Category: Mamiya

First Vertical Grip With Built-in Flash Technology

Mamiya, Phase One and Profoto announce First Vertical Grip With Built-in Flash Technology
The Mamiya/Phase One V-Grip Air for 645DF Cameras was co-developed with Profoto.

ELMSFORD, NY, COPENHAGEN, TOKYO, and STOCKHOLM, August 23, 2010 -- Mamiya and Phase One, leaders in open platform medium format digital camera systems and solutions, and Profoto, the light shaping company, today announced the Mamiya/Phase One V-Grip Air. This is the first product resulting from these companies’ collaboration.

The Mamiya/Phase One V-Grip Air is not only the first vertical grip with a built-in wireless flash trigger; it is also the first and only wireless flash sync solution for a medium format camera system that is capable of delivering sync speeds as fast as 1/1600s. The new V-Grip also offers owners of Phase One and Mamiya 645DF cameras more shooting styles, and delivers longer camera battery life through power integration and easy firmware upgrades.

“Profoto’s innovative flash system technology is legendary in our time,” said Henrik Hеkonsson, President and CEO, Phase One. “Profoto’s commitment to system diversity complements Phase One’s open platform approach to ensure photographers have options to choose the best systems to support their unique requirements.”

“Profoto is recognized globally as producing the most innovative flash equipment in the industry” says president of Mamiya Digital Imaging, Toshio Midorikawa. “By combining resources with Profoto, Mamiya and Team Phase One, we are able to offer photographers the most practical tools for their profession.”

Built-in flash technology from Profoto lets photographers trigger a flash simply and wirelessly from the V-grip Air. The wireless flash triggering system is an out-of-the-box solution that works with all current and most modern Profoto flash systems. It is also possible to leverage the wireless flash triggering with other flash brands by using an optional receiver unit from Profoto.

“We share Phase One’s and Mamiya’s passion for pushing the limits for our customers,” said Anders Hedebark, CEO, Profoto. “It is great to be working with companies that lead the medium format market in applied innovation for photographers. Our cooperation in designing the V-grip Air marks the beginning of new and better workflow tools we plan to be offering to professional photographers in the future.”

The V-Grip Air unit features all the same camera controls and functionality as on the 645DF camera. An integrated L-bracket is available for portrait-mode mounting on a stand. The unit runs on the same type of battery used in Phase One and Leaf digital backs with a backup option to use standard AA type batteries.

Pricing/Availability
The Mamiya One V-Grip Air for 645DF camera systems is priced at $1290. A L-bracket/handstrap standalone package is $299. Both are scheduled to begin shipments in latter September.

The Profoto transceiver is $199 and is available from Profoto. More information is available at http://www.profoto-usa.com.

Stephen Voss Gets His Story

At under eight square miles, you’d think not many big things happen on the quiet barrier island of Grand Isle, Louisiana. Stephen Voss discovered this wasn’t true when shooting on assignment for a client in the area recently.

A professional photographer and resident of Washington, D.C., Voss was enjoying some downtime when not attending to his client’s needs. He wandered the island, eventually discovering privately contracted security guards were preventing access to public beaches. “They were presumably working for British Petroleum,” he says. “They weren’t public employees, like police officers, and they didn’t identify themselves. They were working for BP, saying, ‘These beaches are closed,’ or ‘You can’t go past this spot on the beach, you can’t talk to the clean-up workers.’ This was in Grand Isle, Louisiana,” he reaffirms.

Being a professional news photographer in Washington, D.C. has given Voss the training to not be turned away easily when looking to get a story in his viewfinder. As any seasoned freelancer can tell you, the first rule of meeting resistance is to simply move around it. “I got frustrated with it, so I found a guy who rents kayaks and spent about half of one day kayaking up and down, not on the ocean side, on the Gulf side of Grand Isle, just kind of taking a look around that way. For the most part, I had my digital camera and my Mamiya in a dry bag, but I’d taken it out for a little bit, and the wind had sort of changed at some point, and the waves started coming the other way. The current picked up a little and splashed over the kayak.”

