Crash Taylor Interviews Walter van Dusen

This week I welcome Walter van Dusen. Walter is a wedding photographer from Connecticut, USA. He is another photographer pushing the boundaries in our profession. Enjoy the interview and remember to leave a comment.

Hi Walter,

Tell us a little bit about Walter van Dusen - I’ve been a wedding photographer since 1997.  I was born and raised in Las Vegas Nevada.  I joined the Navy in 1984 and was stationed on a fast attack Submarine until 1988.  I just retired from the State of Connecticut Department of Correction; I worked at a Maximum Security Female Prison.  I think my life experience enhances my wedding photography because I’ve seen the worst and best in people.   I’ve attended a lot of photography classes, workshops and conventions since 1997.  I feel I bring a unique eye and perspective to the weddings I photograph.

Where is home?
Middletown, Connecticut (USA)

If you could live anywhere on this awesome planet where would you build your dream home?

Amsterdam, Netherlands

What is your current state of mind before we continue with the interview?
Stable and tired.

Did you go to school to study photography?
I had my first formal photography while I was in the Navy. Submarine Periscope Photography school. After that, I attended 5 cycles of New England Institute of Professional Photography (NEIPP) along with many workshops.  Most recently five days with Jerry Ghionis, 5 days with David Anthony Williams (Almost Alone) and three days with Yervant.

How long have you been a photographer?
Been doing photography since high school but professionally since 1997.

How long have you been a wedding photographer?
Twelve years.

What or who got you started in wedding photography?
Attending an Ed Pierce Wedding 2000 seminar.

How would you describe your style?
A mix of pj, fashion, traditional and artsy all mixed together. I customize my wedding coverage based on each client.

How many weddings do you average per year?
Around 20 with 39 being the most during one calendar year so far.

Do you have some recent images you can share with us?

What type of cameras do you shoot with?
Three Nikon D3’s and one Canon Xti converted infrared.

What is your favourite photography accessory, other than your camera?
A Better Bounce Card (Ultimate Bounce Card)

If you had to choose one lens which one would it be and why?
Nikon 24-70 2.8 This lens is always attached to the camera around my neck because I use it for 80percent of my wedding images.  The lens is very sharp and fast focusing.

What lighting equipment do you take on a shoot?
Nikon SB-900 (4), Q-Flashes (up to 6), Lowel ID video light (2), Paul Buff ring light, Profoto ComPact 600r lights (up to 6).

Can you describe how and when you use flash, video light, reflectors and natural light during a wedding? I use flash pretty much any time I can.   I bring the Lowel ID video light for portraits, details images, and dancing.  I use the Q-flashes for the portraits and second lighting during the reception.  I use the ring light if the flower arrangements or bouquets are unusual.  I also like to use the ring light with my fashionista type clients.  I use the Profoto 600r’s for a high key backdrop or on location studio setup.

What is your favourite computer/editing accessory, other than your computer?
Apple Aperture 2.0.

What is your most used Photoshop tool, plug-in, action set etc.?

Kevin Kubota Actions.

How important is Photoshop in your final images?
Not very; just for some enhancements if needed.  I use Apple Aperture 2.0 to process my images with great results.

Are you a Mac or PC lover?
All Mac

I finally feel I have mastered my Crash-Art workflow. Can you briefly describe for the readers your photographic workflow after a wedding?
“I use Lexar 8gb 300x UDMA cards for very fast downloading to the Wiebetech RTX 400-QR (Raid 5), edit in Photo Mechanic, process in Apple Aperture 2.0, upload to Lab Prints Storefront for client viewing and album selections.

Do you plan on buying any new equipment and if so what do you have your eyes on? Nikon D700 full frame Infrared camera converted by www.precisioncamera.com

How do you feel about cropping an image?
I crop when necessary but most of the time I’m able to crop in the camera.

I choose photographers for these interviews because their work really inspires me and gets my creative juices flowing, hence the interview. What gives you ideas and inspires you to create such amazing imagery? Studying with photographers that inspire me.  Looking at fashion magazines, other photographer’s blogs and great books on photography.

