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Photography

Carlo Cruz: Photographing for Red Bull

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Carlo Cruz is a photographer with an incredible talent for shooting urban subjects. His portfolio includes photographs of homeless individuals and the streets of L.A., inspiring urban landscapes, unique portrait shots, and photographs of people in every day life and at events.

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His passion is found in taking photographs of break dancing. Cruz has an uncanny knack for capturing B-Boys in phenomenal moves. Cruz truly has an eye for capturing candid photos of people in their unique moments, for turning easily missed happenings into a noticeable beauty.

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A few years back, Cruz was discovered by Red Bull in their search for an official U.S. photographer to shoot for their B-Boy culture events. Taking a look at his work, it is easy to see why they approached Cruz. I recently caught up with Cruz and had a chance to ask him some questions for you.

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Q When did you first become interested in photography?

I can't remember the exact moment. I just remember growing up and being interested in it ever since. It’s something that wasn’t forced or being in some kind of situation where I opted to become one. I wish I have a cool story like that, but no.

I always enjoyed looking at images and love photos that stand out.

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Q From where do you gather inspiration for your photography? Are there any photographers or artists who inspire you?

Inspiration is everywhere. When I'm with my family, when I'm looking at other photos, when I'm looking at other works of art, Facebook, it's literally everywhere. The key is keeping yourself motivated.

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Q So how do you keep yourself motivated?

Knowing that time only goes forward stresses me out. Reminding myself how deceiving our memory becomes as we grow old.

Having a photo of my parents during their wedding is proof enough for me to believe them without question when they tell me that they were the loveliest couple that day.

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Q What is your favorite camera to use?

I started with a Canon SLR film camera 16 years ago. I now shoot a Canon 5d MK III DSLR. I do have other cameras, but shoot exclusively Canon for photo jobs.

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Q Your thoughts with today’s digital photography?

My first digital camera was a one megapixel Kodak, 15 years ago. Digital photography has come a long way since then. The crazy amount of media we now produce and consume is an example how far this technology has taken us.

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Technology has made photography accessible to everyone. I think it’s good that anyone has the opportunity to take photos to preserve and share significant events from their lives easily.

Although we sometimes feel like we’re getting saturated with all this “photography” everywhere, at the end of the day, it’s comforting to know that you have an image of your kid holding her mom’s nose the day he was born.

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Q What other equipment can you never do without?

When shooting big events, this is my basic travel gear:

  • Two camera bodies:Canon 5d MKIII and Canon 5d MKII as back up
  • Lenses: Canon 15mm fisheye, Canon 35mm 1.4L, Canon 50mm 1.2L, Canon 135mm 2.0L, Canon 16-35mm 2.8L, Canon 70-200 2.8L, and sometimes a Canon 24 TS lens
  • Pocket Wizards
  • A whole lot of Sanyo Eneloop AA’s with Powerex charger
  • Light stands, umbrellas and adapters
  • Multi-colored gel filters
  • Cinefoil
  • Gorillapod
  • Sandisk CF Cards
  • Eye-Fi SD Cards
  • Gaffer’s tape
  • Miscellaneous stuff: band-aids, ear plugs, energy bars, aspirin and more
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Q What is your favorite photo shoot you have ever done and why?

It’s really hard to come up with a favorite since a lot of them are memorable and fun. Most of them are just from traveling and shooting people and events.

Last year’s Lollapalooza was fun, among others. It was my first time going to the event and it was pretty memorable.

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Q What is your favorite subject to photograph? Or what genre in photography do you consider is your forte?

One of my favorite is definitely shooting B-Boys. I’ve been traveling everywhere shooting them for my “break series” as a personal project, and have accumulated thousands of photos over the years.

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Along with my “Sunny California” series where I walk around and shoot street portraits, I also love to shoot ghost towns as it draws a certain appeal of calmness. Both of which I think has something to do with texture and time.

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Q How would you describe your style of photography and how different do you think it is from other photographers?

I don’t know. I think certain things change as you progress. Photographers and/or artists, for that matter, strive to be the best that they can be. You pick up stuff along the way and leave some behind.

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Q What kind of manipulation or touch ups do you use for your photos?

The amount of post-processing really depends on variety of factors. But for most jobs, my typical workflow is this:

  • Shoot in RAW
  • Do pre-selections in Adobe Bridge
  • Fill out Metadata, also in Adobe Bridge
  • Edit in Adobe Camera Raw (Crop, Rotate, White Balance, Brightness/Contrast, Saturate/ Desaturate, etc...)
  • Save
  • Open some selected images for further editing in Adobe Photoshop for further sharpening and toning
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Q How did you become involved with the Red Bull USA?

They were looking for a U.S. based photographer to shoot for their culture events, specifically for B-Boys (Red Bull BC One 2009). They would google “bboy photographer” and my name would just come up and that’s how I got involved. That was 4 years ago and I’ve been shooting for them ever since.

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Q What events have you/do you photograph for Red Bull USA?

Red Bull has me as a culture photographer, but once in a while they also have me shoot action.

I've shot Red Bull Thre3Style, Red Bull BC One, Red Bull Big Tune, Red Bull Sound Clash, Red Bull EmSee, and many other events.

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Q Is there a certain skill-set necessary when shooting culture events and portraits?

Definitely! All of the guys I know shooting them consistently have a vast portfolio and experience. I feel very fortunate every time I shoot along with them.

However, Red Bull welcomes new photographers regardless of experience. As long as you can capture the spirit of the event and get awe-inspiring shots, I’m sure they will give you a break.

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Q What advice do you have for aspiring photographers?

Just like everything else, love what you do and keep yourself motivated.

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