Interview With Yan Zhang

I first saw Yan Zhang’s photos on 1x.com and I loved them. Then I followed the link to his own website. Needless to say – I wasn’t disappointed. Yan is a very talented and passionate nature photographer. Luckily for me and you, my readers, he kindly agreed to an interview for Photopathway.

Ladies and gentlemen please welcome Yan Zhang !

Yan Zhang

Click on the photo to enlarge.

Tell a little about yourself. What do you do for a living?

I am a computer scientist, currently working as a professor in University of Western Sydney. I have been in academia in last 16 years.

How did you get involved with photography?

Well, this is an interesting question. I had a manual SLR camera before 2007, but only used it when I travelled. In 2007 I noticed that digital SLR cameras had become more and more popular, and I decided to buy one as well. I just went to a camera shop and asked which camera was good. The shop owner showed me Canon 400D, and said this was the best camera so far. So I bought it :).

Since I had my Canon 400D, I started to shoot around and during traveling. Sometime around 2008, I developed a deep interest in landscape photography, and since then, landscape photography has become my unique focus in photography.

Church of the Good Shepherd

Photo by Yan Zhang. Click on the photo to enlarge.

 

Your landscapes are magnificent. How do you choose your locations?

I think locations for landscape photography are not as hard to find as people usually think, except for those extreme places. In fact, some of my landscape photos were taken just around my home or my work place. For instance, the following photo (Reeds) was the first photo I sold since I had my first digital SLR camera in 2007 and it was taken at an unnamed small pond near my home.  The next photo (The Touch) was taken in my university campus this July.

Reeds The Touch

Photos by Yan Zhang. Click on the photo to enlarge.

 

In general, I always pay special attention to subjects that have certain characteristics. Once I found something attracting me, I then imagine whether it would look interesting under suitable light and weather conditions. Photograph “The Touch” was made this way: In order to capture the best light and sky, I went to this location more than 30 times within 3 months.

Since I am living in Sydney, I think I am very lucky to have the access to beautiful coast areas near Sydney.  The following images were made on the East Coast of Sydney this year:

 

Under the Storm Ocean Symphony

Photos by Yan Zhang. Click on the photo to enlarge.

Nevertheless, most landscape photographers believe that travelling to those unique places probably is essential to make original and stunning photographs. In recent years, I have travelled a lot to several places overseas to make photographs. China and New Zealand are the two special countries that I go for my landscape photography, because these two countries have many unique landscape locations and are relatively easy for me to travel to.

When you are planning your trip abroad, to the place you’ve never been before, how do you decide on your photographic locations?


This is a hard task indeed. Usually, I do a lot of research before I go. Looking at other photographers’ works on those candidate locations is very helpful. Traveller’s guide is also another information source. However, sometimes I think it is more important to discover some places that haven’t been considered by other photographers. In that case, it takes me a lot of time to find such interesting places abroad.  However, once I found one, I would come back again and again to make good photographs.

 

Echo Point

Photo by Yan Zhang. Click on the photo to enlarge.

 

Where do you draw your inspiration? What motivates you?

I have a deep passion for the nature, which always motivates me to experience such a pure beauty only existing in the nature’s wilderness. For a very long time, I knew that I was so passionate about the nature, but somehow I did not know how to express that until I started landscape photography in 2007. For me, I think photography probably is the most effective way to get close to the nature.

 

Do you hike and photograph alone, or you have a partner?

Most of the time, I travel only with my camera and make photographs alone. However, since I’m living relatively close to Blue Mountains area of Sydney, almost every weekend, my wife and I spend one day hiking in the Blue Mountains. Sometimes I take my camera gear with me on our hike.

 

What photographic equipment do you use?

As I mentioned earlier, I started with Canon 400D, then in 2008 I bought my Canon 5D Mark II full frame digital SLR camera. Now I am still using it. Since I only focus on landscape photography, filters are critical to my photography. I use both Lee and Singh Ray graduated ND  (Neutral Density) reserve and graduated ND filters. I also use CPL (Circular Polarizer) filter sometimes for certain subjects such as waterfalls.

