This is interview #3 in series designed to showcase some of our amazing clients, their work and learn what inspires them to be the best in the business.
Meet Clark Vandergrift. Clark is a Maryland-based photographer that travels the world looking for unique ways to share his vision. Clark is a visual storyteller inspired by a sense of pure wanderlust. He describes his photographic style as being based on reality and embellished by his imagination.
You have a really diverse landscape portfolio ranging from mountains to lighthouses and everything in between. Where is your favorite place to photograph and if you could only shoot in one state moving forward where would it be? That is a cruel question. I love traveling, exploration, and finding new places. To have to narrow my options to one area would be like prison. However, there are two states that I keep revisiting; Colorado and California. I love them both equally, but if I had to pick just one I would say California; but only because it has more diversity in the terrain.
The Yukon Crossing shot in the Landscape Portfolio is stunning. Did you just happen upon that scene with the northern lights firing or was that a shot you had to wait patiently to capture? That shot is actually somewhat of a figment of my imagination. It is composited from multiple images. I actually did video depiction the compositing/retouching of a similar shot in that series. After the first time I saw that train station I knew I wanted to photograph it. I just didn’t know how I wanted to depict it. It is actually located about an hour from my studio in Maryland. Once I settled upon a concept I calculated when the light would be right for the composite and shot it then.
Your website is a collection of both photography and video. Which medium are you most passionate about? That depends on the day. I always seem to be most excited about what I’m doing at the moment. Video is a little bit newer to me and that has made it exciting. But there is also a certain magic about that frozen instant that is the still image. What I enjoy about both is the entire process from conceptualization to finished file. This is true for me whether the magic is still image compositing and color grading or creative cutting of video.
You have a couple video’s about baseball that are loaded with great nostalgia for the game. Are you a fan? I am a fan, but I would say that I’m a super fan of baseball. What I am a super fan of is nostalgia itself. My studio is a rehabbed barn (on my residential property) that is loaded with vintage props, signage, gas station memorabilia, and neon.
You are a master of post-production. Is this process something you love or is it a necessary process to achieve the end result you are seeking? Both actually. One thing I love to do is to routinely learn new post techniques. I often will just learn how to do something regardless of whether it is part of my current process. Ultimately what this does is put another tool in the shed and it opens up more possibilities during conceptualization and capture.
Your “Tree People” gallery is jaw dropping. How did you come up with this concept? Thank you. That project is one of my favorites. Purely by happenstance, I noticed at one point that I had a small collection of landscapes that featured trees. I continued to capture these types of shots while knowing I was going to do something with them eventually. I was doing some research one evening and came across a very talented body painter, Jen Seidel, and at once settled upon the concept of painting people to match these unique environments.
How long do each of these shots take to prepare? It usually takes about 3-5 days not including the time it took to capture the initial landscape. Once a landscape image has been selected/processed/ created the usual steps are to: 1) Cast the model 2) Build a set in the studio to replicate the environment and lighting in the landscape 3) Shoot the unpainted model on the set 4) Do a quick composite of the model in the landscape 5) Print a large format print of this composite and hang it by the makeup artist so that she can understand the size and scale of the model in the scene and determine how to apply the paint and at what scale to paint the tree bark, etc 6) Shoot 7) Compositing and finishing of the image
I am assuming you work with an exceptional make-up artist to achieve the camouflage of your subjects. Is this artist someone you collaborate with often? Jen also does traditional Make Up Artist work and we do work together outside of this project.
You have a distinctive look and feel to you work. How did you arrive at this? Has your style changed over time or have you been pretty consistent since you started? I would say that I am always evolving and shooting different things with different looks. I have a much more diverse image library than what is outwardly visible. However, I am careful to keep the images that I use for branding (the ones on my site) consistent and distinctive.
What is one piece of camera gear/equipment you simply can’t live without? Photoshop and whatever gear I purchased most recently.
What advice would you give to a young photographer looking to get into photography as a career path? You have to be tenacious and have equal parts humility, introspection, and self-confidence. There will be setbacks, or at least something that feels like a setback at the time… perhaps just a mental or emotional setback (i.e. writer’s block). Learn from them. Secondly, you can’t waste time on projects that don’t take you where you want to be going as an artist. Where most people want to be is a combination of creative satisfaction and financial success. There is a balance that has to be learned. Some projects will be very lucrative and others will be very creatively satisfying. An ideal project is rewarding in both aspects. Avoid projects that don’t satisfy one need at all and only partially satisfy the other need. The sum of both sides of the equation should equal 100%.
