Featured Artist - Derek Warner
Today we are fortunate to have our friend Derek Warner with us speaking about his work and what photography means to him. Derek is one of the most candid, genuine and supportive people we have had the great pleasure of meeting in our brief history. He is one of those rare fellas whose talent is surpassed only by his character and we couldn't be happier to share his story here for you to enjoy.
Can you tell us a little about yourself? How did you originally get into photography?
I was born and raised in Lino Lakes, Minnesota and now I've been living in the Twin Cities for over four years. Prior to that I spent one year living in Mankato, so I haven't really gone too far. One day while I was living in Mankato I was walking home and stumbled across $300 on the ground. Crazy right? There was no one around so I took the money and kept it. At the time I was really into longboarding and figured I'd buy a GoPro with that money so I could make some longboarding videos. Making these videos taught me the value of capturing stories so I sold my GoPro and bought my first DSLR. From that point I have been taking photos ever since.
What are your goals for your photography? Do you see yourself as an amateur enthusiast or an aspiring professional?
Photography goals? Hmmm that's a tricky question... For me photography is about more than snapping the shutter to make a piece of art. Don't get me wrong, I love the entire photo creation process from start to finish, but I care even more about the stories that photography gifts me. I want to look at every photo I take and have an emotional experience through it because I get to remember the people I was with or the journey I went through to get the shot. So, I'm not sure I'm much more than an extreme enthusiast. With all that being said, I do have an insane passion for growth and a desire to be the best there is. I make it a point to do something involving photography every single day. This could mean watching a ten minute tutorial or actually going out to shoot as long as I am doing something.
How have you developed your skills since starting out? What would you consider your strengths and in what areas are you still working to improve your craft?
I have to credit almost of my development to Youtube University. I'd be embarrassed to admit how many hours I've spent watching tutorials on anything from the technical knowledge you need to know about a camera to the most in depth Photoshop edits. I think my greatest strength is understanding how I can take a photo that was captured incorrectly in camera and processing it into a photo that looks solid. On the opposite end, I think even though I have a very strong technical understanding of my equipment, there are a lot of times I shoot too fast and don't do the best job in camera right from the get go.
What is your equipment setup?
The camera on the back of the Motorola RAZR. Just playing. I rock a full frame Nikon that I love because not many other people around me shoot Nikon so it's fun to be able to approach things differently.
What is your process? Would you say you generally plan out shots ahead of time or take them as they come, in the moment?
It's about 75% planning shots and 25% taking as I go. I generally only use my camera if I have planned out time to go take photos of a location I have already predetermined, but with that I'm always keeping my eyes open for shots along the way that might be just as cool as the shot I originally went out to get. I am a big advocate for living in the moment and focusing on what is actually going on around me so unless I am setting out to to get some bangers with my camera I surprisingly don't really shoot that much.
How much location scouting and prep do you do before hitting up a sunrise/sunset shot?
Let's just say Google Maps, Aurora, the Weather App, and Photo Pills are my favorite apps. I do quite a bit of preparation for most of my shots.
You recently posted a stunning shot of the Northern Lights along the North Shore, can you tell us a little about the process for capturing something like that or say a stellar Milky Way laden night sky?
Thank you! Capturing anything in the night sky is tough. That is one of the few parts of photography that I will argue equipment makes a big difference. The camera has to be powerful in low light and it's going to be a lot easier if you have a lens that's anywhere from like f1.4 to f2.8. A tripod is absolutely necessary to stabilize your camera and it can help even more to have a remote shutter so you can avoid any possibility of camera shake. I use the Aurora app to look at cloud coverage as I'm planning out my night to make sure I'm not going out and getting a sky covered by clouds. The part that makes the process so fun is that you have to be up in the middle of the night, in the middle of nowhere to avoid light pollution, and most often times with very few people or even alone for that matter.
What are your favorite subjects to shoot? And what is your least favorite?
When you go out shooting with others what’s the vibe? Do you tend to try to inspire one another? Challenge each other? Out do one another? How competitive does it get?
What’s your favorite place to shoot in Minnesota? And what’s your favorite season?
Do you happen have a favorite photo you’ve ever taken?
It's hard to choose a favorite because they are all so different. I do really like my picture of some ducks swimming on Trillium Lake near Mount Hood in Oregon. Me and the guys I was out there with shot canon beach at sunset and then drove three hours to the lake to be there for sunrise. We were greeted by a family of probably 10 ducks who walked around on the shore by our feet and swam around on the lake right in front of us. As the sun was rising it added a serene glow to the fog covered lake. That was a moment I'll never forget and I'm happy I got to capture it.
Who are your heroes? (Photography or otherwise)
Photography is my favorite thing in the world, but I also care deeply about mental health because of the issues I face. Some of the people I really admire are Tony Robbins and Eckhart Tolle who have spent their lifetimes tapping into the mind and body to understand what we can do to ensure we live happy and fulfilling lives. Oh yeah, Donal Boyd is my favorite photographer. I've never seen someone capable of capturing wildlife the way he does.
Any bucket shots on your list?
I absolutely have to shoot the Pyramids of Giza at sunset. I think about it almost every day.
What’s one piece of advice you would offer someone who is just starting out as a photographer?
This one comes from our previous featured artist Lite Travelers who would like to know ... What does photography/art/design (whatever it is you create) mean to you? And why do you do it??
What one question would you ask our next featured artist? (Anything you like)
What makes you different?
Time to pay it forward... who else would you like to see featured on this blog?