Q&A #28: Gabriel Öberg

 

Gabriel shares his journey as a composer: How playing around with looping software grew his interest in creating his own music, not letting his lack of mixing/mastering skills keep him from finishing projects, and the importance of playing live.

Leigh Lim: Hi Gabriel, thanks for taking the time to do a Q&A! While on your Instagram feed, I noticed that the posts are mostly videos. Do you find that posting them ensures you don’t procrastinate?

Gabriel Öberg: Hey Leigh! No problem, it’s always rewarding and fun sharing your process to hopefully help and inspire others! I mainly upload videos because it’s essentially what my music is designed for Plus, I personally think videos are more enjoyable to watch than photos.

 

LL: Why do you think you do the things you do?

GO: Well, the simple answer is because I love what I do. Being able to find a way to make a living out of what you love is a dream for most people. Having that as a driving force gives me more than enough motivation to keep going, no matter how tough and exhausting it is at times.

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

GO: it started when I was a kid and got a demo of Ejay, which is a very simple program where you just drag and drop loops. That sparked my interest and eventually, I got into more advanced programs. From that point to where I am now, all my skills and knowledge come from just sitting and creating songs digitally. So, to sum it all up, creating music all the time is how I got to where I am as a composer.

 

(Editor’s note: A link of Ejay has not been provided as the site has tested positive for malware)

 

 

 

LL: Would you say that it was the looping software that got you into piano?

GO: Maybe not the looping software. But definitely music software piqued my interest, it all started with drawing midi notes to make a melody, which made me want to learn the piano and eventually guitar as well.

 

LL: Do you have specific books that you keep within reach that you regularly refer to?

GO: Not really. I do have “Oblique Strategies” that I use sometimes if I get stuck for whatever reason. The tips there are slightly abstract, but it can help to shift your perspective on things that helps me often. For more specific problems I’d say just use Google or YouTube. There is a lot of really great and helpful content all around us.

LL: Are you referring to the card deck from Brian Eno? (I’m keen to hear about a specific card from the deck that helped you tackle what you were stuck on. And yes…if you can include how web searches have helped you get unstuck and how you ended up deciding to purchase the deck!)

GO: Yes, exactly! The more abstract ones have helped me the most, when I’ve been completely stuck and need a new perspective. One good example is “convert a melodic element into a rhythmic element”. Or “what wouldn’t you do?”. Things that can put a spin on your entire approach can always be helpful. Regarding YouTube searches, I have no good examples. I just use that for a specific problem, like how a certain synth is made, etc.

 

 

LL: Were there any challenges that come to mind during your learning process?

GO: I’ve always struggled with mixing and mastering, probably because it’s on the technical side and I am not a technical person. And, since I am an all in one producer, it’s hard to keep track of everything sometimes since I do everything at once.

LL: Do you find the ‘everything at once’ approach gets things moving for you compared to doing things linearly?

GO: It’s the workflow I’ve developed over the years. I would not recommend it to anyone though. I think it’s better to have a linear workflow. A creation phase, then a mixing and mastering phase. It’s a bit chaotic doing all of those at once, but it works for me since I rarely have a clear vision for a track to begin with. It all shifts and changes while I’m working.

LL: If you were to put together a ‘learning plan’ or practice pack for someone who has never composed anything before, so they could have the capacity to create at your level and skill. What would it look like?

GO: That’s a very tough question. I do think that everyone has to go through that hard journey, to find out if they really like it. But regarding music, there are so many paths. But if I were to decide, it would start very simple. I’d share a lot of music, with different mixing styles, compositions, genres and emotions and work on an individual level from there.

LL: Artists are known to be very protective for their work. What would you say to someone who can’t seem to let go, and share their ideas/work — while it is in progress?

 

GO: What I’ve learned from being in this business, which I think can be translated into all of the music business is that you have to take some distance away from what you’re making. It’s just a song. You’ll make so many more songs in your lifetime. Stop being selfish and afraid of being judged, and share your unfinished (and finished) work to the world is what I would say to them. Everyone will have a different opinion on your songs, every single time. All of us are struggling with doubt when it comes to our work, you’re not alone.

 

 

LL: How important was it to have someone help you learn a specific technique?

GO: I’m completely self-taught when it comes to music. I did have a teacher that inspired me in different ways but it didn’t really change my overall thoughts on music. What he did, though, was introducing me to Sigur Ros, a band that everyone in the entire world should check out!

 

LL: In what way would you say you are self taught?

GO: I just jumped into a program with both feet and learned that way. By just experimenting and creating. Eventually, I got pretty good at it and could make my very own song. So all my learning came from just listening to a lot of music and loving creating. If you love doing something, you will learn about it automatically.

