A name that needs no introduction in the world of photography, Alex Soh is a firm believer in the power of photography to communicate ideas and emotions. With a desire to capture the wonders of nature that will compel people to worship its wonderful creator, Alex has captured some of the most incredible landscape photos which have been used in the publication Our Daily Bread, Singapore Tourism Board and Getty Images.
Kenneth Wong talks to the master photographer & Nikon ambassador in Singapore (Nikon Professional Photographer) about his journey into the world of photography, his most memorable experience and one advice he has for those looking to take their photography to the next level.
How did you get started on your photography journey?
If you know my background, I have Dyslexia so capturing images is a way for me to express and explain myself. Over the years, pictures has allowed me to express myself well and through these images that I capture, somehow people find that they can communicate with them. So from hobby to a profession, it has also become my passion and a 20 year journey. Looking back at all the pictures I have shot over these 20 years, if I were to attempt to complete them in Day 1, I don’t think it would be possible as these are the result of a passion that keeps flowing.
What drew you into doing photography as a career?
Passion. God gave me a gift in photography and this is a way for me to communicate. A picture speaks a thousand words and can change your thoughts and feelings about the day.
Having travelled so much, is there one place that is on your “to shoot list”?
I have quite a few places in my mind that I would like to travel to, but every time I plan to travel, there will be something else that would pop up that requires my time to do first. *laughs*
Some of these countries would include Alaska & Africa as there is just so much in those regions to cover. But I like to also go in depth in every time I am on assignment. Take the United States for example, I have traveled there so many times on assignment and yet there is still so much to discover.
One of the things I like to do is to return to society like the Rice Project or even in Cambodia for example where one project’s aim is to build a 3.6KM road for the people. The returns from these projects are priceless as the village head told me that the project not only helped the people but also changed their lives. This return helps you to find yourself and reminds you that the work is useful as it helped lives. This is very rewarding to any photographer who uses his or her photos to help fellow human beings.
What is your most memorable photography experience?
It would be my experience at Huangshan, which was part of my one-month backpacking photo journey in China.
The view of Huangshan was breath taking, as were the 15 kilometres of steps. During winter, every step was very slippery due to the ice and as such, I slipped countless times. When I was halfway up the mountain, I realized I was on the wrong route. As I was running out of time to make it to the top of the mountain, I found myself in a dilemma as to whether I should continue going up or to head back down as both routes were equally difficult. However, if I fell asleep at a rock shelter, I would probably freeze to death in the minus 20 degrees Celsius cold so I decided to press on and continue with my upward journey. I was not able to make it to my appointed accommodation in time as it was another 1 to 2 kilometres away, but I managed to arrive at the second summit and requested for a room there.
In all, I climbed the icy steps from 7am to 7pm in the cold winter in order to arrive on top of Huangshan!
What is one camera body and lens that you cannot do without in your travels?
This is not an easy question *laughs* as I always tell people to keep changing lens. But rather for me, there is one rage that I never use which is the middle range, the 24-70 range. I don’t want to use this range as this range can be achieved by foot. You can either walk forward or backwards to make up this range to capture the images. Unlike the wide angle lens which is used to capture a bigger picture or the telezoom range like the 70-200 where it can be used to capture images beyond the cliff.
So I change for what I want and as an artist, these are my tools I use. Although for camera body, I only have one now as I always joke with people, I have two bodies – my body and camera body. After all, I don’t think anyone would want to carry two camera bodies to scale mountains like Huangshan.
Lens wise, my favourite lens would be the AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED which allows me to capture the great expense of nature being a wide angle lens. Although it is not an easy lens to master as it will include things like dustbins or dirt and trash on the floor being a wide angle lens, once you learn to handle it well, this lens is beautiful.
Any advice for photographers looking to take their craft to the next level?
Go with your passion as it is the most important. It may be a hobby now like a season of time but if you are really serious about it, develop it into a passion and it will go a long way. For myself, I am doing my photography with joy and sharing it with you not because I am the expert but because I love it. This can be seen that every time I talk about photography, there is this glow in my eyes and I can go on and on with my photography journey.
It is important for photographers to be your own self and not stay in someone else’s shadow. Capture what you want to express to other people. For myself, I choose to shoot landscape because I love to sit on top of the mountain, tuck my leg out and look at the great expense and enjoy myself before I start shooting a few frames. And at those moments, I wish my friends were there to sit at the right and left with me.
There was this incident in India where I was sitting at the edge of a mountain, due to the V shape coming in, I could put my legs out. The wind was blowing through in the middle and in front of me so I put a leaf there and the wind caused it to turn 360 degrees and fly off. It is these movements that remind me how beautiful nature is and that I am enjoying myself.
So for new photographers, find your own journey and tell your own stories as this is what Photography is. To tell stories and what you want to express to people. The moment you want to shoot something, stop and think about what you want to capture it for. There must be a story, a purpose for the day. If there is no purpose, find one and think what I want to do with these shots after I am done.
Every photographer or even professional going out with an assignment because they go with a purpose. And this is where they discover how to create and how to craft.
Thank you Alex for your time.
To find out more about Alex’s photography, do head over to http://www.alexsohphotography.com.
Photo Credits: Alex Tan & Nicholas Kwan
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