Film damaged by light and dark streaks caused by oil in the Gulf of Mexico, ©Stephen Voss

His digital camera escaped dry and unscathed, but his Mamiya 6 was sitting in about one-quarter of an inch of oil-tainted Gulf water. Voss headed in to the kayak rental and removed the exposed film from his Mamiya. He used distilled water to carefully rinse out the bottom of the camera.* “I’ve been looking at it every couple of days since I’ve been back, and amazingly, I don’t see any signs of rust. Thankfully, I think I’m in the clear, which honestly sort of blows my mind, because I assumed the camera would be fried the second the water hit it.”

Although his Mamiya seems to be working fine, his film was damaged. In the photo at the top of this story you can see both heavy and light streaks of oil which entered the camera and stained the film emulsion. Several other images also were processed to reveal similar damage from this roll.

Oil contaminating a breakwater on Grand Isle, LA, ©Stephen Voss

Voss currently has not one, but two wonderful series of photos on his blog having to do with the April 20, 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The BP-owned rig, which was destroyed in an explosion, created a Gulf of Mexico sea-floor oil gusher releasing close to five million barrels of oil and the deaths of eleven platform workers before the wellhead was capped on July 15. It is the largest marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry. Voss’s eerie black and white images show deserted beaches at the height of tourist season, oil booms attempting to keep crude from reaching the dunes, jetty rocks covered in oil, and a lawn of crosses, each one bearing the name of a marine species or seafood dish which will no longer be harvested from the Gulf of Mexico.

His color images documenting the spill include a series of detritus contaminated by oil. They include a hermit crab, a polystyrene foam boom, a clod of sand, and a plastic water bottle. Shot simply on a white background, these images are a stark testament to human industrial error. The irony Voss hints at by choosing the boom and the bottle—both petroleum products—is more apparent when documented in this setting.

John C. Bogle, ©Stephen Voss

Landscapes and still lifes are not the only thing Voss shoots. As a photographer in the capital, he often photographs government officials and CEOs. If you’re an aspiring photographer hoping to become a pro who shoots celebrities and world leaders, Voss has showcased a session he had with former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, which lasted all of a sobering 90 seconds. His latest personal project is a fascinating and haunting study of American car dealerships, which, once again, come at a poignant time.

From his car dealer series, ©Stephen Voss

Shooting both digital and film cameras, Voss still uses his Mamiya professionally. “I am really a huge fan of the Mamiya 6. I absolutely love the camera,” he says. While his favorite camera is the Mamiya 6, he also owns and uses a Mamiya 6MF. “They’ve been really good rugged cameras. I have the 75mm f/3.5 lens and a 50mm f/4 lens. For a long time I just had the 75 and more recently got the 50. They’ve just been incredible for me. I think these are the sharpest ones I own, and I love the square format. I love the range finder. There’s just something really special about being able to work so quickly and unobtrusively and still get like a really big image that’s so much bigger than 35mm. Yeah, I’ve been really happy. They’ve been really great cameras for me. I actually prefer the 6 because it has less markings in the window.”

From his car dealer series, ©Stephen Voss

A computer science major in college, Voss took one Intro to Darkroom class in his junior year. Other than that, he’s largely self-taught. Currently eyeing the DM33 for his magazine work, Voss continues to shoot his mix of portraits, editorial, landscapes, and stories. Watch for his continued coverage of major events in Washington, and anywhere assignments take him. Security guards should be careful about denying him access to his subject matter. You never know what this talented shooter will find if turned away.

*It should be noted Mamiya does not condone, approve, or encourage this type of user servicing.

Stephen Voss Photography
Stephen Voss blog
Stephen Voss on Twitter

Written by Ron Egatz

Leica-lover Tries a DM28

The Leica-centric blog Mil-Leica has an interesting post by Troy Freund regarding a recent test he conducted with the Mamiya DM28. Freund writes, “What gorgeous files this camera produced!”

Posting a list of what he likes and doesn’t about the camera, what’s interesting to note is this review resides on a Leica fan blog. We can only hope Troy Freund can get his hands on a DM28 for a longer period of time to become more familiar with it and aware of all its capabilities. On the other hand, he could also check out a Mamiya DM33, DM40, DM56, etc. Enjoy, Troy, and thanks!

Read “Mamiya DM28 test run with lots of comments, pics.”

Mamiya DM33 — The Best of Both Worlds

Mamiya has released a new video detailing some of the many new exciting features of the DM33. The video gives a brief overview of the Schneider optics, Capture One and Leaf technologies which all converge to create this cutting edge medium format camera worthy of Mamiya’s 50 year reputation as an industry leader.

