I thought it’d be a fun excersise to pick out the 10 best or most memorable photos I’ve taken so far since getting my first camera in 2015. I did a similar list a few years ago, and the idea was to see if the list had changed and what I’d learned once I did the list again. If you’re a photographer, try doing this! It’s fun and you might get some ideas from potential patterns in your favorite images.
As for me, I notice patterns in all these photos. A good photo for me seems to be a combination of luck, composition and preparation. And to finish it, an edit that brings out the best in the photo. One simply won’t get lucky without spending hours and hours walking the streets or waiting on rooftops getting nothing, or maybe just average photos. And once one does get lucky, it is up to the photographer to take advantage of the fact by wasting no time finding a composition or fumbling with equipment – a half a second might make a difference. After this, he must be able to finalize the shot by complimenting it in the edit – this also takes time, it might take years for your “inner eye” to develop to a point where you know what a photo should look like (and in another few years it’ll change).
Nothing beats time in the field and experience in photography, there are no shortcuts. It’s just as much about patience and self discipline as it’s about “talent”.
1. Train Moment
This photo taught me the value of storytelling in street photography. The timing was perfect even if 100% accidental, I was literally not even looking as I was just trying to nail the focus on my manual lens. This photo also broke my preconceptions about what was “acceptable” to post on Instagram, as previously I was so hell bent on having a consistent feed, and this shot was totally different from my previous stuff so I hesitated to post it, fearing the algo might punish me. Instead, it did better than any photo I’d posted so far. It made me realize that it’s ok to post whatever you want, as long as it’s good. In short, in more than one way, I felt this photo transformed me from a typical “social media photographer” to someone who started thinking of photography as an art form.
2. Fog Night
Taken on the last day of the year in 2016, this is probably the first “good” photo I took. I was hosting my family on holiday and had booked an airbnb with a view for a few days, and I simply got lucky. But it also meant that I had to be awake at 4am anticipating the scene to take advantage of it.
3. The Driver
Taken in Sapporo 2019, I managed to find a taxi driver who looks like Gus Fringe from Breaking Bad according to many people.
4. Cyberpunk Hong Kong
For a while especially in 2018, I was obsessed with the idea of taking photos inspired by digital art in the cyberpunk genre. This shot is my favorite out of that series. I was out for hours walking around before this, anticipating rain, but nothing. I was almost ready to call it a night when it started pouring hard, and I managed to snap this shot. It’s far from realistic in the edit, but that’s the point.
5. Fuji under the stars
I’ll always remember this shot due to the journey it took to get there, which involved a creepy midnight hike in pitch-black darkness with no cellphone signal, all by myself with not even an exact idea where I was going. And of course I got lost… I wrote about the trip in a full blog post here as it was quite an experience for a city person like myself, one that I wouldn’t necessarily do again as in hindsight it was somewhat irresponsible how ill-prepared I was. The shot itself came out fine, it’s not really original as many japanese photographers have visited the place and taken similar pictures, but regardless I always get a few people accusing me of photoshop and a whole bunch of people wondering how it’s possible to take a photo of the milky way with such amount of light pollution.
6. Temple Street
Taken from a popular parking garage in Hong Kong, where I and many others have been many times – but this time, I was trying to do something different and managed to snap this shot of the night market gate. I sometimes struggle with more minimalist photos, but I like how this came out.
7. Rainy Commute
Near my AirBnB in Tokyo there was a train crossing with the red light reflecting through the train cars, but only when the train was moving. I begun to think that it could look great if one was to shoot the train windows on a rainy day when the windows started to steam, at night, except it’d be technically challenging to pull off due to the high shutter speed required to freeze a moment in a speeding train. One night when it was absolutely pouring I got the chance to try, and after about an hour of blindly shooting the moving train with various different settings and techniques, I managed to get a few keepers – this one being my favorite. It’s just a very satisfying feeling when plans actually work out as intended, which doesn’t happen too often.
8. Burj Khalifa Lightning Strike
You’d think it shouldn’t be too hard to get a lightning strike shot of what is essential the World’s Tallest Lightning Rod, but the area is in the middle of the desert and only gets about 2 to 0 lightning storms per year. It took me thousands of shots to get this one, and once I finally did, I cheered. It doesn’t even look as good as getting the shot felt, but I was happy.
9. Snow Storm
I got caught in a really-freaking-cold mini blizzard in Sapporo, but as always the worse the conditions feel the better they look. The light was awesome during these moments and this picture is my favorite from that night.
10. Sapporo Bus Driver
Another shot from Sapporo, this simply represents what I love about Japan and Sapporo in particular. And for some reason despite it being off-focus, it looks better than the one I have in sharp focus of the same scene and I can’t quite explain why. I had such a fun time shooting the cold Japanese snow capital that I’m currently back here for another round of street photography, low-key planning on making my first photo book of these shots IF I manage to get enough good ones on this trip.
Honorable mention: Hong Kong Tram
Artistically, there’s not much in this shot, but the timing was ridiculously lucky. I didn’t plan this, so it’s hard to take too much credit for it. But that almost makes it more special, because just look at how well those lines align and this was literally the only shot I took of the scene. A blind monkey could have done it, but sometimes one gets lucky. Anyway, I’m still salty that someone shared this on Reddit without crediting me and got up to something like 50,000 upvotes, so now this photo is all over the internet on a bunch of meme sites without anyone even giving me those sweet exposure bucks! But then again, it was pure luck so it doesn’t offend me as much as it otherwise might.