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Pros You Should Know: Juan Pons

Photographers
Wildlife and Nature Photographer Juan Pons

Wildlife and Nature Photographer Juan Pons

“Pros you should know” is an ongoing Q&A series with photographers that the folks here at BorrowLenses.com admire and follow.

Juan Pons has been a photographer for more than 20 years. Born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Juan is a fantastic nature and wildlife photographer and educator. An avid conservationist, Juan’s passion for the environment is evident through his images, many of which he donates to non-profit organizations focused on nature conservation. He leads workshops in Yellowstone, Bosque Del Apache, and many other locations around the world, and is co-host of the Digital Photo Experience podcast, which is definitely worth a listen for photo enthusiasts.

We asked Juan to take a bit of time from his busy schedule and answer a few questions for us, and he was kind enough to acquiesce, and to provide us with some of his amazing photography (more of which can be found on his blog) for this piece.

1. How did you get started in photography?

I was very fortunate that the high school I attended had an excellent photography teacher and program. Ms. Solorow was incredibly inspirational and taught us not just the basics and mechanics of photography, but that we should always be experimenting and stepping out of our comfort zones photographically.

Bohemian Waxwings in Yellowstone

Bohemian Waxwings in Yellowstone

2. How has photography changed the way you see the world around you?

The primary reason I decided to concentrate on wildlife and nature photography is because it allows me to slow down and examine wildlife and nature much more intimately than I would have otherwise. I am a firm believer that you must know your subject well in order to capture their essence photographically and since i have always been very drawn to wildlife and nature, photography gave me the perfect opportunity to explore those subjects much more carefully.

3. What is your favorite subject, and why?

It’s probably obvious by now but my favorite subject is wildlife, and although I do have my favorite species I like photographing anything that moves, from large mammals like Bison in Yellowstone National Park to insects in a local park or botanical garden. As to why, I would have to say that I never cease to be amazed by natures handiwork, wether its the beauty of a delicate flower, or the cunning of a red fox.

4. Is there a market that you want to break into or simply just try?

Coyote near Gardiner, MT

Coyote near Gardiner, MT

I have been very deliberate in what I like to do with my photography so I feel like I am doing what I like to do best. However I have been wanting to try outdoor action sports photography. My problem right now is finding the time.

5. What client/project are you most looking forward to shooting next year?

I have recently moved to Maine, and although I am very familiar with Acadia National Park and the island it’s located in, there are incredible wildlife opportunities in the interior of the state. So I am very much looking forward to exploring and getting to know some of these areas with the goal of putting in place a number of wildlife photography workshops closer to home.

6. What do you derive inspiration from?

This one is easy, most of my inspiration come from nature itself, however I very much enjoy looking at other photographer’s work, certainly the work of other professional photographers, but I specially enjoy seeing the work of amateur photographers. The reason is that amateurs work is almost completely driven by their passion and oftentimes you can see this in their work. In addition, the work of amateur photographers can sometimes be equated to seeing thru a child’s eye, meaning that they will have a different and new perspective than those of us with more experience and I find that very refreshing.

Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park

7. Where do you go for inspiration when you reach a creative plateau?

Outdoors, I do not necessarily have to visit a National Park like Acadia, although that is nice, but sometimes inspiration can be gleaned from some of the simplest scenes and subjects. I find that trying to capture a different perspective on ordinary and everyday subjects can get my juices flowing.

8. What’s your favorite piece of gear? Why?

It would definitely have to be my tripod. I often say that I feel naked when I go out shooting without a good tripod. I find that the tripod slows me down and makes me more deliberate in my photography.

9. Where do you see the future of photography technology taking us? How will the next generation take photos?

The sky is truly the limit, I believe we are living in the golden age of photography. At no other time have we enjoyed the choices we have in photography, and not just in terms of gear, but also in terms on how we share our work with the world.

10. What do you do when you’re not shooting?

Most people think that being a professional photographer means you are out shooting all the time, and while that may be true for some, for most of us photography is a business and as with any business there is a lot of other work you need to do to be successful. Things like logistics, accounting, marketing, interfacing with clients, selling, etc.

However beside my photography business I very much enjoy Kayaking, Downhill skiing, biking, hiking and camping. But most of all I enjoy spending time with my 7 year old son.

11. What is the biggest challenge you face currently in your photography that you are trying to overcome, and what are you doing to overcome it?

For me it’s always marketing and selling of myself. This is my least favorite part of my photography business, but without it I know I would not have a photography business so I do it. Eventually I will want to hire someone to help tackle my marketing much more effectively.