For more information on the Mamiya DM33, please visit our product page.

Jay B. Sauceda, Bright Star in the Lone Star State

With Texas roots going back to the early 1800′s, it might be a bit difficult to quickly find other photographers with a bigger stake in the state. Now living in Austin, Jay B. Sauceda grew up in southeast Houston, and went to the University of Texas. He’s all about the Lone Star State, and loves having it in his viewfinders.

Tommy Dippel, ©Jay B. Sauceda

Studying political science, Sauceda took one photography class at UT. The professor was Dennis Darling, a photojournalist. Darling was able to bring Harry Benson to campus for a lecture. Benson discussed becoming close friends with John Lennon and what he witnessed in the Ambassador Hotel the night Robert Kennedy was assassinated. Intrigued by the prospect of witnessing and documenting critical events, Sauceda attention shifted. “I thought that was fascinating and it kind of sparked my interest in photography,” he recalls.

After graduating with a degree in political science, he remained in the capital. Initially engaged in political work, he quickly saw running campaigns wasn’t for him. He switched gears and started assisting for photographer Casey Dunn. He became friendly with a small cadre of photographers whom he claims have more technical training on different types of cameras. These friends helped guide Sauceda, and got him shooting medium format.

Initially interested in learning by seeing what others were doing on Flickr, Sauceda was guided by his friends. “There’s a lot of bad information out there on some of those Web sites,” he says. Talented friends like Dunn, Adam Vorhees and Matt Rainwaters “gave me a lot of good advice,” he recalls.

With his assisting days behind him, Sauceda’s paying jobs are primarily commercial work, with some additional editorial assignments. He keeps very active with personal work because he’s generally hired to shoot portraiture and environmental scenes. Always working with eyes open, Sauceda tends to be able to squeeze in personal work before or after a paying assignment is done.

With Austin being the music mecca it is, it’s no surprise many of Sauceda’s subjects are musicians of name. He met Doyle Bramhall II, and through him, guitar slinger Charlie Sexton and Stevie Ray Vaughn and Double Trouble’s drummer, the incredible Chris Layton. The three comprise the Arc Angels, a band which released their first album in 1992.

Chris Layton, ©Jay B. Sauceda.

Although his portrait work is identifiably his, Sauceda’s product photography and food photography ranks among the best you’ve seen in any magazine. As opposed to working with portraiture subjects, Sauceda finds the technical challenges and tweaking he can do when photographing products as one of the main draws to that type of work. “With product photography, it’s just kind of crazy to me how much goes into it to make something look as good as it does. It’s fun, and I really love doing it. For me it’s kind of a change of pace. I like shooting people, but it’s also nice to just dim the lights in the studio, and work with product. You’re not really with dealing with anybody; you’re just working by yourself. You get to be a lot more meticulous than you do when you’re shooting people, for the most part.”

©Jay B. Sauceda

As a fifth generation Texan, the Lone Star State is never far from his heart or his work. Sauceda is currently working on a book of Texas furniture from 1850-1875 for the University of Texas. While traveling the state to document furniture, Sauceda began an unrelated series of photos on hand-painted building signage. Painted primarily on brickwalled buildings, these relics from past eras of advertising hawk everything from Big Red soda to Star Biscuits. Found on county roads and small state highways off the Interstate, Sauceda sees this project as a labor of love. “I really like Texas culture and Americana,” he says. “Finding a lot of these little brands and things like that on the sides of buildings has been kind of fun for me.”

©Jay B. Sauceda

In a stroke of good timing, Sauceda finds this type of work becoming popular now. When showing his book, these images draw many positive comments. “Most of the designers that I’m showing my work to end up being really interested in that series, mainly because it’s typographically pretty interesting to them from a design standpoint,” he says. “I like it because it’s general interest. Even if you’re not a designer it’s just interesting because you don’t really see that kind of hand painted work done anymore.”

The majority of photography Sauceda creates these days is done with his Mamiya 645ADF II. Half his current online portfolio was shot with a ZD Back, and the other half with a Phase One back. Sharing a studio with two other photographers, “Pretty much all our stuff at our studio is Mamiya-friendly,” he says. One exception is a friend who shoots a Canon 5D Mark II. “It’s kind of a running joke at the studio,” explains Sauceda. “When we shoot anything with the Mark II, we have to ask him, ‘Hey man, is this sharp for a Canon? Because it’s not sharp for a medium format or a large format lenses.’ We rag on him about shooting with 35mm stuff.”

