Rick Waldroup has been a member of Fotozones since practically the beginning of the original site in 2006. Over the years his photos of American street life shown on FZ have constantly fascinated us. We ask Rick 5 questions about photography and his life in this craft.
1. Tell us how you first got interested in and then later involved in photography as a professional.
I was about 8 years old in the early 1960's when I received as a gift, a Kodak Instamatic type of camera. I started taking pictures of my friends and my family. I found myself wandering around my small town taking photos of people, buildings, parks, whatever I could find to photograph. I never gave much thought about why I was taking photos of such mundane scenes, it just seemed like the right thing to do. A few years later, an art teacher gave me a copy of The Americans by Robert Frank, and suddenly, I knew exactly what I wanted to do.
That led to shooting for school / college newspapers and eventually shooting professionally for several newspapers in the Dallas area. In the 1980's I abruptly made a career move and started shooting architectural photography. I did this for over 20 years. I later shifted back to photojournalism and documentary / street work and that makes up the vast majority of my photography today.
2. We’ve seen your amazing work in photojournalism shown on Fotozones, what other genres of photography interest you (of any) and why?
I mostly admire and follow street and documentary photographers, but I also have a deep respect and a certain fascination with personal art photography or performance art photography. Loretta Lux, Cindy Sherman, and Marie Cosindas are very inspirational to me, just to name a few.
3. The personal project work that you’ve shown us in the past is always interesting. Tell us a bit about the project process and how you work through and decide undertaking a project. I’m personally interested to know if you go out and shoot for your projects specifically or if you file work you have done into projects retro-actively?
I find I am at my best when I am shooting for a particular job or project. I am focused, in tune, and usually on target as to what I want to achieve. I also find that I seem to find a deep sense of release when a project is over. At times I go out shooting with a particular project in mind, but I also hit the streets and simply shoot. what I find. I shoot multiple projects at a time. For myself, I find that this type of approach to photography is what keeps me going because my success rate or keeper rate is low, which is as it should be.
"We'll Meet Again" is project that I have been working on for several years. This type of project is long-term as I do not go out and specifically shoot for it. It is a series of street portraits which is very different from my normal street photography. I find strange, unusual looking, and eccentric characters to shoot and this project involves me actually interacting with the subjects, something I almost never, ever do with my street and documentary work.
This is another project that I would go out and specifically shoot photos for it. Being shot almost exclusively in downtown Dallas, Dream City was my attempt to capture the slightly surreal, sometimes dreamy images that can occur in everyday life in a thriving downtown area. For this particular project, I purchased a Holga lens for my digital camera and I also used a home-made set of diffusion filters to achieve the certain atmosphere that I was looking for."
"Riding the Rails." Shot between August of 2008 and August 2009, Riding the Rails documents my travels on commuter trains in the Dallas / Fort Worth area. The goal of the project was to capture images of people who ride the trains and who also frequent the various trains stations. I purchased a particular camera to shoot the photos- a Ricoh GRD II. A very discrete but excellent point-and-shoot camera that proved to be perfect for the project. Almost all of the photos were shot with the GRD. This is the type of project that I go out and specifically search for scenes to shoot.
4. We’ve seen you move from being a Nikon man to a micro four thirds shooter and now back to Nikon again. What prompted the reversal and how have you found it impacting your work (if at all)?
After decades of shooting professional Nikon cameras and lenses, in 2009 I decided to make the change to the micro 4/3 system. My first camera was the Panasonic GF-1 with the beautiful 20mm 1.7 lens. I was shifting away from carrying extremely heavy Nikon gear to a lighter platform with an amazing set of lenses at a very affordable cost. For the next 8 years I shot micro 4/3 cameras and lenses professionally and also for my personal work and for the most part, I loved the system. However, when the Nikon Df came out I remember visiting a local camera store and taking a look at the camera and I immediately thought that this might finally be the digital camera I have been looking for all these years. I finally changed systems just a couple of months ago. I do not know how to explain it, but I went back to my roots. I have found the Df to perform brilliantly in low light situations - something I shoot quite a bit of. It is much smaller and lighter than my last professional Nikon cameras, the D2H and D2x. I have assembled a great set of prime lenses and a couple of excellent zooms for documentary work. I am having a blast.