For landscape photography, I think that having a complete filter system and mastering it in practice are very critical to achieve high standard landscape photographs. A stable tripod is also essential.

 

Gibson's Beach

Photo by Yan Zhang. Click on the photo to enlarge.

 

How do you post process your photos? What software do you use, and what are the main adjustments that you perform?


I believe in the principle of “getting it right in camera in the first place” in my photography practice. During the process, I always put great efforts in the field to make proper shots. Nevertheless, post process is an unavoidable procedure in current digital photography. I always shoot in RAW format and process in Photoshop CS 5.

Generally speaking, my approach to photo adjustments in CS 5 is quite standard: first open raw file in Adobe Camera Raw, perform necessary adjustments there, then load it to CS 5 to perform further adjustments, such as using layer masks, curves, contrast, etc., to adjust the photo to meet my vision.

However, from time to time, I apply a specific Photoshop technique to do a certain adjustment. It is called Tony Kuper (TK) Luminosity Mask technique (http://goodlight.us). It is a very powerful technique allowing you to do some very subtle adjustments on certain pixels to increase/decrease their brightness, and so on.

 

Moonlight

Photo by Yan Zhang. Click on the photo to enlarge.

 

Do you have any specific goals that you want to achieve in or with your photographs?


I said earlier that I started my digital landscape photography in 2007, and I sold my first landscape photo in the same year. Since then, each year I would sell some of my photographs through various art exhibitions in my area. In September 2010, I established my own photography website. Recently I sold several large prints. As an amateur photographer, I feel I am very lucky to be selling photos.

Having said that, I should stress that my photography goal is not just to make my works to be of some commercial value. More importantly, I wish my works to be recognised by the professional photography community. This was the main motivation that brought me to get involved in 1x.com photography website’s activities.

 

 Morning Mist

Photo by Yan Zhang. Click on the photo to enlarge.

 

This one is a selfish question, but I had to ask it :). In my photographic portfolio, landscapes section, did you see a photo that you particularly liked? And if you did, what did you like about it?

Yes. I like this shot:

because this image presents a nice mood with mist in the forest. The vertical trees in the mist create a good depth of field,  which makes me try to explore this wilderness.

 

And finally, my traditional question. If you had only two advices to give to a beginning  photographer, what would they be?

My two advices for beginning photographers who are dedicated to landscape photography would be:

(1) Originality – I believe that originality is the key to make photographs that differ yourself from other photographers;

(2) Persistence – to make outstanding photographs you have to be persistent, to stick to the idea you have in mind and then try every effort to fulfil this idea or adjust it in the field.

 

The Touch The Lone Man

Photos by Yan Zhang. Click on the photo to enlarge.

 

Yan, thank you very much for this interview, and good luck in your future artistic endeavors!

You can see more of Yan’s beautiful photographs on his website:

http://yanzhangphotography.com

 

Interview With Alexander Petrosyan

Recently I wrote a post about magnificent photographer Alexander Petrosyan. I was very impressed with his work, so I wrote him an email asking for an interview for my blog. And guess what? He kindly agreed!

Everybody, please welcome Alexander Petrosyan.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

Tell us a little about yourself. What is your occupation,  how did you get interested in photography?

My introduction to photography was terribly banal: as well as many of my peers back in those years, I was presented with a camera named “Smena” on my birthday 🙂 Since then I periodically quit and came back to photography many times. Currently I am a full-time photojournalist for publishing house “Commersant”.

Photo by Alexander Petrosyan. Click on the photo to enlarge.

How many of your shots were initially conceived in your mind and then “materialized”?

I don’t have many such shots. Much more often happens the following scenario – I have an idea in my mind, but according to the situation this idea transforms into something else, which in turn on the photograph again looks different, and the viewer sees what he sees.  That’s why the title of my blog is “In reality things are somewhat different than in real life… ”

Photo by Alexander Petrosyan. Click on the photo to enlarge.

