Rick Berk – The Photographer’s Interview
With a thorough knowledge of composition, light, colour and interesting subject matter, Rick Berk’s photography is professional, captivating and bold.
From awe-inspiring, award-winning, American scenery that would look great landscape lovers living room wall, to adept images of Wildlife, and beautiful and elegant Glamour and Beauty Portrait photography, Rick handles different photographic genres with skill and an obvious passion for his craft. Rick is also an accomplished, professional Commercial, Real Estate and Wedding photographer too.
Of particular note, ‘Reflections Erased – Botany Bay’, has a unique composition, beautiful orange and blue tones and reflection in the shoreline. And ‘Empire State’ – the subject speaks for itself; yet the dark, dramatic skies coupled with the power of monochrome photography gives an original and memorable take on one of America’s iconic buildings.
Check out Rick’s website: https://www.rickberkphoto.com
You can view and purchase Rick’s artwork at http://rickberk.com
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Rick is also on Twitter
Rick is also an author at Digital Photography School. Check out his excellent articles here: https://digital-photography-school.com/author/rickberk/
Please talk about where you grew up and where you live now…
I grew up in Northern New Jersey on the east coast of the United States. I was always artistically inclined as a child, mostly drawing in a sketchbook. As a child, my parents would rent a place on the Jersey shore and I would spend my summers there. I would often draw seascapes with lighthouses and rocks and breaking waves. As a young adult, I visited Maine for the first time in 1998 and decided I wanted to live there. It took 20 years but I finally found my way to the coast of Maine, about 20 miles outside of Portland. I am continually inspired by the beautiful and varied landscape Maine has to offer, from the rugged coastline to the majestic mountains and lakes inland.
How did you discover photography?
I had been a graphic design major in college, and B&W Photography was a required course. I purchased a Pentax ME Super for the course and as soon as I developed my first roll of film, and made my first print, I was hooked. I spent long hours in my college darkroom, printing my images and developing film. I decided I wanted to be a sports photographer, so I began photographing the sporting events at my old high school and submitting them to the local newspaper. Thus began my pursuit of a career in photography.
What photographic education have you had?
In college, I was a Fine Art major and received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Fine Art. I had originally enrolled as a Graphic Design major, but once I got hooked on photography, I changed my path and took as many photo courses as possible. I also found a job in a commercial photo lab, doing a little bit of everything. I began as a driver, picking up film from commercial clients, but progressed to the lab, where I would process film, photograph copy work, mount prints, make black and white or color prints, and anything else that needed doing. In addition, I assisted several pros who had successful commercial studios. I managed to learn a lot about lighting and product preparation, and while I never pursued a career in commercial photography, the things I learned have helped me immensely as I pursued my own dreams.
What do you enjoy most about landscape photography?
Where do I start? I enjoy experiencing nature’s beauty on a personal level. There’s something special about finding that scene you connect with, to capture it and show it to others. To me, there’s nothing like photographing the coast of Maine at sunrise. I get up in the dark and drive to whatever spot I’ve chosen. The waves continually crash along the rocks, the wind gently blows, the seabirds sing their songs. In the distance, a buoy’s bell sounds, and a lobster boat’s diesel engine hums, all of which create the most beautiful music. I enjoy capturing the start of the day, knowing most people aren’t awake yet to see it. I enjoy showing them the landscape in a way they likely haven’t seen, and I enjoy showing them places they have a personal connection to, in a way they’ve never seen.
What are your favourite lenses for Landscapes and why?
I shoot on a Nikon D810 at the moment. My go-to lens seems to be the Nikon 16-35mm f/4G. I love the wide-angle field of view, emphasizing the foreground and using the background to set context. I find the 16-35 to be sharp and well built (I’ve dropped mine once or twice) and I like that I can use my Benro 100mm filters on it without an adapter. I will also use my Sigma 14mm f/1.8 Art quite a bit, though I don’t use it as much due to its need for larger filters and an adapter. The Nikon 24-120 f/4 G is also in my bag when needed.
Please talk through how you process one of your images (Programs/Methods)…
First of all, I shoot everything in RAW format. This allows me to process the file to my own liking, rather than settling for whatever the in-camera picture styles will give me. I set the camera to Flat picture control, which is a very low contrast and low saturation style. While it looks ugly on the camera, this allows me to view a histogram on camera that doesn’t reflect a more contrasty or color-saturated picture style, ensuring that I haven’t clipped my highlights or shadows, and have as much information as possible in my file. Once I have my exposure exactly as I want, I process the file in Adobe Camera Raw before bringing it into Photoshop. In ACR, I make a few slight adjustments, usually involving highlights and shadows, as well as lens correction. Once in Photoshop, I use a recipe I created in Nik Color Efex Pro to make my color and contrast enhancements and get the image looking the way I want. If the image is going to be a black and white, I use Nik Silver Efex. On occasion, I will use Nik Viveza to locally adjust color or contrast when needed.
