Featured Photographer – E.J. Peiker
This month’s featured pro interview is very informative on many levels, and if you’re not familiar with his work yet, this is a great portal to introduce you. E.J. is one of the most knowledgeable nature photographers out there, from both a technological standpoint and from an artistic one. It was my pleasure to have this talk with him.
Please have a look…
Featured interview: E.J. Peiker
MD: Thanks for taking the time to do this. Can you tell us briefly about your background in photography and computer technology?
EP: In short, I have been an avid photographer since childhood and built it into a business in 2001. I started out with the occasional photo being published and then added the DuckShop Workshops. I have now been published and/or featured in hundreds of publications and my photos are use in advertising, books, business, by the military and more.
My educational background is in Electrical Engineering and Microelectronics/Semiconductor Physics. I have worked for Intel Corporation since 1983 and have been intimately involved in every microprocessor generation since the 80286 and the chipsets that go with them. My positions have included Product Engineer, Yield Improvement Engineer, Process Engineer, Engineering Manager, Manufacturing Manager, Plant Manager, Competitive Benchmarking Manager among others.
MD: Was nature photography always your main focus, or have you spent your own time doing other types of photography with the same passion you’ve tackled with your nature and wildlife endeavors?
EP: I have done just about every kind of photography but nature photography is the one that always draws me back. Even though we, mankind, are doing our best to destroy it, our planet still has so much to offer in natural beauty and I want to see and photograph it all.
MD: Of all the places in the world you’re traveled for photography, which ones gave you the greatest experience?
EP: Wow, there are so many that stand out. Iceland, The Falkland Islands, the Canadian Rockies, etc. I can’t pick just one. They are all fantastic in their own way. I am most in my element in an alpine location though.
MD: What areas of the world that you haven’t traveled to yet are on your “to-photograph” life list, and why?
EP: I have been to every continent except Australia and Antarctica. I will be going to Antarctica at the end of 2010 and Australia in 2011 so those are high on the to do list. But even within every continent I have lists of dozens of places that I would like to get to. I’m afraid I will run out of money and time before I get everywhere I would want to go.
One other one, call me crazy, is that I have a dream to take one of Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic space flights and photograph the Earth from above!
MD: Can you tell us about Naturescapes.net, how it was started and how it has evolved over the years?
EP: Greg Downing, Heather Forcier, and myself, with consultation of a few others started NSN on an August day in 2004. We had talked about it for many years and had done plenty of investigation into it. Some events at another nature Photography site accelerated our entry into NSN but unlike the rumors that we suddenly decided to do this because of the other site are patently untrue. All it did was accelerate our entry into it a few months earlier.
It has evolved on many fronts. We never intended up front to become the place on the internet for technical question answers on digital photography and digital photography computing but I take a lot of personal pride in that we have become exactly that. We have added a store with world class customer service and an array of products that are field tested by us. We don’t sell it unless we would use or do use ourselves.
We have fine tuned the forums over time and we have upgraded software and servers several times as we have grown to get a better user experience. The forums themselves have grown by leaps and bounds and the quality of the content in the forums, photographically speaking is incredible.
MD: Why do you think NSN has built such a tight-knit community of photographers on it’s forums willing to help eachother and share knowledge?
EP: It’s our passion for photography and nature. Like minded people when it comes to this have a home at NSN. While we all don’t agree with each other on everything, we all share a passion for nature photography that is infectious.
MD: You have a very evenly-spread nature photography portfolio which includes landscape, wildlife, birds and macro, whereas many nature photographers seem to lean heavily to one favorite subject matter. Do you have a favorite or prefer one of these genres over the others?
EP: My first and last love is landscape photography, especially alpine landscape photography but I get great joy out of photographing wildlife of all types as well and strive to continually improve in all of them.
MD: Of all the talented professionals coming up in photography, who’s work has most impressed you recently?
EP: f you are talking real young, Chris Kayler is very impressive. He is still in his early 20’s I believe and was already a decorated photographer by the time he left high School. I don’t know the ages of many of NSN’s contributors so I am sure there are others.
