Food Porn with Dr. Leslie Tay

The decision to sign up for the food photography by Dr. Leslie Tay (of the ieatishootipost fame) was a last-minute one. A few weeks earlier, Leslie has emailed me earlier to inform me of his newly released ieathawker app on Singapore’s street food. We became acquainted after a phone interview for a food bloggers-turned-authors piece a couple of months ago. I asked if there were any makan (eating) sessions that I could join during my short trip back to Singapore. My dates home coincided with a Canon food photography course he was conducting at The Disgruntled Chef (TDC), which was a few doors away from a friend’s wedding at Jim Thompson I was attending that very evening, so I readily agreed to join the workshop.

Being away from Singapore for the last couple of years, I underestimated the time it would take by public transport to travel to Dempsey Road from my Tampines home. A series of bus/MRT/bus/cab rides later, I finally got to TDC, 15 minutes after the stipulated time. Oops! I quietly crept into the restaurant and perched myself on a stool at the back of the room. I took a quick glance of the participants and saw lots of high-end Canon DSLR cameras (yeah, Canon!) and mighty lenses (you know, those white telephoto zoom and red-ringed L lenses). A part of me was wondering, if these people are already using such pro equipment, why do they need to attend a photography course? But of course, there’s always something new to be learned.

Dr. Leslie Tay dispensed tips on various aspects of food photography, such as composition, rules of thirds and cropping. After the presentation, participants were free to mingle, nibble on finger food or point their cameras at the signature dishes prepared by TDC to emulate the drool-inducing shots. However, there were too many photographers and the space too tight to accommodate all of us comfortably. I’m not a proficient photographer so I need lots of space and time to get my shots. But everyone was also trying to get their perfect shot of the dishes at the same time, so I didn’t dare to ‘hog’ each dish for too long.

Many photographers aside, I finally met the amiable Dr. Leslie Tay in person and got him to sign on my copy of The End of Char Kway Teow and Other Hawker Mysteries—a lovely, thoughtful gift from the brother for my birthday this year. And I also bumped into JJ, a former classmate and an avid photographer, at the workshop. Such a coincidence!

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Predictably, my photos turned out to be crappy. Well, I guess the most viable way to improve one’s photographic skills is still practice—lots of it.

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