5. With all the changes in the technology of photography, how do you see things playing out in the next 10 years?
Despite my latest fling with the past, I see the photography world constantly moving, shifting and above all, constantly inspiring people to share their images world wide. Cell phone photography is the ultimate future, until that future is replaced it does not matter. We are all connected.
FZ: Tell us your story about photography - how did you come to be interested and then fully immersed in it?
AL: I’ve always been fascinated by photography. I remember early on, my parents had an old Polaroid 600 camera that they would let me use from time to time. Couldn’t really afford more than that at the time. Fast forward a few years and I start looking for creative outlets. I couldn’t draw, paint or really - do anything artistic... at least that is what I thought.
I all but gave up on anything creative. I was just documenting life with a Sony DSC-P51 point and shoot. I then met and started dating my soon to be wife. During one of our “getting to know you” dates, she asked what kind of interests I had. I mentioned photography and offered to show her some of what I had saved on the computer. I didn’t think much of it, but she really liked a lot of the images she saw and encouraged me to take it more seriously.
I had the opportunity to get a good deal on a Nikon N90s and 35-70mm f/3.3-4.5 lens with SB-22 speed light. A pro photographer in my area was getting rid of some of her gear and sold the whole lot back in early 2000’s for $100. OK...I’m going to take this seriously! And I used that kit for quite a while. Saving up what I could, learning as much as I could from books and other photographers.
Then in 2005, I had just enough to upgrade my camera. A brand new Nikon D50. For a short time I used the old Nikon 35-70 from the N90s. Not satisfied with the range of the lens, I spent a little more and was able to finally afford a Tamron 28-200mm f/3.8-5.6. And for a few years I shot that kit everywhere. On vacations, our pets, family events. Loving the instant feedback. My learning curve increased almost overnight. I was learning more and more everyday about photography, gear, people….it was great. I wanted something faster, and took the recommendation of many and purchased a used Nikon 50mm f/1.8D.
Fast forward 2008. I’m honing my skills, getting better and confident enough to share my work outside of showing them to my wife. A co-worker talks to me about how expensive it is for senior pictures and wished there was an alternative. It spurred me to think about getting into the profession. I analysed everything, did the research and in an effort to provide the people in my area a lower cost alternative for portraits, I start my business, Best Light Photographic LLC in June 2008. Having studied many famous photographers, I took the name from a W. Eugene Smith quote, paraphrased “What is the best light? Any light that is available!”
From there I got jobs, enhanced the portfolio...but made the classic mistake. I tried to be everything for everyone. I was a jack of all trades, but never had the time to master any of them. Hell, I started out as the “available light” portrait guy. Struggled on some jobs because I didn’t know understand the importance and need for getting that little SB-22 off the camera or diffused. I still had a lot to learn. With the support of my family, I pushed through and learned what I needed to learn to be successful. I enhanced my knowledge not only of the gear I would need, but of the shooting techniques, people skills, business acumen.
Still going strong on the business front. Have some returning corporate clients, shoot lots of sports and events. Get some portrait work mainly during the senior school seasons. I’m actively looking for more creative ways of using photography….always moving forward, forever learning!
FZ: What are the most important lessons you have learned in photography?
AL: Everyone has something to teach you
No matter how experienced or inexperienced a person may seem - everyone has a story to tell and a way of doing things that we can learn from. I never dismiss anyone. Even if everything they do ends up not being successful, you have the opportunity to see what mistakes they made and use that as a learning tool for yourself. As the old saying goes, we learn more from the failures than the successes.
What I like as a photographer is not always going to align with what the client/viewer likes
I learned quite early on that what I find as an excellent image does not always fall in line with the expectations of the client or viewer. It taught me that photography really is art and art as a subjective thing is something that we all will have a different perspective on. Doesn’t mean one person is right or wrong, just different.
Don’t try to be everything to everyone (jack of all trades master of none)
I tried to shoot everything under the sun when I first started out. In a way it helped me weed out those things I like to shoot from those I didn’t. The nasty side effect being, though - I stretched too thin my capabilities and often over promised and under delivered. I was decent, but not good or great. Love for the art was lost in the mindset of I have to produce and make this successful without actually defining what success was, or better yet...having a poorly formulated definition. At first, success was defined as “was I getting paid”. I retooled my thinking into, “I need to produce a product that not only does the viewer/client like...but am I proud of what I’m producing. If I put out a quality product, the jobs will come.
