Thursday Thoughts with…Jeff Revell

Recently, I had the honor of sitting down (well, emailing, but you get the idea) with none other than Jeff Revell.  As most of you probably know, Jeff is a pretty well-established photographer and recently has been enjoying some notariety for his blog on Photowalking, appropriately titled Photowalk Pro (definitely one for your feed aggregators).  He gave some great thoughts and insights on the state of digital photography.  Thanks in advance to Jeff for taking the time to participate in the Thursday Thoughts sereies here at CB!

Q:  Everyone always wants to know some of the basics, so let’s get a few things out of the way at once here…1. How long have you been a photographer?

A:  I have been into photography for over 25 years.  I first began taking an interest in high school and have been in love with photography ever since.  I think it had something to do with all that fixer I inhaled.

Q:  Canon, Nikon, Olympus, Sony, or some other brand?

A:  I see you changed the question to include other camera brands.  I started off learning with a Pentax K1000, the king of old school photography classes.  From there I moved to a Minolta, a Canon, and finally Nikon for the past 20 years or so.  I have recently been working with some Canon models, specifically the 50D and I have to admit that the more I use it, the more I love it.

Q:  Heh, yeah, that’s thanks to Andy Smith of Virtual Realia.  To that end, let’s cover all the computer options:  Mac, PC, or Linux?

A:  I had been a PC user since the DOS days and then migrated to Windows from there.  I’m just a big techno-nerd at heart and love building my own systems.  I got a Mac notebook about 3 years ago and now it is my predominate platform – Not a fanboy but I do love my MacBook Pro.

Q:  Sounds a lot like the path I’ve been taking – although I do find myself bouncing back and forth between Mac and PC a lot these days.  Anyway, moving on:  Chocolate, Vanilla, or Strawberry?

A:  Definitely a chocolate person.

Q:  Excellent taste!  Moving into a little more granularity, photographers often enjoy hearing helpful and constructive critiques of their work, as we are aware of how much we can grow from it.  What was the singular most useful critique or comment you’ve ever had on work you’ve shared publicly?

A:  This one is easy.  The best advice I ever received about my work was to only show your best stuff. Everyone shoots lame shots; it’s part of the process of getting the image that you want.  The key is to not show all the ducks and simply show your swans.

Q:  Who said it?

A:  My buddy Scott Kelby

Q:  I think I’ve heard of him before!  🙂  Isn’t he into photography too or something like that?  Just kidding of course…  Anyway, back to the subject of critiquing work:  If someone was asking you for an honest critique of their work, what 3 factors would you look at most (excluding friendships or family relatives, we’re talking professional or fellow photographer-types here)?

A:  Wow, that’s a tough one.  I’m much harder on myself than I ever would be on someone else.  I think the first thing I look for in a shot is the composition.  How did the photographer use the elements in the image to convey their intent?  Second would be their processing.  Is it done with a scalpel or a chainsaw?  Finally, did they use sound technique when taking the image, things like proper aperture, shutter speed, lens selection, things along those lines.
All I can say is that I am so glad that I have never been asked to critique the work of others for fear of crushing their spirit and enthusiasm.

Q:  I guess that means I shouldn’t ask for a critique or anything on that vein then, eh?  How about war stories?  Got any from field shoots or outings that you can or would be willing to share?

A:  This one time, in band camp…  oops, wrong story.  I am recalling a trip I took to Arizona with my buddies Scott and Dave.  We covered some serious ground in just 3 day, traveling from Phoenix to Page, to Monument Valley, to the Grand Canyon, and back to Phoenix.  It was one of the best shooting trips I have ever taken, thanks in large part to having my friends along to share the experience.  One outing in Page took us on a 3-mile hike in the high desert to photograph the Wave.  This was in August mind you and it was HOT!  We climbed steep sandy hills and rocky outcrops along the way but it was so worth it once we finally reached our destination.  One of the shots that came from that hike ended up gracing Scott’s 7-Point System book.  If there is a moral in there somewhere, I think it would be that hard work and a lot of sweating can really pay off.

Q:  Hey, I own that book!  Cool, I didn’t know that was your shot!  Guess I should read the credits more carefully, eh?  Sorry, I tend to ramble…  Moving right along, with Photoshop becoming so powerful as a way to even create amazing digital imagery, it could almost be said that the camera could eventually not even be a needed component to create imagery.   With that pre-text in mind, if you had to choose between the camera or the software as the only way to create, which would it be and why?

A:  Well, since I don’t have near the creative/artistic abilities like Fay Sirkis, Bert Monroy,  or Cory Barker, I would have to go with the camera.  Those folks have some seriously crazy skills and create beautiful images from a blank canvas using illustrative software.  I, on the other hand require a piece of glass and a shutter button to create.

Q:  Well, I don’t know about that – I’ve read some of your HDR tutorials, which indicate you are pretty skilled with Photoshop!  Anyway, do you have any final thoughts you’d like to share about the state of photography or any catch phrases that you keep in mind when shooting?

A:  I believe that we are living in renaissance period for photography.  Not since the invention of the process has so much changed so rapidly.  With the introduction of powerful software tools like Photoshop and the development of the digital camera, the average person has more creative tools at their disposal than ever before.  The only problem is that tools don’t make pictures, people do.  My advice for those that are just starting out is to not get caught up in all of the technical wizardry but rather learn the craft from the ground up.  Because even though there have been a multitude of advancements in the technical realm of photography, they aren’t worth squat unless you learn how to leverage them to your advantage.  Never stop learning.

Great advice and insights from Jeff Revell.  Please take a moment to stop over at his blog, Photowalk Pro, to check out everything he has to offer.  Thanks again Jeff for taking the time to participate in the Thursday Thoughts series here.  Until tomorrow all, Happy Shooting!  Hope all your shots are good ones!

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3 comments for “Thursday Thoughts with…Jeff Revell

  1. November 20, 2008 at 7:01 am

    Thanks again Jason for including me in the Thursday Thoughts series. I do need to make one correction to something you wrote concerning the 7-Point System cover shot. That is Scott’s shot, not mine. I have one that looks almost identical because we were set up side-by-side but I don’t want anyone to think that his cover shot is my image.


  2. November 20, 2008 at 2:34 pm

    A pleasure Jeff – thanks for participating. My apologies for the mis-perception on the photo credits…

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