Interview with Entrepreneur and Photographer Richard Weldon Davis
This interview is part of a series of interviews with fellow entrepreneurs. Our first was with a best-selling author. In this interview, photographer Richard Weldon Davis shares some of his methods and secrets to success. Read on!
How did you get started in photography?
I was on vacation with my wife celebrating our 20th wedding anniversary about 6 years ago. We hired a photographer to take pictures of our vow renewal ceremony. I started asking the photographer about the camera as I had become intrigued with the idea of buying a DSLR (digital single-lens reflex) camera (think digital version of a 35mm camera). I bought one when we got home and I started taking pictures using the automatic mode, allowing the camera to make all the decisions for me. For the most part I was disappointed in the shots. They just weren’t coming out the way I envisioned them. This went on for a couple years and I didn’t use the camera much.
During a visit to some old friends, both of whom are excellent photographers, I asked for help. They both worked with me to show me how to take pictures in manual mode and select the Shutter Speed, ISO (think film speed) and Aperture myself. They patiently explained what selections to make for which shots I wanted. They also showed me the basics of photo editing in Lightroom, a program from Adobe related to Photoshop.
With this new information in hand I began to experiment with the 3 sides of the exposure triangle (Shutter Speed, ISO and Aperture) to get different shots. I’m still learning every day, but now I make the camera do what I want instead of allowing the camera to decide. In order to understand the exposure triangle, think of the camera as a room (that’s actually what the word means in Latin!) and the lens is a window. To illuminate the room, you open the window. How long the window is open is the Shutter Speed, how big the window is is the Aperture and how much light you have is the ISO (sensitivity to light). So for an action shot of kids on the soccer field, you want a very quick Shutter Speed to freeze the action. For a night photo of stars, you want a long shutter speed to gather more of the starlight for your shot.
I was lucky enough to go on one of your shoots as your “assistant” and it was impressive to watch how much effort you put into getting just the right shot. Tell us a little bit about your creative process.
I really enjoy landscape photography. You and I were in San Francisco for work and I really wanted a nice shot of the Golden Gate Bridge while we were there. In general, the best times of day to shoot outdoors is the period of twilight early in the morning at dawn or late dusk when the sunlight takes on a blue hue. That’s why I dragged you to Baker’s Beach an hour or so before sunset. I was hoping for a nice blue effect right after sunset. It turned out pretty nice and I appreciate you humoring me hanging on the beach dodging a random nudist.
I’m also a big fan of night photography. I love the way different lights are captured by the camera; from the starburst effect of streetlights during a long exposure to the streaks of red and white lights from cars driving by to capturing the stars that outline the Milky Way galaxy, I really enjoy longer exposures (can’t get that shot in light polluted DC!).
No matter your shot, the key to photography is understanding and harnessing the light, whether it is sunlight, a flash, or starlight travelling for thousands of years to light your scene.
I’ve begun to dabble with portrait photography and that is fun as well. Again it comes down to light.
What lessons learned do you have for other budding entrepreneurs?
I’m not much of an entrepreneur yet, but for those exploring photography with a DSLR camera, the equipment is secondary, you need to shoot in manual and learn how to make the exposure triangle work for you. It helps to look at photographs online where the artist has listed Shutter Speed, ISO and Aperture so you can dissect their shot and figure out how they did it. You can also find great resources online to better understand your camera and its functions. Don’t be discouraged if your shots don’t look as good as those you find online, just keep shooting. Figure out what kind of photography you like and how to differentiate yourself from other photographers.
Also, what’s a good link where we can buy your prints?