Photographer Spotlight: Clay Cook

Posted by: on May 19, 2016

Photographer Spotlight: Clay Cook
12826275_1512518889057267_931832687_nEvery photograph begins with an idea. The job of a photographer is to not only capture the vision, but manipulate it into art, bigger than life and beyond any initial expectations. Photographer, Clay Cook, has learned the importance of going the extra mile, after a long, arduous run in the music business. As a result, his wisdom, field experience and work ethic has pushed him further into an inspiring career in Advertising and Editorial photography. Over a short period of time, Clay has shaped creative projects with brands such as: Livestrong, NFL, Dillard’s and Vince Camuto. In addition, he has brought to life, worldwide assignments for publications such as USA Today, ESPN, Modern Salon and First For Women. Along with the desire to offer loyal solutions for every project, Clay can spread the word with the help of a large social media and blogging community. Start with an idea and Clay will lead it to a roaring finish line. Website: Instagram: Facebook: Twitter: YouTube:  
I would describe my style of photography as…
Style and genre is an ongoing progressive term for me, but currently I describe my style as structured, dramatic portraiture packaged commercially.
What do you view as your most challenging shoot and how did you get the shot?
Last year, we were contracted to photograph Steve Wilson, owner of the 21C Museum Hotel chain, for The Voice Of Louisville magazine. Steve also owns average of farmland throughout Kentucky. Among those farms resides hundreds of Bison, which Steve holds close to his heart. We wanted to display Steve and a male Bison Bull together as if the Bull were his friendly pet. The problem; Bison aren’t easy to photograph. They are skittish and terrified of anything large and white, such as diffusion or modification. It took nearly 600 images, just to land one good shot of a male Bison Bull. Many times throughout the day, we were skeptical the photograph would work at all. As a matter of fact, we snapped several “backup” portraits, in case this idea couldn’t come together. The photograph of Steve Wilson himself was a quick easy process, despite the cold weather. In post processing we blended the two images together for one amazing composite photograph. Out of the many insane editorial ideas we’ve been handed, to this day, that reigns as one of the most challenging projects I’ve had to overcome. It’s also one of those images that remains a top photograph in my portfolio.  
How did you get started with tethered photography?
I started tethering even before I knew what tethering really was. My first experience was with the Eye-Fi Wireless SD Card; a memory card you place in your camera, the card transmits a wireless signal and supposedly you connect to that signal source, your tethered. Except it didn’t really work. Even set to low-resolution JPEG, transfer times were grossly long. Also, conflicting signals would constantly kick the connection. Among the many times I tried to make it work, it actually performed as it should only twice and for a very short period of time. When I saw the CamRanger and all it could do, I was severely skeptical, but very excited. What I found was not only a flawless tether and transfer but also a multitude of options and complete control. Upon my new found love for the CamRanger, I leaned on Tether Tools for everything I needed to make the workflow clean and professional. When I’m not using the wireless CamRanger on location, you can usually find me plugged into a workstation or laptop. I find that it’s a necessary facet of production and many clients demand a live preview of the imagery. And, the last thing I want is a group staring at a 3-inch LCD screen on the back of my camera. More often, I tether to a MacBook Pro through Capture One. Capture One allows for auto color adjustments which is closer to the end product directly out of camera. Adding that extra contrast or pop of color as soon as you snap the shutter is an absolute winning feature that will gain some big reactions.
My dream gig would be…
Fortunately, I live out dream shoots nearly every day. I get to go places and see things that a lot of artists would die for. But, I think location always plays a big role in the mood of the day. I have an established network of stylists, models and creative talent… I just need the budget, and for me that is a dream come true. The budget to fly my team wherever I want. My first destination would be New Zealand.
My favorite piece of gear is…
The one piece of equipment that has really changed my on location lighting is the Profoto B2 Location Kit. It’s lightweight, mobile and very easy to use. I have take the Profoto B2 Kit all over the world and it has come in handy during numerous strenuous shooting scenarios. The mobility is unmatched and the footprint is smaller then any strobe kit I’ve used. It’s the perfect tool for lighting on location.
My favorite piece of Tether Tools gear is…
Jerkstopper. With the proper slack, the Jerkstopper creates an additional point of impact before any stress hits the camera port. Whether it’s a backup hard drive, rain cover, camera strap, modular belt, lens case or Jerkstopper, it’s important to invest in prevention. Previous prevention techniques consisted of stuffing a wad of cable through my belt loop or even wrapping the cable around the lens. Both were sorry and shameful practices that never could have stopped the blunt force of a jerked tether cable. The Jerkstopper wins.
JerkStopper Camera Support
The best advice I can offer a fellow photographer would be…
It’s not about the equipment, it’s about your eye and direction. You definitely need to know light and know how to shape light, but the tools are a matter of personal preference. The best advice I can give is shoot, shoot, shoot and shoot. Just when you’re sick of shooting, shoot some more. Push your creative muscles and don’t be afraid to invest time, energy and money into a photoshoot. The more you shoot, the more you fail and the more you fail then more you learn. Never be afraid to take risks. The reward is in the risk.