Adventure Nomad

Adventure Nomad

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Q and A with Stefen Chow


Stefen is a Nikon sponsored, award-winning, commercial photographer based in Beijing, China. He is also an accomplished mountaineer, and summited Mt. Everest in 2005. Stefen began shooting over eight years ago when he was nominated to be the team’s photographer for his Mt. Everest expedition. He turned pro four years ago and hasn’t looked back.



Q. For your commercial work, what are you mainly shooting with?
A. For bodies, a Nikon D3x and a D3s. For lenses, mainly primes and f/2.8 zooms.

Arc welding on a supertanker in the Keppel shipyard, home to the world's largest vessel conversion facility. ©Stefen Chow
Q. How different is your equipment when shooting mountaineering?
A. In the mountains, weight is an issue. I strip it down to what is basic and essential. Having said that, I always carry backups: like a backup body and a backup media storage device.

When I recently climbed Denali, I carried a Nikon D3x and D3s, one body to back up the other; and a 24-70mm f/2.8, a 180mm f/2.8, and a 45mm tilt-shift lens. I also carried a full sized tripod and 10 batteries. All in all, about 40 lbs of camera gear. I’m told I had the heaviest photography gear on the mountain that season!

A climber after a 18 hour round trip climb to the summit of Denali in Alaska, USA. ©Stefen Chow
Q. Have you any thoughts about going lighter?
A. At the moment, I’m not able to find a compromise between size and weight vs. quality and reliability. The D3x has been supremely reliable, and I’ve had no problems with it, not even with the batteries in the cold of Denali. I’ve abused my D3x from day one, and it has never failed me (knock on wood), never been fixed or repaired.

The pro lenses I choose to use on the mountain also don’t fog up within the elements, something that might happen with lighter consumer grade lenses.

Climbers moving at 7600m, above camp 3 on mount Everest. © Stefen Chow
Q. What’s your post-process like?
A. I use Lightroom to get the colors right, then Photoshop for further processing as it gives me more control. One thing I don’t do, however, is sharpening my images. I process each and every image manually and it may take me up to a month to go through the 12,000 images that I shoot on a typical climbing trip.

 A group of Hasidic Jewish boys taking a breather between prayers in a synangogue in Brooklyn, New York. ©Stefen Chow
Q. What’s new on the horizon for you?
A: I will be busy doing shoots across Singapore and China, while I have 3 exhibitions planned over the next 6 months, including a solo exhibition on my mountaineering work in a museum in Singapore on the first quarter of 2011. I am also in discussions of writing a book on my photography, and still trying to keep my personal life and other things on a constant juggle. It will be more challenging than ever, but something I enjoy on a daily basis.

Stefen, thanks very much for the interview and your time.

For more information on Stefen and his work, check out his website: http://www.stefenchow.com

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