Q&A #20: Janet Wasek

 

“Janet talks about her journey as a photographer and shares tidbits on maintaining a garden with squirrels nearby.”

 

Leigh Lim: Hi Janet, Thanks for being open to do a Q&A! Looking through your Photo feed, I’ve noticed you have a number of squirrels in your photos. Is that because of they are quite friendly when you are taking their photos?

 

Janet Wasek: Squirrels and I haven’t always been so friendly. I used to get angry with them when I’d find my gardens destroyed by their little diggy paws. But I made peace by teaching them how to take peanuts from my hand. My husband’s grandmother taught him how to do this and he showed me.

We had one very clever black squirrel trained, and the others caught on by watching her. Now we’ve got a few generations of squirrels that live in our mature oak trees, visiting for a free meal. They’re used to the sounds my camera makes as I photograph them. Squirrels, being very quick and well, squirrelly, challenge me to release the shutter at the right time. I usually miss.

 

LL: Can you give a quick summary in terms of how you got to where you are with Photography?

 

JW: Photography has been a part of my life since childhood. I used to love it when my parents brought out their Kodak Hawkeye and waited with great anticipation until the packet of prints was ready at the drug store.

When I was a teenager in the late 70s I loved going to rock concerts and would take my woefully underpowered point-and-shoot 126 camera to the shows. I’d have photos of little tiny smudges, but knew those smudges were the members of Queen, The Who, or Led Zeppelin.

Eventually I got a 35mm Pentax K1000 and was able to get decent images at shows. But I soon realized I had more fun taking pictures of my friends, family, and other things in my life that made me happy.

Soon the camera became indispensable to me, and eventually I made the switch to digital about 10 years ago. This opened up a whole new world, to be able to see my images instantaneously and make adjustments on the spot. Translating that imagery, how I “see” things, has always been my goal.

 

 

 

LL: If you were to put together a ‘learning plan’ or practice pack for someone who has never consciously paid attention when taking photos before, so they could have the capacity to capture photographs at your level and skill. What would it look like?

JW: I wouldn’t have the first idea how to accomplish this. I don’t give my photography enough thought to really examine what I do enough to understand it myself much less pass it on to others. It’s something that I feel rather than think about extensively. It has been a very personal experience, so I would emphasize that it’s important for people to discover what works for them, rather than try to copy someone else’s technique.

 

LL: Do you have a piece of equipment (or software) that you thought was a good buy at that time, but you eventually didn’t use it as much as you hoped?

JW: Over the years I’ve accumulated a shelf full of equipment that I no longer use, but all of it has been used at one point. I could mention the 35mm I had that fell apart repeatedly and was in the shop more often than not, but I don’t want to badmouth [the brand] since people seem to be satisfied with it.

I’ve purchased cameras that have rather fussy interfaces, and I tend to use them less. I favor straightforward equipment that does what I want it to do, rather than to have it second-guess for me.

 

 

LL: Favourite time of the day to photograph?

JW: I like morning and evening, when the light is long and soft. But the kind of light I like the best is a nice bright overcast when it seems like morning lasts all day. On sunny days I tend not to photograph, as full sun causes such harsh shadows and I don’t carry around equipment to bounce the light. If the weather is dreary or bad (fog, snow, even rain) I lunge for my camera and dash out the door.

 

LL: Do you plan when you take photos?

JW: I just assume I’ll always be taking photos, so to be prepared I go everywhere with my camera, and this was something I did before the advent of iPhones and tiny digital cameras. The camera is as essential as my driver’s license or wallet.

I tend to travel light, however, and don’t bring tripods or flashes or anything that I have to lug around when I’m out. I will use them at home, however. This is why I tend to favor bridge cameras with a large optical range so I don’t need to bring along extra lenses.

 

 

LL: Are there times when you bring more than one camera?

JW: I usually have my little Lumix point-and-shoot as a backup just in case I need it. Batteries die, cards fill up, lenses get stuck…so it’s best to be prepared.

 

LL: Are you learning something specific at the moment?

JW: I’m always learning something every time I use Photoshop.

 

LL: Do you have a specific site you go to for Photoshop tips?

JW: Flickr is a wonderful resource and I usually go into the Photoshop groups when I encounter difficulties or have an idea for an effect in mind but don’t know how to achieve it. Plus it’s always fun just to play around in Photoshop to discover new effects.

 

 

LL: Do you have a regular schedule of posting photos?

JW: I post photos on a regular basis, at least one a day. If I’m away from my usual computer I make sure to have some photos on a thumb drive so I won’t miss a day.

 

LL: How often do you back-up your photos?

JW: I back them up at least once a week – or I try to stick to that. I don’t always make it.

 

LL: Are you a big listener of music?

JW: I love the music of Kate Bush and have for decades. I love her fearlessness and loyalty to her muse. Being American, back in the early days it was difficult to find another Kate Bush fan outside my circle of friends. This was long before the internet, you understand. Things have changed considerably since the advent of the web. It’s wonderful to know there are so many others out there who feel the same way. It was a dream come true to see her perform live in London earlier this year.

I recently discovered the music of Marissa Nadler, and her soundscapes have a certain kind of lighting and color in them (does that even make sense?) that I find inspiring.

 

 

 

LL: Do you think it’s because you can imagine how Marissa’s songs would look like if they were a photograph?

JW: Yes, I do tend to interpret other art in visual terms. With Marissa’s work it’s something to do with the light, I get a feeling of that kind of light just before a storm.

 

LL: Do you go out of your way to discover new things?

JW: In the 1980s I’d find out about new music from reading imported British music magazines rather than depend on the desert wasteland of radio or MTV. Now I find out about new music from recommendations from like-minded people on the internet and from other sources like Pandora.

LL: Where do you go for inspiration?

JW: Often I find myself looking back on the photos I’ve taken in years past, trying to recapture in my soul whatever it was that spurred on those images. Or seeing if I can do better with the skills I’ve learned in the interim. Of course, seeing other people’s work on Flickr is endlessly inspiring.

 

 

LL: What’s your view about social media?

JW: The old bulletin board style social media from the 90s left me cold, so I wasn’t too keen on jumping back in. Therefore I was reluctant to get into the current crop of social media but I begrudgingly got into Facebook. I don’t do Twitter, but am curious about Instagram.

