Recently we had the chance to have a talk with MIOPS Ambassador James Smart for an interview where he shared his experiences about how he became a photographer, what setup does he use or his tips to today's photographers..
Q. How did you become a well known nature photographer?
A. I am still trying to become well known I think!
It is all about just getting out there, photographing, taking the time to shoot all different times of day, trying to get images that are different.
The storm chasing images really helped, because people seem to really enjoy the epic scale of those, which is easy to understand because they are always so different.
Q. What does photography mean to you and what was the reason that you became a nature photographer?
A. I like how it takes you away from the everyday. It gets you out of hustle and bustle of the cities, not to say there isn’t some great photography to be done there.
If you want to get unique shots you have to go the extra mile, you have to do the early mornings, late nights in remote location which is what I enjoy.
Q. Briefly talk us through what a shooting day is like for you…
A. If I am out at a location, I will be up before sunrise to capture that, hopefully I have scouted the location before going as sometimes you don’t know what you are walking into.
It is good to have certain composition already lined up so there are no surprises.
Generally would then transfer the morning's files to my HDD, then try and scope out another location for during the day and attempt some long exposure using Natural Density filters.
To me this is a must in the kit, because I find from after sunrise to sunset the colors can be quite boring… all location dependent of course, so I try to get the movement of the sky and water (if available) just to give the image something other than a static image.
Later on would try and look for a location for sunset, make sure the sun will be where you want it in relation to the foreground or object you are trying to frame in.
Q. What is the most difficult part of being a photographer for you?
A. The hardest part is earning money.
I get sales from prints, but it is quite difficult as it is expensive to have your work printed (gallery quality) and framed, so you have to have a decent price on it if you want to make money from it.
As we are in the current situation with COVID19, I am looking to start doing small A4 & A3 prints as they will be much much more affordable.
Q. What kind of tools do you use for post processing landscape photographs?
A. My number one tool is photoshop for landscapes, I also have a couple of plugins to make the process much faster such as Topaz Labs & Alien skin.
I like to use these plugins because they give me the easy ability to adjust highlights and shadows even more. Topaz has nice denoise plugin as well to get rid of some of the grain on high ISO images.
Q. What MIOPS products do you own, and what challenges do they allow you to overcome?
A. Miops Smart Trigger, this is one of my more essential tools, especially for long exposure images, astro and timelapses.
It makes it so easy, plus being able to use it from the device itself or the phone (because my phone doesn’t last long haha) is a very welcomed addition.
Also have a Capsule 360, however haven’t really had a chance to use it, but from playing with the app and the pan feature, it is designed fantastically.
Q. What is your setup for a photo shoot?
A. My general setup is my Canon 5DS R or EOS R with the 24-105mm USM lens. This lens is used by me for around 90% of my landscape shoots, even for panorama work, it is a workhorse lens for me.
If I am going to go wider then I will use the Sigma 14mm, however I generally use that for astro, lightning and other storm images.
Q. What camera settings do you need to create long exposure photos in daylight?
A. First I need to use one of my ND Filters, Lee Big Stopper for my Canon 24-105mm or the Nisi Filter ND15 for the Sigma 14mm ART lens.
The settings obviously vary on the amount of light, I would only really do daytime long exposure when there is cloud around as that would be the main movement focus.
Q. What’s been your proudest moment as a photographer so far?
A. Being awarded National Geographic photo of the year in 2015 was pretty damn cool. This was for a photo of a tornado I took in Colorado, USA.
Then being flown over to Washington DC to the Nat. Geo Society was a very exciting moment.
Q. What makes the good picture stand out from the average?
A. Composition & light. It doesn’t always have to be stunning colors in the sky, even overcast days with nice long exposure look amazing.