Steve Somerville

Canadian Photojournalist and Expert Camera Dunker
Profile of Steve Somerviller

“Rule of Thirds…Baby!”

Since junior grade school Steve has diligently studied newspaper photos as well as the photography of  Sports Illustrated and National Geographic magazines and, as a result, decided he wanted to try his eye at becoming a great photographer. He currently works as a photojournalist for Metroland’s, York Region Media Group as well as teaching photography workshops in the Toronto area. But in the summer he moonlights for Creative Endeavors as an inspiring mentor and a living example of what not to do when you take your camera near rushing water…

In 1984 I went to London, England where I became a darkroom technician at Colorsport Sports Photography Press Agency, a company that distributed their photographs to publications all around the world. Colorsport consisted of three talented photographers in an office stuffed with hundreds of boxes and filing cabinets of sports photographs, negatives and slides. Starting out, my job was to manually print black & white photos, process and copy colour slide photos, and send them off by post or courier to various publications (digital cameras, Photoshop, email and the internet weren’t around then). But the bonus was that they sent me – a fairly naive, but motivated kid – out to photograph Premier League football, rugby, athletics, boxing and cricket matches. They handed me two well-used Nikons, a bunch of lenses, a beat up old camera bag and some black & white film. I had many photos published around the world and in the London Fleet Street newspapers. 

I returned to Toronto in 1986 and immediately began freelancing with the Hockey News, Toronto Sun and other publications, while photographing stock images of nature and wildlife. I landed a part-time job as a news photographer at various newspapers owned by Metroland, a division of the Torstar Corporation. I maintained my freelance work photographing for several publications and Colorsport. Assignments included covering the NFL, NHL and the Calgary Olympics (remember Eddie “the Eagle” Edwards, the now-legendary British ski jumper?).

In the 90s I met studio/corporate photographer John Narvali: www.narvali.com, who mentored me on many things including how to conduct business professionally, with pride, while keeping grounded with a sense of humour. He helped me expand my technical knowledge, creativity and confidence. I became totally immersed in studio, food, and advertising photography, but always maintained my love for photojournalism and nature and wildlife photography.

Radisson Hotels and Resorts hired me to continue an ad campaign started by renowned photographer Elliot Erwitt, photographing hotel employees interacting with guests. We flew all over North America on these intense shoots. These images ran in many major publications including the New York Times, USA Today, BusinessWeek and Forbes. In the meantime, I introduced writing to my skill set and had articles and photos published in the Ottawa Citizen, Toronto Sun, Explore magazine, Travel Holiday magazine and others.

Today I work at Metroland’s York Region Media Group. Along with all the newspapers, I contribute daily to our website and shoot lifestyle and news videos as well as writing articles on photography and other topics (type in Bulgaria travel on the www.yorkregion.com home page searchbar). I still freelance and continue to find beauty in nature and wildlife all around us. This type of photography is very exhilarating to me, with lots of room for creativity and experimentation. Many of these images are presented here at my website: www.stevesomerville.com.

My personal rant: It cannot be overstated enough how dramatically and quickly times are changing in the world, and in photography specifically. Digital is revolutionizing everything. This is good – fast, premium quality photo reproduction relatively inexpensively, for example. Also not so good – great photos used without adequate or any compensation, all because photos can be taken, copied and manipulated so easily. But no matter what technology you do have, it still takes great creativity, on-the-ball thinking, mind power, drive and being there to create great photographic art and moments captured. As far as I know these attributes cannot be digitized, although I’m sure someone somewhere is trying.

