Interview with Frankie Cheong
NPX: Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Haha, after more than a year’s worth of delaying, I’ve finally agreed to YY’s request to be interviewed.
I am just like everyone here – ordinary, run-of-the-mill… but I do have lots of passion in nature as well as in photography.
NPX: How long have you been interested nature photography? And also how you got started.
Wah, long story man. I have been interested in photography since I was a kid – shooting everything under the sun, particularly people on the streets, with my Nikon F2S and film. I first ventured into nature photography when I was transferred to my current working place (or playground!) some 6-7 years ago. After seeing so many shore birds during the migratory season, I decided to shoot some for fun using my P&S camera. When DSLRs became more affordable, I upgraded to my 1st DSLR & a 70-300mm zoom lens, and have never looked back since! (note: Nobody fed me poison back then, I ate it myself LOL)
NPX: What do you like about it in particular?
Wouldn’t you agree with me that nature is indeed very beautiful? With the rapid development around Singapore and the world, nature is declining at a scary rate. As a photographer who loves nature, I believe that the only way to capture all these beautiful things – in my case, birds, before they are completely eradicated, would be to use our lenses and camera.
NPX: What’s your photography techniques and how you learn them?
I do not use any special techniques at all. I learnt all these photo techniques from other photographers… things like exposure, composition, lens handling etc… And I am still learning from others!
NPX: Were there any photographer(s) that you like and influences your style?
I am not particularly influenced by any photographer. Show me a good photograph and I will be interested in understanding how the photographer shot it, and I would wish that I had something similar in my portfolio, but not by copying it!
NPX: What are the stuff in your dry cabinet? What are the items in your bag during birding?
As I am now very focused on Avian Photography, the stuff in my dry cabinet is very basic and functional. My equipments are:
Nikkor 600mm f4 VR,
Nikkor 300mm f4,
Nikkor 18-200mm VR,
2 x Nikon D300,
1 x Nikon D80,
Nikon TC1.4E II,
Nikon SB800 flash.
Always in my ThinkTank Streetwalker Harddrive bag is the Nikkor 600mm, D300 body, TC14E, Bino & Garmin 255W GPS.
NPX: Which is your favourite bird species and why?
I like to take photos of the Plover. Although they are less colourful as compared to the Kingfishers or the Broadbills, they look very elegant when they are standing at the sandy beach with the sea or sky as the background. I also have a lot of opportunities to get close to them!
NPX: Which other genres of nature photography you’d like to pursue in the future? Why is it so?
If I should ever stop doing avian photography, I might just go back to shooting everyday people on the streets, for their candid moments.
NPX: While pursuing your hobby, what is your most memorable moment to date?
The most memorable moment for me would be when I was waiting for my 1st common king fisher at the Japanese Garden with my camo net over me for close to 2-3 hours in 2007. Back in those days, the CKF was not as friendly as compared to now, where you can go very close to them! Back then, they would just come and perch and before you can start shooting, the CKF would be gone! I only managed to get 2 shots.
NPX: What are the challenges you’ve faced?
As birds are usually small and well camouflaged in the canopy, the challenge for me is how to spot them. Many a times even after the person next to me has started shooting, I am still trying to locate the bird!
NPX: Please share with us a couple of your favourite images accumulated over the years. Please describe to us why you like these images.
One of my favourite images is, without a doubt, the CKF that I mentioned earlier. It is not as sharp or as big as the ones that I have shot in recent years, but it is my best experience in avian photography.
This Pin Tailed Whydah Finch captured somewhere near my playground, I like its artistic look.
The elegant looking Grey Plover taken at my private playground.
The “made-in-SG” Malaysian Plover, also taken at my private playground.