Corner Member Close Up: Carl Chalupa

If you've been around the Corner for any length of time, you're well familiar with our Friday afternoon tradition of posting up a photographer interview. One week we meet a photographer from SmugMug in a series called "SmugMug Corner" (obviously), and on alternate Friday's, we get to know one of our own from the Corner a little better in a series we call "Corner Member Close Up." This week, we meet Carl Chalupa - known around the Internets as "Chiller" and known around the Corner as Spicoli. Either way, he's known for being a "little too into Halloween," but that only adds to his photographic prowess. He won Photograph of the Month honors (back in April 2006), and ELEVEN Contest Corner Challenges. He's pushing 7,000 posts here on the Corner, is ever improving and always willing to comment and critique. Needless to say, he's a huge asset to the Corner. I know you want to know more about him and browse through more than two dozen of his favorite photographs... keep reading - it's all below.

Name: Carl Chalupa
Username: Spicoli


Tell us a little about yourself.

This is always the tough question, and I can never figure out what to write. My given name is Carl Chalupa, and I live in Scarborough, Ontario, the burbs of the growing concrete jungle known as Toronto. Lucky for me, I'm a 10 minute walk from Lake Ontario, and the beautiful Scarborough Bluffs, and a half hour drive from downtown Toronto. I'm 47 going on 25ish, and by day, I'm a warehouse manager for a large format Reprographic company.

What does your username mean?

The Spicoli username was a complete accident... honestly. Usually I go by the name Chiller on all the forums I'm a member of, but for some reason when I joined the Corner, Chiller was not allowed. I think Tim knew I was coming and blocked that one. At the time I was watching one of my favorite movies Fast Times at Ridgemount High, and the main character played by Sean Penn is "Spicoli". I typed it in, and abracadavour, it worked.

How old were you when you took your first picture with a camera; any camera? Was it any good?

I'm not sure what the age was, but I was still a youngin, and my Mom had left her little film camera on the kitchen table. I think it was a Kodak. I "borrowed" it without her knowing and took a pile of photos of my toy soldiers pretending they had just saved the world. I could never figure out why the camera just stopped working, so I put it back on the table where I found it. It was not till a week had gone by, that I found a bunch of printed photos on my bed all of them blurry, and unrecognizable.

What was it about photography that made you want to become a photographer? Why do you take photographs?

I think I have always been fascinated by photographs, but never really thought I would be shooting them. I think what really started it was after a cycling journey to Niagara Falls. I took a cheap little P&S film camera to document the trip, and after getting the film developed I was disappointed at what I saw. All that training, and 400km later I really had nothing to show. That was one of the reasons I found myself out doing the after Christmas shopping spree looking for a camera. I have always loved creating things. I used to build car models, paint miniatures, build halloween props, cartooning, whatever I could to get my ideas out there. Now, photography has become another outlet for my imagination to play with.

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

I started around 2003, shooting with a film camera. It wasnt till the world went digital, the addiction started. At first I just wanted to take a nice photo, but now the passion is much stronger. I have a camera with me always.

What is your background/training in photography?

I have had no training at all, except what I have learned on the internet, and the few magazines and books I have purchased.


What was your very first camera?

My very first camera I purchased on Boxing Day in 2003. I walked into the camera shop, and saw one that was on sale, which happened to be the Canon Rebel G film camera. Even came with a free Boxing Day gift. A case. They asked if I wanted to see it, or try it out, but I just wanted to buy it and get home. I have never even tried a Nikon.

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

I was going to go into detail, but it might be long, so I will keep it short.

You are asked to choose one lens from the following group: 14mm wide angle, 50mm prime, 200mm telephoto, 105mm macro. You could only use one of these for the rest of your photographic life. Which would you choose and why?

I think I would have to go with the 50mm. I have found it to be a versatile lens, and can pretty much be used anywhere.

Bonus Questions

Tell us your set-up, thoughts and tips/tricks of a particular photo.

I have a lot to choose from so I picked this shot at random. The setting we used for this shot was my friends garage which has been part of his halloween attraction and is the perfect place. The coffins are part of a double coffin wall, that formed the backdrop. The chair is a real prop from a movie, the name escapes me, but I think it was Tom Cruise that sat in it once. For the lighting we used 4 "christmas" flood bulbs. Two reds and two blues, and on the floor we placed one white light bounced off the wall. The garage has an upper level,so we can hang the lights to the underside, using clamps, and can move them to get different moods. For this photo, we went with a blue, red, blue , red, combo and placed the reds slightly back to make the blue stand out more. The intention was to have the scene look like a moon coming out and the vampire awakening. Rebecca, plays the vampire perfect, and is a natural at posing. I used a 17-40 lens at 17mm on a tripod, ISO 200, f/4.5, 1/10sec. The eyes are done with contacts, and the fangs and nails are accessories. I think that is about it.

Have you ever Photoshoped/edited a photo but told others you haven't?

Only with a couple of non photography friends. I could not do it with photography friends, because they would know. ;+)

Do you like your photos most of the time or dislike them most of the time? Why do you think that is?

