When I first took over this post, my method of selecting my subjects was to stick with what, or whom, I was familiar with. It soon became apparent to me that I was milling around in a very small corner of our team, so I decided to "mix it up" a bit. I sought out subjects that were not from the US, as well as subjects whose work I was not familiar with. Most of the inhabitants of Etsy, and by extension our team, are women, so it is that most of my subjects are lacking a "Y" chromosome. But there are also men in our midst, so I try to represent that demographic as well. Oddly, I have had two gentlemen decline to participate, and two more fail to complete the interview process. And yet, I continue to march.
This time out not only is my subject a "guy", but he's someone whose work I was unfamiliar with, yet found very impressive. Please let me introduce you to Randy Nyhof, owner of YdnarImaging.
Steve: I always like to start by getting to know a bit about the person I'm interviewing. So Randy, what can you tell us about yourself? Where are you from? What was it like growing up? What's your family like? What are some of the things that make you who you are?
Randy: My name is Randall (Randy) Nyhof. I was born in Zeeland
and grew up south of there in farming country. I attended a two room country school house from kindergarten through 8th grade. There were 5 of us in my graduating class. After high school I attended Michigan intending on becoming an architect, but lost interest in that after two years and switched my major to art. Calvin College
I began working with images as a child, mainly drawing and painting. My art major was in painting and printmaking and I studied under Chris Overvoorde, Norm Mathias, Robin Jensen, Carl Huisman, and later with Takishi Takahara at
. Grand Valley State University
Clouds in the Everglades
Around this time I also took an interest in photography. I found I could make more images in a very short time with a camera than with a paint brush. I began to devote more time to learning photography at this point. Since Calvin had no classes in photography most of us on campus got together and exchanged ideas etc., so I am basically a self-taught photographer. I became known as “The” Photographer on campus.
I graduated with a degree in Art and Education, and for a few years I looked around for a teaching job in Art, without success. I ended up working for a photo store for a while, and then I got a job as a school portrait photographer. After working for this employer for 4 years, I was able to purchase my own franchise dealership with School Pictures, Inc. of
. My territory included the area where I grew up and where I now live in New York . It essentially included about a third of the state in South West Michigan. I still own and operate this business 35 years later. Grand Rapids
I am married and have three grown children, a son in-law and two grandchildren with a third on the way.
My images and interests include landscapes, seascapes, wildlife, people, fine art, abstracts, surreal, fantasy, and digital compositing. I have been involved in photography now for over forty years. During the last decade I have obtained a number of awards and have had a number of my works published. My work has been published in Popular Photography, Photo Life Magazine in
Canada, B&W Magazine, Color Magazine, Focus Magazine, Photoforum's Best of Photography Annuals, Trierenberg Super Circuit in , I was featured in an article in Burrell ProColor Labs Rainbow Magazine and also I have been published in local publications. For me, photography and creating images is an exciting adventure of which I never tire. Austria
Canoe on the Thornapple River
S: I'm curious about your segue from architecture to art; what drew you to want to become an architect in the first place?
When you made the move from architecture to art, were you moving "from" architecture or "to" art? What was it that either drove you from one or to the other?
R: When I was in High School I took courses in Drafting and Architecture. I enjoyed designing things. I decided that a career as an architect was probably the most viable one in order to make a living. Photography at this point was not even considered. After being in the architecture program for two years, the physics and calculus courses got to me. So I became a history major. That lasted one semester. I then changed my major to art, one of the things I was fairly good at. This was all during the late sixties when everything was in a bit of turmoil and uncertainty.
S: It sounds like it may have been the creative aspect that not only drew you to architecture, but to art as well.
Growing up, was there anyone in your family or close associations with an artistic bent that you looked up to; a role model perhaps or someone who encouraged your early artistic efforts?
R: I had two aunts that were fairly good artists and my one grandfather at one time did some pretty nice work, but gave it up. I was always attracted to images. Growing up in the 50's we got the Saturday Evening Post Magazine and I always admired Norman Rockwell's and the other artists cover illustrations. I found I was attracted to sights and images that others would simply pass by, such as a crack in the sidewalk. Other than that, the visual arts did not seem to play a big role in the environment that I grew up in.
Christina's World revisited
S: Having been in the photography field for as long as you have, a large part of your experience must have been with film. What are your thoughts on film versus digital? When did you start shooting digitally, and do you still shoot any film?
R: Personally I love digital, with the resolution that I have in todays cameras the quality is there for large prints. The ability to make adjustments with RAW files surpasses anything I could do with film. I still have a number of film cameras on the shelf. Some 35mm, 645 format, 6x7 format and even a 6x9 rangefinder. Also on the shelf are several Camerz ZII long roll film cameras. I no longer use any of them, the immediacy of digital is so much more convenient. I also have a high resolution medium format film scanner that I keep around if I desire to work with any images from my film past. I made the complete switch to digital for my personal work in 2004 but it wasn't until 2006 that I made the switch completely to digital in my school portrait business. I was a wholesale dealer for the Jostens Photography Division for 14 years and they were not quite ready to make the switch. Jostens is no longer in the photography business and I am now affiliated with another Professional Portrait Lab for producing my school photography products.
S: I think I know what you mean. I have several film cameras, with associated lenses and other dedicated paraphernalia that I no longer use, but can't bring myself to let go of.
