Interview – by Brian Walter

I was recently lucky enough to be part of an online interview by a good friend of mine, Brian Walter. Kim and I had the pleasure to meet Brian when we visited New York last year. He was kind enough to drive us from the airport to our hotel in downtown Manhattan. He also gave us some invaluable information on how to get around New York to best see what we want to. This interview was part of a Facebook page he has put together with his photography friends to help all of us learn from each other (a bit like a forum but different).

1. Lets ask the most important questions first… How’s Kim? When’s the due date? Are you ready for the hundreds of thousands of photos you’ll be taking once the baby arrives?

This is a good question. Kim is doing very well, but she has had enough of being pregnant. She has done an amazing job so far and I can only imagine she will do just as well during labour. The due date is officially the 22nd of September, however all the recent scans and medical appointments are pointing to a much earlier delivery date, that date being the 6th of September. (The 6th is also my Dad’s birthday and My Mother-in-laws birthday) The bub has been in the go position for a little while now and the doctor has said it can come at anytime from now on. We had a scan recently and the babies estimated weight with 5 weeks to go is already 8lb 4oz. It is going to be a big baby.

Are we ready for all the photos? I’m not really sure. To be honest I have been more worried about getting the nursery and everything else ready for the babies imminent arrival. I have thought about the multitudes of photos that both of us will take and I’ve come to the realisation that we will need more hard drive space. Kim has been getting pumped to take photos. She really got into photography while we were on our honeymoon and has shown some really good and fast improvement. She has already eyed off a nice plush blanket that will be a good base for photos. She also wants to get some props at some point to use as well. All I know is I don’t think I’m going to get many of our honeymoon photos processed before bub arrives and certainly not many once he is born.

2. What’s in your camera bag? What kind of gear do you have?

I don’t have a lot of gear in my bag or lying around. In my trusty Lowepro bag I have my good old Nikon D80 with a battery grip attached, 18-200mm VR and 50mm 1.8 prime lenses. The 18-200 is used the most. I have two different filters, a Moose Warming Polariser and an Infrared Pass Filter. There is a Nikon SB900 flash with Gary Fong clouded lightsphere and batteries. Lens cleaning cloth and blower, half a dozen 8gb memory cards. I also have a Canon G10 in the bag which gets a good amount of use, mostly when I don’t want to get the Nikon out.

As for other gear, I have a Manfrotto tripod and mono-pod, plus a basic light tent. I do have a gorillapod but I haven’t used that since it nearly dumped my SLR into the freezing waters of Lake Louise last year. The software I use is Adobe lightroom and photoshop. Imagenomics Portraiture and Noiseware Professional software, Redynamix HDR, Photomatix Pro and onOne Focal Point and Photo Tools 2 Professional.

I should also list what Kim has in her bag. She has a Nikon D3100 (aka: Nigella) with a kit lens 18-55 VR and a Canon G11 (aka: Gavin).

Just as a side note, we didn’t expect to ever have a G10 and G11, but that came about from our honeymoon. While we were in New York a bag check boy dropped the G10 from 6 feet and broke it. Kim was using it as her camera at the time so we had to buy another camera to replace it while we were away, so we got the G11. The G10 was able to be fixed for $30 when we got home which meant we both have a Canon in our bags.

3. What are your favorite & least favorite thing to photograph?

I guess my first thought for favourite thing to photograph would be landscapes. But I wouldn’t like to just shoot landscapes all the time, a little variety always helps. I’ve found in recent times that I enjoy taking portraits. They might only be photos of family and friends but they are willing subjects.

My least favourite thing to photograph is my Father-in-laws paintings (or any other painting). Reproducing the colours in a painting, oil or water colour, is rather difficult and put on top of that the fact that the artist of said painting is very fussy…. It makes for a less than enjoyable task. I recently gave my Father-in-law my old camera in the hope that he will be happier with the photos, but that hasn’t happened.

4. You’ve done a good amount of HDR work, what do you think goes into a good HDR?

I’ve found that just about any scene can be used for HDR, but the best scenes seem to be of areas with a lot of light or dark subject matters in the one scene. Flat images can be good for HDR as well. I seem to put HDR images together that are more natural looking (at least to my eye) than the extreme HDR photos. I have done multi shot HDR’s as well as single shot images that I have tone-mapped for similar results. The best thing to do is try different images out with the HDR process to see what you can come up with.

