Behind the Lens - Kyle Finn Dempsey

 How did you achieve this shot?

One summer evening after supper, I ventured out to one of my favorite spots to build a fire and practice some new songs I was writing. By the time I loaded my old Coleman canoe with all my essentials, the sun had fallen below the trees and a sorbet glow was beginning to caress the clouds. My excitement grew; I knew this would be a golden opportunity for a banger.

What camera did you use?

I used my Phantom 4 drone. I had just bought it about a week before and hand’t had the chance to use it much. I was rather nervous flying it over water for one of its first flights. I’ve lost many drones in my career. One is still sitting on the bottom of Lake Superior.

What settings and why those settings?

I used manual mode on the drone and had it at ISO 100 with 1/100th shutter speed and a daylight white balance. I knew the shutter speed might be a little slow for the situation but I wanted to keep it at ISO 100 to make sure I had maximum dynamic range for these colors.

How did you decide on the location for the photo?

It’s a place near my house called Plainfield pond, where I grew up spending my summers. Now, being 24, it gives me a very euphoric and nostalgic feeling going back there to explore, relax and get back to my roots. It’s often a great place to catch the sunset, but I didn’t go there expecting to see any crazy colors. Seems like the best opportunities always catch you off guard. 

Is this the picture you set out to make that day? If not, how does it differ from what you had pre-visualized?

I had originally set out to get some shots of me playing my banjo by the fire using my main camera and a tripod, and didn’t even expect to use the drone. I was lucky that I even had it in my truck. I ended up getting a ton of shots I didn’t plan for, and they turned out to be a favorite group of photos that I always go back to and try different edits with.

What was the weather like, and how did it influence your photo?

It was an incredibly calm evening, with almost no wind. The day was warm but once the sun dropped the air became slightly brisk. If it wasn’t for the scattered clouds, the sunset wouldn’t have been anywhere near as dramatic, and the photo would have been much more flat.

Was this shot at dusk or dawn? Which do you like better?

This was shot at dusk, but I prefer dawn the most. Less people get to watch the sun rise on a daily basis but almost everyone gets to watch the sunset everyday, even if they aren’t embracing it. Something about being up early for sunrise excites me and energizes me; there’s no other way I’d rather start the day.

What was the most difficult part of making this photo?

Definitely the overall framing and composition. I had the drone taking a picture every 10 seconds, and had to try and keep myself from floating out of frame while also keeping the canoe facing straight. My goal was to line the canoe up on the left third of the image, and leave space on the right side for the reflection of the clouds to show through. Shooting at such a slow shutter speed in order to keep my ISO low made a lot of the shots come out blurry because I was constantly paddling. I didn’t want to waste time checking if I got the shots while the color was still strong, so I was crossing my fingers that I had one that was crisp.

If you could change one thing about it, what would it be?

I would have liked to have a few more crisp pictures that were closer up so I could show the details and textures of the canoe and the things I had in it. If I could go back, I would line the canoe up slightly to the left with the drone about 6 feet up in the air behind me and looking off towards to the tree line. It would show the whole canoe, everything in it and still capture the essence of the beautiful moment and the location.

Why do you take pictures?

I have a burning desire inside me to create new things everyday. If I’m not being creative in some way, I start to go crazy and get super stressed out. I constantly see scenes in my head of fantasies that I want to live in and make it my goal to go out and create images that mimic them. I want to create photos that people can see themselves in, that bring them peace and tranquility, and help alleviate the stresses of everyday reality. 

What did you edit with? How long did the edit take you?

I used Lightroom like I do with all my photos. I don’t usually spend too long on any given photo, as I generally have a good idea of exactly how I want it to look and what it will take to achieve that aesthetic. I spend a lot of time thinking about tones and overall feel in my head while I’m shooting a scene, so by the time I get to Lightroom I can usually be satisfied promptly.This particular photo took me about 10–15 minutes.

Do you have any advice?

Shoot every single day. If you can’t shoot everyday, shoot as often as you can. I struggled for years trying to figure out what I liked to shoot, what look and feel I wanted and how to achieve it. I shot with others, learned from them, studied the legends and incorporated all my favorite aspects of their work into a style that I can now call my own. It’s easy to get caught up shooting things that you think people will like and not creating images that are unique to you and make you happy. If you shoot often, put the necessary hours of editing and research in, you will eventually reach a day where everything seems to click, and you finally feel like you’ve found yourself. Always think about incorporating light, location and stories into your work and never let other people’s words stray you from what you want to accomplish with your photography. Most importantly remember this: you are the only one who sees the world the way you do, and that is your advantage over everyone else.


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