OFF THE GRID: “POWER IN PIXELS”

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They say an image is worth 1,000 words, but what of experiencing the moment, itself, when it’s captured?

Having lived outside the U.S. for nearly four years and traveled to several third world countries one can’t help but be moved, James Holtzapfel states. His most memorable experience to date is his trip to Ethiopia where he witnessed the invitingly warm culture first hand. While in Iraq working alongside Ethiopian comrades who introduced him to their history and native culture he became immersed to the point of learning Amharic, their principle language. This experience would prove useful in breaking down the barriers he encountered when he started taking natural photos of the natives in their communities, an element he strives to capture in his work.

It’s also proven handy in other sticky situations.

“We got stuck in mud, up to the doors in a car at a lakeside area trying to photograph thousands of flamingoes. Only after a group of kids and men showed up to help, were we able to get out of the mess. Lost a few hours, but got some great pictures.”

James’ interest in photography begin in high school, at a time when it was ‘film only’ and you either developed the film yourself or paid a hefty price. His first foray into the digital camera realm, a Canon SX PowerShot, provided a nice range and quality, but the ability of the auto-focus was limited. Today, he enjoys the accessibility and control technology provides photographers. “Being able to share some of the beautiful and amazing things that exist in our world, capturing a portrait that distils the essence of my subject, (the) satisfaction when others appreciate my work and share appreciation for the subjects,” are all elements he enjoys about photography.

With better equipment (James currently uses a DSLR Canon 7D, a few L series lenses, a 24-70mm f/2.8L and a 70-200mm f/2.8L IS) he’s able to use his photography to capture compelling moments and as a means to aid in a matter close to his heart, making more clean water available in developing countries.

The Internet is another powerful tool of which to make good use.

With it, there is no excuse for anyone not to research a destination and brush up on cultural customs, before experiencing more of what life has to offer. “’Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.’ This is one of my favorite quotes from Samuel Clemens, and I truly believe it,” James says.

To the newly enthused world-traveling photographer, James advises you to pack only the essentials and anticipate possible weather extremes. Storage options are considered a luxury, when available, so weight and size are crucial. He also recommends only booking a hotel room for the first few nights since you can find lodging once on site at a much better rate than online. Always pay attention to your surroundings, trust your gut, and drink bottled water. A waterproof bag for gear, extra batteries and storage cards, notepads and pens, and a lens cleaning cloth should come in handy.

James prefers to shoot at daybreak or evening, the “Golden Hours” and recommends using an ND filter or fast shutter speeds for mid-day shots. He’s working to have his website up this fall to share his ever growing collection from his world travels.

Next Three Goals:

  1. Acquire a new Fuji XT2 camera and lenses (it’s about half the size and weight of the DSLR and makes a huge difference when packing)
  1. Plan more trips based on location, and that will provide photographic experiences geared towards his style and interests
  1. Find an overseas job that will allow him to travel to various off the grid locations, if possible with the Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) doing water projects

 

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