29 August, 2008

What's in YOUR Bag Matt Nicolosi?

Hi all! Sorry I've been MIA all week! I know you've missed me. . . I've missed you too! I feel all off and funky when I'm not blogging every day! What better way to get back in the groove than with a What's in YOUR Bag? segment? Today I'm pleased to introduce you to another reader's request, photographer Matt Nicolosi! I hope you enjoy our interview and some of Matt's wonderful work below! And I hope you enjoyed that paragraph full of exclamation marks! Tehahahaha!

Ok, I had to start by showing the above image, because. . .
It is so freaking clever and it had me LAUGHING OUT LOUD. I LOVE IT!

Me: What type of photography do you specialize in?
Matt: Most of the work I do is on-location family/children, engagement and bridal portraiture work with an emphasis on creating images that truly speak to the character and personalities of the people I’m fortunate enough to photograph. For the last few years I have chosen not to do weddings, but I decided to finally take on a couple in the past few months, and I surprisingly really enjoyed the experiences. As a result, I’ll be taking on a few more next year to keep my work and my perspective fresh and to continually challenge myself.

Me: What do you LOVE to shoot for you?
Matt: Nothing makes me feel more relaxed, creative and artistically alive than visiting a place I’ve never been and just getting lost with my camera and documenting the beauty and simplicity in every day things. It’s so easy for us to get caught up in life and take for granted the ari in the objects and scenes we see all the time, so it’s incredibly satisfying to be able to capture those things in a way that makes people appreciate them maybe in ways they hadn’t thought of.

Me: What is your primary camera body?
Matt:I switched to the Nikon D3 back in January. I’m still amazed by it today and – like the microwave – wonder how I ever got along without it.
Me: I'm so jealous right now! I switched to Canon back in May and the D3 has been trying to pull me back to Nikon ever since! I am so completely drooling over that camera.

Me: What body do you use for back up?
Matt: I still have my ‘old’ Nikon D200s I use as back-ups, although they’ve been more like expensive paper weights lately as I haven’t used either of them more than once since I got my hands on a D3.

Me: What would be the one lens you just cannot live without and why?
Matt: This is a tough one because I have 3 or 4 that I can’t seem to live without. Forced to chose, though (which fortunately is not the case except for the sake of this question), I would probably say the lens I would have the hardest time not having in my bag is the Nikon AF-S ZoomNikkor 24-70mm f/2.8G ED Lens. Combined with the full frame chip in the D3, it’s a workhorse lens for me because of its versatility. Is it the sharpest lens in the bag? Probably not, but it’s still pretty sharp.

Me: What other gear do you drag along most the time (in order of importance)?
Matt: An assistant. I know, that’s not really gear, per se, but it’s the one thing that makes the biggest difference in my work. The less things I have to keep track of or do myself, the more I can focus on what people hire us for as photographers, and that’s our vision and creativity.
Me: Amen to that. And when I say "amen" I mean AMEN! I recently started shooting with an assistant and it has been AMAZING how much more creative freedom I have at a shoot. It's like magic fairy dust, so amen, amen, Amen!

Matt: Okay back to the gear. In order of importance, here’s what I usually bring with me:

  • Extra batteries and memory cards and a back-up camera – always! Without these things, nothing else on the list matters when your primary battery, card(s) or body fails
  • Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 lens. This was a tie for my favorite lens in the previous question, but I was forced to choose one. The great thing about this lens is that it lets we shoot in tight without being on top of people, so they’re able to feel less intimidated while I’m a fly on the wall capturing things as they happen.
  • Nikon 85mm f/1.2 lens. Fantastic portrait lens and tack sharp. The large aperture capability combined with the outstanding high ISO performance of the D3 also lets me shoot without flash in lighting conditions I never would have attempted before.
  • Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 lens. Developed for the full frame capabilities of the D3 (and D700), I love the fantastic wide angles I can get with this lens. I really like the perspectives I can capture.
  • A couple reflectors to pop in some fill light when necessary. Usually I have my assistant hold one of these when I need a little more light in the shadows.
  • A couple Nikon SB-800 flashes with Pocket Wizard Transceivers, and a Larson 20x20 soft box. I prefer to use as much natural light as I can, but sometimes you just can’t rely on mother nature to give you everything you need. I’ll use a Pocket Wizard Transceiver on the D3 and have my assistant hold an SB-800 off-camera with the Larson soft box attached (and of course a 2nd Pocket Wizard attached to the SB-800) to either add in some fill light or I’ll use it as a main light to add directional/dramatic light. It’s a simple set-up that works for most of the location portrait sessions I do.

Me: As a wedding/event photographer you're often forced to photograph people and things in dimly lit reception halls. Any tips for natural looking images in yucky light like this?
Matt: Buy or rent a D3 or D700. [grin] Just kidding… sort of. The D3 truly as been one of the few pieces of equipment that’s changed the way I shoot in low-lighting conditions because of it’s high ISO performance. It’s not uncommon for me to shoot at ISO 4-5000 if I need to in a pinch because I know the D3 can handle it and give me pretty good – if not great – results without needing flash. I don’t like to recommend gear for people, though, because everyone has different comfort and experience levels, and the only thing that’s really going to help people create better images is knowing their gear inside and out.

