zero-to-hero-Aska-liu Zero to Hero Story from Aska Liu
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Aska Liu

 24th Feb 2018

Hi there Melissa, Emma and Mike

My name is Aska, I’m 35 years old and have been taking photos ever since I purchased one of the first generation 3G phones that had camera function. I’m also a keen photoshop user which has helped no-end along the way.

It was incredibly challenging to chose only five photos to represent my growth in terms of photography over the last 15 years… very difficult indeed. I decided to choose five recent photos which I believe help portray how you guys have helped me, whilst also sharing a little of my story.

Cars have always been a love of mine, in fact the reason I moved to Australia from Taiwan when I was 12 was because of a car (I still haven’t had the honor of owning one). I also love nature, open land, sea and clouds - which I later learned to call “land/seascape’. Selfies and group photos with friends and family were always set to a backdrop of one of these two aspects. To be honest I’ve enjoyed taking pictures of most things; ‘macro’ photography, animals, really anything that interests me - except portraits.

Before last year, I didn’t have any concept of composition, lighting and such. I never knew what aperture or shutter speed was since I’d never touched a proper camera and it was always point and shoot. Whilst with some photos I’d put more thought into how to take the shot to make it look more appealing, the majority of them were somewhat careless to say the least.

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Then on November 6th last year, I decided to purchase my first camera, a second hand Sony A3500. The photo of the white Civic was the very first photo taken on that day after I pick up the camera and met up with a group of car friends, it was taken in auto mode, and yeh... not a very nice picture haha! After that I spent about a week learning how to use the functions and settings of the camera with just the user menu. I couldn’t find any videos on how to use the A3500 and there was little tutorial info online for this model...

I started watching videos on how to use manual mode, learning about aperture, shutter speed, focal length and such, which is when I found Mike's videos. I have said this in a reply to his videos before, but out of the many photographers I’ve watched, Mike was that one special person who make me "click" and helped me the most. Not because he has a great number of free tutorials and inspirational videos, nor because he has taught me the skills I needed and more, but somehow, Mike has help me, a bit of an introverted person who doesn't really have many close friends, to prepare and strengthen myself mentally. He gave me the courage to go out there myself, to reach out, to meet and speak to other photographers and shoot the four other photos I have also shared here. These pictures mean a lot to me and I’m happy to say I’m proud of them.

The car light trail photo was the first time I successfully shot light trails, it had always been an ambition and I’d even downloaded numerous apps to try and achieve the effect - and failed. That night I was on a bridge over the highway until maybe 12am trying different locations, different F.stops, different compositions - everything I’ve ever learned from Mike's videos. This was one of the shots that I was incredibly pleased with from that night and it was probably the most exciting and amusing night I’ve had in many years. Patrolling cops in the area even came passed and asked me to leave, but I replied "Sorry Officer I understand it's late, but I’m taking photos - and I need to take these photos" and I’m relieved to say they left me nicely alone!

The little snail was a photo I took after a raining day in my garden while trying to shoot some rain drops on flowers and leaves. I noticed this little guy crawling across the grass, and took a couple of shots. This photo was a catalyst to me, because after taking it and looking at it on my computer screen something clicked and changed inside of me. I realized that such a tiny little thing that I shot and really liked, actually happens around me everyday, and I’ve always ignored it. I had never paid any real attention to what this world actually has to offer...

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After breaking from a 10 years relationship 4 years ago I’d became a very boring person who I didn’t particularly like… Life was a routine of wake up - work - home - computer - sleep; friends tried to help, ask me to hang out with them, but during that 4 years I felt empty… Until I picked up that camera and shot that little snail. From that day forward, everywhere I go, I look and I really see, and I think "Hmmm.... how could I make that look interesting...", or "Wow that was there? how come I never noticed in all those years?!"

The red car photo is also very special in another sense, it was the end of year car-meet of a local group. I actually went to purchase a second hand Sony A6000 just for this car-meet, because I needed a flippable screen to shoot low angle. I couldn't knock up a monitor cheap enough so I figured what a good excuse to upgrade even if I only used the A3500 for a month (haha). A friend asked me to accompany him to the meet and shoot some photos for the group, I was walking around taking my shots when a guy approached me to ask me if I was a professional photographer to which I replied "No, I’m a beginner and still learning". We then had a small chat and he asked me to take more photo of his car and send them to him later, of course I agreed, but because it was a request, to be honest I felt pressured and really wanted to do the car justice. This was one of the photos I edited in photoshop, not the best photo, but he liked them all which made me really happy too.

At the start of this year, the owner contacted me again and sent me a couple of photos. In the photos was this picture printed out and hanged on his wall… he told me he liked it that much, he had to see it bigger and was really proud of how his car looked in the photo. Truthfully, I know it wasn’t the best picture - the focus and sharpness were poor due to low light and wrong setting, and the edited blur background wasn't 100%... Nevertheless he decided to put my image on his wall, and the only thing I could say at the time was "I’m honored... thank you so very much..."

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I have recently found a facebook group of people who host random excursions around Melbourne free of charge. We go out and shoot different topics / scenes together. During the excursions I’ve attended I’ve learned so much from the admin hosts and other members of the group.

The image of the kid was taken the first time I went out with them into the CBD to learn and do street photography with a black and white theme, both are concepts which I still can't fully grasp or understand. Before this, I’d never have imagined myself going out with a group of people who I hadn’t met, let along walking on the street taking photo of complete strangers! But I learned so much that day just by shooting people on the street, and I had so much fun. This photo was one of my favorite one from that day, I randomly turned my head, and saw him looking so bored, and just took the shot without thinking - it turned out to be the best shot of the whole day.

Sorry, I know I’ve talked a lot, and some of it might not make much sense but it’s how I feel and have felt. I think what changed most in my photography, rather then all the technical aspects (which I’ve gotten better at and understand more but still have much to learn), is that I can personally see in the way I edit my photo that I am much happier now!

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One of my biggest weaknesses is light control, it’s always frustrated me in the past but I never knew how to fix the problem whilst taking the taking photo. Very often when I post-edited my photos, I tended to make them into dark, depressing and moody colour tones. It may also have had something to do with my mental state at the time, I have to be honest that I probably wasn’t the happiest chap you could have ever met… I still have difficulties with light, but now most of my photos are much brighter in comparison, both in terms of lighting and mood - this is one of the biggest improvement for me personally.

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Photography has opened up my views, my thoughts to this world, and made me realise that it's actually not a bad place and in many ways Mike has helped me to get to this point. If it wasn't for his teaching style, I wouldn't so easily have learnt the different techniques and aspects of photography and setting. Photography would not be this interesting, and most importantly, I probably would never have be game enough to go out to the public and shoot some of the photos that I am most proud of.

Thank you Melissa and Emma and everyone behind the scene for helping and keeping the whole show running, you do an amazing job!

And to Mike, for all I’ve said in this email, and much more that I could not think of how to put in words, I’m truly grateful to have found you at the very beginning of my photography life. You are down to earth and cool but with just the right amount of nerdiness - the kind of teacher everyone wishes they had back in high school.

Keep up the awesome work guys.


Aska Liu