Bass Harbor Lighthouse, Acadia National Park

Bass Harbor Lighthouse, Acadia National Park

12. What’s the best piece of advice you can give someone just entering the photography business?

I get this question all the time, and the best thing I can tell someone wanting to get into this business is to think long and hard about what photography means to them. Most amateur photographers do it for the passion, the release that photography gives them as well as a way to relax and put aside, at least for some time, the stresses of their regular life and daytime job. There is a real danger of taking something that you do to feel better and relax and make it your primary source of income and apply to it all the stresses of having to make a living at it. As I said above, being a professional photographer does not mean you are taking pictures all day every day, the vast majority of the time will be spent taking care of the business side of photography.

If after reflecting on this you determine that you still want to be become a professional, then go for it! Work hard at it, be tenacious, be determined to succeed. I believe that there is still a lot of opportunities out there, you just have to be creative and resourceful and most important remember that this is a very rapidly changing field, so you need to be flexible and always be learning. Best of luck!

 

You can learn more about Juan at his website, at http://juanpons.org. The Digital Photo Experience podcast that Juan co-hosts can be found at http://dpexperience.com.

 

All images Courtesy and Copyright © Juan Pons.

Tip of the Week – Our favorite lighting videos

Tips & Tricks

Every week, we post a photography-related tip on our blog. These tips are typically inspired by questions we get from our customers. Sometimes we might feature a technique tip, and sometimes a gear recommendation. If there’s something specific you’d like to see in this section, let us know. Email us at [email protected]

This week, we bring out our favorite lighting videos. Whether it’s about small flashes or studio strobes, lighting is something we get an awful lot of questions about. So, we decided to put together a short list of our favorite lighting-related video tutorials to help you get going. These are paid videos, but are worth every penny, since the instructors are some of the best in the business.

  1. Joe McNally’s “Language of Light”: Joe is easily one of the best lighting instructors in the world, and his “Language of Light” DVD set is pure genius. Whether it’s shooting a family portrait, or hanging off the back of a truck to capture speeding downhill skaters, Joe does it all and does it incredibly well. He’s funny, engaging and eloquent, and while he doesn’t make it look easy, he does help you understand his methods and techniques, letting you learn a lot in the process.
  2. David Hobby’s “Lighting in Layers”: David Hobby became famous for starting what is now considered to be the bible of small flash photography websites. Strobist.com has become the go-to site for folks looking to learn about lighting with small flash, and to his credit, David pretty-much gives away a ton of information for free there. His “Lighting in Layers” DVD, however, ratchets things up to a whole new level. Six full shoots span nine hours of video, replete with lighting diagrams, commentary and on-the-job demos. For lighting enthusiasts and aficionados, this is definitely worth checking out.
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  3. Scott Kelby’s “Light it, Shoot it, Retouch it!”: This one requires a subscription to KelbyTraining.com, but is totally worth it. Scott takes you through a complete shoot, from lighting setup, to shooting, to the retouching process. Throughout the entire tutorial – which is actually broken into three parts – he describes all the gear, software and techniques he uses in great detail, leaving few, if any, questions in the minds of the audience. Scott’s class got so popular, it spawned a book and a nationwide teaching tour of the same name.  If you don’t have a subscription to KelbyTraining, they do have a free trial so you can check out the class during that. Get the subscription, however, because it also gets you access to another video on this list.
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  4. Zack Arias teaching studio lighting at creativeLIVE.com

    Zack Arias teaching studio lighting at creativeLIVE.com

    Zack Arias’ “Studio Lighting.”: This is easily THE go-to course if you’re just starting out and want an immersive, extensive course. Shot over three days, this workshop form creativeLIVE is absolutely stunning in the amount of instruction it provides. From learning how to setup a shoot to why you start with, say, a soft box to what that does versus an umbrella or a beauty dish, to measuring exposure, this workshop has it all.

    Zack is a fantastic instructor; he’s humble, self-deprecating and brutally honest. This is a guy who’s not afraid to let his mistakes be a teaching tool, and you’ll see that in this video workshop. Moreover, he doesn’t assume you know something about lighting already, so he explains things very thoroughly. Even experienced folks will get something out of this workshop, so don’t pass it up.
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  5. Syl Arena’s “Working with Speedlites”: This two-part course, also available from KelbyTraining.com (the same place you can find Scott Kelby’s class, mentioned above) is a nod to the Canonistas out there. Since David Hobby and Joe McNally are Nikon users, their classes invariably involve heavy use of Nikon cameras and flashes. Syl’s class, on the other hand, is all about Canon flash photography.What’s really cool about this class is that it does what your Canon flash’s manual should have done, but didn’t. Syl breaks down Speedlites and explains everything in detail – but he doesn’t stop there. There’s plenty of technical information to give you lots of “Aha!” moments, but then he shows you just how to use those flashes in actual shooting situations. The class is broken into two parts, one for working with single Speedlites, and the other for working with multiple Speedlites. If you’re a Canon shooter and want to get into the world of small flash photography, this is your go-to class.

