Camel Market, Cairo Egypt - Photo by Darrell Gulin
JM: By my calculation, you have been shooting professionally for almost 30 years. What do you feel keeps the business interesting and you relevant today?
DG: Very good! I have been shooting professionally for 33 years. The trick to staying relevant is to continuously learn new things. I study the market. I keep up with ‘what’s going on.’ If there is an app or a new technology, I want to know what it is and how it works. As I do a lot of workshops and lectures, it is important to be able to teach what people are using today. Right now, I probably know as much - or more - as any young photographer. This is important – if you don’t stay relevant, you are lost.
Another important thing that has kept me relevant is my relationship with Canon. In 2006, I became a Canon Explorer of Light -it has been wonderful because it opens doors and gives me opportunities that I might not ever have had. I very much like teaching – and the Explorer or Light program allows me an audience to teach to. Because of the Canon Explorer of Light program, and my work with greats like Joe Van’Os tours, I can say I have been pretty much everywhere.
I love to watch others and see how others work – I have had the opportunity to work with so many great people, Art Wolfe, Joe VanOs and others. It is one of the ways you can continually relearn to be a better photographer. That keeps me relevant.
JM: The Explorer’s of Light programs sounds like it has been amazing for you. I would imagine that it is also exhausting.
DG: Yes, it can be. You can easily spend as much as 5 or 6 months of the year on the road shooting. It has a toll with friends and loved ones. For that reason, I recently made a choice to scale back doing some of my workshops. You see, my wife is a cancer survivor and photographer. I decided that I want to spend more time with her, traveling and photographing together.
Frozen in Ice, Mahonia Leaves in Red and Green, Photo by Darrell Gulin
JM: What keeps the business interesting for you?
DG: It keeps changing. It is so different from when we spoke last in 2005. In 2008 there was a huge consolidation in the stock market. Revenue streams that I counted on became less important, and I had to develop new ones. While I may make about 1/10th of what I did in the stock market years ago, I have adapted my business to include a three pronged approach – adding more self-marketing and workshops. Don’t get me wrong – stock is still an important part of my business strategy, I still pursue Getty and Danita Delamont. We don’t just go one direction with our income stream. but it is now one of many components.
The business will always change – it is up to us to find ways to find markets in it. There was a time when the stock photography market was a huge. Galleries were also huge. I would say that one of the biggest streams today is in photographic workshops. Also, don’t be afraid to find your own market. For example, I think what you are doing with pet photography is brilliant. If you don’t want to do weddings – do family portraits. I love shooting cowboys and cowgirls riding in the snow – or a lone horse. The point is to find a market that appeals to you and be the best at it.
Lioness Carrying her Cub, Masai Mara, Kenya, Photo by Darrell Gulin
JM: Creatively, how have you changed?
DG: My workflow is very different now than it was years ago. For example, when I used to have a film camera and I would photograph on manual, spot meter, etc. I would create my exposure and bracket. It was like driving an old 55 Nash. I now drive a Ferrari – and that Ferrari is a digital camera. I shoot in Aperture Priority with evaluative metering for EVERYTHING. Wildlife, landscape, travel. The ability to move so quickly and change with the moment has allowed me to become more creative.
JM: In some ways it sounds like you shoot the opposite of me. I shoot with a camera and tripod. Once I have my composition, I grab my filters and I pretty much play it until the light dies.
DG: LOL, you sound like an engineer. I also do that when I am expecting perfect light and I think I have something special. Generally I am much quicker to function these days. If I love a scene, I will take it over and over – looking at it in all of its different lights and variations. It is exciting though to be able to change on the fly in a way that we couldn’t before digital cameras became so capable.
JM: How do you feel technology has changed what you do?
DG: Technology has changed everything. There are so many advantages of technology. I will give you a very practical example. When you and I had our last conversation about the business of photography, cellphones as we know them today did not exist. What did exist was very limited. Now, if I am doing a workshop in a far out of the way place – like my 33 day Ultimate Antarctica Adventure Workshop, I lease or rent satellite phone world phone that allows me to travel almost anywhere. With my cellphone, I can pinpoint changing weather and make changes on the fly to make the tour better. There are also significant safety advantages as well.
Let me tell you about a really cool plug-in that I recently started using. It is Topaz Lab’s Gigapixel. It is an interpolation program.
JM: Interpolation program? What are you shooting with that you would need to upscale so large?
DG: I use a mirrorless RP and my go-to camera is the Canon 5d Mark IV. Yes – they have lots of resolution. This is a nice example of how I have used technology to keep relevant and provide new and amazing images. Let’s talk about a project I have been working on. I do a lot of macro photography. Sometimes, when I am working in the field, I may have to crop an image by half. Using a program like Topaz GigapIxel AI, I then re-interpolate the image and it will be even larger than the original image. The detail is amazing. I will send you some examples.
