instructional

How to: Spontaneous Photography Adventures by Ricardo Seah

Spontaneous Photography Adventures 101

Here's a silly little guide not to be taken too seriously for you my fellow explorers and adventurers. Enjoy, have fun, get out there and never stop exploring (just don't forget to stay safe). 


What you will need :

  • A bag that will fit everything (preferably a backpack not a hand bag or messenger bag because it's more comfortable for those extended adventures)

  • A camera! (one where you can adjust settings manually like a DSLR) 

  • A tripod (preferably a light weight one or even a Gorillapod)

  • A torchlight or headlamp with a red-light setting (because you might just get lost in the dark)

  • No more than two lenses (because you don't want to break your back carrying too much gear) 

  • Adventure buddies (friends who will go out/call you out for an adventure at a moments notice) 

  • Some snacks and water in the bag (you might be out for some time and far from civilisation)

  • Music & the aux cable (chances are you will be going on a road-trip as part of your adventure and good music = good vibes, and while most cars now have a bluetooth audio system bring an aux cord just incase)

  • A weekend/holiday/day-off (I advise against just leaving the office/class for a spontaneous adventure)

  • An open mind and an adventurous spirit! 

Note: All my recommendations for the gear can be found on my gear page.

What to do?

Now that you have a load-out kit ready to go at a moments notice, all you need is an itch to get out there.. Here's a guideline for those who don't know where to start.

  • Find a friend/group of friends who will be your adventure buddies

    • Close friends, old friend, new friends, people who share that spirit of adventure. Just gotta make sure everyones on the same page for that specific adventure (i.e. not a good idea to bring a friend who's afraid of heights on a climbing related adventure)

    • Also important is to trust these peeps because they're gonna be your first responders should anything go wrong. I recommend having someone amongst your adventure buddies who's a survivalist incase you get lost in the woods or something like that.

    • Here are some group-shots with some of my adventure buddies! 

  • Have a go-to list of locations (optional)

    • It's good to have a list of locations you want to hit up so that you can just wake up and decide ok here's where we're going today! 

    • Instagram can be very helpful with this research bit to help you look for locations you might want to go to. Just click on the geotagged location on the post.

    • I save my list by saving instagram posts of places I'd like to go to into a collection.

  • Spontaneously decide to go on an adventure! Wait for an adventure buddy to message you saying "hey get your bag, we're leaving in an hour.." or "meet at 7am tomorrow for a road trip to somewhere.." OR You can be the one sending that message out!

    • Just get out with your friends. It doesn't have to be totally planned out!

    • Be open and prepared for anything to happen and expect that not everything will play out the way you have it in mind. You might have to take risks and you might not get a good shot at the end of the day but you most certainly have to make the most of it. You might end up doing something dangerous and sometimes not completely legal to get the perfect shot but thats all part of the adventure! 

      • I've gone off beaten routes, climbed fences and stood on the edge of cliffs several times just to get the shot but I've always made sure that it was safe and that I trusted myself and the environment. ie. test the ground you stand on and make sure there's some form of support incase you slip or the earth falls beneath you. (might be funny to you but people have lost their lives because they went overboard just take the shot and didn't take safety into consideration)

    • Many of my astrophotography adventures are actually spontaneous photography-adventures where my friend Guang Yow (@guangyow) just goes: "Clear skies tonight, lets go!" and an hour later we are off in pursuit of the milky way galaxy or the northern lights!

    • Example 1: Just last week my friend Anas (@a.geb) and I spontaneously decided to catch the sunset at Golden Ears just hours before we left. We made it to Golden ears just as the sun was setting only to realise that to get to the perfect sot with the waterfalls required a hike to get to (which according to the park person would only take like 15mins) so we proceeded for a fast hike in hopes to get to the falls before the sun had completely set.

      30mins into the hike and without cell phone service we realised we took the wrong/long route that would instead take us to the summit (which explains all the uphill) so we had to find a way to cut back and to the side of the stream which would lead us to the waterfall. Totally unprepared haha but it was definitely an adventure. We found a route which we could cut into but by the time we cut into the downhill side route, it was completely dark. Fortunately I always have my headlamp in my bag so that was super helpful and highly recommended! We got to the falls 50mins later and it was dark and the sunset we had intended to shoot was long gone.. BUT it was an adventure and we made the most out of it and got some cool shots in the end (one of which is the cover photo for this post).

    • Example 2: Over the weekend my friend Brian (@lifeofbrianwong) decides we should go somewhere and we got Anas (@a.geb)  to join us on this spontaneous adventure which was supposed to be a trip to the sea to sky gondola to get view from the top. But ended up including a trip to Brandywine Falls and a tiring hike/climb to the base of the waterfalls which although was not part of the initial plan was extremely rewarding. 

