Radio Interview Transcripts

MorePhotos Radio - Greg Gibson for ImagingUSA


ANNOUNCER:  Welcome to the More Photos’ Radio Photography Spotlight brought to you by helping professional photographers with all their internet needs world wide. Also brought to you by Finally, an e-commerce solution for professional photo labs that makes sense. Now here’s your host, Damien Allen.  DAMIEN: Good morning and welcome to More Photos Radio. My name is Damien Allen and today joining us on the telephone we have Greg Gibson of Greg Gibson Photography. He is going to be speaking at the upcoming conference at Imaging USA. Good morning and welcome to the program, Greg.
GREGG: Damien, hey, how’s it going? Thanks for having me on. I appreciate it.
DAMIEN: It’s a pleasure to have you, sir. You’re going to be speaking at the conference at Imaging USA about Shaping Master Prints and Documentary Wedding Photography. Could you tell us a little bit about the topic you’ll be covering?
GREGG: Yeah, exactly. A lot of photographers make really nice images, but sometimes I think the message they are trying to convey in the image gets lost sometimes just because maybe the conditions that they shot the image wasn’t ideal or the lighting wasn’t ideal or there might be some distracting elements in the composition that are taking the viewers eye away from the message that the photographer was trying to convey. So what we’re going to do is just use some very simple tools first in Lightroom and then in Adobe Photoshop CS4 to just try to maybe bend the light or bend the tones just a bit to help photographers guide the viewers’ eye right into the heart of the print so they can bring these images to life and get these stories out that photographers are trying to tell.
DAMIEN: And speaking of Adobe, Adobe is also your sponsor for this event, correct?
GREGG: Absolutely. 
DAMIEN: What day and times will your workshop be held during the conference?
GREGG: My workshop is going to be actually on the last day on Tuesday, January 12th and I have the 3 – 4:30 time slot and so it’s kind of late in the program, I think it will be worth your while to stick around and come out and wrap up with some good information.
DAMIEN: It’s not late, they always save the best for last. You know that, Greg.
GREGG: Exactly. 
DAMIEN: How will the participants be able to find you during the conference?
GREGG: Adobe has a suite set aside for speakers. I will be available through Adobe. They should have a schedule posted probably in the booth and of course I’m happy to speak with people if they see me around the trade show.
DAMIEN: What do you hope the attendees to your workshop are going to take away from it when it’s all said and done?
GREGG: Well what we are going to learn is we are going to go into the develop module of Lightroom and then into Adobe Photoshop CS4 and we’re going to use some of those tools in there to really kind of help photographers fine tune their images and really bring out the stories they are trying to convey. There are a lot of people who think that good documentary images don’t need a lot of post-production work and that’s true to a certain degree, you know, good documentary imagery should stand on the moment alone, but sometimes the moment is hidden or cluttered and it’s just so difficult to convey, because in the heat of capturing that moment maybe the light wasn’t perfect or there was clutter or distractions in the image. So what we’re going to do is try to use the local adjustments in Lightroom and some other tools in Photoshop CS4 to kind of cut through that clutter and help use the tone from the image to guide the viewers’ eye to the heart of the matter to the real story and the meat of the image. A lot of people feel like documentary imagery should stand on what comes out of the camera alone and the problem with that principal is that the camera does not see in the same way that your eye sees. When you view a scene with your eye, your people act sort of like and automatic diaphragm and as your eye scans the scene it can kind of open and close automatically to let in more light or keep out light and so as a result your eye has about 24 f-stops of latitude of dynamic range that it can take in. Your camera only has one fixed aperture it can shoot at. So only one stop on the diaphragm that you can make on a given frame and so some times you need to be able to go into the image to be able to selectively be able to lighten the dark areas and use the contrast and the brightness in the image to help guide the eye to where the story is.
DAMIEN: And when it comes down to the end of the day, photography is all about the capturing of light in that image to focus exactly what you’re trying to talk about.
GREGG: Absolutely. The photographer’s paintbrush is light and sometimes actually the way we capture the light in the frame is not particularly ideal, and so what we want to try to learn in this class is how to use some of our post-production tools to help shape and bend that light and the tone from the image to really bring those images to life.
DAMIEN: Now we’ve checked our your awesome website, and there’s some great photography up there.   Some absolutely wonderful shots. There’s no secret that you’re a two time Pulitzer prize winning photographer. Could you please tell us what you believe contributes to you success as a photojournalist?
