Ron Peiffer (2014)

Schools Out

Image 5 of 5

Our featured photographer this month is up and coming member Ron Peiffer. In addition to being our program chairman, Ron’s image of a spider won Photograph of the Year in 2012-2013.

ACC: How long have you been into photography?

RP: My first year of teaching, I borrowed a friend’s Voigtlander rangefinder to shoot some slides for my classroom. I was hooked. Since then, I have journeyed from film to digital. Since retiring a few years ago I learned to move the camera off of Program mode and to learn some of its capabilities.

ACC: What equipment do you shoot with?

RP: I primarily use a Canon 6D (full frame) and a Canon 60D (crop sensor). I also keep a beat-up Canon G10 in the bag and recently added a Canon EOS-M mirrorless, as a backpack camera, which I love much more than the bloggers do. I was advised early on to buy good glass, so my go-to lens is Canon’s 24-105mm f/4—heavy but well worth the heft.

ACC: What are your favorite subjects?

RP: My grandchildren, Indian ruins, and spiders, in that order. Travel  in Mexico and the Southwest has drawn me to American archaeological locations over the years. In recent years, I have been trying to capture back country Anasazi sites in harsh desert sunlight when canyoneering. As beautiful as the West is, it takes work to make desert light work for you. That said, I am an omnivore and will photograph from close-ups to landscapes and am still learning. Most importantly, I try to capture family events—large and small—so my family will have a record of their lives.

ACC: What are your favorite techniques?

RP: I am increasingly drawn to black-and white photography because it makes me pay greater attention to composition and form. When I shoot color images, I am drawn to strong colors and dramatic lighting. However, I try to tiptoe the line between a natural look and a little bit of drama. I have struggled with the brutal dynamic range of light I face in the desert and have found HDR a good compensating tool. If I do use HDR, and the viewer doesn’t notice it, I feel I am successful. I am a constant student, so I am exploring infrared, star trails, focus stacking and other techniques, but I am realizing I need to work harder at simply composing a good image.

ACC: How long have you been in the Arundel Camera Club?

RP: A 2011 backyard chat with club member and friend Tom Henderson resulted in my joining the club that Fall. Tom emphasized the educational opportunities and the friendships among the assets offered by the club.

ACC: What offices have you held in the club?

RP: I currently serve as co-vice president for programs along with Dennis Balog.

ACC: What photographers have inspired you?

RP: I would have to put Northwest photographer Art Wolfe at the top of the list. He has an incredible artistic sense that makes his photographs capable of standing alone as individual art pieces. Because I am currently trying to master black and white images, I enjoy studying the work of Maryland photographers Marion Warren and Aubrey Bodine. Since their subjects are often familiar, their photos often lend insights into how to compose a good digital image. But most importantly, Club members monthly bring to competition some pretty stunning images, and it may be from those that perhaps I learn the most.

ACC: How would you describe yourself? Your photography?

RP: I am a self-taught photographer who has spent too much time shooting on automatic. For decades, I did not have a complete understanding of the camera nor the confidence to waste film while learning. Digital changed all that and made me take risks with images. I experiment and learn constantly. The Club competitions have exposed me to new techniques, good composition, and what experienced photographers look for in a good image. 

ACC: Noteworthy accomplishments?

RP: A black-and-white photo, “Back from Lunch” won the 2013 Photograph of the Year and Novice Monochrome Print for the year for the Arundel Camera Club. In 2012, “School’s Out” won the Club end-of-year first place award for novice digital. I was 2012-13 Open  Photographer of the Year for the Baltimore HDR Club.

ACC: How has your approach to photography changed?

RP: It used to be spontaneous and almost unintentional—having fun. Something would catch my eye, and I would aim the camera in that direction. I still enjoy stalking spontaneous photos, but I am becoming more intentional. I increasingly plan for good light and often return to a site until the light is right. I used to become infatuated with a singular spectacular element in the frame and overlooked obvious flaws. Now, I try to frame the whole shot more carefully early on so post processing is more often enhancing an image, not repairing it.