Holiday Gift Guide 2012

Christmas is coming up fast. And while some of you may have already completed all your holiday shopping, I’m sure there are many more who are still seeking out the perfect gifts for your loved ones. The below list are some of my favourite things–gifts that I’ve purchased for family and friends, or gifts that I’ve been fantasizing about receiving myself. In the spirit of the twelve days of Christmas, I’ve kept to 12 gifts, one for each day. I hope some of the below inspire you. Happy Holidays!  Continue Reading →

Professional Food Styling Classes in Singapore


Photo by Jon Edwards

Last year, local food legend Violet Oon invited me to attend a one day workshop being conducted by one of America’s most famous and most talented food stylists. Having never had any real food styling training previously, I eagerly accepted. The class was amazing. I learned things that I never knew before and some shortcuts to making food look great which are pretty mind-blowing. I do have to admit that I don’t actually use most of them — mostly because I usually try to eat anything I shoot at home — but if I ever started to take on more professional photo assigments, I would most definitely find the tricks I learned invaluable.

Denise Vivaldo, who led the course, is coming back next month to teach two more 1 day Master Food Styling Classes. These courses are geared towards culinary professionals, chefs, publishers, ad agency personnel, bloggers and culinary students with an interest in food styling for print, television and film. In other words, these are pretty serious, professional level courses. And if you fit into the above categories, the investment in one or both would be money well spent. (Keep reading…)

More kitchen pix

I’ve been very delinquent with blogging recently. Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been running around like mad, both here in Singapore and also overseas, where I am working on helping a new client create a stunning 470-seat bar and restaurant. I’ll post more details on that establishment when I am allowed… the one thing I can say is that we’re trying to open it by the end of March 2009.

In the meantime, I thought I’d share a few more pictures of the kitchen that S and I have built in our new home. As mentioned previously, this is, for us, a dream kitchen to work in, and one we’ll probably spend many (many) months paying off. (Keep reading…)

Dream kitchen

I had a small spot of free time this weekend (which is not normal) and finally got around to taking a few pictures of our new place. And since I promised to post one of our new kitchen, here it is. The kitchen is approximately 4 metres wide by 6 metres long. As you can see, it is all white with black and white hexagonal floor tiles and an island in the middle.

Some of you emailed and left comments asking what S and I consider essential in a well-equipped kitchen. Honestly, all a good kitchen really needs is counter space, pretty good storage space, a hob (gas or induction) with at least 4 zones, good exhaust, an oven, a fridge, and sufficient power points to run a variety of tools and appliances. With these, a good cook should be able to whip up any number of delicious meals. (Keep reading…)

Photography Contest winners announced

Wow! When Cathay Photo, Colorvision and I launched this little photography contest, in celebration of colour — and by extension to highlight the importance of proper colour and monitor callibration when shooting digitally — we did not expect that it would be so popular. All of us were very happily overwhelmed. All in all, 149 contestants submitted 285 photos. The quality across the board was extremely high. All of the judges and I were really impressed. And we had a really tough time trying to decide which photos to pick as the top five.

But, because we promised to pick winners — after all, we do have prizes to give away — we’ve ranked our favourite pictures, scored them and have come up with the best of the best.

So, without further ado, here they are:

Grand Prize: Vintage by Sng Kia Jit

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Judge Andrew Loiterton loves this shot. He says, “The composition is unexpected but works well with the contrast to the grimy street. And that red really pops!” Kia Jit wins a ColorVision Spyder2Suite, an Olympus MJU 760 Digital Camera, a Wacom Intuos3 6” x 8” Tablet, and a $100 Cathay Photo Voucher. Congrats!

2nd Place: Fairground by Chua Kong Ping

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Kong Ping wins the ColorVision Spyder2express, a Wacom Graphire4 6” x 8” Tablet, and a $100 Cathay Photo Voucher.

3rd Place (three winners): Finish Line by Benny Hartono, Shower of Blessing by Marlon Sutanu, and Rowboats, Nepal, 2005 by Jimmy Sng.

