I am Steve Schwarz. I grew up near Ottawa. After a stint in the Navy, I started in a career in geology and thoroughly enjoyed 10 years of travelling across the north. A three month geology contract brought me to Yellowknife – and that was 15 years ago!. I’ve since grown tired of carrying heavy backpacks filled with rocks and now carry a heavy backpack filled with camera equipment.
How did you first get into Photography?
My interest in photography started in grade 7 gym class. The gym teacher thought that I sucked at sports. Sucked so bad that I had to sit on the bleachers for the entire gym class. No books, just sit. One day I borrowed a camera, figuring that the teacher would take it away, but he didn’t. That night a friend and I developed the photos and taped them to the walls in the gym. Next gym class – I didn’t have to sit any more, but could roam and photograph the class.
A few years later we built a darkroom in the basement of my parents house. Hours and hours were spent in that darkroom; developing negatives and learning the techniques of developing prints, some of which are still used in photo editing software.
What is it about photography that keeps you taking pictures?
Even before the camera comes to my eye, my mind is thinking of the picture. How will it look, stand here, move there, stand high, bend low. It is the challenge to create a strong image, an image that tells a story. It might mean working a scene to capture the action, emotions and unique personality of an individual or how to capture the landscape in a way that draws in the viewer.
Another challenge is designing and building camera mounts for small waterproof camera that can be attached to canoes, sailboats and skis to show a unique perspective and allowing me to be involved in the activity and capture that action at the same time.
What are your photographic inspirations?
Although I follow the blogs of a couple photographers, my inspiration is triggered by the world around me, what I see, what I hear and what I feel. I am inspired by unique and beautiful faces, inspired by the timeless beauty of a northern landscape, and, strangely, I am inspired by the sound of hundreds of mosquitos outside my tent.
Do you have any favorite advice that you’ve received?
When I bought my first camera, a Minolta X-700 film camera, I was really careful with it and didn’t want to get any marks on the body. A photographer, now with Canadian Press showed me his camera – it was all beat up and worn. His advice, ‘a camera is a tool, not a baby’. That was back in 1985. Since then, ten dinged, dented, dropped and drowned cameras later, my current and frightfully expensive camera is still just a tool.
If money was no object, where or what would you most like to photograph?
In September 2014, my family is taking a year off from work and school. We plan to spend time in eastern Canada, Australia, Asia, Africa and Europe, and be back in the north for the summer of 2015. Wow – ten months to travel the rest of the world !. The challenge is not actually travelling too much and taking the time to enjoy each destination, to have time to soak up the sights and sounds of the area. There is so much to see, so much to photograph and so little time.
Do you have any favourite pieces of equipment that you own currently?
Like many photographers, I have a lot of camera and lighting gear. I don’t have one or two pieces of gear that are my favorite. Depending on the situation, or anticipated situation, I customize the items in my camera bag. I love camera lenses, and yes, I have too many. Lenses are so different in how they portray a given scene, and how the photo will turn out. I can’t change my eyes, but can change lenses to get a whole different view of the world. Of all the items that is always in my camera bag is a small flash.
Is there a piece of equipment you feel you need to complete your kit?
“No more gear”. That’s what my heavy camera bag keeps telling me. Packing for 2014 -2015 will be a challenge. Which lenses ?, spare camera body ?, flash unit ?, tripod ?. Less gear means less weight to carry around and more energy for a weary traveller.
What advice do you have for us?
Challenge yourself. Don’t be content with status quo or what you are doing now. Challenge yourself to do better, to make stronger images, images that grab the attention of the viewer, images that have emotion or a story.
Photography is a form of personal expression, showing your images is a form of personal expression. Challenge yourself to ignore the negative comments (or the lack of comments or ‘likes’) on facebook. Imagine, you have done your best work, proudly posted it on facebook for all your friends and the world to see…and all you get one or two ‘likes’. Ignore that !. Don’t customize your photography to get ‘likes’ or to satisfy someone else. Be selfish, do it for yourself. If you are really enjoying what you are photographing – then others will too.
Where can people see more of your photography?
My Flickr page is: http://www.flickr.com/photos/steves_2003/
Or view my photos on Flickr Hive Mind.
My Facebook page is: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Steve-Schwarz-Photography/228331407209746