Thursday, 26 December 2013

NP: Perlis Rainbow House

Rainbow House
Unfortunately what you see here will be gone soon, giving way to housing development.

This image is captured at paddy fields in Perlis, the Rainbow House is unique icon and used to be very popular after it was shown in one of Malaysia movie. But today not many people are visiting this place anymore, I guess it will fade away after the whole area is developed. I'm lucky enough to be able to capture it at night before it is long gone.

This scene is light-painted with protomachines light, which is my new tool for light painting work, I'm still testing it and hopefully can write more complete review about this wonderful tool.

By the way, Merry Christmas & Happy New Year ;)

20140619 Updates: The rainbow house is no longer colourful but white, you can find more information here -

Saturday, 30 November 2013

NP: Bujang Valley

The Beautiful Heritage
I'm working on the project to photograph our unique heritage site - Bujang Valley, I'm glad that the management has granted permission for me to access the site at night. But today I get to read the news which is quite saddening over here -

Several temple sites were destroyed to give way to development, to be honest this is not acceptable at all, I do hope our government will stop this before it gets worse, those sites hold the true value of our history and should not be removed without careful plan.

My initial  plan was to cover Batu Pahat site then only move to Sungai Batu, it seems I have to move quicker to cover them before it's too late.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

The Making Of Bridge Underneath

This time I'm going to share about thought process and light-painting workflow on another image of mine - Bridge Underneath.

The location - my home town bay area which is surrounded by tungsten street light. The ambient light is quite strong here and my camera setting is aperture at F8, 30 seconds shutter speed, ISO 100 and auto white balance, I'm always happy as long as I don't need to wait more than 30 seconds to review my first image. My main subject here is those wood sticks, and the overhead bridge is considered the backdrop.
Exposure: Aperture F8|Shutter Speed 30s|ISO 100
Couple of things need to think about after reviewing first image, the auto white balance setting is smart, it sets the camera white balance to tungsten because you can see the colours shift to blue(to cancel out the orange so the colour looks more balance and natural), that's the white balance correction you get in-camera. Exposure wise, it seems to be underexposed and I need to pump up the exposure. But wait, I don't really care about "Correct" but more on getting "Creative" exposure, therefore I'm going to change the white balance to cloudy here to amplify the orange colour background light and keep the exposure(Aperture, Shutter Speed, ISO) setting the same as first image. Most people never thought that changing white balance will increase your exposure especially when you change from cool white balance to warm white balance.
Exposure: Aperture F8|Shutter Speed 30s|ISO 100
Second image looks brighter than the first image even though I don't change exposure setting, it's not the exposure I want yet but close, the cloudy white balance changes the whole scene to orang colour. My main subject is those wood sticks, to make them pop, I play with "colour contrast" concept of which I will paint them with cool colour(blue here) against the warm colour(orange) backdrop. For the background ambient, I will add 1/3 stop of light so the setting I'm going for is aperture at F8, 40 seconds shutter speed and ISO 100. Light-painting wise, I'm going to paint the wood sticks from camera left(just out side of camera view), then get low to illuminate those woods, and just skim a little bit by standing up so that the woods on top will be painted as well.

Exposure: Aperture F8|Shutter Speed 40s|ISO 100
After 3 tries of light-painting, finally I have gotten everything right and here's the final result, the wood sticks colour becomes purple instead of blue(red orange+blue=purple), the background is little bit brighter and more glowing compared to second image. Post-processing wise I adjust the contrast a little bit and done.

Make up your mind of what you want to create, it will determine how the final image looks like.

Friday, 11 October 2013

NP: Good Bye, Forest ...

Exposure: Aperture F5.6|Shutter Speed 90s|ISO 250
At the truckyard, the excavator is parked beside the woods, this location is heavily illuminated by the sodium vapour street lights.

Sometimes the background makes the image, it would be boring if there's nothing in the sky. Here's the tip to share, I checked the weather forecast to know the night will be cloudy, and second factor to control how your image looks like is the wind direction and speed. Once you have those information at hand, the rest is about making the image on location. Being patient is important too, I have to observe the sky and wait for the right timing to get interesting sky like this, and the reason I set the shutter speed to 90 seconds because the cloud was moving slowly and requires longer time to capture the transition of moving cloud.

