Words and images by David Clapp - www.davidclapp.co.uk
In this article, David Clapp offers tips on photographing architecture by demonstrating the techniques he used to shoot a series of shots in Singapore. For each image, David will tell you a little bit about the location it was shot in before moving on to tell you what techniques he used to capture the photographs.
Photo One - Marina Bay Sands Hotel
Yes, it's actually a hotel, not a docking space ship. Every night at 8pm and 9.30pm an amazing laser light show begins accompanied by saturated lighting and classical music. The balls in the harbour are covered in hand written good will messages, linked together with more towed out on a daily basis.
This image is a blend of two exposures, simply to control the light levels on the waterfront, the rest of the image is from one exposure. It's all in the timing - the lasers come to rest at certain points in the performance, so the shutter is pressed at exactly the right point. A second exposure is taken for the waterfront. The colours change continuously, so it's fast work believe me.
Photo Two - Marina Centre And The Theatre On The Bay
This was photographed from the same place as the shot above. It's remarkable to see the difference in twenty degrees to the left. The large spiky building on the left is the 'Durian' (which is a traditional fleshy fruit that is similar to swallowing perfumed snot! believe me it's weird).
This is a 9 shot blend and stitch using the remarkable PTGui. The initial captures were 3x3shot AEB at (-2 0 +2) to capture the entire range of light levels. Once put into the software the Exposure Fusion settings have simple but effective control of the lighting, so much so I use the software to blend images without the need of its panorama facilities.
Photo Three - Below The Helix Bridge
This has to be one of the most remarkable and inventive examples of civil engineering I have seen to date. The Helix Bridge is based on DNA, spiralling around a central walkway. Made entirely of stainless steel, the structure is lit by LED lights that change from blue to magenta each night. The iconic Marina Bay Sands Hotel makes such a great focal point at the end of the bridge.
This was again a manual exposure blend, just to gain control of the lights on the walkway that became excessively blown out. Dusk lasts around 10mins in Singapore, as it's so close to the equator. The 'blue' hour needs some serious thought to get the most out of it, so after this shot I ran up top to get a second shot.
Photo Four - On The Helix Bridge
See what I mean? Darkness beckons very quickly. At dusk, the bridge becomes very busy very quickly, so picking the moment to get a shot without 'ghosts' takes a little time. The shape of the bridge can be seen here in all its splendour, with the cross bracing linking the steel like an elaborate spider web.
There is just enough blue in the sky to retain a sense of dusk but only just. I had to work very hard every evening, but I learned to relax in the end as there were plenty of opportunities to get stunning images at night time as well. This blend was just to control the lighting on the waterfront.
Photo Five - Fisheye Fun
I couldn't wait to use a fisheye lens to photograph tower blocks in the Financial District! I was standing outside the Raffles Place underground station at around midnight when this was taken.
Singapore does not suffer from sodium orange lighting, so a small adjustment to colour balance turns the sky magenta without losing the colours of the tower blocks themselves. This is a single shot and what I like about it is the cinematic almost drawn look of the subject.
Photo Six - Venting Off
Yes that’s exactly what they are - vents. The small fans spin round as heat rises from the tubes below, dissipating it into the night air. Once again, this shows us the example of clever engineering, by turning something functional into a thing of elegance. Singapore is so well lit, the colours are often complementary and beautifully soft.
As before, I toyed with the idea of getting a person or a couple in the scene to the right, but after accosting a well dressed pair to assist my image, the result looked contrived so they were omitted. I tried shooting various characters by pushing the ISO to capture movement, without their knowing, but nothing worked at all. Despite my attempts, the emptiness works just as well.