Jirawat Plekhongthu is a professional photographer from Thailand. In 2017, his image 'Good Morning Mt Fuji' was announced as 3rd Place in the Thailand National Award of the Sony World Photography Awards. We caught up with him to find out more about his work, including a collection of amazing images of fighting fish....
Hi Jirawat, please introduce yourself and tell us a little about you and your photography
Hi, my name is Jirawat Plekhongthu. I was born in 1990 and graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Geology from Chulalongkorn University, Thailand. The turning point of my life to become a photographer was during my last year in the university. I took a photography course and found myself falling in love with sharing the beauty of nature, wildlife and animals to everyone through my work. Since then, I seriously started learning about photography as my passion. I have had many opportunities to experience different kinds of photography as a full-time photographer.
Generally, my works are expressed through portraits and microstock photography. One of my successful personal projects is 'THE ELEGANCE OF SIAMESE FIGHTING FISH'.
Why photography? What does the medium mean to you?
Actually, I love all kind of arts but I think photography is the best way to communicate with others my perspective. I use my camera to create my own art. This way of photography has brought me to meet so many different kinds of people. Therefore, I've had a lot of chances to get to know their backgrounds and interesting stories which is always great. Moreover, it also made me realize about environmental issues in our world.
Tell us about your hugely popular image, 'Good Morning Mt Fuji' - do you have any top tips for photographing at Mt Fuji?
Well, this picture was taken to fulfill my visual imagination. Mountain Fuji covered with mist, seen through red leaves, and surrounded by people canoeing. The story behind this scene was like a dream that I will never forget.
Last year, I got a chance to travel to Japan alone and it was the first time for me to be there. I had planned to take pictures of Mount Fuji with red leaves from this trip. The picture was taken at Lake Kawaguchiko. Before shooting, I checked weather forecasts and found a perfect spot under the maple tree which had turned fully red. On that day, I woke up before the sun had risen and rode a bicycle to the marked point. However, I arrived and found that 3 Japanese photographers were there before me, standing with their settled tripods, and my chosen position was gone. Yet, none of the photographers could start taking picture because the mist still covered Mount Fuji. I then continued trying to find a great point of view with nice composition of red maple leaves and the volcano.
It took me quite long before settling at one spot because spaces were all reserved with other photographers. I almost gave up and thought I would come back another day instead. A few minutes later, one photographer moved out, leaving me a great opportunity to suddenly take that location. As soon as my equipment was well setup, Mount Fuji gradually appeared and stood out amongst the mist. I thought to myself that something was missing from the scene. Luckily, a large group of tourists canoeing along the river arose in the landscape to eventually fill the frame. I waited a little longer for a perfect combination of various elements. I took a number of shots of that scene and finally achieved what I had planned for. It is quite worthwhile and will be kept as one of the most precious moments for me.
My personal top tip, not only for picturing Mount Fuji, is knowing your subject. More importantly is to make a pre-visualization, to prepare good places at the right time. The rest is luck!
You are well-known for your images of fighting fish. Can you tell us when and why you started photographing this species? How do you set the shoot up?
In 2014, I tried to capture a picture of fighting fish but it didn't work. In early 2015 I started the fish project again to capture the beauty of single moments of my pets, since then it has become the series called 'THE ELEGANCE OF SIAMESE FIGHTING FISH'.
This work is motivated by my personal interest in Thai betta fish, which was my childhood pet and a symbol from Southeast Asia. Nowadays, betta fish breeding development has reached high levels of color variations and physical appearance. I would like to emphasize the beauty, by selecting specific colors and shapes of exceptional fish to fully express nature's creation through the lights, shade, and techniques of photography.
Every fish has its own unique movement. I set up the light on the crystal-clear fish tank and use a clear water. Then, I am just patient for a perfect moment.
Do you have a photographic philosophy?
I don’t have a specific philosophy. But I only know that my works are made by all of my heart. Firstly, I have to make sure that my image is alive then it can communicate something. Once the audiences feel and understand my images, then comes the starting point of conversation. My picture itself has already done a good job.