GREGG: Well, you know, unfortunately I think a lot of people aren’t going to be happy with the answer I’m going to give you, but to be quite honest with you, a lot of it is experience, you know, and I do have a lot of experience and I worked for about 20 years for some very large news organizations, and I’ve taken millions of frames, literally millions of frames, you know, in my 30 plus year career. And there is really no substitute for just going out and using the camera and putting yourself in a variety of situations and getting some take away from that. Now I would say that what I do feel like some of the true traits of a photojournalist is one, being able to have sort of a sensitivity to a situation knowing when it’s ok to kind of barge ahead and knowing when you need to kind of pull back and be more of an observer. Anticipation also is a very key trait of a photojournalist, you know, you have to be able to sort of think ahead a couple moves, you know, almost like a good chess player and be able to anticipate the action and figure out what is going to happen and be able to actually put yourself in a position that you can capture the moment once everything comes together. And also, you know, certainly being a good technician. Good pictures sort of don’t happen by accident. A lot of people…I do sort of tell people sometimes I would rather be lucky than good, but Vince Lombardi said luck is where opportunity meets preparation. So you need to be technically confident with your gear so when you are presented with a good moment or a good situation that you do have the technical know-how to capture that in the camera and actually record that moment while it’s happening.
DAMIEN: Besides that could you share a couple of other tips on what makes a good photojournalist?
GREGG: I think some of the other things too that contribute to being a good photojournalist is number 1 patience, you know, you have to be patient enough to not interject yourself into a situation and kind of let things happen on their own. And then again it takes that technical know-how to be ready once it comes together. You have the camera at your eye, is the camera focused, is it the correct exposure, those kinds of things. And a few other things that it takes to be a good photojournalist is being willing to take risks sometimes. I shoot a lot of images with really fast glass at f-1.2, f-1.4, because I’m really just looking for ways to make my pictures different. I also sometimes will just gamble on positions and spots. Sometimes I’m fortunate that I work with some very good second shooters, and a lot of times I’ll take my second shooter and actually sort of put them in the primary or the bread and butter position, because let’s face it, the bread and butter pictures are fairly easy to make, you know, the bride walking down the isle with her father, or sort of your basic flash pictures during first dance. Those are really fairly easy pictures to make, and I have some very confident second shooters and so sometimes I’ll make myself the second shooter, and I’ll just take an off position, or I’ll gamble I’ll shoot slow shutter speed trying to get a little blur, or I’ll try and take a unique angle. Sometimes it works out and I make a really nice picture. A lot of times it doesn’t work out, but there is a risk reward factor going on there, and when it happens and it works, you can get some dynamite pictures and the thing is if you never really willing to take a risk or to put yourself out there just a bit then you’ll never give yourself a chance to do something that is really special. And one other thing that I would just say as far as good photojournalists go. A good photojournalist really knows how to work a scene. And when I say work a scene, I’m not just talking about shooting a lot of frames for the sake of just pushing the button. I do think a lot of photographers tend to not shoot enough frames from a given situation. They just walk into a situation and bang off one or two shots and ok, I’ve got that covered I’m going to move onto the next thing. Where if they just work that situation a little bit and maybe look at it from some different angles or with some different perspective of their lens, and what happens sometimes when you do that, when you work that situation is you get a little master moment. So maybe if I work that situation and I shoot a couple of frames, and I’m going to get a representation of what was there, but if I work that situation and maybe I shoot 8 frames I might get a little better moment, or maybe if I shoot 10 frames I get a little more spontaneity. And so it kind of goes back into that patience thing I was talking about earlier. You have to give situations sometimes a chance to develop, anticipate the action as it happens, and then also just be sensitive to the situation. Is this a situation where I need to sort of charge ahead and get in close with my wider lens or is this more of a delicate situation that requires me to back off a bit and shoot with a longer lens and maybe sort of have less direct influence over it.
DAMIEN: What’s going to be new for you in 2010? Will you be doing any more workshops or conferences, new products, new projects that you’re working on?
