Canon recently opened the doors to its new, state-of-the-art Experience Center in Costa Mesa, CA. The impressive showroom, education facilities, CPS members' lounge, and repair facility astound while...
Peter is known for photographing international feature stories on
science and the environment. In his earlier years, Peter worked for
National Geographic. He has received a number of World
Press Photo and Picture of the Year awards. Faith is the editor and
lead writer for the Material World book series, and a former network
television news producer. In between global book projects, they
reside in Napa Valley, California.
Peter, how did you decide to become a photographer?
PETER: I fell in love with traveling and thought being a photographer
would be an interesting way to travel and make a living. As a senior
in high school my counselor recommended that I soften my science and
math direction with an art course. Fortunately my high school offered
a new course in B&W photography, so I opted for that instead of art,
towards which I had an aversion. Composition is something that comes
pretty naturally to me and I appreciate ordered chaos: the photo class
turned out to be fun.
Instead of attending my high school graduation, I went to Europe
on a work/study program where I was supposed to have a job on a farm
in Spain so I could learn better Spanish. But the job fell through
after I got there and the organization gave me my $400 back and told
me to be in London in two months for the charter flight back to the
USA. The summer of 1966, I hitch-hiked alone for two months all over
Europe instead of working on a farm in Spain. It was a big game to see
how much I could see on $400. This got me hooked on traveling.
Did you have any formal training in photography?
PETER: I have a completely worthless degree: a BS in Photojournalism
from Boston University (BU). With this degree, I suppose I could have
gotten a job teaching grade school kids how to photograph their
relatives, but knowing about B&W photo processing and developing and
how to shoot a picture story is good basic info that every
photographer should have. I drove a taxi at night during my last year
at BU and then for another 18 months after graduating in order to buy
cameras and pay the rent while I tried to figure out for myself how to
What was your first big break?
PETER: My first two big breaks were a wrist and a thumb while learning
to hang glide in Colorado. I thought this would be a really cool way
to take photos but I had an accident early on, then didn't fly
anymore. My instructor killed himself the following week doing a 360
back into the mountain, so I felt fortunate to have had a less serious
crash. This was in 1972 and hang gliding was in its infancy.
My first big break in photography was a story for the American edition
of GEO magazine in 1979. I had been freelancing for seven years for
educational publishers in the Boston area but wanted to work for
magazines. Publishers of foreign language textbooks would give me
lists of required photos and I would go to Spain, France, Italy,
Germany, South America, Mexico etc., mostly on my own money, and shoot
like a madman for a month, living very cheaply. I would then come home
and develop all the photos in my darkroom and sell them on spec. This
was not very profitable, but it was enough to live on and pay for the
trips, the film, and paper. It was very good practice for learning how
to get into places and make photos quickly, unobtrusively, and
cheaply. And I picked up some basic language skills necessary for
How did you get the job at National Geographic?
PETER: Everyone thinks it would be great to work for National
Geographic. So did I. After I discovered my degree in photojournalism
would only get me a job in a camera store, I taught myself lighting. I
read tons of magazines and books and studied the photos trying to
figure out how they were done. I bought some flash equipment and
played around until I figured out how to make a subject look as I
envisioned it should look. At that time in the early 1970's, there
were no videos on lighting and no books per se on the subject. I
worked on a portfolio I thought would be good enough to show NG and
get an assignment. I called a few people who had already done this
successfully and asked for advice. Cary Wollinsky, who also survived
the BU experience a year ahead of me, gave me some tips. I then made
an appointment to see the director of photography at NGS, Bob
Gilka. He was a gruff old guy, but very honest. I took his advice and
shot more and more on my own about Oakland, CA, where I was living at
the time. I taught myself aerial photography and rented cheap Cessnas
and a helicopter or two, although the price of an hour in a helicopter
made me very sad.
