We speak with acclaimed Hong Kong-based photographer Bobby Lee about composition, storytelling, and capturing the most inspiring travel images.
Where does your passion for photography stem from?
I liked reading out dated (too expensive to buy latest issues) magazines when I was in my first year of secondary school, and was excited by the images taken by Life and National Geographic magazine photographers. By the time I finished secondary school I was determined to become a professional photographer and have never looked back.
Why does street photography and portraits particularly fascinate you?
I love photography - landscape, portraits, and travel - all kinds. Travel photography, and particularly travel portraits, broadens my eye as I learn from different cultures. You may appreciate Mother Nature in a certain landscape or rock formation but it’s always people that bring a destination’s character to life.
What are the biggest challenges in travel photography?
The biggest challenge for any travelling photographer is blending in to the place one visits. Once you get accepted by the locals, you will find doors open for you. Blending in does not mean you have to know the local dialogue or language, although it helps, but showing sincerity and kindness works best in most cases.
Which destinations do you find most inspirational?
Iran and Cuba are two countries that I like visiting from time to time. Iran for its history, culture and hospitality; and Cuba for its ambiance, which just has you with your finger always on the shutter button. India is also a great destination for budding travel photographers.
Your photographs are full of stories; how do you add meaning to them?
A camera is a tool to start a conversation with people you meet on the road. I like communicating with my subject in contrast to some theories which prescribe ‘shoot and run’. It’s the stories from our subjects that make our images lively.
How can amateurs improve their travel photography composition?
Sharing an image is like telling a story; there are many components within the narrative. Some are key points, while others link to put the story together. It’s similar to punctuation in writing, or like geometry; within a frame artists try their best to fit in various components to make the image balanced. This image may be a beautifully balanced image but not necessarily an image that can tell a story. What I encourage photographers to practise during our workshops is to arrange these components into orders and positions that each help to lead the audience to ‘read’ the story embedded in the image. I call this ‘arrangement’. To practise the skill of arrangement, photographers must spend more time in museums and galleries appreciating master pieces from great artists. Joining my workshops of course is another way to learn this skill, as I always teach my participants the way to appreciate great art.
What will we learn during your Global Exposures tours?
I believe when creating Global Exposures there are no two participants alike. Although the travel itinerary is the same with all participants within the same trip, I pay particular attention in helping each individual photographer develop and refine his or her personal photographic style, based on my 40 years of experience. Besides personal advice and group critics during the trip, proper postproduction workflow and presentation techniques occupy the evening hours at the hotel. Lessons start the moment our participants sign up and we extend our participants’ experience with additional events covering the printing of thier selected images, usually a few weeks after returning from the destination.