Interview with Ms Colleen Goh
The Interview as follows…
NPX: What got you interested in photography?
Colleen: I was never into photography, unlike my husband who has been shooting since the film era. But on a holiday to Shanghai 3 years ago, I happened to pick up his cam to shoot my kids. I loved what I saw on the LCD and have been hooked ever since.
NPX: How long have you been doing photography?
Colleen: I started with a point and shoot less than 2 years ago. But only tried the DSLR (after a lot of nagging) in June 2007. Getting used to a shooting macro with DSLR was really painful. I almost gave up and was ready to throw the camera against the wall!
NPX: You have started off photographing people and then macro? What made you switch from macro to bird photography?
Colleen: I was shooting macro for about a year when I decided I needed a break. Shooting macro can be a very intense and tiring experience and I wanted to try another genre. But I still wanted to stick to nature, so bird photography seemed the natural choice.
NPX: Who or what are your photographic influences?
Colleen: I could name some famous nature photographers whose work I adore but I find that I am most influenced by those photographers closest to me. When we shoot together, we share ideas and challenge one another to improve. In that way, they are a powerful influence on my photographic style.
1. My hubby, Bernard – He is an avid landscape and travel photography buff. From him I learnt (am still learning) to look at things from a wider angle (pun intended) and to see the bigger picture.
2. Mendis Tan– A dear friend who has taught me much about macro and now, bird photography. His shots always manage to capture the true essence of his subject, be it a common starling or a rare kingfisher. Something I aspire to one day.
3. Shawn Low– A macro buddy but whose landscapes and candid portraits make me strive to want to better my weak areas. He has the innate ability to know exactly when to press the trigger and capture a person at his best moment. Unlike me, I inevitably get the person with his eyes closed!
4. Enrick Ho– Another macro buddy. His macro flower abstracts just blow me away. And his ability to know a person’s best angle when shooting portraits is truly uncanny. And he is one of the few I will trust to shoot my portraits.
NPX: What kind of stuff do you put in your camera bag?
Colleen: For sure I will have these:
40D, spare batts and CF cards, blower, mini toolbox containing – leatherman micra, lens cloth, anti-static brush, extra bushing, allen key, sunsreen, mozzie repellent, and last but not least…very important item…Mentholatum decongestant-analgesic ointment (for some reason this works best for insect bites, even better than Mopiko or Zambuck)!
Then depending on whether I’m shooting birds or macro I will have the following:
500 f4 or 400 f5.6, 580 EXII, flash extender, raincover for lens.
EF-S 60 mm, MR-14EX, 430 EX, Lumiquest mini softbox diffuser, extension tubes (12, 20, 30 mm), Hoya achromatic close-up filter +5, Wimberley plamp, mini reflector, torch.
NPX: What’s the most challenging aspect of shooting your favourite genre of photography?
Colleen: My fave genre is macro. And the most challenging aspect is the constant backache from stooping low. Murphy’s Law of Macro, “The more interesting the bug, the nearer the ground it will be found.”
NPX: Do you think there is a difference between a male and female nature photographer?
Colleen: No, I don’t think so. End of the day we are all in search of the perfect shot. X and Y chromosomes have no part to play in that quest for perfection.
NPX: Some say this is a male dominant hobby. Do you think so and why?
Colleen: If you are referring to bird photography, then I would have to give a resounding “Yes!”. Female birders, there are plenty. But sadly, female bird photographers are a much rarer breed. I think this is simply because of the weight of the long lens.
NPX: What advice would you give to a female who is interested in picking up nature photography?
Colleen: For macro, be prepared to get down and dirty. You have to be one with nature in order to shoot nature. For birding, weight of the lens is all in the mind. You do not know how much weight you can handle until you try it yourself. Do not sell yourself short and tell yourself that women have no place in birding because the lenses are too heavy. You will be missing out on one of the most exciting and challenging genres of nature photography.
NPX: How do your family and friends feel about your photography passion?
Colleen: Fortunately, most of them are into this hobby themselves so they are happy to have another shooter join the ranks. My family is very happy and supportive, especially my hubby (Mr CFO) who has been such a sweetheart over my depleting of the family bank account. He has even taken up macro (a genre he swore he would never touch) just so that he can keep me company while I shoot birds! Awwww….
NPX: So what is next on your most ‘wanted’ wildlife / macro / birds list to photograph?
Colleen: Seriously, I have no list of things I want to shoot. I am happy to shoot whatever happens to be in front of me. Right now, I’m still so new, so I just want to learn to shoot everything well. To me, a well-shot sparrow is worth much more than a poorly shot trogon.
So you can say my most ‘wanted’ list is to:
1. Nail my exposure
2. Better my flash control
3. Improve my composition
4. Find the damn bird in the viewfinder faster!
NPX: Describe your worst followed by the best photography experience you encountered while out in the fields.
Colleen: Worst: The day my hubby knocked into my tripod and killed my 400 f5.6 ?. Little did he know he was paving the way for the arrival of the 500 f4. Haha!
Best: My first trip to Balang with Sandy, Sharkspin and Soh. To be standing in the padi fields in the early morning light, watching the birds flying all around me and calling out to one another was a truly unforgettable experience.
NPX: If you have to choose TWO favourite photos which you have taken, which will they be? Reasons?
Colleen:Beauty with A Bite – I love the vibrant reds and the dynamic angle at which the ant was approaching the camera. The focus on the ant’s mandibles are a constant reminder to me that beautiful things can come with a nasty sting or bite. Something I try to remember whenever I am shooting macro.
Balang Blue-Tailed Bee-eater – Simply a fave because it was my first visit to Balang with my kakis and I remember that trip fondly. I love the how the gorgoeous colours on the bird are repeated in the background.
NPX: Thanks for granting us this interview.
Colleen: You are welcome and thanks.
____________________________________________________interview edited by Roger