These days, anyone can take a picture at any time, but that doesn’t mean the art of photography is as easy to master. This is especially true when it comes to photographing wildlife, an endeavor that often takes more patience than specialized equipment.
“People who have watched too much TV think that the rainforest is teeming with creatures everywhere you look,” commented Ch’ien Lee, an accomplished biologist and professional photographer.
“While this is true to some degree, you don’t necessarily see them when you enter the forest for the first time. Most people don’t have the patience to see what nature has to offer and become frustrated thinking ‘There’s nothing to see!’. If we slow down, approach quietly, and look at nature closely, this is when we can begin to see the hidden things.”
Although Ch’ien’s photos of flying frogs and birds of paradise have earned him critical acclaim, his interest in photography began merely as a way to record all the amazing species he encountered on expeditions into Borneo’s 130-million year old rainforest. In an Instagram world, where the point of photos is often the photos themselves, it’s easy to forget the depth and complexity a single image can have. Filters abound. Smartphones all come equipped with editing options to sharpen and saturate, making it child’s play to render just about any snapshot visually appealing.
But passion for your subjects is nearly impossible to fake.
“Remember that your pictures have the ability to tell a story about your subject,” Ch’ien advised. “While a pretty picture is nice, a photo that shows behavior or some adaptation allows you to explain a lot more than just being something beautiful to look at.”
His other piece of advice for amateur photographers is to fret less about having all the perfect equipment: “Just get out in nature and go exploring and use whatever camera you have.”
The process of taking photos can be as rewarding as the results when you’re photographing something you’re truly excited about. Ironically, it can often lead you to take better photos than if you were only focusing on creating beautiful pictures.
Any professional photographer will tell you luck is part of the job, but also that luck is more likely to come your way if you take the time to understand your subjects. Since not everyone has devoted their career to studying the habits of the rainforest’s breathtaking species, Ch’ien leads two expeditions with StraitsJourneys. One guides participants on photographing Creatures of the Night in Sarawak, Malaysia and the other on Papua’s Birds of Paradise; and both will leave you not only with incredible photos but with once-in-a-lifetime experiences.
StraitsJourneys is a place for travelers to find and book deep travel experiences tailored to specific interests. The experiences are presented by carefully selected local experts. Click here to register your interest in StraitsJourneys and be the first to receive our stories, updates and offers.
An Irish-American residing in Singapore, Laura Jane O’Gorman Schwartz is a writer of fiction and non-fiction. Her work has been featured in publications such as The Wall Street Journal and The Shanghai Literary Review.