I like to talk about me but I don’t like to talk about me

You know how here are people who could just say, “I’m bored, leave me asks!” and then their Formspring/Tumblr ask boxes would be filled with questions within minutes? That’s never me. But that’s because I don’t like to ask for attention outright like that, but always thinking to myself “Ask me ask me I know I know!” And I finally got the chance to be the interviewee and was featured last week on The Harmonic Series as their Photographer of the Week. These are some basic questions regarding my journey in photography that I’d like to share on the blog at some point or another, but being a closet attention seeker, I just couldn’t bring myself to do publicly publish a Q&A with myself when I yet have substantial achievements under my belt. But yes, I would still like to talk about myself.

Once again thank you The Harmonic Series for picking me!

What’s in your bag/what gear do you own? What would you like to purchase next?
I am shooting with my first and only DSLR, the Canon Rebel XSi that I got on sale during Christmas in 2008. I have a 50mm f/1.8, a 85mm f/1.8 and a Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8. I have the kit lens but I don’t use it anymore, I also have the Canon 430EXII Speedlite. I’m hoping to upgrade to a full frame camera and/or something with a better noise range that also take videos, but I’ll most likely wait until my XSi completely dying out on me before getting a new camera body. Though there are days when I think to myself, “Screw the new body and just get new glass.” So it really depends on if my XSi passes out on me or if I somehow found the money and the impulse for a new lens, but I kept spending my money on old film cameras…

How long have you been involved with photography?
I have been involved with photography since 2007 when I first took photography classes in high school but it was nothing serious beyond handing in assignments and developing photos in the darkroom (I miss it a lot). Then in 2008 my friends brought me to my first club-sized concert to see Cute Is What We Aim For and I had so much fun. I always felt the need to “document everything” and a fascination with anything on stage so naturally I spent the majority of the time taking photos on my point-and-shoot. I also went to my first Warped Tour the same year and then somehow found out Todd Owyoung’s blog and began reading, it just went from there. But I supposed I never really had a favourite subject before bands, and I didn’t take photography as seriously before then.

Who was the first band/artist you shot?
If you count the first official photo pass, it was for Take Action Tour in 2009 with Cute Is What We Aim For headlining, it was a big deal to me because CIWWAF was the band for me that got everything started (re: above question). But the first band I shot with a photo pass was Anarbor, cause they were the opening band of the tour. And if we are talking about before photo passes, it was probably Avril Lavigne, I remember seeing her in an arena show, sitting sooo far away and I still couldn’t help but take some photos of the general atmosphere and lighting.

What did your first time in the pit feel like?
I’m a natural nervous wreck, I freak out about absolutely everything. And so I was, not kidding, shaking in the photo pit for Anarbor. Luckily my nerves calmed down with each band I shot that night. But this feeling always sticks with me, I am scared of not performing well or not getting good enough shots. You’d think I would be really chill about it after being in the pit for many times, but that feeling does not go away because there are so many variables each time. So I’d suggest everyone to take it easy, take a chill pill and don’t be like me, I’m not a good example for this!

What is your dream band/artist to shoot and/or tour with?
It’s really hard for me to think of any now. I guess when I started I had a few artists I wanted to shoot and then I did photographed them so the list is not updated yet. But I’d like to photograph Avril Lavigne cause I looooved her when I was 11/12 (come on we all had that phase…) and her concert was my first, so it does hold some sentimental value. The other dream band would have been Linkin Park (for old time’s sake, they were my another favourite when I was 11/12) but I had photographed them already. Time to update my bucket list! As far as touring goes, frankly I’d go out with anyone who’d have me, but I know it really depends on many things. Right now I’d love to work with this Chinese-Canadian singer-songwriter Wanting Qu, she is fluent in both Chinese and English and she writes songs in both languages. I had the chance to interview her for my music blog Misunderrated and she’s lovely. She has a growing fan base in both North America and Asia and I would love the chance to go out with her and document all that.

Who are some of your influences?
Todd Owyoung and Adam Elmakias. I read their blogs religiously since I started, so it probably shaped a lot of my artistic decisions. There are so much to take away from their blogs and they are awesome for sharing their knowledge like that. So I’d like to think I’m influenced by Todd’s precision and Adam’s spontaneity.

Do you edit your photos? If so, what software do you use and how much time and effort do you put into your editing?
I edit them on Lightroom 3 and I rarely use Photoshop for my concert photos. I usually try to keep it in Lightroom and adjust some curves and things with the RAW file cause I prefer to keep the photos as natural as possible. I don’t usually spend that much time in editing, it’s trying to decide between a few edits/different shots that take the most time for me.

How do you feel your photography has changed since you first began? Do you expect it to change in the future?
I’m honestly not sure if I’m going forward or backward. I was just looking at the photos I took when I started in 2009, and I was really impressed with my 17-year-old self because I have no idea how I managed to take some of the photos I did. As I grow up, I became more critical of myself and my photography. Right now, I suppose I’m looking for something different to photograph as well as searching for a way to stand out. It’s really challenging to differentiate yourself among a sea of photographers who are shooting from relatively the same angle and the same subjects you are. I guess I’m trying to push my limits and find my style. But I don’t think I could do that if I keep only photographing concerts. I arrived to this point probably cause I haven’t been shooting as many shows since I started university, it does give me distance and a new perspective on photography and other things.

If you could give any advice to newer concert photographers what would you tell them?
Have fun in the pit but be professional. Don’t post all the photos — “you’re only as good as the photos you show”. Don’t be afraid to try new things. Shoot things other than concerts, don’t just look at other concert photographers, look at all sorts of photographs and do something else other than music and concerts. Have some balance in your photography.

By Jessie Lau

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