5. You’ve begun to branch out from photography into card design, how does this and your background in printing effect your photography?

I have worked in the printing industry for nearly 15 years now and have seen a lot of bad photos out there. I have also seen some great photos. I originally took some photography classes back in school many years ago. I did well in school but never really took advantage of what I learned back then and ended up not taking any photos for about 15 years. It wasn’t until after several years of working on other people’s photos (learning how to use photoshop) and the rise of the digital age that I finally got back into it. That was 6 years ago and I still have times where I don’t pick the camera up for weeks. The card designing came along when I met my wonderful wife, Kim, who is a demonstrator for the Stampin’ Up Company. I use it as another artistic outlet as it isn’t that far from my regular job as a pre-press tradesman/designer. I try to help my wife with her side business and get some enjoyment out of it at the same time.

How does all this affect my photography? My printing background has taught me about colour and photoshop which I didn’t know about from school. Perhaps I would have had a harder time getting back into photography in the digital age without this knowledge. My job has also helped me get some of my own photos used in local calendars over the last three years (which has taught me other things as well). As for card design that has helped with composition. That sounds a little strange, but composition plays a big part in a lot of things and it shouldn’t be ignored. With cards you only have a small area to design and get your message across so composing it correctly is a must. And having an artist Father-in-law has also helped in this regard as that is something he thinks about all the time. Card design also makes me think about colour more. There are certain colours that don’t work together and I have learned that with card design. I’m not sure I think about it consciously but that knowledge is there and has an effect on what I see.

6. You’ve lived every photographer’s dream by taking a trip around the world. What was it like experiences all those photo ops?

Our honeymoon around the world was a trip of a life time, but at the same time it was a bit of a curse. Some of the places we visited during our trip were Las Vegas, Grand Canyon, Vancouver, Canadian Rockies, Toronto, Niagara Falls, New York, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Scottish Highlands, London and Bath plus some places in between. The amount of photo ops was mind boggling and a bit overwhelming at times. Every day we would head out with cameras in hand to see something new and different and we were very rarely disappointed. We packed so much into our six weeks away that we never had a dull moment (aside from Toronto which wasn’t dull but rather infuriating). We both had a real buzz or a photographers high each day and couldn’t wait to see what we had captured. Many times I was stunned at what Kim had photographed (Kim has a natural ability to understand lighting and composition. I think this comes from her artistic back ground in school and her Fathers artistic ability). She hadn’t really been that into photography before we met (photography was how we met), but she wanted to learn more. Between myself and our Grand Canyon tour guide who was a professional photographer, she was soon taking better and better photos. Anyway, I was shocked and pleased at how well she was improving and actually started to watch her as we travelled to see if I could see what she was seeing. I was also very happy with the photos I was able to capture. They were all pretty much taken as a gut reaction to the scene before me with only a little thought about set up. I’m sure some of my photos could have been a lot better, but I came away very happy.

The curse of the trip was the fact that we had to return home to our normal lives which didn’t include waking up and grabbing a camera and just travelling. It was a very hard thing to adjust to after living “the dream”. Normal mundane life, while it has its moments, just didn’t compare to travelling around the world with new photo opportunities every day. Now we are both reliving our trip as I slowly go through the thousands (approximately 15,500. I was bracketing all my shots so it isn’t as many as it sounds) photos that we took between us. With each photo there are memories that pull on us to think about travelling again. The thing is, we won’t be travelling again for some time to come now that our first baby is nearly with us. We are just glad that we had the chance to see what we saw, as we could have gone through life without ever leaving the shores of Australia. There is a much bigger and interesting world out there, you just have to go look for it.

7. On your trip, were there any places you thought to yourself “wow, I could stay and take photos here forever.”?

Yes! There are two places that come to mind straight away and they are the Canadian Rockies and New York. As soon as we visited the Rockies we were hooked. Hooked on the mountains and scenery of one of the most beautiful places we had ever seen. We even spoke about selling up and moving to Jasper to live, but that was more of a dream than an actual plan. We spent a week travelling through the Rockies and we didn’t even scratch the surface of what there was to see there, but everything we saw was spectacular and peaceful.