What is the story behind your shot titled “Graduates” ?

Photo by Alexander Petrosyan. Click on the photo to enlarge.

This photo was made in the most ordinary way – I saw this couple, which was very different from the rest of the crowd of graduates, and I just ran in front of them shooting continuously. Technically it wasn’t an easy shot to get using Canon 20D, because its max ISO was 1600 while I had to shoot hand-held, running backwards in front of the girls. I nevertheless managed to get a fairly sharp shot.

 

How do you manage to be in the right place at the right time?

It doesn’t happen too often, at least not as often as I would like… in simple cases what helps is the analysis and prediction of the situation. In more complicated situations I just hope to get lucky.

Photo by Alexander Petrosyan. Click on the photo to enlarge.

Isaac Newton once said, “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants”. Who are your giants?

The saying, which is actually closer to my perception is “Do not make yourself an idol”. There are not a lot of key figures in photography, and they are known to anyone interested in the subject. But to narrow the circle and take for example my colleagues from St. Petersburg, who I have met in person, I would name an urban photographer Boris Smelov, and photo-essayist Sergei Maximishin.

Photo by Alexander Petrosyan. Click on the photo to enlarge.

What are your thoughts about Cartier-Bresson’s work?

What do I think about Cartier-Bresson? Well, that’s like asking, for example, physicists, what do they think about Newton or Einstein 🙂

Photo by Alexander Petrosyan. Click on the photo to enlarge.

What equipment do you use and why?

I use whatever equipment is available to me. Currently it is a DSLRs from the publishing house where I work with a standard set of glass:16-35, 24-70, 70-200… nothing special, but it is sufficient for most of my work.

Photo by Alexander Petrosyan. Click on the photo to enlarge.

And last but not least my traditional question: if you could give just one piece of advice to a beginner photographer, what would it be?

My advice for beginners is not original, but it comes from my own experience: look at the works of masters, and shoot as much as you can experimenting a lot… and of course do not be embarrassed by critique or its absence and show your work to lots of different people… But, perhaps the most important thing is to shoot what you really love!

Photo by Alexander Petrosyan. Click on the photo to enlarge.

Thank you Alexander for your time, your knowledge, and your photographs!

If you liked Alexander’s work and want to see more of his great photographs check out the links below:

Here are the only two links to English resources with Alexander’s photos

Link 1 (Alexander is also known as Yan Petros, so don’t be surprised to see this name here)

Link 2

You can also see Alexander’s photos on his LiveJournal stream, where he adds new photos as they come, and also on Nonstop Photos website. These two last resources are in Russian, but everyone understands the visual language of photography.

 

Interview With Ursula Abresch

Ursula has very unique photographic style, and a lot of talent. I first saw her work on 1x.com and then followed to her own web site. I find it very fascinating how through abstract forms and colors Ursula manages to convey various moods, feelings, and emotions. I was very happy when Ursula agreed to this interview because I had so many questions to ask her!

Everybody please meet Ursula

Ursula Abresch

Tell a little about yourself. Are you a full time photographer?

I was born in the north-eastern part of Argentina, not too far from Iguazu Falls.  I grew up in both Argentina and Chile.  I moved to the USA to attend university, and eventually moved permanently to Canada.  I now am Canadian, living in the interior of beautiful British Columbia.  British Columbia is a beautiful province.  It’s a mountainous area, with lots of trees, lakes and rivers, waterfalls, rocks, and wildlife.  For me, it’s a great place to live.

I am married.  My husband and I have five children.  I have a degree in Education with a major in Art and History. Currently I dedicate most of my time to photography.

Do you have other hobbies?

I don’t have any hobbies at this time, although I love beadwork, hiking, and reading mysteries.

Can you describe the “mental” process of creating a photograph? What I mean is how do you decide to take a photo? Do you see something that catches your attention and photograph it, or first the idea of a certain photo comes to you and then you execute it?

