Australian photographer Donald Yip has been photographing the world around him for years now. Between landscapes, ocean views, and cityscapes, his Instagram profile is colorful and dynamic, showcasing photos he’s taken in more than 35 countries around the globe. We caught up with Donald to learn more about his career, photographic process, and travel ideology.
How and why did you begin taking photographs?
My interest in photography began around the time digital cameras were becoming affordable in the early 2000s. As a teenager, the technology was amazing to me — I could take an infinite number of photographs and view them instantly!I brought my camera on family holidays and trips and, like many others, enjoyed the variety of subject matter I could photograph: portraits, food, landscape, documentary.
Eventually, I began using photography not only as a pastime, but also a means to relax. Landscape and cityscape photography allowed me to fully immerse myself in my environment and simply observe.
In late 2017, I moved from Australia to London to establish myself somewhere I could travel, explore a different part of the globe, and photograph with greater ease.
What does your process look like? Do you plan your images ahead of time?
The same way some people travel for the food, I travel to photograph! My shoots are usually well researched and prepared, and a tripod is a must. Just like fishing, a lot of patience and luck is required, and you’ll want to to be at the best part of the lake at the right time of day to maximize your chances of the catching a fish.
My process begins with an image in a magazine or website that piques my interest or maybe a story from a friend about their travels to a certain location. I’ll research the destination using anecdotal accounts from friends and fellow photographers, as well as forums, Instagram, and other online resources. As far as research goes, the things that help me the most are all related to photography — the weather and climate predictions for various times of the year (depending on whether I want snow, fog, autumnal colors, or the sun in a certain spot, etc.), renovations being carried out on landmarks, and permission to take photographs in certain areas.
Generally, I try to spend a least two nights in each location, simply because I know that things rarely go according to plan. Staying a second day helps me create a photograph I’m satisfied with. Once I have the RAW image files, I post-process in either Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom to portray the emotion and visual clarity I experienced myself.
What are some of your favorite subjects to shoot? Are they usually united by a common theme?
My favorite subjects are what some would call ‘postcard perfect’ views. They include some of the most beautiful places on the planet, known or unknown. I enjoy grand vistas and rooftop views, coupled with optimum light and conditions.
To be more specific, my favorite subject is a blend of both landscape and cityscape, natural and man-made, together in a single scene. The fairytale towns of Santorini and the Cinque Terre region are perfect examples of this.
Your website features galleries titled “Land & Sea” and “City & Rural.” How do those different environments affect your emotions and feelings, as both an individual and a creative?
Those two categories are similar to capture, but are very different to both viewers and photographers.
For land and seascapes, there is a meditative pleasure in watching the light dance through the mist, reflect in a lake, or pierce through a hole in the clouds. Compositions can constantly change with weather and lighting conditions, but the results can be spectacular if you carefully control the camera. I always enjoy photographing the land and sea as a means of allowing my mind to rest and reset.
For cityscapes, the vibe is certainly different. As the sun rises or sets, you watch a city come alive before you, with the lights of monuments, buildings, and streets illuminating the scene. The atmosphere becomes charged with energy. The setting can be quite busy sometimes, and the challenge lies in deconstructing what’s in front of you to create a composition that viewers can grasp.
All of these environments are equally enjoyable for me to photograph, as each presents a myriad of creative opportunities. However, patience is required no matter what!
Of those four environments, which one is the hardest for you to shoot? What advice can you give on getting good shots of that particular environment?
Any environment you photograph comes with its own set of challenges, such as inclement weather, extreme temperatures, excessive crowds, renovation or construction, equipment failure, and legal restrictions.
Personally, I think the sea is probably the most difficult to photograph, simply because it involves the largest number of factors that are generally out of your control — the light, the rising and falling tide, and inclement weather and winds (although a plastic bag filled with rocks and tied to a tripod works wonders to keep the image steady). But when it all comes together, the results can be amazing. With high risk comes great rewards!
What mood, feelings, or thoughts do you hope your photos inspire in your viewers?
I want my photos to inspire people to get out there and see the world. My images are usually a blend of multiple exposures taken over several hours with a locked down tripod — a technique that photographer Elia Locardi is known for.
While a conventional photo has the ability to capture a singular moment in time, a time-blend using multiple exposures has the power to capture an entire spectrum of events in a single image: from the vivid colors of a sunset sky and the deep Blue Hour after the sun has set, to the warm glow of lights from a town or city. All of these, when combined, provide the viewer with a beautiful photo that possesses additional depth and creates a more immersive experience.
What are some of your favorite lessons that you’ve learned as you travel?
Travel for yourself. Enjoy the moment you’re in and try not to focus too much on making sure that everyone knows you’re having a great time. The high you get from social feedback will fade quickly, but the memories will stay with you for much longer. Smell the air, pay attention to the light and weather in front of you, listen to the noises, and of course take some great photos — but be sure to look up from your camera every now and then too!