Below is an interview I took part in with Colin Butterworth of the “Just Takin’ Pictures” group on Facebook…” Usually I’m the one doing the interviews, but this month the tables were turned and it was my turn in the hot seat…
A conversation with Brian Walter
By Colin Butterworth in Just Takin’ Pictures
We have a treat this month. Instead of Brian interviewing one of us, I have interviewed Brian. I couldn’t pass up the chance to return to New York to do the interview.
I had the great pleasure to meet Brian in 2010 when my wife and I visited New York. Brian was so gracious to pick us up from the airport and take us to our hotel in Manhattan. Not only that, he gave us some amazing insights into New York. I think this shows what a great person Brian is and I am thrilled to call him a friend.
Anyway, ladies and gentlemen, I give you the man, the legend, Brian Walter.
1. Standard question, what is in your camera bag? What equipment and programs do you use? Also, if you could add one thing to your camera bag, what would it be?
I’m very happy to say the bag is getting pretty full. I’ve got two bodies, the Nikon D90 and the Nikon D7000. My glass collection is growing, with a Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.5, a Nikkor 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 VR DX, a Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 AF-S and the newest, a Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 HSM. I’ve got two SB900s and wireless transmitters, no name, I’m still saving up for Pocket Wizards. Ive got an awesome set of macro filters which I got for $20.00 off EBAY. Oh, and safety pins, a flashlight, tie wraps and tons of other little nic-naks.
Being a nerd, I custom built my PC to suit my photography. Its powered by a 2.9ghz quad core and 4 gig of RAM. I have a dedicated 2.0 Tb drive for my photography work, which is backed up on a 2.0 TB external. I’ve also got a 120BG hard drive that is a dedicated scratch disc for Photoshop and my RAW file cache. I’d be a mess without Adobe LightRoom, it’s the center of my photo-editing world. That’s augmented with Adobe Photoshop, but every since the release of LightRoom 3.x, I find myself using PS less and less.
If I could add one thing????? OMG, how could I choose??? Well, I guess what I find myself dreaming mostly about these days is the Nikon 24mm f/1.4G AF-S ED.
2. Most people have different stories behind why they take photos, what is your story? What lead you to photography?
I guess you can say it runs in the family. My grandfather was a photographer, and my mother was too. I grew up with her always taking photos of us.
The biggest factor in myself turning to photography was when I discovred that through it. I finally had something to share. I could never play an instrument, or sing, which really was fine with me since never liked the spotlight much anyway, but I discovered that by staying in the shadows, camera in hand, I could capture what was going on Afterwards, when the music had faded and the equipment was packed up, it was my images that brought people back to that moment. Recently when I was working with a bride getting ready I heard her squeal with delight and say to her bridemaids “He’s photographing my shoes!!!” and she was so happy I was paying attention to the little things.
3. You brought this group together when you created “Just Takin’ Pictures”. What motivated you to create the group?
I am a knowledge junkie. I love picking people’s brains and learning all I can. I feel that everyone has something to contribute, from the beginner to the most seasoned pro. I also learn a lot from looking at other people’s work. Whether it’s the use of light, or the way subjects are posed in a frame, I study other people’s work, and find ways to apply it to my own. I feel it’s the best way to grow. Even if I don’t comment, I look at every image that gets posted not only in the group, but on everyone’s pages. I’ve spent twenty minutes sometimes pouring over every detail. In your case for example, I doubt I’m ever going to be in the locations you’ve been, and see the sights you see, but I am always studying your expertise in composition and it flashes through my head when I look through my own lens.
4. Each month you have presented these wonderful interviews, of our fellow group members, with insightful and thoughtful questions. Is this your natural talent shining through as a journalist, or have you had some training?
Oh no way, I’m no Edward Morrow, I just like to talk. (Before I go on, I want to point out that this idea was borrowed from a photo forum I was on. I loved the idea, but felt it was never used to it’s full potential.) As I said I’m a knowledge junkie and I’ve discovered over the years – mostly in talking to musicians – that artists usually don’t know how to put an answer into words. However if you approach it from a round about way, you’ll get a lot more insight into it. Instead of finding out why someone did one thing, find out what makes them tick and you’ll get a much clearer picture. There is so much talent in our group, and everyone deserves to be in the spotlight, it’s just my pleasure to help with that.
5. What is your favourite and least favourite thing to photography? Also, if you could photography anything in the world, what would you take a photo of?
My favorite thing to photography? Life. I did the flowers and trees and gravestones thing for a very long time and I’ve grown bored with it. These days I love seeing the joy and excitement of life reflected in some one’s eye. The passion a musician gives his art, the smile of a happy couple, the laughter of a child. Of course, it goes without saying that above all else, seeing my kids and my family happy and laughing as I take the shot is the best thing in the world. My least favorite thing? I don’t know if I could point a specific thing, but more like specific situations. It’s that client who won’t co-operate. It’s when my kids are in that mood and won’t smile, or at least feign interest. And worst of all, it’s when the god damn stage lights aren’t where I need them to be, there’s too much smoke and the freaking mic stands are in the way!
