Photography is an intricate and fascinating art. If you’ve ever wondered what life is really like behind the lens, this interview with talented photographer Gladstone Taylor is a must read. It’s the first in the Pree10 series, but don’t been fooled by the title. While it might sound close to ‘pretend’, it’s all about keeping it real, ten questions at time. So, without further ado Mr. Taylor…it’s time for your close-up!
1. What inspired you to become a photographer?
There was just something amazing about how a moment in time looked [when captured] on paper or [as a digital file] on a monitor. I also love how amazed people become when they get to see their final portrait…you hear things like, “Oh my God! I can’t believe that’s me. What did you do?” Kinda feels good.
2. What was the first camera you owned?
The first camera I owned definitely isn’t a mentionable. It was a Vivitar. I can’t remember the model. That was followed by a Pentax that my dad gave me when I was 14, which I took everywhere…squandering all my lunch money developing film.
3. What camera brand do you shoot with now?
In terms of DSLRs, I’ve shot with Canon and Nikon. I’m a Canon shooter at the moment. I prefer it to Nikon, but it really is just a matter of what I’m used to. Both brands produce really good equipment. If I could afford it, I’d own the best of both.
4. What are the bare essentials that you take with you on a shoot?
It really depends on the job, but what is a definitely in my bag is my Canon 30D, 50mm f1.8 lens (every photographer should own this lens, it’s called the nifty 50…too cool for the price) and 430Ex Speedlight.
5. What was your first major job as a professional and what was the experience like?
My first big break was a wedding given to me by a fellow photographer and friend Seymour Watson of Salfrico Photography. I was slightly nervous going into the job, but I had no doubt that my backup and I had all the technical know-how to complete the task successfully. I was about a full hour early at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel waiting on my assistant to arrive, and for the bride to let me know that they are ready to begin preparations for the wedding (make up, hair, getting dressed etc). I wanted all of these moments to be documented. While waiting, I double checked my equipment to make sure everything was with me.
After taking my first shot, everything else faded away…the nervous feeling, wondering if I’d do well and if the client would be happy. It all faded into a blur as I got lost in capturing the details of the preparation, the moments of the ceremony, the happiness and love in the formals and the celebratory atmosphere of the reception. In total, I worked for 10 hours that day, from 11 am to approximately 9 pm. It’s an experience I won’t forget. Overall it went perfectly well…there were absolutely no technical difficulties and I believe the only problem came about after I misplaced a lens hood that was my pride and glory. The part was retrieved the following day from the UWI Mona Chapel where the wedding took place, so no harm no foul.
6. Who are your major influences in photography?
Jerry Ghionis is one of the awarded masters of wedding photography. He is a master of creating the moment. He is skilled in the in artistic direction and the craft of photography. The two skills meld together to produce very stunning images. He believes that wedding images should undoubtedly be magical and close to the bride’s fantasy. He ensures that he creates that.
Joe Boussink is another awarded master of wedding photography. He shoots a high number of celebrity weddings and to this day still shoots film. That’s not a huge factor for me though, as I don’t shoot film outside of hobbyist work. Boussink takes a very photojournalistic approach to photography; he documents, never intervenes, and ensures that he gets the back story of what’s happening at a wedding as well as the main story. This is major point for my wedding photography as well. I realized that there is no way I’d be able to shoot the main story as well as get reactions to what’s happening. As a result, I shoot most weddings with a skilled and competent associate photographer.
David Hobby (a.k.a. Strobist), originally a photojournalist, [has influenced the look of] a lot of my glamour images and wedding formals in terms of light. [I learned from him that] the single most important thing with artificial lighting in photography – get the light off axis by taking it off the camera. Joe McNally is another influence in the area of off-camera lighting. After being exposed to the concept, my imagery started to take on a new look and I haven’t looked back…I have rarely mounted a flash to my camera since.
Chase Jarvis is probably the most creative photographer I have ever seen. His work stands out from everyone else’s. He is not afraid to try new things. He makes heavy use of social media tools…blogging, twitter, youtube, facebook etc. I try to emulate him in terms of marketing myself and trying new things.
Zack Arias is another lighting guru who I look up to. I have seen some amazing images from him with only one artificial light source, which at one point was all I had. So his “one light” technique was instrumental in my capturing of beautifully lit images with the little resources that I had.
7. What is your favourite category of photography?
Portraiture…it gives me the opportunity to meet new people, and their reaction to seeing themselves in a photo that is properly exposed with good lightning always gets me. Portraiture isn’t necessarily my strongest point in photography, but I really enjoy working with off-camera light and I’m always looking to gain more experience in this area. I get to try new lighting angles and setups and as a result, I get to grow my technical expertise in lighting.
During a portraiture shoot, I find that keeping the subject engaged works best. Do not allow the client to become bored or the set to go too quiet. Keep them talking…keep them active, give jokes, tell them how they’re doing and so on. I’ve found that shoots flow better this way. Give them a small preview of an image you’ve taken of them and make them see how great they look so far.
8. Where is your favourite location to shoot?
The parish of Portland in Jamaica, hands down! Awesome parish! Every 15 minutes that you drive, there’s somewhere awesome to shoot!
9. Is there a particular time of day that is perfect for shoot?
Light at sunset, otherwise called twilight. The colours of light are beautiful…the sunset as a backdrop has the sky – a beautiful cast of orange/blue mixed in with clouds. It creates a breathtaking backdrop for a portrait. The sun is not so bright, so it doesn’t compete with the artificial light that I would be working with. As a result, I can overpower the sunlight, making my artificial light the main light source.
10. Is there any moment that you’ve captured in a photo that you are particularly proud of?
An image I took of the mall plaza in the Christmas season is one of my favourite images. I was casually walking on the plaza the day before with my girlfriend and was looking at the lights and got an idea for a shot. I came back the following week to try to capture what I wanted and found an even better view from the food court upstairs. I slowed the shutter on the camera to allow the depiction of motion, to show the hustle and bustle of the shopping season and that image was the result. I love it.
Another is a black and white moody portrait that I absolutely love. I love the detail retained in the skin even after retouching. I dislike the over-processed look of images I see in the market today. My personal style is to aim for perfection but still keep the images looking real. The over-airbrushed look is nonsensical to me…people just don’t look like that!
The image I shot in front of a waterfall on a trip with a flickr group (http://www.flickr.com/groups/onelove/) in my earlier days of photography is an example of why I love Portland. The image was shot with ambient light only. I dragged the shutter to show the motion of the waterfalls behind the subject and the result was beautiful.
Gladstone .A. Taylor
Photographer || Web Application Programmer
http://blog.taylorgphotography.com || http://portfolio.taylorgphotography.com
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