I’m only limited by my imagination
Technical perfection is something that we all can achieve. The limit is not in the gear we use or the technology. The limit is what I can imagine. Nothing is out of the realm of possibility. If I can think it, I can create it!
Go Out Open and Empty and Visual Pushups - Jay Maisel
Jay Maisel is probably one of my favorite street photographers producing today. I first heard about Jay when I had a KelbyOne membership and started looking around the courses for street photography videos. The courses were not about gear, exposure settings but about theory, mindset, attitude. Just all kinds of wisdom bombs, if you will. For certain jobs, I have a set plan of what I want to get, usually at the direction of a client or art director. When shooting for me, for pleasure, I remember Jay’s quote - “go out open and empty”. In a nutshell, if you go out with a preconceived notion of what you want to get - let’s say it is a bicyclist going down the street - you would spend all your time looking for that and missing out on the 20 other great things that are going on. Let the flow of the world around you pull you into a direction and capture what is given to you. Another great one from Jay, is something I still do to this day. I never leave the house without a camera of some kind. I do my daily “visual pushups”. I exercise my brain to think photographically all the time. This way I do not get stale or complacent. I credit visual pushups and street photography for enhancing my professional photography because they both have been great tools in helping me learn to read people and situations. Have anticipation for when something might happen greatly increases your chances of getting a shot not only in the street, but at an event, during a wedding or reception.
I wrote a blog post about my thoughts on Jay Maisel. More in depth reading can be done at the link below if you are interested.
Develop a thick skin
No one likes to be told that they suck, their work is garbage. Sometimes it is, other times it may just be misunderstood or underappreciated. No matter!! Push through the nay sayers. Use their criticism to analyse your work, enhance it….make it better...make it even more different. Only through the continual evolution of your craft and artistic vision do you grow.
FZ: If you could travel anywhere tomorrow as a photojournalist to cover a story for National Geographic where would you go and why?
AL: Japan. I’ve always had a pull toward the far east. Even from an early age, I would watch the Kung Fu Theater on USA channel. PBS would play Seven Samurai and other Kurosawa films. I started my formal martial arts training at the age of 10. I studied Hapkido, Shotokan, and Judo. Digging deeper into the cultures, I studied Buddism, Taoism, Zen, Chinese, Japanese and Korean culture. I always seemed to have a pull there, but never had the opportunity to go and experience it first hand.
I’d love to go there and just experience the cultures from the big cities like Tokyo, to the smaller villages in the more remote prefectures. Not only would it be a great opportunity to take some great images, but I would be immersed into a culture that I know very well, but not intimately.
FZ: You’ve used a lot of different camera equipment since we have known you on FZ, tell us about your favourite and least favourite gear experiences.
I don’t think that I’ve had a lot of very bad experiences. Every system I’ve used has had their strengths and weaknesses and deciding between them was very difficult. If I had to pick, I’d say the most disappointing experience was with the early Fuji X system. I absolutely loved the image quality and the analog control systems. The overall system speed, auto focus speed and system quirks had me move away from it into the Micro Four Thirds camp.
My favorite experiences have come from my Nikon systems. My most favorite camera of all time is the Nikon Df. It just fits my personal shooting style and ethos very well. It has a wide range of capabilities of accepting lenses from all generations of Nikon glass. Followed closely behind the Df, is the olympus PEN-F. Having used many Micro Four Thirds cameras in a personal and professional manner, the PEN-F reminds me of a mirrorless version of my Nikon Df.
Most recently, I have been finding the joys in using manual focus lenses in Nikon F mount on both the Df and adapted to the Olympus PEN-F.
FZ: If you could pick 5 different photos from your work to be the only ones in your portfolio, which would you chose?
AL: Brian Shaw - Strongman. In the sports area, this image of one of the top Strongmen in the world, Brian Shaw, is one of my favorites. You see the power, the determination and the perceived ease at which this man dead lifted this tremendous weight.
Warrior Painter. This was a spec piece, with very specific requirements from the client. This work allowed me to use my own creativity to show an artist and their personality. This is how I prefer to shoot portraits. Not just a well lit image of the subject, but showing a part of them and their personality in the finished product.
