Adrian DeGroot of Chevy Chase, Maryland, is our #SigmaSuperFan for September. Originally from the Netherlands, Adri is a big fan of Sigma cameras, and the total feel and image quality of Sigma’s Foveon Sensors. We spent a few minutes talking with the newest member of the SuperFan Winner’s Circle!
Tell us about yourself
I was born in the Netherlands in an art and music loving home environment, which inspired both my artistic vision as well as my musical development (I became a professional musician). The country itself is like a museum, and this further inspired me to take photographs. Currently, I live in the United States, very close to the beautiful city of Washington DC.
Is photography a passion or a career?
Photography has been a passionate hobby of mine since youth, but in the past I also have held jobs as a monthly magazine photo essay editor as well as photo archivist for major news organization, so I was also dealing a lot with photos taken by others as well and also gave directions of how I thought photos of a particular subject should be taken for photo essays.
I got involved with photography when I was still a teenager when I first shot with my father’s 6×9 Kodak Brownie, but soon acquired my own first 35mm SLR. I shot only b/w films and developed them myself and made my own b/w prints using my father’s darkroom.
When I got older and had more money, I bought all kinds of film cameras, from 35mm to medium and even large format, including 6x17cm panoramic cameras. I even made my own panoramic camera, using old and new parts.
And then at one point, digital cameras started to appear on the horizon, and they soon became the new rage for many, but at first I kept shooting mostly slide film, as I wasn’t particularly impressed with low resolution digital cameras in their infancy stages.
What kind of images do you shoot?
I am interested in shooting landscapes, architecture, architectural details, abstracts (some of which I turn into fantasies with Photoshop), as well as panoramas. And of course anything that catches my eye and resonates with my inner sense. I like to work both in color and in black & white. I’m not that good at people photography, which is a real art to do well.
Tell us about your first Sigma lens
My first Sigma lens was actually a pair of kit lenses that came with my Sigma SD10 (the 18-50mm and 55-200mm). But my first serious lens was the amazingly sharp 50mm/2.8 EX macro. Thus, my first Sigma lenses were precipitated by my first digital camera, the Sigma SD10.
Since I was shooting mostly medium format in all sizes from 6×6 to 6×17, I was very critical of image quality and resolution and found the first digital camera images posted on the Internet to be too low in resolution, as well as possessing a flat, unnatural flat look and with odd colors. In other words, I was not impressed.
So, while many were jumping onto the digital bandwagon, I just patiently and skeptically waited and kept searching on the Internet for what else was possibly “out there” when some time later I stumbled upon some amazing information about the film-like Foveon sensor. I discovered images taken by the Sigma SD9 and liked their sharpness and film-like look, and I printed several sample images at 13×19 inch size without any issue. When I was ready to purchase, and had sold some of my film cameras to raise the money, I took the bold step away from film and bought the SD10 that had just come out, which had much better colors than the SD9, and which came with two kit lenses.
As I wrote above, I made this decision based on my own web research and also from reading the comments by Sigma users on the Sigma forum of dpreview and looking at full res images on pbase. And after reading about the Foveon technology.
When was the moment you realized that Sigma products were special to you?
That was when I first stumbled upon full resolution images of the SD9 and later SD10 on pbase, and after reading about the Foveon technology on the web, which really got me excited.
What differentiates Sigma from other manufacturers that you’ve used/worked with?
There is a quality with the images I did not find in other digital cameras; especially its film-like look and sharpness and detail. Especially the two DP Merrill cameras I now have approach medium format quality.
What is your most memorable day as a photographer
I can’t say that I really had one. I just came back from a vacation to Europe and before I left, I had just acquired a brand-new Sigma SD1-Merrill camera for a song from a pawnshop, but I didn’t have anytime time to test it. Yet, I took it as the only camera with me, with one lens, the 17-70mm Contemporary I bought from Sigma and 4 batteries (some from my SD15, which I left at home!). Perhaps I was taking a risk, and yet, I trusted it was going to work out alright. And it basically did. I shot everything at full res RAW+JPEG and knew I had a lot of processing to do afterwards (as I shot over 2,000 images). So, it was a most memorable three weeks, as I didn’t know how the images would turn out (since the LCD screen on the camera can’t really tell you very well!), but I can say that about 95% came out just fine. It was quite risky for me to do this, but I am very happy now that I did! If I’m allowed to squeeze three weeks into one day, then this was indeed quite a memorable “day”.
Tell us about a Dream shoot/dream equipment/dream photo of yours
My dream shoot would be to go to Prague and Budapest and find myself in an architectural wonderland, like a kid in a candy store.
My ideal dream equipment would be a Foveon Merrill imager based 1×3 ratio non-rotating one-shot panoramic camera, with enough resolution to make 16×48 inch prints on 17-inch roll paper. Like a miniature 6x17cm camera. Or see Sigma make a reasonably priced very sharp non-vignetting shift-only lens, so you can take five or seven shots in vertical mode and stitch them together later.
What’s one atypical thing in your camera bag?
A tin of peppermints.
Who is your photo inspiration? Why?
For panoramic photography I was deeply inspired by Geoffrey James’ book The Italian Garden. It’s simply breathtaking b/w photography. The work of Dutch landscape photographer Martin Kers also deeply inspired me, because he finds points of view which are unusual and very artistic. The work of fellow Sigma camera shooter Georges Noblet (see pbase as well as his book LYON: Bellissima!) resonates with me a lot, because he photographs like a painter, and has a great eye to capture things uniquely.
What inspires you?
This is very hard to describe in words; I have an inner aesthetic vision and anything that resonates with it inspires me to shoot. It’s like two pieces of a puzzle that click together. It’s both very mysterious as it is simple. Basically, anything that is beautiful inspires me, as there is enough ugliness in this world. I believe that aesthetic beauty is important to uplift the heart.
What do you know for sure about Sigma?
I’m very happy that Sigma is now making lenses of superior image quality in the Art lens line. I know for sure that Sigma is dedicated to give us the best possible image quality they are capable of producing, including with the Foveon technology and will keep on making improvements in their cameras, and I hope also in the speed of their software, which, alas, I wish were much faster.
What is your prize lens choice?
Oh, that’s a hard one to answer, as it all depends on what and where I am shooting, and for how long I will shoot (also a weight issue!), and also what’s in my bag already. But of the three prize lenses, I will choose the 50mm F1.4 EX DG HSM. For landscapes, the lens is often the camera (the DP2M and DP3M), but for walk-around architectural work, I prefer a good zoom lens, as I shoot a lot of details, going sometimes as long as the 70-200mm EX. Recently, I ran into an article on shooting landscapes with long lenses, so I will try that as well. For Macro work I love my 105mm/Macro. I may also be interested in adding the DP0 Quattro to my kit, which is a lens with a camera attached to it!
My current equipment:
Cameras: (All Sigma): SD10, SD15B, SD1M, Dp1, DP2M, DP3M
Lenses (all Sigma): 18-55 kit lens, 50mm EX Macro, 14mm EX, 15-30mm EX, 70-200mm EX, 24-60mm EX, 17-70mm C, 105mm EX Macro/stabilized, and 70-300mm APO.