Ten Questions

One in a series of profiles on our good customers here at Camera West who are passionate about photography.

 Matt Granz is a Bay Area photographer, who happens to chase storms. The bigger, the better. Matt has been roaming the US with his Nikons on assignment for Yahoo! – part of their Project Weather tour. His images are breathtaking.

When Matt is not chasing tornadoes in the midwest, he’s shooting beautiful landscape, seascapes, and cityscapes – many right here in the bay area. He also has a passion for night photography and light painting and it shows in his work.

Matt is also an instructor at the Aperture Academy.

1. What got you started shooting?

That’s sort of a loaded question!  I have always been into visual art and have been acting as an artist, but didn’t get into photography until the birth of my oldest daughter thirteen years ago, and then it was only with a Nikon P4 point and click camera.  A friend soon afterwards found himself stuck in Fresno after hiking down the wrong side of Mt. Whitney after getting altitude sickness, and called me, asking for a ride to the Whitney Portal.  I hadn’t been back to Yosemite since almost 15 years prior and never had been to the East Side of the Sierras.  Needless to say my mind was blown.  I was glad I brought my camera along!  The images I came away with set me on fire.  Not long afterwards I found myself getting published and my wife let me upgrade to a Nikon D90.  The fascination and addiction just keeps growing every day.

2. How long have you been shooting?

I actually started much earlier with my Uncle’s Canon SLR camera when I was 15.  He was five years older and taught me the ins and outs of getting motion blur, creating bokeh, getting star trails, and a couple of other useful tricks that didn’t stick with me since I didn’t have a camera of my own.  So in essence I started then, but didn’t actually really start till much later.

3. Why do you shoot?

Presently I enjoy catching intensity in imagery.  I like how it gets me out of the house and into nature as well.  It encompasses most every aspect of my daily life now.  I also greatly enjoy teaching the skill-sets I have learned as an instructor with the Aperture Academy.

4. What do you do with your photos?

I freely display them on the web and sell my prints online to individuals and corporations alike.  I have a bunch of images printed from my first gallery show that hang in my house, and I should be doing more gallery work, and will again someday, but have been very busy for the moment.  I enjoy features in magazines, and have had a couple so far.

5. Who is your favorite photographer and why?

There are so many!  Where to start???  For storm photography it is hands down Mike Hollingshead.  For surrealistic imagery it is Jerry Ulesmann.  For seascape photography it would be Jim Patterson.  For story telling and massive set-ups it would have to be O. Winston Link’s end of the steam train era images or Gregory Crewdson’s stuff.  Too many to list actually!

6. What’s in your bag?

I have been shooting with Nikon gear since I started up.  I currently have a Nikon D7100.  My lenses are all Nikon now as well.  I have the 10-24mm, a 24-85mm VRII, a 70-300mm VRII, as well as my two primes, a 28mm 1.8 and a 50mm 1.8.

I have four B+W ND filters and CPF.  A cheap gradient filter, two IR remotes, and a heavy duty aluminum Manfrotto tripod that withstands the high winds I sometimes find myself in.

Lastly I use Think Tank Bags.  I have a Shape Shifter for when I’m out in nature, and a Speed Freak for when I’m in a more urban environment.

7. What challenges does your shooting/style present?

I shoot almost anything, and that requires a lot of knowledge of the various aspects of shooting, whether it be hand held low light concert photography, to tripod based night landscape imagery, day time landscape, people, and event photography, architecture and cityscape, or my favorite which is storm photography.  Each requires a special skill set, and I am continually learning my craft and claim to be no expert in any of the styles I mentioned, but fascinated by all.

8. What’s on your bucket list of places, people or things to shoot?

Being a storm chaser, every new season is part of my bucket list.  It is something that constantly changes since it deals with the sky.  Other than that, I’d really love to get back to Japan with a camera.  I was there twenty five years ago and got to explore the mountain based religious culture of the Shinto Priests of Nikko.  The place is an amazing part of the earth visually.  I just got off of a tour with Yahoo!, going across the US as their weather photographer and though I have traveled across the nation three times now, feel like I’ve only just scratched the surface.  I am in love with the desert regions, and try to get back as often as I can to remote wilderness areas.  Getting to shoot the he Northern Lights

I would also like to start getting into projects that include people and tell stories and involve a massive amount of setting up, and use of lighting and models… sort of in a twisted Norman Rockwell sort of way.  It would be great fun!

