From time to time, 2guysphoto will introduce you to people we know, who are avid photographers like us, and invite them to tell us about their photography, and share their work. We’re pleased to introduce Art Hill of Chicago, as our first Featured Photographer.
Please tell us about yourself Art.
I’m retired after 40 or so years of working mostly in banking and information technology, most recently with Microsoft. I live in a Chicago suburb with my wife of 40 years. Our two adult daughters each have two kids and I shoot a LOT of grandkid pictures. I’ve always lived in Chicago as did my Dad and his Dad. My wife has also always lived in Chicago.
How long have you been a photographer and how did you get started?
I got started in photography in about 1958 by using my Mom’s twin-lens reflex camera to shoot black and white. My Mom knew a bit about photography and we set up a darkroom in the basement with an enlarger and developed our own film. In high school I acquired a used Argus C3 and continued to shoot black and white but also started shooting color slide film when we would go on vacation. I went through the series of Canon SLR’s, picking up one of the early Canon A1’s. I got into personal computers very early and that became my hobby. Then, in 1998 I got my first digital camera, a Kodak 1 megapixel. This marriage, if you will, of my two interests, computers and photography, was like magic for me. I became a digital photography “nut” taking the camera everywhere and shooting everything. I probably dabbled with almost every online photo sharing site or forum that came along, created my own website, etc. Most people still consider me borderline obsessed with photography. I don’t know why they say that – I only shot about 18,000 pictures last year, down from about 20,000 in 2009.
Wow, that’s a lot of pictures Art! What are you shooting with these days?
I use a Canon T1i DSLR with three lenses. 1. A Canon EFS 17-85mm 2. A Canon 10-22mm 3. A Canon EFS 55-250mm. I also carry a Canon 580ex ii external flash and a remote wireless shutter control.
What kind of photography interests you and why?
Mostly I think of myself as a cityscape and landscape guy with flowers a close second. I rarely do wildlife or still lives. Ironically although I don’t think of myself as a people photographer, most of my pictures the last few years are of my grandkids. I have 478 galleries with 28,000 photos of the grandkids on SmugMug. People who see them think that I have a real knack for capturing babies and kids. I love that aspect of photography and would like to try my hand at more formal, studio type work but just never seem to get around to it. I think I do, maybe subconsciously, work hard at achieving some variety. I take the camera with me everywhere and look for “interesting” things to shoot. In warm weather I take long walks around the neighborhood hoping for some great flower shots but with an eye out for anything else. I also try to cover public art around here pretty well. When Chicago had it’s then famous cow sculptures I captured almost 20o of them all over the city.
Art, how do you stay motivated to keep on shooting? What (or who) inspires you?
I used to be inspired by stuff I saw on Flickr but don’t go there much anymore. These days I’m inspired by the photographers at SmugMug who make up the “Dailies” community.
I find it is often hard to stay motivated, especially in the winter months. Mentally you just have to force yourself to look for something to shoot. Of course it helps that we see the grandkids so often; they provide and endless series of photo ops.
Art, you have an active photo website on SmugMug and you’re also a photo blogger. Please tell us why you maintain both – how do you benefit from them and who else does? How do you decide what photos and information to post?
I started www.windycityart.com a long time ago to display my own photos. Eventually I discovered SmugMug and started posting everything I shoot there so www.windcityart.com just became a front end for links to SmugMug. I’ve tried blogging in the past and never stayed with it. Recently I decided to give it another try with an emphasis on just helping share my knowledge of photography, and created Art’s Photoblog. People are always asking me for help and seem so grateful for the assistance I provide that I just decided to share more.
I just post all pictures I like on SmugMug in general. I try to find one everyday that I think will have some appeal for the Daily crowd. For the blog, I ask myself what I know that would be of interest to other photographers.
What are your future photographic plans?
I definitely don’t plan to acquire any new gear or software; I am happy with what I have. One of these days I hope to set up a crude studio and try some portraits of the grandkids (but I’ve been saying that for a while).
What advice do you have for someone who is either just starting out in photography and/or anyone wanting to improve their photographic skills?
For someone who is just starting out in photography I would say read a couple of good books, such as: Learning to See Creatively by Brian Peterson, John Hedgecoe’s Complete Guide to Photography, and The Digital Photography Book by Scott Kelby.
Forget about the technical stuff at first and just concentrate on making a good picture. When you look through the viewfinder, stop before you push the shutter button and look all around the scene. Is there clutter? Can you go in closer or aim the camera a little more to the right? Try not to have the subject centered all the time. Look at lots of other peoples’ photographs, study the ones that you like and try to figure out how to take a shot like that. Don’t get caught up in the black hole of Photoshop. Use something easier to learn. Photography has been called painting with light so pay attention to light and shadows. Take the same picture first thing in the morning, at noon and as the sun goes down. See how different they look. Take lots of pictures. Show them to people and ask for feedback.
For someone who has been at it a while but wants to improve I would say get involved in one of the online communities like Flicker or one of the communities on SmugMug. Find a local camera club. Check out online courses. Find things to shoot that aren’t your usual subjects. Practice the technique of visualizing a photograph in your mind before you even raise your camera. Walk around and view your subject from different angles. When you have the picture in your mind then raise the camera and try to create that picture. When you get your pictures onto your computer go through them slowly. For the ones you really like ask yourself why? For the ones that you’re not crazy about ask yourself how you could have taken it differently.
Art, thanks for taking the time to tell us about and sharing your photography. Readers of this blog are encouraged to visit Art’s website and photoblog, and the SmugMug Daily Community for ideas and inspiration.
And please leave us a comment on how useful you found this post. We plan to feature more photographers as a means to provide you with new perspectives and opportunities to help you grow your photographic skills. – Posted by Ed