We are pleased to announce Ed Ruth, of Bakersfield, California as our first #SigmaSuperFan! We were very impressed with Ed’s thoughtful approach the the question: “What makes you a Sigma SuperFan?”
Here’s our favorite quote:
“A lens must be more than a pathway for light, to capture my attention; it must have some motivation behind it and that is what I get from Sigma. I have no doubts that the people who engineer and assemble Sigma lenses have a sense of purpose and a drive to demonstrate a love of photograph and service to customers. I didn’t become a Sigma SuperFan out of blind devotion, I became devoted after using Sigma lenses and being pleasantly amazed at the results.”
Now retired, Ed Ruth, worked for nearly three decades in the US Department of the Interior in eight different states as a Law Enforcement Ranger in the National Park Service and Bureau of Land Management. He’s published eBooks on building a custom home computer designed to work with today’s high resolution cameras, and he teaches a monthly photo workshops at his local camera store (learn more here.) . A long time photographer, he’s just recently become a #SigmaSuperFan, after purchasing the 10-20mm about two years ago. He’s now added several more Sigma lenses to his kit, including the 50mm F1.4 | Art and the 18-35mm F1.4 DG HSM | Art.
Originally, from Hartford, CT, he has a BS in Social Sciences, Secondary Education and a Masters in Recreation Administration (with graduate level minors in Public Administration and Business Administration) from UNC Chapel Hill. He regularly takes his camera and lens backpacking with him. He chooses to a take a full-frame camera on dayhikes and overnight hikes because despite the extra weight and energy is worth it for him in terms of the total image quality.
His first Sigma lens was the variable aperture 10-20mm. He really liked wide angle photography and read the lens reviews from people who’d already purchased it and it seemed like a really good idea. “And it is a really, really nice lens. And you still get really wide angle on the DX format, 15-30mm.”
We sat down and had a great conversation with Ed Ruth, photographer, and #SigmaSuperFan.
Sigma: Tell us a little about yourself and your background
Ed Ruth: Let’s work backwards, last night, I taught an Introductory class on digital photography to 14 students. And, a few weeks ago, I published a Kindle eBook on how to build your own high-performance computer. High-powered custom computers are a great complement to today’s high-resolution cameras which create massive amounts of data to be processed.
I spent four years in the park service making photos and slideshows for park visitors. I frequently presented slide shows within Everglades National Park, Lake Mead National Recreation Area and Cape Hatteras National Seashore during my career with the United States Department of the Interior. And after that, for 24 years, I worked in Law Enforcement, making crime scene photographs.
Is Photography a passion, hobby, or career?
Photography is a passion and a hobby, and I also really like the graphic arts. I use some graphic design on my website, but I’m not a real artist in the traditional sense; Photography allows you to express your artistic creativity without necessarily being skilled with a paintbrush.
What kind of imagery to you gravitate to?
I am sort of opportunistic. In Bakersfield, I’ll do street photography. If I go out to the coast, the coastal towns are a target-rich environment and there is a lot to photography, but my philosophy is “you use what you have.” If all you have is a brick wall, then use that brick wall, from different angles, close up, far away, find contrast, find color, discover patterns, and hidden imagery; so, explore and discover the creative options of whatever you have at hand.
Tell us about your First Sigma Lens
It was the 10-20mm, I hadn’t bought a third – party or aftermarket lens before, but, I didn’t really consider Sigma “aftermarket” since you also make cameras; nevertheless, Sigma has made a great effort to create lenses for a wide variety of lenses. It was very good for urban architecture, low level of distortion, very sharp lens stopped down around F8-F11, and it has great value. When you look at the price, is a really good deal. I first bought this lens about a year and a half ago, and since then, I’ve bought four of them, and I’m very interested in the new 24mm that will be coming out soon!
I’m torn between prime and zoom; both have their functionality. When you look at the 50mm Art lens, it is a super lens. The Sigma lens produces great color and contrast, and such detail, such sharpness. You take a photo with that lens, and you can crop it in and the detail is just exceptional. And I use it for Panorama photography on a tripod, and you overlap a few vertical shots with the 50mm together, and you’ve got a wide-angle field of view with just a little bit of work with Photoshop’s automatic panorama function.
If you only had one lens to buy, this is the lens to buy!
When was the moment you realized Sigma products were special?
I was over on the coast, at a little spot we call Ragged Point. You can hike up about 1,300 feet up to the crest of the Los Padres range, and there are some giant, 300 year old oaks, and I had my Sigma 12-24 and you get right under the canopy and shoot out under the arms of the trees, and when I got home and looked at the images, everything came together so well, and I realized I’d made a good partner with that lens. And not to sound too self-praising; but when I looked back at what I’d done with that wide angle lens and those oak trees, I kind of said to myself, “you really are a photographer, you did capture that just right!” Even though the equipment was heavy, it was worth it. it was an easy hike up, but down, I’ll admit, was a little tougher on my knees. I think I enjoyed the camera and lens most at that time, and out in the wilderness with the old oaks I felt at my peak.
