EOS World member Geng Hui Tan shares a few tips and tricks on capturing stunning shots at festive events like the recent River Hongbao. He runs a blog called Photojournalist since 2006, where he channels his passion and presents his journey in photojournalism over the course of events he had covered using his Canon gear.

The River Hongbao in Singapore is one of the largest and highly anticipated Chinese New Year celebrations in Singapore. Dating back to 1987, River Hongbao has come a long way and has transformed into a fun festival for both locals and tourists to soak in the Chinese New Year atmosphere in Singapore.

Canon EOS 1D X | Canon EF70-200mm F/2.8L IS| f/5.6 | 1/250 | ISO640

During the River Hongbao, many families seize the opportunity to come down after their Chinese New Year gatherings to experience this spectacular light-up. In addition to being lively and crowded, many photography enthusiasts in Singapore also like to visit River Hongbao due to the various photography opportunities – from the beautiful fireworks and artists performing to capturing candid shots of people having a good time. I have been visiting River Hongbao annually since 2008 and it has always given me an opportunity to snap stunning photos with my cameras.

Here are some tips that you might find useful the next time you visit River Hongbao:

Go for a photography outing with a group of friends

 Canon EOS 1D X | Canon EF17-40mm F/4L USM| f/5.6 | 1/60 | ISO3200

There are times when you would prefer to go alone for your photo shoot. There are also times where joining a group of photographer friends and attending events together such as the River Hongbao, would be more fun. The EOS World community is a great community for you to know more photographer friends, join photography outings and have fun taking photographs together at events or festivals.

Bring the right equipment

Canon EOS 1D X | Canon EF17-40mm F/4L USM| f/5.6 | 1/60 | ISO800

The lenses that I usually bring to River Hongbao are the EF 17-40mm f/4 L USM and EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS USM.  From shooting fireworks to photographing the River Hongbao event on-ground, the wide-angle zoom lens works very well for me. The telephoto zoom lens enables me to shoot from a distance, allowing me to capture the performers on the stage, the isolated particular artwork/lanterns display, and the portraiture of people. I can also take photos from the top of the seating gallery a distance away from the River Hongbao festival grounds on the floating platform. Here’s my recommended equipment list:

  1. Sturdy and stable tripod
  2. Remote control
  3. Wide angle lens (Mine is the EF 17-40mm f/4 L USM lens)
  4. Spare batteries
  5. Spare memory cards
  6. Torchlight

Look out for photo opportunities

Canon EOS 1D X |Canon EF17-40mm F/4L USM| f/8 | 1/60 | ISO3200

There are a number of photography opportunities at River Hongbao. The lanterns of the twelve Chinese Zodiac animals are usually popular with the visitors at the River Hongbao. Keep a lookout for other lanterns and artworks on display there. The designs, layout and style of the artworks vary from year to year. Live cultural performances by both local and overseas artists are another big attraction to this event. Last but not least, the fireworks spectacular display is a huge attraction for all visitors to River Hongbao (and especially to us photography enthusiasts)

Capturing fireworks

Canon EOS 1D X | Canon EF70-200mm F/2.8L IS| f/5.6 | 1/250 | ISO6400

I love watching and photographing fireworks.The River Hongbao fireworks that I have attended in previous years provided a spectacular fireworks display above the skyline of Marina Bay in Singapore. Through my years of experience shooting fireworks, I have learnt through my experiences and would recommend the following camera settings:

  • ISO 100
  • Bulb Mode
  • Aperture – My suggestion is that you keep to either one of these 3 apertures: f/8, f/11 or f/16. For a start, go with f/11.
  • Shutter – My suggestion is to open the shutter for 3-5s if you are using f/8, 5-7s. If you are using f/11 and 7-10s,  go with f/16.

Follow the steps below:

  1. Using a stable and sturdy tripod, fix your camera in nicely and safely and adjust the settings as above.
  2. Compose the frame (just like taking a wide landscape scene photo) and if possible get some nice background behind (e.g. buildings).
  3. Focus to infinity by turning the focus ring on your lens until you see the infinity symbol.
  4. Using the auto-focus on your DSLR, focus on the background, once it’s in focus, lock the focus and switch from AF to MF on your lens.
  5. Once the above is all done, relax and wait for the fireworks to start. Chat with your photography friends! Take a few test shots when the fireworks starts and see if you need to adjust your camera angle. (Whether you need to tilt /adjust your camera higher or lower). If you are happy with your framing, continue photographing away!
  6. Join our Canon EOS World Community, make new friends in photography and enjoy outings together!