Photography Art

When i told people my occupation. They said:”Oh you are an artist, that’s nice.” I was always dumbfounded by their replied, felt kinda of unnatural each time. Because i never thought myself as an artist. For some time, i can’t clearly define what does Art mean. I usually see myself as a commercial photographer or a business person, wanting to  provide unique value picture solution for companies around the globe.

In my personal opinion. Art has various form of interpretation. Let’s just focus on photography practice. If you asked me what is photography art. I think it like a visual absorption feast. Is about individual pair of eye get to notice the scene at that point of time or moment, using photography medium to capture it.

Everyone sees things differently, have different way of analysing information. That is why i think the topic of Art is always subjective. The debate/discussion of photography art is not necessary about technical aspect of the execution; aesthetic plays a major role as well. How Art is perceived also depends on the human’s emotion in that moment of connection.

Now as i write, i reflect. I think Art cannot please everyone. But if my photography Art work able to evoke someone’s emotion and interest. I think that is consider a successful piece of Art work (photograph), even if only take a person to admire it.

We all may see a same visual but each mind has a different perception/opinion. For example, put a group of photographers to shoot a vase in a decorated room, each photographer will produce different beautiful picture through their own interpretation. No two pictures will be the same.

How i think now may not be the way i reflect about Art in future. Is still a learning process for me, as i continue to grow, i believe i will find more deeper meaning in Art.

Travel Collection – 5 in Vietnam

Four weeks in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam back in 2011.

Was visiting a local famous temple for prayer. The art director wanted some pictures of the locals selling prayer items. So been a non Vietnamese, i can’t speak their native language. The art director spoke to them to get them agree for pictures. Vietnamese always love to have their picture taken, i wonder why, something that still mystify me till today.

I’ve composed in a way to capture more of the background environment in what they are selling, rather than focus just their close up portrait. It depends what story you wish to tell. As this was done indoor, i turned the subject around to the available natural light source. No flash was require to capture the 2 different scenes.

I liked the pictures because both ladies were very pleasant and i like the various details in the background of their work place.

I can see their life is not easy, but their smile showed hope and calmness in life.


Feel free to check out other of my travel collection articles
1 in Beijing
2 in Bangkok
3 in Sri Racha
4 in Nepal

Singapore Trains

Singapore Trains series was a sudden burst of idea in a afternoon back in Dec 2016, i thought how a single scene with multiple tracks with each train running on it designated route look like? Honestly i was also sort of inspired by Stephen Wilkes day to night series.  I ever read online that mentioned, don’t look at other artist’s work to be creative, be original. Is like indirectly stealing visual for your own usage. I beg to differ, for me i require good visual to inspire myself to come out with my own original idea.



The 2 images above are made in Jurong East. The first round was doing scouting, sniffing out possible positions and the type of composition. The next trip was to bring my gears and returned to the spot where i will be executing the shot. I know most people don’t do scouting at all, they lug their entire gears along and start to trigger immediately. Personally there is nothing wrong with it; however scouting allows me to be more visually focus, fix the scene in my mind, ample time to better understand my surrounding as well, pre-determine what are the right gears to prepare. That is my type of preparation before any commercial shoot. For this case, personal work.

There are not many train tracks in Singapore that has more than two train tracks side by side. Much time were burnt on scouting of the location, checking out map and random train pictures from online. When the actual shoot took place for that day, i only hope for the best weather after studying the weather forecast, before that i even monitor the daily weather to see if there is a same pattern. The above two images are made in Choa Chu Kang area.

As the saying goes: “the more you practice, the better you will get.” After making  mistakes and keep on improve from it. The next shoot will always be in less difficulty, mistakes allows me to gain the experience that book never teach you. Bear in mind no 2 shoot is ever the same. That is why the experience built up is more than ever important to handle new challenge. The above image is made in Punggol area.

Tarot card reader from Bangkok reuse my picture for FREE!!!

Seven years ago, i visited Bangkok for a personal photo trip. I took many travel scenery and street portraits that caught my interest. As i am the type of photographer who would approach the person for permission rather than been sneaky behind or using a super long lens to snap a picture of someone without their acknowledgement. It just been me, i like interaction, i like people who have eye contact with my camera for street portrait.

I was in the famous Chatuchak market at Bangkok, roaming around there for the first time. I caught sight of a tarot card reader who looks very interesting with her table set up and dressing, i approached her for a picture, she was speaking in half broken English which i struggle to understand. She gave me her card and i promised to send her a file.

Here is the actual portrait picture i took of her.

Recently, i saw her on Facebook, and realised she was using the picture i took of her to advertise herself. Apparently she seems quite famous in the tarot industry.

Check out her tarot service if you are in Bangkok. ^^

Now, you may be thinking am i going to be mad about it? She’s taking advantage of a photographer who took her picture and ended up using it for her advertising materials; which she did not paid a single cent for it. I know many pros out there would be fuming if such things happen.

