Growing up, I always knew that I wanted to attend Texas A&M University and be a member of the Aggie Corps of Cadets. My senior year in High School, I was denied admission to Texas A&M even though I satisfied the admission requirements. Texas A&M was overwhelmed with applications and they just didn’t have enough room. I would not take “No” for an answer. I then had to find a way into the door, so I went to Texas A&M at Galveston for a year and then “changed my major” so that they had to send me to Texas A&M in College Station, TX. I joined the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band and had the pleasure of sliding own the quad in my Senior Boots. No matter where I go, no matter what I do, I am a Fightin’ Texas Aggie through and through. I may be from Houston, TX but my true home is in Aggieland.
When did you first become interested in art, in general?
I started to gain an appreciation for art as I travelled the world and saw the images that different cultures will produce. Whenever I go to someplace, I do not bring back T-shirt that are mass produced for gift shops, usually those are not even locally made. I like to bring home street art or something that a local artisan created. Something that has had life breathed into it by someone who is local to the area and can capture their home in a piece. During a trip to Korea in 2000, I found a street artist who created leather brush paintings. I watched in amazement as the artist turned this scroll into a work of art and I have been sold ever since.
When did you first become interested in photography, specifically?
Through my travels of Europe, Asia, Middle East, Africa and North America, I have seen so many beautiful things. My biggest regret was not having good pictures of some of the wonderful things that I have seen. I had a point and shoot camera most of the time and had not learned the fundamentals of photography. Looking back on these pictures, I get a sense of loss of what could have been.
I had just learned from my mom that she was taking my brother and I to Israel for Holy Land tour and that is when I decided it was time to do something. I took my son to a baseball game and there was a guy there who looked pretty serious with his camera gear, so I struck up a conversation. His name is Tim Stanley and we soon discovered that he and I go to the same church. Little did I know that our church has a photography team that meets monthly and he is the one who organizes the group. I immediately went out and purchased a camera and a couple of lenses to start my journey in photography.
By the time I left for my trip to Israel about 9 months later, I had already sold some of my prints and had learned a lot from my mentor and newly found friend Tim.
In what other forms of art do you also work, if any?
I do not work with other forms of art, but I definitely have an appreciation for other people’s craft.
On which style(s) of photography do you specialize?
I don’t know that I specialize in any one type of photography, I pretty much shoot what I want. Many times, I will go out and shoot architectural shots, but the following day I may be found at a car show. I am willing to shoot just about anything as long as it is on my terms and I get to create in a style that I determine at the time. I readily jump at the opportunity to go shoot things that I have not shot before just for the challenge and adventure, because it never fails that as the shoot progresses, I meet new people and find other subjects to shoot.
I absolutely love to travel to see new things. I have been blessed with going to Kenya twice for missions with my church. Working with orphans in Kenya has not only given me an appreciation for the blessings in my life, but in a way, has also come with a little envy. I have seen some of the poorest people on the planet who are filled with happiness and those with wealth who seem over burdened. This has taught me that happiness has nothing to do with money, it’s the way that we gauge ourselves and what we choose to hold of value. I have been greatly rewarded by valuing being a father and investing my time into my son. I enjoy teaching him new things and watching him develop; by those standards, I am rich.
Has your style changed from when you first began? If so, why?
When I began, I didn’t have a style. I am constantly trying new things and finding new subjects to shoot. I would say that my composition has greatly improved as I am able to now visualize what I want to see in Post Processing, so I make sure that I get the shot that I really want in the moment.
What kind of equipment do you use?
I started with a Nikon D5100 and the kit lens. I later picked up a Nikon 35mm f/1.8, Sigma 8-16mm HSM, Nikon 50mm f/1.8 and Nikon 55-300mm lenses. For my trip to Israel, I wanted a carbon fiber tripod that I could tote all day without breaking my back, so I ended up with a Promaster T325p with a Manfrotto 496rc2 ball head.
Eventually, I picked up an Apple iMac 27” for my post processing as well as Adobe Lightroom 5, Photoshop Elements 12, Photomatix and Perfect Effects. Lightroom is where I spend most of my time, but if I need to do something extra special, I will take it to photoshop.
Recently, I upgraded to the Nikon D7100 and I am truly loving this camera.
What made you choose that equipment?
I have had friends in the past that were Nikon shooters and so I took their advice with picking Nikon. I have since found that no matter what, if you get a high quality DSLR camera and good lenses, you will be able to produce some great pictures. For some reason, I have sense of loyalty towards Nikon, but I am thinking that down the road, I may go mirrorless.
Are you a specialist photographer?
