Each week we select and profile a photographer from our #SFGuide community on Instagram. We believe these photographers capture the everlasting beauty of San Francisco and the Bay Area. For a chance to be featured on our Instagram feed, or here, on 49Miles.com, tag your photos with #SFGuide.
This week’s featured #SFGuide photographer is Harry Chao (@lachtype), a business admin from Katha, Burma. Scroll down to view Harry’s breathtaking photos, and learn more about what inspires him as a creative in the Bay Area.
#SFGuide Photographer Profile
Name: Harry Chao
Profession: Business Administration with the concentration in Finance and Gucci.
Place of Birth: Katha, Burma.
Where do you currently reside: San Francisco, CA.
Something you’d like viewers to know about you: You can find my instagram and portfolio under the name of lachtype. My Burmese name is Lwin Aung and my English name is Harry Chao. Combining the two names creates LACH. It’s the quickest way to remind myself of where I came from (country, family, culture, values, religion) and where I want to go. It’s fun. It’s been effective in my decision making.
What is your favorite spot to shoot in San Francisco, and why?
My favorite spot to shoot is on Montgomery Street in the Financial District. I typically find interesting subjects to capture whenever I’m walking in that area. Moreover, I love the structures surrounding it and pairing them with the right subject can create a great story. I highly recommend going there during golden hour which is around sunset. The streets are more crowded because that’s the time when people get off work. You can blend in easily and take pictures without them noticing.
When and why did you take up photography?
I started photography over two years ago. That’s when I begin to explore different parts of San Francisco every weekend. I eventually bought a camera to document my experiences. I decided to join Instagram to share pictures of my adventures shortly after. Slowly, I learned more about photography and soon developed my own style. One advice I can give is to shoot differently every time you go back to the same location. You can incorporate at least one photography element to bring depth to your shots.
What do you love about photography?
I love how photography gives me a different perspective of the world and helps me appreciate the things that I see daily. Of the many things that we pass by every day, I like to pay attention to the elements such as line, shadow, texture, shape, design, and space, and capture them in my own way. Having my perspectives come to life and being able to share it with the public brings me comfort. I also love reading about technology news online. When I’m online, I’m always on the lookout for new content like Musk’s tunnel digging, Google’s product updates, iPhone 8 rumors, camera releases, virtual reality technology, passenger drones, amazon’s services, etc. Photography lets me recreate those same excitements.
How do you decide what to shoot?
I like to shoot architecture most of the time. I prefer to go up tall buildings and parking garages for different perspectives of the city and shoot from above. To switch things up, I like to walk around Financial District and look for spaces that have not been taken yet. My recommendation is to search for inspiration through Instagram before going out to shoot. Your mind will start thinking creatively and bring out new ideas during shoots.
What’s your favorite part about going out to shoot?
My favorite part is really just to enjoy the process. Even with planning, you’ll never exactly know how your pictures are going to turn out and I think that’s the exciting part. I enjoy taking my time to shoot the same subject with different apertures and perspectives. My advice is to do research on the location that you’re going to and figure out what the place is known for. You will have a much easier time figuring out what to capture and how to capture it.
Which location did you have the most difficulty getting to, and how did you do it?
I would say public rooftops are the toughest because of their limitation in hours. Most of them are only open until 5PM on weekdays. The last time I went I was able to visit two of them during my day off. They’re cool because you can get pretty creative with the space for either portraits or architecture. So the next time you’re in search of rooftops, I’d recommend visiting 1 Kearny Street and 343 Sansome Street.
What is your dream shot? (Where, what time of day, what’s in it / the subject?)
I moved to SF three years ago, and the only shot I ever wanted to capture was the Golden Gate Bridge covered in fog. My route to work passes by the bridge, so I’d bring my camera with me on cloudy days and stop by either before or after work to capture photos of it. When the opportunity did arrive, I took multiple shots on and off the bridge and was satisfied with a picture that represented my dream shot. My next goal is to shoot it from the Marin Headlands.
What is your favorite app to use for photo editing on the go, and what are your top 3 favorite filters?
I highly recommend two powerful tools, VSCO and Polarr for photo editing. It’s better to upload the pictures onto VSCO first and apply the filters. My top three filters are HB1 and HB2 (from the VSCO HYPEBEAST Pack), and M5. HB1/HB2 have cool tones so slide the temperature bar to the left to cancel out the blues. M5 is the opposite, so slide it towards the right to increase the blues. Adjust the brightness, contrast, and highlights to your own liking. Anything involving the desaturation of specific colors, Polarr gets the job done!
How does Instagram and the #SFGuide community inspire you?
The team at 49miles is consistent and passionate about their work. The website is filled with reliable and detailed guides on the list of things to do in San Francisco. They’re probably the only blog in the Bay Area that engages their community by profiling creatives from #SFGuide and sharing their stories. Instagram and the #SFGuide community are the best places to seek out motivation for discovering like-minded individuals, to connect, and to support. Whenever I link up with friends from Instagram, I enjoy tackling topics about photography, camera gears, and future projects. Their continuous effort in content creation motivates me to push myself and to improve. My advice is to go and support your favorite photographers.
What type of camera do you use? And what is your dream camera?
I am currently using my dream setup, which is the Canon 5D Mark III and Sigma 50mm f1.4 ART lens! I bought the Sigma lens first and bought the Canon body a year later using my student loans. I recommend the 5D Mark III over the other Canon bodies. You get superb image quality due to it’s depth in shadows and colors from its full frame sensor. With 41 cross-type focus points, you’ll rarely miss a shot during photoshoots. You can install Magic Lantern on the SD card for free firmware add-ons and save pictures/videos on a fast CF card. My favorites are the improved video quality and 60 fps for slow motion.
What are your favorite settings in your idea shot?
Lens: Sigma 50mm f1.4 ART. It’s a nice focal length. The distance between you and your subject stays the same when you place your eye on the viewfinder. It’s great for portraits and street photography!
Aperture: AV mode lets me have full control over aperture and I think that’s great for street photography. When I’m walking around in the city, my aperture is placed between 1.8 to 2.8 for moving subjects, and 2.8 to 5.6 for buildings.
Shutter Speed: Around 1/500 to capture motion. 1/100 is enough to shoot buildings.
ISO: Always keep your ISO as low as possible to avoid grain. Use natural light first by balancing shutter speed and aperture.
White Balance: When shooting portraits, adjust kelvin and exposure first for previewing purposes afterward. For landscape, you can keep the white balance on auto and change it in post.
Focus (Manual / Auto): Use a tripod for night photography and always manual focus through the LCD screen.
Image Format (RAW / JPEG): Always RAW for more information in the highlights and shadows.
What advice would you give to new or rising photographers that you wish you had received when you first started?
JUST DO YOU. Take pictures of the the things that attract you and experiment with different exposures and colors as much as you can. Everyone has their own style, it just takes some time to figure it out. When I started, it took me nearly a year to discover mine. Let your photographs organically represent what you like! Just be yourself, focus on your personal craft and projects you’re proud to represent.
What do you love about living in the San Francisco Bay Area?
There’s so many things to see and do here in San Francisco. I love how you can experience both urban and nature sceneries in one city. I love how you can continuously be inspired by being surrounded by a community of musicians, artists, and engineers. I love that it is also home to some of the biggest tech companies in the world which I hope to work for soon!