Hi everyone, today we are fortunate to have another one of those extraordinary photographers from DPE with us.
Mr. Juan Pons is a Professional Nature and Wildlife photographer that I first became aware of when I heard Rick Sammon had a new pod cast out. As someone who loves to be outside and shooting nature, I am just in actuality super excited about this interview. He is just a great individual and to be honest I think he is just a wonderful photographer. Everyone knows how I look up to Moose Peterson when it comes to wildlife and Nature photography. Well Mr. Pons is standing right there beside Mr. Peterson when it comes to people’s work that I admire.
He is one of those that when I look at his work. I go “ohhh” Then I go. “I would never have though to frame it that way” He is actually one of those people that I learn just as much from looking at his work as I do from reading one of his articles. So, let get started!
1, I know that you started your training in photography while still in high school. Who or what influenced you to become a photographer?
I had an incredible photography teacher in High School, her name is Alice Solorow. She was inspirational, and taught us that anyone can make great images no matter what equipment you had. She would often give us assignments where she pushed us to experiment, both with different equipment and with different techniques. Now this was in the time of film, so we went thru an insane amount of film. But we were developing it all ourselves and doing all our own printing so it was not too expensive to do all this experimentation. I can just imagine what those classes would have been like had we had digital cameras then.
2. What are your favorite subjects to photograph?
Wildlife is by far my favorite subject, and by that I mean ANY wildlife. Believe it or not, I don’t really play favorites within the wildlife category. I am as happy shooting bison in Yellowstone, as I am shooting Grey Treefrogs in my backyard.
3. What would you love to shoot that you haven’t already?
It has been a desire of mine for a very very long time to go to Antarctica, especially to South Georgia Island to photograph the colonies of king penguins! Close to Antarctica would have to be Alaska, specifically the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). Next in line would have to be Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge. Yes I do recognize that these are all pretty extreme locations, but what can I say.
4. What is your favorite lens for wild life photographery, and is that the one you use most often?
This one is easy, that has got to be my Canon 500mm f/4 IS L lens. It is HUGE, it is heavy, takes time to learn how to use one properly and costs as much as a cheap compact car, but what a lens! It is incredibly sharp, allows me to make images that would be impossible to make without disturbing wildlife (something I never do, and no one should ever do). This types of super telephoto lenses are not for everyone (even if you can afford them) because they are not easy to use, they require quite a bit of specialized equipment to make full use of them and they are not fun to carry around. But you can’t beat them for the reach they provide.
5. How do you feel about digital manipulation and to what extent do you utilize it?
I know that there are a lot of photographers out there that don’t like any sort of manipulation and claim that any image that has been manipulated should no longer be considered photography. I usually challenge those comments by saying that one of the words greatest manipulator of his photography was Ansel Adams. Adams did an incredible amount of manipulation in the wet darkroom, yet no one dare claim that what he produced were not real photographs. I like to say that if Adams were alive today he would love photoshop.
Digital manipulation is no different; it is just a bit easier to do. So to answer your question, I don’t mind folks who manipulate their images in the digital OR wet darkroom. BUT be honest, this is very important, don’t try to deceive, and be upfront about what you have done. Don’t try to pass a manipulated image as one that was untouched.
I, myself, do surprisingly little digital manipulation of my images, except for the usual color & white balance correction, and cropping. My digital darkroom work is usually limited to adjusting an image to make it look like what I saw when I tripped the shutter.
6. How do you feel about cropping?
I crop my images more often than not. Especially when the images are being displayed on some sort of electronic device, meaning a computer monitor, digital projector, etc. When printing I am a little less prone to crop mostly because that means that I then need to cut custom sized mats. I do all my own framing, and cutting custom mats is one of my least favorite things to do. Having said that I do cut quite a few custom mats, many more than I care to count.
7. I see that you are very interested in conservation photography. Can you explain exactly what this is & why you believe it is important?
I feel the most important aspect of my photography is that it enables me to help preserve the wildlife and their habitat. The way I do this is by helping organizations like the Adubon society with their mission of conservation. I truly believe in helping at a local level first and I have worked for many years with Audubon North Carolina and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, providing them with my images to use in their conservation and educational efforts.
8. What exactly is wildlife and natural habitat conservation & why is important?
As we all learned early on in our formal education, all life on this planet is interconnected in one way shape or form. All animal forms on this planet rely on healthy habitats to survive and thrive, even us! If we, as a human race, want to maintain a healthy quality of life we need to help preserve natural habitats and wildlife. We depend on these habitats and this wildlife for sustenance, not only physical sustenance (as in food), but also mental sustenance. Most of us have gotten so disconnected from our food sources we forget where most of our food comes from and how healthy ecosystems and habitats are crucial for healthy food production. It is incumbent upon each of us to do our best to help preserve natural habitats not just for the benefit of wildlife but for ourselves and generations to come.
9. How can we as photographers help protect the wildlife and conservation?
Volunteer with your local habitat conservation organizations, share your images with them, help them spread the word that preserving nature as a worthwhile endeavor, not just for wildlife but for ourselves. I know this is controversial with many photographers, but there are a number of organizations that have given permission to use ANY of my images free of charge to further their conservation efforts. It is amazing the need that a lot of these organizations have for good photography. They very much understand how effective a good photograph can help their message and connect with potential donors and volunteers, but unfortunately their funds are limited and in most cases they are unable to license high quality imagery. In most cases I am not even able to even claim a tax deduction on those donations, but to me that is inconsequential, I am donating my images because I believe in their cause.
Talk to your local conservation organizations and ask them how you can help, you would be surprised how needy they may be for your skills as a photographer.
10. Is there anything you would have done differently during your photography career.
Maybe getting started sooner. I spent a long time climbing the corporate ladder, and put aside my photography work for many years. I can’t complain too much though I have been pretty successful in that career which has enabled me to live a pretty comfortable life. However, I still can’t help wonder what things would be like now had I worked harder as a photographer all those years ago.
11. How has your carrier in Photography led you to DPE?
I was extremely fortunate to meet Rick Sammon late last year while co-leading a workshop with him. We got to spend a few days together and we immediately hit it off. Rick was involved in another endeavor at the time, so we just kept in touch. A few months later that relationship ended and I approached Rick with the idea of DPE. Rick being someone who really likes to share his knowledge liked the idea immediately and we quickly put plans together to assemble a team of different photographers to offer different perspectives. Up until now all other photoblogs have been a one or two person affair, and we thought there was an opportunity to offer more. So DPE was born!
12. What are your hopes for DPE and how do you think your experience in photography will help DPE to grow?
Our hope for DPE is to make it the best and most honest photo resource on the internet for photographers of all stripes. We plan on doing that via a multi-pronged approach, including the daily posts on the website, the podcast, the instructional video podcast, the DPE Learning weekends and we have more in works that we hope people will benefit from. DPE is still very new, we just launched on Dec 1st. 2009 so we still have a lot of growing to do. The response we have gotten has been far greater than we ever hoped at this stage, and we are very grateful for that. Running DPE takes a HUGE amount of work but as long as people are finding it a useful resource we’ll continue to pour our hearts and souls into it.
Well that is the end of our interview. However, I just like to say that I find it a great resource and I think it can only get better as time allows the site to grow. Thanks for such a great interview Juan your the best!
If you would like to know more about Juan Pons just follow the links below.
Juan’s articles at DPE http://dpexperience.com/author/jpons/
Juan’s Photo Blog. WARNING; Following the link below will only lead you to inspiration. If your not in the mood to be inspired today then don’t follow the link below. It will ruin your day…