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Inspiring Young Shutterbugs

Who would have thought going to school on a Saturday would be fun? Well, it wasn't like I was going there really to be a student, so that wasn’t so bad. Nicholas Lee of PicNick had organised a photography workshop to teach some 40 students of Jurongville Secondary School about night photography and its joys. I had volunteered to help out as one of the workshop facilitators and was glad I did. It turned out to be an incredibly rich experience for everyone.


It started with classroom instruction, explaining the functions of the camera, the settings used and how to use a tripod. While Nicholas was teaching from the front of the class, the facilitators’ job was to help show the kids what he was talking about. Some of the kids seemed quite excited while others were clearly just not motivated by this part of the day. Still, it was important that these young teenagers learnt the basic theories before attempting the practical exercises.

night photography

After a quick meal and a bus ride, we were off with the kids to climb the stairs from the foot of Mt Faber to its peak via the Marang Trail. The climb was supposedly for character building. I’m not sure which part of my character grew in strength, but my quad muscles had certainly learnt a lesson! Still, after making it to the top, the view made up for it and so did the enthusiasm of the students, who just a moment before had been groaning their way up the hill. My little group of five kids took advantage of the goings-on at yet another National Day Parade NE Show to catch some fireworks in the distance. They also learnt how to take some landscape shots of the night scenes (just like I had the first time I visited Mt Faber some months back).

night photography space night photography space night photography
night photography space night photography

Back on the march along the Southern Ridges, thankfully this time just along a curved sloping road, we made our way over to the Henderson Waves, where the kids explored light painting with flashlights and light stencilling with camera flashes. They seemed to be really excited over this, even while discovering how to set the focus on their cameras amongst other settings, to be able to capture the best shots in light painting.

As we made our way along the Forest Walk and over the Alexandra Arch, apart from trying to keep our footing in the dark, we also had chats along the way. I took the opportunity to pose some questions to set them thinking, such as why their glow-in-the-dark bracelets hadn’t shown up in the light painting photos while flashlights and camera flashes had. It was really rewarding to hear their insights and ideas, confirming that they were indeed stretching their minds and broadening their horizons.

Our last stop was the lawn at HortPark, where I let the kids’ creativity take centrestage. And boy did they not disappoint! I can’t wait to see their photos and will certainly do an update to this post when I get them. They were also disappointed that they had yet to see the demonstration of steel wool sparks yet, but I assured them that they would once we got back to the school.

It was supposed to be three demonstrations, followed by a session back at the classroom to evaluate the photos taken, but as you can see, it spilled over. With the kids manning their cameras all at a safe distance (I took a moment to brief them on the nature of the beast and its inherent dangers, warning them all to not try this at home and certainly not to blindly follow YouTube tutorials without adults present), one spin turned into another and another. The best moment must have been right after the first demonstration. First, the jaws dropped in awe. Then the silence as they waited with baited breath while the camera was ‘writing to card’. And then the unanimous oohs and ahhs as they saw the results.

A photo taken by Nicholas Lee that night showing the students getting their first shoot of steel wool photography.

More great photos taken by another workshop facilitator and new friend, Lim Zhi Kang.

the kids

I might not have been a student at the school that night, but I went home having learnt much myself. For one, that the feeling of having inspired these kids and ignited their imagination and creativity is something utterly priceless. I hope to have the opportunity to do something like this again.

P.S. Special thanks to Daphne Maia Loo for providing pizza for dinner (amongst her other important logistical jobs that day) and to my wife for taking the behind-the-scenes shots for this post.