I’m a photojournalist by trade, but love wildlife and landscape photography just as much.
This is a tough question because I just want to create the best possible image, no matter the subject matter. But I’m more a creative than a tech-y.
I study images taken and appearing in magazines or on-line. I study the light they were taken in if it’s relevant to the overall scene. I study the light I am in constantly, trying to find scenes that work well visually, even when I have no camera in my grasp. For my photojournalism, I study people and the scenes they are in – how they act, how they appear, reactions from others, breaking moments, humour, special moments, and more.
The outdoors: peering cautiously over mountain peaks, standing in water as waves crash around, storm clouds, being alone in nature, the adrenaline rush from shooting a fabulous scene and knowing you are getting great images.
The National Geographic photographer, Jim Brandenburg has been a huge visual influence. He shoots a lot of wildlife, particularly wolves, my all-time favourite animal, although I do love many, many others. I read all the books John Shaw puts out as well. They help me stretch my imagination. I love viewing images that we never imagined until now.
When I was 13, I took my paper route money and bought a $14 camera from a local shop. That was the first time I attempted anything photographically – usually underexposed pictures of our dog. When I was 17, my mom bought me a Konica camera kit, which was perfect for me at art school. But when I moved to the mountains in Alberta at 21, I really found a love for taking photos. It really helped to be surrounded by all this beauty. Then I went to England a got a job at a sports photography agency in London. I’ve been at it ever since.
I took one year of journalism at college, really did well.
Earth, it’s what I know best, but am willing to consider other places.
I would love to spend a season or more in Africa, photographing wildlife at sunrise and sunset. Then I’d love to hit southeast Asia, and find hidden areas of China, maybe teaching in those places as well.
I might choose Astronomy. It’s amazing what we are discovering beyond our planet – and what we are about to discover.
If I’m strictly shooting landscapes, then a 16-35mm would be my main lens, If it’s sports or wildlife, then it would have to be a 400mm or 500mm lens.
I’ve had several highlights in my career, but Bulgaria for a month is the biggest, latest highlight. I think having persevered as long as I have is somewhat of an accomplishment, especially since jobs in photography are typically hard to find. There have been many good times, great moments, but some rough patches as well. Somehow I’m still here.
I wish I knew then most of what I know now generally across the board – in photography and in life. But experience is garnered through maturity and aging and time. But, I probably had one or two more beers than necessary in my younger days.
I carry two cameras, three lenses, polarizers, cloth, lens covers, cords as needed. Not very exciting, but practical.
I’ve always used Nikons as a professional.
I try to get the image in camera first and foremost, so that there is little Photoshop editing required. But in p.p. I will add a bit of contrast or saturation if needed. I don’t do much more than that, unless I’m “rescuing” a poorly exposed or lit photo.
There are often many factors involved. Often I start with the quality of light I have to work with. From there I scout out the location or angle, by moving around or up and down, that I believe my subject matter will look exceptional in. Then I set up as required. Then wait for the right moment.
There are all kinds – from getting to a good shooting location and position before the light gets great, having to wander through an unfamiliar woods or marsh, equipment failing (batteries, camera functions, dropping the camera in water etc.), mosquitoes, unwanted people wandering into your shot, being pressed for time causing anxiety, as examples. I tend to be a bit clumsy, so that gets in the way sometimes.
Look and study photos whenever you can – in magazines, online or on display in a gallery. By studying what’s been done, you can aim for something even better and more striking, while learning a bit about techniques used. Ask yourself: what was the photographer thinking when taking the photo? What are the strongest elements of the image you are looking at? What do you like or dislike about the photo?
Using photoshop to correct a mistake or make your photo better than it really is. Always aim to get the photo using the camera. I feel you should really only be tweaking your image in photoshop, not counting on it to create or change your picture.
Getting great photos is hard work and often time-consuming, but amazingly rewarding when you “get the shot”. Enjoy the process, enjoy the moment, move on to your next great image.

Phil Sheil

Professor of Drawing and Photography and Master of Bad Jokes
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“Always searching for that “island of difference in a sea of similarity ”

Drawing, painting and photography have been the driving force in Phil Sheil’s life for over three decades. He currently works full time as a University Professor teaching Art and Design at the American University of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates. However, he is excited about his newest venture as co-owner of Creative Endeavors and looks forward to building it into a unique and highly respected center for the arts.


