Gordon KilgoreI am an Eagle Scout with three palms, so I suppose my quest for knowledge and perfections comes naturally from my early Boy Scout training. I began photographing seriously in the late 1970’s. At that time my interest was mainly nature photography. Over a period of several years I read many books and attended a few local workshops. It was in the fall of 1985 that I finally figured out metering and began to really see “light”. This was in Michigan at a workshop by John Shaw and Larry West. This workshop was definitely my big turning point in being able to control my photography. Over the next ten years I attended a number of workshops. A few that come to mind are workshops by Freeman Patterson, George Lepp, architecture at the Maine Photographic Workshop, and Winona with Steve Simmons. I also attended B&W printing workshops with Bruce Barnbaum, Howard Bond, and John Sexton. As you can see my focus slowly shifted from nature to architecture and large format. With a Linholf Technikardan 4X5 view camera I also developed a strong interest in black & white printing. Several years ago I took a count and had read 87 books on various aspects of photography. So, in summary, my training has been reading books, attending workshops, and getting out in the field with the cameras.

It was during these years that I put more effort in stock photography and added several medium format systems to my photo gear. I was represented by Look South in Atlanta. However, I no longer try to sell my work and photography is only for fun these days.

Buying my first digital camera in 2001, a Nikon Coolpix 5000, I took it to Antarctica in 2002. On that Antarctica trip I used both digital capture and a Nikon F5 with slide film. My eyes were opened to the digital capture world.  The Coolpix 5000 had a number of limitations, particularly the lag time of the shutter release. So in early 2002 a couple of Nikon D100 bodies were purchased.  Other than the view camera, I have been completely digital since that time.  It was not until 2007 that I sold my wet darkroom equipment and view camera. Both had been gathering dust. A progression of cameras followed the first Coolpix: Nikon D70, D100, D2X, D2Xs, D300, D3, D3s, and D800.
My basic travel setup will include the D3s and D800 plus some of the following lens:

  • AFS Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 ED
  • AFS Nikon 24-120 f/4 G ED
  • AFS Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 G VR
  • AF-S Nikon Teleconverter TC-14FII 1.4X
  • AF-S Nikon Teleconverter TC-14FII 1.7X
  • AF-S Nikon Teleconverter TC-20EIII  2X
  • Nikon Speedlight SB-910
  • Nikon AF Extension tubes 14mm & 27.5mm
  • Nikon Circular Polarizer
  • Gitzo G3542LS 6X carbon fiber tripod with Really Right Stuff BH-55 head

To transport my gear I rely on several different backpacks. The backpacks that I use the most are the LowePro Flipside 400AW, ThinkTank Street Walker Hard Drive, and ThinkTank Airport Acceleration V2.0. I have come to the conclusion that camera backpacks are a bit like a woman’s handbag. There is no such thing as the perfect one. Depending on whether I am driving or flying and the nature of my trip I will make some changes or add to my gear.  For instance if weight is a consideration I might take a lighter Gitzo Tripod and fewer lens.  If I am going to be photographing wildlife I would certainly take a longer lens such as the Nikon AFS 200-400 f/4 G VR lens. A macro lens such as the Nikon 105mm f/2.8 or 200mm f/4 might be included. In most cases I take a laptop computer and one or two external hard drives. RAW is used exclusively and Adobe Lightroom is used to download, catalog, and process my image files. If additional work is needed that will be done with Adobe Photoshop CS6 and plug-ins later at home.

I am a retired entrepreneur and have been married to Margaret Hudson Kilgore of Fairburn, GA since 1960.  Over the years we have owned and operated family shoe stores, men’s clothing store, motorcycle racing accessory business, amusement game business, real estate holding as well as oil and gas wells.  I have always loved to travel but businesses have limited my time to be away.  Now the only constraints are time.  I have traveled to all 50 states, all 7 continents, and 181 countries.  Margaret joins me on some trips.  She does, however, refuse to go on adventure trips or where the conditions are very cold or very hot.  These I must do alone.  Many countries I have visited several times.  India five times, Russia eleven times and Antarctica four times, come to mind.  Each country has something to offer.  Some countries seem to offer more photo opportunities than others, but I find if I visit with an open mind and open eyes, I will not be disappointed.  It seems to me though, that travel photography is perhaps one of the hardest types of photography.  You are only there a limited time, you must deal with the weather that is present at the time of your arrival, and you can’t easily keep going back until you get it right.  Therefore, I have developed an attitude of making the best of the hand I have been dealt and hopefully returning another time in another year when the conditions are different.

Should I arrive at a destination in hopes of photographing big scenic vistas or architectural monuments in grand setting and be greeted with a very overcast day and light showers, I would be very disappointed.  Instead one must shift expectations and instead look for nature close-ups, architectural details such as doors and windows.  This could be an excellent day to photograph people in their living environment or flowers.  When the weather is miserable, interior photography becomes much more appealing and is easier since high contrast will not be such a concern.  With this being said I have made a major change in my approach to photography. In most cases I no longer go seeking a specific subject but just go and photograph what I see. One tip that I received years ago was to always look behind me.  Often the best shot is not the one that initially caught your eye but the one that is behind you.  Making the most of any situation reminded me of something that I heard twenty years ago.  At a workshop someone asked John Shaw what lens he should use in the present situation.  John asked what lens the person had with him.  When the man replied he only had the one lens, John said that was the lens he should use.  Travel photography can be very similar.  What opportunity does this day present?  This is what should determine today’s subjects.  Nothing beats an open mind and open eyes.  I recall recently being on a riverboat in Romania.  We were traveling up the Danube and I was the only one taking pictures.  Finally, a woman just had to ask me what in the world I was photographing.  I showed her the wonderful reflections in the water near the shore.  These were beautiful abstracts displaying fall colors and buildings reflecting in the river.  She was looking for scenic pictures not abstracts.  The lady was thrilled at the array of new subject matter to photograph and began taking picture after picture.

So in summary I suppose that photography gives me an excuse to travel.  I photograph the subject that I like and photograph for me only.  Once home, if I can assemble a slideshow to share with others, then so much the better. I find too that by taking pictures and notes, I get much more out of any trip.  The editing procedure at home serves to reinforce my memory of each trip.

This brings us to editing. Presently each digital capture is a RAW file that is downloaded every night to a laptop and backed up on an external hard drive. The only editing done on the road is to delete those files that have major problems.  I do try to add captions to as many as possible while traveling.  By using embedded metadata I now take notes by writing in a small notebook the time next to the name of the subject.  This makes captioning much more precise.  When clicking on an image file the metadata is displayed in a box to the right.  By seeing the day and time of exposure, and referring to notes the image can be identified exactly. A recent addition to this process is a GPS unit that attaches to the camera body.

Back home all digital capture files are transferred to a desktop computer’s hard drive, where I finish editing and captioning.  With this completed all files are transferred to another external hard drive for archival storage.  The next step is to make a collection of RAW files that I consider the best or “keepers”.  These are the ones that I will actually spend time optimizing. This goes very quickly in Lightroom which even allows bulk adjustments. Nik Software plug-ins such as Viverza 2, HDR Efex Pro, and Color Efex Pro 4 make the optimizing task much easier. For B&W I use Nik Silver Efex Pro 2. The years of training using not only 35mm but medium format and large format transparency film honed metering skills that now save a lot of time with digital capture.  By making the best digital exposure initially, considerable time is saved at the end of the work flow.  The camera histogram is my best friend during the capture process. Photodex Corporation’s ProShow Producer is my slideshow of choice.

It is now time for another trip.  Many times editing has not been completed from one trip before the next trip begins.  That way I never get bored and run out of something to do.