      Of course after Brandywine falls we did make it to the sea to sky gondola and went to the top to catch the amazing sunset as the sun's rays pierced through the mountain tops. 

Here are some shots from my recent adventures that I hope will inspire you to get out and go on your very own spontaneous photography adventures! 
  • Just go out and go shoot! 

    • You miss 100% of the shots you don't take (someone smart said that but #sotrue)

    • Be open and spread good vibes (chances are you will meet fellow adventurers along the way and make some new friends!)

    • Just don't forget: safety first! Don't do anything too risky as to put your life in danger. 

I hope you enjoyed this silly little guide and that you found it useful to some extent. Like and share this post as always to spread the love :) Comment below on some adventure locations you have in mind!

Till next time, keep snapping, go adventuring and never stop exploring! Safe, spontaneous photography adventures everyone!!

How to: Astrophotography by Ricardo Seah

Astrophotography 101

I often get asked how to take photos of the amazing night sky filled with countless stars. The stars have to be one of my most favourite subjects to photograph and to share my passion for astrophotography I have put together this guide for you. It's a little long but you'll come to realise that astrophotography is simpler than you think, just follow along and you'll be shooting like a pro in no time! Here's everything you need to know about shooting the stars!


What you will need:

  • A camera! (one where you can adjust settings manually like a DSLR) 

  • A tripod (a solid one and not that cheap plastic one the store threw in as a deal)

  • A torchlight or headlamp with a red-light setting (you are going to want red light in the dark as this helps to protect your night adapted vision.. trust me, I studied this in psychology 101)

  • Preferably a wide angle lens with a wide aperture / low f/stop number (the lower the f/stop number the better. So like an aperture of f/2.8 is good, f/1.8 is better and f/1.4 is awesome) 

  • A remote shutter release/shutter release cable (this isn't absolutely necessary but will make your life easier)

Note: All my recommendations for the gear listed above can be found on my gear page.

Optional stuff to bring:

  • A human. Believe it or not these can provide good company especially in places where its really dark and wildlife might be around. (I suggest bringing a friend, preferably one who isn't afraid of the dark.)

  • Food/snacks & enough water/tea/coffee to last you the night out

  • A portable stool/foldable chair unless you want to be like me and just lie on the ground

  • Some form of communication device incase you get lost or find yourself in trouble (you will likely be in a dark location far from civilisation and thus bringing a phone with enough juice is a good idea)

  • A good playlist of songs to keep you going through the night such as my Astrophotography playlist on Spotify

  • Gaffer tape (pretty random but I always have some in my camera bag.. this is to help you hold focus on your lens once you've found the sweet spot in manual focus)

Let's get to it!

Now that you're all gear up and ready to go you will have to... do some research :/ 
Do your research!!! 

1. Figure out which night is best suited for your astrophotography adventure. You'll want:

  • A night with little to no clouds at all (clouds usually catch on to any available light in the environment and that shows up in shots)

  • Little to no visible moon (i.e. shoot when its a new moon or before the moon rises) you can check a calendar that shows moon phases 

2. Figure out which location is best suited for astrophotography

  • A location with little to no light pollution (i.e. get away from the city! You want complete darkness) a good resource to find the right spot is the dark sky finder

3. Plan your route in advance

  • The best spots are often far away and might not be easily accessible and might not have good signal for your google maps to operate 

Settings

Now that you've got the right gear, found the right night and the best spot.. lets get to the technical side of things! Here are the settings you'll need to take note of:

Settings before you head out and shoot

  1. Make sure you set your focus to infinity, this is best done during the day and you can do this by autofocusing on something in the distance taping the focus ring with some gaffer tape and then switching to manual focus.

  2. Turn off any "long exposure noise reduction" settings your camera might have (take a look at your camera manual if you're not sure about this) 

  3. Turn your LCD brightness to the lowest possible setting take a look at your camera manual if you're not sure about this) 

  4. Shoot in RAW file format instead of JPEG. This is not necessary but is recommended especially if you want to edit your images. (Even though I don't personally like to edit much or use Photoshop, I still do some minor adjustments in Lightroom, so I recommend shooting in RAW)

Settings when you are out on location/for the shoot

  • Use your widest aperture/lowest f/stop number (this will allow for more light to hit the sensor)

  • Use the 500 rule to calculate your shutter speed (Take 500 divided by your focal length that you are shooting at to get the right shutter speed. This will help to prevent any star trailing in your shot) 

    • Ok example time: If I'm shooting with a 24-70mm lens and I set my focus length to 24mm for the shot, what should my shutter speed be?

