Hometown Heroes: Leonardo Carrizo

Hometown Heroes profiles some of the best photographers from the Columbus area, showcasing the photographic talent of our city. 

Photo by Leonardo Carrizo. Canon 5D Mark III with a Canon EF 50mm f/2.5 lens. Shot at f/11 @ 1/160 sec ISO 250.
Photo by Leonardo Carrizo. Canon 5D Mark III with a Canon EF 50mm f/2.5 lens. Shot at f/11 @ 1/160 sec ISO 250.

One of the most interesting things about working in a camera shop is that at any given moment you could be speaking to an absolutely amazing photographer. One of those photographers that you might run into in Midwest Photo happens to be Leonardo Carrizo. Both talented and humble, Leonardo is not only a great photographer, but is also an educator and truly friendly character. For Macro Month, Mr Carrizo was nice enough to talk with me about a project that he has been working on documenting the biodiversity in Ecuador.

Photo by Leonardo Carrizo. Canon 5D Mark III with a Canon EF 50mm f/2.5. Shot at f/8 @ 1/60 sec ISO 125
Photo by Leonardo Carrizo. Canon 5D Mark III with a Canon EF 50mm f/2.5. Shot at f/8 @ 1/60 sec ISO 125

TJH: Leonardo, what is your background in photography?

Leonardo Carrizo: I started doing photography as a hobby while backing in Argentina. Then, during college I became more interested and started doing culture and travel photography in Spain and Mexico. Eventually, I went to Ohio University for graduate school and earned a Masters in Visual Communication and Photojournalism. I did photo internships at the Houston Chronicle and the Columbus Dispatch and freelance for various publications. Now, I teach multimedia journalism at The Ohio State University. During the summers, I lead National Geographic Student Expeditions trips in South America and I work on personal projects.

TJH: Describe why or how you started your work on the biodiversity of Ecuador.

LC: I’m working with the Pontifical Catholic University of Ecuador developing a Master Program and Center for Visual Communication for conservation. I was invited by the university to visit their research station in the Yasuni National Park located in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Part of my visiting included the documentation of wildlife. We hiked the trails around the station and collected insects, reptiles, amphibians and anything else we could catch to photograph.

One of the main reasons to visually document the biodiversity of Yasuni is conservation. Biologists working at the research station continue to learn new things about the environment and discover new species. In this case photography can help distribute the beauty of this environment to a larger audience. Therefore, making people care and hopefully take action in the conservation process.

Photo by Leonardo Carrizo. Nikon D800 with a 105mm f/2.8 lens. Shot at f/36 @ 1/200 sec ISO 400.
Photo by Leonardo Carrizo. Nikon D800 with a 105mm f/2.8 lens. Shot at f/36 @ 1/200 sec ISO 400.

TJH: What piece of equipment was most important to get these shots?

LC: I shoot with Canon but during this trip I also shot with Nikon for some of the macro photographs. The reason is that my colleagues had additions macro lenses that I didn’t have, so I borrowed their gear for some shots. The other important part of this set up is lighting. Lighting is also very important while doing macro wildlife photography. I had two set ups. In the images with the black background I’m using two Nikon flashes.  For the images with the white background I was using an Elinchrom light with Elinchrom Rotalux Octabox.

TJH: What was the biggest challenge of getting studio style photos of wild animals?

LC: The subjects don’t stay still! Photographing frogs that jump out of the frame or snake that slither away every time you press the shutter was actually very funny and frustrating at the same time. You need lots of patience and persistence to get the shot when doing any type of nature photography. In the studio an assistant is very helpful. We would take turns helping the each other. Since the biologists have more experience dealing with the animals, I let them hold the spiders and snakes but eventually you want to try it as well. Lucky I never got bitten!

Photo by Leonardo Carrizo. Nikon D800 with a 105mm f/2.8 lens. Shot at f/25 @ 1/200 sec ISO 400
Photo by Leonardo Carrizo. Nikon D800 with a 105mm f/2.8 lens. Shot at f/25 @ 1/200 sec ISO 400

TJH: Do you have any tips for choosing photo equipment for travel?

LC: It all depends on the location and the type of photography you want to do. Personally, I always have my Canon 5D Mark III a 16-35mm f/2.8, a 50mm f/1.4 and a 70-200mm f/2.8. If I had to choose just one lens I would take the 16-35mm. Most of the time I photograph people and with that lens I can get close to my subjects, use layers and I can also shot landscapes. The other advice I would give is to buy lenses with an aperture of f/2.8 or bigger. They are more expensive but it’s an investment that pays off in the long run.

TJH: How long have you been shopping at Midwest Photo?

LC: I been shopping and just hanging out at Midwest Photo since 1999. I know this because that is the year that I moved to Columbus. The people who work there are simply the best. I can’t count all the times Stu, the founder of Midwest, helped me with gear and advised me when I was young and starting out. I remember him telling me, “Once you learn how to properly use a 35mm then you can think about using other lenses,” now I tell that to my students. I have known Moishe for as many years as well. Jim has also been a constant source of knowledge over the years. Since I began teaching at OSU, he has been a great resource when I need to acquire equipment for the university.

In fact, one of the employers at Midwest Photo, Abdi Roble, became my photography mentor while I was in college. He introduced me to street and documentary photography. Later, he introduced me to an Ohio University professor who encouraged me to apply to grad school after seeing my portfolio and the rest is history. I can honestly say that the people of Midwest Photo have been a strong and positive influence in my entire photography career.

Photo by Leonardo Carrizo. Canon 5D Mark III with a Canon EF 50mm f/2.5 lens. Shot at f/7.1 @ 1/60 sec ISO 250.
Photo by Leonardo Carrizo. Canon 5D Mark III with a Canon EF 50mm f/2.5 lens. Shot at f/7.1 @ 1/60 sec ISO 250.

TJH: What’s next for you and where can we find out more about your work?

LC: I have a busy schedule this summer. I’ll be traveling on-assignments from May to August and I’ll spend all that time between Ecuador and Peru. You can find me at www.leonardocarrizo.com or you can follow me on Instagram! 

In May, I’ll be in Canoa, Ecuador covering the reconstruction and humanitarian aid after the April 16th earthquake. I’ll be embedded with a university aid brigade for about a week. Then, I’ll return to Quito give a four days Storytelling Workshop in Quito.

 Then I’ll travel to Chiclayo, Peru to do conservation and cultural photography. I might do a lecture at the university there as well. From there, I’ll travel to Cusco, Peru to lead a National Geographic Student Expeditions with high school students. Finally, I’ll go one more time to Ecuador and Galapagos to lead another National Geographic Student Expedition.

Leonardo Carrizo
Leonardo Carrizo

Check out for Leonardo’s work at his website here, his Instagram here, and keep your eye out for more photos from him throughout the summer!

TJ Hansen

Photographer at MPEX.com

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