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Each winner wins a ColorVision Spyder2express and a $50 Cathay Photo Voucher.

Congrats again to all winners and many thanks to all participants. (Note to the winners: Cathay Photo staff will be calling you shortly; you will be able to pick up your prizes from Friday, 20 July 2007.) Huge thanks also to our special judges: ColorVision’s own Mr Sam Ng, their in-house Technical Marketing Manager, superstar photographer Russel Wong, acclaimed and award-winning photographer Tay Kay Chin, ubercool photographer Andrew Loiterton and creative genius Chris Lee, the man behind Asylum.

A short break (from food) to talk about color management

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About a month and a half ago, I got an email that can only be described as serendipitous. I had just flown back into Singapore the day before. Because I needed something to kill time with on the flight, I had bought a digital photography magazine at the airport (something I honestly rarely do — I usually get my news and reviews from www.dpreview.com). One article that I found really interesting was on color management and monitor calibration. Mid-last year, I had made the switch from Mac to PC (I still have the Mac, I just use the PC as my primary machine). And while I was very happy to make the change, one thing I noticed and that really disturbed me was that my photographs looked completely different on my two computers. No amount of tweaking of the PC’s Adobe Gamma settings satisfied me and I found myself, for months, checking to see how pictures looked on both computers before posting them. What I found was that on many occasions, pictures that I thought looked fine on my PC — and, I should say, this is after editing them in Photoshop — looked screwed up when I loaded them onto my Mac… and vice-versa. Sometimes the pictures would be fine on one machine and then look over-saturated on the other. Or green or too yellow or something. Basically, I found myself unable to decide which one was more accurate and instead of really trying to fix the problem, opened both laptops side by side one day and manually tweaked their screen settings until the colors on both were as close as possible (which meant they could have both been entirely off-base). Of course, while I was satisfied with the screen results, when I tried printing images, they weren’t what I expected. They were good, but they just weren’t what I had seen on screen.

I should add that I spent 10 years in the magazine world, so I should have known better. After all, in that industry, our designers’ monitors were regularly callibrated by our printers in order to ensure that what we saw on screen was really what was printed. In fact, as I think about it, I suspect that I considered monitor and color calibration something you needed to bring an expert in to do for you; I never really thought about doing it myself. Until I read that article. The article recommended two products, the Spyder2 system made by Colorvision and the Huey made by Pantone. I had decided that when I had some time I would do some research and try one of the two systems.

selector_1.jpg That’s when Cathay Photo emailed me. Cathay Photo, as any Singapore-resident knows, is one of the oldest, best and most reliable camera and camera equipment retailers in town. My grandfather — who collected Nikons and Leicas — shopped with them for most of his adult life and it is one of the two stores in town I trust. One of their staff had seen my blog and in a rather out of the box move had decided to contact me. She wanted to know if I might be interested in testing the Spyder2 color management system and if I thought it was something useful, would I mind blogging about it? (Like I said, serendipitous.) Of course, despite wanting to type, “yes yes yes!” right there and then, I told them I’d think about it and suggested a meeting (can’t seem too eager, right?). To make a long story short, I made what I think is a reasonable deal with Cathay. I would try out the Spyder 2 system. If (and only if) I found it useful and it worked, we’d sit down again and hammer out some ways for me to help them publicize the system.

Getting the system set up is a breeze. Install the software off of the included CD, plug the patented Datacolor Colorimeter (which I’ll call “the device” in the rest of this post; “patented Datacolor Colorimeter” is just too much of a mouthful) into your computer’s USB port. Launch the software and follow the instructions, which in a nutshell tell you to rest the device on your monitor. Once the device is in place, the software flashes a series of colors on your screen, which when exposed to the device, helps your computer create the most accurate color profile possible. What I discovered is that the callibration seems to work best in total darkness. I ran the software three times (in different lighting conditions) before I was completely satisfied with the color profile proposed. I also tried calibrating my wife’s laptop in different lighting conditions, with the same results.

