It takes planning, patience, skill, and a bit of luck to take the perfect photo. Institute members tell Thomas Lo about their journey as photographers, and how joining the Institute’s Photography Interest Group taught them how to approach photography from a new perspective
Tony Wan FCPA (practising), Director of Ascenda Cachet CPA Limited and the Co-convenor of the Institute’s Photography Interest Group, enjoys miniature photography.
Somewhere in a park, under the scorching sun, Tony Wan FCPA (practising) is squatting down and testing different angles for the perfect shot of a miniature bus. With the sound of the shutter going off and a smile on his face, he has “transformed” a toy bus into a life-sized vehicle through the lens of his camera, a Canon 5D Mark IV.
“It is always fun to be creative through the technique of ‘defamiliarization’ for my viewers. To regular people, it might just be a simple arm rest on a random bench. But for a little figure, it can be a balance beam or even a grand bridge. It just depends on how we look at it,” says Wan, Director of Ascenda Cachet CPA Limited and the Co-convenor of the Institute’s Photography Interest Group (PoIG).
Wan bought his first digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) camera to celebrate graduating from the Hong Kong Institute of CPAs’ Qualification Programme to take high-resolution photos of his graduation ceremony. After that, he started taking different courses and learning from different professional photographers to explore the art of photography. He then realized how vast and vibrant the world of photography can be. In 2012, he decided to organize a small workshop, gathering fellow Institute members who shared the same interest. Encouraged by the passion of the group, he decided to officially form the PoIG in 2013.
In 2014, he got in touch with photographers Felix So and Anthony Yau. So, a professional commercial photographer, and Yau, an expert in capturing the northern lights, further inspired his approach to photography. “I consider myself as more of a theory-based person, and I admire their style. They can always back up their work with concrete theories,” Wan explains. “With theory, photography becomes less out of reach. Occasionally, I invite Felix and Anthony to be our guest lecturers for our interest group. I also give lectures to novice photographers as well.”
Prior to the pandemic, Wan and the interest group held at least one group activity every month. “It is all about providing a platform and sharing what we love and know. That’s what I love the most about the group. We improve and inspire each other,” Wan adds.
His photography covers various styles such as landscape, portrait and product shots. With group activities currently banned due to the current COVID-19 outbreak, Wan has chosen to focus on miniature photography. This style allows him to turn any corner of his home into the perfect set for a photoshoot. “By changing the setting or angle, I can turn ordinary-looking scenery or everyday objects into something different. That’s where the magic of photography lies.”
“By changing the setting or angle, I can turn ordinary-looking scenery or everyday objects into something different.”
David Luk FCPA (practising), Asia Financial Controller at TTI Inc., enjoys taking photos in black and white.
David Luk FCPA (practising), Asia Financial Controller at TTI Inc., a Berkshire Hathaway Company, was introduced to photography at a very young age. Though he spent much of his time flipping through photography magazines and listening to his father and uncle chat about photography as a child, he did not own a camera until graduating from university in 1994.
After graduating, Luk’s focus was on his career and family, and his camera was only really used for capturing family moments. Then, in 2012, he received a letter inviting him to join a photography workshop organized by the Institute. It was Luk’s first official photography workshop and it introduced him to different methods of photo-taking, igniting his passion for the hobby. From then, he started collecting cameras and lenses. Out of his seven cameras and a dozen of lenses, he often uses the Canon 1DX and Leica M to better demonstrate his skills. “Cameras are no longer only a tool for recording. It is a way for me to show the world through my eyes,” Luk explains.
He is most drawn to black and white photography. Members of the interest group have often complimented his work, which has encouraged him to further develop his technique and focus on the style. He believes it is a style that easily captures the emotion of the scene and helps him to highlight the main theme of the work. “Photos in colour might distract the viewers where they might concentrate on the colour instead of the object or the emotion I want to convey,” he adds.
Luk draws inspiration from Hong Kong photographer Fan Ho, famous for capturing Hong Kong’s street life in black and white. “I admire how he can turn the ordinary into the extraordinary. The way he captures the feeling of moment with shade and lighting is phenomenal,” Luk adds. Ever since seeing Ho’s photos for the first time, he continuously revisits his work online.
Though it may be common for photographers to wait for long periods of time to get the right shot, Luk embraces spontaneity. “Some of my friends would insist on waiting for hours or days just to capture the perfect moment, which is a quality I admire, but I believe in fate. You will run into the best moment naturally without waiting for it. Once we can all travel, I am excited to see what fantastic scenery I will run into in Iceland. My job is to seize it when it comes,” Luk explains.
“It is a way for me to show the world through my eyes.”
Anntice Lai CPA (practising), Managing Director and Head of Technical & Regulatory at D & Partners CPA Limited, is most interested in astrophotography. Pictured here is the Milky Way galaxy, which she captured at Clearwater Bay Country Park.
