We love our local photographers. Their accomplishments never cease to impress us. They are proof that Columbus is a great city for photographers. Hometown Heroes highlights a Columbus photographer that we think is doing amazing work.
Local photographer Aaron Sheldon has been graciously helping us plan and lead our photo walks this summer, and he’s been doing a fantastic job. We recently spent several hours, among the hubbub of the Columbus Arts Festival, Gladys Knight performing at Columbus Commons, and Wicked playing at the Ohio Theater, photographing the nighttime sights of downtown Columbus, and on July 13 Aaron will be guiding us around the Ohio State campus for our Mirror Lake Photo Walk. Check out Aaron’s pictures of OSU’s campus below, followed by a brief interview about infrared photography and photo walks, plus more of Aaron’s awesome images. And make sure to check out Aaron’s website.
MPEX: When did you start taking photos? What made you decide to get into photography? Did you study photography formally, or are you self-taught?
Aaron Sheldon: In 2006, when my wife graduated with her Masters Degree at OSU, I was frustrated that I wasn’t able to get good images at the ceremony in a dark auditorium with the camera’s auto setting. I started teaching myself by getting books out of the library that explained exposure, aperture and ISO. I got my first Digital SLR in 2007 and started following the blogs of David Hobby, Joe McNally, Zack Arias (and many others) and assisting other photographers in and around Columbus. As I progressed, I became frustrated with the lack of professional feedback that is part of being self-taught, so in 2011 I enrolled in Columbus State’s Digital Photography Program, and in the summer of 2012 I completed the Digital Photography Certificate Program there. I continue to learn new techniques through Kelbytraining.com and Creative Live, and by continuously studying the work of other photographers.
What appeals to you about infrared photography? Has infrared photography always been a specialty of yours, or is this more of a recent (can I say it?) obsession?
I first tried infrared shortly after getting my first DSLR in 2007. I was looking for ways to add impact to my images while spending as little money on new gear as possible. I stumbled upon some digital infrared images on FLICKR (the standard fantasy look with white leaves and grass and crazy blue skies). While not a fan of that specific look, I took a chance and bought an infrared filter off of eBay and set out to see what I could do with it.
From the beginning I was hooked on the contrast possible with infrared capture thanks to the sharp falloff of light that occurs in the infrared spectrum. Basically, if the sun is not hitting part of the subject either directly or by reflection, that part will be dramatically darker than the areas that are illuminated. As a fan of Black & White, I realized that infrared was a great way to add a new level of visual interest to my images.
After a lot of experimenting, and being fed up with the long exposures required when using an external filter, I had a Canon 50D converted so that it would only capture infrared light. That allowed me to use much faster shutter speeds while still only capturing infrared light. It was then that my success with infrared images really took off. I would shoot just about anything in infrared because I could. I decided to do the opposite of what was normal in the medium. I would photograph on dark cloudy days, at night, and even indoors, with great results.
I wouldn’t call it an obsession, per se, but recognition (and sales) early in my photography career based on my infrared work definitely made me take it more seriously than I would have if I had just kept taking the same boring white grass/blue sky images that infrared is famous (or infamous) for.
You’ve been planning and leading our photo walks this summer, in addition to your duties each summer as the Columbus leader for the Scott Kelby Photo Walks. What, in your opinion, makes a good photo walk? What do you look for when planning your routes? And what do you like about leading these walks?
I think that a diverse group based on experience level is important for a successful walk. I always encourage walkers to offer assistance and just talk to each other throughout the walk. I’ve led walks where half of the attendees are fairly new to photography while the other half is made up of pros who do commercial, wedding, and motor-sports photography, who never have the time to just go out and shoot creatively for fun. Getting that mix of skill level definitely makes for a successful walk.
I always try to pick an area that will appeal to several different types of photographers. I’m drawn to parts of town that have a mix of visual interest, is easy to navigate and friendly to a large group of pedestrians. I am also a believer in supporting local business and events and I usually try to end each walk at a location where the group can get a bite to eat or a drink and discuss the walk. For the MPEX walks I have been able to plan the walks around local events such as the North Market Farmers Market, Columbus Arts Festival and the Moonlight Market so that, after walking the area as a group the attendees can go and explore on their own in an area filled with opportunities for great images and support local businesses at the same time.
As far as what I like about leading the walks? I like to see how, on every walk, whether its 5 or 50 photo walkers, each walkers images are so different from one another. Photo walks sometime get a bad rap from creatives that believe people who go on photo walks aren’t encouraged to see creatively when walking and capturing images as a group. From my experience of sharing images with and judging the images of walk participants I can honestly say that creative photography is alive and well on photo walks and I think it is because of the free exchange of ideas and experiences of those who attend. Also, I love the looks on peplos faces when they see 50 people with cameras walking together through the Short North on a Saturday morning. That always gets a great reaction.