Jon Chiang is a Singapore-based landscape and architecture photographer who has been active for about ten years. He got into the game when digital photography started becoming more affordable and available to consumers. With a technical background as a software engineer, photography to him is a much-needed creative outlet, as well as an excuse to explore the world and collect gear. Jon recently visited New Zealand, and we caught up with him to find out more about his amazing trip and even more amazing photographs of the Land of the Long White Cloud!
When I first got into photography, Flickr was the Instagram of today, and as I was keen to learn the ropes of the hobby, I naturally joined the community. I remembered being in awe at all the amazing wide-angle landscape photography showcased on other people’s galleries, and so I got my first ultrawide zoom, a Tokina 11-16mm. As I started photography during my student years, spending money to go on trips was a concern, and so I dedicated my time to exploring and photographing the urban landscape and architecture of Singapore. It has been, and still is, very rewarding to get up early when most are still asleep to a location that I’ve planned for and scouted in order to capture the golden light of dawn, or wait patiently for the sun to set at a desired direction in order to get the composition that I have in mind.
So, why New Zealand? I believe it would definitely be in most landscape photography enthusiasts’ sights; the entire country is no doubt a living, breathing postcard. From rolling hills to snow-capped mountains, lush forests to vast open fields, the country is indeed a mecca for landscape photography. In order to satiate our appetite of what we like to infamously term as “epic landscapes”, myself and three other friends set off on a two-week-long road trip around the South Island of New Zealand in a quest to hunt for amazing light and landscapes.
For the vast majority of my trip, I used the OOWA 15mm Wide-Angle lens for my iPhone 6s Plus. This lens attachment proved rather invaluable to me as it came in very handy for scouting locations and shooting spontaneous landscapes. Since it has a focal length that is not dissimilar to my Nikon 14-24mm, I would reach for my phone to compose the shot before deciding if I should pull out my bulky camera gear. I could also use the lens with Photopills, an augmented reality app that helps with the scouting of sunrise and sunset directions, in addition to locating the Milky Way in the sky. This allowed me to visualise how the light would be like on a particular time of the day, which was extremely useful in planning golden hour landscape shoots.
All of these shots were captured with the OOWA 15mm Wide-Angle lens; it goes without saying that, as a landscape photographer, this was the lens I utilised the most. It’s incredible the kind of images that can be shot on an iPhone’s camera, which is remarkable as the iPhone 6s Plus could be considered “ancient” compared to the current offerings.
Although the images may be relatively noisier compared to a DSLR camera, and the mobile apps limited in functionality, one still can achieve a lot with a phone’s camera, especially when paired with an excellent wide-angle attachment like OOWA’s. This lens has become my favourite mobile accessory due to its innovative optical design, allowing it to keep distortion to a minimum, which is critical in landscape and especially architectural photography.
New Zealand has been a dream come true, and in many ways, a great teacher. Unlike Singapore with its relatively short golden moments due to its location at the equator, the golden light in New Zealand seemed to stretch on for hours. Waking up at 4am to catch the sunrise and staying up till 10pm for the last light really tested our patience and endurance. I learnt that it is sometimes better to shoot away from the sun instead of the popular technique of shooting with the sun in the frame in order to capture the colours of the golden hours, as directional light from the setting or rising sun can illuminate the landscape in a variety of ways, highlighting the shape and form of natural features like rock formations and mountains with dramatic golden hues. I definitely look forward to returning in different seasons and staying for a longer time.
With regards to my plans for the future, I’m setting my sights on exploring landscapes in other parts of the world – Scandinavian countries such as Iceland, for example. A road trip in America to explore the many national parks would be great as well! Closer to home, I’m planning trips to Mount Bromo and Bali in Indonesia for some seascapes and astrophotography. Beyond that, I’m eager and excited to see what new places my passion for photography will take me to!
Special thanks go to the following: Darren Soh for linking me up with OOWA; OOWA for their amazing lenses; and Bingdun and Ruijie for being awesome travel buddies (and for driving me around)!
Shop for OOWA’s 15mm Wide-Angle Lens, along with the 75mm Telephoto Lens, here.