Surviving a Typhoon, a Birthday present from Alltop, and 12 Bite-sized Lessons

portrait Burmese man wooden temple copyright Aloha Lavina

Imagine being in a small 30-seater plane 25,000 feet in the sky in the middle of a typhoon that kills 2 people and leaves 15 missing. That’s where I was yesterday, literally gripping the edge of seat number 8A, counting the raindrops on the window that streaked diagonally like tadpoles on steroids.

I was happy to be in the air, after having to stay an extra day in the Batanes archipelago, where I had gone on assignment. Batanes is a cluster of small islands in the northernmost tip of the Philippines, about 190 miles from Taiwan and 890 miles from Manila, the capital. The main island of Batan has the northernmost weather station in the country; it records and tracks all the typhoons that enter Philippine airspace, covering some 7,100 islands. So to speak, all the bad news about the weather comes from there. It’s no wonder everyone has the misconception that Batanes has more typhoons than the whole country experiences; in fact, while it stormed in Manila last week, Batanes had relatively clear skies.

Batanes sunset copyright Aloha Lavina.
Batanes sunset. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

Ironically, Imagine That celebrated our first birthday in a place that had no internet access, so I didn’t know that something cool happened this past week for Imagine That. I was off the grid for a whole week and didn’t know that Alltop is now featuring us in its Photography page. That’s a great birthday present! Thanks Alltop!

For a year now, this blog has been trying to find its voice; it started with the tagline “light epiphanies from Asia,” aiming to combine stories about photography with stories about travel, two things I am most passionate about. A few months ago I really found that voice when I wrote a short article talking about being a photographer and not a lens changer. That article changed this blog and made it what it is today. With its new tagline “photos and light epiphanies,” Imagine That hopes to share not just technical tips but also some insight into what it’s like to be obsessed with photography.

It’s great to be obsessed with something that gives you so much beauty and joy. But it is true that photography has a lot of facets to it, and sometimes it can be daunting to go through the countless complex guides that are available to you. So here are some bite-sized lessons you might use to improve your photography.

How to use content to create a powerful photo is something most photographers ponder a lot. Composition is a place to begin. There are quite a few ways to build photos with powerful content. You can also check out this article on making eyecandy, which talks about how to use color to improve composition.

portrait Burmese man wooden temple copyright Aloha Lavina
Portrait photography remains a beautiful obsession. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

If like me, you are drawn to making photos of people, making expressive portraits has to be one of your goals. If portraits are what keep you shooting, you might want to learn about how to conceptualize a shoot or using props to enhance a portrait. We’re so obsessed that we take advice from most things, including these 10 cliches that a photographer could believe, and advice about portrait photography from the incomparable Tyra Banks.

Then there is travel photography. Travel photography is fascinating in the way it is always unpredictable and fresh. Within this expansive genre are subgenres that you can do as mini-projects. You could learn how to capture motion. You could organize your travel photography into themes. You can even break down a theme into little topics. These topics hold in them little skills that can take your photography into creative avenues, such as shooting after the sun goes down.

Danang bridge at night Vietnam copyright Aloha Lavina
Don't put your camera away at night. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

Whatever type of photography you grow to love, you will find that photography inspiration is never too far away. For example, you might learn that you are better off improving your skills than trying to buy it by acquiring lots of shiny new gear. Sometimes, you can even find photography wisdom in something as strange as the thought process of a golfer.

I hope that new readers will appreciate these insights from a year on Imagine That, and they can help you appreciate the wonder of discovery that I’ve enjoyed in my photography. I hope that you, too, will continue to enjoy those little epiphanies of light that you find in your viewfinder.

Happy shooting, from Imagine That.


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