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Artist Feature – Tilo Gockel

This week. I’d like to introduce iPhotoCourse readers to a Flickr friend of mine, Tilo Gockel, his website is

Tilo has an amazing set of images on Flickr that showcases his experiments with strobist (small flash) lighting that many will find interesting and educational.

Without wasting more time, here goes the interview!

Tell us a little bit about yourself

Tilo: Well, what can I say… male, in a stable relationship, 44 years old, engineer, PhD in Computer Vision.

I write books and I make DVDs about photography and Photoshop, and perhaps (?) I even could make a living out of that, but I am really glad, that I don’t have to – so photography for me is still fun and not work! In my day job I work at the University of Aschaffenburg as research coordinator and I also lecture on Computer Vision at this University.

Care to share your photography background?

Tilo: Actually, I do not have any photography background. I am self-taught, but my job and my PhD topic helped me a bit, so I already knew that optical stuff.

When I took a sabbatical of three months after my last job, I did some sort of “express training”: all books and journals and DVDs I could lay hands on, some workshops and of course I took **lots** of photos in these weeks.

Fairytale Fashion

Nothing beats hands-on, high-effort training, indeed. Out of curiosity, who are some of your favorite photographers to learn from?

Neil van Niekerk, David Hobby, Zack Arias, Joe McNally, David Ziser, Ben von Wong, Joey Lawrence, etc..

Mostly the young guns with the little flashguns. :-)

Solid list of guys to learn from. What subject matter are you most interested in?

Technical challenging strobist stuff and Photoshop enhancement in general. Particularly portraits of people, food photography, and night shots.

Out of curiosity, what camera gear are you using right now?

Sorry, but I **hate** equipment lists!! :-))

So ridiculous. Who cares, what equipment one uses?

OK, two main points: I use DSLRs most of the time, and sometimes I use a good compact camera.

I would rather use Nikon (because of the good sensor technology, the high ISO range; the good AF) but I stick with Canon because of the lenses.

But frankly, all brands are good: Sony, Fujifilm, etc., all really good!

My advice would be: Buy from the largest manufacturers! The reason is simple, their stuff is relatively cheaper and well-engineered.

Furthermore, you can choose from the widest range of accessories plus the amount of 3rd party gear too. Try and search an *active* retro adapter for your camera. They only do them for Canon!

But I know that this is totally opportunistic and if everyone would follow that, the product range would loose all diversity. :-(

Show us a few of your most interesting images and let us know your thought process when shooting.

I am sort of technically-driven.

If I have a new set of flash gear or if I come up with a new technique, I really want to try that out! :-)

I bought that little light barrier for example (the so-called “Jokie”), and so the idea for the Kiwi Splash arose.

Kiwi Splash No. 1

And I had this waterproof case, and I knew the people who run that pool, so I did that underwater shooting. And I spotted this nice place at the lake, so the splash shooting came into my mind…

Mermaid shoot

Happy little accidents, so to say.

I made a little strobist setup gallery for that, if you’re interested to see more.

In terms of how I execute the shots, particularly with the model shoots, I use mood boards and packlists and stuff.

You have to plan for the weather, the sun (sundown), you have to make checklists, contact lists and pack lists for the equipment for the more complex shoots.

For still life shots, like the kiwi, things were much simpler: I just had to buy a nice glass, and then I had to wait until my girlfriend was not at home. :-)

Splashes with cream are really, really messy. Don’t do them. Really!

What’s your idea of an ultimate photography project?

I would like to do a fashion shoot at a nice place. Like Taj Mahal, or like Times Square, or Top of the Rocks or like the Polar Ice Region. I love on-location shoots and I don’t like that prosaic studio stuff.

I know that you run workshops on flash photography, where can our readers find out more about your workshop and you, in general?

Thank you for asking. My print- and photo portfolios can be found at The website is in German. you may need to use Google Translate to make sense of things.

Splashing Lexy

Another way to check out my work is through my Flickr site.

Top of the Rocks

I actually have  a book titled “Kreative Blitzpraxis” and I heard that it will finally be released in English. Title would be then something like “Small flashes – A Practical Course”. So stay tuned! :-)

Thanks for interviewing me!

Dave: It was an awesome Q&A, thanks for taking the time for the interview!

If you’re on Flickr, I’d like to invite you to check out Tilo’s Flickrstream and add him as a contact.

Check out his website as well for more features as well as any updates on his workshops on flash photography — particularly if you’re in Germany!

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