GOOD Magazine Neighborhood Issue, ©Jay B. Sauceda.

Sauceda shoots his Mamiya with just two lenses, the 80mm and the 55-110mm zoom. He prefers the 80mm, which came with the system. “And it’s tack-sharp,” he adds quickly. “You always end up with these kit lenses that came with the camera, and this is the first kit lens I’ve ever been really impressed with. I shoot with that if I don’t need to do a lot of zooming, and then I shoot with the 55 to 110, but the 80 my workhorse. I shoot pretty much everything with it. Most the time, if I just want the camera to be a little smaller, and I know I don’t need a lot of range and focal length, I’ll shoot with that 80mm. I can focus a little bit closer with it. I’ve never even really needed any other lenses.”

Believing in shooting what feels most comfortable, Sauceda will be sticking with medium format. “I’ll get into little discussions with some of the guys here in Austin who shoot 35mm. They think I’m crazy for shooting medium format, and all that sort of stuff. They’re like, ‘Oh, how do you shoot with that?’ and ‘You don’t have a high enough ISO to shoot with this and that, blah, blah.’ To me, I just need a system that can mimic what it was like to shoot on film, because that’s how I learned. I don’t really need ISO 3200 or 6400. I don’t need a nightvision camera. I just try to keep my systems really simple. It just makes it easier. I’m not going to lose track of stuff. The less stuff I have, the less that can go wrong in my opinion. I’ve never been too much of a gear guy. I like the system I have, and I feel really comfortable with it. I’ll sell it to people if they’re asking me what the merits are on it. But, for me, I like my because it’s simple and it’s durable as heck.”

Sauceda also applies this minimalistic ethos to his lighting. “I try not to go too crazy with my light setup,” he explains. “If I’m doing something outside, I’m not the type of person that would want to overpower the sun. Because generally the sun already knows what it’s doing and it does a good enough job making everything look great. I’m just there to try to help make it look a little bit better. For outdoor work, it’s pretty simple: just fill with softboxes and that kind of thing, and scrims and stuff to cut light. For the most part, I just do a lot of clamshell lighting where I just do a key light and some fill. I work with one softbox, and I’ll generally just key everything up with one softbox—just kind of fill everything in with a huge umbrella. I’ve been going through a hard light phase recently where I’ve been shooting everything without light modifiers, and then just fill in the light with a softbox or something. I light people really hard because I like the shadows really, really gritty. Then I fill it in, so I don’t make everybody look really unflattering. I’m generally a little bit more reserved when it comes to lighting.”

Adam Lyons and wife, ©Jay B. Sauceda.

Sharing gear with his studiomates Adam Voorhes and Casey Dunn is common for Sauceda. “We float equipment back and forth. The Profoto D1′s have been pretty incredible. I’ve used them on location a couple times. The assistant was super-psyched because he didn’t have to do anything because we had the little remote control for it. Being able to manually adjust the light settings and stuff like that was really nice, with me not having to move anywhere, and my assistant just having to set everything up.” The group also has a Sekonic light meter at the studio.

Sauceda sees himself pushing his commercial work as the future unfolds. He likes shooting lifestyle and environmental photography. Shooting people is where his passion rests. As far as location, he won’t be leaving Texas, or even Austin any time soon. “Obviously, New York is like the Mecca of photography,” he says. “There’s no lofty expectations Austin is overnight, going to become some sort of photographic hub. What we’ve been trying to do over the last few months—and really the last couple of years—is just show people in other cities that you don’t necessarily have to go to New York or Los Angeles to find that caliber of photography. We’ve been working to raise the caliber, and not just shoot everything, but just shoot some high level stuff to put Austin on the map as a creative hub. Don’t get me wrong, I like New York and I like L.A., but in my book Austin wins out against all of them.”

©Jay B. Sauceda

Brimming with Texas pride, this native points out the sheer economics of operating costs in Texas versus more traditional commercial photography centers in the United States. Even when location travel is factored in, the cost of Austin overhead is so much more reasonable than in other cities, it makes Sauceda and his fellow shooters competitive with other pros around the nation. “Plus, we like being able to go swim in May and hit the pool and that kind of stuff until November,” he says, laughing.