GREGG: Well I sort of have an ongoing project Brazilian Cowboys, and we’re hoping to maybe finish that off or at least make a good bit of progress on it. One of the things I learned in the past year is really how important personal projects are to photographers. I had sort of gotten away from doing any kind of personal projects, you know, I have kids, I have family obligations. We’re a busy studio, and we shoot about probably over 50 – 60 weddings a year. So I just sort of gotten away from shooting for myself and about a year ago I got invited to speak at a conference down in Brazil and kind of by happenstance ended up doing a little trip off into this wilderness area called the Pantanall and while out on this trip, kind of stumbling into this project on Brazilian Cowboys and ended up spending about 2 weeks down there just shooting cowboys on these farms and it was just the most amazing experience and now we are going to turn that into a book project and we’re hoping to squeeze a book out of it in the next two years, but Brazilian cowboys now are probably about where American cowboys were about maybe 10 or 15 years ago and it really is sort of a dying profession and it’s being just like it was here it’s becoming mechanized and it’s being taken over by mass producers and so it was just great to be able to go in and get in with those guys and make some really nice pictures that were really just for me, initially, and what having that personal project did for me, though, is when I came back in the fall I did a really wonderful job on the weddings that I covered. I made some of the best wedding pictures I probably have ever made, and I think a lot of if was simply because having that personal project sort of recharged my batteries and energized me and it put some passion back into my shooting and so we’re going to continue on that project. Actually I hope people will take a look at that. If they look at my website, they can see some of those pictures under the journalism section. If they go back into the archives of my blog, there’s actually a couple of slideshows that they can take a look at to see some of that work. I do actually teach at a couple of workshops. I’m going to be speaking at a small conference up in Mystic, Connecticut, the first week of January, just called Mystic 5. It’s a workshop that’s put on by Walter van Dusen that is just a really small, intimate conference, and there I’m going to be talking about just documentary photography and photojournalism, and I’ll be teaching at another workshop at the end of February called the Foundation Workshop which is actually a very unique workshop as far as wedding photography goes. It was modeled after a couple of journalism workshops called The Eddie Adams Workshop or the Mountain People Workshop and the idea with it is to try to teach wedding photographers how to become better photojournalists and better story tellers and in the end just how to make wedding photographers better photographers and what is unique about it is that first of all there is a very high staff to student ratio. The students are split into teams. There are six students on a team and there is 4 staff members. There is a team leader and 3 mentors and the students actually get an editorial assignment and they have two days to go out and shoot this editorial assignment and produce a story from it. And so the mentors on the team actually go out and help the student on site troubleshoot. They can actually go out to location and the mentor will sort of size up the assignment, will make suggestions, will answer questions, and help a student work through any problems they are having, and then at the end of each day, the student comes back in with their shoot, and we do a group edit, and the critiques are actually quite harsh and sometimes they get a little raw, but they are actually very beneficial to the students. And so each student listens to the critique of all the other students and it’s really just a wonderful group learning experience. So the students will take what they learned on the first day, they’ll go back out on the second day, they’ll complete their shoot, the same thing happens on the second day, the mentors go out and work with them on sites, they come back again, we do a group edit and then on Thursday, the last day, we’ll sit down and we’ll make a final slide show and have a presentation out of the story and we’ll present that to the workshop as a whole in the evening. It’s a wonderful learning experience. I don’t think there is another workshop at least in wedding photography that’s quite like it that offers those same types of learning opportunities. There’s nothing like taking your camera and going out and actually having to shoot an assignment and produce a story and being able to get feedback on site, on the spot, while you’re shooting. And for a lot of the students, it’s actually a bit of an emotional roller coaster. The shoots sometimes can be very difficult, the critiques can sometimes be very difficult and in the end when you see that story come together it is really an interesting exercise in watching the students present their stories. A lot of students become very emotional just in talking about the learning process and seeing that story fly up on the screen. So that’s what I’m doing in 2010.
DAMIEN: Sounds like a full schedule. Could you kindly share your website and contact information for the listening audience please.
GREGG: Yes, my website is I also have a very poorly maintained blog site that’s People are welcome to contact me. There is contact information that is listed on the website and on the blog and that’s how they can find me.
DAMIEN: Thank you very much for joining us today, Greg.
GREGG: Thanks for having me, Damien. I’m really looking forward to sharing some of these things with my friends at PPA and Imaging USA and I’m looking forward to meeting everyone.
DAMIEN: We’d also like to thank Adobe who is Greg’s sponsor for the Imaging USA show. We strongly encourage our listeners to attend Greg Gibson’s workshop and to attend the Imaging USA Conference in Nashville, Tennessee, January 10th – 12th, 2010.   You’ve been listening to More Photos Radio. My name is Damien Allen. Everybody have a great afternoon.
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