Elegant but Edgy

Interviews and Spotlights

Interview with Victor Koos – Photographer and Graphic Artist in Detroit, MI

In the continuing series of interviews with photographer friends of ours, we would like to introduce Victor Koos, who calls Detroit, MI home. We met Vic through the online photo site Flickr several years ago and have become good friends. We visited Vic and many other great photographers in August 2011 and are heading back up there in November 2011 to hang out, shoot another friend’s wedding and explore some of the interesting sights that Detroit has to offer.

Meltphace 6 by Victor Koos (VK3Photographix)) on 500px.com
Meltphace 6 by Victor Koos

Vic, we’d like to hear some of your thoughts on things, especially photography, Detroit, music and your ongoing projects!

  1. When and how did you get started with photography, and how did you get so good at post processing techniques?

VK: As far as I can remember, I’ve always had a camera in my hand. I got that from my Father at a young age. College is when I decided to take it more seriously and figured I should probably take some classes so I could develop my own prints. In terms of post processing, I think it is a life long ongoing learning process. I don’t think you ever get to a point where you say, “Ok, I can’t go any further.” That said, that makes it somewhat of a struggle. I look at techniques I came up with a few months ago that I was really happy with, and now see flaws. I guess I always feel I need to improve and that’s what makes me successful with the processing.

Rachel: Noise IV by Victor Koos (VK3Photographix)) on 500px.com
Rachel: Noise IV by Victor Koos
  1. What’s your favorite subject matter to photograph? What do you attempt to capture when you set out to shoot?

VK: That is probably the most difficult question for me to answer. I can say I don’t like shooting flowers or cats. As what I like to shoot? Really it’s what is in front of me. Of course I love photographing people. However, they aren’t always at your disposal. I spend so much time in Detroit, so I shoot what is there. I try to be honest. I shoot the abandoned buildings because I think they are beautiful in their own right. Of course they are part of Detroit whether I like it or not. At the same time I try to catch the hidden gems that people, even 15 minutes outside of Detroit, don’t even know about. To make it simpler, I guess you could say I like shooting my environment. Of course, its up to me not to get stuck in one place.

History by Victor Koos (VK3Photographix)) on 500px.com
History by Victor Koos
Own the Sky by Victor Koos (VK3Photographix)) on 500px.com
Own the Sky by Victor Koos
  1. We know you have some projects in the works, can you tell us a little bit about it?

VK: A while back I decided to start a photography book showcasing some of my work. Gradually the subject matter turned to a mix of design and photography. Visually, I want people to see sound in the imagery. Hence the title of the book is Visual Resonance, which was influenced by a project I was assigned to do back in school that asked us to show sound through images. Some of the imagery is going to be rather simple, maybe showing actual film noise, others will have more graphic elements added. The vast majority of the photos will consist of people who have volunteered to take part, all of which I am very grateful, since the book will be printed by blurb with all extra profits going to Autism Speaks.

Shannon: Noise by Victor Koos (VK3Photographix)) on 500px.com
Shannon: Noise by Victor Koos
  1. You live in Detroit, what are your feelings on the so called “urban decay” and what inspires you about the area?

VK: I have mixed feelings to be honest. It’s a double-edged sword. I love shooting the urban decay because let’s face it, Its almost like a fantasy world. One of which I wasn’t used to growing up. Then again, I question whether I contribute to all the outside negativity that is placed on Detroit by doing so. I post a photo of Hitsville USA next to a photo of the MCS (Michigan Central Station) and everyone wants to talk about the decay of the latter. What inspires me is with all the negativity; there is still plenty of hope. I love the art scene and the core group of photographers in the Detroit area. Its like no other. There is a lot going on in that aspect that I wish more people knew about. That’s why I loved the Palladium Boots documentary on Detroit with Johnny Knoxville. Say what you will about Knoxville, it was one of the more honest unbiased documentaries I’ve ever seen. Sure it shows the decay and ruin, but at the same time it shows the vibrant art scene and the young entrepreneurs Detroit has to offer.

It may never be perfect, it still can be great

  1. Where do you see yourself going with your work over the next couple of years?

VK: Wow. Another tough question. My thought process for my work is generally present day. I’m always in the now. With my work schedule, I lack sufficient sleep so its hard to focus forward. Hell, the outcome of a photo usually differs greatly from the original idea. Even if I said “Over the next to years I want to explore this” chances are I would explore “that”. Hopefully I don’t have a nervous breakdown and end up shooting flowers and cats.

Mia by Victor Koos (VK3Photographix)) on 500px.com
Mia by Victor Koos
  1. Tell us a secret, we promise to publish it!

VK: I prefer Miracle Whip

Revolution

Thanks for sharing your thoughts and images with us Vic!

