Ever so often, we are reminded here in the Community that love comes even in the simplest of forms. Tom surprised Melissa with her very own Diana F+ during one of their recent travels and the resulting photos are nothing short of sweet. From work colleagues to dear lovers, Tom Shu and Melissa Teng of travel community Wit and Folly come a beautiful sight of endearment through analogue photography. Photography plays a big part in their relationship and the Diana F+ became a tool for them to bond with its relaxed shooting style and moody snaps.
Hello, Tom and Melissa. Welcome to the Magazine! Please tell us about yourself.
Thanks! We would be very happy to introduce ourselves! We are Tom Shu and Melissa Teng. We met each other for the first time three years ago at a work dinner for the company we used to work with. At that time, we were both working for UnitedHealth Group in Minnesota, the largest health insurance company in the United States in their health care consulting division. I had been working there since 2013 and it was my first 'real' job after graduating college. Melissa had just switched to UnitedHealth Group from Target and was just getting used to the working life at our company.
At dinner, we quickly bonded over our love for travel, passion to create, and a desire to start our own company at some point. Later on, we also realized that we both didn't really like working at a large corporation so we eventually started some side businesses together as a creative outlet when we got home from work. These included Blue Penguin Coffee (a coffee pop up at local farmers markets in Minnesota), Gizmily (an online toy company), Dear Owl (an online bubble mailer company), and Wit and Folly (a travel community).
Out of all the companies we started together, Wit and Folly showed the most promise after two years of working on it as a side job, so we poured all our efforts into it. Eventually, in May of 2018, we decided to leave our positions at UnitedHealth Group to pursue building Wit and Folly full-time. It has been much harder than expected this past year, but also more fulfilling than we could have ever imagined as we have gotten opportunities from all around the world that definitely would not have been possible if we were still working our corporate jobs.
What does traveling mean to you?
Travel means a lot to both of us and is one of the shared interests we had together from the beginning. We find that the more we travel, the more we learn. It’s like the gift that keeps on giving. But perhaps the greatest thing that travel has taught us is its ability to break down all preconceived notions and stereotypes of a place or culture. When you travel, you are forced to reconsider what you thought you knew; it’s really quite humbling to visit a new place you think you have a pretty good idea about, only to find out that you really knew nothing about it!
At its core, though, traveling matters to us because it shows that we are all connected in this world, first and foremost, as human beings. If we confine ourselves only to what we know, we will never grow and find new meaning. We remain ignorant. But when we find the courage to explore new boundaries and allow ourselves to learn through traveling, we begin to understand not only more of the world around us, but of ourselves as well.
How did you start with photography?
I first got into photography after I took a study abroad trip to the Galapagos Islands during my freshman year in college. I had brought a cheap 6-megapixel Olympus camera with me to take some photos to document the trip, but when I got home I realized many of the photos I took were unusable. I realized at that point the importance of photography and how it can capture memories and moments in a way that’s not possible with other formats. Not long after I returned home from the trip, I went out and invested in my first “real” camera. I haven’t looked back since. To this day, I am still bummed out that I have no photos to remember my Galapagos trip by.
What is your everyday photography gear? What do you think about analogue photography?
Our everyday photography gear is a set up that we have built over time through trial and error to find what works best for us when traveling. For our main camera, we use the Sony a6500 and for our backup/time-lapse camera, we use the Sony RX100 V. For lenses, we usually use the Zeiss 16-70 mm f/4.0, but we also carry the Sigma 16 mm f/1.4, Sigma 30 mm f/1.4, and Sony 70-200 mm f/4.0 for different situations. We also have a Mavic Pro drone, but we're using it less and less now because of flight restrictions in certain areas and the amount of time it takes to set up fly, and land. Our backpack is extremely heavy with all this gear, to say the least, but carrying all this equipment with us on our trips definitely allows us to cover any situation we might find ourselves in.
It was our first time using an analogue camera on these last few trips and the first thing that comes to mind is how simple it was to use. By simple, we don't mean that we didn't have to think about what we were doing when shooting with the Diana F+, though. What we mean is that the settings you have are very limited when comparing to a digital camera like the Sony a6500 we normally shoot with. There are only three different focal lengths, three different f-stop settings, ISO is based on the film, and most importantly you only get a certain number of shots per each roll of film.
One thing we noticed right away is how good of a teacher an analogue camera is when it comes to the basic functions of a camera. For each shot with the Diana F+ we had to think about what aperture setting to use, what focal length, and if we had to let in even more light by holding the shutter down longer than we usually do. This was especially true because we knew that we only had a limited number of shots in each roll of film.
Many times with a digital camera, you just shoot away until you find a setting that works. Plus, sometimes it doesn’t even matter if you don't find the perfect setting for your shot because of how dynamic modern digital cameras are. You can always fix it in post processing by brightening the image, adding contrast, color, or really anything you want. We think it can be harder to learn photography this way because you're not really seeing the full impact the settings you shoot with has on the final image.
With analogue photography, if you underexpose or overexpose, or if you get the focal length wrong, there really is nothing you can do to save the photo. At the same time though, it’s these inconsistencies and these imperfections that make analogue photography so much fun.
How did you feel when you got the Diana F+ from Tom as a birthday surprise?
When I received the Diana F+, I was at first shocked/surprised because I had no idea what it was going to be. Then I just kept wondering how in the world Tom managed to hide that big box from me the whole time and sneak it on our trip! Once I started taking the camera out though, I felt super excited and happy because I've always wanted a film camera to use. I fell in love with the fun design and vintage look immediately. It's one of those items that I know I'll treasure forever. It was such a thoughtful and personal gift, and I truly wasn't expecting it! Now I have to find a way to one up this gift for Tom's birthday.
Where did you go with Diana F+ this time?
This time around we took the Diana F+ to Alishan Mountain in Taiwan, Hoi an in Vietnam, and Seoul in South Korea for cherry blossom season. So, we were able to shoot with the Diana F+ in a variety of different settings and landscapes to see what it was able to do. It was also pretty exciting to take our finished roll of film to the Lomography Store in Taipei after we returned from our trip and wait for it to develop so we could see how the photos turned out!
Any memorable happenings during the trips?
Out of the three trips that we took the Diana F+ on, I think the most memorable experience was the sunrise at Alishan Mountain. We actually weren't planning on going to the summit for sunrise, but on the second day we were there, we realized that the next morning's weather forecast called for clear skies. We had heard from others before going to Alishan how difficult it was to see a sunrise there because of the constant cloud coverage so we thought we better not pass up this chance to see it.
So the next day we got into our taxi at 3:30 am to make the one hour trip to Alishan National Recreation Area where Alishan Train Station was. We were actually staying in Fenchihu, which is a small mountain town outside of Alishan because all the hotels in Alishan National Recreation Area were all booked up as it was Cherry Blossom season. Once we got to the train station, we waited in line for a little bit before taking a 30-minute trip up to the summit of the mountain.
By the time we got to the summit, we could already see the pre-sunrise glow lighting up the mountain, so we walked and ran as fast as we could to one of the look-out points that we heard had fewer people. Eventually, we found a spot to ourselves and got to watch as the sun rose right over the mountain bathing everything it touched in warm orange and red light. It was the best decision we made all trip and we were very happy we decided to try for sunrise.
The best part is that we managed to get some really good photos with the Diana F+ even though it was our first time using it! At first, we were worried that we didn't expose the images correctly because of the extreme dark and bright areas of the landscape caused by the sunrise. After getting the photos developed, though, we were very happy with the results and plan to print some off to hang on our wall. :)
written by cheeo on 2019-06-17