If I could give up all responsibilities? Photograph whatever I wanted??? Well, See you guys later, I’m going on tour. Don’t even care with who, I’m just hitting the big stage, sneaking in the shadows at the Hollywood Bowl or the Royal Albert Hall waiting for “that moment”
6. You have a wonderful family who obviously mean a lot to you. How has/does your family affect your photography?
Wonderful doesn’t cut it, I’ve got the best family in the world and I can see it reflected in every photo I take. The love and inspiration they give me what keeps me going. My two sons, and Kim’s son as well, are my source of joy and relaxation when I’m not working. They keep me young at heart and remind that the simplest things in life can make you the happiest.
On top of that I’ve got the love of a fantastic woman who is just what I need in life. She laughs at my crazy, creative ideas, and then immediately starts working with me trying to them into reality. She’s also my business partner, and she handles the stuff I can’t even begin to deal with. Between sessions she’s handling prices, advertising, and booking the next session. Once we get to the session she handles everything from setting up the next shot (which is mandatory for large weddings) to fusing with dresses, fixing ties, and giving out corsages. I’m serious when I say I have no idea how I could try to do anything without her. Without her, Grasp The Moment Photography would still be an idea in my head.
7. I personally think you live in the greatest city I have ever visited! I found there were endless photo opportunities there during my brief visit. Do you ever find yourself struggling for subject matter of lacking inspiration to take photos in New York?
Yes, NYC, being the capital of the planet, is always full of things to see and do. I don’t live in the middle of the hustle and bustle, though. My neighborhood is a quiet one, with lots of trees and no skyscrapers. With that being said, being a photographer in NYC sometimes presents more problems than it solves. For starters, the competition is fierce. There are over 8 million people in the five boros, and almost as many digital cameras. Everything is big in NYC and weddings are no exception. Seeing that I’m still just starting out, I’m nowhere near ready to break into the market in my own hometown. Space is also an issue, living in a second floor apartment mean there’s hardly any room for us, forget considering a home studio.
8. Inspiration can come in many guises, artists, works of art, people, family etc. and not only one thing can inspire us to take photos. From where or what do you draw your inspiration from?
I find the best inspiration comes from being confident in yourself, your abilities and being lost in te moment. Worrying about details, and anything else except for what you’re doing, turns photography an arduous chore. That’s why I think learning about your gear, and how it works, is such a vital part of the process. I find most photographers want to hurry up and get over with the basics, but when your equipment can become an extension of yourself, and you can command it and make it do what you want, when you want, you will find yourself in a zone where the images just begin to flow.
9. You have been active in taking concert photos in recent times and you are also branching out to weddings and other photography sessions. You are also a certified professional. Where would you like your photography to take you in the future? Do you think it could be a viable career?
I don’t know about a full time career, at least for now. I’ve got too many financial responsibilities and obligations to jump in feet first and quit my day job. I wouldn’t mind picking up some more weddings – we already have some book for the summer of 2012 – and some more session work. But I’ll always be true to my love of concert photography, and I’m sure you’ll still see me on the side of a stage, camera in hand.
10. We have unfortunately come to my final question. As we touched on in my interview I had the privilege to travel around the world on my honeymoon which was a trip of a lifetime. If you had the chance to travel around the world what locations would you like to visit and capture through your lens?
Well it’s no secret that I left my heart in San Francisco. I was there last summer and fell in love with the town a million times over. I could very easily see myself living on the west coast, driving through the amazing beaches, mountains and deserts of California, taking it all in, and seeing what other moments I could grasp.
Now Brian, please select three of your images you’d like to share with us…
Only three photos to share???
Ok … first is this one
This one from my latest wedding. It was done after
the ceremony as we were doing family shots. The sun was setting, and I was worrying about loosing the natural light for all the family shots I did. As Kim ran around getting “who is in this photo” and “who is in the next one.” I kept one eye on that sun. Thankfully it worked and I got everything I needed to get in. As we were wrapping up, I looked at the sun again and suddenly saw it differently. I quickly grabbed the bride and groom and positioned them with the golden rays of the sun behind them. I don’t even think I told them to kiss, they were just that much in love. Why this photo represents to me, is an accomplishment on my part, because it was more than a “happy accident” I knew what I wanted it to look like and I what I needed to do to get that result.
Next I had to go back to my love of music…
One of those moments when the lights hit just right, the mic stand wasn’t in the way, everything lined up. Everyone else on stage seemed to move just out of the shot, and I took it. It just so happened to be Johnny Grubb’s last east coast show, which makes the shot even that much more special.
