Insights and ideas from Winston Hendrickson, Adobe® Photoshop® Lightroom® user
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Freezing the moment
B. Winston Hendrickson, vice president of engineering for Adobe’s digital imaging products, is driven by the desire to create products that enable people to unlock their creative expression. His passion for photography was ignited by the NFL shooters in the 1970s, and the advent of digital photography in the 1990s let him pursue the dream of freezing the moment. Today, he enjoys shooting amateur sports, as well as landscape and wildlife photography.
Photoshop.com: What piece of equipment can’t you live without and why?
Winston Hendrickson: The 300mm f/2.8 IS is a sports photographer’s dream lens. Closer is usually better, and in action photography you typically cannot get physically close, so a big, fast lens is a must. The 70-200mm f/2.8 IS is also a great walk-around lens for an action shooter.
Photoshop.com: What role do Adobe Photoshop and Photoshop Lightroom software play in your photography?
Winston Hendrickson: Lightroom is my digital dark room, and now with Lightroom 3, my syndication engine. Every photo I shoot passes through Lightroom where I select, compose, tune, and imbue some level of style. Photoshop touches the shots I want to go heavy on the style with.
Photoshop.com: How did you create the result in your fisherman shot (Image 3)?
Winston Hendrickson: The fisherman shot was in the cabin of the Southern Cross lobster boat as the two man crew labored to plant their 40+ lobster plots in just the right locations. I had been observing the crew for much of the morning and had been looking for one shot that would capture their daily routine. Here, I had to lie atop the bench at the back of the small wheelhouse and hold the camera over my head (I was literally on top of the pilot) and shoot ballistically. Fill light and local adjustments were used to bring out the cabin and the details of the wood and metal controls.
Photoshop.com: What is your favorite photo and what grabs you about it?
Winston Hendrickson: I like each picture to have a strong “visual caption” that conveys a story or insight to the viewer. For softball and baseball, this often centers on the drama playing out between the batter and the pitcher. The image of the right-handed pitcher is one that captures this well (Image 5). The trick was getting the batter, umpire, pitcher, and ball all in the shot. I added some extra contrast to the bokeh’d batter and umpire with the local adjustment brush.
Photoshop.com: How do you know that a photo is really good?
Winston Hendrickson: Composition is the biggest factor in determining good versus bad. Composition has technical, narrative, and interpretive aspects. When you nail all three, you have a true winner. While I do have keepers that meet only some of these, the shots I am most passionate about do it all.
Photoshop.com: What do you like most about shooting digitally?
Winston Hendrickson: Shooting digitally gives you instant feedback, allowing you to tune your approach in the field. I shot a police tactical training exercise a couple years back and there was no opportunity to prep with every scenario being unique and dynamic. Both between and during drills I was able to review my shots and adjust my approach to best capture the event in the most meaningful way.
Most recently, I have taken to using my iPad as a field review tool, downloading select photos to review the compositional and technical aspects of the shot. In fact, direct manipulation devices like tablets are wonderful for experimenting with composition.
Photoshop.com: What are your favorite features in the latest release of Lightroom? Why?
Winston Hendrickson: The noise reduction tops the list as I prefer natural light and thus often use high ISO. The Publish Services feature, however, has completely transformed how I publish my photos and has allowed me to handle the many different contexts in which I share my photos.
Photoshop.com: What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out in photography?
Winston Hendrickson: Of the three critical compositional elements, I see the narrative aspect as both the most important and the trickiest. Think about the “story” of each image, and let that guide your composition. Composition generally cannot be “fixed” afterward, although it can be tuned. Also, learn from the greats but find your own style. A few good rules of thumb:
• Walk around your subject, examine different angles and compositions. A great shot does not come looking for you.
• Think about composition and contrast of subject and background. Don’t neglect the background. Great images get lost in a cluttered and noisy background. Shoot as shallow as possible.
• “A unique shot is often better than the best shot.” (Dave Black)
• Know your subject and be prepared to adapt.
• For journalistic shots, look for the picture within a picture when “developing.” I tend to shoot action a bit wider to give myself some room to adjust the composition afterward. There is a lot happening and often the final crop can dramatically change the result.
• Avoid culling in the field as you cannot always recognize a great image on a 2.5” LCD.
Photoshop.com: Describe what gives your photos a recognizable style.
Winston Hendrickson: I think it is the style of composition. Composition is tricky within a journalistic context, such as sports and action photography, because you have no control over what happens and when, and only limited freedom around how you capture it. Thus, you need to really understand your subject so you can anticipate and prepare. Here I interpret Robert Capa’s statement, “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough,” to mean closeness to the subject matter and not physical distance between photographer and subject.
Photoshop.com: You capture both action and emotion in your sports photos. Do you tend to approach sports shoots more emotionally or technically?
Winston Hendrickson: More emotionally. The story/drama that is playing out decides the what, the technical aspects (e.g. the dynamics and status of the game) determine the how and when. Regarding the how, each sport is different. For soccer and basketball, you follow the ball. For softball, you anticipate and adapt. For football, you mix both as the situation warrants.
Photoshop.com: Describe the most remarkable photo shoot you have done.
Winston Hendrickson: Hands down it was the “Lightroom Adventure: Destination Tasmania.” Getting to work with a diverse collection of 20+ top notch pros in an exotic location with government support for two weeks was a once in a lifetime opportunity. It was also a huge challenge because the bar was so high given the talent involved and breadth of the subject.
Photoshop.com: What’s the very first picture you remember taking?
Winston Hendrickson: I can’t remember the first film picture I ever grabbed, it was so long ago. I do remember my first action shot with a digital camera, though. It was about fourteen years ago at my oldest daughter’s high school softball game and I grabbed a shot of the pitcher as she was in full wind up with a 2 MP Casio camera. I was hooked on action shooting thereafter.
Photoshop.com: What artist(s)/photographer(s) do you admire?
Photoshop.com: What is the ONE lasting impression you want to leave in your photos?
Winston Hendrickson: We are surrounded by visual richness and diversity with both time and space elements: depending on how and when you look at something you experience very different emotions and impressions. My selection of when and how is my means to share what I was feeling viewing a particular moment.