Spotlight | Juan Alonso

This week’s (ok, ok, last week’s) spotlight is a bit late, but here it is!! =) I present to you Juan Alonso, of Sports Digital Photography. He is a photographer I met through Facebook/Twitter, and I gladly post his interview here. Meet Juan!!

Where are you from? How old are you?
I was born in Cuba. At the age of four my family refuged in the U.S. When we came to Union City, NJ, right across the Hudson River from New York City. Let’s see, I am now 45 years old. Emphasis on the old.

When did you get into photography?
I got into photography back in college. I don’t remember whether I got the camera for the photography class or vice versa.

Are you self taught or school taught?
-If school taught, where did you go to school?

Although I took that one semester of photography, I consider myself, self taught. Of, course “self” is used loosely. I have read dozens, if not hundreds of dozens of photography articles and I have asked hundreds of questions of any photographer who would listen.

What is your main area of focus?
Right now my main area of focus is sports. Mostly for action poster composites.

If you could shoot anything, what would it be?
I think I would rather travel the country shooting B&W landscapes.

Is photography your full time career, or do you do something else as well?
I am a high school Spanish teacher and I pastor a small Hispanic church.

What are your fav pieces of equipment?
I definitely love my Nikon D3S and my 70-200 f2.8, but I have recently acquired an f1.4 85mm for portraits. That is sweet lens. I love the bokeh in that lens.

Who inspires you?
Mainly I have been always inspired by Ansel Adams. Lately, I have really been inspired by a Topeka, Kansas photographer by the name of Brent DeShazer, I love his portrait work. Iam also inspired by budding photographers, because of their hunger and I love seeing them develop and grow. I think it’s the father in me.

What makes a good photographer in your opinion?
That is tough one. A good photographer is one that makes my jaw drop, in one sense. In another sense it is someone who knows how to use light, is very creative and not afraid of taking chances.

Do you have a favorite photograph?
I have a favorite one from Ansel Adams, called “Tetons and Snake River.”

If you had any advice for those just starting out, or just discovering the field, what would it be?
Learn your camera well. Learn your lens well. Be patient and try anything. Always carry your camera around and take it to the limit. Most of all have fun.

What was your most favorite assignment/subject/shoot to date?
My first team basketball shoot.

Well, I wanted something different than the run of the mill poses teams usually have at the have school level. You know what they look like. One row is sitting in a chair, then there is the row behind them and so on. I did not want to do it that way. First I shot the players the way the coach wanted them, then with permission I repositioned them, like a Nike ad I saw, with a few twists.

What were you doing before you decided to become a photographer?
I was teaching at high school and preaching at the Hispanic mission.

Do you read any photography books?
Yes, I read books on shooting sports, the business of high school team and individual photography, poses, portraits, and believe I or not, wedding photography. They all help me in one way or another for my next shoot.

If so, which ones do you recommend?
I recommend, “Best Business Practices for Photographers”, by John Harrington.

Do you prefer studio lighting or natural lighting?
I can’t say I prefer one or another. In sunlight, I always use a bit of flash for those catchlights. In the studio, try to imitate sunlight. I work hard at learning both, because you never know whether you are going to shoot in one or in another.

When did you get your first camera?
I bought my first camera back in college. It was probably 1985 or so. It was a Yashica. Fully manual, where you even had to advance the film using a lever.

What defines you as a photographer?
I really don’t know. I think I am still trying to find that out since I have decided to start a business in photography.

What is your photography style?
I focus more on action shots so that an action poster can be created from it. I am striving to find that defining moment in a game that parents would say “wow! That’s my son/daughter out there?”

Do you have a favorite photographer?
Yes, for sports is Mark J. Rebilas.

Who would your ideal subject be?
I would love to shoot any professional sports team. It wouldn’t matter which. I would love to be out there with the pros. Think of how much I would learn.

Why is photography important to you?
It provides a creative outlet. It also provides an extra income in these hard times. But I don’t like it when it seems like work. I take a break from it when it does, I do not ever want it to stop being fun.

What is a little knownw fact about yourself??
I play the Irish whistle

What is in your camera bag?
Let’s see, first of all I shoot with only Nikon equipment. I have a d3s, d700, f1.8 50mm, 1.4 85mm, f2.8 70-200mm, 2x teleconverter, sb-900, sb-600, su-800, f4.5-5.6 70-300mm.

If you could collaborate/shoot with anyone, who it would be?
Mark J. Rebilas or Brent DeShazer.

Do you have a favorite image to date of your photos, or perhaps that of another photographer?
Yes, one of my daughter at the beach during sunset.

What are your goals as a photographer?
My goal is to get good enough to get hired by colleges to shoot their teams.

If money were no object, what pieces of equipment would you own, and why?
Ok, are you ready? An f2.8 24-70mm, f2.8 200-400mm, f4 600mm, f2.8 14-24mm. Prophoto studio equipment of at least six lights.

Any websites you recommend??,, and, just to name a few.

How can we find you on the world wide web?

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