I came across Ronnie’s photos and was immediately drawn to the simplicity, which is something that is forgotten in a lot of photo’s today. Ronnie’s style is clean and simple while still managing to deliver that wow factor.
Tell us a little about yourself?
My name is Ronnie Böhm. I am a 31 year old guy living in Vienna/Austria. Let me start off by saying that I am not a pro per definition, as in, I don’t make my living working in photography. Also, writing this made me realize that there really aren’t any proper pictures of myself. Which is kind of funny, considering how much time I spend taking pictures of others. So this is me, with my girlfriend, watching Swanlake at the Royal Opera in London.
Having to describe myself, I guess the best words would be interested and competitive. As a kid, I always took things apart to find out how they work. I still do, and now, I sometimes even manage to put them back together (about 10%). Questions pop up in my head all the time. Do I hit the windshield of the car behind me if I spit out of the window at x mph and y distance? What direction is the best way to put toiletpaper into the holder? I love figuring stuff out. I honestly don’t know how people lived before wikipedia. Personally, I’d go crazy.
Being competitive really is a result of me wanting to know where I rank in things I do. I’ve done competitive sports for a long time and I appreciate the digital nature of it. It makes measuring progress very simple.
I was on my way to finish a bachelor of science in sports engineering when I had my first encounter with photography. From that point, my grades went downhill fast, to the point where I completely stopped studying. All my efforts went into photography instead, but I felt guilty the whole time for neglecting university. So, eventually, chosing between burnout and photography, I chose the later. Right now I am in the progress of getting my certificate of the photographers guild, something that is required to be allowed to earn money with photography in Austria.
What made you get into photography?
That first encounter with photography was an odd one. My girlfriend is a ballet dancer and she had a photographer booked to shoot her and three other girls of her company. A few hours before the shoot, he canceled. My gf knew that I had my father’s old D70 stored away somewhere, and big cameras take big pictures. I had my first job before ever looking through a viewfinder.
In those few hours before the shoot, I looked up everything I could find about aperture, shuttertime and iso. I figured that shooting fast moving dancers I’d need fast shuttertimes so I got two construction lights. Ten minutes into the shoot, being a nervous wreck, I destroyed the first one. The only reason things didn’t go downhill from there was that we had already started close to the bottom. Long story short, it was a disaster, but I was hooked. I thought about adding one of the pictures here, but I accidentially lost the external drive I had them stored on. Really.
How did you get started?
I shot a few live shows, and people liked my pictures. It makes me happy when people like the stuff I do, so I sold some of my bikes and stocked up on gear. I also did some workshops and built my own library of photorelated books. At the workshops I pretty much saw that everyone is only cooking with water, and that there is no special extra. It all comes down to practice and vision. I was pretty intimitated going to a studio the first time but it really is pretty simple. More light, less light. Thats it. Every time I shoot now, I try to step things up from the last time. Thankfully I have got a very patient girlfriend who puts up with all my crazy ideas.
What sort of photography do you mainly do?
I shoot everything involving people, and still prefer to shoot with what I started, dance. All dancers I’ve met are crazy perfectionist, something I really appreciate. There are so many beautiful pictures everywhere today. I scroll through something like 500 pictures a day, and there are few that I stop for. For me, a good picture has some soul. It stands out from the beautiful pictures. Might sound cheesy and it is hard to describe what I mean. When working with a dancer, it is teaming up and working towards a common goal. They contribute an amount of energy and elegance noone else can. I just need to be there to capture it.
What gear are you using?
My father shot Nikon 30 years ago so I never really considered any alternatives. I started messing around with his old stuff, then continually added my own. Now my main camera is a Nikon D700. It does everything I want, and probably some more. Other than that, some fast primes, lots of small flash, and some reflectors. The thing I am missing the most is room. Room to shoot and room to store stuff. Whenever I need more equipment or room I have to rent a studio. Right now I am about to get a Pelibox, I just don’t know which one yet. My favorite piece of gear right now is a Sekonic lightmeter. It changed the entire way I work. Knowing the exact exposure and more importantly, falloff, before taking a single frame is just invaluable to me. I wonder how I ever took pictures before I got it.
Whats your favourite lens and why?
My favorite lens really changes all the time. Right now it is the 85 1.4D. It feels a bit like cheating, it is hard to take bad pictures with it. It is long enough, fast and build quality is fantastic. I should know better, but I prefer the old metal tanks to the new plastic ones. Still, if I had only had one lens, it wouldn’t be the 85, it’d be the 50 1.4D. It is the most versatile one I have, I use it for everything and it is on my camera 90% of the time. Funny, considering it is by far the cheapest one I own.
How are you marketing yourself?
Right now I am barely marketing myself. Since I am not allowed to make money, lots of marketing doesn’t make sense at this time. I run a homepage and I got business cards for people interested in seeing what I am up to. I tried blogging but it is not my cup of tea. There is already more clutter out there than anyone can ever follow. I had a facebook page but switched to the new subscription thing since I prefer to have everything in one place. What really works best for me is word of mouth. I have an engineer’s approach to work. I show up in time, I have check lists and I deliver results fast. I found that people who are used to working with artsy people appreciate that and recommend me.
Whats your favourite photo you have taken?
I actually picked three pictures.
The first one is quite old, and is still one of my absolute favorites. I took it about half a year after picking up a camera, still with my old D70. It is actually at a childrens playground. About one meter on the right, there is a barn, one meter on the left there is a swing and right behind the hill is the highway. If you want to do something like that yourself, use cheap dresses. The cheaper the dress, the less pissed the person who it belongs to when it gets torn apart. Trust me.
The second one is a recent dance picture I took. I took out the box in most of the other pictures, but in this one it fit too well to the dancers body. Almost like a magnet, pulling her towards the light. It was almost exactly 18 months after my first shoot, so it was sort of a milestone for me. It felt good to see the progress from the construction light shoot.
The third one really is nothing special, technically, but I like the story it tells. It made me realize that there is an alternative to showing just beauty.
Advice for new photographers looking to go pro?
Frankly, I have no idea as I am still a long way from considering myself pro. I try to filter out as many potential variables that might lead to failure and work them out before they occur. From what I learned, whatever annoys me the most is the stuff I should pay the most attention to. Thats pretty much the way I approach everything now. If it sucks, but is unavoidable, it’s first on the list. Thats why I am focusing on the business side right now, trying to pick up everything on law and accounting that I can.