I loved Fotolog from the first time I encountered it, but over time the fun was lost there so I made the jump to Flickr and haven’t looked back. The people there are fantastic and inspirational, fun and interesting, happy and encouraging.

LL: Do you currently post at any Forums?

JW: I don’t participate. Just as I wouldn’t jump in to a conversation between strangers, I don’t feel right about doing so electronically. I guess my natural shyness extends into the cyber world as well as the real one.

 

 

LL: Are there websites that you like to visit just because you like the design?

JW: I really love the artwork on this site: https://artandghosts.squarespace.com/   Louise’s style is enchanting and I love to visit her site just because it makes me happy. I have some of her artwork framed and on my wall, and I never tire of gazing at it.

I also really admire Cate’s photography http://catedavies.com/ I find her style to be pure magic.

LL: What would you do when you need cheering up?

JW: I can always depend on the writings of Colette to take me into her world and when I return to mine, to “see” it better. Listening to Kate Bush’s Aerial – A Sky of Honey has the same effect.

 

 

LL: What helps you focus on your uniqueness? (either during ‘down days’ or when you get a disappointing result)

JW: Oh I have down days all the time, and am disappointed in my results more often than not. But when others see something I can’t, or have overlooked, that helps me look at my work with a fresh attitude. Feedback from the community is so important.

 

LL: Are you interested in technology?

JW: I’m a total Luddite when it comes to this sort of thing. Well, that’s not exactly true. It’s not that I don’t enjoy using technology and I do update my skill set as technology changes, it’s just that I’m not always looking for the next big technological change.

 

 

LL: With your photos, are you looking to upload the same kind in the future? Or are you looking to do different things?

JW: I seem to have a rhythm to my work that coincides with the seasons. Each year I learn a little bit more, and build on the previous year. But I don’t see any big changes. Then again, the big changes tend to be the ones you don’t see coming.

LL: If you were asked to pick from the photos you have, which one would be your favourite?

JW: Oh, I can’t pick a favorite. But I am fond of my autumnal collections, especially the images of things I’ve gathered. I like the soft light of autumn’s cloudy days, and the lovely shades and colors both bright and muted as nature goes to sleep for the winter. I’m gearing up now for Autumn 2014.

I find it strange that some of my favorite photos are barely noticed, while ones I’ve put in my reject pile get so much love from others. This one’s a perfect example of that.

 

LL: What are some misconceptions you find about you as a photographer?

JW: Now that everyone has cameras on their phones I find taking pictures is much more acceptable. But also there’s the feeling that photography is something anyone can excel at if one’s camera is good enough. Not that hardware isn’t important, but there is something to be said for the eye that’s behind it. That part often gets ignored.

 

LL: For someone looking at your photos for the first time, what is the message you’re hoping they’ll take with them?

JW: I would want them to take a deeper look at the things around them, to see them in different ways or imagine seeing things through another’s eyes. For writers, the golden rule seems to be “write what you know” and that can be turned into “Photograph what you know” just as easily. To be able to transform something familiar in your life into an image that inspires you and others is a magical feeling.

 

 

LL: What feeds your soul?

JW: Being out in nature with my camera, but also finding time to be with my dear friends. Also, I love to explore new places almost as much as I love returning to beloved places.

LL: What do you find is the best way to connect with your audience?

JW: I never set out to have an audience, I do this for myself. Although, it’s nice to be able to share and I’m honored that others find what I do of any interest at all.

 

* Janet Wasek is a photographer currently based out of Maryland (just outside of Washington DC). You can check out her recent photographs by visiting her Flickr Photostream.

 

 

 

 

Source Material and Notes: The material posted is based on correspondence (August-November 2014) between Janet and Leigh. Content has been edited for length, and the final version has been reviewed and approved by the interviewee.

Leigh Lim is a musician based out of Sydney. You can find a sample of her music here. To reach out to Leigh, you can do so via this form or a direct message through YouTube. (Curious to find out if she’s your kind of person? You can check out her slightly cheeky FAQ.)

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Q&A #17: Michal Wilczek

West Coast Tour 2014

 

“Mikee shares his journey as a photographer, his love for Batman, the importance of being humble, and a quote from LOTR”

 

 

Leigh Lim: Hi Mikee, thanks for taking the time to do a Q&A!

Michal Wilczek: Hi Leigh! Thank You for taking Your time on preparing these questions. I was really touched by Your in-depth research and re-discovered some pictures that I haven’t seen in a while – what a journey it has been for me :)! I just came back to my home in Krakow, I spent some time abroad and on out-of-town projects. Here we go.

 

LL: Looking at your photo stream, I noticed a bunch of Batman related photos! Are you quite the fan?

MW: I’ve been a Batman Fan since I was 3. To this day I remember my uncle bringing over a Russian VHS version of the Tim Burton classic. The opening sequence haunted me for years to come. Batman opened my eyes to the “terrifying” world of darkness and comics. From then on it was a great experience – 2 years later I got to see Batman Returns and got hooked on Batman – The Animated Series.

The rest of my Bat curiosity was set in motion and every year I found some new Batman related stories that I still love to this day. I actually shared all of the cowls on my Flickr – I have the highest respect for all of the Batman films that came out – each is special for its time period, the people behind the camera, the producers and the actors. I think every actor that had to put the “cowl” on did a phenomenal job – Adam West, Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, George Clooney, Kevin Conroy (the voice of Batman the Animated Series) and Christian Bale – love their work and dedication.

I have high hopes for Ben Affleck’s take on Bruce Wayne, I’ve been a great fan of his classic work in “Good Will Hunting” and even more respect for his return in “The Town” and “Argo”.

 

Easter / 2014

 

 

LL: Do you think part of you sometimes switches to the point of view of ‘Batman – The Animated Series’? I know it’s likely a coincidence! I just couldn’t help thinking about the cinematic (and dark) vibe of the series when looking at these two photos: the cheeky ‘Which way to the food court?’ and one from the West Coast tour.

 

MW: There is a part of me that does not want to leave the wonderful and inspiring moments of my childhood behind. Some call it a “condition” :), but I a strong believer in the power of nostalgia on who we are today.

Whether it is the wonderful colours that where amongst Leonardo, Donatello and the rest of the gang from the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the rapid action and detailed “Centurions” (Power EXTREME !! 🙂 ) or the dark corners of the dangerous and mysterious Gotham City from Batman the Animated series… I’d say.. “yeah” :), the cinematic vibe is totally in my head when I am thinking of the mood I want to achieve in each published frame.

