SmugMug Corner #47: Nikolai Sklobovsky

After a couple of weeks off, we're diving right back in with a new SmugMug Corner interview. This week we meet a native of the former USSR, now living in California, Nikolai Sklobovsky (note that some of the photographs below may be considered risqué - viewer discretion is advised).

Name: Nikolai Sklobovsky


Tell us a little about yourself.

Nikolai Sklobovsky, born in USSR 47 years ago. I live in Thousand Oaks, CA. I’m applied mathematician by trade, taught myself computer programming in the 80-ies. Now I’m working as Sr. Software Engineer/Architect in a small software firm in Westlake Village.


What is your background/training in photography?

I don’t have what you’d call a formal training. The only photography class I ever attended was Shay Stephens “Wedding Photography Boot Camp” in San Diego in 2007. The rest I picked up from books, tutorials and, of course, my peers.


How long has photography been a passion for you? When, where and how did it start?

I got my first camera right before 2 week long summer family vacation. I think I was eleven at the time. It was an old German view camera, with bellows and tiny prism for viewfinder. It held 9 frames 6cm x 9cm (~2.5”x3.7”) each. And all we could afford was *one* film. Boy, did I have to make every frame count…

Of course, darkroom, chemicals, enlarger, developing prints… Since that time I was shooting pretty much non-stop. Range finders, then basic SLRs. Black and white film mostly. Slides sometimes. Most of it was family and school events, though. I moved to US in 1997, and when I got my first ever credit card in September 1997 ($500 limit, secured), my very first purchase with it was $450 Ricoh digital camera. Cellphones have much better cameras nowadays, but I was thrilled…


What equipment is in your camera bag? What piece of equipment will be added to the collection next?

My current camera body collection consists of two Canon bodies, 40D and 50D.

Lens lineup: EF-S 10-22, EF-S 17-55/2.8 IS USM, EF 50/1.8mkII, EF 100mm Macro USM, EF 70-200/2.8 IS USM, EF 100-400 IS USM. Add TCx1.4 extender and Kenko set of extension tubes.

I do a lot of studio shooting, hence 8 studio lights (2 ProFotos and 6 AlienBees) with various modifiers ranging from snoots to 7 ft Octabox. On location I mostly use my two trusty “potato mashers” SunPack 555AutoEX (with gels), and, occasionally, 580EX.

For support I use Bogen-Manfrotto NGEDT2 CF tripod and Acratech’s Ultimate Ballhead V2. I also own a Feisol CF monopod, but I use it rather infrequently, only for the whole day public events. I recently added an equatorial mount, but I’m still trying to figure out how to use it.

My next big purchase is definitely 5DMkII, but I am still at the very beginning of that upgrade path $-wise. Hopefully I will be able to afford it by the end of 2009.


What are your favorite places/subjects to photograph? Why?

My favorite subjects are Women and Nature. I believe those are most beautiful and precious gifts we were given. They change all the time, you know, so I simply cannot get enough of them. I love it when I have a chance to combine both together in my favorite theme “Beauty-N-The-Wild’.


Who are your biggest photographic influences? Why? What about their work influences your work?

Boy, that’s a loaded question I’d have to dump half of dgrin user list here, or at least the whole LPS crowd. Honestly, I can’t say I follow any particular trend/person in photography, even though I read a lot, both online and on paper. Whenever I see a great composition, an amazing lighting work, a really nice pose or a wicked good post-processing I’m trying to analyze it and figure out what has been done and what would I have done if I were in that person’s shoes.

But just to mention a few names... Andy Williams (and his fabled “Horse in the fog”) inspired me to learn Photoshop in 2004 and consider photography as something more than shooting family snapshots. Marc Muench, whom I first met in 2005, really opened my eyes on the landscape photography. And Shay Stephens over the years introduced me to the beautiful world of studio lighting and portraiture. I definitely wouldn’t be where I am now without those great photographers and, actually, really nice guys.

Tina (brown)

How long have you been Smug with your photographs? What features do you most enjoy with your SmugMug account?

I think I opened an account in Spring 2004. At the time the choice of photo sharing sites wasn’t that big. Pbase, SmugMug, Photobucket, maybe a few others. Yet there was a fierce competition. Dpreview, where I hung out at the time, was a non-stop battle. Again, thanks to Andy, I have chosen SmugMug. I was lured by its sleek UI, unlimited space, fast response time, high reliability and ready-to-go Pro features. Initially I had a little trouble with large uploads, but then I wrote my Star*Explorer and I didn’t have any major issues ever since.


If you had do sum up in 50 words or less the impact SmugMug has made on your photography/photography business, those 50 words would be...

SmugMug and its satellite forum Dgrin gave me a chance to become a better photographer, and, hopefully, a better person. With SmugMug I was able to start my photography business. With Dgrin I was able to learn from others, share my own work and sometimes, share the knowledge, too. SmugMug-sponsored annual shootouts became my de-facto vacations, a chance to meet online friends in person and spend quality time with other shutterbugs, with whom I share the biggest passion of my life – photography.


If you had to give one piece of advice to those wanting to pursue photography, what would you tell them?

Read, learn, share, but most importantly – go out and shoot!


Posted by Tim L. Walker on Fri, 2008–11–07 17:28
Categories: SmugMug Corner