Thursday, June 14, 2007
Gerd Ludwig - At The Heart Of The Matter
Prominent photo journalist Gerd Ludwig embarks on a digital journey—and takes us with him
Although the advantages of digital abound, there still are some situations where using a film camera is essential. Says Ludwig, “I often shoot in extreme conditions, sometimes 50 to 60 degrees below zero, without the wind chill [factored in], and I know a memory card can't withstand those intense temperatures. I haven't yet been able to test the might of a digital camera under those circumstances.”
Finding a freezer that can simulate such temperatures isn't your everyday task. “I would like to contact someone at NASA or perhaps a university where they have testing facilities to create situations as cold as some of the ones in which I shoot, particularly in Russia,” he says.
Along with his three digital camera bodies (two Canon EOS-1Ds Mark IIs and an EOS 10D) and several lenses, Ludwig carries a bunch of 4 GB, 2 GB and 1 GB memory cards with him, totaling more than 20 gigabytes. The laptop stays at the hotel since he has enough cards to get him through the day. “I'm happy using SanDisk, but I also use Lexar; I'm not yet committed to one manufacturer,” he says.
Downloading and backing up at night has added time to his day. Being up before dawn and shooting well past sunset frames a typical 16-hour shooting day for Ludwig. “It can get a little tiring,” he adds. “I do the downloading myself, so I'm up very late because I want to make sure everything transferred okay.”
He daisy-chains 80 GB SmartDisk FireLite hard drives to create two versions, one for backup. “After that, I back up again to a 250 GB LaCie Porsche drive. How long I'll be on assignment dictates the number of drives I'll bring.”
While 80 percent of his work is for National Geographic, he fills the rest of his time with intermittent advertising gigs, which he has managed to secure himself, though he'd like to do more.
Currently, Ludwig is on a nationwide tour promoting a book called Wide Angle: National Geographic Greatest Places. A recent exhibition of his work, Lethal Legacy: Pollution in the Former USSR, was featured at Italy's prestigious ObiettivoUomo-Ambiente, an international biennial of photojournalism where discussions about science and culture are debated.
Ludwig's affinity for Russia and the Russian people continue to be a focal point for his future plans. A project on “The Next 10 Years” following the ongoing progress in Russia is taking shape in his mind. Along with the work for National Geographic and other commitments, it's clear that Ludwig has every intention to continue moving forward. It's no wonder his house looks the same now—he's never home long enough to make changes.
To view more of Gerd Ludwig's work, visit his website at www.gerdludwig.com.
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