What do you see as the most challenging part of the photography industry today? For me personally, marketing is always a challenge. I love the creative process and working with others, but marketing has always seemed like a chore. It’s a necessary evil in my mind. With that being said, any freelancer should know that you are constantly selling yourself/your business. Even to your most long time clients.
Your mind must be constantly in motion to conjure up all your creative ideas for photos and video. What do you do to unwind? I’m and avid cyclist and I usually ride about 200-300 miles a week.
What does the perfect Clark Vandergrift day look like? Somehow it would have to involve shooting, riding my bike, hanging out with my family (I’m blessed with 3 wonderful sons and a beautiful and supportive wife).
This is interview #2 in series designed to showcase some of our amazing clients, their work and learn what inspires them to be the best in the business.
Meet Ryan Schude. Ryan left art school in 2001 and worked through a variety of approaches to photography before really honing in on something he felt pursuing as his definitive style. He then made the move to Los Angeles and spent a couple years building a portfolio. After his initial portfolio was finished he decided that he didn’t want to shoot just anything that came his way, but rather focus on things that fit within his creative comfort zone. After reviewing his work, it looks like he has found his niche.
Your “Tableaux Vivant” gallery is a fantastic update to an old style of shooting popular in the 1800’s where photographers married stage and photography. What made you decide to shoot images in this style? I was shooting editorial portraits at the time and became more interested in a narrative approach as opposed to documentary or a traditional, formal portrait. Many of the stories I wanted to tell required multiple people and environments that drew me in and these happened to exist on a larger scale.
Some of these images look to be extremely complex. How long do these shots take to set up and shoot? Generally, the larger scenes are shot in one day over the course of many hours to pre-light, set build, and block. The actual shooting time with the actors is usually around 2 hours.
How do you keep all the models/subjects engaged and focused in a long shoot? This is always a challenge as there are a lot of variables needing attention while the action is happening. Light is changing, props are being moved around, etc. It’s always good to add some humorous action into the mix to keep everyone engaged. If they get to watch someone take a glass of milk to the face once in a while it feels more like we are having fun and horsing around rather than working.
How do you orchestrate everything when shooting? Do you have a large crew to help coordinate all the variables? Ideally there are a handful of assistants, digital techs, producers, wardrobe, catering, hair, makeup, props, set designers, all with their own teams as well and that can make things go a lot smoother. I have done this size shoot all by myself before, but it’s certainly frowned upon.
How much of what we see is in-camera versus post-production? The final image doesn’t look much different than what you see in camera. The composites are simply a blend of multiple frames that look almost identical except for the characters being in different versions of their actions. Everything is lit and shot at the same time to make it look as real as possible, I always at least try to get it in one shot, but it would be a waste to not take advantage of the luxury to pick the best frames from each person’s action.
Of all the shots in the Tableaux Vivant gallery is there one in particular that really stands out? They all have their special places in my heart for the sheer memory of the experience while making them, but the most recent ones that I was excited about were shot with my sister and her kids in a house in Big Sur and a farm outside Sequoia National Park. Those were essentially done all by myself with a little help from my brother so it was great to have such an intimate experience with my family and still be able to make something I was as proud of and feel looks as good as any of the ones created with 30 people on set.
You are like the Norman Rockwell of our generation as your shots capture a slice of Americana. Was there a painter/photographer whose work inspired you when you were getting started? Norman Rockwell and Edward Hopper have crept into a few of these for sure, but I would say David LaChapelle, Philip Lorca DiCorcia and Gregory Crewdson were bigger influences early on.
You seem to have an affection for capturing people and their cars “Them & Theirs”. How did you come up with this concept? I started that project in college on a 4×5 camera and focused on people with vanity license plates. It got shelved for many years and when it reemerged I dropped the license plates aspect and became more interested in the people and vehicles themselves. Now I look for environments that can tell a specific story surrounding the first two elements.
It looks like you have a lot of fun when you are shooting. Are these shoots as fun as they look in the finished product? I hope so! For me the process is important and even if an image ends up falling short of my expectations, the experience is usually well worth the effort.
I assume that these shots take a ton of gear (lighting, etc) to put together. What do you enjoy shooting when it is just you and your camera? Simple portraits of my friends and family traveling or touristing around somewhere. Also, the anonymous vehicles and buildings I see while biking, driving or taking public transit around LA.
