Secrets In The Garden

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Secrets in the Garden
Secrets in the Garden
Secrets in the Garden
Secrets in the Garden
Secrets in the Garden
Secrets in the Garden
Secrets in the Garden
Secrets in the Garden
Secrets in the Garden
Secrets in the Garden
Secrets in the Garden
Secrets in the Garden
Secrets in the Garden
Secrets in the Garden
Secrets in the Garden

Model: Natalia W (MANNEQUIN)
MUA: Parichat Naidu
Gowns: Listed on Singapore Brides
Photographer: Amanda W.
Assistant: Trisha Alexis K.
Equipment: Nikon D810 + AF-S 50mm f/1.4 G

It’s been a long time since I blogged any final images from all that I’ve been shooting, but today I’m very excited to be sharing some that I took for SingaporeBrides back in March. It was the perfect season, because the gardens of blooming flowers created a beautiful and dreamy backdrop for our shots that day. Plus, cherry blossoms were all the rage that month, and I think I found our own version right here in Singapore. ;)

I remember the humidity after a short downpour, and the sun beating against our sticky skins that day; the team was hard at work for 5 long hours but I’m glad it all paid off. :) Thanks to Michelle (Editor of SingaporeBrides), I was given full creative control of the entire shoot, and it came out better than expected! I hope you enjoy these images as much as I loved making them!



SingaporeBrides is an one-stop online wedding website for couples who are planning their wedding. You can find fashion editorials, a forum, articles & wedding guides, and a directory of wedding vendors among many others. View this series on their website here.


Oh right. You can also stalk them at @SingaporeBrides on Twitter & Facebook, and @SingaporeBridesWeddings on Instagram!

Morocco: Camera Equipment (Part II)

Posted by | Technology, Travel | No Comments

Morocco

I always get questions on the equipment I use for my photography, and this varies from non-professional to semi, and professional equipment from time to time. I usually shoot with my Canon 5D Mark II, but I was very privileged to be given the opportunity to try the Nikon D810 early this year in January (and I can proudly say, I am a convert now).

On a side note, I have to clarify that it was my first time using a Nikon system and a lot of functions that are available on a Nikon camera were completely new to me. And also, any comparisons made may not be fair because the 5D Mark II was released 6 years prior to the D810 (so a better comparison would be against the 5D Mark III which you can find heaps on the Internet, but here’s my take). Anyway, if you’re already a Nikon user, please excuse my childish excitement!

Morocco

As a continuation to my post on Morocco, here’s Part 2, where I discuss about the equipment that I used to create all the beautiful imagery that you would have seen in Part 1. 
So first things first, which camera, and which lens?

Camera: Nikon D810
Lens: AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4G

Most of the time, I choose not to bring too many lenses to a shoot/overseas because I think sometimes the convenience can you make you lazy. And even though there are shortcomings, that’s just the way I like my personal workflow to be. So yes, I survived Morocco with only a 50mm lens heh.

Morocco

5 REASONS TO LOVE THE D810

Next, I want to share with you the 5 THINGS I LOVE ABOUT THE D810.

Actually, this might be for Nikon cameras in general, and may not be specific to the D810, but here goes:

1. DUAL CARD SLOT

Morocco
1/6400s, f/1.6, ISO 100, shot with D810+50mm f/1.4

There are two card slots on the camera and this allows you to insert either a CF or an SD memory card, or both! You know how sometimes when you’re on a shooting high, your card runs out of space halfway and it breaks your momentum? This is exactly how you’ll combat it. You can choose for your images to be backed up on the secondary card when the primary one is full, or to concurrently capture both JPG and RAW files on each of the cards. Plus, SD cards are a lot cheaper than CF cards, so you can save a lot more money!

One thing to note though, is that Kingston CF cards are not supported on the D810 for some reason but if you have SanDisk cards, they work great! :)

2. 51 AUTO FOCUS POINTS

Morocco
1/5000s, f/2.2, ISO 200, shot with D810+50mm f/1.4

The D810 also comes with 51 AF points, which is a far cry from the 9 on my Mark II. I always recompose my shot after a half-press on the shutter, and sometimes too much of a shift in the focus plane can cause your shot to be blur. The 51 AF points, although does not cover the full viewfinder (but only towards the centre of the image), helps a lot in reducing potential focus issues. Which brings me to my next point!

3. 3D FOCUS TRACKING

Morocco
1/2500s, f/1.8, ISO 64, shot with D810+50mm f/1.4

If you don’t already know, Nikon has this cool function called 3D Focus Tracking, which is a type of predictive tracking. This is really useful especially when you are shooting moving objects (non-still life), or if say, you want your model walking across the shot. When I was using the D810, my camera was on 3D tracking mode most of the time, and I found my images to be a lot sharper/in-focus after recomposing. Well this is also because there are 51 AF points that can detect the movement. By far, the coolest and most useful function I’ve seen on a camera!

