ACC: How long have you been into photography?
RSS: I have taken the usual family and travel images since the 1960s. I don’t remember what kind of camera I used until I bought my first SLR film camera, a Yashica, on a trip to Japan. I got my first digital camera in 1999. It was an Olympus clamshell-style point and shoot. When I retired from NASA in 2010 I decided to take a landscape photography workshop. I settled on a photographer named Andy Cook who was based in Colorado and ran a workshop in the Rockies that I could combine with a trip to visit Shirley’s brother in Loveland, CO. I had recently bought a DSLR camera and started learning to shoot in manual mode. I have subsequently taken 6 more workshops with Andy as I find him a great guide to locations and an inspirational teacher.
ACC: What equipment do you shoot with?
RSS: I have a Canon 80D cropped sensor camera with 3 lenses; a wide-angle 10-20mm, a normal 15-85mm, and a telephoto 70-200mm.
ACC: What are your favorite subjects?
RSS: I am primarily interested in landscape photography. I like traveling and photographing interesting places. Secondarily I like cityscapes but am a bit shy about running around the city and setting up to take carefully composed photos.
ACC: How long have you been in the Arundel Camera Club?
RSS: I have been in the ACC for about 5-6 years. I was only a sometime participant for the first few years. I started getting more serious about it 3 years ago when I decided to start entering both the print and digital competitions.
ACC: What offices have you held in the club?
RSS: I’ve not held any offices. At about the time that I started getting serious about the club I was diagnosed with a rather serious cancer that has left me uncertain about making a major commitment.
ACC: What photographers have inspired you?
RSS: As I mentioned above, I was inspired by the workshops that I took with Andy Cook. I have, during the pandemic, started watching a lot of YouTube videos of landscape photographers. Two of my favorites are Nigel Danson and Mads Peter Iversen. They put out 15-20 minute videos that are a combination of photography instruction and travel to interesting locations.
ACC: How would you describe yourself?
RSS: I describe myself as a very fortunate person. I am the grandson of immigrant peasant-laborers from Eastern Europe. I was able to get a good education and have a career as a research scientist that took me to many interesting places in the world. I have a wonderful wife and many good friends both locally and in many other countries. In addition to science, I am an avid golfer and participated in bowling leagues for more than 50 years.
ACC: How would you describe your photography?
RSS: When I see a scene that pleases me I want to take a photograph that will preserve that scene. The question is “what was it about the scene that pleased me?” How do I make a photograph that captures the essence of the scene? I view the taking of the photograph as gathering data. I then like to work that data on the computer, mainly photoshop, to see if I can reproduce what I liked about the scene. Note that I am not just trying to reproduce the scene. I am trying produce what attracted me to the scene. That may involve removing some cluttering elements, enhancing some parts of the photo, or de-emphasizing other parts of the photo. So I guess you could say that I like making pretty pictures.
ACC: How has your approach to photography evolved?
RSS: I think that my evolution has come mainly from learning about what makes a better photograph. The ACC photo contests have been integral to this learning. Workshops and YouTube videos have contributed to my learning. One thing that has driven me over my entire life has been the love of learning and the appreciation of understanding something at a deeper level. It is not just the contests at ACC that drive my learning. I am gaining a great deal of understanding of the variety of motivations that drive the various members of the club. The online discussion sessions during the pandemic have actually been very instructive to me. We have had a lot of general discussion of the varying motivations of the photographers within the club. It has given me a greater appreciation of the wide-ranging abilities of the photographers in the club.
Photography has also provided me with a welcome distraction during the pandemic. Every week, usually on Sunday, Shirley and I have driven to a location to take photographs while exploring the state of Maryland. We usually take sandwiches with us and drive to a location where there will not be many people. Most drives are within about a one and a half hour drive. We have visited Chesapeake City, Assateague, Tilghman Island, Eastern Neck Wildlife Refuge, Blackwater Wildlife Refuge, Cambridge, St. Mary’s City, Terrapin Park, Point of Rocks, Williamsport, Shrine of St. Anthony, Brighton Dam, Conowingo Dam, Marshall Hall Landing, Armistead Park, Patterson Park, Scraggsville for sunflowers, Fort Washington, and Whitemarsh Park. We also went for short hikes on the WB&A trail and the South Shore trail. I have been posting the pictures from these outings on a blog on my website.
These outings have given me lots of practice at going to various locations and trying to come up with photographs that please me. As the year has progressed I feel like I have improved in the art of finding interesting photos in relatively ordinary places.
ACC: Where do you find inspiration or motivation?
RSS: I think that I find most of my motivation by visiting new places. That has been seriously curtailed by the pandemic. By now I would have almost certainly taken another landscape photography workshop in some interesting location. We had been taking one or more trips to Europe each year, some of them for scientific conferences and some for purely vacationing. We had in the last decade or so travelled to Australia, India, New Zealand and Peru. These are now replaced by our trips around Maryland getting to know our local region better. I have also vicariously been able to travel through YouTube videos by landscape photographers photographing Iceland, Denmark, Scotland, and the Faroe Islands among many others.
ACC: Noteworthy accomplishments?
RSS: As a scientist I have been fortunate to be in the center of the issue of ozone depletion, the Montreal Protocol, and the Antarctic ozone hole. I have received awards from NASA, the US EPA, and the United Nations Environment Program. As a photographer I was last year’s novice photographer of the year at ACC and received a second place in the Maryland Photo Alliance competition. As a golfer I won the 1971 Ann Arbor, Michigan city amateur and have won 5 club championships.