 

LL: Can you give a quick summary in terms of how you got to where you are with Photography?

MW: I didn’t have the resources to go with even an entry-level SLR when I started taking my first pictures. Luckily enough I was able to “borrow” my dad’s Canon AF-1 with a 28mm f/2 lens when I was still in elementary school. From time to time I would take my gear to school to joke around with my friends. In high school I decided to keep a low-profile and focus more on scanning and post-processing the pictures.

One of my greatest personal achievements of that time was having my older brother carry some of my printed work on his notepad to school :).

My break through came in 2003, when I got into Clear Lake High School’s Photography classes and was guided on SLR work with Mr. Caldarera. The creative freedom and fundamentals I learned during that year were the core of what my work is today.

I looked up photo work on the web, magazines, store posters, banners and tried to replicate the process in my head, guessing what lens, exposure, iso, post-processing method was being used and after a while “my-mental-hard-drive” needed some cleaning, which I usually did by giving an extra-personal-touch to my work.

The biggest milestone occurred, when I got my first prime lens.

 

 

 

 

LL: If you were to put together a ‘learning plan’ or practice pack for someone who has never consciously paid attention when taking photos before, so they could have the capacity to capture photographs at your level and skill. What would it look like?

MW: I guess time is the biggest factor. That and being humble. Learning about Your mistakes, taking criticism and learning from it too. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, especially amongst people who share the same hobby as You do. As You get older, Your skills and perspective will change, You’ll look back at Your work saying “My God… what was I thinking??” but that’s part of the learning process.

 

As for monetisation – I made myself a promise when I bought my first DSLR: ‘that I would never, ever let my creative work make me think that it’s okay to look down on others. It would be great to be part of the photography business and make a living based on telling stories with photos, so let’s try to get there some day. So far, things have been great – but if one day the phone stops ringing and the offers stop coming in – I will still be happy that I spent a significant time of my life on taking photos for others :).

 

 

LL: For those wanting to learn how to get this effect in photos, where should they start?

MW: I guess it’s all about finding what makes You happy. Some people like fashion photography, some like documentaries and some like taking stills of landscapes. I tried taking pictures in almost every category there is out there and after 8 years I can say that my top 3 are – animals, portraits and documentary.

Once You find Your niche, You can explore the possibilities of framing, effects, colouring and so on. I tend to mix-up styles and most times it looks really bad, but again – that’s part of the learning process and it’s always better to try than sit on your ass and not do anything :).

 

 

 

LL: Favourite time of the day to photograph?

MW: My favourite time is usually…when I have the time. Everybody loves the possibilities the golden hour gives, but sometimes – You just can’t take pictures during that time of the day.

I started loving outdoor photography, when I learned to use my flash+softbox as an extra light outside. That way, even in the most harsh sun, I would use the sun as a counter light and the electronic flash + soft box as the fill light. This technique allowed me take all of my Malawi portraits in less the 4 hours time. We were basically chasing the sun to make sure there is enough lighting in the background.

Eventually we also took some night pictures to imitate a studio shoot for one of the local musicians and to this day, I consider those pictures one of my greatest achievements.

 

 

LL: Do you plan when you take photos?

MW: I love being spontaneous, but only during my personal time :).

I love my job and the opportunity that life has given me with this kind of work. Therefore, I am very serious on getting ready for the task that is given to me. I brief the customer, ask about the tastes in image framing, colouring, set up a pre-meeting to get to know my project on a personal level and try to create a story based on the given task.

The day before the shoot I clean my lenses, buy extra batteries, check the wireless transmitters, clear the memory cards, prepare the soft-boxes and tripods. Preparation, with the time needed for charging, is about 30 minutes.

 

 

 

LL: Do you use wireless for all remote triggering (like flash) and as well as for transferring image data?

MW: I have two flashes fit with wireless receivers that had taken quite-the-beating these last two years, but whenever I am in the situation that I can control the lighting to achieve a desired effect, I definitely go a flash combo. Some people will get fussy about using flash, as a way of limiting natural light coming into a frame, but I beg to differ.

I set the flash to “compensate” the lack of light within an environment and point it at an angle, never directly – even when I “hot-shoe” the flash, I have to bounce it off a ceiling or wall (or a piece of cardboard 😀 ) but never directly on the model – I just don’t like that effect.

 

LL: How would you describe your style of Photography?

MW: I was never big with words (that’s a skill my brother has), therefore I can’t find the word to describe my work. I spend less time describing and “just get out there” to do my work. The less time I spent on thinking what my work represents, the more time I have to learn some new tricks and explore for some new inspirations.

 

 

 

LL: Are you learning something specific at the moment?

MW: Recently, I was invited to take some shots of airplanes flying into Krakow Balice Airport by my friend Tomek. The night before I saw, by chance, the intro to Michael Bay’s “Bad Boys”, which features a commercial plane flying over the Miami sign – not bad for an overnight inspiration. My work should be available sometime in the next two weeks.

 

LL: What’s your go-to set-up?

MW: Minimal setup: Canon 6D | 24-70mm 2.8L | 64GB SD | 35cm light bouncer | Monopod

I used this setup during my one-day report in Paris, where I was limited to only 8kg of luggage including clothing and gear.

Optimum setup: all of the above | 50mm 1.2L | 70-20mm f/4 IS | 430 EXII | Pixel King Wireless Flash | Softbox+Tripod combo

I used this set for my work in China and Macau. It proved perfect for its weight and reliability.

Perfect setup : Minimal+optimum | Canon 5D Mark II | 14mm 2.8L II I 2x430EX II | 2 x Pixel King Wireless Flash | 2 x Softbox+Tripod combo

This is my setup for domestic photo projects. With this setup I am ready for most challenges given to me by clients, lighting and time.

 

 

 

LL: Did it take awhile for you to settle on the kind of set-up that you like?

MW: Trial and error, all the time. I’d look up some work on Flickr, reddit and then try to recreate an idea. Sometimes I would set up these “cheat sheets” with various pictures linking the idea I wanted to capture and most of the times the final composition was a mixture of a couple of concepts.

 

LL: Has your equipment undergone customisation?

MW: I did a little “tuning”. I updated the firmware and picture profiles to give me a better idea of what the final result might be. Due to massive usage and a couple of times in the rain, I decided to put some “duct tape” on my trusted 5D, which now serves as my secondary camera.

