Diana Ishii started taking up photography about eight years back when her husband, professional photographer John Ishii, bought her a point-and-shoot camera. Fast forward to today, Diana has an absolute passion for Leica cameras and lenses, which she adores for their absolute quality. Her images have been published in Digital Camera Magazine, exhibited in a Leica exhibition in Kuala Lumpur, featured by official Leica Instagram sites and favoured by National Geographic editors.
Diana Ishii's FB
Diana Ishii's Instagram
Author, editor, publisher and now visual storyteller.
Diana Ishii pushes herself, her camera and photography to the limit.
Some photographers go to great lengths to get the shot.
For Hong Kong-born, KL-based Diana Ishii that distance can be precisely measured.
It’s 1,200 km.
That’s how far Diana travelled on one photo trip that traversed Mongolia – crossing the Gobi Desert and Outer Mongolia’s grassy steppe, going all the way to the Taiga Forest near the Russian border.
The dry, chill wind and sub-zero temperatures tested her physical resolve and technical skills as a photographer.
It also tested the mechanical engineering and electronic robustness of her preferred Leica camera: the SL.
Both the photographer and the camera passed the extreme examination with flying colours – and with some impressive monochrome shots too.
The Mongolia photos are iconic images in her body of work, being favoured by National Geographic editors.
The outstanding photos from her earlier adventures in the North Pole and Iceland, other places known for their biting winds and frigid climates, are also A+.
Winds blow hot as well as cold. Diana also has an impressive portfolio of photos of her adopted tropical Malaysian home.
When shooting domestically, Diana takes more of a fine art approach, often experimenting with long exposures to transform the everyday into surreal, dream-like scenes, alternating between colour and monochrome.
Diana’s personal journey into photography reads like an itinerary for one of her adventurous excursions.
She recounts the move from her native Hong Kong to Malaysia, and how she added visual storytelling to her resume.
“In 1997, I was given the opportunity to teach at a university in Singapore. I decided against relocating to the Lion City, as I intended to start my own company and work for myself. KL became my base. I became one of the early digital nomads and worked remotely from a foreign country.
“My work as an educational book author is quite intense, involving long hours. I normally put in nine to 10 hours of work every day, seven days a week. I juggle six to eight book and IT projects simultaneously to meet deadlines.
“Photography is a way for me to relieve stress and achieve better work-life balance. It’s the only activity that can take my mind completely off my work.”
Diana was introduced to photography by her husband, John Ishii, a professional photographer, who bought her a small camera.
“I thought it would be a good idea to take up a hobby that we could enjoy together. Photography has brought us to many distant locations – Africa, the North Pole (Greenland), Iceland, Bhutan, USA, most South-east Asian countries, and Mongolia – and allowed us to see the most amazing people and natural scenery, and learn about different cultures.”
Looking back on her figurative and literal journey with Leica, Diana says: “I have carried my SL camera and lenses with me through thick and thin.
“I often push my cameras to their limits. I tested the SL in various types of shoots: portraits, landscapes, high-speed, low-light, long-exposure, time-lapse, and multi-shot photography. It’s always performed.”
The SL is as tough and tenacious as Diana is in getting high-quality images.
“In 2019, the SL followed me on a journey deep into the Taiga Forest in Mongolia. The camera and lenses have been strapped on reindeers’ backs to cross a peat bog.
“The SL camera and lenses travelled with me for more than 1,200 km over rough terrain in a land cruiser, and they were with me on the backs of horses, camels, and reindeers, and survived the tough journey.
“In November 2017, I brought the SL to Mongolia and subjected it to -20°C in the Altai Mountains. Again, both the camera and the lenses proved to be tough and reliable.”
The Leica SL (TYP 601) is a mirrorless system camera, offering an impressive set of specifications and innovative features. The camera’s 24 MP full-frame CMOS sensor and perfectly matched components – from the premium-quality SL lenses to the built-in electronic viewfinder – guarantee exceptional imaging performance.
The latest iteration of the SL system is the SL2, which has a full-frame sensor that is packed with an astounding 47.3 million effective pixels. The level of detail is nothing short of stunning. The unprecedented resolution of the SL2’s CMOS image sensor in full-frame format results in an unparalleled level of detail rendition and image quality.
For Diana, it’s an easy choice as to what is her favourite lens.
“It’s the Leica Noctilux-M 75mm f/1.25 ASPH. Many of my best shots were taken with that lens.”
The Leica Noctilux-M 75mm f/1.25 ASPH delivers exceptional imaging performance and unique bokeh. The gossamer-thin depth of focus isolates subjects with extreme precision and makes it a truly exceptional lens. Its focal length of 75 mm makes it especially suitable for the creation of portraits with a natural look. As the depth of focus is even shallower than that of the Noctilux-M 50 mm f/0.95 APSH, it allows even more precise isolation of subjects.
Diana is already thinking about the future. She aspires to combine her talents as a writer, publisher and photographer.
“I plan to return to Mongolia. There are still some images I would like to take that I was not able to do so in my previous three trips.
“Hopefully, I will have enough strong images to publish a book one day.
“A good author tells a story. It’s the same with a good photo – it must have a strong narrative.
“My advice to any aspiring photographer is this: make sure your pictures tell a story, make sure it’s interesting and nicely composed.
“Try to keep the background clean. Think about lighting and how it enhances your image. Do not use pre-sets in post-production. And get to know your gear. When you’re out in the field, you cannot be found wanting.”
With that advice, and setting an outstanding example of having the passion to push yourself in extreme conditions, we look forward with eager anticipation to Diana’s first book. And the inspiration it may provide other photographers to publish their work.
Written by Kieron Long
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