Then there is New York. We had perfect weather while we were there which probably contributed to our love of the place. I found the concrete jungle to be a wonderful place to take photos. The buildings interspersed with greens and parks made for some very lovely areas around the city. Just like the Rockies, we barely scratched the surface of New York during our short stay there. One of the best things I found about New York was that I started to shoot in a different style to my normal photos. Because of the size of the buildings and the amount of things going on around me at any one time I began to shoot without looking. I just let the camera capture whatever it was pointing at and I managed to get some very nice and interesting images. The fact that a place could change my shooting style fascinates me and I’d love to see what would happen if I had the chance to shoot like that more often.

Perhaps it would be different if we actually lived in those places, but it is nice to dream.

8. If you could do it again where would you go this time? What sites would you like to see through your lens?

I think if we did the trip again we would do it rather the same but with a few changes. I’m thinking that I would like to show my kid/kids the same sights we had seen. The Grand Canyon, Vancouver, the Canadian Rockies, New York, London, Bath, Edinburgh, the Lakes District and Loch Ness would all be visited again. I’d like to include more of the States and some more of England. Ireland would be wonderful. We would also like to see New Zealand. If we had unlimited funds and time we would include all these places and maybe more, but we aren’t in that position so it is only a dream for now. However, travelling around the world was only a dream before last year so I guess anything is possible.

9. What advice would you give those beginning in photography? Are there any lessons you’ve learned the hard way?

Perhaps one thing I have learned the hard way is to price yourself and your work properly. I started out under pricing myself and now it is very hard to increase those prices. Also, don’t just slap a figure on your time without calculating exactly what that price is covering. The price should cover your time to take the photo, edit it, the cost to run your gear, travel time, the power to turn on the computer, everything. If the price you are charging per photo or session doesn’t all add up to cover all your overheads you will end up broke and out of business.

If you aren’t looking to sell your work then don’t worry about all that money business. My advice is find something to photograph that you enjoy and take as many photos as you can. Learn from doing and search out photos by others that inspire you. Trying to replicate someone else’s photo can be a good way to learn.

Another thing I have learned is that not everyone will like your photos. You can take a great photo but that doesn’t mean it will be enjoyed by others. Everyones taste is different and the sooner you accept that the better it will be for you. However, don’t let these people get you down or make you question yourself and your photography.

10. So what’s next? Where do you see – or would like to see – you photography & card making business heading?

For the time being my photography business is non-existent. I enjoy taking photos but I don’t have the time to commit to expanding it beyond just a pleasurable pastime. With our baby nearly here I don’t see this changing anytime soon. The card making business will also have to take a back seat as we come to terms with our lives being changed forever. That is where I see it all going at the moment.

With that said I would like to see both growing in the future. Perhaps there will be a job change for both of us in the future and that will allow for other business pursuits. You never know what will happen. After all, photography brought Kim and I together the day I rocked up to her workplace to take photos for her Annual Report. Perhaps photography will be our future at some point.

Now Colin, please select three of your images you’d like to share with us…

New York Cross Walk

This first image was taken in New York (October 2010). It was one of the images that came about from my style change. It was shot with the camera hanging at my side as we all walked across the street. I just love the expressions on the faces of the family crossing the street.

Culzean Thistle

I thought it only fair that I show you one of Kim’s photos as well as my own. Here we have an example of my lovely wife capturing something without thinking. This was taken at Culzean Castle on the West Coast of Scotland. All she saw was the thistle, she didn’t think about the castle in the background or the angle it was shot at. I had missed this shot when we were away and only came across it once we got home. My first question to her was “when did you take that?”.

Emerald Lake - After the Storm

This last image was taken at Emerald Lake, Yoho National Park, Canadian Rockies. It had been raining heavy all day right up to the time we arrived here, and then it stopped for about 20-30 minutes. We wouldn’t have believed that could happen if it hadn’t happened to us. If the clouds hadn’t parted we wouldn’t have seen the emerald colour in the water. It was a special moment that we will remember for a long time.

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