After American GEO published my coverage of the
California water system with lots of double pages, the German edition
of GEO started giving me assignments, usually for a week
at a time: stories about factory farming, American survivalism, and
travel pieces in Mexico and Hawaii. Most of these were story ideas
that I generated and lobbied to produce. Many times I found a writer
who also wanted to do these stories and we pitched them
together. During this period, science magazines were big in the USA
— as this was pre celebrity-all-the-time magazines that dominate
the magazine world today — so I pitched a lot of science stories
and ended up doing some very interesting pieces for them, and also for
Smithsonian. This is where the ability to light well came in very
handy, needing to photograph in dark laboratories, and compose concept
photos. Ninety-nine percent of my subjects would look like crap
without proper lighting. Scientists are usually nice, organized,
logical people who are very cooperative. I always learn a lot of
science while shooting science stories and it helps to be able to
speak intelligently to a subject about his or her field of work, i.e.,
do your homework before the photography. At about this same time, I
began building a network of agencies to sell my work in other
countries. I found compatible independent agencies in France, Germany,
Spain, Italy, and Japan that would resell magazine stories and sell my
stock images. I still only work with independent photo agencies today.
After nearly a dozen GEO stories, a dozen science stories, half a
dozen Smithsonian stories, and several more trips to Washington DC to
show my trays of slides, the new director of photography of NGS, Tom
Kennedy, called and asked if I would be interested in a story on a
dinosaur research project in Australia. I spent a month on a dig on
the southernmost Australian coast where some scientists were
attempting to dig a mine at the base of a 200-foot cliff with heavy
surf to find chicken-size dinosaur fossils. They didn't find any but I
came back with a story after spending a few weeks driving around
central Australia shooting fossil-related stuff.
A year later, after I had won a World Press Award for a photograph of
daylight lightning over Biosphere 2 in Arizona, NGS called again and
offered a story on lightning. This was very challenging since they only
wanted me to do the lab shots and I wanted to shoot the whole story so
I busted my butt. In the end this worked out well although the
magazine also ran other photographer's work of incredible lightning
with tornadoes, and lightning over an erupting volcano. By the way, the
stories I shot for NGS were their ideas, not mine. They rejected
dozens of story ideas that I proposed over the years. That's when I
began realizing that NGS really wasn't the holy grail of photography
that I thought it was. My story ideas have become great articles for
GEO, Germany, one of the last truly great photography magazines left
on the planet, as well as book projects that have sold hundreds of
thousands of copies.
How does National Geographic plan a story? How many months in advance
of putting a photographer on the ground do they start work?
PETER: I have only done three NGS stories so I am not an expert on
this. I know that the ones I shot started many months in advance and
each took about a month. Photo editors are an integral part of this
process. The DNA fingerprinting story was all over the world but the
magazine held it for almost two years so they could get the
accompanying graphic art just perfect. Actually, the editor-in-chief
at the time was not science-savvy, so it took him that long to
understand the concepts involved.
How does National Geographic support a photographer on assignment?
PETER: Very well indeed. In the past, maybe too well. My modus
operandi after working for a decade as a self-funding freelancer, was
to spend as little money as possible to get the job done, even if it
was on someone else's nickel. I chose hotels not for comfort, but for
location, and often I slept in a car or on the ground if it meant
getting a certain photo. I've heard Braggadocio about excess baggage
charges, multiple unused hotel rooms, and rental cars held unused for
long periods of time, which makes me lose respect for certain
photographers. Sometimes it's worth it to spend money on a good idea,
but wasting money makes me ill.
How important is it to have the right fixer in a foreign country?
PETER: Very important, and for the most part that person should be a
native speaker with good English skills. Now with the Internet, you
can get lots of info in advance, but a local person who knows how to
work the system is invaluable. To me a translator is very, very
important too. If the fixer is also the translator, so much the
better. I have known photographers who didn't speak the language and
would work in a place for weeks without one, getting by on common
sense and smiles. But how many situations did they miss because they
couldn't talk to someone and get the back story on details, small
daily life things, etc. It's important to get a translator who will ask the
questions in a sensitive and thoughtful way. Knowing
the ethnicity issues, the tribal issues in some places...who your
translator is can mean a lot.
