As we settle into 2017, we take a look back into the year and find out what some of the photographers we’ve worked with this year have been up to, and what’s in store for them in the new year. Meet commercial and street photographer Justin Mott, travel photographer Joseph Mak, underwater photographer Lia Barrett, wedding photographer Raymond Phang and astrophotographer Mark Gee.
Tell us about your favourite project in 2016?
Justin Mott: For the 3rd year in a row I was the resident photographer on Photo Face-Off and it never gets old. I’m honored that Canon has used me each season, not just for the show but also to be an ambassador of sorts at the Canon Photo Marathons throughout South East Asia. That’s not my official title but it’s such a wonderful experience to represent the show and get to travel all over region, meeting and getting to know people of all ages and skill levels that share a common love for photography.
Journey around South East Asia with Justin Mott in the Justin Mott series here: Hues of Hue – Portraiture Styles
Lia Barrett: That’s a tough question. 2016 was a busy year for me, as I got married, did a TED talk and then got pregnant, so fitting in shoots has been challenging. But I would have to say that my favorite shoot was probably with my good pal, Liz Parkinson of Stuart Cove’s in the Bahamas. It was my favorite because Liz and I had the liberty, time and freedom to be as creative as we wanted to be. We had great safety backup, access to a bunch of empty wrecks and sharks galore. So many ideas that I had been conjuring up in my fairy tale-laden brain were actually realized. On top of that, Liz is a superb water woman, who can freedive and hold her breath like a pro, and so she made everything so easy and enjoyable.
Check out more of Lia Barrett’s stunning underwater work here: Underwater Surrealism: An Interview with Lia Barrett
Joseph Mak: Antarctica was my favourite shooting trip for 2016. It was my dream destination and I was able to go to the 7th continent in the world. The wilderness and expedition level is one of its kind. I was able to witness the quietness of this part of the world, hearing the cracking sounds of the floating ice, and being up close with the penguins and wildlife. However, before you get to enjoy the beauty of Antarctica, you have to pass through the violent Drake passage for 2 days, and any item that isn’t secured is bound to fall. This is the experience that one must go through in order to say: “I survived the Drake Passage”.
EOS 5D Mark III, EF16-35mm f/2.8L II USM lens, f/11, 16 mm, 1/320sec, ISO640
Glaciers in Antarctica
Raymond Phang: My favourite project in 2016 would be a photoshoot I did for an advertising agency. I had a full team of creatives sharing the same wavelength and passion, great chemistry with the talents and sparks fired! Apart from than that, probably the overseas pre-wedding photoshoot in Japan (Dec 2015) and Korea (April 2016). I loved the weather! Can’t say the same for the bride who was freezing, but despite the teeth chattering moments, they were very enthusiastic and game for the shoot! When you work with people of high energy, naturally you’ll feel pumped up and motivated. It indirectly makes my job easier. Haha!
More of Raymond's amazing images: Capturing The Beauty of Spontaneity with Raymond Phang
EOS 5D Mark III, EF16-35mm f/2.8L II USM lens, f/7.1, 19mm, 1/200sec, ISO400
Eugene and Karmen in Japan
Mark Gee: It would have to be my return to Bushtops Camp in Kenya, Africa. I go there every year, and no year is ever the same. It was my favorite project in 2016 because no matter how much planning you put into the photo shoot, you just don’t know what you’re going to get...it’s all up to nature really and being in the right place at the right time. Last year it was all about the Wildebeest migration, whereas this year, we had lots of interactions with lions.
What were some of the highlights of your career in 2016?
Justin Mott: I was invited to be an honorary guest and mentor at this past years Canon Photo Clinic in Japan. I love teaching photography but I rarely get the chance to do so these days because running my photography and video production business keeps me extremely busy. The trip allowed me to explore Japan and shoot for myself while also connecting with the participants of amateur photographers. It was truly a wonderful experience.
EOS 5DS R, EF-S24mm f/2.8 STM lens, f/8, 24mm, 1/400sec, ISO100
Gazing out into the Dubai skyline
Lia Barrett: Probably the most challenging yet rewarding highlight was doing the TEDx talk in Nashville. It was in front of large audience, and was probably the scariest thing I’ve ever done (I’m not exactly the world’s most enthusiastic public speaker). But being able to get up in front of an audience, most of whom I am surmising were not water people, and talk to them about the ocean, its inhabitants and our need to care about how we treat it was such an amazing and rewarding experience that I’m not sure I topped it with anything else this year.
EOS 5D Mark III, EF8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM lens, f/9, 15mm, 1/60sec, ISO400
Liz Parkinson on the stern of the Ray of Hope surrounded by Caribbean reef sharks
Joseph Mak: Being able to travel to different parts of the world to witness the local cultures and having the opportunity to experience the lives of the locals! Some of my trips were expedition-grade too, meaning we had to trek and camp, which was an amazing experience.
