Photography enthusiasts of all ages and backgrounds often wonder if they have what it takes to “go pro.” The more you learn about the careers of successful photographers, the more you realize that people with a passion for excellence in photography always find a way to do more of what they love. They have a vision and they pursue it. For example, let’s look at the career path of Dave Orbock.
Fine-art photographer Dave Orbock specializes in medium and large-format panoramas of cityscapes and landscapes. He has hiked and photographed National Parks throughout the US and Canada and photographed many US cities and the surrounding countryside. His archives also include images from most of Europe, parts of Latin and South America, Asia, and Africa. Orbock has climbed Mt. Kilamanjaro, hiked the Inca Trail from Cuzco to Machu Picchu, served as a guest lecturer in a cultural exchange program in China, and won first prize at the Paris Conference of the International Association of Panoramic Photographers.
Because of the quality of his work, Orbock is represented by museums, galleries, and art consultants throughout the U.S. and his images have been purchased by individual collectors, museums, and major corporations. He sells many photographs to stock agencies and corporate publishers and his prints are displayed in dozens of corporate office buildings, universities, hospitals, hotels, and professional offices.
Judging from this long list of travels and accomplishments, you might assume Dave has spent his entire career as a professional photographer. Not so.
Dave was a dedicated hobbyist who built a thriving photography business on the side while working in an entirely different occupation. Until retiring nine years ago, Dave Orbock was a physicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. Now he is engaged in the photography business full-time.
In addition to producing and selling his own photography, he runs Full Circle Photo Imaging, a lab he founded in 1987 in Baltimore, MD. Full Circle not only lets him oversee how his own photography is printed and framed, but it also enables him to help other photographers and artists produce exhibition-quality work.
Full Circle provides expert assistance in a wide range of services, including scanning, fine-art reproduction, photo restoration, and printing, mounting, laminating and custom-framing of large-format and panorama photographs.
Camera Equipment: Dave Orbock first became seriously interested in panorama photography in the 1970s when he traveled out west to National Parks such as Yellowstone, the Grand Tetons, and the Badlands. He regarded panoramic photography as the only format that would enable him to truly capture the sweeping grandeur of the scenery. He began showing and selling images in the 1980s.
The first panorama images Orbock shot were captured with a Kodak Cirkut camera, a rotating camera designed to capture long, continuous exposures on rolls of film that were anywhere from 5 to 16 in. high. Orbock used a Cirkut model that used film that was 10 in. high and around six feet long. Although the camera captured wonderful images, it was impractical to transport to remote shooting locations. Not only was the camera itself big, but it also required lugging along a heavy tripod and cumbersome canisters for rolls of film that were 10 in. high.
So in 1981, Orbock switched to a Hulcherama, a motorized film camera that could shoot a continuous exposure while rotating 360 degrees. This camera used medium-format 120 or 220 film to create negatives or transparencies 2.25 x 9 inches long. Today, along with the “Hulch,” Orbock uses the Seitz Roundshot panoramic camera which operates much like the Hulcherama.
From a Basement Darkroom to His Own Lab: Like many pro photographers who began as serious hobbyists, Orbock started developing film in a basement darkroom in his home. He bought a small color processor and enlarging equipment that could handle film sizes up to 12 x 15 in. He also rigged a set-up so that his enlarger projected images on an easel over his wife’s washer and dryer and was able to print pictures up to 8 ft. long.
But when he started selling more of his work, he moved his enlarging and processing equipment into two joined row houses in midtown Baltimore and hired a small staff of dedicated professionals to ensure the utmost in quality when his work was printed and framed. Operating as Full Circle Photo Imaging, this team offers a wide range of analog and digital printing services to other photographers.
Full Circle can produce black-and-white prints up to 20 inches wide and chromogenic prints up to 30 inches wide from film. Using an Epson Stylus Pro 9800 purchased from LexJet, they can also output photographic prints and art reproductions up to 44 inches wide. Full Circle can also design flyers, cards, and calendars on which photographers and artists can display their images.
Pam Brumbley, who received a BFA in photography at the Savannah College of Art and Design, oversees the studio’s digital services and provides personalized consultations on print, scanning, and retouching jobs. Full Circle also handles many types of framing jobs, primarily on archival materials. In addition to mounting on archival foamboard , the staff, led by Ruth Nuhn, will mount images up to 48 in. wide on any mountable surface.
Meanwhile, Orbock continues to travel frequently, shoot, and sell more of his own images. He is a charter member of the International Association of Panoramic Photographers (IAPP), which was formed in 1984. The IAPP promotes education and idea-sharing and expands public awareness and appreciation for panoramic photography and immersive imaging. Full Circle has helped print, mount, and laminate images for some of the IAPP’s exhibitions.
Orbock is pleased that interest in panoramic photography is booming. He feels this is due mainly to innovative stitching software that enables photographers with standard DSLRs to combine multiple frames into one continuous image. However, he believes that motorized, rotating cameras are still faster and more efficient for professional jobs – especially when capturing group portraits or images in which the motion of people or objects might require additional editing time during the stitching process.
If you are interested in learning more about panorama photography, visit the website of the IAPP: www.panphoto.com/about.php.
More details about Full Circle Photo Imaging will be published in the next issue of LexJet’s In Focus newsletter.