Geeked on Golf

A Celebration of the People & Places that Make Golf the Greatest Game

Golf Shots – An Interview with Photographer Evan Schiller

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PebbleBeach18P26A quick look at my Twitter or Instagram feeds reveals that I love looking at pictures of golf courses.  Sadly, I am quite terrible at taking good pictures of the beautiful courses I get to play.  That is why I am so grateful for talented people like Evan Schiller.

In addition to being one of my favorite photographers, Evan is also a gracious and generous man.  After patiently responding to my ongoing inquiries about his work, he wisely suggested that we conduct a virtual interview.  Shared here with some of his photos are insights about the practice of his craft.  Hope you enjoy.

(Although it is selling quickly, there are a few copies of Evan’s 2015 Golf Shots Calendar available here, along with his other work.)

CLICK ON ANY IMAGE TO OPEN THE GALLERY

How did you get into the profession?

To make a somewhat long story short…my parents gave me what is an equivalent these days to a point and shoot when I was about 8…I just started taking photos of everything, especially on our vacations…..about 17 years laters, I was playing the 9th hole of The Stadium Course at PGA WEST in 1986 and as we walked down the fairway in the early morning the scene was breathtaking.  My friend and I had just played in the California Open in August in the Palm Spring area..yes, a bit hot.  I wished I had a camera with me to capture it.  No cell phones in those days.  Upon returning home I purchased a camera and started taking it with me on trips.  I would give the photos to friends and hang them on my wall.  Several years later while working as an assistant professional at Westchester Country Club a friend of mine said I should put some of the photos in the pro shop and sell them.  Well,…..I did and here we are.  One thing lead to another and I was off and running.

Describe your process for capturing the perfect shot.

This is a bit long, but I think it speaks to what you are asking. Where I shoot depends on which holes are most photogenic, of course.  However, I usually try to scout the course beforehand to look beyond that.  I want to see nuances and anticipate light patterns on specific holes so that I know where to stand for the critical moment when the sun rises and sets. I’ve captured beautiful shots without scouting the course, but it’s not ideal.  Why?  Because of the light.  It takes some time to understand the timing and angle of the sun’s rays on each fairway and green.  Taking the time to consider this can make the difference between capturing a good shot and a great one.

Let’s take Pebble Beach for instance. I know from experience that I must capture #8 and #18 as soon as the sun comes over the mountains or the sun will be too high and the light less than optimal.  I might position myself behind the 8th green in a cherry picker well before sunrise so I’m ready for the opportunity at first light. Not to say I won’t get a good shot after sunrise, but the hole won’t show me its best.

From my scouting preparation, I know that from the 8th hole I can head to the 6th and 7th because it takes longer for the sun to appropriately light those holes.  If I’ve done my prep well, I’ll have noticed that the light on #9 and #10 is likely better in the late afternoon and that the 7th hole faces almost due south so it photographs well in morning and afternoon light, although I prefer the evening!

Once I’ve identified the holes and times I want to shoot, I turn my attention to composing the shot, keeping in mind that it might be viewed on a computer screen, in a magazine, a book or as a framed print.  I always intend to create a shot where everything flows and is of interest, while keeping in mind balance and eye appeal.  So while it’s not a rule, I generally don’t photograph from the middle of a fairway. Unless there’s something interesting at play like a fairway bunker or shadow, it’s not the most intriguing shot.

So preparing to photograph a course is more than a logistical run-through.  It’s an opportunity to see beyond just looking.  It’s seeing with my imagination to anticipate the flow of light and capture its shimmer within finite time frames.

This may be where the art of photography lies.

What is your most memorable moment while working on a shoot?  

Wow, that’s a tough one!!  See below when I write about shooting the 7th at Pebble Beach.  A couple other times were when I was first asked to go photograph The Masters for Golf Digest and The Masters Journal and, the week before asked to shoot the course for Golf Magazine.  Now that I think of it, in 2001 I was asked by a notable publisher if I wanted to be the photographer of a book entitled “Golf Courses of Hawaii”.  Not knowing at the moment what was required of course I said yes.  Well, I soon found out that it would require me to go to Hawaii for about 8 – 10 weeks to photograph 40 golf courses….At the time I thought I was in heaven but still alive!!  I ended up making two trips to Hawaii and spending a total of about 9 weeks there shooting….tough duty.

What are the Top 3 courses you want to shoot?

Another good one. I’m assuming this means courses I have not photographed before?  Off the top of my head Cabot Links, Barndougle Dunes in Tasmania looks amazing, Cape Kidnappers in New Zealand and if I could add one more it would be Sand Hills in Nebraska.

How do you know when you have hit the sweet spot and captured a special picture?  

It’s usually the convergence of a series of events.  A great hole / shot / beauty….great light and cloud formations.  And, I just know it.  Things are different now with digital cameras and backs.  Ten years ago when I was shooting film you didn’t know what you had until you got the film back.  Now you know instantaneously when you look at the image in the back of the camera.  For instance, the attached, which by the way was shot with film.  It’s a photo of the 7th at Pebble Beach.  I had arrived about two hours before sunset and sat around waiting on an overcast day….hoping for the marine layer to break.  I never know when that special moment will occur, I can try and anticipate it based on past experiences and be ready if and when it does.  So, I waited almost two hours for this shot and just before the sunset there was a break in the clouds by the horizon and the sun came out for less than two minutes and I was able to capture a few shots.  I could even say this was one of the more memorable shots because of the place and the fact this has been one of my most popular images ever.  It also appeared on the cover of the 2010 US Open Magazine which was play at Pebble Beach.

Pebble-Beach-Golf-Links_7th-Hole---

What do you love about practicing your craft?  

Many things…first of all, I have the opportunity to travel to some amazing places and courses and not only photograph them, but sometimes play them.  I meet so many wonderful people along the way as well.  I love to share my images and experiences of shooting because often times I am out on a golf course when other people are not.  Usually very early or late.  I also love the adventure (scouting courses, shooting from lifts and helicopters and recently with drones and being out early in the morning when the sunrises…. and the creativity of it all, looking and seeing what’s the best angle for shooting the hole…I never know what’s going to happen or what I’ll find along the way and I like that…I like being surprised.

Who is your favorite golf course architect, and why?  

Tough to choose one there, so many architects are doing such great work, many of whom we are only now getting to know.

What are your favorite courses to play?

This is probably the easiest question.  Royal County Down, Fishers Island, Punta Espada and Pacific Dunes.

When you’re not taking pictures, what are you doing? 

My wife and I have also made numerous trips to Africa and have become fundraisers for the conservation of Big Cats.  We’ve done several fundraisers over the past few years for Panthera (http://www.panthera.org/) and The Big Cats Initiative. (http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/big-cats-initiative/)  We love Africa and I’ve taken thousands of photos during our trips.

I’m also a golf professional and coach with Extraordinary Golf. (http://www.extraordinarygolf.com/) and, love to hang out and photograph our three cats.

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Additional Geeked On Golf Interviews:

 

Copyright 2015 – Jason Way, GeekedOnGolf

18 thoughts on “Golf Shots – An Interview with Photographer Evan Schiller

  1. Nice piece, and interesting to read Evan’s process. Love looking at his photos. And fantastic to hear Royal County Down is a favourite to play – one of the very best in the world.

    Like

  2. Nice article, Jason! It’s quite interesting to read Evan’s thoughts behind creating the images!

    Like

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