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Texts from “Photography Magazine”, an quite established Hong Kong based photography magazine. One of the better interview I had ever done with any media.

夢幻樂園

Lee Peiling的微距世界

昆蟲、植物、水滴……大家可能覺得微距攝影 的題材都是千篇一律,了無新意,微距的拍攝題材委 實不多,故風格、形式才是作品能出奇制勝的王道。 要拍到別具匠心的微距作品,相片的顏色鮮艷奪目, 相片布局精巧,疑真似假,活像一幅幅美妙的畫作。 究竟有甚麼秘訣呢?攝影師Lee Peiling的作品正能為 大家作示範,究竟是甚麼啟發她的靈感?她又是如何 創作這些作品?讓她親自跟大家分享拍攝心得吧!

誠然,國際上有不少「精彩」的作品 帶我們進入微距的世界,不過僅止 於此,在普遍微距攝影師的作品中,「微 距攝影」只是他們的目的,他們只是用微 距鏡頭將主體放大就完成了一張微距「作 品」。然而微距攝影是Lee Peiling的手段, 並非目的,她是用微距攝影去創造自己 的夢幻樂園,作品中充份表現了構圖、光 影,是真正的攝影作品。她精心的佈局完 全呈現了藝術家的意念,將微距作品發揮 得淋漓盡致,可謂將我們帶入微距攝影的 新境界。

鍾愛美麗的事物

Lee Peiling的作品充滿美感,乍看之 下也難以分清是相片,還是畫作,真的是 別出心裁的作品。她為何會創作出如斯美 妙的作品呢?原來Peiling三年前才開始接 觸攝影,因為當時她厭倦做了十多年的商 業設計工作,想發展純粹的藝術創造而接 觸攝影。她從小喜歡畫畫,鍾愛所有美麗 的東西,與此同時她也屬意創造美麗的事 物,因此之前的設計工作就是她藝術方向 的其中一條路,而現在喜歡的攝影又是另一個表達自我的方式。問及這項十多年的 專業訓練會否影響她的攝影創作,她表示 從前的商業平面設計跟現在的攝影創作委 實沒有太大的關係,反而當中的數碼藝術 訓練卻幫助了她相片的後期處理工作。相 信是她從小至今樂此不倦地追求美的「訓 練」,令她對美麗的事物特別敏感,也更 易創作出富藝術美感的作品。

Peiling熱衷於微距攝 影,因為她相信 最好的風景、東西就在自己的身邊。她曾 說:「我是導演,花朵和昆蟲就是我的演 員!」,她跟拍攝主體就像導演與演員的 關係,難怪她覺得自己的作品就像是舞台 上的一場表演或是歌舞劇。她說當導演、 燈光、音樂、舞台設計、演員所有部份配 合起來,就能成就一場完美的表演,而她 也是盡量配合所有的東西去呈現一幅美麗 的作品。在Peiling的微距作品,花朵及昆 蟲都是不可缺少的拍攝題材,不過對她來 說兩者之間究竟有沒有主次之分?她指出 她不打算在拍攝中清楚地呈現自己的優先 次序,而是期望讓觀眾自己去詮釋作品, 就像她經常都會聽到觀眾有不同意見, 有些對她創作的氣氛感著迷,有些對她如 何「指導」昆蟲更感興趣,有些則覺得相片的昆蟲非常獨特或罕見。無論如何,她 最希望打造一個視覺的盛宴,讓人在當中 可以欣賞很多不同的東西及藏著背後的故 事。

打造夢幻樂園

Peiling接觸微距攝影已經一段日子, 但她現在最希望仍是建立自己的個人風 格。雖然要尋找一個適合自己的新主題並 不容易,但她仍會繼續做自己覺得重要的 東西——專注微距攝影。她原先的作品系 列《A small small world》取材不同的昆 蟲,似乎一直都沒有特定的拍攝種類,不 過最新的作品系列《Slow in love》,取材 蝸牛,以其特色、活動作主題,究竟她想 表達甚麼?她認為蝸牛能告訴我們如何生 活,她解釋「何時是你最後一次刻意望著 窗口發白日夢?最後一次沒有擔心之後做 甚麼而慢慢地享用餐點呢?我個人非常喜 歡蝸牛「慢活」的意念,不過在現實世界 是難以實踐的,因此我決定用攝影去創造 我的理想生活場景。」

