Marina Bay Singapore Countdown to 2012

Happy new year! Hope you had a great time welcoming 2012. I had my countdown at Marina Bay and had a chance to view the celebratory fireworks at an exclusive vantage point, atop the roof of One Fullerton!

Thanks to an invitation by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), I was very fortunate to enjoy the fireworks without having to jostle for space along the people-packed waterfront while sipping Moet champagne and being served exquisite houvre d’oeuvres from the Fullerton Hotel’s kitchen!

However, my countdown evening didn’t start out with such finesse. In fact, I was kinda disappointed during the earlier part of the night and was resigned to having a nondescript slip into the new year. I was ready to give up trying to have a memorable countdown, but thankfully, an angel by the name of Juliana came to rescue me! Here’s what happened…

Merry seekers queueing to get into the Countdown 2012 party on The Float at Marina Bay. The bay area was gorgeously dressed up in lights for the mega event.

My invitation was for attending the Countdown 2012 party at The Float. Frankly, I’m quite done with all these massive ‘national’ parties. I used to love them… love the open-air loud music, the outdoor party mood, the jollying with hordes of strangers, but now, I prefer to just hole up some place away from the crowd in the company of close friends over drinks. Or just spend it alone.

Nothing could quite motivate my ass down to the annual countdown fiesta at Marina Bay. Not unless it’s going there to shoot fireworks.

Don’t get me wrong, Marina Bay is the best place to be to get all festive and catch the spectacular year-end fireworks but I no longer have the stamina to survive the crowding. I’ve shot the countdown fireworks in 2008 and the thought of having to park myself at the waterfront from 3pm onwards again to secure a good spot doesn’t appeal to me.

The party starts at 8pm with performances till the midnight fireworks before morphing into an outdoor clubbing zone till 3am. Gates to The Float opened at 7pm and we queued for 1.5 hours to get in. My friend said his fingernails grew longer while waiting. LOL.

So when URA extended me the invitation, I jumped at the chance because it meant no more waiting from mid-noon to midnight just to shoot that few minutes of sky blooms. My objective was very clear and fixed. It’s to have this year’s fireworks in pictures. And to ensure that I have the best spot, I arrived as soon as the gates were opened.

The best spot, according to masters and photog friends, is right at the top corner of The Float’s sitting arena closest to Singapore Flyer. That’s the spot I was after.

A sea of people ready to party! But not me. I was only interested in photographing fireworks.

But when I got on The Float, I got a rude shock… access to my pre-determined spot was out-of-bounds! My heart sank.

不甘心 that I took the trouble to come only to be deined my prime shooting location, I tried to seek permission from the ushers and security personnel in-charge. I’m not trying to be difficult. You see, URA’s invitation came with an ‘appointment’ of me as a Featured Photographer. I don’t know what I did to deserve such an honour but it’s one I take seriously. If I can’t have access to good angles for the kind of shots I have in mind, my photos will be a disgrace to be featured.

I have an added mission so I was earnest in being allowed access. No luck. The reason given was that if I was allowed in, other members of the public will follow. The thing that gets me scratching my head was this… why cordon off the area? When I shot for National Day Parade, all the seats were open.

Even if it was closed, what’s the big problem with letting photogs shoot there?

The spot I eyed was right at the end. The ticketed Countdown show probably didn't manage to fill seats so about half of it was closed. The Float can hold a maximum audience capacity of 30,000.

At the corner that I wanted to shoot from, from photos I’d seen of photog friends shooting from there, I could get a nice wide view that includes the Art Science Museum, Marina Bay Sands and the CBD in the background. Being further out also allowed me more sky space to capture the fireworks. At the spot that I had to settle on, I couldn’t get much of the sky in because my lens was not wide enough.

Beautiful scene but narrow framing because I don't own an ultra-wide angle lens. At this spot, I could foresee that I won't be able to get the full height of the fireworks with the CBD in my composition.

I was faced with a dilemma. Should I go since I can’t get good shots of the fireworks? Else I’ll be sitting there for hours to get bad photos. The entertainment was decent but I wasn’t here for that. And there’s the added stake of being stuck in the crowd after the fireworks if I stayed on.

New year... time for some self-reflection?

I half-heartedly decided to stay because I'm already all the way here. Might as well make the best of a less than ideal situation. So I started observing my friend for photo opportunities. It's not often we can get a shot like this!

At my moment of self-inflicted despair, I received a new year greeting from Juliana, who invited me. Feelng bad that I won’t have photos to show, I replied with an apology and indicated my plan to join my friend’s countdown gathering instead.

I thought she was out of town, but she wasn’t and come to get me at The Float and brought me to the rooftop of One Fullerton in hope that it’ll offer a better shooting spot. The walk there was made much longer than usual because of road closures so by the time we reached, I had only 30 minutes to find a spot, set up my shot and remember the settings to shoot fireworks. I was so kan cheong!

This is the first time I'm seeing Marina Bay fully lighted up at night from this perspective. Fab view! Unfortunately, the wind direction was blowing our way and we got the gamut of smoke fog and soot. Debris was flying into my eyes to the point where it's hard to shoot.

Then the worst thing happened. I forgot how to get the Bulb mode working to shoot fireworks! So I emergency dialled Siow Har and problem was solved. But my shots weren’t saved. I didn’t get any half-decent photo of the fireworks that night. And the wind was blowing in our direction so halfway through the pyro spectacle, our view was obscured by smog. And black soot was snowing on us.

I felt kinda devastated at my incompetent photography skills. Not one usable shot. I totally sucked. Which meant one thing, I should shoot fireworks at Marina Bay every year to get better!

Met this South African family on One Fullerton's rooftop. It felt so good to see foreigners enjoying my Singapore.

I didn’t expect so much internal drama on the first night of 2012. Thankfully, the champagne numbed the disappointments a little.

In many ways, this Countdown was out of character for me. First of all, I wouldn’t be out on such a night where getting home is a pain. We walked to somewhere near Chin Swee Road from Marina Bay before we got a cab by a stroke of luck. The route we took was approximately an hour on foot.

Secondly, I would’ve spent it with familiar, long-standing friends, or alone. Not with people I’ve only just known.

And lastly, I won’t be sober.

Juliana and I shared a Waterfall. This alcoholic cocktail tasted more potent at Verve Pizza Bar. The eatery is really quite a nice chill out shot by the bay with delicious pizzas and pretty affordable drinks. It's housed by the side of the URA City Gallery.

No good firework shots? Never mind. Good company is the sparks of the new year!

Well, there’s always a first for everything and 2012 began with the unusual. A good kind of depart from the comfort zone. The unexpected is what makes one year different from the next.

May the unpredictable continue to infest my days in 2012 so as  to keep life interesting! Thanks for the company Michael and Juliana.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. jassy
    Jan 05, 2012 @ 00:38:08

    happy new year! sometimes it’s a hassle to go out to participate in major events but sometimes it’s nice to just sit back, relax, and enjoy the moment 🙂 all the best for you and your family this 2012! 🙂


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