Author Topic: *An Interview with Vikram Franklin*  (Read 16532 times)

Offline theqca

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*An Interview with Vikram Franklin*
« on: October 17, 2014, 01:22:02 AM »
Vikram Franklin obviously needs no introduction to the forum. He's someone who's work I've been admiring for quite a few years and convincing him to do this interview was a logical step when I figured we had a few questions for a landscape artist.

What sets Vikram apart is his ability to "see" potential shots as well as successfully identify what could be done better in photos.

I'm not really sure if he's a perfectionist in his personal / professional life but he does come across as a perfectionist photographer - even his comments have always been detailed and he goes into minute things that most photographers usually miss out - and it is these minute details that separate a good photo from a great one.

Getting commissioned to shoot landscapes, seascapes etc is something that most landscape shooters can only dream off - people are happy to pay for weddings, portraits etc but landscapes are a very different story. Apart from being an accomplished, paid landscape shooter, he's also managed to dabble in a number of other genre's over the years and has got a good amount of recognition for his work.

I know him as a man of ethics - (he refuses to sell lenses at a price higher than what he paid for them),  he's also been responsible for some of the most amazing and inspirational photographs that I've seen on this forum as well as "the mother ship" :)


So how did you start off in photography and which was your first camera?

I started off in photography way back in the mid 90s while in college ? in the photography club we had there.
Though I must say that most of the work then was around developing and printing and less on shooting (the college gave money for the chemicals and papers, the film money was ours ? so that explains that  :)  ).
I didn?t own a camera at the time, but I was allowed to use my Dad?s Zenitor  couple of the Minoltas and Pentax?s that the college owned.

It wasn?t till a few years after this that I bought my first camera ? an old Olympus OM4 with a 50mm lens ? which I loved shooting with. However life came in the way and that hobby was put to rest for the next decade and that camera hasn?t been used the way I wanted to.

My ?second innings?, is from when I can say I really began learning the ?art? of photography as this is where I moved from snapshot-shooting to considered-shooting. This is when I got my first DSLR ? a Nikon D80 in late 2008.

What made you fall in love with photography? Any early inspirations?

As a little kid I would spend hours looking through my grandfather?s Time Life books and National Geographic magazines ? I loved the pictures and the stories they told. So it must be from there.

I now know that my Dad used to shoot a lot when he was in his teens and 20s (including developing, printing etc) ? and that my great grand father used to shoot a lot too (Infact I?ve restored his old camera to working condition) so perhaps it?s in the genes too.

However the biggest eye opener and probably the start of my taking photography seriously was when I joined a little FaceBook photography competition page called PhotoComp ? while that is long shut down, it opened my eyes and mind to possibilities and made me see things very, very differently after that. It also put me in touch with a worldwide ?support group? that I have to date ? the people who taught me photography through their criticism and encouragement.

How did you "learn" photography? Are you a self taught photographer or did you go to some sort of a photography school...did you assist someone?

I?ve always felt that I didn?t have the natural ?eye? of a lot of people I knew and admired. So I was determined to train my eye ? through good old fashioned reading and practice.

There was a time when I moved to digital that I must have read ONLY photography related books for over 18 months. I?m a voracious reader, so a lot of reading.A lot of websites and a lot of youtube.

That however didn?t get me far. I found I needed an objective third party to critique my work or atleast point out to me what I was doing wrong.
I?d made great firm friends from around the world on PhotoComp and RedBubble and they were selfless enough to give me their time.

They were also honest enough to not do the useless ?Great Shot?, ?Awesome? type feedback ? but to give me constructive critique ? and that?s when I learned to be my own worst critique.
When I moved from table top/strobist work to landscapes ? I got great inspiration from a friend on RedBubble who taught me more than anyone else by making me critique some work and constantly answering the question ?What do you like or not like about my photograph??. Just constantly answering those type of questions made me start implementing what I?d been reading into what I was seeing.

What do you feel is more important ? gear or skill? What are your views?

One without the other is like Schumi on a cycle rickshaw.
Or me with a Ferrari F1 car (though I?d be a lot happier with option 2).

You need the skill to show the capability or potential of the gear. But you don?t need the gear to show the capability or potential of skill.
?.. But when the two come together, you?ve got a full-on symphony orchestra to sit back and enjoy.

What equipment do you currently use? Any reasons for choosing what you use at present?