The Wedding Kiss. 50 years ago, this couple married and decided to renew their vows. I was honored that they asked me to shoot their ceremony. The church gave great opportunity to use it’s colorful background to make the couples kiss memorable. The framing, lighting...everything just comes together so well. The couple loved this shot and is now living in their home as a large canvas.
Zombie. A local, annual event the Zombie Walk Columbus allows those who are interested in dressing up and walking the streets as a zombie the opportunity to do so. The event collects money and canned food for donation to a local food pantry. This image captivates me as we have the out of focus foreground element with the ominous zombie having spotted me in the background.
Dog In The Middle. What I think an interesting street photography shot should be. I like the monochrome conversion, the out of focus renderings as well as the depth of this image. The dog is the star, but would not be as interesting, IMHO, if the group was not encircling him.
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Michael Erlewine is a long time member and contributor to the material found on Fotozones.
1. Tell us about your journey in photography. Where did you begin and where do you think you might end up?
In 1956 my father, who was an amateur photographer loaned me one of his cameras for a six-week journey around the country with kids my age in several school buses. The camera was a Kodak Retina 2a, along with a light meter, some close-up lenses, and a small tripod. I was shooting 35mm slide film. When I came back from the trip and Dad had the rolls of film developed, he was shocked at how good they were. So, that was the beginning. I was 14 years old.
I was trained as a naturalist, a herpetologist, specializing in salamanders and was very active in that until late in my teens. That also required some field-guide type of photography. I have had cameras most of my life, including early (and current) video cameras, 4K, etc. I see photography as an attempt to capture impressions. I have run a meditation center where we live since the 1980s and somewhat early-on I mixed what is called Insight Meditation with my photography, so the process of taking photos is more important to me than the resulting photos.
2. Your close-up work appears to be very technically challenging. What has been the most complex project you have done in terms of input?
I once photographed 33,000 concert rock posters for a project. It took a couple of years. I built my own vacuum table and light setup, etc. Otherwise, most of my work is still life, close-up (not macro), and requires a fair amount of patience, since I sometimes stack 150 images into a single photo. I live in mid-Michigan on the edge of the Manistee National Forest, some 900,000 acres of woods, etc. We have cold winters, so I split my time being outside in the summer, but inside during most of the winter. I have a small studio in my home and a large studio about one block from where I live.
3. Of all the cameras you have used, including film, which is your favourite and why?
That would be the Nikon D810, because of its low ISO of 64 and fairly-usable LiveView. I have never even used the Optical Viewfinder, except to check that it works. I specialize in APO (apochromatic) lenses, lenses that are highly corrected for the various aberrations. I also do a considerable amount of my work on technical cameras, my Nikon D810 mounted on the Cambo Actus, a small technical camera with most of the various movements, like tilt/shift and swing. I have a good-sized collection of industrial lenses, like the Printing Nikkors, Noct Nikkor, various special enlarger lenses, and the like. I also have a new Hasselblad X1d mini Medium-Format camera that looks like it is going to produce very good images, so I am working with that.
4. What gear do you recommend for somebody who perhaps would like to do macro/close up photography but isn’t able to afford the specialist exotic lenses and bellows setups?
Those on a budget might do well by getting something like the Nikon 7100/7200 camera (a small DSLR) and a lens like the Micro-Nikkor 105mm VR or Micro-Nikkor 60mm lenses. I very much believe good equipment is a big help, so I am not going to tell you to just use any old camera, tripod, head, or lenses. Own something that you are proud of and that can produce really excellent images. In my opinion, that really helps.
5. What is the best piece of photographic advice you ever received that you can pass on?
Follow your own sensitivities as far as creating photographic impressions. Do something that pleases you, rather than for others. Plus, post-processing usually demands more time than taking the photos. I have a number of free books, articles, and videos on photography, which are available here.
Here is the best advice I know of:
The poet Gerard Manley Hopkins came up with a concept that struck me as true. He even made up his own word to describe it, “inscape.” Inscape was to Hopkins an insight into the eternal or beautiful, literally the way or sign of the beautiful. Let me explain.
I look forward to my trips out into the fields and woods. They offer me a chance to get my head together, to relax from the day-to-day grind of running a business and generally to relax a bit. This is not to say that just going outside and walking in nature means that I am instantly relaxed. That usually takes time.
