Hsiao-Tsa Chung recounts his inspiring journey into professional photography and deconstructs the vivid technique of HDR imaging.
Working previously as an IT engineer, Hsiao-Tsa Chung followed a passion ignited in university to pursue a career in photography. Being initially drawn to the raw authentic charm of analogue photography, Chung has since broadened his photographic range, specialising in capturing HDR images and stunning natural landscapes.
Starting his photographic career with a modest Nikon FM2, Chung describes his style as hands on and heavily influenced by his immediate surroundings. He explains that rather than travelling specifically to shoot photos, he prefers immersing himself in the full experience of exploration, and photographing the results. “I would like to get deep into the destination and seek inspiration through my eyes, which is the key of taking good shoots.” Chung says.
Following the philosophy of immersing himself fully in his explorations, Chung spent two and a half months capturing shots at the Glacier National Park in the United States during the summer of 2009. Exposed to the grandeur and tranquillity of natural landscapes, Chung experimented with HDR imaging to capture the full beauty of his surroundings.
Used as a method to combat the issue of a limited dynamic range, High Dynamic Range (HDR) imaging allows the subject to be captured within a wider range of luminosity, creating vibrant images with a sharper finish.
From his experiences, Chung offers some tips to master capturing HDR images and more importantly, understanding the right conditions for them to be shot in.
“Taipei Railway Workshop, Taiwan” - Nikon D7000, ISO: 200, Aperture: f/8, Shutter Speed: 1/5s, AF-S NIKKOR 28mm f/1.8G at 28mm
“First sight of the sunrise 2014 at Hehuan Mountain, Taiwan” - Nikon D600, ISO: 100, Aperture: f/11, Shutter Speed: 1/125s, AF-S NIKKOR 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5G ED at 35mm
“The view after Typhoon Haiyan attacked Philippine, Philippine” - Nikon D600, ISO: 200, Aperture: f/5.6, Shutter Speed: 1/1000s, AF-S NIKKOR 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5G ED at 18mm
“The flow of Hong Kong, Hong Kong” - Nikon D600, ISO: 50, Aperture: f/22, Shutter Speed: 8s, AF-S NIKKOR 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5G ED at 18mm
“Catching the transportation, Hong Kong” - Nikon D600, ISO: 100, Aperture: f/5.6, Shutter Speed: 1/125s, AF-S NIKKOR 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5G ED at 18mm
Discussing his interest in HDR imaging, Chung explains “I will think of HDR when I want to preserve all the details in a picture… HDR enables me to have more information of light value which makes it easier to retouch the photo in the way I want. That’s my favourite part about HDR.”
Chung says that when it comes to his equipment, he does not make allowances with being prepared, advising that the added strain of extra equipment is worth the finished product. “If I can foresee some beautiful moments… I would bring all the lenses I have and a tripod, even if my pack would be extremely heavy. Rain gears are necessary as well in bad weather.”
While staying prepared for your shot is key, Chung explains that HDR also allows for the user to adjust the blur by hand and get more involved with the subject “I don’t always rely on tripods. It’s my style to run into beautiful moments without a tripod prepared.”
The key to producing high quality HDR images is an understanding of the mechanisms that compose the final image.
While there is no miracle setting for any given condition, Chung suggests that using your vision as a photographer is key to appreciating how the different aspects interact, and mastering how you can make them work in your favour. “When the contrast between highlights and shadows is too high, I would try different exposures…it’s also possible to apply some shading methods to reduce the contrast.”
Elaborating further, a crucial camera setting he has identified for all beginners to grasp is the ISO- a setting that measures the sensitivity level of the image sensor towards light. Chung suggests, “I would keep it as low as possible to make the picture clean and neat.”
Despite an array of light settings and aids , Chung warns that an over reliance to these tools can limit a photographers eye and diminish that value of your individual vision, stating “I think sometimes depending too much on tools [can] put [a] limit on one’s creativity”.
“Bamboo trail at Alishan, Taiwan” - Nikon D600, ISO: 100, Aperture: f/8, Shutter Speed: 1/15s, Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 at 50mm
“Burning the sky at Port Jefferson, New York” - Nikon D600, ISO: 250, Aperture: f/4.2, Shutter Speed: 1/20s, AF-S NIKKOR 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5G ED at 26mm
“Harvest Season at Brown Blvd, Taiwan” - Nikon D600, ISO: 100, Aperture: f/8, Shutter Speed: 1/400s, AF-S NIKKOR 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5G ED at 18mm
“Akashi Bridge and the traveler, Japan” - Nikon D600, ISO: 1600, Aperture: f/4, Shutter Speed: 1/10s, AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/4G ED VR at 70mm
“Harvest Season at Brown Blvd, Taiwan” - Nikon D600, ISO: 100, Aperture: f/3.5, Shutter Speed: 1/2500s, AF-S NIKKOR 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5G ED at 18mm
“Snow Season of Hehuan Mountain, magic sunset moment, Taiwan” - Nikon D750, ISO: 200, Aperture: f/16, Shutter Speed: 1/60s, AF-S NIKKOR 28mm f/1.8G at 28mm
“Abandoned ski lifts, built around 1980s, upon altitude 3000m at Hehuan Mountain, Taiwan” - Nikon D750, ISO: 100, Aperture: f/8, Shutter Speed: 1/1000s, AF-S NIKKOR 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5G ED at 18mm
As he continues his journey into the world of photography, Chung recounts his humble beginnings of “getting only 2 or 3 satisfactory photos from a roll of film” to working as a freelance professional, crediting perseverence and respect for his craft as the key to success.
Embracing photography as a key component of his everyday life, Chung comments, “photography is just another form of art like [a] poem, painting or composition, where you express your feeling through light and films.”
With a promising future in front of him, Hsiao-Tsa Chung reveals his favourite pieces of equipment and leaves aspiring photographers with his top five tips:
1. Appreciate more photography works of others and try to mimic them with the equipment you have.
2. Try to capture one thing with various focal lengths.
3. It would be good to check the weather condition before you go for landscape shooting.
4. Be fully prepared when you press the shutter. Photo editing cannot do anything for you.
5. Take as many photos as you can after ample preparation.
Working previously as an IT engineer, Hsiao- Tsa Chung was inspired by a film he studied in university that portrayed the intimacy of love and photography. Now the owner of a thriving restaurant, Chung maintains his passion of photography and snaps his shots whenever he can. Constantly travelling to foreign locations and looking for anything that catches his eye, Chung sees the world through his lenses, and invites us to see the results.