Jay B. Sauceda Photography
Jay B. Sauceda on Twitter
Jay B. Sauceda’s Studio

Written by Ron Egatz

Mamiya RZ33 $1,000 Trade-in Program

The new Mamiya RZ33 is having the “drool-effect” on a lot of Mamiya RZ67 and RB67 owners. Now those camera bodies can be traded in for a credit of $1,000 towards the purchase of the RZ33. We dislike filling out forms just as much as you, so we figured we would go form-free with this offer. All you have to do is turn in your old camera body to your local dealer and you’re all set. This special offer is good until September 30, 2010. Limit one trade-in camera per RZ33 transaction.

Wes Skiles, Diving Photographer

The entire MAC Group and Mamiya family are sorry to hear of the passing of photographer Wes C. Skiles. With one of his stunning photos currently gracing the cover of National Geographic for a story on the blue holes of the Bahamas, his loss comes at an especially hard time.

©2010 National Geographic Web site

Skiles, known for his lifelong diving affinity, grew up in Florida, where diving holes attract divers and photographers from around the world. A diver for 44 of his 52 years, Skiles frequently shot stills and motion footage for scientists and researchers racing to document the fragile biological balance of blue holes before rising sea levels change their chemistry forever.

Not only did Skiles return from dives with incredible images and/or video, he also did so under the dangerous conditions technical divers and cave divers subject themselves to. Frequently breathing nitrox, a delicate mixture of nitrogen and oxygen, cave diving is known for its high fatality rate, particularly among divers who eschew careful planning and redundant backup systems for their gear. Some images from his dives can be found here. DVDs of his underwater cinematography can be found here.

Skiles owned and operated Karst Productions, a production company specializing in underwater location shoots. He died on Wednesday, July 21, in a diving accident off the coast of West Palm Beach, Florida. As of this writing, no further details have been reported. Our good thoughts go out to the family, friends, and coworkers of this highly talented shooter.

1954 Mamiya Speed Shot Special

Wired ran a story about a 1954 Mamiya Speed Shot Special, otherwise known as the Mamiya Pistol Camera. With estimates running between 250-300 being made for police training purposes, one was sold at Christies in 1993 for $16,500. Wired published the story when one came up on eBay. The owner was asking $25,000, and no public record remains if the seller found a willing bidder at that price.

Bringing new meaning to the phrase “point and shoot,” these cameras are exceedingly rare, and actively sought by collectors. You never know what might come up at flea markets and garage sales, but if you can snag one of these at a reasonable price use extreme caution when even handling one in public before someone misinterprets your actions and alerts the police.

We’ve moved domains!

You may have noticed some changes around here… First off, we upgraded our WordPress to the latest and greatest, so performance should be awesome now. Secondly, we moved from blog.mamiya.com to blog.mamiya-usa.com. So, all of your wonderful links into the site should find their way to the right place, but if it doesn’t, please sue the search bar. Lastly, many of our posts have had a lot of Tweets, but switching domains erased TweetMeme’s counts for everything – so don’t get the wrong idea, keep Tweeting! Thanks so much for reading – we look forward to bringing you even more great blog posts.

Jim Shoemaker Escapes to Death Valley

From growing up in the Ann Arbor-area of Michigan to shooting exotic locations throughout the southwestern United States, Jim Shoemaker is no stranger to reinventing himself and his destiny. After obtaining a degree in Graphic Design from Siena Heights University, he worked as a designer, riding out several recessions. In 2000′s dot-com collapse and recession, he moved to California to reboot his career.

©Jim Shoemaker
©Jim Shoemaker

Known primarily as a landscape photographer, Shoemaker explains his preferred subject matter by what interested him as a child. “I’ve been an outdoor person since I was a kid growing up in Michigan,” he recalls. “It’s not like there was a lot to do. We were in a rural area, and I spent a lot of time roaming around the woods. I always enjoyed being outdoors.” Inspired by Ansel Adams and other iconic landscape shooters, he was drawn to that type of photography. “Even before I was really into photography,” he says, “I would look at Adams’ work and there was just something so powerful about it, something that moved me, and I responded to, even though at the time I wasn’t making any connections I should be doing this myself.”

