It’s not every day you get the opportunity to be up close, dine and chat with a multi-award-winning photographer from National Geographic. The thing about famous photographers is that, as always, it’s their pictures that do the talking. You might have seen their awesome spell-binding pictures but you don’t really know the artist behind it, unless you do your research.
So when I won a recent contest organized by Canon EOS World Singapore (in conjunction with National Geographic 125th Anniversary Photo Exhibition @ Vivo City), with the prize being an exclusive dinner-dialogue with intrepid climber, visual storyteller and photographer Cory Richards, I was over the moon. As an avid hobby photographer myself, it is really a once-a-lifetime event!
Our Dialogue with Cory Richards….
As I sat at the dinner table with Cory and fellow photographers from EOS World, we started bombarding him with curious questions.
Question: Cory, how did you get to join National Geographic?
Cory: It was through a friend’s recommendation. After many submissions, the National Geographic editor called me with the ‘bad’ news. “We are sorry, Cory. I am afraid you have to catch a flight here. We are featuring your work in the next edition.” The rest was history.
It took me 13 years just to get a foot into National Geographic. Yes. 13 years.
[I was speechless here. Can you imagine the persistence and determination? That explains the consistently high standard that is a hallmark of National Geographic. The effort and hard work in gathering those absolutely amazing pictures are certainly of epic proportions.]
Question: How do you get to be so good at your work?
Cory: I make lots of mistakes. Lots of it. I still do.
[ I totally respect this cool guy for his sincerity and humbleness. Despite all his accomplishments, he’s still firmly rooted in terra firma. This I feel is one of the ingredients that distinguish successful people. They have walked with “kings and queens”, yet never lose the “common touch”- Rudyard Kiplin. ]
Question: Cory, what’s the biggest mistake you made?
Cory: I shot a whole series of pics in JPEG!
Question: Cory, for landscape photography, what 3 tips you can give us to improve?
Cory: You have to know the location well. The local weather, the season, background knowledge… Take for instance if you want to shoot a dramatic thunderstorm with lightning among storm clouds in the Colorado dessert. If you go in winter, you are just going to get clean blue skies.
Check out the place you want to shoot in advance. Get a feel of the lighting, the angles, have an intimate feel of the place, then return another day. In short, you need to do your homework and groundwork.
The use of filters can greatly enhance the pictures – graduated filters, ND, or Lees filters. But do not overdo it.
Question: Cory, what cameras do you used for your shoots?
Cory: I use the Canon EOS 1-DX, the EOS 5D Mark III and sometimes the compact Canon Powershot G1X. Despite it being a compact camera, the picture quality it gives is stunning.
Question: Do you have kids yet?
Cory: Not yet. My job takes me out of the country 9 months in a year.
Question: Cory, I saw many of your amazing portraits of indigenous tribal people. How do you communicate with them ?
Cory: I do have translators sometimes to help out. But more importantly, it’s laughter. A smile goes a long way. It warms up your subjects, however exotic the location may be. You have to get your subjects comfortable with you first.
Question: How’s your experience with National Geographic? What does it takes to be at the top?
Cory: It has been an awesome experience, being with National Geographic. But you have to know your stuff well. National Geographic is not in the business of publishing excuses, such as “Oh, we should have did but…or we should have done that, however,…”.
Question: Cory, where’s your next assignment taking you to?
Cory: Borneo. I will be covering the birdnest caves in the Gomantong Caves!
[Gorgeous! I can’t wait see more epic pictures from him. The caves with its rickety rattan ladders and ropes up the 100m+ rocky walls are definitely not for the faint hearted. Bird-nest harvesters literally put their own life on the rope.]
Our Dinner with Cory Richards….
The man and his tool- Cory’s camera – well travelled and well used. Just look at the worn out parts. I took this shot as I shared with him, “This is your trademark, Cory!”
An icon among us – chatting, sharing and joking. To me, it was really a surreal moment. Priceless, I would say.
Cory listening intently and answering his fans’ questions. We were sorry that his dinner got cold and his beer less fizzy… but we were short on time. He was in town only for 2.5 days and after dinner, catching the 1am flight to Denver. Talk about jet-setting lifestyle.
Cory checking out his “new camera”….looks like the latest model!
Pixels is nothing without passion…and Cory exudes passion. Loads of it.
One of Cory’s works from the exhibit. Can you feel the eyes following you? I shot it at an oblique angle to convey the unique property of this shot.
Another of Cory’s work. There’s this X-factor feel that marked his work. And that’s the beauty of it…
The exhibition that was held at East Court, Vivocity
Yours truly, with Cory. Thanks for the memories. I can’t thank you enough…Please come back to Singapore sometime soon. We have two mountains for you to climb – Mount Faber and Bukit Timah Hill!
Jensen Chua is also a regular contributor of TheSmartLocal.com – a leading lifestyle web portal in Singapore. Check out his blogpost here: http://www.thesmartlocal.com/read/exclusive-dinner-dialogue-with-cory-richards