CHONG CAPTURES PRECIOUS MOMENTS OF OUR RIDES WHILE HE RIDES
The Covid period changed the lifestyle of many people. There was a sudden surge of people calling themselves “cyclist”. A handful of them chose mountain biking. While Covid is not totally gone yet, things are gradually returning back to some semblance of pre-Covid days. Naturally, many “Covid Cyclists” went back to their old hobbies. Not all of them. Chong started his mountain biking life sometime during this period. He had since upgraded his mountain bike, got himself better equipped on his weekly endeavor at our local trails. This is how he got started.
GETTING TO KNOW CHONG AT SHUTTER SPEEDS
Name: Chong C.S.
Callsign: Ah Chong / Snap MTB ( Actually, I prefer you guys calling me “Chong” simply)
Current Bike: Guerrilla Gravity The Smash 2020, Size 3
Dream Bikes: Canfield Lithium (Raw), Specialised S-Works Enduro LTD
Daily Grind: IT Manager with a MNC
Years riding MTB: Covid-gen Rider … started some time in 2020
Favorite MTB sub-discipline: Downhill
Favorite Trail: Bukit Timah Mountain Bike Trail (so far I have ridden only in Singapore)
Places I would wanna ride at: Whistler, BC Canada
Favorite riders: Yoanne Barelli, Nizam Jani
THE DUDE BEHIND THOSE LENS
How did you get started with mountain biking?
Perhaps this is a common story for a lot of people. During the Covid lock down period in 2020, I was working from home. I needed to do something to keep myself fit, to get away from the stress of work, as well as stress from the house (noisy kids, nagging wife …). I thought of taking up running but my old knees can’t take the grind. At that time I was also inspired by my friend Nick whom is riding actively and aggressively on road bike to pick up cycling. I ended up buying a mountain bike instead. The initial plan was to play it safe and ride at PCN rather than on the road. Bought a Cube AMS 100 off a nice seller on Carousel and started riding frequently. I was clocking 50-60 km on average for each ride. I was happy that I managed to shave 13kg off my weight in less than a year! As I got more motivated, I decide to upgrade my bike. That’s when I met Chris, owner of Yap Bicycle whom introduced me to Guerilla Gravity Bikes. After 4 months of eager anticipation, The Smash arrived! With my new ride, I joined a new riding friend, Joseph from MTB@SG, for a ride at T15. That initiated my maiden trail ride in Singapore. Gradually I moved on to Chestnut Trails and then Bukit Timah. My actual trail riding experience is around 1.5 years. I am still a noob to the sport.
You are shooting very regularly and in big volumes. We are guessing in excess of 1000 photos on a normal weekend. Do you have any event or sport photography experience?
Nowadays, I’d always have my camera with me whenever I go trail riding. I will do a loop first, and then start my photo shooting on my second loop. Previously, when I was on my tiny Ricoh GR3, I would shoot about 300-500 images and then cull it during post processing. Since I acquired the current Sony full frame camera, I have been more trigger happy. I’m loving the burst mode! Although I have more keepers nowadays, the number of photos taken during each outing is more than 1000 (sometimes reaching 3000-ish) This had increased my post processing time significantly so I am adjusting myself to go easy on burst mode and have a more efficient post processing workflow. My photography background are mainly portraiture (models, xiao mei meis …) and occasionally some wedding photography. Before picking up mountain biking, I have never ventured into sports photography.
How did your trail photography routine took shape, and how did it became a regular affair?
When I started riding trail, especially at Bukit Timah MTB Trail, I never expect photography to be a part of my riding itinerary. It started with weekly rides with my group – MOCA MTB Group, where we would just whip out our handphones for some random photos or videos. At one point, I decide to bring along my small Point-and-Shoot but very capable APSC sensor camera – Ricoh GR3. It started with shooting my buddies only. Initially, I was hesitant to shoot anyone outside my group, because I didn’t want to offend anyone having a camera pointed at them. Gradually I became more comfortable shooting strangers in the trail. Likewise, the riders became familiar with me too. Since November 2021, I started to shoot more seriously. What a journey it has been so far! (Despite being less than 1 year.)