Travel to the ends of the world through Joseph Mak’s incredible photos here: Travel Photography: Capturing Diversity with Joseph Mak
EOS 5DS R, EF35mm f/1.4L II USM lens, f/2.8, 35mm, 1/200sec, ISO250
Mingling with the locals
Raymond Phang: I was on the panel of judges for several photography competitions and being one of the organizers for the first ever photography camp known as Shiokcamp. It’s very different from the usual photography workshops that people attend. But in 2016 I actually forced myself to slow down a lot, even for competitions. I took a break from competitions as well because you definitely need to treat the competition with respect and put in a lot of time to focus on the preparation, which I really didn't have for this year.
The birth of my baby girl in early January this year also made me realize that I need to set time aside for this little one. Many of my friends shared that babies grow up fast. Before you know it, they’ll be running! Hence from the beginning of this year, I’ve already announced to take only 30 weddings and 5 conceptualised pre-wedding shoots for 2016. True enough, she’s graduating from babyhood to being a toddler next month already and we will be chasing after her pretty soon.
Mark Gee: I really focused a lot on travel and sharing the knowledge of my craft in 2016. I did a number of free astrophotography workshops just to give people the opportunity to get out under the night sky and learn astrophotography - the one I did in my home city of Wellington, New Zealand attracted over 800 people so that was a real buzz! I also went to a school in Kenya and did a photo workshop with a few of the kids. That was both amazing and really humbling as the kids I were teaching had never held a camera before, and to see their faces light up when they took their first ever photo was priceless! Other highlights from 2016 were speaking at the Adobe Make It Everywhere Tour and going to Borneo to shoot a short film on astrophotography for Canon Asia.
Marvel at the beauty of the night sky with Mark Gee’s photos here: Astrophotography: An Interview with Mark Gee
What was the craziest/most memorable thing that happened to you while on shoot in 2016?
Justin Mott: A couple weeks ago I fractured my leg and tore some tendons on a global AD shoot in Sydney for our largest client, a leading hotel chain. It was a two-part shoot for a huge campaign, the first part being in Sydney the second part in Dubai. On the last day of our shoot in Sydney I was doing a test shot of my assistant. I don’t want to be too long winded here but basically I leaped over a marble fountain, landed on slippery marble, and cut my knee down to the bone and lacerated my tendon. It was too big of a shoot to postpone as we produced the entire shoot and permits, models, drone operators, etc. had already been paid for. After my trip to the emergency room I went back to shooting that day and then straight to Dubai to finish the second part of the shoot.
My team really rallied around me taking care of me and helping me get the shots I needed and we finished the shoot and in the end I am extremely proud of what we produced. It was a positive experience looking back because it reminded me how lucky I am to have such a wonderful team and photography doesn’t always have to be a job in isolation.
EOS 5DS R, EF-S24mm f/2.8 STM lens, f/3.2, 24mm, 1/8000sec, ISO100
Suspended in mid air
Lia Barrett: Probably the craziest thing that happened this year was when I was swimming off the Big Island of Hawaii, and we happened upon a large pod of pilot whales meeting up with a large pod of melon head whales. It was like a whale convention, and there was so much chaos and commotion going on underneath the surface of the ocean, that I didn’t know where to look or snap. It all passed so quickly but it was such an exhilarating experience that I don’t think I will ever forget it.
EOS 5D Mark III, EF8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM lens, f/11, 15mm, 1/100sec, ISO400
Pilot whales and melon head whales meet in the middle of the Pacific Ocean off the Kona Coast
Joseph Mak: I would say the trip to Tanzania. We actually hunted with a caveman tribe! These are real caveman, and they survive on whatever they hunt. The temperature falls to 5 degrees in the night, and they sleep in their caves and burn wood to keep warm.
Canon EOS 5DS R, EF35mm f/1.4L II USM lens, f/1.6, 35mm, 1/125sec, ISO1250
The cavemen of Tanzania going about their day
Raymond Phang: Shooting live and moving cockroaches up close!
Mark Gee: It was at the Bushtops shoot in Kenya, and we were had just headed out for the night to see if we could find some lions to photograph under the Milky Way. A call came through the radio saying 3 lions had just made a kill, so we rushed to the location and we managed to get right up close to get a photograph of the lions eating their kill under the night sky. It was incredible to photograph and watch, and they weren’t bothered by our presence one bit. I have to admit my heart was certainly pounding a little when photographing that scene!
If you had to pick one image that perfectly summed up your year, which would it be?
Justin Mott: This, because I’m a narcissist and I love pictures of myself even if I know I’m not handsome. Actually I chose this picture because photography in all genres is all about perseverance and overcoming obstacles. It could be rain for a wedding photographer, access for a photojournalist, or a difficult client for a commercial photographer. At the end of the day whatever it may be you still need to produce and get the job done so this photo to me while an extreme example, is a nice reminder of that.
