Shane Black is a 24 year old photographer from Marysville, Ohio, who’s hoping to soon move to either Oregon or Washington to pursue his photography somewhere new.
Shane started out within the practice of photography by beginning with conceptual portraiture, self-portraiture and client-based work. Through experimenting with different types of photography however, Shane learned that his true passion lied in time-lapse and astro-photography.
Over the most recent Summer, photographers Shane Black, Joel Robison, and Sarah Ann Loreth all quit their comfortable jobs of 6+ years, to set out on an adventure traveling throughout the United States. They travelled through 32 states, 13 national state parks and drove nearly 13,000 miles so they could share their knowledge with photographers all around the country through teaching workshops. While on this adventure Shane learned that taking risks and chances was one of the best decisions he has ever made, as it has resulted in the creation of Shane’s most recently completed time-lapse video project titled “Adventure is Calling”. Within 24 hours of this video being posted to Vimeo.com, it was listed as a Staff Pick and shortly after the video was picked up and licensed by National Geographic. (“Adventure is Calling” can be seen in this interview, scroll down to the “Wild Ones” section).
Join us in this exclusive interview with Shane Black, as he shares with us the anxieties felt before leaving a job of 6 years, he shares stunning before and afters, as well as this he just honestly and openly answers my every question. Enjoy.
So Shane, I guess the first question I have for you is how did you become interested in photography? How did it all start?
I had used a friends camera and my moms point and shoot here and there several years ago and found it to be pretty fun, so I saved up one summer and bought an entry level DSLR to see what I could do with it. It started out with just taking walks out behind my house in the fields and woods taking pictures of flowers, butterflies, dragonflies, and whatever I could find.
Do you have any formal training in photography? And did you ever attend post-secondary school for photo?
Everything for me has been self taught. After the first summer of having my camera, I attended a couple of photography classes at Columbus State Community College, but everything being taught were all things that I had already taught myself over the summer, so I didn’t gain much of any new knowledge from those.
What inspires you?
What inspires me is the freedom that I feel when being away from cities and civilization when I’m out in nature, surrounded by incredible sceneries. I love the ability to capture the beauty of the world through my eyes, as I see it, and then share that with others.
What is your favourite photo that you’ve ever shot? (Why?)
I think I’ll have to go with the photo of the glowing tent at Crater Lake National Park with the Milky Way above it. There is a wide version of that shot and a more close up shot, but I like them both the same. It’s my favourite photo that I’ve ever shot so far just because it symbolizes what I want to be doing with my life and what I truly enjoy, which is being surrounded in epic landscapes under the stars and capturing it all on camera to share with others.
Who are some of your favourite artists and/or photographers?
Some of my favorite photographers are also ones who have inspired me to dip into the world of time-lapse photography. Those include Shawn Reeder, Tom Lowe, Ben Canales, Sheldon Neill, Michael Shainblum, Brad Goldpaint, Ole Salomonsen, Dustin Farrell, Ryan Dyar, Paul Zizka, and many others.
Within your photography you create personal conceptual work, astro-photography, and you also do weddings and engagement shoots. What’s your favourite type of photography to create? Why?
Landscapes and astro-photography for sure! Many people never realize that there is a whole other world that comes to life when the sun goes down and with camera technology these days, being able to capture the incredible detail of the night sky is becoming much easier. It’s fascinating to see what shows up on the back of the camera when in a truly dark location, especially during a new moon. Also, I love the solitude of being out in nature surrounded by beauty. There aren’t many great opportunities here in Ohio to do either of those Thanks to the bleak landscape and light polluted sky, this is why I have tried my hand at the other fields of photography. I saw others on Flickr doing conceptual work and thought it looked really interesting, so I decided to give that a try. It was fun, but the photos I produced always felt forced and ideas never really came naturally to me, so I have kind of stopped doing that. Weddings and other client work, I don’t really enjoy, since I’m not a very social person, but that is what helps pay the bills.
Is there any type of photography that you wish you were better at, or that you have the desire to try?
Really just any and all client work. I’d much rather be more confident with that, to where I could rely on that as a job instead of being stuck behind a desk.
How important is Photoshop in your work? Could we possibly see a before/after of one of your most edited shots?
Most all of my landscape work is processed through Adobe Lightroom, since I’m usually doing batch editing for time lapses. But it is very important, since I am always shooting in RAW format and that really flattens the image. I always make sure to not go overboard when editing though, just so everything keeps a natural look to it. I’ll include a couple of before and afters. One of a day shot and one of a night shot.
Do you ever sketch your work before shooting?
I have tried a couple of times and trust me, they were not pretty! Basically just horrible stick figure drawings haha.
The Wild One’s + Conclusion
Over the Summer you teamed up with Sarah Ann Loreth and Joel Robison and travelled around the country of the United States of America to teach “The Wild Ones” workshop. What inspired the three of you to take on this ambitious goal of travelling through the States to teach others?
