Ladies and Gentlemen, I am thrilled to introduce you to the next photographer of TIA’s Feature Photographer series! She’s Rebecca Ang, an incredibly talented and artistic photographer based in Singapore. I initially came to know Rebecca’s work on Flickr and was so extremely enamored with her mesmerizing cityscapes of Singapore. She is one of those photographers whose work keeps her friends and contacts frequently checking her photostream to see the latest, brilliant image that she will showcase and share next!
Rebecca’s photography is always thoughtful, well-composed, and artistic. She leaves the viewer in awe in the beauty of the sparkling gem that is Singapore. She doesn’t only display the dazzling metropolis of the city, but she also reveals other parts of Singapore’s personality that we do not often see, such as the lush, rural landscapes that one would not immediately associate with this densely populated metropolis. Viewers receive a well-rounded, holistic perspective of the city-nation and all it has to offer for residents and visitors.
In fact, her photography has personally motivated me to make Singapore a future stop in my international travels to cover the world’s cities via photography. Rebecca has also graciously informed me to contact her when I do visit so we can engage in a very fun and entertaining photo shoot of her very beautiful and attractive city. I cannot wait!
Let’s get to know more about Rebecca and her artistry!
NAME: Rebecca Ang
CITY & COUNTRY OF RESIDENCE: Singapore
FLICKR WEBSITE: http://www.flickr.com/photos/rp_ang
TIA: Hi Rebecca! Thank you very much for taking the time and effort to do this interview. I know so many people are interested to know more about your photography. Let’s start with learning about the subject matters you enjoy to photograph most!
Rebecca: In particular, I enjoy capturing cityscapes, urban architecture, and landscapes at the golden hour and at the blue hour. I find the quality of light most attractive during these times, especially for cityscape and landscape photography.
TIA: I was already intrigued by the word “cityscapes”! We definitely have similar tastes in common when it comes to this. Could you please discuss more about some of your favorite places you have photographed, and places where you would like to photograph in the future?
Rebecca: It would not be fair for me to pinpoint a particular favorite location since I have not been to that many places around the world. Most of my photography is currently centered on showcasing cityscapes, urban architecture, and landscapes in Singapore. I have also spent some time in Paris photographing cityscapes there. The Louvre, for example, is absolutely gorgeous at twilight and it was a delightful experience capturing that iconic landmark.
There are way too many places I would like to photograph in the future and it is not possible to list them all. As I do not do photography on a full-time basis, it is a challenge for me to find time to travel for the specific purpose of photography. But when the opportunity arises, I would certainly like to visit several national parks in the United States. I have seen some really spectacular images of Arches National Park, Death Valley National Park, and Badlands National Park, for example. With respect to cityscapes and architecture, I think Athens, Greece, will be a fascinating location to photograph.
TIA: I think your answer resonates with many photographers: professional, amateurs, and aspiring alike. I believe it probably boils down to time, finances, and level of interest. Even as a hobby, photography is by no means an inexpensive pastime. However, when one develops a passion for photography, it encourages one to envision where one would like to travel or which subject matter one wishes to capture most. Speaking of which, please share how you initially realized your passion for photography!
Rebecca: I grew up in a household where cameras were not unusual items. While growing up, photographs and photography were so much a part of our lives. My father used to take pictures of me and my brothers at birthdays, school, church events, and family holidays that we had. My father enjoyed photography and he was the one who first introduced me to photography when I was a pre-teen. He taught me the basic principles of photography. I started with a point and shoot camera, and as my interest in photography grew, I progressed from point and shoot cameras to SLRs. This was before the digital era.
Growing up in the film era and my initial foray into photography back then has, in some way, shaped my approach and outlook regarding digital photography. When I used film many years ago, every shot was precious and composed with a lot of thought and care because processing was expensive. Also, there was no instantaneous feedback. One has to wait for an entire roll of film to be completed before one gets any feedback about the quality of photographs captured therein. With digital photography, we can check our images immediately, make the necessary adjustments, and re-shoot a particular scene if needed, and I appreciate this advantage. I am also thankful for having had the opportunity to be involved with film photography in the past. That has taught me the importance of careful pre-planning for shots and being mindful about composition, lighting, and other basic elements in photography.
TIA: I appreciate you sharing your experiences in film photography in contrast to today’s digital photography. I think a much deeper appreciation for the advances of digital photography often evolves from what our options and procedures were when film photography was the standard. Now, there’s been one particular question on my mind ever since I saw your amazing photography on Flickr. Could you please tell me how your fascination for photographing cityscapes began? How did that come about?
Rebecca: Sometime in 2011, I chanced upon the blue hour website and was fascinated by the rich blue hues seen in these cityscape images. Gradually, I did more targeted reading about photographing during twilight, experimented with blue hour work, and learned through trial and error. My initial interest in capturing images at the blue hour subsequently led me to also explore shooting opportunities at sunrise and sunset. I have not looked back since.
Below is one of Rebecca’s personal, all-time favorite photographs:
“As Surely as the Sun Rises”
TIA: I remember this one well. Glorious image! I am also glad to see I was one of your first contacts on Flickr to respond when you shared it! Please tell me the story behind this photograph.
Rebecca: There are usually aspects that I like and aspects that I do not like in each photograph that I take, so it is tough for me to identify one favorite photograph. I am using this particular photograph as an illustration, and by no means am I suggesting that this is a perfect photograph. I believe that there is always room for improvement.