It’s a variety of things.
At times I set out very deliberately to make a certain kind of image.  For example, “bounce” is such an image.  I participate at DPChallenge occasionally.  One of the challenges last year was “Point of Color”, where the assignment was to capture an image where a point of color is the main subject.

Bounce

Photo by Ursula Abresch. Click on the photo to enlarge.

I decided to photograph a group of paper strips taped together at one end for this challenge.  I entered a different photo into the challenge, but “bounce” was the result of this assignment.  The composition, the setup, everything was quite deliberate.  “Coastal dawn” is a similar story.  I had been experimenting with waterscapes, closeups of reflections on water in a pan, and I deliberately set out to create a sunset/sunrise impression.  Most of my studio work is quite deliberate.

I prefer to work outdoors though, in natural light.  When working outdoors I usually have a theme for the day.  For example, “an autumn song” and “late fall” are both made on days when I set out to capture the mood and the spirit of Autumn.  One was made in October, the other in November of last year.

An Autumn Song Late Fall

Photos by Ursula Abresch. Click on the photo to enlarge.

Sometimes I set out to work on a particular technique.  In those cases I am not so interested in the subject, but more in the potential of the subject for a particular technique.  Two examples are “bittersweet” and “burn”. The objective was to make photos that would be good for HDR processing techniques.  I think they worked well for that exercise.

Bittersweet Burn

Photos by Ursula Abresch. Click on the photo to enlarge.

Same with “needles”: the idea here was to practice using the Lensbaby.  The subject/final photo wasn’t planned, what was planned was the method.  I am happy with the result nevertheless.

Needles

Photo by Ursula Abresch. Click on the photo to enlarge.

Sometimes a photo just happens.  “Hunter” is such a photo.  I was driving home to Canyon Village in Yellowstone National Park on a rainy evening, and this scene happened.  I am glad it did.

Hunter

Photo by Ursula Abresch. Click on the photo to enlarge.

Finally there are the photos that are conceived over time and carried out mainly in Photoshop.  “Revelation” and “my BC” are like that.  “My BC” uses 2 pictures, one made in April of last year, the other in August.  They are combined in Photoshop for the final image.  The base photo for “revelation” was made in the Fall of 2009, the idea for the final image didn’t come to me until a year later, when I was experimenting with adding texture files to images to create more visual interest and intensify the story.  I think the process worked well in both instances.

Revelation My BC

Photos by Ursula Abresch. Click on the photo to enlarge.

What are your sources of inspiration?

The place where I live, British Columbia, has become an important source of inspiration in my photography.  It is a subject for some of my more representational images, and also for many of my more abstract images, where I try to reflect the essence of a subject, or where I use a subject to express emotion.  For example, many of my closeup images of the Columbia river are an attempt to reflect my own thoughts and feelings in pictures.

Painters from Canada, in particular Western Canada also influence my work.  We live in the same world, so I like to see if I can see what they saw the way they saw it.  The works of Emily Carr, especially her fantastic studies and paintings of trees, are a constant source of inspiration for my photos.  For a while, and even now, I was quite inspired by the works of Takao Tanabe, a more recent painter than Emily Carr, especially his waterscapes.  Lately I’ve been looking at works by the Group of Seven, in particular Lawren Harris and A.Y. Jackson – I find their work very inspiring!

Last, I’ve been trying to familiarize myself with at least some of the printmaking by First Nations people in British Columbia, trying to find ways to apply some of their concepts to my photography.

Do you try to learn from other photographers?

Yes.  I look at the work of other photographers all the time, and try to learn from them.  Some names that come to mind are Freeman Patterson, Dorothea Lange, Alfred Stieglitz, John Shaw, Galen Rowell, Tim Fitzharris, Irving Penn (especially his still-life work).

But as mentioned in the last question, more so than from photographers I learn from painters.

What makes great photograph to stand out from other good photographs?