It is the same with taking photos. In the first ten minutes of a morning shoot I often don’t see all that much to photograph. This too takes time, time for me to slow down, open up, and ‘see’, to let the natural beauty all around me in. It could be that I am still filled with all the workaday-world thoughts, the things I have to do, problems, and what-have-you. It takes time for my mind to relax and let go of its constant chatter. This endless worry and thinking affects my photography.
And here is where the word ‘inscape’ comes in. As I get out there and wander through the fields or wherever, I gradually start to slow down and gradually I begin to see things that are beautiful, scenes that I might actually want to photograph. Slowly my view of the natural world around me starts to open up again and I begin to view things differently. I begin to ‘see’. It takes time and usually does not happen all at once. This little pattern of leaves over here or the way the light comes through the forest canopy, grabs me just a little bit, and the chatter of my mind begins to pause and slows. As I continue to walk along, some little thing or scene appears beautiful to me; I am touched by it, however lightly at first. I gradually get distracted from my daily distractions and begin to center. I wake up.
These little moments are ‘inscapes’, ways out of my mundane world of distractions and into the beauty of nature or, more accurately, back into the state of my own mind or being. As I take my time, I am able to see the beauty in things once again, and what I am seeing suddenly seems worth photographing. Like most of us, I photograph what catches my interest, what I find beautiful or worthy in the world around me.
These inscapes are signals that catch my attention, and they flag me down on my busy way forward to nowhere-in-particular. These moments and signs are how I stop going nowhere, and manage to almost miraculously arrive somewhere once again, perhaps only at my own peace of mind. This is one of the functions of the beautiful, to catch us in the turmoil of life, flag us down, and induce us to pull over and take a moment of rest. Time out.
These moments of inscape are different on different days, and different for different people. They represent the clues or signs that catch our attention and show us the way into the beauty of the natural world, actually into the beauty of our own mind. Another way of saying this might be: what is beauty actually? What happens when we see something beautiful?
Beauty is not simply somewhere out there in nature waiting to be found, but always here within us, locked within us, we who are seeing this nature, we who can now see the beautiful. Beauty breaks down the rush of the everyday world and opens our heart a wee bit, making us vulnerable again, open to experience and input.
Through natural beauty we go inside and experience the inner beauty of things, which is none other than our own inner beauty. That is what beauty is for, to be touched on, seen, so that we find once again the beauty within our own hearts that we may have lost through the distractions of our daily life. We look outside in nature to see in here, to see into our own heart once again.
We can be sensitive to beauty in our photography. I would hate to tell you how many photographs I have of this or that butterfly or critter that are perfectly good photographs, but are empty of magic or meaning. They are well lit, well composed, and have everything that makes a good photograph except that ‘magic’ that keys or excites me. Instead, they are ‘pictures’ of a butterfly, but they have not captured any essence of anything. They might as well be in a field guide – snapshots in time with no meaning and for no one.
The reason for this, so I tell myself, is because they just happened to be there, photographic opportunities. I saw them and I took a photograph, but at the time they did not instill or strike any particular beauty in me. This, to me, is what I call “gotcha” photography, taking a photo because I can, not because I saw beauty in it or was moved to do so. There was no inscape moment, no moment of vision – snapshots only.
I find that it is really worth paying attention to what strikes me as beautiful or meaningful and photographing that, rather than just photographing the Grand Canyon because it is there or I am there. A lasting photograph, in my opinion, requires more of me than that, by definition. It has to mean something to me and, for that to happen, I need to actually be moved or inspired. Photographs that have special meaning for me usually have some form of inscape into a special moment that inspires me to capture the scene in a photo.
We can wander for miles looking for something to photograph, chasing down this or that butterfly or animal… searching. Or, we can slow down and let nature herself show us the signs, the inscapes through which we can relax and begin to ‘see’ naturally and photographically once again. We can listen to our own intuition. This process of inscape, of insight into the sublime in nature (the sublime within ourselves) I find to be the key to good photography and to creating photographs that are real keepers, at least in my mind.
If we don’t touch our own inner self in our work, we touch no one at all, but when we are touched by a moment, I find that others also feel this. Touch one, touch all.
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The second of our 5 Questions series is from none other than @Ann Shelbourne, who has become one of Fotozones most prolific members since first joining in 2009.
1. Why did you pick up a camera?
The first time that I ever handled a camera was when I was about nine: but I was cheated and only realised exactly how much later.
