Q&A with Suolon Hu, a photographer who lives in Toronto. His website, Silver Horizon, shows off his talent behind the lens – here’s a direct link to one of my favorite photos (the subject is captured so well) and to a photo I kept on my desk when I worked at an outside office (used to pretend like I was there instead of where I actually was).
Let’s start at the beginning. When was the first time you knew you wanted to be a professional photographer? And how did you get your start as a professional?
I first started in Photography when I was in high school and was on the Year Book committee. At the time I spent some time in the Dark Room and was quickly drawn into that world. I didn’t have my own camera so I had to use the school’ camera. It wasn’t until after I graduated from University (in 1996) that I finally had the money to buy my own camera and took it on my first vacation (1997) in my life. Ever since, I never looked back.
Three years later, I enrolled myself in getting a Certificate in Photography, and in 2004 I got my first paying assignment as a Travel Photographer, and a year later I got into Wedding photography.
You used to be a wedding photographer, but now you seem to focus mainly on travel photography. What prompted the change?
I’ve always loved traveling and landscape photography, since it was natural for me. It was actually wedding photography that was more steady in terms of getting paid and which funded my photography equipment.
You started Silver Horizon Group in 2004 – can you tell me a little bit about the company?
I initially started the Silver Horizon Group Ltd with the intention to start my own business. At the time I knew that I wanted the option of either going into IT Consulting and/or Photography business. During the company’s first year, I did IT Consulting and Photography in tangent. In the second year and years after, the company is focused more on Photography.
I see you’re currently using Canon cameras – how much research goes into picking out a piece of equipment and what sites/sources do you use when doing your research? How easy/difficult did you find the switchover from film to digital?
My first film SLR camera was in fact a Nikon. In 2004, I wanted to get a digital SLR camera and at the time Canon was the company that was the leader in this technology. Ever since then I stuck with Canon. I’ve used a lot of websites when researching on Canon’s equipment. Some of the links are:
The switch from film to digital was really easy for me, since I get instant result when I take a photo, versus having to wait for the film to develop in order to see the result. This way, I can quickly experiment and learn from an artistic stand point.
Do you prefer to shoot in color or b&w? Does it depend on the situation?
For the most part I shoot in colour with the option to later make it into B&W if I want. It really depends on the subject and the mood I want to portray.
I know that artists and writers find inspiration in everyday things and I imagine it’s the same for photographers – do you ever look at something and see “photo-op?” Do you always have your camera with you, “just in case?”
Unfortunately I have a desk job at the moment and do not have my camera by my side “just in case”. I do find myself more aware of my surrounding and try to see if something would catch my eye to photograph.
This is something that pertains more to photojournalists, but I’d like to get your take on photo ethics. Is it always a strict no-no, or are there times when it’s okay to manipulate a photo in a graphics program?
When I first started off in Photography, I was a strong believer in composing and trying to get my shot done the right way without having to manipulate in post production (Photoshop, Lightroom, Aperture, etc). In that aspect, I’m sort of “old school” that way.
But now I see using a graphics program is like a digital dark room, and that photography is an art. Thus, I now do not see manipulating photos as “unethical”. However, having said that, I still try to get my shots done correctly on the camera and try to do very little post production. If I think a photo has the potential to be interesting and capturing with post-production manipulation, then I would do it – and at times I would experiment with this route.
Multi-questions: You have traveled all over the world, taking photos – what is it about travelling that appeals to you? Do you have a favorite vacation spot? What was your favorite place to photograph and why? How many languages do you speak?
- What appeals to me about travelling is the fact that God has created so much beauty in just on Earth alone, that I just have to try and see as much as I can in my own lifetime. Being able to see and experience other cultures is another reason why I find travelling so appealing. I find that from my travels, I have enriched my life and have changed the way I view some things differently – including my tolerance towards people and culture, and how I view my own life and my personal goals as well.
- I don’t have just one particular favorite vacation spot, since each vacation destination has a special place in my heart. I do find myself more drawn towards tropical climates and do often this about: Tahiti/Moorea/Bora Bora, Hawaii, Cambodia and Thailand.
- Again, I really don’t have a favorite place to photography since they all have great opportunities. Each place is very unique, be it landscape or culture. It all depends on what I am photographing. If it were ruins, then I would say Cambodia (Angkor Wat, and the surrounding temples and ruins). If it were underwater and snorkeling, then it would be the crystal water of Bora Bora. If it is architecture, then I say the Hong Kong for its old and modern architecture. If it is wildlife, then definitely Masai Mara in Kenya and Serengeti, and the Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania. If it is landscape, then it would the beautiful island of Hawaii and her islands (Kauai, Maui, and Oahu). The one place I would love to go back to spend more time photographing is Santorini, Greece…. I was there for my Mediterranean cruise and didn’t have much time there.
- I only speak two languages: English primarily, and Mandarin (but not as fluent as I would like).
You’re a big fan of the show The Amazing Race – do you ever secretly pretend to be on the show while you’re traveling?
I definitely pretend and wish that I were on the show! In fact, some of the locations featured on show I have been to!
Anything else you’d like to add?
Hmmm… I just know that I can passionately talk for long hours when it comes to sharing my travel experiences and where I have gone thus far in my life. I find myself constantly giving friends advice as to where to go and what to do when they get there. To be able to travel with my camera to capture people, places and things is what I enjoy the most about life. It would be a dream come true if I can do this for ever as a career.