Photography and Art

Chronicle: Pagoda of the Chinese Garden

It is clear that the Chinese Garden has undergone changes over the years but it has not been altered too greatly. This is in keeping with many attraction on the island state undergoing continual upgrading.

There are two entrances to the garden from opposing ends. The main entrance is by the car parking facilities but it is perhaps the entrance that most people do not take when they are on foot. The Chinese Garden MRT station has a pathway that links to the other entrance. It is a path that is lined with trees and gives a nice initial impression of what is to be expected in the grounds of the garden. It is certainly a photogenic view. A definite subject for the wide angled lens.

The humid climate quickly catches up with you as you follow the path towards the entrance. The fields are well maintained and present a nice open space not normally found in the island state. The MRT guideway leads into the distance towards the HDB apartments that make up the main living quarters.

A wooden floored bridge at the end of the pathway leadings into the garden. There was a time when an entrance fee had to be paid but a lot has changed since then and now entrance is free. A tower quickly looms overhead as you get the grounds. The pagoda is clearly seen from the surrounding areas as it almost dominates the skyline of the local area. The pagoda known as Ru Yun Ta stands 7 storeys high in it's orange and white two tone colours.

It is very tempting to immediately raise a camera to your eyes and start taking photos. However it is worth just spending the initial moments taking in the scene. Statues of historical Chinese characters line one side of the pathway nearest the pagoda.

Stairs lead up an incline towards the pagoda. It is not a steep incline but the late morning sun is already having an effect on my legs. It promotes me to take a pause and study the area further. One of the statues catches my eye and I close in.

With my camera raised to my eye I took a few photos and then examined them. They were sharp but did not convey what I visualized. Further steps were taken round the statue to examine it from different angles and the try and see it in the context of the pagoda.

I carried on towards the pagoda as a group of people passed me in the opposite direction. Some looked energetic but there was one who stopped to catch his breath.

There were seats that provided a good place to take a break and relax in the shade provided by the trees. Looking up it became more obvious that there are going to be a lot of steps to get to the top of the structure. It could be seen that the pagoda's 6 balconies would make good viewing points to get an overview of the gardens. I took the time to wonder round the base making a mental note of the effect the sunlight and the shadows from the trees were having on the structure. I like to try to assess the whether a scene will look best in the morning or the late afternoon. The direction and quality of sunlight are an important factor in the outcome of any photos that are taken.

Entering the pagoda and looking up can make your head spin a bit. It's either due to the look of the spiral staircase or the just the thought of climbing all those stairs in the heat and humidity. The thought occurred to me whether it's better to take photos from each balcony as I progressed up to the top or put my efforts in going straight to the top first and then leisurely making may way down.

The staircase was very spacious with plenty of space for visitors to pass each other comfortably. Getting to the first landing was no trouble at all and spurred me on to continue at a pace. Kind of gives a sense of achievement climbing the stairs quickly. The feeling was not the same when approaching the second landing however. The effects of the climb and the heating begin to be felt. There was the temptation to take a break and enjoy the scenery from the adjoining balcony. It look the time to peer over the banister to gauge how high I have climbed. I then looked up to see how much further to go. It did not not seem much further but as it happens with every step taken fatigue was starting to grow.

It certainly felt like an achievement getting to the top without being too out of breath. My legs however just felt rather wobbly and forced me to take a momentary break at the entry to the balcony.

It was refreshing to be out on the balcony. There was more of a breeze compared to the generally still air within the pagoda. I got my camera out deciding which lens will best suit the scene. Just about everywhere in the Chinese garden could be clearly seen and facing northeast view of the trains going into and out of the MRT station could be viewed. The top balcony is definitely not a place to be if you are scared of heights. It does look a long way down and the balcony wall is not very high if you are a tall person. The balcony space was limited but luckily not many people want to climb several flight of stairs on a hot and humid day.

Looking towards the south into the distance, another pagoda can be seen. This pagoda has long since been abandoned and is part of the short lived but long forgotten Tang Dynasty City complex. Apart from that, most of what can be seen is the HDB apartments which are the main living quarters of the locals.

I took the time to walk round the balcony taking in the scene as I went. The gardens looked an inviting lush shade of green. Maybe it had recently rained but there was no evidence of it now. Figures could be seen strolling on the pathways with some stopping to take group photos. That was something I should of been doing. Taking photos.

The pagoda was obviously well maintained. The authorities obviously took the trouble to keep the pagoda looking at it's best. However some visitor had decided to make their mark by scribing their initials in the paintwork.

Down at the base of the pagoda visitors were approaching. It looked like part of a tour group. As they entered the structure their voices started to eco a round a little due to the sold surface of the walls. I did not really notice the acoustics on my way up but hearing peoples voices and their movement seem to make this very obvious.

With a number of people on their way up I knew I had to take the photos I wanted before people started getting in the way. The is nothing really striking about the pagoda architecture. There is really nothing in particularly memorable but it. An make an interesting photograph or certainly a great back drop to a portrait of someone.

The view from the balcony is great but the view inside looking down the staircase is in many ways just as interesting. It kind of makes to want your head spin as your eyes follow the spiraling stairs to the ground level. It can look very artistic with the right quality of light falling on it but with light only entering through the small windows and through the entrance to the balconies, the interior looks a bit subdued in appearance but this aids the overall effect. It makes for a slightly challenging photographic situation as it is not really convenient to use a tripod but no doubt a sensitive ISO level need to be selected to avoid camera shake. A fast lens definitely helps. The interior is very much monochromatic on nature and so lends itself nicely to being reproduced in black and white (or even duotoning).

The Ru Yun Ta pagoda is well worth a visit and probably should be tackled on first entering the gardens whilst your legs are still energised and the heat has not got to you. Photography wise it presents some interesting challenges. The time of day and the weather conditions may determine the success of photos taken. The all in one lens (like the typical 18-200mm or 18-250mm super zoom) provide flexibility in dealing with a range of shooting conditions. The lenses with a typical range of 16-80mm will be a better choice if you want to make the most of capturing the interior.

Exiting the pagoda is a far more relaxing and leisurely affair walking down the steps. It kind of made the camera equipment I was carrying feel lighter. I look the time to explore the view from the various balconies but I felt the views from the upper levels were the best. At the lower levels the surrounding trees starting to obscure the views, not good unless you want to particularly take photos of the tree tops. Once you have seen the pagoda it is time to explore the rest of the gardens. EA


Mini News

22 November 2012: Sigma 18-250mm now available in Sony's A-Mount

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