Alan Sailer is a high speed photographer. He works as a microwave engineer. Alan is still kind of amazed by all the attention his high speed photography is getting, but has no interest in becoming a full time photographer. He said it would be too stressful. We are very happy we invited Alan to tell us more about his creative time and how take such amazing pictures. It was a great pleasure for us to take an interview with Alan Sailer. Wish you a pleasant reading and viewing of Alan Sailer photography.
AP: Alan, we are very glad to see you here and we hope you will enjoy answering our interview questions we’ve prepared for you. So could please tell me what got you started?
Alan: I started taking photographs with a Brownie box camera in the 1960s. I wanted to get a good picture of my favorite monster model in a realistic setting. I was always disappointed when the photos came back and you could clearly see some piece of unintended background. It was many-many years later before I found out about parallax.
I played around with photography since that time, but I was always afraid to spend a lot of money getting lots of film developed. So I never got any better.
I am not an early adopter, so I waited many years before buying my first digital camera a Nikon point and shoot. After using for a few months, one day I took a picture that really surprised me. It was interesting. After that, I started to get more serious about things.
AP: That’s a good start Alan! Do you have any formal education in photography or were you self-taught?
Alan: I haven’t taken any photography classes. I understand the term self-taught, but it seems to imply that I figured it out all in a vacuum. With all the resources we have around us, other people, the internet and books, it would seem presumptuous to say I was self-taught. So I have learned from all the great resources we all have around us.
AP: Thank you for a great answer. By the way, what genre are your photos?
Alan: The only area of photography that I have gotten any major recognition for is my high speed photography. It is also the most original work I have done, so this is appropriate.
AP: How would you describe your pictures?
Alan: My high speed work is only unusual in that you don’t see much work done at the very fast flash speed I use. I have tried to figure out why this is, since the basic technology was invented by Harold Edgerton back in the early ’60s.
One reason that I can think of is that the flash is rather expensive and hard to work with. I solved the expensive by building my own flash. The hard to work with I can deal with since my job is engineering which requires some patience with balky equipment.
Another reason may be that the people who have access to a high speed flash are mostly engineers who may not have much interest in exploring the aesthetic side of flash photography. In addition to engineering I have spent a lot of my time trying to make art. So I have some idea of how to go about making things look interesting.
AP: Wow, you made your own speed flash…That is fantastic! We are impressed with your high speed photos. How did you come up with idea about taking such pictures?
Alan: The man I mentioned above, Harold Edgerton invented modern high speed strobe photography. In addition Jasper Nance has taken some great images that proved very inspiring.
AP: Alan, what kind of equipment and techniques do you use to take your pictures?
Alan: The core equipment is a very fast flash. Most normal flashes go as fast as 30 microseconds. My flash goes down to one microsecond. It will give a picture of a projectile moving at over 700 feet per second with almost no blur.
The next most important equipment is the flash controller/sensor. This detects the projectile and triggers the flash at the right moment. There are quiet a few controller out there that do a great job at this. Most of my picture sare taken with a home-built unit because I am cheap.
The camera is not very important. I use a Nikon D90, but have used a Nikon D40, Canon XT, Canon G6 and a Nikon F3. The camera must have a manual mode and manual focus. If you want a detailed description of a shoot, I can provide this but it is kind of long and boring.
AP: Which artists do you use for references?
Alan: Harold Edgerton is the baseline. If I could take a photograph as good as a painting by Francis Bacon, then I would be proud to call myself an artist. That isn’t going to happen, so I’ll settle for calling myself a good craftsman.
AP: What is the formula for success in your activity?
Alan: Seriously? W oell in my case, get discovered by a Reddit poster and havene of your photos go viral. Other, than that I don’t have a clue.
AP: Is there someone who supports you in your creativity?
Alan: Once again I am going to sound like an idiot, but my wife, by not complaining about all the time I spend in the garage doing this stuff and not getting upset by the unreal mess this hobby creates in the garage supports me completely. Also, the attention from all the people that like and comment on my pictures. If it wasn’t for this audience I’d have moved on a long time ago.
AP: Tell us three lessons you believe are really important for every photographer?
Alan: The most important rule is to not get wrapped up in the idea that to take the good photographs you need to travel to some far-off place or get some great new camera/lens. Obviously if you want to take photographs of India you have to travel to India.
But don’t kid yourself, there are great photographs waiting to be taken in the very room you are sitting in right now.
Second, it’s useful to take drawing or painting classes. Photography is fast. Press the button and you get results quickly. Painting and drawing force you to slow down and see things. And seeing is essential to photography.
Finally I’ll just repeat a famous quote by a photographer whose name I don’t remember, Get Closer. It’s the best all purpose advice for improving the average photo.
Alan, thank you very much for such interesting story. We are sure your readers will like it much. We would like to wish you continued success, inspiration and many more other great ideas! To learn more about Alan Sailer photography feel free to visit his Flickr page. If you have any comments, feel free to leave them in the comments box.