A Canon Youth Ambassador, Acacia Diana has travelled the world to photograph the subjects of her captivating images and she most recently exhibited her work on Kuala Lumpur via the KL20X20 exhibition that celebrates the beauty of the unique city. She speaks more about her love for photography and about capturing a story in every shot.
Favourite place that you have travelled to?
Besides Malaysia, it has to be Iceland. because I had never been to a place like that before. Coming from a tropical country, it was the complete opposite of that. We weren’t there during peak season, it was during spring so it wasn’t too cold. And I got to see landscapes, where I knew that there was nobody else around me for the next 20 kilometres. So it was just you, a tiny human being in a landscape that was just so amazing. We saw volcanoes and waterfalls up close and it felt like a natural theme park that you had to yourself. It was just mind blowing. I think the trip changed me in terms of how I view photography as well because I was so inspired to take photos in Iceland that sort of carried on throughout the rest of my life
Favourite subject to photograph?
It started with architecture and then moved on to landscapes but when it comes to finding inspiration, anything essentially can be a subject, sometimes even my pets have my subject. But in terms of my favourite thing to capture, it probably has to be landscapes for now.
What is the most challenging subject you have had to photograph so far?
Animals, I think, because we had a course on macro photography back during the Canon EYA training and they gave us a tiny flower – a daisy – and there was a tiny spider. It was scuttling around the table so you had to be really quick to take a photo of it. It’s very interesting. I loved it actually because you cannot tell it to stay still. You have to just trust your instincts and be a really skilled photographer to take a really good photo.
How would you take an uninteresting or ugly object and make that interesting to photograph?
Ugliness or beauty is such a subjective concept. You could see a pile of trash and somebody could see it as art. I suppose it really requires having to train your eyes to see the value in something be it uninteresting or ugly, or something extremely beautiful. Obviously as humans we tend to be drawn towards the more beautiful things. It’s a very tough question to answer because I wouldn’t consider something typically, ugly, ugly. If you as a photographer see the value in it, it’s not essentially ugly.
What do you think is the most unassuming thing about you?
I’m quite short relatively, to the world at large. People often say that, “Oh, you went to these places and you took these photos? You’re just a little Asian girl who’s been to all over these places.” When people know me for my photographs, I think they have an idea of what I look like as a photographer, so when they see me, they say “I thought you’d be bigger or more rugged but you’re just this tiny little thing.”
That’s the comment I usually get and I want to break through that barrier, to show that I’m tiny but I can still do all these things. It really isn’t about what people think a photographer should look like especially as a girl as well. You break the barriers and just do you. Take photos of what you want, use what you want, go wherever you want. And thankfully I have been privileged enough to do that, especially with Canon because it really isn’t about what you look like or how people have an idea of you. It is about what you bring to the table and how you carry yourself, and the work that you put up, which is really great.
If there were no restrictions, who or what would you most like to photograph and why?
I would really like to go to Greenland just to involve myself in the crazy weather elements that are there. I think it would be really interesting to see that part of the world, because I have seen photos of Greenland’s landscape that look like they’re from other completely different planets, so I would love to go there.
Your most treasured possession?
My journal. It’s nice to sketch and sometimes I print out the photos that I take on a trip. I use a powerbank-sized Canon printer that you connect to your phone via Bluetooth. Sometimes when I travel and read on the go, I just have a photo of my phone and I print it straight away and I stick it in my journal. It’s a mini scrapbook and it’s physical. Everything’s so digital nowadays so to be able to print things on the go is fun.
Three tips for taking amazing pictures.
I think it’s best to research. I think people sort of undervalue the importance of research so it’s really good to look at images to read books to determine where you want to go, prioritise the destinations for it as the subjects. Research really helps because you can choose a more solid idea of where you want what part is going to take. And then in terms of travel photography it is good to know your location, because sometimes people just go and they miss really good angles. It’s a very basic thing but not a lot of people understand the importance of knowing your location, be just wandering around for a day before the actual shoot, or just knowing when to be there at the right time. Understanding your camera and what it’s capable of and how you adjust the settings, really makes a difference in the output of the photos. With the EOS-R, the autofocus is amazing. I know that my friend can be driving the car and I can take a landscape photo from the passenger seat, and it comes up crisp without needing to worry about it. It’s things like that that help take your work to a different level.