US Photographer Sascha Burkard on Frogs, Deserts and Abandoned Mines

Posted Thursday, 8 March 2007 by Tormod G. Rossavik in Interviews, Photography
An interview with American photographer Sascha Burkard from the fringes of Yellowstone National Park.
Red-eyed tree frog, macro, isolated over white
Red-eyed tree frog, macro, isolated over white
Sascha Burhard
Sascha Burhard
Vintage cars abandoned and rusting away <br>in rural Wyoming
Vintage cars abandoned and rusting away
in rural Wyoming

Most of your photos appear to be shot outside on location. What equipment would you bring for a shoot in the desert?
- In the desert... at the very least, my 5D with the 17-40 and polarizer, tripod with remote, a spare battery and plenty of media... the bare essentials. I don't think I could leave the 15mm fisheye or 70-200 in the car either though... it always seems the one lens or filter you don't bring along is the one you end up missing. I'm planning on doing some shooting in the desert this summer and hope to get some nice photos of the cacti and dunes... something I'm definitely looking forward to.

What is your favourite spot for outdoor photography?
- I've always loved urban decay... abandoned and run-down buildings, mines, or other structures. Pretty much anything old, beat up, broken down and neglected. I'll take a walk through an old, dark, and shady part of town over a clean and modern city center anyday. I spent some time at an abandoned coal mine last Monday, one of my favorite locations in the area where I had previously shot the two images, "life" and "hope". Unfortunately, Monday was one of those ridiculously cold and windy days... think I managed to spend just over an hour there before seeking the warmth of the car. I'm ready for spring!

What got you into photography?
- I credit the digital revolution and a Japanese friend of mine, who one day returned from Tokyo with this incredible Sony DSC-F505, a now antiquated 2.1 megapixel camera with swivel-body. While I've always loved taking pictures, it was the introduction and advances of digital film which really sparked my interest  and, in effect, changed my life. A few months later I purchased the 505V, which was then followed by the 717 and 828. My interest, passion, and understanding for photography took a big leap forward after  purchasing the 828 and actively contributing to the Sony forums at DPReview. I met some of the most helpful and talented people there, from whom I've not only learned a great deal about photography itself, but about post-processing as well. Now I find my home in microstock, and have learned even more from the great communities across the various agencies. The knowledge and talent found throughout these agencies is incredible.

Is there a particular photographer or style that you would like to point out as an inspiration or mentor for your own photographic portfolio?
- I can't really say if my portfolio has been inspired or influenced by any one person in particular, but rather by stock photography and the microstock community as a whole. I haven't had much opportunity to shoot people, but am humbled by the sheer talent and skill of Andres, Yuri, Daniel, and Forgiss to name a few. Kirsty's work is amazing too... I could use a dose of her creative energy.

In your studio shots, how do you manage to get a perfectly even and white background? Are there any secrets tips that you want to reveal?
- I have a very basic table-top studio, basically consisting of several large sheets of paper, a 550ex, and a strobe with a large softbox. I've often considered purchasing a light-tent, but am quite pleased with the results from simply bouncing a 550ex from various angles or using the strobe. I try to get things right in-camera and can be somewhat meticiulous at cleaning things up in post – I'll typically do a final levels adjustment layer in PS and drag the levels down to better expose any uneven areas, sensor dust, and other flaws.

What particular photographic equipment can you not be without?
- Hehe, that's not possible to answer. How about my camera bag... with everything inside?

Apparently you seem to have a preference for frogs, what is the reason for this?
- A couple of years ago I came across an amazing shot of a red-eyed treefrog climbing up some string, and have wanted to try shooting some frogs in a controlled environment ever since. Especially treefrogs, with their huge bulging eyes and big sticky toes, they're fascinating creatures. So when I stumbled upon a website one day offering them for sale, I couldn't pass up the opportunity and yes, ended up ordering a red-eyed treefrog – through the mail. I thought that was the silliest thing ever, and will never forget having the day off and getting a phone call from work, and hearing a bunch of my colleagues screaming and  laughing in the background as they opened the box. For what it's worth, I never actually wanted frogs at home... I had made arrangements with one of my co-workers who wanted one and we agreed if I ordered and paid for it, she would then care for it and let me borrow it every now and then for a shoot. Now she still  has her frog, and I've since purchased a few more for myself, haha... two fire-bellied toads, two green treefrogs, and a tiger-striped treefrog, all sharing the same terrarium with a bunch of crickets, hehe. I'm eagerly awaiting another red-eye.

What are their names?
- Oh sure, now I feel terrible, hehe... I never did name them. But if I ever get an uglier looking one I'll consider naming him after Judge Ross :) Ok, I'm kidding... but speaking of the Judge, I used to think it was rather cruel to single out someone's work and boldly feature it as the day's worst image. Now I look forward to seeing both the best and worst images everyday and, albeit somewhat  harsh, while the best image sets a good example of what to submit, the worst image is surely unique in the industry as a blunt example of what not to.

According to legend, kissing a frog can turn it into a prince/princess when kissed, would you consider it worthwhile kissing a frog and sit patiently by, awaiting a transcarnation?
- Hey, I thought the legend was reserved only for turning one into a prince, haha... that's the last thing I need. But if kissing a frog would leave me with one of Daniel's models – none of my frogs would be in their terrarium right now.

What do you do when you don't take pictures, tend to the frogs, toads and crickets? Do you watch any TV?
- Ironic question, as I haven't had much time or desire to follow any tv-series since contributing to microstock. If there's no music going I'll usually have CNN running in the background... either that, or the Discovery Channel.

What is your best tip for newbies that want to succeed in microstock?
- I think Andres summed it up very well in his recent interview and I need to focus on several of those aspects myself. Especially for newbies, however, don't be discouraged by rejections and rather use them as a learning tool. Keep in mind that, as the photographers and creators of our images, in one way or another we are biased and often blinded by what we see in our own work. Objective rejections can serve as an eye-opener and sometimes offer a push in the right direction and, as frustrating as they may be at times, I've learned a lot from them.

Check out Sascha's Crestock portfolio here.

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By poojitha on Wednesday, 14 March 2007 4:46 PM
cool pictures

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