Fine Art Photographer Shenshen Dou: Capturing the Visual Poetry in Nature
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by Editor Yan Zhang (Australia)
INTRODUCTION to Shenshen Dou's Photography
Shenshen Dou is one photographer I know who has a true passion for fine art photography. Her photographic works are visual poems relaying the depth of joy and melancholy.
I discovered Dou’s works on 1X gallery several years ago. Her photography spans across different genres and styles, including landscape, abstract, mood and creative editing. However, these different photographic works are actually of inner connections through the photographer’s use of light, colour and form, to express personal emotions, or to tell stories experienced in nature.
In this in-depth interview, Shenshen talks about various topics in relation to her photography. 1X audiences will have a good opportunity to know more about Shenshen Dou – not only about her beautiful images, but also about as an artist, her artistic philosophy, creative ideas and technical approaches in pursuing her fine art photography.
By looking at your images, your photography practices are very impressive, the genres across different types, from landscape to creative edit, from mood to street. May you share with us some thoughts regarding your personal vision and style? How do you describe your photography in a general sense? And how did your life experiences influence your photography journey?
Many of your landscape photographs are peaceful and spacious, and sometimes the image has a person presented. May you talk about your ideas and approach for taking landscape photographs?
For many photographers, colour has been one of the most difficult topics in post processing. I observe that your images demonstrate a good colour harmony, either in complementary or analogous combination. May you tell us how you control the colour and tone when you process your photos? Are there specific experiences you can share with people?
In process landscape photos I tried to avoid over saturation, and pay a close attention to the colour transition from cold to warm. In mood and creative category, I had more lavishness to experiment with colour. e.g. when process picture “Bonfire on the beach”, to achieve a tranquil mood, I applied a photo filter to make an overall cyan/blue tone, and changed the dark brown colour of beach to a more harmonised greenish blue colour, slightly enhanced purple-blue, light purple-pink colours in the sky to give this plain space a little more colour details and also to keep the simplicity intact. Simplicity is not empty, there must be something to see in it. These fine colour controls were done in Adobe Photoshops and Camera Raw Adjustments. In some cases, I also used self-made colour filters from my own photo stack.
You take both colour and black & white images. I like many of your black and white photos, especially the following two images:
May you talk about how did you make these two images, from both in the field and post process aspects? Why did you want to process them in black and white form? Any experience for black and white photography can be shared with us?
“Sleeping beauty” was taken at a local ski area. Heavy snow-covered bushes formed many smooth curves and moulded suggestive shapes. To avoid the tall cedar trees dominating the scene and emphasized the attractive shapes, I positioned a ground level low angle, took a few connecting images from the sky to the ground covering the whole area I was interested as much as possible. In the post process, to correct the bright blue sky and the lack of contract of the snow mass, I tried black and white in Adobe Photoshop, by decreasing the blue/cyan level, the sky was darker, enhancing the grey shadows to boost three-dimensional volume of snow figures. Black and white approach enriched the sensual mood in this photograph.
“Elowah falls” was shot in a windy raining day. This beautiful 65-meter falls was always my favourite photo object. That day the down falling water was blown away in strong wind, and created a weight less aqua dancing curtain with an elegant rhythm. I decided to focus on this unique section instead of the whole water falls. For this purpose, a tripod and 70-200 mm lens were chosen, after struggled to keep the lens dry and a few tries, I got satisfied images. Black and white was an obviously choice in post processing because other colours were distraction in the composition, black and white could help to focus on light-dark correlation and simplify none essential details. A Low-key application in Nik Silver Efex Pro2 was applied and enhanced the dreamy and mysterious mood.
Every photographer has been inspired, in one way or another, by other photographers or artists. Do you have a particular favourite artist/photographer? How has he/she inspired your photography? What specific things you have learned from this artist?
1x is a major source of inspiration for my photography. In this platform, numerous talent photographers with unique ideas, perfected techniques, brave explorations (from high mountain to deep ocean) displayed their varieties and abundant world-classed works for me to learn from. More important, 1x provided an open minded, tolerant, cultivating learning environment and a growing space for emerging photographers around the world. As an example, 5 of my images in this article were inspired by and created for 1x weekly theme (now biweekly theme). I am very grateful to be a member of 1x.
For landscape photography, do you have some favourite places or subjects? What is your next plan for landscape photography?
In your 1X photo portfolio, I note that some images are in “mood” category, they all are very nice and special. In general, when you made a mood image, in general what kind of mood you wanted to create and how did you achieve your goal?
In “A long journey to the night” I tried to convey a joy, idyllic mood, and a vitality characteristic of spring. ICM (Intentional camera movement, ICM for short is a photographic technique where the camera is moved as the image is being taken) images brought a breeze, a rhythm and softness to the scene. It also introduced an unfamiliar to a familiar scene. The person with a dog would draw viewer in, to sense her state of mind: a freedom, may be a little uncertainty. In the post processing, three ICM blurred images and one well focused image were combined into a desirable composition. Since all images were shot at the same location and in a back-light of sunset, the tone was warm and unified, the image was only needed a slight adjustment of the colour saturation.
Now let’s talk about something related to photography gears – a tedious yet unarguably critical issue for our photographers. We know that most photographers have their favourite subjects to focus, and for this reason, many photographers may develop their own effective gear strategies over the years.
May you share with us what gear do you think to be most effective in order to achieve your photography goals? In particular, may you tell us what cameras and lenses you use? And what filters do you use (if you ever use them) and how these filters play their roles in your photo taking?
I have a Sony A7R IV camera, three different focal lengths of lenses (17-35mm/f2.8, 24-70mm/f2.8 and 70-200 mm/f2.8) and a 90 mm/f2.8 macro lens for close-up shot. I also have a Nikon D850 camera and NIKKOR 600 mm/f4 telephoto lens for wildlife photo and the 14 mm/f2.8 lens for super wide angle shot. I switched my main camera from Nikon to Sony A7R iv, mainly for the light weight of camera and lens.
I like adding B+W ND filter (3-6 stops) for long exposure when shoot seascape and waterfalls, and for ICM shoot too.
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