Member spotlight: Sam Cox talks gear-addiction, his love of abstract photography and more

Photocrowd winner Sam Cox talks gear-addiction, his love of abstract photography, and disagreeing with Jim Richardson.

Sam is a retired electrical engineer, who won the Expert Vote in our Portraits contest with his picture Old Friends.

Here, as part of our weekly interviews with Photocrowd members, we ask Sam some questions about his photography history, habits and inspirations.

How did you get into photography?

My first camera was an Ashia Pentax 35mm film camera I bought in 1970 when stationed overseas. It was a great diversion while I was in the military, but I put my interest in photography aside for almost 30 years and concentrated on an engineering career.

In my work, I needed to document production procedures and the rapidly improving digital cameras attracted me. I bought and used up a few cameras before settling in as a Canon user. I now own Canon 6D and 7D bodies with a few lenses and a little flash attachment. I am affected by "gear lust" as much as the next guy. Sometimes I wish there was a cameraholics group I could call to talk me off the "must buy more gear" ledge.

Reflections in a Fender © Sam Cox

How often and when do you take photographs?

I don't shoot often enough. When I do, I'm usually at an event - a party, a local concert-in-the-park or a festival in the city - at which I wander away from my friends and enjoy an afternoon shooting.

What is your technical set-up?

I have Canon bodies with mostly Canon lenses and one each of Tamron and Sigma lenses.

My 6D is now my favorite body because of its low noise performance. I'm no longer worried about shooting at ISO 1600 or even 3200. My favorite lenses are the Canon 70-200 f/4.0 and the Tamron 24-70 f/28.

The base of my software platform is Lightroom in which I do all of my organizing, culling and most of my processing. I go to Photoshop and Photomatix via Lightroom when needed. I also have and use the NIK filter suite, and a recently acquired new favorite is Xycod's PostWorkShop.

Central City, Colorado © Sam Cox

How do you educate yourself to take better pictures?

I watched several online classes to learn the basics. I also spend some time deconstructing the work of other photographers to figure out what they did to make their images.

Waiting for Sunset in Santa Fe © Sam Cox

Whose work has influenced you most?

My younger sister is an artist. She inspires me with the simplicity and clean lines of her work.

I am inspired by the expert work of others, including architects, engineers, artists, gardeners, dancers, cooks - anybody at all who is really good at what they do! I also follow several great photographers on Flickr and hope to learn from their examples.

I don't have a great appreciation for quotes by "Great Photographers" but Robert Capa's "If your photographs aren't good enough, you're not close enough" is my mantra.

When I rekindled an interest in photography, I soon learned that it is not primarily a technical field. You have to know your gear, of course, and be able to work it well enough to get the correct exposure for your purpose, but a photographer is not just someone who operates that little machine.

Another famous photography quote – “If you want to be a better photographer, stand in front of more interesting stuff" (Jim Richardson) – bothers me. There are certainly more interesting and photographically rich places in the world than where I've been, but I think what's interesting in a photograph is what the photographer puts in it, rather than the intrinsic interest of a place or a thing itself.

Apartment Building in Longmont © Sam Cox

Among your works, which one is your favourite? Why?

I like simple subjects with clean lines. My favorite image so far is "Apartment Building in Longmont." I think it has the flavor of a painting or drawing. I have a dim memory of liking a similar image when I was a kid. This one also has an abstract flavor to it, and I'm a huge fan of abstract and minimalist photos.

Early Morning Rain in Santa Fe © Sam Cox

What do you get out of being a photographer?

With my camera I have discovered that the world is full of lovely and interesting things that most of my friends and family don't appreciate in the same way that I do. I see those things much better now than I did before. By nature an introvert, I find a lot of personal energy in my camera and the images I make with it. Photography for me is therapeutic.

I don't pursue particular subjects. I just find joy in examining details of both natural world and man-made objects, large and small. And I don't have a message to convey, a story to tell, or a cause to champion. I just love making images. I enjoy taking pictures and processing them.

I take too many pictures and sometimes get bogged down in working through them. I rarely use a tripod, but I should. It would slow me down and force me to think more about each shot. I'd probably come home with fewer and better pictures.

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