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Photographer Bryan Elkus: Self Portrait

Apr 18, 2011

Author: words and photos by Bryan Elkus

Bryan Elkus

 "My goals for this year are, the same as every year, to continue shooting and riding as much as possible."

Bryan Elkus just finished redesigning his website, so SBC Kiteboard thought this would make a great opportunity to repost his Self Portrait article from a couple years ago.  Be sure to check out his new website where you can buy some awesome prints, and great coffee table books.

Being able to capture time is what originally drew me to photography. By having an image that shows a particular moment in time, and being able to share that experience with someone else is a pretty special thing if you think about it. Pictures can accomplish many things, they tell stories from trips, sell you a product or take you on an adventure to a place you’ve never been. There seem to be very few mediums that have such a reach.
    If you were to count an elective class in high school as formal training, then that’s the most extensive formal training I have received. To really learn photography you have to go out and shoot constantly. Read websites, post your pictures online and get critiques from others. There is so much information out there, all you have to do is spend the time finding it, learn from it and then build on that knowledge.
    For years I just really enjoyed taking pictures of my friends having fun. From there, I just kept shooting and shooting. I learned to kite a few years ago and it seemed like a natural progression to start shooting kiteboarding. I then took a position at REAL that really helped me make contacts and put me closer to better riders. When you’re out there shooting your friends and getting to ride you can see the excitement come through in the images.
    My first published photo was a snowboarding photo of a couple friends of mine that was run in a local newspaper in Michigan. It was shot with a 35mm film camera during the production of the MidWest What! DVD, a collaborative snowboarding documentary.
    It took a lot of work to start out knowing very little about the industry, but through my work at REAL and advice from other photographers (Tracy Kraft, John Bilderback, Ryan P. and Jerry Chalk), things started to click quickly. Picking up serious gear was the first massive hurdle. Spending tons of money, of which you don’t have, for something you don’t know will work is a tough thing to swallow. Shooting all the time, trying different ideas and experienced riders also helped me progress my photography.
    I don’t think the average person realizes how much work goes into getting a single shot. Most of us are out there on our own time putting in the effort to get a worthy shot. Luckily, I get nearly the same satisfaction from shooting as I do from taking a session. There is such a demand for high quality and unique photography in the industry for kite companies, retailers, magazines and advertisers, but there is very little if any motivation for a photographer to spend the time to get an image as there should be. I do hope that the industry can evolve to allow for some of us to make it a full-time gig, and thus build a healthier marketplace for everyone involved.
    Most of the riders I photograph rock! They are very easy to work with, as they already have an idea of what I’m looking for. With a little direction and a couple takes with these guys/girls you are going to get something good. Most of the riders are excited to get exposure so they are interested and motivated to get that one good shot. The REAL Team has been great to work with riding as much as possible and shooting when the times are conducive.
    My goals for this year are, the same as every year, to continue shooting and riding as much as possible. I am trying to travel more and put more effort into finding new exciting and unique locations. I have some unique shots that I would like to try and get dialed in the coming year. There is still a lot of testing and a bit of gear that needs to be acquired to get these shots dialed in.
    My gear wish list is long. I have what I really need to shoot, keeping in mind that I still have to carry it all. There are a couple more toys that I would like to add to my bag, which are a couple new lenses and a water housing.
    I have really liked working with digital. It’s really helped me to learn quickly because it gives you instant feedback. You can tell what setting you need to change to get the shot right. On the flip side of that, I miss the slower times of spending hours in the darkroom developing pictures. But all in all, I think that digital has been a great innovation and has made the photography market a more interesting place. —Bryan Elkus

Bryan’s Gear
Canon 40D
Canon 70-200mm F/2.8L IS USM
Canon 17-55mm F/2.8 IS USM
Vivitar Flashes and Pocket Wizards
Apple Macbook Pro

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