她的作品可謂匠心獨運,營造出疑真 似假的夢幻景觀,原來她每次從構思、預備道具到拍攝出滿意的作品,大概需要花1至 2天的時間。她大部份的創作都是在影樓預先 設定一切並完成拍攝,她補充並非專業的影 樓,只是在家中的空房子「自製」影樓。她 表示在影樓工作給她很大的自由操控拍攝的 設定,例如背景、燈光的控制。不過她認為 在室外拍攝會有更多樂趣,因為你總是猜不 到每次的行程會得到甚麼。她每次拍攝前會 先畫草圖,計劃心目中的拍攝畫面,然後就 會做研究、搜集、購買或製作舞台的道具。 當完成所有場景的設計,打造屬於她的舞 台,她就會從自己的花園找尋昆蟲,小心翼 翼地放牠們在舞台上拍攝,拍攝完畢即放牠 們回花園。

最愛淺景深效果

在攝影的道 路,她最關注的事是發展自 己的個人風格,而她確實是創作了別樹一格 的微距作品,她的特別就是她用不同的東西 拼湊出一幅如畫作般美麗的作品,我們知道 她會收集合用的道具,不過造成這個夢幻樂 園背後還有一個「大功臣」——「淺景深」 效果。若讀者仔細留意她的作品,不難發 現作品中的半空飄揚點點的圖形,那原來是 她按快門時噴灑出來的水,當用大光圈拍攝 時,水模糊了便能營造夢幻的效果。她最喜 歡這些「淺景深」的美麗效果,她說她從第 一天開始攝影就已經離不開「淺景深」。無 論是由燈光或水創造的「淺景深」,它都為 相片產生了夢幻般的氣氛。

至 於拍攝器材方面,她採用Canon 50D、Canon 100mm微距鏡頭、2個外置閃 光燈,最近她已經將機身升級為5D Mark III。 拍攝完畢後,她會使用Photoshop CS5去處 理相片的後期製作,不過她個人最享受拍攝 的過程,而不是長的時間用電腦處理相片。 如果要她跟讀者分享一個拍攝微距作品的心 得,她說微距攝影必須留意的事情就是「清 晰」,大概是主體必須清晰吧!

最好的尚未來臨

Peiling 的作品嘗試了不同的場景設計,她 源源不絕的的創作靈感從何而來?原來她每 天會參考大量的作品,特別是微距作品,當 中一些大師的作品也啟發她不少,如俄羅斯 攝影師Andrey Pavlov及波蘭攝影師Magdalena Wasiczek。現在,她的創作開始得到讀者的 認同,不過創作過程不乏困難,可能是別人 對作品的負面評論,或是昆蟲在拍攝過程跑 掉並消失得無影無跡,不過她抱著「繼續前 進」的精神堅持到底,最後一幅幅驚為天人 的作品就誕生了。

她拍攝了過百張作品,精心打造了過百 個的夢幻樂園,究竟自己有沒特別喜歡或最滿意的作品,但她還是說:「我總是覺得最好的尚 未來臨。」或許就是無止境追求美的精神,令她事 事力臻完美,也能令她創造出更出色的作品。問及 未來的計劃,她希望完成整系列的拍攝工作後可以 出版書籍,跟讀者分享多些她照片的拍攝技巧。與 此同時,她現在會盡情享受自己和相機相處的每個 時刻。她能在微距攝影世界大放異采,或許因為她 愛「微距世界」多於微距攝影。她是真的喜歡那個 細小的世界,那個仙境般的小舞台,而微距攝影只 是她用來呈現她喜愛的東西的一個方法。

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Cutting Edge Section in Digital SLR Magazine, UK version in May 2012.

Fine print that’s I have managed to retrieved from another website.

Macro Marvel

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: you dont need High-End equipmentto capture incredible imagery. Malaysian Peiling Lee is yet another photographerto provethis with her superb macro series: ‘a small small world’.