While working on a story in Istanbul one time, we were accompanied by
a Japanese TV crew. We had our own translator but the non-native
translator for the Japanese asked the women in the family we were
photographing, "Why are you so fat? Doesn't it make you uncomfortable
to be so fat?" We apologized later because we felt guilty by
Faith is very exacting about what she needs and wants from a
translator and is very clear with them from the outset. Sometimes we
have to change translators in midstream, which is a giant pain in the
ass. She prefers working with women because the filtering is
better. We aren't interested in the personal anecdotes of a translator
when we're interviewing people. Women are less prone to
self-agrandizing and inserting themselves into the dialog.
Our one exception for always using native speakers is when we're in
China. We use our son Josh who is fluent in Mandarin, lived in various
places around Mainland China for some years, and currently lives in
Taiwan. His ability to work the system is invaluable, combined with
the astonishment he's met with when he speaks fluently gives him
instant credibility. It's harder to get him for ourselves, though,
because he's often working for other writers and photographers.
How about the right producer in the U.S.?
PETER: Same thing but less so. A local, well-respected person is very
valuable. I don't shoot many corporate or commercial jobs, but when
you do, you had better have someone helping who has done it before.
One time we used a fixer who was supposed to come up with "typical
families". The folks she picked were living in trailer parks, replete
with tattoos, inflated by fast food, and greeting their boyfriends as
they returned from prison.
Who is your producer now and who works harder, you or she?
PETER: My wife is my assistant and producer most of the time now and
does most of the writing for our books. We both kick butt, sometimes
each other's. Having a clone working with you, even with the
Mars/Venue issue, is pretty valuable. When I am grumpy, she is
charming, and when she goes off like a car bomb, I help pick up the
Why did you leave National Geographic?
PETER: I was only there for a few years as a freelancer, but the reason
I haven't shot anything for them since the lightning story in 1993, is
because I joined a class action law suit over the use of my photos in
a product that NGS farmed out, which made them a lot of money: the NGS
CD-ROM set. As a freelancer, I had a very specific contract that
spelled out the uses for the photos made while on assignment for NGS.
Instead of negotiating a pittance fee for my photos, which I and
nearly all the other photographers would have gladly accepted, NGS
hired a team of lawyers to attempt to interpret the contracts in a
different way. Several dozen photographers stood up for their
freelance rights, since secondary usage is important to
freelancers. For this action, we have been blacklisted and none of us
has been able to work for NGS for the past ten years. The case is
still pending, moving from court to higher court, and may not be
settled anytime soon.
Where did you get the idea for Material World?
PETER: Freelancing in Somalia during their civil war and in Kuwait
right after the first Bush War, I had some rather intense experiences
that made life in the U.S. seem rather shallow and
superfluous. Previous to those eye-opening events, I had the
displeasure of experiencing a twenty-year marriage end in
divorce. Sitting in my office early one morning, listening to NPR,
which is the way I like to start every day, I heard an amazing piece
on the marketing of Madonna's autobiographic book called
SEX. The book was a sensation in the U.S. The radio report
ended with Madonna singing, "I am living in a material world and I am
just a material girl," or something close. I thought it was spot
on. We live in an idiotic capitalist self-indulgent society where the
sex life of a pop star is more important than impending starvation,
land mines and child soldiers in Africa, or more interesting than the
world's biggest man-made natural disaster in oil fields of the Middle
Quite literally, it took about a minute to come up with the concept
and title for Material World: dozens of statistically average
families from every corner of the world take all their stuff outside
of their house for a big portrait. This way, all of my fellow, greedy,
shallow American neighbors could compare themselves to the rest of the
world and see if they were really better off. I also got the idea for
an interactive CD-ROM at the same time.
How much time and money did it take to produce Material World?
