Interview with 480Sparky!


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Sep 2, 2003
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Welcome to another TPF Member Spotlight, everyone!

Our interviews are designed, quite simply, to showcase our members. It’s not meant to be a pretentious show, or make anyone feel self-conscious about their work style or artistic preferences. These interviews are casual chats just to get to know each other better - a celebration of our wide, diverse group of photographers who, despite coming from a variety of backgrounds, all come to TPF because of a shared love for photography.

TPF is a wonderful community and it’s worthwhile to shine the spotlight on our members. This means YOU, reading this – don’t be surprised if you hear from us asking for an interview!

Remember, each interview segment will be left open like a regular thread, so you can ask your own questions or comment on things you may have learned. This is our new way to highlight the skill sets and display the unique styles of our wonderful community.


Now, onto our interview – member 480Sparky!

Why don’t we begin the usual way – tell us what got you interested in photography, and how your journey progressed.

I'm not sure there was any specific incident that got me interested. I know, even as young as 7, I had a camera. It was a Kodak Instamatic that used 126 film, but it was a camera nonetheless. By high school, I had a Pentax K-1000, which led me to an MX and ME Super and a stable of lenses from the 17mm to a 500 cat.

Recently, my mother 'returned' my high school yearbook to me. For decades, I thought I had misplaced it. When I got it, I started going through it and it almost shocked me that there were only TWO photos of me.... my formal portrait and one of the concert band. (Not that I was anyone special back then!) Then it struck me..... a full third of the candid shots in the book were ones I took. So I spent far more time behind a camera than I could in front of one.

What’s your photo setup these days? Do you like to change things out, or do you find yourself using a few favorites the most?

Digital: Nikon. Three (yes, three!) D600s, a D7100, a P7100, and lenses, from 8mm fisheye to 500mm.

Analog: Both Nikon and Pentax, Mamiya RB-67 and a pair of 4x5s. Black & white darkroom.

sparky image 2 freedom.jpg

Freedom “I'm not in line for a job at NG, and wildlife isn't my forte. So I was more than thrilled to get this close to an adult bald eagle to make this capture. I can assure you… this is not a prop, nor a set-up.”

Do you have a favorite time of day to shoot?

Actually, at night. Especially in the city. Urban lighting is not only challenging, but provides an extremely unique perspective.

How about a favorite location, maybe one you can get to quickly or pass by more often?

No specific location. Good pix can be had anywhere... if you look hard enough. More on that later....

sparky image 3 Grazing Herd.jpg

Grazing Herd “Sometimes I surprise myself by taking a boring, ho-hum image and working with it in post. And this is a perfect example of that. The original color shot is bland and uninteresting. But with a bit of know-how with the right editing app....”

What are three things you can't do without?

Shelter, water and food.

Oh, wait? Photo related?!? Well, a camera and a lens would be a bit required. After that, the third would depend on the medium. Digital means computer, and analog means a darkroom.

sparky image 5 Starburst of Colors.jpg

Starburst of Colors “Another trick shot. This is NOT a ball covered with crayons. They're all just bundled together with rubber bands. I used a circular fisheye about half an inch from ends of the crayons to create the illusion of a sphere. I had to manually put the lighter colors in the center of the bundle because so little light made it between the dark outer crayons and the lens. The crayons were setting on a white cloth draped over a book inside a light box.”

What’s the best compliment you ever received?

Having an image selected for Superintendents Choice at the 2017 Iowa State Fair Photography Salon. Basically, 4th place. That may sound lame, but if you look at the astounding work that is displayed there, you’d realize the tremendous talent behind those images. There have even been award winners whose ages are single digits!

sparky image 1 Java Joe's.jpg

Java Joe’s Winner, 4th place Superintendent's Choice, 2017 Iowa State Fair Photography Salon

If you didn’t have photography, what would you spend more time on?

I have plenty of other irons in the fire. Astronomy, camping and hiking, amateur radio and genealogy.

sparky image 6 Leaf in Suspension.jpg

Leaf in Suspension “One of my favorite studio shots. A simple leaf, not perfectly flattened... but suspended between two sheets of glass held apart about a half an inch. Lighting was two speedlights both right and left, at about 80° from the camera. Shot against a black background well behind the leaf . Not only does the harsh lighting bring out the texture of the leaf, but the composition reflects the shape of a tree.”

What are your top pet peeves?

I'm too old to list them all... and the internet doesn't have the bandwidth for them anyway.

Ha! That’s a very polite answer. Where would you love to go, if you could go anywhere in the world?

May dad served in the US Army in 1951-1952 as a radio operator. He bought a basic rangefinder camera at the PX in Salzburg, Austria, while stationed there. Not only do I have that same camera (and still use it), that camera took a lot of photos both of myself as a young-un.

I have two albums of photos he took while in Salzburg in which one can see the same scenes in The Sound of Music. I think it would be a fun project to research those locations and return with the same camera to capture a modern image of it.

That does sound like a great project! I look forward to seeing you posting it here at TPF (no pressure!).

Thanks so much for agreeing to do this, Ken! This concludes the main interview. As always, the interview stays open for any comments and more questions from our TPF readers. Take it away, folks!

sparky image 4 Raw Energy.jpg

Raw Energy
“I like showing this one off because no one... and I mean NO ONE...can figure out how it was created. It looks like lightning and little fireballs, but its origin is a bit more concrete. Yep. Concrete. Cement... sand... water... This was a concrete pillar holding up a pedestrian bridge. The surface was spalling and cracking and had a lot of pitting. I stripped the image of color, inverted it and adjusted the black and white points.”
Thanks for sharing the info on the photos. The last photo of concrete I would never have guessed.

I have two albums of photos he took while in Salzburg in which one can see the same scenes in The Sound of Music. I think it would be a fun project to research those locations and return with the same camera to capture a modern image of it.

That would make a great photo project & trip!
Wonderful to see some of your work. Leaf in Suspension is very eye-catching. Interesting that we both started out with the same 2 cameras.
Great interview. The crayon photo is really imaginative and shows some artistic talent!
Interesting read.
I enjoyed that- great interview :)

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