Every trip tells a story that one can only interpret. It’s your experience, your feelings, your individual understanding of a place, a country, the culture and everything in between. With travel, every other (frequent) traveler that I personally knew owns a camera. Some travels with a SGD $8K DSLR with an arsenal of lenses while some travels with digital compact cameras. The point here, some of them returned with excellent photos that retold the story and experience of the place they visited and on the other end, some came back with photos that I myself do not understand what were they shooting in the first place. Been there before? I am sure you did.
As a photography tech reviewer, I got to know Michael Lee recently during my area of work and Michael had just started his very own company xing-asia.com specializing in photography tours. What interest me to know Michael better is none other than his travel photos that will shame many so-called “Travel Photographers”. It was till much later that I came to know that he uses a Ricoh Compact which he used to produce those stunning photos. Spoken to him many times and found Michael to be a humble and down to earth type of person that you will love travelling with. With the first given opportunity, I managed to catch up with Michael over a coffee and have him share some inspirational tips with our readers here.
Michael started photography in the most unusual way (well at least when compared to most of us). First, He organized a trip to Nepal and next, he grouped together a motley crue of 10 complete strangers. A 12 days trip to Nepal happened and these 10 travel pals became lifetime friends after the journey together. This inspires Michael to expand the interests of travelling and photography and since then, Michael had left his footsteps in numerous countries in Asia (North Asia to South East Asia).
The burning passion & the travel bug in him had resulted in Michael making a career switch to becoming a full time professional travel photographer who not only conducts tours to exotic places, he makes every trip out to be a photography class while calling the world his classroom guiding the travelers with him on the finer tips of travel photography and street photography.
Needless to say, when I asked him which photography genre he specialize – his answers are almost taken for granted when he said “Street Photography & Travel Photography”.
I attributed that to Michael’s way of approaching street people. He likes to strike up conversations with strangers on the streets and listen to their stories. And from these conversations, he learned about the way of life of people from every country he visited.
This inspires Michael a lot – to do more, to talk more, to learn more. These stories are evident in the photos that Michael took.
Michael uses both digital compacts & digital SLRs, but at most times, you will see him with his trusty Ricoh camera. Michael shared that a compact does reduce the unwanted stares from strangers when he travels and people will be less sensitive to smaller cameras. This helps him to get lots of soulful shots of strangers in the midst of their activities – all natural. He also added that he has the Pentax 645D, a digital medium format camera on his wish list.
When asked why he loves Ricoh so much unlike the majority of the photographers on our island who swears by their Canons & Nikon – he replied;
“If you have not tried shooting with a Ricoh camera, you should. Ricoh cameras are well designed, a marvel piece of art that was designed by photographers for photographers.”
I asked Michael on his views on 3rd party brand equipments and what he thinks about it. He shared 3rd party brand does not mean inferior, sometimes, it performs better and priced better too. He quoted Sigma as an excellent example of his believes. It is also not just about the equipment, what really matters to a travel photographer is the passion and how one uses his/her perspectives correctly to an identified subject. One should also respect the culture, the subject and the ambience-environment to create an outstanding image. These are beyond technical capabilities – instead, this is very individual and personal.
When asked if he is not a professional travel photographer, what would he be?
Michael (smilingly) replied that he would probably be working in some MNCs and working hard to save up for yet another trip! Michael share some good tips for those who are planning to enter the industry with a DSLR,
“As a professional photographer, the priority is to make a living. It is different from shooting photos for leisure. Those entering the industry should have a solid business plan, ignore what the competition is doing, stay focus on building a distinct style and brand that will ensure competitive advantage over others.”
And to the beginners?
“Keep a camera with you at all time, you never know what might happen the next moment or who you might come face to face with. Keep shooting and constantly look for inspirations, force yourself to take some shots on a daily basis.”
Thank you Michael for your time and taking time out to share with our readers your insights and tips to travel photography.
Hope the readers can pick up key points and put it to practical use!
PENTAX RICOH IMAGING CORPORATION was originally founded in 1919 under the name Asahi Optical Joint Stock Co. In the 1950s, launched the first SLR camera, the Asahiflex I, and the company haven’t stopped since. From the Asahi PENTAX single-lens reflex camera to the Spotmatic and to our most recent K-5IIs and incredibly tiny Q10, Pentax empowers and inspired photographers around the world.
For information on Ricoh, click here.
About APDS (Exclusive Distributor for Singapore)
Audio & Photo Distributor (Far East) Pte. Ltd. formerly known as MHE Consumer (S) Pte. Ltd was founded in 1973.
Since its inception Audio & Photo has had been the distributor of many well-known international consumer brands such as Konica cameras from Japan, Kenwood and Nakamachi hi-fi products from Japan, and Metz flash and accessories, Rollei cameras and Jos Schneider enlarging/professional lenses from Germany, to name a few.
Currently Audio & Photo Distributor is the sole distributor of Pentax & Ricoh cameras from Japan . With over 35 years of marketing experience and history, Audio & Photo has developed a strong network of dealers located islandwide in Singapore with whom it enjoys close rapport and support.
Audio & Photo Distributor (FE) Pte Ltd bides by its belief that it exists because of the customer, and therefore it will always strive to serve the needs of its customers with full dedication and commitment.