LL: Would you say it was discipline that got you to where you are as a composer?

GO: As I said before, it was only really the love for music that made me who I am today. The discipline came out of that love, no matter how hard it’s been. Sometimes I’ve thought of giving up, but I can’t stay away.

LL: Is there a specific time of day you enjoy working?

GO: Early morning or late at night is where I get things going.

 

 

LL: Have you been always mindful of ergonomics when you sculpt your compositions?

GO: Honestly, not at all. Never even crossed my mind.

LL: How much do you plan before you start a project?

GO: I rarely ever plan anything, I usually come up with an idea on the spot, which turns into a song.

LL: What usually is the sign you look for that will give you the signal that it’ll be the take/version you like?

GO: It’s always about the song. If something I record isn’t perfect, but it fits for the song, then I’ll go with it. If a certain take makes your song a lot better, no matter the imperfections, then use it. There’s always a certain point when your track can be 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5% better, that’s the point where you have to let go. Let someone else listen, listen to it in a weird speaker. Realize it’s just a song and move on. It’s never, ever going to be perfect, neither for you or for anyone else.

 

LL: How long would you say it takes, for you to complete a recording?

GO: I usually have a track done in a regular workday (so 6-8 hours), but it depends on the scale of the song and arrangement required. Some tracks take longer, some I have finished in 1 hour.

LL: How would you describe your creations?

GO: I’d describe my creations as heavily emotional, dynamic songs. The core of my songs is always to convey a clear emotion, and mostly I tend to do the melancholic or the euphoric ones.

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

GO: Well, I guess it’s the misconceptions that everyone makes about the things they don’t understand: The enormous amount of time and the energy that goes into it all.

LL: Are you learning something specific at the moment?

GO: I’m always learning. Right now I’m looking more into the dynamics and placements of orchestral strings, as well as mixing.

 

 

LL: Can you share three approaches you take that helped you become a better artist?

GO: Distance yourself from your work, do not take what you do too seriously. Be curious about everything regarding music, it will help you. And finally, don’t forget why you do what you do.

LL: What’s your go-to set-up?

GO: Reason (my DAW) and my Nektar Panorama Keyboard is my setup when I’m creating a song from scratch.

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

GO: Not really. I’ve always been based on software

LL: So, your current MIDI controller, that’s something that you didn’t really have to research?

GO: Well, I did research what MIDI controller would work well with my DAW (Reason), and I found the Nektar. I’m not playing live, and have no plans for doing it right now so I only care how well the controller works when I’m composing.

 

 

LL: If you were to start with scratch to build the gear that suits you best, do you think you’ll end up with the same thing?

GO: Yes. I’d end up with a simple computer and Reason, maybe a cheap midi keyboard too for convenience.

LL: Do you think the rule of thumb for DAW use (gaming laptop specs: which would be at least 16 GB memory with an i5 processor), is too much for a workstation?

GO: It all depends on how big and demanding your projects are. I like to upgrade my workstation pretty often so that I don’t have to worry about that. But you can easily make a great song with a simple workstation.

LL: What is your warm-up / practice routine like?

GO: No warm-up, I just get up and do the work!

LL: What’s next for your projects?

GO: I’m working with different music libraries that keep me busy pretty much all the time. But when I have some time over, I like to try different creative techniques within my DAW, like weird sorts of processing, genre mixes and so on that hopefully gets me started on a new song.

 

 

LL: How do you maintain your gear?

GO: I don’t, but I’m trying to get better at it.

LL: Has any of your equipment undergone customisation?

GO: I’ve colorized my acoustic guitar some times. Other than that, no.

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?

GO: I’m very careful about that, especially software. So no, I haven’t purchased any software that I regret.

LL: Any learnings you’ve picked up through the years when playing live?

GO: I recommend every musician to play music live, even if it’s not in front of an audience. You learn how to communicate your ideas in a new way which is very helpful, especially if (like me) you’re always alone when making music. Getting an idea through in a way that other people can understand is very beneficial because you have to remove all the fluff. And, of course, getting inspired by other people’s ideas is always good for you.

 

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LL: Do you keep an archive of your work?

GO: Yes, I keep a backup of all tracks and project files. Since I’m selling my songs to music libraries, it might come a day when they want something to be changed or whatever it may be, then you have to be prepared for that.

LL: What I noticed when uploading videos on Instagram is that not all formats are accepted. Did you also struggle to find a way to upload video that has audio properly mixed? (Or are you looking to build more content on your YouTube channel as you can upload ones that go for longer?)

