In this second of the two-part series photo-documenting Asia’s largest street parade, EOS world photographer Isaac Benjamin Ong illustrates how he captured the full spectrum of colours at this year’s light-themed Chingay Parade.

This year’s Chingay Parade is unique to me as it is easily the most colourful event I have been in, throughout my 4 years as a photographer. I count myself lucky that I was able to shoot for Chingay under the graces of Canon EOS World and EOS Professional Justin Ng.

EOS 5D Mark II | F/4.5 | ISO 5000 | 1/125s | Photo by Isaac Ong

Chingay was a refreshing, back-to-basics shoot that took me way out of my comfort zone. But then again, photography is all about going out of your comfort zone to attain new perspectives.

EOS 5D Mark II | F/4.5 | ISO 400 | 1/60s | Photo by Isaac Ong

For starters, where I usually shot in RAW only, I could only shoot in JPEG for Chingay. No editing, no tripod, monopod, no “whatever”-pod, and our images had to be decently sharp, with good lighting. To top it all off, all images had to be out of camera: no editing allowed.

EOS 7D Mark II | F/2.8 | ISO 1250 | 1/125s | Photo by Ignacia Sandra

EOS 7D | F/2.8 | ISO 6400 | 1/200s | Photo by ST Wong

EOS 7D Mark II | F/1.4 | ISO 200 | 1/100s | Photo by Ignacia Sandra

I got off with a bit of roasting on the second day. To quote, my images were “grossly underexposed” – but I corrected them soon after. See, depending on your skill level, Chingay can become a photographers’ nightmare or a playground. I started off in a nightmare and ended up having fun.

EOS 5D Mark III | F/2.8 | ISO 4000 | 1/200s| Photo by Stanley Cheah

The Essence of Chingay

Chingay is known as the peoples’ festival. In short, the essence of Chingay in photography was to shoot EVERYTHING. Shoot everything and leave no one out.

EOS 5D Mark III | F/2.8 | ISO 125 | 1/200s | Photo by Paul Chua

EOS 5D Mark III | F/5.6 | ISO 4000 | 1/400s | Photo by Paul Chua

Firstly, Chingay is an event where the lighting and colours change quick, hard and fast. One moment you’re shooting with white light, the next it changes to very dramatic red, then green light and your subject looks like the Incredible Hulk. That matter was solved by using Auto White Balance, but to control the exposure, I found myself using a combination of evaluative metering and partial metering to check my brightness.

EOS 5D Mark III | F/4 | ISO 4000 | 1/500s | Photo by Paul Chua

Then, most of the time Chingay was rather dark: to make way for the lighting of the performances. I found that to get a perfect exposure, the slow shutter speed would make capturing fast-moving action close to impossible, whereas if I spent precious time changing settings, I would not get the moment I wanted. So I got through by using Time Value (TV) mode. A minimum shutter speed of 1/250s was good for most performances, but for faster ones like the Aikido and the Russian troupe, I found out that 1/500s was best.

EOS 7D Mark II | F/2.8 | ISO 2000 | 1/400s | Photo by Ignacia Sandra

Narrow apertures such as F/8 and F/10 were essential for the street-photography style shooting, which made my pictures dark. Thus I bumped up my ISO to counter the low lighting and slow shutter speed. For Canon’s models, the newer models such as the EOS 760D offer wonderful noise control: even at ISO 25600 on my EOS 760D, I found the pictures showed surprisingly low noise. However I rarely went beyond ISO 3200 in this shoot.

EOS 7D | F/3.2 | ISO 6400 | 1/160s | Photo by ST Wong

Finally, I used the environment to my advantage during Chingay. There were sections of the parade that was well lit during the parade, so I hung around these spots for some time. On the first day of the parade: it rained for the entire parade, but it did not stop me. I looked around and scrounged for a poncho and an umbrella, and continued shooting under the rain. My cameras and lenses survived the event intact, with no fungus.

EOS 5D Mark II | F/4 | ISO 3200 | 1/40s | Photo by Ignacia Sandra

EOS 5D Mark II  | F/4.5 | ISO 5000 |  1/640s | Photo by Isaac Ong

In retrospect, the rain was not a challenge for the EOS World community. As with the crowd, the rain failed miserably at its attempt to dampen the spirit of all present. We EOS World members saw it as a lesson, and gained valuable experience shooting an event in a heavy downpour.

EOS 5D Mark III | F/2.8 | ISO 400 | 1/500s | Photo by Paul Chua

EOS 5D Mark III | F/2.8 | ISO 6400 | 1/500s | Photo by Paul Chua

In the future for years to come, people will talk about the second time it rained on a Chingay Parade, and we will all smile to ourselves, knowing that we were part of this prestigious event.

Thanks to Canon EOS World!