    • Answer: 500 ÷ 24 = 20.833333 We take this result and round it down to the closest shutter speed which then gives us a shutter speed of 20 seconds

  • ISO is dependent on camera model, some will require higher ISO settings than others to get a well exposed shot. I suggest starting with ISO 1600 and working your way up till you get a well exposed image.

What to do?

Now that you have the gear, the right time, the right location, the right settings, it's finally time to shoot! (Own time, own target.. Carry on! #singaporeaninsidejoke)

Using the red light setting on your headlamp, locate the perfect spot where you can see a good portion of the sky while being able to include some elements that inform the viewer of the environment/scene (such as a mountain or some trees) this helps to put the shot into perspective and will look much better than a plain shot of the sky alone.

Set up your camera and remote shutter release on your tripod making sure that all legs of the tripod are secure (so your tripod doesn't slip or fall). 

Using the settings mentioned above take a shot. If you don't have a remote shutter release then set your camera on a 2 second timer to take shots so as to avoid vibrations caused by pressing down on the shutter button. If the image turns out too dark then adjust to a higher ISO setting till you get the perfect shot.

If you follow all these steps listed above you should get something similar to this:

Note: As you can see there is some warm light coming in from the left side of the photograph and that is light pollution coming from a town far far away in the distance (this just demonstrates that the further away you are from any city/town/street lights the better). 

I hope you found this guide helpful. Please give this post a like if you found it useful and share it with friends and family. And don't forget to follow me on Instagram for my latest shots!

Look at you... You're now shooting like a pro! Get out there and keep shooting those shooting stars! 

How to: Firework Photography by Ricardo Seah

Firework Photography 101

A guide to everything you need to know about firework photography

Singapore's National Day Fireworks Display

Singapore's National Day Fireworks Display

What you will need:

  • A Camera & memory cards/film (preferably one which allows for manual settings. ie. a DSLR, SLR, mirrorless, Medium-Format, Large Format... you get the idea)

  • A solid tripod (preferably not one of those cheap ones they give you for free when you get a camera bundle deal). I personally use a Manfrotto tripod.

  • Water and snacks (super important because you'll be there for some time).

Optional:

  • A portable stool/foldable chair (or you can just sit on the ground like me)

  • A shutter release/wireless shutter trigger (very useful and might be frustrating to shoot without though not impossible)

  • A human or a device (you're going to get bored waiting for hours alone so bringing a friend is a good idea)

What to do:

  1. Do your research! You need to know where the fireworks are going to be firing from and what time they go off. And then decide on which vantage point would work best for the shot. (Note: It's always nice to place the fireworks into perspective by including environmental elements such as buildings in the shot to inform the viewer).

  2. Get there ahead of the crowd (like really early). I personally get to the location and find the perfect spot many hours in advance (like 5 hours ahead of time #commitment).

  3. Set up your gear! Camera on tripod and start taking some shots to make sure you got the right angle and trying your best to estimate that the fireworks will be in the frame of the shot. Once you find the sweet spot autofocus on something in the distance like a building and then switch you camera to manual focus so that you get focus locked in and your camera won't be hunting for focus when the fireworks go off. 

  4. Be patient. If you are close enough you will be able to hear the fireworks being shot out of the tubes before you see the the explosion. once the fireworks are shot out of the tubes you have to immediately trigger your shutter release. It's best to shoot as the fireworks are being shot into the air, that way you will get the trail of light followed by the explosion. If you don't have a shutter release cable then you're going to want to put a 2 second timer and do the same. 

Settings:

  • Aperture: f/11 (For good depth of field because you listened and included some scenery in the composition)

  • Shutter speed: 6 seconds (I find that to be the best, any longer and you get too much in the shot and you get the trails of light after the explosion as it fades out)

  • ISO: 200 (if you find it to dark then increase the ISO as you shoot)

Something important to keep in mind

Fireworks produce a lot of smoke! Well duh.. The point is that your best shots are going to be the first few shots because smoke will begin to build up and will kinda ruin the later shots. Here's an example of what I mean:

Shot number 1 (No Smoke)

Shot number 1 (No Smoke)

Shot number 7 (quite some smoke has built up and the shot just ain't as good)

Shot number 7 (quite some smoke has built up and the shot just ain't as good)

You are now officially ready to shoot some fireworks! So get out there and shoot some awesome photos!

Upcoming Fireworks photo-opportunities (Click for details - useful for the research bit):

Vancouver - Honda Celebration of Light

Singapore - National Day Fireworks Display

Please give this post a like if you found it useful and I'll consider doing more of these "how to" blog posts. And don't forget to follow me on Instagram for my latest shots!

Till next time, keep shooting and have fun!