Thai Photographer Exposes The Truth Behind Instagram Photos

Yoga in the Park - from the series 'Slowlife'
Yoga in the Park – from the series ‘Slowlife’

Instagram has taken the world by storm, with millions trying to get ‘likes’ for the creativity, aesthetic, and – dare I say it – ‘perfectness’ of their uploaded photos.

Bike - from the series 'Slowlife'
Bike – from the series ‘Slowlife’

Many others use the photos they upload to Instagram to create an impression how amazing their life is.

Idyllic Beach - from the series 'Slowlife'
Idyllic Beach – from the series ‘Slowlife’

With all the attention garnered by the photos on Instagram, much has been made about the myriad filters available for people to use in creating their Instagram masterpieces. Thai photographer Chompoo Baritone took a different approach in a series of humorous images exposing how many of those ‘perfect’ Instagram photos could have been created with simple cropping.

Laptop on bed - from the series 'Slowlife'
Laptop on bed – from the series ‘Slowlife’

The Bangkok-based photographer’s series ‘Slowlife’, pokes fun at these types of ‘impeccable’ lifestyle images on Instagram by highlighting just how easy it is to fake a beautiful lifestyle with some creative cropping.

Portrait - from the series 'Slowlife'
Portrait – from the series ‘Slowlife’

Having studied photography at King Mongkut’s Institute of Technology Ladkrabang in Thailand, Baritone has a good eye for how things can be staged. Her ‘Slowiife’ series is a strong argument for how cropping and the use of filters can turn mundane situations into photos of seemingly extraordinary lifestyles!

Foodporn from the series 'Slowlife'
Foodporn from the series ‘Slowlife’

While created with a humorous intent, Baritone’s work is actually a great case study for amateur photographers. “Slowlife” clearly highlights the effects cropping can have when creating a a photo.

Easy to Reach Photo Spots in Sydney

Sydney: Twilight
Sydney cityscape from the ocean at Twilight (Photo by Jason James / CC-BY)

Sydney is a beautiful city, and offers many attractions for both pro and amateur photographers. If you ever find yourself in the city with a few hours to wander about, there are several photo locations to choose from that are in or near the Central Business District (CBD).

Sydney Opera House by Night
Sydney Opera House by Night (Photo by Nicki Mannix / CC-BY)

The most visited place in Australia and without any doubt one of the most photographed buildings in the world, the Sydney Opera House is spectacular. You can shoot it from a lot of spots and different angles, and it’s especially beautiful at sunrise and sunset.

The Royal Botanic Gardens - Sydney, Australia
The Royal Botanic Gardens – Sydney, Australia (Photo by David Berkowitz / CC-BY)

Close by, Sydney’s huge Royal Botanic Gardens are a great place to get photos of historic buildings, statues, ponds, flowers, birds, and more. There’s also a small bay (‘Farm Cove’) where you can get great shots of the city skyline.

Sydney Harbor Bridge
Sydney Harbor Bridge during the day (Photo by Alastair Gilfillan / CC-BY)

Also close to the Opera house, the Harbor Bridge makes for many wonderful shots. Due to it’s size, it can be photographed from several locations, one of the most popular being Hickson Road Reserve. From here you can get great photos of the Harbour Bridge with iconic Luna Park in the background.

Circular Quay and the Rocks
Circular Quay and the Rocks, Sydney (Photo by RubyGoes / CC-BY)

Circular Quay is the main harbor port area, used by many of the ferries. While you’ll find lots of people wandering around here, it’s another location where you can take some stunning cityscape photos.

Queen Victoria Building
Queen Victoria Building, Sydney (Photo by Nicki Mannix / CC-BY)

If you’re interested in architectural photography, head over to the Queen Victoria Building. This shopping center is housed in a refurbished building that is really stunning. Step inside, and I guaranteed you’ll want to take some shots.

 

Many first-time travellers to Asia, particularly those on business, have asked about easily accessible photo opportunities in the cities they visit. This post is part of an ongoing series, each on a different Asian city, introducing a few photo locations for visitors with limited time.

Why a 50mm Lens should be your second lens purchase

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Chances are you bought your first DSLR with a kit lens (something like a18mm-55mm, or 24mm-105mm, for example). Kit lens are versatile and will serve you well as you get used to your new camera. But at some point you’ll start thinking about what lens you should buy next.

 

Many people will lust after a new zoom or telephoto lens, but I always suggest picking up a simple 50mm prime lens.

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Most popular brands offer solid, high-performing 50mm prime lens (f1.8) at reasonable prices (between US$100-200). For a second lens, I recommend getting a low-cost f1.8 50mm lens – you’ll be amazed, and pleased, with their performance. Higher-end, 50mm lenses (f1.4 and f1.2) are available, but they’re bigger, heavier, and expensive.