PETER: I went to Japan to test the idea for Material
World. After a lot of difficulty, I found a family there willing
to take all their stuff outside their home for a portrait. Next I went
to South Africa and Mali to do the same thing. With those three
portraits, and the realization that the idea was good but impossible
to do by myself, I formed a corporation and worked out exactly what
photos and information were needed to shoot thirty families in thirty
countries. I then asked a bunch of photographer friends to help me
finish the project. In all, there were sixteen of us and we completed
the shooting in just over a year. Each photographer was paid a weekly
rate, plus all expenses, and they joined in a pool to share stock
photo profits after the project paid for itself. I re-financed my
house and took all my credit cards to the limit. I got some of my
photo agents in other countries to lend me money. In all, I spent
$600,000 to gather the photos and information that became the
Material World book and CD-ROM.
How nervous were you before the launch? How many copies has it sold now?
PETER: Not very nervous, because I knew the idea was good. The
contributing photographers made incredible images. I believed it would
be successful, but I couldn't find a book publisher willing to do the
book. Fourteen publishers turned it down. Finally, getting rather
desperate, I went to Sierra Club Books in San Francisco and found a
sympathetic ear. We reworked our text to cover a few extra
environmental issues and we had a publisher. The only problem was that
they thought we should only print 10,000 copies and in order to keep
the price low, I gave up royalties on the first 10,000 copies to make
the hardback price out at $30. I had a story in Life
magazine lined up and in most big foreign magazines around the
world. I knew we could sell hundreds of thousand of copies but Sierra
Club Books laughed and said that their previous bestseller took a
decade to sell 40,000 copies and that I should be patient. But it is
tough being patient when you are more than a half million dollars in
debt. Fortunately, a producer for Oprah Winfrey called and asked if I
wanted to go on the show and talk about the book. I had heard of her,
but never seen the show. Oprah loved the book and it immediately sold
out. The book made some best seller lists, but only for a week since
there were only 10,000 copies. I tried to convince the Sierra Club
Books editor to print more books but he told me that in the spring the
demand for the scheduled paperback release would be good and they were
thinking of 15,000 copies. No way they would reprint before then. I
ordered a reprint from Hong Kong myself of 10,000 copies and designed
a direct mail order brochure which I sent out. Once this was done and
orders started coming in, I called the head of the board of directors
of Sierra Club Books and told them what had happened. The next day,
the publisher called and offered to buy all of my order from me to
fill bookstore backorders. Finally Sierra Club Books realized they
could sell a lot of Material World, so they commenced to
make small orders of 10,000 copies over the following years. The
problem was that the books were printed in Hong Kong and delivery time
was three months. There were never enough books available to make a
bestseller list again. Several times the publisher didn't order enough
for the Christmas book buying season and on one occasion, the
publisher forgot to even order them on time. With my royalty now at
about $1 per hardback, I was only chipping away at my debt. The real
way I paid for the project was through magazine story and stock photo
sales. After less than three years, the project had paid for
everything and all the photographers were enjoying stock sales
checks. We established a scholarship fund for the kids of the poorer
families and many of them were put through school with project money.
In total, Sierra Club Books has now sold several hundred thousand
copies of Material World. The Japanese and German editions
have also been quite sucessful, but because this was my first book,
the royalty portion of its success is mostly enjoyed by the publisher.
Besides books and magazines, calendars, and CD-ROMs, there have been
some major exhibits of Material World. Although there is no
money to be made from exhibits, they are a source of pride. Just last
week there was one in Barcelona, at which I spoke. The fact that a
thirteen-year-old project still resonates and can still have a large
exhibit with lots of newspaper, magazine and TV press shows the
timelessness of the project.
Faith, you started in television, right? What's the common thread
between TV production and what you're doing now?
FAITH: I was a television news producer and as I recall, my friends in
the business were sure that I would return to television news. I am a
total excitement junky and political news hound just like them. But
they were wrong. The parts of my television career that I enjoyed
most were developing the narratives of the people that I was covering
and that's what I do full time now, in every nook and
cranny on the earth.
What was your first project with Peter?
FAITH: Our first full project together was Women in the Material
World and was probably the most difficult ever for Peter as we
used only female photographers so he had to stay at home for a year
while some extraordinary women and I did the coverage. That project
came on the heels of Material World: A Global Family
Tell us about your business today. Where does the money come from?
