Here is the interview:
I’ve had a fascination with cameras and photography as long as I can remember. I was still in my single digits when I was given my first film camera. In my late teens, I bought a Minolta SLR. I soon after I became addicted to capturing images of the mountains, deserts, and coastal regions here in southern California. I spent much of my time taking road trips and hiking; so the outdoors became the primary subject of my photos. I loved being able to capture the sights and feelings I experienced at these places because, in essence, the photos allowed me to relive the experiences as often as I desired.
Over the years I also gravitated toward abandoned, deserted places (probably because they often tell a visual story). Southern California has a lot of desert land. And there are a lot of dry, barren locations where people have tried, for some odd reason, to set up homes, only to be driven away by the harsh elements. I’m fascinated by what compelled these indivduals to move to such unfriendly environs. There’s also a sense of comical irony. For example, the fact that a surprisingly large percentage of these pioneers brought boats with them to the desert. I love roaming along lonely highways that are peppered with deteriorating dwellings, rusted appliances, and other abandoned dreams.
As a result of these quests, I’ve developed somewhat of an obsession with photography. And it gets stronger every time I capture a photo that evokes new feelings.
A little over a year ago I purchased a Nikon d800 and I love it. It’s an amazing camera! When I go on a shoot, I typically use 2 lenses, almost exclusively. My default lens is the Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8 wide-angle zoom. It produces images that are very crisp and sharp. The quality of the glass provides vivid color; and there’s very little distortion considering the range. Then, for close ups and tighter shots I turn to the Nikkor 105mm f/2.8 VR Micro Lens. Both of these lenses perform very well with the D800. Of course I still keep mid-range and telephoto lenses within reach, but they don’t get used nearly as often as the other two.
I do all of my workflow processing in Adobe Lightroom. It’s very intuitive; and the program’s adjustment and editing controls have evolved very nicely over the years. Lightroom does a great job of fine-tuning and processing the heavy-duty RAW files that the d800 puts out. I import the RAW files into Lightroom from their original folders and rely heavily on the available filters and labels to quickly and easily determine which of the huge files get developed versus being placed onto the B or C lists of pending files that might eventually be migrated over to tiffs or jpgs.
I own a number of additional Lightroom plug-ins for post-processing. The programs I use most frequency, by far, are Silver Efex Pro and Color Efex Pro (originally by NIK—now owned by Google). I’m amazed at the excellent job Silver Efex Pro performs when it comes to emulating the look and feel of film. It also provides very nice toning features.
For colored shots I really like using the tonal contrast feature in Color Efex Pro. It allows me to fine tune dynamic range in subtle ways that can give photos the clarity and depth of HDR, without the super-saturated overkill to which so many photographers fall prey.
There are 3 things I’ve learned in recent years that I wish I had known at the beginning of my photographic journey:
1] Allow the picture to present itself. In 2013 I participated in a 365 project. Every photo was not a masterpiece. (In fact, most of them have now been permanently removed from public viewing.) However, I learned a lot during that year. The best lesson I learned was that there is a photo in almost any setting; you just need to look for it. Whether you’re hiking through a forest, driving home from work, or sitting on your livingroom sofa, you are surrounded by a multitude of photographic possibilities. I found if I open my eyes to new and sometimes unconventional perspectives, worthwhile photo subjects will inevitably present themselves to me. I learned that great photos are lurking out there—we just need to uncover them. More often than not, they’re right in from t of our eyes. Once you find them, applying some photographic skill, patience, and discernment can give you the ability to create a hidden masterpiece.
2] Find the intangible qualities in your subjects. It’s easy to point a camera toward a subject and click the shutter. However, what makes a photo truly memorable is not the result of capturing the tangible objects you see I the viewfinder—it’s the emotion and feeling you capture in the frame. Think about how your photo subject makes you feel. Then use elements like exposure, composition, and lighting to translate that feeling into a photographic image. Granted, this is not an easy task; but I believe that once this skill is developed you can create truly powerful photos that will differentiate your work the other of images that are out there competing for the attentions of the masses.
3] Forge friendships with others with similar photographic skills. I have a couple of photo buddies for whom I have a huge amount of respect. They’ve played a key role in my personal improvement—and I believe I have in theirs. Friendly, constructive competition is extremely helpful when it comes to spurring people to reach new milestones. During photo shoots with friends, they will frequently take shots that I am extremely jealous over. I will then raise the bar for myself which often results in capturing images in which they are envious. It’s a healthy cycle. It also is very educational because I’m constantly asking them, “How did you get that shot?” I’ve gained great insights and new perspectives on our photo excursions by looking at photos my friends have captured that I missed entirely at the time.
There are actually two things that I would change; and they’re closely related. If possible I would increase the available time and resources that I can dedicate to my photography. If I could I would spend all of my time traveling (with my wife, of course) to scenic locations armed with a battery of photographic lenses and equipment at my disposal. Currently, photo trips are definitely too few and far between for my liking. And in terms of equipment, my wish list is way to long to ever be obtainable.
I suppose the most exciting changes are associated with the rapid acceleration of quality among “prosumer” cameras. Until recently, cameras with the resolution and sophistication of my Nikon D800 were religated only to professional photographers and/or very wealthy hobbyists. The fact that Nikon, Canon, and other camera makers are placing these new, high-performing cameras on the market at somewhat affordable prices is very exciting. I can hardly wait to see what will come out next!