9. What’s the best shot you didn’t get?

My first tornado.  I caught it but I didn’t.  I raced at over 110 mph down a deserted highway on the panhandle of Oklahoma and made it in time to see the last of three twisters the storm put down.  It was beautiful, and over an open field… everything you would want from a violent storm!  It was only traveling at about 5 mph and I ran out into a field about a mile an a half away from the twister and started shooting.  After getting a boatload of images, I realized I forgot my zoom lens.  I raced back to my car, and as I reached it, the local Sheriff said “son, you just missed a tremendous rope out” and I looked behind me and the twister was gone.  I should have brought all my lenses with me.  I do now.  I could have had some massively nice close ups of the tornado, but only have wide angle images of it.

10. What advice do you have for other photographers?

 I’ll say here what I say to my classes.  I tell them to never stop shooting.  To take their gear everywhere with them.  To always keep their eyes open for imagery.  This is the key to getting better at the craft.  Wear down your shutter!  Click it often and even unwisely!  Just keep on shooting and learn from both your successes and mistakes.  I also encourage them to read a lot.  I was actually tempted to answer this question with some whacked out advice such as never take photos while massively drunk… but decided better.

Check out Matt’s photos :

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mattgranz

Social: http://500px.com/MattGranz

Commercial: http://mattgranz.zenfolio.com

Twitter: mattgranz

Ten Questions


One in a series of profiles on our good customers here at Camera West who are passionate about photography.

Jim Kardos comes up with the most amazing bird photos. He works hard at it and his results show. Read below some of the challenges wildlife photographers like JIm face to catch their prey.

1. What got you started shooting?
I have always admired people who could take good pictures. Then in 1979 I got an SLR as a gift. That was the beginning for me. I tried to capture the beauty I saw all around me but wasn’t very good at it. I had a lot to learn.

2. How long have you been shooting?
A little over 30 years now.

3. Why do you shoot?
I love nature and the time I spend creating beautiful wildlife photos. It is a form of meditation.

4. What do you do with your photos?
Mostly I post my photos on Flickr for people to enjoy but I have sold my work on occasion. My work has appeared in Gary Bogue’s column in the Contra Costa Times and I have had it shown at the Layafette Reservoir visitor’s center.

5. Who is your favorite photographer and why?
I have many favorite photographers. They are people I have come in contact with on Flickr. It is amazing how many talented photographers are out there. I guess if I had to choose one, It would be Howard Brodsky.

6. What’s in your bag?
Nikon D300 and D300s
16-85 3.5-4.5, 70-200 2.8, 200-400 f4, 600 f4, 80-400 4.5-5.6, 1.7 Teleconverter, Various filters
SB 600 with a Better Beamer extender
Induro CT214 with BHL2 ball head
Induro CT414 with Gimbal Head

7. What challenges does your shooting/style present?
Wildlife photography has many challenges. Geting my subjects to pose for me is the biggest one. Then there is the expense of the big lenses you need to get close to your subject without disturbing it. Finding new places and new subjects to shoot. Getting your heavy equipment to the location. These are all challenges but well worth it.

8. What’s on your bucket list of places, people or things to shoot?
It is my dream to get real close to a Bald Eagle as he takes dinner from a river. So close that you can see the detail in every feather. It would be really cool to get that shot in Alaska.

9. What’s the best shot you didn’t get?
As a wildlife photographer I have tons of best shots I didn’t get. One that comes to mind was last summer. I was at the local park walking around the lagoon when I noticed two beautifully colored dragonflies mating on a leaf. I had never seen this kind before and didn’t know what they were. I stopped dead in my tracks and had to step back in order to focus on them. I was just about to release the shutter when someone wizzed by me on a bicycle at a high rate of speed. The dragonflies were gone and I was pissed. The person on the bike had no idea what they just cost me.

10. What advice do you have for other photographers?
My advise is for budding photographers, as seasoned photogs don’t need my advise. Take lots of photos, The more you shoot, the better you get. Read magazines and online articles. Talk to other photographers. We love to talk photography and help people new to the field. Join Flickr, it is a great way to become part of the photographic community. I have made a lot of friends and learned a lot by viewing the EXIF data of a photo.


Jim’s Flickr site : http://www.flickr.com/photos/jimages1/

Ten Questions

One in a series of profiles on our good customers here at Camera West who are passionate about photography.

Our friend Steven Foon is a regular fixture here at Camera West in Walnut Creek. Come in on any weekday morning and you’ll usually find him at our counter. When he’s not taking photos, Steven is a Western Region Manager for Hewlett Packard. He is passionate about photography in general, but especially street photography as you’ll read below.

1. What got you started shooting?

Being a little boy, I was fascinated with the ability to take a picture, print it (long before digital) and then share it.  I thought Polaroids were the greatest thing on the planet.  Fast forward to High School and being able to use all of those wonderful toys + the cool factor of being able to process film and make prints. The thrill of getting the “shot” never left.