I?ve cut back from being a gear hungry person with 30+ lenses and assorted equipment, to using a Nikon D600.
I?ve kind of got my kit sorted into several ?packages?.
Nikon D600 + Nikon 24-120 f/4 AFS VR for when I can take only one body+lens;
Nikon D600 + Nikon 18-35 AFS VR + 70-200 f/4 AFS VR + 1.4 TC for when I?m out shooting landscapes;
For when I need ?fast glass?, I supplement with the 50 1.4 and 85 1.4.
I also have a few odds and ends of older AIS glass for frankly no other reason apart from I like that glass.
I also use a Fuji XE-1 with a set of Fuji lenses for backup.

I?m not sure why I chose Nikon, but I?m sticking with it as it?s what I?m used to.
I?ve gone for a lighter body than the D800E (which should suit my chosen genres better) due to a hand injury which made me make a choice on whether to shoot at all or get a lighter body.
I?m now happier with the fact that my kit weighs less when I?m walking miles.
The Fuji system was bought purely as an emotional reaction to the body :)

I?ve seen a variety of different genres from you over the past few years but is there any one particular genre or sub category in photography that you are particularly passionate about and why?

I started out shooting strobist and tabletop as that?s basically what I had time and opportunity for.
Photocomp was a weekly competition and so shooting to a theme usually meant I had to shoot during the week which meant I shot a lot at home.
While I shot strobist stuff, I?d always loved landscapes and got hooked one early morning when I felt at such peace shooting at a location where I was alone with nothing but silence around me.
I?ve been in love with landscapes ever since. Over the past year, I?ve tried to bring in travel photography into what I do, but I find I?m still landscape oriented, with people in the frame included more for impact or focal points than anything else.

Colour or black and white? Which do you prefer and how does your approach differ for each medium?

That?s a tough one. Frankly it depends on the scene.
Some scenes I see as B&W and others as color.
When I shoot for B&W, I shoot with the end result in mind where I can envision deep contrasts, the play of light and shade and tones.
I don?t think B&W as an afterthought works well.With a basic understanding of color theory and experience, you can easily tell when colors work well in a scene. So yes, the answer is ?it depends?.

Have you shot or cropped photos into different aspect ratios / square / etc? Why do you do this and how does it affect composition? What sort of aspect ratio or crop do you like the best?

I shoot in native aspect ratio OR in 1:1 (square). I almost never crop otherwise.
My thinking is: I took the pain to compose carefully through the viewfinder arranging objects in the scene carefully to get balance.
If I fiddle with that scene through cropping, it would just make that composition not work any longer.
Even when I shoot 1:1, the shooting is deliberate and I know which parts are going to be cropped out.

My Fuji makes it easier to shoot 1:1 ? which I love as it reminds me of pictures I?ve seen in family albums which were shot using a TLR.

Square composition is quite challenging as one needs to empty ones head of most of the ?rules? one knows about 3:2 composition and then apply a whole new set of ?rules?.

So what is your approach to composition in your photographs?

My photography philosophy is simple.Good photography comes down to one thing: composition.
I rank it above ?light? and ?the moment? as I strongly feel that there?s no beauty in a badly composed picture taken in great light and b) ?the moment? in landscape photography is not very fleeting and so one gets several moments.

I rely heavily on composition when taking photos, and I stress the importance of this for anyone who like me isn?t born with ?the eye?.

So long as your photograph is well composed, it will stand up on its own, without fancy effects, or processing.

If you?re breaking the rules, you better understand what rule you?re breaking and why otherwise you?re not going to like the end result.

However, it?s no fun to sit and watch a beautiful scene and then start referring to a manual on composition. So I study compositional rules, practice them and try and internalize them.

I review my pictures and others I see on the web with respect to compositional rules and doing that thousands of times, has made that a sort of automatic now and has helped me to internalize much of the rules.

Name three photographers you like and why

Not really a ?follower? ? I like good photographs and not necessarily the ?photographers?.
I?ve seen some great pics from Steve McCurry, but I?ve also seen some ?eh?? ones. But yes, he?s one of the guys I?ve liked from before I started photography.

Michael Kenna is another one of my favourites. His frames are perfection of simplicity ? just manages to remove all unnecessary elements and leave the frame with exactly what is needed. He shoots medium format (so 1:1 most of the time). Take a look at be amazed:

Rodney Lough is another guy I like a lot ? he shoots with a view camera, no filters and no manipulation. And gets amazing results.

Michael Melford( a Nat Geo guy), is another one I love for his clear vision. I got onto him after taking a look at a video of his (<< Take a look). Ah yes, finally a guy who shoots a DSLR  :)

***Continued in part 2***
« Last Edit: October 17, 2014, 01:37:46 AM by Ayaz »
Nikon FM(black), Nikon FG, Nikon D700, Nikon FM(silver), Nikon FM10, Pentax Spotmatic, Zenith TTL, Minox Wetzlar, Agfa Optima III, Yashica & Rollei rangefinders etc

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Offline theqca

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Re: *An Interview with Vikram Franklin*
« Reply #1 on: October 17, 2014, 01:23:48 AM »
****Part 2****

How would you describe your photographic vision? What kind of look do you try and create in your photos?