Good technical skills are essential.  But photograph that stands out is a creative visual composition with one or more of the following: excellent light, captivating mood, compelling story, irresistible graphic appeal.  Not all are present in all great photographs, but some always are.  Some pictures draw you in because they tell such a good story.  Others because you can strongly feel the mood when you look at it.  Yet others simply overwhelm you with the beauty of their design.  In my view, the more characteristics combined into one photo, the stronger the overall appeal.

You have beautiful abstract photos, such as “Femininity”, “Firewater”, “Coastal Dawn”, “Drifting”. How do you create them? Is this made in camera or there is Photoshop involved?

There is Photoshop involved in all of my photos.  For me, and for any digital photographer, it wouldn’t be possible to make a final print without using Photoshop or some other photo-editing software at some stage.  Making the final print is the goal, and in the digital world you can’t do that without software.

Femininity Firewater

Photos by Ursula Abresch. Click on the photo to enlarge.

The four photos you mentioned are all done in studio.  Three (“firewater”, “coastal dawn” and “drifting”) are closeups of reflections in a pan of water.  “Femininity” is also a closeup of a reflection in a pan of water but with a glass vase partially submerged into the water as the point of focus.  Imagine being by a calm lake in Autumn, sun behind you shining on the beautiful trees at the other side of the lake.  What do you see on the surface of the lake?  A beautiful reflection of the Autumn colors.  That is essentially what I am doing here, using a pan of water and reflective materials on the far side to make closeups of these reflections on the surface of the water.  For added interest, the water in the pan is not still but moved around.  The setup is quite simple, and the results are somewhat predictable but not entirely, at least not yet, for me.  The variable is the water movement.

Coastal Dawn Drifting

Photos by Ursula Abresch. Click on the photo to enlarge.

In “coastal dawn” I deliberately put a red dot on the blue reflective material with the intention of simulating a sunset or sunrise.  I think it worked.  In “femininity” I put the vase in the water and moved water over it while photographing because I wanted an interaction between the very hard edge of the glass and the soft movement of the water.  The other two, “firewater” and “drifting” are simply closeups of the colorful reflections on the surface of the moving water.
I have to add- this method is not my invention.  I learned to make this kind of pictures from Willy Marthinussen at 1x.com.

How did you learn to use Photoshop?

I started out editing my images in Paint Shop Pro.  I switched to Photoshop in 2007.  I learned mainly by trial and error, but also by asking questions of other photographers on the net at sites such as DPChallenge. I have worked my way through a few online tutorials, and that also was helpful.

I can’t help it, but I have to know technical details. What equipment do you use?

I started out with Nikon digital because I liked the name “Nikon” better than “Canon”.  I also liked the intuitive menus, the way the Nikon fit in my hands, and the slightly less creamy look of the photos.

Camera bodies:
Nikon D200 and Nikon D7000

Lenses:
Nikon AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.8
Nikon MF Nikkor 200mm f/4 AIS
Nikon MF Zoom-Nikkor 75-150mm f/3.5 E
Lensbaby 2.0
Sigma 150mm f/2.8 EX APO Macro EX DG HSM
Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6 APO DG Macro
Tokina AF 12-24mm f/4.0 AT-X Pro DX

Other:
Manfrotto 055PROB tripod with Manfrotto 486RC2 ball head

Processing:
PSCS4 and Photomatix on a MacBook Pro connected to a Cinema Screen
HP B9180 Photosmart Pro printer

Do you use  flashes and light modifiers ?

I use available light most of the time.  I do have a Nikon SB600 flash that I use occasionally, for example in the creation of waterscapes such as the four images you mentioned in your question about my abstracts.

And finally, my traditional question: If you had only one advice to give to beginner photographer, what would it be?

Always remember that technical skills are essential, but it is artistic perception that finally makes the photo.

Thank you Ursula for taking time to answer my questions and for your beautiful and inspiring work!