By the way I use the mobile app - Foreca to track the weather information, so far it seems to be most accurate for the country I reside. It offers both IOS and Android version as well.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

NP: The Hidden Truckyard

When we are getting to the location that is amazing at night, sometimes it becomes even tougher to capture the sense of place, we may become overly excited and speed up our process so that we can capture everything.

Learn to slow down and feel the location, and only start shooting after you become part of it.

Lit by sodium vapour light(quite a lot of street lights over there) from camera left. This scene would be static if I set very short shutter speed, as I could see the cloud was moving and it was winding, I set my shutter speed to 90 seconds. Observation is important here, we can actually control how the cloud looks like in long exposure by watching them. This is one of the frame I'm most happy with after few clicks that expresses what I have in mind about the location.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Ohai Internet

We all use many internet services today, and I am no different. So to make things clear about what I do and how I use them -

Zenfolio -
My main photography site

Blogger -
More content driven, long post will be usually posted here, discussing about techniques and art

Facebook -
Keep my friends updated about my photography work

Flickr -
Mainly posting latest night images and check out other photography friends' work

When we are using too many services, we can easily lose track, I'm writing this to keep myself stayed focus.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

The Making Of Surviving Fishtown

I would like to share how I make this image - The Surviving Fishtown and the whole light-painting workflow.

My main subject here is the fisherman house, and an old rusty boat, to get the composition and exposure right I set my ISO to 400 and 30 seconds shutter speed so I don't need to wait too long to review it. This is what I get from first image.

Exposure: Aperture F8|Shutter Speed 30s|ISO 400|WB Auto
After reviewing it, I change the ISO to 100, and extends my shutter speeds from 30 seconds to 220 seconds to compensate it(add 1 more stop roughly) so the camera can capture more background ambient light and at the same time reduce image noise. From the first image I know that the foreground is in the shade and won't be illuminated much, so that gives me full control of how I can light up the foreground subjects. I stand on camera left, and skim the light through the foreground and that gives me rough idea of how I can have more precise light-painting after reviewing it on my lcd screen.

Exposure: Aperture F8|Shutter Speed 220s|ISO 100|WB Auto
Here's the juicy part, what I want my viewer to see and interpret? I want to project a polluted fish-town here, if I go with tungsten white balance the colour tone will be more blueish, I want it to have more cryptic colour(orangish) presented in the scene, so I switch the white balance to cloudy, and that will enhance the present of background light pollution(generated by the street light). For the light-painting part, I just need to bring out the details of all the subjects here, I stand nearby the tree on camera left(just outside of camera view), then paint the tree and cast its shadow on the house to show the tree is angry because of pollution, after that get the light to lower angle to illuminate the muddy ground and also back light the boat to bring out its shape. The last part is run to camera right, stand in front of the boat(just outside camera view), and illuminate it from low angle(more like a cross light setup after-all). As I want the boat to look more rusty, I put less light on it compare to other part of the scene, the whole light-painting process is done in 220 seconds.

Exposure: Aperture F8|Shutter Speed 220s|ISO 100|WB Cloudy
The final image is here. As I shoot in jpeg, nothing much I have changed except cleaning up the dust spot and adjusting the contrast. I always love to practice story driven lighting, which shapes the story I want to tell.

By the way, I would like to tell the star, you are not alone ;)

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Memoir Of The Legends

Alfried Stieglitz Documentary

Ansel Adams Documentary

I haven't been making night images, but rather watching documentary about those well known classic artists, watching their documentary is like a brainstorming to me, I don't think I will be able to absorb all of them.

We all love to learn about photography techniques and rules, as it is important to know the technique in order to take things in control and work rapidly. But watching this kind of documentary is truly eye opening as we can study about their thought and approach on photography art throughout entire of their life.

Interestingly though, while both of them are not night photographers, they have taken impressive night photos that should be studied by night photographers.

Be warned, it's quite a lengthy documentary.

Monday, 5 August 2013

NP: Afterglow

This is not sunset afterglow, but rather light glowing after rain.

