Varun Thota is a self-taught UX designer and problem solver originally from Macau. In his day-to-day work as a designer, he spends most of the time working within constraints, balancing between organisational and user needs. Photography is an escape allowing Varun the freedom to be as creative as he wants. It’s also allowed him to see the world in a different way, to travel and connect with people worldwide, and to capture all the small moments that will have a lasting memory. His photographs are featured in the new release, Trope Hong Kong Edition.
Hong Kong is a special city – unlike any other city in the world. It’s so densely populated and packed, and that makes for some incredible shots both at street level and from above. There are also parts of the city with its quickly disappearing neon lights that gives it that future, dystopian, Blade Runner-esque environment. In contrast to the urban jungle are the mountains that surround the city, that gives the city a different look, especially when you’re above the clouds or looking down into the city. It’s surreal.
When I first took up photography, I was shooting mainly with an iPhone 5S. It was only after a year or so that I decided to invest in a camera. At first, I started with a basic camera with no view finder and just a digital screen. I quickly learned about aperture, light, focal length and soon after, upgraded to a full frame camera. My style has evolved as I’ve been able to shoot with more variation, different lenses, low light, etc. Once I got a drone, that again changed my focus into aerial photography, continuing to shoot landscapes and symmetry from above.
I try not to get too wrapped up in getting the perfect shot. A lot of my shots are taken with respect to typical photography guidelines, like rules of thirds, fill the frame, symmetry, etc., but I feel if I spend too much trying to do all that, I lose the moment I’m trying to get. Photography is my escape to just do whatever I want to do and capture moments that will have a lasting memory for me.
I have a full frame mirrorless camera, the Sony A73. But I also shoot with my iPhone XS with a wide-angle Moment Lens attached to it. Considering my iPhone is a camera I have on me at all times, it’s the easiest to use and shoot with. And, the wide angle gives me more opportunities to get a variety of shots. I use my main camera when I need to get more control over my shot; the depth of field and mainly in low light.
For beginners, filters can help create an aesthetic to really enhance the photo. Personally, I’ve moved away from filters like VSCO and instead use Lightroom where I create my own filters. I’m still learning and trying to create my own style using primarily Lightroom to process my photos. I work on the light (brightness, contrast, highlights), colour (white balance, vibrance, saturation), effects (clarity, texture, dehaze), details and geometry. I do have presets that I’ve created, but I make sure they don’t change the image too much.
A lot of what influences me comes from following talented photographers and friends. I feel like I have a lot to learn still and learning from others has been my go-to, to improve my eye and skills for photography. Luckily, I also have an amazing fiancée who’s great at photography and who I continue to learn from. Photography has changed how we explore the world around us. It dominates how we plan our vacations and how we explore new destinations together. I’m excited to experience this and share these adventures through the photographs and moments we capture together. Who knows, perhaps we’ll be sharing this love for photography with our future family, and capturing all the small moments in life together.
Inspiring. Revelatory. Pleasing. I hope my work is ‘inspiring’ and ‘revelatory’, as I’ve heard multiple times from viewers that they are seeing cities they live in – in a whole new way. I’ve even heard sometimes that viewers didn’t know such beauty and locations existed in their own backyards. And ‘pleasing’ as a lot of my shots are focused on symmetry and lines which are supposed to be pleasing to the eye. And a perfectly balanced aerial photo of city blocks from above can be quite pleasing to look at.
Never stop learning! Spend more time honing your craft and continuing to push yourself. Unfortunately, I’ve had to focus more time on honing my design craft, as that is my career, with photography as a side passion project. Finding the balance right now is tough, but just like any skill or craft, the key is to never stop learning.
I’m a full-time UX Designer, spending a lot of my time solving problems for users and the business. I exercise a lot of my creativity under constant constraints. What inspires me to shoot is that freedom of being creative without all these constraints. Photography is a sort of escape. It gets me out and about. It allows me to see the world around me in a different way. And, it’s free of constraints from what I can and cannot do to express my own view on how I see the world.
Shoots with: Sony A73