 

LL: Do you have a piece of equipment (or software) that you thought was a good buy at that time, but you eventually didn’t use it as much as you hoped?

MW: The only time I sold my gear, was when I was switching to Canon from Nikon. At that time I wanted my trusted lenses to go to someone, who would not only take care of them, but also use them to document stories and family life, and they still do to this day :).

My first film lenses were actually my fathers old PL-mount lenses, which I still use to this day.

 

 

LL: Have you been always mindful of ergonomics each time you shoot?

MW: I try to carry my backpack on three straps at a time, using a chest mount, a stomach mount and the standard shoulder straps. That way, the excess weight is evenly distributed on my spine and I have less stress on my back. For those extra heavy work days or usually on the third consecutive day I put on my basketball shoes, which tend to be better for my knees.

 

LL: What shoes do you usually wear?

MW: Mother nature blessed me (and cursed and the same time) with a pair of large and wide feet (shoe size 45 – 45.5) – therefore it was always easy for me to swim a bit faster :), but at the same time it was difficult finding shoes that would resist the amount of “inside” pressure from all the movement I was giving them.

Luckily I started skateboarding at an early age and I have been wearing skateboarding shoes for almost 16 years.

 

LL: Equipment Maintenance and Storage?

MW: Sensor cleaning every 2-3 months, lens cleaning before every shoot.

 

LL: Do you keep prints of your photos?

MW: I print my favourites, share them with my family and friends. Whenever an exhibition is finished, I tend to distribute the “left overs” 🙂 amongst those that care about my work and would like to have it in their home.

 

 

 

LL: Can you share a bit of how some of your photos came about?

MW: Jasio Wolfy – This is a photo of my brother’s son, one of my favourite shots – I guess it was his first smile for my camera. That kid is going to flood my photo stream soon.

Cookie, summertime 2014 – This is an “Action” shot of our dog Cookie, [she] makes the most awkward poses when she wants to play [with] all the other dogs.

Myslecinek // Walking in the rain –  My significant other on a walk with my dear Mom. I was fortunate enough to get the right focus on them while running towards a puddle.

 

 I’m 10 today – My dear Uncle Jasiu’s 10 year old cat that likes to sit in the dark. I caught it looking at some pigeons flying over my uncles house.


Odd one – While visiting the local cemetery in Yang Zhou, my dear friend Mei showed us the only “Christian” grave there.

 

Mr. Tim Roth [in Krakow] – I had the unique opportunity of meeting the great Tim Roth while he was visiting Krakow in 2011. I even had a brief chat with Mr. Roth on his work with director Quentin Tarantino, which made the meeting even more memorable. Great guy.

 

 

 

LL: Do you have a favourite self-portrait?

MW: I tend to point the lens at others. Sometimes I manage to squeeze in via a reflection, but that rarely happens.

As for my Gramps, well – he’s my “dziadzia” and I’ve been looking up to him for almost 30 years now. We share some great moments together and ever since I convinced him to “be himself” and not worry about me taking my camera everywhere with me, he’s never been happier. I usually have a “same-day” delivery arrangement with them, whereas my Grandma downloads the pictures on her laptop and shares them with the rest of the family.

 

 

 

 

LL: Do you have a regular schedule of posting photos?

MW: As You can tell, I haven’t posted to Flickr for a while, but that will change. I used to have a rule of posting at least one photo-per-day, and I have about 80 photos waiting to be uploaded. I’ll prepare the proper description and then flood my photostream :).

 

LL: What would you like to learn about next?

MW: I recently discovered a new method of retouching skin tones, without destroying the skin structure – one of the biggest improvement to my work. I also am learning the power of using color-foil filters on flash and will be posting more pictures featuring both of these methods to my photostream.

LL: Are there certain things you ‘geek out’ about?

MW: Nostalgia, old-but-good movies, puppies/kittens and backgrounds that remind me of a cinematic universe somewhere out there :).

 

LL: Are you a big listener of music?

MW: I was never too big on the “you-probably-never-heard-of-them” movement. I usually grabbed my musical inspirations [from] my fathers records, then my older brother. In the times of Napster, Myspace and Youtube it became relatively easy to get the music one wanted to hear at a given moment. If you look at some of the playlist I have made for myself on Youtube, it’s hard to define one genre or artist that motivates me on a daily basis :).

 

Author’s Note: Mikee has provided a link to playlists — you can find them here, here, here, here, and here.

 

 

 

LL: Do you go out of your way to discover new things?

MW: I spent a lot of time on Reddit and treat it as one of the most reliable sources for inspiration, learning and entertainment .

 

 

LL: Where do you go for inspiration?

MW: I usually scan through random photos on Flickr, watch a late night movie or scan through some old comic books.

 

Cookie // First snow in 2015

 

LL: What helps you focus on your uniqueness?

MW: My family, dog and significant other :).

 

LL: What makes you smile?

MW: A good joke, my dog doing some random shenanigans, a phone call from an old friend, sunrise when I’m driving for [an] early project, the smell of spices my grandmother uses for cooking, an e-mail from my mom or the smile of my other half.

 

LL: What’s your view about social media?

MW: One of my good friends, who is one of the top social media experts in Poland, brought me into this strange world of clicking, likes and sharing – and sharing my work has never been better. The idea of spreading your thoughts and work, to those that care the most with a click of button is still stunning to me :).

 

 

 

LL: What are your favourite sites at the moment?

MW: Reddit, Cracked (though I miss the “old cracked.com”) and a few others.

 

LL: Do you currently post at any forums?

MW: I have a few Flickr and Reddit forums I post to, photography related. Usually it’s about technique, the right gear or just plain “great job!” comments and upvotes to support the person on the other side of the screen :).

 

LL: Are there websites that you like to visit just because you like the design?

MW: Not really, its the content – though I am a big fan of visibility / ad-free – and Reddit delivers :).

LL: What would you do when you need cheering up?

MW: Play a map of Heroes of Might and Magic 3, go with my dog for a walk, take a ride in my car, call my brother – some options are always available.

 

LL: Would you be open to collaborating with other artists?

MW: One Greek philosopher once said that we have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak – I try to be listener amongst collaborations and give my insight, when asked for it. There are areas, where my creative ego wants to take over, but I try to keep it in the closet for those “we-have-24-hours-to-publish-this” moments.

