Just one day after the historic and auspicious opening of the Beijing Olympics (the number 8 is considered lucky in Chinese customs, so 8pm 08/08/08 is like winning the $10mil Big Sweep… without having even bought a ticket), Singapore celebrated its National Day. National Day celebrations in Singapore are always really spectacular, and spectacularly crowded. We thus chose to avoid hotspots like the City Hall area in order to preserve our sanity and headed down to Henderson Wave instead, the tallest pedestrian bridge in Singapore.
In the photo above, you can see how the bridge’s structure comprises curved steel “ribs” that alternate above and under the deck giving it a wave-like form. Under each “rib” are alcoves where people can sit on the nice yellow balau wood floor and enjoy the view. And for me, a great place to snap some shots!
You might probably be wondering by now what time at night I took these photos at. Well, the answer is actually closer to 6pm where there was still a lot of light. The trick to this was to ensure that the flash was strong enough to overpower the ambient light, thus making the whole scene darker that it actually was. Of course, this correspondingly meant that the camera had to be set to expose for the flash, or else bright scene + even brighter flash = blown out picture.
Now here’s my favourite modlet (I just coined a new word!) in action.
By now, another question might have cropped up in your mind: if it was still bright and the bridge was made of wood, how come the wood looks so blue? Again, there is a trick to this. If you own either the Nikon SB800 or SB900 flashes, they come with a set of CTO colour-correction gels. CTO stands for Colour Temperature Orange and they are meant to make light from the flash warmer.
So in theory, what happens is that when you set your camera’s white balance to incandescent/tungsten to compensate for the flash emitting warmer light, everything else in the scene takes on a darker shade of blue. Groovy isn’t it?
You can read more about this technique here from the Strobist website.
Anyway, back to National Day, we were able to see other great action from the bridge like the Singapore flag fly-past and a distant view of the Black Knights’ aerial display.
- Forgot to bring a lightmeter so everything was on the spot guesswork. If I recall correctly, my SB900 was set to full power, i.e. 1/1.
- In addition, I was using an 85cm shoot-through translucent umbrella to diffuse light from the flash. Umbrella was positioned about 1.5-2m away from Ashley and pointing downwards about 25 degrees.
- Flash sync speed was at 1/125s and aperture was purely guesswork, alternating between f/5.6 to f/7.1. Why people advice you to be proficient at reading the camera histogram is precisely for times like this.
- The Elinchrom Skyport Universal Transmitter and Receiver were used to provide-off camera flash wireless triggering.
- It rained while we were there and the shoot-through umbrella found another use. 😛