Q1 Tell us a bit about yourself and how you got started in your photography career.
A1 I have no formal education in photography or art. I studied accounting in college and have a Master degree in business. I always believed that I was more a left-brained person as I loved mathematics and puzzles. I was not even interested in photography at all and never thought that I would ever do any arts in my life.
My interest started when I moved to a new home that had several photography galleries nearby. From just regular passing by, I began spending time visiting them. This turned into a kind of enjoyment that gradually built up my passion.
My first competition was AIPP (Australia Institute of Professional Photography) followed by NZIPP (New Zealand Institute of Professional Photography) then WPPI (Wedding and Portrait Photographers International), PPA (Professional Photographers of America), MPI (Master Photographers International), and several other competitions.
I was selected to be in the Team USA 2021 for World Photographic Cup. It was an experience beyond my wildest dream.
I currently have 3 photography degrees. My first one was Master of WPPI followed by Master of Photography from PPA. I recently earned Master Photographer in Fine Art accredited in Fine Art Nature from MPI.
Q2 What professional photographer or photographers influenced you during your photography growth and what was it about them or their work that influenced you.
A2 I have been doing several different genres of photography. I started from landscape and admired Peter Lik and Ken Duncan.
My interest then expanded to include weddings and portraits photography. Jerry Ghionis, Erich Caparas, Ben Shirk as well as David and Luke Edmonson were great photographers who inspired me to learn deeper about photography as fine art. I am always a huge fan of Jerry because he is the MacGyver of lighting which I strongly believe that it is the very fundamental of photography. Both Erich, Ben, David, and Luke make me see and approach my pictures differently.
As I dive deeper into my passion, I have been making friends and being surrounded by amazing photographers and artists who have never stopped impressing me.
I am into animal fine art now. Although those extremely talented artists do not do the genre I am doing, their concepts are still big influences on how I approach my subjects and create my images.
Q3 What details do you believe make a strong photograph for a qualified competition?
A3 Technical skills and storytelling. I believe these 2 are the most important things to create something that is not only beautiful but also meaningful and impactful. Technical skills are basic requirements for someone who claims to be a photographer. Storytelling intrigues viewers to understand what messages a photographer tries to convey. Technical skills without storytelling will be just another beautiful snapshot.
Q4 What is your thought process when selecting images for competition?
A4 I start with detaching any emotion connection between a picture and me. For example: I saved a lot of money to go to a remote area, I flew there, hiked for 1 full day, camped for 1 month to follow an animal. These all mean nothing to judges in a competition. What they see is just one final image. They will not feel all the efforts I put to get that picture.
I also make sure that my image has something unique I want to tell judges. This is back to the storytelling I mentioned above. A lot of my images have never seen the light of the day. Not because they are bad. They have nothing interesting to tell.
There are times I break these principles. When I do that, I do not expect to win. I just want feedback or just curious how the images will do.
A beautiful image is not always an award winning one. If I managed to capture a beautiful sunrise picture with all the glorious light mother nature provided, I would think twice before jumping into a conclusion that it would have a big chance to win. If at any point I believed that any judges could easily replicate it then my winning prospect decreased significantly.
Q5 What camera system do you use?
A5 I started with Canon EOS D60 which belongs to the first generation of digital SLR. I was not happy with the quality at that time because digital camera was just born. I switched to film and used Hasselblad 503CW for quite a while. I added a Linhof Technorama 617s III Panoramic. I exclusively used Fujichrome Velvia RVP50. As digital was getting mature I changed to Canon EOS 5D Mark II, EOS 5D Mark III, EOS 5Ds R and PhaseOne. I am currently using Canon EOS 1DX Mark III and EOS R5 most of the time.
Q6 What are the top three software you use to complete the vision of your images?
A6 Capture One and Adobe Photoshop. I don’t use a 3rd software.
Q7 What calibrated monitors do you use to complete your work? Do you believe that a proper calibrated monitor is an important tool to the success of an image?
A7 I use a professionally calibrated Wacom Cintiq Pro 24”. This is a 99% Adobe RGB monitor which is essential for me as I print my work. A calibrated monitor is the most important thing in my post production. Using a non calibrated monitor is the same as working blindfolded. I have to always make sure that the colors in my images are exactly what I want, not what I guess.
Q8 What title or titles did you win during the 2020 Annual Awards and how has this inspired you?
A8 I was excited to hear I won The Highest Scoring Image in Show and the Best Image in Fine Art Nature.
There were some other achievements I got in 2020 till now. The highlights were:
- 2020 PPA’s IPC (International Photographic Competition) - Platinum Medalist
- 2021 PPA’s Grand Imaging Awards – Finalists in Landscape/Nature (2 of my images)
- 2021 Team USA in World Photographic Cup – The Best of Nations
- 2021 Team USA in World photographic Cup – Gold Medalist in Nature
Not only were they sweet rewards to all the efforts I put into my images, but they were also a constant reminder and a great motivator to keep pushing my limit. It is always a question of “what’s next?”.
Q9 Were you surprised when the winners were announced and you found out you had won one of the top spots in the MPI IIC Annual Awards?
A9 I was. As I mentioned above, I am surrounded by great photographers and some of them are my friends. I am always amazed how creative they are and believe that it must be extremely difficult for them to create an average image moreover a bad one. A lot of us entered IIC last year and I was humbled to be recognized in the same top spots as they were.
Q10 What advice would you like to give to entrants of the MPI 2021 Annual Awards?
A10 Always aim high but be prepared to fall. I have been entering competitions for quite a while. I had my ups and downs. It was never a pleasant experience to fail but it was also the biggest opportunity to learn. My advice: get rid of the disappointment as it does not change the result. Start listening to the feedback instead. As time passes by, I usually appreciate and accept the critiques more and more.
MPI’s IIC is a reputable competition that has the best trophies and the best feedback. This is one of the best places to challenge ourselves, to learn, and hopefully to win.
Thank you for the opportunity to share my story and thoughts.