Follow me to…. Marina Bay, Singapore….

Once upon a time (to be more specific two weeks ago), I decided I wanted to photograph the sunrise above Marine Bay.

I got ready the day before (which is very organised for my personal standards!!):

– Camera ready ✓

– Battery charged ✓

– Memory cards ✓

– Lenses ✓

– Neutral density filters ✓

– Bottle of Water ✓

I got up very early in the morning, and here I was, at about 6:15-6:20 am setting up my gear at Garden East Bay, to witness a beautiful sunrise.

It was still so dark that I had to use a flash light to set-up properly my camera to get ready for some long exposures.

Marina Bay, Singapore © Catherine Houston/MermozinePhotography

As the sun started to rise it and the sky started to transition from the blue hour to sunrise colours it became clear that not only there was too many clouds for beautiful colours but I had chosen the wrong spot (I should have done more research online but I’m much more a trial/error kind of person…). Either way, it was too long to unpack everything and move to a better spot, so I decided to roll with it! 🙂

Marina Bay, Singapore © Catherine Houston/MermozinePhotography
Marina Bay, Singapore © Catherine Houston/MermozinePhotography

Once the sun all the way up, I started to walk back to the Gardens by the Bay, toward Marina Bay.

It’s quite a long walk, but worth doing! From tropical paradise…. to downtown skyscrapers…

Marina Bay, Singapore © Catherine Houston/MermozinePhotography

Past the flower domes you’re about 5-10 minutes away from Marina Bay Sands (depending on how fast you’re walking). At this point you could decide to stop, get a drink and chill out, or to go all the way around the Marina Bay to see the Merlion. I went for an intermediary half way choice.

First thing to admire on the way?

The water lily ponds at the feet of the Science Museum.

Marina Bay, Singapore © Catherine Houston/MermozinePhotography
Marina Bay, Singapore © Catherine Houston/MermozinePhotography
Marina Bay, Singapore © Catherine Houston/MermozinePhotography

Yes, this little water/nature paradise is that close to the city center!!

Marina Bay, Singapore © Catherine Houston/MermozinePhotography

I finished my tour some long exposure shots of the skyline of Raffles Place – the center of the Financial District of Singapore.

And yes it was time for me to get away from the sun (as you may know I’m turning into a vampire and can’t stand under the sun from 10am to about 4pm…).

I hope you enjoyed our little walk together ;-).

Next time? Jurong Lake Gardens… Stay Tune….

Bye Bye

To schedule a photowalk / workshop or purchase a print…. follow the link below 🙂


November’s Newsletter!

Follow me to… Kampong Glam

Last time I took you for a stroll – by “stroll” hear a “photowalk” – we went to Chinatown.

Today, I’m taking you to another very colourful part of Singapore, Kampong Glam, with its famous Arab Street, the beautiful Sultan Mosque and the Malay Heritage Center.

Like usual I spent most of the time hunting for photographic treasures in the backstreets.

But enough talking, let’s go! 😉

After all this walking, let’s relax on a swing shall we?

Thank you for joining me on my morning stroll.

Next time I’ll take you to Tiong Bahru.

Want to see more pictures?

Want to join me in real life on my next photowalk?

Photowalk in Chinatown (Singapore)

After a long (seems like ages….) Covid -19 related interruption I’ve finally resumed this month leading photowalks in different parts of Singapore. I’ve done two in July, one in Chinatown and one in Kampong Glam.

So let’s start with Chinatown!!!

First of all, I was saddened to see how many small shops are now closed in and around Pagoda street. I often go there early in the morning to witness the opening of the shops, but last week-end not much was going on. The touristy streets feel really empty…

We have an expression in french “il n’y a pas un chat”, the direct translation would be “there is no cat”, meaning no one in the street….

…but wait!!!

….there was a cat!!!

I was however quickly welcomed by the rain.

The rain did not last, and I was able to walk like usual into the back streets, hunting for “treasures” to photograph.

I discovered or rediscovered fantastic mural paintings.

And I finished my stroll by looking at the few shops opened.

See you soon for a glimpse at Kampong Glam!!

To schedule a photowalk with me, see more of my work or purchase a print, please check out my website :-):

How to Create a Composite Image with Photoshop.

