Ushering in the Lunar New Year at Chinese Gardens

Since Chinese New Year is just around the corner (literally less than a few hours away; yay to ang baos), we decided to pay a visit to one of Singapore’s remarkable but lesser known heritage sites, the Chinese and Japanese Gardens! Joining us for the first time on our photography adventure was Sandra’s friend, Kit Yeng, who is also a photography enthusiast like us!

Located in the far West of Singapore, the Chinese Gardens (裕华园) was built in 1975, intended to be modelled after the Chinese imperial palaces of their time. When we were walking through the Gardens, it did feel like we were in another place and another time (bar modern technology of course).

Unfortunately it was evening and dark when we reached Chinese Gardens; to our surprise and disappointment, the Gardens lacked Chinese New Year decorations or festivities. It turns out that the Gardens is only open until 11 pm each night, and it was dimly lit. Furthermore, the adjacent Japanese Gardens is only open until 7 pm, which meant that we could not access the beautiful and tranquil park.

Nonetheless, we created our own fun through photography! Night photography is always a challenge; it is often a matter of guesswork, trial-and-error and experimentations. But the results can often be surprising and delightful! In this situation, a tripod would definitely help (unless you have unusually steady hands).

We did not manage to explore every area of the Chinese Gardens due to the late night and dim lighting. Furher, the Gardens is not as vast as previously anticipated, and you can spend a good two hours exploring the various parks! You can check out a map of the Gardens here as you follow our expedition below!

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Here’s Kit Yeng standing in front of the 7-story pagoda! Unfortunately, we could not enter nor climb the structure, as the pagoda closes at 7pm. Nevertheless, this is a unique landmark that remains iconic in Singapore!

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Hello from the other side? / The interior of the pagoda was warmly lit and the mandarin mash grill windows kept us out, unfortunately.

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Upon leaving the pagoda, we saw a series of statues, each depicting famous ancient Chinese scholars (like Confucius) and war heroes/mythologies (like Mulan)!

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While walking, we came across twin 3-story pagodas! We love the juxtaposition between the ancient Chinese architecture and the modern Singaporean high-rise housing flats!

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A beautiful pavilion brightly lit, rendering the illusion of a ‘floating’ boat!

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Damian’s favourite pet can be found in the Live Turtle & Tortoise Museum (which was closed for the evening).

While walking through the Gardens, we felt like we were walking through the Forbidden City! Everything seemed larger than life and was well-maintained; even the courtyard near the museum feels spacious!

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Kit Yeng and Sandra through an open window.

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Damian carrying the tripod, admiring the breathtaking view before him 🙂

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At the background, one can view the magnificent 13-Arch Rainbow Bridge from the facade of the complex!

Before crossing the bridge, we decided to try our hand in light writing!

Our technique in producing these effects was simply to reduce shutter time; here a tripod is paramount because the shutter should be ideally open for 5-10 seconds. We set a timer, periodically capturing different shots of our largely experimental light writing and the different movements. We also ensured that our background was not as dark and of us standing on the Arch Bridge!

We ended up taking a lot of light writing photos, which only added to the enjoyable atmosphere! Due to the timer, we were pressured to take photos and admittedly ran out of creativity in a jiffy. FYI, these lights were taken with our handphone flash.

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Kit Yeng light-writing her full initials!

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Are we human or are ghosts? / One of the shot captured us walking away from the bridge and towards the camera, creating an eerie image!

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Light-writing our initials 🙂

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Looks like tic-tac-toe!

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The view at night while crossing the bridge! Calm and peaceful waters 🙂

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One thing we noticed was that the Gardens has manicured plants/bushes! Kit Yeng and Sandra simply could not resist and posed behind the beautiful red arch doors!

As you would see in some of our photos, we brought our trusty Lomo’Instant camera! We played with the multiple exposure function, and boy were we pleased with some of the outcomes! Here are some of our favourite instant films:

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We love how the Lomo’Instant camera is able to capture the reflection; here, the pavilion appears to be an otherworldly spaceship of sorts 🙂

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Kit Yeng and Sandra taking photos! We (unknowingly) used the flash to capture this impromptu moment 🙂

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Here’s Damian standing at the entrance of the courtyard; we are not entirely sure what is said on the banner due to the traditional Chinese writing (read from right to left)! This picture was taken in bulb mode, without flash; we noticed that when taken this way, the instant film turns out very blueish!

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Multiple Exposure: Overlaying the Chinese archways with manicured bushes, creating a strange portal of some sort?!

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Multiple Exposure: Another shot of the arch bridge! Again, we made use of the Spitzer. This looks like the Loch-Ness monster!

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Multiple Exposure: We made use of the Spitzer again (except horizontally this time), and the result was quite surreal! The object was the grand facade of the courtyard; together with the cool shade of blue effects which occurs at night, it looks like the water element has appeared in between the entrances!

All in all, we were surprised to see many ancient Chinese structures in the park. We felt like we were not in Singapore, but in China! We were disappointed with the lack of Chinese New Year decorations; nevertheless, it was a great adventure to get away from the hustle and bustle of crowded urban life, enjoy a nice evening stroll at the Chinese Gardens with three friends sharing similar interests in photography 🙂

Lastly, we wish all our Chinese friends a Happy Lunar New Year; 新年快樂, 恭禧發財!

Till next time,

Damianwithsandra

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