Michelle Kawka – PhotoTalk #22

Today\’s interview is with Michelle Kawka. Michelle Kawka is a New York based professional photographer. Her personal work has been exhibited at the Queens Museum of Art, City Hall of the 9th Arrondissement Paris France, the Queens Hospital Center, among other places. This multifaceted artist\’s short film \”Animal Farm” was screened at Sunnyside Shorts Film festival. Her most recent work, portraits for \”This is Our Queens\” was just named the best project of 2009 by the American Society of Media Photographers.

You can see more of her work at her website – www.michellekawka.com.

On to the interview:

Photograph by Michelle Kawka, All Rights Reserved
Photograph by Michelle Kawka, All Rights Reserved,
Photos hosted on Flickr

SU: Tell me a little about yourself. How did you get into photography?

MK:I got into photography when I studied in Italy in college. I found myself constantly taking pictures. The idea of sitting behind a desk and being an office for 40 years of my working life was not appealing, so I figured I would try and turn this hobby that inherently clicked with me into a career !

Photograph by Michelle Kawka, All Rights Reserved
Photograph by Michelle Kawka, All Rights Reserved,
Photos hosted on Flickr

SU: What are your primary photography interests? And why do these topics interest you?

MK:I love shooting people and places. They interest me because I find it a challenge to draw authentic emotions out of people and capture it through the camera. I love shooting places because I believe travel expands your world view and makes you a more aware person in your own community and how you relate to the world.

Photograph by Michelle Kawka, All Rights Reserved
Photograph by Michelle Kawka, All Rights Reserved,
Photos hosted on Flickr

SU: Can you talk about your experience photographing the 200 portraits for the thisisourqueens.com website?

MK:ThisisOurQueens.com is a project that highlighted the diversity of New York City’s borough of Queens. Queens County, New York is a borough of over 2.2 million people.It is the most ethnically diverse county in the world. Forty-six percent of the population is foreign born and over 138 languages are spoken throughout the borough. The website is the brainchild of Dave Kerpen, who created it as part of his campaign for borough president. He hired me to create a series of 200 individual portraits of people who live, work or are from the borough to highlight the borough’s incredible diversity. The most memorable part of the project was exploring the borough’s different neighborhoods and meeting a wide range of people from all over the world. I photographed Sikhs at a temple in Richmond Hill, was blessed by an evangelical Christian woman on the street in Jamaica, found a surfer at Rockaway Beach from Kansas who works in Ozone Park and took a portrait of a professor from CUNY Queens College who’s work involves the study of climate change in Antarctica. At the project’s completion, over 25 countries and 6 continents were represented by the people of Queens County, New York. All 200 portraits may be seen at http:www.thisisourqueens.com.

ThisIsOurQueens.com was named one of the best projects of 2009 by the American Society of Media Photographers and one of the photos was displayed the ASMP booth at Photo Plus Expo in New York this past October. The full interview about the award can be read here: http://asmp.org/articles/best-2009-kawka.html.

Photograph by Michelle Kawka, All Rights Reserved
Photograph by Michelle Kawka, All Rights Reserved,
Photos hosted on Flickr

SU: As a woman photographer, can you talk about experiences & unique challenges you face when you are outside shooting?

MK: Photography can be an extremely physically demanding profession, lugging around heavy equipment and being on your feet for hours at a time. One of the challenges is the perception that women are not physically capable of a photography career. However, I also think people are less threatened by a woman photographer and are more able to trust her, and when shooting people, trust is the most important element to get a good picture.

Photograph by Michelle Kawka, All Rights Reserved
Photograph by Michelle Kawka, All Rights Reserved,
Photos hosted on Flickr

SU: Do you have any suggestions, opinions and/or words of advice for other women in photography?

MK: Don’t let anyone tell you that it’s not a profession for women.

Photograph by Michelle Kawka, All Rights Reserved
Photograph by Michelle Kawka, All Rights Reserved,
Photos hosted on Flickr

SU: What is your current project? Can you talk about it?

MK: My current project is getting an exhibition space of all 200 portraits from the ThisIsOurQueens.com project. I am contacting galleries and museums who would like to feature the work.

Photograph by Michelle Kawka, All Rights Reserved
Photograph by Michelle Kawka, All Rights Reserved,
Photos hosted on Flickr

SU: Any recommendations? (like Photographers, Photo techniques, Music, Books, quotes, food..anything?)

MK: The more photos you take, the better a photographer you will be. Practice really does make perfect in this profession.

Photograph by Michelle Kawka, All Rights Reserved
Photograph by Michelle Kawka, All Rights Reserved,
Photos hosted on Flickr

SU: Can you mention how people interested in your work can contact you?

MK: They can email me at michelle@michellekawka.com.

Photograph by Michelle Kawka, All Rights Reserved
Photograph by Michelle Kawka, All Rights Reserved,
Photos hosted on Flickr

Thanks Michelle!

[poll id=”23\”]

Varina Patel – Photo talk # 21

This week\’s interview is with Varina Patel. This interview is first, in what I hope, is a series of interviews with women photographers who are into landscape, nature, travel photography. Varina Patel, graciously agreed to be my first interviewee for this series.

Some of Varina\’s photographs which I love are these gorgeous landscape photographs. You can check out her website photographybyvarina.com for more of her work. Varina and her husband Jay, whom I have interviewed previously work as a team and teach workshops. I had the pleasure of attending their IHDR seminar in the bay area earlier this year. Here is a link to their upcoming workshops. They are really good, patient teachers and I learnt a whole from them. Varina provides very interesting insight and explains the technical aspects of photography very clearly.

Oct 20th Update: Here is another interview of this amazing photographer: http://www.photobards.com/interview/varina-patel-11.html

Anyways, on to the interview:

Photograph by Varina Patel, All Rights Reserved
Photograph by Varina Patel, All Rights Reserved,
Photos hosted on Flickr

SU: Tell me a little about yourself. How did you get into photography?

VP: I am 33 years old, and Photography has been a part of my life since I was very young. I took my first photography class in 7th grade, and by the time I reached high school I was sure I wanted to become a professional photographer. I majored in art when I started college, but I changed my major after a short time – photography seemed an unrealistic and impractical career choice. In the end, I graduated with a degree in Information Technology… which has been extremely useful now that photography has gone digital. I use the knowledge I gained in all those college classes to build my websites and handle the technical side of the photographic business.

I went pro in 2005 – shooting stock images for several agencies, and taking occasional jobs shooting hotel interiors for Marriott. I still shoot for stock regularly, but my focus is now on wilderness and landscape photography. I process all my images with Photoshop, which I’ve been using since 1994.

Photograph by Varina Patel, All Rights Reserved
Photograph by Varina Patel, All Rights Reserved,
Photos hosted on Flickr

SU: How did you get into landscape photography, your primary interest? What keeps you interested?

VP:During my first two years in college, I spent hundreds of hours in the darkroom trying different techniques – and inhaling noxious fumes. I started shooting landscapes with my black and white film camera in 1994, but it wasn’t until I met Jay in 2005 that I began to shoot landscapes primarily. I attended one of his early workshops in Death Valley that year, and I’ve been shooting in the wilderness ever since. Jay and I were married in 2007, and we now teach workshops and seminars across the U.S. together.

Maintaining an interest in landscape photography is easy. I am very lucky to be able to shoot with Jay, whose passion for wilderness photography matches mine. We travel together as often as possible – usually about once a month. Furthermore, because I work freelance, I am not bound by the rules of anyone else’s game. I am in this simply because I choose it – and that goes a long way towards keeping it fun.

Photograph by Varina Patel, All Rights Reserved
Photograph by Varina Patel, All Rights Reserved,
Photos hosted on Flickr

SU: What do you look for and what are trying to convey when you make your lovely landscape photographs?

VP:More than anything else, I am in pursuit of perfect light. As I stand behind my camera, it is my goal to capture each location in a completely unique light or from a different angle. I want to present the location to the viewer in a way that makes them long to break away from the moment and stand where I stood. Some of the locations I photograph are visited by hundreds of photographers each day – so it’s a real challenge to present something new and different each time. I research each location extensively so that I know where the sun is going to rise and set, and what the weather will be like. I watch humidity levels and cloud cover, and I pay close attention to storm fronts as they move through. I try to be prepared so that I am in the right place at the right time… and once I’m there, I look for an interesting foreground object, and plan my composition.

Because I can’t stay in a location as long as I’d like, I try to know as much as possible before I get there. I check tide charts, fall foliage and spring bloom dates, and topographical maps before I travel. I don’t choose a location and go shoot – instead, I choose the best conditions and position myself so that I have the best chance of capturing that perfect shot.

Photograph by Varina Patel, All Rights Reserved
Photograph by Varina Patel, All Rights Reserved,
Photos hosted on Flickr

SU: As one of the few women in landscape photography, can you talk about your experiences & unique challenges you face?

VP: My biggest challenge as a woman is balancing my responsibilities as a mother with the demands of my job – a challenge that millions of women deal with every day. I am extremely fortunate to be able to stay at home with my children most of the time. I can process and print my photographs from my home office, and my children know that they are always my first priority. I am out of town for a few days each month, and I enjoy my time away – but I always look forward to coming home to my kids. Jay and I have six children between us – four are mine, and two are his. We spend all our free time with them – swimming, fishing, sledding, riding bikes, playing soccer, camping, hiking, and traveling. We are a very active family, and although I am completely exhausted at the end of every day, I truly love spending time with the children.

Another challenge for female landscape photographer is the physical aspect of the job. I am much smaller than most men, but I have to hike just as far and carry just as much heavy gear. I train year-round so that I can handle any trip. Each week, I run about twelve miles for cardio training, and spend a few hours in the gym doing strengthening exercises. It’s hard to fit this kind of training into my already busy schedule, but it’s essential if I’m going to carry heavy camera gear fifteen miles into the desert, or hike a trail at ten-thousand feet.

Photograph by Varina Patel, All Rights Reserved
Photograph by Varina Patel, All Rights Reserved,
Photos hosted on Flickr

SU: Do you have any suggestions, opinions and/or words of advice for other women in landscape photography?

VP: Women around the world grow up believing that they aren’t strong enough or smart enough. I don’t believe that. If we can get beyond the stereotypes we’re raised with, we can do anything. When you are doing something you love, motivation comes easily… and hard work pays off a thousand times over.

Photograph by Varina Patel, All Rights Reserved
Photograph by Varina Patel, All Rights Reserved,
Photos hosted on Flickr

SU: Are you working on any project right now? Can you talk more about it?

VP: Jay and I are currently working on several new ventures. First, we’re preparing a series of webinars (online classes or seminars) for those who are interested in learning more about our techniques, but can’t join us for on-location seminars or workshops. We’ve had many inquiries about online courses, and we’re pleased to be able to offer classes that will meet the demand.

Additionally, we are in the process of building an entirely new website that will provide a wealth of information for photographers and fans. The site will offer articles, free wallpaper downloads, and information on upcoming seminars, workshops, and webinars… and we have a few surprises planned as well. We are very excited about this newest project, and we can’t wait to get it up and running.

Photograph by Varina Patel, All Rights Reserved
Photograph by Varina Patel, All Rights Reserved,
Photos hosted on Flickr

SU: Any recommendations? (like Photographers, Photo techniques, Music, Books, quotes, food..anything?)

VP: Although I’ve read hundreds of books and thousands of articles in magazines – the internet has been my greatest resource by far. Websites like NaturePhotographer.net and OutbackPhoto.com offer fantastic articles for beginners and professionals alike. Sites like FredMiranda.com allow photographers to post their photos and exchange critiques with others. We all learn from each other on these sites, and even the most inexperienced can participate. I’ve been posting my photos online for years, and I am enormously grateful to all those who took the time to honestly critique my work… my photography is much better because I listened.

Photograph by Varina Patel, All Rights Reserved
Photograph by Varina Patel, All Rights Reserved,
Photos hosted on Flickr

SU: Can you mention how people interested in your work can contact you?

VP: Just drop me an email anytime – varinac@msn.com. You can find my website at www.photographybyvarina.com or by googling my name. You’ll find a wealth of information on my site – galleries, upcoming classes, articles, free downloads, news, travel data, and more. My blog provides regular updates (though it tends to be a bit thin in summer, when my children are home all day) – you can check it out at http://photographybyvarina.blogspot.com. I can also be found on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Thanks Varina!

Comments are welcome!

[poll id=”22\”]

John W. Wall – Photo Talk #20

This week\’s interview is with John W. Wall. I first came across John\’s first blog John Wall\’s Natural California when looking for some photo locations around San Francisco. I kept coming back to read his really informative articles and look at his photos. Now, John has a book made out of his blog – you can buy it at John\’s Blurb site.

John has moved on to start a new group blog – California Nature Photographers. He talks a bit about what and why of this new group blog in the interview.

Here is what John has to say:

Dunderberg Meadow, Photograph by John W. Wall, All Rights Reserved
Dunderberg Meadow, Photograph by John W. Wall,
Photos hosted on Flickr

SU: Tell me a little about yourself. How did you get into photography?

JWW: I\’ve gotten into it at different times in my life and at various intensities, but my first photos were taken of Hawaii when at age 13 I was heartbroken to learn we would be moving away. One of my favorite shots, taken with a Kodak Instamatic, is of my mother dressed in a muumuu on the Big Island’s Black Sand Beach with palm trees framing one side and the beautiful blue ocean washing up around her feet on the other. My mother passed away a few years ago, and the beach was covered by lava quite a few years ago. I’m sure that treasured image would not still be a part of me had I not photographed it.

I got into photography again while I was in the Navy after high school, getting a lot of support from some of the guys in the photography division. I started out with a Canon AT-1, then graduated to an F-1, but switched to Nikon when the F3 came out. (I continued to use an F3 until I bought a D200 a couple years ago.) My favorite shots coming out of that time are from liberty ports in Italy and Israel, from shipboard life, and from walkabouts around my home port of Norfolk, Virginia — and only now, all these years later, do I wish I’d shot a whole lot more!

