Today I had the pleasure of interviewing Raluca Mateescu, a talented photographer based in Bucharest, Romania. The images she uploads to our photo sharing network always receive a great deal of attention so I am very pleased she agreed to answer some questions for our readers.
How would you describe your photographic style?
From flowers to trains, from deserted landscapes to street portraits, from black and white to HDR, I’ve tried it all so far, so cannot honestly say there is a definitive style to my photography. I guess the journey in between all these trials and failures is what makes everything worthwhile.
How did you first get into photography?
To be honest, until 2006 I never had any interest in photography and never owned a camera. Beginning of 2006 I was going to Portoroz, a lovely little city on the Slovenian coast and thought would be nice if I had a camera to go along. So I borrowed a bridge camera (a Fuji FinePix 5500 model) and went on, shooting around whatever came in sight. When I got back home I noticed the pictures I got looked somewhat better than the average holiday pictures I expected them to be. To be honest with you, I really liked a couple of them, they were decent shots. That’s when I said to myself that I could give it a try. So came my first camera and my first lens in a kit (18-55 mm), and it just moved on from there.
What is typically in your camera bag?
I shoot all my pictures with a Canon 400D and the lenses I carry are: Canon 28-135mm/ 3.5-5.6 USM IS, Canon 35-350mm/ 3.5-5.6L USM, Canon 10-22 mm/ 3.5-4.5 USM and Canon 50mm/ 1.8 II. I can’t really say I prefer any in particular of the lenses I mentioned, I usually have them all with me, which is quite a heavy load. I tend to adapt the shot to whatever lens I choose to use at a given time, and not changing lenses very often. I think this pushes me to work harder in finding the best approach to a given situation. I also own some circular polarizing and UV filters, along with an external flash, that I admit I didn’t use much so far.
I never owned a tripod, I find it hard to take it along – but given the necessity of having one in lots of cases, I often find myself in strange postures trying to get everything steady, like shooting with the camera on top of a garbage can or leaning against every wall, tree or vertical surface I can find.
Where do you get your creative inspiration from?
All of my works are mood based, you could say. I can be brave one day and find out there is a strong colored photograph to go along with that feeling, and the next day I could be feeling low and “saying” that out loud through an overall gloomy image. So I guess inspiration comes for me in mood swings J
What are you looking forward to purchasing next?
I have my eyes set on Canon 7D – would be a lovely upgrade for me and also would give me the opportunity to take a chance on video shooting – I realize that works on a different set of rules, but could just be another way of experimenting with image and surroundings. A macro lens would be nice also.
Did you have any formal training in photography?
No, not at all. On the contrary, I think of myself as the most untrained person that owned a DSLR ever. Basically, I read thoroughly the camera manual, then I googled “basic steps to photography” – and the only thing that stayed with me ever since was something easy to remember: KISS – keep it simple, stupid! J. Still working on that concept every time I take a picture. Also, I look a lot at pictures I find interesting from various artists, trying to figure out that specific aspect that makes them “special”.
How do you approach post-processing and editing?
Post-processing was the hardest part for me. Soon after I started taking my first pictures I realized that some degree of correction would apply. I started off with basic adjusting tools and gradually learned a bit of Photoshop, though I am not very good at it even now, my hard work comes down to remembering the uses of the basic tools. My standard work-flow includes adjusting the exposure, brightness and contrast to a certain degree of correctness. I always try to improve the sharpness, to bring out the details where I want them to be.
After all that is done, comes the moment when I look at the picture and try to see where it should go from there in terms of color. Should it be vibrant or rather faded? Or maybe black and white is what would do justice to that scene…there’s no technique in particular at this point, just trying to find the best way to bring out the mood.
What has been your favorite photo location?
Any location can be a good location, as long as the moment is right. What I mean is that I see pictures as moments, not locations. I might be gazing at the most beautiful sunset in the world and not feel any urge to take a picture. In the same time I might get the feeling that a shot is waiting for me when I see an odd looking pattern on the ground.
What lies ahead for you?
That’s a really hard question to answer. I must admit I have never been disciplined when it comes to photography, and because I don’t work as a photographer in my everyday life, it’s hard for me to see what’s next. I wish one day this will be the one thing to occupy all of my time and never worry about anything else than the right light. And of course, I need to get that good J
What tips or advice do you have for other aspiring photographers?
As I also view myself as an aspiring photographer, all I can say is that getting a good image is hard work, because it means looking at things in a completely different way. Surroundings need to be looked at with an open mind, as pictures just happen anywhere around us, at all times. There’s a good picture for every one of us out there, it just needs to be found. On this principle someone might forget to set the camera properly or miss that strong light facing them, but a good shot can come out of all these errors.
Things could turn around for you, as the open diaphragm that might not have been not right according to the book for that particular situation could end up in bringing the subject in better focus or maybe that the strong lens flare actually completes the composition. So, bottom line, my advice would be to go out and find whatever speaks to you. And one more thing: try low angles, they’re really fun.