Client Spotlight Cameron Davidson
Capture Integration client Cameron Davidson recently upgraded to the Leaf Credo 60. His aerial work was recently featured in Money magazine’s 2014 Real Estate Guide – using the Credo 60. Cameron was kind enough to share his images and experience in upgrading to the back. Davidson is also co-founder of FUSEVISUAL, a website for influential visual communication artists and professionals to share their work, visions and journeys. We took this opportunity to adopt Cameron’s interview style and pick his brain further. Cameron will also be leading a FUSEVISUAL Creative Roundtable in Atlanta, GA on May 15th.
CI: You’ve been using a combination of Nikon cameras with a Leaf Aptus 75 on Alpa and Hasselblad H camera systems. What initially drew you to the Leaf system on those platforms?
Cameron Davidson: I used to shoot with Hasselblads and film. A few photographers I knew raved about the Leaf backs and the film like color profiles. A photographer friend of mine in New York City decided to go to law school and asked me if I was interested in buying his Alpa 12 Max, 47 XL and Leaf Aptus 75 for a very good price. I felt like it was an opportunity to get into medium format digital. I enjoy the slower pace of shooting with the Alpa and the Aptus 75 was a delight to use with Leaf Capture and Photoshop.
CI: Many photographers rely primarily with 35mm DSLR systems, especially in high ISO or fast moving situations. What continues to draw you to medium format digital?
Cameron Davidson: I shoot a fair amount of extreme low-light images and I still shoot with my Nikon D4 and or D800. However, the new CMOS digital backs are certainly appealing for low-light landscape and aerial work. What I like about medium format is the incredible sharpness you can get from an image. Last year I shot aerials in Chicago over two severe clear days. In addition to the Nikons, I took along my Alpa TC and the Aptus 75. I was pushing the sensor a bit at ISO 200 but the files are beautiful and crystal clear sharp.
CI: In addition to the larger sensor and more megapixels, what unique advantages have you encountered with the Leaf Credo 60 compared to the Aptus 75?
Cameron Davidson: The biggest advantage to me and one that was a bit of a surprise is how much faster it is when shooting. Although I can fill up a 32 gig card pretty fast when I am in the air. I love being able to process the files in Capture One plus the Leaf profiles are wonderful for skin tones.
CI: Your work has taken you to so many places around the world, and in recent years, you’ve spent a lot of time working in Haiti, converging with and supporting efforts toward Haiti’s recovery. What would you like to share to other photographers who might wish to engage in similar altruistic endeavors?
Cameron Davidson: The key is to find a cause you believe in. My first trip to Haiti was in 1999 and I ended up joining the board of the NGO that sponsored the trip. In the early days, the primary focus was medical missions and building schools. I would spend a fair amount of times in operating suites or in remote country locations. I loved it. I shot aerials of the earthquake destruction in Port au Prince and rebuilding hospitals in Jacmel. A couple of years ago, I decided I wanted to pull away from the run and gun type of shooting that this NGO required. Last summer I hooked up with a specialized NGO and shot portraits in Jacmel of young soccer players. I took one camera, one lens and one light. I feel the images are stronger because of it. In terms of advice… 1. Believe in the group and their efforts but do your homework. A good percentage of NGO’s in Haiti are understaffed, underfunded and attempting to do too much. 2. Ask yourself why do you want to contribute to this effort. Then make sure you have an agreement that your images will be used to promote their efforts. I think it is important that the NGO respect your talents and abilities. Put it all in writing and close the deal with a handshake. Look them in the eye and trust your gut. Most likely you will be putting yourself into harms way of some sort and you need to trust that the efforts are worth it.
CI: What makes you want to get up each day to do what you do?
Cameron Davidson: It is an addiction, a calling and the best thing that I can do while on this planet.
CI: If you could start your career today, but have the benefit of knowing what you know today, is there anything significant you would have done differently from the early years to now?
Cameron Davidson: Oh boy, many things. The first is to surround myself with people who are more talented and intelligent than I am. I would start meditating at an early age. I would learn to listen to myself and to also see opportunities when they are presented. I would not look back. I would travel more. I would complete my degree.
CI: Who or what is your most profound influence?
Cameron Davidson: Most of my photographic education was with several photographers as an assistant. Ross Chapple, an incredible architectural and interior photographer taught me a great deal about patience and seeing light. I also assisted a photographer (who shall remain nameless) who had a horrible cocaine addiction. From him, I learned what not to do in business and that was as valuable as any business school education. Photographers work who I believe influenced me were: Jay Maisel, Eric Meola, Pete Turner, Arnold Newman, Hiro, Irving Penn, Ernst Haas and Yoshikazu Shirakawa.
CI: Do you have a favorite type of art that you are not engaged in, but really appreciate?
Cameron Davidson: Writing well. Writing down to the bones that shakes you, grabs you, makes you stop, listen and feel a sense of joy about the words on the page…not a tablet or screen..but a printed book held in your hands.
CI: What has been the most important element(s) to your success?
Cameron Davidson: Persistence more than anything else and being in the right place at the right time.
CI: With your experience, you know what it was like to be a professional photographer 20 years ago. What do you think of equipment and technology options today?
Cameron Davidson: Twenty years ago, you got it right, in the camera. You dropped your film at the lab, edited the selects, sent them off by overnight FedEx and you were done. I still try to get it right in the camera. Nowadays there are so many options to shoot with – from 4/3rd cameras that are lightweight to Nikons that shoot at absurd ISO’s (which I love) and to medium format backs that allow you a level of sharpness that is far greater than 8×10 of a few years ago.
I think the ability to control light with tiny strobes is incredible. I love the new light panels and the idea of a MF back that can shoot at ISO 6400 and deliver a clean file is pretty close to unbelievable. Twenty years ago I rarely shot above ISO 400 with a 35mm camera and never above ISO 100 on medium format – except for Tri-X.
All in all, it’s better but with increased control there is more workload on the photographer. However, you can sculpt the final image to reflect what you want it to be.