What camera and lenses do you use for Beauty and Glamour?
I use a Nikon D810 and a Fuji X-T2 for beauty and glamour. On the Nikon, I use the Tamron 35mm f/1.8, the Tamron 85mm f/1.8, or the Nikon 105mm f/2.8. When shooting the Fuji, I mostly use the Fuji 56mm f/1.2. I enjoy using the shallow depth of field all of these lenses allow to help force my viewer to look where I want them to, to emphasize my subject while keeping the backgrounds soft.
What do you feel are the most important aspects of a Beauty and Glamour shoot, when working with models?
Obviously, there should be a good amount of trust between photographer and model. When the model trusts the photographer, and the two together have chemistry, it becomes easy to make beautiful images. Beyond that trust, of course, is good lighting and composition, and a plan of the types of shots you want to achieve before you’re actively shooting. I go into my beauty and glamour shoots knowing exactly what types of shots I want to come away with, which makes it easy to work quickly and not waste time. I will discuss exactly what I’m looking for with the model beforehand so we are on the same page.
What most important advice/tips would you give to a newbie Wedding photographer, that you wish you knew when you started out?
I don’t go looking to book many weddings, but I will happily accept those that come my way. The main thing to realize is that as the photographer, you need to manage the bride and groom’s time. They will be getting pulled in many different directions, and if you want specific shots at specific times, you need to be the one to step forward and say, “We need to get this shot right now. We’ll do it quickly and get you back to your guests.” Photographers who don’t take charge and help assist the bride and groom with that time management element, tend to not get the shots they dreamed of when they were planning the wedding shoot.
What lighting schemes/strategies have worked well for you when lighting beer and other beverages?
I first started this simply as a project to see if I could do it and how creative I could get. I first did this in my ex-girlfriend’s living room, with the fireplace burning in the background for some atmospheric light. For the bottle itself, I use one speed light behind the bottle and below it, to create that glow within the bottle. I will use two other speedlights off to the side with a softbox to help create the catch light on the bottle, and a reflector card in front, just under and above the camera to fill in and light the label. When I do these images, I start with that basic setup and tweak as necessary.
With such excellent quality work in numerous photographic genres, and being so prolific, how do you manage your time (working in these genres), as a Professional Photographer?
It really depends on my mood, or when clients come calling. Fine art landscape photography is my primary passion and consumes most of my time. After spending my first 44 years in the greater New York area, I’ve spent the last two years exploring my new home state of Maine. I sell in several local galleries as well as online, and I teach workshops. I am also a Benro Filter Master, using their filters to produce my landscape images. The other genres, such as beauty and glamour, portraits, and product photography, tend to come into play either when I am asked specifically to do that kind of work, or when I need a change of pace to keep my creative juices flowing. One long-term project I specifically use as a change of pace is my work on fine art nudes. I find these challenging and inspiring and usually just what I need when I’ve hit a creative rut.
Which photographers do you admire and why?
As first and foremost a landscape photographer, Ansel Adams has been a huge inspiration to me. While I prefer to work in color, his teaching of the zone system and visualization follow me wherever I go. Galen Rowell is another landscape photographer who inspires me. Here in Maine, there are many talented photographers capturing the Maine landscape, and I find inspiration from them as well. We have an active community on Facebook, with each of us pushing the rest to do better.
I’ve always admired Walter Iooss, Jr. as well. While I can only dream of reaching his status and talent level, I feel we share some similarities, where we both began as sports photographers and grew into well-rounded photographers who can handle any type of situation. I’ve tried to emulate guys like that, who can do many types of photography well. I never wanted to be able to be pigeon-holed as one type of photographer.
What strategies have been successful for you in marketing yourself as a Pro Photographer?
I’ve mainly focused my efforts on selling my fine art landscapes. I find that sharing on pertinent social media groups is highly effective when done correctly. The image must be first and foremost, and the sales pitch has to be subtle. I also try to be helpful when people have questions regarding technique or equipment. I enjoy teaching workshops and writing about photography, and that effort seems to have paid off in terms of followers on social media as well in sales of my work.
Which Photography genre is your personal favourite and why?
That’s so hard to pin down. I’d say primarily I enjoy landscape photography because that’s what I do most of the time, but the work I see that really blows me away is work that either I’ve never done, or not been successful in. Great portraiture, great wedding photography, great fine art nude photography always inspires me to try new things. When I see an image that presents the subject in a way I’ve never seen before, that really grabs me and pushes me in my own work.