Photographer Spotlight Al Vinjamur
Al Vinjamur is a recent client of Capture Integration, and his passion and depth of knowledge for the technical aspects impressed us all. With his new ALPA and Hasselblad systems, Al has combined his technical background with a wanderer’s eye, culminating in some of the best wildlife photography I’ve seen in a long time. After seeing Al work in some architectural work, I reached out to Al to ask him some questions about his photography and background within the industry.
On your website you show photos from around the world, and after having met with you in person, you explained just how deep into photography you dove for those years traveling. Can you tell us more about how you came to do the photography you do?
While working as a hedge fund manager for a well known fund, my version of nature was restricted to “Central Park” and what I saw on the Discovery Channel/National Geographic. After leaving the life behind for a few years, it was a deliberate action to want to combine my love of wildlife/nature and a newfound travel bug, and be put into situations that unfold by themselves. What better way to do that than animal photography in the wild, and being real up-close and very personal with them? Over time, I’ve also combined my childhood wonder of Astrophysics with Astrophotography – and that’s a LOT of signal processing.
What are you currently shooting with these days? What gear is in your bag, and how do you like it?
After shooting with the common 35mm marquees, my foray into medium format was with a Hasselblad (39MP and the 60MP backs). Now I carry a Phase One IQ250 with the 50MP CMOS back (which I adore!!!), a Hasselblad H5X, along with the lenses I’ve owned before. My real joy in medium format has been ALPA and I’ve been a fan since 2007. Now I have been using my ALPA STC/Max/FPS mated to some spectacular Rodenstock/Schneider lenses with the Phase One 50 MP CMOS back — its really unadulterated, sophisticated photographic joy.
As someone who doesn’t make a living doing the photography you do, what specifically drew you to the gear you use? Many times we have people buying gear for specific shooting requirements for jobs, but as you get to be a little more flexible in your decision making, what had you end up with the kit you have?
The need for less automation and less complexity has been largely responsible for the way I’ve moved about. I’m coming to believe that the more fancier a camera systems’ metering methods, focusing methods, focus latency, and a bunch of other “features” (that most never ever use) makes it easier for one to get away “photographically” from photography. Henri Cartier Bresson, Salgado, Jay Maisel are my idols, and Jay talks about “Light Color & Gesture” coming together. More often than not, these “features” create a curtain between you and what is
Why Capture Integration? What brought you to us as a client?
It was very apparent to me when visiting your web site that the founder has thought hard about the whole process from capture to finish, and then went on about building a business focused on integrating it all in a cohesive manner. I felt that initial feeling vindicated when I first called up Dave and then I went on to experience it personally while dealing with you folks. After about 20+ years in photography, I feel that I’ve come to rest at Capture Integration. I feel that at CI, its not about the “sale” and “closing a sale” but its more about building a relationship that can endure. When bigger picture things are taken care of the smaller details take care of themselves — and good for both sides of the business ie., vendor and consumer. Capture Integration has been able to fulfill that for me thus far.
Having switched from a Hasselblad H4D-60 to a Phase One IQ250, how do you enjoy the new digital back? What differences are you seeing, be it software, shooting workflow, etc?
I’ve always been a fan of CMOS over CCD and simply love the IQ250. My personal opinion is that the overall integration (from capture to finish) of the Phase One system far surpasses any other platform I’ve used before. With other brands, the post processing is an after thought, or relies on third party software, not so with Phase — its a comprehensive flow from start to finish. Of course, I’m very very happy that Phase One and the folks at ALPA are working together at pushing the edges.
You come from a highly technical background, and even went to a highly technical school (both Al and the writer went to the Rochester Institute of Technology.) How do you feel this has shaped your photography?
I come from an Applied Math/Computer Science background. What that has got me basically is the desire NOT to read manuals and figure out stuff for myself. The technical background has allowed me to do things 100% manually, and I like that freedom. I don’t like to rely on metering systems that are “black box” for, example. I mean, who really except the folks that do Signal Processing truly know how an “Evaluative Metering” or “Matrix Metering” algorithm truly works under the hood?
Any advice for newcomers to the ALPA gear you have been using? What kind of things have you seen change in your workflow?
Its the ULTIMATE camera system for the photographer that craves total control of the image and is responsible enough to be comfortable with the results. Its a system that does not need any manual, because its a system that has zero surprises, hence predictability and latitude of ex[anded creative usage. I absolutely love the integration between ALPA and Phase One. Its sophisticated to be simple and simple to be sophisticated. ALPA is refined and sophisticated.
When you’re not shooting elaborate landscapes or exotic animals, what do you do in your day-to-day life?
My partner and I are building a statistical learning system for financial market data. Apart from that, I’m very involved in the Dog sport called Mondioring as it takes me back to my background in AI/Machine Learning, of sorts.
We had talked a little about how you’re new to Capture One Pro, and how you’ve had some training sessions with our Technical Training & Support expert Josh Booth. How have you found that experience?
Josh is fantastic! I’d rather learn the vagaries of software from someone that knows the ins and outs of it rather than follow a linear based manual. More than anything else, I’m still learning to “see” the way professionals “finish” the image. For some reason, I’ve remained old fashioned about things in that department – I like to shoot, and more often that not my version of “finishing” is capture sharpening, contrast enhancement, and sharpen for output. Haha! I’ve a LOT to learn from Josh but one step at a time.
With it still being early in the year, what sort of goals do you see on the horizon for your photography? Anything new coming up?
Ya know…I’m going to continue to get to know the vagaries of the new set of Rodenstock/Schneider lenses I have on the ALPA. I want to continue to do wide wide mosaics and I’m getting really curious about Focus Stacking. Thanks to Capture Integration, I’ve to expand time to do all things I want to do with the phenomenal setup I have. BIG SMILE!!
You can see more of Al’s work and follow him at the links below: