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.
RELATED: 'Driven,' Episode 3: 'George Steinmetz: The Flying Photographer' (VIDEO)
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.
Use flash, but use it indirectly.
Worse than never bothering to use flash is opting for a mounted strobe flash that's blasted directly at your subject. The results are always uniformly the same: Subjects who look as though they're under interrogation, or an entire scene that's totally blown out and nuked with no details. "On-camera flash is the worst. And that little pop-up, attached flash on your camera is the worst of them all," Steinmetz says. That's not to say flash isn't extremely useful, though; to the contrary, using it properly will only help. "A good technique is to bounce the light off a ceiling or a wall, to make it less harsh," Steinmetz says. Better yet, invest in a wireless unit that communicates with your camera via infrared or radio-based trigger and receiver system. Mastering these techniques is an art form, but if indoor shooting and portraiture are your thing, then a flash system is essential.
Credit: Photograph by Ant Green