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
Vic, we’d like to hear some of your thoughts on things, especially photography, Detroit, music and your ongoing projects!
- 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
- 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
Own the Sky by Victor Koos
- 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
- 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.
- 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
- Tell us a secret, we promise to publish it!
VK: I prefer Miracle Whip
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.
Today we are bringing you some images from the 2011 USA Volleyball Open National Championship Tournament in Dallas, TX. The tournament is held every year around Memorial Day and the host cities change each year. Kim has been playing volleyball competitively since middle school and has a team that she captains here in Austin, TX. Throughout the season, teams play in local and regional tourneys to get seeded for the National competition, and her team usually makes it to this event. We were lucky this year that it was hosted in our home state, and her club had several teams represented there. Go ATX Volleyball!
If you haven’t been to a volleyball match, it is exciting and fast-paced! It is also an extremely difficult sport to photograph. Most locations (gymnasiums) have poor quality lighting and limited space to move around. The speed at which the ball can come off of the player’s hands is incredible. In order to effectively capture the action, a fast camera, “fast lens”, and a high ISO value is needed. Even at the Nationals location, the light was relatively dim, so I was shooting at high ISO values of 1600 – 3200 in order to get a shutter speed of 1/250 of a second or better. Ideally, a shutter speed of 1/500 or faster is required to “stop” the ball. On the plus side, the layout was great and I had unrestricted views of many of the courts.
There is so much going on at the Nationals event. The teams are divided into men’s, women’s, co-ed, reverse co-ed, height restricted (men’s teams 6’1″ and shorter and women’s teams 5’9″ and shorter), special olympics, and sitting volleyball with different skill levels for each of those categories. Each year, there are close to 1000 teams participating in this tournament spread out into two sessions over a week and a half and over 70 volleyball courts.
I was only able to attend a half day, but the actual tournament runs for a week and a half. The teams typically play two days of “pool” play to get ranked for the playoff round brackets. The third and fourth days are for playoffs, where the teams battle it out match by match. The action is intense and everywhere you look, there is top level volleyball going on.
All of the players are athletic, but some of these guys can jump insanely high!
For people wanting to shoot indoor volleyball, the first rule is NO FLASHES! Most sanctioned tournaments will not allow you to use flashes, since it is a major distraction. This leaves little options except to get a professional dSLR camera with very high ISO capability. As I mentioned, I was using ISO 1600 – 3200. On some high-end camera models, this can be pushed even higher to ISO 6400 or even 12,800. The higher the ISO value, the more light is allowed to enter the camera sensor. With this comes the risk of introducing “noise” or artifacts in the image. With software, you can effectively clean up the images using noise reduction and I had to do this with some of the images at ISO 3200.
Another consideration is the quality of lenses used to capture the motion. Better lenses with low aperture values (f/2.8 or less) are essential to allow the maximum amount of light into the camera, while also giving sharpness. Focus speed is a major consideration when selecting a lens for this type of shooting. I used two lenses during the tournament, the Canon 85mm f/1.8 and the 70 -200mm f/2.8 L . Both have excellent image quality and focusing speed, and are probably some of the best lenses from Canon for indoor sports.
One factor you will notice in many of the images is the out of focus areas, or “bokeh”. While this is desirable in many situations, it is also virtually unavoidable since the lenses were shot “wide-open” at the maximum apertures. There are times when I would prefer to have sharpness throughout the image, and this can be done to a degree by moving further away from the subjects. I was able to position myself in the stands for an adjacent court and shoot from a distance to create “clearer” images, even at f/2.8, however this may not be possible in all situations. Think small high school gymnasiums!
I also brought a Yashica Electro 35 film camera with me, and took a few shots (non-action) with a roll of Kodak 400TX B&W film. I wonder if 800 speed film (or higher) might be able to capture some action shots? Hmmm….
Although Kim’s team did not advance to the final day of bracket play, this experience itself is so enjoyable. It is also a good opportunity to see friends from all over the country, sometimes only once a year. It is also a great networking opportunity for many of the players, as officials and board members of USAV are in attendance.
You can view these, and more photos on our website. If you were there at the first session of Nationals, you may be in some of the photos!
We are sure you have seen photos of amazing creations done with light, otherwise known as lightpainting. While this art has been around for a long time, it has gained immense popularity over the past several years. There are many forms and styles of lightpainting and the possibilities are endless.
The basic way to create a lightpainting is to set your camera to a long exposure, either with the timer function or in Bulb mode. A tripod (or other fixed surface) is mandatory to prevent the image from being blurry during the exposure. There are many “tools” that can be used to create the patterns with light, but LEDs (light emitting diodes) are by far the most popular. LEDs give a nice bright light and come in a variety of colors. The can also be programmed to turn on and off and certain intervals.
There is a strong community of lightpainters around the world, and the most fun is having meet-ups with other people to collabaorate on creations. The shot above was done with several lightpainters from Austin, TX in July 2010. Many of these artists have created custom tools and styles that have helped push the art beyond what was possible even a few years ago.
Anything can be used, as long as it creates light, even fire. The following shot was done simultaneously with blue LEDs and a flaming tennis ball.
As an art form, we can create wild photos using various tools and our imagination. These images are all created in a single camera exposure, with no editing after the fact. Basically what you see in the image all happened in one shot. This image of the Mustang was done during a meetup with our good friend Mike. He is a master at lightpainting and is known worldwide for his skill and development of custom tools to achieve the various effects you see here.
During the same session, we created the most ambitious light painting I have been involved with. I made a video during the 17 minutes it took to create the Solar System, which I compressed into 90 seconds. There were four of us working together to create the final product which you can see at the end of this post.
The final product!
You can find more light painting images on our Flickr site, with links to some of our friends that are also involved in this awesome art form. Many have posted how-to photos and videos, and they are some of the nicest people you could ever meet.