From Perth to globetrotting – a decade of a photographer’s journey
I have always loved beautiful images and found natural landscapes inspiring. But in my home country of Malaysia, I had very little interest in picking up a camera. When I moved to Perth in Western Australia, well over a decade ago, I found myself in a very different landscape – one that I couldn’t resist photographing. And so it’s here where my photography journey started.
Perth itself sits on a sun-drenched piece of coastline, with picture-perfect white sand beaches. Once you leave the city, you find yourself in a vast and often empty expanse that can take your breath away with its sheer scale alone. The landscapes vary from dramatic coastal rock formations to towering forests and deep red deserts. All along the coastline, the sea is an arresting turquoise, which both contrasts and compliments the almost blinding whiteness of the sand.
It was the beauty of these landscapes which inspired me to take up the camera and pursue my passion seriously. Every time I visited somewhere new, I had the urge to capture that landscape. I would send photos of the exotic places I visited back home to friends and family in Malaysia. I soon found that I had the same desire when I travelled further afield, both within the rest of Australia and everywhere else. When I moved to Perth, I had been focused on building a business in web and graphic design, but I realised that photography added a new and exciting skill to my creative belt.
Seeing that I had discovered a passion for photography, a dear friend bought me a tripod for my 30th birthday. That was ten years ago, and it opened up a whole range of new possibilities. Although it took me a year to discover how useful it could be, I learned that this simple piece of equipment is an essential tool to make your landscape shots superb, rather than just great.
Shooting at night or sunrise and sunset for example often requires a slow shutter speed, and the slightest shake of the hand can turn your postcard image into a blurry mess. Deciding where to set up the tripod also forces you to stop and think about the composition of the shot, and your photos usually end up better for it. I have been through four tripods now, and they have become an essential companion whenever I am out with my camera.
Photographing sunrises and sunsets has been one of the most enjoyable aspects of my work, and doing it has consistently provided me with breathtaking photographs. There is a reason that they are featured in so many prints, brochures, and websites. The sky is at its most vibrant and dynamic, and luckily for me the sunsets and sunrises in Western Australia are particularly impressive. No two sunrises or sunsets are ever the same, so each time you go to photograph one you never quite know exactly what you will come away with. The oranges, reds, yellows, and pinks are dramatic, and when they combine with the natural blue of the sky the result is always spectacular.
Besides the fun of photographing them, I also find experiencing them immensely satisfying. They bookend the day, and inspire reflections on what you have done or will do. Gautama Buddha said that “every day we are born again; it is what we do today that matters most”. Watching a beautiful sunrise is a perfect way to remind yourself of this, and to inspire you to leave yesterday’s troubles behind. Another wise person (although I am not sure who) said that “sunsets are proof that no matter what happens, every day can end beautifully”.
In many ways, I have found that photography suits my personality. To be a really good landscape photographer, the work and research you do before you get the camera out is as important as knowing how to use the equipment itself once you are in a position to take your picture. It means going out and finding the best views; getting out for a walk in the fresh air, which in itself has many benefits.
I love being outside and surrounding myself in nature. Whether I am hiking through Tasmanian forests to find waterfalls, up a mountain in Austria, or wandering around the historic streets of a quaint European city I am happy, and I have also stumbled unexpectedly onto some of my best photographs this way. The exercise I get while taking photographs helps keep my mind, body, and soul in good shape and, although I would still try to get out and hike otherwise, I am glad that photography gives me even more of a reason to do it.
Of course, you don’t always have people willing to come out on long walks with you or to stand around in one spot while you wait with your camera and tripod for the exact moment that the colours of the sunset line up perfectly. Most photographers will agree that it can be a very solitary pastime, and it is also a tough career to get into – something that can be dispiriting at times. One of the things I have realised on my journey is that the support of family and friends is invaluable. Luckily mine are incredibly supportive, and they provide me with encouragement and constructive criticism whenever I need it.
So what have I learnt on my photographic journey? And what would I tell people hoping to get into the field themselves?
First of all, there is no substitute for learning the basics. You have to take the time to learn how to use your equipment, and to understand concepts like aperture, white balance, and shutter speed. You have to learn to use Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop, and what the various types of filters and lenses are used for. If you really want to take the craft seriously, you will never get the results you want with your camera on automatic mode. It can take time and some trial and error, but it is essential.
Once you have a handle on that, it is important to honestly assess the quality of the photos you are taking. Understanding the concepts of photography will make them better, but there are other types of quality to consider. What do you want to capture? What do you want your photos to say? Anyone with enough patience can eventually learn how a camera works, but not everyone can delight and inspire with their choices of subject and the way they compose their shots.
That said, don’t be discouraged early on because these things take time. If you love photography, believe in yourself and your ability to get better. If you enjoy it enough to want to master it, and you believe that you have the ability to do so, you will find yourself putting in the time required without even meaning to.
Having the right attitude is key. While photography itself is fun and engaging, making a career of it takes persistence and dedication. There are a lot of great photographers out there, and unfortunately not enough opportunities for everyone. Go the extra mile to get your work out there. Take the time to learn not just the basics of photography, but the quirks of your specific camera and equipment. If you can’t find the time or the money to get to the things and places you want to shoot, try to find a new perspective to photograph your local area with.
I plan to use all of these things, as well as everything else I have learnt for my next set of projects. As well as the joy of experiencing a new part of the world, I can’t wait to travel more and photograph the world through my lens.
Some of my work has been exhibited in places as far afield as Amsterdam, Milan, Barcelona, and Las Vegas. Having already had a few artworks featured in exhibitions in recent months, I am excited that more people will be able to see my photography. Showcasing my work to the public is an extremely rewarding experience, and hopefully, I will get many more opportunities in the near future.
I am also in the early stages of putting together a photography book which will document my adventures around the world so far. More details to come about that soon.
- Camera: Sony A7II
- Lens: Zeiss Vario-Tessar FE 24-70 mm F4 and Sony FE 70-200 mm F4
- Filters: Nisi Filters – circular polariser (CPL), 10-stop ND and 6-stop ND
- Tripod: Manfrotto Be Free
- Backpack: Peak Design 20L Everyday Backpack
The original article can be found at From Perth to globetrotting – a decade of a photographer’s journey