Behind the iScreen with Dan Cole
Behind the iScreen with Dan Cole by Bridgette S.
I had the pleasure of meeting with Dan to talk about photography and life in general a few weeks ago. We grabbed a coffee over in Pioneer Square and then decided we should meet again for a proper photo shoot in Olympic Sculpture Park.
Being that we live in the same city [ Seattle ], I figured we should do something different and give you all a behind the scenes footage.
You will notice two photos: the top, larger photo with title is Dan’s photo along with his edit and the bottom thumbnail image is the pic I snapped while standing behind him - paparazzi style ; ]
He also provides us with insight on his thought process and editing techniques along with each image. A real treat!
I have asked Dan a few questions which are noted in the end but if you’re curious to read more about him please feel free to check out “Interview with Instagram Legend: Dankhole Part 1” on instagram talk and “How I Shoot: @dankhole” on the Instagram blog.
Aside from being an exceptional photographer he’s also a very kind, down to earth kind of guy – someone who you would enjoy hanging out with too… Seattle is lucky to have him!
Shooting: At the edge of Sculpture Park there’s a concrete “S” on the ground. As we approached, I noticed how perfect the curves and lines were. I really liked the clean manmade lines against the natural green grass. I chose a top down shot to isolate the elements that you see here. The energy of the diagonal lines coming in from out of frame and swooping right into the circular curve are what really drew me to these shapes.
Editing: I began in Snapseed by rotating and cropping this to align the top arc to be straight, from tip to tip, and allow the line that goes jetting out to hit the corner exactly. From there, I added a little contrast, desaturated, and added a touch of “structure”. I followed up with a few minor edits in VSCO Cam – Fill, bumped up one notch. Desaturated some more. Added a vignette, only the smallest amount. And finally, applied Fade, just one step. I like to use Fade sparingly as you can quickly lose contrast in your images.
Shooting: I was drawn to the specular highlights reflecting off the side of this particular weathered steel piece of the Wake. I was most interested in the curved shape made by the leading edge, and I played around with the positioning on my screen, until I found an arc I liked. Going left or right even a few feet, the curve would disappear.
Editing: My first step is always cropping. Using the rule of thirds, I placed the tip right on the intersection where two of the thirds would meet. This positioning allowed the primary shape of the metal, some breathing room within the frame of the shot. It’s important to pay attention to how close points or curved edges get to the edge of the frame. Tangencies, where arcs or points touch the edge of the frame, create unwanted tension for the viewer. Next, I increased the contrast and desaturated the colors. I also applied just a little mid-tone contrast using “structure” in Snapseed. From there I took the image into VSCO Cam. I started by tinting the highlights yellow by one step, and reducing the saturation some more. I finished the edit by applying a slight vignette and bumping the fade up one or two notches. My inspiration for this edit comes from my friend @resonate. She took some amazing shots in Joshua Tree earlier this year that had the most beautiful low saturation/high contrast look.
Shooting: I saw the metal side of the PACCAR Pavilion as I arrived and knew I would have to shoot it before the day was over. Our photo walk began on the west side of the park, under cloudy skies but by the time we worked our way to the east end, the sun had come out and rich blue skies shined through. The slight corrugation in the side of the building made for very interesting highlights and reflections. It was so bright, it was hard to look up at it. I sat on the sidewalk and took my time, aligning the roof line and perspective of the corrugated metal. I took about 10 – 15 shots from different distances and waited for clouds to pass, to see how their location would effect the reflection. Another aspect that I like to incorporate into my symmetrical shots, whenever possible, is a bit of asymmetry. The clouds in this shot do just that.
Editing: I chose this shot because of the interesting circular nature that showed up in the reflection. It almost had a tunnel-like feeling to me. In Snapseed, I made sure the photo was straight and cropped 50/50 to maximize the tunnel effect of the blue sky. Here again, I darkened the image, increased the contrast and desaturated the color. In VSCO Cam, I desaturated further and added just a touch of Fade.
B: Bridgette D: Dan
B: For those who are reading about you for the first time, tell us a little bit about yourself. What do you do in your spare time? Where did you grow up? Who or what has inspired your photography?
D: In my spare time I enjoy good food, and drink (coffee & Beer). I turned off the TV years ago and now devote that time to learning about things that interest me. One of those, is definitely photography. I also enjoy going on long drives, whether that’s in my car or on my motorcycle. I grew up all over the west coast. I was born in California, moved shortly after to southern Oregon. My father was in construction so we next found ourselves in Hawaii, where I attended grade school, then back to SoCal before finally settling in Washington, where I’ve lived since High School. I believe most of my inspiration has come from my career as a video game artist and before that, an avid fan of animation and illustration. I’ve always been interested in art and I think the time I spend enjoying it and working with it has influenced the way I see. As far as specific people who’ve inspired me, there are many – Matthias Heiderich, Cole Rise, Zack Arias, Jeff Newsom, James Jean, and Shoji Kawamori.
