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Saturday, July 29, 2017

This Used To Be My Playground serial – Abstract Animals playground (2017)


What does this odd-shaped structure look like to you? This is neither a statue nor any artistic sculpture. Well, it does look like one but it is meant for little children. Its abstract form resembles that of a bird or a duck or some sort. Actually it's part of a small scale old-school playground equipment, along with 2 more other abstract animals. Make the jump to find out more.




Here's one weird funny looking blue monster that looks like an ancient dinosaur, Triceratop or more similar to an anteater, because of that long pointed nose feature. Whatever it symbolizes, it's up to your imagination. Next up is this red one which looks like a horse or a llama.


These are the old-school playground equipments I used to play when I was a little kid. The red one was my favourite. I've always wanted to make night photographs of these equipments and to add them to my photography project, This Used To Be My Playground but I couldn't find them. Until I came across some information on the internet and finally I got the time to get to their location. Below is a photo I took in mid July 2016 during my recce, followed by another shot I made during my night visit last week.




In most of my night photography, I did a lot of light-paintings and at times, making long exposures of the surrounding ambience or a mix of both. A good example is the Crooked Houses playground.

I decided for a change in my lighting style and techniques. Instead of using a LED flashlight for light-paintings, I would use a small strobe on this abstract animal playground equipments. Here's how I did it.


For light-painting style, when the shutter is opened for a few minutes, the sensor absorbs the ambience lighting and records the light-paintings concurrently. Once all done the shutter closes. I could use a small strobe too, but I have better control over light-painting.

So why did I use a small strobe this time round? For a change in lighting style, I set my shutter speed to my camera's flash sync speed, in this case I'm using a Nikon D300, the shutter flash sync speed is 1/250th second. At this speed, all ambience lighting is killed, leaving almost pitch black darkness in the background. This is good because the photographed subject is separated from the background and more pop-up and 3-dimensional.

Talking about 3-dimensional, it comes down to the way the subject is lit, just like the way we light up our subject in the photography studio. Unlike mounting the small strobe on the camera hot shoe and fire directly at the subject, such lighting creates flat and harsh lighting with no shadows and the photo looks so uninteresting.

In lighting up these playground equipments, I particularly look out for a balance in light and shadow to create interesting 3-dimensional effect and form, as well as texture details. I would fire the strobe remotely and wirelessly at varies angle for more coverages. This helps a lot in my post-production where I would bring together all lit parts with the best lightings and stack them up in layers in Photoshop. Then apply layer masking and blend mode to create one final satisfying result.


Overall, I'm satisfied with the results. I'll be using this lighting technique on other playgrounds. More photos coming soon. Meantime, do check out these 3 videos I made on old-school playgrounds in Singapore.

This Used To Be My Playground - Part One

This Used To Be My Playground - Part Two

This Used To Be My Playground - Part Three

To view more of my night photographs on playgrounds, visit my website here.