Dec 29, 2009

Interview with Hans Zimmer: photography parallels

I came across this interview with the brilliant and well respected, Hans Zimmer -- you know, the guy who's composed just about every famous movie score you can think of (Rain Man, Gladiator, Lion King, Pearl Harbor, Black Hawk down, Power of One, The Dark Knight -- just to name a few).  His most recent work is for the new "Sherlock Holmes" movie, which I have yet to see, but plan on it soon.  As I listened, I found myself drawing several parallels to the life of a photographer.  I'm inspired by leaders in their respected fields and Hans is no different....It's worth a listen!

Click on the link below and scroll down a bit for the Audio interview

I put a few of Mr. Zimmer's thoughts below and then in italics some of my own as it relates to photography:

Opening minute: 
Coming off of one success (The Dark Knight) to making another success (Sherlock Holmes)

[If we've had a recent success in photography, how do we push through to the next project to make it as good (or better) than the last.  How does the pressure affect us, etc.]

Minute 2:10 (how he concepts his ideas)
-Writes based on a concept, Watches the movie, Sits down with director (in this case Guy Ritchie) to hash out some ideas - irish music, gypsy music in the beginning of this one.
-How to make sequels (Pirates of the Carribeans was his first sequel).  Use all of the original tunes, but quickly got boring...

For Dark Knight - pretended he didn't have anything to start with and didn't reference Batman Begins when sitting down to write the music for The Dark Knight.

[I was thinking in terms of getting re-hired by a client or getting hired to shoot the same shot you've done before for another client.  It can at times, feel boring or without life.  How do we shoot with new life each time even if it's a project, concept or shot that we've done a million times?  Any thoughts here?]

Minute 5:45:
What it's like to watch the movie all the way through with an audience for the first time and what their reaction is like. "2 seconds before they raised their hand, felt like ten years..."

[This sets up to be a perfect visual in my mind as I see Hans Zimmer, Guy Ritchie and producers anticipating the reaction of their first audience to scenes, reveals and music they've spent hour upon hour rehearsing shooting and editing.  As photographers, we spend this excessive time ourselves, especially when shooting commissioned work where satisfying the clients demands is top priority.  However, whether being paid or not, whenever we put our best work out there, watching our own "audience" react can be extremely nerve racking.  Each time I press the [send] button on an email to a client with work from a project, a little prayer is offered in hopes that I've hit the proverbial ball out-of-the-park.  I've had my fair share of balls that didn't quite make it to the pitching mound as well as the occasional home run.  When the audience (client) doesn't provide a standing ovation, there is a little engine that fires up within and works to understand where things may have gone wrong and practices over and over to improve upon it for the next round (I'll be the first to admit this can get out of hand sometimes if you overanalyze like myself).  Going back to the "fail video", I recently posted.  there is absolutely nothing wrong with missing the mark as all people fail and great people fail often.  The caveat is that you've absolutely given everything you had to the intended shoot/project.  If I've put everything into a project, as alluded to by Mr. Zimmer next, at the end of the day, I can go to sleep feeling satisfied without needed the applause of the audience.  I am the first and most important audience to please independent of the critics and voices out there.  Being true to ourselves as artists in this regard brings those projects (both personal and paid) that we most enjoy anyway]

Really interesting from minute 6:45 on..."We put everything into these movies.  We put all of our heart and soul."

[The great artists, entrepreneurs, and people find a way to put their whole "heart and soul" into something.  They completely immerse themselves into their chosen field.  Even within photography, it's easy to start shooting a particular subject or type of work because it's, quote, paying the bills.  This is a good reminder to A) put everything we have into a project and B) go after those shoots and subjects we are most passionate about shooting]

Minute 27:59:
"At the end of the day you write (shoot) for yourself"
"Be bold about it. Don't be shy."
Minute 30:
"The job is to get better.  The job is to learn something.  The job is to have new ideas."
Minute 30:30:
"If you stop running, it must be really hard to get the muscles back up....the idea muscle"

[This is my favorite block of quotes from the interview.  Here you have an extremely successful composer/artist that is talking about getting better at his craft and learning something new every day.  If there's a list of people that have "made it" in their respective fields, he would probably be on that list and yet it sounds like his mentality is likely the same as it was on his first major motion picture.  We are always growing as photographers; finding new ways to express ourselves and challenge ourselves.  Exercise the muscle as often as possible!] 

I'd love to hear your thoughts on the interview.  Any new insights or parallels you can draw personally or professionally?  I look forward to a good discussion!

Dec 21, 2009

Live Portrait

I find something completely fascinating by this "living" portrait, shot by David Stewart.  Great work david!  I can imagine a lot of great frames if you were shooting a still portrait here as well.  The first thing I'm drawn to, as in any great portrait (moving or still), are those amazing eyes. The power of the eyes in a portrait are central to telling the story.  Furthermore, I wonder where this young lady just came from, what she is thinking, what she is watching or listening to as this video is taking place.  The great portrait photographers seem to be able to establish a quick connection with the person they are photographing.  It's as if for a time, the camera doesn't really exist and it's simply two people sharing a connection that makes a great picture (or in this case video).  What really strikes me about this piece, is that the connection is really there.  I think there's something to learn for still photographers here as we all too often have that awkward time right before we start snapping pictures where the subject isn't quite sure what to do, where to stand or how to look.  Is there something to learn from thinking about a portrait in terms of motion?  Maybe so...
Give us your thoughts.
Kevin Winzeler Photography
Utah Photographer

Dec 12, 2009

Follow your dreams! (Joe McNally: Letter to a Young Photographer)

Advice from Joe McNally to a young photographer (age 19) looking for direction... just in case you missed it.  It's well worth the read!