Primarily self-taught, Shoemaker developed his technique by doing, observing and learning. “Trial and error” is how he describes he obtained his technical ability. “I read a lot. I have quite a library of photography books. I read everything I can get my hands on and spend a lot of time researching online. I shoot both thirty-five millimeter and medium format. The best thing to do is just pack up the gear and head out into the field, shoot, come back, look at the results, go back and just keep repeating the process until I find what I’m looking for.”

©Jim Shoemaker
©Jim Shoemaker

What he had been looking for subject-wise turned out to be the desert. “When I was growing up in Michigan, I would see photographs of places throughout the southwest,” he remembers. “It was always fascinating to me but at the time I never even imagined I would see them let alone live out in these areas. There’s something about the desert I connect with. Maybe it’s that I’m living forty miles outside of Los Angeles and I deal with the traffic and crowds all the time. When I can escape to Death Valley, or I get out into the Sonoran Desert or something, it’s just the solitude. Maybe that’s what I was always looking for when I was in Michigan. Maybe it’s why I would head out into the woods and spend my days out there. I enjoyed being away. I guess it’s cathartic for me.”

In Shoemaker’s viewfinder, solitude is reflected as being a peaceful antidote to the crowds of Los Angeles. Rhyolite, Nevada and other ghost towns have proven to be fertile settings for this photographer’s accomplished and moving portraits. “I’ve always been fascinated with remote places, which is probably where I get my love of being in the deserts and mountains,” he says. “I like abandoned places—places that used to be such centers of activity, and now there’s just nothing there. There’s nobody living there. They’re just empty and forgotten. I don’t know exactly how I got an attraction to that, but there is definitely an interest in watching the process of things breaking down, I suppose. Among the things I’ve discovered over the years of shooting ghost towns are things breaking down gain more character to me than the things that are new and intact.”

©Jim Shoemaker
©Jim Shoemaker

Remote locations of former mining towns and camps are Shoemaker’s main focus in recent years. He points to Swansea, California off Interstate 395 in the Lone Pine area, with it’s one stagecoach stop building as a perfect example of a structure with heightened character. Shooting the remains since 2008, he’s documented a dramatic degradation of its condition. The small town of Garlock, California in the Red Rock Canyon area has also fallen before Shoemaker’s lens. With just a handful of buildings left, he’s charted the decay of Garlock, and is not aware of anyone restoring or even maintaining this small ghost town. Cerro Gordo had an owner/caretaker who passed away about a year ago, and the future of its remaining structures is in doubt. Bodie, California is faring better. Protected as a California State Park,  Bodie remains frozen in time by two caregivers who keep it in a state of “arrested decay.” They maintain and repair what is currently there, but do no improvements. Rhyolite, Nevada, mentioned earlier, is perhaps the most photographed of these ghost towns, with its iconic crumbling John S. Cook and Company Bank used in major Hollywood films since at least 1964, most recently in 2005′s The Island.

Rhyolite, although probably the most visited ghostown in the southwest, still holds a significant amount of allure for Shoemaker. “There’s something to the fact that at one point there was 8,000 people living there and within two or three years that population has decreased by a third, and then within ten years the place is empty. I can go back through archival photos online and see what this place looked like in its heyday and it’s really hard to make a connection to what I see now. There’s so little left, and it’s just amazing something that was so prominent and built to last…” he trails off. “It really draws me in that most of the towns following gold mines and gold fields were made out of wood. People built a simple wooden structure or simple stone structure or canvas structure, and when the gold ran out, they pulled up the stakes and were gone and the town went with it. But Rhyolite they built basically out of stone. They intended it to last but it didn’t.”

©Jim Shoemaker
©Jim Shoemaker

If Rhyolite holds the crown of ghost towns, the Cook Bank sits as its centerpiece jewel. “I’m fearful of the day when I drive into town and it’s not there,” Shoemaker says. “There’s a corner of that building that just has such great character, it gives character to the building, and I know it’s been slowly collapsing over the years. One day I am going to drive in and that corner is going to be gone. It’s going to have lost all of that great character that it had. I think, maybe, that’s why I photograph it every chance I get.” Shoemaker shoots Rhyolite at all times of the day and night. Daylight shots are challenging because of tourists milling about, which he doesn’t want to photograph.

