The Global FlyFisher
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Fishy photos: Marcel Siegle
Marcel Siegle is a professional photographer who splits his photo time (unevenly) between weddings and fly-fishing.
I stumbled over Marcel's web site and his excellent pictures while searching and browsing for potential candidates for our Fishy Photographer series. When I started investigating a little, I realized that I already "knew" Marcel, but from somewhere completely different than fly-fishing. Marcel and his wife Meher have a thriving wedding photography business, and I had browsed both their site and their blog in connection with my non-fly-fishing photo-related web browsing. I approached Marcel and asked him our usual bunch of questions.
How did you start photographing - and what made you choose fishing related photos in particular?
As with so many other photographers, I started photography as a young boy. My father was an avid hobby photographer and let me use some of his cameras at an early age. I grew up in Europe, but got my first darkroom experience in Junior High school in the United States, where my family lived for a year. When I was finished with high school (back in Germany) I worked for a commercial photography studio in Dusseldorf. We mainly did still life shoots using large format cameras (up to 8x10). This was in the film days and the barrier of entry to becoming a professional photographer was much higher. My parents insisted that I get some type of degree before venturing out on my own, so I applied to a few photography schools in Germany. I remember one school that required applicants to complete several assignments as well create a portfolio of personal work. During the admissions process one of the professors, after reviewing my portfolio, told me that I would be better off becoming a taxi driver. Needless to say I was devastated, but sometimes things happen for a reason.
...one of the professors told me that I would be better off becoming a taxi driver
Fortunately my boss, and mentor at the time, told me about a photography school in the States. To make a long story short, I ended up studying at Brooks Institute in Santa Barbara, graduated with honors, won a coveted Kodak scholarship award and met my wife Meher. I also started Fly Fishing during my time at Brooks; and what started as a passion soon turned into an obsession.
After we had both graduated and got married, my wife and I moved to San Francisco. We were drawn to the Northern California life style, and besides I'd heard that fly fishing was much better up north! During this time computers started taking off and the internet was born. In the dawn of this new era I dove head first into the digital age, started a multimedia company, of which I was the only employee, and soon found myself on the bleeding edge instead of the cutting edge. I started a multimedia project on cyanide heap leach gold mining in Montana and it's effects on the environment and the economy. The project was supposed to be a groundbreaking interactive multimedia documentary, first of it's kind, kind of thing, but it turned out to be a giant failure. Due to a major shift in technology the project was rendered obsolete even before I could finish it. But because of all the things I had learned working on the project I was able to join a tech startup and took a 3 year hiatus from photography. During that time I continued to take pictures during my fly fishing trips, but I wasn't really happy with my fly fishing photography. One of the main problems was that working for a startup does not leave much time to fish. I also enjoy fishing too much and the good hatches often coincided with the best light to shoot, needless to say the hatches took precedence.
After the start up went belly up I was confronted with the decision to either stay in the tech world or go back to photography. And despite the fact that I was offered some lucrative jobs my heart and soul was still in photography. Besides I had enough of the corporate culture interfering with my fishing.
I told her that I was not a wedding photographer, to which she replied: "Exactly -- that is why I am calling you!"
My dream was always to become a full time fly fishing photographer, but to be honest, having two kids and living in the San Francisco Bay Area, I did not see this passion paying the bills, nor did my wife. So back then I went into commercial photography and graphic design. One day I received a call from a woman who wanted me to shoot her wedding. I told her that I was not a wedding photographer, to which she replied: "Exactly -- that is why I am calling you!" I didn't shoot her wedding, but I was intrigued. After some research I realized that the wedding industry was changing, brides where more sophisticated when it came to photography and were demanding a more creative approach. It was ideal, I could shoot on weekends and go fishing during the week, when most of the other fishing bums were locked up in their cubicles. So my wife and I started a wedding photography business together, which turned out to be a very creative and rewarding experience, but unfortunately much more time consuming than I had hoped for.