If you liked Ursula’s work and want to see more you can visit her page at 1x.com or her own website at www.ursulasphotos.com/

Interview With Scott Hotaling

Scott Hotaling loves nature and outdoor activities and photography was a natural extension of his passions. Scott’s love and appreciation for nature can be clearly seen in his beautiful photographs. I was lucky to get an interview with him, and without further adieu please welcome Scott Hotaling!

Scott Hotaling. Landscape and Nature Photographer.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

Tell a little about yourself. What do you do for a living? How did you get involved with photography?

I’m a North Carolina native and I’ve spent a majority of my life exploring the southern Appalachian mountains. Despite a good bit of travel across North America and stints living elsewhere I still consider western North Carolina my home. Currently, I’m spending several months focusing solely on my landscape photography work but in January, I’ll be starting a doctoral graduate program in Lexington, Kentucky. So, for the time being, I’m working solely as a photographer for the first time in my career. As for getting started, it was simple cause-and-effect for me. I loved exploring new places but never managed to shoot photographs that translated the beauty I found to those around me. Most of the time I’m still trying to figure it out but every once in a while I luck into something good.

Scott Hotaling. Landscape and Nature Photographer.

Photo by Scott Hotaling. Click on the photo to enlarge.

How do you pick your spots for taking pictures?

For me to do my best work I have to be physically drawn to a place. It’s not uncommon for me to visit a location ten or more times under a variety of seasons/conditions before I get the photo I’m after. The process can take years but it’s one I respect and enjoy. But despite frustrations and bumps along the way, at the core of it all, is a deep appreciation for a specific place and the desire to showcase it under optimal conditions. I carefully construct what the perfect conditions would be for a location in my head then do my best to capture them. In most cases, the right conditions include a certain season, landscape condition (fall color, fresh snow, etc.), time of day, cloud cover, and more.

Scott Hotaling. Landscape and Nature Photographer.

Photo by Scott Hotaling. Click on the photo to enlarge.

What inspires you to take photos?

The natural world and the infinite combinations of light, dark, rock, plant, water, etc. that make every photograph different from the next. From a microscopic to global scale we live in an incredible place and I want to see as much of it as humanly possible, my camera simply comes along for the ride.

But, specifically, I’m particularly drawn to places with dramatic views – mountain summits, ridges, cliffs, etc. And, particularly those that aren’t easily accessed or less widely known. For example, a winter sunrise from a remote mountain summit is the best case photographic scenario I can envision.

Do you hike and photograph alone, with someone, or in a company?

Usually alone. More by necessity than choice, my schedule and plans dictate my hiking company more than my personal preference. But, I’ve been lucky to have a wide variety of wonderful people join me for adventures and that’s always much more fun.

Scott Hotaling. Landscape and Nature Photographer.

Photo by Scott Hotaling. Click on the photo to enlarge.

What photographic equipment do you use and for which tasks?

I like my kit to be simple. I don’t need nor want a bunch of stuff to lug around. My workhorse camera is the Canon 5D. I don’t subscribe to manufacturer debates over which system is better – it’s all the same to me. My 5D has gained my respect over the years because I can’t seem to break it. It falls on icy glaciers, gets soaked in the rain, sees temperatures below 0° F regularly in the winter and despite plenty of other daily torment, it never misses a beat. When it does finally die, that’ll be fine, I’ll just get another one.

From a lens perspective, people are often surprised to find out that I only have two – a Canon 17-40 f/4 L and 70-200 f/4 L. Much like my camera bodies, my lenses take a good deal of abuse and don’t seem to mind.

The often unheralded piece of gear in my bag that truly does the dirty work are my HiTech neutral density filters. I carry five, four graduated and one non-graduated, and use them nearly every time I’m out. My sunrise and sunset photos would be impossible to capture in one exposure (I don’t use any HDR or similar techniques) if it weren’t for those filters. I highly recommend any beginning landscape photographer look into purchasing a set.

Scott Hotaling. Landscape and Nature Photographer.