What percentage is stock, corporate assignment, editorial assignment,
PETER: Our business is constantly changing. If it doesn't, we are out
of business. A big part of our income comes from stock photos. The
rest is from editorial assignments and a small bit comes from
corporate shoots, for companies, which I feel are not too evil. We also
do a dozen or so speaking engagements every year that generate some
income and increase awareness of our book projects. Book projects are
tremendously expensive and we fund these through all the other income
How do you market your stock photography?
PETER: Our agents license our images outside the United States and
most are very good at it. Our web site, designed by David Griffin and
created by Bo Blanton, brings in a lot of queries and we have a
licensing agent on staff who handles U.S. negotiations.
How has the editorial market changed over the years that you've been
working for magazines?
PETER: It has gone completely in the toilet. Except for a few
magazines like Business Week that pay about $800 per day,
most of the major magazines all over the world are stuck in the
$400-500 range. When I started in 1970, magazines were paying about
$250. Last month a well-known national magazine told me they pay that
amount today. I accepted the job, but only because I like the
magazine and they will pay expenses to get me somewhere to photograph
something I can use in our next book.
Lots of textbook companies have discovered royalty-free images. We are
involved more now with educational publishers who are using our books,
or parts of our books for posters, PowerPoint lessons, and teaching
guides, which help educators use our books in classrooms.
Is it better to work for U.S., European, or Asian magazines right now?
PETER: Europeans still read rather than watching TV or listening to
their clergyman tell them how to vote. The European magazines are far
superior to American magazines in content and readership, but TV is
taking a bite out of circulation now even in Europe. Asian magazines
have never paid very well although they do some really beautiful
spreads at times. The Korean edition of GEO magazine was super, but
they folded a few years ago.
Tell us about your next trip.
PETER: We are on one right now. It started with a keynote address to
the Maine Nutrition Council, then we photographed a lobsterman for our
new book, Nutrition 101 (working title; scheduled for a
2009 release, check www.menzelphoto.com for
updates). This will be photographs of 101 people, each one
surrounded by the food that they eat in one day.
After a talk to a textbook company in Boston that is working on a new
geography series, we went to Barcelona for an exhibit opening and a
slide lecture (digital). We then headed to Madrid where we
photographed a famous bullfighter for Nutrition 101 and a
totally unknown shepherd in a village two hours outside
Madrid. Currently shooting some Holy Week coverage for another book,
then on to Luxembourg for a week shooting some families there in the
style of Hungry Planet for a large exhibit there this fall
that will include the new local families.
What other projects are you working on this year?
PETER: This year, mostly our new food book and some corporate and
editorial work that is either too interesting or too lucrative to turn
down. We are also planning a Discovery Channel road trip for a
documentary on our new book this summer across the U.S. with a video
crew and then on to Africa and Asia to finish the books. A book on
death is also in midstream. We never work on just one project at a time
when we're traveling. It's too expensive. Besides, what would we do
with free time?
How has your life changed with the conversion from film to digital?
PETER: We don't eat in restaurants as much anymore when we're on the
road. We get room service all too often because we are processing up
to twenty gigs of RAW files at night, doing a preliminary edit, and
then burning them onto disks and other back up drives, as well as,
recharging batteries. Not carrying film is a relief, and also I
don't need as much equipment: flash and filters. Changing the ASA in
camera is such a relief. We can do a lot more work on the road and
then have more time at home to do more work.
What are you doing with all of your old slides?
PETER: We have had the best 10,000 images from the past thirty years
drum-scanned as 100 Mb scans. This was done in India because of the
price and the quality. Then we caption, label, and keyword and send
these in disk sets to our twelve photo agents around the world for
them to sell as stock. We also have smaller JPEG versions of all these
on our web site in the Stock section
that anyone can look at. This process is only part way completed but
should be totally done by the end of the year.
The slides still sit in filing cabinets at home. Every once in a while
someone needs a 300 Mb scan for a huge print or sometimes we have a
slide that didn't get scanned the first time around that fits
someone's needs so we go into the filing cabinets.
