Welcome to our series of interviews with Taiwan residents who are doing interesting things here! Perhaps you’ll meet some of them around town. This is the first of the planned series, let me know if you’d like to do an interview in the same vein.
Today’s Interview: Craig Ferguson – Photographer
I’m delighted to introduce an erst-while resident of Taiwan, who’s just launched his new ebook. Craig’s kindly agreed to do an email interview, in which he shares how he got started with photography, how we novice photographers can make our pictures look just a tad better, and a little bit about his travel adventures.
If you’re living in Taiwan, as an expat, it’s likely you want your photographs to be the best they can, so you can show them off to your friends and family, back home (wherever that may be). On the with the interview.
Introduction To Craig Ferguson
1. Can you introduce yourself to the readers of TaipeiCityGuide?
I’m an Australian that has been living in Taiwan for 11 years. I work as a freelance commercial and editorial photographer with an emphasis on travel.
2. Tell us what you’ve been photographing lately.
Some of the latest work I’ve shot has been a portrait and architecture spread for The Wall St Journal, corporate portraits for a Swiss engineering company, and coverage of the various festivities that go along with lunar new year.
3. What motivated you to write a book about taking photographs for travellers?
In 2010 I undertook a project to create one photo lesson per day on my blog for the whole year. It had always been in the back of my mind to develop at least part of that into a book but nothing really happened until late 2013 when I was approached by a photography eBook publisher and they offered me a decent proposal. I then took those 2010 blog posts as a starting point, and refreshed and expanded upon the relevant ones into the book you see today.
4. What countries did you travel to specifically for taking travel photographs? How did they differ for you?
That’s actually a bit of a tough one because I’ve been interested in photography since I was a child, and it has always been a hobby. I couldn’t really say that I travel specifically for photography because to me photography is as much a part of my life as having coffee with breakfast.
But if I had to really choose, I’d say Thailand and Cambodia because on trips to each of those I planned the trip around something I specifically wanted to photograph. However for both countries, I’d previously visited them and had done a lot of the typical touristy things.
5. How has living in Taiwan changed your own travel photographs?
I think Taiwan has made me more of a people photographer. I get a lot of comments on that part of my photography yet prior to coming to Taiwan my main focus was probably landscape and scenery type imagery.
6. What photographs in your own collection represent the ‘essence’ of travel photographs?
Good question. I think some of my work from a trip to Nepal in 2011, which was my 4th time visiting there, may best represent the essence of travel photography.
7. What challenges do travel photographers have, based on your experience? Tell a short personal story to illustrate!
From a professional perspective the business side of things is probably the toughest. Travel has never been so accessible to so many people, and coupled with high quality photos that any modern camera is capable of producing, there’s a lot of incredible work out there. On a more personal side of things, and this relates to any traveller I guess, it might be staying healthy on the road.
For someone travelling to a once in a lifetime destination, getting sick mid-trip can be a real downer. I remember catching giardia in Varanasi, India back in 2001 and being stuck in the guesthouse for a few days until I recovered. I’d been drinking chai – Indian milk tea – from a vendor near the Ganges River, and what I didn’t know at the time was that he rinsed the glasses in the river. It’s one of the most polluted waterways in the world so it’s no surprise that I got sick.
8. What is the biggest challenge you face in your work? And the biggest reward?
The biggest challenge may be finding new ways to photograph the same places. If a photo editor from a magazine asks for photos of a location, they want to see something fresh and unique, and for some locations that can be tough. The biggest reward is getting to go places that most people never have access to, like in the MRT tunnels while they are under construction or other places off-limits to the general public.
9. Did you ever think you could make money from your work? Or did it happen by accident?
A bit of both. I actually have a degree in climate and environmental science, and at the time I was studying I often wondered whether I should have studied photography instead. I didn’t but due to the economic and political climate in Australia when I graduated and the following years, a career in science ended up not being feasible, and so I made a concerted effort to make a success of photography.
10. If you’re looking to get started in taking travel photographs, what would you recommend to our readers?
The number one piece of advice would be not to get hung up on equipment or brands. Just about every camera made over the past few years, as well as a fair number of smart phones these days, is more than capable of making great photographs. Spend your money on travel rather than photo equipment. For the price of a full frame DSLR camera kit you could buy an entry level kit and spend 6 months in India.
About Craig Ferguson Images
Craig Ferguson is a professional photographer based in Taipei, Taiwan. With a wide range experience in photography, he’s specialized in editorial, commercial and travel imagery. Check out Craig’s gallery & blog for some of his excellent photography over the years, his portfolio (including travel), his photography e-book and his facebook profile.