You have a new book “SCHUDE” that showcases your work. What was the hardest part of putting the book together? The hardest part should be finding a publisher, but I was fortunate in the fact that they found me before I ever even considered the possibility that it was time for a book. Once that was done, we did have some difficulty since they were in Dublin and communicating via email about important issues is never ideal. I am extremely grateful for their support and love how it turned out but would much prefer being able to meet in person if the opportunity arose again.
If you weren’t a photographer, what would you be doing? Selling pork bellies.
You have a tremendous social following. Do you ever get ideas/concepts for shots from your followers? The online community that I am involved in has been quite helpful in terms of feedback and inspiration in lieu of a scholastic environment. I hope to foster this into a specific platform at some point that allows constructive criticism and support for artists of all mediums who are interested in helping each other grow and be challenged creatively.
A Photo Folio is excited to launch a series of interviews to showcase some of our clients, their work and what inspires them to be the best in the business.
Our first interview is with photographer Andrei Duman who specializes in landscape, aerial and travel photography. Andrei is originally from Romania and now resides in LA after stops in London and New York.
You have images on your site from every corner of the world. How many countries have you visited to shoot? I have been fortunate enough to have traveled to over 70 countries. I have always been an open-minded traveler and am fascinated with going to locations that are not your “go to” places. The ones off the beaten path were and still are the ones that intrigue me as they are still unspoiled. The harder it is to get to the location the more determined I am. The culture is still relatively untouched and you really do get to feel the place. In my younger days I was a semi-professional tennis player and had to travel to tournaments in far off lands to get points such as Brunei, Syria and Tunisia.
What is the most unique place you have ever shot? I have a few but if I had to name one it has to be Easter Island. I fell in love with the place as soon as I touched it. The history, the culture and amazing feats of engineering to not only carve the statues but the way they moved the stones from the one quarry on the island all the way to the coast is nothing short of breathtaking. What enhanced the experience was the fact that we were pretty much alone and felt we had the whole island to ourselves. Really had the time to take it all in and prepare the right shot.
Of all the places you have been to shoot, what it the one location you would love to go back and visit/shoot? That would have to be Iceland. It is my favorite country that I have ever been to. It is a land of amazing contrasts from the black stark beaches to the majestic glaciers and bewildering waterfalls. It is also one of the most challenging places that I have ever shot in because of the constant changing weather. I went during the summer and also returned to shoot the ice caves, both experiences bringing their own unique complications. It was the first time that I used crampons to abseil down a huge glacier, cross a raging river on a ladder, crawl on my belly through an ice cave, all with my camera equipment in tow. The results were worth it all.
What is one place you have been to shoot where the photographs simply couldn’t do the location justice? That’s a hard one to answer. I would have to say Namibia in some ways, especially in the Namib desert simply because it was so difficult to get the scale of the dunes. I felt that even with my widest lens, I could not present them in the light that they deserved.
What destinations are on your photography bucket list? My bucket list is ever growing, with Madagascar, Bhutan, Antarctica, New Zealand, Galapagos and Maldives on the soon to do list.
What is the hardest part about shooting on location? With all the research I do when planning a trip to know the best time of day to shoot and how to get access to certain locations, it is only when you physically are there that many other obstacles arise. You realize that the sun does not follow the path you planned and does not shine correctly when shooting in a building (like my experience in the Namibia ghost town), that you cannot get access to the location unless you bribe the locals or that the vegetation has grown a lot more than you imagined (Cambodia Temple) and that when shooting animals, they do not play by your rules and do whatever they want (Gorilla Hike in Uganda).
Can you go someplace exotic and leave the camera behind? I do struggle with this one. I find it very hard because no matter where I go I am always on the lookout for that great shot, so leaving all my camera gear behind is tough. I do think that it is important to walk away from your camera from time to time. It gives you the time to think a little and take in some of the sights that one normally misses when behind the lens.
If you didn’t have to pay the bills with photography, what would you love to shoot? Exactly what I am shooting now. Remote locations, unique landscapes, fascinating tribes
You have spectacular images from Africa. What are the challenges of shooting in that environment? First of all it is hard to get your equipment there as they use small planes to get around the countries and they do not allow my big bag at the back of the plane. Also bringing my big tripod is a challenge and they will ask you to check it in. I never do and I try my hardest to persuade them otherwise. When you do make it, I did not find it too much of an issue to shoot in the Masai or Serengeti for example. The light is good most of the time, depending on time of year, it does not rain too much and overall, the biggest issue is the unpredictability of the animal behavior. We were driving around in Etosha National Park in Namibia every day for 2 days and did not see any big cats.
