Sunday, 21 November 2010

Photography Interview with Trent Chau & Picture Prompt Poetry Challenge

Welcome to One Shoot
Photography Sunday!

Once again I have the distinct pleasure of introducing an extremely talented photographer, and a young one too: Trent Chau, a Georgia-based photographer and member of the Atlanta Photographers Guild. Much of what he has learned has been self-taught, but beginning in 2009, he entered the Gwinnett Technical College looking for a degree in photography. He has a penchant for portraiture photography, but has certainly run the gamut of the art.

Since entering the photography scene Mr. Chau has also built himself a web presence, operating a website, as well as a blog where you will discover samples of his work and discussions about photography. He’s also active on Twitter, @trentchau.

*One Stop Poetry's Chris G. conducted the following interview:

What sparked your interest in photography? How long have you been working with photography?
TC: I was first exposed to photography through my father.  He had an old Canon AE-1 he got from the PX while serving in the military that he used for family photos that he handed down to me in the late 90's.  It wasn't until the early 2000's did I really get an interest in it.  After years of doing graphic design with Photoshop it became more and more natural to encompass photography into it.  In 2003 I purchased a Olympus C-5050 and with its 2.0 lens all of a sudden this newer world of "Bokeh", DOF, and Macro came into the picture and BAM! I was addicted.

What about photography appeals to you? What inspires you?
TC: Two main things about photography appeal to me.  The subjective human factor of it.  The interaction and communication before and after the shot is inspiring.  While talking to or directing a model, I also talk to them about their life.  While shooting a wedding it's not uncommon to chat at the groom about how the Dawgs (University of Georgia) are doing (except for this year :(), and lastly the amazement and satisfaction that people are quick to show when they see a photo of themselves, someone they know, or just a photo they like in's awesome.  It's possible to say the Artist in me likes that part.

The technician in me likes the fact that successful photography is an equation.  A puzzle that is laid out in front of you, and you have the power to put those pieces together in whatever way you want.  There is a level of set rules that you have to follow, but the more you know about those rules and regulations the more you can achieve efficiently and potentially bend and distort to your needs.

Do you have a personal philosophy about photography? 
TC: Some basic ones.... Shoot 85~90% of your photo in camera.  I have absolutely nothing against post production, but after years of shooting thousands of photos I rather spend time with my daughter than editing photos.  So using technical knowledge and experience, mixed with general photography experience such as people interaction, it's a personal goal to pretty much shoot the shot in the camera, not in the computer.

A major personal philosophy about photography of mine is "Remember the root" of photography.  The root being Light.  My father was an engineer and he once told me "Son, always learn to the foundation level why something works.".  Photography at its most basic level is dictated by light and how it interacts with your subject.  So I believe that the continuous path of understanding light, manipulating it, and capturing is my personal goal with photography.  (I'm beginning to sound like Ryu from Street Fighter, but instead of kicking Ken's ass, I'm clicking shutters instead).

I note a great deal of your photography has to do with people – what would you say is the most challenging aspect of portraiture photography, as opposed to say, landscape shots?
TC: The most immediate challenge is handling someone's expectation along with your own.  What are they thinking? What do they want? Do they think I know what I'm doing? When those questions intermingle with other doubts it can become suffocating.  Those feelings do dwindle a little bit, but occasionally those doubts just explode back even after years of shooting.  Oddly enough those questions are mostly trivial though.  People will love the photos, you will give them what they want.

Where are some of the places you’ve shot photographs? Do you have any favorite locations/spots/setups?
TC: I've had the privileged of shooting many different places, and also self educated myself on shooting in various different situations by learning studio lighting from one light to ten.  As mentioned above lighting is the foundation of photography, and can help lead to amazing results.  I enjoy a lot of places to shoot that range from natural locations, to more urban locations.  A belief I have though is for portraiture you just have to suggest a location in your photography, not actually capture it in full detail.  As such I use a lot of faster lenses ranging from F1.2 to F2.8.  These allow you to capture your subject in detail, while beginning to blur around the subject.  You still capture an idea of the surroundings of the subject, but you aren't spoon feeding your audience the exact minute crisp details of the surroundings.

Saying such, I do tend to favor natural locations that show a state of being lived in our decay for any natural shot.  For studio shots white or black roll paper, some kicking trance music, and fan and it's a good day.

What has been your experience with the internet as a medium for sharing your art and experiences with photography?
TC: The internet is bad ass.  I love's fun, the people are fun, and if they aren't well it's easy to ignore than because there are so many cool people why would you waste time on the annoying ones?  I have to pitch one of my favorite groups of all time. The Atlanta Photographers Guild ( in Atlanta was a internet group on flickr started by Marc Turnley.  Marc loved my stuff, and had open arms for me to join up to the guild and participate at the meetings and in the online discussions.  I joined when there was about 200 people in the group.  Now several years later we are topping 2000.  The internet is the reason why something like this works.  The cool part is that it's a fusion of traditional hand shaking face-to-face meetings mixed with internet discussion that makes it work so well.

