Photographer Profile: Dave Curtis

This month’s photographer profile brings you images from another world, in more than one way.

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Name Dave Curtis
Photography Awards/Honours Lake Wanaka Postage Stamp 2009; 2017 Harry Williams Astrophotography Competition – highly commended; Otago Wildlife Competition – 3 highly commended over the years
Current Camera Canon 5D4,  Sony A7R2 and QSI683 (astro)
Favourite Camera you have ever used/had I was most excited about my first digital, the Canon 1D Mrk2.

Canon A1 back in the film days.

Which do you prefer? Digital
And why? I prefer digital. The sensitivity of the monochrome astro cameras have really opened up astrophotography in recent years. Something that the professionals back in the film days could only dream about.

With other types of photography the instant feed back loop is important. You can check exposure, focus and composition immediately. Especially important on a paid job and for the learning experience. And of course the ability to change ISO on the fly, something we now take for granted.

Which medium do you prefer? Print
And why? I enjoy making the print. There is something about holding your own creation in your hand. And of course we have the choice of so many different papers now.

I make my own prints and print profiles. I enjoy the printing process from soft proofing to print. I’m a strong believer in profiling your work flow from monitor to print.

How did you get into photography and when? My mother was interested in photography and owned a Kodak Retinette which she bought back in the 50s.

My first adventure with a camera was at school when we went to Mt Aspring National Park for a week. I took mum’s camera set at sunny f16. The film wasn’t loaded correctly and wouldn’t advance as it should which mum discovered when I arrived back home from the trip.

However this didn’t stop me sneaking out of camp, and climbing up a nearby waterfall to get what I thought would be “the shot”.

What keeps you inspired with your photography? Recently I have restarted my passion for astrophotography which started back in the 80s with film and a 20cm reflector telescope.

I have been enjoying commissioning a telescope system, and associated equipment for narrow band  deep sky imaging in my observatory.

The cooled monochrome QSI683 camera runs at -20C to reduce the noise from the cameras electronics during the long exposures. Data for a single image is collected over many nights, sometimes weeks (depending on the Dunedin weather). The data, consisting of many 10 minute exposures from many different filters, which are finally stacked and averaged to increase detail or “signal” as it is known in astrophotography.

Of course there are challenges. The telescope is the equivalent of a 1200mm lens and the sky is moving. We need to track the moving target for a total of perhaps 10 hrs with near single pixel accuracy. Any poor data that doesn’t make the grade is thrown away.

Several narrow band filters are used to collect data from different ionised gases when we image gaseous nebula . eg oxygen, hydrogen and sulfur. All other wavelengths are filtered out.

I tend to use what’s known as the Hubble palette which was made famous by the Hubble Space Telescope to render the image. Kind of part science and part art.  In the red channel we put the sulfur data, blue channel for oxygen, and green for hydrogen.

I have attached an image of the “Statue of Liberty” nebula taken earlier this year using the process.

Do you have a particular theme that would summarise your photographs? My photography is always evolving and changing therefore it would be different to nail down and describe a particular theme.
Where is the best place that you have been to take photos? Recently I traveled to Africa on a photographic wildlife adventure. Camping in the Okavango Delta of Botswana was an amazing opportunity for wildlife,  and just a great life experience, even when the Hyenas ate my soap on the washbowl outside my tent.

Then we headed over the border to Namibia, which is renowned for its desert landscapes and wildlife.

I enjoy street photography. Istanbul is an exciting colourful place with plenty always happening on the streets.

What piece of equipment could you not do without in your camera bag? When out with my camera bag there is always a Zeiss manual focus lens, or two, thrown in before I leave the house.

Sometimes trying to keeping things simple can be rather pleasurable, especially when using some of the modern camera’s cluttered interfaces. Also I’m rather partial to the way some of the Zeiss lenses draw.

Do you have any favourite photography related websites or web resources that you’d like to share with us ? (this includes your own) The Luminous Landscape website has always interested me rather than some of the pure technical gear sites. The interviews and videos of well known photographers can offer good learning opportunities.

I have my own site which is essentially a display site of some of my images.

2017 Spring Print Exhibition