Photo by Scott Hotaling. Click on the photo to enlarge.

What is the average weight of your hiking backpack?

Average weight is a tricky subject. If I’m backpacking, my pack is probably in the 20-35 pound range depending on season and trip length. I try to stay as light as possible, despite carrying a tripod. If I’m only day hiking, I would venture a guess of 5-15 pounds.

I have this issue with tripods – I can’t find the perfect tripod for me. Which tripods do you use and why?

I’ve been using the same tripod for years. Many photographers would consider it too small, or too heavy, or too cheap but it works great for me. Both head and legs are made by Manfrotto – the head is a 466RC2 and the legs are model 3001BPRO.

Scott Hotaling. Landscape and Nature Photographer.

Photo by Scott Hotaling. Click on the photo to enlarge.

Recently I wrote an article about using UV filters to protect lenses. What is your opinion on that issue? Do you use UV filters?

I don’t use UV filters at any time. The only use I see for one is protecting a lens when photographing in a place that has unavoidable, major hazards to the lens glass present. From a purely photographic standpoint, it doesn’t serve any purpose in my opinion.

Scott Hotaling. Landscape and Nature Photographer.

Photo by Scott Hotaling. Click on the photo to enlarge.

Do you post process your photos? What software do you use, and what are the main adjustments that you perform?

I post-process all of my photos using Adobe Bridge for RAW conversions and Adobe Photoshop CS3 (or maybe 4?) for the rest. I avoid major processing work as much as possible – the tools I stick to are, in no particular order, spot removal, levels, contrast, color balance adjustments, and localized color tweaking. Dodging and burning is a major part of my processing as well and adds depth to the finished image.

Scott Hotaling. Landscape and Nature Photographer.

Photo by Scott Hotaling. Click on the photo to enlarge.

If you had only two advices to give to a beginning landscape photographer, what would they be?

Get off the beaten path and shoot what you love.

Thank you Scott for this great interview. I hope to see more photos from you in the future.

If you liked Scott’s photographs, you can visit his website at

http://lightofthewild.smugmug.com/

Interview with Ilia Shalamaev

Before reading this interview I suggest reading my Introduction to Interviews with Photographers.

Ilia was born in Uzbekistan. When he was thirteen he moved to Israel with his parents. Ilia’s affair with Mother Nature started when he was a young boy and continues to this day. The breakthrough in his photography happened in the year of 2000 when he bought his first digital camera, and since then you can find Ilia’s photographs in many books and leading magazines such as National Geographic, Practical Photography, The Guardian, Daily Mail, Telegraph and many more.
Ilia also specializes in bird photography and has a large collection of magnificent birds photographs.

Ilia kindly agreed to this interview and made time in his busy schedule to answer my questions.
Please welcome Nature, Bird, and Wildlife photographer Ilia Shalamaev!

Ilia Shalamaev. Nature Photographer.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

How do you choose the locations to shoot your beautiful landscape images? I mean how do you know that from a certain location you’ll get a great image?

Choosing the right location is the most difficult part of the job. I try to look for right places before I actually bring the gear to the field. Second thing is to decide in what season and hour of the day the subject will look in its best. What left is to wait for the right moment to give it a shot.

Ilia Shalamaev. Nature Photographer.

Photo by Ilia Shalamaev. Click on the photo to enlarge.

The colors in your landscapes are absolutely magnificent. Is this due to post processing enhancements, good lenses, or just perfectly chosen weather conditions and time of the day?

Most of my landscapes I take in the magic light of sunrises or sunsets, the harsh light of midday, especially in our region leaves no chance for a decent image. In addition, the right use of polarizer and set of ND Grads (Neutral Density Graduated filters) really enhances the color saturation and dynamic range of the images I take.

Ilia Shalamaev. Nature Photographer.

Photo by Ilia Shalamaev. Click on the photo to enlarge.

