Photography – from different angles

Photo by Michael Perkins

Photo by Michael Perkins

Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library is lucky to have many talented people on its staff. I recently spoke with four staff members whose talents include photography: Michael Perkins, Kim Sain, Travis Garwood, and Meg Porteous. Each of them works with a completely different type of photography. Here is what I learned from them:

What is your favorite type of photography?

Michael: Black and White, specifically portrait work.

Kim: I’m especially drawn to nature photography—color photos that capture the natural environment including wildlife behavior.

Travis: I like to work in all types of photography but my favorite would be conceptual photography. Conceptual photography is using photography to illustrate an idea. The concept is both preconceived and, if successful, understandable in the completed images.

Meg: I’m not so much a photographer as an editor. I just take pictures with my phone and then hope there will be something cool enough in the images to work with.

Photo by Kim Sain

Photo by Kim Sain

Do you have a favorite photographer(s)?

Kim: Michael Forsberg and Art Wolfe are two professional photographers that I pay attention to. I recently discovered Mark Hirsch, a photographer who chose a tree in a Wisconsin cornfield near his home as his subject, resulting in the book, “That Tree: an iPhone photo journal documenting a year in the life of a lonely Bur oak”. The viewer’s perception of this tree is altered as the life and landscape surrounding it changes seasonally. By the end of the year, there is a real sense of knowing this tree.

Michael: Dorothea Lange, Annie Leibovitz, Joe McNally, Horst P Horst

Travis: Some of my favorites are Ansel Adams, Joel-Peter Witkin, Richard Avedon, Jerry Uelsmann, and Bill Brandt.

Photo by Travis Garwood

Photo by Travis Garwood

What drew your interest to photography?

Kim: I grew up exploring the outdoors and later traveled to hiking trails in national and state parks. Landscape photos–grand vistas of mountains and lakes–taken during these walks were my best souvenirs. Over time, my interests evolved to focus more distinctly on singular subjects: birds, wildflowers, trees, leaves, butterflies, rocks, lichens…really any natural feature on the landscape.

Travis: The first time I knew that I wanted to be a photographer was in the 7th grade. Watching a National Geographic special on their photographers and videographers. The show was about the process they go through to do their job. As soon as I saw that I was hooked.

What aesthetic choices are important in your work?

Photo by Meg Porteous

Photo by Meg Porteous

Meg: I’m not as interested in subject matter as much as I’m interested in composition, texture, and color. I really like saturated colors.

Michael: Lighting makes a huge difference in the quality of the photo but there are other choices I constantly make. It is important for me to rely on looking first before I push the trigger. Most of the time I know what shot I am after but sometimes you need to put the camera down and look. Repetition, reflection, translucency, bokeh, color are some others.

Photo by Michael Perkins

Photo by Michael Perkins

What about your current work would have surprised you in the beginning?

Michael: A lot of what I shoot now is in studio with controlled lights, using off camera triggers, gels, etc. Also I shoot in manual probably 90% of the time. In the beginning it would have been the last thing I would have tried.

Travis: Early, I was interested more in natural landscape photography. I still love landscapes, but my work has evolved into more figurative and conceptual photography.

Kim: Somewhat surprising is my interest in capturing wildlife behavior—an Osprey transporting a fish, a Green Heron bringing a stick to a nest hidden in a tangle of cattails, Monarch butterflies congregating during fall migration.

Meg: I’m surprised at how abstract some of my work is. If I have a picture that didn’t turn out well as a photograph, I can often find a small part of it that has great texture or color.

Photo by Meg Porteus

Photo by Meg Porteous

What advice would you give a beginner?

Meg: Don’t be hard on yourself. Play with editing tools to turn something mediocre into something really cool. I actually think I’ve learned to take better shots from editing so much.

Photo by Kim Sain

Photo by Kim Sain

Kim: Take your time when photographing a cooperative subject, and always respect the animal’s space. Find a quiet spot and wait for birds and other wildlife to approach you. Enter an amateur photography contest for fun. And always carry a spare fully-charged battery.

Michael: Better equipment doesn’t necessarily make better photos. Shooting as much as you can will. Learn the camera you have.

Travis: The first would be to take a lot of photographs. Especially if you are using digital, a digital image costs nothing if the image doesn’t work. Experiment and try new things.

These talented photographers recommend these books in the Arts & Crafts Neighborhood:

Jill Mickel is a Public Services Specialist and a member of the Arts and Crafts team. Her passions are art and community, and she believes that art is for everyone! When she is not at the library or working in her studio, she can be found gardening, cooking, reading, or bird-watching.

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