I shoot photography for the adventure and sense of freedom that I get, so I cannot see myself putting up with shooting events or worse, a wedding. I specialize in shooting whatever it is that moves me at that moment in time. There is a certain sense of self gratification that I get out of shooting a subject and capturing it the way that I want to see it. If there is something that I would say that I prefer to shoot rather than other subjects, it would be something that has historical significance attached to it.
I am a big history buff, so going out and capturing an image that draws an emotional connection to the history behind the subject is a very rewarding experience.
Do you have favourite times of the days to take shots in?
My favorite time to shoot is at night, but I also like to shoot with the first hour of light or the last hour of light. During the day, I still take pictures too, but I get a higher sense of drama during lower light conditions. The shadows are much stronger and gives greater contrast to where the light lands.
Are you a patient photographger, waiting for the right moment, or do you tend to just shoot and hope for the best?
Am I patient? Not once I get out to go shoot somewhere. What I would say that many times, I will plan my shoot well in advance of my trek and take into account what lighting conditions I hope to have at that time of day or night. I follow the “Semper Gumby” rule of planning, I have a plan, but it is always flexible. I will adjust and even completely divert from my plan if a subject presents itself.
I once planned a shoot a mont him advance based on the lunar calendar. I wanted a moonless night so that I could go deep in the woods and take pictures of the Milky Way. I got two of my friends, Tim and Jeremy, and we drove out into the middle of nowhere to get eaten alive by mosquitoes as we waited for the perfectly timed shot of the stars. It was a wonderful experience.
How often do you go out just to photograph or, do you have your camera ready at all times, even shopping?
I live in the city and drive an SUV, so I do not keep my camera in my vehicle. Yes, this means that I have missed some opportunities for some good shots, but it sure beats finding that my camera and lenses have been taken from my vehicle. I try to go out on the weekends and typically travel with one or two other friends who also enjoy photography. Tim Stanley and I have really gotten to know one another through our photography adventures together. It doesn’t matter if we shoot the same subject, we end up with completely different images that each have their merits. This also gives us an opportunity to challenge each other and share in the lessons that we learn as we go along.
Then of course, there are some opportunities that arise where I will grab my camera bag and runout of the house to get get that shot. It just comes down to what I feel like shooting.
Do you edit in photoshop or another programme? Or do you outsource to someone else?
I usually use Lightroom for my post-processing, followed by Photomatix for HDR processing. Of course, I will use Photoshop Elements if it is warranted. To me, Lightroom is like going to the General Practioner, he can typically do what is needed and on the occasion, you may need major surgery; that’s where Photoshop comes into play.
How much time (on average) does it take to edit a work?
It depends on what I want to see out of the image that I took. There have been some works that I have spent hours in order to create only because I had a specific look in mind when I started. In other cases, I may only spend 30-45 minutes on an image.
How do you know when a piece is finished? Is it easy to walk away?
I know a piece is finished when I get the look that I had envisioned when I took I the shot. Of course, there are time where I will go back through photos that I have taken in the past and I’ll find something that I did not process at the time, but now I have a vision of what I want from that shot. It’s a creative process that is exciting and unpredictable, which is why it continues to harness my attention.
What do you do to overcome a ‘block’?
I don’t know that I have really reached a time where I had a block. I have shot certain subjects to the point that I decided to take a break rom those kinds of subjects and then challenged myself to go out and get other shots.
How well do you take criticism and how do you make use of it?
I always listen to criticism and then weight it based on who is giving the critique. I have learned many valuable lessons through listening to the helpful hints and suggestions given to me by other photographers and friends. I do inject my own emotion into my work and I am not willing to make changes if it puts a cramp on my style. Like I said, it all depends on the content of the criticism and where it originates. I view myself as an artist and I do not want to place myself in a position where I am trying to satisfy the vision that someone else has one of my works, it would not be representative of me.
Who is your favourite photographer?
It is so difficult to pick a favorite, I have many photographers that I have a great respect for including Trey Ratcliff and Serge Ramelli; each has their own unique style and have a way of injecting their style into their stunning images. I have also learned a lot from both of them with regards to post processing and HDR, so their influence can be seen in my work.
Which one of your photographs is your favourite?
Probably one of my favorite images that I have taken was the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, Israel. This picture represents everything that I had learned in nine short months after getting my first DSLR camera. To me, the shot represents the reason that I finally decided to take action in order to pursue photography. I knew that I was going to Israel, so I made it a priority to learn everything that I could before leaving and this picture captures a little bit of everything that I learned, giving me a sense of accomplishment.
Have you used smartphone cameras?