I understand that in order to get some of your beautiful images you had to hike quite a distance outdoors. Could you share some of your tips regarding hiking with photographic equipment in the nature?

There are some must things for traveling in the wilderness: Good hiking boots, pro backpack for the gear, light tripod, a lot of water and a light thermal jacket with you. The backpack should be very comfortable and protected from rain. As to photo gear, try to take with you the minimum you need. Usually on a hike I don’t take more than two lenses with me .

Ilia Shalamaev. Nature Photographer.

Photo by Ilia Shalamaev. Click on the photo to enlarge.

In your image “The Charm of Light” you managed to beautifully capture sun rays spilling over the waterfall.  How did you do it ?

In that case most of the credit should go to Mother Nature. Rays of sunshine on that warm morning melted the last remaining snow and filled the air with mist that joined millions tiny droplets of water, created by the 60 meters high waterfall.  All these combined created this celebration of nature.

The gear I used for this shot is canon 5D,  canon 17-40mm f/4 lens, 2 stops soft ND-Grad, tripod.

Ilia Shalamaev. Nature Photographer.

“The Charm of Light”. Photo by Ilia Shalamaev. Click on the photo to enlarge.

You are also a professional bird photographer, having a wonderful collection of high quality images.

What are the most important aspects of bird photography?

It is a bit difficult for me to pick just one so I will mention two of them:

a. Patience – you will need a lot of it, in order to success in this field of photography. Sitting for hours in a tiny hideout with 45 degrees Celsius inside, without moving or making a noise, is just one example of bird photographer’s reality.

b. Knowing your subject. Bird photographer should understand his subject and in many cases predict its behavior, in order to get intimate images of it.

Ilia Shalamaev. Nature Photographer.

Photo by Ilia Shalamaev. Click on the photo to enlarge.

I assume that technically to be able to create such shots you have to use some professional equipment. What equipment do you use specifically for your bird photography?

I use Canon gear. Canon 5dMKII body and canon 500mm f/4 IS L lens, Gitzo basalt fiber tripod.  Occasionally canon EX 580 flash.

Ilia Shalamaev. Nature Photographer.

Photo by Ilia Shalamaev. Click on the photo to enlarge.

What photographic equipment do you use for everything else?

For my landscape photography I use the same

  • 5D MKII body
  • Canon 17-40mm f/4 L lens
  • Canon 70-200mm f/4 L lens
  • Sigma 15mm f/2.8 Fisheye lens
  • BW, Marumy, Singh-Ray, Cokin, Hightech filters (polarizer, ND, ND-Grads)
  • Slick Carbon fiber tripod with RRS ball head and L plate

There is no other camera body on the market that can compete with output quality of the 5D MKII in even close to its price range, due to 5D’s full frame, high resolution sensor and its reasonable price. So it’s obvious that this body is an ultimate tool for landscape photographer. Many will say that its focus system is not match for Nikon D700 FF camera and will be perfectly right, but I don’t even use automatic focus when shooting landscapes, so it’s not an issue for me.

Ilia Shalamaev. Nature Photographer.

Photo by Ilia Shalamaev. Click on the photo to enlarge.

You also conduct nature photography workshops in Israel. Tell us about your workshops. How can people sign up for your workshops?

I give master classes of landscapes and birds photography, mostly in association with “Galitz” school of photography. Next start date, for 5 meetings Landscapes photography workshop, is in 26 of September 2010.

It has become my tradition to ask this question – if you had only two advices to give to a beginning photographer, what would they be?

1. Watch and understand your subjects before thinking about taking pictures.

2. Do not choose the easiest target – find one that not many have photographed. Better choose subject that you have repeated access to, and concentrate on it. Eventually you will obtain the pictures you first imagined.

Ilia Shalamaev. Nature Photographer.

Photo by Ilia Shalamaev. Click on the photo to enlarge.

Ilia, thank you very much for your time, effort and knowledge, and keep up the great job that you are doing!

You can see more of Ilia’s work on his

Nature Photography Website