Each week we select and profile a photographer from our #SFGuide community on Instagram. We believe these photographers capture the everlasting beauty of San Francisco and the Bay Area. For a chance to be featured on our Instagram feed, or here, on 49Miles.com, tag your photos with #SFGuide.
This week’s featured #SFGuide photographer is Michael Morales (@skeezthegreat), from Santa Rosa, California. Scroll down to view Michael’s amazing work, and learn more about what inspires him as a creative in the Bay Area.
#SFGuide Featured Photographer
Name: Michael Morales
Profession: I am the director and operator of Rooterman Plumbing in Sonoma County. We are an independently owned and operated franchise, my family purchased this company about 2 years ago.
Place of Birth: Santa Rosa, CA
Where do you currently reside: Currently living in Sonoma County, which is about 45 minutes north of San Francisco.
Something you’d like viewers to know about you: My job consumes a lot of my time so on my days off I like to explore the Bay Area with my camera in hand. Growing up I was always getting into some kind of mischief so photography has helped me channel that curiosity into constantly explore and creating.
What is your favorite spot to shoot in San Francisco, and why?
I’d have to say Market Street around the time everyone is getting off work. During this time the position of the sun is at a perfect angle, great for casting shadows but also properly exposes photos. Also the streets are filled with various different subjects such as people and vehicles.
When and why did you take up photography?
About 6 months ago, I had the sudden urge to purchase my first digital camera. I have always been a fan of visual arts, especially photography so after purchasing my camera I completely submersed myself in it and it quickly became a passion.
What do you love about photography?
I would have to say the adventures that it takes me on and the people I meet along the way. I found myself in places that I could have never imagined throughout the Bay Area and also got introduced to an amazing community of individuals who share this same passion.
How do you decide what to shoot?
I am captivated by street photography, so answering this question is easy, whatever is in front of me. I like the organic nature of a candid photo, so my goal is always to blend into the crowd and not be seen. I am not a big fan of planning or staging a shot, I like to capture moments that are natural and unintended.
What’s your favorite part about going out to shoot?
For me it’s all about the experience, hands down. Going to new places and seeing new things, to me, has been the best part about photography. Capturing images that I set out to shoot is always nice but really it’s the memories I build with the people I’ve met in the photography community.
Which location did you have the most difficulty getting to, and how did you do it?
The hardest shot for me to get so far was probably a picture from underneath the Golden Gate Bridge. I’ll spare you guys the details, but basically a few friends and I wanted a composition shot of “Goldie” that most people did not have. So, we set out with an image in mind and nailed it with a little stealthy effort.
What is your dream shot? (Where, what time of day, what’s in it / the subject?)
My dream shot would probably be the Milky Way. Ideally I would like to get some type of interesting foreground in the shot such as rock formations or maybe even a waterfall. Other than that, I would have to say a long expo of low fog moving over the Golden Gate Bridge.
What is your favorite app to use for photo editing on the go, and what are your top 3 favorite filters?
All my photo edits are done in Adobe Lightroom. As far as filters go, I do not use them that often because each photos are uniquely edited. I do, however, like darker tones so my edits tend to be on the darker side.
How does Instagram and the #SFGuide community inspire you?
I draw a lot of my inspiration from Instagram, especially the #SFGuide community, because it allows me to have access to tons of different pictures and photography styles from local photographers and others around the world. Also the Instagram community has helped me connect with local photographer in the San Francisco area, some of which I now call friends.
What are your favorite San Francisco-based Instagram accounts to follow?
Well, obviously @49MilesSF! Some other big accounts I am interested in are @streetsofsf, @thesanfrancisco and @sanfranciscopulse. My other favorites come from the Instragram accounts of local photographers that I have met through the Instagram community such as @iwozzy and @sfdan to name a few. So, go check em’ out and give them a follow.
What type of camera do you use? And what is your dream camera?
I use a Nikon D750 and mostly shoot with a Sigma 24mm Art Series or a Nikkor 85mm. I like using mostly prime lenses because it gets me more involved in what I am shooting. Switching back and fourth between lenses for different focal lengths does get old after a while, so I am thinking about investing in a zoom lens that covers all the focal lengths I need. As for my dream camera, I would really like to get a Leica film camera in the future.
What are your favorite settings in your idea shot?
I always shot in full manual mode, as well as RAW formatting. As far as settings go they are constantly changing to accommodate light, but I always try to keep my ISO as low as possible to avoid noisy images. When shooting subjects I using keep a high aperture of 1.4 to 2.8 and for landscapes I like a low aperture of 5.6 or more. Shutter speed usually falls in line last but lately I have been a fan of slower shutter speeds to get motion blur from moving subjects against a still background. Focus is almost always manual unless I am shooting quick pictures of people on the streets. Now for white balance, I keep my camera in auto mode and change anything in post processing that I feel does not look right.
What advice would you give to new or rising photographers that you wish you had received when you first started?
Spend a lot of time with your camera and learn it inside and out to utilize its full potential. Most importantly though, just shoot what you like to shoot. Photography is a passion project and if you are not absolutely in love with the things you point your camera at your work is going to reflect. Other than that, just follow your ABC’s, Always Be Clicking.
What do you love about living in the San Francisco Bay Area?
Well since we have already covered that I actually do not live in the San Francisco Bay Area, I’ll tell you everything I love about spending my time there. There is always places to go and things to see. Action never dies down, day or night and it’s a great place to get lost in the hustle bustle. Oh, and the food isn’t bad either.