Cannon Beach, OR

Interview with Landscape and Wildlife Photographer Ron Van Fleet

Gabriella Korosi
Photo of Ron Van FleetGabriella Korosi

Gabriella: Good morning, everyone I'm here with Ron Van Fleet and he is a wonderful photographer I originally met Ron as a nurse we used to work together. Later I found out that he does photography and I enjoy his pictures. I would like the world to see the wonderful pictures he makes. Please welcome Ron who is here with me and I would like to say Ron I'm excited that you're here. Please tell me a little bit about yourself and what brought you to photography.

Ron: thank you very much, Gabriella, I appreciate you talking with me today. I had been interested in photography for a long time I first started to take pictures in high school I was a yearbook photographer. I've been a lifelong photographer varying in scales and accumulating more knowledge over the years. My big passion is landscape photography and I also have a big passion for wildlife photography. Specifically, bird photography those are two of the areas I like to focus on. I have other interests but I'm still working on those.

Gabriella: That is wonderful. I just love the pictures you create and how there's that one with the storm, it is just breathtaking. A picture can tell a story and I feel like your photography tells a story. Is there a favorite picture or a place that comes to mind that you want to tell us about?

Ron: That is a difficult question.

Gabriella: Yes, you have so many. (We both start laughing here)

Ron: Yeah, because I have taken so many pictures over the last couple of years. I am probably most proud of one picture I took recently. I took a trip down to summer lake Wildlife Refuge. I captured Swans in flight. Capturing birds in flight it's been a project I've been working on for the last couple of years and the learning curve was pretty steep. I finally got to the point where I froze action the way I wanted it to and conveyed the message of these two beautiful Swans that were lifting off the pond. I am proud of that image.

Gabriella: That is a gorgeous image I have seen that image and I like it. You were saying that it is kind of difficult I don't think I have ever captured a bird in flight. Many times, they end up just being a big blur. Do you want to tell us a little bit about the technical aspect of how you were able to capture them?

Ron: Yes. I learned that capturing an image such as a bird in flight takes a very high shutter speed. The shutter speed I took that image at was 1/4000 of a second. That froze the details of the image crisply. It was not blurry. I could see the details of the birds quite easily at that shutter speed. What also facilitated me doing that was a high ISO on a camera which is like a film speed from the old school. It is how fast images can be captured. The higher the ISO more light is gathered and enables higher shutter speeds. With an image that a photographer shoots you try to get exposure. Exposure is usually dependent on 3 things. The F stop of the camera, the ISO, and the Shutter speed. Those have to be combined to try to match the existing light. If you capture it right the image will be bright enough. If some of the details are off on the Iso, the shutter speed or the aperture can mess the image up and make it to a poor recording. Learning to use those three features of your camera is very important.

Gabriella: That sounds very technical for me. I usually just snap a photo, but I don’t know much about how to best take those pictures. Today many times people just use their phones to take pictures. Do you have any recommendations for those people on how to improve their pictures or really, we should just all get a camera?

Ron: Well, you know that is a tough one because of the market right now. There are so many people out there now using cell phones to capture images. It is an economical way to do it. You can use your phone that you already paid for, and you can get some decent shots. The main limitation that I feel of cell phones is the size of the sensor. The sensor is so small in a cell phone. You can only enlarge the picture to a certain size. For most people, you can easily get an 8 by 10 image out of a cell phone try. The resolution now on cell phones is great enough that you can capture a good image. However, if you are trying to shoot something off the distance, you can zoom in with your phone it will work but you have to be aware of your hands shaking. For me who has fairly shaky hands, I need a fast shutter speed to capture my images. If you have a steady hand then you can zoom in on your phone you can get some good pictures.

Gabriella: Thank you for that Ron. For the people who like amateur photography and would like to learn how to take good pictures is there any camera you would recommend starting with?

Ron: You know both Canon and Nikon cameras are very good cameras. You can get a good camera with fairly high resolution for around $500. if you start adding lenses that is where things get a little bit more expensive. If you have the interest and the drive to advance your photography for bird or wildlife photography you need a fairly large lens usually 400 to 600 millimeters if not an 800-millimeter lens and those are very expensive. However, Sigma produces some very nice lenses that capture good images, and you can add a Sigma lens to a Canon or Nikon camera. You can get fairly good images. I am fond of the 150 - 600-millimeter lens that I have. It captures the images and does a good job. It is a lot more economical than other lenses.