I know the camera captures lies. It can?t capture ?reality?.
Long exposures, b&w, infrared  - a lot of what I shoot ? none of those reflect reality. So I aim at evoking some feeling through my pictures.

My photography isn?t documentary in nature at all and I never intend to depict reality through them.

I aim at simplifying a frame to its bare basics.

You?ll get light, color, or movement, or stillness or 2 or 3 of them in a frame. The frames are simple (though hopefully not simplistic) and I like doing things simple. It?s a challenge.

I?ve got a certain aesthetic and I think it now reflects in my photographs ? till recently I would have vehemently denied that I had a ?look?. But I now do see certain consonance between my work and can say that I do have a ?look?. But I?m at a loss as to how to describe it :)

Photographers like to show their audience something in their pictures, what do you hope to inspire in other people with your work?

I want to make people wonder.

If it?s a landscape, I want them to want to be there.

If it?s strobist stuff, then it?s to make them wonder ?how?.

I?m a marketing person professionally and so I guess after 16 years at it, my mind is geared towards making something ?stand out? or to see things differently from what they would otherwise do.

One photograph of yours that made me notice your work some years ago was the one with a pair of drmartens and smoke..i think you?d tried to create the impression that the guy disappeared ? At that time I?d also seen a lot of table top / strobist work from you?haven?t seen any of that off late?any reasons in particular?

LOL! Let me tell you the story behind that picture.

I had been shooting table top photography that day (a weekend), and I didn?t feel I?d got something that was ?different?.

We were going out for dinner and I?d got ready and was watching the cartoon network (yes, The Cartoon Network) and saw a Wiley E Coyote go ?poof? out of his shoes.

In idle thought I wondered if that could happen in real life and thought of this shot.

As I had about 20 mins, I thought I?d do a mockup of my shot to see if it works.

It was as simple as putting a pair of shoes on the floor, a couple of lights on either side and a little smoke inside the shoe courtesy incense sticks.

The shot you see here never got reshot.

It also became one of my most popular shots on RedBubble getting well over 80k views.

I always laugh when I hear that someone likes it as I know the back story behind it.

What tips would you give to someone who is just starting out in landscape photography?

Stop right now if you?re planning a career out of it.

I?ve had a few lucrative assignments which sent me around the world shooting for campaigns ? but that isn?t the norm.

If you?re planning a career, understand that while people will ooh and aah at great landscape shots, they?ll put down serious money only if it?s a shot of themselves with hubby/wifey/chintu/bunty ? wedding and people photography are more stable sources of income.

If you?re bent on making it a career, then it?s a LOT of hard work.
Get ready for it and think beyond only photography to workshops, photo-tourism, talks, etc as

Can you give us a few examples of some photographs that you found very challenging to shoot please?

This one isn?t fantastic, I had a slightly different vision for it.

But it was challenging both technically as well as physically.

Technically, it was a challenge to get enough light on the walls of the fall and yet not blow out the sky (it?s not blown out btw).

I finally did an exposure blend.

Physically: It was pouring, but we?d seen this wonderful waterfall after a few days of not getting nice scenery, so I was shooting in the pouring rain (literally like standing in the shower), with an umbrella over my head and I was balanced on two rocks sharing those rocks with my tripod legs. AND the heat and humidity was killing.

This was during Holi in Vrindavan with me spending almost 3 days inside of the BankeBihari temple.

It was challenging as this isn?t a genre I was used to (travel photography) and definitely NOT a scenario I usually like to shoot in as I like to take it easy and enjoy the calm (which this is the polar opposite of).

It was hell for the camera and me ?. I think I sneezed and coughed up color for the next 10 days!!

This result isn?t the sharpest I got of the series of shots, but OMG ? that expression!!

Taken in Badami. I had to climb a cliff to get to this spot.
I could have gone up stairs to the tower on the right, but I wanted to use it as a foreground.

That is NOT land you see, but spongy bits of grass.
With temperatures at about 5 degrees, this made for some very, very cold and wet shooting.

This taught me that one shout NOT run 100meters flat out at very high altitudes. I ran down seeing these two walking towards the lake, took me over 20 mins to recover from that run and get enough oxygen back in my system to even walk.

