Saturday, June 28, 2008


Many places simply defy description.

And, that's a good thing… because when I travel, my favorite souvenir by far (more than a trinket, piece of artwork, or antique) is an image that will echo my own splendid experience to the viewer. I treasure an image that will let me share a jaw-dropping spectacular location or vista; it's like finding the perfect gift for a friend. This image brings back such a moment; it has been dubbed "Valhalla" though it was taken in the French Alps and not in the frozen uplands of Vikings.

On a beautiful August morning, I was hiking from Chamonix. On my back was a Gitzo carbon fiber tripod and a big Linhof Technorama 617 camera. I climbed from green golf courses all the way to snow. Notwithstanding, the scenery propelled me more than my physical condition, as I climbed several thousand vertical feet. The experience was already enriching; I felt satisfied with the day and began making my descent. I remember rounding a bend and being stopped in my tracks; before me was the image you see here, totally and utterly unexpected.

At four frames per roll of Velvia 120 film, I went through about a dozen rolls. I wasn't going to leave anything to chance. Working carefully with a Fuji loupe, Minolta pistol grip type spot meter, ground glass, and lots of depth of field, I worked for over an hour. When I'm in that sort of moment, I tend to forget that I might be cold, hungry or tired.

Now, there are doubters who insist that this vista is a CGI compilation, an impossible reality assembled digitally from disparate pieces. Not so. A stone refuge, little pond, and the jagged alpine background converged together under an impossibly blue sky were as perfectly composed as fruit on a silver platter. Free for the taking and just waiting for me and that big panoramic camera.

I'd found the perfect gift to take home.

- Russ Schleipman

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Subject

I often get emails asking for advice on how to shoot cars. Most questions relate to the technical aspects of the lens, camera body, and/or flash unit(s). Though I don’t usually admit it, the technical stuff is less important than other particulars. Yes, it’s true… to a certain extent.

Nonetheless, when I delve into these issues (in my reply) I usually write something like, "I pick the lens that'll let me shoot the car the way I want it to look." Mundane, I know, but it's the sad truth. Basically, it just seems that people rely too heavily on equipment and they use it (or the lack thereof) as an excuse for failure. We are all guilty of this at one point or another, but the sooner you suck it up and say "let's do with what we have;" chances are the quicker you'll succeed.

Early on I was hung up on the fact that I didn't have the proper equipment to shoot cars. But, instead of feeling defeated, I concentrated on what I could do with my limited amount of equipment. I treated a car like it was the world, and each detail on the body became its own separate landscape. Somewhat elemental, but it worked. I trained my eye to see parts of automobiles that are lost to the average person.

At the time, I really enjoyed using flash. It was like magic to be surrounded in total darkness; a strobe would go off and a beautiful image would appear on the LCD screen… every single time.

Ok, that's a lie… but failure can be a great thing. Such was the case when I did the Gullwing image. I wasn't actually thinking about the concept at the time. Instead, I was shooting the interior and coming up with nothing. I stepped back to take a shot of the general setup, (to remind myself how much it sucked) when I checked the LCD screen and spotted some tremendous potential. I altered the light and camera angle a bit, and after a couple shots I had captured the Gullwing (just the way you see it) in one image.

Instead of worrying about lenses, bodies, et cetera, experiment and don't feel afraid to fail. Just concentrate on your subject which is the whole point; and remember to have fun.

-Ken Brown