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Prime or fixed focal length lenses offer great value as they are usually inherently sharper than zoom lenses. This is partly due to there being less moving parts inside the lens, and less lens elements.

Prime lenses also produce beautiful ‘bokeh’ (how the lens renders the out-of-focus areas behind your subject) than most zooms.

B&W closeup of hooded woman
B&W closeup of hooded woman

50mm lenses are also lightweight (between 4-6 ounces, depending on the brand), and small, which make them easy to carry and unobtrusive when you’re using them.

The 50mm prime lens is also versatile. It’s great for street photography and wide open landscapes. It’s also a great portrait lens, just long enough to remove distortion from your subject’s face and flatter them a bit.

Li River in Guilin, China
Li River in Guilin, China

In addition, the 50mm f1.8 allows low light photography that kit zoom lenses can’t (even if they cover the 50mm focal length), because of their aperture limitations. A 50mm f1.8 lens will give you 2 F-stops more to open up versus a typical kit lens. You’ll be amazed at the photos you’ll be able to take in low light situations where flash can’t be used. Best of all, you’ll be able to take the shots without having to increase ISO to ridiculous levels.

Tokyo Tower by aotaro
Tokyo Tower at night

So, what’s the disadvantage to purchasing a 50mm prime lens? Simple… you’re going to have to learn how to use your feet! Instead of just zooming-in as you do with your kit lens, you’ll have to take a couple of steps closer to your subject. But, believe it or not, what seems like a disadvantage at first will actually make you a better photographer. You’ll be forced to actually think about composition more, and in doing so your photography will improve.

The shots you’ll be able to take with your new 50mm lens will renew your enthusiasm for taking photos.

 

Beijing’s Top Photo Spots

Bird's Nest, Beijing
View of the Bird’s Nest at night in Beijing (Photo by Curt Smith / CC-BY)

If you’re visiting Beijing and find you have some free time to go out and take a few photos, the city offers several wonderful locations to choose from.

Forbidden City, Beijing
The Forbidden City in Beijing during the day (Photo by Sam Greenhakgh / CC-BY)

No first time visitor to Beijing should miss the Forbidden City. The scale of the historic buildings and detail of the architecture are incredible, giving photographers a lot to focus on. (Tip: after exiting the north gate of the Forbidden City, turn right to get a great shot of the moat with the northeast turret tower in the background). You’ll want to make sure you have a wide angle lens with you!

Drum & Bell Towers, Beijing
Drum & Bell Towers, Beijing (Photo by spezz / CC-BY)

The Drum & Bell Towers is another great place to take snapshots. Aside from the two towers, the area is great for street photography of locals playing Mahjong, eating & drinking, or just relaxing.

789 Art Space, Beijing
Statue in 789 Art Space, Beijing (Photo by Khalid Albaih / CC-BY)

For something more modern, a visit to 798 Art Space with your camera can be a lot of fun. This district is full of coffee shops, art galleries and indoor and outdoor exhibitions. The outdoor display areas in particular will allow you myriad opportunities to get some interesting shots.

Summer Palace, Beijing
Summer Palace, Beijing (Photo by Jesœs Corrius / CC-BY)

The Summer Palace, China’s largest royal park, is the place to go is you want to shoot beautiful Chinese landscaping and architecture. Make sure you don’t miss the 17-arch bridge on Kunming Lake. (Tip: This is a great location to take some interesting black & white landscape photos).

Great Wall of china
Great Wall of China at Badaling (Photo by Keith Roper / CC-BY)

The Great Wall of China is a fantastic location to capture an iconic photo of your visit to Beijing. There are more than 20 different sections of the Great Wall around Beijing. The most visited section is the Badaling. However, for photos, most photographers agree the Jiankou section is actually the most scenic stretch of Great Wall near Beijing.

Many first-time travellers to Asia, particularly those on business, have asked about easily accessible photo opportunities in the cities they visit. This post is part of an ongoing series, each on a different Asian city, introducing a few photo locations for visitors with limited time.

Chinese Photographer’s “Portraits of the Self-Inflicted”

Reflection of woman's face in mirror
Reflection of woman’s face in mirror

Born in Beijing, China, Zhe Chen is a fine art photographer who has investigated and documented the self-inflicted activities of herself and others.

Dirty ashtray on white bedsheets
Dirty ashtray on white bedsheets

While growing up in Beijing, Zhe started scarring her flesh while in high school. She then ran away and took refuge at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California where she studied photography.

Close-up of woman's face
Close-up of woman’s face

Before she even turned 22, Zhe’s work attracted the attention of the Magnum Foundation and she was granted the Inge Morath Award for her second photography project entitled “Bees”.

