Ken is an ordinary bloke with an amazing talent to draw exceptional amounts of interest out of a photograph. He is the sort of guy that could inspire you to embrace all the multiple aspects of modern photography to create works to which, perhaps, only a few others ever could - and that’s not done just with good cameras and the right software as you will see soon.
The Brooklyn Bridge at night, Ken Kaminesky
Ken's travel photography started 5 years ago after Getty purchased Jupiter images and removed the Jupiter photographic team and his role as a fashion and commercial lifestyle photographer. With only a small amount of income from other sources Ken quickly realised that a modern photographer needed many sources of income to ensure he could pay the mortgage. Having not travelled much Ken took the opportunity to see what else was in the world and in the initial days as an independent he was shooting fashion in Mexico but the model let him down so he shot the forests and Mayan Muyil ruins instead and combined them into HDR style shots. The resulting images were admired by those around him and this gave Ken his ‘in’ to travel photography which eventually lead him on the road that's now made him a writer, blogger, photo tour leader, brand ambassador, spokesperson, consultant, charity worker and a travel photographer. You could say he has become an entrepreneur in his field and that his motto of 'believe in yourself and take chances' paid-off.
Ken defines his work as 'capturing the big picture of travel icons, natural wonders, architectural marvels and above all, places with a story'. it sounds great but remember there is also a price to pay – crazy hours, poor diet, sometimes little sleep and frequent jet lag but as Ken so accurately put it: "good things don’t happen to those who wait."
Ken's first big break as a travel photographer was from National Geographic who chose a picture of a cathedral he took on the 2nd day in the first city he ever visited in Europe – Paris. The moral for us here is to always be ready and shoot as if we mean it.
Although Ken defines his work around travel icons he also reminds us to stay diverse within our area as that creates interest. In fact, he says the more he shoots the longer the list gets of places he still wants to shoot. Another saying of many photographers is that if you want to take better pictures you need to stand in front of better places!
To succeed you need to network and build a brand as well as take excellent photos. You need to mange social media channels and take general comments into direct messages with prospective clients. Linked in and Google+ are good for Ken for these contacts. Approaches like this now see him working for tourist boards in Jordan, Iceland and leading Asian Elephant charity photo tours in Thailand. He has found the Middle East very welcoming and runs photo tours for women’s charities enabling single women to learn new skills to mange life for themselves. His sharing of these events on his social media network allows all parties to benefit from the extra advertising.
Manarola on the Italian Riviera, Ken Kaminesky
Another tip which is valuable for all photographers is to shoot at the right time of day! This image of Manarola was shot in the 'blue hour'. You will have to get up early and maybe tell your tired self to 'suck it up cupcake,' but you will often get the space all to yourself and the feeling you get from being alone in big spaces could be amazing.
When on your travels, spend the day looking for sites to shoot, ask the locals too, but save the early mornings and evening for tripods and camera work. It’s obvious, but as Ken says: "Don’t shoot hundreds of pictures, just shoot good pictures." This is critical when it come to you brand, throwing in a few mediocre images means that for most viewers with short attention spans they with leave your site and move away to another person.
So as a photographer you have the two blue hours and the two golden hours to shoot, but if you really must shoot during the day – go inside. Ken rarely shoots people in his pictures as it dates the images and quite frankly, most tourists now-a-days are not dressed in great outfits that enhance an image anyway. However, the shot of the Grassmayr Bell Foundry in Innsbruck is really complemented by the inclusion of people and they add to the story the picture is telling. This image and its textures and feelings really give you a sense of the place.
The Grassmayr Bell Foundry in Innsbruck, Ken Kaminesky
Another technique Ken shared was to wait a while when you can before looking at your images as you need to look objectively at them to be sure they are good enough, be prepared to ‘hate so much of what you do’ to make sure that what you do show others is really good.
Another few one-liners are: 'if you don’t ask, you don’t get' and 'it’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission'. The first of these approaches allowed him to shoot inside the Hungarian state Opera House in Budapest on his own with enough time to take all the required shots to process into the amazing image on his website if you’d care to look. The second of these one liners goes with being discrete. You might be chased off of some sites by security but if you already have the shot you won’t care too much. Look on his site for a shot of the Whitehouse which was taken while the cover of a large crowd hid his tripod from security.
Other tips are to do historic research so that you can share something of value textually about the photos you are taking and get a perspective of what made the subject what it is today.
Perspective is everything! As photographers we think we may have this covered off already but this shot of waterfalls in Iceland reminded Ken that perspective is key. They drove past this place not recognising it for what it was. Only after turning round, coming back and getting up close did he see the right perspective to take this shot. These falls are not as large as you might initially think and you need to get close and low for images like this.
Kirkjufellsfoss Waterfalls near Kirkjufell mountain at Grundarfjordur, Ken Kaminesky
When it comes to kit, Ken is no different to many other photographers who always use a tripod (carbon fibre is Ken's choice of material due to weight restrictions) when possible. Other tools he uses include Photomatix,HDR Efex Pro and Photoshop where you may see Ken combining 20 layers or more so he can mask people out. Ken's finding that the Fujifilm X-T1 is much better for travelling than the Canon 5D Mk III based on weight and discreetness although he's still a fan of the 17mm TSE but the Zeiss Distagon 15mm is Ken's favourite lens to date. Another point with Fuji's lenses is that they have an infinity stop which is much preferred than Canon's that go past infinity.
One of the drivers behind Ken's work is the recognition that others give him, not the adulation, but the thanks that come from others who otherwise would not be able to see such sights. Photography sometimes allows others the world over to live vicariously through photographers such as Ken and enrich their lives in the process. To others it encourages them in both daily life and their own photography but no matter their reasons for looking, Ken reminds us to make time for our fans and those that follow our blogs as without them we are diminished.
Of course Ken talked about the sponsor’s G-Tech drives and backups and used the well-known phrase of 'if it’s not in 3 places it does not exist.' He pointed out that solid state disk is now more affordable and often preferable for back-up and I must admit that portable field units like the G-Tech ev220 looked quite useful even to me.
When questioned about HDR vs purist photography styles he said that only photojournalism is relevant for zero post processing, almost all other forms benefit from enhancing the aspects of the image you want to share and the story you want to tell.
Asking himself a question he said: “who is the best photographer?” and answered it with: “whoever is having the most fun.” Ken is a real down to earth person who enjoys making photos that others enjoy and it was a real pleasure to meet him as well as view his work which I hope you will now do via his website:blog.kenkaminesky.com.
Visit theG-Techwebsite for more information on their backupsolutions.
Ken Kaminesky at the Apple store, London. By Stuart Fawcett
Words and Ken’s headshot by Stuart Fawcett (JackAllTog)