Wilson Lee is a self-taught visionary; his understanding of texture, composition, lighting, colour and technology all contribute to his self-expression. Photography has become his vehicle to organizing the beautiful things of our world. Based in Hong Kong, he shoots a manner of subjects including minimal interpretations of vast landscapes and dainty objects.
Each and every one of his images brings forth emotions and undertones of poetic admiration, a lingering story no matter how bare the image appears. With a clean visual aesthetic, Wilson is drawn to minimal portrayals for its Zen-like qualities.
“They give viewers a moment to rest, slow down, and look. They leave lot of visual space to consider and wonder. Many times, I will take an everyday object that people might not notice and frame it in a way that becomes very new. That challenges perceptions and makes even the smallest thing interesting. I like to see people figuring out what’s in the picture.”
The craft is in the details. For Wilson, he finds he must pay attention to the seemingly unnoticeable for him to uncover an interesting subject or a new way of seeing. The fresh perspective then drives compositional experimentation and leads him to his final framing choices.
SPOKES - Rays of impermanent light reaching out into every direction – Nikon D3x, f/1.3, 1/800 sec, ISO 100, Nikkor 50mm f/1.2 AI-S at 50mm
PASSAGE - Through the gate, here to there, from now until then – Nikon D700, f/1.2, 1/2500 sec, ISO 100, Nikkor 50mm f/1.2 AI-S at 50mm
FOUR PLAITS - Like strands of hair, the wires pull taut for the braid - Nikon D3x, f/1.4, 1/100 sec, ISO 125, AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4G at 50mm
CORNERED - Cornered, upended, and boxed in – Nikon D3x, f/2.8, 1/250, ISO 100, AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8G ED at 24mm
VISITORS - Skyline cabling and a small branch of leaves make a guest appearance on the frame of a small village wall – Nikon D800E, f/8, 1/1000 sec, ISO 250, AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8G ED at 35mm
FOLLOW THE LEADER - Forge ahead, even after the leader is lost – Nikon D700, f/8,1/1600 sec, ISO 200, AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8G ED at 24mm
TWO MET AT THE EDGE - Fold, slice, paint, dab - Nikon D700 f/8,1/400 sec, ISO 200, AF-S Micro NIKKOR 60mm f/2.8G ED at 60mm
It has taken him years of fine-tuning his approach to composition to create that perfect visual harmony. “I look for relationships between objects, lights, colour, and those sorts of things. I stay focused on the original beauty of the scene and I keep the shot as uncluttered as possible.” He works with the belief that everything has a place, and everything around the image should support the focal point. A process of trial and error, Wilson will often remind himself to slow things down, this way he can ensure that his own clarity of mind ensures a better shot.
One of his favourite images was captured on a trip to New Mexico, the desert was particularly appealing to Wilson as its landscape was continuously morphing around him. With nothing but sand in sight, bathed in the harsh light of the sun, the lighting carved curves and deep shadows into dunes, he was in awe of its striking simplicity.
“This unique image stands out to me because there is white sand as far as the eye can see whilst there is also one wooden pole standing where it does not belong. That surprise provides a perfect vertical reference against the otherwise horizontal composition. An empty sky contrasts the active sands; the hard wood contrasts the soft dessert. The study of contrasts is deeply satisfying. ”
It is on shoots like these that time has proven to be the most important factor. As well as setting aside time for planning, shooting then editing, Wilson is particular in getting to know the landscapes and subjects at just the right time. Factoring in the time of day, he experiments to get just the right exposure. It’s all about making certain that he is in the right place at the right time, nothing left to chance.
LIGHT CHIMES - A spray of glowing heat rings aloud like music – Nikon D700, f/2.5, 1/100 sec, ISO 100, AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4G at 50mm
ELEVATION MAPPING - The growth and expansion of concrete cities in miniature – Nikon D700, f/6.3,1/400 sec, ISO 200, AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8G ED at 48mm
NEON - Hot magenta on the cool white rays – Nikon D700, f/2.8, 1/200 sec, ISO 200, AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4G at 50mm
TECH FIELD GRID - Light and dark squares create a layered texture field – Nikon D700, f/5.6, 1/320 sec, ISO 200, AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8G ED at 56mm
FRAME FOR AN ALLEGORY - What is like that which is inside the frame? – Nikon D3x, f/13,1/200 sec, ISO 100, AF-S NIKKOR 70-200 f/2.8G ED VR II at 125mm
GOLDEN - Ground swells with riches, refilling the cup – Nikon D3x, f/6.3, 1/160 sec, ISO 160, AF-S NIKKOR 70-200 f/2.8G ED VR II at 70mm
His setup differs from shoot to shoot. When it comes to outdoor night photography, he usually brings along two cameras with tripods, one is used for longer image sequences whilst the other is adapted to point and shoot. For daytime, he generally uses one camera paired with one or two prime lenses. He switched between using the D800E, D810A or the D3x.
He prefers using the D810A as part of his astrophotography kit, whilst he finds the D800E is suited to a range of uses. When out on the road, Wilson tends to grab his favourite prime lenses, the AF NIKKOR 35mm f/2D or AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4G as well as keeping a AF-S NIKKOR 16-35mm f/4G ED VR wide-angle lens on hand.
He has relied heavily on the AF NIKKOR 35mm f/2D as it is portable, affordable, and high quality with a large aperture. “It performs well with close-up shots and also provides a shallow depth of field, giving me a wide range of uses. When I can only bring just one lens, this is the one.”
CRANE’S SHADOW RESTING - The desert sculpts new images with sun and sand, Nikon D3x, f/10, 1/400 sec, ISO 100, AF-S NIKKOR 70-200 f/2.8G ED VR II at 70mm
TRIFOLD - Blue hills in, pink hills down, and beige hills ahead – Nikon D3x, f/6.3, 1/160 sec, ISO 100, AF-S NIKKOR 70-200 f/2.8G ED VR II at 86mm
CALLIGRAPHY - Perfect lines from a skilled craftsman – Nikon D3x, f/5.6, 1/125 sec, ISO 160, AF-S NIKKOR 70-200 f/2.8G ED VR II at 175mm
OTHERWORLDLY - As if watching a branch sink beneath the sea – Nikon D3x, f/5.0, 1/1000 sec, ISO 100, AF-S NIKKOR 70-200 f/2.8G ED VR II at 200mm
GOING UP, GOING DOWN - Two planes pass in thin air – Nikon D3x, f/11, 1/100 sec, ISO 100, AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8G ED at 45mm
Always learning and forever expanding his repertoire, photography has become all-encompassing for Wilson. “Photography is my life. It is a skill and discipline that supports communication of emotions. I’m not sure how my works have affected viewers, but I know this art has changed me. It demands that I be more aware and consider the world more deeply.”
A photographer with a tremendous passion in photography, Wilson believes that it is a nonstop process in learning and improving. A minimalist in life and a perfectionist in his profession, he strives for improvement in photography, style and with technological integration.
Wilson is a distinctive yet diversified photographer. He works brimmed with his unique style but he is interested in a wide-range of photography: from high precision commercial product shot to random snap shot with abstraction.
Wilson is a self-learner. He has never been to any formal photography or retouching institutes. His eyes, his heart and his mind are his own mentors. He enjoys watching the masterpieces of the others and is always inspired by the works. His milestone of photography is ‘Admire before Acquire’.