Joe Traipattanakul

(Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering, PhD, Year 4)
Grand Prize Winner of HKUST Photo Competition 2015

When you have to leave your home country and spend most of the time abroad studying and doing research alone without family and old friends, you need to find another activity to help you relaxed and clear your mind. “Photography” is that activity for me.

The description “talented in photography” might not really suit me. I was not really into photography. I did not do a good job at the beginning. Similar to an English proverb that says that Rome wasn’t built in a day, I believe that my photography skills have developed through time from self-learning, eagerness to know more and patience. With zero photography knowledge, I have learned shooting and post-processing techniques by watching YouTube videos, reading online sources and observing other photographers. However, learning without doing never works. Fortunately, the beautiful HKUST landscape allows me to practice my skills in the early morning. 4:30am in summer and 5:30 am in winter are my wake-up times for capturing breathtaking skies before the sunrise and of course during the sunrise. Every single photo I shoot today, I try to find ways to improve its quality for tomorrow. Whether it is photography or scientific research, I always prevent myself from being a full glass of water because the fact is that nobody knows everything and I cannot know everything. We somehow always learn new things every single day. Learning from yesterday’s mistakes is one of the keys for skill development. At the end, practice turns into experience. Experience turns into skills. Eventually, a hobby has turned into a potentially life-time passion.

If you think photography is about holding a camera and pressing the shutter, you might misunderstand its true concept. To me, photography is about using scientific equipment and knowledge to capture an object and expressing it with an artistic soul. In other words, photography is literally a combination between science and arts. For example, if you want to take a landscape photo during sunrise, the position and the time of the sunrise have to be determined ahead of time using scientific tools available to select the perfect shooting point. Without planning it, you may find yourself wasting time somewhere without any productive output. Apart from this, the wind and the amount of ambient light at that particular moment also affects the shutter speed of the camera and the aperture of the lens. At the same time, compositions and digital post-processing reflect the artistic soul of the photographer representing his/her emotions and styles in that image.

As for time management, despite the fact that photography is my passion, my priority lies in my research work. I, moreover, have another important duty as a hall tutor. As a result, these three major activities can at times make time management very challenging for me. How can I cope with it? If you follow my Instagram, you will see that more than 90% of my photos were taken during the 10% of a day which is during sunrise and sunset. This is how I keep my photography separate from my major duties at school and balance my time.

One question I always receive from people who want to start taking photos is what camera they should buy. Frankly speaking, if you do not plan to have your photos printed on big billboards, and only plan to use them as your desktop background or to share them on social media, the camera you use may not matter that much. A good photo is born out of well-thought-out planning, the right moment, a good composition and the soul you put into it. At the end of the day, the audience does not care which camera you use, but what messages your photos are communicating to them.