Matt: Okay, where were we. Oh, right… yucky light. Seriously, if your camera can produce high quality high ISO images, that’s usually my first option simply because I generally like the look of natural light vs. artificial light. If that’s not an option, Melissa Jill was gracious enough to share her approach for these situations with me when I assisted with her at a wedding a while back. It’s similar to the flash setup I mention above, but it works great for dark reception halls. Using a wireless system (like Pocket Wizards), set up a flash on a stand fairly high up somewhere about half way between the dance floor and the wedding party table (so that you can get good light coverage of both), put it in manual mode and set it to about 1/16th. You may need to experiment with which light modifier – if any – you’ll want to use. An umbrella works well to provide less harsh fill light to cover large areas while a bare bulb is a little more contrasty but can create great back-lit images with a little lens flare. Also, another easy approach to try is simply using flash and slowing dragging your shutter. Try slowing your shutter speed to 1/10th or 1/8th of a second. The longer shutter speed will allow more ambient light into the image while the flash will partially freeze your subject. The result is an image that has some focus and some blur that helps to create a sense of action.
Me: GREAT answer! Thanks for being so thorough!!

Me: Which other photographers have really inspired you?
Matt: There are so many… where do I start. I really like the work of Jeremy Cowart, Parker Pfister, Jessica Claire and Jasmine Star. Jeremy’s images are so raw and surreal and real at the same time. Amazing work. Parker is truly an artist that crafts moments of authenticity in unbelievable ways. Period. Jessica and Jasmine create images that are so clean, crisp and fresh. I love their styles. Regarding business savvy and innovation, I really admire the things David Jay, Becker and Mike Colon have done. I know there are others, too, but these guys have the hearts of teachers and really showed me what it looks like to run a successful photography business and create freedom in your life to do the things you want to do.
Me: THANK YOU for introducing me to Jeremy Cowart and Parker Pfister! I'd not heard of them before and I am absolutely BLOWN AWAY! All the photographers you mentioned are noteworthy, but I just have to say one thing about Mike Colon. . . he once said that one of the things in photography that really set him apart was that he had the philosophy of "get in over your head and swim to the top." I TOTALLY took that to heart. Not to make this all about me, but I just have to say that I have been SO BLESSED by that philosophy and the courage it's given me to just DO IT. I've only met Mike once, briefly, but if I ever see him again, he can count on a BIG hug and Hawaiian smooch on the cheek from yours truly! Anyhoo. . . let's jump off the tangent train. . . :)

Me: What would be the one piece of advice you'd give to an aspiring photographer?
Matt: Don’t do what I did when I started out and try to reinvent the wheel. There are so many great photographers out there who are willing to share their success and failures hat got them to where they are today if you just ask or do a little homework. You don’t have to figure it all out on your own, and you can’t do everything all on your own. Find a mentor with a proven track record, and be willing to humble yourself and work hard.
Me: Yes. YES. YES!!


Thank you so much for putting so much into this interview.
It's such a wonderful thing to meet someone as talented as you
who is also so very willing to share.
Congrats on the engagement and the new place!
Yes, I read your blog. . . and your engagement = killer stellar!
I hope to meet you someday in the near future.


Don't miss previous installments of What's in YOUR Bag?

Jasmine Star
Michael and Anna Costa
Ed Pingol
Allison Cox
Jonathan Canlas
Sean Flanigan
Heather Cole
Jeff Newsom

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Anonymous said...

Wow -- I LOVE his work! Love the color, the art, style, beauty. Thanks to both of you for putting so much time into this. EXCELLENT info.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this! This is great and so useful!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for doing this, Natalie. I'm honored, and it was fun for me to sit down and think & reflect on the questions you asked. It was a nice little refresher course for myself on why/how I'm doing some of the things I'm doing. Great blog, btw! Thanks for doing all that you do to help out the photography community. Best wishes. Matt

taryn said...

thank you for putting the time to create this post. you guys rock!

Dennis Bullock said...

Natalie - Matt is a great guys and has been willing to help me out with questions when I have them. Thanks for the great post.

Purple Nickel Studio said...

YAY Matt!!! Congrads... you're such an awesome guy & I love that you're always willing & there to help others out.

KK said...

incredible post!!! natalie thank you so much for asking such great insightful questions...

matt - your work is absolutely incredible...love, love, love your style of composition - thank you for being so willing to share your work and for being open to answering all of natalie's awesome questions.

kanaboke said...

His photos are amazing and he does such a wonderful job explaining what he does to get his shots!! I love reading your "Whats in your bag?" installments!!! well, and I guess I love everything else about your Blog..it's one of my only ways back to Laie..one of my favorite places in the world!!

Anonymous said...

Thanks Matt. This is AWESOME! I totally love that your most important "gear" is your assistant. For real. It's all about team work and specializing. SO MUCH more gets done with a good team.