The renowned photographer and judge of Photo Face-Off on taking photos, his favourite places and more
You’ve travelled around the globe, which place ranks as your favourite places to snap photos?
Ha Giang in the northern mountains of Vietnam near the China border is my favourite place. Many people know Sapa for its beautiful mountainous terrain and ethnic minorities, Ha Giang offers the same beauty but without the droves of tourists. I love the colder weather up there as it reminds me of my childhood in the US and the people and the terrain are just so wonderful to photograph.
Having the opportunity to test your talents against the region’s best photographers. What surprised you the most about their phototaking ability?
Wow, they are all so talented and I was amazed at their ability to take stunning pictures under pressure. Many people can take nice pictures in a controlled environment but the difference between a pro and amateur becomes prominent when you can’t control your surroundings and you have limited time. Many of these amateurs are former Canon Photo Marathon winners so they know what it takes to win.
What is your favourite type of composition and why?
I hate rules in photography, when you follow the rules like the rule of thirds you just end up shooting like everyone else out there. For me I love framing my subjects through things such as leaves, windows, etc.
What advice would you give travellers who want to capture their dream holiday photo?
Put down your smartphone when you want to capture meaningful moments. In order to capture moments you need to be in the moment and away from distractions and your smartphone is filled with loads of distractions.
But are smartphones sufficient enough to capture great photos?
Smartphone has a time and a place and I’m not against using them, however when you really want to step your game up get a dedicated camera. Like I mentioned above, in order to get special images your mind should be thinking about all the important aspects of a good picture and your surroundings not about posting on social media or taking a call.
What’s your go-to camera kit or set-up when you’re off shooting on holiday?
I’m heading to the US for a family reunion so I want to travel light, I’ll go with my Canon 5DSR and a Canon 35mm 1.4 lens.
What’s your most memorable snapshot you’ve taken when you were off on your travels?
Excellent question, my favourite shot from my career isn’t one that I took but it’s a photo my translator took of me and a young girl I was doing a story on. Her name is Nu, she’s a victim of Agent Orange and she can’t see, hear, or talk. The photo is of me holding her hand going for a simple walk, something we both enjoyed a lot. It’s so meaningful to me because it’s a reminder to me that sometimes I need to put my camera down and be a person and connect with people.
Catch Justin Mott on Photo-Face Off Season 3 On History and History HD.