Photographer George Steinmetz has won numerous awards for his distinctive photography. As a regular contributor to 'National Geographic' magazine, he is almost constantly traveling somewhere new. Unlike many photographers who take pride in being extremely close to their subjects, however, Steinmetz prefers to shoot from above the fray. Really far above it, in fact, using a custom-designed, motorized paraglider. The resulting images (which have been collected in three books: 'African Air,' 'Empty Quarter,' and 'Desert Air'), are stunning and feature utterly transporting, rarely seen perspectives of our planet, with a particular focus on the beauty and danger of the world's extreme deserts.
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The technology of photography has completely changed since Steinmetz first began shooting professionally 30 years ago; the techniques haven't, according to Steinmetz. For him, photography is less about the tools and more about passion, point of view, and craft. "There's a language to photography and you have to be in control of it," he says. "You may have a zoom lens, but that doesn't mean anything. What are you trying to say as a photographer?" Before you can dream big, though, you have to learn the fundamentals of your tools. We asked Steinmetz to offer his insights. He took time off from a shoot in China to guide us through a mini master class of what it takes to snap great photos.
Curb your enthusiasm.
And finally, defy the extremely high probability that you'll drop five grand on a top-shelf DSLR rig and then be one of those knuckleheads who never learns how to use it. Try looking before you leap. Steinmetz urges everyone to take a photography class, either in person or online, simply to get a real understanding of what goes into taking photos – and all the amazing things that your camera is capable of.
"You have to be in control of your medium," he says. "Your framing has to be accurate. You have to be able to control depth of field, focal length, shutter speed. Right now, they spoil you with an iPhone. A monkey could take pictures with these things. You've got to learn the basic functionality of the camera."
Credit: Photograph by Robert Wright