Singapore photographer's lightning images earn international recognition, praise from PM Lee

Local photographer Darren Soh's composite image of a lightning storm has earned widespread recognition.
Local photographer Darren Soh's composite image of a lightning storm has earned widespread recognition. PHOTO: DARREN SOH

SINGAPORE - Admirers - and there are tens of thousands of them - are already hailing it as Singapore's 2016 Picture of the Year.

But local architecture and landscape photographer Darren Soh, 40, whose stunning composite image of lightning activity in Sembawang earned him an interview with British broadcaster BBC, insists he is still in shock over its intense impact on social media.

"Yes, I felt the photo was a bit better than my usual ones. But did I expect this level of response? Definitely not," Mr Soh, who has been running his own photography company for the past 15 years, told The Straits Times on Wednesday (May 25).

Since uploading it on Facebook on Sunday night, Mr Soh's photo has racked up more than 43,000 likes and over 14,000 shares. It was also featured on international news websites such as The Telegraph.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong even shared the photo on his Facebook page, praising Mr Soh for having "a knack for making the everyday extraordinary".

"Singapore is a lightning capital of the world, but few photos have captured it as strikingly as this composite by Darren Soh," Mr Lee wrote.

On Sunday evening, from the 16th floor stairwell of a HDB block at Sembawang's Montreal Link - and facing the Johor Straits - Mr Soh took about 100 images of lighting flashing across the night sky.

He then selected 12 images (the first was shot at 8.40pm, and the last at 9.30pm) and used Photoshop to layer them into a single composite image.


The 12 photos that Mr Soh layered into a single composite image. PHOTO: DARREN SOH/FACEBOOK

This is his first time producing a composite image of a lightning storm, having previously applied the technique in his construction photography projects.

Mr Soh shared that he had been chasing lightning storms on and off for the past three to four years, and had experienced six previous failed attempts before finally hitting the jackpot.

As fate would have it on Sunday, he was alerted to a thunderstorm approaching from Johor Baru via the mobile app Rain Alarm, which provides real-time weather updates and is popular among outdoor photographers.

"By the time I reached my vantage point, there was already a lot of lightning. Being in the right place at the right time is a big factor when it comes to taking lightning photos," said Mr Soh, who specialises in shots of HDB flats.


Mr Soh posing for a photo in 2013 following the launch of his new photography book, which looks at Singapore's disappearing landscapes. PHOTO: JOHN HENG

His '50 in SG50' photo series last year, based on topics close to a Singaporean's heart, featured jaw-dropping images of the cityscape, HDB blocks, the haze and the 2015 General Election.

Significantly, Mr Soh added that he had deliberately captured the cluster of HDB flats at the bottom right of the lightning photo as he wanted to give it a uniquely Singaporean feel.

"Without a local context, it would just be another nice lightning photo that could have been taken anywhere. So I felt it was important they were included."

Mr Soh added that this has been his most well-received work to date.

He surmised: "Somehow, weather photos always seem to strike a chord with people. I've had people who are genuinely afraid of lightning telling me they can't help but be drawn to my photo.

"It's very humbling to know that your work is appreciated."