for this project. I experimented with all the different styles of photos I described above (skylines etc) and ended up with these twenty favourite photos. In each photo I wanted to highlight what was special about that place. For example, at Bayfront Station the amazing architecture of MBS is unlike any other building in Singapore. I hope to bring out these qualities in my editing.
Group Tank Two
In the second big group meeting we had, we determined how we wanted to split up the images and how to edit them. We decided that we would use one picture from each location then double up if necessary. I was to edit the Stadium, Chinatown, Clarke Quay, and Marina Bay photos; Amey was to edit Marina Bay Sands, Chinatown, another one of Chinatown, and Clarke Quay; and Hersh was to edit two pictures of the botanic gardens, one of MBS, and one of the Singapore River. We were all disappointed that we didn't get to go to the Chinese Gardens, but we had more than enough material to work with going into the editing process. We decided we wanted to keep a good flow on the calendar, not putting too many similar photos next each other.
Image One - Marina Bay
I knew that if I wanted a genuine picture of Singapore's skyline I would have to include Marina Bay in my project. The bay area perfectly frames the business district, and I think that this picture does just that. Almost all the buildings are over sixty stories high, and that is perfect representation of the wealth in Singapore and importance of it to the world. This photo was taken quite a ways from the Marina Bay MRT station (still within our 500m range) close to Marina Bay Sands where we were snapping the Bayfront Station picture. In order to edit this image, I first adjusted the brightness and contrast of the picture on Camera Raw. I also increased the temperature of the image as my white balance was slightly off. I then imported the image on photoshop and on a duplicate label painted the background sky black on a layer mask. The sky in the background is actually not from the original image, I imported it from a creative commons website and placed it below the duplicate layer. This created a brand new sky that I then tried to match with the buildings by adjusting the brightness. I don't think I did as good a job of this as I did with the Chinatown image (below) but it is still better than the grey clouds in the original image.
Image Two - Chinatown
This image was taken right outside the MRT entrance for the Chinatown Station at the front of the main marketplace. I found a high vantage point at the top of the stairs in order to get an image away from the crowd. What I like about this photo is the way it presents Chinatown, and in fact this place doesn't even exist in real life. Most of the photo is edited to focus all the attention on the market place and make it feel open and free. the construction of the central business district in the background forced me to edit out all the buildings in the background and replace it with a much brighter sky. (An in depth description of my editing method is described below).
Image Three - Clarke Quay
This image was taken from a building across the river from Clarke Quay called Riverside Point. Amey and I climbed to the fourth story of the building to take this photo. It took us a while to find a vantage point like that, so it was really satisfying to have this result. There was quite a nice view from the top of the building and I wanted to incorporate that in the image. Also, I included Fort Canning Park in the background because it is a part of the beautiful scenery anyone can find right outside the MRT Station. I did almost all the editing for this photo on Camera Raw. I adjusted the brightness and contrast of the photo followed by the temperature and clarity of it. There wasn't anything else to really do with this photo otherwise. I used Photoshop to crop and angle the image correctly as I had taken it from a slightly tilted angle.
Image Four - Stadium
This photo was taken at the Marina Reservoir outside the Singapore Stadium. We had originally planned to get a photo of the stadium for this location, but it was really difficult to get a good shot. We tried wedging out lenses between the fences and trying to get a shot from it from afar; however, we ultimately failed in getting a shot of the stadium without the massive scoreboard getting in the way. Instead, we focused on the Marina Reservoir that surrounds the stadium as our subject for this location. We were lucky enough to there at around 5:45pm, just as the sun was beginning to set, and the light perfect. In order to edit this photo, I used Camera Raw to change the saturation and brightness of the image. I then used Photoshop to crop the image in order to align the flags along the left third vertical line and crop out a bicycle that had managed to get in frame. I then used photoshop to make the sky bluer and most appealing. In order to do this I created a duplicate layer of the background, then applied a layer mask and blacked out everything but the sky. I then applied a saturation adjustment layer and increased it by almost 100%. Using the "alt" button I then binded the adjustment layer to the duplicate layer and thus finished the edit.
The following photos show my editing process for my Chinatown image.
This is the original unedited image besides a few adjustments in Camera Raw which consisted of an increase in brightness and contrast accompanied with an increase in sharpening.
One of the main things I wanted to do was change the background of this image. The buildings of the CBD really spoilt the beauty of China town, so I decided to get rid of them. I found a creative commons image labeled for non-commercial reuse, and opened it in a photoshop document. I then selected the photo and added it as a layer in the Chinatown image.
After importing the sky image, I added a duplicate of the bottom layer and threw on a layer mask. I used a black paintbrush to color out all of the CBD background and then moved the sky layer below this layer. This step took the most time to complete, and I'm quite happy with the fact that I managed to remove every trace of the old background. I was also quite fortunate that the sky matched the picture really well, and I didn't have to edit the brightness of it.
To direct the viewers eyes away from the cluttered areas in between the pillars, I made a duplicate layer of the background yet another time, and selected the areas in between the pillars on a layer mask. I then inverted my selection and coloured in that area black. I then added a new brightness/contrast adjustment layer, and changed the brightness to my liking. I used the "alt" button to bind the brightness layer to the layer I wanted to darken in order to finalise the effect.
Overall, this image took almost half of all my editing time. I'm really happy with the end result and I think it is the best editing work I've ever done. All the adjustments I made were for a reason and none were random.
Before and After Shot
Successes and Challenges
Amidst AP Exams and Mock, this project took a real effort to complete. We manage to visit 10 of the sites we had originally planned on visiting which is more than I thought we would manage. I managed to capture what I wanted from my images of inspiration. The best examples of this is in my Stadium and Marina Bay photos where I managed to get a good shot of two very different skylines. I like differences between the two, one providing a great view of the SG skyline, and the other combines various compositional devices (such as the rule of thirds with the flags) in order to make a more artistic picture by a lesser known body of water. We managed to have a lot of success shooting the project itself, and we got around the entire Singapore for less than $15. There were so many shots from every single place, it was hard to determine which ones to use. My group members were crucial in helping me throughout the project, and it wouldn't have been such a success had it not been for their teamwork.
The success of the project didn't come without a few challenges. The amount of locations we wanted to travel to were physically exhausting to visit, and by the 5th location we were really burnt out from the heat. It was difficult to explore the area after having been out for five hours and we began to progress slower and slower. This may have been the reason why we didn't have time to travel all the way out to the Chinese Gardens and Little India by the end of the day. It also meant that I was unable to get a good photo of a bridge as I had mentioned in my images of inspiration section. I also encountered issue with editing the images. The Chinatown image was full of distractions, especially on the sides and in the background, and I had to spend a lot of my editing time getting rid of them. Another challenge we faced as a group was how to shoot the project. We spent a lot of time debating how to maximise our efficiency without sacrificing the creativity a group has over an individual. We ended up travelling as a group to most of the locations, but that meant a lot of photos were similar.
Overall I was really happy with how this project turned out, and I think the theme was well chosen and developed. I couldn't have done this project without my project group and I think that a group project like this was a great experience to have.
BLOG POST: A detailed explanation to each part of the project is provided with insight to the students thoughts, working and collaborative process to the project.
ART WORK: The student worked well collaboratively, collected numerous images from a range of different sources, and spent a good deal of time editing and refining the final images.