Woman with bandaged arm holding fruit. From the 'Bees' project by Zhe Chen.
Woman with bandaged arm holding fruit. From the ‘Bees’ project by Zhe Chen.

In “Bees”, Zhe’s purpose was to record marginalized people in China, who, faced with chaos, violence, and alienation, feel compelled to leave self-inflicted physical traces and markings on their bodies.

Nude woman with burn marks on legs. From the 'Bees' project by Zhe Chen.
Nude woman with burn marks on legs. From the ‘Bees’ project by Zhe Chen.

Zhe found those she calls “Bees” by first showing them her own scars. This connection with their situation encouraged her subjects to be totally unselfconscious in front of her camera.

Woman behind dirty window. From the 'Bees' project by Zhe Chen.
Woman behind dirty window. From the ‘Bees’ project by Zhe Chen.

Currently living in Los Angeles, Zhe continues documenting her self-inflicted activities, while creating a series of projects focusing on body modification, human hair, post-traumatic stress disorder, identity confusion and memory.

Woman with long scar on her back. From the 'Bees' project by Zhe Chen.
Woman with long scar on her back. From the ‘Bees’ project by Zhe Chen.

Zhe holds a BFA in Photography & Imaging from Art Center College of Design.

May Photo Opportunity: Japanese Warriors on Parade

Mounted Samurai at Odawara Hojo Godai Festival
Close-up of mounted Samurai at Odawara Hojo Godai Festival(© LifeYouTV)

Odawara’s Hojo Godai Festival, held in early May, is an annual festival commemorating the five generations of the Hojo clan of Japan’s ‘Warring States’ period (Sengoku Jidai). This festival is a great place to capture photos of actors dressed as traditional Japanese warriors.

Samurai procession leaving Odawara Castle
Samurai procession leaving Odawara Castle during the Hojo Godai Festival in Odawara, Japan

The main event of the Odawara Hojo Godai Matsuri (festival) is the samurai warriors’ procession (musha gyoretsu), which proceeds from Odawara castle through the main streets of the city. The parade of nearly 2,000 people dressed as warrior troops (Musha-tai), cavalry (Kiba-tai), and gun troop (Teppo-tai) offers photographers a chance to capture a flavor of Japanese martial history.

Japanese warriors firing muskets at Odawara Hojo Godai Festival
Japanese warriors firing muskets at Odawara Hojo Godai Festival

Lending a lighter touch, following the warrior procession are ceremonial floats (mikoshi), and civilians performing the Lantern Dance (Chochin Odori), baton twirlers, and brass bands from the city’s junior high schools.

Mikoshi procession at Odawara Hojo Godai Festival
Mikoshi procession at Odawara Hojo Godai Festival (© bartman905)

Young Singaporean Fashion Photographer Makes A Splash

P_KanaKukui_Lenne Chai_1

Singapore-based Lenne Chai has built a reputation as an extraordinary fashion photographer in record time.

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First exposed to photography during a module on Photojournalism in her final year as a Mass Communication student, Lenne interned as a photojournalist for the Straits Times before launching her career as a freelance photographer.

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Making a splash in locally with her pastel-powered and unconventional images, Lenne soon caught the attention of Japan’s fashion industry and has since been regularly travelling to Tokyo, where she shoots for many leading Japanese publications.

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Lenne continues to expand her creative horizons by working on projects such as ‘Karaoke Party’ (a series of three fashion films presented as karaoke videos), and a collaboration with embroidery artist Teresa Lim titled ‘Sad Girls Club’.

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Lenne’s work has been featured in local and international publications such as NYLON Japan, Elle Girl (Japan), Harper’s Bazaar Singapore, Designaré, and SPUR (Japan).

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April/May Photo Opportunity: The Spectacular Elephants of Thrissur Pooram

Thrissur Pooram Festival, India
Large crowd at the Thrissur Pooram Elephant Festival

Amongst India’s numerous vibrant festivals, one of the most spectacular is Kerala’s annual Thrissur Pooram festival. A photographer’s dream, the festival takes place on the Pooram day of the Malayalam month of Medom (this usually falls between April and May).

Mahouts on elephants at Thrissur Pooram Elephant Festival
Mahouts on decorated elephants at Thrissur Pooram Elephant Festival

The main attraction of the festival is the colorfully costumed elephants parading through town on their way to the Vadakkunnathan temple.

Mahouts on elephants at Thrissur Pooram Elephant Festival
Mahouts and elephants parading through the town

The elephants are all beautifully decorated with golden headdresses, decorative bells and ornaments, palm leaves and peacock feathers. Each elephant is guided by his rider (mahout), whose costume is equally colorful.

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The mahout of each elephant carries an ornate parasol during their parade through town. When the elephants and their riders reach the temple, the mahouts pass their parasols amongst themselves, some while standing on their elephant’s back.