I’d heard about Brooks Institute of Photography while in the Navy, so that’s where I headed after serving my four-year hitch. I drove out here with a friend from the Navy and his new wife, and we were mesmerized by the beauty of Santa Barbara, and by the gorgeous Brooks campus. Although I was only able to afford a very brief stint there, I made a quantum leap in my approach to photography by working side by side with other talented photographers, gaining darkroom skills, and shooting with a view camera.

Hiking in the Santa Ynez mountains behind Santa Barbara resurrected an interest in nature’s particulars that I hadn’t felt since snorkeling over the reefs as a kid in Hawaii. Wildflowers caught my interest at first, and in order to learn more about them than just their names I took a botany class at the local city college. I fell in love with biology, but even though my studies started out well, I bogged down in the mathematics requirements and switched over to the journalism department.

I got to shoot a wide variety of subjects stringing for the local paper in Arcata, working for the school paper at Humboldt State, and then for a couple of small daily newspapers after graduating, but I was always a reporter first and photographer second. At one point, in response to a nice form letter response I got from National Geographic, I applied to a master’s program in photojournalism, and although I was accepted and was awed by the school, I decided not to go, mainly for financial reasons, but also because print journalism was already on its way out. The school’s entire crop of photojournalism graduates from the previous year was still unemployed.

Ironically, economic hard times have led to my most productive period in photography. I was able to cut back to a four-day workweek in 2004 and have done ten-times more shooting in the last few years than in the previous 20.

Snow Geese and Shasta, Photograph by John W. Wall, All Rights Reserved
Snow Geese and Shasta, Photograph by John W. Wall,
Photos hosted on Flickr

SU: You photograph a lot of animals, birds, wildlife …. How did you get interested in this kind of photography?

JWW:My father bought me a subscription to National Geographic when I was born, and made it a lifetime subscription as soon as it was allowed (you couldn’t get one for a newborn!). Maybe that rubbed off on me. But like I said in response to your last question, my interest in nature bloomed while snorkeling at an underwater wildlife preserve on Oahu called Hanauma Bay. I was learning the names of all the fish and other sea creatures and experienced my first episode of “gear envy” over the Nikonos underwater camera when our family up and moved to Maryland. Santa Barbara revived my interest, but I did very little nature photography until moving to San Francisco and finding Mt. Tamalpais.

Staying in one place for a long time has been new to me, and diving in deep at Mt. Tam opened nature photography up in a whole new way. For a couple of years I hiked its trails at least once or twice a month with just two lenses — a 24mm and a 200mm micro — learning about and documenting its natural history.

Strawberry Hedgehog Cactus, Photograph by John W. Wall, All Rights Reserved
Strawberry hedgehog Cactus, Photograph by John W. Wall,
Photos hosted on Flickr

SU: You used to write a blog – John Wall\’s Natural California which I used to read regularly. What got you started on photoblogging? What has that experience taught you?

JWW:I like to document and share my explorations. There’s really no reason behind it. It’s just a kind of insanity I’m afflicted with. What the blog taught me is that I can’t do what I want to do — document and share explorations of the whole state of California in real-time throughout the year — without a whole lot of help! The jury’s still out on whether I can find enough other folks with a passion for this project to make it happen.

Ruby Crowned Kinglet, Photograph by John W. Wall, All Rights Reserved
Ruby Crowned Kinglet, Photograph by John W. Wall,
Photos hosted on Flickr

SU: You have now started a new group blog called California Nature Photographers. What do you envision for this blog in the short and long term?

JWW: In the short term I hope to find a core group of nature photographers from different parts of the state to participate on a regular basis. Everybody likes to travel around the state, but we still have more ready access and know our home areas best. I’d like to see the blog become an artistic documentary project on the natural diversity of California to a degree that no single person could accomplish.

Dawn on the Sacramento River, Photograph by John W. Wall, All Rights Reserved
Dawn on the Sacramento River, Photograph by John W. Wall,
Photos hosted on Flickr

SU: Photographically speaking, what are you goals? Do you have any projects / ideas you are working on currently?

JWW: I think about the question of my goal quite a bit. With such an expensive hobby, it’s only natural to ask yourself where all the money is going! Like any other passion it can also be a source of strain in your personal relationships. Right now I’d just like to see the blog take root, but I’m also interested in developing the creative side of my photography and bringing more depth to my nature documentary work. I’ve been getting back to my roots on Mt. Tam lately, building on what I started in 2002-2003. I’m also building a collection of my work on Flickr, arranged by months of the year, that will give me sort of a “full circle” perspective of my California work so far. Since self-publishing books has become so easy I’ve turned several photo projects into book projects, and I don’t see any end in sight for that.

Fallen Madrone Berry, Photograph by John W. Wall, All Rights Reserved
Fallen Madrone Berry, Photograph by John W. Wall,
Photos hosted on Flickr

SU: Any recommendations? (like Photographers, Photo techniques, Music, Books, quotes, food..anything?)

JWW: A few nature photography books that inspire me are \”Life” by Frans Lanting, “ Yellowstone To Yukon” by Florian Shulz, “California” by David and Marc Muench, “Arctic National Wildlife Refuge” by Subhankar Banerjee, “Lagunitas Creek” by Todd Pickering, “Point Reyes Visions” by Goodwin and Blair, “The California Surf Project” by Soderquist and Burkard, and one that I just picked up for $2.99 in the remaindered stacks called “Between the Wingtips: The Secret Life of Birds” by Brutus Ostling.

I’ve also been inspired by good nature writing, including some of the old-school stuff like the “Audubon Book of True Nature Stories” and anything by John Muir, Joseph Wharton Lippincott, John K. Terres and Ernest Thompson Seton. For California background I like “The Ohlone Way” by Malcolm Margolin.

I always have my iPod cranked on the way to and from my destinations, but when I’m actually at a place where I’m ready to start doing photography I like to shut it all off and just listen to nature.

Big Bull in his Harem, Photograph by John W. Wall, All Rights Reserved
Big Bull in his Harem, Photograph by John W. Wall,
Photos hosted on Flickr

SU: Can you mention how people interested in your work can contact you?

JWW: Drop me an email: jwallphoto [at] yahoo.com.

Thanks John!

Comments are welcome!

[poll id=”21\”]

Younes Bounhar – Photo Talk #19

This week\’s interview is with Younes Bounhar, a nature, travel and landscape photographer living in Canada. His amazing photos have won has won the PhotographyCorner.com award for the 2007 Photograph of the year contest. You should head out to his website to see some examples of of his exquisite photographs – and experience the places he photographs.

Here is the interview:

Photograph by Younes Bounhar, All Rights Reserved
Photograph by Younes Bounhar, All Rights Reserved

SU: Tell me a little about yourself. How did you get into photography?

YB: I was going to come up with some awesome story on how I knew in my heart of hearts that photography was my calling for as long as I can remember, but that would be quite far from the truth. In all honesty, I never thought I had a creative bone in my body until a couple of years ago. I am mostly a nerd, the scientist of the house (I have trained as a molecular biologist, but really I wanted to be a farmer). I did well in school, I read lots of books, no glasses but braces, for 3 long years. The Artist in the house is my younger sister, not me. In any case, I left Morocco at age 18 to come and study in Canada and decided that it would be my home (it has to be because of the weather). In 2006, after an endless number of years in University, I finally started getting paid enough to fulfill a longstanding dream of mine: visit Australia. Little did I know how that would change my life, literally. No, I didn’t fall on my head, nor did I receive the visit of some angel. I accidentally landed in one of Peter Lik’s galleries and I can still, to this day, remember the feeling of awe I had looking at these huge velvia prints of Yosemite and Antelope Canyon. Since I loved traveling, a voice in my head went something like this: “now, wouldn’t it be cool to travel to all these neat places and take photos?” It was as naïve as that. When went back home, I picked up my first dSLR, a couple of lenses and the rest is history…

Photograph by Younes Bounhar, All Rights Reserved
Photograph by Younes Bounhar, All Rights Reserved

SU: You are predominantly a landscape photographer. How did you choose this discipline in photography?

YB: While I would rather refer to myself as a landscape and travel photographer, it is true that landscape largely dominates my galleries at this point. I think it’s mainly for two reasons:

– I’ve always been close to Nature, living things, I used to love the BBC and National Geo shows aired on TV, and that, sort of stuck in the back of my head. So it was a natural inclination primarily;

– secondly, despite my friends’ assertions to the contrary, I am a fairly shy person and, conveniently, landscapes don’t move and don’t talk back. So as far as learning goes, I had the time and opportunity to hone my skills without having someone expecting to see their phenomenal portrait.

That said, I am really drawn to the creative aspect of photography rather than to a particular discipline. I draw as much pleasure from catching a sunrise over the Rockies as I do capturing the curves of a building or the smile of a child.

The Light Show V, Photograph by Younes Bounhar, All Rights Reserved
The Light Show V, Photograph by Younes Bounhar, All Rights Reserved

SU: Looking at your galleries, water in various forms jumps out. Can you talk about why you photograph water in so many forms, the challenges and rewards?

YB: The answer here is likely to disappoint you…Canada just happens to have tons of that H2O thing, so you sort of find it everywhere you go. It’s really funny how I grew up in a place where we would go 10 years without a drop of rain to the greatest water reservoir on Earth. That might have something to do with it in retrospect.

Seriously though, water is such a dynamic elements, comes in so many forms (ice, mist, snow, rushing water, still lakes), that it’s an endless supply of opportunities. I mean, you can stand at the same spot in front of a river and take a hundred completely different shots that are equally appealing. I often feel like a child in a candy store when I sit across a stream. You can play with reflections, light bouncing off the water, texture of the water… Again, it’s just a great subject where you can just let your imagination run wild.

Another reason I am drawn to water, is that it is a great place to teach your cameras how to swim…I have a strong inclination for dropping my cameras in the river (2 out of 3 already, that’s a pretty good record), so I guess if there was no water, I wouldn’t have these stories to tell…

Cavell Alpenglow, Photograph by Younes Bounhar, All Rights Reserved
Cavell Alpenglow, Photograph by Younes Bounhar, All Rights Reserved

SU: Can you give us some idea about the equipment and the photography techniques you like to use to achieve your vision? What are you working on currently?

YB: Let me start with a disclaimer: Equipment is just a set of tools to achieve your vision. Until they come out with the X7billion.5 with the “No crappy image” function, there is no substitute for vision and creativity. As I like to repeat often, it is the photographer, not the camera that presses the shutter…

That said, I am a Nikon shooter. I currently use the Nikon D700 and D200 cameras. As far as lenses go, I have the 14-24 2.8, 28-70 2.8, 50 1.8, 105 2.8 macro and 70-300 4-5.6 VR, they allow me to cover a large range of focal lengths and have excellent optical qualities. I tend to use most of my lenses and do a lot of lens swapping when I am shooting. I started out with a great affinity for dramatic wide-angle landscape shots, but have really grown fonder of the more intimate, abstract nature photographs.

What I enjoy the most in photography, is the creative side involved, which also explains why I have been exploring intimate abstracts a bit more. While I love (and always will) a dramatic sunrise or sunset scenes, I draw even more pleasure from finding hidden compositions in the least expected places. You simply have to open your mind and learn how to look at your world differently to start seeing beauty in your everyday life. Therefore, when I am out with my camera, I am always on the lookout for patterns, lines, shapes and colours and the interplay between them. As my photography matures, my mantra is to open my mind and look beyond the obvious.

Johnston Canyon, Photograph by Younes Bounhar, All Rights Reserved
Johnston Canyon, Photograph by Younes Bounhar, All Rights Reserved

SU: How did you start giving photo workshops? What does it take in terms of resources and energy to do so? Do you have any words of wisdom for those who want to get started?

YB: I would rather skip this question, since I’ve just started giving workshops and I frankly have no wisdom to share 😀

Slider, Photograph by Younes Bounhar, All Rights Reserved
Slider, Photograph by Younes Bounhar, All Rights Reserved

SU: Any recommendations? (like Photographers, Photo techniques, Music, Books, quotes, food..anything?)

YB: How about I list a few of my favorite things:

Photographers: There are so many whose work I absolutely adore, Art Wolfe is a great inspiration, not only as a photographer and pioneer, but he is also one of the nicest guys I know.

Music: I would be really in trouble if I landed on a deserted island and they asked me which ONE musician I could take with me. I am a huge fan of Bob Marley, Carlos Santana and Leo Ferre (a French singer).

Books: Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series is probably one my most memorable set of books.

Food: I love food, one of the three pillars of life in my humble opinions. I’ll admit it, I suffer from severe gluttony. I absolutely LOVE Indian food. Authentic Italian cuisine. Thai, Moroccan couscous is hard to beat, the French can be pretentious but they know a thing or two about cuisine…well you get the drift…

Quotes: I have a terrible memory for these kind of things, I can’t remember a line to save my life.

The Forest Behind the Tree, Photograph by Younes Bounhar, All Rights Reserved
The Forest Behind the Tree, Photograph by Younes Bounhar, All Rights Reserved

SU: Can you mention how people interested in your work can contact you?

YB: To contact me is pretty simple:
You can email me directly at Younes [at] younesbounhar.com
Alternatively you can click on the “contact” link on my website (http://younesbounhar.com).

Thanks Younes!

Comments are welcome!

[poll id=”20\”]

Tamara Danoyan – Photo Talk # 18

Today\’s interview is with Tamara Danoyan. I found her work when looking at photos at the Foto Nova 19: An Exhibition by Bay Area Photographers, at Modernbook Gallery in Palo Alto – http://www.modernbook.com/fotonova19/danoyan/images.htm. Apart from the Photo Nova exhibition, Tamara\’s work has also been exhibited recently at Stanford Art Spaces, and at the recent \”Frames of View” show at Foothill College.

You should definitely visit her website to check out the variety and beauty of her work – www.tomasview.com.

Here is the interview:

Photograph by Tamara Danoyan, All Rights Reserved
Photograph by Tamara Danoyan, All Rights Reserved
Photos hosted on Flickr

SU: Tell me a little about yourself. How did you get into photography?