4. ALTERNATIVE CROP MODES

Morocco
1/500s, f/2.0, ISO 125, shot with D810+50mm f/1.4

As someone who brings usually one or two lenses along for a shoot, I sometimes find that my lens is too wide for a shot, and that going closer to a subject (e.g. model) may cause distortion in the image. Likewise during travel, a 50mm (like I brought to Morocco) may be too wide for a distant shot. I found out the D810 has several crop modes like 1.2x and 1.5x and an aspect ratio option of 5:4, and it came in particularly handy for the shot that I took above. We were on the road and were too far away from the mountains, so there were many distractions in the foreground. Using the 1.5x crop mode, I virtually extended the reach of my 50mm lens into somewhat ~75mm lens. Bam, 2-in-1! Now I’ll only have to bring a 50mm lens for both a 50mm and 75mm perspective!

5. 36.6 MEGAPIXELS

Morocco
1/3200s, f/2.2, ISO 100, shot with D810+50mm f/1.4

Lastly, this camera brags a maximum sensor resolution of 36.6 megapixels(!!!). I mean, my 5DMII has only 21.1MP and the 5DMIII, 22.3MP?! Completely out of this world. This means your file sizes become larger too, but you’ll capture a lot more detail and dynamic range. Although megapixels are not the main factor that affects image quality (I think sensor size is), it’s still important in some sense. If you’re someone who likes to shoot, then edit, rather than get it right in-camera, then I know you’re someone who’s always cropping your photos after. Cropping causes you to lose pixels and a higher megapixel is a sure way to avoid losing too much detail.

Of course, a regular person wouldn’t need a camera with such high resolution. It really depends on what type of photography you do. If your clients usually request for high-res images for print, then this is when you’ll need it. Or if you’re like me and you just like blowing your images up to hang (or perhaps to print and sell one day?!), then why not consider a camera with higher megapixels? You can’t deny everyone’s chasing the megapixel race!


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There are many other things I love about the camera too, like how you can input copyright information or change the prefix of the image file names. I also like that there’s a built-in flash (because I don’t own a flash, and sometimes it comes in handy), and how silent and crispy the shutter is compared to Canon’s (so superficial right I know).

I’m not well versed technically, so I cannot provide a more in-depth comparison on say, the low light sensitivity or exposure recovery whilst editing a RAW file. I lost the link to a great article that I’d love to share, but anyhow, here’s another comparison article if you’re interested!

COMPARISON FUN

I brought both cameras with me to Morocco, and Andrea and I had some free time on our last day there and I decided to do something just for fun. I shot the same image with both of my cameras and put them side by side so that you can compare them for yourselves.

NOTE:

Images shot with Canon 5DMII are on the left, and images shot with Nikon D810 are on the right
Both settings are at 1/160s, f/ 2.0, ISO 250, and 9 megapixels.

On 5D Mark II: EF 50mm f/1.8 II
On D810: AF-S 50mm f/1.4G

These images are unedited, and I was testing how well the camera (and lenses) handle backlight and flare. Because photography is very subjective, I won’t give a rating but instead, let you be the judge for yourselves!

Morocco
Morocco
Morocco

So… which do you like better? ;)

And that’s the end! If you have any thoughts or questions on the camera or anything at all, just feel free to leave a comment or email me at enquiries@beautifuladieu.com :) xx

Read the full story with more images on Morocco published in Part I

Morocco: The Land of the Setting Sun (Part I)

Posted by | Travel | 2 Comments

(All images shot with Nikon D810 + AF-S 50mm f/1.4 G)

Morocco

We paid our cab fare and ran up the steps, huddled tightly in our coats under the light rain. The wind was strong, and the sun hid behind the clouds. It was the height of winter, and we had picked a cold month to be in Morocco. Andrea and I settled down in a small cafe recommended by our Moroccan friends — La Sqala, right outside the Old Medina of Casablanca. I opened the menu and right at the bottom in a fancy font, read: The Land of The Setting Sun.

And so began our adventure in The Furthest West earlier this year in January. We were there for ten days to shoot an exclusive campaign for a local label, The Tinsel Rack. Geographically, Morocco is the Furthest West of all Arab countries, for beyond which extends the impassable North Atlantic Ocean… It was my first time setting foot in (Northern) Africa, and I’m so excited to share what I’ve seen and done during my time in Morocco.

But before I go on with the visual vomit, I’d like to thank Nikon Singapore for allowing me to get my hands on the D810 together with an AF-S 50mm f/1.4 G lens, which I used to take all the pictures you’ll see in this post. I’ll also be doing a second part on my thoughts about using the Nikon system for the first time so stay tuned for that!

