Uses This

Interview

What do people use to get the job done?

Brent Knepper

Brent Knepper

Photographer

Who are you, and what do you do?

Hi, I'm Brent Knepper! I'm a freelance photographer in Chicago, and I run a photoblog about my adventures in train travel in the US. You can check the blog at railpass.tumblr.com.

What hardware do you use?

Digital Cameras: Nikon D800, D700; Fuji X100; iPhone.

Film Cameras: Mamiya 7 (a medium-format range finder, AKA best possible camera combination), Leica M4.

Lights: I use Elinchrom Quadras and their modifiers. Lightweight, battery-powered, and when used right can be as bright as daylight.

Computers: I edit on a 2010 or something iMac in Chicago and from my iPad mini while traveling.

And what software?

Computer Software: Photo Mechanic to sort and add metadata, Lightroom with VSCO presets. I don't really use Photoshop as I never want to do a lot of retouching on my photos.

iPad Software: VSCO Cam for the iPhone blown up 2x so it looks super terrible. Like just really really bad. I'm always surprised how good the pictures look once I'm back on a native-res application, though.

What would be your dream setup?

Oh, boy, now there's a question! I'm gonna break this one down like I did the second question.

Digital Cameras: I prefer to use the little Fuji x100 and my iPhone for shooting digital than the big cameras due to how light and unobtrusive they are. But even with the latest iterations of Fuji's X-line they still haven't sorted out good autofocus. Besides the amazing low light performance of the D800, good autofocus is really the only reason I shoot with digital.

I'm really interested in Fuji's X-Pro1 and hope this year they release a version with better autofocus and low light performance. If they do, I wouldn't hesitate in selling all my Nikon gear. If I really need to shoot 36 megapixel images and can't just do the equivalent with medium format film, I can just rent the stuff. If I could give up the ghost on autofocus, learn to slow down a bit more, and feel like I can get by on just manual focus, I'd totally take out a big ol' bank loan and switch over to Leica's digital M bodies.

Film Cameras: I wouldn't mind upgrading the Leica M4 to an M7, and having a few more lenses than just my 50mm for that. Fundamentally, the type of photography I do for personal work and client work would only benefit in look and style from using film. The Mamiya is amazing in having the speed of a rangefinder but the amazing detail and dynamic range of medium format film, so a second one would be pretty crucial for client work.

Lights: no changes here, I love my Quadras. I'd probably just get more of them or other modifiers.

Computers: In school, I was taught that a big screen trumps everything in the digital photography workflow. The iMac has been cheapest way for me to get that and handle the huge files the D800 makes, but if I shifted away from all that I could use a much smaller setup. A 13" Macbook Retina, or maybe an 11" MacBook Air if they went Retina also, would be fine for the majority of my workflow (or so I've found out from using the iPad mini, which I'd still keep and work on while traveling). Almost all of what I need out of a computer for my work could be done right there, but like most photographers I'm very detail-oriented. So, when retouching and looking at final files before submitting to clients, I'd plug into a 27" Thunderbolt Display to analyze small details and to check on color accuracy.

If I could really make the jump into doing a lot more work personally and professionally with film, I'd insist that sitting adjacent to the display and the little computer would be an Imacon Flextight X5 film scanner (8000 minimum DPI deliciousness, and talk about a huge bank loan) and an Epson 9900 printer (reasonably priced in comparison) for final proofing on personal and big client work.