Gabriella: Thank you so much for telling us about that Ron. Going back to that you like to photograph wildlife and birds they can be really difficult to photograph. How long do you have to wait for a certain image to show up and how many photographs do you have to take before you say I am proud of this one this is the one I'm going to showcase?

Ron: Well, once you get your techniques down and learn how to use your camera and your lens because it is the combination of the two you have certain settings on your camera and then you have to have a quality lens for the bird photography. You can get images relatively easily. It may take you ten shots, or 15 shots and you can get the image you want. However, there's another aspect you have to consider it's whether the birds are cooperating. (We both burst into laughter here) - Ron continues: a lot of the birds are very spooky. Herons especially, you get close to a great blue Heron, where I live, they don't let you get close, and proximity is very important for birds photography. if you can sneak up and can get a bird fairly close within 50 to 100 feet with a large lens you can get wonderful detail. When it is 300 or 400 feet away you do not get as much detail. Other challenging birds or groups of birds are Hawks. They move they are very quick, and they are spooky too. I have many times tried to get out of my car and even opened the door and the bird may be 50 to 100 feet away and it's gone. That is also part of the game if you are getting out there. There are songbirds a lot of the birds that are not that spooky, they can be behind your house they can be 50 feet away and with a good lens, you can get wonderful images of songbirds and some of the other birds that you might encounter it is a lot easier.

Gabriella: Thank you Ron for sharing all that. I noticed that we have hummingbirds that are coming by sometime and some of them let you walk up a little bit, but they are very skittish. It is very difficult to capture them I have tried many times to capture them it is very difficult. They are so beautiful. So far, I only got some blurry images because they are very fast.

Ron: Well, they are fast, and their wings are also moving very fast. Usually, if you get within five or six feet of a Hummingbird, they will take off however I have seen many situations when you are 15 feet away or 20 feet away with a large lens and you can get a good image. You can also be sneaky and if you have a corner to you at a house send a little bit of a from your bird it would not be as spooky. If you can just poke your head around the house or hide in a bush (I burst out laughing imagining poking my head out to snatch a picture of a bird) your chances increase. The closer you get to them you know; it is tough. This is a situation where a high shutter speed will enable you to get a more defined image. If you have a low shutter speed in your camera or you are trying to use a cell phone a lot of times it just won't work out.

Gabriella: Thank you so much for that Ron. You also like to do landscape. How do you choose? Does something just grab your attention, or do you just stop on the side of the road and start to shoot pictures? Are there certain places you choose because you like the area the trees? Is there are a specific landscape you are really into?

Ron: Right. Seascapes are a big draw for me. The Oregon coast itself has so many wonderful spots to take images of. Especially around Cannon Beach and around the Southern Oregon coast around Brookings, Gold Beach. There are so many areas that have what they call sea stacks. An example is Haystack Rock in Cannon Beach. They are quite photogenic. One of the nice areas I like to go to is Ecola State Park at Cannon Beach you can see Haystack rock and other sea stacks there and get some wonderful images. You can also walk along the beach and on Cannon Beach get beautiful shots of Haystack Rock during a sunset. That is a big draw for me. I also like desert landscapes I had spent a lot of time in central Oregon, they call it a high desert. One of my favorite areas is Century Lake Drive it takes off from Bend; it is also called the Cascade Lakes Highway. There are some beautiful spots to take wonderful images of Mt. Bachelor, the Three Sisters and they have birds there also. That is one of my favorite places to go out and shoot images also.

Gabriella: Thank you so much for being here and telling us so much about photography. I have to learn a lot more to take better pictures. Is there anything that I did not ask you about that you would like to add to our conversation today?

Ron: Yes. It is a learning process. I have been told that I am fortunate that I have a good eye for seeing what is significant in a landscape. What captures my eye, a lot of people say I have a very good eye. I think this is a skill that can be developed. Composition is something you can develop. We are not born photographers its all a learning process and if you put the time in you can produce some wonderful images.

Gabriella: Thank you Rom so much for being here today.

Ron: Thank you for talking to me I appreciate it very much.

Gabriella: Just one more thing. If people would like to go and see more of your photography, where should they go?

Ron: I currently have a small number of images on Fine Art America under my name Ron Van Fleet. That is all you need to do is go to Fine Art America and enter my name.

Gabriella: Thank you, Ron, I will add that link to the article. Again, thank you so much for being here today.

Ron: Ok, thank you for your time.

Ron’s images can be found here

You can also find Ron on the Medium platform here

Dancing Elephants Press February 2022. All rights reserved.

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