ViewBug community member KristjanJ is a young 17-year-old photographer and retoucher who has always been fascinated with different art forms. He found it very difficult to express his ideas through them and that is why he decided to pick up photography. Enjoy our conversation with him!

I don’t like to take pictures just for taking pictures. I want there to be a purpose or idea behind it, a reason why I am doing it. That is why I love conceptual photography. Every picture has an idea behind it, a message that I am trying to convey to the world. It also allows me to create scenes and imagery that would otherwise be impossible. I like to make pictures, not take them.

My style is quite dark and surreal at times. I love dramatic lighing. Also, I am a perfectionist about my job and photographs. From the lighting to the way the subject is positioned in the frame. I can spend months on a single image.

2. In one sentence what has photography done for you in your life?
It has allowed me to go to places and experience things that would have been otherwise impossible.

3. When did you start taking photos and what inspired you to get started?
I was introduced to photography in the summer of 2012 by a close friend of mine. He was constantly telling me about his crazy photographic adventures. So one day, I decided to take my fathers camera and go for a walk with it. In the beginning, I was eager to learn from him. I tried to soak in as much information as possible. My obsession with photography grew by the minute. A couple of months later I reached to the point, where I didn’t need to ask his help, the tables turned, and he asked help from me.

4. What has been your favorite shoot and why?

I love probleem solving. That is also one of the reasons why I love conceptual photography. Every picture is new and presents a new challenge. I think my favorite shoot to date has to be when we were shooting for „Miseducated“. Behind that photograph went weeks of planning, although it might not seem that complex. I had to find all of the right pieces to build the sepsration of the head. I ended up making it out of two cake pans, duct tape, a clamp and cardboard. Then, a couple of weeks before the shoot, we tried out different lighting combinations. In the beginning I wanted to go with a very basic lighting setup, a very flat type of light. However, a couple of days before the shoot I came up with a new, more interesting, setup and decided to go with it.

5. Do you remember a difficult photo shoot session? What happened?
One of my most difficult photo shoots happened a couple of weeks ago. It was one of those shoots, where nearly everything went wrong. The photographs have not yet been released, as I am still working on them. The idea was to shoot an athlete running up stairs. Sounds easy, right? Well, it should be and it did start out that way... In the beginning. Firstly, I needed to find a location for it, a place with high and long stairs. There aren't many places like that in Tallinn and I found the best place to be an old concert venue called the Linnahall located near the harbor. After a couple of hours of scouting, I had a near perfect location. Upon arriving at the location, I realized that I had left my fastest card at home, in the card reader. Since we were shooting sports, I knew that it would slow us down quite a bit. Secondly, when we were setting up our lighting, one of our light stands blew over in the wind, breaking the shoe of the speedlite. Luckily, we were able to fix it up with some gaff tape to last the shoot.  When we were ready to start shooting, the flashes wouldn’t fire. I checked my triggers, I checked my speedlites, everything should have been in working order. As it turned out, most likely, there was another, much stronger, radio signal nearby, that was stopping tigers from communicating. I was not able to fulfill my vision that day. So, I decided to return to the location another day. This time without strobes. I will also be releasing an in-depth blog post on my blog on this shoot soon!

6. What do you carry in your camera bag?
In my camera bag I have a Sony Alpha A77 Mark II and Sony Alpha A700 camera bodies combined with the Sigma 105mm f/2.8 EX DG Macro, Helios 44-2 58mm f/2 and Tamron 18-250mm f/3.5-6.3 Di-II LD lenses. For lighing equipment I use Yongnuo YN560-ii, YN560-iii, Pixel Mago, Pixel X800c and Caler Jinbei MF-100 speedlites with Phottix light modifiers.

7. Do you have a favorite location and time of the day to shoot?
I don’t really have a favorite time of day for shooting. It all depends on the image. However, since I love using strobes for my photographs I like staying in the darkness.
My favorite location is a building close to my house. It has white walls. They aren’t just pure white. They character. They have a unique texture that when thrown out of focus looks spectacular. There I have shot countless pictures and I keep returning just because of the texture. It’s like my own studio that I don’t have to pay rent for.

8. Can you share three tips with your fellow photographers?
1. Never stop learning. There’s always something new you can learn. Either of photography or something else. Everything will come in handy at some point.
2. Never stop experimenting. Learning from others is all good, but you need to try it out for yourself. Take a style of lighting, go out and do it. You will learn a lot more from it that just sitting around.
3. Take a walk. It can get a bit crazy when you’re constantly trying to storm for ideas and learn new things. Sometimes, it’s a good idea to take a break. Go for a walk or workout, do something different for a change to freshen up your mind.

9. Please share one of your favorite photos with us with a short tutorial:

One of my favorite photographs is Run! For a very long time, I had been looking at an image of a runner by Joel Grimes. When Pixel Enterprises sent me their Pixel Mago speedlite for testing, I decided it was time to go for it. I found an awesome model, a location, and we went for it. We shot this photo on the stadium of a local school. Since I wanted use speedlites, we decided to start at 6PM. In hopes that it would be dark enough, which it wasn’t. For that reason the image ended up being a bit blurry and soft. For this photograph I used my old Sony Alpha A700 body with the Helios 44-2 58mm f/2 lens.  It was lit with 3 speedlites. The Mago was in a parabolic umbrella to the camera left, for the second light I had a bare bulb YN560II directly behind her, a little bit above her head, the last light was another YN560II in a 70×70 softbox to the camera right.

I originally wanted to make the image as similar to Joel Grimes’ picture as possible. But, I was soo eager to edit the image. So, I decided to create a custom, hand-painted, background for this image in Photoshop. After about 7 hours of experimentation and retouching, the image was complete.  I wasn't expecting it to get half the publicity it got. I was so happy. I shared it with all my friends, they loved it. Then a close friend of mine gave me the idea of making a series of fine art sports portraits. Which I did.

10. Whats your favorite photo you have shot and why?

My favorite photo would have to be "Before The Storm". I love the power and dramatic lighting in the image. It also reminds me of the ancient Egyptian paintings.
In September of 2014 we were trying to photograph long jump for my sports series. What seemed to be a fairly easy task, proved to be much more difficult. We had trouble finding the right moment in time to capture. It was impossible to control the model mid-jump. Nothing seemed to be working and then, when the model was turning around to go back to her starting position, I snapped this picture. This random snapshot  ended up being our favorite saving the whole shoot.