The Doctor Is Out...Out Taking Pictures, That Is

Dr. Kornberg made this image from a Land Cruiser as he toured Serengeti National Park. "My Bert Lahr shot," he says.
Photos © 1999, Dr. Elliot Komberg, All Rights Reserved

"I used to consider myself a surgeon, a medical inventor, and a photographer, in that order," Dr. Elliot Kornberg says. "Now I consider myself an inventor, a photographer, and a surgeon. Ultimately I want to be a photographer-inventor-surgeon."

He's not entirely kidding. Taking family and vacation pictures made him a pretty serious hobbyist, but the turn to semi-professional photographer (meaning he's not giving up medicine as his chief source of income, but doesn't mind selling and exhibiting his photography) came three years ago after a state-sponsored trip to Brazil. "The Ministry of Tourism was bringing in some professional photographers, and they needed people to fill out the group," Dr. Kornberg says. "I told them I wasn't a pro photographer, but they said it didn't matter--`you have a camera, you'll take some pictures.' As it turned out the photographers took about ten thousand images, and of those, the Ministry of Tourism picked a hundred for their own publicity use. Of the hundred, eight were mine." And he did it with borrowed cameras. "I didn't have any good equipment, so I borrowed a Nikon and a Minolta for the trip."

Masai warrior, Tanzania.

With the idea that he could play in this game, Dr. Kornberg bought some equipment of his own and moved "photographer" into the second slot of his vocation list. Since then he and his N90s bodies and a selection of zoom lenses have traveled far and wide: Tanzania, Italy, Russia, France, Israel--and lots of stops in between. His photos have been exhibited in various venues and are included in at least one corporate collection.

So what's the biggest difference between shooting as an amateur and a semi-pro? Dr. Kornberg's response is classic: "I appreciate the light more." He adds, "When you start taking pictures, the obvious isn't so obvious to you. Then you realize that the medium you're playing with is light. Once you start recognizing light and light patterns, you get a better idea of what's really going to work and what isn't." At that point, he says, the other technical and compositional details "start falling into place."

"Sometimes you've just got to be lucky. I was focusing on the hippo pool and all of a sudden the egrets decided to fly." Taken in Tanzania.

Ultimately, his photography isn't about exhibiting or selling, it's about expressing and sharing. "With a camera and the right situation and light, I feel I can express myself a lot better than through any other medium."

And if a patient were to notice his photography and ask for advice on improving his pictures, would the doctor say, "Open up two f/stops and call me in the morning?" We didn't have the nerve to ask.
--Barry Tanenbaum

"The flowers make all the difference," Dr. Kornberg says of this photo, taken in Tanzania.

Taken in the early morning, Serengeti National Park, Tanzania. "We were just leaving camp and there he was."