The Rig
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The Rig: Nathan Elson

Who are you and what’s your profession?

I’m a portrait and commercial photographer based out of Calgary, AB. and I am completely fascinated with light. Fortunately, I’ve found a way to turn that fascination into a career that is now in its 6th year and going strong. I’ve carved out a niche in the Calgary market for creating fresh imagery for companies who are re-branding and looking to get away from the 90’s style of stagnant, lifeless, portrait studio images that have poorly represented their brand for so many years. In my personal work I am in the process of three separate projects that include hitch-hikers, scars, and portraits of people with interesting jobs. I’m also a husband to one, and a father of two (3 year old girl, 1 year old boy), who’s love and constant belief in me have made this life of mine possible.

What’s your rig?

For client work I use the Nikon D800 with whatever lens best suits my needs. Most often that is either the 35mm f/1.4G or the 85mm f/1.8G. The 24-70, 70-200, and 50mm round out that kit.

For personal work, I now have the Fuji X-Pro1 with the XF 35mm f/1.4 which has been amazing to work with. The X-Pro1 could easily replace my Nikon rig on a lot of jobs, but psychologically I associate the X-Pro1 with shooting only for myself, and if I start using it for client work, I fear that feeling will disappear. Having only the one body and one lens keeps it simple, and the 50mm equivalent is the perfect ‘all around’ focal length for portrait work, which is what 99% of my work is.

For lighting I use the Einstein heads with a variety of modifiers ranging from octaboxes to stripboxes to beauty dishes to PLM‘s to grid spots and beyond.

What hardware do you use?

I’m a PC guy and have been building my own systems since I was 16 (I’m 33 now). I recently built an entirely new box, but I don’t remember exactly what processor I put in, and the boxes are out in the garage, and it’s cold out so I’m not going out to look. I can tell you that it’s an i7, 16gb of ram, and it handles everything I throw at it. I use dual 24″ Samsung monitors for editing, and I couldn’t live without my Wacom Intuos 4 tablet, it goes with me everywhere.

On the road I use the Dell XPS 15 laptop, which is basically a carbon rip off of the Macbook Pro.

What software do you use?

After my files are loaded onto my computer I run through them with Photo Mechanic to do my initial sort and make selections. From there the selections are brought into LR5 and processed. I normally start with one of the presets I have created based on my own editing preferences, then fine tune the image as needed. I then export to PS CC for retouching.

For backup I transfer all the images to one RAID drive that stays in the office, and another that is taken off site and travels with me wherever I go. I’m currently looking into cloud storage but to be honest cloud storage still kind of freaks me out. All of my current websites are running on WordPress.

What would be your dream rig?

I’m all over the map on this one to be honest. One day I will own a Phase One and bathe myself in those glorious files, but I’m also really interested to see what happens in the future with the X-Pro 2. With the improvements that Fuji has been making to the X series, it’ll be interesting to see what they do with their flagship.

What’s your favorite photography quote?

I mean, I could go on Google right now and find one, but then it would have only been my favorite for the last 2 minutes, and that kind of seems like cheating. What I’ll do instead is leave you with my photographic mantra, which is “light for shadow”. That way of thinking has drastically changed my approach to portraiture.

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