Today, I have the pleasure to present you one of my all time favorite photographers. He hails from Down Under and has in a short span produced some imagery that would make the most established photographers go green with envy. Please join me in welcoming Kah Kit Yoong. Kah Kit has been kind enough to take the time to answer a few questions on this blog as well as provide us with some samples of his exquisite artistry. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
1- You went from being an MD to one of the most terrific up and coming travel photographers in a few short years, what has inspired you to become a photographer? How did you manage to learn the craft so quickly?
After 7 years of being an MD, I needed a break. That was 2005. Up till then I had no interest in either travel nor photography. My girlfriend, on the other hand, was an avid traveller and photographer. We planned a trip to Europe. As anyone who knows me can testify, once my interest is piqued, I become very intense and obsessive. Just the process of making preparations made me want to immerse myself in the destinations. Since we would be spending the most amount of time in Italy, I organized a month in Florence to take a crash course in learning the language and getting a feel for the culture. This is something that still holds - I prefer to spend more time at a given location than trying to cover too many places in one go.
While I was organizing the ‘big trip’, I happened to be on the island state of Tasmania. In my opinion, it’s the most beautiful part of Australia and has the widest diversity in landscapes. I was doing a lot of cycling around the state. Seeing some of these awesome views, I just had to capture them somehow, so I used a point-and-shoot camera to take the occasional snap.
Since I had no interest in photography as an artform previously, it was definitely the places I visited in Europe and Tasmania that served as inspiration. During the months we were travelling, I took heaps of photos every day. I learnt how to study the light, make exposure and transition from the automatic modes to full manual. At the end of each day we would review the images and learn from them. I was starting to see why certain compositions succeeded or failed.
How did I learn the craft so quickly? Lots of practice obviously as I have mentioned, but also the desire to continue to improve. I am constantly reviewing my body of work and thinking about how I can extend myself further as an artist. On my return from Europe, I started posting images to online forums to obtain feedback. Apart from the benefits of getting and giving critiques, I was exposed to the photography of others which at that point became an inspiration for me. Seeing the beautiful work of the TimeCatcher team made me want to expore more of the natural world.
2- Given the intense competition in the field of photography, how does one make that transition from a practicing doctor to a full time photographer?
I would imagine it to be very difficult to succeed as a full-time travel or landscape photographer from scratch. Making the transition from another field is easier. For instance, I could afford to buy all the necessary gear up front. My collaboration with Canon made the equipment side of things easier too. I had no background in marketing and it took a few years to come up with a decent business plan. I was very lucky to have my work noticed on the web recognized at an early stage by clients. This led to commissions, workshops and articles.
I still work a couple of months a year as an MD which puts me in a strong position financially. I have found that the saying ‘money makes money’ rings true. Earlier this year, we put in a significant amount of funds to build a new website. Since then I’ve noticed a distinct spike in sales. One of the other benefits of transitioning from medicine is that I’ve never been under pressure to undersell my work.
Still, at some point you’re going to have to cut back on work in your chosen field or even give up a position. It’s a risk so some sort of business plan is needed where there are multiple potential sources of income which usually include publications, stock, workshops, commissions, etc.
3- You live in one of the most amazing places in the world yet your photography covers a wide array of locales. How often do you get to travel to collect such an impressive collection of images? Most importantly how do you manage (logistically) to travel so often?
I have one self-funded major trip each year. In 2009 it was Namibia, 2008 it was Northern Italy and 2007 Canada. I recoup the money spent on the trip during the year through the images I bring back. Whether I break even, make a profit or not doesn’t matter too much; it’s my holiday for the year. 2008 was great because I picked up an assignment while on the trip and ended up selling enough images and articles even before arriving back home. The other few trips I make during the year are usually commissions. While it is nice to try out new destinations, it is usually easier and less stressful to return to a place you already know when you have to get x number of shots in y amount of time. I don’t usually get to travel overseas more than 2 or 3 times a year. Since I’m planning to run workshops locally, much of my travel is now focused within Australia.
4- Your focus to date has mostly been on travel and landscape photography, yet I believe I have recently seen some attempts at fashion photography. Are you just having fun trying something different or is this something you intend to pursue more?
I’m yet to find a genre of photography that I do not enjoy. So yes I am having fun trying something different but I also want to learn and develop skills in other areas. This year I have been trying my hand at fashion, portraits and wildlife. I’m finding that knowledge in one area can often be applied to others. For example travel is such a varied field that I can easily use skills from portrait, food and interior photography. My aim is to have enough know-how in each field to produce professional quality images. I have a larger plan in mind and that includes being able to provide a wide-ranging service that goes beyond travel and landscape imagery.
5- There is no shortage of amazing places to visit on our planet, is there one in particular that tops your list of “must-sees”?
I have a penchant for cold places rather than the tropics. Besides, I think my portfolio needs more pristine white imagery so Antactica or Iceland seem to fit the bill. At the moment my big trip for 2010 is a toss up between these two and Patagonia.
As I announced it yesterday, today’s Light Chaser is out of the ordinary (as far as this blog is concerned). The reason behind this, is that I would like to expose you to the widest array of styles, genres and photographers. I personally believe that you can find inspiration everywhere, therefore, getting outside of your zone of comfort or habits can bring a breathe of fresh air to your shooting style. So with no further ado, please join me in welcoming Canadian music photographerNancy Desrosiers.