I dislike most of my work. I always feel I could have done better with any image or shoot, and find myself being my hardest critic. Just makes me try harder next time and have actually found myself going back and revisiting a place to try again.

Have you ever taken the EXIF/exposure info from any of the critiques and tried it yourself?

I have jotted down some settings, but every situation is different. What may have worked for someone else, might not work for the image I'm taking. I do keep a notebook of settings I have used, just in case I would like to try some next time out.

Do you think that photographers take photos because they can't paint; or do painters paint because they aren't good photographers?

I have met some that do both. One painter I met said he paints because he has never found the scene he wanted to photograph so he painted it. I remember another artist that was telling me, every day he walks out the door, the world, that he calls his canvas, changes. With every position of the sun, or every gust of wind moving the leaves around creates a different scene. I found that an interesting statement.

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

I don't think I have just one favorite place or subject that I like to focus on, no pun intended. I try to play around in different areas, and will try anything. I love street photography, and nature, but love getting deep into a cemetery for some shots. I also really enjoy creating an image I have thought up. Something I might have an idea for and see if I can get that photo to reality.

You are given a dream assignment to photograph one location in the world. Where/what would it be? When would you shoot it? Why that place and that time?

Wales. It is on my list of places to go. I have always wanted to photograph the castles there during the sunrise or sunsets. The lighting must be amazing in those places.

You are given a dream assignment to choose one person in the world that you can photograph. Who would you choose? Where would you photograph him/her? Why that person and setting?

I have flipped back and forth on this question for a few days. There are so many interesting people to choose from. I have thought about Alice Cooper in his mansion, or Gene Simmons in a dark gothic Castle. I think I would love to photograph..............

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

I don't follow any photographers at all. I'm more inspired by music. Photography for me can sometimes be generated by an emotion felt inside, and depending on what I'm listening to, can alter the way I see things. I don't want to shoot like everyone else.

What are your goals for your photography?

Originally photography started out as a hobby, but I think one day I would like to release a coffee table book. Other then that, I would trade this dead end job I work at for the chance to walk out my front door with my camera bag, instead of this torn old lunch bag but I might just have to rely on a lottery win for that wish.

What photo did you take that you are the most proud of up to this point in your photographic journey?

I would have to say The Univited Guest. I think this photo is one that I have been most known for but maybe not most proud of.

The Uninvited Guest

What was your most embarrassing moment while taking pictures?

Well, it looks like embarrassing moments happen just in time. Seems mine was a few weeks back, when I went to photograph the fall colours at a small waterfalls nearby. I approached the side of the gorge, and noticed all the beautiful leaves had fallen just right on the rocks and river below. The path I was on has been well travelled and many of the roots from the trees are exposed, which I did not see. This one tree had seen enough of me and stuck out a root, which I tripped over, and belly flopped on the side of the gorge, sliding down about 8 feet with my left elbow taking the brunt of the fall. I ended up with two bruised knees, cuts on both hands, and a left arm that what pretty cut up, from the wrist to the elbow. My cameras did not even hit the ground. I'm not sure if anyone saw my mishap, but I sure got up fast just in case, pretended nothing happened and limped away.

What was the most dangerous thing (or worst thing) you ever did to get 'The Shot'?

Well, I think it might have been walking out on the ledge at the Scarborough Bluffs and being 200 feet up, on a 8" patch of land.

What do you do with your photographs?

My photographs are mostly for personal use, but over the last little while, they have appeared in 2 books, various magazines and websites. I'm hoping in the next year to do a few shows as well. Every year my company uses my images for their calender, plus some advertising, since we are in the large format printing industry.

The Corner

What initially drew you into Corner?

Google? LOL. I was on another forum at the time, and was poking around one day, and came across the Corner. I lurked for about a week and then noticed how people here helped each other, and it felt like a community, not just another forum.

What keeps your hanging around the Corner?

The Corner is like meeting up with friends every weekend. Great people all sharing a great hobby with a nice comfy place to share.

What section of the Corner is your most frequented or favorite?

Um.... the CCC, the Premier Corner, and the Photo Sharing Galleries.

What advice would you give other members of PhotographyCorner?

Take the advice and critique of other members as you need it. Not everyone has the same vision, so collect the advice you receive, and add it to your own shots. Always be yourself, take chances, cross the line, break the rules, get creative, even if it means falling down a hill.

If you could meet any member of the Corner, but could ask them only one question, who would you want to meet and what would that question be?

There are many members I would love to meet, and too many to mention. But I would really enjoy getting together with fa1sal. I would ask him: "How the hell do you see those angles?" Also a fan of Danielle's horror work, and would love to do a shoot with her.


What thing about yourself as an artist do you want to be remembered for?

My hair. Seriously? I hope my creativity. If an image can make a person smile, or keep them coming back, I think it has done its job.

If you knew it were your last day with your equipment, whether it be by choice or not, what would you photograph and why?

I think I would go to the lake where I used to take my german shepherd Kane before he passed away, and take one last photo of the place we spent hours just hanging out enjoying our days in the peace and quiet.

Posted by Tim L. Walker on Fri, 2010–11–12 17:20