TD: I have always been attracted to photography, but did not think it was something I could do. I was too intimidated by the technical side of it. At the same time I felt a strong need for visual self-expression. After studying graphic design and some web design, it became clear to me that what attracted me in both were actual images. So, after a detour, which took a while, but proved to be very useful for my photography, I finally enrolled in b&w photography class at Foothill College in 2005. In 2006 I moved to Sydney, Australia, and took classes at the Australian Centre for Photography. One of my pictures can still be found on ACP’s website:
http://tmp.acp.org.au/gallery/index.php?obj_id=2006_03
In 2007 I returned to the Bay Area and continued studying photography at Foothill College. Classes motivate me to get out there and shoot, the teachers are excellent, and I like very much a feeling of being surrounded by people with the same passion.

Photograph by Tamara Danoyan, All Rights Reserved
Photograph by Tamara Danoyan, All Rights Reserved
Photos hosted on Flickr

SU: You photograph a variety of subjects. Why do you choose what you choose to photograph?

TD: When I started taking pictures, I never thought of what I was focusing on or question myself what I wanted to photograph. I photographed anything that caught my attention and inspired me. Only later, when I accumulated a certain number of images I looked at them and realized that there were certain themes, subjects, colors. I still photograph whatever catches my eye, but sometimes I also consciously make a decision to create series of work inspired by the same subject. Then I go out there with a specific goal in mind, in search of very specific kinds of images. Funny enough, even in these cases, a project often takes on a life of its own and I gladly let it.

Photograph by Tamara Danoyan, All Rights Reserved
Photograph by Tamara Danoyan, All Rights Reserved
Photos hosted on Flickr

SU: Your photographs have a very graphic quality in them, whatever subject they may be. Can you talk more about this? Can you also give an insight into the technical part of your work.

TD: This was also something that I did not notice at first. I guess, this is just the way I see things. My favorite and most used lens is my 300mm telephoto lens. I like how it allows me to get close and how it compresses distances, making a 3 dimensional reality very flat and 2 dimensional.

Photograph by Tamara Danoyan, All Rights Reserved
Photograph by Tamara Danoyan, All Rights Reserved
Photos hosted on Flickr

SU: You had a show of your work in Modern Book Gallery and having another one right now.. Can you give us some pointers on how to be successful as you are?

TD:Oh, thank you. If only I knew what makes a photographer successful…I feel I have just began a long process of figuring it out and hopefully achieving it. What I have learned so far, though, is that hard work is definitely one of the components. Success is nice, but it shouldn’t be the main motivation. Like many photographers, I take pictures, because I can’t help myself. If people love and buy my work – even better!

My show at Stanford Art Spaces is on display until May 14, 2009. More information can be found here:http://cis.stanford.edu/~marigros/
There is also Frames of View group show going on right now at KCI, Foothill College, one of my images is in it. The exhibition will be up until April 30, 2009.

Photograph by Tamara Danoyan, All Rights Reserved
Photograph by Tamara Danoyan, All Rights Reserved
Photos hosted on Flickr

SU: How do you go about improving your photography?

TD: I don’t do anything special, I think it matures and refines itself with time and more shooting. I have started going to more and more photo exhibitions, looking on-line at other people’s work, looking at photography books. I need to do a lot more of it, but time, or rather, lack of it, is a huge issue right now.

Photograph by Tamara Danoyan, All Rights Reserved
Photograph by Tamara Danoyan, All Rights Reserved
Photos hosted on Flickr

SU: Any recommendations? (like Photographers, Photo techniques, Music, Books, quotes, food..anything?)

TD: I would pay attention to what inspires you in life, what gives you joy or makes you experience any other strong emotion, which you are willing to explore. It can be anything! Something you hear, touch, taste, do or want to see over and over again. We all have our little obsessions, which can be easily translated into photography.

Photograph by Tamara Danoyan, All Rights Reserved
Photograph by Tamara Danoyan, All Rights Reserved
Photos hosted on Flickr

SU: Can you mention how people interested in your work can contact you?

TD: Sure, they can write to me at tamara@tomasview.com and visit my website tomasview.com for more information.

Thanks Tamara!

And readers, we would love to read your comments!

[poll id=”19\”]

Thomas Clavel- Photo Talk #17

This week\’s interview is with Thomas Clavel. I first found Thomas\’ work when going through his \”Terre Mer Ciel” photographs of the \”Foto Nova 19: An Exhibition by Bay Area Photographers” at Modernbook Gallery in Palo Alto. From there, I went on to Thomas\’ website to spend a few hours browsing through his photographs – www.pictin.com.

Thomas\’s \”Terre Mer Ciel” photographs have been published in the 2008 Folio edition of Silvershotz Magazine. He also has a book called \”Terre Mer Ciel: a Portrait of San Francisco\”, presenting the Terre Mer Ciel photographs. This body has also been exhibited in 2008 at the Appel Gallery in Sacramento.

I urge you to look through Thomas\’ website – www.pictin.com and look at his different projects, so different from each other, yet distinctive. You can also keep in touch through his Facebook blog follow him on Twitter.

Here is the interview and photos from his newest \”Vapeurs” project.

Photograph by Thomas Clavel, All Rights Reserved
Photograph by Thomas Clavel , All Rights Reserved, All Rights Reserved
Photos hosted on Flickr

SU: Tell me a little about yourself. How did you get into photography?

TC: A little by accident, and a little by fate. At 12 I wanted to have a point-and-shoot camera but instead my uncle and aunt offered me a fully manual SLR – a Praktica MTL-5. I struggled a bit, but I eventually learned how to really take pictures as opposed to snap them. Had my wish of a point-and-shoot camera be realized I would probably not have gotten into photography.

As far as I can recall I have always been fascinated by the visual arts. Knowing the odds of making it as a movie director, I never engaged in that way beyond high school. I was eager to communicate in a visual way and photography gave me that opportunity. Through that medium I am able to convey my vision and share it with my audience.

Today I’m very thankful to my uncle and aunt for their gift. And I certainly appreciate how in many ways photography is superior to motion pictures.

Photograph by Thomas Clavel, All Rights Reserved
Photograph by Thomas Clavel , All Rights Reserved, All Rights Reserved
Photos hosted on Flickr

SU: Your photography cannot be easily classified into a particular type. Can you talk about how you choose your subjects for each of your series?

TC: Yes, you are right. Over the last 15 or 18 years my work has evolved quite a bit.

Early, I composed my photos around geometrical lines and perspectives. I was quickly drawn to water environments so some of my early work is focused on beach and water areas. I then built up my composition skills and moved on to urban and street sceneries. These were my formative years, the first ten years or so.

But I am convinced that mastering an art requires focus and so my next four series have been focusing on landscape photography – most of them in black and white. Landscape photography is a natural means for me to show how my view of the world is different.

How do I pick my subjects? A subject has to both have a personal connection and enable me to push my own photographic limits. When working on a new series I spend a tremendous time reviewing my own photographs. I am always very critical of my own work and my next subject will be the one that enables me to accomplish what I couldn’t with my previous series. Auto-critique is what makes me move from one subject to the next.

Photograph by Thomas Clavel, All Rights Reserved
Photograph by Thomas Clavel , All Rights Reserved, All Rights Reserved
Photos hosted on Flickr

SU: In each of your series, the look and feel of the photographs are very different – from lomo type to \’traditional\’ black and white. How do you achieve these different looks and why?

TC: Many photographers and the best ones are constraining their art to a specific look and feel. It is part of their art and also part of their photographic brand. Moving from one look-and-feel to another is part of my learning experience. I don’t try to apply lomo or infrared to my photographs. Rather I come up with a vision and my vision shapes the techniques I utilize, to realize that vision.

Photograph by Thomas Clavel, All Rights Reserved
Photograph by Thomas Clavel , All Rights Reserved, All Rights Reserved
Photos hosted on Flickr

SU: Can you tell us about your current project “Vapeurs”? How did the idea come about? What is your goal for this series? What does it take to see a project like this from beginning to end?

TC:For a long time I have been intrigued by the fact that we cannot see either infrared or ultraviolet. Since we cannot see these colors, then the world around us is not really the way we see it. “Vapeurs” is about revealing this alternative world that we cannot see – with a focus on skyscapes because skies and clouds are the common denominator to what we all see every day. “Vapeurs” is about exploring what we’ve seen many times already and what most people probably don’t even pay attention to anymore.

It takes three things to take a project like this to the end. First clarity of my vision: understanding of what I am trying to show. Then flexibility: I don’t want to restrict myself to too many specific elements and I am open to experimentations. And third, patience.

Photograph by Thomas Clavel, All Rights Reserved
Photograph by Thomas Clavel , All Rights Reserved, All Rights Reserved
Photos hosted on Flickr

SU: You have photos published in Silvershotz magazine, a book out. Your work has been seen in a few exhibitions. How did you get to where you are today?

TC: In France we say that cathedrals are built one stone as a time. Being published, being represented or exhibiting must happen one at a time.

I first focused on my work, exploring who I am photographically speaking. Once I had that photographic personality matured, I tried to understand my surroundings. I took on workshops about the photography business, started to attend openings, and discovered other people’s works. I learned from others. The third step was to be organized and take action. Don’t contact galleries by random, look at what they do, understand they expectations. And build things one on top of the other: try to be published then use your publications to be featured in galleries and shows, and in turn leverage those shows to be published in other magazines.

But most important of all, always understand that you can only reach one person at a time. Reaching more people depends on how much your contacts will support your work. So be nice and open to their feedback.

Photograph by Thomas Clavel, All Rights Reserved
Photograph by Thomas Clavel , All Rights Reserved, All Rights Reserved
Photos hosted on Flickr

SU: Any recommendations? (like Photographers, Photo techniques, Music, Books, quotes, food..anything?)

TC: One suggestion and two recommendations.

Many fellow photographers ask me “how did you do this?”, and then start talking about focal and aperture. What they should ask instead is “why did you show that?”. What prevails is the vision of the photographer, not his or her technique. The technique is not the end but a means to the end. Confronting your vision with that of other photographers is very helpful in one’s maturation process.

My first recommendation is Silvershotz Magazine. I have been very disappointed with American magazines and then I discovered this magazine at Border’s. Silvershotz is a bi-monthly magazine from the UK and distributed globally. I recommend reading it, for the quality of the work presented there is very good and very inspirational.

My second recommendation is the “History of Photography” class by Jeff Curto, professor at the College of DuPage in Chicago. I listen to them on iTunes. They are free and most enlightening. Like Jeff, I believe that understanding where photography is coming from is essential to the creative process. I highly recommend listening to his podcasts.

SU: Can you mention how people interested in your work can contact you?

TC: Yes please, people contact me! You can inquire about my work by contacting the Modernbook Gallery at info@modernbook.com. You can also write directly to me at thomas@pictin.com. Until March 29 some of my Terre Mer Ciel series is exhibited at Modernbook Gallery in Palo Alto, California (www.modernbook.com). My web site is there for people to visit (www.pictin.com), you can also follow my blog on Facebook (artist page registered under Thomas Clavel) and follow my tweet on Twitter (VividLight). Whether you like my work or not, I am always curious to hear about it and why.

Thanks Thomas!

And readers, we would love to read your comments!

[poll id=”18\”]

Jay Patel – Photo Talk #16

Here is this week\’s interview with Jay Patel. I first found Jay\’s photographs when looking through timecatcher.com. Jay\’s work has appeared in VIAJES National Geographic, Unique Image Magazine, Timecatcher Calendars, Outback Photo, Nature Photographers Online Magazine, Art Business Review – and various other publications.

Jay\’s work can be seen at his website www.jaypatelphotography.com. You can look at this link to see information about workshops offered by Jay and Varina. More exciting, to those in the California Bay Area – an upcoming \”Intelligent HDR Seminar” to be offered in June of this year in San Jose. You should look at this link here to find out more about this very reasonably priced seminar: Information and Registration for 2 day seminar

Here is the interview.

Photograph by Jay Patel, All Rights Reserved
Photograph by Jay Patel, All Rights Reserved, All Rights Reserved
Photos hosted on Flickr

SU: Tell me a little about yourself. How did you get into photography?

JP: Here is a biography that will answer this question: http://www.jaypatelphotography.com/about.html

Photograph by Jay Patel, All Rights Reserved
Photograph by Jay Patel, All Rights Reserved, All Rights Reserved
Photos hosted on Flickr

SU: Your photography are predominantly landscape photos. How did you get interested in landscape photography? What keeps your interest?

JP: I love nature…Not just photography, but also hiking, backpacking and just being outdoors. So, Landscape photography is a natural extension to what I love. I also enjoy the challenge offered by the landscape photography of capturing such a wide dynamic range.

Photograph by Jay Patel, All Rights Reserved
Photograph by Jay Patel, All Rights Reserved, All Rights Reserved
Photos hosted on Flickr

SU: Your photos have this exquisite light in most of them which bathe the subject matter. Can you talk about the technical aspects of making such beautiful photographs?

JP: There is no simple answer to this one. The primary subject of my photograph is light. I prefer to select right light over right location because under the right light, can make any subject matter or location look stunning. Every once in a while, when you combine this dramatic light with right location you get the results that are hard to reproduce.

Photograph by Jay Patel, All Rights Reserved
Photograph by Jay Patel, All Rights Reserved, All Rights Reserved
Photos hosted on Flickr

SU: You collaborate with your wife on workshops and articles. How does this influence your personal photography and photo shoots?

JP: We both critique each other photograph…and we can be pretty honest about what we like and what we dont like. We also share ideas about processing and presentation techniques. But there are differences – such as choosing the own subject matter and compositions.

Photograph by Jay Patel, All Rights Reserved
Photograph by Jay Patel, All Rights Reserved, All Rights Reserved
Photos hosted on Flickr

SU: You are a part of the team at www.timecatcher.com. Can you tell me a little more about the group, and how did your involvement in it come about?

JP: Timecatcher was formed by Patrick. He noticed my photograph on the Web and invited me to join the team. For the longest time none of the Timecatcher team member had met face-to-face…The entire project is managed and run online.

Photograph by Jay Patel, All Rights Reserved
Photograph by Jay Patel, All Rights Reserved, All Rights Reserved
Photos hosted on Flickr

SU: Any recommendations? (like Photographers, Photo techniques, Music, Books, quotes, food..anything?).

JP: The internet is the best source of information…the trick is to find the right information that meets your needs. Your local camera club can also be a great source of information for beginers.