In order to put little softness touch to this contrasty scene that was created by existing street light, I just pushed little light with few seconds illumination on the shade, angle from camera right. That's enough to bring out the detail of this car while maintaining the sense of subtlety.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

NP: The Dark Op

Totally has no idea what's processing behind the wall, hopefully not bomb making ... this area looks very alienated at night, the tungsten street light fills the shadow of the wall makes it even weird.

The overhead flyover looks to me like some sort of gigantic spaceship, very surreal.

Saturday, 3 August 2013

NP: Line Me Up

We are drawn by line(whether we are conscious about it or not), we are.

All the rested container trucks are parked in very organized way, and the overhead flyover with very strong outline is dominating, it leads us to look into the frame. Interesting enough, it also leads us out of the frame(from background to foreground subject).

Not all images present very strong line to us obviously, when they do, it brings direct impact.

Friday, 2 August 2013

NP: The Evil Factory

Yes, size does matter! Often our brain will process in this order, bigger size subject means closer to us, smaller size subject means further away. So size and distance are very much related and it creates depth to viewer.

Foreground background stuffs again, using shipping container as foreground subject and that makes me curious about what's inside the container especially if it has the evil code, our background subject here is the factory tower, it is smoking hard enough to grab attention!

Thursday, 1 August 2013

MNS: Ground Fire

For this image I'm focusing on - foreground, mid-ground and background. The mid-ground and background already has the depth I want, which is created by colour contrast(cold vs warm color). The foreground is just empty road, so I need to create something interesting to attract the viewer.

Hence the foreground is on fire, light painted with white colour EL-Wire, as I know I'm going to use Tungsten white balance for this image, the white colour will turn into blue. Why not use orange color EL-Wire? Because I don't want the warm, cold, warm colour mix to break the rhythm of this image.

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

MNS: Mafia Ride

I have never seen this type of car in Malaysia, and it's rare in Myanmar as well, with black colour outlook it looks rock solid and reminds me of Mafia movie. While I love to shoot the car I have to confess I really don't know what car is this, whoever knows the car ID please let me know.

I'm looking for symmetric here, it's tough to balance the light painting on this one because of existing light on camera right, I have used strobe(SB700) instead of flashlight, punch the light from (more on)camera left and (less on)right. Those rocks in the front are lit by existing light.

It's very hard to miss this beast, if you ever seen one.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

MNS: The Joker

Our imagination runs wild when there are less noise at night, and seeing something out of its original context can be quite fun. The green and the red are always the symbolic colors of Joker to me which projects strong eerie atmosphere.

By the way, where's the Batman?

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Night Photography: Street Light

I'm always wondering how bright street light is as the environment I used to take night images are always "bundled" with them, and found this interesting information in the internet, would like to share it here in case anyone is interested -

While street light is extremely strong(look at the lumens it produced), we can always overpower it easily, and using strobe is definitely not a problem, if you want to overpower street light with flashlight(imagine most of flashlight we have are in between of 1-250 lumens), as long as our subject is not too closed to street light or in the shade, we can do so easily.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Night Photography Gear Test: Lumix LX7

I have borrowed Lumix LX7 compact camera from my friend to do night photography field test, after one month plus of shooting, finally I sit down and put all my notes together.

The test I'm doing, mainly focusing on the usability and performance in night photography. Instead of explaining stuffs in long text, I just summarized them in point form -

1. Aperture - With F1.4, you can shoot wide open and capture a lot of stars, on the other hand makes freezing subject at night possible
2. Shutter speed - Support up to 250 seconds(4 minutes and 10 seconds exposure, you don't need to buy additional shutter release for long exposure works)
3. ISO - Usable up to 800(before intrusive noise appears)
4. Lens - Leica lens resolution power is amazing to capture detail at night
5. Focus - Both autofocus and manual focus, LX7 autofocus is interesting, if you point your camera to dark location and it sees nothing, it will automatically set your focus to infinity so you get 0.5 meter to infinity depth of field and that's very practical for night photographer, if you want to focus on certain area, the manual focus in LX7 does show the DOF zone meter so you can easily focus at night. To adjust manual focus, you just need to roll the ND filter button
6. Countdown timer - It shows the timer when you set to 1 seconds exposure or more so you know exactly when the shutter is closed
7. Build-in ND Filter - It is very handy, why? In the location where street light is massive, and yet you want to do light painting, you can prolong the exposure time by turn on ND filter(as LX7 can go up to F8 only, so the ND filter can be used to compensate)
8. Hot Shoe - It might not be used often by night photographer but you can trigger flash remotely
9. Size - It's little compact, you can be more stealthy and move around faster