Photography was an intrinsic part of both my HND and my BFA and MFA degrees. As Illustration students we were taught how to take photographs that would help create realistic drawings and paintings. These “reference photos” were quite different from “normal” photographs and often focused on details such as hands and faces – things that would be hardest to render. We also learned how to photograph products to later render as lush and sexy looking Product Illustrations. I used these photographic skills extensively as a professional Illustrator and further developed those skills when I later re-entered University as a painting and drawing student. As my portfolio developed it became increasingly more difficult to separate the photographic process from the painting and drawing process in my work and this trend continued throughout my graduate studies. Later I became interested in digital imaging and the division between photograph and created image became even more blurred as I began to paint realistic images using Adobe Photoshop. So photography has been a part of my artistic repertoire since I began making images and was an integral part of my post high school education.
This is a really interesting question and one that I have never been asked or thought about before. I have had a passion for images since almost before I can remember. Some of my strongest memories as a child are of images – drawings, paintings and photographs. I am not really sure where that love of images comes from to be honest, but I do know that images mark almost every meaningful part of my life – they are the things on which I hang the majority of my significant memories and experiences. I can remember for example pouring through my families’ collection of encyclopedias but, unlike my siblings, it is the images that I seem to remember most not the knowledge hidden in the words. My painting professor, John Hall, once wrote of me that “Phil Sheil has a passion for image making that is infectious” and having read this I think marked the first time I ever actually thought about my love of images. As a school kid I was often in trouble with the math teacher because the margins and empty spaces between the formulas in my exercise book would be filled with doodles and drawings. Images have always seemed to pour out of me like an over-filled cup and I still come out of almost every university meeting with a clipboard full of drawings. So, on reflection, I think I create images because I really don’t know how not to. I l love images passionately of course and I love creating them, but image making seems to be something I just do.
I get my inspiration from the world around me. It starts with my senses, a rich texture or color catches my eye, a sound flicks awake my imagination or a smell plays with my mind. It’s never a tangible thing, but rather a feeling about that thing, a sense of the history in a place for example. It can be a deep felt sense like the booming of a huge drum or it can have the light touch of soft rain on the skin, but once felt I always want to do something with it. Perhaps it’s how a golden retriever feels when its owner throws a ball. I don’t always do something with the feeling of course, life often gets in the way, but when I ignore it I always feel the guilt of having let something important go. I suspect all artists feel this way when it comes right down to it. Of course when we do react, do something with it, we intellectualize that initial feeling as we attempt to mold our reaction towards the creation of tangible things (or sets of things) like images, music or sculpture, but that is more about communication than inspiration I think.
Upon arrival at a site I look around and try to pick the spot for my first shots. I usually begin with the obvious. I try to get the ‘straight shot” out of the way right at the start of any shoot. I have a fear of wasting time trying to do something different while not doing anything at all. So I go straight in and get the obvious stuff out of the way in the first few minutes. Once the obvious shots are done I am then somehow free to move out, get away from that first impulse and more easily start looking for the less obvious – its very much like a brainstorming session, but with a camera in hand – block nothing and try anything that comes to mind.
Like almost all landscape photographers I have to say the golden hour – that time before sunset or just after sunrise. Of the two I prefer the evening, but that preference is heavily tainted by the fact that I seem to develop a more profound love of my bed around the time of sunrise. To call it the golden “hour” though is perhaps not accurate though, since often the light seems to get really good about two hours before the sun sets. At that time the shadows start to stretch out and the contrast between light and shadow increases. It doesn’t hurt that everything becomes bathed in a warm glow at that time in the evening either.
This always depends on the image I am working with and how I intend to use it. Sometimes, if rarely, I will get exactly what I want straight out of the camera and I love those moments. There are times that I have used my camera to create fictional images, pieces of art or digital paintings that only pay passing homage to the facts of visual reality. But I most often use the camera to create more traditional images, landscapes, portraits etc. Each context has its own set of conventions and these requirements change with the intended use. A photograph used as evidence in a court case for example would have far more editing restrictions than a digital image used in a Surrealist Art Exhibition.

When it comes to Landscape Photography I am always trying to portray what I remember seeing. As a result I am most often satisfied only with the cropping and composition of my raw camera images. At the very least I will make minor tweaks to contrast, saturation and exposure. Sometimes however, I have to work a lot in post processing, especially when results are limited by the technology and night shots are a good example of this. It all comes down to one age-old problem, how much the technical limitations prevent recording what the human eye can see. As a result, I find myself compensating for this limitation during shooting (bracketing, cropping etc.) and/or in the post editing process.

1 Always take your tripod with you and make sure it is a really good one.
2 Never leave home without your wide-angle lens.
3 Always have a spare memory card hidden away in your camera bag
4 Always have a lens cloth or two packed in your bag
5 Protect your camera’s sensor from dust. When changing lenses hold the camera with the lens hole facing down. Basically treat the open hole in your camera body like an open wound and don’t let any foreign bodies fall inside.
I would love to go on a tour of the best waterfalls in the world. I went to Iceland last year and I really liked the light up there. Of course the Icelandic landscape is full of drama, great contrasts and wonderful light, but there are some awesome waterfalls there too and I loved shooting them. That trip made me start wondering about the world’s most picturesque waterfalls. I can think of nothing more photographically interesting to me than getting on an airplane with the sole purpose of shooting the most beautiful waterfalls in the world– this seems like the ultimate trip to me.

Evo Danchev

National Geographic Photographer and Art Director
Profile of Evo Danchev

“Light, composition and moment, guys!”

Since the moment Evo saw his first National Geographic Magazine, he knew that he too would one day make pictures just like that…and so he does! And on the side he also makes time to guide and teach for Creative Endeavors, as well as develop new itineraries to make sure we are getting to the best places at the right times to capture the most incredible photographs.

