These days just about everyone I know has spent money on a decent DSLR camera and it is easy to see why. The quality of the equipment and the increased control you have over how you shoot gives you a much better quality photo. But owning the right equipment does not mean you can call yourself a photographer. It takes many years, and a lot of experimentation and learning to fine tune your skills, just as Karl Granzien and Susan Nuske have done.
Karl and Susan have similar styles. Karl’s rural upbringing outside Gympie and Susan’s work as an ecologist/mycologist, have inspired an appreciation and wonder of nature. While Karl captures the finesse using a range of landscape, macro and action shots, Susan focusses predominantly on macros and close ups of fungi and wildlife.
“I spent a lot of time exploring the bush, fishing or yabbying or just appreciating the peace and quiet. It gave me an appreciation of our wildlife and rural life, some of my favourite things to photograph to this day.” Karl Granzien.
“I love all the weird and wonderful things about nature. I’m drawn to the small things; insects, flowers, mushrooms. I love the power that photography gives you in being able to see more detail than the natural eye.” Susan Nuske.
The Photography Challenge
The command these guys have of their equipment is obvious, but rather than pointing you to their Flickr pages, we thought it’d be fascinating to show just why these guys are great at what they do, by setting each of them a challenge that is a little outside their normal scope.
We asked Susan to switch her focus from wildlife to portraits and this is what she produced.
Susan admitted that she felt the idea of approaching people to take their photos was a little daunting so she turned the camera onto the people around her. “I found it easier to take shots when the people were comfortable. I tried to set up some situations where I would get the person to pose. And… This was a flop.” But using her kit lenses and her “handy-dandy” macro lens, Susan fell in love with black and white portraiture.
“I find I really love black and white portraits! It’s strange because one of the things I love about my nature photography is the vibrant colours. Here it gives a different perspective. Gone are the colours that are ever present in our world and what’s left is the person(s). It’s so real. So raw. I love it. I think I will be returning to this!”
We agree with Susan. Her photos, void of colour, really bring out the character, just as she does with much of her wildlife photos. She captures the thoughtfulness, the childlike curiosity or energy and playfulness within each person.
With a clever use of zoom, Susan has cut out any superfluous details of the young girl ready to blow the thistle seed, bringing the focus on the childish action, and the character of the girl. And likewise her shot of the man walking down the gravel path away from her, gives us the impression of a man ready to conquer, a man well-traveled, a man looking to find himself.
In contrast to a lot of his macro work, we asked Karl to shoot some of his local architecture and he said “it was quite fun to find a subject that I liked and then explore different angle to look for compositions that not only made the building look good, but gave a sense of its surroundings as well.”
“Most of my photos require a telephoto lens of some sort, either macro or super telephoto, both of which produce a very limited or narrow depth of field, but for this type of photo I chose a wide angle lens, the 16-35mm, which by design has an immense depth of field, which allows the photographer to put more thought into composition without having to worry about what is in focus and what is not.”
Instead of filling the frame with a tiny subject, relying on them to remain still enough and then taking lots of photos in hope of capturing the right moment, he said “stationary subjects provide much more time to consider angles and elements you want to include.” And Karl had obviously thought about his compositions when shooting the buildings. Whether he meant to or not, he succeeded in imbuing his architecture with qualities of a landscape. The curve of the wall and the bio dome reminiscent of mountainous landscape. Even the painted foreground could be interpreted as a river or stream. The geometric patterns of the bio dome were the only exception, but even when it was the main focus, Karl’s style still shone through and he made it fill the shot as though he were capturing the details of a fungus up close.
Karl attributes his success with his camera to spending a lot of time with photographers that he admires. Photographers who use instinct to see an opportunity for a photo in any scene or come up with a great composition without having to look for it. Although, he says, you never stop learning.
Whether your love for photography is inspired by nature or man, it is clear that both Karl and Susan’s passion about their work has encouraged them to develop their skills with the camera and as amateurs, it inspires us to do so too.
“Find something, a subject, a genre that truly excites you and just focus on that. Practice a lot! Read some books, and join a few Facebook groups that focus on your selected genre, but don’t be upset if people don’t like your work, just keep doing it till they do, and then realise that there’s always room for improvement.” Karl Granzien
If you want to see more of Karl and Susans’ work, please do visit their Flickr pages below.