So that’s the list of our favorite lighting videos. Got a recommendation of your own? Leave us a comment, and let us know!

Should BorrowLenses.com carry medium-format photo gear for rent?

BL News
Should we carry medium-format gear like this Phase One?

Should we carry medium-format gear like this Phase One?

We get asked about medium-format photo gear like Phase and Hasselblad quite often from some of our pro customers. Since the market for this kind of gear has been pretty small and specialized in the past, we haven’t given it much thought, but there appears to be a new surge of interest in MF (medium-format) gear from some semi-pro and even amateur photographers. So, we thought we’d put the question to you.

We’ve created a petition of sorts for you folks to sign. If you want us to carry medium-format gear, please take a moment to sign it. Your email addresses will not be sold to a third-party for any purpose and we will not spam you.

We look forward to hearing from our customers!
[emailpetition id="1"]

Cool Stuff, Week of Jan 30 – Feb 6, 2012

Cool Stuff
Fuji X-Pro1

Fuji X-Pro1

Welcome to Cool Stuff, a weekly feature where we post our favorite links from the past week, including our favorite articles and how-tos, videos, images and more.

That’s it for this week’s Cool Stuff. If you have something you think should be included, let us know! Email us at [email protected]

Cool Stuff, January 30, 2012

Cool Stuff

Welcome to Cool Stuff, a weekly feature where we post our favorite links from the past week, including our favorite articles and how-tos, videos, images and more.

That’s it for this week’s Cool Stuff. If you have something you think should be included, let us know! Email us at [email protected]

Tip of the Week: Our Top 5 Sites for Photographic Inspiration

Tips & Tricks

Every week, we post a photography-related tip on our blog. This week’s tip is about inspiration. Since one of the keys to becoming a better photographer is to look at the work of other photographers, here’s a few sites we go to for our inspiration.

Cool Stuff – January 26, 2012

Cool Stuff

Welcome to Cool Stuff, a weekly feature where we post our favorite links from the past week, including our favorite articles and how-tos, videos, images and more.

That’s it for this week’s Cool Stuff. If you have something you think should be included, let us know! Email us at [email protected]

Opinion: iBooks Author – why photographers should care

Gear Talk
iBooks Author, the new ebook authoring app from Apple.

iBooks Author, the new ebook authoring app from Apple.

Yesterday, at an event in New York, Apple released an update to its iBooks app, along with an all-new authoring application that makes it very easy to create stunning interactive books for the iPad. On the surface of things, this seemed to be an education-related event, with a focus on using the authoring tool, iBooks Author, to create textbooks for sale through the iBookstore.

But if you watch the video of the special event, you’ll see that Phil Schiller, Apple’s VP of worldwide marketing, makes a point of mentioning that iBooks Author can be used to create much more than textbooks. This is where things start to get interesting. (more…)

Tip of the Week – Real-World Cold Weather Shooting Tips

Tips & Tricks

Every week, we post a photography-related tip on our blog. These tips are typically inspired by questions we get from our customers. Sometimes we might feature a technique tip, and sometimes a gear recommendation. If there’s something specific you’d like to see in this section, let us know. Email us at [email protected]

Dove in Winter. Image Courtesy ImperfectPhotographer.com.

Dove in Winter. Image Courtesy ImperfectPhotographer.com.

Winter seems to be one of those months where the desire to stay indoors and do nothing overtakes many photographers. For those who live in areas where the landscape gets coated with ice and snow in the winter months, this temptation might be even stronger.

Thing is, winter shooting can be incredibly rewarding. Landscapes take on a surreal quality and, though fewer than in summer, there is still plenty of wildlife around. Snow and ice tend to eliminate distracting backgrounds, making your subject stand out. “Winter,” as one photographer told us, “is nature’s very own white seamless background.”

Shooting in cold weather, however, isn’t without challenges. From keeping your gear safe, to keeping yourself safe, there are a fair number of obstacles that can not only keep you from getting the shots you want, but cause injuries to you and damage to your equipment. With that in mind, for this week’s Tip, we bring you an excellent article from Mark over at ImperfectPhotographer.com. With over three years of shooting in cold weather down to -23 degrees, Mark has some incredibly useful insights for you if you’re venturing out in winter.