1. Long exposure noise reduction(LENR) - This function can't be turned off, it shows up when you shoot with shutter speed of 1s(this eliminates the possibility to capture star trails, normally LENR will capture the dark frame to cancel out the long exposure noise(hot pixel), for 60 seconds exposure it will take another 60 seconds to capture the dark frame)
2. Timelapse function(intervalometer) - It is not flexible(1 minute interval as minimum setting, if LENR can be turned off and the interval can be set to 1 second, we will be able to make star trails image)
3. White balance - Never expect auto WB to be accurate when shooting at night especially if you are going for urban-scape, if you shoot under street light, it always shifts to yellow colour cast, however you can solve this problem by shooting raw
4. Noise - It creates problem in shadow area, the chromatic noise is quite obvious in shadow area, this is critical in night photography because the noise affects the detail in the shadow and it's very hard to clean up in post-processing, and this shadow noise seems to happen even at ISO 80(I remember I see more pleasing output from LX5)
5. Lens hood - No lens hood, the lens is easily exposed to flare. There's workaround, make your own lens hood using black card, here's the interesting part, you can easily see if any flare in the LCD screen in real time, then use black card to block them accordingly

Let the images speak for themselves -

Old Tree
The Night Dream
The Night Hope
Getting Away From Business
Crashing In Style
Rusty Beauty
Natural Blending
Good bye, trees ...
Illuminate Me II
I won't go into detail on how I create all the images here, in short they are all captured at night, the raw file is further post-processed using camera raw and photoshop. I kind of like luminance noise in LX7, it looks like film grain to me but will never shoot more than ISO 800 though. Ergonomic wise I can't speak for others but I find it very pleasant to use with all the important functions(aperture,shutter speed, iso, white balance, exposure compensation, manual focus) can be accessed easily without drilling deep into the menu. I have tried Canon S100 before, both S100 and LX7 are very close for day use, however if you are interested in night photography, LX7 is definitely a winner.

What I'm hoping though, Panasonic makes the firmware update to allow us to set LENR manually and improves Timelapse function, that way we will be able to make star trails image, if they really do this, LX7 will be the complete camera for night photography.

Saturday, 22 June 2013

NP: Bridge Underneath

This image is part of my ongoing personal project - Home Town At Night.

When comes to creating this image, what I want to achieve is the extreme color contrast, so I set cloudy white balance to enhance the already orange colour cast from street light, then light painting the wood sticks with blue colour light from camera left, everything comes together after second try.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Night Photography: Aperture

We all know what's the use of aperture in photography, it's used to control the amount of light hitting our sensor, it also controls the depth of field.

In Night Photography, aperture plays key role to create the image you want, it's particularly important for star chaser to have lens with aperture range of F1.4-F2.8 so they can shoot wide open to capture more stars. Shooting wide open has another advantage as you can shorten the shutter speed and won't get the star trail but just star point(shutter speed below 30s or less). You can see the example below where the milky way is taken with aperture number F1.4.

For people who shoot urban-scape at night, artificial light source such as street light can't be avoided at all. To control how they look in your image(depending on the design of lens diaphragm as well), aperture comes into play again. Look at the image examples below -

You can see exactly the aperture not only control the amount of light, it will affect how the artificial light source looks like in your image, if you want "orb" looking light source, you can shoot wide open(below F4) however if you want more focus light source just close down the aperture(F8 for example).

Go out and experiment with your lens and you may find them having different look than mine here because of the lens diaphragm design, I suggest you create a set of images with different aperture setting for reference purpose(just like what I did here for Lumix LX7 leica lens), then take it into consideration when shooting night images next time.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Oh, you lost the details ...

