Featured Artist - Zak Gruber
Whether on foot, or by drone, on one wheel or two, Zak Gruber is a man of many talents. His creative pursuits and passion for connection make him a fascinating fellow to follow and a his warm, caring spirit makes him a pleasure with which to prate (and let's not forget that magnificent free-flowing mane). Whether you know him from his "30 second photo school" sessions on TikTok, are a fan of his @indiemoto Instagram reels for real, or are just learning about this talented treasure for the very first time here on our blog you're in for a very special treat. So let's get to it...
Now for the cop out question just to make sure we cover our bases and give the people what they’re here for... what question do you get asked the most and what is the answer?
Your growth over the past year has been incredible (and we’re just talking about magnificent mane 😮) but seriously your following has exploded as well. I think when we first met you early last year you had somewhere in the range of 40k followers on Instagram and in less than a year you’ve somehow managed to enlist another 200k+ faithful followers into the Indiemoto fan club (and who can blame them). For those who are interested in attracting a large following on platforms like Instagram what would you say has been the secret to your success? How did you crack the konami code of social media?
One day my wife Jamie said, you should try out TikTok. Thats all Gary Vee keeps talking about. Between dance moves and people trying to hook up, I honestly had no idea what my place was in that world. But after some encouragement from my wife Jamie, I decided to make a TikTok account. After some trial and error, I ended up having a few photography videos go viral. So I made a couple more. And a couple more. All of a sudden, I had this insane following of amazing people encouraging me daily to keep going. Gary Vee was right. The power behind TikTok was out of control. Until the election happened... The platform was sold to another company and the content went from fun and entertaining to serious and politics 24/7. Luckily for me at that exact time is when Instagram decided to launch their Reels to compete with TikTok. Honestly I don’t think they could’ve done this at a better time.
Now while a massive following is all well and good, what is it about social media platforms that calls to you? What motivates you to put in the extra time and effort that it takes to be constantly creating new content especially with a young family? Were you seeking a large following? Fame and fortune? Community and connection? A creative outlet? All of the above? None of the above?
You’ve been called the Bob Ross of photography. How does that make you feel?
You happen to be a pretty prolific onewheel rider, which when coupled with your cinematography skills makes for some pretty sweet videos. How did you get into the onewheeling life?
Pre onewheel life I understand you knew a thing or two about two wheelers as well - both motorized and human powered... what is it about tire based objects that draws you to them rather than using your legs to get around? 😄
My grandparents met during the war in Okinawa. After moving back to Wisconsin, my grandfather took all his money and bought a piece of property in the Northern Kettle Moraine. My grandfather and the family turned the property into a campground and it’s been here ever since. After they passed away we decided to purchase the property from them to keep it in our family. It’s was the best decision we’ve ever made.
When it comes to photography, what would you say is your favorite subject matter and what do you find most challenging?
Where did the Indiemoto moniker come from?
Off the top of your head, besides Kwik Trips, what is the best thing about living in Wisconsin (and please say anything but the Packers)?
For me it’s the people and the ever changing seasons. I moved to AZ as a kid and all I remember when we moved back to WI was how nice everyone was. Sounds cliché but Midwest people are like no other. They would go out of their way to help you instead of avoid you. Ask about your day even tho you’ve never met them before. Stop you in the grocery store to tell you that they’ve tried that same type of dip before and it went over so well at their grandmothers 75th birthday party. But it’s the seasons that get me. Especially Fall.
Everyone has their own idea of what the term Up North means... what to you is “Up North”?
Up North is where life happens. Up North triggers a childhood memory. Up North is family. Up North is a state of mind everyone needs in their lives.
I understand you’re a fan of the slouch beanie... how’s your charcoal waffle beanie treating you? 😉
OMG! I was on a road trip in the UP this last fall and somewhere along the line I lost my favorite hat. I never thought I’d find one to replace it. That hat and I had been on some epic adventures together...
As you are well aware a little while ago we asked our Instagram followers what kinds of things they would like us to ask you about during this interview. So here it is straight from the horse’s mouth...
The most expensive camera I’ve ever owned was the Canon 1DX. But now Sony just dropped the A1 and they’ve got me thinking about taking out a second mortgage.
On a scale of 1-10 how amazing is your wife?
How do you export 120p or 60p videos... like the timeline?
If you’re using something like Premier Pro, you have to do that in your settings when you’re setting up your timeline. If you’re trying to take 120p video and export it as slow motion, you would have to make your timeline settings 24p or 30p and then slow down the video to the desired speed your looking for. I hope that make sense.