B: What have you been up to since the Darkroom Series? In your interview with Instagram Talk, you mentioned you were on a break from work. Is this still the case or are you back in action?
D: During the the time of the Darkroom Series gallery show, I was taking a short sabbatical from the game industry. I quit my job after spending the last 5 years as a special effects artist to focus on photography and taking care of those things you never get time to do while you’re working. It was a good to have that time. It certainly allowed me more time to post on Instagram. I think I was sharing 3-4 shots a day. That level of practice and exercise really helps train your eye and teaches you what’s successful and what doesn’t work. My time off definitely had to come to a close and I was fortunate to find myself at a new company in downtown Seattle, working with my friends, who’ve I’ve know throughout my 14 year career.
B: Congratulations on having been listed on the Instagram suggested user list. You’re close to 100,000 followers now, how do you keep up? How has this impacted the activity in your feed? Do you find that at times it’s just overwhelming?
D: Thank you, it’s a huge honor for me to be recognized by the Instagram team, who have created a space for visually creative people to express themselves and share our work quickly and easily. I also appreciate being able to discover a community of friends and people who inspire us, and allow us to so communicate so closely with them. I find it increasingly hard to keep up. The transition has not been easy, I was used to interacting with everyone I follow and replying to everyone’s comments. Between work and the increase in volume that has become next to impossible. I don’t know that it’s impacted the style or subject matter of my feed but it certainly has had an effect on how much I’m able to interact with my IG friends. I appreciate the time everyone takes to leave comments, it really means a lot to me.
B: You mentioned that you’ve found yourself editing less, why do you feel this is so?
D: Starting out, I think I tended to lean more heavily on edits. This was probably a combination of not knowing which direction I wanted to take my work, and being exposed to so many new apps all at once. Over time you find what you like to shoot and for me that has meant simplifying the image. Whether that’s focusing in closely on details or finding the right wide open scene. I strive for the visual interest of the photograph to be clear to the viewer. That means keeping the frame clear of distracting elements, finding the right point of view is critical. Another way I’ve simplified is to spend more time taking the right photo so that there’s less that needs to be done in post. This allows me to strive for the visual elements to be the goal instead of the editing. In the end, this feels more pure to me.
B: Approximately how long do you take to edit a photo and at which point do you give up if it’s just not turning out the way you’d like it to. In which case, do you tend to leave the photo alone or do you return to it at a later date?
D: I will tend to spend anywhere between 5 – 25 minutes on a photo. Some of them already know what they want to be and they go quickly, the editing choices seem automatic. Others, I have to force. It’s at that point where I can quickly reach a point of diminishing returns. If I find myself reloading the image time after time to make single digit adjustments, I know there’s no hope. Once I have written a photo off, it’s gone for good. I will likely never return, except maybe to learn from it.
B: Have you been using any new apps? Which are your favorites at the moment?
D: The newest app that I’ve been using is VSCO Cam. I have a folder of photo apps on the front page of my phone that are my go-to apps. My favorites are: VSCO Cam, Snapseed, Diptic, AvgCamPro, and Retouch.
B: If you could travel to any place in the world where would you go and why?
D: Iceland and Yosemite are both high on my list. And I would go specifically to photograph them. I would even consider taking my SLR. Another place/subject that interests me is visiting manufacturing plants like, Boeing up here in Washington or a craft brewery in California. I think it would be fun to do some imagery/branding for them in my style.
B: If you could revisit a place and see it through an iPhone lens where would you go and why?
D: In my personal life, I would like to go back to the top of Mauna Kea in Hawaii, it was such an incredible foreign landscape. If I could choose any where in time, I would go back to the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge or the World Trade Center, and document the building process on Instagram.
B: What’s your motto when it comes to instagramming? What are your personal dos and donts?
D: Share what interests you. It may not seem like it but your work tells people a lot more about you than you might think. Personal do – I always straighten my photos. Personal don’t – I don’t post anything I’m not proud of.
Dan Cole is a Seattle-area photographer. Dan was educated at the Art Institute of Seattle and University of Washington, and has worked as an artist in the video game industry for 14 years. He has been pursuing photography since June of 2005, and has been an active member of the Instagram community since October of 2010. When not on Instagram, Dan spends his time trying to avoid shooting weddings.
*****@dankhole on twitter / dankhole.tumblr.com / @dankhole on Instagram