My crazy guys. There are no fake smiles in this shot, no forced expression, just pure goofiness, which is where my boys are the happiest. Being crazy, loving life, and enjoying our time together. Its photos like this that just keep me looking for the next shot.
I’m no stranger to nature. As a boy scout, I went camping with my troop almost every month for years. In my teens, I was chosen to head to Philmont Scout Camp in New Mexico, in the heart of San Cristo mountains. You couldn’t ask for a more rugged and natural setting.
But I live in New York City, where we seem to compartmentalize our nature. Little squares set aside in the middle of this metropolis reserved for nature. The term “vest pocket park” is the name given to the tiny oasis of green that pop up around Manhattan.
Nature in California seemed different though. As we drove down the Pacific Coast highway, the beauty and majesty of mother nature was surrounding us, getting thicker and thicker as we drove deep into Big Sur. I could never do it justice if I tried to describe it in words, so let me try it this way. My first knowledge of the Pacific Coast Highway was on one of those lists of “Places To See Before You Die”. After being there, I think it should be a requirement of life, maybe on a list of “Places To See So You Can Know What Life Is Really All About”. Now I can’t wait to see the all the other places on the list.
As usual though, Max Creek added their touch to situation. Kim and I left Monterey early and was one of the first visitors to Point Lobos State Park. We hiked along the rocks that jetted out into the Pacific. Waves crashed around us. Sea Lions barked below and birds of all kinds played in the air above. In the distance, we could see dolphins jumping in the water. It was a surreal scene for city slickers like us. We couldn’t imagine a place like this actually existed, much less that were standing there. As we took in the heaviness of the entire scene, from seemingly nowhere, Creek broke out with Mark’s keys leading into Scott signing “Something is forming on the edge of the universe…” and Kim and I just stood there, smiling, nodding our heads with a collective “yeah”.
The only thing that broke the mood was me realizing that no, the band hadn’t followed us, set up, and surprised is with a morning serenade… it was the ringtone to my phone.
But the nature was real…
More photos of my 2010 California vacation can be seen on my site here…
Even in the broad daylight, Alcatraz is spooky.
Sitting in the middle of San Francisco Bay, sticking out of the water like a giant turtle back, the island seems to grow meaner and meaner as you approach. Of course, now you get there on a ferry service run by the National Park Service – I can’t even imagine what it was like heading there in shackles with armed guards surrounding you.
Built to housed Civil War prisoners in 1861, then converted to be a federal prison in 1933, it housed some of the meanest and baddest men in the country. Today it’s one of the main attractions in San Francisco and a definite stop when Kim and I were there. It was originally named La Isla de los Alcatraces by the Spanish who first discovered the island, meaning Island Of Pelicans. Even though we didn’t see any Pelicans, it seems that seagulls greatly outnumber humans.
There’s no threat of being locked up there today, but that didn’t stop the creepy tingling I had in the back of neck the whole time I was there. The cells were small and cold. The bars were heaby and thick. The “Hole”… well it’s pretty much everything you expect The Hole to be. Even though the door remained opened, I only spent a few minutes inside, I can’t even fathom spending any more time than that in there.
Leaving the island, we knew we had a great day – capped off by July 4th fireworks and dinner at a five star resturant … but that wasn’t the only reason I felt relieved to be going. Maybe since it was July 4th, I was appreciating my freedom a little more – or maybe it was just that the message Alcatraz was meant to give in the first place was working.
Crime doesn’t pay.
More photos of my 2010 California vacation can be seen on my site here…
The loveliness of Paris
Seems somehow sadly gay
The glory that was Rome
Is of another day
I’ve been terribly alone
And forgotten in Manhattan
I’m going home to my city by the bay.
A year ago, after a morning of scrambling over cancelled flights, Kim and I touched down in San Francisco, and part of me is still there.
Nothing can describe the breath taking view of the Golden Gate Bridge, or the beauty of standing on the cliffs in the Marin Highlands watching birds in the high above the crashing waves.
I could spend many a day wandering the streets of the Haight, Chinatown and Fisherman’s Wharf. Even now, I’m craving a bowl of clam chowder in bread bowl from Boudin on Peir 39, but would just be the appetizer for some crab in garlic sauce at the Crabhouse. Of course a ride on the cable cars, a drive down Filbert Street, and getting lost in the Presidio, and the long walk uphill to Alamo Square.
Next… maybe we’ll head to Alcartaz….
More photos of my 2010 California vacation can be seen on my site here…
I left my heart in San Francisco
High on a hill, it calls to me.
To be where little cable cars
Climb halfway to the stars!
The morning fog may chill the air
I don’t care!
My love waits there in San Francisco
Above the blue and windy sea
When I come home to you, San Francisco,
Your golden sun will shine for me!