In another angle, i kinda of appreciate her cause of action, at least i know this picture i capture was worthy. Her action speaks the truth. Ya i would love to get pay, but these was no agreement for any remuneration. I would at least love to be credited by her, but is all right. As long she is happy, i am happy. But that doesn’t mean you can email me to take free pictures for you all right. ;]

P.S. Feel free to check out my street portraits as well.

Creating Unexpected Moment

Was on the Boom Lift documenting a site project, been lifted up over 50m in height. It was a great view at the end of south-west part of Singapore. But it can be a bit scary if the wind starts to blow and cause the platform to vibrate.

Anyway, i was busy capturing various scene from such an aerial perspective. I can’t help not to notice there were fighter jets flying around the sky. The jets were not flying at a very high altitude or even super sonic speed. This allows me to see where the jets were heading.

I standby my camera position using a telephoto lenses. Right above the oil tank where the fighter jets are heading, a crane was doing lifting on the roof of an oil tanker. In a few seconds, the jets flew into my frame and i quickly fire off a few shots to get the best position of the jets on the sky. Resulting in the final picture below.

Unexpected moment can be a long wait, or it just happens instantly. Either ways, both are required to observe the situation, wait for the right time to capture that split second moment. The question is are you able to see it.

Reasons Why Professional Photographers Cannot Work for Free

I came across this online article from photographer Tony Wu who wrote the heart of photographer who take picture for a living. Huge credit to this man!

Below are his wisdom of words to share.

Dear potential photo buyer,

If you have been directed to this page, it is likely that you have requested the use of an image or images for free or minimal compensation.

As professional photographers, we receive requests for free images on a regular basis. In a perfect world, each of us would love to be able to respond in a positive manner and assist, especially with projects or efforts related to areas such as education, social issues, and conservation of natural resources. It is fair to say that in many cases, we wish we had the time and resources to do more to assist than just send photographs.

Unfortunately, such are the practicalities of life that we are often unable to respond, or that when we do, our replies are brief and do not convey an adequate sense of the reasons underlying our response.

Circumstances vary for each situation, but we have found that there are a number of recurring themes, which we have set out below with the objective of communicating more clearly with you, and hopefully avoiding misunderstandings or unintentionally engendering ill will.

Please take the following points in the constructive manner in which they are intended. We certainly hope that after you have had a chance to read this, we will be able to talk again and establish a mutually beneficial working relationship.

Photographs Are Our Livelihood
Creating compelling images is the way we make our living. If we give away our images for free, or spend too much time responding to requests for free images, we cannot make a living.

We Do Support Worthy Causes With Images
Most of us do contribute photographs, sometimes more, to support certain causes. In many cases, we may have participated directly in projects that we support with images, or we may have a pre-existing personal relationship with key people involved with the efforts concerned. In other words, each of us can and does provide images without compensation on a selective basis.

We Have Time Constraints
Making a leap from such selective support to responding positively to every request we get for free photographs, however, is impractical, if for no other reason than the substantial amount of time required to respond to requests, exchange correspondence, prepare and send files, and then follow-up to find out how our images were used and what objectives, if any, were achieved. It takes a lot of time to respond to requests, and time is always in short supply.

Pleas of “We Have No Money” Are Often Difficult to Fathom
The primary rationale provided in nearly all requests for free photographs is budgetary constraint, meaning that the requestor pleads a lack of funds.

Such requests frequently originate from organisations with a lot of cash on hand, whether they be publicly listed companies, government or quasi-government agencies, or even NGOs. Often, it is a simple matter of taking a look at a public filing or other similar disclosure document to see that the entity concerned has access to significant funding, certainly more than enough to pay photographers a reasonable fee should they choose to do so.

To make matters worse, it is apparent that all too often, of all the parties involved in a project or particular effort, photographers are the only ones being asked to work for free. Everyone else gets paid.

Given considerations like this, you can perhaps understand why we frequently feel slighted when we are told that: “We have no money.” Such claims can come across as a cynical ploy intended to take advantage of gullible individuals.

We Have Real Budget Constraints
With some exceptions, photography is not a highly remunerative profession. We have chosen this path in large part due to the passion we have for visual communication, visual art, and the subject matters in which we specialise.

The substantial increase in photographs available via the internet in recent years, coupled with reduced budgets of many photo buyers, means that our already meager incomes have come under additional strain.

Moreover, being a professional photographer involves significant monetary investment.

Our profession is by nature equipment-intensive. We need to buy cameras, lenses, computers, software, storage devices, and more on a regular basis. Things break and need to be repaired. We need back-ups of all our data, as one ill-placed cup of coffee could literally erase years of work. For all of us, investment in essential hardware and software entails thousands of dollars a year, as we need to stay current with new technology and best practices.

In addition, travel is a big part of many of our businesses. We must spend a lot of money on transportation, lodging and other travel-related costs.