A Great Aunt, bearing a camera loaded with Kodacolor film, visited us. I asked if I could have a turn with her camera and was told: “Certainly you can — in a minute”. When she later sent us prints I couldn’t understand why none of my shots were included — the devious old so-and-so had finished and wound-off the film before letting me have my turn!
Someone must have noticed my interest because they bought me a Coronet box camera. I read the instructions and followed them very carefully and when all twelve shots on my first film turned out perfectly, I was hooked! (I still have all of those photographs.)
Soon dissatisfied with taking static snapshots (with the sun behind me), I tried action shots and indoors shots and, of course, the results were dreadful. The Coronet was not designed for those antics so a much better camera (with adjustable lens and shutter settings) was lent to me.
[Years later, when my own children wanted cameras, I remembered my frustration with that Coronet and bought them proper adjustable cameras from the start.]
Then I bought a book about Photography and discovered that it was possible to develop and print one’s own pictures — and my path forward was probably set in concrete (although the stained paintwork and towels in our bathroom-turned-darkroom were the somewhat unfortunate by-products of that adventure).
After School I was extremely fortunate to be granted a place on the Photography Course at the Guildford Art College where I could learn the correct way to do things and eventually I acquired a properly equipped darkroom of my own.
For me, it has always been the total hands-on experience of both taking and making my photographs which has mattered. I have consequently processed all of my own work from the beginning and have never used outside labs or photo-finishing services. It saved a lot of money too if I did the processing myself but, more importantly, doing my own processing and printing has always given me a lot of pleasure and a sense of achievement when I get the results that I am chasing.
2. What kind of photography brings you the most joy, and why that type?
Tackling any subject which is difficult or challenging; or which leads me to learn about the subject matter itself; or causes me to master a new technique; is the most fun and most stimulating.
It is the subject matter itself that fascinates me and makes me want to dive in and research it more deeply; and then I love being able to use the camera as a tool to portray its unique features and qualities and to tell its story as effectively as possible.
Projects of this kind have included the creation of several Museum exhibits where researching the subject, and writing the text, has been as much fun as taking and printing the photographs and then creating the supporting printed materials.
At one time I was deeply involved in photographing very fine antique silver, high-end jewellery and precious stones; bronze sculptures; and Middle Eastern antiquities. I consequently became fascinated by these lovely pieces and bought a lot of books on those subjects.
“The Sands of Time”: photographed for Topaz, Knightsbridge, London for a full-page ad. in Vogue
“The Last Golden Age of the Cameos 1890: ‘Satyr enjoying a nymph’ “.
One of many photographs which I shot for the Ad. campaign of Hancocks, London.
A Sassanian gold vessel (possibly an incense burner) circa 224-642 AD; shot for a London Gallery
Persian Ceramic circa 1000 BC. Translucencies formed by the glaze over burned-out rice-grains which had been embedded in the soft clay before firing.
I am always intrigued by how things are manufactured, in various industrial processes and in new technologies so I have been involved in many very varied projects for different industries. Most of them have been more pleasurable experiences than taking the photographs for the brochure which I created for a German manufacturer of Sludge Pumps.
[No, you do not need a graphic description of what Sludge Pumps do: suffice it to say that I felt that the Clients might find it appropriate to incorporate “Scratch and Sniff” patches in their brochure!]
Sludge Pumps in the Furnace Room in the Water Pollution Control Plant at Duffin Creek,Toronto.
Whether it’s about the unique aspects of a client’s product, his industry or a new technology; or whether it introduces me to the history and art of an ancient civilisation; or makes me want to know more about the plants and animals of the natural world; it makes no difference — I am excited by the mere chance to see, experience and learn about the new things to which the camera has drawn me.
I have photographed so many different things including complete ranges of products for catalogues and extended sets for editorials ranging from Horticultural supplies, operations in an Oil Exploration company’s Labs., Playground equipment, Wood-working tools, Hand-enamelled boxes, a unique hunting gun, Swedish glassware, and specialised machine tools — among many others.
Horticultural Products (one of a series shot while the growing-season progressed to Harvest).
“The Last Elephant Gun”: photographed for Holland & Holland in 1973 and now in a Texas museum.
Precision Machine Tool used for orbital head-forming and parts-assembling.