For more than 10 years, Evo’s career has been a mixture of the three areas in his life that he feels most passionate about: Nature conservation, outdoors guiding and photography. Ever since earning his license for mountain guiding, in 2004, he has shared his love for the beautiful Bulgarian trails with hundreds of nature lovers and hikers.

Between the years of 2006 and 2009, Evo worked full time in conservation in the Central Balkan National Park managing a project aimed at reintroducing the Griffon Vulture back into the park. It was during these years that he first picked up a camera and began taking his first shots of nature. So began his career in photography.

By 2009, Evo had already succeeded in winning several photography competitions and had become a regular contributor to National Geographic Magazine, Bulgaria. In fact, many of his photo-essay features became the best local edits for the magazine.

In 2011, Evo received a cultural exchange scholarship from the prestigious American Fulbright Foundation, which gave him the opportunity to spend 4 months on a Crow reservation in southeastern Montana as a photographer. Professionally the result was a solo photo exhibition, “Indian Summer,” and a feature for National Geographic Magazine, Bulgaria. However, personally  the experience had a profound impact as well. In Evo’s own words:

Besides the professional work and language practice, that summer was an unforgettable personal and spiritual lifetime experience which connected me with lots of new friends

On his return to Bulgaria in 2012, Evo took on the role of art director for National Geographic, Bulgaria and continues to work in this capacity today.

In 2016, he agreed to join Creative Endeavors as their mountain guide, photography instructor and general advisor to all things Bulgarian. He was instrumental in developing the itinerary for their first tours of 2016 and continues to lend his advice, knowledge and experience to developing the company’s future growth.

POSITIONS

2012 to present  – Art director for National Geographic Bulgaria Magazine;

2009 to present – Photographer for National Geographic Bulgaria Magazine;

 

EDUCATION

2004 – Professional mountain guide license.

2013 – Master degree in Poster & Visual Communication from National Academy of Art Sofia;

 

AWARDS

2012 – Chernorizets Hrabar national journalism award for his work for National Geographic Bulgaria Magazine;

2011 – BGPressPhoto, special award for a nature conservation photo-essay;

2011 – Scholarship from Fulbright Commission and Trust for Civil Society in Central and Eastern Europe;

2011 – Photocraty Fund / USA, honorable mention;

2008 – Lumix Award Bulgaria, grand prize for photo-essay;

2008 – Canon Bulgaria Picture of the Year, Nomination in photo-essay category;

 

EXHIBITIONS

2012 – “Indian summer” solo photo-exhibition;

 

VIEW HIS WORK

Online portfolio: http://evodanchev.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/evodanchev/

Others: http://www.bulgarianphotographynow.com/

I try to communicate a message with my photos or tell stories about people, animals or a place. I shoot mostly photo-essays and try to show different behaviors or seasons and make the story more interesting. I like to consider myself a conservation photographer.
My greatest inspiration is Nature, wildlife and people who still live close to the nature.
I bought my first camera back in 2007. At this time I was working on a conservation project in Central Balkan National Park, so I just started to take photos to document my work. There were a lot of wild horses in the mountains so I made a photo-essay of the horses and submitted in the Bulgarian Lumix Awards photo competition in 2008 and won the grand prize. My success encouraged me to continue with photography and make it a career.
I am a self-taught photographer, but my formal education is in Fine Arts which has a lot in common with photography.
I find wildlife photography most exciting.
I started with canon 350D APSC DSLR and then upgraded to 5D full frame body. With the first camera I tended to convert all my photos to black and white, thinking that color photography is not for me. When I got the full frame I realized that the problem was in my first camera. The difference in the image quality between full frame and the smaller sensors is significant. However, the most important upgrades should be made in our vision and understanding and creativity and then, if possible, get a better camera.
I mostly use zoom lenses with the full frame camera. 16-35 f2.8, 24-70 f2.8, 70-200 f4.
I limit myself to colors, brightness, contrast or sometimes saturation adjustments. It is important for me that the viewer never realizes that the image was retouched at all.
I like to do all the postproduction manually, meaning that I don’t use selection tools or masks. My best tool is my Wakom hand tablet, which gives me great precision. I only use very simple tools such as the erase tool.
There are three components – composition, light and moment. If all three are good the photograph is successful.
Always try to get close and capture the soul of the subject and the feel of the place.
As a professional photographer, I am most proud of remaining true to myself and to the subjects I like. I would rather shoot what I like or nothing.