2. How long have you been shooting?

On and off since I was about 9 years old to present.  There has been cameras in and out of my life.  Only within the last 2-3 years when I finally gave in to my long held passion and decided to make this something a bit more serious than a casual hobby.

3. Why do you shoot?

That’s a tough one to answer.

There’s a lot of things happening when I go and shoot.
It’s a form of self expression and communication
I am sharing with the world what I was seeing at the moment I took the shot.
At times, I may even make a statement about something with my photos.

It’s very exciting.
To know or hoping to see something that is interesting or something that will never happen again.
It’s that Cartier Bresson “capturing the decisive moment”.

It’s very creative.
No two photographs are exactly a like.
Composition of the photo is what I captured or on those rare occasions where I am working with a model, I am creating something that I wanted.

It’s therapeutic.
It focuses your mind.  Forces me to “take time and smell the roses” and really look at my surroundings and observe the world.
It’s a great stress reliever because for those few minutes or hours, my whole focus is away from the “daily grind”.
It’s also good exercise.  Walking, squatting, bending and sometimes running around.

I find such a calming effect while going out to shoot.

4. What do you do with your photos?

A fellow photographer and dear friend asked me about our “work”.
I told her that it’s my legacy – something to leave behind.  Perhaps secretly I am hoping that someday my “work” will be discovered, just like Vivian Maier (one of my favorite photographers).

Although I think it would be great to be published and more importantly be able to make a living with it…. I end up putting a lot of it out in cyberspace.  When “the time comes”, at least all of those images will live on.

Most are posted on my blog – http://stevefoonphotography.blogspot.com

Some are on a a Smugmug site – http://stevefoonimages.smugmug.com

There’s the good old Flickr site – http://www.flickr.com/photos/steve_foon_photography

Finally – Leica Fotografie International – http://us.leica-camera.com/photography/lfigallery

5. Who is your favorite photographer and why?

Too many to choose from.
Henri Cartier-Bresson, W.Eugene Smith, Robert Frank, Joel Meyerwitz, Vivian Maier, etc….

White House Presidential Photographers are perhaps my overall favorites.
Pete Souza, David Kennerly, Yoichi “Oki” Okamoto and Jack Kightlinger.

Kightlinger’s photo of LBJ sitting alone in the White House Cabinet Room is my absolute favorite – it’s what I hope to achieve with my body of work.

6. What’s in your bag?

Too much !!  I carry two “kits”  A DSLR Kit and a Portable Kit.

I’ve recently did some major changes.

In the DSLR Kit
I went from a Nikon D3S to the Nikon D800.

Although I gave up “machine gun” continuous shutter speed, super high ISO and build quality, the D800 with it’s 36meg sensor won me over since I do end up cropping photos a lot.

Think Tank Retrospective 30 bag
50mm Nikkor f/1.4 “D” and “G”
50mm Carl Zeiss f/2 Makro-Planar T
25mm Carl Zeiss f/2.8 Plannar
70-200mm Nikkor f/2.8 VRII

The Portable Kit
At one time a Leica M9, Fuji X100 and Olympus E-P3

The Fuji X100 is a good camera with a silent shutter – however I had the Leica and it was a duplication.

Leica M9 – just recently departed – kept the 35mm Summilux – waiting on M10
There still is something special about a rangefinder.

Olympus E-P3 is the current and only “Portable”.
Outstanding images and lightening quick autofocus

Domke F-804 bag
20mm Panasonic Lumix f/1.7
45mm Olympus f/1.8
14-42mm Olympus f/3.5-5.6 “kit lens”

7. What challenges does your shooting/style present?

Trying to become “invisible”

My style of photography is to capture “life and light” (my tag line).

As a Street Photographer – my style is to get candid shots.

Some Street Photographers insist on getting absolutely close and engaged with the subject.  To me those are street portraitures.  I want to have my work take on a journalist style and quality.

8. What’s on your bucket list of places, people or things to shoot?

Way too much to list.
I need to just someday travel the world.
I would have given anything to have been Michael Maloney for just a year !!

Ideally, be a White House Presidential photographer

9. What’s the best shot you didn’t get?

Everyday I miss out on what I would consider “the best shot” – just because of circumstances of not having a camera at the ready.
Too many opportunities lost.

10. What advice do you have for other photographers?

Follow your heart and gut.
This is Art and Communication.
There is NO right or wrong way or answer.
Please yourself and not cater to others (unless they are paying you).
Seek out other photographers – we tend to be a chatty bunch who loves to share – to learn and get ideas.
Look at other peoples work to get perspectives and ideas – but DO YOUR OWN and develop your own style.

Experiment and HAVE FUN !!!