There are so many incredible images on 500px but we want to know more about the photographers, and stories, behind them. Our Portrait series interviews a talented photographer each week, allowing us to discover more about living life through a lens. This week's interview is with Israel-based photographer Nadav Bagim, also known as Aimish Boy.
When and how did you fall in love with photography?
About 4 years ago I got a SLR camera. Before that, I was the average compact camera user, vacation snapshots here and there, no idea about composition, aperture or shutter speed. Then for the first time I got the opportunity to gain a little more control over what and how I shoot. I immediately got enchanted by the ability to capture moments in time, create and direct scenes and give my own interpretation to certain events while sharing my point of view, thoughts, and ideas with others. A couple of months later I felt that this is what I want to do and I bought my first DSLR. From that moment on we have never been apart (well, I also live in a shady neighborhood).
Have you had any formal training?
No, I'm self-taught and a big fan of trial and error. The digital age allows you to advance very quickly, at least from the technical point of view. Shoot, review and correct in real time. Fortunately the combination of a digital camera and the internet made learning easier than ever, the amount of information on the internet is enormous and you just need to know where to look.
How would you describe your photography style?
As an ad campaign against pesticides in a Tim Burton movie.
Who or what inspires your work?
Most of my inspiration comes from fantasy books, science fiction, cartoons and from nature itself. There are a lot of strange things in nature and we just need to be open-minded and look for them. Another place is the internet; there are many talented artists out there from all over the world and there is almost no limit on the amount of inspiration you can get.
How did you end up photographing bugs?
I have always loved nature in general and as a child spent most of the time with my nose inches above the ground tracking and observing little insects and animals. Insects are among the most diverse groups of animals on earth so you have a huge amount of different models to shoot, and the best thing is, that they can be found almost everywhere, whether you like it or not ;)
Since I live in the city, and don't have deers or bears visiting my backyard, I decided to buy a macro lens and focus my attention on the little ones around me. As soon as I turned my camera on them and they smiled back I was hooked. Now we are more than just a photographer and a model, we are best friends (expect for mosquitoes and cockroaches, I still have a problem with them).
Could you tell us a little more about the studio set-up used to create these shots?
The studio itself is actually my kitchen table right next to the window with all my plants. The vibrant backgrounds are achieved by using colorful objects like supermarket plastic bags, vegetables, flowers, leafs, tree barks and such, which I arrange depending on what I'm trying to achieve. For the ground itself I use objects like dirt, moss, broccoli, lettuce, or other leafy objects. The second element is lighting where I can use up to 4 flashes at once. The flashes allow me to complete the vision of the scene I had in mind by lighting the right places in the right angles and by making the colors pop out. They also allow me to get clear, sharp images, without worrying about low light problems and shutter speeds.
Building the setup, usually takes more than an hour, depends on how complex it is, and it all starts and ends by cleaning the table!
Why did you decide to put bugs in such beautiful settings and capture them this way, rather than in the wild?
I love the idea that, just like when reading a good fantasy or sci-fi book, I can go on an adventure, exploring fictional landscapes and visiting magical forests, hills lakes or even Mars. All of them are populated by amazing creatures, and all without leaving my kitchen table.
Another reason is that, although I do photograph nature and wildlife, I don't consider myself a nature photographer and I am more interested in creating rather than documenting. Luckily enough, I and my plants are being visited regularly by a variety of small creatures. That way I can shoot them safely, without taking them out of nature, and return them to their place without harm.
What camera/s do you shoot with?
I use a Canon EOS 60D.
And your favourite lenses?
I don't have that many lenses, but my favorite one is definitely the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro, I just love that lens!
How about other equipment: lighting, tripod, filters etc.?
I have YN560 flashes which are absolutely great and their price is even better! Studio umbrellas, stands, remote controllers for the flashes... I should note that all of them were bought from eBay, they are simple and they get the job done, so building yourself a set like that it is pretty affordable.
I also have a basic ball head tripod and a beanbag. I don't really use filters but I do have a diopter for Macro (Raynox DCR-250), extension tubes, and all sorts of coupling and reverse rings to reverse mount a lens if I need higher magnifications.
I see a lot of your photographs are a single shot; do you tweak anything in post processing?
Sure, most of my photos go through Lightroom or Photoshop one way or another. Since I use RAW files, I need to convert them. Besides that, my routine usually consists of general correcting brightness/contrast, white balance, a little cropping, and noise reduction. Oh, also, sometimes the insects gather dust bits so I need to clean them off, and since vacuum cleaners tend to be hazardous to them, it's usually done after the shot.
Any tips to get the beautiful bokeh we see in so many of your photographs?
The key for understanding how to get this kind of bokeh is to know that any small, out of focus, light source, will give us a "bokeh diamond" with the shape of the aperture (or any other shape we choose, by placing its cut out in front of the lens). A small light source can vary from small LED lights, sugar grains, light passing through small pores on a leaf, or water drops. I usually use the latter. Of course you'll need a light source to light those reflections, whether it's a flash or the sun itself.
How do you market your work?
I don't actively market it, what I usually do is share my photos in the major photography networks 500px, 1X, deviantART, Flickr, and let's not forget Facebook, and hope that those who liked my work will share it on. Up until now it has helped me publish my photos in magazines and newspapers around the world and also got me doing workshops and teaching photography.
What advice would you give to amateur photographers?
There is a great quote by Scott Adams: "Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep". Always leave room for mistakes or simply schedule yourself once in a while an experimental session. That way you will feel free to try new approaches and techniques. Don't be afraid to try: trial and error are a great way to learn and invent.
What has been your proudest moment as a photographer?
I have had some very cool publications feature my work and won some contests, but I think that my proudest moment was when my photos were featured on sites alongside photographers that inspired me at the beginning of my photographic journey.
Out of all the photographs you have ever taken, which is your favourite and why?
Never an easy question. I have a couple of shots that are my favorites, I think that Living in a Snow Globe (which started the Wonderland series), Wonderland and Tickle me! are at the top, and amongst them (maybe even a little above) is the Celestial Conductor. Its simplicity, visually and technically speaking, in comparison to the others gives it the edge.
If you could capture anybody or anything on camera what would it be?
The first encounter with an extraterrestrial life form or a Malaysian orchid mantis, whichever comes first.
Just so we can find out a bit more about the person behind the lens, could you tell me 5 things about you that are completely unrelated to photography?
What are your aspirations for the future, in photography or otherwise?
To find a way to turn photography into a full time job without losing my love for it.
Thanks to Nadav for being interviewed and to you for reading. Feel free to leave a comment below, feedback is awesome!