 

1.2, further testing.

 

LL: Are you interested in technology?

MW: I wouldn’t call myself of tech geek, but to keep this area short – I work on a Mac, edit videos in FCPX, photos in Lightroom and Photoshop CC, shoot on Canon cameras and lenses.

LL: If you were asked to pick from your photos, which one would be your favourite?

MW: Either my father or Ben on the tracks.

 

 

LL: For someone seeing one of your photos for the first time, what is the message you’re hoping they’ll take with them?

MW: I guess the overall message its that, so far, for me life is set of random stories from various places around the world- and that the one thing linking all of these stories, is the person behind the camera. The older I get, the more I notice how many things I forgot and how much more I remember thanks to those extra clicks on the camera.

Go out there, shoot, edit, publish – You’ll thank Yourself in 10 years time :).

 

LL: What makes your soul sing?

MW: I’ve never thought I would directly use a quote, but this best illustrates my everyday motivation:

 

Sam: It’s like in the great stories Mr. Frodo, the ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were, and sometimes you didn’t want to know the end because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end it’s only a passing thing this shadow, even darkness must pass. A new day will come, and when the sun shines it’ll shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you, that meant something even if you were too small to understand why. But I think Mr. Frodo, I do understand, I know now folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going because they were holding on to something.

 

Frodo: What are we holding onto, Sam?

 

Sam: That there’s some good in the world, Mr. Frodo, and it’s worth fighting for.

 

Editor’s Note: You can find that scene in the film version of the Two Towers.

 

 

 

LL: What do you find is the best way to connect with people who admire your work?

MW: Definitely sending and replying to individual messages via my Facebook Fan Page. After a video project last Year I responded to over 300 emails, each individually and thanked all the people that wrote me with this.

 

 

 

* Michal Wilczek is a photographer based at Kraków. You can find out more about him (and see more of his photos!) via Flickr or Facebook.

 

So, here's me. // Macau '12

 

Source Material and Notes: The material posted is based on correspondence (September 2014 – January 2015) between Michal and Leigh. Content has been edited for length, and the final version has been reviewed and approved by the interviewee.

Leigh Lim is a musician based at Sydney. You can find a sample of her music here. To reach out to Leigh, you can do so via this form or a direct message through YouTube. Curious to find out if she’s your kind of person? You can check out her tweets and personal entries.

Notes:

  • If there are things that you’d like to know about Michal that I have not covered, please do leave a note (using the second form gives me the opportunity to share your request with the WNE community and also to give Michal the option of answering).
  • Corrections and additional information: Spot one? Let me know!
  • Q&A Suggestions (individuals or groups) and feedback (specific or general) are always welcome. 🙂
  • If you share a quote from your favorite Q&A on Twitter, don’t forget to use the hashtag ‘#WNEQA’!
  • WNEQA is now on Facebook! 🙂
  • This post has been tagged so it could be considered for Long Reads.
  • To lock me in to be involved in your Q&A/FAQ for your page, contact me or fast track your request here🙂

Interested in reading more?

  • Following each Q&A session I post a separate entry (The Quote Jar: Fourteen) that would be a companion piece to Michal’s Q&A.
  • How about checking out all the other Q&As?

Want to start a conversation unrelated to the Q&A? That’s okay too! Just use the first form below. 😀

 

** For feedback and comments that you wouldn’t mind displayed publicly, you can use the ‘leave a comment link’ below.

Q&A #15: Anton Zabermach

 

Anton shares his journey as a photographer, the importance of imagining the how you would like the image to look like, and how he ended up with a ton (more than 15k) of favourite photos on Flickr.

 

Leigh Lim: Hi Anton! Thanks for taking the time to do a Q&A. In your photostream I noticed that your photos alternate between coloured and black & white. Do you find yourself shooting purely in Black and White for a time, then find that you want to go for colour?

Anton Zabermach: If we’re talking about my choice, it does depend on how I’m feeling that day. If it were up to someone else, I am okay with them going with colour or B&W.

 

LL: Can you give a quick summary in terms of how you got to where you are with Photography?

 

AZ: First, the encouragement and healthy criticism from loved ones, secondly, the wish to create something new and something that won’t be similar to other peoples work. Thirdly and then – technical boring stuff 🙂

You can perfectly master the technical part of the process and successfully apply knowledge into practice, but if you have no distinguishing vision in your mind – that won’t work.

 

 

LL: If you were to put together a ‘learning plan’ or practice pack for someone who has never consciously paid attention when taking photos before, so they could have the capacity to capture photographs at your level and skill. What would it look like?

AZ: There are tons of different learning plans and I won’t create anything new here. My advise is not to shoot thoughtlessly, you should try to imagine the final photograph in your mind, after all alterations have been done (software filters etc), you should think “will that photograph be interesting for anyone?” If so – you can capture that moment. If not – well, suggest why and try to change something to meet that goal.

 

LL: Favourite time of the day to photograph? Do you plan when you take photos?

AZ: I don’t usually think if it’s the best or worst time for the photoshoot. I probably won’t be shooting if it’s freezing outside, in all other circumstances – why not? You should know what you want, and then decide the time of day – whether it will be morning or evening, sunny weather or cloudy one and so on. My Nikon FE2 is always on hand and also a pair of lenses (24mm and 50mm or 50mm and 135mm or 35mm and 85mm) and a couple of film rolls of course.

 

 

LL: Are you learning something specific at the moment?

AZ: Of course! I learn from my own mistakes 🙂

 

 

LL: What’s your go-to set-up?

AZ: Well, actually I don’t have any specific set-ups either.

 

LL: Do you have a piece of equipment (or software) that you thought was a good buy at that time, but you eventually didn’t use it as much as you hoped?

AZ: I have been wanting to buy a medium format camera. Bronica, for example. I rarely use digital camera, but there are some situations when I can’t use anything else (i.e. commercial photoshoots which I do not post on my Flickr photostream).

As for useless stuff – I do not keep it, but actually I can’t remember anything I previously brought after awhile it dawned on me “why I had made that stupid purchase?”

 

LL: Have you been always mindful of ergonomics each time you shoot?

AZ: Actually before your question I didn’t even think of ergonomics and all that healthy stuff you are asking about 🙂


LL: Equipment Maintenance and Storage?

AZ: The main thing is not to drop your cameras or lenses, all other things are survivable.

