Like many of you, I have some photographers that I follow on various social media channels. I follow some because they have a really unique style or approach to a genre of photography. Others I follow because they photograph parts of the world that interest me or places I too have been and photographed. Some have a strict formula for how they present their images on one specific media channel. I have lots of photographic heroes to say the least. One of those heroes is Tongue Bui. He is a member of the Fuji X Aus community but is now Toronto based. If you have not heard of the name, then you will certainly have recognised his signature style of highly dynamic and colourful portraiture images.
I am certainly not the only one to have noticed his work. On his personal instagram account alone he has over 21,000 followers. Not that fame is important of course. But I have to admit that his work is striking. And clearly I am not alone. But, there is a hell of a lot more to Tongue than just taking powerful portraits in the streets of Toronto. He has credibility in a broad range of photography genres and creative pursuits and I wanted to learn more about that and share it here with you. I managed to capture HIS attention long enough to ask him some questions about his approach to photography and especially his use of Fujifilm gear.
Tongue, we have know each other since the early days of the Fuji X Aus Facebook group. I seem to recall that I was a clear winner against you in a competition at some point. That’s not a question, I just wanted to remind you of that defeat!
HAH a true Aussie with such grace and class. I bow down to you Greg! That challenge was a tough one!
What can you tell us about yourself and your photographic journey? When did you first pick up a camera?
If we want to get technical, I first picked up a Canon Rebel t3i to make comedy skits on YouTube (Ohh the cringe) that was 10 years ago . But as for when I started to embark on this photography journey, it was right when I left Toronto for Australia. That was 2 years ago, like all beginners I started off with a Canon rebel t6i. I wanted to take photos to document my travels that I was embarking on. So for the first year of it, I was taking landscapes, cityscapes, anything I can show to make my friends back home jealous. I spent the first 6 months travelling and experiencing the Aussie life and I love it. I travelled to Melbourne, Tasmania, Sydney, Brisbane, Goldcoast, Sunshine Coast and Cairns. My girlfriend and I saw a lot in and around these cities. And capturing these scenes in Australia really brought me so much joy. During the beginning months I was really bothered by the size of my DSLR, long story short, I switched to a Sony mirrorless, only to dislike the colours of the camera and found my way to Fujifilm.
Your portrait work is dynamic and striking and every image pops from the screen. How did you settle upon this style and look which was different from what everyone else was doing?
Constant trial and error, sliding things around in adobe lightroom until I got the colours and the look that I want and from there was building a consistent workflow to getting the look I have now. I think what makes me different is the colours. Where as a lot of people are showcasing the muted desaturated tones, I choose to be vibrant and colorful.
How do you source locations that give you both the freedom and the backdrops to achieve your lighting effects? Do you use additional lighting?
I honestly don’t have a clue. When I go out and shoot with a model, I have no plan. I pick a place in the city where I feel displays the most lights and we walk around looking for them doing so I get to know more of the person I’m photographing and that builds chemistry. People around facebook always asks me if i use flash, and the answer is No haha. I use the light source that is available to me outside. For example, Street lights, led signs, the light that is emitting from the store window. And this is what makes it fun for me!
But this is not your only genre. Your blog site, neverendingworldtour.com contains blogs about your many travels with your partner Hillorie – often poses as a model in your shots. And your corresponding neverendingworldtour instagram page has over 8,000 followers. Landscape, scenery, travel and street photography. There are product reviews, travel hacks and must see location guides. What do you attribute to your photographic success in this area?
I think success for that comes from the passion for travel and taking pretty photos. If you take a beautiful photo and edit it in a way that resonates with the masses it helps alot in garnering followers and it helps when feature hubs reposts your shots.
You have already travelled so much. Where would you love to head to next to capture that one amazing shot?
Myself and Hillorie are travelling to Hawaii the end of August. I myself would love to go back to Vietnam and have Hillorie dressed in another traditional Vietnamese “Ao Dai” for another epic photo. We are planning to head to London for Christmas, and Italy during the Summer months of next year.
At the start of 2017 you moved from Sony to Fujifilm. You have shot with the Fujifilm X-T2, the X-H1 and also the GFX. What is it about shooting with Fujifilm cameras that appeals to you so much?
I had to go through so many cameras to find the one that makes my workflow easy for me. The Sony colours were horrible, and it was too flat of a profile for me to try to work with. I struggle with Sony raw files. Fujifilm was a lot easier to handle, their menu systems are straight to the point and it didn’t feel cluttery”. I just love Fujifilm cameras – they make great cameras for photographers! The film simulations are also to die for. I apply it on after my adjustments and I think that also attributes to the “look” that I have. And I also love the colours! It’s the best I’ve seen!
For people wanting to get started in photography, what advice would you give them?
For all the people starting out, I was there where you were 2 years ago. I shot on auto, I didn’t know how to use Adobe Lightroom, everything was in Jpeg! But if you are inspired by people like me, taking creative portraits, l learn framing & composition, learn how to use Adobe Lightroom, shoot in raw, learn how your camera works, and watch YouTube tutorials because you’ll never stop learning. From there what you want to do is take photos and edit them one everyday with techniques you’ve learned on YouTube. you’ll see a drastic improvement from day 1 to day 100!
Aside from the images you put on the Fuji X Aus Facebook group, what are the best ways for people to check out your photography? Where can people find your work?
You can check me out at: www.instagram.com/iamtongueThanks so much Greg i had fun answering these questions. And thank you guys for taking the time to read this! I appreciate it.
I would like to thank Tongue for taking the time to answer my questions and to admitting to his defeat in a past challenge. I didn’t want to make a big deal of it….Tongue has the envious energy and capacity to travel the world and ply his craft and unique style to a broad range of subjects in some truly amazing locations. And he is equally fortunate to have his partner Hillorie be by his side through the entire journey. His capacity to capture the light and harness the existing colour in the world is astounding. I wish them all the very best in their upcoming travels. Happy shooting!