Crowds at the Thrissur Pooram Elephant Festival
Crowds at the Thrissur Pooram Elephant Festival

The festival’s activities are rounded off with folk dancing, drumming, and a spectacularly huge fireworks display that begins at 3 o’clock in the morning.

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Any photographer visiting India during Thrissur Pooram should definitely include Thrissur in their itinerary. While the crowds are huge and boisterous, you should be able to get some very memorable photos of the incredible elephants.

Malay Photographer’s Work is Defined by Thought and Vision

Thomas Leong is a self-taught photographer who loves black and white minimalist photography. Long exposures, minimalism and simplicity are hallmarks of this artist’s stunning work.

Calm After The Storm

Thomas describes his photographic vision as, ‘creating a connection between viewer and subject; using imagination, understanding and feeling that provoke one’s emotion.”

iSelf

Born in Ipoh, Malaysia, Thomas is currently living in Singapore where he practices photography as a hobby. He makes a living as a Technical Manager in semiconductor equipment.

Left: "Crossroad"Right: "Frozen"
Left: “Crossroad” Right: “Frozen”

Leong actively uses social media to share his images. You’ll find him on 500px, Flickr and Facebook. Judging from his photos, Leong should certainly consider delving into photography as a profession.

black & white long exposure photos
black & white long exposure photos

“Fine art is work defined by the photographer’s thought and vision; it is the truth behind art.” Thomas Leong

Left: "Anarchy" / Right: "Contemplation"
Left: “Anarchy” / Right: “Contemplation”

Not Every Photographer Is An Aspiring Artist

Tied-up in Jakarta
Indonesian man in costume in Jakarta

What determines whether a photographer is an artist? For one thing, artists have a personal objective. Before they even pick up their camera they have a specific vision of what they want to create – what’s often referred to as the ‘story they want their photo to tell’. Similar to artists who use other media, the challenge for these photographers is to actually accomplish their vision. That’s where their creativity, planning, imagination, technical skills, and post-processing talent come into play.

Another thing photographic artists share is a strong opinion of which of their photos is ‘good’. Every artist takes hundreds, thousands, of photos. Amongst them are a lot of average shots, some really awful images, and one or two photos that they believe successfully represent what they aimed to capture – whether you agree or not. Inevitably, those photos are the only ones the artist presents to the public.

The third thing I’ve noticed about photographers who can be called artists is that all have in common a persistent sense of dissatisfaction. I’ve never come across someone I consider an artist who is not still searching for a way to improve their photography. They’re perpetually looking for ways to improve their ability to capture with their camera the vision they have in their mind.

Keep in mind that the label ‘artist’ does not equate with ‘successful artist’. Most artists never find success. On top of that, many have their works derided and dismissed. That doesn’t mean they aren’t artists.

Most people taking photos have never given the above much thought for the simple reason that the purpose of their photography has never been ‘to create art’.

Street food - stall in Japan
Crowd in front of street food stall in Japan

“Check out this photo I took!” A phrase we’ve all heard a million times. Our standard responses range from “awesome” to “looking great” to “where was that?” This usually leads into a conversation about the subject of the photo – you, your lunch, the location, etc… and the photo is never looked at again.

When people take – then share – a snapshot, they’re satisfied with the above scenario. The photo served its purpose. It got a conversation started.

For the vast majority of people taking and sharing photos today, those photos serve as a part of their overall communication – just as text does. These people aren’t trying to make you think deeply about something, nor are they trying to tell a story – they’ll do that with text messages, or verbally if they’re standing next to you.

And that’s fine. It just means that in today’s digital age, in addition to text and emojis, photos are also a means of communication.

A more traditional use of photos by the masses is as a means of capturing and sharing memories. Family outings, a child’s first steps or graduation, places we’ve been, and people we met. The desire to record a memory remains as strong today as it was hundreds of years ago when people would commission a painting of a family member. These ‘memory’ photos (for lack of a better word) are important to us regardless of whether they were taken by a professional photographer in a studio, or taken by a family member with a smartphone.

Backlit Japanese Woman
Backlit Japanese woman in kimono

Another group of photographers are commercial photographers – those who are commissioned to take photos for specific purpose – ranging from family portraits to product shots for a company. While it can be argued that some of their commercial work is artistic, by default it doesn’t qualify as art as it is based on a client’s objectives – not on the artist’s vision. (Interestingly, quite a few commercial photographers are actually accomplished artists whose commercial work pays the bills).

So, when you think of the hundreds of millions of people taking photos, it’s really a very tiny minority who are taking photos with the objective of creating art.

A method of communication, a tool for recording memories, a way of telling a story – the purpose a person has when they press the shutter button determines whether they are an artist, or not.