 

 

LL: Do you keep prints of your photos?

AZ: I used to print my photographs the time I was just starting, now I don’t see any need for that – digital copies are enough. I have got an old photo enlarger but it needs to be repaired, so if I repair it someday probably I will be printing my photographs again.

 

LL: Do you find yourself browsing other photographers’ work quite often?

 AZ: I always browse other photographers’ works if I have spare time. All photos which I tagged as favourites are just photos about which I liked the colour or composition, idea or realisation or something else or all that together. These 11000 favourited photos should not be considered as 11000 masterpieces, they are just photographs which caught my [eye].

 

LL: Do you have a regular schedule of uploading photos on Flickr?

AZ: I always have something to share. I post about 3-4 photos per day, but if I don’t have enough time for that, I don’t mind.

 

 

LL: Is there a topic that would get you talking endlessly?

AZ: Politics and stupid jokes 🙂

 

LL: Are you a big listener of music?

AZ: I listen to music a bit more often than an average listener and I don’t care if other people listen to the same artists. There are some bands, just to understand my taste: Led Zeppelin, Queen, Porcupine Tree, Morcheeba, The Jam, Infected Mushroom. The list is long, actually. Also I can listen to any album of Lunatic Soul for infinity. And I’ve got some friends who are musicians, I make photos for them from time to time.

 

LL: Where do you go for inspiration?

AZ: I look at my environment. I Feel inspired by the air, people, city, rain, sun and so on.

 

LL: What’s your view about social media?

AZ: I rarely interact on social media. Though I have profiles on Flickr, Twitter, and Facebook — I just view photos and read news.

 

 

LL: Do you currently post at any Forums?

AZ: I post to some groups on Facebook. Just found these groups, joined and started to post – that’s all.

 

LL: What would you do when you need cheering up?

AZ: I just walk around and enjoy the city

 

LL: Would you be open to collaborating with other artists?

AZ: It depends on the type of collaboration. If it seems interesting for me (even if it’s not profitable) – than yes, why not.

 

LL: Are you interested in technology?

AZ: Not really. I use open-source software, Ubuntu 14.04 LTS. I use Darktable and GIMP for work with photos.

 

 

LL: If you were asked to pick from the photos you have, which ones would be your favourite?

AZ: They are all favourites and I have something to tell about each of them. I think I haven’t done my best shot yet.

 

LL: What do you find is the best way to connect with your audience?

AZ: I prefer live small-scale conversations.

 

 

* Anton Zabermach is a photographer. You can see more of his photos on Flickr.

 Source Material and Notes: The material posted is based on correspondence (September-December 2014) between Anton and Leigh. Content has been edited for length, and the final version has been reviewed and approved by the interviewee.

Leigh Lim is a musician based at Sydney. You can find a sample of her music here. To reach out to Leigh, you can do so via this form or a direct message through YouTube. (Curious to find out if she’s your kind of person? You can check out her tweets and personal entries.)

Notes:

  • If there are things that you’d like to know about Anton that I have not covered, please do leave a note (using the second form gives me the opportunity to share your request with the WNE community and also to give Anton the option of answering).
  • Corrections and additional information: Spot one? Let me know!
  • Q&A Suggestions (individuals or groups) and feedback (specific or general) are always welcome. 🙂
  • If you share a quote from your favorite Q&A on Twitter, don’t forget to use the hashtag ‘#WNEQA’!
  • WNEQA is now on Facebook! 🙂
  • Since this post has less than 1,500 words I’m not tagging it to be considered for Long Reads.
  • To lock me in to be involved in your Q&A/FAQ for your page, contact me or fast track your request here🙂

Interested in reading more?

  • Following each Q&A session I post a separate entry (The Quote Jar: Fourteen) that would be a companion piece to Anton’s Q&A.
  • How about checking out all the other Q&As?

Want to start a conversation unrelated to the Q&A? That’s okay too! Just use the first form below. 😀

 

** For feedback and comments that you wouldn’t mind displayed publicly, you can use the ‘leave a comment link’ below.

Q&A #9: JR Smith

Sunset Photo: JR Smith

Sunset
Photo: JR Smith

 

 

JR shares his journey as a photographer, his love for film, and also his hope that more people would spend more time with their surroundings (not their phones).”

 

 

Leigh Lim: Hi JR! Thanks for taking the time to do a Q&A. Upon visiting your blog, I took a few moments to admire the subheading: “Rediscovering film while reclaiming my life”. Did you consider using other subheadings, before settling on the one you have now?

JR Smith: Photography has been the one constant, with some starts and stops, in my life. I went through a very difficult time 12 years ago and had to sell all of my cameras and photography gear. Once I put it all behind me, I started putting myself back together and rediscovered photography again.

Digital photography didn’t inspire me, so I set about rediscovering old film cameras and film photography. It’s been creative therapy for me. I lost myself for about a decade, and slowly I’m rediscovering film and finding myself..

 

LL: Can you give a quick summary in terms of how you got to where you are with Photography?

JRS: I started learning photography as a teenager. In those days, lots of people developed and printed their own film. I had very little money, used a hand me down camera and did odd jobs to buy the stuff I needed to set up my home darkroom. I think only through the process of taking a photo, developing the film and printing your images yourself, do you connect the whole process.

I started looking at the work of Ansel Adams and I read everything I could that he wrote. Adams was an artist and a scientist–always working to perfect not only the taking of the photograph, but the process of developing the film and printing his negatives to end up with the image he wanted. Through Ansel’s books, I learned about burning and dodging when printing–things you can do now in Photoshop.

Before the internet, I bought lots of books on technique as well as coffee table books containing the best work of photographers. I’d remember the images that pleased me–mostly landscapes, still life and found objects. I knew that was the kind of photography I wanted to do.

LL: If you were to put together a ‘learning plan’ or practice pack for someone who has never consciously paid attention when taking photos before, so they could have the capacity to capture photographs at your level and skill. What would it look like?

JRS: First, I would tell someone to slow down. Digital photography, by it’s very nature, encourages shooting lots and lots of photographs without thinking about them too much. When you load a film camera with 12 or 36 exposures, you have a limited amount of frames to shoot, so you tend to think more about what you are shooting.

That being said, I would suggest anyone that is serious about learning photography, start with a film camera. Get one with dials and levers so you get a visual and mechanical understanding of shutter speeds and f/stops. Pick one type of film and shoot only that. Learn it. Learn how to use your camera. Speaking only for myself, I would start with black and white photography because it forces you to learn how light is the very essence of photography.