Many photographers yearn after the latest gizmos, higher specifications and the next best thing in the imaging market, but you really don’t have to spend a fortune to get top-quality results. Living in Tanzania, east Africa, Peiling has to make the most of what limited resources she can gather, but instead of it being a hindrance, it has simply meant she’s had to find more creative solutions.

Optics play a major role in determining the level of image quality, which is why Peiling uses a Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L USM IS Macro lens, paired with a mid-range Canon EOS 50D and Nissin flashguns. All her scenes are created from scratch with subjects and props like grass, flowers and potatoes collected from her home or garden. “I shoot most of my macro work indoors as it gives me more control over the scene and the set-up, enabling me to better translate my imagination into images. Doing it this way makes me feel like I create my pictures, not just capture them.”

While she manages to control the environment, working with such uncooperative little critters is trickier. “Despite insects being difficult subjects, the praying mantis is one of the easiest species to work with as they move so slowly. They’re also very sensitive to light and sound, so they’ll often look at the camera as it focuses or the on-camera flash when it fires. Timing is very important with these types of shots as when a mantis looks away, they can be very stubborn. You have to talk, even sing, to them – whatever it takes to get their attention so they turn to face you.”

What makes Peiling’s images so mesmerising is the soft focus, vibrant colours and specular bokeh, created by nothing more than backlit sheets of coloured plastic, a wide aperture and a dusting with a water spray. “I mainly use f/2.8 to get the bokeh, but it can make focusing tricky; especially if a subject moves. It’s not so much of a problem with a praying mantis, but as ants are a lot faster I have to find a balance between depth-of-field, soft light and a fast enough shutter speed to freeze the movement. The background is usually colourful sheets of plastic that I have found in stationery stores matching the material I collect from my garden. I place it about two feet behind the subject, backlit by a table lamp, then position a Nissin flashgun with softbox to my left, pointing 45° at the camera. Once the actor or actress is settled, I spray the water and fire the flash. As long as the flash is at the right angle and the timing is spot on for freezing droplets as they fall, you’ll get beautiful bokeh.

“When using flash, I set it to manual and the lowest power, but even then it’s often too strong. To help diffuse both the Nissin and integral flash, I layer material to cut down the light: paper, cotton, white plastic bags – anything to make the light softer. I also angle myself differently depending on the subject. For instance, as ants are small, I angle the camera upwards to make them look larger. Whereas a praying mantis is shot from eye level for better eye contact.”

After returning her subjects to where they came from, Peiling goes about processing her Raw files, but even this only consists of minor adjustments to the brightness. White Balance and colour in Photoshop. It’s quite the testament to what you can achieve with basic kit, some creative ingenuity and solid photographic technique. So, if you are the type of photographer who goes weak at the knees at the mention of megapixels, guide numbers or new gadgets, why not take a lead from Peiling Lee and place the technique over the tech for a while to see what you can come up with?

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Digital SLR Magazine Malaysia Version Oct 2012.

I was so glad my photo also appeared on the cover for the first time!

Below are the fine words from the interview.

Over the years, we have seen photographs of models posed in a world that defies reality. The diverse images depict a world of fantasy, a world constricted only by the human mind. Then, Malaysian Lee Peiling comes along, a female photographer who dared to take the most overlooked subjects and transport them instead into a world of fantasy and magic. There are no gorgeous curvy women or stunning chiselled men in her flight of the imagination, only beings that walk on all six or those that leave a trail of sticky slime. Yes, Peiling photographs minute creatures such as insects and molluscs found in her garden. Unlike most girls that would squirm at the sight of these creatures, Peiling would whip out her camera instead.

Peiling uses a technique called ‘Bokeh’. The word ‘Bokeh’ is a Japanese word for fuzzy and so, blurred lights in thebackground of a photograph is called bokeh photography. The subjects are usually placed closer to the camera and a larger aperture is applied. Any source of light, such as street lights end up looking like big circles of light, creating a lovely background.

“Photography is just a hobby of mine. This hobby was the “combination” from my two other interests which are digital art and gardening. I had totally stopped working ever since my husband started his business in Tanzania. I had worked and stayed alone in Shanghai for a year plus, so I decided to join him in Tanzania for good. With this decision, I have stopped working and had my so called early retirement”, said Peiling.

