Phoblographer: You’ve said that photography “came from inside”. Was it practiced at all in your family, or did you pick it up on your own?
Charles: Although I did not know him well, my 2nd cousin’s dad was one of the lead photographers for the NY Times. My cousin was an excellent photographer in his own right, even working with Eugene Smith helping to print his Minamata story. So I guess photography was in my DNA. My photography interest grew strong after taking a high school photography and darkroom class.
Phoblographer: Who influenced you in the early years of your photographic career?
Charles: My career started with wedding and portrait studio photography on the Gold Coast, LI, NY. I was fortunate to initially work with two PPA Master Photographers: Vincent LoGerfo, and Ron Monte. I learned a lot those years; how to see and understand light… quantity, quality, ratios, direction, etc. The information garnered both in and out of the studio was fundamental to my becoming a successful professional.
However, it was always the conceptual advertising and commercial images of Pete Turner, Eric Meola, Jay Maisel, and others that intrigued me the most. Taking an image from concept and layout to the printed page really got my creative juices flowing. And it is this process that still drives me today. Working with photographer Don Landwherle greatly expanded my creative horizons. My creative process and meticulous attention to every detail is a testament to his mentoring, and I am most grateful.
Elliot Porter, Carr Clifton, and David Muench provided the compositional inspiration I still use today when designing landscape images.
Art Wolfe and Tom Mangelsen’s images allowed me to see animals artistically presented in locations I dreamed of visiting.
Underwater photographers David Doubilet and Chris Newbert provided countless images of inspiration from a world few have ever seen.
John Shaw and Joe McDonald provided the metering fundamentals and many of the techniques I still rely on today when photographing wildlife.
Artie Morris continues to inspire thousands with his “Birds as Art” images and instruction.
Phoblographer: There are similarities between wildlife photography and street photography in that there is a compete lack of control and you are looking for that “decisive moment” as Bresson so aptly put it. How long did it take you to develop your creative vision and ability to recognize decisive moments in nature?
Charles: The more time I spend afield with a particular subject, the better. Understanding animal behavior is paramount to consistently producing successful wildlife imagery. Being proactive instead of reactive is a huge part of the “luck favors the prepared” strategy. If you can see the image in your mind, and figure out the tools and techniques to apply to render the image as desired before depressing the shutter, you are way ahead of the game.
Phoblographer: What are some of your favorite places to photograph?
Charles: Africa, the Falklands, Alaska, Japan, and I am captivated by the Arctic and its wildlife.
Phoblographer: You’ve said that fly fishing is a great stress reliever, that it allows you to commune with nature with nothing else distracting you. Has that stillness, that connection, affected your approach to wildlife photography?
Charles: I think it is more the opposite, the methodical approach I have for wildlife photography has carried over to my fly fishing, the process leading to the reward.
Phoblographer: There are a number of risks when it comes to wildlife photography. Have you ever had any situations where you had to abandon the shot in favor of safety?
Charles: I am very careful when taking images, trying not to put the subject or myself at risk. I maintain a very watchful eye, carefully observing the subject’s behavior when photographing. I try to diffuse any anxiety as soon as recognized. That said, in truth when photographing alone I have at times put myself in situations I do not care to repeat.
Phoblographer: What advice can you give to fledgling wildlife photographers?
Charles: Number one, if you want to be successful you must have a business plan. Spend as much time in the field as possible. Study with someone whose work you admire. And, garner as much information about the digital photographic process–composition and post production–as possible from online resources etc.
Phoblographer: Where do you want to go next?
Charles: Bears are my favorite subject to photograph. Kamchatka Peninsula, Russia for brown bears is definitely on my must do list.
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