Take the camera out of automatic mode and shoot manually–even if you goof up most of your shots. We learn by making mistakes.

 

LL: Favourite time of the day to photograph?

JRS: The books all tell you early morning or late in the day, because the shadows are more interesting. But some of my favorite shots were taken mid-day. My favorite time to shoot is whenever I have a camera in my hand.

 

LL: Do you plan when you take photos?

JRS: I do. I start out thinking if it will be a monochrome day or if I want to shoot color. I consider if I’ll be walking a lot and that will determine if I want to carry a heavy medium format camera around all day or a lighter 35mm one. When I go out, I only bring one lens. Too many photographers lug around a bag of lenses–and that just slows you down. And I only shoot with prime lenses. Zoom lenses are for lazy photographers and even the best zooms aren’t as fast as a good prime lens. I bring several rolls of film and my light meter.

 

35 Summicron F:2 ASPH Photo: JR Smith

35 Summicron F:2 ASPH
Photo: JR Smith

LL: Do you have a favourite prime lens?

JRS: My 85mm f/2 Nikkor is my favorite. The focal length seems just right for most things. And I love the dreamy bokeh. Next up would be the 50mm Summicron f/2 DR lens I use on my Leica M4. It’s amazing that man could make a lens so sharp and so well made.

LL: How would you describe your style of Photography?

JRS: That’s a hard one, because my style is evolving as I am spending more time on making better images and not fooling around with lots of old cameras. A good friend of mine told me that my style is “lonely.” He said even my shots of flowers and sunlight beaches suggest a photographer who enjoys isolation to social interaction.

 

LL: Do you think that description is accurate?

JRS: When not taking photographs, I’m around a lot of noise (both technology and people wise). I suppose that is why I cherish alone time with my camera and why I’d rather photograph places and things rather than people.

 

LL: What are some misconceptions you find about you as a photographer?

JRS: That I am old fashioned because I shoot on film. I choose to shoot on film because I like the organic connection to the process, I like the look of film and I appreciate being able to use superb old film cameras that I could never afford when they were new and now can.

 

LL: Are you learning something specific at the moment?

JRS: I have finally set aside time to learn The Zone System. It’s fascinating and I have been inspired to learn more.

 

LL: What’s your go-to set-up?

JRS: My go to kit is a Nikon F2AS and 85mm f/2 Nikkor lens. I pick up the Nikon F2 more than any other camera because I know it well and I don’t have to think about

where all of the controls are. It’s meter never fails me and the camera literally disappears in my hand allowing me to focus on making the picture and not fiddling with the camera.

I use the 85mm focal length because it’s just the way I see the world.

 

125PX Photo: JR Smith

125PX
Photo: JR Smith

LL: Did it take awhile for you to settle on the kind of set-up that you like?

JRS: Yes. Lots of cameras. Trial and error. A camera is a highly personal thing and it takes a while to find one that feels just right.

 

LL: Have any of your equipment undergone customisation?

JRS: All of my Nikons have been completely rebuilt by Sover Wong in the UK. Sover is the world’s best Nikon F2 repairman. He only works on F2s. Since these are old cameras, they require cleaning, lubrication and adjustment. When they come back from Sover’s shop, they shoot just like new. In addition, I add diopter correction to most of cameras to aid in focusing.

 

LL: When your Nikons were rebult by Sover, were they all done at the same time?

JRS: I acquired my Nikon F2 bodies at different times, so as I purchased one, I boxed it up and sent it over the pond to Sover. I trusted the US Post Office on the way over and The Royal Mail on the way back. While Sover is working on a camera, he sends photo updates via email, detailing his work.

 

 

LL: Do you have a cleaning, lubrication and adjustment schedule for your older cameras?

JRS: All of my mechanical cameras have been serviced. They’ll need no further service as long as I own them. They will outlive me. The cameras I own with electronics on board, film or digital, will die at some point. Newer cameras are disposable.

 

LL: What parameters do you use when choosing a camera bag?

JRS: Function and style. Most of my camera bags are functional and not stylish. I just went with one that is both: The ONA Berlin II for my Leica system.

 

Sign and Flip Flops Photo: JR Smith

Sign and Flip Flops
Photo: JR Smith

LL: With film, do you stick with one brand?

JRS: For black and white, I shoot primarily Kodak Tri-X and Plus-X. For color, I shoot Kodak Ektar 100. I practice what I preach–find a film you like and shoot it often so you get to know it. Trying lots of film is fun, but adds variables.

LL: Should photographers take the time to test out printing services?

JRS: Wherever you live, do online research and read the reviews from other photographers about the labs they use, why they like them and why they don’t. Find a good lab and stick with it. They’ll get to know you and develop and scan your images the way you want.

 

LL: Do you have a piece of equipment (or software) that you thought was a good buy at that time, but you eventually didn’t use it as much as you hoped?

JRS: I bought a Hasselblad 503CX because I wanted to use the fabulous Hasselblad Carl Zeiss lenses. I haven’t used it much because it’s big and heavy. It’s a wonderful camera though. I have purchased a few other cameras that were classics and I wanted to try.

A few I sold and a few I have gifted to other photographers. It gives me great joy to see one of my cameras being used by someone discovering old cameras and film.

 

LL: Have you been always mindful of ergonomics each time you shoot?

JRS: I haven’t given it much thought other than I am aware of how a really heavy or awkward camera can slow me down enough to keep me from taking good shots. I have learned to carry the lightest camera possible and pack only what I need. Some photographers think you have to bring everything you own every time you shoot. I don’t.

 

LL: Equipment Maintenance and Storage?

JRS: Cameras are in a cool, dry place in their camera bags or cases. Film is in the refrigerator.

LL: Do you keep prints of your photos?

JRS: Mostly no. I archive everything on iPhoto and online on Flickr. I have made huge prints of several of my favorite shots that I have hung in my home. I may print more soon as I have been asked to do a show here in Northern California (Yikes!)

 

PCH Photo: JR Smith

PCH
Photo: JR Smith

LL: Is that (The Zone System) a future blog entry?

JRS: I touched on it briefly in a recent post about my light meter. But I intend to write more as I learn more. It’s a complicated process and if I can share what I learn in easy to understand terms, maybe it will help someone else.

