atlas

creative and inspiring photography from around the globe

Peter Scheirer: Front and Center in Taiwan

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Peter Scheirer is a Bay Area-based photographer. While primarily a hobby, Peter has been uniquely passionate about photography for both its artistic and technical aspects. He is mainly self-taught but possesses the skill and know-how of a long-time professional photographer who has a keen eye for composition and light. Indeed, he has become the unofficial designated photographer for events at his daughter’s school and the camera-toting ‘man on the street’ on his many travels.  This week Peter speaks to atlas about his recent trip to Taiwan, his approach to photography, and the famous image that ignited his long-time photography passion.

How did you first become interested in photography?

Peter Scheirer: During high school, I saw a print of Steve McCurry’s “Afghan Girl” of Sharbat Gula. The emotional impact lingered in the background for years while I tried to produce something similar with other people’s cameras.  Not satisfied with the results just after college (about 25 years ago), I purchased the manual film SLR camera Minolta X700 and a 50mm.  After I saw what I produced, I knew I was finally starting down the right track. But after 25 years, one would think I would be McCurry-esque by now. In addition to my full-time non-photography career for the past ten years, I have also been a parent so I do not have much free time to develop my interests. Perhaps when I retire I can try to become “McCurry II.”

What do you look for in terms of composition?

Whatever strikes me. I find the “Rule of Thirds” interesting and it has a role to play in general but there are many situations where (even assuming you have the time to compose a shot) such structure actually interferes with the emotional spirit that I am trying to catch with the camera.

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Which genres do you like to photograph in particular?

I tend to shy away from landscape and nature mainly because I am a city guy at heart.  My initial subjects were casual portraits of friends, interesting surfaces (such as stone walls and wooden floors), and doors. After my daughter was born, she got added to the mix. I then realized that photo sessions with my daughter when she was young were not too different from wildlife photography. Perhaps that falls into “nature.”

You recently returned from a trip to Taiwan. Can you tell us a bit about these images from your trip?

I have been visiting Taiwan off-an-on since the late 1990’s and I have seen how the country has undergone quite a transformation.  While elements of the old society still linger there, nowadays it is overlaid in part by modern elements. I captured these from my trip there in June 2016 with a Nikon P7700, a marvelous little travel camera.

The top image was taken in the Five Channels Cultural Zone in Tainan. It is a neighborhood multi-story temple tucked away on a side street. Lanterns down the street help mark a birthday for the person being honored in the temple. Nevertheless, businesses like the “Fat Cat Story” and a bar still need to operate

The second image shows rows of orange bikes with Velo seats.Taipei in the past few years had started a program “YouBike” where people can rent bikes by the half hour. Based on the frequency of people riding such bikes during the hot and humid June, I am guessing that the program is at least a moderate success, and in my mind shows how far of a modern city Taipei has become. These bikes have begun to displace the ubiquitous gas-powered little-polluting scooters which in turn replaced the gas-powered big-polluting motorcycles. Note that these YouBikes are in conjunction to a modern subway system that seems to grow a few stations every time I visit.

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Here is a pedestrian-only white suspension bridge that connects two parts of Bitan, located in the Xindian section of Taipei. The picture only shows one side of that bridge, but it frames nicely one bar that is just to the right of the bridge’s base and another bar that literally on a small cliff.  Intrepid visitors can rent out paddle boats on the river, but given the warm weather most people skipped exhausting themselves that way. That immediate area is quite hilly. Off in the distance are the rooftops of two temples.

 

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This image is a wall with a circular entrance way.  This wall can be found in the Lin Mansion in the Banqiao section of Taipei, a compound with a residence and gardens of a wealthy family. This compound has its roots in the mid-1800’s with work extending for decades afterwards. This wall clearly contains classic Chinese elements yet presents them in such a minimalist way that suggests that the wall was intended to be modern for its time.