How much disk space do all of those scanned film files and new digital
files take up? What kind of disk array do you have at home to store it
FAITH: I'm using an x-serve running 10.4.8 with fourteen terabytes of
external 800-firewire drives, including back up drives. I manage the
workflow by strictly controlling the access to drive locations by only
giving Peter and the staff share-points to log into. I can run server
monitor software and Apple remote login from my office computer so
that I don't have to spend precious moments running back and forth
when there's an issue. This is very helpful when I'm trying to both
write a book, manage the office, and be sysadmin for my husband and
staff. I have a safety backup system in place in which we manually
burn newest work so that there's always a disk archive somewhere if
everything craters. I also have a "virgin" record of unretouched
fresh-from-the-field images. If anything, I err on the side of too
many redundancies and backup. I once lost the entire first chapter of
a book that Peter was already on press with and had to reconstruct it
and rewrite it in thirty-six hours. That will never happen again.
What are the most important factors in accomplishing an editorial
assignment? Is it patience? Pre-planning?
PETER: Pre-planning is essential. Research, research, research. If you
are going to do a portrait, know as much as you can about the person
beforehand. The web makes this very easy. Think about the photo you
want to make beforehand. Then do it, but also don't be blind to better
options that present themselves at the location. Be flexible, and be
patient. Leave ego at home. Get the photo before you yell at
the asshole, not after.
Something that everyone should understand is that getting good photos
is paramount to everything. You have to do what it takes and often
comfort and sleep are the first casualties of an assignment. Getting
up way in advance of dawn is always a good idea. Nearly ninety-nine
percent of the time when I have gotten up in the middle of the night
for a shoot, something good always presents itself to offset the
nagging tiredness and discomfort of losing sleep. I would tell my
assistants when I would wake them up that they can sleep as long as
they want when they are dead but we need to get moving, now!
How important is it to move around during a project? Get up on a
ladder, down on the floor, up on a roof?
PETER: I like to move as much as possible and look at reflections,
weird angles, subjects from airplanes and cranes. I feel sorry for the
Jabba the Hut types who can't do this. Once an obese student told me that he
wanted to be a war photographer. I said, "Really?" and then I shot
What is your typical assignment kit? Bodies? Lenses? Flash? Tripod?
PETER: I use at least two bodies, now Canon 5Ds; Canon lenses: 16-35,
24-70, 55 macro, 80-200, and 100-400; Gitzo graphite tripod with Leitz
ball head; Really Right Stuff releases; two Canon flashes, one or two
Vivitars; Dynalights and a Lumedyne set; lightstands, softboxes,
clamps, etc. The light kit depends on what and where I am shooting:
sometimes I use four cases of lights plus a Hosemaster, sometimes a
backpack with just small flashes. I made a seven-foot extender for the
dedicated Canon flash unit. Instructions to create your own extender
using telephone or data cables can be found on the web.
I sold all my medium format equipment in 2005 after Canon came out
with the 12 megapixel EOS 1Ds.
Do you use filters or just rely on digital post-processing for the kinds
of things that you might have done with filters in the past?
PETER: I used to carry lots of filters: polarizers, different 10, 20,
30 magenta; neutral density; gradation filters, etc. but now I do that
post-processing. I still use one polarizing filter. Digital makes it
so much easier. No bricks of film, no worrying about airport X-rays,
Do you capture RAW or JPEG? Why?
PETER: RAW, RAW, RAW. That's the spirit. RAW is very forgiving. I was
photographing a farm woman in Ecuador cooking over a small fire and my fill
flash didn't go off a few times. I was about to delete the RAW files
but decided to play with the curves first because I like the
composition. It turned out that the image, although underexposed by
two stops, was better than the fill-flashed images because the fire
was the only source of illumination and it looked more real.
I only capture JPEGs now for stuff I know I won't use big, such as
Faith's journals, model releases, and receipts.
How do you determine exposure? Do you use the meter more or the
histogram from a test picture?