Vic also happens to have a fantastic sense of humor and is an all around cool guy.  We are really happy to call him and his wife Rachel friends, and can’t wait to see them again.

You can see and follow more of Vic’s awesome work here.

http://www.vk3photographix.com/

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An Interview with Light Painters

A few weeks ago, I did a blog post about light painting, and I thought it would be cool to have some friends share their experience with everyone.  With me are three Light Painters and photographers, Mike Ross (TxPilot), Jake Ramirez (DigiCord) and Andy Dufeau (Pixelated~Light).  All of these amazing guys call Texas home, and we have had some fun times hanging out and light painting together.  I should note that we did part of this interview during a two and half hour road trip for a LP session of epic proportions.

Guys, we’d like to hear some of your thoughts on things, especially light painting and photography, but anything is game!

  1. When and how did you get started with light painting?  Who were your influences?

Mike:  I started light painting on the 4th of July in 2009 with my nieces and nephews writing their names with sparklers while I was doing some long exposures of fireworks. I was already on Flickr and being curious, I did a search on long exposures with lights and found an incredible shot posted by another Flickr member that goes by tigtab . The shot was one that she did using a light stencil of butterflies that just blew me away! I started experimenting with different light sources and doing silhouette shots using different techniques, while spending a small fortune on different light tools in the process! Having a background in electronic and computers, I thought a lot about programming various lights and LEDs to create images with light, my ultimate goal was and still is to paint the Mona Lisa with light.

Jake: Well it all started because Adri (other half of DigiCord) was into photography and one day out of pure boredom and luck I found the website DIY Photography and the main page had a tutorial by a fellow named TCB on a Light Wheel he used to create some tunnel shots. After a bit of research on Flickr I made me a wheel and took some not so great photos in our living room but was instantly hooked. At the time i knew nothing about photography so with the help of Adri and TxPilot (who was the first person to message me about being a fellow Texas Light Painter woot woot!!) I started learning the wizardry of the Camera. I had a background in electronics so I soon ordered some LEDs, bought various cold cathodes and we started our adventure into the night. We have met a lot of awesome people, Mike has been a tremendous help and mentor. I have managed to make some great friends with light painting through our meet ups and done some crazy shit with you know who….(points at Andy!  He is probably climbing something as i type this).  DigiCord’s first photo posted to Flickr was of an Orb (shown below) in November 2009, which has been the bane of my existence for quite some time now but I love it and making all of the other various light tools I have created. One day…..I will rule the world with an orb….

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Andy:  I started way back in ’96,but not with my own camera. I shot with my brother Eric and his Sears badged Pentax K1000. So he got me started. We did simple stuff like outline each other with sparklers, shoot jumping jack fireworks, play with black lights, lasers, x-mass lights, parking lot light globes, you name it. I started doing my own stuff in ’03 with my 1st camera a Nikon FM10. and my 2nd Graflex 22 medium format. I did mostly just lighting buildings and broken down cars. The 1st light painter I was inspired by was was Troy Paiva aka Lost America. I was mesmerized by his full moon lit shots of America’s waste lands. Living in city like Austin TX I couldn’t just go out and find a yard of rotting cars and planes, so I never masted that form of LP. It wasn’t till I joined Flickr in ’07 where I found the real light junkies. Tdub303, {tcb}, Jannepaint, Captain Blithering, and all the other light junkies really opened my eyes to what is possible in front of the camera. In ’09 I tried my 1st serious light painting shoot, I was blown away with what I had created. I was hooked! Shortly after that I met Digicord, (you Greg) and the rest is history… Digicord and I shot every chance we had and learned so much.

  1. So everyone is going to ask…how the heck do you light paint anyway?  Give us the details!

Mike:  I usually compare light painting to photo long exposures of freeways in the city at night where you see headlight and taillight trails of cars but do not see the cars. Most people have seen those shots and can understand the concept of long exposure times with the car lights leaving trails like that. You have to set your camera to bulb for the super long exposures for the more complex light painting shots, typically using a remote trigger. I usually set my camera to f/13 – 16 range and 3 to 10 minutes exposures on average depending on the brightness of the tools and the ambient lighting involved. This is to keep the shots from being overexposed. One of the benefits to the stopped down aperture is nice starbursts on some of the lights that I use. This is also affected by the shape of the aperture opening as well.

Depending on the type of image I want to create, I may use one of the tools I built for the purpose, such as the light-painting multi-tool (shown below), which allows me to attach various light tools and manipulate the angles and arcs that the tool goes through to create shapes for the image. For example I can create a planet with rings with a combination of these tools or a dome or ball of light.