Over time, I slowly built up my fly-fishing portfolio, selling some fine-art prints here and there and getting a few pics into magazines. But there were some challenges and frustrations. Since I was mainly fishing during the week, I had a hard time finding people to photograph. One day my wife asked me what was wrong and I told her that I really want to do more fly fishing photography, but that I am hitting a wall. My wife is not really into fly fishing, but she is extremely supportive. Since she has no fear or shame, she called the the Fly Shop in Redding and asked them if they needed any photography done. A few weeks later I found myself shooting on a drift boat for a two day assignment for the Fly Shop. Turned out The Fly Shop produces one of the largest fly fishing catalogs in the country with a circulation of 250,000 to 300,000 copies annually, if you ever pick up a copy you will see a lot of my work in it. Many well known fly fishing photographers have shot, and still shoot, for this catalog.
Do you have a particular subject, region or a style of pictures that you mainly shoot or are you more all-round?
When it comes to fly fishing photography I am somewhat confined to Northern California and occasionally Oregon, unless someone is willing to fly me out somewhere ;-) Besides weddings I shoot a lot of commercial work and portraiture, which keeps me very busy during the summer months. During the winter months, when my business slows down, I turn into a steelhead bum and like to get skunked on the local rivers. We have a lot of steelhead history here, unfortunately more history than fish.
As for style, that is always a difficult question for me to answer. There is the commercial side of me and there is the fine-art side of me. When I create fine art pieces it is important to me to create imagery that can survive hanging on a wall for a long time without becoming an eyesore. I draw some of my inspiration from classic painters and old landscape photographers for that.
My commercial work is very different. When I go on a commercial shoot, I try to figure out my clients needs and try to combine that with an aesthetic that pleases me as well. For the Fly Shop, for example, most of my work is shot with the designers and the Fly Shop brand in mind, think double spreads, bold colors, lots of space, clean compositions for layouts and type. So to answer your question, I am more an all around shooter. I have, photographed people dying of AIDS, spent weeks shooting on an Indian reservation, shot jewelry, fashion, cars, food, architecture and countless portraits. I think I am a little ADD. Currently I shoot executive portraits for corporations, shoot weddings with my wife, and fly-fishing photography for myself.
I think I am a little ADD
Where are your photos used? Books, magazines, brochures, ads, web sites, prints, gallery exhibits or other places?
Some of my work has been shown in American Angler, Fly Fusion and on some other magazines and fishing websites. Unfortunately I don't submit work to magazines as my regular photography business is very demanding and commercial jobs always have priority.
Most of my work that has been published in magazines was solicited through my online stock gallery. But in the last few years a new breed of fly fishing magazines have popped up, the Drake, Fly Fusion, Fly Fish Journal and Catch Magazine come to mind. These magazines really feature some great photography and entertaining and smart editorial content that is inspiring. The majority of my published work is assignment work for the Fly Shop catalog. In the last 4 years I have done 3 covers for the Fly Shop Catalog and a lot of the life-style shots and scenics in for their catalog and marketing materials.
As for gallery exhibits, eventually I would love to exhibit some of my fine art work, since it is best seen in a gallery setting. But it's not easy to find the right venue, galleries are a business and the market for fine art fly fishing photography is very limited.
Can people buy your pictures and if so, then in which form and where?
People can check out my fly fishing work at www.flyfishingjunkie.com. I offer fine art prints that are either printed on Canvas (large scale), Cotton Rag or Fiber based paper as well as regular prints and also offer stock images.
For my wedding work you can visit: http://www.marcelsieglephoto.com/
Commercial work: http://www.sieglephoto.com/
Where do you currently live and work?
In 2007 my wife and I moved with our two great children from San Francisco to the Sonoma Wine Country near Santa Rosa. We still have a photo studio in San Francisco and are in the city all the time.
We live in a country setting with chickens and other wildlife and grow our own veggies. Best of all, we have a creek running through our back yard that still harbors a small wild steelhead population and apparently some Coho.
Unfortunately wild steelhead are on the decline in our area, but we still see a few fish spawn every year. I try to document them as well as I can.
What's in your bag? Preferred cameras, bodies, lenses and other gear?
I shoot mainly Canon 5Ds Mark 2's, still shoot an old 5D at times (just love the pixels of that camera) and shoot a 7D when I need fast auto focus and 8 frames a second. I am looking forward to upgrading to the Mark 3's this year, which is the camera I have been waiting for for a long time.
As for lenses, I shoot a lot of prime lenses, but also zooms. My favorite lenses right now are the 35mm 1.4, the 50mm 1.2 and the 85mm 1.2. I often will only take one lens while fishing, most of the time the 35mm, but lately I also pack the 50mm and/or a 16-35mm.