Donald Cook was the very first winner of the Life Pixel Monthly Photo contest, in May. Donald was new to Infrared photography, and his prize gave him the opportunity to make IR images with a converted camera. I caught up with Donald recently to see how he was doing with his Infrared photography.
1. Donald, please tell us about yourself and your background
I have had an interest in photography from an early age. My Dad took photos, both print and slides. My interest started in Junior High School and High School taking candid photos of students, events and sports for the yearbook. Through my university days and work in the theatre I expanded taking photos of people and landscapes. I landed a job with CPI Corporation, which gave me the fundamentals of portrait photography. I worked in portrait photography for about 15 years. All of this was with film. My work took my wife and I to Australia where I ran a photographic and marketing company.
I have been away from the mainstream of photography for the past 20 years, running a business consulting and training company, acting on stage, television and film, selling technology and managing a sales team, teaching middle school music (choir), working retail and for an IT company and part time as a Luthier.
2. How long have you been a photographer?
My first exposure to a camera was my Dad’s Argus C3 35mm film camera. He had it with him in WWII. He let me use it from time to time as a kid.
I started as a photographer in Junior High School with an Imperial Mark XII 120mm format. I shot sporting events and classmates for the yearbook. I moved on to an Argus Cosina 35mm film camera, which I used for a number of years.
I worked with larger format cameras for portrait photography and moved up to a Canon AE1 Program in 1984 that I used for about 20 years. I shot landscapes, architecture and used it during the 1984 and 2000 Olympics. I had a few small point and shoot digital cameras over the past ten years and earlier this year upgraded with the purchase of two Canon EOS T2i 550D cameras. One for regular color exposures and the other converted by Life Pixel to Super Color Infrared (590nm).
3. What got you interested in Infrared photography?
I noticed postings on Facebook by Dan Wampler. It intrigued me how the different types of coloring and exposures he could create. I found out about and entered the first Life Pixel Infrared contest and won it. So, my interest was peaked. I made inquiries and spoke with Daniel Malkin at Life Pixel who was extremely helpful.
What do like best about IR photography?
Given I had grown up with film photography and knew there many things that could be done in the darkroom in post-production. Now, I can shoot in RAW format, and process in a number of different programs to achieve many different results.
4. What do you find most challenging about IR?
There are two areas of this learning curve, one is achieving the White Balance I want or need to get the image exposure I want.
The second is the processing. Learning what direction I want to go with a particular image. My biggest challenge is narrowing it down to work on just a few different effects or styles. I tend to want to go off on a tangent and get away from completing on just one.
5. If you could go anywhere in the world to shoot IR, where would you go?
I would have to say Australia. I lived there for 11 years and know of a number of area and places I would love to go back and photograph. The Northern Beaches of Sydney and some of the National Park are wonderful. Not to mention the Royal Easter Show, the Blue Mountains, the Snowy Mountains, the Vineyards, the Capital Cities and small towns and of course the Great Barrier Reef and the Great Australian Outback, and much, much more.
6. If you could pass on just one tip about IR, what would it be?
Work to find the right White Balance that works for you and work with different exposures. I have found interesting results with different timed exposures. I like getting big Depth of Field exposures giving me great details.
7. Do you have any projects currently going you would like to discuss?
I have a plan to photograph each of the 88 county courthouses in the state of Ohio. Many of them still have the older architecture styles from the 1800’s. My first was Auglaize County and I’ve just shot my first set of Allen County. With the editing, I work to remove the wires signage and other modern features so the focus can be on the structure. I really like the speed of which it takes to process images compared to the darkroom. As a digital photo artist and creator it gives me more freedom to express the image I see in my mind’s eye.
You can see more of Donalds work here.