SU: Can you mention how people interested in your work can contact you?
JP: We offer workshop and Intelligent HDR Seminars across US. You can find out more about these workshops and seminars at: www.jaypatelphoptography.com
Via Email: pateljj@msn.com

Thanks Jay!

And readers, we would love to read your comments!

[poll id=”17\”]

Robert Hitchman – Photo Talk #15

Here is this week\’s interview with Robert Hitchman, synonymous with the \”Photograph America” newsletter. For those interested in landscape photography, at some time or another, you will bump into this newsletter. That\’s how I got to \’know\’ Robert Hitchman – through this excellent publication.

Here is how Photograph America is described in its website: \”Photograph America Newsletter is a 12-page travel newsletter for photographers, published since 1989. Each issue of the newsletter describes in detail where to photograph North American landscapes, wildlife, hidden waterfalls, remote beaches, slot canyons, wildlife migrations, and much more. Learn where, when, and how to discover the best nature photography in America.\”

I am a big fan of this newsletter, and have been subscribing to it from the day I stopped being an impoverished student. Robert also has some very good travel photography articles on Apogee magazine here. It was one of these articles which led me to first photograph Bowling Ball beach. You can look at the bottom of the article for some more locations.

Anyway, here is the interview.

Oh by the way,if you liked any of his articles, do go subscribe here: http://shop.photographamerica.com

Bighorns, Wyoming, Photograph by Robert Hitchman, All Rights Reserved
Bighorns, Wyoming, Photograph by Robert Hitchman, All Rights Reserved, All Rights Reserved
Photos hosted on Flickr

SU: Tell me a little about yourself. How did you get into photography?

RH: As a child, I was interested in drawing and creating puppet shows. Gas-powered flying model airplanes became my passion in grade school. In high school, I worked on short Super-8 films with nature themes. I got into photography at San Jose State College taking Industrial Design classes. My first photo experiences involved very intensive training on the basics of optics theory, film chemistry, and darkroom techniques. In 1960, I was given a 4×5 view camera (red and grey Calumets) and sent outside.

In 1962 after college graduation, I enlisted in the US Army when I was guaranteed that I would be sent to the Army Photography School at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey. After a great year of shooting the New Jersey coast and Manhattan, I was sent to Germany to head up Special Services Photo Lab and did a lot of accident investigation photography (with a Speed Graphic) for the Military Police. The Post Commander liked my very large black-and-white prints of Black Forest landscapes done with a Linhof 4×5 monorail camera. My first Nikon F got me started in 35mm photography and I shot in Paris for a month after being discharged.

After returning to California, I was hired by Raytheon Electronics to start a new multi media production department in Sunnyvale, California. We bought a new 1964 Oldsmobile convertible and had it converted to right-hand drive for use as a camera car to shoot driver-training films. A French 16 mm Éclair motion picture camera with a wide-field lens was mounted behind the steering wheel and gave us a realistic driver’s point-of-view. In my free time, I used Raytheon’s darkroom to make color prints of my Hasselblad images of nature.

In 1968, there were very few large, framed color photographs displayed or sold in shops and galleries in the San Francisco Bay Area. I hung thirty of my framed color nature images in a local bank and sold them all in two days. I started displaying and selling my work in galleries outdoor art festivals, and furniture stores from Los Angeles to Carmel to Lake Tahoe. In the late 1970’s, I offered color darkroom classes to photographers wanting to print and sell their own work. My darkroom classes expanded and I began taking workshop groups into the field as Pacific Image Photo Workshops.

Willets, Photograph by Robert Hitchman, All Rights Reserved
Willets, Photograph by Robert Hitchman, All Rights Reserved, All Rights Reserved
Photos hosted on Flickr

SU: You publish the \”Photograph America” newsletter about photography locations in the United States for the past 20 years! How did this come about?

RH: After fifteen years of travel with photo workshop groups, I started publishing a newsletter called the “Contact Sheet” to keep my workshop people informed about where we had been and where we were going next. In 1989, the Contact Sheet evolved into “Photograph America Newsletter,” covering: “Where, when, and how to discover the best nature photography in North America.” Issue #1 was Death Valley, one of my favorite locations for photography. Starting with a few subscribers, and one of the early Macintosh computers, the newsletter has been enjoyed by thousands of photographers over the past twenty years. The newsletter is now offered through my website as printed newsletters and as instant PDF downloads of 108 issues.

Travelling, Photograph by Robert Hitchman, All Rights Reserved
Travelling, Photograph by Robert Hitchman, All Rights Reserved, All Rights Reserved
Photos hosted on Flickr

SU: Researching, travelling and shooting in these locations for \”Photograph America” must take a lot of planning and effort. Can you share with us your preparation, what you are looking for and your frame of mind on one of these trips?

RH: In search of and preparation for newsletter locations, I collect travel books and have a room filled with guidebooks and maps. I use the suggestions for locations received from my subscribers to research possible newsletter locations. I also research locations through the Internet. If there is little in my library on a place I am interested in, I make a trip to a bookstore that specializes in travel books. All my notes are pinned to my “Year at a Glance” calendar, as I shuffle new locations around, with special attention to the seasons. Some locations have been on the list for years, while I look for optimum weather conditions, airfare bargains, or guides that know the area I want to visit.

My frame of mind on trips
Prefer driving. Dislike flying.
Like hiking.
More motels. Less camping.
Balance time to shoot with time to write.
Pack a laptop.
Always thinking about how to tie everything about a location into an interesting story that makes a reader want to go there.
Concentrate on locations with accurate directions, rather than on photo techniques as F-stops and shutter speeds.

White Pocket, Arizona, Photograph by Robert Hitchman, All Rights Reserved
White Pocket, Arizona, Photograph by Robert Hitchman, All Rights Reserved, All Rights Reserved
Photos hosted on Flickr

SU: What are your plans for the future for your newsletter? Are you planning an international edition, maybe the bordering countries of Canada and Mexico?

RH: My plans are to include many more fascinating locations in North America that nature photographers would want to know about and visit. My readers are always looking for new locations in photographing America. Last month I covered Wyoming’s Bighorn Sheep. I have focused on North American locations, including Canada. I concentrate only on North America locations. Another remote Southwest location, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, and New York’s Fingerlakes District are on the 2009 schedule.

Katherine, my wife, is the technical associate, creating and maintaining our website. She takes care of the office and the business while I’m on the road.

Palm Oasis, Photograph by Robert Hitchman, All Rights Reserved
Palm Oasis, Photograph by Robert Hitchman, All Rights Reserved, All Rights Reserved
Photos hosted on Flickr

SU: Can you sum up your philosophy about photography in a few words? What would you be if you were not a photographer?

RH: I am fascinated by the many ways people use photography for their own purposes, as different from my own. Some are driven to produce new and better images of the nature world. Some use it as a reason to travel. Others use photography for teaching, sports, relaxation, and recreation.

If I were not a photographer, I would be a famous architect.

Bob in Zion, Photograph by Robert Hitchman, All Rights Reserved
Bob in Zion, Photograph by Robert Hitchman, All Rights Reserved, All Rights Reserved
Photos hosted on Flickr

SU: Any recommendations? (like Photographers, Photo techniques, Music, Books, quotes, food..anything?)
RH:
Nikon Cameras
Hoodman Loupes
Mac computers
HP Laser Printers
Toyota 4Runners
Pomegranite juice
LoCoco’s Pizzeria in Terra Linda
Laurent Martres’ books on photographing the Southwest

Cape Aialik, Alaska, Photograph by Robert Hitchman, All Rights Reserved
Cape Aialik, Alaska, Photograph by Robert Hitchman, All Rights Reserved, All Rights Reserved
Photos hosted on Flickr

SU: Can you mention how people interested in your work can contact you?

RH:
Via email: hitchman@photographamerica.com
Via phone: 415-898-9677
Via website: www.photographamerica.com

Stovepipe Wells, Photograph by Robert Hitchman, All Rights Reserved
Stovepipe Wells, Photograph by Robert Hitchman, All Rights Reserved, All Rights Reserved
Photos hosted on Flickr

Thanks Robert!
And readers, we would love to read your comments!

[poll id=”16\”]

Charlie Morey – Photo Talk #14

This week I am presenting an interview with Charlie Morey. I was introduced to Charlie\’s work by a friend. A lot of you nature photographers out there might appreciate this and sigh in jealousy: In 2005, Morey qualified for an Artist-in-Residence program at Yosemite National Park, and he lived there making photographs! Read the interview below for what Charlie has to say about his experience..

You can check more of Charlie\’s photos here at his webite:www.charliemorey.com. You can also check Charlie\’s other website at www.digitalphotography.tv/. You can find a list of his exhibits here. Charlie also publishes a newsletter, you can subscribe to it http://www.charliemorey.com/news.html

Here is the interview.

Yosemite Dawn, Photograph by Charlie Morey, All Rights Reserved
Yosemite Dawn, Photograph by Charlie Morey, All Rights Reserved, All Rights Reserved
Photos hosted on Flickr

SU: Tell me a little about yourself. How did you get into photography?

CM: I developed an interest in learning about photography after looking at snapshots I\’d taken of family members and understanding that, although they looked pretty good, I hadn\’t really had much to do with assuring that fact. There was a lot of luck involved. Composition seemed to come easily, but beyond that bit of natural knowledge, I had no clue what made a camera click!

In the late 1960s (probably \’67 or \’68) I went to a pawn shop in Bangor, Maine (about 20 miles north of my hometown Orland) and found a Minolta Hi-Matic 7 rangefinder-type 35mm camera. With it, I photographed my rural environment, family members and a few motorsports events, like motocross and snowmobile racing.

I bought basic film-developing equipment and chemicals and processed my B&W film at home. I couldn\’t afford a full darkroom with an enlarger, so at that point, I just made tiny proof sheets of my work in small 4″ x 5″ trays.

Photography remained a hobby until the early 1970s. My young family was living in West Palm Beach, Florida then (I was a toolroom machinist at the Pratt & Whitney Research and Development Center there), and I had been racing a motocross bike sponsored by the Holmes-Hansen motorcycle dealership. When Holmes-Hanson discontinued selling that brand of motocross bike, I lost my sponsorship, and I couldn\’t afford to set myself up with a new race bike. I\’d upgraded my camera to Nikkormat and owned a 135mm telephoto lens, so I kept going to motocross races, but instead of racing, I took photos of my friends racing theirs. We\’d show proof sheets at the following week\’s race, and the riders would place orders for 8x10s, which we\’d deliver at the following event.

I began sending my racing photos to a weekly newspaper called Cycle News/East (the home office, Cycle News/West, was in California), and the editor liked them. He said if I\’d write stories to go with them, he\’d buy more pictures. So I took a typing class and became a freelance journalist (or, motojournalist, as we called ourselves then).

Edit by SU: Here is Charlie\’s \”Legends of American Motocross Gallery\”: www.digitalphotography.tv/moto/

I wrote race reports for Cycle News, continued selling 8x10s, and when the editor had an opening for a new Associate Editor, he offered me the job. We moved to Stone Mountain, Georgia, near the Cycle News office, and my journalism career finally provided its first fulltime job, complete with regular paychecks.

That job provided me the opportunity to travel all over the eastern U.S. and into parts of Europe to cover international events. In 1978, the home office needed a new editor, so I applied for and got the position. We moved to California over our holiday vacation and started the new year in the heart of motojournalism.

Cycle News publisher Sharon Clayton often said that her company was a training school for motorcycle magazine editors, and sure enough, I got a thrilling offer from Petersen Publishing Company\’s Richard P. Lague to become founding editor of a new motorcycle magazine, Dirt Rider. I hired a great creative team, published first issue of the new magazine (now the largest of its type in the world) in December 1982 and spent 14 wonderful years at Petersen Publishing Company.

I left when Mr. Petersen sold his company after 50 years of private ownership. I bounced around the dot-com universe for a while, chasing that dream, finally leaving the corporate world behind in 2002.

I\’m now fully retired from corporate life and doing my best to succeed again in the individual world of fine art photography, my core love for the past 40-plus years.

First Light, Photograph by Charlie Morey, All Rights Reserved
First Light, Photograph by Charlie Morey, All Rights Reserved, All Rights Reserved
Photos hosted on Flickr

SU: You were chosen to be an Artist-in-Residence at Yosemite in 2005. Can you tell us about your experience of being an artist and living in beautiful Yosemite?

CM: If you are either a rock climber or a photographer, you must go to Yosemite sometime in your career. It is Nirvana, Valhalla and every other incarnation of ultimate paradise all rolled into one for someone who climbs \”because it is there” or someone who captures photographs as a way of life.

Imagine the Artist-in-Residence life: Every morning, you awake in a comfortable cabin within the boundaries of Yosemite National Park. Your sole responsibility today is to go outdoors and make new images. Awaiting you is Half Dome, El Capitan, the Merced River, and dozens of other monuments to geologic history and the beauty of nature at its ultimate. Maybe it will rain, and you\’ll get mood-inspiring mist in the valley. Maybe the sun will appear unencumbered, and you\’ll get rainbows on Yosemite or Bridalveil Falls. Maybe it will snow, and the valley will become wrapped in a soft white comforter with crystals that reflect light like diamonds.

Living as a photographer in Yosemite is quite literally a fantasy shared by many nature photographers, and I\’m incredibly happy and fortunate to have experienced it!

I kept an online diary during my AiR period, and it\’s still available here:
http://www.digitalphotography.tv/air_news/

Artists of all media can enjoy the same opportunity. My Artist-in-Residence was provided by Yosemite Renaissance, and they offer opportunities for about a half-dozen artists each year. Artists are chosen by a juried selection process (although there\’s been a pause in the process due to the loss of the cabin I used…the owner sold it), and information about upcoming AiR opportunities is available at the Yosemite Renaissance website.

http://www.yosemiterenaissance.org/

Frosty, Photograph by Charlie Morey, All Rights Reserved
Frosty, Photograph by Charlie Morey, All Rights Reserved, All Rights Reserved
Photos hosted on Flickr

SU: You photograph landscapes, animals and streetscapes. What is it about these subjects that interests you?