What has been your most memorable assignment and why? Photographing a birth.  Capturing the relationship between the mother and father and the welcoming of the little boy into their lives. Something I will always remember.  I photographed the family for a year (first week, then once a month until the first birthday.

If you could shoot a wedding with someone who would it be and why?
Michael Cody. I love his eye and ability to capture the emotion and love that exists between the couple.  In addition, he typically does not work with other photographers making the prospect more enticing.

It’s almost that time for a Taylor family portrait. Is there any photographer out there that you would be stoked to say - he took my portrait?
A tie:  Annie Leibovitz or Platon

I use Queensberry albums, what wedding albums do you supply your clients with and do you design them yourself or outsource the design? I use Pictobooks for my wedding albums

What is your favourite image you have shot recently? ? Can you describe its creation in regards to location, lighting, composition etc, also your thoughts when creating the image and what it means to you? My favorite image is the one that I captured of a couple walking through the Jonathan Edwards Winery vineyards that won me many awards called "Loves Harvest"  I love the image because it it captures a moment of love between the couple along with I only had about 10 minutes for my "power walk" with the couple against the wishes of the MOB because of the approaching rain storm.  The MOB said "no", don't take any photos because it's going to rain, I said, lets go for a very fast "power walk"  Sometimes I love not taking no for an answer :-)

Do you have an assistant/2nd shooter that accompanies you on wedding assignments?
I would like to have a second shooter and/or assistant at my weddings but most people can’t keep up with me.  Not having a full time assistant and/or second photographer that knows my style and needs; I have a very hard time finding help for my weddings.  I did get very lucky this past year as one of my first assistants from 2000 got married in 2008 and I was her photographer.  She wanted to assist me for some of my weddings in 2008 and we clicked very well together.  Sometimes I work with an assistant for lighting.  I use the Red Wing Collapsible light stands which allow me to work alone and be very fast.  For the upcoming 2009 season I plan to use a full time assistant much more since I’m not as young as I used to be.

How many images do you average per wedding and how many do you usually present to your clients?

I typically capture 3000 to 6000 images on a wedding day.  The number of images presented to the client ranges from 600 to 800 based on the coverage and material available.

Where would be your dream destination wedding?
A tie:  Amsterdam, London, Paris and Venice.

A website and/or blog you visit often?
Digital Wedding Forum (DWF), Ben Chrisman’s blog and Michael Cody‘s website.

How do you make the bride and groom, bridal party etc… feel relaxed in front of your Nikon D3?
I’m really crazy, funny, odd, and passionate.  I say things that make people laugh.  It comes naturally to me.  Hopefully my humour is appreciated.

Have you ever had anything go wrong at a wedding and if so, how did you handle it?
When I first converted to digital (2001) I initially “photographed” the family portraits without a micro drive and they had to be redone.  I just said I forgot to put the “film” in the camera and was very lucky they all laughed.  I now, of course, have my camera set up to not fire if there is no CF card in the camera.

What do you feel is the most challenging thing about photographing weddings?
Getting different, inspiring images at every wedding.

What do you think of the wedding photography industry at the moment and where do you see it in 5 years from now?
At the moment the Uncle Bobs/Betty’s are starting to realize how much work wedding photography really is.  I think the photographers on the top of the pyramid (approximately 5 percent) are blossoming while the photographers in the middle are fighting each other for every job and lowering their price to compete.  The bottom half are dealing with family and Uncle Bob/Betty photographers shooting weddings for free.  Within 5 years video will most likely be included at every event.  Hopefully the wedding album will continue to be important as it is today but video for the iphone and the web will be included at all weddings.

The first photographer that comes to your mind and why?
Michael Cody because he is my best friend, he inspires me to see more and challenges me to be my best.  He is also my top advisor for business matters and the Mystic Photography events.  I have spoken with Michael pretty much every day for the past three years.

A wedding photographer who inspires you?
Michael Cody

The last workshop or seminar you attended and why?
Mystic 4 (http://www.waltervandusen.com/mystic4.html) I was the host and I presented a program on how I use a bunch of “stuff” at weddings. I learned from great wedding photographers.  It had a very heavy influence of photojournalist type wedding photography.  I learned a lot.  To sometimes let go over the control and watch what happens naturally.