On the other hand web presence items such as Websites and Blogs have been a good experience for me.  Websites are a little archaic now but still provide an audience a glimpse into my work.  Blogs have been a great part of the internet experience and it's been great.  Heck this interview is done now because my blog was found by you guys so that has to mean something.  The blog experience is awesome.

Do you find any common ground between photography and other creative pursuits like writing or poetry?  TC: At its most basic level yes, and that is pure unadulterated joy.  The internal joy we have as individual pursuing something we find pleasing.  The self acknowledgement of progression as we move forward in our work.  The conquering of self doubt as we explore new techniques or beliefs and apply it what we create.  The only major difference I see in writing/poetry (which I used to do) is that in photography the audience  is more expansive since there isn't multiple languages along with cultural differences to work around.  A picture of a flower is a picture of a flower, while a poem about a flower can be translated so much differently between languages.

What sort of education/experiences have you gone through to get where you are today with your photography?
TC: I was self taught until 2009.  That's when I enrolled into Gwinnett Technical College's photography program just to have a degree (hey the little daughter shouldn't see her pops without a degree).  It was lots of reading the internet, lots of messing with lights and lenses, and most importantly going out there into the world and just plain screwing up and having the balls (or ovaries) to ask yourself why you screwed up and how can you fix it.  Experimenting was a key factor in improvement, and also getting multiple different opinions from people but in the end forming your own by actually trying out everything you can.  Never ever saying "I believe in this because this what so and so believes", but saying "I believe in this because I did it".
What’s your take on the debate between traditional “purist” photographers and what’s viewed as the more modern crowd advocating digital editing/post-processing, etc?
TC: I've got no beef about major post production, I personally try to avoid it myself.  Bringing back dad's belief in the matter, as long as you know "Why it works on the foundation level" is what's most important to me.  Purist photographers bring up a great point when they ask people if they know aperture, shutter speed, iso, white balance, and all the other aspects that control photography.  It is very good to be able to consistently be able to get results because all the technical aspects are controlled by the photographer. Yet digital editing and post processing is not a crutch that holds photographers up, it's a catalyst and it can bring even the best "Pure" photographers work to the next level.  To ignore the benefits of digital editing would be very short sighted and arguably idiotic.  Something to ask though is if the digital manipulation is to fix a problem or to make something better, if it's consistently for fixing a problem than that's something that should be remedied by just good old traditional "Learnin."

Where do you hope to go from here? Are there more aspects of photography you would like to learn, or different things you would like to do with your photography in the future you don’t do now? Do you plan on joining or making a studio?
TC:  I would like to teach photography, actually would LOVE to teach photography or marketing in the collegiate level.  I've been blessed with amazing and wonderful teachers throughout life, and it would be a pleasure to return the favor.  Along with teaching it would be nice to moonlight as a photographer for small gigs such as weddings, commercial work, and potential a book of sorts.  I had a studio and loved it, but money is difficult to come by as a student so it was one of the first things on the chopping block.  Potentially in the future another studio would be nice, but having more money in the account is paramount right now.

What would you suggest to people just beginning with photography? 
TC: Buy Lightroom, it's the smartest thing you can do.  Seriously.  Learn it just so you can import your photos from your card, and organize it.  It will save your photos by date, so even if they do look like snap shots, at least they are organized snap shots.  Go do it now..I'll wait for you to come back from the store and install it.

Okay it's installed?  Cool!  Now go shoot.  Shoot everything.  Shoot leaves on a tree, take a photograph of a person, take pictures of cats.  Now bring it into Lightroom and get it organized, look at it on your screen (which is hopefully bigger than your cameras lcd).  Now take more photos of something different....rinse, repeat, and enjoy!  Photography is you going to it, not it coming to you so go out and have fun, and shoot shoot shoot.

What kind of lenses, filters, editing programs do you use? What f-stop/settings do you prefer? And, being a Nikon man myself, I have to ask: why Canon? What about their cameras appeals to you?
TC:  I'm a huge fan of L series lenses from Canon, and pretty much shoot exclusively with them.  They were purchased when I was working corporate though so it's rarer these days to own them since they are pretty darn expensive.  My favorite lenses is the Canon 35 1.4L, the Canon 24-70 2.8L, The Canon 85 1.2L II, and lastly the Canon 50 1.2L.  A majority of my shooting ranges from an F range of 1.2 to 3.5, using iso 50~800.  I avoid high Iso personally, and will introduce my own lights if the scene becomes dark.  Since I favor primes it's not uncommon to use 2 cameras at the same time with one prime lens each.  This leads into editing and image maintenance, and that's were Lightroom shines.  With it you can import and tag all the photos, and also easily apply universal fixes if required.  This saves time and makes editing a pleasure.

