16 Questions about 1 Photo with Anna Kwa

You've Set My Heart On Fire

1. Please introduce yourself, Who are you? What do you do ?

My name is Anna Kwa. I am a musician, artist, and passionate landscape and macro photographer. Born in Malaysia, I have spent most of my life in the tropical island city-state of Singapore. I love to travel and often take the path less travelled, with a particular fondness for remote and untouched places, especially mountains.

2. How long have you been into photography, and what drew you to it?

I grew up in a family with three generations of photography enthusiasts. At every family event, there was always someone with a camera in hand. My paternal grandfather was a professional photographer, though I never met him as he passed away before I was born. My love for the arts and capturing moments blossomed from this environment, where I found that taking photos was like painting with my lens. I became serious about photography during a visit to Tasmania, Australia, in 2011. The diverse and captivating landscapes there inspired me to capture those moments and bring them with me. Initially, I was drawn to the macro world, fascinated by the ability to capture intricate details that are often invisible to the naked eye and express them poetically through my lens. As I travelled more, my focus shifted to landscape photography. The pursuit of the perfect light, the best views, and the magic of sunrises and sunsets gave me an adrenaline rush. The unpredictability of the weather further fueled my passion, making each photographic journey an exciting adventure.

3. In one sentence, please describe what you captured in this shot.
I captured a breathtaking moment of Mount Semeru, Indonesia ‘s most active volcano, amidst a group of stratovolcanoes. The scene showcases a beautiful sunrise sky bathed in soft golden light and a puff of smoke from Mount Semeru’s daily eruption.

4. What style of photography would you describe this as and do you typically take photographs in this style ?

I would describe this as landscape photography. Yes, for the past eight years, I have primarily focused on landscape photography due to my frequent travels. In addition to landscapes, I am also passionate about macro photography, which I have extensively pursued since beginning my photography journey over ten years ago.

5. When and where was this photo taken?

This photo was taken in December 2023 at sunrise from Mount Penanjakan, which is 2,770 metres above sea level in East Java, Indonesia. To reach this vantage point, I started my journey at 2 am in a jeep driven by a local guide, travelling for about an hour and a half. After a short, steep climb, I waited in the extreme cold for about two hours before the first rays of dawn broke through the horizon and the sun began to reveal its colours. People from both local communities and visitors from around the globe flock to this spot just to witness this breathtaking moment.

6. Was anyone with you when you took this photo?

Yes, my son and daughter were with me at the time. My son, who shares my passion for photography, had his camera with him, allowing me to guide and advise him during the shoot.

7. What equipment did you use?

For this photo, I use the Nikon Z6 II paired with the NIKKOR Z 24-120mm f/4 S lens. As for software, my primary tools are Lightroom and Luminar Neo.

8. What drew you to take this photo?

This was my second visit to the Tenggar massif, located in the Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park in East Java, Indonesia. Renowned for its otherworldly landscape and unique natural phenomena, including the sea of sand surrounding the volcanoes (the volcanic sand dunes), this site never fails to captivate. As someone who has always been fascinated by volcanoes, their allure and the surreal atmosphere they create add to the mesmerizing beauty of this landscape. It’s a scene that never fails to enchant any landscape photographer.

9. How many attempts did it take to get this shot? 

I’m definitely not one to snap just a few shots, haha. I must have taken around 50-60 shots (maybe more!), including bracketing to ensure a range of options during editing. I tend to seize the moment when the light is perfect, capturing as many shots as possible before reviewing them later. For instance, capturing the puff of smoke on Mount Semeru was something I anticipated, but its timing was unpredictable, making every moment crucial. The ever-changing light conditions also provided different framing options, and I experimented with various zoom settings to capture different perspectives. I ended up with quite a few satisfactory frames during this moment, giving me plenty of choices when selecting the final shot.

10. Did you edit this photos?

I view post-processing as akin to applying makeup to enhance beauty. To me, it’s an art form and a skill in itself. Since I shoot in raw format, I do engage in editing to make adjustments, enhance certain elements, and reduce noise. It’s similar to dressing up to impress; just as everyone does, I certainly ensure my photos look their best, haha.

11. What encouraged you to share this photo online and with others?

I shared this photo online hoping to inspire others with the beauty of nature, particularly this otherworldly scene, and to connect with fellow photography enthusiasts who appreciate similar landscapes. Drawing inspiration from like-minded photo enthusiasts, I find that sharing also helps preserve memories and moments, ensuring they’re enjoyed beyond just myself. Additionally, the sense of community fostered online provides a supportive environment for our shared passion.

12. Did you learn anything in the process of taking, editing, or sharing this photo?

I am constantly in awe of how amazing nature is, and I’ve learned that we should respect and protect it, not destroy it in any way. Moments like these are precious and fleeting, reminding me of the importance of being present and mindful. Additionally, the process has taught me patience, the value of preparation, and the joy of sharing beauty with others. Each step, from capturing to editing and sharing, reinforces my passion for photography and deepens my appreciation for the natural world.

13. Do you remember what you had for breakfast the day you took this photo ?

I remember very clearly that I was extremely hungry after the sun had risen. The energy and excitement spent on the photo session, combined with our visit to the volcanic sand dunes, left me famished. Fortunately, I had brought along some KitKat bars, knowing we would be out in the cold and might need some comfort food to keep us warm. After our hour and a half journey back to the hotel, we made it just in time for the breakfast buffet, where I enjoyed a sumptuous meal of local Indonesian cuisine.

14. What would you like people to take away from this photo?

I hope this photo inspires people to appreciate the beauty and wonder of nature. I want to emphasize the importance of preserving these natural landscapes so that everyone can enjoy them for generations to come. It’s crucial that we respect nature and be mindful of our impact on the environment, fostering a deeper connection with the world around us. Additionally, I encourage everyone to pursue their passions and find opportunities to travel when they can, as these experiences can be incredibly enriching and inspiring.

15. Is there any feedback that you’d like to get on this shot?

As a self-taught photographer learning through trial and error, I’d love to hear feedback on the composition, lighting, and any suggestions for improvement. I definitely appreciate any insights into my photography to help me refine my skills.

16. How can anyone reading this support your work?

I would be thrilled for anyone who wants to support my work to follow me on Flickr and provide valuable feedback and comments. They can also follow me on Instagram @anna_kwa and my Facebook photography page: https://www.facebook.com/annakwaphotos/

Anna Kwa is an enthusiastic self-taught nature photographer with a keen focus on landscape and macro photography. When she’s not immersed in music as a pianist, she explores the lush flora and fauna of Singapore or ventures off the beaten path during her travels. Additionally, she is passionate about painting, channelling her creativity across multiple artistic mediums.