Sometimes you have a picture in mind you really want to create but it’s not practical to do it directly in camera (sadly…).
What to do?????
Well, photoshop of course!!
I know, at first, it can be a little bit intimidating, but with just a little bit of practice (and some patience) it’s easily accessible to everyone (no need to have special geeky superpowers … well at least not for what I do).
So last month we celebrated one of my daughter’s birthday.
Usually I go outside to do portraits but this year we are confined inside. And to make it worse there was a thunderstorm and the light inside was horrible…. but never mind that…
Anyway, I had a small space to work with (basically just a white wall).
I had in mind a picture of her with ballons falling all around her!
And really just the few balloons I could find in the store (most stores are of course closed), and just my husband and her siblings to throw balloons.
So, the easiest way was to take many pictures, and then combine them in Photoshop to create the final image I had in mind.
So here you can see a sample of the pictures I used (view from my Lightroom Catalog).
Photography © Catherine Houston
The first one is the one I will call the Base Picture.
It’s the one on which I liked the most her expression, so I added the balloons from the other pictures onto that one.
So that is my Base Picture:
Anniv Elea-8296
No, after a few seconds spent cleaning up the base picture (adjusting contrast, light, cleaning up the background, I started to add the balloons.
For example I liked the purple balloons on that picture:
Photography © Catherine Houston
So I selected the Lasso Tool on Photoshop
Photography © Catherine Houston
And selected an area around the balloon (the background being white, I did not have to worry too much about the selection being perfect, as long as the whole ballon was included).
Photography © Catherine Houston
You can then copy paste your selection onto your Base picture.
And then you can Edit-Transform your selection to adjust the size, orientation, …, to fit into your Base picture.
Photography © Catherine Houston
I’m not going to do all the balloons (I added about 10), each time using the same steps.
But at the end you should have your Base picture, plus all the Layers of the added objects. This will look like that:
Photography © Catherine Houston
Your Base picture is at the bottom (Background) and all the above layers are the objects added (copy/pasted) from the other pictures.
If necessary you can do minor adjustments to each layer to blend as nicely as possible to the Base picture (for example you may need to adjust a little the Brightness/Contrast if the light conditions changed a little between your picture (to avoid having the added object for example to dark compared to the Basic Picture).
Photography © Catherine Houston
You just have to click on the layer you want to adjust, and then go to Image – Adjustments -Brightness/Contrast
Photography © Catherine Houston
When you’re satisfied with your final image, you just have to Flatten all the Layers (basically combine them all into one single file). Just go to Layer – Flatten Image.
Photography © Catherine Houston
Et Voilà…
Photography © Catherine Houston

Introduction to (D)SLR Photography (3)

Shutter Speed
The last two weeks we talked about Exposure, and how you can change it by adjusting both the Aperture (opening of the diaphragm) and Shutter Speed, and then more in details about Aperture and how it affects the Depth of Field.
Today, we’ll talk more about Shutter Speed.
Just like the name suggests, the shutter speed is the length in seconds between the opening and closing of the shutter, of the diaphragm in front of the sensor of the camera.
Screenshot 2020-04-22 at 3.38.52 PM
A fast the shutter speed will “freeze” the movement.
And inversely, a slow shutter speed will blur any movement of your subject(s).
To be more specific if your subject is moving faster than your shutter speed it will appear blurry, but if your subject is slower than your shutter speed it will appear sharp on your picture.
Being able to control that is really useful if you want to add some action on your images (for example for sport photography).
Most of the time you will probably want to have a fast shutter speed to keep everything sharp, but sometimes it will help the story of your picture to do the opposite.
For example on the photograph above (left), I chose a slow shutter speed to show the stillness of the street musicians contrasting with the movement of the pedestrians around them.
Now, let’s go back to the Exposure….
When you have a fast Shutter Speed (for example 1/1000 s), a short amount of light will have time to enter in your camera, and on the other hand a slow shutter speed (for example 1/10 s or longer) a bigger amount of light will have time to enter.
So the choice of you shutter speed will have a big impact on your overall Exposure.
Screenshot 2020-04-22 at 3.42.04 PM
On (D)SLRs cameras you have two modes in which you will be able to change your Aperture:
  • – M – Manual
  • – Tv (Canon) / S (Nikon) – Shutter Priority
In Manual Mode (M), you will have to chose both the aperture and the shutter speed to ensure the right exposure for your images. It takes a little bit of practice, so for today let’s focus on Shutter Priority Mode, which is another great option to start practicing. In this mode, you are going to chose whatever Shutter speed you want (depending of the effect you want on your image), and your camera will automatically match this speed with a suitable aperture to ensure a good exposure of your picture.
Ready to try?
To illustrate, I took a small object easy to move (and not too fast like a ball): a wooden train.
(and I also use two of my kids as little assistants on each side of the train rack).
I used a train rack to have an object on my picture that will not move, as a reference, to show you that any blurriness on the images will be a consequence of the choice of shutter speed and not of handshaking.
And I used a tripod to avoid any handshake.
shutter speed-1600
In this first image, I chose a very fast shutter speed (1/1600 s). The train is moving from the right side to the left, but because the shutter speed is so fast, you can’t see any movement, the train is as sharp as the train track.
shutter speed-250
Second image, I started to slow down the shutter speed. Here it’s 1/250s and you can see that even though the train track is still sharp, the train itself (this time moving from left to right) is starting to appear blurry.
shutter speed-80
Third image, the shutter speed is even slower (1/80s), and the moving train is even more blurred (the track is still sharp though).
shutter speed-20
Fourth image, I chose an even slower shutter speed (also called longer exposure) and the moving train is so blurry that you can barely tell what it is (track still sharp).
shutter speed-10
On the final image the shutter speed is so slow (1/10s) than you can barely see the train (the track is still sharp)
Notice that I could go even slower and make the train totally disappear !!
Your turn to give it a try! 🙂
Feel free to use the Comments section to share your images of this exercise, but also to ask any question.
Next time…. ISO ….

