Do you have an online gallery where one can view your photos?
Yes I have several places where people can see work.
The main one is www.photobymike.com. Secondary websites are in the form of photo blogs, organized by subject matter on Wordpress. All the links are on www.photobymike.com
For how long have you done photography? How did you begin?
In April of 1967 I got a job at a weekly newspaper in the little town where I was going to high school. I offered to make sports photos for the editor if he would get me into the car races for free. I really wanted to be a race car driver not a photographer. In 1968 I went off to college because my parents insisted I do something worthwhile instead of cars. I ended up in charge of photos for the yearbook and was asst. photo editor at the newspaper.
Then I started doing commercial assignments.
What has been your education as a photographer?
Mostly, I am self taught from reading a lot and evaluating lots of other photographers' works. I do have a degree in journalism. I have also attended community colleges and The Maine Photographic Workshop.
Professional organizations such as APA, PPA, ASMP, SPPA, and corporate sponsors put on numerous training sessions. I attend maybe 10 of those a year.
Most of my training in the last 3 years or so has not been so much "photography" but more technology oriented as the computer takes over the post-production portion of image making.
Please list any exhibitions in which you have participated.
Very few since I have been out of college.
I am a commercial photographer. All my work goes for a purpose driven use in a magazine, advertisement, poster, newspaper, or company report or brochure.
I have some work I would consider "art" but have not had time to do anything with it.
Please list any awards for your work.
I have won awards from National Press Photographers Association, Society of Professional Journalism (SPJ), Seattle Professional Photographers Association, Washington Media Association, Catholic Press Association, and a few others.
What is your favourite type of photography?
Food. Architecture is a close second. Photojournalism is third. Landscape is fourth.
What do you try to express through your photography?
I need to tell a story in one shot.
I take the complicated and make it simple and the simplistic and give it depth.
How do you choose your subjects?
Mostly the phone rings or the e mails pops up and there is an assignment (a mission) to tell someone's story.
For my own work I like to get away and work on things that are abstract or peaceful and pleasant to look at.
What type of preparation do you do before undertaking the photo session?
Evaluate the needs of the assignment:
What will the picture be used for... how large... what level of quality do we need to produce... how does the budget impact those items? Which camera, lighting setup do we need to meet these requirements?
I make a choice of camera lighting setups that will do the job right with the budget I have.
digital or film?, small camera, large camera. Portable lights, medium studio lights, full size studio set up?
Everything has to work before we leave the shop.
Cameras, film, (cards), lights, triggers, meters, stands, sandbags... everything is on a checklist.
Pack the truck. Arrive in time to set up and be ready when the client wants the first photo made.
Do you normally photograph with a purpose already in mind, or do you let yourself go with the flow?
Both. It is rare that the client and the photographer will see things exactly the same. So I shoot it their way and if I see something else I shoot it my way.
Canon, Nikon, Fuji, Sigma, Olympus, Sony, Pentax...which do you place your bets on and why?
I use Canham for a portable 4x5 camera, with schnieder, rodenstock and fuji lenses. Kodak or Fuji or Ilford film depending upon the job.
I use a Bronica 6x6cm system for medium format. I also have a 6x7 camera I like but don't use much). the Bronica goes from a 35mm fisheye to 250mm for various looks...plus a 110mm macro.
For 35mm, both film and digital I use Canon with lenses from 16mm to 600mm.
I have my own film scanners (but increasingly use other higher end equipment) and use MAC computers.
What software and plug-ins do you use to retouch and manage your photos?
Lightroom, Photoshop 10, and Painter (with probably 150 presets, profiles, and actions) are the main tools.
Are you a good salesperson of your work? In what should you improve?
No. Sales is a weak point as with a lot of other artists and photographers and writers.
I am OK at marketing but definitely could be better.
Which past masters of photography do you most admire?
There are many.
Ansel Adams once had a wonderful photo of Mt. Williamson (1945 plate 40) in a rotogravure section of Modern Photography magazine in the mid 1960's. I saw that picture and felt I needed to know how to produce something like that.
We subscribed to both Life and Look magazines at home when I was a kid. I saw and still see George Silk, Larry Burrows, David Douglas Duncan, Neil Leifer, Alfred Eisenstaedt, Cartier Bresson, W. Eugene Smith, Dorothea Lange, Lewis Hine, Elliott Erwit, Philippe Halsman, Richard Avedon, Irving Penn, Sebastian Salgado and numerous others who are very much the story tellers of the century.
I had the chance to meet, study with, and learn from Ruth Bernhard and Lucien Clergue in the area of photographing the nude figure. I am just beginning to publish this work after years and years of it sitting around.
Are technology and digital retouching reducing the gap between professionals and amateurs?
Two things... just because you are a professional doesn't mean your work is better than an amateur...
It means you have experience and deliver when you have to... regardless of the situation.
Amateurs usually fold if something adverse happens on a job... Because they are not contractually obligated to finish the job and they don't have the experience to work around a problem.
I don't work on luck... not to say that I never get lucky.
Do you consider yourself more technical or more artistic?
Technical. For the most part I get hired to solve a problem. Some client needs to sell something... or tell a story that deserves telling.
It's different when you are doing your own work and are setting off on a creative streak...
How does one develop the instinct of knowing when to press the shutter release button?
For action photos you need to press the button BEFORE IT HAPPENS.
For more considered photos of things that don't move the control is more centered in the lighting you build.
When should one use film, and when should one use digital?
There is hardly an affordable substitute for 4x5 film and cameras. You could easily spend $55,000 to get a digital capture system to equal a $5 piece of film.
I like the look of film some times...
Digital photos are too perfect sometimes... no grain, no grit, not as sharp as I want them...
You want black and white? Shoot black and white film and print on real black and white paper. Selenium tone it and there is no digital equal.
The other thing to consider is the perspective. Most digital cameras people are familiar with are like 35mm cameras. Very small sensors have limited ability to control depth of field.
For example... my 21/4 Bronica with a 150mm lens will produce a much better looking perspective on a portrait of a couple or bride than any 35mm camera I have (and I have tried shooting side by side with both cameras). Add a softar filter and I cannot duplicate this look with a 35mm camera.
Is there any particular technique that you could share?
Never use the flash that pops up on your camera... break it off.