MD: Where do you you see camera technology in 5 the next years and how long do you think we will continue to see a ‘megapixel race’ with the DSLR manufacturers?
EP: I hope the megapixel race will slow unless we have some serious breakthrough in sensor design, noise floor levels and so forth. High ISO performance will likely continue to improve but it needs to be done without softening detail which seems to be the current approach at least by some manufacturers. I would like to see continuous real improvement in autofocus tracking – especially of moving subjects against a cluttered background. I think optical viewfinders will slowly become a thing of the past being replaced by electronic viewfinders. The Panasonic G series is a forbearer of things to come here. I think that in some respects, we are at the point where lenses need to catch up with the cameras so I would like to see the major manufacturers concentrate on that – especially on the wide angle end of the spectrum.
MD: Working in the computer industry, what affect has the economic recession had on research and development and how do you see that carrying over into the photography market?
EP: At my company, Intel, none at all. In fact our philosophy has always been to continue to innovate without any abatement during a recession because then when things turn around you have one or two generation ahead products and that equates to better market share and higher margins when things recover. It helps to have a good cash position which enables you to do this. The camera manufacturers have at least seemed to have taken a similar approach on the camera side although I’m not so sure if that’s the case on the lens side. My fear is that they have cut too many corners in testing and quality-control, but time will tell. I’m not sure their strategy to raise prices through the recession has been a wise one, but again time will tell.
MD: How important do you feel social networking services like twitter and facebook are to the success of the modern professional nature photographer?
EP: I’ve changed my tune on this a bit. I was pretty negative on it, calling it a voluntary invasion of privacy but to tell you the truth, I have been having some fun on Facebook with family and direct friends. As I started to get many friend requests from people who I really don’t wish to see my private family and friend interactions, I decided to set up a Facebook Fan page strictly for my photography.
While this hasn’t translated to a lot of sales yet since I just set it up, it has certainly gotten a lot of views. So for me the jury is still out on it from a professional perspective. I’m not sure people knowing my every move on twitter would be very useful but who knows, I changed my opinion of Facebook.
MD: You switched your gear from Canon to Nikon last year and you’ve stated that you’re extremely happy with the results. Do you see Canon coming out with anything in the near future that may make you feel like adopting their products again?
EP: Actually I switched back to Nikon after switching from Nikon to Canon in 2001 due to the lack of IS on Nikon’s long glass. I think on paper the Canon 1D Mark IV is a very compelling product but Canon needs to execute perfectly on it without any initial quality problems for many to regain confidence on the product. Would I switch back? – not likely. I am very happy with Nikon equipment but do wish their prices were a bit lower, availability was a bit better, and warranty policies were a little more consumer friendly.
Nikon does need to fill in their lens lineup in several areas. Canon has a major hole in the line up in not having a quality mid to long zoom like the Nikon 200-400 f/4 VR and that was my major reason for buying some Nikon equipment to begin with. Canon also needs to make much higher quality wide angle lenses throughout their line. The initial quality and durability of Canon gear, specifically lenses, needs to improve. In the 15 months that I have been shooting Nikon I have not had a single repair. With Canon I averaged 3 repairs per year for the last 8 years.
MD: Do you have any workshops or public galleries scheduled in the future?
EP: I have moved my DuckShops to a private model. This allows me to tailor to the exact needs of the client. I am also teaming up with Andy Biggs starting in 2010 to do one to three African Safari leads per year. My first one is a Botswana/South Africa Bootcamp that Andy and I will do together.
MD: What role does nature conservation have in your work? Have you seen an incline or decline in the ethical and conservational actions of other nature photographers in the recent years?
EP: I have been very active in this arena and have worked extensively with State Parks Arizona, The Rio Salado Habitat and donate many hours per year to these entities to help educate the public. I have also donated many images to these and other causes including youth education. I do feel it is important for Nature Photographers to be ambassadors for nature conservation. Not doing so strikes me as hypocritical.
MD: I totally agree. Any closing comments?
EP: Thanks for interviewing me.