The Eiffel Tower has No Guts

Posted Sunday, 4 February 2007 by Lars Hasvoll Bakke in Interviews, Photography
Traveler, designer and photographer Ron Sumners talks about the Himalayas, medium format photo and the martial arts skills of the great wall of China.


Ron Sumners looking rather cranky

One of Ron's most popular photos,
is this one, showing the Uluru at sunrise

Zürich, Switzerland
If you’ve visited one of his websites, or read one of his marathon blog posts here at Crestock, you’ll probably agree with me when I say that Ron Sumners doesn’t seem to be quite like everyone else. In fact, the first thing you’ll come across if you run his name through Google, is the official website of Canadian trash/death metal band Slaughter, where Ron was the drummer in the mid-80’s. You’ll also find bits and pieces about one pastor Ron Sumners, but the two seem to be unrelated. In any case, neither baptist clergy nor Canadian death metal is the domain of Crestock, but photography is, and that is something Ron Sumners has a thing or two to say about.

- I started off the interview in the most obvious way, at the start, by asking him about his first camera experience.

- A Canon AE-1 was the first REAL camera I ever held. I was about fifteen and my trusting older sister reluctantly allowed me to borrow hers for a day. I took it out of the weathered leather pouch she kept it securely in, fondled it, pretended to be in an imaginary studio with gorgeous imaginary models, pressed all the buttons, turned a few turnable parts and then returned the magnificent machine to its snug home.  Three hours later it was stolen.  My sister wept and has never trusted me with anything of hers again.  
- The first camera I ever owned was a Kodak Instamatic that had those odd four-sided flash cubes that spun around as photos were taken.  It was a birthday gift from my adoring parents when I turned ten, and I used it to take candid pictures of my sisters bikini-clad friends sunbathing beside the pool in our backyard.  As I would shoot my unaware subjects through my second-story bedroom window, the damn flash always startled them out of their sun worshipping daze, so I would swiftly duck out of the window and run away. Nowadays, I ask for permission first. Perversion is cute when you’re ten, but it’s sick when you’re almost forty.

- When his father needed new promotional material for his printing company, Ron spent his savings on a Minolta X370 SLR and snapped some images of the printing equipment.

- It was quite bad - pictures were out of focus and had terrible shadows because of the mounted flash, but it was my first venture into photography and design.
- My very first ‘professional’ photography job was shooting product shots for a large company that manufactured auditorium loudspeakers and guitar amplifiers. I put my foot in my mouth one day while talking to the marketing manager and browsing through their product catalogues. I brazenly scoffed at the photos, and stated that I could take better shots at half the price. The marketing manager said “ok, we’ll see you tomorrow then”.
- The next day I hauled all my equipment into their warehouse and proceeded to impersonate the professional photographer I boasted I was. While setting up my shots, I talked big, oozed invented confidence, waved a newly purchased light-meter in front of things and mumbled meaningless numbers to anyone that might have been listening. I was afraid - afraid that the photos I was about to capture would be crap, and the company would be disappointed and I would be humbled. The following day I received the transparencies back and all the pictures were crap. Luckily I had ten years of photoshop experience behind me, so I then spent days retouching, colour correcting, and manipulating those images until they became useable.
-Those horrendous first photos quickly taught me about lighting, shadow, depth-of-field, and to avoid time-wasting digital manipulation by getting the shots correct in the camera. I went on to be their production photographer and designer for the next six years.

- Nowadays, Ron lives in Switzerland with his future wife, Sandra, and his two beloved cameras, a Canon 1Ds Mk II, and a Pentax 645 Medium format film camera.

- I’d jump in front of a moving truck to save my equipment ... take a speeding bullet in the chest to protect my lenses from scratches
- I much prefer the medium format - I mostly used this camera when I was doing the product photography, and model photos. The optics and feel of the Pentax was just better. The lenses were much clearer to look through, and the focusing was much more precise. I love manual focus - I still can't seem to get used to my auto-focus Canon!  
- I've really become spoiled with the digital speed and ease of the Canon though - I wish someone would make a digital back for the Pentax 645 body!  I'd be in heaven then. Regarding image quality, medium format never caused purple fringing, or noise, or any artifacting whatsoever - when I first started using the Canon, I was noticing all those problems right away - retouching become intensive. But the same can be said for film, tiny dust particles and scanner distortion can cause havoc with images. A perfect situation for me would be being able to purchase a 22megapixel back for my Pentax and use it strictly for studio use, and my Canon for travel and outdoor situations (of course utilizing my wonderful pentax lenses too).



After having spent eighteen years working diligently for his fathers printing company in Toronto, by October of 2004, Ron had had enough and sold off his earthly posessions, to finance a round the world trip of a year-and-then-something.

- Having seen him submit wonderful photos from all around the world, I had to ask him if he had a favourite place among all these.

