It’s been quite a while since I’ve shared a guest artist with you on my website, but I’ve been corresponding with photographer Mykal Hall for a few weeks now and come up with an interview I’m sure you’ll all find insightful. I first came across Mykal’s images on Google+ a few months ago and was surprised to find he was from not only Australia, but residing in Sydney too. On closer inspection I’d visited many of the locations in his imagery from Bondi Beach, Coogee and many Northern Beaches.
On further research on Mykal I found there was much more to the guy than these stunning seascapes, he puts a lot of himself into them. But it’s not just that, when you get him talking about his craft you will find him quite an inspirational man. It was this type of attitude which prompted me to choose him as an artist I wished to share and I think you all will be pleasantly surprised at this interview.
Where to find Mykal Hall:
If you don’t have Mykal circled on Google+, do it now: Link to Mykal’s Google+ Profile
Mykal Hall’s website: Sydney Seascapes
I invited you on my website for a guest blog because I think people will find your story inspirational. What’s interesting about it to me is that you are a self-taught photographer who learnt his craft from sources you found on podcasts and in books. This really is the modern way where we can learn anything we want from the internet. Can you tell us more about your thoughts on photography education?
I think the most important aspect of photography education or just education in general is to know your learning style and how to use other learning styles to compliment that style. Now I know you’re probably asking what the hell does that mean??? There are 3 styles of learning. Auditory, you prefer to listen or speak aloud to memorise information and this is where audio podcasts or audio books are most beneficial as you can listen while travelling to work, doing housework or just sitting back and chilling out. It’s probably the fastest way of learning only if it’s your natural learning style. The next is Visual. This uses pictures, graphs, charts, books, ebooks, magazines, emagazines and of course video to feed the learning process. There is more free and paid video content out there on YouTube and other websites than you can possibly watch. Then there’s Kinaesthetic learning. The hands on approach. You can easily find someone willing to show you how master your craft through photography workshops, camera clubs, social media meet ups or by just trial and error yourself.
My learning style is mainly visual as I guess a lot of other photographers would be for obvious reasons. My approach to learning is to scan as much information from audio podcasts while I’m doing other chores. When I come across a bit of information that resonates with an interest i’ll either try to mentally remember it or jot it down on my phone for further investigation on the internet through video or text. I’ll only try Kinaesthetic (hands on) learning if the information still doesn’t sink in.
Here is a link for a quick 9 question survey to workout your learning style if you are not sure. There are plenty more of these quiz’s out there if this one not adequate for you.
Having said all this, if the passion is not there in the first place then you are going to find it very difficult to learn and grow as a photographer.
You’re well know for your seascapes in the Sydney area and one of their striking features is the compositions. You haven’t just gone to Bondi Beach and sat your tripod down and pressed the shutter button and walked off but taken your time and put thought into them. Would you like to share more about this process?
Most of my seascapes to date have been on beaches I haven’t visited before so I have to research the location before I arrive. I have a list I want to cover in the Sydney region and generally choose the next beach on that list. Starting at the Northern Beaches then working my way to the Southern Beaches of Sydney. It depends on the time of day and season which beach I’ll photograph. I prefer sunset shoots as I’m a bit lazy to get up at sparrows fart at some ungodly hour in the morning (usually 3am or earlier) to make the hour long drive to the ocean. I find northern beaches are generally easier to find parking for sunsets and this gives me more time to scout around the shoreline looking for compositions. I will have a good idea where to look because I have done my research on the location well before arriving. Sunset times and where the sun actually sets, tide movements, Google Earth scouting, Google Maps researching travel times and parking and Google image searches of photos already taken of that location. Then the fun or therapy begins!!!!
Composition is king!!! It’s all about story telling. Just like any good book, you need a beginning (foreground interest) a middle (movement, eye catching element, or a contrast from the foreground element) and then the end ( hopefully nice cloud colouring or movement, with a headland jutting out from the edge of frame or waves breaking off in the distance). I use the “Rule Of Thirds” as a guide, try to have leading lines and a balanced image. Most of this is intentional but I have found quite a few have been just pure instinct. If I can get an element merging or leading to a corner I’m even happier. All of this happens at a low POV (point of view) with a wide angle lens (11-16mm or 12-24mm crop factor lens) as close to the water movement as possible to enlarge that foreground feature.
I have a saying-
” It’s not Seascape photography if you don’t get your feet wet”. In most cases your knees and more get wet too. :)))
Mykal Hall, “There Be Dragons South Whale Beach“.
Along with drawing you also took time out to learn more about psychology, how do you think these studies have affected your current photographic practices?
