Exploring Entertainment in Florida's 850 & Beyond
Michael Thompson is a Panama City area based photographer. He’s the kind of photographer that oozes excitement about his work, and coming up with that next original concept to try.
What first attracted you to photography?
Well, my dad bought me a Pentax K1000 when I was a kid. He had been a shutter bug while he was growing up and seeing the world in the Navy. I don’t know that I was any good back then, but it was an expensive hobby, with film and development costs, so I put it down for a few decades. I’ve always been a creative thinker. I’ve always been making something. I played music in bands, I got into some graphic arts, I always have had the bug to create. In one of my more thoughtful moments, I came up with the idea that when man creates, he is as close to God as he can be, and that is what man strives for the most.
When was the first time you felt like a professional photographer?
I remember very distinctly when I got that feeling. I was doing a publicity shoot for a musician, Todd Sparks, who was releasing a song, “Calypso Christmas”, for the holidays. I had developed a concept for the shot, pitched it to Todd, got his approval, found the perfect model, was on location on the beach behind Barefoot Beach Club, with a light rig, makeup artist, assistants, there was a crowd on the deck of the club watching (well I did have a model in a bikini after all), and it struck me that THIS was what it was like to be a pro. The shot came out great too!
Favorite style or subject to shoot?
I cut my teeth on landscape. I have had the opportunity to shoot in Wales, England, Australia, New Zealand, a little bit of Canada, and all over the US. It’s really been fun to get out there, wonder around, and just find neat stuff to photography. People have always been the most interesting to me though. I didn’t shoot many portraits until fairly recently because I was intimidated by lighting and really had yet to develop an approach that was my own – that I was comfortable with. Now that I have started to learn about the way light works and have a comfort level that I can work on the imaginative stuff, I love shooting interesting people.
Favorite piece of equipment?
Until recently I would have had to say my 28” Apollo soft box. It folds up small enough to fit in a suitcase with a small light stand, and build with a flash in mind. I have drug that sucker around the globe (literally) and even managed to launch it off a mountain in Wales on a blustery day. I just bent it back in shape and it went right back in action. Now I have a Canon 70-200 f2.8 II lens which is truly amazing, but it’s just too easy to through that out as my favorite. There is no substitute for good glass!
What is your dream photography gig?
This is tougher a tougher question than I thought it would be at first. I’ve never really considered having a full-time photography gig shooting one subject or style. My attention span is WAY too short for that. I guess the best thing for me would be to have my own gallery and for people to have enough interest in my work to swing by and see what I was dreaming up. Freelance travel photographer (that isn’t going broke all the time) would be sweet too.
Any advice for others who are interested in photography?
Don’t be afraid. Digital photography makes it so easy (and inexpensive) to try even the wildest ideas. Give them a bash. If the shot doesn’t work out, that’s ok. You most likely learned something on the way. Don’t forget that spirit of creativity as you get better. Keep pushing the limits. When I do a shoot, even a paid promo shoot, I also try to get the “standard picture” in the can first. That way, I know that the subject or customer will be happy with the result. Then we can have some fun and try some more unconventional things. Some ideas work, some don’t. 99.999% of the time, though, the “fun” shot is the one that gets picked to be used over the “standard” one.
Best piece of advice you got starting out?
Understand the way that light works before you worry about any gear or technique. When you have a good hold on that, everything becomes easy and the creativity can really flow. To drive this idea home, a friend of mine, mentor, and great pro photographer in New York, Ed Verosky shot a series of images with a girl on a couch. He used two lamps with the shades off for lighting – just bare bulbs. By adjusting their positions relative to the subject he created several different moods, all of which looked great.
What services do you offer?
I mostly do portraiture and promotions. I really love doing concept pieces for bands and artists.
How can someone contact you?
You can see more of my work and contact me via my website: studioflashforward.com. Take a look and let me know what you think!