Goggles for swimming? No, for taking photos at a protest rally

When The Straits Times' executive photojournalist Mark Cheong went to Kuala Lumpur to cover the Bersih rally in 2012, his eyes were smarting most of the time.

All he had taken along with him to guard himself against the tear gas released by police to disperse protesters were a scarf and a bottle of water. To prevent himself from inhaling the fumes, he would breathe through the wet scarf.

When he went back to cover the rally again in 2015, which was held to push for electoral reforms, he was better prepared, with a pair of swimming goggles, an air filter mask and a skateboard helmet.

"When we go overseas, it is important to be well prepared - whether it is about attire, making local contacts or reading up on the local culture," said Mr Cheong, 29.

He was giving a talk, titled A Photojournalist's Life: The Good, The Bad And The Not So Ugly, at the National Museum of Singapore to more than 120 people yesterday.

The talk - which also featured executive photojournalist Caroline Chia - was part of a series held in conjunction with the 2016 World Press Photo exhibition presented by The Straits Times.

Straits Times photojournalist Caroline Chia, accompanied by colleague Mark Cheong, at yesterday's session at National Museum of Singapore, talking about a photo of a synchronised swimming team she had taken.
Straits Times photojournalist Caroline Chia, accompanied by colleague Mark Cheong, at yesterday's session at National Museum of Singapore, talking about a photo of a synchronised swimming team she had taken. ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

Ms Chia, 37, who covered the Malaysian general election in 2013, recalled having to go to a far-flung field away from the town centre in Penang for a night rally. Her wireless adapter could not secure an Internet connection to send photos back to the Singapore office.

She ran as far as she could, away from the stadium, desperately hoping to get an Internet signal.

"Somehow, in the middle of an expressway, I managed to get the connection. One needs to be flexible in responding to unexpected situations," said Ms Chia.

Photographer Randi Ang, 26, who attended the talk, said: "It reminded me about how to keep things fresh by varying the angles of a shot and by looking out for something unique that stands out in that moment."

ST photojournalists Neo Xiaobin and Kevin Lim will share their experiences at talks on Sunday and March 25. There will also be guided tours at the National Museum of Singapore, the venue supporter, at 10am and 12.30pm on Saturdays, and at 12.30pm on Sundays, until the exhibition ends on March 26.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 13, 2017, with the headline 'Goggles for swimming? No, for taking photos at a protest rally'. Print Edition | Subscribe