Here’s another full featured interview for you all. It’s been a real treat reading through these along with some of the ones coming up. I hope you’ve been enjoying them. Anyway I’ll let you get stuck into this interview with Richard Furhoff.
What gear do you take to each shoot and what lens can you not live without?
I never go anywhere without my Lowe Pro CompuTrecker camera bag. Best bag I’ve ever owned. It’s big enough to carry everything I need but small enough to keep it real (and qualify for aircraft carry on luggage).
In it I keep a Nikon D3X body, Nikkor 50mm f1.4 D, Nikkor 17-35mm f2.8 AF ED and the 70-200mm f2.8 VR. Recently I’ve added the 16mm fisheye as well. I still carry a Sekonic spot/ambient meter, and an SB800 flash along with an assortment of filters and of course a cable release.
If there is one lens I absolutely cannot live without it’s my beloved 17-35 Nikkor. I love it! It has taken so many great shots for me. If I ever have to just grab the camera and run, it’ll have the 17-35 bolted on. I’ve often been tempted to replace it with the newer and by all accounts far superior 14-24 zoom, but I just find this bit of glass so versatile with it’s slightly longer zoom range. I know I am rationalizing, but I have become quite attached to it.
How do you market yourself and has social media been an important part?
Marketing is a beast eh. Well, I am just in the middle of the beginning a big marketing push. The internet of course is central to my plan. My website is hosted by photoshelter.com and offers me the opportunity to market my portfolio, stock and fine art prints all seamlessly from the one portal. It integrates perfectly with my wordpress blog which also provides the theme for my homepage and galleries.
I see social marketing as being key. Everyone is connected nowadays on Linked In, Facebook and Twitter and the amount of reach social media can provide should not be ignored. It’s important not to be mug though, and I try to view these social mediums as an opportunity to contribute. If people value what you have to say, or are inspired by what you show them, then I think good things will flow back.
Still, nothing beats face to face connections and meetings. You still have to pick up the phone, talk to strangers and get them to look at your stuff.
And be excited. Show people the kind of stuff you want to shoot. If you’re excited, you have a much better chance of exciting potential clients. Oh, and always be nice.
What’s your favourite photo that you’ve taken and does it have any significance?
Sunrise Over Red Rock Canyon. I shot it on trannie film during my “panoramic phase” back when everyone had a Linhoff or Fuji pano camera. I remember going back to this location before sunrise, day after day. The mornings were frosty and on this particular morning it had snowed in the dessert around Las Vegas.
As I drove to this cutting in the highway I had scouted, I noticed the first beams of light just kissing the tops of the peaks, and realized I didn’t have much time. I climbed with all my kit to the top of the cutting almost in a panic, set up the tripod and camera, loaded film and composed the shot. Just in time. All I needed was to meter the exposure – but I couldn’t find my light meter!!
I took a chance and figured the light would be the same as the previous morning’s, so my camera setting should still be unchanged. I had just enough time to bang off 4 frames before the foreground was totally flooded with harsh sunlight. Afterwards I had goosebumps. I knew I had something special.
That shot became my first ever commercial success and I still get calls from time to time from people asking for a fine print to replace a damaged or lost poster in some far flung corner of the globe. It’s pretty cool.
Select a photo you have taken, explain how it was taken and how did you edit it?
How much room do I get?
Here is a shot I took recently at La Parouse, just for fun. It’s a suburban beach here in Sydney on Botany Bay where a lot of folks like to bring their cameras and point them at the tidal pools. In fact there were about half a dozen other shooters close by shooting almost the same thing when I set up for this, only they were getting set to leave just as I arrived and started to set up.
My goal was to work towards contrasting the rich blue of the sea after dusk with the golden sandstone synonymous with the Sydney coast. The last bit of sun had gone below the horizon and it was beginning to get dark. I knew this would make the overall light very blue, which would make the water look nice and rich, and my exposures would be getting long which would beautifully milk the waves crashing on the rocks. On the downside though, the blue light would kill the gorgeous golden tones in the sandstone and with the scene lit only by skylight, I knew I would need to add contrast.