Often when we are photographing at night, there are times when people may say "Hey you have overexposed the image(because of street light usually)"

Is it really that important not to overexpose the image? In digital photography, if you want to recover the detail in highlight area, then the answer is yes, but ...

The question to ask yourself would be more of "Is the detail in that particular area important to the image you want to create, if not why keep it?"

Just blow it out, my friend ;)

Saturday, 4 May 2013

NP: Amazing Ayutthaya

If you have never been to Ayutthaya, Thailand, you should visit this location. It offers wide range of opportunities for night photographers. While you need to pay little fee to visit some of heritage sites, this ancient city is packed with all the ruins where you can access at night without restriction as well.

This is the first time visit to this location, unfortunately I have only spent one night here. This is considered as "survey" trip for me, I plan to come back to this magical location another time. You can rent a motorbike to go around in the city, each of the ancient site are actually near to each other(within 1km range). 

Here are 2 images I would like to share, I really want to build body of night work for this ancient city.

Exposure: Aperture F8|Shutter Speed 15s|ISO 200|WB Fluorescent
Exposure: Aperture F8|Shutter Speed 13s|ISO 200|WB Fluorescent

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Rosco Roscolux: Complete Reference Set

First of all, I'm not associated with Rosco by any mean but have been using their color gel extensively in my night photography and portrait works for two reasons - color correction(natural) and mood creation(playful).

The main aim of this project is simple, to give videography/photography community more complete reference of Rosco Roscolux offering.

Color shift is the main reason I'm creating this set, there are many factors that may generate color variation where one color changes to become another or become dimmer, lighter, warmer or cooler. Here are the factors -

- Camera Color Profile(Adobe, Neutral, Portrait, Landscape, etc)
- White Balance(2500-10000k scale, tungsten, fluorescent, daylight, etc)
- Reflected surface(Smooth, Rugged, Matt, etc)
- Light source color(neutral white, warm white, cool white)

Hence providing the set makes things easier and flexible because you can find the color you want in different condition(the change of color profile, white balance). And with that you can find precise and more defined color pallete. On top of that, color reproduction will be very easy with the set available.

Here's how I produce the reference set, all the raw files are captured in controlled environment where the ambient light is killed with 1/200s so that the color produced by the color gel won't be affected by available light. The color gel is stuck on the Nikon SB700 flash head and blast on the white foam. The white foam is selected since white surface reflects the color that is casted on it. To make everything standard, here's my camera setting -

Aperture: F8
Shutter Speed: 1/200s
ISO: 100
White Balance: 5200K(Close to daylight)

I'm hosting the complete set at, it is consisted of 22 zip files and each zip file size is roughly 250MB, once you have downloaded the zip file, you can decompress them and find that each raw file is named based on Roscolux code. Now you can actually load the raw file to any image processing software(Photoshop/Lightroom/etc) that can read .NEF file and play with them.

The Roscolux Reference Set can be downloaded at -

I suggest you take a loot at -

You will learn a lot about application of various color gel in different scenario from stage lighting experts.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

NP: Freezing the long exposures

Exposure: Aperture F3.5|Shutter Speed 30s|ISO 800
This image is taken at Langkawi Island, the famous island with many beautiful beaches in Malaysia.

Thought process: Seeing way too many night seaside/beach images with silky smooth surface to show the calmness of the sea, I'm experimenting with the technique to freeze the moment during long exposures. Normally in 30 seconds exposure the wave at the seashore will be silky smooth, I want to freeze the wave like we have seen during the day time with less than a second exposure, to achieve what I have in mind, I use strobe(SB700), set at the power of 1/64+0.3 to blast on coming wave when it hits the seashore. So the exercise confirms that -

Long Exposure+moving subject=silky smooth/blur look
Long Exposure+moving subject+strobe=static look

And in future, I will try to find stronger wave or moving subject to create more dramatic image at night.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

NP: Kuala Lumpur

Exposure: Aperture F11|Shutter Speed 25s|ISO 200|WB Fluorescent
Finally I have decided to shoot the surroundings of our main city - Kuala Lumpur at night. This is just the beginning and hopefully more things to discover in this lively city.

The image above is made during full moon night, looking at how moon light balancing with various light sources in the scene is amazing, this is not HDR but single exposure image.