Capture the Road with Chris Hershman
I’m Chris Hershman, a Chicago based photographer and filmmaker. Taking photos and filming bands perform live has been my job for the past three years. Not long ago I was working in a music store selling these bands drums and guitars, now I’ve transitioned to creating their content, propelling their brand forward.
I recently created a cross-country photography project that I call Capture The Road. CTR is about creating time in our busy schedules to pursue personal dreams and aspirations to act out those dreams of wanting to become a great photographer one day.
For me I needed to carve out this time to grow my photography skill set. I knew there was much I needed to learn about the art of capturing striking images of people, places and things. Forcing myself to shoot all day for 12 days in different landscapes and colorful terrain totally changed my perspective and approach to shooting in natural light.
Photography is challenging and the best way to learn is through travel and daily practice. By limiting the gear you take, you’re forced to shoot in ways that keep things fresh and innovative. I limited myself to carrying one camera body, two lenses, a ZipDisc reflector/diffuser with stand and a lightweight tripod. A huge part of making this trip successful is having the right gear, and the ability to shoot confidently with equipment that’s going to enable you to take the best quality image possible.
Knowing that I needed to shoot some major landscape images, I needed a sharp wide angle lens to capture the enormous mountains and vast stretches of open land. After all, the project was about strengthening my shooting skills and forcing myself to grow by stepping out of my comfort zone as a photographer. I don’t own a wide-angle lens so I called up Calumet’s rental department, where I was able to rent a Nikon 14mm-24mm f/2.8 for the entire two-week duration of my trip. It’s fraction of the cost of having to own it, and a much better solution than buying a cheaper, lesser quality lens for just one trip. Being able to experiment with a massive collection of lenses available to rent at Calumet has really helped me to grow as a shooter and given me that hands on experience that I would have never been able to get without the ability to rent and loan different gear that I currently own. The option to rent a single lens for long periods of time is extremely useful, especially if you want to take the nicest quality gear on the road for long trips or vacations. I highly suggest taking them up on their offer to rent this equipment and to get well versed in shooting with top notch gear.
One of the main goals of the project was to shoot with only natural sunlight. Since it was only me and my model, Amanda, I needed something to hold my reflector disc. Calumet happened to have an excellent stand with a boom arm that holds the disc securely in position without the assistance of another person. An excellent solution for traveling light with limited hands! I was really set at ease when I left Calumet with my rental lens and my reflector, the simple things that gave me the big confidence to know that as long as I had the right gear, my mind could worry about just taking the best shot, not fearing the ability of my gear.
Shooting in Square
I took the challenge of shooting primarily in a square format. I’ve noticed a large push of square images on Facebook, Instagram and other social networks. Shooting in squares completely disrupted my normal approach to shooting. The challenge forced me to step back, gather more detail and surrounding landscape into my image. The worst thing you can do is shoot too tight and to not have enough room to properly crop into your square image. Being primarily a portrait photographer, this pushed me to pay more attention to the surrounding buildings, shapes and shadows and use them to create a more interesting image and a way to creatively focus the viewers eyes toward the subject.
“Maddie On Things,” a book by Theron Humphrey, has been a great guide to me for framing and composing an image. It’s a photo documentary of his travels with is companion, Maddie, a shelter-rescued Coonhound dog that has incredible balance and patience. Theron manages to make every image one worth examining and studying. The amazement of seeing a dog balancing on a fire hydrant is enough to make you want to share the image with all of your friends, but his approach to shooting is clean, balanced and incredibly well placed. They’re simple images, but the composition of each image makes you really admire his eye and ability to capture the moment. If you haven’t tried shooting a series of images in square, I’d highly suggest it. I think you’ll find yourself doing the same thing I did, and taking a fresh new approach to framing up your images and paying closer attention to the overall composition of the photo.
Chicago has some great colors in its skyline and lakefront, however I’ve never seen such natural deep blues and saturated greens as I did on this trip. The perception of depth with colors in mountainous landscapes are something that I don’t get to experience living in the Midwest. No matter where I stood in the sunsets of Colorado, I couldn’t shake how much everything looked like an actual photograph, with the rich blues, gorgeous orange and yellow lights of sunset set against the more hazy blues of the distant mountains. When I sat down to edit these images I was overwhelmed and quite inexperienced with having so much color in the frame. This changed and challenged my typical editing process in order to allow these bright bold colors to remain in the final image.
One thing I’ve learned is to keep it simple. Let your eye take the images in, set the controls for the right exposure and adjust the f-stop to either let the colors blur and blend together with the soft background that the 50mm f1.4 can create, or ramp the f-stop up and make an insanely share picture with the 14-24mm. Most of the time I chose to capture images with very sharp detail and clarity. And when you’re shooting RAW and using Adobe Lightroom, the clarity-adjustment tool adds such a beautiful look if you’re wanting to sharpen an image in a creative manner.
The clarity-adjustment tool can easily be overused. It’s the first thing that can ruin your images by making them appear over-edited. I enjoy how this tool will slightly de-saturate the color and still create super sharp images. However, it’s important to lower the level of the contrast in order to create large dark shadows without the loss of detail. I would say the biggest challenge is using these tools together. They can be very effective when balanced properly, but can create unwanted dark blotchy shadows if used improperly.
Overall, I didn’t spend hours and hours editing one image. I would shoot it and make minor adjustments with exposure and white balance. There are many photos I would have done differently if I had more time, but now I’m more confident in my shooting and prepared to take the best image I can in the moment.
Capture The Road gave me the opportunity to push my photography career forward by growing my portfolio and becoming as proficient as possible in portrait photography. I’ve been a filmmaker for several years, and it’s easy to work with your camera everyday and not take a single photo. CTR gave me chance to balance my skill set and to challenge and grow myself.
Did I have time for this trip? Not at all, but I knew it would be the key to taking me to where I want to go with my career. Sometimes you have to force time, leave some plans and people aside, and position yourself to go down the direction you want for yourself. My boss in Chicago has a sign above his desk that reads “Potential is great, but results are everything.” It’s not enough to say you want something, it’s going to take you getting up, going out, and pushing yourself to do the things that are going to result in you being closer to what you want. It’s a drive that only you can stir up in yourself to run after what you want.
Capture the Road may not be the great visual project that blows everyone’s mind, but it was something that I dreamt, and put into motion as opposed to allowing it remain only a dream. My ability to have taken an idea and follow through with its creation, from beginning to end was the entire goal. As the saying goes, If you don’t live your dreams you’ll spend your life building someone else’s.
Please visit capturetheroad.com to see the entire photo set from Capture the Road and to follow Chris’ travels. To see more of Chris’ personal work with video and photography stop by his portfolio: chrishershman.com or see this post on a video that Chris recently prepared for us on Calumet Rentals.