 

LL: Do you keep your negatives?

JRS: I keep some, but primarily keep the scanned images on CD.

 

LL: Do you have a regular schedule of posting blog entries?

JRS: I mostly post when I have something interesting to say and think it something my readers will like to read. I do try and post every Monday–I call it One Minute Monday and it’s a quick read post to start the week.

 

LL: Is there a way to search your blog?

JRS: Funny you should mention that–I added some additional search functionality this past weekend.

 

LL: Did you go straight to a .com?

JRS: It’s WordPress hosted.

 

LL: Was it a no brainer to choose WordPress?

JRS: It’s my first blog. I really didn’t know what I was doing at first and am still learning. I went with the easiest choice

 

LL: Has your approach to learning changed?

JRS: I find myself doing a lot more research now before I buy a camera or lens or try a new film. Prior to that, I would always just dive head first into things and wonder why I wasn’t getting the results I wanted. Again, slowing down has helped me.

 

Beach House Photo: JR Smith

Beach House
Photo: JR Smith

LL: Are there certain things you ‘geek out’ about?

JRS: I could go on and one about everyone’s immersion into their smartphones these days–but no one will listen because they are too busy staring into their phones. I’ve noticed over the past decade that my local coffee shop has turned from a place where people sit and chat to a place where no one talks–they all just fiddle with their phones.

Technology has created it’s own form of isolation. Even though I love my quiet time, it would be very pleasant to have a conversation in line at Starbucks rather than just look at a bunch of people texting.

 

LL: Is there a topic that would get you talking endlessly?

JRS: I’m more of a listener. I learn so much by listening to what people have to say.

 

LL: Are you a big listener of music?

JRS: As photography left my life for the past ten years, so did music.

I spent some time as a disc jockey on the radio and music was important to me. After, I moved on from radio and still listened to music all of the time. Then somehow, it just disappeared from my life.

Recently, I bought a vintage audio system and a turntable. I am rediscovering the music I loved from long ago and some new artists too. I have a couple of blog entries on this.

 

LL: Do you go out of your way to discover new things?

JRS: If I find a topic that interests me, I will chase it to the ends of the earth. I saw a short piece in a magazine about Phone Phreaks–those geeks from the 1970s who discovered that you could do all sorts of cool things with the phone system. Steve Jobs was a Phone Phreak. I bought a couple of books after digesting lots of stuff online and ultimately connected with a few of these fascinating people.

 

LL: Where do you go for inspiration?

JRS: I am lucky to leave near the beach, so I go there often to walk, think and photograph. I love the sound of the surf and the smell of the ocean. It re-energizes me.

 

Rollei Vb Photo: JR Smith

Rollei Vb
Photo: JR Smith

LL: What’s your view about social media?

JRS: I’m not a Facebook or Twitter guy. Most of what I see on Facebook is just plain dumb and somewhat narcissistic. That being said, I do like blogs that have something to say, enjoy forums that share good information and chat rooms where interesting people gather. Unfortunately, most of social media should be called “I really don’t want to be social” media.

 

LL: What are your favourite sites at the moment?

JRS: Since I post to Flickr often, I guess I like it the best. I also visit the Nikon F2 Facebook page often because a lot of my Nikon F2 friends post there.

 

LL: Do you currently post at any Forums?

JRS: I post on a vintage audio gear forum, a forum for Leica users and a Nikon user group.

 

LL: What would you do when you need cheering up?

JRS: Put an album on my turntable, turn up my McIntosh amp and sip a glass of fine Pinot Noir.

 

LL: Would you be open to collaborating with other artists?

JRS: Would love to!

 

LL: Are you interested in technology?

JRS: I’m a Mac guy. I have a MacBook Air, iPad and iPhone. iPhoto, Aperture, iWork

 

ASA:DIN Photo: JR Smith

ASA:DIN
Photo: JR Smith

LL: If you were asked to pick from the photos you have, which one would be your favourite?

JRS: I have many. If I had to pick just one, Horses on the Dunes which really delivered the mood of the day.

 

LL: For someone looking at a photo of yours for the first time, what is the message you’re hoping they’ll take with them?

JRS: I always think of photographs that I am attracted to as seeing a beautiful woman for the first time. You see her, are attracted to her and think to yourself–“wow! she is beautiful!” You are attracted and you want to know more. It’s visual. It’s physical. Just as I look back on, for instance, famous women that I have found attractive, when I look at them months, years later–they are still attractive to me.

It’s highly personal. If someone looks at one of my images and finds it appealing, that pleases me. For whatever reason, they found it attractive and I would hope that it would inspire them to create images that would please others as well as themselves.

 

LL: What feeds your soul?

JRS: The ocean. Good music. Fine photographs. Things that last.

 

LL: What do you find is the best way to connect with your audience?

JRS: The comments I get on my blog or to the photos I post on Flickr give me the most satisfaction.

 

 

JR Smith is a photographer currently based in Bodega Bay, California. You can also find his entries about photography here.

000032790034 Self Portrait Photo: JR Smith

000032790034
Self Portrait
Photo: JR Smith

 

Source Material and Notes: The material posted is based on correspondence (September-October 2014) between JR and Leigh. Content has been edited for length, and the final version has been reviewed and approved by the interviewee.

Leigh Lim is Mini-Bio Photoa musician based at Sydney. You can find a sample of her music here. To reach out to Leigh, you can do so via this form or a direct message through YouTube. (Curious to find out if she’s your kind of person? You can check out her tweets and personal entries.)

Notes:

  • If there are things that you’d like to know about JR that I have not covered, please do leave a note (using the second form gives me the opportunity to share your request with the WNE community and also to give JR the option of answering).
  • Corrections and additional information: Spot one? Let me know!
  • Q&A Suggestions (individuals or groups) and feedback (specific or general) are always welcome. 🙂
  • If you share a quote from your favorite Q&A on Twitter, don’t forget to use the hashtag ‘#WNEQA’!
  • This post has been tagged so it could be considered for Long Reads.

Pick one of the forms below and I’ll get back to you. 🙂

Interested in reading more?

  • Following each Q&A session I post a separate entry (The Quote Jar: Seven) that would be a companion piece to JR’s Q&A.
  • How about checking out all the other Q&As?

 

** For feedback and comments that you wouldn’t mind displayed publicly, you can use the ‘leave a comment link’ below.