Introduction to (D)SLR Photography (2)

Last week we talked a little bit about Exposure, and how you can change it by adjusting both the Aperture (opening of the diaphragm) and Shutter Speed.
Today, we’ll talk more about Aperture.
The aperture, will not only affect the amount of light entering but also determine the Depth Of Field, which “refers to the range of distance that appears acceptably sharp” on your image.
Screenshot 2020-04-14 at 12.49.18 PM
The wider the aperture the shallower the depth of field.
And inversely, the narrower your aperture, the longer the depth of field.
The aperture will be noted on your camera with the symbol (F), and is called F(stop).
A small F(stop), like for example F(1.2), or F(2) represents actually a wide opening, and consequently is chosen if you wish to have a small depth of field (for example for portraits).
A big F(stop), for example f(22), represents a small opening, and is chosen if you want to have a long depth of field (for landscape photography).
Here is an example of F(stop) you may see on your camera.
(Depending of your camera and lens you may have more or less F(Stop)s.
Screenshot 2020-04-14 at 12.49.57 PM
On (D)SLRs cameras you have two modes in which you will be able to change your Aperture:
  • – M – Manual
  • – Av (Canon) / A (Nikon) – Aperture Priority
In Manual Mode (M), you will have to chose both the aperture and the shutter speed to ensure the right exposure for your images. It takes a little bit of practice, so for today let’s focus on Aperture Priority Mode, which is a great option to start practicing. In this mode, you are going to chose whatever aperture you want (depending of the depth of field you want on your image), and your camera will automatically match this aperture with a suitable shutter field to ensure a good exposure of your picture.
Ready to try?
Why don’t you take 6 eggs (or any other object really :-)), and align them on a table.
Now set up your camera on Aperture Priority Mode (Av for Canon, or A for Nikon).
Take 4 different pictures, without moving your objects nor your camera, at 4 different F(stop)s.
I did also the exercise to show you.
In all 4 cases I focused on the egg number (1) (you will notice that the depth of field does not apply only to things behind your subject, but also in front).
aperture - f1.4
In this first image, I chose an extremely wide Aperture (and therefore shallow Depth of Field). You can see that only Egg 1 is in focus.
aperture - f4
Second image, without changing my focus, I moved up a little my F(stop), to F(4). Egg 2 is now also in focus.
aperture - f8
Third image, without changing my focus, I moved up my F(stop) even more, to F(8). Egg 3 is now also in focus.
aperture -f18
Fourth image, without changing my focus, I moved up my F(stop) to F(22). Egg 4 is now also in focus, as well as egg 0.
Your turn to give it a try! 🙂
Feel free to use the Comments section to share your images of this exercise, but also to ask any question.
Next time…. Shutter Speed….

Behind the scene of a fine art portrait

Children Photography - Fine Art Portraiture - Singapore photographer

A fine Art Portrait in the making…

What is the difference for me between a “regular” portrait and a “fine art” one?

Not the quality, just a different concept.

A “regular” portrait, for me, would be either a spontaneous, lifestyle portrait, or a portrait taken during a photography session (therefore among multiple other shots), something that would be in the concept of a family session for example, with little pre- shoot work (choosing the location, time, and eventually wardrobe, but that’s pretty much it), and simple post-processing (light adjustments, contrast, sharpening, … ) and usually no major photoshop work. I like those portraits to be as natural as possible.

