From Canada, Photog Friday travels to meet US Photographer Johnny O. The former magazine editor and shooter has branched out on his own, and specializes in automotive photography. The right spot for the right shot can make all of the difference, says Johnny. How did he get started? What are his secrets? Read on…
Name: Johnny O
Country of residence: USA
Brief Bio: Johnny O has spent the last decade working in the print magazine world as the lead photographer, feature editor and contributing editor of several custom enthusiast publications. He has spent those years refining the art of automotive photography down to a creative science and has an intuitive sense of location. The right spot for the right shot can make all of the difference.
How did you first get interested in photography?
I started over 15 years ago in high school and was quickly drawn into the mechanics of the SLR camera as well as the process of developing in the darkroom. The darkroom eventually gave way to Photoshop, but I definitely enjoy the digital process just as much as the physical process.
What do you like to shoot?
My personal passion for building custom vehicles has also turned into a passion for shooting them. Over the years of working in the editorial world I have managed to shoot many of the most amazing vehicles ever built.
What’s your approach to photography, your philosophy? What do you look for? How do you set-up a shot? My philosophy for a great shot consists of 3 parts; great location, great natural light and an amazing subject. I generally shoot at dawn or dusk in a remote location, away from power poles, telephone lines, traffic lights and civilization in general if at all possible. Each shot is a long exposure (on a tripod of course) and bracketed 2-under/2-over. This ensures the perfect exposure and allows me to HDR the sky if necessary.
What is the best photo you have taken? Why? Background and details, please…
I don’t know if I would personally consider it my best shot, but everyone seems to love an image I captured of a tree growing out of a small pond in Millington, Tennessee. I had actually gone down to the pond to piss in it (true story) and while I was doing my business I was impressed with the sight in front of me. I took out the small Canon S80 I had at the time with manual settings, set it on top of my beer can and clicked a timed 25-second exposure. The result was this (right).
What gear are you using? What else do you want to buy?
I’ve always used Canon gear. Currently I shoot with a Canon 7d, Several L-series lenses (wide, standard, telephoto), and a Manfrotto tripod. I travel pretty light for on-locations shoots. Studio shoots are a whole other story though.
Which area would you like to explore further (macro, landscapes, portraits)?
Definitely portraits. I’ve always loathed shooting people since they are pretty much the only one’s that can mess up a perfectly good shot, but after shooting several celebrities and marketing campaigns this year for clients I’m beginning to appreciate it more.
Where do you see your photography 5 years from now?
As soon as the magazine world began to crash last year with the recession I created my own business, Johnny O Photo & Design, and I have built a solid list of clients that need product photography, portraits, and creative marketing. I’ve literally just opened myself up to encompass all aspects of photography. All of the mechanics are fairly similar no matter what you shoot, it’s just a matter of me refining each individual niche the way I have with automotive photography.
What the best advice you would give to fellow photographers?
Always be reading, always keep on top of new techniques and keep a large social network of photographers around you that DON’T do things the way you do. There are so many combinations to the secret of a great shot that if you pass up a tutorial or technique, you may never find it.