All of these photos are shown here without any edits; not even a cropping or a “vivid” in-camera setting. Part of me wants to be pure to the original scene, and another part of me wants to spend more time taking pictures rather than editing them.  Only for the very occasional photo intended as a gift or a photo that really calls for some modification do I use my photo editing software (Adobe Photoshop Elements with plug-ins from Anthropics, Nik Software, and Topaz Labs).

If you could go on a photo shoot with any photographer (living or deceased), who would it be?

Any intelligent and interested elementary school kid.  Children that age are fascinated by details of life and living that adults have glossed over decades ago.  Kids have a new perspective on something old, as it were.

Thanks for being our featured photographer of the week, Peter!

All images © Peter Scheirer.

Ross Willsher: On the Streets of New York

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Ross Willsher is a talented photographer based in Chelmsford, UK. Ross enjoys shooting family portraits, weddings, and commercial work and runs a successful photography business.  Ross was previously featured on atlas back in October 2015 with his magnificent street scenes of London.  Ross talks to atlas this week about his recent trip to New York City and his experience photographing people in New York City versus photographing people back in the UK. (Editor’s Note: We hope you enjoy these fantastic street scenes from the Big Apple as we highlight some of our favorite photographers of the week this month.)

You are based in the UK. What inspired you to travel to New York City?

Ross Willsher: This was my second visit to New York. I loved the first visit, but wanted to go again and see a bit more of the real New York and not the typical tourist trail of sightseeing and “must-do” activities. We strayed a little bit further this time and went to places like Hoboken and Williamsburg which offered glimpses into different ways of life in the city. It was great to visit the city a second time and slow down a little and take in the vibrancy of the city both in central areas and the outer suburbs.

How would you describe your experience photographing people in New York City? How is it different from photographing people back in the UK?

I found New Yorkers a lot more confident than British people or at least less apologetic regarding who they are what they believe in, which I think is great. I did not approach many New Yorkers for street portraits — something which I had planned on and regret not doing. However, as the trip was also a personal holiday with my partner, it was easier to simply observe and react to what was happening around me. In the UK, I know which areas are great for street portraits and the reactions I am likely to get. I also have to be in the right frame of mind to approach strangers and ask to photograph them and to be totally honest, I found this hard when in New York.  This might be due to the afore-mentioned confidence of New Yorkers but also as I was on a personal holiday and was in a more relaxed and laid back frame of mind.

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Can you tell us a little bit about these brilliant street scenes you captured on your trip?

These images were about capturing who and what I saw around me at the time. I did not try to deliberately capture a certain demographic or focus on native New Yorkers or tourists exclusively. I did not want images that were stereotypical of New York street scenes, but at the same time I tried not to go out of my way to photograph an “alternative” New York. I think it is easy to omit photos or even crop individual images to tell the story you want to tell. However, by keeping an open mind, it helped the images to be honest and reflective of what I saw around me during my visit.

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Did you face any challenges while shooting in New York City?

The main challenge was taking photos that have not been taken thousands of times already by tourists, while at the same time not taking images that could have been taken in any city in any country. Not knowing the locations and layouts of different areas was also challenging.  In London, I can wander around for hours and wherever I end up I know where I am and how to get back to where I want to be. In New York, I did not have this luxury. While this is a great way to explore a city, it meant I had half a mind on keeping tabs of where I was.

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What did you enjoy the most about shooting in the Big Apple? What did you like the least?

I liked seeing things from an outsider’s perspective, of blending in as just another person with a camera, and taking in new scenes and surroundings. I did not like the pressure I put on myself to come home with a strong set of images and still have time to switch off and enjoy my personal holiday.

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What did you take away from your trip?

Without sounding cliched, I think shooting in New York highlighted how world-over humans are humans with the same basic emotions, gestures and expressions. Anticipating when a person is about to laugh, smile or make an expressive gesture is the same process for us photographers the world over.

Thanks for being our featured photographer of the week, Ross!

For more information about Ross, visit his website.  All images © Ross Willsher.

