Jonathan Fleming's Blog

A Photography Blog

Posts Tagged ‘project

52 Weeks of Suki: Interview

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I recently took part in an interview about my photography for a Czech photography website, centered specifically on my 52 Weeks of Suki photo project. The interview answers some frequently asked questions I receive about the project, and now that I’m only three weeks away from its completion, answering some questions  about my work has given me an opportunity to pause and reflect on what sort of impact this year-long adventure has had on myself as an artist.

If you follow my work but don’t speak Czech, you’re obviously not going to get very much out of the interview.  Running the link through Google Translate helps a little, but you’ll run into some weird translation here and there (example: it translated “I come back from every shoot with soiled clothing” to “I’m always a dirty house”).  Therefore, I’m publishing the full English interview here on my blog. The following is the interview in its entirety:

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Being a photographer, what makes you push the trigger and what are your influences?

I’m very much drawn to exaggerated perspectives. I love using super wide angle lenses as well as long focal lengths to manipulate the sense of space and depth in an image. I also try to seek out colors that resonate well together, like a warm-toned subject against a cool background, which makes for great contrast. Most importantly, it’s beautiful and interesting light that really makes me excited about an image, and I think photographer Joe McNally has probably been the most significant influence in my study of how light behaves. Studying his work has taught me to not just seek out good light, but to create and control it myself.

 

What inspired you to start your 52 weeks of Suki Project?

There’s a group on Flickr called “52 Weeks for Dogs.” The idea is to post a new image of your dog every week for a year. The image has to be taken and submitted to the group within each calendar week as well, which means I have to come up with something new every single week. A fellow Flickr contact invited me to join the group and give the challenge a try, and that’s how it all started.

Are you trying to pose your beautiful dog or do you have a more relaxed approach? Is it difficult to pose a dog? Has something funny ever happened to you while taking a portrait of her?

I often receive comments on Flickr or emails asking how I work with Suki to get images for the project. Some wonder how I get her to “pose,” others ask if there is a safety risk since she doesn’t appear to be on leash in most of the photos. With a few exceptions this year, all of the photos of Suki were the result of a team effort. My wife actually plays a key role as Suki’s handler as well as my lighting assistant during each shoot. Suki is always on leash to ensure her safety, and we either conceal the lead in the terrain or clone it out in post. As far as posing, we just place her in an ideal spot and she’ll sit, stand, and look around while my wife tries to keep her attention. Somewhere in between all that movement I try to time my shots to capture a look that gives the illusion that she’s striking a pose. More often than not, it’s a very difficult process, and I have a ton of failed images of her closing her eyes, looking away, or walking right out of the frame to prove it!

The funniest thing that happens to us when we’re shooting is that people will gather around and interrupt the shoot to ask what we’re doing, what kind of dog she is (for the record, she’s a Shiba Inu), or to comment on how much she looks like a fox.

What has photographing Suki for more than 40 weeks now given to you? Has it changed your perspective of her or your world?

As far as my photography is concerned, this project with Suki has given me everything. It has helped me shape and define my style as an artist. It has helped me increase my skill set because it pushes me to try new things and adapt to different environments and circumstances week after week. I don’t think I’ll ever take another photo that isn’t in some way influenced by my work with her this year.

What are the main differences between taking photos of dogs and people? Are there any?

You have much more control over the final image with a human subject, primarily because you can pose them and give them very specific instructions. You can take your time getting an exact placement of lighting and composition with a person because he or she will collaborate with you and work with you towards a common goal. Of course, on the flip side, Suki doesn’t feel awkward or self-conscious in front of a camera like a human might. Another difference is that to take an eye-level portrait of a human, you don’t necessarily have to be very low to the ground. Taking an eye-level shot of Suki requires my camera position to be almost all the way at ground level. Probably every single shot of her this year required me lying flat on the ground, which means I always come back from every shoot with soiled clothes!

Has the Flickr community helped your photography?

It most certainly has. Without the Flickr community, I never would have started this project with Suki, a project that, again, has had a tremendous impact on my photography. I’ve also been able to connect with many artists who are extremely supportive of both the project and my photography in general. Flickr is a fantastic resource and support system for artists.

What is more important in taking pictures the gear or the photographer?

Well, both need each other to create images, so I believe both elements are very important. Of course, a good photographer will create compelling images with any camera, but the right gear can allow you to push boundaries and do certain things that you couldn’t accomplish otherwise. That being said, I believe a photographer’s main focus should be, not on gear, but on the image. He or she should select the appropriate gear for whatever they are trying to accomplish. The “right” or “best” gear therefore varies from one artist to the next.

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That’s it! Hope you enjoyed reading the interview. To see the entire 52 week project in full, head over to my flickr page. You can also see a high resolution gallery of the project at my website’s gallery page at www.jonathanflemingphotography.com.

