Sunday, September 22, 2013

Thoughts On My Night Photography

Ghost Town
© 2013 Martin Liew Photography
Nocturnal info: Nikon D300 on Tokina 11-16mm at 30 seconds exposure. Post-processed and cropped in Photoshop. Monochrome conversion in Silver Efex Pro 2.
Well needless to say, it's almost 6 months now since my last blog post in March and once again I'm on hiatus and it's getting longer than the first one. So am I getting lazy or got driven away with daily work life and other activities that I forgot all about it? No not at all. Absolutely no. That doesn't mean I'm going to give up writing blogs here. No excuses for my absence though I was juggling between my day job and doing lots of street photography on most weekends and a few freelance photography assignments along the way. Busy? Yes of course and I'm enjoying it.

Well tonight I want to share some thoughts on my night photography and here's a teaser night photo, shown above. Make the jump to read on.

OK let me tell you more about the night photo shown above.

It was made last Friday night in a deserted area near the road junction of St George's Road and Serangoon Road. This small neighborhood of 13 residential houses, three shops, two restaurants and one flora company got en bloc and deserted for about three or four months. Stray cats are roaming around in the day and gone hiding in the night. The main road entrance was blocked by large concrete blocks to prevent vehicles parking. I see it as a good place to do night photography so I went there after work.

I didn't make many night photos though I could have stayed longer until someone called in the security officers. Yes security officers with pistols, just like any police officer but they are not policemen. Maybe they are from the local CISCO. For the past one and a half hours I was there making night photos when 2 officers came by to check on me. I was told that no photography is allowed. Ironically there is no sign board that states so. I didn't ask why but to pack my camera and left. It's funny that the whole area is not fenced up and any one can literally walk right in. During the whole process of making night photos, I was in the dark alley, in dark clothing and almost no movement at all. Just thinking, composing and clicking the shutter. I guess somebody spotted me and thought I acted strangely and decided to call them in. Well I would definitely go back there again soon. At night the place looks like a small ghost town. All gates and back doors to the abandoned houses are locked. Anyway I have no intentions of breaking in. Not worthy for the risk of getting myself arrested.

Talking about doing good light-painting photographs here in Singapore, there really isn't any ideal subject left. Even though there are a few abandoned houses left, they are all fenced up and under CCTV surveillance, which obviously are great barriers for me. I can write in to the respective authority seeking permission to shoot at night. But who cares? Those people wouldn't entertain me. Besides with those silly fences, making night photos within a constrained space, makes the whole process uncomfortable. Well anyway I've yet to complete my ongoing project on old school playgrounds.

Another barrier is safety. Making night photographs in secluded areas can put one's life in danger. Most people take the local safety at night for granted. Low crimes doesn't mean no crimes. Extra precaution is a must when venturing out in the night. Best to get a few friends to join. However in contrary, the whole creative process of night photography is best when one works alone. Well that's just me. I have better concentration and am able to focus on what I want to do.

Alternatively I would go back to my black and white night photography, using a TLR camera on 120 medium format film, to continue my long-term night photography project Dwell In The Night which started in 2004. While doing so, I can do some research for my nocturnes and to venture to overseas for more interesting subjects.

In late June, I received an email from a night photographer based in Penang, Malaysia who have had accidentally hit upon this blog site and since then we have been exchanging emails. He's willing to show me around if I travel to Penang for some good night shooting. So I think this is a great opportunity to venture out of this small country. But however I was fore-warned about the safety and security in Malaysia, especially in the night. Well I'm still considering. Besides it's rain season here in Singapore as well as in Penang. So i have more time to think over it.

In my next blog, I'll be featuring this Malaysian night photographer's work. So do come back to check.

Before you go, here's a color version of Ghost Town.

Ghost Town
© 2013 Martin Liew Photography
Nocturnal info: Nikon D300 on Tokina 11-16mm at 15 seconds exposure. Red cellophane on Fenix TA21 flashlight.


Since early November, hoarding boards were built around this little neighbourhood and deconstruction has begun. No access is possible or allowed except authorised personnel.