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Focus on Fujifilm • Ken Kaminesky

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Ken Kaminesky is a veteran commercial travel photographer, Fujifilm Global Ambassador, writer, consultant and entrepreneur with over twenty years of experience in the photography industry. His work has been featured worldwide in numerous commercial and editorial publications

How would you describe your artistic style?
I’d like to think that the images I create pay tribute to the places, animals and people that I photograph. I take great care to select the images that move me and make them look as good as possible (to my eye) with some editing on the computer.

Taking the photograph is simply the first step for me and I like to take time between taking the photograph, selecting the top picks and, finally, the post-processing that I do.

I don’t like to classify what I do as any particular ‘style’ as I believe that should be left to others to do, not me. As I continue to explore new subject matter, new destinations and new horizons, I’d like to think that I am evolving and getting better with my craft. So long as the photographs I take touch people in a visceral way, I am pleased. Sharing the beauty of the world with people is my true ambition. As I continue my travels I fall deeper in love with this wonderful planet and all the awesome personal discoveries I make on the journey. There is enough sharing of bad news and horrible things that go on in our world, so I prefer to look at the beauty, kindness and awesomeness that surrounds us.

How did you get started as a pro photographer?
The truth of the matter is that I wanted to meet girls! In the early nineties, when I first got serious about photography, my sister was modelling in Europe and Japan and I was quite taken with the lifestyle and gorgeous people that I saw in fashion magazines. I remember writing (actual letters with pen and paper) to her while she was away and reading her stories about parties with rock stars and other celebrity types and I thought that was really cool. So, after a year off from college to figure out what I truly wanted to do, I decided to go back to college and study photography. My intentions were to use this as a base to then make the jump to cinematography. After two years in school I began working as an assistant to several Montreal-based fashion photographers. I found that I was learning more from them than I would if I had continued in school. It then made sense for me to continue working as an assistant and get some
photography jobs on the side.

After my assisting days ended I began doing test shoots for models from some modelling agencies in Montreal and Miami, opened-up a photo studio and the rest is history.

I have jumped around in my photography career and moved on from fashion to commercial lifestyle stock photography and, finally, to travel and landscape. My main concentration now is running Discovery Photo Tours where I get the chance to take small groups of passionate amateur photographers with me to places like Japan, Tanzania, Italy, Iceland, Jordan and more.

Why did you switch to Fujifilm?
I was one of the first pro-shooters that jumped on the Fujifilm bandwagon, back when they launched the XE-1 and, in hindsight, it was a leap of faith that I am happy I took. As a Fujifilm Global Ambassador and X-Photographer, I could get my hands on new Fujifilm gear and give feedback to the engineers in Tokyo. It was exciting to see that many of my ideas were implemented in firmware updates and new product launches. Not only did the Fujifilm team listen to me but to many other photographers who also had great ideas. That made a huge difference to me. Knowing that they valued my input was rewarding and made me feel part of an awesome team of technical engineers, artists and business people.

After years of lugging around heavier DSLRs, using a smaller, lighter mirrorless system like the FUJIFILM X Series made sense. It took a little time to make a complete switch and it was the X-T2 that truly convinced me that I no longer needed to use a DSLR. I was fortunate to be selected as one of the first people to get a pre-production X-T2 and, right out of the box, I was blown away.

I was running a photo tour in Italy and, on the very first shoot on the first day of the tour, I took out my brand-spanking new X-T2 and captured one of my favourite images that I have ever taken. We began this tour at the Roman Forum at sunrise and were blessed to have a great sky full of beautiful clouds that made the moment pure magic. The X-T2’s dynamic range and brilliant color rendition helped make this image even better than I had hoped. Now that the GFX is a reality, I am sold on the mirrorless concept. I took a GFX with me to Norway and was stunned at the incredible high-quality files that came out of this camera. The detail that the GFX captures is quite literally insane. If anyone ever had a concern about megapixels or about enlarging files from a mirrorless camera, Fujifilm put those concerns to rest when they announced the GFX at Photokina in 2016.

Is there a noticeable difference in your workflow (field and post) using the Fujifilm system?
I handhold more than ever before with the lighter Fujifilm bodies like the X-Pro2 and X-T2 and that makes my life much easier when shooting people, cultural and wildlife imagery.

