Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Kelly Funk is thriving on a diverse menu of photographic opportunities and challenges

As a full-time professional photographer based in western Canada, Kelly Funk spends much of his time outdoors carrying out an assortment of tourism, commercial, and architectural assignments and shooting nature and wildlife for stock and Outdoor Photography Canada magazine, as well as conducting half a dozen workshops each year. "For me," he says, "this wide range of photographic work adds up to more fun and more business opportunities. Here are a few recent examples of how diversity works out for me.

"Every spring I take a number of extremely enthusiastic photographers to a grizzly bear paradise known as the Khutzeymateen Valley, in northern British Columbia, for an intense 4-day workshop. This year provided some fantastic encounters, but one in particular left me literally speechless. Photographing from our Zodiac raft enabled us to witness some bear behavior that is hardly ever seen. This kind of shooting calls for a two-camera system, and I used two Nikon D300s bodies fitted with a Nikkor 200-400mm f/4 and a 70-200mm f/2.8 to be ready for any situation that presents itself. On this particular morning we had been enjoying the antics of a large male for about half an hour when he decided to go for a dip.

"We held our collective breath and photographed while he frolicked and played like a ten-year-old kid in a neighbor's pool for about 15 minutes. Luckily I had Singh-Ray’s LB Neutral Polarizer already attached to my 70-200 f/2.8 to reduce the glare and still give me fast enough shutter speeds to capture the action with enough depth of field. Then, as if he hadn’t performed enough for us already, it was time for the highlight of his performance as he turned and headed directly toward us to check out more closely the paparazzi who seemed so interested in him. As he approached our boat, I was intent on capturing the moment, and the camera’s autofocus performed flawlessly even with the polarizer on. Unbelievably, I never missed one shot in the sequence. Then, after seeming to realize we were not looking for autographs, he steered off course and swam away. We were left in shock, wearing dumbfounded smiles at what we had just experienced.

"I recently completed a commercial assignment for a client in my hometown of Kamloops, British Columbia, that was extremely challenging yet, at the same time, intoxicating. It involved two of my main photographic interests -- the environment and leisure/lifestyle imagery -- with a very talented dancer. The primary focus was on my lovely model, and yet I had to involve the landscape in a way that it too played an important role. It was getting late as the last of the sun’s rays were left gently painting the desert landscape and I was focused on artificially lighting the model before the sun left completely. I knew with proper light balance I’d be able to come close to achieving my goal, but I had a trick up my sleeve in the form of Singh-Ray’s LB Color Intensifier. I knew from experience that the intensifier played upon the reds in a scene and for that reason I had my model wear a red top. By using this particular filter and two remote flashes triggered by a radio signal, I was able to make her pop off the page without losing skin tone balance and achieving an environmental image that commands an emotional response -- something I strive for in my work. The exposure was made with my Nikon D300s and 12-24mm f/4 lens, along with two Nikon SB-800 speed lights triggered with Pocket Wizards.

"A week ago I arrived home from an assignment with Outdoor Photography Canada. As a contributing editor, I converse quite often with our editor-in-chief about possible locales and angles to cover. So when an opportunity arose to travel to Canada's newest national wilderness park, the Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve in northwestern British Columbia, I jumped at the chance. The variety of wildlife and natural landscapes was so astounding my head was constantly turning. I felt that familiar pressure to obtain enough material for a feature story. I had three main imaging objectives: an opening two-page spread, a full-page front cover, and several excellent fill-in images.

"When the location for the two-page spread was chosen, I got dropped off in a Zodiac and went to work well before sunrise. By using the Galen Rowell 3-stop hard-step ND Grad filter on my Nikkor 12-24mm f/4 lens, I was able to achieve the balance in my exposure that I wanted. The unique feature of the ND Grad filters I really appreciate, however, is the lack of flare from the sun’s rays. It was after the sun crested the hill that I felt the magic and essence of the landscape had been captured. I’m always impressed that my grad filters allow me to keep shooting after the sun rises and still get clean results.

The days were passing quickly and I was getting nervous about a potential cover image. Then, on the second to last day, we were blessed with a beautiful morning and I went to work on a group of islands that I thought would convey the locale beautifully on the cover. The main issue I was facing, however, was the choppy seas in the bay. I immediately decided that capturing this image at anything less than two seconds would lead to a cold feeling that would contradict the amazing sky. By combining the George Lepp 4-stop Solid ND filter with Singh-Ray’s 3-stop hard-step ND Grad on my 12-24mm lens, I was able to control the exposure to my liking and literally smooth the water with a five-second exposure. Another photographer with me that morning was astounded to see the different effect that a long exposure had on the mood of the scene compared to one shot without the solid grad.

"By using the LB Neutral Polarizer on the trip I was able to enhance color saturation by reducing the glare from the kelp. This helped accentuate the black oystercatcher, starfish and sea urchins. Color saturation is vitally important in an environment so rich and dense in both flora and fauna. I returned from the trip feeling very satisfied with my images and confident I had captured the essence of this unique National park. I attribute much of that success to my Singh-Ray filters."

Here's a recent quote from Kelly's blog that ties closely with this story; "Not everyone cares to move from discipline to discipline, however for those who do, most will experience an enlightened gathering of knowledge and experience that can lead to a unique style and ease at which sessions can be carried out, whether they be self driven or client oriented." Kelly is currently the author of the Turning Pro column in Outdoor Photography Canada. To learn more about the ways Kelly plies his diversity of skills, you'll want to visit his website and blog.

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