Alex Lake is a very talented and professional photographer. He’s been living in Los Angeles since he was about 6 years old. Alex is an artist as well as a nerd. He watches hardly any TV, but loves movies. Alex loves socializing and getting things done. He also plays the ukulele: not terribly well but enough to entertain. Alex told us he could solve a Rubik’s cube in less than 2 minutes. It was a great pleasure for us to take an interview with Alex Lake and learn some exciting facts of his biography. Enjoy reading the interview and viewing of Alex Lake photography.
AP: Alex, thank you very much for finding the time to share your story with us. It’s a great honor for us. Please tell us what got you started?
Alex: I was about 14 when I got my first camera from my father. He was always a family photographer and when he gave it to me; he told me that he was turning the job over to me. I started taking pictures of my family which evolved quickly into friends and then into whatever I could find. I was burning through rolls of film and learning the rules of photography as I went.
One day while I was at school I took a shot of a flower, something simple like a daisy. It was the first time I’d played with throwing the rest of the picture out of focus, singling out the subject. I loved that shot and after that I quickly got addicted to finding more beautiful subjects.
AP: This is an amazing start! Do you have any formal education in photography or were you self-taught?
Alex: A mix of both. Once I started pursuing photography seriously I bought a few books on the subject that caught my eye. After a year or so I enrolled in the New York Institute of Photography. I got all of the course materials and tore through the first lessons on film theory, basic understanding of a camera, the fundamental rules of composition, etc. But once I got into specific subjects my mind wandered. Although I never finished the curriculum, it gave me a very solid grounding in photography theory and history.
Since then it’s mainly been a study of my favorite photographers, their work and picking up whatever books strike my fancy about it.
The one book I recommend to every photographer starting out is The Basic Guide to 35mm Photography. I would ESPECIALLY recommend it to those who think they should just go digital without ever learning a manual camera. It will teach you everything you need to know about how to use a camera.
AP: Great, thank you for your piece of advice. I am sure photographers will find it useful. Alex, what genre are your photos?
Alex: An amalgam of things, really. When it comes to art photography I go all over the place.
I’ve done a series on light-painting which is very abstract, as well as a macro series on nature. I’m currently on my underwater project, which is an extension of the portraits and fashion photography that I do commercially. I think that any photographer needs to find their personal style to find out what genre they’ll work best in. Personal style is your trademark and your expression and is superior to what genre you work in.
AP: Your underwater photography is fantastic! How did you come up with the idea to start working on series of underwater photography?
Alex: I started shooting underwater at first as a side project and something new to learn and experience. After about 3 or 4 shoots I started looking over the work and noticed that there was a very ethereal and elegant pattern and style to it that I fell in love with.
It reminded me of fantasy photography but with the unique quality of being underwater. I started titling my favorite works and created the series Beneath the Surface, which I’ve been working on it for the last year.
AP: How would you describe your underwater pictures?
Alex: The words I would mainly use to describe the photos are fantasy, elegance and surrealism. My favorite pieces are always the ones that leave the context to the viewer’s imagination and take them further than just a girl underwater.
The idea is to put you in the middle of a story when you look at one of the photos, to let your mind fill in the blanks of what’s happening. Some are tragic and sad, others are magical, some are serene and others a little disturbing, but in every one of them I aimed to create a photograph that the viewer gets to contribute their own fantasy to.
AP: We think you’re absolutely good at it! What is your favorite piece so far?
Alex: That’s VERY hard to say. I wouldn’t say so far, but my favorite piece currently is this one.
I always fall in love with my newest new images, but I fall back in love with the old ones as I keep building the series as a whole.
AP: What a beauty! Which artists do you use for reference?
My current top 5 photographers (in no particular order) are:
- Ansel Adams
- Henri-Cartier Bresson
- Vivian Maier
- Brooke Shaden
- Jerry Uelsmann
I’ve always been influenced by Adams and Bresson and I fell in love with Maier’s work when she was discovered a few years back. Brooke Shaden and Jerry Uelsman I learned about more recently after a trip to the Annenburg Space for Photography.
I follow a lot of Brooke Shaden’s work at the moment, as her style and vision helps inspire my own creativity and particularly so with Beneath The Surface.
AP: Great that those artists inspire you and you can learn something new from them! What kind of equipment and techniques do you use to take your underwater pictures?
Alex: I shoot with a Canon DSLR. I was on a 40D when I started but I’ve upgraded to a Canon EOS 5D Mark II. I’ve used all manner of lenses for this project, from super wide to telephoto. I’ve found my favorites to be my 50mm and 100mm prime lenses.
To be able to shoot underwater I use a Dicapac underwater bag. Many underwater photographers have housings but the bag is a cost-effective way to be able to shoot underwater, and it provides excellent results.
For shooting at night underwater, Constant hot lights work well when placed outside the pool at the right angle. As close to directly down into the water as possible will give you the best results. I edit my photos mainly in Adobe Lightroom, enhancing and correcting color, correcting exposure and contrast which is very low from shooting through water.
I’ll use Photoshop if necessary to remove things when shooting in pools like filters or leaves, although most of that can be done in Lightroom as well.
Shooting underwater tends to yield a lot of blurry and dark images, so shooting a lot helps in this case. Generally I’ll get about 50 useable images out of 500, and of those only a select few become final images.
AP: You do very precise job, but it’s worth it. What is the formula for success in your activity?
Alex: Put your work out there. I’ve seen success come to different artists in different ways, but the one ingredient that is always involved is promoting and showing your work. Art shows, exhibitions, contests, art fairs, agents, e-mails, online, anything. The truth of the matter is that there isn’t one surefire way to success, but a surefire way to stay unknown is to keep your work to yourself, to “wait until it’s perfect”, or to decide against submitting because it might not be what they’re looking for.
I know that doesn’t work because I’ve tried it. Be excited about your art, get others excited about it and if they’re not, don’t let it phase you even for a second. You may be told no a 100 times before you’re told yes, and many of the legends in their fields were. The only real way to fail is to stop trying.
AP: Is there someone who supports you in your creativity?
Alex: All of my loved ones push and support me: my family, my girlfriend, my friends and other photographers who I’ve met. It’s important to know and work with others in your field and not to segregate yourself or cut yourself off from your industry or your market.
I follow the rule of ‘You Get What You Give’. I always do whatever I can to help other artists and other people. You’ll find that the more help you give, the more you’ll get, not the other way around.
AP: Who is one person you would like to see interviewed on AstrumPeople?
Alex: There are too many to name! Tami Bahat is a photographer I know with style and concepts like none I’ve ever seen. She is a friend and an incredible artist who inspires me in my work as well.
AP: Thank you for recommending us Tami Bahat. We will definitely contact her. Could you give any piece of advice for those who try to discover their talent and cultivate it?
Alex: Do what you love. There’s no point in pursuing a life as an artist if you’re not going to make the art you want.
Art is a communication from you to the people out there; it’s expression and voice in a physical form. Don’t let someone tell you that your voice is too loud, that your pitch is off or that you’re saying the wrong things. It’s not their voice, it’s yours.
Find your voice however you can, make mistakes and learn to use it well and learn to say what you want and need to say. Never stop learning because knowledge is power, and your art is as powerful as the knowledge and meaning you put into it.
Alex, thank you very much for sharing such creative, truly inspiring story. I am sure your readers will love it. We wish you brilliant success, continued inspiration and many more creative ideas! To learn more about Alex Lake photography please visit his personal website or Facebook page.
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