Photographer Colin Cheong shoots beautiful, awe-inspiring landscapes as well as vibrant, kinetic street shots. Here’s some photography tips on how to blend the two styles. As told to Harry Harris.  

[inlinetweet]I don’t have any romantic stories about becoming a photographer[/inlinetweet]. I didn’t chance on an antique family film camera and suddenly becoming inspired. My family had a few of those point and shoots lying around (a couple of Yashicas and a Konica) which I played around with, but it was nothing serious.

The main impetus for my taking photography seriously was a desire to take better looking images of my holidays with friends and family. So I researched hardware and photography tips, eventually acquiring a second-hand Canon 5dMkII which I use to this day.

I shoot landscape and street photography – two genres that are almost antithetical, especially with regard to time

With landscape, I feel that patience is absolutely vital…landscapes have a sense of permanence in relation to our sense of time.

Oregon Landscape Photo

With landscape, I feel that patience is absolutely vital. Often, many landscape photographers travel far and wide to achieve a perfect shot. They hunker down and wait for the magic hours, stay in the cold, hike miles or spend nights in the open. The subject however, is almost unchanging. Certainly, there are ebbs and flows in nature but landscapes have a sense of permanence in relation to our sense of time. For me, the challenge in landscape photography is to capture perspectives that are less common. That’s a tricky proposition and often, I approach landscape photography with more conceptual and abstract ideas to try to stand out.

Street shots exist at the other end of the spectrum. The great Susan Sontag often postulates that photography captures moments, and street photography encapsulates that notion perfectly. It reveals a snippet of life at an exact point in time and, odds are, it will never be repeated again. With street shots, patience takes a back seat to acute observation and fast reflexes.

In a sense, I was hurled into the world of landscape photography. I have been living in the Pacific Northwest for the past 2 years whilst working on my MFA in Collaborative Design. Here, landscape photographers are spoilt for choice. It’s a natural wonderland and you cannot help but be inspired by the magnificence around you. Having said that, because it’s the Pacific Northwest, there are many landscape photographers and enthusiasts and I am sure that many of them have better cameras, defter skills and more time than me. Therefore, I try to offer different perspectives by employing more conceptual and abstract ideas as mentioned above.

Myanmar Street Photo

For me, [inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]every image is a different narrative[/inlinetweet] and with these stories, we glean insights and find hints into the culture of the people and place

[inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]I have always preferred street photography because of its ephemerality[/inlinetweet] and the intimate proximity to my subjects. For me, every image is a different narrative and with these stories, we glean insights and find hints into the culture of the people and place.

I remember when I was taking photos in Siem Reap, Cambodia, and a few local guys were curious about my images. We spoke for a bit and when they found out I was heading to Phnom Penh, they promised to show me around. I thought it was just friendly banter but boy was I wrong! In the Cambodian capital, they took me to see drag queen/king shows, eat raw river crabs and spicy deep fried crickets and we had long conversations whilst on motorbikes zipping around the city. That’s one of the amazing things about street photography, the connections you forge with other people, they’re unique. For my MFA, I wanted to look at street food narratives in the urban environment and I shot portraits of street food cart owners in Portland. I aim to further my research and photography on street food in other cities like Singapore, Tokyo, Marrakech, Berlin and London. All vibrant scenes with thriving subcultures that I’m really excited about trying to capture.

I’m talking about street photography and landscape photography as different styles, and while they are, things I’ve learnt from one inevitably find their way into the other, as in my Ghosts of the Waterfalls series. For this, I wanted to convey the relentless haunting roars of dancing liquid apparitions as the jets of water rush to the base of the fall – to focus in on a burst of kinetic energy in the middle of a still landscape. Framed by the grandiose permanence of the waterfalls, these apparitions contort and change, like an intersection at rush hour on a time lapse, a transient quality that channels the characteristics of street photography into the natural world.

Colin Cheong is a photographer, designer, and writer based in Portland, Oregon. Check out his full Zealous portfolio, and further work on his website

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