What photographic organizations do you belong to?

One way you market Walter van Dusen Photography?

Pretty much equally all of these: Word of Mouth, Referrals from high end vendors, blogging, networking with fellow wedding photographers.

How important is an awesome website for your business?
It’s important to draw people in.  I find that more clients are looking at my blog.

Do you advertise in bridal magazines?

If not a photographer? I would have liked to be a Navy Seal but my eye sight was not good enough.  I went through the process until the Navy Seal trainers found out that I could not see very far without my glasses.  I faked it as long as I could. So, I became a submarine sailor.

Lately I have wanted to photograph a Kodak bear and the base camp of Mount Everest before the climbers attempt their dream.  Is there anybody or anything you would love to photograph?

I would love to photograph similar subjects like Annie Leibovitz or Platon.  The movers and shakers in the world.

I realize that each great photographer has a particular penchant or love for photographing a particular subject whether it be nature, portraits, sea or landscapes, shadow and light, etc. as a result I would love to have you talk about and share whatever images you feel appropriate of your own private obsession in the magical world of photography. I pretty much love taking wedding images.  My personal images are me using a converted infrared camera at weddings.

When I was 2nd shooting I was picking everybody’s brain, I still am actually. That’s why I love these interviews so much. Every interview I learn something that makes me a better photographer. What advice do you have for somebody who wants to pursue wedding photography?
Carry someone’s bags first, watch how they work, photograph in your head, learn what happens at a wedding, anticipate what the primary photographer is going to do, learn how to talk to people, remain professional in dress and behaviour, never be late, learn to see the light, learn how to use your camera in all settings, have backup equipment, don’t be cheap, second shoot after all of the above, and most importantly, photograph weddings for yourself.  You need to be happy with your work.  (I’m never happy with my images because I always wish I could have done better.  Most of the time I’m satisfied but always want more.)

At the moment I’m finding a lot of my photographic inspiration from cinema and Russian fashion photographers. We know that each of us has someone or something, which inspires our life and work. Can you tell us the true basis of your inspiration?
I’m influenced by my fellow wedding photographers.  That is why I study with the best and have them as my friends.

Is there anything you would have done differently during your photographic career?
“Carry more bags before jumping into the business.  I had to take a year off because I was doing low end weddings and getting kicked around by the clients .”

If you could be invisible for one day with your camera...
In NYC I would photograph everyone and everything I see without repercussions.

I’ve learned the most from…
I’ve learned the most from the years of workshops, classes, mentors, forums, conventions, and such.  I’m like a sponge.  I’m learning all of the time.  Of course, the first couple of years I learned the most but, I continue to learn how I can see more.  I always want to see more.

What talent would you most like to have?
To speak many languages.

Something you’re still learning?
Keeping my mouth shut.  A photographer named Jeff Lubin gave me this advice a long time ago, “Learn how to shut your mouth and you’ll go far in photography and business”.  I’m still trying to take his advice 😉

What or who is the greatest love of your life?
Actually I have two:  My daughter Hannah Marie and Angela.

What is your greatest fear?
Equal:  Failure and disappointment.

Something that is overrated?
Being type cast in a certain style of wedding photography.

Something you’re saving up for?
A kick butt NYC loft studio.

What item do you wish you had designed?

If you could have lunch with anyone who is famous who would it be? Annie Leibovitz

Where you'll find me on a Friday night at 9 p.m.?
On my Mac or shooting a wedding.

Your favourite film (movie) of all time?
Apocalypse Now

First thing you would do if you won the lottery?
Buy a Porsche 911 GT2.

Which five words would your friends use to describe you?
Funny, unique, nice, driven and passionate.

What would you like to be doing in 5 years from now?
Wedding Photography.

And the last question, if you had one wish…

Have a IQ of 250

Oh one more, if someone said ‘how can I be the next Walter van Dusen?’ What would you say?
The mold was broken a long time ago…

Your readers can find out more about me:

Website: www.waltervandusen.com

Blog: www.waltervandusen.com/blog