- Every place I’ve been has been special in its own way. Most destinations are the most memorable because of the people I’ve met and become friends with. As for photography, Kashmir and the Himalayas was the most incredible scenery, with gorgeous photo opportunities with every turn of my head. The people high up in the mountain villages were so intrigued with me and my camera - their shyness quickly diminished as I would spend hours with the poverty-stricken kids taking portrait after portrait.  Each child became so enthralled with viewing their faces on the back of the camera, that the crowd of gleeful ankle-biters became bigger and bigger - I felt like a tall movie-star receding from a mob of vertically-challenged autograph hunters.
- Currently I’m in beautiful Switzerland taking dance lessons with my future wife. I don’t want to look like an idiot during our first twirl around the dance floor after the wedding dinner, so I’m learning to Cha Cha Cha. Switzerland is a gorgeous country for landscape photography ... vast flowing meadows framed by snow peaked mountain ranges, I just love it here, and would like to stay - I just hope the Swiss Immigration authority understands love.
- With so much natural beauty and tremendous architecture in the world, I don’t think I could choose one favourite destination ... and since I haven't finished my journeys, I have yet to claim a favourite!  I’m soon off to Croatia, Greece, Austria, Sweden, and possibly a slow camper drive across Canada!  Oh, and of course a trip to Norway is definitely in the works.

From the content of his Crestock portfolio, Ron’s photography doesn’t seem to be focused towards one particular type of photography, there’s everything from closeups of autumn leaves, a woman playing a guitar, to wide cityscapes of Zürich and Paris.

- I asked him if there's any particular type of photography he likes better than the other.

- Live music photography has to be my favourite - the movement, lights, attitude, noise, blurriness. I was shooting a concert for a Death-metal magazine a few years ago, and I arrived early for a great vantage point right at the front of the stage. After a while fans poured in, filling every breathing space available and the place was packed with sweaty long-haired hordes of ravenous flesh-hungry fanatics.  The band took the stage and tore into their songs - the restrained masses went berserk!  The floor was a writhing black mess of flailing limbs, twisted faces, flying bodies, smoke, flashing light and noise. I was suddenly in a war zone with no exit. Wet hair thrashed me from every angle, studded wristbands ripped at my clothing and clenched fists attacked the air around me with ferocity. I protected my camera and head with one arm as the other pointed the lens towards the action and clicked away.  Then the stage-divers and slam-dancers began their onslaught. Heavy leather boots bounced off of my head and shoulders while bodies from behind me crashed into me mercilessly. I’m sure if I didn’t have a camera in my hands that was worth the same as a down payment on a three-story house, I’d be thrashing about myself, cracking skulls with the best of them - but I was there to take pretty pictures - and I did - as many as I needed, then I dragged my broken body over to the quiet jazz bar next-door to lick my wounds and scroll through the images of hell I just digitally captured. Photography is fun.



- As it turned out, his favourite among the photos he’s had accepted at Crestock is one of our own top picks among his photos, one chosen by Judge Ross as Todays best a mere few days ago.

- ‘Praying in a Mosque’ has such strong memories and spirituality about it. I was in Srinigar, Kashmir feeling alone, vulnerable, and a little frightened in a country that I didn’t know anything about. It was six months into the ‘find myself’ journey around the world, and I believe my experiences in Kashmir changed my personality, perspectives, and priorities the most. Seeing all the impoverished families living happily in their wood and mud huts with nothing but a warm fire and a few cooking pots, makes one think about his own life and all the meaningless materialism we drown in. That picture was taken in an enormous Mosque in Srinigar - I was walking through it and a man was praying all alone near some sunlit windows. It was so quiet and so peaceful - his barely audible hypnotizing chants filling the emptiness of the huge rooms. I felt terribly guilty lifting my camera to take his picture while he was in a spiritual enlightening moment, and hearing the shutter noises echo off the walls.

- With his varied experience in photography, I asked Ron for two good tips, one pertaining to photography in general, and one specifically about microstock. His answers where short and simple:

- Find your niche - find what you love about photography and attack it with passion.  As for microstock, set goals and be brutally diligent

- As for Crestock in particular, he had this to say:

- I love Crestock. Sure, I receive rejections, but it’s good to hinder my rampant misplaced ego from getting out of control. As other stock companies gather any and all images to impress with their numbers, Crestock builds a premium selection of photographs that stand out from the rest. I just wish they wouldn’t reject the pretty pictures of my soon-to-be wife - it’s not good for the balance in our blossoming relationship.

- Considering the fact that he’d been to all four, and after being reading his quirky blog postings, I was convinced that Ron would be the right person to ask about something i’d gotten stuck in my mind: In a cage-match, which world-famous building would win, the Sydney opera house, the great wall of China, the Eiffel Tower or the Taj Mahal?

- The Sydney Opera House is much too young and inexperienced than the other three, so it doesn’t have a chance. The Eiffel tower has no guts, and the Taj Mahal would be afraid to scar its beautiful complexion or damage it’s perfect symmetry. My money is on The Great Wall of China, because it obviously knows Kung-fu.



If you haven’t already done so, it’s time you head over to Ron’s portfolio for a look at his fresh collection of photos. Having done that, a visit to his travel website is recomended, where a rather detailed story of his round-the-world trip can be found. If you’ve never seen a website with a section called ”More meat”, this can be found on the website of his design company, Sumners Graphics Inc.


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Comments:

mmm
By poojitha on Wednesday, 7 February 2007 1:10 PM
Its very interesting story.......love your pics

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