Here's a piece that really stuck out to me...

"One thing my dad did tell me, and it has echoed in my ears for a long time. He was the quintessential corporate man, a salesman, and in his later years, he became disgusted with the ways of his world, and told me on numerous occasions, “hang out your own shingle.” Which is what I have done, and been happy to have done. The jalopy called McNally Photography has transmission trouble, a couple of flat tires, and not all the cylinders fire, but it still moves, and I drive it where I want to go. There is a great deal of value and satisfaction in that, as I look back. I’m still standing, and lots of others fell away or played it safe or never tried."



Kevin Winzeler Photography
Utah Photographers
Advertising Photographers

Dec 3, 2009

What Camera, Lights and Software should I buy? ($1,000 to spend)

I get asked at least once a day from people getting into photography, what I would "recommend" when  buying a camera, lighting equipment and software.  I had the opportunity to speak to a group of creatives this past week on "Photography: Tools of the Trade" and put together this little hand-out to serve as a quick introduction to newcomers and hope you'll find some useful info yourself.  I've made all of the following information available as a free resource to download here: Photography: Tools of the Trade.  Feel free to print it and share it!


Think of camera shopping like marriage.  You are selecting a companion for the long haul, so make a good choice.  When you buy a camera you are buying into a system that will grow with time and become a substantial investment if you pursue photography long-term. 

#1 Tip - Go spend as much time prior to buying into the system as possible. Visit local stores, borrow your friends camera and decide what you like and dislike about certain systems first.

TWO MYTHS Dispelled:
#1 I need more Megapixels  --  
Did you know? 

-A Four (4) Megapixel picture will completely fill a 30” monitor? (2560 pixels X 1600 pixels)
-10 Megapixel camera makes beautiful 20”x30” prints!

#2 Camera body determines image quality. Not completely. 
factors in order of importance:
1) Light
2) Lenses
3) Post-production
4) Camera body 


"You only get one sunrise and one sunset a day, and you only get so many days on the planet. A good photographer does the math and doesn't waste either." - Galen Rowell

Understanding light is more important than anything else in this post.  Study it and learn how to use it.

Bow Hunting Image:
Canon 5D with Canon 24-105 Lens
Canon 580EX II x 2 with Pocket Wizards Triggers
Post-production Composite: Lightning, Cloud layer and Partial Rain (via Photoshop CS3)

1) Sun (Always light #1 to consider)
2) Reflectors (light #2 - portable, cheap)
3) Strobes (don’t be afraid)
*What I use:
a) Small Lights
-Speedlights (Canon 580 EX IIs)
b) Big Lights:
-Elinchrom RX600 & Ranger
c) Wireless triggering:

Pocketwizards Plus II’s


What is RAW and why use them?
1) Highest quality, most flexible file type
Ability to change the White Balance (temperature) on the fly (in post-production)
Dynamic range is greater
Recover blown out highlights

When do I shoot in Jpeg format?
Family gatherings or events (quick to share)
Need more buffer than RAW allows (Sports)

Software I use:
Picasa - Free
iPhoto - Mac Only (free)
Lightroom- $199 (my recommendation for workflow and 90% of editing)
Photoshop CS4 - $650

iMovie & Final Cut (video)

*BACK YOUR UP IMAGES TODAY! It’s Cheap!  500GB for less than $100. 

Quick Tips for Great Pictures:

1) Compose your subject anywhere except the center of the image.  Try cutting out a small, square sticky note and paste it right in the center of your LCD as a reminder
2) Stop shooting at Noon.  Go out at sunrise or sunset for some beautiful “golden hour” light.
3) Shoot at different heights. Experiment taking pictures laying on the ground or standing on a ladder.
4) Force yourself to go manual; understand how shutter speed, aperture and ISO work together for exposure and effects.

Trail Running Image:
Canon 5D Mark II with Canon 16-35 II f/2.8 Lens
Elinchrom Ranger Pack w/ Single Light and Small Square softbox, triggered via Pocket Wizards Plus II”s
Post-production: Lightroom 2 + Photoshop CS3.  Minor contrast, dodge and burning


FIRST, go to a store, borrow from a friend and find out:
1- How does the camera feel in your hand
2- Play with menus, settings and functions
3- Remember this is a marriage, spend time courting

A) Two Camera Options

$850 - Nikon 5000 + 2 lens kit (Amazon) OR
$899 - Canon T1i + 2 Lens kit + 4gb (Costco)

B) Accessories
$89 - Lowepro Slingshot 200 bag
$100 - Tripod

$Free - Picasa or iPhoto

Kevin Winzeler Photography
Contact us for photography, workshops and speaking engagements: 801.319.8023,