All images by Spencer Pablo. Used with permission.
“I found I earned my sleep if I got to exercise both hemispheres of my brain—the analytical side and the creative side,” explains photographer Spencer Pablo to us in an interview. The former Sony Artisan has taken to stretching his creative muscles recently. With Photoshop’s new Sky Replacement tool, Spencer decided to have some harmless fun. He got these images done this past weekend, and decided to get them out there on the web while they were still relevant. The photos involve switching the skies out using a scene with a Baby Trump balloon. Arguably, they’re a perfect fit.
The Essential Gear of Photographer Spencer Pablo
I shoot Sony. Always have (since they picked up Minolta), likely will for the foreseeable future. For this set, I used the a-mount 135mm Zeiss (STILL my favorite lens, though I rarely use it since it’s incredibly slow on the e-mount). It was mounted on the a7III. I was in between family photo sessions on the beach and saw that the baby Trump balloon was floating around. I even took out my drone and played around with it.
The reason that 135mm is one of my favorites, despite the slow speed, is because when it nails focus, it’s glorious. It’s sharp and soft in all the ways I want, it’s not loaded with an anti-glare coating like the new stuff—so it sometimes gets that beautiful glare and it’s not too sterile. The reason I started shooting Sony is because they bought Minolta. If I wanted to upgrade my body or lenses, the a-mount would continue only if I shifted to Sony. I was worried at first, since I wasn’t sure if the company that makes my Walkman knew anything about taking pictures. Luckily, I was wrong. However, I held off on the e-mount for as long as I could. The SLT cameras that Sony had (a33, a55) that were the precursors to the (maybe still manufactured) Sony a99 II and added some slick autofocus in live view that I had never experienced in any other system. As you know, it’s even crazier today—smooth video, fast focus, all that. Eventually, I adopted e-mount and haven’t looked back.
Phoblographer: How did you get first into photography?
Spencer: Man…I remember when my mom bought me a film camera from a department store when I was in 5th grade. I visited a zoo with my class with this cool red film camera and 24 exposures likely filled with gorillas and giraffes. It was fun—but I never thought about photography like I do today. Fast forward many years later, neck-deep in my computer science degree, I had to find a way to balance the stresses of being a full-blown nerd. Walking around and trying my hand at capturing everything, clearing my head behind a viewfinder was how I slowed my mind down. (As an aside—that was with the grand-daddy Casio QV-10 camera—you’ll need to google that one). Eventually, I found I earned my sleep if I got to exercise both hemispheres of my brain—the analytical side and the creative side. My skills grew as did my gear list. Photography played a big role in how I proposed to my wife, but I’ll save that for another day when you and I can sit down with a beer when it’s safe to do so again.
Phoblographer: We know you’re having fun here. But how did the idea of using the sky replacement tool with baby Trump come about? This isn’t all photoshop compositing, is it? It’s pretty hysterical.
Spencer: So today, I do landscape photos, family sessions, teach workshops, and even work in the plus-sized industry. Often times, my family and I will go on trips with the intent of just taking pictures. My daughter’s Christmas present a couple years ago was an a6000—and she will often grab it after seeing her dad take pictures of everything, photographing her toys or her rabbit. We would typically fill our summers with travels all across the United States; but in the pandemic environment, we picked up a camper and are finding ourselves doing quick trips around the state.
Speaking of which, with me canceling most of my year’s shoots, I was left with a bunch of time to cull and edit the photos I haven’t seen in years. Going through some of my images from a couple years ago, I came upon the set from that faithful day on the beach in San Diego. I really try to avoid getting into politics on my primary social media, so really having this set of the Trump balloon on the beach wasn’t really important and time-critical for me to edit. So it fell into a low-priority album in Lightroom. With Adobe’s newest Photoshop features rolling out, I thought it would be fun to revisit images that I didn’t really share before—this time with different skies. Then I came upon the set of Trump balloon images and now you see what we have today. I figured it would be cool to share them before they lost any type of relevance. But let’s face it; so long as Trump has access to Twitter…