And of course, perhaps most importantly, there is a substantial sum associated with the time and experience we have invested to become proficient at what we do, as well as the personal risks we often take. Taking snapshots may only involve pressing the camera shutter release, but creating images requires skill, experience and judgement.

So the bottom line is that although we certainly understand and can sympathise with budget constraints, from a practical point of view, we simply cannot afford to subsidise everyone who asks.

Getting “Credit” Doesn’t Mean Much
Part and parcel with requests for free images premised on budgetary constraints is often the promise of providing “credit” and “exposure”, in the form or a watermark, link, or perhaps even a specific mention, as a form of compensation in lieu of commercial remuneration.

There are two major problems with this.

First, getting credit isn’t compensation. We did, after all, create the images concerned, so credit is automatic. It is not something that we hope a third party will be kind enough to grant us.

Second, credit doesn’t pay bills. As we hopefully made clear above, we work hard to make the money required to reinvest in our photographic equipment and to cover related business expenses. On top of that, we need to make enough to pay for basic necessities like food, housing, transportation, etc.

In short, receiving credit for an image we created is a given, not compensation, and credit is not a substitute for payment.

“You Are The Only Photographer Being Unreasonable”
When we do have time to engage in correspondence with people and entities who request free photos, the dialogue sometimes degenerates into an agitated statement directed toward us, asserting in essence that all other photographers the person or entity has contacted are more than delighted to provide photos for free, and that somehow, we are “the only photographer being unreasonable”.

We know that is not true.

We also know that no reasonable and competent photographer would agree to unreasonable conditions. We do allow for the fact that some inexperienced photographers or people who happen to own cameras may indeed agree to work for free, but as the folk wisdom goes: “You get what you pay for.”

Please Follow-Up
One other experience we have in common is that when we do provide photographs for free, we often do not receive updates, feedback or any other form of follow-up letting us know how the event or project unfolded, what goals (if any) were achieved, and what good (if any) our photos did.

All too often, we don’t even get responses to emails we send to follow-up, until, of course, the next time that someone wants free photographs.

In instances where we do agree to work for free, please have the courtesy to follow-up and let us know how things went. A little consideration will go a long way in making us feel more inclined to take time to provide additional images in the future.

Wrap Up
We hope that the above points help elucidate why the relevant photographer listed below has sent you to this link. All of us are dedicated professionals, and we would be happy to work with you to move forward in a mutually beneficial manner.

Process of photograph lightning

Last evening was the first time i encountered lightning scene while i was doing a personal photography project on a high ground at Bukit Batok, Singapore. I notice the lightning was occurring very frequently, why not try to capture this phenomenal moment since i did not try before.

Basic equipment i have that time:
-Tripod
-Camera
-Remote shutter release
-Wide angle or telephoto lens

PROCESS
Quickly set up my tripod, used a 70-200 F4 lens, mount it and adjust the composition i desire. Not sure how much time will the lightning keep striking. The camera setting was put to BULB mode, F/16, ISO 200 and expose it for 73 seconds. Below is the 2nd exposure result. My adrenaline starts to kick in!

shot 1

I changed to a prime wide angle lens and capture the scene again. Still in bulb mode, adjust camera exposure to F/13, ISO200 and expose it for 38 seconds. However i did like the walls on the side of my frame. Hence i decided to use 70-200 for more shots.

shot 2

Making correction during the process
Now am pretty sure the lightning is going to keep occurring at that particular area after observing how frequent the lightning strike. I re-adjust my composition a little more and shot a few frames landscape mode, realise i was missing out the lightning high up. I turn my camera to portrait/vertical to have more space on top. Over a short period the strikes of lightning start to slow down. I don’t want to expose my shutter for a long time. Hence i set my next exposure to F/8, ISO 320 and expose it for 35 seconds. Below are the most amazing result i got after my composition correction!

shot 3

shot 4
29 seconds exposure

Tips
Once you decides the composition, set your lens to manual focus. Auto focus might jump off or struggle to focus when the auto focus point is aiming at a dark spot in the night. How i get my focus was pointing the auto focus point on the transmitter tower, once it is fixed i push the button to manual focus on my telephoto lens.

Set your exposure time to around 20-30 seconds would be good, unless you know the lightning is striking so frequently, adjust your exposure time accordingly to your need.

Initially you need to conduct a few test shots to get your exposure correct, i share my setting here is not a guide line to follow but a reference for you to understand.

Editing lightning image
Post process is usually one of the fun part to let your imagination be as creative as possible, i transfer the images to Lightroom and did my tweaking.

shot 5
Original RAW files from my 5D Mark III which looks unexciting.

shot 6
Adjusted the white balance to my ideal final image. It looks more dramatic in this sense, making the lighting ‘pop”.

Stacking your lightning images
If you are lucky, you can get multiple lightning in a single exposure. Not all the time lightning occur so frequently in every few seconds. By stack up the images 3 & 4 in photoshop to get the dramatic result i want.

shot 7

Hope you like my experience sharing here.