PART I: MOROCCO 2015

Morocco

Casablanca was gloomy upon arrival. We stayed there for two days in Cristina’s beautiful apartment, and spent our time visiting the Hassan II Mosque, Boulevard Mohammed V and Rick’s Cafe (created after the famous bar in the classic, Casablanca), to name a few.

We had a short time in Casablanca, but one loaded with new experiences nonetheless. If there’s one thing that stuck with me from my time there, it’s that they do the taxi-pool thing, so don’t be surprised if you hop onto a taxi with another passenger in it. Oh, and here’s also when I realised how terrible my French is (Morocco is also a French-speaking country and yeap, I briefly learnt French when I was still in university). All I could say was, “My French lessons did not prepare me for this situation!” :/

Morocco
Morocco
Casablanca Tramway at Place Mohammed V

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Morocco
Morocco
The massive structure that is the Hassan II Mosque, with all the spectacular lines, symmetry and intricate patterns that you see above

We had initially planned to take a domestic flight from Casablanca to Marrakech, but unexpectedly, our flight was cancelled. Cristina suggested hiring her friend and private driver instead, and so we did. It turned out to be our best decision ever. For about 250USD a day, Youssef became our friend, companion, bodyguard, trip organiser and private driver for the rest of our adventures in Morocco.

Morocco

We arrived in Marrakech close to midnight, and checked into a riad hidden along an alley. The next day, we moved to the most luxurious hotel in Marrakech, La Mamounia. I have to say, Moroccan architecture is really beautiful and a lot of thought goes into building and designing a house / hotel (or riad, as they call it). Sadly though, the locals don’t approve of the recent renovation done at La Mamounia because it “looks less than authentic”. What?! To think La Mamounia still got us enchanted with its interiors, architecture and grandeur. Not to mention its acres of immaculate landscaping within the compounds. I could get lost in the grounds of La Mamounia forever and still never want to come out. Yeap, it’s that beautiful.

Morocco
Orange trees are a common sight in Marrakech, but these oranges are never eaten because they are bitter – they are mainly ornamental since they bear fruit all year long

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Morocco
Morocco
Morocco
Morocco
Morocco

I can’t remember which flight it was, possibly on the flight home from Croatia last year, that I watched the biographical film Yves Saint Laurent and learned that Yves had spent some of his years living and working in Marrakech. Of course, I was thrilled to find out we were headed for Morocco a few months later, excited to see the city that had inspired Yves.



So, we visited Jardin Majorelle on Rue Yves Saint Laurent (a tribute indeed), where his ashes were scattered after his death. It’s the closest anyone could get to one of the most iconic fashion designers ever. The walls in the garden are painted Majorelle Blue (named after the artist who created the garden), and on a bright and sunny day, shadow play and the contrast between colours become a kaleidoscopic dream. I can understand why Yves liked to spend so much time in this garden.

Morocco
Morocco
Morocco

We left for the Sahara Desert after two nights in Marrakech and we were to pass by the Atlas Mountains on our way to the desert. But due to the heavy snow that fell the night before, we had to stop by a café while waiting for the roads to be cleared. We sat in the van for what seemed like years (3 hours in fact) with no wifi or 3G connectivity. Torture, and totally a #firstworldproblem.

Morocco

I recall seeing this man (whom I think is a Berber, or an indigenous North African) — tired, cold and presumably hungry — approaching the café we were parked at. It must have been a long walk from where he came from. The mountains, perhaps? He ordered, laid his gunny sack down and sat outside in the cold, while I watched him with genuine interest from inside the van. The windows were tinted so I couldn’t be sure if he caught me taking a picture of him, but he glanced briefly in my direction before returning his attention to his hunger. It struck me how blessed we were to be in the complete opposite situation. Snug and warm, with Youssef’s van for transport… and there we were, begging for internet connectivity. Kind of a weird story, but I’m just reminded how traveling always makes me realise how fortunate I am and that we shouldn’t take things for granted.

No beating around the bush – the Atlas Mountains were breathtaking. As we passed by, I clambered to the seat beside Youssef in excitement and wound down the window. The air was fresh and cool, perhaps about five degree celsius or so, and I couldn’t stop taking photos while Youssef drove. Every time we went round a bend, the view looked so different. Eventually, we conquered the mountains and drove through small towns into desert plains. I say conquered, but really – it was amazing. I’d be more than willing to take on that long drive again anytime. I fell asleep intermittently and remember waking up to Youssef saying we had to retire for the night in a town named Zagora, five hours from where we came from. It was already pitch black, and we had to head to the desert the next day instead.

Morocco
Morocco
Morocco
Morocco

In the morning, we hired a desert guide, Sallah, who would bring us to the Sahara. (There are laws in Morocco where only the local people of that town/city can bring you on guided tours in the area. So Youssef, who comes from Casablanca, was not able to bring us in.) Three hours later, we found ourselves at the camps of Erg Chegaga, one of the more expensive and luxurious ones in the desert (also dubbed the ‘VIP camps’ by Youssef).