Jake:  Personally I have just started telling people its magic…..I borrowed Harry Potters Wand…duh. jK. First things first is u need a camera with a bulb setting. I try and explain to people that bulb setting keeps the shutter open and in a dark place any light movement or ambient light is captured by the camera. This is why i say magic, because I don’t even understand what i just said haha..I will leave the explaining to the pros haha. but you can check out my Orb tutorial for a little bit more elaboration.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/digicord/sets/72157623437879847/

Andy:  That’s a big question. 1st you need a tripod, shutter cable, lights, and what ever your mind can come up with. Most of light paintings are done with “light tools”. My weapon of choice is the orb tool. Battery, switch, long piece of wire, and some LEDs. You can draw on the walls, in the air, make circles, make orbs, light things, its such a versatile tool. Now on how I light paint?  It depends on what I’m after, the biggest thing is balancing your light sources. If I’m downtown I want to use the brightest light tools I have to fight off  light pollution. If I’m in a tunnel or some were dark. I want to use my light tools + a spotlight to light up key areas. I never have a plan when I set out I usually find a dark place and think. “What can I do here?..”  I just try things until it evolves into something I like. Its hard to explain LP I’ve tried it many times and most people ( non photographers ) just end up looking like a dog who was shown a card trick… ~tilt head~ “Huh?” I will try and walk you though my tilt shift half orbs shot. 1st I set up on top of a hill to get a good vantage point, with my Hartblei Tilt Adapter and 80mm 2.8 medium format lens mounted to my Nikon D80. I set the tilt to 8 deg. try to focus where I want my orb, hit the shutter, run down the hill spin a quick half orb, check and adjust focus. Now I set the aperture to f/ 5.6 to get a wider DOF, spin my half orb, and I do this by turning the orb tool on and off at every downward stroke. Run up the trail some more spin the top half ( This took 11 shots to figure out how to get right ) run back to my camera and change the f stop to 2.8 to get the full tilt effect, wait a min. or so and end exposure. The whole shot took about 3 min. I like to work fast.

  1. So, do you need to be nocturnal to be a light painter?  Is it exclusively an outside night time activity?

Mike: No and no. I have a regular day job, but most of the light painting does occur at night, just because it’s easier than finding a large dark interior space. We recently did a major shoot inside of an empty warehouse.

Jake:  You can light paint during the day if you have a dark room.  I have done something called physiograms inside in the living room with the windows blacked out.

Andy:  No, but it helps. Any where dark will do. I work 8-6 as a Toyota mechanic and I always try to find time to go out and shoot.

  1. What about the gear?  You can’t just get this stuff at the store.  Where would someone start?

Mike:   Any light source will work for light painting ranging from cell phones to flashlights and all sorts of other specialty lighting. To get specific effects, you will have to experiment with different types of light sources and techniques in using them. The photo below includes just a sample of the different light tools that I have used in the past.

Andy:  Yes you can! Auto parts stores, Dollar stores, electronic stores, hardware stores, and just about any store that sells lights. You just have to look. I once made an orb tool at a party with a flash light and some string. It took seconds! I would start at any big box store.

  1. Is Texas a hotbed of light painting activity?  Where else in the world can we find people doing this amazing stuff?

Mike:  There are Light Painters scattered everywhere around the globe! I know of several light painters in many parts of Europe, Australia, Canada and China as well. There does seem to be a small concentration of them here in Texas but I know of a similar concentration in Melbourne, Australia.

Andy:  I don’t think TX is a hotbed for LP?… I only know of 4 or 5 people in TX who LP regularly, and I shoot solo 99% of the time. You can find LP all over the world! There is so much talent out there, it’s hard to keep track.

Jake: I don’t know what these 2 are talking about…Texas for the win!!! (jk) Texas just happens to have some really talented light painters but they are really scattered throughout the world. Just search on Flickr and you will see all them crazy people running around at night in strange places all over the this planet.

  1. Some light painters are instantly recognizable.  Do you have a signature style?  Is it the gear?  The camera work?

Mike: I don’t know if I have a signature style, but many people recognize images where I have used my programmable light sticks. It’s definitely the gear and how it is used. I like experimenting with different techniques and different types of images, but I think a lot of my work is recognizable by other light painters as being my work. I can look at a lot of images from other light painters and recognize who the artist was almost instantly simply by the type of image they created.

Jake:  I like to think I don’t have a style but I am primarily known for my orbs. Its something I work very hard on and spent many nights practicing. I’m still in the pursuit of my perfect orb…one day dammit….when I get them robot legs. I think its easy to pick out the style of a Light Painter by there camera work combined with the light painting, its a unique signature everybody has.