Peiling had left her demanding and stressful job at an advertising agency. Imagine the amount of free time she was suddenly left to deal with. Too much spare time can drive anyone towards chronic boredom, so she decided to pursue a different challenge in her life.

“I love graphic design and I was totally into design and the creative world for the past 17 years… since I am no longer in this field, I am able to do something based purely on
my interest. I no longer have to do a piece of art work or design based on the requirements of a client or market needs. The art I create now is purely my way of expressing myself. Photography has filled up this space, time and need perfectly”, said Peiling.

One of her favourite projects is called ‘Small small world’. Interestingly enough, Peiling used to suffer from insectophobia, but when fate intervened, she was brought ‘closer’ to these creepy crawly beings.

“I was too bored and started looking at something long term that I could shoot near or around the house. I started to notice lots of butterflies in my garden and I started chasing butterflies. All this because butterflies are the least creepy insects that I know of. Slowly more and more insects were introduced to my photography and I slowly got used to them. As for the technical side of it, I try to combine the techniques that I have learnt from floral photography, and also tried to create a rather surreal or magical atmosphere for the insects. Water, flowers, plants, small pebbles, stones, vegetables, anything I can get from my garden and kitchen to create a rather surreal or magical scene… a stage out of this world for the insects. I love pretty things and the insects have to look as pretty as possible to me”, said Peiling.

Photography has changed Peiling’s life in many ways. Not only has it become her artistic sanctuary, it has also taught her to appreciate life and the natural wonders that surround her.

“I have learnt how to appreciate the smallest, simpler things in life better. I have started to see things in more detail, appreciating the beauty of most simple shapes and forms in our everyday life. My patience has also become better since I normally have to spend hours with the insects”, she added.

In the beginning, Peiling found that many people around her did not appreciate her art as she had hoped for.

“I did not get so much encouragement from most people in the earlier stages; perhaps macro photography is always a less popular subject and always has less “great stories” compared to other subjects for example landscape and street photography. However, my close family members have always been very supportive”, said Peiling.

People’s lack of enthusiasm for her macro photography was the least of her worries. Unfazed, she still took pride in her work and continued perfecting her art to what it is today.

“I remember my first photography that made me proud. It was just a simple macro shot of a flower which I took during my trip. I obviously did not know how I did it at that time. Anyhow this shot became my inspiration and sparked my interest in macro photography. The camera I had used at that time was just a compact Olympus digital camera which I had borrowed from my husband”, said Peiling.

As a self-taught photographer, Peiling relies on books and magazines for knowledge and inspiration.

“I do not have many friends who can share any knowledge with me (most of my friends do not have the same interest). I have not attended any courses before either”, said Peiling.

Peiling’s work experience in advertising has helped her greatly when it comes to composing photographs.

“The way of creating the images uses similar creative thinking processes in advertising and creative work. It all starts with an idea, followed by a lot of research before shooting, preparing the set (if it is an indoor shoot) and lastly the final touches will be added on during post editing. Throughout all these processes, two key factors for success are patience and understanding the subject in your shot. The element of “luck”, getting the shots you want in just a few clicks does not happen most of the time”, Peiling advised.

Despite her great works, Peiling remains much grounded and humble.

“It is hard for me to call myself a ‘pro’ because I think I am still learning and yet to earn much from this hobby”, said Peiling.

So who or what are the sources of inspiration during her formative years?

“I am a fan of Magdalena Wasiczek from Poland. She has influenced my work a lot in the early stages. She is still very active in macro and portrait photography”, said Peiling.

Photographers, we have seen many beautiful subjects that make many outstanding photographs. But Peiling and I agree that when you take something simple and ordinary, and transform it into something extraordinary, the images stand out tremendously and it is easily engraved in people’s minds.

“That is the challenge I face… how to come up with something fresh out of something so ordinary. Everybody is shooting flowers and insects, what makes your work outstanding? You do not want to be a follower all the time, you will wish to create something original if possible”, said Peiling.

At the moment, Peiling is still much involved in her project entitled ‘The Small Small World’. She has also started another project whereby she features a ‘family’ of snails.