A “fine-art” portrait, for me, would be more about a concept, about creativity. The final product would be one (two eventually) shots. There is a pre-shoot work of thinking about a theme, background, props, … And after the shooting itself I would do more post-editing, as I would not be looking for realistic / natural look anymore.

Today, I will walk you around the making of my latest fine art portrait.

My idea was to create a series of children portraits that without even really focusing on the face will translate the character of each child.

Like usual in my photography work, I was looking for simplicity: a simple background, just a couple of props representing something the child likes, and the great thing is that it does not have to be real, it can represent a favorite character, a dream for their future life, …

So, first I sat down with a couple of blank sheet of papers and a crayon and started writing down keywords for each one of them (favorite colours, some personality traits, hobbys, dreams, …), and then sketching ideas…

So here is for example my first sketch (and yes, I know my drawing skills are horrifying!! ), but you get the idea. I wanted my little girl to be standing up, facing the backdrop, with a violin in her hands in her back (she does not really play but loves music). I wanted something very soft, with in my mind something a little inspired by Degas’s paintings in the way she will pose. I wanted her hair just gently tight in the back, and music sheets next to her on the right, with the light coming from the upper left.

And I kew that I will want all the other portraits of this series to be of the same model. Same background, same type of pose, same type of light, and the few props on the right side. I also new that I will use a dark backdrop (to be specific my thunder grey one) and that I will add texture in post-processing to go back to the painterly idea.

Like often, things did not go exactly as planned and I had to make adjustments. The strobe I was planning to use on the upper left did not work as I wanted to (I could not orientate it as much as I wanted) so I decided to use window light instead, and to worry about the rest in post-processing (knowing that I add on hand a willing model with quite a short patience spam ;-)).

Once satisfied with the light and the positioning of the props, we tried the poses I was originally thinking of, with several little adjustments.

The next time phase was routine photographer’s job (for me with Lightroom): transferring the pictures to the computer, sorting them, during a few batch adjustments (exposure, noise reduction).

And then photoshop for the post-processing of my final 2 pictures: extending the backdrop, adding some light on her hair, adjusting a little the colours, working on the curves, adding a vignette effect (darkening a little the corners of the image), and adding a texture on the image.

(I was originally planning on having only one image, but could not choose between those two, so I kept them both :-)).

#photography #fineartphotography #fineartportait #childrenportrait #fineartphotographysingapore #singaporechildrenphotographer #photographyweekchallenge #photographychallenge #stilllife #stilllifephotography #singapore #singaporephotographer #photographyblog #expatlivingsg

© 2020 MermozinePhotography

Introduction de DSLR Photography (1)

Forgetting the Auto Mode…

Many of you worldwide are confined at home, so why not use this time to do something you have been wanting to do for a long time put kept pushing back (because there are so many other things to do, right)?

So you have this nice DSLR camera, and it’s a fancy and exciting new toy, but you don’t really know how to use it (and who wants to spend hours reading a camera’s instruction manual …. not me!!)?

Being able to use your Manual mode will open lots of options for your images, giving you more control and letting you unleash your creativity. You will choose the right exposure for each shot, the best depth of field, the ideal shutter speed, etc….

Did I lose some of you yet?? 😉

Well… let’s rewind a little bit shall we?

Let’s start from the beginning and define some terms:

1- Exposure

2- Depth of Field

3- Shutter Speed

1- Exposure

In photography, EXPOSURE is “the intensity of light falling on a photographic film [or digital sensor] multiplied by the time for which it is exposed. It is also a combination of lens aperture and shutter speed used in taking a photograph.”

Collins English Dictionary HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003. In simple words, it’s a little bit like your eyes seeing light when you’re opening your eyelids, the sensor or your camera is seeing light when it’s diaphragm (in front of the sensor) opens up. The Aperture represents the size of the opening, and the shutter speed the time between opening and closing again.

To have a “well exposed” (which is of course a little subjective) picture you will therefore have to balance the aperture (size of the opening) and the shutter speed. A wide open diaphragm will mean lots of light coming through at once and should be associated with fast shutter speed to avoid overexposure (picture too bright), and a small opening should be combined with a longer shutter speed to avoid underexposure (picture too dark).

The ISO will also affect the exposure by affecting the sensibility of the sensor to light, but we’ll talk about that later…

That’s it for today, I hope it makes sense to you (feel free to ask questions :-)).

Next time I will go more in details about Aperture, and it’s effects on Depth of field, and how to change it on your camera.

#photography #photographyweekchallenge #photographychallenge #stilllife #stilllifephotography #singapore #singaporephotographer #photographyblog #expatlivingsg

© 2020 MermozinePhotography