As a creative director, photographer, and self-proclaimed content evangelist whose lifelong dream is to travel to space, I was left scratching my head when the pandemic hit.
A New Challenge
As I primarily worked on-location in places like London, Hong Kong, and Rio de Janiero, the pandemic forced that to come to a screeching halt. How would I continue my photography and film work as I knew it? And not even just continuing my work, but fulfilling my passion for travel and adventure? How can I transport myself and others to another place without actually going anywhere?
An Opportunity to Reflect and Appreciate
After the first round of shock wore off and the early days of the pandemic started to sink in, I actually began to feel excited by the idea of being stuck at home. With an ability to see things from different and creative angles, I shifted my perspective on the pandemic. The challenge in front of me quickly became an opportunity to reassess my work — an opportunity to pay attention to a side of photography that I had long been neglecting.
What are the things I can do better and improve on in my work moving forward? What parts of my existing work might I be able to revisit or update? And how can I reconnect with the work that brings me joy and fond memories when travel is not possible?
I have a kind of sixth sense for photography. I can step into a space and feel that there is an image to be captured and I keep searching, waiting, or exploring until I capture that moment. My photos tend to highlight “busyness” with a lot of details, layers, textures, activity, movement, and people. My background in TV and film has allowed me to develop an ability to accentuate natural light while capturing an image and then publish it without a need for much editing. Where my photographer friends take four or sometimes five steps after actually shooting their images, I had only been taking one or maybe two. While I really find my fulfillment in this process of feeling out a scene, waiting for that one great photo, and capturing it, the pandemic was gifting me time and energy to give to this post-production phase: the editing.
Using Technology to Reconnect with My Past
With this revelation, I got to it. I had an opportunity to reevaluate my work over the years and experiment with editing my photos more. But the first thing I would need is to build a new workstation that would set me up for success (which also gave me an excuse to build a new gaming pc). I knew I needed displays with big real estate that I could place next to my gaming monitor offering me a fully immersive editing experience. I played around with a few setups and got to a point where I was really excited about it. I got my hands on a Sharp NEC Display Solutions MultiSync PA311D, a high-resolution desktop display with color-accurate applications that is second to none. Now that I was able to view my catalog of images on this large new display, I had a massive undertaking in front of me and I was ready to get to work.
I began to revisit my archives and the thousands of images I’d shot which dated back to 2012. I found myself re-cataloging every image I have ever taken. I rearranged them in a logical manner and then imported them into Adobe Lightroom to begin editing. I sifted through my photos, while reminiscing on my travels and fond memories over the years.
I actually hide a rocket in all of my photos. It’s how I’ve gamified my Instagram account to encourage my fans to investigate the details of my images through a “where’s waldo” approach where I ask, “can you spot the rocket in my photos?”
As I got more comfortable working in the editing phase I took the same approach investigating the details in my own images and began to notice the high resolution and precise details coming through them. I could see a huge amount of color information that already existed within the images and began to manipulate them to a point of getting them exactly how I wanted the final result to look.
This challenged me to see how far I could take my photos and truly make them even more my own. I could take my new end goal of seeing these photos in print and dive deeper into the minute details of every pixel. When I look back at previous edits side by side with my new edits, I now see details that I once could not through slight changes that would make the image richer and more engaging. Through this editing process and ability to dive deeper into my photographs, I’ve been able to craft my own new, advanced aesthetic by playing more with hues and tones that will carry over to prints and photobooks in the future.
The Bottom Line
Although the pandemic forced my travels and in-person photo shoots to pause, it allowed me to revisit parts of my work that I had previously neglected. I now have a newfound love for editing and the insights it can give me into my work – there’s so much color and detail to be revealed. And as an added bonus, this post-production phase also reignited my interest in my travels again, becoming curious about the imagery I have captured and rediscovering the fine points of each scene and memory.
I even called on the nostalgia that this process brought me and shared the fond memories and newly edited imagery of our travels with friends that experienced them with me.
About the author: Gareth Pon is an effulgent daydreamer, multifaceted maker, third culture kid, originally from South Africa. He has been featured on CNN, MTV, Fstoppers, Fast Company, and at some point was Africa’s Top Instagrammer. He is a cross-cultural world traveler and has worked with numerous brands, agencies, and pioneers the use of Digital Content as a medium for creative expression in branding, marketing, and documentation. One day he wishes to fulfill his ultimate dream of going to space to capture a photo of the Earth’s curvature in zero gravity.