PETER: Before digital, I spent thirty years shooting color
transparencies, which are very unforgiving of exposure. A half stop
can make or break a good photo on slide film. I used a Minolta
flash meter all the time because it was very helpful for flash ratios
and multiple flash shots. Now I predominately rely on the
histogram. When using flash, I will still check a meter. It is so much
better to get the right exposure than to have to mess around later
What do you do on the computer for editing and conversion?
PETER: I use Adobe Bridge. Faith calibrated all of our monitors with a
ColorSpyder. On the first pass, I physically delete files that are
marred by camera shake or other technical errors; this is about 10
percent. After the deletion, I use Batch Rename to give the files
sequential names of the form "country code"_"date"_"3-digit seq",
e.g., GRE_070323_123 would be an image taken in Greenland on March 23,
2007, the 123rd image of the day that did not get deleted. Then I use
the star system, assigning 3 and 4 stars to the better images. Those
3- and 4-star images go into a subfolder called "AandB". Then I
create two more subfolders, "A" and "B", and move the best pictures
from "AandB" into "A". If I tweak a photo in folder A with the raw
tools, I will add an "_x" to the file name.
Sometimes I use the color marking feature of Adobe Bridge. In the old
slide days, I would mark a good slide with one red stripe, a very good
one with two red stripes, and a great one with a solid red on the
bottom of the mount. In Bridge, if there are 50 good photos in the A
folder, and I want to show 10, I will mark them with red. Sometimes
we use color for workflow as well, e.g., we tell an assistant to
"PhotoShop all the purple images, marking them green after he is
How about printing for your museum shows? Do you send a RAW file to a
lab and let their technicians handle it or do you do a lot of conversion
and adjustments yourself?
PETER: I do the adjustments myself in Photoshop and turn
over an 8-bit TIFF file. Bryan at www.pictopia.com knows what looks
best so he will make any tweaks necessary before they print it.
Faith, how big a print can you make from your EOS 5D and still have it
look good when viewed reasonably close?
FAITH: We have made six-foot prints for the Hungry Planet
exhibit from Canon 1DS files, which are the same size as from the 5D. I
sold the 1Ds because they were too heavy and expensive and now have
several of the 5Ds, which I like a lot.
What are the challenges and advantages of working as a husband-and-wife
team? Can you recommend it to others?
PETER: Are you insane? Seriously, having a partner who is your wife
traveling with you can be great. We each have our roles in the work
and then can help each other out on the emotional front when things
get stressful, which they are. Most of the time when you try to get a
lot done in an efficient and timely manner it's stressful. I would
recommend trying it for other husband-wife teams. If you don't get
divorced or kill each other after the first few months, you might
learn to like it.
FAITH: We're together 24/7 and have to be extra organized because we
spend so much of the year outside the country. Luckily we have two
stalwart staff people, Sheila Foraker and Colleen Leyden, who are
amazing at their jobs and keep everything moving along in our absence.
What about your hometown of Napa, California? When should a
photographer visit and what is not to be missed?
PETER: The Napa Valley is very beautiful. If you visit during harvest
and crush (September/October), you will be surprised how friendly all
the pickers and growers are, as long as you stay out of the
way. Wineries love attention and most will allow you to shoot their
crush. March and April are also nice due to the mustard flowers
growing between the vines.
Hot air balloons are terrific to shoot from, although they have become
very expensive, as has most lodging and food in the Napa Valley. Go to
Taylor's Refreshers in Saint Helena for America's best drive-in
restaurant: calamari, fish tacos, great burgers, ahi burgers, plus
wine by the glass or bottle and micro brews on tap. There are lots of
great restaurants in the valley, although don't forget to bring your
credit card or hit a quick stop with a stocking mask on the way.
I have not done a lot of Napa Valley work because we are away so
often and there are a few really great photographers like Chuck O'Rear who have concentrated
on making beautiful books of the valley over the past few decades.
PETER: Back to general advice: do something you like that you feel is
important. Don't worry about making money at it right away. If you try
hard and long enough you will figure out a way to do it. Better to die
happy than die rich.