Perhaps my cameras have always led the way and I have just followed along; but those cameras have led both me, and my family, into some incredible journeys and global adventures in general. And (but only very recently and since the advent of fast and sophisticated DSLRs) into the pursuit of Wildlife photography and to fabulous expeditions to Africa and Asia.
I had signed-up for Dallas and Pepe’s very first NG Safari on the spur of the moment (which is the way that I am usually inclined to do things!) and then realised that I had absolutely zero experience in photographing wild animals and no suitable lenses either.
The first thing I did was to buy a membership-pass to the nearest Zoo; followed by the rental (and subsequent purchase) of my 200-400mm lens.
I practised diligently on the Zoo animals and was both surprised and delighted with the photographs which I obtained during that first trip to Africa and I think that I became hooked on Wildlife photography from that moment.
Wildlife photography has been particularly rewarding; not only because of the knowledge that I have accrued about the creatures themselves and the ecology and history of their territories; but also because of all the amazing and wonderful people from all around the World that I have met as a result.
Lioness and Cubs at Sabi Sabi in 2016,
Mud-wallowing Hippo on the Chobe River in 2015
3. If you were in charge of camera design at a major manufacturer describe the features and aesthetic of the flagship camera you would have made.
There would be nothing more for me to do: Nikon have already done it with their D5!
That camera is sheer perfection: it seems to be capable of photographing any subject, under any conditions, infallibly. Just handling that camera is thrilling. I have never owned such a superb machine before and I can think of nothing that I would change about its design.
On second thoughts, there is one small thing that I would change: that button on the back of all Nikons, including the D5, which is labelled “Quality”.
This dangerous button (which is not custom-programmable) is hazardous because it can lurch you into shooting JPEGs instead of RAW if you press it inadvertently in the dark—although at least on the D5 it is now illuminated at night.
4. What is the best photography assignment you have ever had as a professional?
One’s first big account always remains memorable and I was given the wonderful opportunity to roam freely around the huge Tate & Lyle sugar refineries in London in the early ‘60s photographing whatever I wanted in order to make a series of eye-catching colour cover photographs for their in-house magazine and for their Annual Report.
Unloading Raw Sugar from a barge on the River Thames in 1964.
When Tate and Lyle introduced new packaging, they asked to photograph one of their new displays in a Super Market together with some models. It was as a bit tricky because we could only have access to the shop during normal opening hours when we had to contend with customers who were trying to shop while we needed quite a lot of space for studio flash units, trailing electric cords, camera, live models and Tate & Lyle’s Product Manager.
A very confused two-year-old Julian being remonstrated with by his stage Mom for eating the sugar (which I had just told him to eat!). Nicola played the part of a superior Big Sister.
I always shot colour negative film and made my own colour prints which went totally against the accepted practice during the Film Era when virtually every other professional photographer shot all colour on Transparency film.
By working with prints I had total control over the final colour balance and, once the Separators and Plate Makers had been persuaded (rather firmly!) that this was the way it was going to be, my clients found that they got very accurate colour reproduction from my photographs so that is possibly why I was given so many great projects.
Another interesting job was shooting a series for the covers for a Lawyer’s magazine when I was given free rein to come up with whatever relevant ideas I could. These ranged from photographing Magna Carta, the Inns of Court in London and various accouterments which were part of the legal world.
The wig and robes of a High Court Judge. I arranged with his clerk to borrow them for photography but I am not sure if the Judge himself ever knew about it.
The book on the table was printed in 1599.
The wig and silk gown of a Queen’s Counsel Barrister.
Close-up of the top left corner of the Salisbury Magna Carta which lists the names of those present at the sealing of it by King John at Runneymede in 1215.
One extensive project involved me in photographing several hundred different historical objects which had been assembled for an exhibition in a New York Museum entitled “The Jewish Community in Early New York 1654-1800”.
A professional Exhibits Designers company had been hired by a prominent New York family to create a travelling photographic version of the exhibit and they commissioned me to take the photographs and make all of the colour prints — many of them as large as 30”x 40”.
The travelling version of this exhibition was first shown at the Hudson River Museum in New York before moving to Washington (where President Gerald Ford opened it). It then moved on to the Spoleto Festival and finally found a permanent home in Israel.
I learned so much about Display techniques from that company which later proved very useful when I was asked to design exhibits for museums and for Industrial Trade Expos.