Butterfly Wing, Detail Cropped In and Using Gigapixel AI, Photo by Darrell Gulin
Same Butterfly Wing, but NOT Cropped, Photo by Darrell Gulin
The other thing that continually drives me are my love of projects. Another project that I have been working on that I love are butterflies. I have been photographing varieties of tropical butterflies for years and I now have over 450 of them. I think of them as flowers with wings.
Backyard Blue Fence and Flowers, Photo by Darrell Gulin
Luna Silk Moth, Photo by Darrell Gulin
Blue Morpho Butterfly, Photo by Darrell Gulin
I also recently started doing extensive work with Drone Photography. Drone photography is so exciting – and allows me to see the world in a very different way. I have been using the DJI Mavic Pro 2 drone with a Hasselblad camera. It shoots in raw – 20 megapixels – and the images will blow you away. I am flying above fog – where the trees are popping out of the fog in beautiful peak light. If the image has too much noise, I pop it into Topaz Labs DeNoise AI – it does a great job with noise correction (yes, Topaz Labs is going to love me at the end of this interview). Now wherever I travel, I get to think of it in a different direction. It also provide a different market for my work. At the same time, even though I am now using drones, I still see myself as a still photographer. I do virtually no video. I work compositions just as I would with a camera and tripod.
Drone Images with Fog Rising and Intermixed with Evergreen Trees, My Back Yard. Photo by Darrell Gulin
Drone Images with Fog Rising and Intermixed with Evergreen Trees, My Back Yard. Photo by Darrell Gulin
JM: What drives you?
DG: I have the same feeling today about picking up a camera as I did from day one. I love to photograph. I love to create imagery. I love the learning process. I love being out in the field. I love working in Photoshop. I love my Topaz Labs plug in filters. I still love photography.
JM: How are you using Social Media?
DG: It is interesting seeing what folks in social media like and don’t like. That way I know what may sell or won’t sell.
JM: So you are using it as a test pool?
DG: It is definitely one of the ways. It is a great way of doing advertising. For example, Adam Jones recently promoted his Macro Workshop on Facebook. He was able to fill his workshop ‘like that.’
Social Media is a great way of getting your images out there. I am fortunate in that I am at a point in my life where I get to do the things I want to do and specialize in projects that interest me. For example, Adam Jones and I just did an event called the Festival of Cranes, and we are going to go to Texas next and photograph Green Jays.
Social Media is very important in order to run a business. It is so important that Canon assigns a person every six months to ‘audit’ us in order to make sure that we are accomplishing what we need to with social media. The biggest problem with social media is that it takes a lot of time. Regardless though – you don’t have a choice. You must do it. I am always trying to continually build my Facebook and Instagram presence, particularly Instagram.
You don’t necessarily need to be the best photographer to make it in this business. You need to be a very good photographer. Just as importantly though, you need to be a great business person and a great people person.
JM: You and I had a spirited conversation about Global Warming during your interview fifteen years ago. At the time, you did not see yourself as a environmental activist, even though you were pushing a very pro-climate agenda with NANPA. Where do you think things stand now? Do you feel that organizations like NANPA have been able to bring attention to the issue? Do you have any optimism about the state of the environment?
DG: I still do not consider myself an environmentalist - but climate change is happening. I see it. I see it in the arctic. You can see it in Australia. I don’t want to get into politics with people. I prefer to lead by example – I don’t shy away from the subject. What I am concerned about is not for myself – not at my age. But I have grandchildren and one great granddaughter. I want the world to be better for them. While I am not leading NANPA anymore, I think those important organizations need to be the ones speaking for us. People reading this should consider joining groups like NANPA and the Sierra Club and other organizations.
King Penguins, South Georgia Island, Photo by Darrell Gulin
Darrell Gulin has the ignoble fortune of being the only photographer we have interviewed 15 years later! I was going through the interview from 2005 – and I think outside of the questions about digital cameras and digital camera formats, it is still incredibly relevant. You may want to take a look at it. There is a lot of interesting stuff in there.http://www.nwpphotoforum.com/ubbthreads/JM_Pieces/dgulin/dgulin_pt1.htm?Cat=0http://www.nwpphotoforum.com/ubbthreads/JM_Pieces/dgulin/dgulin_pt2.htm?Cat=0http://www.nwpphotoforum.com/ubbthreads/JM_Pieces/dgulin/dgulin_pt3.htm?Cat=0