Saturday, November 1, 2008
Sebastião Salgado is one of the true living legends of photography. His latest book, Africa, examines the continent in a way that only Salgado’s provocative imagery can.
Salgado: You need time, only this—real time. With the Bushmen, for example, I spent many days and nights with these guys. I became integrated with them. It was a pleasure for me to spend time with them. You must have a big identification with the things that you’re doing to be able to spend a long time in a place.
Outdoor Photographer: What photography equipment are you working with? You must be working with pretty sturdy equipment to survive the conditions you’re exposing your equipment to.
Salgado: I use Leicas and a Pentax 645, both with TRI-X film. In the Africa book, there are a lot of medium-format pictures. I choose medium format when I want to exhibit bigger pictures. The longest lens I have for the Pentax is a 300mm. The longest I have for the Leica is an 80-200mm zoom. My other lenses are all shorter. Normally, I handhold these lenses; they’re very stable. The Pentax lenses are excellent for black-and-white and give a very nice field of gray tonalities. The Pentax 645 has very good zooms as well. The Pentax has a 120mm macro lens that’s an incredibly good lens. Pentax also has a 75mm that’s very good, and it has a 45mm that’s like a 28mm in the 35mm format. It has a small zoom that covers 45-85mm that’s incredibly good. When I shoot in interiors, I must go to the faster prime lenses. I have a 55mm ƒ/2.8 that’s very good for low-light situations.
Outdoor Photographer: Do you ever work with a flash or tripod?
Salgado: Flash, no. I work with two kinds of tripods. I have a Leica tabletop tripod, which I put laterally on my chest with the Pentax 645 so I can shoot handheld at a very low speed. I also have a Manfrotto carbon-fiber tripod.
Outdoor Photographer: You tend to work with wider lenses and get in close when you work with people. Do you have a different approach when you photograph animals?
Salgado: It depends on the animals. Some animals allow you to be close, so I can work with them with a short lens. Those that don’t I must shoot with a long lens, though I don’t have the really long lenses that many animal photographers have. Some of the animal photos as well as some of the landscapes were shot from a balloon in Namibia. Balloons are fabulous to photograph from—no vibration, no noise. You become the wind.
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