Matthew Poon, Versatile Shooter Down Under
As a fourth generation Chinese-Australian, Matthew Poon’s roots are deep in the Perth area, where he has worked at the same employer for the past twelve years since he was seventeen. Currently photographing the news beat for four publications belonging to the Community Newspaper Group (CNG) in Midland, Poon has wanted to be a professional photographer since his high school days. He’s achieved that and more. In 2009 he was named CNG Photographer of the Year.
With his current position, Poon is getting his wish fulfilled and more. “With my job as a suburban press photographer, I have a lot of different jobs every day,” he explains. The pace is fast for him, with six to eight assignments each shift. Often switching gears from sports events to advertising to breaking news coverage, Poon is constantly on the move. He will find himself driving an hour and a half to a story’s location, shooting photos for five minutes, then driving back to Midland.
This frantic pace is evident even in Poon’s speech when he describes his average workday. “You’ve got to be relaxed, bam-bam, see you later, next job,” he says, rapidly. “I know my kits very well,” he adds, laughing.
Poon incorporates a combination of his own gear and company-issued camera equipment. His bodies include a Canon EOS-1D Mark III, a new Canon EOS-1D Mark IV, and his own Canon EOS-5D Mark II. His range of lenses is extensive, both fixed glass and zooms, running from 14mm to 400mm. His speed lights include two Canon 580EX II units, two Canon 550EX flashes, and four Canon 580EX units.
All those speed lights need to be synced, of course, and Poon relies on PocketWizard technology. “I’m currently running one MiniTT1, plus an AC3 ZoneController. I usually carry four FlexTT5 models, but I carry up to seven, with the odd number being because I broke one the other day when I fell into saltwater at the beach,” he says, laughing. “When it falls into saltwater, that’s game over for most electronic things.” Poon also owns PocketWizard Plus II units which he has begun to use for remote camera triggering.
“Before I got PocketWizards, I used the Cannon STE2 controller and just a normal flash on top of the camera, but through the infrared it wasn’t consistent,” Poon recalls. “I wouldn’t get flashes sometimes. The range was very poor visually, so it was a very hit and miss sort of thing. The PocketWizard range is just unbelievable. A basketball shoot was the first time we used the PocketWizards. I was on one end of a basketball stadium, the subject was on the other end, and the flashes synced up, no problems. That’s what won me over: just the range and the ease. I think I shot them on ATT as well, so I had no adjustments on the flash. The PocketWizard sorted itself out and it made life a lot easier. It’s just reliable compared to the old ways I was using. I probably broke a few Cannon STE controllers and at $400 each it wasn’t cheap. I just had to find a different product to use and PocketWizard came to the rescue.”
The majority of images Poon creates for his publication are typically portraits. These often involve an individual taken in an appropriate environment, such as a local athlete on a field. A dramatic example of this would be when he was on location to photograph a young kayaker. Poon immersed himself up to his neck in water, and had his speed lights both in and out of the water to capture a dramatic image against a stormy sky. Before he left the water, hail began to fall in strong winds. In 2010, this shot was highly commended in the PANPA Awards. Poon’s editors count on him to capture his familiar landscape in new ways day after day.
Product photography, portraiture, sports, landscape work—it seems there’s no end to types of shooting required of this photojournalist. At such a young age and with more than 40 hours of completely unscripted shooting each week, it will be interesting to see where Matthew Poon’s passion takes his future photography. His self-taught off-camera flash work is a far cry from newspaper photos of old. Be sure to check out more of his work from a multitude of sources online. You can’t help but feel this very versatile shooter is creating images photojournalists only dreamed of a few decades ago.
Written by Ron Egatz