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High Artistry Displayed by Frank Liu’s
Wildlife Photography

By Adelina, 06-08-2020
中文版

"Message"

Courtesy: Frank Liu

The splendid dance (above) performed by a male Great Egret on a live oak in Florida was captured by Frank Liu, a wildlife photographer. The Great Egret, a handsome bird, ethereal like a fairy princess, gracefully moves its lissome body in rhythms, waving its beautiful plumage to lure its mate. Sometimes it moves its body up and sometimes down. At other times it slowly ducks its head low and then, all of a sudden, points its bill up towards the sky, curving its neck in an S shape while fully spreading its delicate plumage as if proudly telling the world “gaze upon me”. Standing under the trees for hours, Frank, an ardent observer of wildlife, caught a glimpse of this glorious and breathtaking spectacle in action with his Nikon camera.

“Honeymoon”

Courtesy: Frank Liu 

Every year, between February and March, courtship ceremonies are performed by male Great Egrets in Florida. It is an important mating ritual before they complete their nests for their new families and care for their nestlings. Recently, Frank found out these Great Egrets like to build their nests in a garden not too far from his home. This has provided him with many photo shooting opportunities.

“A Hardworking Great Egret”

Courtesy: Frank Liu

Attracted by the beauty of Great Egrets, Frank also followed at great length a male Great Egret constructing his nest. The bird diligently carried each stick one by one to a nearby tree to build its nest. Capturing the beauty of a flying bird requires lots of patience and concentration. Frank always sets his camera in the right settings such as fast shutter speed, continuous shooting mode and continuous autofocus, and constantly pays attention to what happens around him. He acts quickly to capture the moment before it's gone. By applying montage-séquence effects, Frank showed the bird’s wings, bill, and legs, frame by frame. Backlit by the sun, the details in the images reveal the elegance of its form, rendering the true beauty of the egret. Frank’s photos adroitly display the bird’s majestic appearance with its full wings spreading in the sky and its aerodynamic body gliding with the wind. Each frame is serene and yet filled with dramatic visual effects bringing his wildlife photography to a level of high artistry.

“A Hardworking Great Egret” 

Courtesy: Frank Liu

Frank's former art education helps him see the world from an artistic angle. To Frank, a good eye for photography is very important when trying to capture a unique and artistic photo. It means that a photographer needs to be able to find out quickly what to capture, how to best utilize the natural lights, which angle to choose, and most importantly, to achieve a good composition quickly. While some of Frank's works were influenced by Western classical oil paintings which focus on details and light, his other works were clearly showing the inspiration of Chinese literature (which was his undergraduate major) and paintings. He also searches for a camera setting corresponding to a particular state of mind, a description of a scene or a story to tell. For example, by using slow shutter speed and low F-stop (a large aperture), he recently took a photo of a resting Great Egret with blurry moonlight in the backdrop portraying an obscured beauty, reminiscent of a Chinese poem written in Tang Dynasty by Zhang Ji (張繼) called “A Night Mooring by the Maple Bridge” (楓橋夜泊). By doing so, he created visual poetry with the photo.

“A Tranquil Night”

Courtesy: Frank Liu

When he takes wildlife photographs, he looks at more than just the objects themselves; he also captures the environment in which they live. By capturing both the wildlife and their beautiful natural habitat through the camera lens, he expresses his love of nature in his works. It takes patience and dedication to obtain good results. During the breeding season of the Great Egret, he spent a lot of time observing and capturing the right moments. He believes that photos taken during different weather conditions, seasons, and even at different times of the day provide contrasting lights and colors, thereby provoking various emotions.

"Relaxation "

Courtesy: Frank Liu

"Peace, and the peace forever" 

Courtesy: Frank Liu

Frank began studying drawing in middle school in Nanning city, Guangxi Province, China. During college, he picked up photography along with his major. After finishing his undergraduate degree, he worked at the Audio-Visual education center of the college as a cameraman for geographic educational videos and documentaries in the Minority Autonomous Region of China. In the late 1980s, he came to the US to study Cinema and Photography for a Master of Fine Arts degree. After graduation, he worked at a film production company doing computer animation and motion graphic design. Later, he was busy helping his wife run her business that provides behavior analysis services for autistic children. Recently, Frank is able to spend more time pursuing his passion for photography again.

Drawing for Animation - Graduate School Project

Courtesy: Frank Liu

Frank also demonstrated that a cell phone could also beautifully capture the moments when a professional camera was not readily available. In his earlier project, Lake Lily series 1, he used his iPhone 7 to take images of the wildlife from a pond in a nearby town in Florida. He then applied a painting effect on the photos during post-editing. Another example is shown in his Great Egret series 1. He didn’t have on hand his professional camera when he accidentally came upon a great egret rookery for the first time. He decided to turn on the live function on his iPhone 7 camera to capture a series of the birds’ motions from which he then picked the best frames to edit. He later applied some textures and lighting effects to give the photos a unique artistic look. For example, the following image of a Great Egret has an antique feel to it reminiscent of what people sometimes see in the ancient paintings depicting the beauty of Great Egrets. We can also see the influence of the composition of Chinese paintings in this series. In some photos, he intentionally creates some empty space to balance the object and provides room for the imagination.

"Desire"

Courtesy: Frank Liu

We are honored to have been able to interview Frank. To view his exquisite photographic images and learn some of his techniques of composition and artistic photography was a wonderful learning experience. With his focus back on photography, we are hoping to see many more amazing photos from him.

Self Portrait

Courtesy: Frank Liu

Frank's Instagram