CM: Landscapes and animals fall under my inborn love for nature. As a little boy growing up in the 1950s in rural Maine, I virtually lived in the forests, rivers and lakes around my home town. I wasn\’t a visitor, like a school child in the city going on a class trip to the zoo. I was, in effect, inside the cages, living with the animals, birds and fish that made up my natural zoo out there in the Maine woods.

At first I did all the trial-and-error things that young human animals do. I shot a robin off a phone line with a BB gun, then picked up its dead body and realized that it had been a much better bird alive than dead. I relearned the same lesson later with a .22 and a squirrel and once again with a 32 Special deer hunting rifle and a hapless porcupine whose feet (as a designated pest) were worth 50 cents at the Town Clerk\’s office. I was in my early teens when the porcupine died — on a deer hunt with my dad and his friends — and I\’d finally developed enough sense to learn once and for all, that killing the natural things I loved wasn\’t what I wanted achieve during my life.

We played with boats, built rafts (and watched them go over the dam on the Narramissic River), skated on the rivers, lakes and frog ponds, skied and sledded down every hill in the county, and acted like civilized little humans as infrequently as possible. It was wonderful, and I\’d go back in a flash, if only…

If nature is my Yin, then urban streetscapes are my Yang. I love the country and feel extremely out of place in the city. In nature I look for (and find) beauty. In the city I look for (and find) irony, grunge and the sound of lost voices on the graffiti-painted walls.

I remember imagining as a child what the earth would have been like if humans had never evolved: a perfect pristine wilderness. Then, I idealistically felt willing to give up my life (along with everyone else) if that would then create my dream planet. But in that daydream and many others, I\’ve changed my mind since. Whatever happens, I want to be here to take its picture. And you should be, too.

On a section of Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles, I found enough images to produce a full gallery on my digitalphotography.tv website.

http://www.digitalphotography.tv/melrose/

In it are those voices I mentioned above. It seems to me that everyone who passed through that funky/trendy part of town felt compelled to leave behind some sort of message, some sign that they\’d been there. Media included spray-canned graffiti, felt-tip markered comments, stickers of all shapes, colors and sizes, stenciled artwork, and left-behind souvenirs, like the pizza-box spray-can palette one graffiti artist left in an alley along with his discarded spray heads.

Those I see as signs of individuality poking through the deep snow of civilization, which attempts cover us all with the same, plain coating. Rays of hope. Voices from the mob. Attempts to break on through to the other side.

And not at all like the incredible reality of nature sans man.

Hope, Photograph by Charlie Morey, All Rights Reserved
Hope, Photograph by Charlie Morey, All Rights Reserved, All Rights Reserved
Photos hosted on Flickr

SU: You wear a lot of hats — photographer, journalist, web designer…among all these, what does photography mean to you?

CM: Photography is the core and the origin of all that I have accomplished during my career (and as you can see, it\’s lasted longer than the career, now contributing to the bulk of my activities in retirement). My ability to make images steered my career path into journalism, and I have produced publications that made me proud (of myself and my creative team), and I have earned six-figure incomes in that field (and in web work as well).

I feel that composition is one of my innate strengths, and that (along with years of experience) contributes to my graphic design capabilities. And those, along with an understanding of HTML, made website design the next obvious step. Here are two of my websites:

http://www.digitalphotography.tv
http://www.charliemorey.com

Need a 2009 calendar? There are three that I\’ve designed and published through the print-on-demand website, lulu.com. You can follow this link to take a look at them:

http://www.lulu.com/charliemorey

Got postcards? I\’ve been designing postcards, posters and other print media for fine artists and galleries since 2002, and here\’s a gallery of samples:

http://www.digitalphotography.tv/postcards/

All these products rely on my photography or skills that I learned through photography.

The Art Critic, Photograph by Charlie Morey, All Rights Reserved
The Art Critic, Photograph by Charlie Morey, All Rights Reserved, All Rights Reserved
Photos hosted on Flickr

SU: You have won numerous awards, recognitions and had your work exhibited quite a bit. Can you talk about the path to success to inspire aspiring photographers?

CM: I think I\’m still looking for it! (laugh)

Like any creative career path, photography is subject to the whims of others: gallery curators, art critics, editors and of course, the general public.

Being a fine art photographer is a lot like being a musician or an actor. There are a few people — the small minority at the top — who are recognized and who sell their work well enough to become famous and well-compensated. There are a number who actually manage to earn a living at it without becoming famous or rich. And then there are the rest of us, artists who create daily (because we have no choice) but who are regarded with little or no interest.

So how can one succeed? You do need talent, and you especially need to do something that\’s uniquely yours. Copying others won\’t do you any good at all. You need to have a body of work that\’s wonderful and recognizably yours. But that\’s just the beginning.

Talent alone isn\’t enough. From getting into your first gallery show, to getting that huge commission to create art, you need to have good people skills, and you need to apply them. Make friends with key people. Become part of their scene. Attend openings at your local gallery, even when your work isn\’t being shown. Talk to other artists (we all have tips to offer), and become a recognized figure on whatever scene you aspire to succeed within.

Friends will give you opportunities. Strangers are unlikely to cut you any slack at all (but don\’t let that stop you from trying something new…who knows what will work in the end?). And never overlook an opportunity to make a new, influential friend.

In my case, I approached a gallery in North Hollywood that featured local artists. At first, I simply submitted artwork for their juried process, and was able to get into a few shows that way. I got to know the gallery owners and eventually found that they needed stuff like postcard design and website work. Before long, we\’d worked out a deal where I helped promote their upcoming shows with postcards and built their website in exchange for a space on their walls every month. Sure, it hurt the old ego somewhat to get in like that (rather than being recognized as a genius photographer — hahaha), but in 2002 when I\’d never shown my work in a gallery before, it got my foot in the door.

Pace yourself for the long run. I always felt that things were moving too slowly (still do), but an old saying from a respected lecturer in my past helped me stick with it.

Remember the Three Ts: Things Take Time.

Sad but true, they usually do. But who knows? You may have an easier time of it than I did.

Co-habitation, Photograph by Charlie Morey, All Rights Reserved
Co-habitation, Photograph by Charlie Morey, All Rights Reserved, All Rights Reserved
Photos hosted on Flickr

SU:Any recommendations (like photographers, photo techniques, music, books, quotes, food…anything)?

CM: First and foremost, get comfortable with your instrument. In high school, I played guitar with a group of friends, and I always realized (while never achieving it) that the day should come when I could just think about what I wanted to play, and it would naturally come out of my instrument. I never achieved that level of competence with the guitar, but I did with the camera.

Back in my day, the Time-Life photography books were instructional and inspirational. I\’m not sure what\’s comparable with them today, but even so, my recommendation may not work for you anyway. Look for love. Find images that draw you in, ones where you sincerely say, \”Wow, I wish I\’d done that!” And then strive to do even better.

Learn your camera. When you\’re collecting images, you shouldn\’t be trying to figure out how to change f/stops or ISO settings. You should be concentrating on your subject, feeling what it\’s doing, anticipating what will happen next (so you can be ready to capture it).

Get the basics of f/stop vs. shutter speed down. Shoot manually (I find using aperture- or shutter-priority settings tends to burn out more highlights than I\’m comfortable with). Learn how to work depth-of-field with exposure to get the best image possible.

I\’ve been shooting digitally since 1999, by the way. I happily left behind the smelly, toxic chemicals and less-concise darkroom manipulations of traditional silver-based photography.

Color-positive digital is very different than negative film. Use a spot-meter and measure the different areas of your image. Expose so that the specular (extreme) highlights are just within the limits of pure white (RGB: 255-255-255).

Assuming you\’re shooting digital, you must learn Photoshop. It\’s a very complicated program, and the traditional Adobe interface is anything but instinctive (unless, perhaps, you\’re a left-brained engineer type). I took a UCLA extension course after giving up on trying to figure it out alone, and I\’ve never regretted it.

I have never been happy with the image as the camera captures it. Every attempt at capturing perfection in a single click of the shutter has failed so far. That\’s most likely due to my right-brain updating its preferences on a moment-by-moment basis (i.e., takes me time to make up my mind, and that often changes when I open the same image at a later date). It\’s the same phenomenon that some painters experience when they can\’t tell when to stop on a particular piece. But between Photoshop\’s Camera Raw adjustments and the Photoshop adjustment layers, I\’ve become the fine art printer I\’d always dreamed of becoming.

I have complete control of my images, and that\’s about all an artist could ask for…

Grand Motel, Photograph by Charlie Morey, All Rights Reserved
Grand Motel, Photograph by Charlie Morey, All Rights Reserved, All Rights Reserved
Photos hosted on Flickr

SU: Can you mention how people interested in your work can contact you?

CM: Sure! You can view much of my work on these two websites:

http://www.charliemorey.com
http://www.digitalphotography.tv

I\’ve placed images in a number of online gallery sites, and a licensor I work with has placed my work on sites like art.com and allposters.com. I guess the quickest way to find them is simply to Google me:

http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=%22Charlie+Morey%22&btnG=Search

And here\’s my basic contact information:

Charlie Morey
Studio City, California
(I work in a home-based studio,
not open to the general public)
Charlie@digitalphotography.tv
(323) 656-7749

Thanks for the opportunity to participate in your blog, Suprada! It\’s been fun writing about it, and I look forward to any feedback or reactions that may result.

Pigeon\
Pigeon\’s Domain, Photograph by Charlie Morey, All Rights Reserved, All Rights Reserved
Photos hosted on Flickr

Thanks Charlie!

[poll id=”15\”]

Mitch Dobrowner – Photo Talk #13

This week\’s interview is with Mitch Dobrowner. I first looked at Mitch\’s work in Lenswork #69. I spent quite a while poring over those photographs. His lovely Black and Whites are almost surreal – like places in a fantasy, but real at the same time. Fast forward to now, and Mitch graciously agreed to be interviewed for this series.

Mitch\’s photos have been published in another round of Lenswork #79, and in other magazines. For a complete list of his publications you can check this page in his website. Here is a list of his exhibitions.

You can look at more of his work at his website: www.mitchdobrowner.com.

Here is the interview.

Moonrise Trona, Photograph by Mitch Dobrowner, All Rights Reserved
Moonrise Trona, Photograph by Mitch Dobrowner, All Rights Reserved
Click on image to see larger version.

SU: Tell me a little about yourself. How did you get into photography?

MD: I grew up on Long Island (Bethpage), NY. During my teens I felt lost. My parents were worried about my future direction in life, so in desperation my father gave me an old Argus rangefinder to fool around with. Little did he realize what an important gesture that would turn out to be for me.

After doing some research and seeing the images of Minor White and Ansel Adams I quickly became addicted to photography. To make a long story short, I left home at 21, quitting my job, leaving my friends and family to see the American Southwest for myself. In California I eventually met my wife, and together we had 3 children, and created our own design studio – and the tasks of running a business and raising a family took a priority to Photography. During that time I stopped taking pictures.

Years later, in early 2005, inspired by my wife, children and friends I again picked up my cameras. The moment I started shooting again I felt on fire. Now I see myself on a passionate mission to make up for years of lost time – creating images that help evoke how I see our wonderful planet.

I owe much to the great photographers of the past, especially Ansel Adams, for their dedication to the craft and for inspiring me in my late teens. Though I have never met them, their inspiration helped me determine the course my life would take. I currently live with my wife Wendy, our 2 sons Jason and Joshua, dog Jimi and rotten cat Nicky in Studio City California. Our daughter Asia lives within walking distance with her husband Brian and their child Eliette.

Shiprock Storm, Photograph by Mitch Dobrowner, All Rights Reserved
Shiprock Storm, Photograph by Mitch Dobrowner, All Rights Reserved
Click on image to see larger version.

SU: Your photos on your website are these lovely dramatic moody landscapes in Black and White. Why landscape photography? Why Black & White?

MD: I love the images of Ansel Adams and Minor White. Besides my family, they are my inspiration. The first time I saw either of those photographers works I was floored. It may sound a bit cliche, but the images left a major impact on my life and the direction it would go.

In regards to why I shoot in B&W, its pretty simple; color work seems too realistic to me. Its just not for me. I\’m used to it. I see it through my eyes al the time.
B&W interpets reality the way I happen to \”see” and feel. And besides, my wife (who is a designer and painter) says I\’m color blind. But I\’m not – I just know the names of all the colors. And the only time I see in color is when I\’m listening to music. I see music/orchestrations in their various tones. Not sure why… but its what I see.

Church Rock, Photograph by Mitch Dobrowner, All Rights Reserved
Church Rock, Photograph by Mitch Dobrowner, All Rights Reserved
Click on image to see larger version.

SU: Can you talk a little bit about the techniques you use in making these photos, both on and off the field? How do these techniques help you to convey your message?

MD: I spend a good amount of time thinking about what I want to focus on. I\’m in love with the Southwest. Its a truly mystical, spiritual place. I find it easy to photograph. I see my work being portraits of the rocks and environments. I think you need to love what you decide to shoot. The images need to come from your heart.

I approach my landscape photography just as I would if I was a portrait photographer. I spend time in the environment learning about it, seeing in in different light and weather conditions. I talk to it in my own way. They are ancient structures that have been here way before we were and will exist well beyond the time we are here. They have seen and witness much. I feel honored to be able to capture there images in a manner that I experience them. Once I feel \”in touch” I just wait for the right lighting and weather conditions.

Technically, I come from a film/wet darkroom background – but use a digital work flow. My camera (Sony R1s) feel like an extension of my brain and hands when I\’m out shooting. The camera is wonderful. Only wish Sony would make an R2. The combination of the lens, sensor, the optical path the aligns the lens and sensor, the live view, histogram and zebra – they all make for the perfect landscape camera for me. I shoot in B&W so that I can see what I\’m shooting and treat the sensor just as I would film and filter for B&W just as I did for film. All my images are captured latent. I perform the normal amount of dodging, burning, brightness and contrast controls on the images in CS3… similar to what I would do in the wet darkroom. I print on Epson 3800 and 9800 printers.

Dawn, Photograph by Mitch Dobrowner, All Rights Reserved
Dawn, Photograph by Mitch Dobrowner, All Rights Reserved
Click on image to see larger version.