GO: Indeed I did, it took some time to figure out what formats work for Instagram. But now it’s all good. I could upload more on Youtube, but I really like the Instagram format. You only have one minute, which means you have to make that minute count. I like that, and I enjoy consuming that sort of content.

LL: Can you share a bit of background on how some of your videos came about? (You can choose your own, though I’m particularly keen on hearing about: ‘Reverse Piano’ and the process you went through with the audio. Did you flip the video then grab the audio? Or did you just slow down the video then overlay the processed audio?)

GO: Most of my videos are used as a way to showcase what I’ve been working on. Almost every time I record audio I take out my camera and film it. Regarding the reverse piano video, I just recorded myself playing. When I looked at it later it didn’t really grab me, so I tried reversing the video and I thought it sounded and looked cool and interesting. The audio is ripped straight from the camera and processed with lots of reverb and some tape saturation.

 

 

LL: What approach do you find is the best way to serve your listeners?

GO: Be humble, service minded and grateful that people find value in what you do.

LL: Are you looking into constantly tweak your site for yourself as a composer?

GO: I try to, but making new music is what takes up most of my time and it’s always my highest priority. Like with most musicians, marketing and self-promotion are definitely not my strong suit.

 

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

GO: Not really, although I try not to take too long between posts. I mainly post something if I think it’s good content. But ideally, you should be posting at least once a day.

LL: Were there instances when you hesitated about posting something?

GO: Almost every time, haha. I always have that voice in the back of my head saying: “no one is gonna care about this, why even post it?”. But now that thought is actually what encourage me to post it because I’m mainly doing it for myself and try to not take it too seriously.

 

LL: What’s the one thing you have to put time on —- but have been putting off?

GO: The marketing and business side of music, it always kills all my inspiration. But I’m learning one step at a time.

LL: Are you currently mentoring someone?

GO: Nope, and I never have. Maybe I will in the future, who knows.

LL: What do you do when you come across something that annoys you?

GO: It depends on the problem. Spending time fixing a problem is almost always a good investment of time I think. Like fixing a certain thing in a mix, a certain synth sound etc. But some problems are just not worth it, then you just have to let it go.

LL: Are there certain things you can’t help but ‘geek out’ about?

GO: I have pretty good knowledge in all fields regarding music, so I don’t have a certain field where I’m extra passionate, skilled or geeky. Which is both a strength and a weakness, I guess.

 

 

LL: Got any peers you’d like to mention? (Basically a chance for you to say to readers of your Q&A: ‘Hey, you’ve got to check these musicians out!’. Also I’d be interested to hear about something you’ve come across that has really inspired you — or a specific approach that a peer is doing…that made you go: ‘Whoa! I’d like to try that!’)

GO: Julius Wallenberg is a great composer and producer who makes music similar to mine. N-S makes some super cool techno and edm stuff, I recomend him too. Regarding what has inspired me lately, I would say the techniques by Mick Gordon has inspired me lately. He uses a simple sine wave and manipulates it with lots of different kinds of distortion. A technique I’ve had a lot of fun with.

LL: What were the last 5 things you pre-ordered?

GO: Oh, I never pre-order anything. The one and only thing I’ve ever pre-ordered was The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt for PC.

LL: Are you a big listener of music?

GO: I am, but not as much as I should be. Constantly looking for new music is always a good investment, but I tend to fall back on the same old music that I love. My favorite band of all time is Radiohead. Other bands and producers that I take major inspiration from in my music right now are Sigur Ros (an Icelandic post-rock band which is also one of my favorite bands), Jon Hopkins (electronic music producer), Mac Quayle (tv-series composer) and Mick Gordon (video game composer)

 

 

LL: What are you reading at the moment?

GO: A book called “The Art Of Mixing”, which is student literature I should have read about 8 years ago.

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

GO: Always, whether it’s new genres or approaches to mixing and sound design. I recently found a Youtube channel called Sonic Scoop that has a lot of great mixing masterclasses.

LL: In what way do you approach motivation and inspiration?

GO: Watching other people create almost always gives me motivation. Also finding new music that you haven’t heard before can spark some ideas in your head. I usually get inspired when I can’t do anything about it, like when I’m not in my studio or at home. So if I’m feeling uninspired I usually go for a walk, I just find it easier to get ideas going when you don’t have your tools around so to speak.

LL: What makes you smile?

GO: First thing that come to mind is the movie “In Bruges”, a favorite of mine. Many scenes in that movie make me smile. Definitely check it out!

 

 

LL: What’s your view about social media?