I set up my tripod and carefully composed my shot. I used my trusty 17-35mm Nikkor here and focused about 1/3 of the way into the frame, stopping down to about f9 for a 30 second exposure. I always shoot in mirror up mode in these situations and a remote release of some sort is essential. There is no point investing in a good tripod and a solid head if you are gonna run the risk of ruining the shot with mirror bounce or camera shake. The result out of the camera is what you see in the “Before” image.
The first thing I needed to address in post was exposure and overall contrast. I had taken an incident reading, but even with a good histogram I felt I was about 1/2 a stop under. In NX2 this is just an easy slider adjustment. Next I needed to bring back those rich golden hues in the sandstone. Using Control Points in NX2 placed on areas within the sandstone this was just a simple colour temperature adjustment. Whilst at it I was able to open up some of those deeper shadows and make some localized contrast and saturation adjustments, all using the same control points I created for that colour temperature adjustment. This really bought out the grazing light in the foreground that brings our attention back to those really interesting rock pool shapes.
The sky was still looking anaemic though, and I was able to fix that using a Nik Color Efex Pro Neutral Density filter angled to match the cliff line. Another couple of control points were employed to adjust contrast and saturation and voila, we have our sky.
After exporting the file into photoshop as a TIFF, I added some saturation to the ocean via a soft masked adjustment layer, did some minor dodging and burning and applied some subtle sharpening.
What processing tool do you use and do you believe in the camera doing all the work or in post?
I take a holistic approach, and I believe that post production is every bit as important as capture. I guess Ansell Adams’s emphasis on the camera, the negative and the print as integral pieces of the process has always had a profound impact on me and I reckon it’s just as relevant today in the digital age.
I shoot Nikon. Not because it’s better than anything else, it’s just what I choose to shoot. I process my RAW NEF files with the Nikon NX2 software augmented with the Nik suite of Color Efex Pro filters. To my mind, nothing beats the Nikon software for processing my RAWS. Some updates have been glitchy and RAM hungry in the past, but the current version is running like a dream now. Frustrating at times? Yes, but worth the effort if you are committed to having your Nikon files look their absolute best.
I try to get my images about 90% done in NX2 and then export 16bit TIFFs to Photoshop for some final massaging or critical masking if required.
I don’t use post to “fix” my shots. I’d like to emphasize the old school notion of “pre-visualization” and using whatever tools I have at hand to recreate what I am experiencing at the time I compose and capture my shot.
Whats your favourite photography accessory other than your camera?
No doubt my favourite accessory is my new Manfrotto 055CXPRO4 Carbon Fibre Tripod. It fits into a carry on suitcase, is light and sturdy and has probably already saved me a small fortune in excess baggage costs! So much nicer than my old aluminium beast.
Do you ever get photographers block and if so what do you do to get inspired again?
All the time!! It was actually the topic of one of my earlier blogs (shameless plug!). I’ll go for a walk, read other peoples blogs, cruise pro gear web sites and check out the sponsored photographers and their web sites. I go to book shops, the art gallery, the local cafe. In the end though, I always end up just taking the camera out for a walk and try to look at things differently. I am often surprised by what I find.
Is there anything you wish you had done when you first started in photography that would of made a difference?
First started? Hell I was 8 years old!! When starting as a professional though I wish I had stuck more with the landscape outdoors stuff that has always called to me. Instead I got caught up in trying to create a more “commercial” portfolio, trying to figure out what advertisers wanted to buy. That’s like pretending to be someone else in order to win the affection of a pretty girl. I have since learned to just be myself.
Any advice for new photographers wanting to go pro?
Number 1 – be good at your craft and always work on improving. This should be a given.There are so many really talented shooters out there that there is really no room for mediocrity (unless you want to be a soulless button pushing monkey.)
Find your niche. Shoot what you love (it’s probably what you shoot best) and then find the market for that niche. It might not be a big market but that brings me to the next point.
Don’t do it for the money!! If you do, you’ll probably go broke or die alone and friendless. You need to have a real love and passion for this if you have any hope of making a living at it.
Keep your family, friends and loved ones close. Strike a balance. This career can make all sorts of demands on your time so ya gotta have your priorities crystal clear.
And be nice.
Visit Richard Furhoff – website
I've known Richard for a good long time now. As one of my dearest friends, I am always a huge fan; as a professional photog myself, I am an admirer who is always amazed by his visual talent and appreciation of the finest details. Richard has relentless energy for the great capture. Great interview, thank you!