Andy:  I like to think my style evolves as I pick up new skill sets. I do like my shots to be clean, balanced and have purpose. I don’t really go for the wild abstract hot mess shots often. The images I enjoy doing the most are the technical ones. Shots that take 5-11 times to nail. Like my recent tilt shift half orbs shot, or “though the viewfinder” shots. The pay off is so satisfying. If you don’t have the right gear you can’t really do the technical stuff. Camera work can be mild to wild. You can just set the focus to infinity f stop, bulb, and do what you want. Or you can change the focus and aperture during exposure to get added focus and light control.

  1. Words of advice for newbies?

Mike: Practice, practice, practice. Visit the discussion area of the Light Junkies group on Flickr for tutorials and ideas. Don’t be afraid to experiment!

Jake: Don’t be afraid to fail. It is easy to discouraged, just keep at it and it will start to look the way you want.

Andy:  Experiment 1st and go from there… We all started somewhere.You learn so much though failure. I sucked so bad at orbs when I started. Once you find something you like practice, practice, practice, and before you know it,  you begin to evolve in to a light junkie. Look for new lights every time you go to a store. Thinking of new ideas at work, and scouting for new locations.

As always, it is a blast hanging out with y’all. For those that are interested and would like to learn more about this art form, just follow the links provided to their Flickr accounts.  There is a wealth of knowledge there and tons more amazing images to see.

-Greg

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Our road trip to Ingram, TX was really awesome and here are a couple of images from each of our cameras at Stonehenge II, where we did a light painting session for the ages!

The Hill County Arts Foundation has taken it upon themselves to make this amazing work part of their grounds. More info can be found here:

You can help by donating to the preservation effort.  They have setup a PayPal account to accept contributions for this awesome piece of art, which reportedly has cost over $50,000 to move and setup/repair.  They are in need of anything that people can offer, and have plans to build a picnic area and install lighting and informational signs.  Please take a moment to visit and give a little.  Thanks!

Also, if you would like to purchase prints of our Stonehenge II images, we will be donating the proceeds to the preservation efforts through the end of August and offering 15% off prices.  Visit our website to purchase prints and use discount code StonehengeII at checkout.

ALL IMAGES ARE COPYRIGHT OF THE RESPECTIVE OWNERS.

If you are interested in using any of these images or re-blogging, please contact us.


Interview with Ainsley Joseph – Photographer in Austin, TX

Today we are starting a new series on our Blog, featuring photographer friends of ours. One of the biggest rewards has been meeting and becoming friends with other people that share our passion for photography and life in general. Today we are talking with Ainsley Joseph, who calls Austin, TX home. Ainsley is an extremely talented photographer and a master at lighting techniques. He is also one of the coolest people we know.

Ainsley, we’d like to hear some of your thoughts on things, especially photography, but anything is game!  When and how did you get started with photography, and how did you get so good at strobist (lighting) techniques?

AJ: I got into photography early 2009. My fiance, Meredith, and I were doing some shopping at Costco when I saw the Nikon D90. After reading the specs, I figured why not? I then promised myself to make full use of it. What has really helped me with off camera flash lighting was reading the the strobist blog, reverse engineering images I saw, but most of all doing the 365 project.

What’s your favorite subject matter to photograph? What do you attempt to capture when you set out to shoot?

AJ: This might be a surprise to some people, but I love dark, twisted, surreal subject matter. I love the idea of doing a dark image, but without blood and gore.

Of course, everyone wants to hear about gear.  What is your favorite stuff and what would your dream setup look like?

AJ: I am not much of a gear head. I love my Nikon D700, and since I picked up the 24-70mm it has been my go to lens 99% of the time.

Lighting equipment…I love Alien Bees, modifiers, the beauty dish all the way. Not sure I have a dream setup, more of a dream studio. It’s tough getting full body shots in a garage/studio..hahaha

You live in Austin, what about the music scene?  Do you get to shoot musicians often?

I love live music, so every chance I get to check out live music, and I am allowed to bring my camera at the venue, I try and get as many cool looking shots as possible. In all honesty, I love photographing live music more than anything else.



Tell us a secret!

AJ:  I am not sure it would be a secret if I tell you! hahahahaha..I want to get the Nikon 70-200 VR11, but my fiance doesn’t know it… YET !! (Until she proofreads this!)

Words of advice for budding photographers, especially strobists?

AJ:  I think the most important thing is having patience, and understanding how light and shadows work. Sometimes it helps to place an object next to a lamp to understand how moving the subject closer or further away from the lamp affects light and shadows. Finally, never hesitate to ask questions. I am a firm believer that there is never a stupid question.

Ainsley, thanks for sharing some of your insight with us and the readers.  We see that you are now doing a 52 week project and it is great to follow your work on Flickr.  We wish you and Mer all of the best with tying the knot this summer.

If you would like to see more of Ainsley’s work, check out his Flickr account here:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/ainsleyj/

All images are copyright of Ainsley Joseph, except Behind the Scenes by Ashton Sterling Photography.