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The differences between what I had been working with previous to calibration and what the Spyder2 system created for me were astounding. To show you just how different the colors were, I have taken photographs that I had edited to what I thought were pretty good results pre-calibration and then edited them post-calibration. On my laptop, the “after” photos are perfect. The colors are, well, very real. They also reproduce beautifully and accurately in print. The “before” shots, however, are kind of wonky. In the first photo series (cashew chicken), the “before” shot has too much green and yellow. The “before” shot below of my gorgeous friend J drinking soup is too yellow. The “before” shot of the Moroccan chicken is also too green and the “before” shot of the chicken curry is slightly green and way too yellow. Now, the strange thing is that some of you are going to be saying, “Wait, on my screen, the ‘before’ shots look better.” (I know this because I just checked the pictures out on a friend’s laptop and some of the “befores” do look better on hers.) BUT… and this is a big “but” … they only look good because your monitors may be a tad inaccurate. If you were to try printing the images, you’d be shocked to discover that what you see on screen is not what you’ll see on paper (you may already have this problem). Proper color management and monitor calibration is extremely important for anyone who works with photos (and/or any other colored media) on their computers and intends to share those pictures with others.

I’ve been totally thrilled with the results of the Spyder2 system. (I was so happy in fact that I convinced Cathay that they simply HAD to advertise on my site; amazingly, they agreed!) The system reminds you to recalibrate your monitor every few weeks, which is useful and recommended.

But don’t take my word for it. Try it out for yourself. Honestly, not only will you be looking at your own photos and prints in a new light, so will everyone else.

URGENT: Calling all amateur Singaporean food photographers

I promised a friend I would post this rather urgent request. Singapore’s Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts are putting together a coffee-table book of photos to give delegates attending the IMF-World Bank Meetings here in September. They’re looking for photos to put in this book as well as possibly put into a 365 day pictoral calender.

Seems that the submissions have been less than stellar. In particular, they’re quite eager to get some great pictures depicting Singaporeans eating together, Singaporean food, and other gorgeous food-related themes.

Here’s a short write-up as provided to me by the Ministry:

Coffee table pictorial book on Singapore

Come this September, the world’s top bankers will converge in Singapore for the International Monetary Fund-World Bank meeting to discuss fiscal and monetary policies that will impact the world.

With 16,000 delegates and journalists visiting Singapore, we intend to mark the occasion by presenting our guests with a high-end coffee table pictorial which will be a fitting memento for them to remember us by. The pictorial will feature photos of the activities that ordinary Singaporeans engage in, among which eating ranks as one of the tops.

MICA, which oversees the production of the pictorial, calls on all Singaporeans to support this national cause by sending their best photographic works on the subject of food and/or eating to:

National Marketing Department
5th floor MICA Building
140 Hill Street
S 179369
(Attn: Mr Foo Siang Luen)

Send photos in CD format or in print (4R) together with your name, address and contact number. All submissions must reach MICA by 2 May 2006. Photographers whose works are selected will be acknowledged in the book, a copy of which will be presented to them as a token of appreciation. For details, please contact Mr Foo at 68379862 or email foo_siang_luen@mica.gov.sg.

Local food shots

A month or so ago, I landed a great gig to shoot some local food shots for a client. I’m tremendously excited because these shots will be seen by a good part of the local population here. I was asked to identify some local dishes that best represented Singapore; the client only needs 6, but they suggested I shoot more so they could choose the best ones. The only glaring omission from my list is probably chilli crab, which I don’t think photographs well.

I’ve done shots at both a few local hawker centres as well as at the Raffles Hotel. For the hawker shots, my wife and I just ordered up some signature local dishes (char kuay teow, oyster omelette, etc), shot them quickly and then ate them. The above is some really yummy char kuay teow from the Old Airport Road hawker centre. Raffles Hotel, on the other hand, was super-kind, prepping 9 dishes for me early on a Saturday morning, specifically to shoot. The dishes looked fantastic… case in point, the very sexy prata pictured at the top of the post. I’ve just submitted all the finished pictures and hope the client is happy with them. These days, because of my “day job”, I seldom take on photographic assignments, but this was one I couldn’t pass up.