You may have seen his stunning supermoon composite that was shared a whopping 900 times on Facebook – travel and landscape photographer Oowen Ong has plenty of awe-inspiring shots under his belt! We dig deeper into his unique perspective of photography through his creative process – read on to find out what motivates him to create amazing images.
Oowen Ong with his very first DSLR, a Canon EOS 40D during one of his explorative walks in Selegie, Singapore.
Hey there Oowen! Can you give us an introduction to yourself and your photography?
Currently, I’m offering my own freelance photography services with fine art photographic prints for sale.
I delved into landscape and travel photography as a way to document the places that I have visited. I like to venture to places that are off the beaten track, and shoot a wide range of landscape photos. I also prefer a pictorialist approach, emphasising on the beauty of the subject matter, rather than a documentary representation.
Canon EOS 5D Mark III | F5.6 | 1/40s | ISO 1600
What got you started in photography?
I picked up photography during my studies at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA) under the tutelage of a brilliant photography lecturer, Gareth Phua. Even though I didn’t score well for the subject, the process ignited my passion for photography. My parents later bought me a Canon EOS 40D with kit lenses (Canon EF-S 18-55mm IS lens and Canon EF- S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS lens) as a Christmas present, and for the next seven years, I used it to document the places I’ve been to.
Canon EOS 5D Mark III | F10 | 1/125s | ISO 200
Canon EOS 5D Mark III | F8.0 | 1 s | ISO 320
Which country has been your favourite to photograph, and why?
I love Iceland for its rugged landscape and stunning vistas. It is the dream destination of every landscape photographer. I also love Barcelona, Spain for its vibrant urban cityscape, food and culture. The contrast of historical and modern architecture is so intriguing, I could have easily spent the entire day exploring the city.
My personal favourite is the Scottish Highlands for its romantic landscapes. It is a huge place to visit with so many interesting landscape features and I had a great driving experience there. Different seasons offer different perspectives of the landscapes, given another opportunity, I would like to revisit the Scottish Highlands again.
Isle of Skye, Scotland
Canon EOS 5D Mark III | F10 | 1/80s | ISO 400
How do you prepare for a shoot?
Doing landscape and travel photography assignment is exhausting work. Shooting is only a small part of the story. There are other more important aspects to consider that affects the way I travel or capture my images – such as logistical planning or communication with locals I meet during my trips. I would usually bring my full gear out so that I will be prepared for any circumstances changing in the field.
Canon EOS 5DS | F4.0 | 0.6s | ISO 250
Do you plan ahead a lot or do you go about exploring spontaneously?
I think it’s a bit of both, as I adopt different approaches depending on where I’m going. Timing is important when I shoot landscapes, but it is also very limited during my travels, so I have to be selective at the locations I shoot. Sometimes it gets pretty stressful when things don’t go according to plan and I have to improvise.
To avoid unforeseen situations, I would do extensive research on the various locations beforehand and arrange my itinerary more efficiently, and take into account the weather forecast, the sun and moon positions, etc.
But towards the end of every trip, I would certainly plan a day or two for shopping, and perhaps that is where I may wander around the city streets and explore spontaneously.
Canon EOS 5D Mark III | F10 |1/160s | ISO 100
What do you think makes for a compelling travel shot?
Often, people will want to learn more about the story behind the image. Hence, apart from meticulous planning and having a good grasp of basic camera skills, I think to capture a compelling shot, one must develop the creative eye for visual detail and sincerely enjoy the process.
Canon EOS 5D Mark III | F8 | 1/60s | ISO 100
What do you bring with you in your camera bag?
Other peripherals include a camera L-plate for quick orientation adjustments, a filter system for a versatile balancing filter during landscape photography, and a cabled intervalometer when I need super steady shots.
There are also spare batteries, SD cards, a Canon Speedlite 430EX II, flash softbox diffuser, dust pen and blower, a water bottle, power bank and an umbrella or raincoat.
Canon EOS 5D Mark III | F5.6 | 30s | ISO 1600
Which Canon item can’t you do without?
The Canon EF16-35mm f/2.8L II USM is my favourite lens for capturing landscapes, and I never go out without it. It’s not the only lens that I use, but I tend to capture wide-ranging vistas or a scene from a vantage point, so the wide-angle lens is a perfect fit for me as it allows me to capture plenty of detail in a single frame. The zoom function gives me a bit of leeway in omitting distracting elements when necessary, and the wide-angle barrel distortion is useful in some situations where I can use it to dramatise my subjects in the foreground.
Canon EOS 5D Mark III | F8.0 | 1/13s | ISO 100
For your genre of photography, what would you recommend in terms of equipment?
I borrowed a Canon EOS 5DS for my Iceland trip and I think the Canon EOS 5DS or Canon EOS 5DS R would be ideal for landscape and travel photography. These cameras work well in cold environments and their sensors have a whopping resolution of 50.6 megapixels, which allow me to print detail-rich landscapes as large as A0 in size. This aerial image below was captured with a 5DS and a Canon EF70-200mm f/4L IS USM telephoto lens as I was leaving Iceland. The amount of detail is incredible considering it was taken from the aeroplane window at high altitude.
Aerial view of Iceland
Canon EOS 5DS | F9.0 | 1/200s | ISO 250
You recently had a supermoon shot that went viral. How did you feel after the shot went viral and had so many positive reactions?
I am absolutely thrilled that the post garnered so much attention on my Facebook. I’m glad that more people are noticing my works and this gives me the motivation to continue capturing and sharing what I love.
Super Blue Blood Moon over West Tampines, Singapore
Canon EOS 5D Mark III | 10s | F10 | ISO 400
Is there a certain trend you see in travel or landscape photography?
While there isn’t anything wrong per se, I do think there is this growing trend of conformism in the photography, where either more people are coming to the same location to photograph the subject from the same perspective, or that photographers are so influenced by a certain style that they emulate it consistently without giving much thought.
Canon EOS 5DS | F5.6 | 1/160s | ISO 100
When capturing Singapore as your home country, how do you think the experience or the country differs from others?
Whenever I visit other countries, I would photograph scenes or cultures that interest me as a visitor with a new perspective. Somehow I always feel their backyard looks a lot better than ours.
Growing up in Singapore, the scenes I come across everyday seem so mundane, so it’s always difficult to see things from a fresh perspective as a local, and that’s something I’m learning to break away from. However, the home ground advantage is that I know how to access locations and I can come back to the same spot as often as I want to.
Lightning storm over West Tampines, Singapore
Canon EOS 5D Mark III | F10 | 30s | ISO 200
What sort of tips will you offer aspiring landscape and travel photographers?
Start small, shoot from your heart and explore with a curious mind.
Regardless of the influences or the camera equipment, only when you are prepared to take the trouble to capture your photos in the best possible light, start to respect Mother Nature, and appreciate the environment, that is when you will enjoy the whole process.
Canon EOS 5D Mark III | F20 | 1/30s | ISO 100
First published: Canon EOS World