Top Ten Photography Tips for Singapore


Okay, so this is wa- haa-hay more than ten tips. But I thought I would round it down and save some title space.

1. Depending on which time of the year, Singapore is a bright city. Take full advantage of the golden hours outside. But the rest of the day should probably be used for indoor photography.  This won’t be a difficult decision, though, since midday hours are the hottest time of day.

Highlights:

2. You will probably get some great aerial photography taking the cable car over to Sentosa Island during the day. But at night, there are definitely some great photographic opportunities from inside the Singapore Flyer.  Other good high points will include the Marina Bay Sands Hotel & Casino, the university library and any tall building that you can gain access to.  These will be good for day or night shots.

3. Landscape shots can be achieved from just about anywhere in the city from rooftops. But the city also hires out helicopter rides over the entire area starting around $300/half-hour. Check with singaporeheliservices.com.sg/ for booking. And call well in advance.

4. As far as architectural shooting, I would choose a downtown location for evening shooting, depending on where you want the sun. Scouting the morning and night before you shoot will afford you a solid shooting schedule to fit into the very tight window of golden hour light.  Remember, this place is pretty close to the equator, so those dramatic light shots are limited to less hours than, say, somewhere farther north or south in the mid-latitudes.

5. For street portraiture, stick to the heavily trafficked times. The rail system and bridges, as well as public buses, may be off limits due to heavy regulations on filming or stills.  Check with other public works spaces for regulations on this as well.  You will get your kookiest characters at night in and around the Geyland Red-light District and along Arab Street.

6. For nature photography, you can’t go wrong heading into any one of the many public gardens and parks throughout the city.  These places are well kept, manicured daily and almost always free.  And you’re sure to find some rare plants and insects abound.

Gear:

7. Singapore is a city in which you can run-and-gun to your heart’s desire. A tripod may as well be a ball-and-chain for much of what you’ll want to shoot here. The heat is also going to be a factor in how long you will want to stay outside. So unless you’re shooting time-lapse off a bridge (which may be illegal anyway), just go guerilla-style.

8. Fisheye and wide angle lenses work great downtown. It’s colorful enough in the evening that it might justify bringing the sticks out for a nice, panoramic shot.  30-50mm prime lenses will do great in capturing nice, fast action on the sidewalks for your street photography.  But if you head up to the cable cars, helicopter rides or find a nice perch at your rooftop hostel lounge, don’t forget your 200+mm telephoto. There is enough action to justify bringing the extra weight.

9. As I mentioned before, there is no shortage of light during the dry season. This means you’ll probably want a set of Neutral Density filters. In the rainy season, a polarizer might work nicely for cleaning up those later evening high-humidity shots.

10. Weather can be a bit tricky from September to January as the rainy season throughout the region is in full effect during this time.  So if your travel plans have you going there in these months, be sure to bring a zippered raincoat to quickly stow a camera as the rain comes on quite quickly. It might not be a bad idea to carry a large umbrella (though I can’t even count how many of these I have left leaning against a fence because I was so focused on shooting that I forgot about it).  If you can find a way to attach it to a tripod or your backpack, that’s probably the best way to go. And of course, you’ll definitely want to have a cover for your gear bag. This should be with you anyway. But it’s worth a mention.

11. As for wind and dust, you should already have a dust rocket and fiber cloth. But if you don’t, add them to your pack.  You’ll also want to be mindful of changing lenses in the wind here. There is all manner of microscopic wind-borne debris floating around Southeast Asia. And Singapore is no exception.

12. One note about this region that you may either love or hate (but will otherwise still want to know about) is that around August every year, there is a country-wide burning session that takes place in the rice fields of Sumatra. And because of the trade winds pushing west-to-east from Indonesia, the haze that it creates causes havoc all the way up to northern Malaysia.

You could either use this haze to add drama to your shooting style, or it could quite possibly be the bane of your shooting experience here. It all depends on how you prepare and what you’re trying to shoot.  And in either case, you’ll also want to be mindful of your health as the experience of being here during that time is a lot like standing in front of a campfire for three straight weeks.

Safety:

13. Your gear will be safe here. Don’t leave it sitting around, of course, and you’ll leave home with everything that you haven’t personally lost or broken by yourself.

Clothing and the rest:

14. Singapore is non-stop. So whatever you bring, make sure that patience and stamina are right there with you. You’ll be sweating, too. So a handkerchief and loose, light clothing would also be helpful. You won’t have to climb anything that isn’t made of concrete, either. So a light, breathable pair of tennis shoes will do the trick over the heavier hiking boots that other Southeast Asian countries might require.

15. Singapore has some strange laws. Among them are No Spitting, No Swearing, No Drinking in Public, and, sadly, No Filming on Public Lands. What does this mean for you, the photographer?  Well, it could mean many things. I personally have a home office in the U.S. and lawsuits across the pond normally die before they get started due to money, time and effort. But if you’re photographing a business with contacts in your home country, this could spell trouble. Model releases normally quash any question of future legal hassles. Keep them on hand. I’ve actually gotten to the point where I just have one copy on hand and have people sign a list indicating that they have read and understand the model, talent and property release that I can show them upon request.

Having said all this, it is strongly recommended that you do not publish any work that has not been released. If it can be construed as defamatory, fraudulent or otherwise piss someone off in general, you will be at the mercy of a court system you likely know nothing about. And you don’t want to end up in that situation. Get home before you publish your blogs. Singapore is not that big of a place. So you probably won’t be there that long anyway. And I wish I could say that I have never heard of anyone getting in trouble for what they publish in this part of the world, but I have indeed. And most of the time, this results in stiff fines and even imprisonment.

This goes for Malaysia as well. North of that all the way to China, you should be fine. But do not think that just because your blog only has a thousand followers, you won’t be picked up here. Play it safe and publish later.

That’s about it. If you have any questions or want to keep the conversation going, head over to travelgeekmagazine.com and comment on the post.

Thanks for listening and happy shooting!

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