In a time where our very own technology can feel unfamiliar, the future is unfolding at a rate we can barely comprehend. With sci-fi being the muse of many, Daniel Cheong finds himself sitting atop metropolis landscapes such as Hong Kong, Dubai and Singapore, aiming his lens from all angles and revealing the vertical metal works piercing our skies.
“Most of my inspiration comes from movies, especially from directors who have a high sense of aestheticism such as Ridley Scott, Michael Mann, Zhang Yimou and Alex Proyas. Science fiction movies are also a source of inspiration for me.”
With an alluring fog that gathers around the cityscapes, Daniel hones in on the atmospheric moments. Rooftops provide him with the best vantage points to absorb all that the city has to offer, producing images that strikes as unreal and gives off a slight sense of vertigo. As a fan of geometry, the shapes and depth are his focal point.
“Heavenly Dubai”: Foggy morning over Dubai, shot from the 77th floor of the Index Tower - Nikon D800, ISO 100, f/22, 40s, NIKKOR 14-24mm lens at 14mm with ND400 filter
“The Colours of Fog”: The fog had just started to move into the city. Shot from the 77th floor of the Index Tower – Nikon D800, ISO 100 f/8, Digital Blending of 2 exposures 4s & 50s, NIKKOR 14-24mm lens at 17mm
“Cloud One”: Burj Khalifa, the tallest tower in the world, surrounded by fog – Nikon Df, ISO 100, f/8 1/640s, Sigma 50mm, Vertical Panorama
“Landing on Planet Dubai”: The main artery of Dubai, Sheikh Zayed Road, drowned in fog – Nikon D800, ISO 100, f/8 30s, NIKKOR 16mm Fisheye
“Dubai Cryogenic”: Dubai surrounded by fog, just before sunrise – Nikon D800, ISO 100, f/8, HDR of 5 bracketed exposures (1EV step), 1.6s to 20s, NIKKOR 16mm Fisheye
Finding his next location can prove to be a difficult task, but in true futuristic style, the wonders of Google Earth have aided him on many of his adventures. “I first decide on the location before I even pack my gear. I can either decide to go on locations I have been to before, and try to capture a different composition. If I decide to go to a new location, I first check out Google Earth for the potential views from that particular location, and the direction in which the sun sets.”
For Daniel, the next deciding factor would be light. While most photographers chase after the magical time known as the “golden hour”, a period shortly after sunrise or before sunset, Daniel opts for a more ethereal shade of light. He often awaits the “blue hour”, the time of day when the light takes on a strong blue tone, which makes its appearance after sunset and just before the moon rises. This is also the time when the city slowly plunges into darkness, allowing the night to show their colours. “In Dubai, this lasts for only 10 minutes, so you have very little time to get your shots.”
With Daniel’s theme of futurism running through his body of work, every shot is designed to have a hyper realistic feel, providing a sense of surrealism in the most powerful way. His use of digital blending also brings out the pure power of each shot. To achieve these remarkable results, he chooses a kit that includes his AF-S NIKKOR 14–24mm f/2.8G ED ultra-wide-angle zoom lens and a Nikon D800 DSLR.
“Cryogenic Dreams”: Dubai Marina on a foggy morning, shot from the Cayan Tower – Nikon D800, ISO 100, f/8 30s, NIKKOR 14-24mm at 14mm
“Marina Cotton Dreams”: Dubai Marina on a foggy morning, shot from the Cayan Tower – Nikon D800, ISO 100, f/8, Digital Blending of 2 exposures 8s & 40s, NIKKOR 14-24mm at 14mm
“Cloud City”: Shot from the 76th floor of Burj Khalifa – Nikon D800, ISO 100, f/8, HDR of 7 bracketed exposures (1ev step), 1/640s to 1/10s, NIKKOR 14-24mm at 14mm
“Dark City”: Dubai Jumeirah Beach Residence towers in fog – Nikon D800, ISO 100, f/11, HDR of 7 bracketed exposures (1EV step), 1/2500s to 1/40s, NIKKOR 14-24mm at 15mm
“Vertigo Fog 1”: Dubai Marina under the fog, shot from the 85th floor of Princess Tower – Nikon D800, ISO 100, f/8, HDR of 5 bracketed exposures (1EV step), 1/1250s to 1/80s, NIKKOR 14-24mm at 14mm, Vertical Panorama
“I often come back from a location with over 100 exposures of the same scene, taken during an interval of 30 minutes. And a selection of those 100 exposures will create one final shot. That's why I always say that my photos don’t represent reality, but an idealized version of it. There is always this controversy surrounding post-processing, and I have absolutely no issue with that. There is enough room for different styles.”
© Daniel Cheong