Christina Angquico: Picturing Beauty in the Northwest

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Christina Angquico hails from Vancouver, Washington.  She works at the Histology Laboratory at the Vancouver Clinic. Interested in art starting as a youth, Christina discovered photography as a creative outlet for herself.  Her breathtaking landscape work has garnered awards.  Christina talks to atlas this week about her love of photographing nature and her talent for taking viewers on a journey through her images. (Editor’s note: As summer marches at a fast pace, we wanted to slow it down and revisit one of our favorite posts to showcase nature’s quiet beauty. Enjoy!)

How did you first get started in photography?

Christina Angquico: Thank you for interviewing me for atlas. I use to watch Bob Ross paint happy little trees when I would get home from school. I tried my best to emulate the scene but my versions never resembled anything happy or anything tree like for that matter. I remember the first time I saw an Anne Geddes book. I fell in love with her creativity. I guess portrait work was what originally sparked my love for photography.

You capture predominantly landscape/nature images. What about photographing landscape/nature resonates with you? Do you see yourself expanding to other genres?

Living in the Northwest I have access to some of the most stunning scenery in the world. When my life starts to get chaotic, nature has a way of re-charging and de-stressing my mind and body. Portrait photography has the opposite effect. Ask any landscape photographer about their last experience shooting a wedding! In all seriousness, I have handsome children and gorgeous nieces and nephews that model for me when the inspiration bug bites.

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What is your approach to photography?

My approach to photography has changed from when I started. I would spend exorbitant amounts of time studying and researching every composition. When I composed my shot, I made every effort to come away with something unique to distinguish myself from thousands of other shots that came before mine. You can imagine what a fruitless effort this is considering the amount of photographers who visit or reside in the beautiful Northwest. Of course, everyone strives for originality but you would have to be photographing some pretty remote off trail scenes to come away with anything original nowadays. From my perspective, I see the majority of  photographers distinguishing themselves from the crowds with stylized processing techniques.  I love looking at the popular page on 500px and being able to tell who took the photograph without first seeing their name. My approach to photography has been much more lax the past couple of years. I don’t feel the need to research every composition, to weather watch or to pressure myself into coming up with something original and distinguishing myself from the crowds. I enjoy nature and how it recharges you when you take away the competitive aspect of comparing yourself with others. Do what you like and what ultimately makes you happy.

How do you see your work evolving over the next few years? Are you working on any new projects?

I have a bucket list of places that I want to see before I die so I will definitely be working on that. Maybe I can re-train my brain to not detest taking portraits and expand my skill set and make good on the reasoning I gave my husband to buy me a camera in the first place. After my grandfather died, I learned that he had a portrait studio so expanding into that genre doesn’t seem so far-fetched.

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While there are growing numbers of women now, photography is historically a male-dominated field. Do you have any thoughts about why this is so? Can anything be done to increase the number of woman photographers in the industry?

I think female landscape photographers are increasingly growing in numbers  and this trend will continue. What is more disconcerting to me in this digital age is photography as a profession. How many professional photographers can provide for their families needs living solely off of their art? Making ends meet while being a photographer is certainly a hard feat regardless of your gender.

Are you self-taught or did you attend formal photography classes?

I have never taken any formal photography classes but I have had excellent mentors along the way. In 2009 I was perusing a site called Flickr and fell in love with landscape photography, particularly waterfalls. I decided I wanted to learn how to shoot waterfalls and started emailing people in hopes for a response. I got really lucky and have met and made some pretty wonderful friends through that site. After I learned the basics about exposures, everything else I have learned has been through reading and watching Youtube videos.

What do you look for in terms of composition when you are taking an image?

Having a focal point and elements that support that focal point is essential. You want to take your viewers on a journey as if they were standing there right with you — an escape from all the hustle and bustle where they can feel and absorb the beauty or mood you are trying to convey. I love when you can just feel the warmth of the sun exude from a photograph or smell the salt in the air from an artists rendition of a familiar place.

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If you had one piece advice for a novice photographer, what would it be?

You don’t need expensive gear or to get the best of the best of everything. You need to be there, practice, practice, practice and shoot raw.

For more information about Christina, visit her website. All images © Christina Angquico.