1- Could you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got started in photography? What inspires you as a photographer?
I was born in a town called Victoriaville, Quebec, and my primary language is French. I grew up with every kind of music, and it’s always been a part of me since I was little. I learned English by listening to Bon Jovi albums and one of my aunts took me to my first Bon Jovi concert; I totally loved it.
Years and years later I discovered a band called The Trews; I went to see them live and I was totally impressed with their presence on stage, their energy. I was taking pictures with my 35mm just for the pleasure of it and thought I had some great shots, but as a perfectionist I wanted to take better pictures. I thought about buying a new camera so I went to see my friend who was working at a camera store and after talking about what I was going to do with it and what I wanted as results, I decided to buy my first Canon Rebel.
Then I went on a road trip to Nova Scotia to see the band The Trews play and at some point Colin told me that he liked my pictures, that I never posted bad pictures of the band. At that point I decided to pursue a career in photography and took pictures show after show.
2- You have shot a little bit of everything but music/performance photography seems to be your calling, what draws you to this type of photography?
Being at a concert and being surrounded by people who love music is where I love to be. Seeing people having fun, singing, dancing, screaming, doing the “horns” with their fingers – it creates an ambiance that I love. I love going to concerts and talking to fans. When I shoot shows, it’s where I feel most comfortable; I’m in my world. I’ve never really shot too many things other than concerts so I can’t compare music photography to many other kinds of photography, but shooting bands is very challenging to me. Having very little light (or worse, red lights), artists wearing hats, and microphone stands in front of their faces are all my enemies; you always have to find a way, find a good angle to get decent pictures no matter what…but then again, I’ve learned that sometimes you can’t create miracles.
3- You have shot some famous bands but you seem to have a sweet spot for up and coming ones, why is that? How do you choose your subjects?
To be able to get into a show, you need permission. To be honest, indie bands are easier to contact than major. Some major bands are exclusively available only to big press (newspapers, magazines) so they can get larger visibility. I need to admit, though, that I’m lucky enough to have amazing friends that talk about my work and it’s opened a lot of doors for me; then again, I still need to show my work to open those doors and make contacts. Since I don’t work for any press, I tend to choose the bands I like and are challenging me. The hardest band I’ve ever shot is Papa Roach; the guys are always moving and jumping but Jacoby (singer) constantly moves on stage…you have just enough time to take ONE shot, and then he is not in your lens view anymore.
4- You are established in a fairly small market (Quebec), do you limit yourself to the Quebec market or do you seek opportunities elsewhere?
I’ve traveled a lot for music. I’ve been out west and east of Canada, into the USA , and over to Scotland and England. I really don’t limit myself, I go where music calls me.
5- Are there any photographers or artists from whom you draw your inspiration?
There are really good photographers out there…my favorites are Ross Halfin (music), P.R. Brown and Bjorn Opsahl (photo shoot). Do they inspire me? Nope. They take really good pictures and I love their style, but that’s not what pushes me to get better; I don’t look at pros’ work often. To get better I go with my instinct, my eye, what I want as a result, and I try to develop my own style, my own signature.
6- Could you tell us a bit about your current projects that you are really excited about?
I have some projects in mind but nothing concrete for now. I would rather not plan too far ahead because the nature of the music business dictates that I be flexible and ready for whatever comes along, sometimes at a moment’s notice. There are bands I want to shoot but it’s a matter of getting those doors opened that I talked about previously; that can take time.
7- Finally, do you have any words of wisdom for those budding music photographers out there?
There is no course at school that will teach you how to become a good music photographer; a lot of photography stores will give you courses that specialize in many technical subjects, though. Go to shows, take pictures, look at the results, and improve the things you don’t like. Find a course that you know will help you technically and while you doing it, keep practicing and pushing yourself to get better.
Today, I am starting a new feature on my blog where I will try and showcase the work of fellow photographers at least once a month. This feature will not be limited to landscape and travel photographers but will also include fashion, commercial and wedding photographers. So, if you know of anyone whom you want to see featured here, please let me know and I’ll try my best. To start off this feature, I would like to introduce you to the work of Austria-based large format photographers Verena Popp-Hackner and Georg Popp.
It’s very hard to find a truly talented photographer, but to find two of them under the same household is downright unfair! Yet, that is exactly the case of today’s featured photographers. Verena and Georg are exceptional landscape photographers. Verena and Georg travel to the four corners of the world to record its beauty. However, what really sets them apart, is the unique blend of technical mastery of their tools and unique vision of the world surrounding them.
In their own words, their “goals are to find fresh, interesting and surprising compositions and locations, while avoiding placing our cameras where others have already left their tripod holes [...] When the conditions are promising, we make no compromise in trying to capture all aspects of light, weather and seasons. Exposing relatively few sheets of film, often having to wait for days to make a single photograph, we strive for quality and uniqueness, rather than quantity. “
To see more of their work, click here. You can also find a link to their website on the sidebar of this blog. In the meantime, please join me to extend a warm welcome to Verena and Georg.
All photographs in this post are courtesy of Verena Hackner and Georg Popp.