The Real World – Cold Weather Shooting Tips at ImperfectPhotographer.com

 

Cool Stuff – January 16, 2012

Cool Stuff

Welcome to Cool Stuff, a weekly feature where we post our favorite links from the past week, including our favorite articles and how-tos, videos, images and more.

That’s it for this week’s Cool Stuff. If you have something you think should be included, let us know! Email us at [email protected]

Cool Stuff – January 9, 2012

Cool Stuff

Welcome to Cool Stuff, a weekly feature where we post our favorite links from the past week, including our favorite articles and how-tos, videos, images and more.

That’s it for this week’s Cool Stuff. If you have something you think should be included, let us know! Email us at [email protected]

Finally! A new full-frame camera from Nikon

Gear Talk
The new Nikon D4

The new Nikon D4

Nikon just announced the D4, and it looks like a doozy, not just an updated version of the D3s. Loads of new features – expanded ISO, clean HDMI out, MUCH better HD video options (1080p at 30, 24 and 25fps). Most importantly, it’ll be the first full-frame sensor camera with full HD capability since the Canon 5D MarkII (the 1Dx isn’t due out till March 2012).

A couple of other points of interest.

  • The D4 has an RGB metering sensor, first introduced with the Nikon D7000. The difference here is that besides being an updated version of the D7000’s sensor, the D4’s metering sensor has 91,000 pixels to the D7000’s 2016.
  • Framerate has be upped to 11fps in Continuous High, from 9fps in the D3s.
  • ISO is expandable to 204800.
  • The 91k pixel RGB sensor also features face recognition.
  • You can now record 1080p video in three formats: Full-frame, DX crop and an even smaller crop that uses just 1920×1080 pixels on the sensor.

Lots more stuff too, including a headphone jack for monitoring audio, a levels indicator and more. That 1Dx needs to hit the market sooner rather than later, because Nikon has upped the ante with this extremely capable HDDSLR, finally challenging Canon in the video realm.

Check out the press release for more details. Here are the specs.

UPDATES: Here’s a roundup of D4-related pieces from around the web.

 

Editor’s note: Post updated to clarify sentence about the D4 being the first full-frame camera capable of full HD video since 5D Mark II. The 1Dx was announced, but won’t be released until after the D4.

Cool Stuff – January 3, 2012

Cool Stuff

Welcome to Cool Stuff, a weekly feature where we post our favorite links from the past week, including our favorite articles and how-tos, videos, images and more. Things have been quiet over the holidays, but there’s still a bunch of neat things around the web.

That’s it for this week’s Cool Stuff. If you have something you think should be included, let us know! Email us at [email protected]

Would you rent the Canon C300?

BL News
The Canon C300

The Canon C300

As many of you know, Canon has introduced the C300; its first camera in the new Cinema EOS line of products. Since its introduction, the Canon C300 has garnered a lot of criticism, especially when viewed in light of the RED Scarlet, which was announced in its final form that same day.

The $20,000 price tag on the C300 gave a lot of photographers pause, especially when you compared it to the Scarlet’s $14,000 production-ready package (or just under $10,000 for the body alone). There were other considerations, too; the Scarlet shot 24fps at 4K resolution to the C300’s 1080p. The Scarlet can autofocus Canon lenses; the C300 is manual-focus only. The Scarlet shoots in REDCode, which is kind of like shooting 24 RAW images per second at 14 megapixels each.

Clearly, the RED is the superior camera.

Or is it? (more…)

Tip of the week: How to Visualize and Shoot in B&W

Tips & Tricks
Nik Silver Efex Pro / Alien Skin Exposure

Nik Silver Efex Pro / Alien Skin Exposure

Every Thursday, we post a photography-related tip on our blog. These tips are typically inspired by questions we get from our customers. Sometimes we might feature a technique tip, and sometimes a gear recommendation. If there’s something specific you’d like to see in this section, let us know. Email us at [email protected]

Black and white photography is one of the oldest forms of photography; yet its popularity seems to have been on the uptick of late. With plugins like Alien Skin’s Exposure and Nik’s Silver Efex Pro 2, digital photographers now have some amazing tools at their disposal to create black and white images of varying types.

But the problem with shooting for black and white is knowing what will look good as a monochrome image. It can take photographers years to look at a scene and know what it will look like when rendered in monochrome. The old adage of “If it doesn’t look good, just convert it to B&W and call it art,” doesn’t hold very true. Rather, the axiom “GIGO (Garbage In, Garbage Out)” is much more accurate. You have to know what will stand out as a black and white image, and that’s what this week’s tip is about.

(more…)