After getting into the Fujifilm X-Series, I rediscovered my love of photographing people. Places like China, Vietnam and Tanzania all offered me the chance to get interesting photos of people with such abundant character and having my X-Pro2 to shoot from the hip, has made it easier and more fun to capture these types of images.

In post, I have been very impressed with the dynamic range of the X Series RAW files but even more so with the GFX RAW files. That, in itself, is a big deal to someone who relies on having as much dynamic range as possible. I now find myself blending exposures less than before, as I find I can use a single RAW file most of the time to find the detail I need, from deep shadows to bright highlights.

What is the one thing you love most about the gear?
Let me give you a bunch of good reasons why I love Fujifilm cameras.
Size: Fujifilm has proven that good things really do come in small packages.
Weight: the lightweight bodies and lenses in the FUJIFILM X Series make it much easier to travel with my camera gear.
Weather sealing: I work in some challenging weather conditions. It is cold and wet in Iceland, Norway and Canada and hot, dry, wet, windy, humid in places like Vietnam, Tanzania and other places I work. Having weather sealed bodies and lenses is a huge bonus.
Quality: Fujifilm sacrifices nothing in terms of quality for the size and weight of the X-series and GFX. These are true pro-photographer cameras and lenses in every sense of the word.

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What is the most difficult thing about being a pro photographer in 2017?
The most challenging thing for me is time management. Trying to balance work and personal time is terribly difficult. The most important thing I need to do these days is find ways to work smarter, not harder. Figuring out what are my top business priorities is an ever changing and constant struggle.

What is your most memorable and difficult field experience and how did you overcome it?
Doing commercial work is nerve wracking at times. I had a gig a few years ago for a very good client where things went wrong from the beginning. I was sent to Sweden to do a shoot that was more technical than creative, but I am always pleased to get those as they are usually the most lucrative of jobs. My client had assured me that they had rented the right equipment for me to create 360° QTVR images of the ship they sent me to photograph. It turned out that what they had rented was not even close to what I needed, but rather a security camera swivel that was of no help to me whatsoever. Lesson learned was to never let someone else select speciality gear for me on any future shoot.

I arrived in Stockholm and spent the next 24 hours trying to find a panorama head in Sweden, France and UK, but nothing was working out, so I contacted B&H Photo in New York City. Much to my relief, they sent me what I needed, overnight, to Toronto and my client, who was joining me on that shoot, brought the unit to me the day after.

On top of this dilemma, the ship itself was in a state of disaster and the crew had not been told that we were going to photograph the interiors. Even the ship’s captain was overheard saying that in his thirty-plus years on the sea, he had never seen a ship in such a disastrous state. As the goal was to make the rooms look as good as possible, my client and I spent hours cleaning and placing items in the perfect spots to make the pictures look like everything was brand new. We got up early and went to bed late, but the job got done in time and when they saw the images at head office, no one could tell how upside-down that ship had been. Talk about smoke and mirrors.

Where will your next adventure take you?
I am in Zanzibar as I write this and, in forty-eight hours, I am off to Jordan to run another photo tour for Discovery Photo Tours. After this, I may head to Indonesia, Mongolia, Scotland, or I may just take some time at home to work on some of my images and plans for 2018 photo tours, like Madagascar and Vietnam.

If you could go back to your early days as a pro and do something different, what would it be?
That’s a trick question, right? I don’t get people who say that they have no regrets. I have tons and would love to go back in time and undo some of the decisions I have made in my life and career.

I’d say that I would believe in myself more and at an earlier age. Confidence is paramount in this business and I see a lot of photographers, with less talent than confidence, who do quite well. The opposite is true as well. Many very talented photographers with low self-esteem and no confidence don’t get very far – and that’s sad.

Artists are usually hard on themselves, especially the talented ones. In the end, there is a fine balance between confidence and egotistical blowhards. I believe that the only person we should be better than, is the one looking back at us in the mirror. Aspire to inspire and the universe will take note. So, as a bit of valuable advice to young photographers with aspirations to make a career of this photography thing: work hard and work smart, be brave and take chances, never stop learning, be humble, generous and kind, learn to network, don’t take yourself too seriously and, most of all, believe in yourself. Remember, the best way to gain self-confidence is to do what scares you on a regular basis. Most of the magic happens when you step out of your comfort zone.

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