It really started out as a joke and just throwing around the idea of spending a month or two traveling around the country. But as the time got closer, we all realized that we wanted to make it really happen. Then the idea of workshops came to mind, to help with funding for the trip.
In order for you to teach throughout the States, the three of you (correct me if I’m wrong) had to quit your comfortable jobs of 6 years. How scary was this to do? And what was that “push” that actually made you do it?
Yep, we had all been at our jobs for 6 years at that point. I can’t speak for the two of them, but for me, it was terrifying. I’ve had the job since my senior year of high school, so knowing that I wouldn’t have the comfort of a steady income after the trip weighed heavy on my mind. But thanks to the money from workshops, the donations, and the sponsoring from Coca-Cola and Flickr, we didn’t have to worry about money on the trip, which was a huge weight off of all our shoulders. I think the “push” for me was just knowing it would be an experience that could potentially be life changing and I couldn’t pass it up. Also, it was a chance for me to get out and do the landscape photography that I had been wanting to do for so long. I’ve felt that having that comfortable job for so long was keeping me from my desire to move out west, so knowing that I wouldn’t have that holding me back after the trip helped encourage me as well.
What was a full day of teaching a workshop with Sarah and Joel like? Do you have any favourite moments that you’d like to share?
It was a blast! Every workshop we taught were filled with incredibly nice people, eager to learn from us. We would start off with introductions and how we got started in photography. Then we would go on to explain our picture taking process and then spend the rest of the time helping others come up with photo ideas and getting out and shooting them. I think some of the favourite moments from the workshops would be how we would start and end the day. As kind of an ice breaker and to get people up and moving, we would play a round or two of ninja, which is a very fun game. Nothing like getting to slap off the hands of people you just met 😉
What was the biggest thing that you took from this experience?
I would say overcoming the fear and knowing that sometimes you just have to take a chance.
Once you arrived home to Ohio from your cross-country trip, you immediately got right to work and began to work on your newest project called “Adventure is Calling”. You had captured many moments of footage while travelling across 32 states, 13 national state parks, and driving nearly 13,000 miles, and you took that footage and created one of the most amazing time-lapse videos that I have ever seen.
Did you know right from the get-go that you wanted to create this video to symbolize your Summer spent with Sarah and Joel teaching? Or was it something that you decided to do while on the road?
I knew well before we set off for the trip that it was something I wanted to do during the trip, since we were going to be stopping at so many incredible locations. I spent lots of time… and money before the trip on equipment for all of this time-lapse work I was wanting to do.
How many hours of work went into this masterpiece?? Also, you talked with me while you were in the process of making this, so I have to ask, how does it feel to finally have it done, finished, completed, and out to the public?
Really, nearly everything was shot during the first month while out west. We left Ohio on July 2nd, and the last sequence I shot was in Florida on I think August 3rd. But as far as editing, I started working on it as soon as I was back home. I worked on it anywhere from an hour or two each day, to several hours until I was seeing things haha. I had all of the editing finished in about a month and a half. It feels amazing, being able to see the finished product and to share it with the world.
What gear and editing software was used to create this time-lapse video?
Canon 5D Mark II
Canon 5D Mark III
Canon 70-200L ISII,
Nikon 14-24 f2.8,
Adobe Lightroom 4
Adobe After Effects
“Adventure is Calling” wasn’t even on Vimeo for 24 hours before it was chosen as a “staff pick”, which is absolutely amazing, congrats!! Would you consider this your best work that you’ve created so far in your photographic career?
Yeah, I was blown away, seeing it was chosen as a staff pick the day after I had uploaded it. It’s really taken off from there. Two weeks later and it’s accumulated nearly 300K views over on Vimeo. It was also featured on National Geographic, which is a tiny bit of a dream come true. It’s easily my best work that I have done so far.
So I guess the next question would be, what’s next? Are you currently working on something new or do you have anything in the works?
Things are rather slow at the moment, with nothing new in the works. My main objective at the moment is hopefully managing to get moved out of Ohio. If I can make my way out to the Pacific Northwest, there will be lots of new work to come!
What is your proudest moment as a photographer?
I would say having my video licensed by National Geographic. Especially since that is the first piece of my work that I have ever licensed to anyone.
What would you consider your “dream job” to be? Where would you ideally like to see yourself in 5 years time?
My dream job would be to just travel and take photos/time-lapses all over the world. Though I have no idea how somebody could get to that point in their photography career, I know it’s possible! Maybe if I can get more established, I could start teaching some workshops and see if it progresses from there. I’m always trying to take pointers from photographers like, Colby Brown, who has that sort of job. Hopefully in 5 years, I’ll find myself comfortably living out in Oregon or Washington, further pursuing photography. I know for a fact that I don’t want to see myself stuck behind a desk somewhere!
Do you have any advice to offer us fellow photographers?
I would say that if you know what you want out of photography, you’ve got to be willing to take chances and risks to get there. Basically my whole current portfolio that showcases my best landscape and astrophotography photos, came from this trip, which sparked from taking chances and risks.