Singapore Marina Barrage

Marina Barrage

Marina Barrage

To the south of Gardens by the Bay, is the Satay by the Bay which you should stop off at on your way to the Marina Barrage.

This is an elevated view over the barrage which is a walkway or trackway for people to walk/run around. You can see it slope down and then back up. Behind me is an open air restaurant and below is a walk bridge that leads to the east side of the bay. More on that in the next post.

I get asked about how to get the star shape in the lights so I thought I’ll answer it by talking about depth of field.

For you millenials, the short answer is stop the lens down to F/16. The small aperture makes the star shape in the lights.

This scene has foreground interest with the leading line of the wall going off into the horizon and on to the cityscape in the background.

If you look at the light closest to me at the bottom right of this scene, it is in focus and has the star effect, with the far distant background also being in focus.

Two points accomplish this:

- The smaller the aperture, the greater the depth of field (DoF).
- The DoF is also a function of the lenses focal length, here I am using the EF 17-40 F4L at 17mm. The wider the lens, the greater the DoF.

A small aperture and wide lens however is not enough to get a scene like this in front to back focus. If I were to focus on the Marina Bay Sands hotel in the background then the closest point, the wall and light, would be slightly blurred out. The lens sets the focal point to infinity, but that does not guarantee sharp focus in front of the focal point.

I use a general rule of thumb to select the ‘hyperfocal point’. The hyperfocal point, or distance, is the closest distance at which the lens can be focused to keep objects at infinity sharp but also give acceptable sharpness to objects in front of that point.

Second point, for a scene with foreground and background interest.

Focus Point
- Set your focus to approximately one third of the way “into the scene”.
- If want to be mathematically precise, use an online calculator to work out your hyperfocal distance

I use ‘back button focus’, I won’t go into the details suffice to say the shutter button does not focus the lens so I can set it manually.

I had the camera off the tripod and aimed the in-camera focus point at the apex of the wall curvature, to the left of the scene. I then put the camera on the tripod, framed the shot, set the aperture to F/16 and adjusted the shutter speed for the exposure I wanted.

For those of you who got this far, let me take you a little further into the world of physics and how/why the lights get a star effect.

Light has a duality and it is the wave nature of light that causes this effect when it hits the corner of your aperture blades. The greater the angle of your aperture blades, the more pronounced this diffraction effect is. That is why stopping down your aperture causes this effect, versus if you had taken the same shot with a wider aperture.

This is called ‘Fraunhofer Diffraction’.

Read more of it here:

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