I love this one, but it was wet, wet shot ? that cloud was moving and hit me in about 30 secs

This Mordor-like image nearly cost me my camera.
The place wasn?t as serene as it looks. Those waves were crashing hard. I had to get to this spot by traversing those rocks you can see all along the right side of the frame.
And then a big huge wave hit me (and camera) head on ? soaking me. I was petrified that I?d lost my camera to sea water. Took it straight back. Dried it out. Wiped it with a moist napkin and cleaned it completely.
Then prayed.
Next morning, switched the camera on ? and it all worked!! Who says D80?s weren?t weather proof??

This was a very, very long exposure. Not that much of a problem except that the wind was blowing strongly enough to topple my tripod (a 055XProb at the time ? and that?s a HEAVY tripod to get blown over in wind).

I shot this during an assignment for a company.
Saw this one evening, thought I?d go across and shoot.
Two steps and I?m waist deep in the snow.
So came back the next day with snow shoes one. Even with snow shoes on, I was sinking upto my mid thigh in this snow.
It was very, very, very tough walking around and probably was my most tiring shoot ever.

***continued in part 3***

« Last Edit: October 17, 2014, 01:34:04 AM by Ayaz »
Nikon FM(black), Nikon FG, Nikon D700, Nikon FM(silver), Nikon FM10, Pentax Spotmatic, Zenith TTL, Minox Wetzlar, Agfa Optima III, Yashica & Rollei rangefinders etc

28mm 2.8, 70-300vr, 200mm f4, 50mm 1.4, 55mm 2.8 macro, 50mm 1.8, 16mm 2.8, 70-210 f4 macro, Lensbaby, Helios 44 f2, 90mm macro, etc

Offline theqca

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Re: *An Interview with Vikram Franklin*
« Reply #2 on: October 17, 2014, 01:24:18 AM »

***Part 3***

Every photographer has some photos that are his or her personal favourites, for various reasons, from all the photos that they've shot - Can you share some photos that you?ve shot which are your personal favourites and if you?d like to share some details / some story behind the photos please?

I love this as I remember thinking to myself how totally insignificantly small we are infront of this majesty we live in.

I was on a narrow boat with this guy punting us across the Yamuna. I saw the Taj inside the ?v? formed by the pole and him and put on my 14mm to get very, very close (that pole is almost over my left shoulder). I liked it for the warm sun hitting his face and the Taj.

This is another shot where the light came out exactly how I wanted it to.

I love this as I?d hoped for a person standing there when I passed by. On the way back, I saw this kid and almost yelled out in joy. BUT ? shot this from a fast moving cycle rickshaw ? so a truly candid shot from me.

This turned out EXACTLY the way I wanted

One of my absolute favourite pics. And possibly the easiest pic I?ve ever shot. Came out of my hotel room a little after dawn and saw this tableau spread out infront of me. 5 steps backwards, picked camera and tripod up and then shot for 2 hrs in a shoot where I think I had over 80% keepers. It was an amazing feeling being ?in the zone?.

Not a landscape, but still one of my favourite table-tops. I just love how subtle this is.

Again, not my usual genre, but I developed a great rapport with Raja (the horse) and then ofcourse, there?s the light here :)

I got that perfect bit of splash of color in the frame.

If you could visit and photograph any place in the world that you haven?t been to before, where would that be?

A lot of my initial inspiration came from pictures I?d seen of other countries.

I?ve always felt that the ?India? shots circulated around the world are those clich? ? ?poor kids?, ?Wrinkled face?, ?Dirty Streets? etc shots. I used to get fairly ticked off with that as I know having travelled all around the country that there is way more than those scenes that need to be shared with the world.

So I try to focus on India and scenes inside India or at least, South Asia.

We need beautiful shots and a whole lot of them to change this perception.

I do these annual 10-15 day photo trips where I go with a couple of friends and we do nothing but shoot from morn to night ? those are trips I love as they are usually not planned at all except for the start date and the end date (oh yes, a rough idea of where we?ll be going to shoot is obviously there ? but no details of how long in each place etc).

For someone living in Bangalore I guess landscape options are quite limited ? is that the reason why you?ve traveled to different places for photography?

Photography to me is an escape from the structured creativity that is my job (I?m in marketing).

It?s an outlet wherby I can explore creativity without any defined structure. So when I take a break from work, I usually head out of Bangalore as it?s a ?break?.

Consequentially,  a lot of my shooting is done outside the city, usually either the hills or the sea.

However, I don?t think it?s absolutely necessary to visit a beautiful location to make a beautiful landscape photograph.

I?ve shot some lovely pictures in Bangalore or even in Chennai in locations which any local would tell you are definitely NOT scenic.

The trick is in making a place look beautiful. In making a frame that makes people want to go there.