“For the snails, I wish to tell tales of these little slow creatures in my garden. I have tried to use all the techniques I have learnt from the project ‘Small Small World’, injecting some emotions into these photos. The stars will be mama snail, papa snail and baby snail. They move so slowly which normally means it will take up a lot of time for me before I actually see them start acting, but it is so rewarding if you are willing to spend the time! They are such good posers.
I used to hate snails by the way, but now they are in my favourite actors or actresses list”, said Peiling.

Peiling does not have any specific plans at the moment. She is contented by just concentrating on her projects.

“I do wish to have my own exhibition one day, but as for now, I am still not sure where, when and how”, Peiling said pensively.

Peiling uses both a Canon EOS 5D Mark III and EOS 50D as her main tools to capture her images.

“My two favourite lenses are the Canon EF100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM and Carl Zeiss 50mm f/1.4 Planar T*. Carl Zeiss is my favourite when it comes to flora as it always gives very beautiful bokeh and creamy effects when I want shallow DOF. The Canon EF100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM is an excellent lens if clarity and sharpness is what you are concerned about the most”, advised Peiling.

As the interview comes to an end, Peiling leaves us with a few words of advice, to ponder on.

“Do not stop shooting just because you face problems such as budgets, resources or skills. If it is raining, shoot something indoor, if you cannot travel far, look at things around you, if you do not have expensive gadgets, just look at cheaper options and perhaps invent something to use!”, Peiling enthused positively.
TIPS FROM PEILING

1. Imagine – Have a picture in your mind before you start planning your shoot. You can get the idea by looking at lots of other macro photography works from the internet or magazines.

2. Research – Do some research before you start shooting on a more difficult subject, example of a difficult subject like ants. You would surely need some special techniques to master beforehand.

3. Spend less – If you do not want to jump into buying an expensive macro lens so early, try to work with an extension tube or close up filters first. This is a good option for beginners. As for me, I love to work with an extension tube which thankfully does not come with an expensive price tag.

4. Planning – If it is an indoor shoot, get the right equipment. Shop for the props or even create something for the set. Do proper planning prior to the shoot.

5. Prepare yourself – If it is an outdoor shoot, you would need a good camera bag, a pair of good shoes, even a bottle of water or an energy bar in your bag to ensure that you will not tire easily. This also helps you to keep focused on your shoot.

6. Magic hours – Lighting is almost everything in my opinion. Without good lighting, a perfectly sharp subject and composition is still not going to shine. As for me, I will plan my outdoor shoots around 6.30 in the morning or around 5 in the afternoon. These are the magic hours for me. I always work with side lighting and never bother to make a shooting trip if it is an overcast day.

7. Master your flash – Lighting is almost everything to me, so a flash is essential when it comes to creating the lighting that I desire, for both outdoor and indoor shots.

8. Sharpness of the eyes – A great macro shot cannot do without perfect sharpness; I love to play with greater DOF. As for me, at least the eyes of the subject has to stay sharp, this also applies to flowers; which part of the flower is the eye very much depends on your imagination.

For more information on Peiling’s work, please visit www.peilinglee.com. The images are also available for sale, both in digital form and in print form.

Text by Ravinder Kaur

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tumblr_m6ql17666D1r4giq1o1_500Tutorial 2

Photo title: Are we there yet?

The idea

It was all started inspired from the famous Russian macro photogarpher Andrey Pavlov, his work has open up a whole new perspective of insect macro to me even though I myself also doing the same things for the last 2 years.

I never knew how he did it ( I wish I could!), but I have figured out my way ( perhaps, the less impressive version ), one thing for sure, I have tried to work with ant in this kind of subject, but it was a total failure, and I just couldn’t spend hours just to study the ant, the behavier. But I can work with my little snail in the garden! They are much more easier to work with.

The planning

As usual, I have started with a visual in mind, draw it out and start planning, I do not have much resources besides getting it from my garden and supermarket. What’s looks like a weel, whats’s works well as the body of the car. What’s make a natural background as I do not want an empty field in the shoot. The whole idea is making it as “real” as possible. Finally, gathered all the props, I started creating the stage. I used toothpick to secure the tree (brocolli) on the ground which is a pot of grass. I use glue to secure each part of the car lightly because I was worry the car will breaks apart during the shoot.

