Tue, Jun 17 2008 12:00 am |
Name: Jeff Zielinski
Shooting: On and off since high school.
Work: Ride magazine, ridebmx.com, DC Shoes, Fox Clothing, Red Bull, a ton of other companies in BMX, and jeffzphoto.com
What kind of camera do you have or do you suggest?
In my opinion, the most important feature you want your camera to have, whether it’s a 35mm or DSLR, is a flash sync of 250th of a second. Personally, I shoot the majority of my still photos with a Hasselblad medium format camera, although there are a number of reasons why I prefer to use that camera, the main reason is because the flash sync is 500th of a second—being twice as fast as a 35mm or DSLR. Other than the flash sync, if you’re using a 35mm film body, a motordrive would be nice, but if you want to shoot sequences you might as well get a digital body instead. Auto-focus is another nice feature to consider. Finally, if you’re dead-set on a DSLR, try to get a body with the most minimal sensor crop possible, basically, if the sensor is smaller than the dimensions of a single frame of 35mm film, then the resulting image is going to be cropped. Aside from full-frame sensors, I believe the most minimal crop factor is 1.3, but that still makes a 15mm fisheye look like 21mm wide angle. Not only are fisheye shots fun, they’re imperative to BMX photography, so you really want to stay away from the bodies with heavy crop factors, however, the full-frame DSLR bodies are also the most expensive ones. I know Canon makes one lower end model with a full-frame sensor, but the flash sync is only 200th of a second.
Jeff Z. in an old self portrait in an airport.How do you get started in photography?
I took an introductory to black and white photography and printing in high school. I dabbled with it off and on for the next few years, but riding was still my main focus. When I graduated from high school I enrolled in the School Visual Arts in NYC, I dislocated my foot half way through my first year and I never went back. After that I focused on filming BMX for a while and eventually I just started thinking of still shots more than video, and my focus switched to shooting photos full-time.
What kind of job can you get being a photographer in BMX?
You can get any job in BMX and still shoot photos, but not everyone is going to be a professional BMX photographer. You can pack orders in the S&M warehouse and still shoot BMX photos. Seriously, there are a lot of people in BMX whose sole job isn’t to shoot photos, but they still get the opportunity to shoot and get their work published. Some of those jobs include art directors, team managers, and some of the professional riders you may look up to, as well.
How can someone get into the BMX industry?
Work hard, travel, meet people, don’t be too eager, and most importantly, ride your bike and don’t forget your roots. As far as shooting, if you shoot a lot, submit photos to magazines, and your work is always improving, people will notice and things will work out.
Do you do work outside of BMX?
Occasionally, but my staff position at Ride is beyond a full-time job, so what ever time I have free from traveling, shooting, and working on stories, I usually go ride and/or spend time with my wife.
Advice for beginners?
Shoot a lot of photos, learn from your mistakes, and get used to your gear. Look at your photos and then look at the ones you see printed by your favorite photographers and figure out what you should be doing better/different. This may sound silly, but when I started shooting BMX, I didn’t know any professional photographers and there weren’t forum boards, so I had to improvise. I used to watch a lot of skateboarding videos and see clips of the same tricks I saw photos of in the magazines and I would watch the clip in slow-mo to see where the flashes were placed and what kind of gear they used.
Finally, this is something that I see a lot of potential contributors doing, so I figured this is as good a time as any to address it. If you send some photos to a magazine with hopes of getting them published, do not post those photos or any that look similar on the Web (not even on your MySpace or a personal photo site) until after you hear back from the editor as to whether or not the photos may get used. Magazines don’t want their content blown before the issue comes out and you don’t want your chances of getting published blown, either.