SU: How do you go about learning and improving your photography skills?

MD: Continue to have lot of patience, do a lot of experimentation with shooting techniques, and then a lot of refining. This includes trying techniques in the field, and preparing myself correctly for the subject matter and the conditions and equipment. I also see continued advancements in technology helping….. such as vehicles, GPS and tracking units, cameras, printers and software. The trick is to pick what is right for me and not to spend time in \”techno lust\”.

Hoodoo, Photograph by Mitch Dobrowner, All Rights Reserved
Hoodoo, Photograph by Mitch Dobrowner, All Rights Reserved
Click on image to see larger version.

SU: You are a very successful photographer with your work being published and represented and having won awards. Can you talk about what it took to reach where you are right now?

MD: I\’m not sure I\’ve reached anything yet. The last 3 years have been real fluid, and I\’d like it to stay that way. I thnk I\’m also a bit lucky. I\’m thrilled that people have reacted to the work, but what is most important is to stay concentrated in creating new imagery. The way I \”see” today will change as I continue to mature. Well, maybe not mature (as I\’m still a kid)… but get wiser as I get older.

As I change I will \”see” the world different. I\’m interested in seeing how that will change my work. Thus my focus is to continue to create images. The day I\’m not able to create will be a borometer for me. That will be the day I know its time to die.

The Lion, Photograph by Mitch Dobrowner, All Rights Reserved
The Lion, Photograph by Mitch Dobrowner, All Rights Reserved
Click on image to see larger version.

SU: Any recommendations? (like Photographers, Photo techniques, Music, Books, quotes, food..anything?)

MD: Reading: I\’d recommend everyone read Ansel Adams Print, Negative, Camera series of books. For me, it still all applies, in theory, to all we do today. Its still revolutionary thinking. I also received some advice from Michael Kenna; to show my work to everyone and anyone who was interested…. and if I was lucky good things would come. Today there are so many avenues that photographers can take to get their work shown. Just think of what avenues the master photographers of old had. They had no Internet, no email, very few publications, and photography only had a few people that were considered true \”artists\”. How did they get their imagery out there/shown? It was quite a challenge as compared to what tools we have today.

My only other piece of advice is, no matter what anyone says – always follow your gut instincts. Even if it means breaking from what everyone else is doing, or doesn\’t follow the advice you\’re given… just do it. That\’s all I ever do. \”Breaking from the pack” is a good thing.

Civilization, Photograph by Mitch Dobrowner, All Rights Reserved
Civilization, Photograph by Mitch Dobrowner, All Rights Reserved
Click on image to see larger version.

SU: Can you mention how people interested in your work can contact you?

MD: I can be contacted via email at info@mitchdobrowner.com
My website is: www.mitchdobrowner.com

Thanks Mitch!

[poll id=”14\”]

Rick Knepp – Photo Talk #12

This week\’s interview is with Rick Knepp. I met Rick when I took the \”Magic of Light in the Natural World” class Photo Central in hayward, CA. Rick was teaching the class. He not only taught us the nuances of reading light better, he introduced us to some classic photographs and photographers and also showed us some of his excellent prints. I got the opportunity to borrow photography books from his personal library too!

Rick also conducts very reasonably priced workshops. Especially of interest to those who live in the Bay area are the one day workshops. I hope to attend one of his workshops this summer. All this info, his photo galleries and information about buying his prints can be found at Rick\’s website – www.richardknepp.com

Here is the interview.

Canyonlands, Photograph by Rick Knepp, All Rights Reserved
Canyonlands, Photograph by Rick Knepp, All Rights Reserved

SU: Tell me a little more about yourself. How did you get into photography?
RK: I had been casually interested since I earned my first merit badge in photography as a Cub Scout at the ripe old age of eight. After college, I did the usual documentation of the family as my kids as they grew up, and shot a lot of slide film of family trips and the Southern Oregon landscape through the mid 80s. I\’d always been a fan of Ansel Adams\’ black and white work, and enjoyed his books a lot.

When I moved back to California after a divorce in 1986, I began to shoot more to fill the emptiness I experienced being so far away from my kids. In 1989 I enrolled in a black and white darkroom class at Photocentral, the program at the Hayward Area Rec District, taught by Geir and Kate Jordahl, now my good friends. That was the beginning of the end. I knew I had acquired a serious addiction!!

My passion for photography grew substantially when I was given an amazing opportunity: the position of director at Weston Gallery, one of the top fine art photography galleries in the world. Learning from Maggi Weston, one of the earliest and most influential advocates for photography as fine art, gave me an education I never could have gotten with any advanced degree in the arts. And the exposure to prints by both masters and contemporary icons was an incredibly powerful motivator. For three years I got to walk in the door every day to work with and be surrounded by and often rare prints by Weston, Adams, Bullock, Strand, Stieglitz, Kenna, Neill, Porter, Caponigro, Becom and so many more… I feel privileged to have merely been in their presence, let alone have a chance to to tell their stories to visitors and clients. And the chance to work directly and share ideas with contemporary masters like Rod Dresser, Paul Caponigro, Michael Kenna, Jeffrey Becom, Richard Garrod and so many others was remarkable. Many are now friends as well as mentors.

Dechambeaubar, Photograph by Rick Knepp, All Rights Reserved
Dechambeaubar, Photograph by Rick Knepp, All Rights Reserved

SU: Your photographs are mostly landscapes. As you say in your bio , your \”first love remains the black-and-white study of the land\”. What about landscape photography evokes this feeling?
RK: I actually think my attraction to photography grew out of my passion for the land, rather than the other way around. I\’ve always felt a strong pull toward the quiet of rural and wild places. The less populated, the better. As I learned to photograph, and especially to print in black and white, I found that I could express some of the joy I find in these places, that I hadn\’t been able to in any other way. It doesn’t hurt that most of my photographic mentors, influences and inspiration come from the school of landscape photography. Ansel, Edward Weston, John Sexton, Alan Ross, William Neill, Galen Rowell and the Jordahls; all have a similar foundation.

So much of the pleasure of the process comes from the challenge of finding the structure and organization in a chaotic environment. I will say that I think this is universally true of “found” compositions, regardless of genre. If I never took another photograph I would still be blessed by the medium, in that in the search for the quintessential image, I’ve learned to see the world I move in, in a way I never would have before I experienced photography. I find grace and beauty in the minutiae I never would have even noticed: the play of light on dusty bottle in an abandoned bar, the glow of a salt-encrusted tumbleweed in the shadows of an ephemeral desert creek bed. The list could go on forever, because this experience now continues whether I’m looking for a photograph or walking from the parking lot to my office.

Alder Creek, Photograph by Rick Knepp, All Rights Reserved
Alder Creek, Photograph by Rick Knepp, All Rights Reserved

SU: In your website, you talk about how you lived in the Eastern Sierra in California for almost 6 years. How has this shaped influenced and shaped your photographic life?
RK: If anyone had told me 20 years ago that I’d become a desert rat, I’d’ve told them they were rowing with only one oar in the water. My first trip to the desert Southwest was a revelation. As much as I love the sea and the forests of the western mountains, the visual specter of the bleached bones of a barren landscape affects me in a manner more visceral, spiritual and essential. It’s somehow more powerful and sensual than beautiful. It’s difficult to put into words.

When I discovered the East Side in the early 90s, the high desert and rugged escarpment of the eastern face of the Sierra demanded my attention in the same way. The landscape made for a pared-down visual sensibility.

Olmstead Sunset, Photograph by Rick Knepp, All Rights Reserved
Olmstead Sunset, Photograph by Rick Knepp, All Rights Reserved

SU: How does teaching photography influence your personal work?
RK: Probably the most powerful impact has been the inspiration that comes of seeing students’ work. Regardless of the experience or level of technical skill a student has, there is always a new way of looking at the world that often gets the fire burning again, the desire to go out and revisit the medium with a fresh perspective.

Also, I primarily work in the more traditional mediums: film and light sensitive printing materials. As I consider adding more of the newer processes to my “toolbag,” the interaction with students keeps me more up to date with the most recent advances in equipment and technology than simply reading about it would. (As if I can find the time to read more than my email anyway!) I get hands-on experience with the latest and greatest gear, get to see first-hand what the current range of printers are capable of, and get user feedback more valuable than reading all the critic’s reviews could offer.

Feed Barn, Photograph by Rick Knepp, All Rights Reserved
Feed Barn, Photograph by Rick Knepp, All Rights Reserved

SU: You have a career in photography and teaching photography. What does photography mean to you?
RK: Exclusive of my family and friends and when combined with my love of the land, it becomes more my life than my career.

Cedar Runoff, Photograph by Rick Knepp, All Rights Reserved
Cedar Runoff, Photograph by Rick Knepp, All Rights Reserved

SU: Any recommendations? (like Photographers, Photo techniques, Music, Books, quotes, food..anything?)
RK: Wow! Where to start? The more images you look at, especially in whatever genre you enjoy, the more informed your own photographs become. My inspiration comes from the artists mentioned above, plus many more. Photo books would include almost anything Ansel and Edward Weston. (Look for more recent printings that employ the remarkable reproductions the latest technology offers. It makes a huge difference!) Specific titles would include – if you can find and afford them – Edward Weston: A Legacy (by Watts and Spaulding), Ansel Adams at 100 (Szasrkowski), Ansel Adams: The American Wilderness (Stillman), Quiet Light by John Sexton, William Neill’s Landscapes of the Spirit, Richard Garrod’s Visual Prayers and Geir Jordahl’s Searching for True North.

For a view from the inside, The Daybooks of Edward Weston edited by Nancy Newhall and Ansel Adams: An Autobiography. For fun, any of the Chee Leaphorn mystery series by the recently departed Tony Hillerman – a great look at Navajo culture and landscape.

Learn the concepts of the Zone System. Even if you don’t practice it, understanding the concepts and the language of light will make you a better photographer, film or digital. Try Carson Graves’ Zone System for 35mm Photographers.
I’m a big fan of all music, but especially contemporary and classic jazz. Pat Metheny especially is an inspiration. He does landscape in music with (still) Life Talking, First Circle and Secret Story, among many others. Yellowjackets, especially in the years when Marc Russo was on sax. Herbie Hancock, Miles, Taylor Eigsti, Coltrane, Paul Desmond. Dave Mathews, Barber, Bernstein, Snow Patrol, Marc Knopfler, Dvosak and on, and on…
Don’t even get me started with food…

Tumbleweed, Photograph by Rick Knepp, All Rights Reserved
Tumbleweed, Photograph by Rick Knepp, All Rights Reserved

SU: Can you mention how people interested in your work can contact you?
RK: My web site www.richardknepp.com has a gallery, info on seminars and classes, etc., and a contact link. You can email me at rick@richardknepp.com. If anyone would like to receive my occasional (every couple of months) newsletter, drop me an email.

Thanks Rick!

[poll id=”13\”]

Joel Truckenbrod – Photo Talk #11

This week\’s interview is with Joel Truckenbrod. His website is www.joeltruckenbrod.com

I first got to know about his work through a forum in NPN where people were discussing his ebook: a photo project, a body of work on Banning State Park in Minnesota. What was intriguing to me was that Joel was offering this ebook as a free limited time download in pdf form. You can go to his website here to download it. I went ahead, downloaded this, got my afternoon coffee on a Friday and spent a happy couple of hours browsing and immersing myself in Banning SP.

His topic, his dedication in coming out with a portfolio, and then publishing it online, the way his photographs spoke to me, all inspired me to contact Joel and ask him a few questions.
This is what Joel has to say.

Foam Patterns, Photograph by Joel Truckenbrod, All Rights Reserved
Foam Patterns, Photograph by Joel Truckenbrod, All Rights Reserved

SU: Tell me a little more about yourself. How did you get into photography?
JT: Well, I am a twenty-seven year old amateur photographer who currently resides in the twin cities area of Minnesota. Virtually all of my life I have been heavily involved in both art and various outdoor activities. My photography is ultimately an amalgamation of these two pursuits. The camera was introduced to me by a close friend during a mountain biking trip in northern Minnesota. We had decided to camp for a night at Cascade River State Park, located on Lake Superior, along Minnesota\’s North Shore. Knowing of this planned stay in advance, he encouraged me to bring a camera with if at all possible. My brother borrowed me a manual Minolta SLR that he owned. Unassumingly, I brought it along. While we did go mountain biking from what I recall, I more vividly remember the time spent wandering up the river in the park, photographing anything and everything that caught my eye. Needless to say, I found the experience of exploring nature with a camera to be extremely compelling. I certainly didn\’t know what I was doing at the time, but the act of arranging elements in the viewfinder was really exciting.

High Water Rapids, Kettle River, Photograph by Joel Truckenbrod, All Rights Reserved
High Water Rapids, Kettle River, Photograph by Joel Truckenbrod, All Rights Reserved

SU:Your photography is predominantly landscapes. Can you tell us why are you attracted to landscape photography?
JT: Photographing regional landscapes has been the result of simply being honest with myself about what inspires me. I\’ve tried my hand at other genres of photography, sometimes with a feeling of obligation, but landscape photography always call me back. Nature is where I feel the most connected, where I can recharge, and where I feel I have the most to say. These places offer a connection to past, present and future, well beyond the workings of man and our social constructions. Photographing landscapes offers a way to make connections; to experience something larger than oneself and come back with some record of that experience. It\’s a subject that is amazingly diverse, constantly changing and full of surprises. You never know what\’s going to happen, or what you\’re going to find. There\’s always something new to learn. It\’s really rich.

Large flowered Trillium Bloom,, Photograph by Joel Truckenbrod, All Rights Reserved
Large flowered Trillium Bloom, Photograph by Joel Truckenbrod, All Rights Reserved

SU: You very recently published a digital portfolio titled \”Banning State Park – A Photographic portfolio\”. Why Banning State Park? Can you talk about this project and its conception?
JT: Banning State Park is located in east central Minnesota, about an hour and a half from where I live. The park is primarily comprised of dense woodlands, but it also contains a scenic river, as well as a number of creeks. It\’s a rather uncelebrated place, certainly not a photographic hot spot. During the summer of 2006, about a year and a half after I had begun seriously pursuing photography, I decided to do a project on the park. My goal was to convey the essence of the park in 70-80 photographs. Most of my favorite landscape photographers tend to work in a focused, regional manner. This project simply took that ideal to the extreme. It gave me a tight set of parameters to work within, as well as a clear objective to pursue. I wanted to discover what it really meant to know a place well. This project was a way to push myself beyond the obvious.