GO: Personally, I’m not a big fan of the shallow climate on social media. The spamming of fire emojis on every post just to get clicks. But due to how extremely saturated everything is, I totally understand why that is and I’m a part of it as well. It is what it is, and it’s necessary to grow your brand.

LL: What are your favorite sites at the moment?

GO: Splice.com is my favorite site at the moment because I can always find inspiring loops and samples there.

 

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

GO: I usually watch a comedy or a stand up show. Memes are also a good instant joy injection.

LL: Do you enjoy collaborating with other artists?

GO: Sure! Although I don’t do it that much currently. It’s always inspiring and rewarding letting someone else apply their ideas and thoughts on your work or vice versa. Even though the product isn’t always great, I feel like I’ve learned something new every time I collaborate with other musicians.

 

 

LL: Are you interested in technology?

GO: Can’t say that I am. I love new software and instruments that I can create something musical with, but the actual technical side doesn’t interest me that much. My computer is built by my friend, and contains an i7-7800X @ 3.50 GHz, 32 GB of RAM and some 2.5 TB of disk space split between some SSD’s and other drives. The software I use is Reason (DAW), Izotope Ozone 8 for mastering and Hitfilm Express for video editing.

LL: With your Instagram posts, do you have specific subjects that you go through a rotation of?

GO: Yes, I try to. I love posting snippets songs that I’ve made in different types of genres, or different spins on some recording technique etc. Keeping it varied is very important to me.

LL: If you were asked to pick from the entries (either a post or video on Instagram or elsewhere) you have, which one would be your favourite?

GO: I think it would be this one [using a violin bow on an acoustic guitar]. I’m very happy with the sound and melody I got from the guitar. I don’t know, it just makes me kinda uplifted.

 

 

LL: Are you the type of person that finds it easy to start something? (For example, you are hit with an idea — then within a couple of hours, you have written up a plan on how to make that happen. Or at least taken the first step! Or are you more of the person that waits until the idea is pulling you urgently before making a move?)

GO: Definitely the first type. I can get things going very quickly, and I rarely stop and plan things out. I work best when I just go for it without a solid plan.

LL: For someone listening to your work for the first time, what is the message you’re hoping they’ll take with them?

GO: I’m always after emotion and atmosphere when listening to music. And it’s pretty hard to pinpoint where that comes from. It could be from a certain chord progression, the sound of the synth that plays those chords, a vocal melody, or maybe just the ambient sounds and fx behind the actual song. And I always try to create that with my music, a mood that makes you feel uplifted and inspired (mostly).

LL: What makes your soul sing?

GO: Music, obviously. Good movies, video games, meditation, cooking are some things that gives me energy.

LL: What’s the best way to connect with people who admire your work?

GO: Can’t say I have that many people who admire my work since I currently just make music that’s aimed at supporting other mediums. But I think the best way is to always answer everyone who has taken the time to comment on your work, no matter in what form.

 

 

LL: Have you found your tribe yet?

GO: Can’t say that I have. I’ve always gone my own way, and I’ve met and worked with a lot of inspiring and talented people. But I can’t say I “belong” anywhere.

LL: What kind of opportunities are you looking forward to?

GO: Hopefully just getting some bigger projects and more clients. I really hope I get to do an actual custom soundtrack for a movie, that would be super cool.

LL: In what way do you enjoy helping others?

GO: Creative help, new perspective and new ideas are my favorite type of help to give. As i have mentioned, I’m not a technical person. So helping out with those sort of things isn’t as rewarding, but I’ll of course do it if it’s needed.

 

LL: Looking back through your journey, are you amazed at what you’ve accomplished so far?

GO: I’ve grown a lot as a musician and as a person, but I don’t like to look back too much. I’m very proud of some things I’ve accomplished, but I still feel like I’m in the middle of journey so I haven’t really reflected on that.

LL: How can we support your work?

GO: Following me on Instagram @gabrielobergmusic is more than enough if you want to support me! You’ll find more information If you’re interested there.

 

 

 

 

 

* Gabriel Öberg is a composer based in Borås. See things though his eyes via his Instagram feed. If you have any business suggestions or feedback on his tracks, he’ll welcome the news via email as something that can spark a creation is always fun! With that said, collaboration is also something he’ll welcome (as in the past he has been the one who has reached out and would be delighted if the reverse would happen).

 

Source Material and Notes: The material posted is based on correspondence (January – October 2020) between Gabriel and Leigh. Content has been edited for length, and the final version has been reviewed and approved by the interviewee.

Leigh Lim is a Sydney composer helping brands get their mojo back. When she is not doing that, she can be found spending time through various rabbit holes (offline and online) or sniffing out stories for a music discovery project.

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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.

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