Hard to believe its almost a week ago that I was about to give a talk about my story and creative process. I wanted to finish out this week with the Q&A from that night as well as share some extra thoughts I had that I wasn’t able to share too.
It appears that there is a lot of use of shadows in your work. Can you explain …?
Sure, I think that shadows play a big part in what I’m attempting to capture and the mood I’m trying to evoke. I think every photographer has a unique signature and style. Some like really dark lighting with subtle highlights and some like lots of ethereal light leaks that feel peaceful and dreamy. For me it all comes down to the subject, the scene and the framing of the story or the direction I’m trying to take you in and shadows have a way of shaping that. I’ve always been a fan of night photography and the many different ways you can capture something. By default your camera’s light meter wants to balance for daylight (which tends to even everything out) so you have to lie or cheat the settings to achieve your desired effect. Then depending on whats captured on film or digitally, you can always adjust that in post production. The image below, “743” was captured using a pinhole lens and very long exposure with a high speed film on a side street in downtown Los Angeles to get that hazy grain effect. I did some adjustments in the post but it’s really about using the shadows to guide you towards the light and into a sense of safety.
How do you choose what gets printed?
Well, the short answer is to edit, edit, edit, and edit some more. The person who asked this question gave some background and travels a lot, has tons of photos on her hard drive but has never printed any. I think this is a great question because we live in an age of endless images with digital technology. If you think back even 15 years ago, you had to buy film and it was expensive to buy, process and print from so I was pretty selective about where I would go, what I would shoot. And while that felt often restrictive, I think it really helps focus your mind and creative process in what you are setting out to accomplish. What is my goal to capture when traveling to this destination? On the other hand, I do love digital because I can see in real time what I am capturing, know what and how to edit on the fly or possibly fix in post. Over the years I’ve gotten to be better technically but in the end I’m an emotional shooter. But getting back to the question, I think comes down to what’s your intent behind taking an image because you can be anywhere and create something special. If it’s just to have frames of a trip to remind you where you went I think that’s great. I have lots of those myself. But if I’m going somewhere like Budapest or Istanbul I want to capture and create a final image that takes you back in time. One that hopefully stirs up questions inside like “I wonder how many have washed their hands before entering this holy place to worship. Here’s a before and after of “Ornate Fountain.”
How do you choose where to travel?
Well, I guess it comes down to several life chapters. In the high school and college years when I was single, it was about going down the roads less traveled. I’ve always had a heart to explore the back roads and forgotten lands. In my post college, career years it was a desire to travel abroad. In 2003, I took a travel photography workshop to Budapest for eight days that was a shoot to show, meaning that we shot everyday, turned in our film each night, had group critiques and curated a group show where we got to hang five of our best prints and have a gallery opening at the end of that summer. After my eight days in Budapest, I hoped on a train and headed by myself to Prague for another seven days. I remember quite clearly it was Mother’s Day and the train ride lasted seven hours. It was exciting and nerve wracking to land in a city where I couldn’t read any signs and asked myself “did I just make a huge mistake?” But what I found was that travel and exploring was meant to be shared. Not long after I got back from Budapest and Prague, Leisa and I met and started dating. A lot of our conversations revolved around places we’ve yet to explore; Cuba, Israel, Istanbul, Italy, Paris and many more… We’ve already been to Istanbul (New Years 2005) and Cuba (Spring of 2008). It’s been harder to get away the last few years having two dogs and family that are getting older, but we are looking to getting back out there soon. I have dreams of doing night shoots in the Paris fog to roaming the hills in Italy looking for weathered doors and scenic landscapes. In the mean time, it’s time to get out and explore my surroundings here in the South.