Digital photography has done us all a great disservice. Yes, digital has certainly made the craft more accessible to artists of all experience levels and it has birthed technological advancements that the old masters probably never even dreamed of—but it has also arguably made photography too “easy.” We don’t have to try as hard to make good images, and so many of us rely on shortcuts and quick fixes instead of actually becoming students of the craft.
When asked about how he creates such stunning portraits, photographer Benjamin Von Wong doesn’t talk about his favorite Lightroom presets or provide gear recommendations. In fact, for our “microwave” generation, Von Wong’s real secret to success is downright unpopular. Here’s his usual (and incredibly profound) response:
It only takes one glance at Von Wong’s stunning portfolio to know that his work is created upon a strong foundation of technical and creative skill. You see, Von Wong’s simple-but-powerful photography philosophy goes a little something like this: you can’t take shortcuts and expect to produce unique and masterful work.
“Invariably, anything that’s easy can be easily reproduced,” said Von Wong. “So, if I’m going to be taking the time to bring my camera, to edit, to shoot, then I want that to hopefully be new—something refreshing, something different, something inspiring. And hopefully, something that nobody can just copy by being lazy.”
After sourcing the photo shoot’s costume designer, Ka Amorastreya, and shooting location through his Facebook fans, Von Wong and his team of assistants arrived at Sutro Baths two hours before the scheduled meeting time to scout vantage points and make the cliffs safe to navigate. In both of the images below, Von Wong, Amorastreya (model), and Von Wong’s two lighting assistants were balanced precariously on rocks as Von Wong shot at ISO 50, f/5, and 1/1600 of a second.
During this shoot, Von Wong captured his images using a Mamiya Leaf Credo 645DF, a medium format DSLR, with an 80MP Back Kit and an attached Schneider 80mm f/2.8 LS lens. To light his models, he employed a Broncolor Para 133 Reflector Kit and a 90 x 120 Softbox powered by a Broncolor Move 1200 L Battery Pack.
But for Von Wong, photography is so much more than solid shots and shiny equipment.
“It’s the hours of just healing and cloning and all these basic tools in Photoshop,” said Von Wong. “It’s the hours of preparing a crazy photo shoot, going to a cool location, [and] traveling around the world sourcing the most interesting people. It’s the process of building up a following through lots of time and posts and hard work and effort… It’s time. It’s hard work. And the truth of the matter is there’s no fast way around it.”
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