Vanessa Wee started learning studio photography during her time studying Visual Communications and Media Design at Singapore Polytechnic.  Her first camera was a Canon EOS 550D with kit lenses (EF-S18-55mm F3.5-5.6 IS STM and EF-s 55-200mm f4-5.6 IS STM) which she used to document the events or places she visited. She only took photography more seriously before her trip to Australia and read up more on techniques as she wanted to capture the star trails and southern lights after checking out photos of the locations online. Unfortunately, she never got to see the lights, but her passion for photography had lighted up. In this article, she shares how to capture Singapore’s heartlands behind the lens and her equipment of choice.

What have you liked most about photography so far? What kind of genres have you liked the best?

I like that it is ever-changing and it is everywhere. The genres I shot before have revolved around wildlife, architecture, landscapes, street and recently underwater. So far, I enjoy landscape and wildlife photography the most. After all the beauty of mother nature is second to none. However, in Singapore, we are limited in that aspect. Therefore, I developed a liking for cityscapes and architecture.

Canon EOS R | 1/125s / F2.8 / ISO 2500 | Canon EF16-35mm F/2.8L II USM

We have learned that your recent photography work was about taking pictures of Singapore’s heartlands. Where did you go and what did you do?

Yes! Singapore is full of buildings and heartlands. However, there are so many places which I have not been to before. I researched on the internet, before deciding on a location to walk around. Having friends in the neighbourhood also help me to learn more about the different heartlands in Singapore.

Canon EOS R | 1/800s / F4.0 / ISO 200 | EF16-35mm f/2.8L II USM

What kind of images come to your mind with the theme “Singapore heartlands”?

The theme “Singapore heartlands” makes me think of a place where people gather, play and live together. Such as their daily lives, their housing estates, and the people themselves. It is also locations where citizens of Singapore call home. Singapore, being a diverse community, has a rich culture and numerous traditions that are reflected everywhere.

Canon EOS R |1/1000s / F8.0 / ISO 500 | Canon RF24-105mm F/4L IS USM

During your shoot, was there a particular place/object/people that you liked the best?

There was a night where I only brought my Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark II while working at an event. To my surprise, there was a fireworks display going on that night. I loved the atmosphere of the people around me celebrating and admiring the display together. 

Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark II | 1/100s / F2.8 / ISO 800 | 8.8-36.8 mm

What was so memorable or compelling about the pictures you took?

I think the experience itself was memorable. Heading down to different locations, roaming the area, and observing the people and things around me and photographing the vicinity. Sometimes even talking to neighbours or people can inspire me.

Canon EOS R | 1/125s / F4.0 / ISO 500 | Canon RF24-105mm F/4L IS USM

What do you think is the most difficult to capture when shooting heartlands? 

I think looking for a location. There are so many districts in Singapore, each with its own unique aspects, and often enough, one area in a day is not enough. Some people might also not be as willing to have their photos captured.

Canon EOS R | 1/640s / F8.0 / ISO 250 | Canon RF24-105mm F/4L IS USM

Are there any challenging scenarios you have faced during a photoshoot?

Not so much. Sometimes it can be daunting to go to an area that I am not familiar with, or where I am afraid that I might be disturbing the residents. However, sometimes by talking to them, I might take away something greater.

Canon EOS R | 1/800s / F2.8 / ISO 200 |Canon EF16-35mm F/2.8L II USM

Did you plan ahead on what to shoot or did you think of something in the moment? What is important when it comes to shooting?

A little bit of both. I think different locations or photo genres require different approaches. When shooting street, or architectures, the lights and shadows can reflect interesting perspectives. However, when capturing cityscapes, the middle of the day might not be as ideal as it blows out the sky, I feel that in that case, a blue or golden hour shot might turn out nicer. I think paying attention to the moments around you, knowing your equipment and having it ready. Often we might be too busy looking at the bigger picture and may end up missing the moment. I often have an image in mind, but sometimes it about going with the flow and having fun. Being patient, observing and watching the surroundings to frame a better composition. 

Canon EOS R | 1/80s / F4.0 / ISO 160 | Canon RF24-105mm F/4L IS USM

How does the features of the cameras and lenses you have, or the equipment you use, influence/affect your style of shooting? 

With the vari-angle screen on the Canon EOS R, I was able to shoot and frame various angles and look for unique perspectives. Additionally, as the Canon EOS R was lighter in comparison to the Canon EOS 5D Mark III, I was able to move around for long hours, and not feel too much of its weight.

Canon EOS R | 1/200s / F8.0 / ISO 250 | Canon RF24-105mm F/4L IS USM

What kind of equipment did you bring along for your photoshoot?

I used the Canon EOS R with the kit lens (Canon RF24-105mm F/4L IS USM) as well as a Canon EF16-35mm F/2.8L II USM for some wide shots. These two lenses cover most focal lengths. 

Canon EOS R | 1/80s / F4.0 / ISO 160 | Canon RF24-105mm F/4L IS USM

What kind of equipment did you currently have in your photo bag? Was there any particular lens that you felt would have helped you take even better photos?

Currently, I have a Canon EOS 5D Mark III and Canon RF24-105mm F/4L IS USM kit lens. I also own the EF 16-35mm F2.8L II USM and an EF50mm f1.8. One lens I would want to try would be the Canon EF85mm F/1.4L IS USM, for its focal length, depth of field which gives an extra punch to the photos and the lightness compared to the Canon RF24-105mm F/4L IS USM. Sometimes I carry the Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark II because it is small and handy.

Canon EOS R | 1/5000s / F4.0 / ISO 250 | Canon RF24-105mm F/4L IS USM

What is the equipment that you find the most useful and that you use?

The focal range of the Canon RF24-105mm F/4L IS USM, helped me a lot in street related photography. At 24mm it was wide enough, and at 70mm range, it gave a shallow depth of field as well as a distance between me and the subject so it would make them feel less uncomfortable. Additionally, the vari-angle on the camera allowed me to shoot from high or low angles.

Canon EOS R | 1/100s / F4.0 / ISO 320 | Canon RF24-105mm F/4L IS USM

For more of Vanessa’s shots on Singapore’s heartlands, check out her Instagram.