Sail Away


Senior Member
Mar 11, 2004
This photograph was taken several years back at Marina Barrage. It was my first time visiting, took many pictures and decided this was the only gem. At that time I had just been working at a photography studio as an assistant for a few months, learning great stuff directly under a professional, finally working towards my career goals. This photograph in part captures my feelings at that time.

The 2nd aspect of this composition fulfills my fantastical side. Shooting commercial work has its own fun and accomplishments, but to shoot for myself, it's harder. It's a mentality issue, after becoming a professional, my mind has taken to mostly 'seeing' images in commercial terms. Non-photographers assume there is no difference if you shoot something for work or for leisure; fellow photographers may have an idealistic view, that you can still shoot what you like and get paid for it. Well, I'm not a fine art photographer, my mind isn't so evolved that I can create art. I'm not a fashion/advert photographer, though I would love the challenge of adverts, but I'm still young in my field so hopefully something for the future instead.

I wouldn't say I'm very creative, I think I try the best I can. This 2009 photograph is likely the latest personal image of mine, I've done a lot of commercial works since that I love but this one definitely will always have a special place in me. It is an entirely unique sense of fulfillment to be somewhere, form a concept in your head and just achieve it. So simple, unlike when shooting for a client.

Right, enough background. On to explaining the image proper. If anyone would like to look at my photo first before reading go ahead ;)

Message: Freedom, at sea. I saw this structure and immediately thought of it as the smokestack of a cruise ship (whether it was intended by the architect I don't know), of course assisted by the fantastic cloud formation and kite above.

Composition: This structure (if I recall correctly) is built ontop a concrete platform, and between it and me is the turf. It wouldn't make sense to include that and I still needed the kite so this framing was intentional from the start. The structure is placed slightly more to the right of centre to give a sense of movement, which is left to right. A thin portion of the concrete platform is there to act as the constant element for the smokestack to sail on.

Post Processing: A lot of work had to be done. Firstly was the clean up of numerous constuction cranes in the background, the other kite lines and a couple of antennas off the structure. The concrete platform was artifically extended to the frame edges to give the sense of infinity. I wanted this 'freedom' to be pure and new, so played with filters (Color Efex Pro, Nik Software) if I remember bleach filter was involved, to give the structure a pristine whitewash appearence (originally dull purplish grey). One point was to make it feel more three dimensional (original lighting was rather flat) hence toning shading was utilised with the sun at position 45° right.

The sky blue and cloud white was enhanced, no special filters used I think. Selective colour most likely. Highlight dodging to bring the clouds out a little further.

To great regret I lost the original high res file when my backup hdd crashed. I only have the 300dpi 1680x1080 to work with now. Sigh~. I'm not satisfied with the background, I think my cloning & patching work wasn't done very well and after enhancements the flaws got magnified. Well, I don't want to dwell on the bad stuff and just want to enjoy it as it is.

In closing, as this is a personal piece of work, it was never intended for a critique. I'm not entirely sure what to expect either, just answering a call by a fellow member to 'shake things up in here'. I posted this image in Landscape gallery once upon a time (title only sans writeup) and received 2 replies. First didn't know what to make of it, the other asked if I had accidently cropped parts of the image out. You can't understand how happy I was.



New Member
Jun 29, 2010
Well, I am here to make you happy. :x

Just my 2 cents for your thinking. While a small kite shows distance and flying far far away, I think is a little bit too small. Maybe you can enlarge abit to show the beauty of that kite.

Disclaimer: I am not a professional, just shooting for fun. :)


Senior Member
Jun 23, 2008
err... it is kinda of long to read all these. ;p I don't mind if it is over a cup of coffee or during a tcss with fellow photography buddies.

This is a great use of negative space. Where the focuses are at the building and the bit of "whatever it is" on the top left. A simplistic photo that work really well and draw one attention from the building to that bit in top left through the dynamic and exciting looking cloud. It look like the cloud is almost dancing and lifting and playing with the bit on the top left. The photo is mainly blue with a splash of white and grey. It give a wonderful feeling of bright sunny day yet it feel so cooling and refreshing at the same. A really good example where more is less and what colour can do to the mood of the photo.

It took me a while to chew on it. For the building look kinda soft to me but it somehow give a sense of movement in the building too. Blow by a strong gust.

Still wondering what is that bit of things at top left. Probably this is the only thing that bother me.

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Staff member
Oct 25, 2005
lil red dot
Not sure if it was intentional, but it is really cool how the clouds is composed against the structure. Like smoke coming out of a chimney or a smoke stack of a ship, hence the "sail away" title. The kite also hints movement in the correct direction.

Love the blue though. Blue and white always works well together. It also gives that "ocean" feel.

This works well as an abstract. Good one.

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Senior Member
Mar 11, 2004
Thanks for all your comments, more analytical than last time. Lol.

@bananah - no need for disclaimers, =) I respect anyone's comments though I might not agree at times.

I had issue with the kite not being easily identifiable as well, but decided not to edit it in the end. Reasons being:
1) I felt uncomfortable editing its size (removing cranes is acceptable, messing with scale not so much). Anyway it's meant to be a big deal compositionally, I even tried removing it but that made the image a little empty.
2) The photo is not meant to be realistic, just a fantasy / whimsical piece. I choose to leave the kite in as a minor element so anyone who has trouble identifying it has freedom to imagine it as anything. Plastic bag in the air, phoenix, ribbon, ufo, etc.

@coolthought - The softness of the building is a by-product of the bleach bypass filter, it leaves a slight glow to it.

My pet peeve for c&c writeups is not enough information. Since nobody really knows anybody here, more detail on of my photo is provided. As one who is always asking conceptualisation & execution questions, can't be having those same questions asked back to me hence my longish intro. I strongly do not believe in 1 sentence writeups nor 2-5min critiques, that's me anyway. =) I hope to read some equally lor soh stories from other members in the future, lol.

@daredevil123 - I like to think the gods of nature were looking out for me that day. Hah.

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