That particular morning, I had planned on going to the One Fullerton area, where the Merlion is, to capture both the blue hour and sunrise over the ArtScience Museum and the Marina Bay Sands (MBS) hotel. After capturing a few blue hour shots from the bridge connecting Esplanade and One Fullerton, I was all ready for sunrise. Sunrise did not disappoint as I started shooting, but as the sun rose, it became evident that the dynamic range was huge in this scene, and I was worried that a single exposure will have difficulty accommodating this situation. As I continued to shoot, I physically moved slightly left progressively as the sun rose, using the structure of MBS to partially “block” the sun.
This was my attempt to somewhat manage the dynamic range in this scene as I did not want too much of the overexposed portion of the sun and I wanted enough of an emphasis on the rays coming through. Then, in post-work, I concentrated my efforts on balancing the effect I wanted – just enough of the rays coming through without creating too much of an overexposed or washed out effect, and balancing the noise issue as I tried to pull more detail from the shadows.
TIA: Wow! Considerable effort went into creating that image. I often opine with colleagues and contacts that even though a photograph can tell a story all by itself, what is often never realized, until revealed, is the story *behind* achieving the photograph. It’s the behind-the-scenes aspect that the viewer is unable to appreciate until that story is told, which is almost as important as the final result — the photograph! This is a convenient segue to inquire about the aspects of photography you find frustrating or challenging.
Rebecca: I find post-processing the most challenging, frustrating aspect of photography. I believe post-work is critical, but I am also keenly aware that I have a long way more to improve in this domain. Basically, I am very much a no-frills photographer. While I do post-process my images, I try my very best to get as many elements right in the camera as I possibly can. I am aware that this has been much debated in the field and some may disagree with my approach.
I believe that photography is and should be a continuous learning journey where a photographer sets different goals for himself or herself, and goes through various phases at different points along this pathway. Along this journey, a photographer may decide to experiment with a different genre of work or different techniques outside of his or her comfort zone. At this point in my photography journey, all my photographs are single exposures. I don’t, yet, do multiple exposures. Some photographers may feel that this is extremely limiting. To some extent, I agree with that observation. However, I choose to remain with single exposures for now because I feel that there are still specific aspects of my work I am working on improving within the realm of single exposures. Who knows? At some future time, I may move into multiple exposure work.
TIA: In your view, what are the ingredients for a fantastic photograph?
Rebecca: To me, there are three indispensable aspects of an excellent photograph.
First, there has to be a compelling composition. A decent composition draws your eye naturally into and through the image. The placement and positioning of elements in the image need to have an aesthetically pleasing overall form. No amount of post-work or software can save an image that is poorly composed. Second, having a firm understanding of light and exposure will go a long way in helping one create a fantastic photograph. It is not uncommon to hear photographers say that “photography is all about light.” Balancing exposure in low light situations often requires long exposures. Therefore, for low light cityscape and landscape photography, in my opinion, a tripod and a cable release/remote control are simply indispensable. Third, an excellent photograph must be able to convey and/or evoke emotion from the viewer. Finally, I believe that these three key aspects do not work in isolation; rather, they work synergistically together. For example, I could experience and capture the best available light in a particular frame but if the composition fails, I have failed to create a compelling image.
TIA: Those are excellent guidelines, Rebecca. No wonder you deliver so many enthralling images. Clearly, you practice your own guidelines and the results are evident. I’m going to change the subject momentarily as I would like to know your viewpoint about women in photography. Photography tends to be a male-dominated field, but this trend has changed significantly in recent decades. How do you feel about this, and have you ever felt intimidated by this situation?
Rebecca: Indeed, female photographers are somewhat of a rare breed. But you are right, this trend is changing and I do see more female photographers entering the field. This is an encouraging trend. It is still somewhat unusual to see a woman carrying a tripod. Seeing a woman carry a dSLR plus a tripod is almost like witnessing a lunar eclipse! I do not feel intimidated by this situation but I do find it amusing sometimes when people look at me in a curious way.
TIA: Is there any advice or guidance you would like to give to other women who wish to pursue photography?
Rebecca: For women who are keen to pursue photography, especially low light cityscape and landscape photography, I hope they will not shy away from this. For those who know me personally and know me well, they will agree that I am certainly not the most physically fit of persons nor am I into sports of any sort. Under ordinary circumstances, I would much rather sit and enjoy a cup of coffee than take a walk in the park. I must admit that carrying my full camera gear, comprising one tripod, one camera body, three lenses, a couple of filters, wireless remote control, and some other miscellaneous items, is considerably heavy for someone like me. But somehow, the joy of the process of capturing and creating each photograph sustains me through my intermittent episodes of grumbling about heavy equipment and such. I hope that other women photographers can draw encouragement from this. To fellow female photographers, do not let physical constraints deter you from pursuing something you enjoy!
TIA: Rebecca, it has been an absolute pleasure for me to get to know more about you and your sophisticated style of photography. I appreciate your candor and time. Before we conclude, is there anything else you would like to mention that wasn’t asked previously?
Rebecca: Tosin, thank you for featuring me on your blog. It’s a privilege and an honor for me.
I have followed your work on Flickr for quite some time now. I like how you are able to bring out the best in cities. You create, in the viewer, a curiosity about an image and a location. This is the mark of a great photograph. It has an emotional connection with the viewer and draws him or her in. I’d like to provide a concrete example. I refer to your image titled “San Fran Vigil”.
Compositionally, the image is so pleasing to the eye. The city layers are beautifully defined with low rises occupying a large part of the image and the high-rises found mostly behind the bridge. Then you invite the viewer to see this scene laid before them through your eyes — the eyes of the man — in the immediate foreground. The exposure and lighting are so well-balanced here.
TIA: Thank you very much for that kind compliment, Rebecca. I truly hope our paths will cross, in person, either in Singapore or in the States, in the near future!