Also, check out other interviews of some amazing photographers at the website’s interview page.

Written by Jonathan

December 16, 2010 at 9:44 pm

Going Wide

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Nikon D700 + Nikkor AFS 16-35mm f/4G VRII at 20mm f/4, 1/80 second ISO3200

What a great time to be a Nikon shooter. The company has been releasing an exciting variety of new high-performance glass into its lineup, and I couldn’t help but be a part of the action! Just picked up the new Nikkor 16-35mm f/4 VRII, and I’m in love.


Nikon D700 + Nikkor AFS 16-35mm f/4G VRII at 16mm f/4, 1/320 second ISO1600

Of course, with an optic this wide, you have to really push in tight for portraits. This is Suki’s “uh, get that big fat lens out of my face” look.


Nikon D700 + Nikkor AFS 16-35mm f/4G VRII at 16mm f/4, 1/100 second ISO400

This is Suki’s “I’m not feelin’ being on top of this garbage can and am certainly not going to pretend that I’m enjoying it, so don’t bother” look.


Nikon D700 + Nikkor AFS 16-35mm f/4G VRII at 16mm f/4, 1/100 second ISO400

…and this is Suki thinking “what’s with the crooked horizon line in this shot? You’re killin’ me!” Ok not really….


Nikon D700 + Nikkor AFS 16-35mm f/4G VRII at 16mm f/4, 1/60 second ISO800

See? Suki is not as easy to work with as you might think!


Nikon D700 + Nikkor AFS 16-35mm f/4G VRII at 16mm f/4, 1/10 second ISO800

Anyway, besides being a definite go-to lens for my Suki Project, this thing will have a special place in my bag for travel, as well as city and landscape photography….


Nikon D700 + Nikkor AFS 16-35mm f/4G VRII at 16mm f/4, 1/30 second ISO6400

….or environmental portraits. I was also thinking of the 14-24 f/2.8 from Nikon, a legendary ultra wide, but size, weight, and cost considerations put me off. No regrets =)

A Dream Within a Dream

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There are still 17 weeks, 17 images left in the year for my 52 week project, and I feel like I’m completely out of concepts for images of Suki. Photo projects can be a huge drain on your creativity! This week, I had no concept in mind. We simply took a walk with Suki downtown for a few hours and when something struck me, we’d start shooting.

I actually like it more this way, this method of searching for good light, composition, and fleeting, interesting moments.  A quest for a shot of Suki turns into a photo walk, and good exercise for all of us at the same time.

This past Sunday, during our walk, I loved the light pouring through the spaces between buildings in down town San Francisco. Couldn’t help but point the camera skyward and create some images. It was calm and serene that day downtown, and the resulting images sort of remind me of the film Inception (go see it if you haven’t!).

Ok, got some cool shots.  Now throw Suki into the mix!

Score! This photo didn’t actually make it into the project (this one did), but I liked it anyway. A very cinematic shot of Suki, looking like quite the hero among the sky scrapers.

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Images: Nikon D300s + Tokina 50-135 f/2.8

A Little Photographic DIY

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It was out on the town again yesterday for Suki’s week 27 image for my 52 week project. This week I wanted to try adding an accent light into the mix, one that would provide some highlights around Suki and give the impression that she is being lit from behind by background elements. You can see a hint of this effect in the image above. Snoots are great for this. But I realized before we headed out that I don’t have a snoot for my speedlights! So I constructed my own snoot out of the finest of materials:

Here it is. Made of solid, 100% magazine paper, sealed at the seams with ultra-high-strength scotch tape and costing me a whopping fraction of a penny, this rig was placed behind Suki in the photo of her above. The snoot concentrated the light into a tight beam. Instead of spreading all over, the light just hits her back side and appears as highlights around the edges of her fur. It sort of gives the illusion that the headlight from the cable car behind her is lighting her. It’s a subtle detail for sure, but it definitely adds a great element to the image.

Here’s an example of the way a snoot shapes the light coming out of a flash head.

You can even shape the front end a little to create a sliver of light like so.

The biggest challenge for this last shoot was actually the crowds of people around us as we worked. We were approached constantly by people wanting to meet Suki and ask questions about her. Gathering in small crowds around us, they would step in and try to meet her between takes. Amazingly, she was able to focus despite all the distraction.

After all that work, it was time for a leisurely stroll through the Embaracero Center in San Francisco. I enjoyed a cappuccino while Suki sniffed every corner of the area. Such a great area of the city for photographs!

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Camera Specs for top image: Nikon D300s + Tokina 50-135 f/2.8 @ 125mm f/4, 1/80 second ISO640. (Aperture priority -0.3EV)  SB-900 through softbox camera left (TTL +1.7EV) SB-800 snooted behind subject (SU-4 optical slave, 1/8 power).

Bottom Image: Nikon D300s + Nikkor DX 10.5mm fisheye