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It was December 2005. We had just made the long crossing of the Drake Passage to Antarctica. On the horizon were enormous icebergs. It was our first view of big ice. We all rushed to the deck and began to photograph. I found myself standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Seth Resnick. He was using a long 300mm lens. I was using a wide 28mm lens. We both looked at each other and then looked again. Our approach was so different we were astonished. "Let me see your camera!" we both said simultaneously, and quickly traded. We laughed out loud. With one quick glance, we realized we were seeing in entirely different ways.
JP shoots wide and includes big empty spaces.
It was February 2007. We found ourselves in the very same situation. Again, we had crossed the Drake Passage to Antarctica. Again, there was big ice. Again, we hurried to the deck. Only this time, Seth appeared with a wide 14mm lens and I showed up with a long 100-400mm lens. We grinned big grins. We had influenced each other.
It was January 2009. Once more, we had crossed the Drake Passage to Antarctica. Once more there was big ice. Once more we raced to the deck. This time we both carried two cameras, one with a wide-angle lens and the other with a telephoto lens. We smiled and nodded knowingly at one another. As a result of sharing the same experiences and the results we produced from them, we had learned to be more versatile and see in more varied ways.
Sharing experiences with other visual artists can be extremely stimulating and rewarding. The resulting growth comes in unexpected ways at unexpected moments. In situations like these, I've come to expect the unexpected. Especially with Seth!
What opportunities can you make to share experience and vision with other artists?
One of my most educational experiences in Antarctica was shooting side-by-side next to JP (John Paul Caponigro). We are cruising along and the captain announces that there is an interesting iceberg coming up on the port side. Instantly, the photographers are armed and ready and lined up along the rail for the assault. This kind of shooting can be aggravating or it can be a most enjoyable experience, depending on how you handle it. I am about 4 inches from JP on one side and Jeff Schewe on the other. I look out at this iceberg and instantly tell myself that the only image that will work is with a 300mm and a 2x converter. JP whips out his 28mm and I stop and think, "Huh?" No way can you shoot this blip on the horizon with a 28mm. In fact, I wish I had my 800mm. We both have the same reaction.
Seth shoots long and packs space.
”What are you seeing?” We instinctively trade cameras and we both burst out into laughter. JP is shooting this horizontal line with a little blip (and it is amazing) and I am isolating just the side of this iceberg with great light. Side-by-side with 4 inches between us and you would never know we were even on the same boat.
This experience repeated itself multiple times on all three of our trips. Here I am with my 300, and JP is next to me with a 28mm, and we are shooting the same thing. The biggest irony was several times I would think about how JP would shoot and I would show up on deck with a 14mm and JP would show up with a 300mm. We had such an influence on each other and to this day, every time I pull out my wide-angle lens, I think about JP.
As visual artists, we all see the world differently. Sharing those experiences can be truly educational and enlightening.
When Seth saw JP’s image he asked, “Where did you find that?” JP replied, “Half Moon Island. You were standing right next to me.” Then Seth showed JP the image he made looking the other way. (Right)
I recommend you seek out opportunities to walk with someone and photograph together. You'll see a different way of looking at the world through another person’s eyes. You'll be able to compare and contrast your visions. When you make images that are the same, you'll learn that some results are driven by convention and circumstance. Use this as a prompt to try different approaches. When you make images that are different, you’ll find a deeper understanding of what’s unique about your vision. Cultivate this. You can make this shared experience even more valuable by talking together throughout this process, sharing your observations of scenes/subjects, moves you make, and results. The clarity gained by doing this will accelerate your growth.
Some photographers are intimidated by walking or shooting with another photographer. Get over your insecurity and learn to grow from those opportunities. I have travelled and shot with the likes of John Paul Caponigro, Jay Maisel, Arthur Meyerson, and Eric Meola. It is always humbling, but we all learn from each other, and in the end it is an enriching and totally enjoyable experience and I simply crave more and more. Here is an example of shooting with JP. We both scored on our results but we were looking in totally opposite directions.
Photographing with Seth has been extremely stimulating. The types of images we like to make, what we try to do with our images, and the uses we put them to are quite different. Even though our visions are fundamentally different, I’ve learned a lot from him and my photography has improved as a result. Here’s just one example: Seth tends to move in close and pack the frame, adding energy to his compositions, with the resulting compression sometimes flattening them graphically. I tend to look for high vantage points and go for the big establishing shots; the spaces in my images are just as important as the objects within them. Under the influence of Seth, I’ve become even more sensitive to space in my images; empty space, negative space, the spaces between objects, the recession of space. I’ve noticed I crop differently now, both in camera and in post, trying to find an optimal balance between open and spacious and packed and energetic. This has also helped me make stronger detail shots. And it’s forwarded some important questions about the uses of abstraction that continue to be an ongoing conversation between the two of us. I don’t work the scene or use the frame in the same ways that Seth does, but he’s influenced my development. Imitation and influence are two different things. Photographers tend to work in isolation but there are many benefits to reaching out and working together.
