Welcome to Photographer Face-Off; where we pit two photographers against one another and get them to fight it out over their favourite methods and settings. This time the Paris guides will wrestle to tell you why there is no right or wrong way to shoot. In the right corner we have the Aperture Tours founder, Alexander J.E. Bradley, weighing in with an impressive Nikon D7000, he creates surreal dreamscape art photography. In the left corner we have Paris guide William Lounsbury, weighing in with a spectacular Nikon D800, has his feet firmly on the ground, shooting captivating photojournalism. Boys, let's get ready to rumble!
Prime or Zoom?
Alexander : I understand that a prime lens is a superior quality lens. A 50mm f/1.4 will give beautiful bokeh that even the most expensive zoom will never be able to compare to. But a zoom is practical. If I go out with my 24-70 mm f/2.8 I am good for landscapes, portraits and details. I don't get dust on my sensor from constantly changing my lens and I have the versatility to shoot more options. I must admit it makes me a little apathetic to swap to a wider or more telephoto lens during the day.
William : Alexander said it all: "a prime lens is a superior quality lens." But it goes beyond just beautiful bokeh and crisper pictures, it is about the way you shoot with a prime lens. With a zoom lens you can plant your feet and zoom in or out to get your image, with a prime you are forced to move around, get closer and get creative...which always leads to better pictures.
What is your favorite lens?
Alexander : I love my Nikon AF-S Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 G ED N. It sits on my camera 75% of the time. It is so sharp and gives beautiful images at any range. It covers wide, natural and slightly telephoto in one lens, although I must admit it is expensive and heavy, but well worth the effort.
William : Despite what I just said, my most common lens is a Nikkor 24-70mm just like Alexander, however my favorite lens is an old Nikkor 35mm f/2. It's a bit broken and the focus is slow, but the pictures look beautiful and the lens is no longer than 10cm long making my large D800 seem small and portable.
Is iPhone photography real photography?
Alexander : Sure it is, the new iPhone 6 has 8MP resolution and a f/2.2 aperture, that's better than most DSLR kit lenses. Obviously it has its limitations, but if you work within those limitations (and they don't frustrate you) then you can create a beautiful image. Sadly most people shoot without thinking on their phone... And the quality of the pictures matches.
William : I'm with Alexander, the only camera that matters is the one you have on you. There are limitations for sure, but you can make beautiful pictures on it, if you just try. I recommend downloading an app like "Manual" for the iPhone, it will give you greater control of the camera's settings.
What was your biggest photography mistake?
Alexander : Not backing up. I returned to Paris from Australia and took a stop over in Sri Lanka along the way to break up the trip, and see this magnificent country. I spent a lot of it setting up magnificent photos of the highlands, the beaches and the railroads. Before I had finished processing the photos my hard drive crashed and I curse myself for never having backed up my images. We spend thousands of euros on a holiday, but we won't spend a couple hundred on a hard drive?
William : I will agree with Alexander here, I don't have any pictures from 2010 anymore due to a hard drive crash and 3 months of 2009 because of a stolen computer. Whether it's an auto backup or a drag and drop situation, ALWAYS HAVE A BACK UP. I typically have a hard drive with my most important work on me at all times so if, god forbid, my apartment was robbed or caught fire, my most important work would survive.
Film or digital?
Alexander : I will have to say digital on this one. Although I love film and still believe there is a quality that can not be matched in digital, my post processing workflow is so heavily ingrained in the digital process that analogue just frustrates me these days. It is also expensive... and the photographers life doesn't afford me a lot of free cash.
William : Digital is certainly easier and cheaper, but film has a certain look that can't easily be replicated. I don't mean to get sentimental, but each film has a different color profile, some have deep rich blacks and some have soft pastel colors. It becomes expensive quickly, but you can really get creative and your pictures will look beautiful. Plus it's great practice, when you only have 36 frames (or less on medium format) you really have to know your exposure and focus!
Which setting do you use? P, S, A or M?
Alexander : I default to P (Priority Auto)...
William : Sacrilege! I shoot everything in M (manual). Maybe I'm just stubborn, but I never trust any of the auto settings, they tend to mess up something I care about, however I've been shooting professionally for nearly a decade and I can guess exposure pretty well so before the camera is even up to my eye I'm getting it ready.
Alexander : but William, what do you do when you bring it to your eye? You align the needle to the centre. In P it is already there. I just find it quicker in most situations. It means I can bring my camera out at a moment's notice and shoot and get an image that will be correctly exposed. I can override my setting up or down the scale giving me complete control over my setting quickly. I will add though that I'll swap across to M for night photography, studio, or something where the conditions of the light won't change too much.
Flash? Or Natural Light?
Alexander : I once was afraid of the powerful flash. I thought that it made everything flat and unnatural. I realized this was only because I didn’t know how to use it properly. Once I mastered off board flash, and high speed flash sync setting, I learnt how flash can be another paint brush in my arsenal when it comes to improving the quality of light in my image. So forget the new body for my next purchase, I want a couple more flash units first.
William : I know that with artificial light you can do beautiful things and create incredible images, but when I have the option, natural light all the way! Natural light will always be more beautiful and give you more realistic images. However put me in a dark room where everyone is moving, a wedding for example, that flash is coming out!
Who is your favourite photographer?
Alexander : I really like the work of David Lachapelle. His vivid surreal works are often an inspiration to me, but if I had to pick only one then I would say Sally Mann. I am horrible at remembering names, but Sally Mann was the first photographer I remembered the name of, so I guess that speaks volumes. Her large format black and white images have a ghostly, ethereal quality, whilst being deeply personal and intimate.
William : I'm a traditionalist with a background in photojournalism so I always love the greats. Living in Paris, the work of the great French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson is always an inspiration. Cartier-Bresson also coined the phrase "the decisive moment" (the idea of capturing the moment of action) which should be a constant source of inspiration. But if we want to talk about contemporary photographers, I would say Alex Webb (for vivid colors and inspired composition), Sebastião Salgado (for gorgeous black and white exploration of cultures and nature) and Paolo Pellegrin (for grainy black & white images of conflict and human struggle). I could go on and on...I haven't even talked about portraits (Annie Leibowitz or Richard Avedon) or fashion or social issues or art...but this list should stop sometime.
Alexander : I like how your "favourite" photographer is six photographers. I didn't realise we were allowed to write a list. So I'm going to add Joel-Peter Witkin, Helmut Newton, Annie Leibowitz...
William : You can't take Leibowitz, I already called her... ok, I guess we can agree on some things.
Authors : Alexander J.E. Bradley & William Lounsbury
Alexander is the founder of Aperture Tours and heads up the tours in Paris along with William. Both have been professional photographers for over a decade. Alexander enjoys shooting the surreal by mixing dreamlike qualities into his conceptual images. With a background in photojournalism, William shoots sharp with his wit on the street.