The best camera is the one that you have on you. I take shots with my smartphone, but usually only for the purpose of planning a shoot somewhere. I do not get the quality that I am seeking in my work from a camera phone, so I do not offer those prints for sale.
Do you think Smartphone cameras will change the whole world of photography?
I do think that smartphone cameras have influenced the way that people look at pictures and post processing, but when it comes to capturing a street at night or the stars, I do not see a time in the near future where a camera phone is going to be able to compete.
Of course, I do think that if a smartphone is all you have, then shoot and master your camera phone.
My photography’s very personal for me, but it is also something that enjoy sharing with the world. I shoot what I want to shoot, when I want to shoot and how I want to shoot it. I will get an idea of how I want to shoot a subject and then I will develop the idea into the finished product. This entire process is very soothing to me and gives me a sense of peace. I find it to be the ultimate compliment when someone else looks at my work and decides that they just have to have a print to display on their wall. In this way, I feel a connection with those who purchase my art. Whether they have a particular shared attachment to the subject or they just like the emotion they get from the print, it brings us to a mutual appreciation which I find affirming.
Have you exhibited any of your work in galleries?
I have not exhibited in any galleries, but I do have some local businesses who have featured my work on their walls for their customers to enjoy.
Will your work be included at any upcoming contests or galleries? If so, where and when?
Currently, I do not have any plans to be showing at a gallery any time soon. I have submitted works to contests on Fine Art America, but I do not foresee submitting images for any other kinds of photo contests.
What are your plans for the future?
Photography is a source of therapy for me, so I plan on continuing to produce works. I want to eventually go to a full frame camera, but for now, I just want to go new places and shoot. Of course, I do want to travel back to some of the places that I have been in the past in order to capture the sights. I have been to Africa twice and both times, I did not have the technical ability nor the equipment to take pictures worthy of showing to others, now I would jump at the chance to go back.
What advice do you have for budding photographers?
The best advice that I have is find other photographers and learn from them. I would also encourage a new photographer to search YouTube for tutorials on post processing and the fundamentals of photography. They say the more basics you master, the more advanced you are. Knowing how to change the variables of Shutter speed, Focal Length, Aperture and ISO in order to get the picture that you want is the ultimate goal. I would also encourage a budding photographer to experiment and not be afraid of coming home with a bunch of shots that did not work out. What I don’t like, I just don’t show it to anyone. There have been some instance where I tried to time the motion of my body with a moving car in order to get the car in focus and the rest of the frame blurred, I probably took 200 pictures before I got the timing down just right. Don’t be afraid to fail.
Have you done any courses to help you?
I have not taken any formal training in photography, but I have remained open to learning from those around me and online tutorials. I personally think that YouTUbe is a treasure trove of good information for new photographers.
What do you do to market your work?
I market my work locally in a few businesses as well as on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, StumbleUpon and Pinterest. If you run into me while I am on a photoshoot, you will likely end up with one of my business cards. I follow the ABC’s of marketing – “Always Be Closing”
Do you enter your work in contests?
Yes, I enter some contests on Fine Art America, but aside from that, I usually avoid photo contests. Many of the ones that I have seen either want you to license them to use your photo however they choose or you have to pay to enter the contest. If I have to pay in order to get someone to look at my work, then maybe I should keep my work to myself.
Do you use social networking in your day to day life?
Are you available for work (commissions)?
I am available for commissioned work if the price and circumstances are right. If someone likes my style of photography and they want me to capture a subject that I would not otherwise be able to get, then I might go for it. Of course, if I get to travel in order to get the shot, then I am much more inclined to say yes. I will not shoot weddings or similar events.
Have you got hobbies?
Aside from photography, post-processing, marketing my prints, managing my website and keeping a day job, I am not sure where I would find room for much else. Of course, I always enjoy spending time with my son and playing video games with him (except when he beats me).
What was your worst job outside photography?
When I was in high school, I worked at a theme park in Houston. Aside from the meaningless wages, it was hot and unrewarding work where I was regularly supervised by people that I would normally consider to be thugs. I have to thank that job, however, because it gave me a renewed spirit in school. I did not want to have to work in an environment like that any longer than I had to.
What was your best job?
The best job that I have had was serving as a member of a security detail in a hostile environment. Despite the harsh working conditions and the tremendous risks that we undertook on a daily basis, it was very rewarding to see our client make it safely to their destination. It was also an environment where I had to trust my coworkers with my life and they did the same. Some of them are still like brothers to me today.
Where are you based?
New Artwork by David Morefield
New Artwork by David Morefield
© 2014, Isabella Francesca Abigail Shores. All rights reserved.