Daniel Cheong is a Mauritian photographer specializing in cityscapes, landscapes, architecture and interiors.
Tell Us About Your Background
I was born in Mauritius, from Chinese descent. For over 25 years, I worked as an engineer in the mobile telecom industry. I lived and worked in France, USA, Japan, Singapore and Dubai. Currently, I am based in Mauritius.
Since 2016 I have been a self-taught freelance photographer specializing in cityscapes, landscapes, architecture and interiors. I am an instructor and lecturer for Nikon Middle East and Africa. I am also a brand ambassador for 500px, NiSi Filters, FLM Tripods and F-Stop Gear.
My Dubai cityscapes from rooftops and fog shots have been publicized worldwide in media and magazines including CNN, National Geographic, Practical Photography and Petapixels. I am also giving photography and post-processing workshops in Dubai, the Middle East, and South East Asia.
What Makes a Good Cityscape and Landscape Image?
My first answer is a classic one: light and composition. Especially for landscape, you need to shoot during the best light and weather conditions, either early morning or late afternoon. You need to arrive at least one hour before you start to shoot and scout the place to find the best composition. My goal is usually to get only a maximum of one or two compositions. The time window during which the light is optimal is usually very short, so personally, I don’t have time to move around and to get as many compositions as I want.
Importantly, I always ask myself what will I be able to do in post-processing (i.e. Photoshop) to make the scene look better than it was in reality. This is where my technique consists of taking multiple exposures at different times, using ND filters, shooting at different shutter speeds, in order to create a slightly surreal landscape with possibly a wow factor.
What Are Your Go-To Composition Rules?
I do apply some classic composition rules but occasionally break them. Below are a few that I use:
- rule of thirds
- leading lines
- negative space
Are You Afraid of Heights?
Not at all, luckily for me. Else I would not have been able to climb on rooftops and take photos, sometimes very close to the edge without any fences.
What Is Your Best Time to Shoot?
For cityscapes, my favorite time is the so-called ‘blue hour’, which is between sunset and night, when the sky gets this beautiful blue hue. This is also the time when all the city lights come to life, and you have this nice contrast between the illuminated buildings and the blue sky.
For landscapes, the best time is the so-called ‘golden hour’ which starts one hour before sunset (but it also depends on your latitude). Basically, it’s when the light is soft and very warm. For instance in Iceland during the summer, the golden hour can last for hours, which is fantastic! There is also great light just after sunrise.
What Is Your Go-To Gear in Your Camera Bag?
My gear consists of:
- Nikon D850 Camera Body
- Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8 Lens
- 19mm f/4 Tilt-Shift Lens – Nikkor
- Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII Lens
- 16mm f/2.8 Fisheye Lens – Nikkor
- Nikkor 1.7x Teleconverter
- Nisi Filter Systems with 150x150mm & 100x100mm ND filters
- FLM carbon fiber tripod with Acratech Ballhead
- Leofoto MT-03 table tripod
- MIOPS mobile trigger
- F-stop gear Tilopa bag
How Do You Go About Editing Your Images?
I use Photoshop CC exclusively, using a technique called ‘Digital Blending with layer masks’. To finalize the image I use DxO Nik Color Efex Pro 4.
Why Is It Important to Post Process?
My goal is not to show an image ‘just out of the camera’, but to create an alternate reality and give a wow factor.
What Is Digital Blending?
It is a process which allows you to combine multiple exposures. The primary use of digital blending is to overcome the limited dynamic range of the camera sensor. Under certain light conditions (like shooting against the sun during sunset), it is very difficult for the camera sensor to find a suitable shutter speed to capture all the details in the shadows, mid-tones and highlights. Taking multiple exposures at multiple shutter speeds from very underexposed to overexposed will allow for a final shot with a well-balanced exposure.
What Is Your Best Shoot Location?
For cityscapes: Dubai, Singapore, Hong Kong and Shanghai. These are very modern cities with very eclectic architectural styles. I love futuristic cities.
For landscapes: Iceland is a must for landscape photographers. I have also visited a few places in China which are fantastic. There are definitely other great landscape places but I haven’t had the opportunity to visit them yet
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