Saturday, April 16, 2016

This Use To Be My Playground serial – Dragon playground (2016)

Tonight I want to take you to another old school playground in Singapore – The Dragon playground. Located in Toa Payoh Lorong 6 right opposite SAFRA Club, it's one of the most popular and iconic of two large Dragon playgrounds. Make the jump to view the photos.

In the early '70s, the Housing and Development Board (HDB) assigned one of its staff, Mr Khor Ean Ghee, to design Singapore's very own playgrounds. As an interior designer who had joined HDB to create landscapes for the estates, had no experience at all but he managed to come up with several designs in 1974 that featured static animal sculptures like the pelican and rabbit alongside the typical swings, slides and merry-go-rounds.

In 1979, five new playground designs were also introduced. Instead of static sculptures, playgrounds were seen as 'mini adventure lands'. HDB also wanted to create spaces that could impress upon children a sense of Singapore's identity. This gave birth to the now iconic Dragon playground, an Asian symbol tamed and redesigned by Mr Khor for the children to play with.

Upon arrival at the playground after night fall, the contrasty ambience lighting in this playground area poses great challenge for night photography, with heavy sodium vapour street lights on one side and none on the other. With some creative light-painting in mind and imaginations, assorted colored lights could be used to thrown in to spice up the playfulness of this old school playground. Based on the above photo, violet light was splashed on the dark side of the playground. In comparison to the top photo, neutral white light was used and overall colors are balanced to achieve an even light temperature. Howsoever both photos are HDR processed and personally I'd go for the violet version.

In this photo, it's pretty obvious the composition works best to show the characteristic of this iconic playground. I included a sparkle on its eye to make it more lively. It was a cool night and clouds were drifting by which complimented the overall visual impact.

In my night photography, I would try to look out for unique angles and perspectives to compose and in this case by using the curvy structure design of the Dragon's body/tail I was framing the Dragon's head within a frame. To keep things consistent, I used violet light through out on the Dragon head. Here's one last photo for the night.

Here I positioned the camera on the Dragon head platform pointing towards the curvy wavy body and lit up with neutral white light from different angles on separate takes including its head with violet light. Then I stacked them up during post-production and this is the result. That's the wonders and purpose of using light-painting techniques to bring out the subject in a more 3-dimensional effect. It would look dead boring and uninteresting to make a night photograph in the conventional method. Here's how it looks like, comparing to the light-painted version.

There are times when light-paintings are unnecessary depending on the light conditions, your subjects and the results you wanted to achieve. Howsoever, light-painting technique certainly helps to enhance the low light condition and to make your subjects more pop-up and 3-dimensional.

I hope my work inspires you to pick up night photography especially light-painting. Though it's a manual process, it's fun and the results prove that it's worth the effort. Well at least I really enjoy doing it. So pick up your gears and venture into the night to make some kick-ass nocturnes!

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