Are there cheap options for taking good pictures of landscapes as a beginner?
Your phone is your best friend. Everyone has one and it’s always with you. Learn composition and manual camera settings. Your phone can take you a long way.
Do you use LED lamps? Which one do you like?
For most of my photography I use strobes and for video I use LEDs. Right now some of my favorite LED brands are Aperture, Arri, LumeCube and Lumni8.
What are some good camera angles from a phone to take a picture of something?
Angles are important but I would say what you’re looking for is foreground and background. You want to develop layers in your images. They can make your images more aesthetically pleasing. But if you’re looking for angles, I would say high angles and low angles will set you apart from someone who’s just standing there with their phone taking a picture.
When are you coming out with some editing tips?
Editing tips coming soon!!
Do you have any tips for indoor photography?
Indoor photography can be tricky to some people because you need lighting and camera equipment that can perform in the low lighting. But it doesn’t have to be difficult. If you don’t have lighting or a camera that has very good ISO range, I would suggest using a tripod and long shutter speeds. If motion blur is going to be an issue then I would suggest using high ISOs and fast shutter speeds. You can remove the noise/grain in post if needed.
Can a person with 0 knowledge become a good photographer?
100%!! Some of the best photographers started out with no knowledge.
How do you get f/stop, aperture and iso correct the first time?
This is another tricky one to answer. All of those settings depend on the scenario that you’re in at that time and moment. All I can say is get out there and start smashing some buttons. Experiment to see what happens when you turn the dial one way versus the other way. Then you will start to realize what does what. If you’d like to know more on these three specifically, I have some really great videos on my social platforms that explain these.
Which aspect ratio is best for a photo shoot?
This all depends on what you’re shooting for. On social media I tend to shoot more vertically to fill up as much real estate on the phone as I can.
Do you have any camera suggestions for beginners?
Get out there and shoot as much as you can. Experiment with your camera. Get to know your gear.
How can we click light tail pictures without the shutter speed option?
You need to have that shutter speed option to be able to do that. But if you’re using a phone there is a trick to do this. Make your photos a live photo in your iPhone. After capturing a live photo, swipe up on the photo and there will be some options. Slide all the way over to long exposure and boom.
What kind of music are you into?
All kinds. But what’s currently been playing in my truck is Post Malone, Marshmello, and Coheed and Cambria. Yeah I know. Weird mix lol
Alright getting back to the script...
I went to film school so almost all of my knowledge came from there but just getting out and shooting as much as I can, is one of the best educations. I think I learned the most as a photo assistant. Working with established photographers that had been in the industry for well over 30 years, helped me improve my photography skills immensely. And getting inspiration from platforms like Instagram, really encourage you to take your photography to the next level.
The biggest lesson I’ve ever learned and this is in life in general, is that nobody knows everything. Education is important. Always continue to educate yourself and never act as if you know everything. Some of the most talented people on this planet are still learning daily. And people don’t like to hang out with people who think they know everything anyways. lol
What do you typically bring with you when you go out for a shoot?
Everything lol. It’s a problem.
FALL. FALL. FALL.
Outside of Wisconsin, what has been your favorite place to travel to and photograph?
My all time favorite trips were to Shanghai and Vietnam. The people, the culture, the food, the views, all of it was amazing.
Do you happen have a favorite photo you’ve ever taken?
Not sure if I’ve taken that photo yet but if I had to pick, I’d say the photo of Holy Hill in the fog is up there.
Who are your heroes? (Photography or otherwise)
My wife, my girls, and everyone that inspires me to keep doing what I’m doing.
Anywhere in Japan and that north west corner of Montana has been calling me.
Learn your gear inside and out.
This one comes from our previous featured artist Guthrie Collins who would like to know... What is your most audacious & wild dream?
Good question. Right now my goal is to get paid to travel with my family. But if I had one wish to make anything happen, I’d really love to take my dad and sister to Okinawa to visit our family we’ve never met.
What one question would you ask our next featured person? (Anything you like. Doesn’t have to be about photography - it may or may not be a fellow photographer who goes next)
What moment in time made you decide to follow your passion?
Time to pay it forward... who else would you like to see featured on this blog?
Felicia Fullwood, Bennet Young, Andy Merkel
Thank you so much for your time.
For more great Indiemoto content make sure to follow him on...