Monday, May 10, 2010

PP's Photographer in the Spotlight:

Shane Rodimel

I came across photographer Shane Rodimel quite innocently: I saw his photography business, Shane Rodimel Photography, listed among merchants participating in a recent Gallery Walk in the Arts & Design District of the Indianapolis upscale suburb of Carmel, Ind.

Carmel is making a huge push to boost its profile as an arts-minded community: The city is building an $80 million 1,500 to 1,800-seat performance hall, in the Georgian Colonial style, to attract serious concert programs from not just the region, but from the country ... and beyond. It is envisioned to be the heart of the district when it opens in January 2011, and Rodimel -- who grew up in much more rural Washington, Ind., in southern Indiana -- is situated perfectly to take advantage of the influx of traffic and interest that community leaders are banking on the center bringing to the city when it does open.

The thing is ... photography isn't Rodimel's only creative side; he also plays guitar and sings ... and will accept gigs upon request, even though photography remains his first love. And, there was a time when Rodimel also fetched interest and income in modeling. He has a lot working in his favor, and right now, the camera is leading the way. He stopped recently to answer some questions for Photo Potpourri about his photography, his music and his interests.

Shane, how and when did you get into photography? Was it a sudden thing, or something you gravitated toward slowly?

About 5-6 years ago, I started experimenting with landscapes and then shot some modeling pictures of my niece. Once people saw the shots of my niece, they started calling for their own sessions. It just grew from there. I've always been creative, and photography seemed to be a great outlet for that creativity.

Do you
have any photographers you cite as inspiration or particular favorites? Have you ever met any of them and/or mentored with them? Have you ever considered mentoring aspiring photographers?

I do not have any photographers that are favorites or inspiration for me. Landscapes and nature are my inspiration. I have a passion for the outdoors. Nothing makes me happier than to drive to a waterfall arriving while it's still dark in the early morning, get positioned and just wait for the sunrise and the perfect light to appear.

Several high school teens have asked to interview me or shadow me for their classes at school. I enjoy teaching them. I even had a Girl Scout troop come in last week for a short lesson in photography. That was the perfect opportunity to discuss body image and how photos in the magazines are manipulated so that the subjects appear to be physically perfect in size, shape and form, but this is not reality. I also have had many working photographers who have asked to have lunch and pick my brain. I am always happy to help if I have the time. Many people have helped me along the way, so I'm just spreading the love, really. Some photographers have questioned me as to how I can share "secrets" with "competitors" and doesn't that make me nervous. I do not view it that way at all. We are all just following our hearts and when you do that with integrity, nothing bad can arise. I'm not teaching them anything they couldn't learn other places if they wanted to put the time and effort forth to find the information. If I can share it with them quickly and same them research time, why not? My main message to them is: "Find your own style. Do not look at others' photography and try to copy it. That's not art, that's not creativity. You want people to recognize your photography as your photography, not as a copy of someone else. Think outside the box." I've traveled with other photographers, and many have said they wish I would teach a workshop. Maybe someday ...

From your online website, you list art and travel, weddings, fashion and high school seniors as your areas of specialty. I haven't had a chance to spotlight many shooters who do fashion, or list fashion, as a specialty. It would seem that to specialize in photographing weddings, fashion and high school seniors (and any portraiture, for that matter), you have to have a strong command of lighting. In cases where you have options for either or both natural or artificial lighting, how you do approach making those decisions? And do you often find yourself approaching the same shot with different lighting solutions so you can weigh the results later?

Most of the time I use natural light and reflectors to bounce light on the subject. I always prefer to go with natural light if possible. I do not typically try out different lighting approaches with the same subject. I use natural light if it's available and supplement with reflectors, flashlights and video lights on occasion. I have continuous lights in my studio that I use if I have to.

I notice, especially with the fashion and senior shots, many images have a very soft bokeh. What kinds of lenses (and settings) do you use for those? And while we're on the subject of gear, what kind of camera(s) do you use?

For portraits, I usually use a Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 lens to blur the background. I shoot with Canon 5D but just purchased the Canon 5D Mark II and like it so far.

There is a "softness" aspect in all of your people work. I realize this is not uncommon in portraiture, fashion and wedding work. But what I'd like to ask you is ... how easy or difficult is it to achieve either "optimum" softness in each frame you take or produce, or the "soft" look you want or seek? How much of it is addressed in the camera, at the time of shooting, and how much do you tend to in post-processing? And ... is it possible for a photographer to get too soft? If so, where does one find (or draw) the line of demarcation? Just personal preference?

The background focus is "in camera," but I smooth out the skin to soften the face in post-processing. I definitely think it's possible to get too soft, but that's just my opinion. I feel keeping some detail is important. The post-processing is really where the artist skills come into play. The end product is truly personal preference just like a painting or drawing. Some will love the art, some will not. There is really no right or wrong when creating art. Sometimes rule-breakers become the new trend-setters.

How much influence do you use when it comes to selecting the types of shots you take for your fashion, senior and wedding work? Do your customers/clients often ask for something -- a scene in a field, a brook, etc.?

My clients usually leave the location decisions up to me. They book with me because they like the look of the photos they've seen and the backgrounds I choose. Because I love nature, I often try to incorporate that into my backgrounds.

How easy/difficult is the fashion work? We often hear how fashion subjects can be fussy and picky. Do you run into that a lot? If so, how do you deal with it?