Lia Barrett: I think it would be a simple image of Liz Parkinson walking away from the camera along a wreck. It’s as though she’s journeying off towards new and endless possibilities. What – I have yet to discover, but I think that it perfectly sums up this year as a whole.
EOS 5D Mark III, EF8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM lens, f/13, 15mm, 1/60sec, ISO250
Liz Parkinson walks along The Ray of Hope wreck in the Bahamas
Joseph Mak: I took this picture while I was in Cuba. It was of the most beautiful sunsets that I have ever seen. Cuba is rapidly opening up its economy, and more tourists will visit Cuba and the rustic feel will soon be gone. There was an interesting scene that I witnessed: lots of Cubans crowding outside a restaurant, hotel and some corners. So I asked my driver, “why are they crowding outside? Are they waiting for a bus or Pokemon?” No, they are using WIFI. It was quite the eye opener for me.
EOS 5DS R, EF24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens, f/18, 47 mm, 64sec, ISO50
Sunset in Cuba
Raymond Phang: This is the best thing that happened to my life! (:
Learn more about Raymond Phang, the man who celebrates love through fun, conceptual wedding shoots here: Shooting Weddings: An Interview with Raymond Phang
Mark Gee: I think it was an image I shot in the Tasman Valley at Mount Cook in New Zealand. It was in the middle of winter, and I hiked up there to shoot a time-lapse. I was all alone and no one around for miles, and the night sky was just incredible that night. As I was packing up the time-lapse, I looked in the opposite direction, and the moon was rising over the glacier lake. It was one of those wow moments, and I was the only one witnessing it, so I took a photograph of the scene in front of me.
That moment had me buzzing for the rest of the night, and it reminded me why I originally started taking photos of the night sky 9 years ago. This was a really important moment for me, as some of that passion had dwindled over the past few years, but this had reignited it, and got me excited again about photographing the sky above and planning new adventures.
Tell us what you have in store for 2017? Any projects you’re particularly looking forward to?
Justin Mott: 2017 will be a decade for me living in South East Asia and I want to take some time to curate my own work from those ten years and hold an exhibition of my favorite work. I want to use that time to reflect on my career and work on how to improve for the next decade.
EOS-1D X Mark II, EF35mm f/1.4L II USM lens, f/2.8, 35mm, 1/1000sec, ISO200
A geisha daintily holds her umbrella
Lia Barrett: Well first I’m going to pop this baby out in May, and then I’m hitting the road (once I get a bit of shut eye of course). I’m starting the year off with some topside exploration in Morocco and then we will see. I’m guessing there will be a need to compensate for some time spent changing diapers, so when the gates swing open again, I will be roaring and ready to go! Theoretically…
EOS 5D Mark III, EF8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM lens, f/14, 15mm, 1/125sec, ISO400
Two time USA freediving record holder, Shell Eisenberg, freediving amongst a school of akule off the Kona Coast
Joseph Mak: I am looking forward to my trip in July to Spain for the San Fermin Festival (think bulls running on the streets) for some heart pumping action, and then onto Antarctica and South America in December 2017.
EOS 5DS R, EF24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens, f/3.5, 24 mm, 1/80sec, ISO1250
Huddling around a blazing fire from warmth in the dead of winter
Raymond Phang: Currently still in the works, will reveal when the time is right.
EOS 5D Mark III, EF85mm f/1.2L II USM lens, f/2, 85mm, 1/2500sec, ISO100
Karmen in Japan
Mark Gee: I have quite a few things in store for 2017. I’ve teamed up with some major creative partners and will be travelling to destinations like Spain and Africa, as well as more local adventures around New Zealand and Australia. There are more workshops and speaking engagements on the cards, and I will finally get to fly on NASA’s SOFIA modified Boeing 747 plane with its onboard telescope when it visits New Zealand mid next year (I missed out last year due to a crack in one of the engines).
But one project I am particularly looking forward to is flying on a chartered flight from Dunedin in New Zealand, down towards the Antarctic Circle to photograph the Aurora Australis from 37,000 feet. The plane is totally booked out, and I will be running the first ever inflight astrophotography workshop during the 8-hour flight, so that is something to be certainly excited about!
Any resolutions for 2017?
Justin Mott: Don’t jump over fountains.
Lia Barrett: Oooh, that’s a good one. I’d like to stop psyching myself out about cold water diving. So though I might not actually hit the ice in 2017, I’d at least like to start talking myself into the idea.
Joseph Mak: I want to take my photography skills to a new level, in particular, developing my own photography style.
Raymond Phang: Achieve a mini breakthrough in terms of style, and possibly having more interesting stories to tell through photography.
Mark Gee: For 2017, my resolution is to just get out there and have fun whilst pushing myself out of my comfort zone with more creative and technically challenging projects. I also want to continue my involvement in giving back to the photographic community and hopefully inspiring others along the way.
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