Ron Magill is a trained zoologist and the communications director of the Miami-Dade Zoological Park and Gardens—Zoo Miami for short—and if you think that gives him an advantage when it comes to taking outstanding wildlife images, you’re right. But don’t turn the page. What’s needed to get a share of the wildlife “Wow!” factor is technique, access, and information that’s available to all. You will also need dedication and persistence. Above all, be sure to pack your patience along with your camera and lenses.
“My dad won a Nikon FM at a company-sponsored event when I was 12, and, the moment he handed the camera over to me, it was love at first sight,” Nels Akerlund recalls. Six months later, he’d built a darkroom in his basement and that love affair with photography has not abated. It carried him through the Rochester Institute of Technology, an internship with a White House photographer in the Reagan administration, and assignments for the National Geographic Society, The New York Times, and photo shoots worldwide. He shares this passion with his wife Anna, who is also his business partner and fellow shooter. Aside from weddings, Akerlund shoots architecture, food, small products, and of course portraits in his studio and on location. He and his wife operate a spacious, two-story, 2000-square-foot studio behind their home in Rockford, Illinois.
The intriguing thing about lightpainting is you never know exactly what you’re going to get. And whatever you get, you won’t get it again. That’s part of the technique’s appeal: you’re creating a one-of-a-kind photograph.
Simply, a lightpainting photo is an image made with a handheld, constant light source in a dark room or environment. The camera’s sensor captures only what you choose to illuminate. Lightpainting images can range from relatively simple to fairly complicated. Striking photos can be created indoors with nothing more than a still life subject, a tabletop to put it on, and a small LED penlight to light it. Or you can think big: how about a mega-powerful spotlight illuminating prairie land in the Grand Tetons or a mesa in Monument Valley?
In early February I went to Cuba for 10 days of photography. Long before I left I knew what I wanted to accomplish. I’d been to Cuba 10 years before, so I knew the basics of what I’d see and what I could expect. This time I narrowed down what I wanted to photograph. I wanted to shoot mostly in the old section of Havana and in the city of Trinidad. People would be my main subjects—people on the streets, in their homes, going about their lives. In Old Havana I wanted to work in the late afternoon and early evening; in Trinidad I wanted to capture people against colorful backgrounds. On this trip there wouldn’t be open country where I’d be shooting landscapes or people working in the fields; there’d be no wide-open spaces, no photos of tobacco fields or expanses of sugar cane.
“I fell into shooting the healthcare industry quite by accident,” recalls Montclair, New Jersey-based photographer John Emerson (www.johnemersonphotography.com). He’d met an art director who hired him to photograph the staff at a research lab, for Rutgers University—which remains a client some 20 years later. That was the proverbial foot in the door. Aside from that, Emerson continues to pursue his other passion: environmental portraiture of celebrities, athletes, and politicians.
In 1987, my friends Julie and Jim bought the 12-room, three-story Victorian in which they’ve raised their daughters, Megan and Emily. Early on they researched the house and the Connecticut mill town in which it’s located. They found maps that indicated the house had been built between 1870 and 1875; town records revealed much of the chronology of ownership. Over the years they renovated the kitchen and one of the bathrooms, stripped layers of paint from woodwork and doors, replaced wallpaper and made restorations and repairs. They came to realize that the original floor plan of the house was pretty much intact, though there seemed to be some changes they couldn’t quite figure out. And Julie, Jim, Megan, and Emily—they like to figure things out. Often they thought, if only there were photographs of the old house.
In June 2009, Sigma Pro director Dave Metz contacted me, requesting some wildlife images for full-page Sigma advertisements. He knew that I had been working on my first book, Animals of Ohio’s Ponds and Vernal Pools (Kent State University Press, July 2011), so he figured I could send him images fairly easily. He then made an interesting—and at the time slightly disconcerting—request: would I please photograph the animals not within their natural settings but against white backgrounds?
Since the development of photography in the early 1800s, there has always been a strong tradition of photographers using their work to promote conservation and social justice issues. One need only to look at the development of the National Park System in the United States to see the impact early photographers had on conservation. William Henry Jackson, with his 1871 Yellowstone photographs, helped push through legislation that established Yellowstone as the world’s first National Park. Another well-known example of a conservationist photographer was Ansel Adams, whose tireless efforts both as a photographer and as a 37-year member of the Sierra Club’s Board of Directors led to the establishment of Kings Canyon National Park in 1940.
What I want to capture in my photography can be expressed as the character of a place. I have to aim for images beyond “this is what it looks like here” because in my business photos have to tell stories, have to illuminate, even educate; my images should always reveal something of the culture, the history, and, most important, the lives of the people.
The majority of articles written (and classes taken) about wedding photography focus on taking better pictures of the bride and groom. By now, every photographer knows at least 20 poses they can compose in 5 minutes or less, plus several clever ways to make a plus-size bride look slimmer and her mother younger. But what about the rest of the wedding, such as taking better cake-cutting, bouquet-tossing, first-dancing, or champagne-toasting photos? It is at the reception where a photographer’s technical—and anticipatory—skills are most likely to come into play. Working in banquet rooms with poor lighting and questionable architecture are just two of the many challenges photographers face. With that in mind we talked with three top pros, Lisa Lefkowitz (www.lisalefkowitz.com), Cliff Mautner (www.cmphotography.com), and Kate McElwee (www.katemcelweephotography.com), who offer their experience in helping you make great wedding reception shots.
In his new book, Wes Kroninger’s Lighting (ISBN: 978-1-608952-54-0, Amherst Media, $34.95 US), the author and photographer draws on his experience as a portrait, commercial, and editorial photographer to present strategies that will help photographers bring out the beauty and character in all of their subjects—from kids, to businessmen, to fashion models.
High school senior photography has changed dramatically in the last few years. With looser yearbook standards and the ability to see what you get with digital cameras, many photographers who previously did major business in the senior market are now seeing sharp declines. With this in mind, I decided to ask four of the top names in the business about how they maintain a strong presence in the senior market. All have their own style and way of doing things and all are exceptional photographers.
Andy Marcus and son Brian are second- and third-generation portrait and wedding photographers. Their New York City studio, Fred Marcus Photography & Videography (www.fredmarcus.com), continues a tradition of dedicated service established by Fred Marcus back in 1941. “Back then my dad would use a 5x7 view camera for studio work and could be seen shooting portraits in bridal salons in the prestigious Bergdorf Goodman and Saks Fifth Avenue, among other venues,” Andy recalls. “When he shot weddings, he’d bring a Speed Graphic to the event—and flashbulbs.”
Portrait photographers are responsible for a lot of happiness among a wide variety of people, because well-done family pictures grow more valuable yearly. They usually portray infants, seniors, friends, and relatives, though sometimes portraits are interpretations of unusual subjects. Thomas Balsamo knows this because he has 30 years of experience photographing families and children. His work has also led him to a personal project that originated when his good will and curiosity were extended toward individuals or groups who found their portrait sittings emotionally and psychologically unusual, as well as uplifting.
“Our family came to America from Vietnam in the 1960s. When I first came to America, I came with fear. I was unsure of what I was going to find, my family had to be broken up. I had no clue if they had made it to America safely.”—Khanh Duong (Excerpt from Liana Bui’s student photo/oral history project.)