You have some amazing aerial images. Are these shot from a drone or helicopter? I shoot mostly from helicopters with the doors off after lengthy discussions with the pilot about the location as well as the flight path/panning to gain the optimal angle for the shots.
How will drones change aerial photography? I think drones will change aerial photography a great deal. I am in the process of working with a drone company to start incorporating drones in my work. First of all it is a safety issue, so reducing chance of harm to yourself and it allows you to perform maneuvers that will be difficult with a helicopter. You can also get more interesting shots and get closer to certain subjects so I am sure that as technology progresses, we will be seeing some new angles and types of photos. Being aware of the negative aspect of using drones, such as privacy and locations where you cannot fly are important lessons to learn.
You are opening a new gallery on September 17th in Los Angeles. What is the most daunting part of opening a new gallery?Everything! The build, the spiraling costs, the chance of total failure, will people buy, what will people think of the work? There are a lot of things that can go wrong, but also a lot of things that can go right and that’s what motivates me to keep going. All I am trying to achieve is a place where people can enjoy good quality, true to the subject photography.
What part of the gallery business are you most excited about? I think it is meeting new people and making connections. I am looking forward to discussing my work with regular customers and other photographers alike and learning more about their experiences and travels. I want the gallery to be a place where people can come in and learn more about photography and it is my intention to provide classes to support that. I was recently made an Ambassador to Hoya Filters and Icebreakers Clothing and have a few other companies that will be sponsoring the gallery which is also exciting for me. Continuing to build those relationships is what excites me from a business perspective. I am also in the process of partnering up with St Jude (an organization that is very close to my heart) and I will be donating a certain % of my sales for the good cause that they do on an everyday basis.
The Andre Duman Gallery
6316 North Topanga Blvd Suite 1170
Woodland Hills, CA.
Why did you choose a Photo Folio for your website? I chose PhotoFolio as my main site because it provided me the flexibility that other websites could not. It allows me to make marginal changes that help me create the look and feel that I am seeking in my site. The control is given to me and I am not pigeonholed into only a few adjustments. The images are crisp, move effortlessly and I get a great deal of compliments on its aesthetic. It is for this reason that I am also using aPhotofolio for the gallery page. It also helps a great deal that the support team is very helpful, efficient and quick to answer all queries I have.
Photo Folio was just awarded Best Website Design, twice, in the 2015 PDN Photo Annual in the Self Promotion category. (They eliminated the website category after we won 12 times last year and 8 times the year before that).
Winning 33 times over the past 6 years is a true testament to the power of our software and the constant evolution of the DesignX program. We’re the only software company to win this year.
We’ve reached an incredible milestone today! Nearly 8 years ago when we founded Photo Folio the industry was dominated by Templates. You locked into a design with a menu location, thumbnail type, transition… even colors and fonts. Heck, one company even charged to upload a logo for you ;). Seems like 20 years ago.
The problem with templates as we saw it, was that you couldn’t customize them, and that the cool new features you developed for the latest template were not available to the users of your older templates. Lame.
So we created one design that was completely customizable and infinitely updatable: Design X.
Today, we’re adding a new feature called Design Switcher that allows you to pick between 6 different designs we’ve created, create variations on those, or create and save your own designs. You can switch between designs with the push of a button.
To us, this is the logical evolution of the template. It’s just a button that engages some settings. It’s exciting for us to be the pioneers of this important idea in website design.
Here’s a video to help you get started:
You can see examples of all the pre-configured designs here:
Couple other minor changes we made:
NEW under ACCOUNT –> SOCIAL: Enable Pinterest Extension. Turning this ON allows pinning your images on Pinterest when a visitors browser has the pinterest extension. A Pin It button will appear on top of the image.
Photo Folio client Daniel Berehulak was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for feature photography for his coverage of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa for The New York Times. Congratulations Daniel, we are lucky to have someone as dedicated and hard working as you in the world of professional photography.
I’m excited to announce our latest feature release for Design X which adds Caption Control to our ever expanding list of PRO features you will only find on Photo Folio websites.
Caption Control- Want to place captions on your menu or nav bar? What about different locations for each gallery? What about a caption on top of a single image that looks like a magazine layout? With our newly released caption control feature you can do that and much more. Watch the video to see how it all works:
Media Library Sorting- We’ve added a new sorting feature for the image library to make it easier for you to order your images for placement on the menu. You can sort then drag and drop them onto a menu item. We’ve also added a warning on image upload that will tell you if you’re adding images that exceed our recommended size. And finally the sizes of all your images are now listed on the thumbnail in the media library to help you find any that are loading slow because they are too big.
