Interview by Brendan O Se on Mobiography

Hi Arik,

Thanks for taking the time to do this interview with me. As you know, I loved our time shooting together in Singapore and Bangkok. Thanks again.

Brendan at his talk in Bangkok, 2016

 

Yoko our photographer guide in Bangkok is a hard working and knowledgeable photography guide.  She is Japanese and speaks fluent English. You can contact her at:

yokoate@yahoo.com +66 (0)891 533 852 (WhatsApp)  https://www.flickr.com/photos/128108201@N06

 


BRENDAN O SE TALK IN BANGKOK, 2016

img_3252
We first met in Singapore and had a couple of hours to do streets.

img_3523 img_3427


Hi Arik,

Thanks for taking the time to do this interview with me. As you know, I loved our time shooting together in Singapore and Bangkok. Thanks again.

So, tell us about yourself and how you got into photography.  Link to actual pages.

I would be 58 in May this year.  Younger than most people would think because of my grey hair.  I retired from the Singapore Police Force in 2003 and have been a tennis coach since then.  After I retired, I did some commercial photography work and ran a photographic studio.  In 2004, things got to be very busy and I stopped my commercial photography business and concentrated on tennis coaching as I wanted to work with kids more and kept photography as a passion.

I started to have an interest in photography around 1979.  A colleague gave me a photographic magazine, the “Amateur Photographer”.  However I only purchased a camera in 1980 when I met another colleague Koh Ah Leck who was my mentor for a year or so.  It was at his house that I saw the process of my first black and white print getting developed.  My interest in photography stopped for a few years after I was transferred to the Police Academy in 1981, and squash was my main interest then. In 1984 I was very fortunate to attend a Basic Photography course offered by the Police Photographic Club taught my another guru of the period, Mr Yip Hoi Kee.  My interest snowballed and I met another mentor Mr Tan Jiak Hee who is another international acclaimed photographer.  I am really blessed to have met them and I would like to express my gratitude to them for sharing with me.

You were telling me that you were initially a little reluctant to cross over to shooting mobile; what changed that?

Thats a joke.  My friend from Canada, John Kan, an avid traveller used to send me photos taken on his iPhone 4/5 of his travels through WhatsApp and emails.  I hardly took a second look at them and told him to get a proper camera for goodness’ sake. I also have another friend, Teo Beng Tee a very talented lady photographer who would shoot on her iPhone and say how good the colours turned out, but I also brushed her off.  You can see both of their works on www.phonetography.sg

In Jan this year, a guy offered to trade his Oppo Find 7 with a mirrorless system I was trying to sell.  I did some research and was surprised that it offered a 50mb raw file option. I had always been a pixel peeper and had my hands on the Sony A77, Canon 1Ds MII, Nikon D800e etc before. After a complete cycle, I’m back to Canon.  Having said all that, I traded my camera for the Oppo Find 7 and was pretty impressed with it. Coincidentally at the same time one founding member of MonogramAsia suggested to me that mobiphotography would be the way to go if I wanted to do photography workshops. I was at that time discussing with Canon Singapore about conducting photography workshops for senior citizens.

Was there a lightbulb moment?  

When I knew I would be attending a talk in Bangkok in March by you, I thought better to get an iPhone so that I would be able to get the most from the talk and the time I hoped to spend shooting the streets with you.  As I was also travelling to Tg Pinang in early Mar, I decided to get the iPhone to practice first so that I could get some tips from you when we meet. I am sure that was the turning point when I tried the iPhone 6s plus in Tg Pinang. It was really fun shooting with it.  It was liberating! With the selfie stick I could shoot at angles not possible before with the dslrs. The exposure was almost spot on and the colours were really remarkable!  And because of the large screen, I could easily show my subjects how they looked like in the photos and we always had a good laugh together.  It sort of made street photography more fun, bonding the photographer and the subjects. It was also easy to share our group selfies shots via WhatsApp group chats.

What advice would you give to photographers who are still a little reluctant about mobile photography?

There will always be photographers reluctant to embrace changes in technology.  During the early years of digital cameras, I was fortunate to be among the first to try it.  Imagine spending about $700 for a 640 by 480 resolution Fujifilm. Even after a few years there was still a lot of apprehension. Some photographers just refused to change either because they didn’t want to invest in a digital camera and computer, or just simply refused to learn. Some just brushed the technology off and say that it would never be as good as film, just like what I did to John on his photos shot on iPhones. For those photographers who love shooting streets and the environment, they don’t know what they are missing on.  The mobile phones are the best  as they are non threatening, light, and spontaneous.  And with a selfie stick, there are potential viewpoints and angles to shoot that were not possible before.  I wear glasses and I don’t really miss the viewfinder of the DSLRs as I tend to knock my glasses off when I bring the camera to my eye.  

You use a selfie stick, but not in a way people might be familiar with. Tell us how and why you use it the way you do?

I have been using long lens for most of my people photography. I prefer not to intrude into their personal space and to keep a distance.  With the selfie stick, I manage to do that – keep a space between us and at the same time, I am able to watch the surroundings. I also have bad knees and with the selfie stick I am able to shoot more low to high angles than before.  Another plus point is the high view point above all the heads.  You don’t have to struggle with a ladder..lol.  Not forgetting it is safer to poke your phone into a angry dog’s face than with your dslrs.

How about drawbacks to shooting mobile; what do you think they are?

Noise, macro, sports, birds, wild life where you need the superzoom to reach.

What do you think a DSLR offers that a smartphone doesn’t?

Quality in term of resolution and  low light situations, choice of lenses, and definitely birding and sports

What would be on your wishlist for the iPhone 7? 

Low noise, portrait, perspective control, using external flash, long exposure, star tracking, macro;


What about mobile photography in Asia? How do you see it at present and how do you see it developing?  


I think mobile photography in Asia is going to take a huge leap.  Thanks to Jian Wang in a way.  I saw his photos and they are really good.  So I started to ask myself if image quality was that important. I liked what I saw and it got me thinking – is photography all about image quality?  MonogramAsia started a platform for passionate photographers regardless of tools used.  I am sure that is the direction to go.  The technology in handphones has advanced so much in the last couple of years and it will continue to advance at a very rapid rate as it is a tool that is a must have in our modern world. The camera is an important part of the phone and I am sure the manufacturers will invest more time and money on the R&D resulting in better sensors and applications that is comparable with digital cameras in future.

Do you have any funny stories to tell about shooting with iPhone? 

Yes!  I was with you shooting in Bangkok Chinatown and I started shooting this couple reading their newspapers. I took a couple of shots first from a safe distance.  After gaining courage I got closer.  I am not sure what happened next but the old uncle gave a shout when he turned around.  He spotted me and when I turned back I also got a shock as you were behind me.  You were a pro stalker!

Where is your dream location to shoot? 

Cuba for streets and Cananda or Kyoto in autumn for sceneries.
Who are some of your favourite photographers and why? Ansel Adam for his landscape images and Henri Cartier-Brensen for his decisive moments.  I will try to copy both their styles but with a mobile phone 🙂


Where can people find your work? 

At www.Li.sg you can find some of my travel shots taken with analog and digital cameras  over the years.
After I started using the mobile phone to shoot, I rediscovered the fun of photography and started a site just for mobile phone users at www.phonetography.sg  Hope you can share some of your photos and tips with us as a contributor too. That would be a great honour.


Is there anything I have not asked you that you would like to mention?

Thanks again Brendan for your encouraging words and the opportunity to share my take on using the mobile phone for photography. And also MonogramAsia for organising the talks in Bangkok and Jakarta where I had the good fortune to meet you, hear your talk and especially the tips you shared so freely.