Not being able to draw from memory helped fine tune my attention to details. I could sit down and copy an image for hours, slowing down so much it was like entering a zen state of mind. When I became aware of this state it aroused my curiosity in meditation which lead me to Buddhism. In the search for more meditation instructions, mainly through podcasts, I discovered Psychology podcasts as they both have a common link to the understanding of why we react to certain situations in life. These two practises got me thinking on what is most important to me and the answer was happiness. As karma would have it, this is the same time I came across “This Week In Photo” podcast. This was my “Aha Moment”. So now my meditation is done with a camera in hand at the beach. Therefore drawing and psychology were part of the evolution of who I am and why I make photos.
I think one of the more inspirational quotes I’ve read from you came from an interview with OnOne software, where you said“If you don’t chase your dreams, someone else will employ you to chase theirs”. Is this a mantra you have always lived by or came with life experience?
Unfortunately it came later in life and wish I could take credit for that quote but I read it or heard it somewhere and It stuck like glue. I now know what the dream is, it’s just having the confidence in my ability to chase it if only I knew how to do that.
Mykal Hall, “Swim To The Other Side Bronte“
I remember when I first came across your work on Google+, I actually thought I was viewing a HDR but in fact they are single RAW exposures. Your work is created through editing in Adobe Lightroom 5 and then you use OnOne’s PhotoSuite. Your workflow has already been well expanded on in previous blog’s so I won’t get you to go into it here, but what I thought I’d ask is if there are any photographic techniques out there that are on your “want to try list”?
My “Want To Try LIst” includes Black and White Architectural Long Exposures similar to Joel Tjintjelaar and also general B&W like Jean-Michel Berts. HDR Vertoramas like Klaus Hermann. Also luminosity masking. For some reason I just can’t get my head around this technique. I’m sure it’s one simple thing that i’m overlooking that’s holding me back on this. Oh and start using my Nikon FM2 i picked up for a bargin. I have never used a SLR before so this could be interesting.
If I could master these I would be a happy chappy. :)))
Do you use any other post-processing software other than Adobe and OnOne?
I use Adobe Lightroom 5 and OnOne 99% of the time, I’d be lost without OnOne Photosuite. The next most used software is Photomatix 32bit converter for the very few HDR’s I do. This just combines the exposures and then I treat them the same way as any other photo in Adobe Lightroom 5 and OnOne. I think I’ll end up buying the full version of Photomatix with your 15% discount offer you have (readers can get a 15% discount off all Photomatix software with the code “LukeZemePhototgraphy). I like the idea of not having to use all my neutral density and grad filters at a seascape shoot and the constant cleaning, realigning and swapping them out. I like post processing so the extra work is not an issue for me. I do have Photoshop CS6 but rarely use it (blatant plug… thanks OnOne 😉 ) I have the full Nik Software suite but only use Define for noise reduction and Vivesa on a few occasions. On a very old Macpro with limited RAM and HD space I have Aperture which I only use for travel purposes for reviewing and star rating. This just speeds up the selection process when I return home.
The most used software after these are on my Nexus 4, Snapseed and Pixlr Express apps. The later I can see drifting off into the distance when my Nexus 5 arrives with the latest KitKat powered Snapseed app. What Google has done to this in it’s latest update is AWESOME!!!!
A signature of your work is dark and moody seascapes, is this how you see these scenes or its something more complex?
It’s something more complex. At this stage in my photography I’m two people. The Hunter and the Cook. When I’m hunting compositions I rarely think about the post processing. All I think of is this a long exposure scene (30sec or more) to capture silky water movement, shorter exposures (0.6sec) to capture the movement of waves or snap shots capturing the overall beauty of a scene. Then when it comes to “cooking” the image, i’ll post process them the way it makes me feel at the time of editing. I can come back weeks later and edit it a completely different way depending on my mood.
Gear wise you’ve mentioned to me that your were going to purchase an EM1 but are now waiting for the rumoured Nikon FM2 full frame mirrorless camera. How do you see the next few years panning out for DSLR cameras and the major camera companies?
I was going to buy the Olympus OMD EM1 but after weighing up the 3 options (EM1, Df and A7r) I am switching camps to Sony and will be getting the A7r. :))) I love my OMD EM5 and won’t be parting with it but my D7000 Nikon gear will slowly be replaced. Mirrorless cameras will replace DSLRs, just look at the sale figure released by Nikon and Canon recently. Both have had major sales slumps this year as image quality is no longer an issue. Weight and size advantages have tip the scale in favour of the smaller cameras. Mirrorless has sparked photographers passion and I can see next year the rise of our Mirrorless overlords.
Mykal Hall, “Cronulla Reflections“
What a great guy right?! I wanted to thank Mykal for taking his time to answer these questions with such depth whilst sharing a lot of his personal motto’s with us. I was super stoked that he wanted to do this guest blog post and am more than happy to introduce his work to my followers and readers of lukezeme.com
Thanks, Luke Zeme.