Interview with Simon Quek

27 July 2011 No Comment

NPX: Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I work as a veterinary surgeon with a special interest in Dermatology & Surgery. I’m married with 2 boys, 7 and 4 years old. Besides bird photography, I’m an F1 fan and enjoy taking my car to the Sepang International Circuit for a few laps around the track.

NPX: How long have you been interested nature photography? And also how you started.

I’ve been into photography every since I was in the army. However at that time it was not particularly serious or regular. I stopped for 5-6 years when I was in vet school. It was only about 1 year ago that I tried my hand in bird photography.
Initially bird photography was very frustrating for me because I started off with a 70-200mm lens. I also had no knowledge of techniques to photographing birds. It was only after I bought my first 500mm lens from Chris Li that I started to see how exciting photographing birds can be.

NPX: What do you like about it in particular?

After birding regularly for almost a year now, I find that it is a hobby that really puts you in touch with nature. It was only with birding that I experienced the beauty of something as simple as the sunrise. It never fails to amaze me how beautiful these birds can be and how much we take them for granted because we are so caught up in our busy lifestyles to even notice them.

NPX: What’s your photography techniques and how you learn them?

I’m still learning and refining in terms of photography techniques. The general rule I follow is to try to shoot at f8 and at as low ISO as possible. I’m quite happy with the results I get at with ISO 800 or 1600. I’m still constantly learning from the other more experienced photographers in the field.

NPX: Were there any photographer(s) that you like and influences your style?

I don’t think there is one particular photographer alone that influenced my style. However I have picked up techniques from some of the sifus like Chris Li (the first to sell me poison), Adrian Lim (whom I have never met, but hope to meet sometime in the future) and Choo Tze Chien (from Penang). I have borrowed some of their techniques to put together something that is uniquely mine.

NPX: What are the stuff in your dry cabinet? What are the items in your bag during birding?

In terms of birding lens I’ve got the 800mm f5.6, 300mm f2.8, 100-400mm. I also have a 17-40mm f4, 24-105mm f4, 70-200mm f2.8 and 50mm f2. I’ve got a 180mm macro lens from my fail attempt at macro photography. Camera bodies I have are the 1D mk4 and 7D.
A typical birding bag would hold the 1D mk4, 800mm, 1.4x TC III, Epson CF card back up, CF cards, binoculars, cable release, lens pen & cloth and not forgetting the good old garbage bag.

NPX: Which is your favourite bird species and why?

If I have to pick one favourite species it would be the kingfishers. They are very colourful and beautiful in their unique way, with beaks too big for their heads. I also particularly like bee-eaters and trogons for their bright colours.

NPX: Which other genres of nature photography you’d like to pursue in the future? Why is it so?

I would like to get into marco photography in future. It amazes me how people can get such beautiful pictures of something so small. Why do I want to do it is because I suck at it.

NPX: While pursuing your hobby, what is your most memorable moment to date?

To date, because I‘ve only been birding for less than a year, everything is a new experience for me. I guess the 2 more memorable moments are to see and photograph the Blue Banded Kingfisher in its elements and to be able to capture the Blue Eared Kingfisher up close.

NPX: What are the challenges you’ve faced?

Photography as with everything we do is about practice, practice and more practice. To improve shooting techniques, I’ve to shoot regularly and become familiar with my equipment. Another challenge is to be able to accurately capture the colour of the bird being photographed by adjusting WB and exposure.

NPX: Please share with us a couple of your favorite images accumulated over the years. Please describe to us why you like these images.

Blue Banded Kingfisher – a rare bird with an even rarer branch perch.

Blue-eared Kingfisher – I’ve been looking for this bird for many months with numerous zero shutter count trips.

Chestnut Headed Bee Eater – One of the most brightly coloured bee-eaters

Rufous-backed Kingfisher – A recent lifer for me. The food in mouth is just a bonus.

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