What Differentiates Sigma from other manufacturers
I’ve been looking at Sigma fairly closely, and I have to say, that Sigma tries harder. I really feel that they try and succeed at producing products that are useful, that are extremely functional, at a good value. I feel I’ve gotten good value. I do believe it is special product. As a matter of fact, I really wish you’d pass along, to the people at the factory, my genuine “thank you.” The people going to work every day, I don’t know if they often hear how much we appreciate what they are producing. There’s a lot of work that goes into making these lenses!
Tell us about your Most Memorable Day as a Photographer
My wife and I were in Manhattan a few months ago, and we went to the Top of the Rock on a day with a beautiful pink sunset, and a perfectly clear evening. I had the 50 and the 18-35mm with me. And when i got back and was able to process the images on my computer, I was able to perfectly resolve the color and outline of the statue of Liberty, 5.6 miles away, according to Google Earth. It was unmistakeable. The clarity of the image was remarkable. We must have stayed up there for over three hours. That was a good time!
I really love NYC. I’ve traveled around quite a bit, and you can always find a great restaurant in New York. And talk about the photo opportunities. It is endless in Manhattan!
Tell us about an atypical thing in camera bag
I carry a compass, a signal mirror, and a 7.5 inch hunting knife, when I’m out in the wilderness, just in case I need any of them. I don’t use a traditional camera bag, If I go hiking it is with a daypack, and I’ve got a jacket and shirt to cushion the gear.
Tell us about your Photo inspirations
I’ve got several. I really like Tom Ang, whose publisher is DK Press—he really makes an extraordinary effort to make a really usable book. I think I’ve gotten some really good ideas from him. I also like some of the traditional photographers. And I am, of course, a fan of Ansel Adams. I also get some inspiration from classical artists as well. A few years ago, I spent a few days at the Louvre, and when see the classical artists’ works in person, a lot of it can translate into photography.
And I viewed a Picasso exhibit at the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena a few years back, and they had a sketch series he did of a bull where he started with a certain number of lines, and through eight or nine works, reduced the work to the least possible amount of lines to communicate the idea of “bull.” And it really stuck with me that he, as an artist, could find a simple way of communicating. And I think in a large sense, a lot of things we call “beauty” are simple.
I think it is hard to find beauty in photography that is a little too complex. I think the essence of beauty is simplicity and if you can translate that into an image–we’re using visual media to communicate an idea and if we have distractions, we are losing our audience.
I think that any photographer can gain some insight from modern artists, and classical artists. The Getty Museum in LA had an exhibition of Ansel Adams work, and when see them, and when you walk away, you realize Adams really loved high contrast. Ansel Adams put the black in black and white, And that runs a little against the grain of what we think about these days, because now we talking in terms of high dynamic range, and details in shadows and that’s not necessarily the best way to communicate the idea. He certainly did use textures and shadows to show detail, but he also believed in striking contrast to capture your eye.
What inspires you outside of photography?
One of the things I look forward to most; when I go out to work on photography, is that you can enter a different frame of mind. While it may sound trite, I call it “the Zen of photography.” You can escape—immerse yourself in compositions—and really enter a different mindset. Fortunately, my wife is very patient and enjoys watching me while I am out making photos. And I think the inspiration is the opportunity to lose yourself in the craft. The master said: If you want to find yourself, lose yourself. I think any creative art can give that to you; if you let it.
What do you know for sure about Sigma?
I know that Sigma has direction. They are taking the products in a purposeful direction. And is seems pretty apparent they have good leadership. Good leadership not only leads, but takes risks. I see a lot of risk-taking, for the sake of photography.
I mean, when you invest as much money as must go into designing these lenses, like the 50mm, you’re taking a risk. For example, to produce a lens like the 50mm Art—which isn’t cheap for a 50mm—but to produce that and say: “This is superior.” You pay for this, and you are getting what you pay for. And for photographers to realize it is true, you are getting what you pay for, that is effective. That kind of leadership speaks for itself.
What lens do you choose as your prize?
I think I’d really like the 18-300mm in Nikon mount because I think it would a great walking-around lens. Look at the range on that! 17 elements in 13 groups, can you imagine the engineering, the physics behind designing that? And it is a well-received lens based on the reviews I’ve seen. And generally speaking, you look at the worthwhile reviews, and you see that they are well received across the board!