On behalf of the forum - a big thank you Vikram for taking time out from your busy schedule to answer these questions as well as share some of your photographs. Do keep sharing your photos with us - its always a pleasure to view them :)


« Last Edit: October 17, 2014, 01:38:50 AM by Ayaz »
Nikon FM(black), Nikon FG, Nikon D700, Nikon FM(silver), Nikon FM10, Pentax Spotmatic, Zenith TTL, Minox Wetzlar, Agfa Optima III, Yashica & Rollei rangefinders etc

28mm 2.8, 70-300vr, 200mm f4, 50mm 1.4, 55mm 2.8 macro, 50mm 1.8, 16mm 2.8, 70-210 f4 macro, Lensbaby, Helios 44 f2, 90mm macro, etc

Offline somnath goswami

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Re: *An Interview with Vikram Franklin*
« Reply #3 on: October 17, 2014, 09:21:25 AM »
Great read and rare insights. thanks to both of you Ayaz and Vikram.


Offline Hyperdrive

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Re: *An Interview with Vikram Franklin*
« Reply #4 on: October 17, 2014, 09:38:21 AM »
Saw this 1st thing in the morning after logging in to PCI. An excellent way to start the day. :)

Ayaz, thank you for publishing the interview and of course big thanks to Vikram for sharing his thoughts and some very inspiring pictures.

Offline Francis

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Re: *An Interview with Vikram Franklin*
« Reply #5 on: October 17, 2014, 10:28:19 AM »
I have always admired Vikram's photographs, it is great to know his thought process, truly inspirational..... :) :) :)

Offline MayaV

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Re: *An Interview with Vikram Franklin*
« Reply #6 on: October 17, 2014, 11:16:15 AM »
Felt like treated, thanks Ayaz & Vikram.

It was a wonderful joy ride, reading the interview. Your photographs are always inspiring.



Offline mannusingh

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Re: *An Interview with Vikram Franklin*
« Reply #7 on: October 17, 2014, 12:31:41 PM »
Brilliant. Loved it. Thanks for this.
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Offline kaushik_s

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Re: *An Interview with Vikram Franklin*
« Reply #8 on: October 17, 2014, 04:47:03 PM »
Lovely, nice to read and there are lots to take away. Thanks for sharing the thoughts Vikram. And thanks Ayaz for the detailed interview.

One thing I would like to add about Vikram is his dedication and concentration. Have been shooting with Vikram from sometime (thanks Veeresh for introducing me to Vikram) and it's really inspiring to shoot with him. This guy has some different kind of energy when it comes to shoot , he will wake up super early in the morning and shoot and then will shoot with same energy in the afternoon till dark [By that time I will probably be half dead :p :p ].
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Offline SharatKolke

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Re: *An Interview with Vikram Franklin*
« Reply #9 on: October 17, 2014, 06:44:24 PM »
A visual treat & lovely reading. Thanks Ayaz for the interview & Vikram for sharing your thoughts.

Offline yndesai

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Re: *An Interview with Vikram Franklin*
« Reply #10 on: October 17, 2014, 10:13:48 PM »
I could not see all the clicks at office so completed my reading at home.

So I try to focus on India and scenes inside India or at least, South Asia.

I salute Vikram for this Idea. Very inspiring to initiate a "click India" movement.

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And mine needs an upgrade. . . ;)

Offline WILD CAT

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Re: *An Interview with Vikram Franklin*
« Reply #11 on: October 18, 2014, 12:03:50 AM »
Loved All your thoughts and Photographs Vikram..Ayaz Thanks A Lot For interviewing him and sharing it on the forum.. :like:

Offline gautam023

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Re: *An Interview with Vikram Franklin*
« Reply #12 on: October 18, 2014, 01:10:32 PM »
Having been a big Vikram Franklin admirer since quite a few years, loved to read this. Very nice write up Ayaz.
A heart felt thank you to Ayaz and Vikram for this.
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Offline Madhav Bhakta

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Re: *An Interview with Vikram Franklin*
« Reply #13 on: October 18, 2014, 02:03:22 PM »
Thank you Ayaz for this wonderful interview. I felt very lucky when I got the chance to meet Vikram, Kaushik, Bhooshan and Anirban, the most talented photographers in my home town.
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Offline VikramF

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Re: *An Interview with Vikram Franklin*
« Reply #14 on: October 18, 2014, 10:43:56 PM »
Thank you so much for this Ayaz. I wonder he many of us realize how much hard work you put into this.

Thank you everyone for the kind comments, it is truly humbling to read.

As I've said above, I was helped (and still am) by others with more experience, so it's only right for me to pay it forward and any questions anyone has on photography, I'm only too glad to give my two cents worth replies to.
Vikram Franklin
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