5 Questions for Maciej Dakowicz
Welcome to the fifth installment of 5 Questions. In our last interview, Eric selected Maciej Dakowicz.
With a quick hop and skip, we’ll cross the English Channel to Cardiff in the United Kingdom. (If we were collecting frequent flyer miles, we might have enough for a nice salad bowl, or something.)
What to say about Maciej? Here’s what I learned from his testimonials:
“Mr Dakowicz big up, one of the person which help me to develop new visions on photography. Big thanks to Maciek.” babul.
“Maciej not only shows great photos, he teaches us to see the world differently” ‘stpiduko
“Maciej is the best and the most accomplished photographer I know. It was (and still is) fascinating to observe his development…” Rafal Bergman
1. Maciej, we know it’s a tough question, but if you had to pick just one camera to shoot with from now until the end of time, what would that be?
Maciej: Such camera does not exist, but the closest would be this new model from Canon — the EOS 5D Mark II, but with some modifications. I would drop out the film mode and replace its autofocus system with a professional one and I would spread out the AF points. Now, they’re all concentrated in the middle and it’s really hard to get the focus right when using wide apertures for off-center objects. I also assume that it produces better high ISO photos than the old 5D.
I would also like Canon to make a new 24-70 zoom lens, to add the Image Stabilization mechanism to it and change its zoom mechanism from reverse to a normal one. Somehow I can’t imagine myself shooting at the wide end of the zoom range with the lens fully protruded — it’s huge. For me the lens should slide out when you zoom in, not zoom out. Or it would be best if it did not extend at all when zooming. Anyway, such a modified camera, with a modified 24-70L lens and some wide angle f/1.4 primes would suit me well.
I’ve been using the original 5D for almost 3 years now, it is a great camera producing great photos, but with a rather lousy autofocus system, especially at night. Since I mostly use the wide end of the zoom range, instead of the 24-70L I own the 24-105L lens — it has terrible distortions across the whole range, but at least it relatively small at the 24mm end.
2. A (possibly) tough question… Tell us your favourite photos on Flickr, and why you like them. First, a favourite from your photostream?
Maciej: It is hard to choose one, since I shoot so many different things. My two main interests are photojournalism and street photography. Since I began, I’ve worked on about ten reportages, in the UK and abroad. Some of them, for example, are about street children in Kolkata or the Pakistan earthquake aftermath, were shot for an American humanitarian NEED magazine.
The photo I’ve selected is a mix of street photography and photojournalism. It’s from my ongoing project on the nightlife in Cardiff. I have been working on it occassionally for the last 3 years and have managed to get about 20 decent photos since. This project is basically me shooting strangers on weekend nights in one of the main streets in Cardiff, where many clubs are located. Shooting from a close distance without asking, so I never know what is going to happen when they notice me.
And from another Flickr member?
Maciej: Another almost impossible question! Let it be from Joni Karanka. Joni lives in Cardiff now and is my mate. We often shoot together. Oh well, we used to, since now he has got a girlfriend and apparently he’s got better things to do than shooting strangers at night. Anyway, the thing is that although we shoot together the same things we do it in a completely different way – I shoot digital and colour, he uses those old small crappy film cameras (recently mostly Olympus XA1) with flash in black and white. I usually compose photos and he tries to avoid compositions and all this stuff, for him the more random the better. Joni is also one of the admins of HCSP, which is the best group on Flickr. Sometimes I suggest that he removses some crappy shots from the pool.
And, David Solomons. He’s a London based street photographer, one of the best ones shooting street. I was with him when he shot that photo. In fact it was me who noticed those heads on Oxford street peeking out from behind this wall. I told him “let’s shoot those heads with people passing in front of them, but no people can overlap” — so we were standing on the other side of the street shooting the scene for a couple of minutes. I am not very patient and after about 10 shots I gave up, and in the meantime he got that really neat image. Maybe that’s why he is a member of In-Public, and I am not (this is a very good composition exercise — fit as many people as you can in the frame so no one obscures anyone).
David studied documentary photography in Newport, so he’s been to Cardiff before me. He came here again last year and just a couple of hours after arriving was arrested together with myself and Eamon for shooting children at the Big Weekend Festival. It was hard not to shoot them since there were more children than adults. After being released we went to a pub to discuss the plan for the rest of the day, since going back to the fair was not an option.
3. What’s one tip that you would share with someone who’s just picking up a camera?
Maciej: A difficult question again, and I guess my answer might be a bit chaotic. Before going out make sure you have enough memory cards and spare batteries. Shoot a lot. Shoot in RAW format, not JPG. Don’t delete photos immediately, you might like some of them in a month or year. Blurry photos can be good as well. Shoot with wide angle lenses, get close to people — leave the telephoto lenses for landscape photos. Don’t buy those cool looking old film cameras on eBay as they’re a waste of time and money. I used to do that, once I even bought a mint Leica M6. I sold it a year later after shooting two rolls of film. Shoot with one camera, get to know it well. Don’t change lenses all the time. Don’t buy new lenses all the time, I have maybe 5 lenses but 95% of the time use just two of them — a 24-105mm zoom lens for the day and a bright 35mm f/1.4 for low light situations.
Look at work of other photographers, visit websites of photo agencies and photo collectives, read online photography magazines, and buy photo magazines — British Journal of Photography in the UK is great. Be active on Flickr or another photo sites, write and read comments (those longer than two words). Submit photos to Hardcore Street Photography Group and find out why they have been rejected by participating in one of the discussions there. and buy photography books. You will see why. I have started buying books probably last year, I have around 70 so far. I buy one book per week on average. it is very addictive.
4. When we interview peeps for employment here at Team Flickr, we always ask: “Kittens, babies, sunsets or flowers? Pick one.”
Maciej: Pick one? for what purpose? To photograph it? Babies and kittens look cute on photos, but such photos are usually too boring to look at. Unless it is your baby or kitten – that is what people say. I don’t have neither of those so I don’t know. Flowers? Nah. Sunsets? Nice. I like being outside when they occur. I like the light when the sun comes down, those warm colours, that’s the best time to shoot. Right, so I got it. I choose sunsets. Just for the photo opportunities they provide.
5. Which Flickr member should we ask these 5 questions of next?
Maciej: Let’s have Nygus as the next one. His name is Swiatek Wojtkowiak and he is a young Polish photographer. What a talent. He’s travels all the time and brings wonderful photos from each trip. And he wins photo competitions. We are in the same photo agency, The Wideangle, and he gets all assignments, but I must admit he is more flexible than me, since photography is his only job now. We’ll see next year when I am finally done with my studies.
Heather: Thank you, Maciej. 5 Questions will return with soon when we interview Swiatek Wojtkowiak.