How much time do you spend on photography and processing, and posting it on Facebook or instagram?
Generally, I will spend about 4-5 hours at the trail, both riding and photographing. After that, I will spend about 4-6 hours (sometimes even more if I sniped more photos, or if there’s videos too). My post processing in Adobe LightRoom includes works like culling, exposure adjustment, some dodge/burn as needed, and then the usual contrast/color/sharpening/export. Normally I will load all photos onto MTB@SG on the same day, but lately it could take me about 1-2 days to complete the processing. Usually I will post some photos that I felt are interesting in Instagram. I would make 3-4 posts a day from my latest collection on social media every day. This would go on until I shoot a set of fresh photos and then the cycle starts again.
Taking this opportunity, I wish to thank my wife for her understanding of my passion, not just the time I spend riding and maintaining bike, but also the amount of time I spend in front of the computer post rides. I am truly blessed!
What are the gears that you use in your trail photography?
Currently I am using a Sony A7C Full Frame camera. I love the images from a full frame sensor, and Sony has improved their color science by leaps and bounds. They looked really really good out of camera. A7C has one of the smallest footprint for a full frame camera, and I can just chuck it into my riding backpack and zoom through the trail without being bogged down by unnecessary weight. For the same reasons on traveling light, I have chosen Sony FE 24mm f/2.8 G lens, FE 85 f/1.8 lens with the 85mm my fav lens in the trail for its reach and image quality.
Any plans to monetize on your current endeavor? Any long terms plans for your trail photography works?
It never crossed my mind to monetize on what I am doing, as I felt it is my way of contributing to the awesome mountain biking community here. I am open to collaboration works, such as local ride events etc. I appreciate our local bike businesses for supporting our riding community. There has been some suggestion that I monetize on the high resolution, non-watermarked images. At the moment, I don’t see the need for it yet. However, should the requests increases and more time is needed from me, I might look into it – in compensation for my time and effort as well as contribution to my new lens. Anyway, as of now, no plan on monetization.
Which one do you love more? Mountain biking or Photography?
Mountain Biking for sure! That’s because I can totally unload my mind and enjoy the trail’s tranquility and sound of my bike (especially my i9 hubs). Spending time with nature is therapeutic for me. Improving my bike skills before I get too old to ride or to take risks is still my top priority. Sometimes, when I am in the mood, I will just continue riding even though I have packed my camera and stuff along.
Do you have a photo vault for your trail photography collection?
Currently, I am only showcasing my works on Instagram (IG: Snap_MTB). If riders want their photos, they can message me and I will send the high resolution images as documents to their Whatsapp accounts or emails. A couple of riders had printed out my works of them onto canvas and hung them up! They showed me the end results and I am really happy to be able to document those special moments for them! Regrettably, sometimes it may take me few days to respond to a request. It is not ideal but I will try my best.
Are there any project(s) you are working on other than trail photography that would eventually be a privilege to the community too?
Good question. There’s something on my mind – to produce a photo book for the mountain biking community in Singapore. I want to share portrait images of the riders, the bikes and the stories behind them. Since I am shooting primarily in Bukit Timah Mountain Biking Trail, perhaps I can name the photobook as “BT Tribe”. However this is just a thought, I have not gone through any planning and It is not something that can be done in a short time. The amount of planning and execution would be challenging, especially to write the story of riders and to get the right photos to tell those stories. There would be a lot resources required to pull this off – the time, effort and money. But I am sure it will be a fun project.
Based on your current interaction with the mountain bike community in Singapore, do you have any advise, suggestion or comment about the trail or our rider community?
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the riders for being accommodating with me and supporting me all this while. I am not sure how long I will continue doing this, but while I am still at it, please DON’T smile into the camera if you see me camping at the trail side. Keep your game face on and SHRED HARD! See you guys and gals around!
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Photos by Chong
Interview by Bikezilla