Thursday, January 8, 2009

Artist: Scott Steely

The following feature was conducted and produced by the MC7C duo. Do Not copy+paste this anywhere! Direct link to it!


Are you from Virginia or did you relocate here? Where did you grow up?

No, I'm not a native Virginian; however I've lived in and around the 7 cities for the last five years including Portsmouth , Norfolk , Hampton , and Newport News . What originally brought me here like so many others is the Military. I was born in Houston , TX but moved around a lot. I have also lived in Caracas , Venezuela when I was young, and Bangkok , Thailand for about four years.

You are currently out of the country, where are you? Why?

As of right now, I am off the Coast of Trinidad, a small island in the Caribbean . Recently we have also been to Haiti , Cuba , Santo Domingo , and Curaco. The USS Kearsarge, the ship I am stationed on is currently on a mission to build relations between the United States and Central and South America . As a photographer my occupation provides me with new and interesting scenery every port of call we visit.

What have you learned about yourself being in another country?

I am curious about other cultures. I really enjoy seeing what other people do on a daily basis from other countries. For example in Europe there is an overall slower atmosphere. Rarely is anyone rushed or in a hurry to get somewhere like here in the US . In the Middle East they pray several times a day. I remember walking down the street and all of a sudden hearing loud speakers broadcasting Islamic prayers. I've learned that one of the easiest ways to fit in overseas is to try what ever the locals are eating/ drinking.

Do you have a particularly favorite (photo/ painting) you have created and why is it your favorite?

That's a tough one. I have a few that I would like to talk about actually.

The Norfolk Scope photograph is my most popular. It strikes me as very visually stimulating, and almost alien looking structure. It took a few attempts a various apertures and shutter speeds before all the aspects came together how I wanted. Sometimes overcast and generally dreary days add an omonus element to an otherwise normal photo.

"Toilets !" is a great one. My goal with this shot was to portray the most grungy, dilapidated photo I could. The rust textures are what initially attracted me to this scene. The sense of decay is almost overwhelming.

"New York Panorama" This was very technical photograph I'm proud of. I enjoyed piecing the 15 shots together as much as I did taking the actual photo. It's from a vantage point that I know not many people get to see. I attempted to capture as much as I could down to the little details to share the experience.

" Spiral Bridge " is my personal favorite. Some photographers shy away from this amount of photo manipulation, as you can see I take a different approach.

What about photography captivated your interest?

There are multiple things about photography that appeal to me. The combination of the technical aspect and creative expression are what I enjoy most about it.

What advice would you give to a person interested in becoming a professional photographer?

I wish I could, If you hear any good advice let me know...

Tell us about your experiences getting started as a professional photographer.

Promoting your art is very important. Groups like MC7C offer a great way to share your art with others. The city of Norfolk has a Cultural Affairs department that is constantly helping out local artists. The Stockley Gardens Arts Festival in the Ghent area of Norfolk comes around every May and October and is also a great way to get you artwork out.

Do you prefer working with digital or film cameras? Why?

My first Camera was an old second hand film Pentax. What I liked best about film was the final outcome was always a surprise. I remember after developing the negatives seeing what I had captured for the first time was fun for me. There are definitely some photographers who shoot exclusively in film and I admire their discipline. I on the other hand, embrace the digital darkroom. There are just so many possibilities for editing that are either very time consuming and difficult or impossible to do with an entirely analog setup.

Can you tell us about your technical process.(camera type/ photo editing programs)

Sure, this is probably my favorite part of my creative process. First, I shoot a Canon Digital Rebel STi, with a Tamron 18-250mm lens. I use a tripod about 90% of the time. There are two parts to my process, after I have determined a good candidate for photographing. I shoot almost exclusively in what is known as High Dynamic Range . The general idea is that the human eye can see a much wider range of light than the chip on a digital camera can record. Everything in photography revolves around light or the absence of it. To capture a higher light range on the camera the most common method is to take a bracket of photographs at different exposures then combine them in post processing, the second part of my method.

Once I have multiple photos of the same subject at different shutter speeds I use a few different applications to combine them. Photomatix is very good at this. I then bring the composite into Photoshop (where you can also combine photos into HDR) and adjust tonal color curves, highlights and shadows, saturation and various other parts of my pictures. I use a lot of trial and error in making adjustments and often spend upwards of a few hours tweaking the final image until I'm satisfied.

There are a number of different tutorial on this technique on the internet if you are interested in HDR.

Can you tell us about your creative process. How do you come up with ideas for photo shoots and shots?

I generally set out with a goal to take as many pictures as I can of the most interesting things that catch my eye from as many different perspectives as I can. Once I have found a composition I like, I then try as many combinations of ISO, shutter speed, and aperture until I feel that I have enough to work with. After that I sit down and sort through everything I took to find good candidates for editing.

What are predominating concerns as an artist, and how do you express them?

The interaction of man made things and natural occurring forces are very powerful images to me. How everything we own or make is in a constant state of reverting back to its original and natural form. I try to express this by capturing a moment in time where this struggle is occurring.

What do you want to photograph that you've not yet shot?

Definitely more photo shoots involving urban exploration. I'm fascinated by anything deserted, or abandoned.

Can you think of a particularly fun client or project that you've had?

Photographing Jerusalem was a great and very unique experience for me. It is one of the oldest cities in the world. Everywhere you look is history. Visually speaking there are huge contrasts in the landscape as well. One side is a barren desert the other side is a fertile valley.

What about a really boring project that you did just to pay the rent?

I'm not a huge fan of portraits. Unfortunately this is the sort of work most people would like done.

What are your present works about? How would you describe your work?

Recently I have accumulated lots of photos from the Caribbean . I have noticed that tropical landscapes complement the HDR process. It really intensifies the vegetation. It's always hard to describe your own work, but if I had to assign a word to it, it would be: hyper-reality

What other interests do you have? (besides photography)

Being a technophile I'm drawn to anything new or experimental that helps the user create something in a digital medium. I enjoy using software synthesizers like Propellerhead's Reason. Rendering scenes in various 3D programs is fun. Editing and composing short videos has been a hobby of mine for long time.

What artists have influenced you, and how?

Trey Ratcliff aka "Stuck in Customs" and Ben Willmore in my opinion are two of the best HDR photographers I have seen. This type of image was largely unheard of ten years ago and it's people like these that are bringing this art form mainstream.

Any local artists or bands we need to check out?

Mensura is a pretty cool death metal band I heard at Budda's Place last year. I wish I could remember more. It's been a while since I've been to any events.

What's the most played song on your iPod (or an equivalent music playing device) in the past week?

I have a fairly large amount of MP3s, and I usually keep my iPod on random. I recommend a group called Birdy Nam Nam. Depending on my mood I will listen to anything from some great Drum and Bass like Photek to something more mellow and mainstream like the Raconteurs.

What came first, the art or the misery? Explain.

They came at the same time. They paradoxily coexist and are intertwined. It all depends on who's point of view is in question and at what time. With that being said I don't think Van Goe or Picasso would have been happy and well adjusted if they had chosen a different career like used car salesman. Their misery inspired them to create masterpieces. On the other hand who's to say that creating the art itself was not miserable for them?

What do you think of what MC7C does? How would you make it better? Have you been to any of our events?

I think MC7C is great initiative for local artists. They are helping bring cultural awareness to the area as well as helping local artists. It's a win win situation for everyone. The only way I would improve MC7C is by increasing the audience size and diversity by promoting more. I have not been to any events yet but I plan to in the very near future.


Scott Steely's flickr page

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