Pomwan Oleange, Winner of the ‘Leica for AICR’ Nature and Wildlife Photo Contest

This is Pomwan Oleange’s winning photo from the ‘Leica for AICR’ Nature and Wildlife photo contest hosted on Leica’s page on Facebook and presented here is an interview with him. The photo was featured on Leica’s profile picture on Facebook for a week during July as part of the efforts to raise awareness about AICR and the ‘Leica User Forum Book‘. The book is still available for purchase. Click for more information about the ‘Leica User Forum Book’.

A young Leica fan from Thailand with an astute eye and a passion for street photography tells his heartfelt story

Still in the process of defining his photographic style and honing his technique, Pomwan Oleange wanted to own a Leica ever since he started taking pictures seriously. Eventually he took the plunge and bought a secondhand Leica M3 with 50mm f/2 Dual Range Summicron on eBay, upgraded to Classic M6 with a 35 mm f2.8, and is now using a digital M8.2 with 35 mm f1.4 Summilux ASPH that he carries with him all the time. Content to be a serious enthusiast rather than a pro “because it’s more fun,” his heartfelt desire is to use his pictures to tell stories. Ironically, he shot the brilliantly zany winning picture that won the ‘Leica for AICR’ Nature and Wildlife photo contest on Facebook with another Leica—the Digilux 3—but he plans to acquire a Leica M9 once they become readily available in his native country. Here, in his own commendably modest words, is the unlikely tale of how he took the winning shot, and how he uses photography to communicate his unique visual perspective.

Q: Your winning photo that appeared on Facebook is very dynamic and compelling. What features of your Leica Digilux 3 do you think helped you to capture this outstanding image?

A: From the beginning, I was of aware that the Digilux 3’s 14-50mm f2.8 lens is probably not wide enough for taking landscape photos but it seemed to work just fine in this situation. Ordinarily the camera’s autofocus speed might not be fast enough to capture such a dynamic picture, but luckily enough I was using its manual focus at the time. Plus, the great quality of the lens itself and the wide dynamic range of its sensor helped me to capture all the details both in the bright highlight areas outside and in darker shadow areas inside the vehicle.

Q: Although you have not yet developed a definite genre, it’s clear that you have a talent for street photography. What attracts you to this type of shooting, and what are you trying to express in your street images?

A: In the earlier years after I decided to take photography seriously, I didn’t have any clear direction. A lot of pictures I took were objects and things that I knew and which I could control easily. Then I met Mr. Chami Thipmanee, one of Thailand’s top professional photographers, who introduced me to street photography. I was so inspired that I developed a passion for this type of photography. Street photography is not only about knowing your equipment or a bunch of different techniques but also, about learning how to foresee what is going to happen with your subjects. But ultimately you can barely foresee what pictures you’re going to get and that is the challenging and exciting part.

Q: You mention that you upgraded to a Leica M6 with 35mm f/2.8 lens that and now an M8.2 with 35mm f/1.4 Summilux ASPH is your constant companion. How does shooting with a Leica M affect your picture-taking techniques and what influence do you think this equipment has on the final results?

A: Rangefinder cameras are considerably smaller than SLR cameras in size, allowing for more discretion in street photography. I think this feature is a great advantage for a shy person like me. I do not tend to hang my camera around my neck in an obvious manner. Instead, when I walk around town taking photos I generally hold it in my hand, by my side and try to get as close as possible to the subject. Moreover, the manual focus system also allows me to seize the interesting moments much more effectively than using autofocus. I have to say not every photo turns out to be in focus as it should be, but a crisp moment is something I much appreciate more than crisp focus.

Q: Do you find that shooting digital is a different experience from shooting film, and if so what are the major differences?

A: Digital cameras allow for an instant experience. You can see your shots and correct your mistakes right away unlike films cameras. But in my opinion, this is what makes shooting with film cameras so fascinating—that you’re filled with excitement waiting to see how your photos will turn out. Anyway, I do like the convenience of using digital cameras as well. I don’t find any major differences between film and digital photography in terms of the way I shoot photos. You have only one chance for every moment regardless of the medium. You either seize it or miss it. About the differences in image quality- nowadays, I don’t think you can really come to a perfect conclusion about which final result is better than another. It is like discussion about what gives a better result, vinyl records or CDs, isn’t it?

Q: Your work generally has a very “classic” look to it, but you mention that you use Photoshop. What kind of image enhancement do you typically use and what are your objectives in using it?

A: With my M8.2 I usually shoot in Raw mode and then convert the files with Photoshop. I use Photoshop Elements 3.0- the rather old version that came as freeware with a scanner I bought 4 years ago. It suits my needs just fine. I don’t necessarily have to use those new features from the latest versions of Photoshop. I only work with some level adjustments and dodge and burn techniques that I learned in the darkroom, to amplify the story in the photograph. Also Leica lens are excellent in providing a full range of details from the lightest to the darkest areas. This makes my life a lot easier.

Q: You note that “anticipating what your subjects are going to do” is an essential element of being an effective street photographer. Can you say something about how you can foresee what is about to happen and how you are able react to capture the perfect moment?

A: Besides always having my camera handy and looking for a subject and a story (which usually happens by chance), one more element I try not to overlook is the background for the story. The background I am talking about could be a place, an object, or another group of people that the subject might react to. Basically what I do is pre-focus my shot and wait patiently. Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn’t. All the perfect moments that I’ve captured happened completely by chance. This is what I think street photography is all about.

Q: Do you plan to acquire a Leica M9, and what are the primary advantages do you think it would offer for the kind of photography you do?

A: I look forward to the M9’s full-frame format that will allow me to capture the full angular coverage of the 35mm Summilux. Unfortunately, the stock of M9’s in Thailand is quite limited. I can’t find anyone who stocks them here. It would be fantastic if you guys can contact Leica in Germany to see if they can send some more stock to Thailand, please!

Q: How do you see your photography changing going forward? Is there any particular goal you have for your picture taking in the future other than remaining a serious enthusiast?

A: Being recognized in this competition was quite encouraging. It made me feel that my work was being accepted by other people and wasn’t merely a subject of discussions between my girlfriend and I. But I would still be happy to keep my photography strictly as a hobby. For me keeping this as a hobby is more fun.

Q: What was your reaction to having your antic and surreal safari-zoo picture included in profile picture of Leica’s page on Facebook as part of the ‘Leica for AICR’ initiative, and how do you feel about having your image used to raise awareness for AICR?

A:  If I said I wasn’t happy with this privilege, I would be lying. I am both pleased and surprised that my hobby has become a part of a charitable contribution. Actually I didn’t realize that this was even possible when I entered the competition and I am thrilled that it was.

-Leica Internet Team

This post is part of the special ‘Leica for AICR’ series. To purchase the ‘Leica User Forum Book’, please click here. Proceeds benefit the UK-based Association for International Cancer Research (AICR). Based on Leica’s Twitter initiative, Leica is donating €3,000 to AICR – thank you for making this possible!