Advanced SEO and Photoshop/Lightroom Title– We added an advanced SEO option that allows you to designate each and every page title for every single page on the site (instead of appending a global title) at the request of an SEO expert working with one of our users. We are now reading the title field from Photoshop/Lightroom for image uploads (this is how you designate page titles, using the image title).
Note: We do not have captions available on mobile and pad versions of the site but will be working on that soon.
To roll out feature releases we have a Beta Opt-In program that allows you to update and receive Beta Releases. You can also Opt-Out and go back to the last stable release.
To Opt-In to the beta release of Design X Version 12 and receive the new Caption Control Feature do the following:
1. Log into your site admin
2. Launch the ACCOUNT panel
3. If you do not have the “Make Beta Updates” button visible under the NOTIFICATIONS tab FORCE an update
4. A new button will appear that you turn ON to “Make Beta Updates Available”
5. FORCE an update again
You can now put your website menu on the top or the bottom of your site (in addition to left and right). If you didn’t believe we were in the fully customizable template realm before, with our customizable thumbnails and transition types, this will certainly convince you. Design X is the most customizable template in the world:
To roll out these new incredible menu choices we have a new Beta Opt-In program that allows you to update and receive Beta Releases. You can also Opt-Out and go back to the last stable release.
To Opt-In to the beta release of Design X Version 11 and receive the Top and Bottom Menu options do the following:
1. Log into your site admin
2. Launch the ACCOUNT panel
3. Under the NOTIFICATIONS tab FORCE an update
4. A new button will appear that you turn ON to “Make Beta Updates Available”
5. FORCE an update again
If you have not yet upgraded to version 10 of Design X (information here) it has been released from beta and is rolled into this update.
If you have any questions or you need to report a bug submit a support ticket here:support.aphotofolio.com
You must login into your site admin and hit the update button under Account –> Notifications to receive these new updates. Always check your entire site after updating and be prepared to make minor adjustments due to unforseen configuration changes.
New Social Media Icons Added. We’ve added yelp, houzz, imdb, behance, digg, reddit, 500px, dribbble, ello to our list of available icons.
New Custom Colored Icons. We’ve added the ability to create your own 2 color icons. You can also scale these icons now.
New Circle Icons. The custom color icons come in square and circle.
Visit the social media icon section in the manual to see how these work: http://dxmanual.com/adding-social-media-icons
Embed Your Blog. You can now embed your blog on a text page within the site using our new “responsive iframe”. Go here to see how: http://dxmanual.com/embedding-a-blog-in-your-website
Fotomoto Update. If you are using Fotomoto to sell or license images we’ve made it so the Fotomoto cart only shows on images you’ve designated for sale/licensing. Go here to learn how: http://dxmanual.com/fotomoto-integration
Contact Form Deliverability. We are now using a 3rd party to deliver contact forms from your site to your inbox. This should improve deliverability dramatically. Simply update and you are good to go.
New Thin Navbar Icons. We have a new icon set for the navbar called thin. I think you will love it. Simply login into your admin and in the Layout panel under Navbar select Icon Syle: Thin. You can also now scale the icons.
New Navbar Spacers. We’ve added a spacer to the navbar options so you can further customize the look of your site navbar. Launch the Navbar panel in your admin and choose ADD + then change the button type to Spacer.
New Mouse Cursor Option. We’ve added none to the options for mouse cursor icons for a cleaner look (images still advance when clicking just no arrows or plus signs). In the Layout panel under Cursor choose Icon Style: None.
To add these new features to your Design X site log into your admin, select the account tab and you will see an update available under Notifications (unless we already updated you). You can also force an update using the same button.
If you are not yet using Design X and want to give it a try (it’s free and will not affect your current site to install and test) follow these instructions:
1. Submit a support ticket under the category Design X: http://support.aphotofolio.com
2. Visit the manual to learn how the admin works: http://designxmanual.com
3. You will receive an email with information on how to access the new design
4. Once you are ready to go live submit a ticket asking to take the new design live
Rob Haggart, aPhotoFolio.com
We know you’re going to love this little detail that will help you customize the experience for the visitors to your site. We created new social media icons that allow you to adjust the size and color to match your branding and you can now choose between square and circle icons.
In addition to these new icons we added a few more that our clients have requested for Houzz, Yelp, Ello, IMDB, Behance, Dribbble, Digg, Reddit and 500px. Enjoy.
More Information on how to apply these to your site can be found on the manual: http://dxmanual.com/adding-social-media-icons