The shoot

I have use 2 external flash on both left and right side on this shoot, also I added one more table lamp just to make sure the whole stage is prefectly light up. Place the baby snail and mama snail on the car carefully and wait, they needs a little bit of time to “wake up” once you have scared them a little by moving them around. The tricky part is for most of the time, they do not “wake up” at the same time, you have to wait and shoot, shoot and wait, untill you get a perfect posture from them based on your sketch. This waiting took up almost an hour, and this consider fast! The Mama snail was actually love the cars, she was willingly reach up to the post as if she is driving!

I have used a rather smaller aperture in order to have 3 of the subjects, baby snail, mama snail and the car in a better focus.

Originally, droplets bokeh was not in the plan, but I have just added the droplets to see how’s it goes on the final section, somehow, the out come is nice when I have gotten the “ray of lights” on the side, yes, it was not the real ray of lights but water droplets lines that’s created by a slowly flash fire or….the table lamp, I did not actually remember, unfortunately.

The photoshop

Finally, I have adjust the colours with Photoshop, also, I have done the focus stacking on the snails in order to have a better sharpness on both of them in the same shot.

The result

The result is “OK” rather then perfect to me, but I am truly enjoy the process.

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Tutorial 1

Photo title: Stalk

This is my first article work with a blogger before any other media. but somehow, I guess it has not seen the lights. So, I decided to share the article here.

Below are something about me and how I create my image in general, each of the image which I have created surely has it’s unique method and story behind, this is just one of the example.

Q: How exactly do you prepare the shots?

First stage:

Started with an idea from my imagination, preparing the “stage” based on the idea from my drawing, gathering the props from my garden or even go shop for it, put everything in place, if I need to do some extra work like creating a background with leafs or using wood chips to create a small hut of the set, I will need to spend one more day extra.

Second stage:

A: Wait for the right hours ( for example, sometimes the best time is in the night when in total darkness), prepare the lighting, a few test shots, invite the star from my garden and start shooting.

Q: How long do you usually shoot until you get the shot you want? Where and how do you get the insects? Which equipment are you using?

A: Is hard to say how long it takes since insect is always hard to predict, they do not co-operate most of the time especially insect like ant ( I never ever freeze them), but average is between 4 hours. That’s the max I can hold on regardless how long the insect can stay on the stage, they will run away after times.

The insects is all from my garden. Canon 5oD, Canon 100mm Macro with IS and one external flash, sometimes with table lamps

Q: Did you shoot all these in your studio or do you also shoot outdoors?

A: For this project, mostly are indoor.

Q: How do you create the bokeh in your shots?

A: Place the flash in 45 degree facing the camera, it has to be back-lit for the subject with a darker background. I like to shoot with aperture wide open, It is not hard to get beautiful bokeh but just be careful with the off focusing problem for your main subject.

Q: How did you create the small water droplets on the plants and in the air?

A: Water spray, but an external flash has to be fired as well. Timing is the key for freezing droplet in the air; you just have to keep trying.

Q: About you: What is your profession?

A: I am an ex designer that just retired from advertising line.

Q: How long are you photographing for?

A: More seriously involved only for the past 3 years, before that I was just having fun with my digital compact like others and do not know what is exactly what is aperture and shutter speed. I am considering myself still a beginner.

Q: What was the reason you started with photography?

A: Ever since I left advertising line, I suddenly have this emptiness in life that need to be filled up by another interest or hobby. I have chosen to stay focus on this hobby instead of other interest like illustration.

Q: Why do you shoot mainly macro?

A: It started with my interest of gardening and photogarphy, and the easiest way for me to practice photography is floral macro in beginning, then it has extended to insect from floral… it’s still macro. I do shoot others subject or theme but nothing seems good enough to be noticed.

How I did it

Stalk (picture shown as above)

A pot of grass has been placed in the middle of stage; basic lighting like table lamp is set with a coloured diffuser, this work as the clean background for the stage.

Place the insect on the grass and let them get used to the environment, once the insect has been settle down, press the self timer and spray water when the flash fired. Keep shooting, until I have something happy with. Post editing with Photoshop, enhance the colors also work on the cropping at the final stage.

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