Concerning why Canon.  My father gave me a Canon camera, and it's been that way since.  When I got the first Digital SLR the Canon 20D had just come out and it absolutely destroyed the Nikon D100 in all aspects (but most importantly the use of a CMOS over CCD).  Overtime I found the lenses that Canon had were better for my style of shooting over Nikons.  Lenses such as the 35 1.4 and 135 f2 were awesome Canon lenses that Nikon either didn't have or were a little too expensive.  Canon's always have been a little cheaper in comparison to Nikon and that was a major factor.  If you took the kit that I amassed over several years and go the Nikon equivalent, you could easily purchase a D3x with some lenses when equating the cost difference.   Something else that really sealed the deal was the Canon 5D, it really was revolutionary and amazing with its full frame sensor.  I still drool at the photos that come from it today.  Nikon did respond several years later with the D700 but Canon released video capability with the 5D Mark II and I haven't looked back.  Nikon is great and should always be considered by someone when looking at cameras, but for me Canon is the number 1 option.

Are there any photography resources you would recommend for individuals who wish to know more about the art form?
TC: There are so many great places online to get information.  Something really cool though is to check your local school system.  In Georgia its free to go to school if you don't have a degree, and that could really help one get educated.  Education is not what people hand you, it's what you are willing to go out and get yourself so do the hard work and time and you will be rewarded.

Online as mentioned there are many wonderful resources.  I've always been a fan of photography forums such as Photocamel (, Canon Digital Photography Forum (, and one of my personal favorites (  These forums educate via interaction with other photographers and provide excellent feedback.

One of the greatest websites as a photographer to go see is run by David Hobby.  David Hobby knows it's about light, and he delivers education about light in a way that challenges you and makes you so much smarter.  His website should be favorited by everyone who wants to do photography on a high level. 

*Trent would like to thank his Multimedia II class, as well as his teacher Mr. Jones, without whom we might never have gotten to see his wonderful blog.

*To learn more about Trent Chau and his excellent photography visit his Flickr pages:

And now for the Picture Prompt Challenge!

Write a poem (or Flash Fiction 55). Post it on your site.
Then sign up using Mr. Linky so people can find your work.
Please let us know what you are sharing by leaving a comment below.
Finally, visit other participants, comment, & give credit to Trent in your post. 

Thank you,

Accept the picture prompt challenge! :)


dustus said...

Very informative and well done interview, Chris G.

I took the challenge! Hope the prompt inspires today. Cheers

me_duress said...

All the photographs are so amazing - really well done interview too.

Gigi Ann said...

I always enjoy learning more about photography. Great interview.

I tried a different style of poem today, I believe it is called a cascade poem. I hope you enjoy my efforts. I slowly learning a little each week.

Gigi Ann said...

"I'm slowing learning." I need to proofread before I post. LOL...

Glynn said...

Great interview, Adam (and Trent!).

Fireblossom said...

oh FINE. I loved every picture to death, cos the women look like characters from my poems. What great photographs! But then the photo challenge is a freaking landscape. Canyon shmanyon. Give me the bride at the bar!

Reflections said...

The photography is amazing, the depth drawn out by his use of light. Trent, well done, thank you for sharing with us. Nice interview, Adam.

hedgewitch said...

Enjoyed the interview, and the photographs, especially the portraiture, which is full of character.

M.L. Gallagher said...

What a great interview -- and photography.

Thanks for the inspiration.

Chris G. said...

Thanks, Adam!

Really enjoyed the interview - Trent Chau's an upstanding photographer with some really great shots in his portfolio. I was very pleased he was willing to do an interview with us - and I encourage you all to check out his sites when you get a chance. You won't be disappointed.

Josepf J Haslam said...

Love the Photos and may have to make this a Double Shoot Sunday... Went the other path and created a slideshow/video w/pics about a poem that simply needs to be heard not read. Our ancient oral tradition...

Please let me know if you like/hate/love it!!!!

libithina said...

great interview (by Chris) packed with inspiring information. I loved the image where the sun pours down like glitter dust onto the draped form. Some excellent tips, I enjoy taking photographs myself and use them often in text. ALso thankyou Trent for not only sharing but attaching further links. I will be sure to visit ~ Lib ~

Claudia said...

amazing pictures and such a lot of photography information
thanks chris for an excellent interview and thanks trent for sharing your pics and a bit of your know-how

Alegria Imperial said...

Inspiring interview, compelling can't the prompt not give rise to poetry? Thank you, Trent, Chris G. and Adam.

Maureen said...

This was an inspirational challenge. Thank you for the interview and the prompt. My poem is titled "Spirits With Time".

Anonymous said...

thanks for this great introduction to Trent Chau's photography - he truly is talented

Trent Chau said...

Cool. Thanks for all the awesome words guys. It's nice seeing a positive response like this. It really is cool.

Melissa said...

loving the view...

digital slr cameras said...

Well done! Beautiful pictures, keep it up ;)

Anonymous said...

Finally, got what I was looking for!! I definitely enjoying every little bit of it. Glad I stumbled into this article! smile I have you saved to check out new stuff you post..