Following nature’s timetable
Anntice Lai CPA (practising) started off as a casual photographer when she was a student. As a painter, she mainly used a camera to capture scenes to paint. “Back then I was studying art in secondary school and my first camera was a shared one. It was just a tool for me to capture some interesting scenes, which I would paint afterwards,” says Lai, Managing Director and Head of Technical & Regulatory at D & Partners CPA Limited.
Everything changed during Lai’s final year in university after attending a course covering the basic concepts of photography. Over the years, she has joined different workshops, read books on photography and browsed photos online to draw inspiration and enhance her skills. In 2012, she was invited to join the Institute’s first photography workshop which, she says, taught her about the importance of timing and location. “In my early years, I took photos of things that I stumbled upon,” Lai says, noting how she has since put more thought into where and when to take photos. “With my Canon 5D Mark IV, I can capture the migrant birds in Mai Po Nature Reserve in Yuen Long in the most natural way. By following nature’s timetable, I know exactly what I’m going to take.”
Lai, who is interested in astrophotography, says capturing the Milky Way galaxy in Hong Kong is always a challenge. With the city’s light pollution and ever-changing weather, it takes patience and luck to capture the Milky Way in the city, even if the photographer finds the right spot to shoot. It would require blending at least a hundred shots to compose one perfect shot of the Milky Way. “Sometimes we only have one good composite photo, but most of the time we don’t even get one in a single outing,” Lai explains. “But the effort and shared experience within the PoIG will make the photo even more beautiful.”
In June 2013, there was a super moon, an astronomical phenomenon that happens every 413 days where the full moon appears slightly larger and brighter than usual, leading the PoIG to meet up and take photos. The group went to Cape D’Aguilar on southeastern Hong Kong Island. There, they took pictures of the super moon from dusk until dawn. “That was my longest photo-taking event of all time. We arrived at 6 p.m. and stayed up for 14 hours to catch different angles of the super moon,” Lai explains. “Taking photos alone provides me with freedom but it is always fun to have others who share the same interest as you by your side.”
“By following nature’s timetable, I know exactly what I’m going to take.”
William Ip CPA enjoys travelling to different places for the perfect photo. Pictured here is a group of camels he captured in the Sahara Desert.
The perfect moment
In the middle of the Sahara Desert in 2018, William Ip CPA and his friends were setting up their cameras preparing to take photos of the sunrise. It was 4 a.m. and the sandy winds were raging, but the journey, as Ip remembers, was worth it. “When the sun finally rose, the moment was magical. There was a group of camels walking under the sun,” explains Ip, a veteran member of the PoIG. “They added so many more layers and textures to the photo. The experience was full of surprises and unexpected turns. I am glad that my friends and I were there to see it all.”
The adventure, which Ip says is one of his most memorable experiences as a photographer, was a culmination of his wanderlust and passion for photography.
From a young age, Ip had already shown deep interest in history, ancient architecture and famous landscapes. He had always wanted to visit the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt and the city of Ephesus, a city in ancient Greece, three kilometres southwest of present-day Selçuk in İzmir Province, Turkey. In 1996, he travelled to Egypt, Greece and Turkey to see those great architectural wonders in person with his friends. Bringing his camera along, he took many photos during his trip. But after returning to Hong Kong and comparing his photos with his friend’s, he realized that he had a lot to learn. “That was when I finally understood the difference between a casual photographer and a skilled one. I wanted to take better photos than my friend,” Ip adds.
While juggling his full-time job and his master’s degree, Ip also joined the PoIG in 2013. “It was the first systematic and proper photography class I ever took. I had so much fun taking pictures and sharing them with the group,” says Ip. “With my skills and my favourite Nikon D850, now I can take better and more beautiful photos of the Madrasa Bou Inania in Morocco.”
Ip has participated in both theoretical classes and outdoor photo-taking events organized by the PoIG, and to this day, appreciates how they have given him the opportunity to improve on his skills and meet like-minded photographers. “By communicating through our work, we improve and encourage each other. They always give me inspiration on the next place to visit,” Ip explains.
“When the sun finally rose, the moment was magical. There was a group of camels walking under the sun.”
Like many, Ip is waiting for the travel restrictions to ease. He hopes to continue travelling the Silk Road, the network of routes used by traders from when the Han dynasty of China opened trade in 130 B.C.E. until 1453 C.E., when the Ottoman Empire closed off trade with the West. “I once paid a visit to the east section of the Silk Road, which is from Xi’an to Urumqi, in 2002,” Ip says. “I didn’t go through all of it because of work and my studies. It will be great to retrace the footsteps of ancient merchants while taking photos of old temples along the way.”
The Institute’s Photography Interest Group organizes sharing sessions, practice sessions, photography courses, photography tours and gatherings for members. To find out how to join, visit the Institute’s website.