I feel like a kid in a candy store when I photograph with JP. His energy and creativity have become an intoxicatingly positive influence. I feel like I am always learning and maybe the day that I feel that I am no longer learning may be the day to think about another profession. Every photographer that I respect has had a very positive influence on me and JP is one of those. He made me acutely aware of the power of a sky. I used to frame things trying to minimize the sky and was always amazed that JP would photograph the same subject and maximize the very part that I would try and minimize. I have always tried to maximize my frame and the sky was always a part that just seemed like a vast waste of space. JP has taught me to look at the sky so differently and I have learned so much from him. Both of the images below are images that I would have never made without the influence of JP. So many photographers are intimidated by shooting with another photographer. Drop your sword and take the opportunity as a learning experience.
We’ve both been influenced by each other. JP focuses more on packing the frame. Seth looks at skies differently.
Photographers are constantly trading stories about the tools they use. Having the right tools is important, not because they’re cool but because they help you to interact with subjects and express your vision in particular ways. Because they’re so versatile, I favor zoom lenses. I want to be able to see and work in many different ways simultaneously. I travel with three lenses (16-35mm, 24-70mm, 70-200mm, plus a 2x converter) and two bodies (Canon 5DMKIII and 1DSMKIII—needing at least one weather-sealed body for extreme environments like Antarctica, Iceland, and Namibia and clean, high-ISO performance for low light and night photography). With two LowePro bags, one rolling to carry on my gear in flight and one light backpack to take long walks with, I’m ready to go at a moment's notice, have new adventures, and make new discoveries. Of course, my iPhone goes with me everywhere I go; it reminds me to play creatively along the way.
At one time in my career I travelled with 14 cases of gear. I also used to take a lot of lenses in my camera bag. What I learned from having lots of lenses is that I typically had the wrong one on the camera. Now when I go out to shoot, I just choose a lens and that is the lens that I see with. It can be a 14mm or a 400mm, but I love shooting with just one lens at a time. Of course, when I travel to places like Antarctica, Greenland, or Africa, I do take more gear in my bag but I usually still go out with only one lens on each of two bodies.
My bag is a LowePro Stealth Reporter. I love this bag because it holds everything and it fits in the overhead and under the seat on the really tiny puddle-jumper flights. Inside my bag I have my Macbook Pro and I take 4 Western Digital My Passport 2GB drives. For bodies I have a Canon 1DX and a Canon 5D Mark III. For lenses I take a Canon 14mm f/2.8, Canon 24-70mm f/2.8, Canon 70-200mm f/2.8, Canon 300mm f/2.8 and 2x Canon tele converter. All of this plus my X-Rite Color Checker Passport and cords fit inside my bag.
Respected as an authority on creativity and fine art digital printing, John Paul Caponigro is a highly sought-after speaker, lecturing widely and teaching workshops globally. His life’s work is a call to connection with nature and conscientious creative interaction in our environment during a time of rapid change.
Caponigro’s work has been published widely in numerous periodicals and books. A contributing editor for Digital Photo Pro and a columnist for the Huffington Post, he is the author of Adobe Photoshop Master Class and the DVD series R/Evolution. He is a member of the Photoshop Hall of Fame, one of Canon’s Explorers of Light, an Epson Stylus Pro, and the X-Rite Coloratti. Visit John Paul Caponigro and see more of his work at his website: www.johnpaulcaponigro.com and for free resources, click here.
Seth Resnick has marked the world of contemporary photography with a prolific career spanning education, fine art, editorial, stock, and commercial work. He has also been published in the world’s most prestigious magazines.
As a co-founder of D-65, he conducts digital workflow workshops, webinars, one-on-one training, tech support, and consults for photographers, studios, agencies, and corporate art departments. Resnick is also a co-founder of Digital Photo Destinations, and he works with Adobe, Canon, X-Rite, Epson, NEC, and others to help formulate more useful products for photographers. One of only 50 photographers, worldwide, named as a Canon Explorer of Light, he is a member of the X-rite Coloratti and an Alpha/Beta and feature consultant for Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom. Visit Seth Resnick and see more of his work at his website: www.sethresnick.com/ and learn with both of these photographers through Digital Photo Destinations, life-changing experiences in exotic locations around the world: www.digitalphotodestinations.com.