The sun was setting and we hurried to settle down as our new friends welcomed us with some biscuits and warm Moroccan tea under the common tent. It’s some sort of (yummy) mint tea if you’re wondering, and it was a comforting drink to have in the Moroccan winter.

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Morocco
Morocco
Morocco
Morocco
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Morocco

When we finished dinner, we emerged from the tents to a blanket of stars watching over us. We gathered around a fire and Sallah and another man started singing and beating the drums. There was no one else, and only the rhythm of their drums accompanying their voices and the fire crackling filled the silent air.

I walked away from the fire and laid on the sand. It was extraordinary, the sky, like nothing I’d ever seen before. There was no light around us save for the dying fire in the background, and all one could see was a thousand blinking stars in the night sky. I thought I saw a shooting star or two shoot by, but I couldn’t be sure if my eyes were fooling me. Regardless, it was magical.

I’d always loved looking at stars since young, and when I started flying more and more frequently to stunning starry night skies, I became increasingly captivated and fascinated with the stars. Now, as I’m typing this on the plane from South Korea back to Singapore, I look out and I see stars all around, and the brightest and roundest moon with the sun setting beneath it; and even though this scene is beautiful too, nothing compares to that night in the Sahara desert. It was a true panorama that I’d never forget.

Morocco
Morocco
Morocco
I am still poor at astro/starscape photography since I don’t ever bring my tripod abroad and I still have no idea which settings work best for my purposes. I’m after all, still learning everyday. But hey, if you’re interested, my friend Jemimah wrote a little beginner’s guide on it here (unfortunately, only after I returned).

Morning came and we were awoken by the cold winds blowing against our tents. We never really got much sleep that night – there was no heater and the blankets weren’t enough for us despite the number of layers we had worn. So much for everyone’s misconception about the desert always being hot. Well, there you go, it is not.

We rode on camels across the oasis for the rest of the morning on a mission to take some pictures, while the rest drove on to our final destination to wait for us. It wasn’t the most comfortable ride, but I daresay it’s a lot better than riding a horse as we did two weeks prior to Morocco. Our camels were really docile and friendly, and we couldn’t resist taking photos with and of them.

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Morocco
Morocco
Morocco
Morocco

Our phones beeped non-stop with messages of concern for our safety as we headed back to Zagora. We had survived our stint in the desert for two days without any form of communication with the outside world. And maybe it was the lack of distraction that made it much more memorable for both of us.

We visited Tamegroute on the way, where the locals make beautiful ceramic pottery from natural dyes, and we saw first hand how a sculptor shaped a tagine pot in front of us in a minute. (#Skill). Children ran around the compound, playing with damp clay in their hands, and two of them came up to us and handed us what seemed like a clay camel. We lingered in the shop for a long while, undecided on the pottery we wanted to buy. Unnecessary shopping but it was too pretty to give it a miss. I’m not the kind to buy back souvenirs, but this would be good memorabilia from Morocco for sure.

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Morocco
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Morocco

We left Zagora for Marrakech the next day, and we stopped by a small town, Aït Benhaddou, where many films including Gladiator had been shot. The fortified city made from earthen clay was a patch of brown against the blue skies, and for once it seemed like the weather was becoming a little more bearable. We made it to the Old Medina in Marrakech before sunset. It was a crowded place to be at, and many performers with their snakes and monkeys that gathered in the square touted tourists that walked by. It was slightly intimidating (thank goodness for Youssef), so we quickly took our shots and explored the souks / markets briefly before leaving for dinner.

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Morocco
Morocco
Soaking in the beauty of Aït Benhaddou with a peek of the Atlas Mountains in the background

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Morocco
Morocco
Morocco

We drove back to Casablanca to catch our flight to our next destination, London. The days had passed by so quickly and it was already our last night in Morocco. Had it already been ten days?! Everything that I’d seen, heard, done, and tasted still felt so special that I wanted to hold on to the magic for awhile longer. I didn’t want to leave. This surely had to be one of the best and most enlightening travel experiences I’ve had! It’s such a pity we only had that amount of time to explore the few cities and towns that we did in Morocco… I’m definitely hoping to come back again to visit the northern parts of this beautiful country.

We shared a teary goodbye with Youssef at the airport as we exchanged hugs and promised to keep in touch. We’d swore to be back again soon to the other cities of Morocco. Fes, Chefchaouen, Tangier and Rabat, perhaps? I don’t know for now, but soon, it shall be.

Thank you Morocco for the best time ever, see you again soon!

All photos taken with Nikon D810 + AF-S 50mm f/1.4 G, courtesy of Nikon Singapore, and edited with Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop. Look out for Part 2 where I’ll be sharing more about my thoughts on the camera.

Till then!