I chose Banning over other possible locations for two primary reasons. The first is simply proximity. In other words, the park was close enough that I could economically drive over for the weekend, or even a day to photograph. Given the nature of the project, I knew I would have to return frequently in order achieve what I had envisioned. The second reason is a bit more complex. Banning is a park that I have always enjoyed. Many parts of the park remind me of where I grew up, and of when I used to go romp around the woods and wetlands as a child. Yet there are also enough differences in terrain and natural diversity within the park to hold my photographic interest. Intuitively I felt I would have enough subject material, it was also a place where I honestly felt inspired.

Snow, Red Pines, Photograph by Joel Truckenbrod, All Rights Reserved
Snow, Red Pines, Photograph by Joel Truckenbrod, All Rights Reserved

SU: You have worked for more than 3 years in bringing this portfolio to light. Can you talk about what it took to complete this? Can you give any advice to other photographers contemplating photo projects of their own?
JT: It should probably be clarified that although the entirety of the project was created over a three year time span, the vast majority of the work was done between August of 2007 and June of 2008. I photographed many other places during those three years, almost all of the other images in my current portfolio were created within that same three year window. A large part of the reason it took so long to get the project fully underway, had to do with my lack of familiarity with my large format camera. Large format photography is significantly more complex and time consuming than working with a 35mm camera, and I had only been photographing for about a year and a half when I got the idea for the project, thus it took me a bit of time to climb over the proverbial learning curve.

In terms of what it takes to complete such a project, I would say that it simply comes down to making the choice to do it and then sticking with it! I\’ve talked to numerous photographers who have expressed an interest in creating a cohesive body of work, but the majority don\’t take that most important step of walking out the door and making it happen. In my experience, time spent working is directly correlated with the quality and quantity of images created. Time and effort are the closest things I\’ve found to a silver bullet. Additionally, one needs to listen to their heart and follow their instincts. It has to be something you genuinely are interested in and want to do.

The majority of the images in the portfolio were created while I was a full time college student (finishing my second degree), and working twenty hours a week. It was a very busy time, but if I was able to make it happen, I think most people working a 9-5 job certainly could as well. All this said, I do think it\’s extremely important to create a clear set of criteria from which to start, as well as a deadline. If one doesn\’t know what they are trying to achieve, or when they should be finished, it\’s highly likely that they won\’t work effectively; Let alone even start the project. Photographers need to be proactive in setting their goals and priorities. As we all know, life is busy and there always is something else that can get in the way if one lets it.

Sandstone Arches, Hells Gate Rapids, Photograph by Joel Truckenbrod, All Rights Reserved
Sandstone Arches, Hells Gate Rapids, Photograph by Joel Truckenbrod, All Rights Reserved

SU: Why did you decide to publish this portfolio digitally as a limited time free pdf download? Can you talk about the technical aspects that went into making this digitally?
JT: This project was really done as a personal exercise. In other words, my objective was to grow as a photographer rather than derive monetary gain from the project. As such, PDF publication gave me a cost effective way of sharing the project with others while still offering a high quality viewing experience. I\’ve enjoyed the PDF \’folios created by LensWork magazine publisher Brooks Jensen, and found PDF to be an excellent way of sharing bodies of work. PDF is very book-like in how it functions, plus it\’s relatively secure. Personally, I\’m very pleased that I have been able to offer my portfolio of images in this manner. It\’s been a great way to share the images with others and get quality feedback.

Technically, it was fairly simple to create. Adobe Photoshop CS3 was used for virtually all of the work. I know Adobe InDesign is favored by quite a few people; however, I don\’t have it. Instead, I manually made templates (12×12 @ 300 dpi) and dropped in 8×10 @ 300 dpi sharpened images. I then made the PDF by simply going to \”File-Automate-PDF Presentation” in Photoshop. I created a \”presentation\”, told it not to downsample the images, but to save them as medium compressed jpegs. I also was able to turn off printing and editing in order to copy protect it a bit. Photoshop then assembled the PDF and that was it – pretty slick. I then opened up the PDF in Adobe Acrobat, removed any metadata and resaved. I opted for using larger files since it allows viewers to zoom in on the images to some extent if they want. Most of the images in the PDF hold up pretty well to 150% zoom. Obviously the trade off is that it\’s a larger file to download; I felt it was worth it though.

Late October Sunset, Photograph by Joel Truckenbrod, All Rights Reserved
Late October Sunset, Photograph by Joel Truckenbrod, All Rights Reserved

SU: Any recommendations? (like Photographers, Photo techniques, Music, Books, quotes, food..anything?)
JT: There\’s a lot I could talk about here, but I\’ll just stick with one solid recommendation. I mentioned Brooks Jensen earlier in the interview, and I would very highly recommend his LensWork podcasts. The podcasts focus on the art making aspects of photography rather than the purely technical; they\’re absolutely loaded with great thoughts and ideas. You can find them here: http://www.lenswork.com/lensworkpodcast1-1.htm

SU: What are your future plans regarding this body of work? Can you mention how people interested in your work can contact you?
JT: Currently I\’m exploring regionally based publication opportunities. I always enjoy interacting with other photographers and welcome questions anyone might have. I can be reached via the contact sheet on my website or directly via my email address: joel@joeltruckenbrod.com.

Thanks Joel!

[poll id=”12\”]

Susan McConnell -Photo Talk #10

The first interview of 2009 is with Susan McConnell, wildlife photographer and biologist at Stanford. I have had the opportunity of meeting Susan on multiple occasions – out photographing at Ano Nuevo, at the Palo Alto Baylands. I\’ve also had the opportunity of being in a group at Ano Nuevo where Susan was our docent. Her photographs have been received very well at the North American Nature Photography Association (NANPA) convention last year (2008). Her photographs can be found in http://web.mac.com/susan.mcconnell. I would recommend using IE or Safari to view this website (and not Firefox) since Firefox is showing issues with iweb websites.

Read on to what Susan has to say.

Wildebeest, Photograph by Susan McConnell, All Rights Reserved
Wildebeest, Photograph by Susan McConnell, All Rights Reserved

SU: Tell me a little more about yourself. How did you get into photography?
SMC I started experimenting with photography when I was a student in college, but I maintained a deeply ambivalent relationship with the camera for several decades afterward. I felt uncertain about whether taking photos made me more fully present in the moment, or whether I might become so obsessed with “getting the picture” that I would lose sight of the rewards of direct experience. My doubts were erased several years ago when I went on a trip to Svalbard in Arctic Norway, where I had a camera body and lenses that were adequate, but not pro quality. On that trip, I became immersed in the process of photographing polar bears, walruses, reindeer, and birds, and I realized that when I’m behind the lens, I feel absolutely, fully, and deeply engaged with observing and predicting animal behavior. That was the point at which I realized that this experience is deeply satisfying to me, even when the resulting images are unimpressive (which those were!). After returning home, I decided to invest in high-quality cameras, lenses, and tripods, and started to learn seriously about composition and digital photographic techniques. I haven’t looked back since!

Lion and Impala, Photograph by Susan McConnell, All Rights Reserved
Lion and Impala, Photograph by Susan McConnell, All Rights Reserved

SU: Your work is predominantly wildlife photography. What about wildlife photography has captivated you?
SMC: I have been fascinated with animals and animal behavior ever since I was a little girl, when I would spend hours watching decidedly unglamorous animals like common brown rats (which lived in a woodpile near my home). At age 12 or 13, I saw a National Geographic television special on Jane Goodall and decided that I wanted to be her (or someone like her!) when I grew up. Although my interests in science ended up shifting significantly during my college years, my enthusiasm for animals has never waned and remains a priority in my life – I have ridden and shown horses since childhood and spent nearly 20 years showing and breeding dogs, so observing animals remains an important part of every day for me.

My early fascination with Jane Goodall and her chimpanzees generated a deep desire to visit Africa, which for many years was both a financial and practical impossibility. I was finally able to make my first trip to Africa about a dozen years ago, when my husband and I went on safari in Zimbabwe with friends. In all honesty, I can’t even remember if I took a camera on that trip – but I knew, from the moment that I stepped out of the bush plane onto the dusty airstrip at Mana Pools, that I was where I belonged. Lately I have been trying to make two trips a year to Africa – if I have to go to Europe for work, I figure I’m halfway to Johannesburg and I should just complete the trip! Spending as much time as I can in Africa maximizes my chances of creating special photographs, and as I learn more and more about Africa’s wildlife and landscapes, I’m better able to recognize and anticipate unique photographic opportunities. Many gifted photographers have spent much more time in Africa than I have.

That said, I also take advantage of opportunities to observe and photograph wildlife closer to home. I am not a keen birder, but I was shamed into learning more about local birds when I realized that I could identify dozens of birds in Botswana but none in my own back yard! In learning about local birds, I started visiting the Palo Alto Baylands and became enamored with its rookeries for great egrets, snowy egrets, and black-crowned night herons, as well as the abundance of resident and migrant avocets, stilts, swallows, ducks, gulls, terns, blackbirds, hummers, kites, hawks, harriers, sparrows, wrens, larks, coots and grebes – and more.

However, my greatest local passion is for the amazing colony of Northern elephant seals that periodically visit the A̱o Nuevo State Reserve, located just off of Highway 1 between Half Moon Bay and Santa Cruz. I first visited A̱o Nuevo shortly after moving to the Bay Area in 1987, and when I became more interested in pursuing wildlife photography and thought about local mammals that might become good subjects for repeated visits, elephant seals were an obvious candidates. Repeated visits to the reserve during the mating season (when behavioral interactions are at a peak and guided walks are mandatory) made me realize that I love these animals and could give one of the guided walks Рat which point I signed up to become an A̱o Nuevo docent. During docent training, I learned a ton about the natural history of the reserve and even more about elephant seals, which are truly extraordinary migratory mammals. Being a docent does give me some photographic opportunities that are not available to the broader public, which is terrific Рand, in all honesty, this was one reason that I became a docent Рbut even more important to me is the fact that I have a chance to communicate with visitors every month about these amazing animals.

Mountain Gorilla, Photograph by Susan McConnell, All Rights Reserved
Mountain Gorilla, Photograph by Susan McConnell, All Rights Reserved

SU: How do you manage to photograph in a lot of amazing places? What does it take in terms of planning and resources to be able to shoot in these locales?
SMC: I am very fortunate that a variety of resources have enabled me to make repeated trips to Africa and Alaska, among other amazing places on our planet. An obvious logistical limitation to wildlife photography is financial, and I am lucky that I can afford to visit some of these. As I mentioned above, my job takes me twice a year to Alaska, and I always try to tack on at least a couple of days for wildlife photography onto each of these work trips. In addition, when I attend scientific conferences in Europe, I feel that I am halfway to Africa – so I try to “complete the trip” down south and spend time in Africa whenever possible.

I am also blessed that my husband not only enjoys many of the same places that I do and is proud of my images, but that he tolerates endless chatter about F-stops and shutter speeds and exposures during our trips together. We often travel with a private guide whose expertise is in photography, but even so, my husband’s help and support are invaluable in addressing practical issues of how to transport camera bodies, lenses, and tripods to remote destinations as carry-on luggage without having to pack expensive equipment onto flights as checked baggage.

Whenever I speak with a photographer who is planning his or her first trip to Africa, I emphasize the benefits of reserving a private vehicle and, if possible, a private guide who is familiar with the needs of photographers. It is common in African parks and reserves to share a vehicle with other guests, and it can be quite frustrating to try to take pictures while others are fidgeting in the vehicle, or to learn that you must leave a scene with wonderful golden light and an amazing pair of secretary birds because the majority of guests sharing your vehicle are bored and really, really, really want to see a lion (even if said lion is sound asleep). If you have your own vehicle, you can run your own show – you can ask your guide to try and find a species of particular interest, to stay longer at a sighting, or to reposition the vehicle for a better vantagepoint. Yes, this costs extra – and sometimes quite a lot extra – but is it worth it? Absolutely, yes!

When we’re going to travel together, my husband and I typically start planning a trip about a year and a half in advance. We have made many trips in Africa with Tony Reumerman from Wildnerness Safaris – Tony is an amazing guide, an incredibly fun person, and a gifted photographer in his own right. Typically what happens is that my husband and I choose a country or region as a target for a trip, then we contact Tony to get his advice on where to go and what the photographic opportunities might be at different sites. We work closely with a terrific travel agency, Bushtracks (http://www.bushtracks.com/), to arrange the logistics of the trip.

Finally, as I travel more and more frequently on my own to Africa and Alaska, I am becoming more comfortable with doing things on a budget. Understanding simple, practical issues about how to camp inexpensively in national parks, how to drive a 4-wheel-drive vehicle in deep sand, where to find animals, and (importantly) how to seek out and recognize truly unique photographic opportunities, are all a function of repeated experience and making local connections. The number of interesting images that I’m able to get are a direct function of the amount of time I’m able to spend in the field and the control I can exert on where I am and how long I can stay there. I always find a guide when I’m in a new part of the world, but once I get to know a place (and have figured out what’s safe, what’s not, where the animals are, and how to get around), then it can be fun and productive to be on my own. Since my husband can’t travel quite as much as I can, this is a great way to get out on my own without breaking the bank in the process.

Elephant Seal Flipper, Photograph by Susan McConnell, All Rights Reserved
Elephant Seal Flipper, Photograph by Susan McConnell, All Rights Reserved

SU: What does photography mean to you?
SMC: For me it’s all about being there and experiencing nature. The images are gravy. I am never so immersed with wildlife as when I’m looking through the lens!

