Mark picked up a camera in college to make a good photo of a young woman. The irony: he fell in love with both.
Fast forward 30 years. Several decades into a career as a physician, Mark had cause to pick up a camera once again. Trading a pathologist’s view into a microscope for that of a Nikon F100 viewfinder proved irresistible. In 2001 a windsurfing shot made off the coast of Venezuela was published in the US and Europe. His rekindled passion not only touched him, but his family and an ever increasing circle of friends until one of those connections led to industry recognition. In 2004 Nikon began using Mark’s images in their advertising and later that year featured his work in Nikon World magazine. His work has won international awards, attracted clients such as Hewlett-Packard, Lowepro and DxO Software , and found placements in commercial installations, stock agencies (Superstock and Alamy), and private collections. Author Tony Luna (How to Grow as a Photographer: Reinventing Your Career) found Mark’s life changing decisions and success so inspiring it became subject matter in his book. His teaching experience in medicine made the transition to digital photo educator and spokesperson another new direction. In 2006 he became a mentor for the Nikon sponsored Popular Photography Mentor Series Treks. As opportunities to travel and photograph continued, in 2007 Mark stepped away from his medical career and devoted full attention to all things photographic. He now resides in Atlanta, Georgia where his home studio makes private instruction a unique experience. In addition to continuing relationships with Nikon and the Popular Photography Mentor Series, Mark also leads trips for Photozonetours.com (with photographer Layne Kennedy), an extension of his website and photo business.
Q&A with Mark
“Do you miss medicine?”
Making diagnoses that touched so many lives was an amazing career. When I discovered that my photographs and teaching were also touching lives it made me realize I could make a valuable contribution in another way. That insight was the foundation for the leap of faith to step away from medicine. My journey with a camera since has been so incredible I can’t imagine not having made that decision.
“Why do you shoot Nikon?”
Over the 40+ years I’ve been shooting, I’ve used equipment from most of the major manufacturers. I chose Nikon because the ergonomics speak to me. Things as simple as how buttons feel and where controls are located make my user experience better with a Nikon. I’ve made fantastic images with virtually every Nikon I’ve used, from Coolpix right up to the flagship DSLRs. The body durability and lens quality never disappoint. And don’t think I use Nikon because they give me free equipment. While they provide whatever I’m shooting on assignment, and they occasionally loan a specialty item for short term use, Nikon does not give equipment away to garner endorsements. They want contributing Nikon pros to be using Nikon equipment as a personal choice. We pay for equipment just like John Q. Public. I get most of mine from B&H Photo in NYC.
“Do you Photoshop your pictures?”
This question has two answers, and of course ‘Photoshop’ here means digitally enhance, not literally the Adobe program. First, every digital photograph worth it’s salt absolutely must be processed in quality photo editing software. If you don’t make assertive decisions in processing your digital files you simply are not realizing the maximal potential of the fine camera you bought. Second, since I’m not a photojournalist, the primary intent of my photographs is to communicate an emotional response. Just as when you see a movie or hear a concert and recall it later, your memory of the event is subjective and often the perception after the fact differs from the reality of the moment. How I process my photographs is very similar. I make decisions whose end result is a subjective visual interpretation. The bottom line: Yes, I digitally enhance every image. You should too. If you’re a photojournalist, you should process for quality. If you’re not a photojournalist, process as an artist. Both approaches are completely valid in context.
“If you could only have a camera and one lens, what would you choose?”
It’s been a couple of years since I updated this and how things have changed! The D800/810 bodies are amazing but simply aren’t the right camera for every image or every shooter. The D750 is a great alternative for 24MP full frame and surprisingly, I really enjoy shooting the 16 MP Df. Despite today’s trend toward higher pixel counts, the 16MP Df sensor excels at high ISO and is a real sweet spot in terms of sensor size / file file size / output quality. And then there is System 1 to consider, Nikon’s mirrorless cameras now in the 3rd generation with the V3. The “only one camera” question has never been harder to answer so I have to qualify my response. If I could only have a DSLR I could be happy with either D810, D750 or Df. If I was in search for a DSLR alternative right now it’d be the System 1 V3. As for the “only one lens” it’d be the Nikon 28-300. If System 1, I think it’s fair to say you could have both the 10-30mm VR and the 30-110mm (for 28-283mm DSLR equivalent coverage) and still be way ahead in weight and size compared to DSLR or most other mirrorless alternatives.
“What’s your favorite thing or place to shoot?”
While some photographers wax poetically answering this question, all I can tell you is that I love to shoot anything that light is making beautiful. Landscape, wildlife, people, even a storm or a medical subject… as long as there is special light involved, give me a camera and I’m all over it. Often to my wife’s chagrin. Thank goodness she’s supportive and enjoys seeing me excited by my passion.