When pressed for more about what draws him to photograph ghost towns of the southwest, Shoemaker is candid about the pull he feels. “It was this underlying feeling of needing to see this place for myself. I think that’s probably the thing I want to transmit through my own work: that I want people to look at it and say, ‘This is a place that I never really thought about before—maybe I didn’t even know about before—but I think I want to see this for myself.’”

©Jim Shoemaker
©Jim Shoemaker

In 2004 Shoemaker bought a Canon 10D and began shooting. Two years later he bought his first Mamiya, a 645AFD. He now shoots two of the same model. For backup, he uses a Leaf Aptus 17 digital back. A user of Photoshop since version 2.0, Shoemaker is no stranger to digital technology, and shoots no film.

©Jim Shoemaker
©Jim Shoemaker

Conversely, Shoemaker is careful about how much digital manipulation he executes in post-production. “When it comes to Photoshop, I try to limit it to the things that I would be doing in a wet darkroom if I was shooting film. Any education I have in photography came from reading books,” he says. Most of the books he’s read are by Ansel Adams. “If you’ve ever read any of his work, he is maniacal when it comes to getting it right in the camera. In his time, it was on film, but with a negative he wanted all the information he needed. That would give him the print he wanted, based on the vision he had when he looked at the scene. You get it in camera as close as you can to matching your vision.”

©Jim Shoemaker
©Jim Shoemaker

Shoemaker uses a Sekonic L-558 Dual Master spot meter to pick and choose the points in the subject he wants to read and meter for important tonal values. “That’s what I meter off of, and that’s how I judge the exposure,” he explains. “It’s both an incidental light meter and a spot meter, so it does a lot of work for me. And, of course, we’ve got the LCDs we can look at to check the histograms and see whether it’s in line with what I have in mind, exposure-wise. It’s like shooting with a Polaroid basically if I was doing film. I don’t want to spend so much time having to go back and readjust everything. I will shoot raw images in both formats. But, it’s just not that much fun to sit there and go through dozens and dozens of images and have to lower the values or raise the values or just make all kinds of global adjustments all over the thing when I could have done it in the camera in the first place.”

©Jim Shoemaker
©Jim Shoemaker

Heading out on photography excursions for three weeks at a time, Shoemaker knows what to bring and what not to bring. “I generally have my Canon 5D Mark II with me, and I’ll take my Mamiya 645, a spare Mamiya body, and sometimes I take a 20D backup body for my Canon. As far as lenses, I take a pretty limited selection for both formats. For my Mamiya I have a 35mm lens that I would probably consider my primary landscape lens, especially when I shoot with the least back because it has a crop factor. When I shoot film through it, it gives me a little more flexibility but I’ve got my 35mm. I’ve got a 55 to 110mm which is probably my next most used lens for the medium format. I’ve got a 105 to a 210mm which I don’t use a whole lot, but every now and then it comes in handy.”

©Jim Shoemaker
©Jim Shoemaker

Like his use of digital technology, Shoemaker is not stuck in ghost towns for his photographic subjects. The Bradbury Building and Chrysler Building are among the still-functional structures he’s photographed, not to mention meadows, natural rock arches and other settings which have fallen under the gaze of his cameras. “I have an interest in architecture,” he says. “That’s my problem: I have an interest in too many things. If I had to label myself, it would definitely be a landscape photographer, but there’s so many things that are interesting visually. There’s a lot of interesting things, and whatever catches my eye because of form, because of the texture, because of lighting, I think I’ll photograph it.”

©Jim Shoemaker
©Jim Shoemaker

The critical element for Shoemaker is feeling and instinct. “I don’t know that there’s a big difference in my mindset when I’m looking at a canyon, a landscape, a skyline, or architectural features, or rock formations,” he says. “I know what I have in mind. When I look at a subject, I kind of get a vision of what I’m looking for. And sometimes, whether it’s a landscape or a building, I can’t realize it on a camera. I just don’t find it on that particular day. It’s really frustrating, but that’s the way things go. Other times I know what I’m looking for. I find it, I frame it, I shoot it. It seems to be instinctual for me. It’s just a reaction to what I’m seeing.”

Jim Shoemaker Photography

Jim Shoemaker on Smugmug

Written by Ron Egatz