Elephants at Night, Photograph by Susan McConnell, All Rights Reserved
Elephants at Night, Photograph by Susan McConnell, All Rights Reserved

SU: How do you manage to combine a very successful non-photographic career with being a wildlife photographer? What do you intend to do with photography in the future?
SMC: I am very fortunate that I have the time and financial resources to travel, and that my work often brings me into parts of the world that are in close proximity to amazing wildlife. Because I don’t have kids, I can tack on a few days or weeks to a work trip much more easily than can some of my friends, particularly those with family obligations. As a biologist, I have a longstanding interest in animals and their development, behavior, and conservation. As I become a more experienced photographer, I feel less interested in creating beautiful single images and more interested in telling stories about nature, biology, science, and conservation through pictures. While creativity, color, and composition remain an essential part of photography for me, I am exploring how a series of images can be juxtaposed with text to tell a full story about a place, a species, a research project, or a conservation challenge. To this end, I am currently working on two long-term projects: first, what I hope will eventually become a book about Northern elephant seals, and second, an article for a scientifically-oriented popular magazine about elephants and their social/dominance behaviors as a function of the availability of water. My role as a docent at Año Nuevo is playing a key role in the seal project, and I am spending big chunks of time at a field site in Namibia to develop a photographic story about research on elephants.

Dowitchers in Flight, Photograph by Susan McConnell, All Rights Reserved
Dowitchers in Flight, Photograph by Susan McConnell, All Rights Reserved

SU: Any recommendations? (Photo techniques, Photographers, Music, Books, quotes, food..anything?)
SMC: I love studying the books and websites of truly gifted photographers, as a way to learn what is possible, to set high standards, to motivate my own photography, and to remind me that my efforts are pathetic compared to those of the masters! Here are a few of the photographers (and their websites and/or books) that I find inspiring:

Frans Lanting
Books: “Life, A Journey Through Time”, “Eye to Eye”, “Jungles”, “Okvango: Africa’s Last Eden”

Mattias Klum
Book: “Borneo Rainforest”

Nick Brandt
“On This Earth”

Michio Hoshino
“Hoshino’s Alaska”

Paul Nicklen
“Seasons of the Arctic”

Steve Bloom
“Spirit of the Wild”

Photograph by Susan McConnell, All Rights Reserved
Photograph by Susan McConnell, All Rights Reserved

SU: How can people interested in your work can contact you?
SMC: My photo website is http://web.mac.com/susan.mcconnell and my email address is suemcc@stanford.edu.

Oh, and by the way, it’s not work!

Thanks Susan!

[poll id=”11\”]

Rarindra Prakarsa – PhotoTalk #9

This week I present this interview of Rarindra Prakarsa, a photographer from Indonesia. His amazing photos speak a lot about his photographer. His photographs have an exceptional mood, beautiful lighting and leave you moved in spite of yourself. If you think I am exaggerating, do take a look at a sample of his photos from his portfolio presented here with the interview. And for an afternoon of enjoyment, please browse through his portfolio at photo.net
What\’s more, a lot of photographers have tried to reverse engineer his work and try to come up with how he gets the \”Rarindra Effect” in photos. That is something indeed, to have a look of photography named after a person!
Do read on to see what Rarindra says…

Photograph by Rarindra Prakarsa, All Rights Reserved
Photograph by Rarindra Prakarsa, All Rights Reserved

SU: Tell me a little about yourself. How did you get into photography?
RP: I learned photography when I was a student at Polytechnic University of Indonesia, studying Graphics Art & Publishing Faculty in the early 90’s. Photography was one of the subjects I studied. Then, I was more interested in graphics design than photography. This was the case until I worked for a newspaper in Jakarta as a graphics designer where many journalists and photo journalists influenced me to learn more about journalism photography.
Then I bought my first SLR—Nikon FM2—with some lenses and took some short courses and seminars on any kind of photography not only journalism related photography.
Today, I am still a graphic designer. However photography is a hobby and I consider myself a serious amateur photographer.
Economic crisis in Indonesia had stopped me from any photography activity. Everything became very expensive. In 2004 I sold all my analog equipment and I moved to “only’ a prosumer Canon G5. But, to my surprise, I found it very versatile and I was very comfortable with digital editing. Because of my job as a graphic designer, I was used to using Photoshop (since version 1.0).
I was surprised that my unique photographic style was appreciated by many people in Indonesia. I am very glad that in this same year, 4 photos were requested by an ad agency for a calendar of a big company in Asia. After that many images were sold and used by many companies, not only in my country also other countries, including Britain.

Photograph by Rarindra Prakarsa, All Rights Reserved
Photograph by Rarindra Prakarsa, All Rights Reserved

SU: Your work is an amazing mixture of people and landscapes. Can you tell me how you find inspiration to photograph?
RP: Humans and landscapes are 2 subjects which the common people love to see and I love too. The viewer can enjoy the photograph and can visualize themselves to be there. Many arts inspire me: Movies, paintings, music, almost any kind of art. But specially, the paintings of Walter Spies, a Dutch painter who lived in Bali in 30’s and 40’s have inspired me greatly, especially about the use of light, tone and rural areas/villages as subject matter.
Technically, it is my tool to compare every element in the photo with the human. How big the tree, the river, the stones compared to the human.

Photograph by Rarindra Prakarsa, All Rights Reserved
Photograph by Rarindra Prakarsa, All Rights Reserved

SU: On your photo.net portfolio, your images are beautiful with this wonderful sense of atmosphere. What are you trying to convey in these photos?
RP: I want to dramatize the scene and I want every viewer impressed deeply. I want people to stop and look my photos, take in every detail and take a long time to analyze the photograph. Every photo has a story behind it. I try to convey happiness, warm but deep emotion.

Photograph by Rarindra Prakarsa, All Rights Reserved
Photograph by Rarindra Prakarsa, All Rights Reserved

SU: You recently joined a group of photographers at Mr.X. How did it come about? Can you tell me a little more about the group?
RP: Actually I was invited by the owner. He was impressed by some photographers who are consistent with their photography and started the group. And of course I am proud of it to join the group with the great photographers there.

Photograph by Rarindra Prakarsa, All Rights Reserved
Photograph by Rarindra Prakarsa, All Rights Reserved

SU: How do you go about learning and improving your photography?
RP: I think digital era with its internet push has an enormous impact on photography. People can see our work instantly. And it is easy to learn photography from many websites. Everyday I can see many new good photos on the internet. Many new techniques are available promptly in different websites. But I think the quality of photos and photographers around the world must grow to be compared to those 10 or 20 years ago. Many beginners grow very fast, but sometimes they do not to know the photography philosophy. They only know how easy and cheap it is to take and edit photo with a digital camera.

Photograph by Rarindra Prakarsa, All Rights Reserved
Photograph by Rarindra Prakarsa, All Rights Reserved

SU: Any recommendations? (Like Photographers, Photo techniques, Music, Books, quotes, food…anything?)
RP: My country is a unique country for its diversity. The biggest Island Country in the World which has 13,000 islands! Lot of cultural diversity too. Bali is a small part of Indonesia. We have Java, Borneo, Sumatera, Papua, Sulawesi and Moluccas. Each of them has their unique landscape, culture, language. Many locations here still virgin. Even photographers have found new good subjects every time. The best period for photography here is May-August because it is summer time.
There many good photographers here in Indonesia. You can see their work at fotografer.net, artphotomania.com, or jakartaphotoclub.com.
If anyone is coming to Indonesia, you can contact me through email or mobile phone and I can provide guidance.

Photograph by Rarindra Prakarsa, All Rights Reserved
Photograph by Rarindra Prakarsa, All Rights Reserved

SU: Can you mention how people interested in your work can contact you?
RP: The easy way to contact me is to email me at rdpbanget@gmail.com and please browse my gallery at photo.net/photos/rarindra.

Thanks Rarindra!

[poll id=”10\”]

Michael D. Kern – Photo Talk #8

This week I have the opportunity to present an interview with Michael D. Kern, reptile conservationist and photographer. Michael\’s stunning photographs of reptiles have won him several awards, some of them being the 2007 Nature\’s Best Photography Wildland Smith Rice International Award, the Exo Terra Nactus awards in 2005, 2006 and 2007, awards in the International Herpetology Symposium Photo Contest in the past few years. For those wanting to meet him, the Palo Alto Photo Club is a good place to discuss photography with Michael. Also, Michael has just published his book titled \”Serpents and Dragons\”, comprising of his fabulous photography of serpents and dragons! Do go here to buy his book.

Serpents and Dragons, by Michael D. Kern, All Rights Reserved
Serpents and Dragons, by Michael D. Kern. Book Cover. Click here to order this book.

SU: Tell me a little about yourself. How did you get into photography?
MDK: My story is simple…. Corporate executive turned conservationist / nature photographer. It gets a bit more complicated and boring if you double click below that. Actually, I have been exposed to photography throughout my whole life, my father was a Doctor by trade but his passion was fine art photography. He exposed me to both the art and craft of photography as I was growing up. It’s a shame I didn’t pay much attention. So, except for a few fleeting moments in my life, I only seriously got into photography about five years ago when I started working with reptiles.
The reptile thing began when I was in middle school. A neighborhood school friend’s brother had an extensive collection of reptiles in their garage which fascinated me. After a lot of begging, I finally got permission to bring my own snake into our house… unfortunately I used one of my fathers flood lamps to heat the cage and on the first night and it warped the wooden cage cover, of course, the snake escaped. I still think my mom is mad at me about this.
I eventually grew out of this phase (i.e., I realized that girls were also biologically interesting) and my interest in reptiles went dormant. It wasn’t until my own kids saw pictures my father had taken of me with my snake that the passion returned. My kids asked for snakes of their own and when we finally felt they were old enough, we went to the local reptile store. I knew when I walked into that store, I was in trouble…. It all came back….. two snakes quickly became four, then a gecko or two, frogs, chameleons… it got so bad that my first web site was called the Kern Family Zoo. We have since downsized our collection and I use my photography to satisfy my craving to collect new animals.
I started taking pictures of my collection with a simple digital point and shoot camera but quickly got frustrated by the shutter lag and view finder alignment so I finally had my first serious talk about photography with my father. My father has been a great mentor and teacher, especially as I was starting out.

Red Eye Green Tree Frog, Photograph by Michael D. Kern, All Rights Reserved
Red Eye Green Tree Frog, Photograph by Michael D. Kern, All Rights Reserved

SU: What has attracted you towards wildlife photography, especially reptiles?
MDK: I have always been fascinated by the intricate beauty of reptiles. These creatures can be spectacularly rich in color, line, texture and form — classic elements of artistic style and composition. However, in many cases, appreciating this beauty requires one to get close enough to study the complex scale patterns, color palettes, and textures that nature combined in creating these species. Getting close enough to discover this beauty is difficult. Geographic distribution, animal disposition, and, for many people, fear of these animals prevents an appreciation from developing. This is where photography helps. It can provide an intimate view of these animals, and do so in a non threatening manner.
My primary objective creating my recently published book, “Serpents and Dragons” is to help people “find the beauty in the beast”. This is more important than you might realize. Reptiles and amphibians represent some of the most endangered species on our planet. I hope that readers of this book develop a better appreciation for these animals and support conservation efforts which protect their diminishing habitats. This is a critical step toward their ultimate conservation.

Hide and Seek, Photograph by Michael D. Kern, All Rights Reserved
Hide and Seek, Photograph by Michael D. Kern, All Rights Reserved

SU: Can you tell me a bit about your photography techniques on and off the field?
MDK: I work both in the field and in the studio. Due to the nature of the subjects I work a lot with macro technology. I am a big believer in post processing although I don’t alter the core representation of the subject…. Let me restate that…. that is unless I am working on a creative piece, then anything goes…
Like all photographers I pay attention to the light…. I work with natural and artificial lighting…. I also try to keep a photojournalistic point of view to my work.
In order to stay close to the action (i.e., interesting wildlife subjects)I have gotten very involved in conservation work. There is always a story that needs to be told, helping to get the story out is part of my photographic drive and passion. Documenting indigenous people or conservation in action (i.e., people shots) complements the images of the wildlife itself and makes for a better package of work.

Johnston\
Johnston\’s Chameleon, Photograph by Michael D. Kern, All Rights Reserved

SU: What does photography mean to you?
MDK: Of course it is a form of self expression. I want my pictures to cry out to the viewers “Look at me! Understand me! Appreciate and Protect me! Almost in your face….
The beauty of working with reptiles is that it isn’t a genre which is over done. There aren’t that many good photographers in this space. So when you have a compelling image, people will look, The subjects are that different and intriguing.

Green Lash, Photograph by Michael D. Kern, All Rights Reserved
Green Lash, Photograph by Michael D. Kern, All Rights Reserved

SU: You have won quite a few well-deserved awards and recognition for your photography. What is your secret behind this?
MDK: Both professionally outside of photography i.e., my previous life, and now… I think it is important to find a niche, and then become the best in that niche… From there you can grow out into other areas….So for me, by working in a niche, and one which is not heavily exploited, I am showing work that is not commonly seen…. They are fresh in the eyes of the judges…. It isn’t like I am showing them another landscape or flower shot…..
Also, I have a very critical eye. I always find the 10 problems with an image before I can appreciate the good aspects of it. This puts a strong filter on my images…. Only the best get through… There is an adage that your portfolio is only as strong as your weakest image… When you enter into competitions, you need to understand that the judges think this way too…. How else can they filter down to a few select images from a starting point of thousands…. They exclude based on flaws, once they get to the flawless images, they then look for merit…. I work like that when I am selecting images from my shoots to bring forward….

Fred Astaire, Photograph by Michael D. Kern, All Rights Reserved
Fred Astaire, Photograph by Michael D. Kern, All Rights Reserved

SU: Any recommendations? (like Photographers, Photo techniques, Music, Books, quotes, food..anything?)
MDK: Besides finding a niche and exploiting it and using a critical eye in judging your work, Be realistic, understand that there are thousands of excellent photographers our there looking for eyes and recognition…. make sure you have something unique to say so that when you get eyes on your work, they stick, remember, and want to see more….

SU: How can people interested in your work can contact you?
MDK:
My website www.thegardensofeden.org. There you can peek inside my book, stroll thru my portfolio of work, and email me. My images are also available thru Nature Picture Library Stock Photography (www.naturepl.com).

Thanks Michael for this interview.

[poll id=”9\”]