Confessions of a wildlife photographer: Shooting animals the right way

Wildlife photographer Kennie Pan says key to taking good pictures is knowing the story you want to tell
Hariz Baharudin The New Paper 29 May 17;

When asked what makes a picture good, award-winning wildlife photographer Kennie Pan is reflective.

The laidback 27-year-old told The New Paper: "It's not just about the gear.

"It is about who you are as a person and what is the story you want to tell."

The words sound more sincere coming from the self-taught shutterbug, who did not let his humble origins stop him from chasing his dream of capturing animals on camera.

Mr Pan said he started out 12 years ago, armed with just a simple entry-level camera he found at home, because he did not have enough money to get a camera of his own.

He studied shots by photographers he admired, thinking about how they got the photos.

"I look at their photos and I feel inspired," he said.

"I knew I probably would not be able to get the shots they got because I don't have the privilege or the money, but I still wanted to try."

Driven by his passion, Mr Pan saved up to go on self-funded expeditions.

His interest has led him to stalking tigers at an Indian safari and seeking out rare kingfishers in the Philippines.

But the images that have won him awards were taken right here in Singapore.

In 2010, Mr Pan nabbed the prestigious grand prize (junior category) in the Biodiversity Wildlife competition.

The photo he took of a long-tailed shrike in a residential area came out on top out of 2,200 photos that were submitted.

Mr Pan got the shot using just a mid-range camera.

He said: "There is wildlife everywhere if you look... Every place has different species. It depends on what you want to shoot."

He was also a finalist at the One Eyeland Photography Awards in 2013.

The year after, he received honourable mentions in the professional category at the International Photography Awards, in the nature-wildlife category.

Whether it is trailing big cats, looking for an elusive snake or finding rare birds, Mr Pan said knowledge about the animals is just as important as the gear. To him, capturing the animals in their natural habitats is his way of offering a peek into their world.

"You have to know why you are photographing them, the story you wish to tell people when you take photos," he said.

"If not, you are just blindly shooting. You are just doing it for the sake of shooting.

"It is better to use your photos to say something."

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