Some of the panels in the photographic representation of the “The Jewish Community in Early New York 1654-1800” Exhibition.
I have been incredibly fortunate to have had so many very different projects over the years but the most satisfying have been those where I have been allowed almost unfettered control over the complete project from concept through all stages of production to delivery of the final materials.
This has involved me in complete advertising and marketing campaigns from the preliminary basics of designing the Logo and company stationery; establishing the marketing thrust; dealing with all aspects of publicity and promotion including the design and construction of booths for Trade Expos, preparation of press releases, building of web sites and production of Print materials together with all the necessary photography and copy-writing along the way.
One example of that was when SSMC (Singers) asked us to produce everything needed to launch their new invention: a system for remotely monitoring the state of the batteries which are used to fire-up generators during a power-outage.
This very utilitarian product consisted of a distinctly unprepossessing black plastic box and a translucent white Tupperware container attached to a probe!
First,the product needed a name and then to be registered and trade marked. Once we had done that, we designed a Logo which could scale to be used on everything from Business Cards, letterheads and on the sides of trucks.
Next I shot night-time photographs of the sorts of places which must never lose power and which depend on reliable generators. Locations included a hospital, the control tower of an international airport, a shopping mall, a high-rise residential building and a high-security jail. (This series led to a few exchanges with security police who were very concerned as to why I was prowling around such places with a camera in the dark!).
We then designed and produced brochures, Direct-mailing pieces, press advertising, press releases and a booth for Industrial Expos.
Just two plastic boxes . . . with some fairly sophisticated circuitry inside them.
The PowerAlert Booth on set-up day at the International Electric & Electronic Expo at the Jacob Javits Center in New York.
It is fairly unusual for a photographer to be allowed that amount of freedom but for the past 40 years that has been the situation in nearly all of my commissions.
This came about because my husband and I always seemed to get ourselves deeply involved in the other one’s activities so it was probably inevitable that I got drawn into his work for the clients of his Advertising Agency.
I have always felt that it was essential to have a total understanding of the next man’s job so that I could hand-off my work in the way that best fits his requirements in the chain of production.
I soon realised that I needed to acquire a thorough knowledge of Colour Separations, Pre-Press production, paper stocks, inks and coatings, and the actual running of an Offset printing press because, only by understanding these things, could I be sure that I co-ordinated everything between the different trades and coaxed their very best work from them and could also ensure on-time delivery for the Agency’s clients.
That inevitably led to me to take responsibility for far more than just the photographic part of the job and consequently I have always made a point of being “On-Press” (with my 10x loupe in my hand and with my nose almost in the ink-troughs!) when my jobs run.
When Offset Litho Printing “went digital” in the late eighties, I quickly realised that I needed to master the new technology and that catapulted me into the world of electronics: first with computerized PhotoType-Setting machines and then professional Graphic Arts software. This was the catalyst for my continuing fascination with the industry’s on-going growth and development.
I continued to shoot only on film until 2008 because, until the arrival of the Nikon D3, digital cameras could not begin to match the results which I could get from Film.
The complication with shooting on film before the invention of Photoshop was that all of the objects and lighting effects had to be perfect when you fired the shutter as no compositing after the event was possible!
Most of the images included in this article were shot on film and are scans of the prints which I made at the time they were shot.
5. If for any reason you couldn’t take photos anymore, what would you do to occupy your time?
I have so many interests, and have explored so many different tools and technologies over the years, that I cannot imagine ever being at a loss for things to do — although I would definitely miss being able to use a camera.
I love growing things, making things and fixing things. I am keenly interested in, and involved in, the development of software for the graphic arts. I get enormous pleasure from the Visual Arts (classical) but I also follow new developments in the Sciences with considerable interest.
Distant countries (and their traditions and their cultures) have always been a magnet and I love learning more about them — preferably by actually going there.
I read a lot — not only technical manuals (although I do read a lot of those too!) but also anything factual (including biographies) although almost no Fiction.
I reckon that I am addicted to collecting what most people would consider to be “Useless Information”; and I also like to write.
I am one of those lucky people who are never bored — and no day ever seems to be quite long enough.
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By Andrew L (gryphon1911)
I follow all your posts with amazement. You capture great images.
Now, with this article, I think I get to know you a bit better and that will make all the things you've shared and will share in the future much more special to me.
Great article, thanks for sharing with us.
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