Blood, Sweat, And Tear Sheets; Days In The Life Of A Traveling Photographer Page 2

Who decides on the location?

Most often it's the client when it's an assignment or a shoot for a stock agency. When I'm shooting to restock my own stock, I'll choose the location based on my knowledge of what's selling and what's needed. But the key thing is this: I'm not only looking for cool places in which to shoot, I'm looking for environments that have infrastructures that can support me. If I'm shooting lifestyle, I've got to find models, hair and makeup artists, stylists, a couple of PAs (Production Assistants), and a photo assistant. I can't go to the island of Lombok and find those people, and it's too costly for me to bring them with me. I stay in business by balancing the exotic and the practical.

How many hours a day do you shoot?

That can depend on how well the shooting is going. Generally, I'm always trying to maximize outdoor shooting time in good light, so my days start pretty early, usually at 5:30 or 6:00 with a cup of coffee. I think about the shoot well in advance, but my hardcore, creative-thinking time starts the morning of the shoot when I wake up. In the two-hour period around breakfast, I study, critique, and refine the shot list. I shoot until sundown, sometimes beyond. When the light's bad or gone, I have my own lights with me. I probably never shoot for less than 10 hours in a day.

How many pictures per day?

I shoot anywhere from 2000-3000 frames each day, and I'm usually in the 10 percent edit ratio--meaning 10 percent of photographs are pulled and sent to the agency if I'm doing a stock shoot. I'm shooting more frames per day with digital, of course. In my film days I shot maybe 50 rolls per day with my 35mm gear, maybe 40 or 50 rolls with my medium format camera.

Who edits?

This is not actually a question I've been asked, but I thought it might be interesting to talk about the edit. The first edit on the road is done usually by a photo assistant. It's the technical edit, and it means, simply, dump the losers. It's done at the end of the day or at night, and the only way I'll be involved is if I get a phone call in my hotel room and the photo assistant tells me, "Hey, you're screwing up, dude. You're not in focus. Change your lens or start using the tripod." When we get home, a staff editor goes through the take and picks out the keepers, and those are the ones I see.

Do you always travel with a crew?

Not always, but most often. I always have at least one assistant, and even a small production shoot involves three people: an assistant, a producer, and a general PA who is from the area and travels with us as a guide and translator. About the only time I shoot alone is when I've reserved a day for myself while on a production shoot. Then I'll just wander around, one camera, one lens, on my own, no plans, just to see what I'll find.

Is this the way you thought it would be when you started out?

No way. I thought my career as a travel photographer would at best mean that I got hired by a few magazines, and maybe I'd write a book on how to shoot travel images. Maybe I'd do a couple of lectures here and there, and maybe have an exhibit. I never thought it would turn into large-scale production, travel, lifestyle stock and assignment photography.

But I did think there was a possibility I'd have a column in a photo magazine.