Considering the short time Wes Kroninger has been a professional photographer, the amount of publications and accolades he’s received have marked him as a shooter to keep an eye on. From being part of the team winning Aveda’s Edwin Neill Full Potential Award to publications such as Rolling Stone and Travel and Leisure, Kroninger is at the start of a great career. Even his Web site took home the 2010 Best of Show Interactive at the Addy Awards in Baton Rouge.
Kroninger thinks he knows what shaped his photographic career. “I grew up skateboarding,” he recalls. “Skateboarding was always very graphic, and we grew up reading skate magazines and watching videos. I’ve done soul-searching as far as how I see images unfolding. I think it had a lot to do with those magazines. At the time growing up, I wasn’t a visual artist at all. I can’t draw, but I think all those years of seeing all the skate photos subconsciously prepared me for what I ended up doing. I thought I wanted to do product work, like studio commercial product photography.” Ending up more attracted to shooting people, Kroninger concentrated on portraits, which is what he’s become known for.
Originally from Ohio, Kroninger’s wife was working on her Master’s Degree in wetlands ecology, so the couple moved to Louisiana. Now living in Long Beach, California, he has been working with a variety of magazines, bringing his style to assignments under many different situations.
Kroninger’s formal training started at Columbus State Community College. He studied both color and black and white processing and printing, along with every other photography course they offered at the time. With the goal of continuing his training after getting to Louisiana, he and his wife headed south. A quick evaluation of the lack of commercial photography offerings at his wife’s new school changed his mind. Kroninger tried everything he could, learned on his own, and went pro.
In 2005, he won the Hy Sheanin Memorial Scholarship through WPPI. This scholarship enabled him to take a class with Matthew Jordan Smith, which helped further refine his technique. “I do a lot of beauty work, and that dictates the lighting,” he says. “It’s very specific lighting you have to use to do hair, for instance.”
Kroninger’s personal projects are where his vision truly shines. His series of individuals on a seamless white background before and after getting water suddenly poured on them is visually interesting, well-executed, and something most subjects were not prepared for. Told only they were going to get wet, he recruited people on Facebook and Twitter. “The techie in me thought the shot I was going after was the moment water actually hit their heads,” Kroninger recalls. “But as we were doing it, I started realizing how great the after-shot was—after the water had hit them. That shock when they were wet was just priceless. I realized the before and the after were the best, so your imagination puts in the part that happened in between. I thought about the shoot for probably a year.”
Originally envisioned as a campaign for water conservation, Kroninger is offering the shots in the series of 35 for sale to other marketing efforts. Shot with a Phase One, the images are 39 megapixels, and he would also like to have them in a show if he could find a gallery where the prints would be blown up to seven-foot tall pieces. Extremely well-versed on the subject of water conservation, Kroninger is also creating a small book of the images in conjunction with a conservation program.
Kroninger utilized the Profoto Pro?8 Air for that project. “I knew they had the quick flash duration,” he says. “Because of the splashing water I had to have the lights pulled back pretty far. I had to use pretty big five foot Profoto umbrellas. I locked the camera down on a tripod. The people would flinch. Sometimes they moved very far when the water hit them, out of focus. I only lost about three I was bummed out about, because they had great expressions.”
Feeling strongly about investing in gear that will be around, Kroninger relates a story of his former photographic business partner. “He spent about $40,000 on lighting equipment. None of it was Profoto. I knew Profoto from renting it. When we rented some together, I remember him taking it out of the box, and feeling it. He said they felt like plastic. I told him this is why everyone rents them. All the packs he bought were high-end, and they felt like if you dropped them, they’d just crack and the whole shell would come off and be destroyed. You never get that fragile feeling with Profoto.”
Now out on his own, Kroninger is putting into practice his evaluation of gear. “I gravitate towards Profoto, personally. I finally bought a 7b and one head, because when I do personal work or any kind of magazine work it just starts to get expensive renting it every time. I’m super-happy with the 7b. I just keep dragging it around wherever I go. I even took it out on a boat for a photo.”
Kroninger uses PocketWizard MultMAX units with his Profoto gear. His light meter is a Sekonic Dualmaster L-558R. His main camera body is a Nikon D2X, and will be upgrading to the D3X shortly. When he has a choice, he uses a Phase One.
If photography is his first career, photographic education is Kroninger’s second. He has a book about photographic lighting coming out next year, complete with illustrations and lighting diagrams. Profoto gear was used throughout. “It’s a total lighting how-to,” he promises. He has taught a master class at the International Academy of Design and Technology in Tampa. He writes articles for Pro Photo Resource.
The future holds a series of personal projects for Wes Kroninger. Currently testing the possibilities of video, he’s shooting across a variety of DSLR platforms and RED technology. His ongoing garage project photography may morph to contain a video component. Plans are underway to pair with his biologist wife to shoot a photo essay documenting day to day operations of oil spill cleanups and drills preparing for cleanups, both of which happen daily, despite the massive news exposure to the current singular event crisis in the Gulf of Mexico. He will continue to shoot more beauty work for magazines. What’s also certain is Kroninger won’t be slowing down any time with or without water.
Written by Ron Egatz
Tags: Wes Kroninger
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