I've never thought to ask anyone this question before, but with post processing evident in so many of your images, what do you enjoy more, the capturing of the image or its digital manipulation and processing after the fact?
Milkweed Pods in Black And White 2979
R: That's hard to say, I really enjoy capturing the image and pay particular attention to camera settings and the cropping in the viewfinder etc. Sometimes when I capture an image I already have some idea of the post processing that I will be doing. Other times the capture is more like a sketch of an idea that will be transformed into a finished image later. My wife and I will go on photo excursions with no preconceived idea of what we will actually be photographing. It truly is an adventure.
S: That's another one of the things I like about shooting digital; the processing can be done in the light of day, anywhere you and your laptop happen to be.
When you go on your photo excursions, is there any particular subject matter you find your lens drawn to?
R: I am partial to Landscapes and also old run down items or buildings. I think I first approach an image by noting its form or composition. My training in abstract art reflects this. In Architecture Form always had to follow Function. If one designed a beautiful building but it did not function properly for its purpose it would be considered a failure. In Art, Form and Function may be one in the same. Other thoughts and ideas on this are brought out in a book by artist and photographer Ben Shahn "The Shape of Content". Another great book for addition perspectives is "Criticizing Photographs: An Introduction to Understanding Images" by Terry Barrett.
Footprints on Beach at Kirk Park
S: You mentioned that you and your wife go on photo excursions; are these day-trips, weekend outings or longer getaways? Where do you like to go? Is your wife a photographer too?
R: Sometimes they are day trips, sometimes longer. As a member of the President's Club with Jostens and later with the Presidential Circle with Burrell Pro Colour Lab we would go to business meetings about twice a year in various locations. For example we have been to
San Diego three times, San Antonio twice, Reno, Bahamas, Naples FL, Orlando twice, Breckenridge, numerous times, and a number of other places etc. On many of these trips we would spend and extra week or so in the area. Also we have a daughter, son in-law, and two grandchildren that live in Winnipeg Manitoba . On our last trip there we spent some time going through the Badlands, Black Hills, Yellowstone and Edmonton Alberta . We’re always looking for excuses to go on photo excursions. Yes my wife is also an accomplished photographer, but spends more of her time quilting and with Quilt Organizations. Glacier National Park
S: Do you have any favorite photographers? Is there anyone you can point to that has had an influence on your work?
R: There are many photographers who I admire and probably have been an influence in one way or another. In alphabetical order some of them are Ansel Adams, Margaret Bourke-White, Jim Brandenburg, Clyde Butcher, Robert Capa, Walker Evans, Robert Frank, Yousuf Karsch, Mary Ellen Mark, Joel Meyerowitz, Arnold Newman,
, Man Ray, Galen Rowell, Ben Shahn, John Sexton, W. Eugene Smith, Edward Steichen, Alfred Stieglitz, Paul Strand, Jerry Uelsmann, Edward Weston, and Art Wolfe. Gordon Parks
Eye glasses and book lit by light through venetian blinds
S: Randy, focusing on your art, what tools do you use? What's in your bag? Do you have a favorite setup? What do you use for post processing?
R: My camera bag as of now consists of a Canon 5D MkII with a 24-70mm L lens, A Canon 50D usually equipted with a 200-400mm L Lens, A Canon Rebel T2i with a Tameron 18-270mm Di II lens, and a Sony Alpha 700 with a sony 18-250mm lens. Other lenses in the bag are a 24mm Canon Tilt-Shift lens, a Sigma 15-35mm lens for full frame Canon, a Canon 50mm Macro lens, a Canon 1.4 tele-extender, a 17-85mm IS Canon Lens, and a Sigma 50-500mm lens for the Sony. I also use Bogan Manfrotto Tripods. Also in the bag are some Canon 580,550 shoe flashes and an assortment of polarizing and neutral density filters.
For studio set-ups I use mainly Photogenic and Speed-o-tron lighting units.
Most of my post processing is done in Adobe Photoshop CS4, with maybe some adjustments done in Camera Raw before opening in Photoshop. I also use plugin filters within Photoshop. The ones I use the most often are: Lucis Pro 6.0, All the Topaz Filters, Auto fx Software, Digital Anarchy Primatte 3.0. Although I do some work on PC computers most of my work is done on a Mac Pro with dual Quad-Core Intel Xeon processors and 10 GB of RAM. For printing images I have an Epson Stylus Pro 4880 and an Epson Stylus Pro 7600. I also use Minolta Flash Lightmeters for the studio set-ups with a gray card for checking the histogram and setting a custom white balance.
S: Well Randy, having been behind the lens for 40 years or so, most of it professionally, what's next for you; where do you go from here?
R: Having watched the Professional Photography Industry decline over the past decade in regards to revenue and because I am getting older and can not move as fast as I once could, I decided to put some effort into other areas of photography, mainly Fine Art Photography. I am testing the waters so to speak with images not only at Etsy, but also I have put images on Red Bubble, Imagekind, Deviant Art, Photoshelter, and my website through Better Photo.com. Next I suppose I will set up a Blog and rework my Facebook page to promote my fine art photography. Who knows where it will go from there.
Weathering the Gulls
S: Randy, thank you for taking this time with me; I enjoy your work and I've enjoyed getting to know a bit about the man behind the camera. I wish you the best of luck!
R: Thanks Steve! Best wishes for you also.