I've been a model for the past 20 years, so I'm used to working in that environment. It is usually an easier photo shoot because they know how to pose naturally, unless it's an aspiring model. In that case, I teach them as we go along. Having been the person in front of the camera for so many years, it's very easy for me instruct the client. I haven't run into any fussy or picky models yet. The true reality is not what you see on TV!

One of the shots in slide show that plays on your homepage shows a bride in the middle of a flower-filled meadow (above), with the corners of the frame concaving, as if you were using a fish-eye lens. Was that how you accomplished that? Or ... was it a post-processing/software feature?

It was a 24-70mm lens, and I added a vignette. I've positioned her in somewhat of a "valley" so I see how it can appear to be fish-eye.

Another image on the home page slide show is a wedding shot (above) where either the contrast has been exaggerated or you layered the imaged high-dynamic-range style. Is either of those "guesses" correct?

I added some contrast, but it's more of a sharpening technique. I do not do the same techniques on each photo, and I often don't remember what I've done to achieve the end result. I just let the artist in me take over and play with it until I like the way it looks. I often will do many different techniques to the same photo tweaking it as I go along.

I notice an HDR effect on a lot of your travel shots as well. Is that treatment something you've explored recently, or have you always dabbled in the "alternative" presentation?

I do use HDR and have always enjoyed dabbling in the "alternatve presentation." I like to find ways to create pieces of art that are unique rather than just a photograph.

There is a shot -- also in the homepage slide show -- of what appears to be a family portrait and they are positioned in what appears to be a courtyard (top of this post), much of which is included in the presentation. In most portraits, a frame like that would be cropped. Is there a story behind this particular family or the shot that makes the courtyard important?

That is actually their home. Sometimes you pull up to the client's house and you just get lucky with great opportunities for creativity. I wanted to include their home in the background of the photo instead of a just a tight picture of the family because it adds meaning to the photo.

You might also be my first musician/photographer as a Spotlight profile. Can you talk to me a little about this side of your artist's profile? How did you get into it, how do you find time to indulge both? Your acoustic guitar link doesn't mention that you also do vocals. Is that your music -- and you singing that we hear -- when we land at your homepage? Have you ever done any recordings ... or performed with any local groups or bands, or have you always been a solo act?

I started playing guitar and singing about 15 years ago. Friends then started asking me to play at their parties and it grew from there. I've always been solo, although I have had my daughter join me on vocals a few times this past year. She will join me again for a few songs in June when we play at Estridge Home's "Artist Spotlight" at Clay Terrace in Carmel (Ind.). I have also joined in on vocals with my brother's band on a few occasions just for fun. I am from a very musical family, and now that my own children are showing an interest as well, we've been having a lot of fun with it. I play in bars and restaurants around town as well as many private parties. My music selection is varied so that it appeals to all ages. I get booked on events that run the gamut, from high school senior open houses to weddings to 40th and 50th birthday parties.

It is not my music on the photography website. As far as the music website, I have had the intention of recording some music and uploading it to the music website, but have never found the time to get that done.

It is difficult to find time to indulge both photography and music. I do not have the time to learn new music as often as I would like and find that I need more time to brush up on guitar skills, especially since my teenage son is quickly surpassing me in this area!

Have you ever found a way to integrate both skills -- music and photography -- into one piece of work -- such as doing concert photography, musician portraits, images of musical instruments, etc?

That would be fun and I would be open to it! So far, I've just shot some photos of my brother's band and have done a portrait for a friend who is a chiropractor. She specializes in chiropractic services for the performing artist (mostly orchestra) and wanted a cover shot for a book she is writing. She wanted the photo to show the grace of the musician and the instrument, but also somehow show the importance of posture. I suggested a drape on the musician that would show the curvature of the back (left). We were all very pleased with the end result.

Do you prefer one skill over the other? Have you ever done a concert tour?

I enjoy both very much. Never have done concert tours. Right now, the music has somewhat taken a back seat as I do not promote myself only due to lack of time. I still get quite a few bookings each year by word of mouth, but I'm not out pounding the pavement trying to get gigs because I just do not have the time. My father was an aspiring country music star who even had a song that was set to be recorded by Jerry Lee Lewis. However, shortly after receiving the letter from Jerry Lee Lewis' office saying that Jerry will be recording the song and he's sure it will be a hit, Jerry's son was killed in a car accident. This caused him to take time off from recording, and my dad's song was never recorded, but his dream never died. If I had to guess, I would say Dad is in Heaven trying to steer me towards the music! However, photography seems to winning out at the moment.

Do you do much photo work beyond the skill areas you list at your website? Is there any type you'd like to either try or do more of?

I've started doing quite a bit of corporate work. It's hard to be creative in a corporate environment, but I really like the challenge. I work best under pressure, so I enjoy just showing up at the client's office and figuring out how I can be creative.

I would like time to do more landscape/nature photography. I am headed to Italy in a few weeks and look forward to a week of Italian landscapes!

You run your own photography business in the Carmel Arts & Design District. Could we find -- or could we have found -- any of your work on display anywhere else?

I do not have my photography on display anywhere else at the moment, but am looking at the possibility of displaying my art photographs elsewhere. Some of my Italy prints are set to be displayed at Tony Sacco's, a new Italian pizzeria at Clay Terrace. If I am in town, I do display my work for most of the Gallery Walks in the Art District.

To explore more of Shane's work, follow any of these links:

Shane Rodimel Photography website

Shane Rodimel acoustic guitar

Shane Rodimel Photography on Facebook

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