Kyo Suayan is a photography enthusiast based in the San Francisco Bay Area. His main interests are landscape and travel photography. Although he got into photography pretty late, the visual arts has always been a part of his childhood. In high school, he put up two one-man shows of watercolors. And, while earning his Computer Science degree, his favorite topic has been computer graphics. Right after college, he worked as a graphic artist at a USAID project in Manila, Philippines. It was there where he got to learn how to process images for publication using Aldus Photostyler; and later, the early version of Photoshop for Windows. For Kyo Suayan’s photographs online, visit visual.suayan.com.
DOMINIQUE JAMES: How did you get started in photography?
KYO SUAYAN: I got myself a point-and-shoot in 1998 when I came to the US. At first, it was just a means to appreciate the things I saw in this new country. Most of my family were back home in the Philippines at the time and my snapshots were mostly for my own amusement and the occasional snail mail.
One time, a high school buddy and I visited the Ansel Adams gallery on 4th Street in San Francisco. There was a large gelatin silver print of an orchard. It had so much detail in it that I was immersed in this black-and-white world. It was then that I realized a photographic print could be so much more than a snapshot. There was no doubt in my mind that it was a true vehicle for self-expression that came with the challenge of high technical precision and craftsmanship.
Not knowing any better, I bought my very first SLR at one of those tourist camera shops by the wharf. I tried to learn about photography from various sources and met like-minded individuals online. A kind friend introduced me to the traditional black-and-white darkroom and that got me hooked. This propelled me to take a few formal classes at the UC Berkeley Extension.
DJ: What kind of pictures do you like to take?
KS: It would be a mix of landscape and travel. I don't usually have a list when I go out to shoot. I want to be receptive of photographic opportunities as they present themselves.
DJ: Who or what would you consider as influential to your photography?
KS: As a Northern Californian, I would say I was inspired of the work done by 3 members of Group f/64: Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, and Imogen Cunningham. The first two inspired me to go out there and explore our "backyard" while the latter reminds me that you don't really need to travel very far from home to produce meaningful work.
When it comes to photography as an abstract form or as a way of seeing, I'd like to learn more about Minor White and Aaron Siskind. Among the present-day masters, I am a big fan of Michael Kenna's work.
DJ: What’s your favorite camera and lens?
KS: I currently use a Sony RX1r which has a fixed 35mm focal length.
DJ: Any other particular piece of photo gear that you feel is essential or like using?
KS: I still think a good sturdy tripod is a necessity if you want to get the best possible image quality but I have also found that recent developments in imaging (stabilization and improved low light sensitivity) have enabled me to be more spontaneous in my shooting.
DJ: Do you edit and enhance your pictures before showing them? What is your post-production process like?
KS: I shoot RAW and sort my photos with Adobe Lightroom. After import, I edit down to a selection of photographs via its Quick Collection feature. Reducing the number of photos to process is important to me. I switch to the "Develop" tab and tweak each photo by starting off with a preset and do some further adjustments. I would then export as JPEG for online or print.
DJ: How do you share your pictures and to whom?
KS: Every now and then, I share my pictures with friends I met through the email group [PH-Photo] years and years ago. It has been a good, long while, and all very good times!
Once in a blue moon, I get to participate in a group photo exhibit. I keep a few portfolio binders to share with fellow enthusiasts.
DJ: How do you store or archive your pictures?
KS: I store my digital photos in a network storage device at home along with a bunch of external drives. I have not gotten into the cloud storage bandwagon yet. I store my traditional black-and-white and inkjet prints in archival boxes, negatives and color slides in plastic sleeves.
DJ: What do you think of today’s state of photography?
KS: We live at an exciting time. Every now and then we read about technological developments that go well beyond the incremental. The possibilities of technology as a creative enabler excites me. The flipside, of course, is that at the rate digital information is being produced, it now takes some amount of effort to sort out the exceptional from the ordinary.
DJ: What is that one all-important lesson you’ve learned when it comes to photography?
KS: That throughout history, humanity's definition of art is constantly expanding. I try to be open-minded and remind myself of this. In the same way that we have much to look forward to technologically, there is also a vast wealth of amazing work we can look back to and learn from.
DJ: What is the best piece of advice you’ve received and can share with others?
KS: 1. It's all about the light; 2. The landscape can be a very dynamic subject; and 3. Bad weather is good weather for photography.
Notes: All photographs on this page, used with permission, by Kyo Suayan. Copyright © 2015. All rights reserved. For the complete set of interviews and photographs of all the amazing photographers featured on this blog’s exclusive Q&A, please click here.