Maria Nasif is a travel and lifestyle photographer based in hot, dry, beautiful Tucson, AZ. After receiving a BFA in Cinema Studies at the University of Arizona, she moved to Los Angeles to work as an assistant in all genres of commercial photography. Her clients have included: Patagonia Catalog, Rock & Ice, Climbing, Outside Magazine, Wild Roses, Outdoor Research, Stiefel Research, and Samsung Electronics. This week she’s on the road shooting a cycling race, the Amgen Tour of California with her Lensbaby and other lenses. See more of her work at here.
Tell us a bit about your journey to becoming a professional photographer.
I started out as an a assistant in Los Angeles in the early 90’s, while still working a full-time job in a custom black & white lab on La Brea Avenue, called Silver Lab. Eventually I started to score my own gigs with clients like A&M Records and Propaganda Films. It was photography business boot-camp in those days. Everyone I came into contact with was either an up and coming shooter or a well established name. Basically I learned my trade by hanging out day and night in the photo industry.
How did you end up specializing in lifestyle, sports & travel photography?
When you are first starting out, you take every single job that comes your way, and give it your best. I learned to shoot product, business portraits, actor’s headshots, and set photography (unit still photographer). As I became more proficient at my craft, it afforded me the ability to be more choosy, hence the desire to do what I love the most—which is to be outside all the time—shooting action as it occurs.
When did you start using Lensbaby lenses and how did you find out about them?
It was the spring of 2011. I had literally been dreaming of a way to create tilt/shift images in-camera for a very long time. My friend John Reiff Williams, a fine art photographer, told me to check out the Lensbaby website. And there it was…the Lensbaby Sweet 35 optic…exactly what I had been wishing for!
What are your favorite subjects to shoot with a Lensbaby?
Cycling is so fun to photograph with these optics, although it can be quite challenging to get the shot with the athletes moving at high speed. You learn to pre-focus and move your body with the action. The results are gorgeous, and so worth the extra bit of effort. Portraits are also very satisfying if you have a patient model. There is a little dance that occurs between the photographer and the subject when using Lensbaby gear.
What do you love about shooting with the Edge 80 Optic in particular?
The Edge 80 Optic is a brilliant 80mm portrait lens: sharp where you decide to pinpoint your focus, with smooth washes of glow-infused color everywhere else. The saturation and bokeh are so good with this lens that no post processing is needed other than bringing the brightness down a tad. I find this lens works beautifully for shooting everything from tight (head & shoulder) closeups to wider framing when you really want to isolate your subject in their environment.
The Amgen Tour of California is a Tour de France-style cycling road race that challenges the world’s top professional cycling teams to compete along a demanding course that traverses hundreds of miles of California’s iconic highways, byways and coastlines each spring. You’ve come along for the ride this year to document the experience. Tell us a bit about what that’s been like so far.
I’m in the team car with some of the members of Trek Factory Racing as they prepare for the Amgen Tour of California. Director Sportif, Alain Gallopin, is behind the wheel as we do recon for the upcoming individual time trial discipline in Folsom, California. Galo is completely at home on these back roads. A former French national time trial champion, he navigates with a map that is printed on paper with ink, and infallible cardinal direction. One flick of the wrist and he has found the best ‘classic rock & oldies station’ on the radio, and we are soon singing along to Fleetwood Mac’s, “You Can Go Your Own Way”.
The boys get out onto the course just as the wind picks up. Galo follows behind them with the hazards on, then comes alongside Matthew Busche and Haimar Zubeldia to talk about the danger of the crosswinds. I am sitting in the backseat snapping away with my Double Glass optic, wide open at f2.8. Moving at the same speed as the riders, focusing is an easy-breezy affair. I love the creamy glow of the textures that you get with this lens. Honestly it can make any boring background look as good as the most coveted seamless. I wonder sometimes how it is possible that more cycling photographers haven’t caught on to the simple beauty of working with this lens.
The next day I’m overheating like a wok on a campfire cookout. Stationed on the unforgiving asphalt in front of Sacramento’s capitol building with my Sweet 35 in the middle of the afternoon. Looking around I spy other shooters sporting everything from 70-300’s to mammoth 400 millimeter lenses. Meanwhile . . . I diligently prefocus to the spot I ‘think’ the riders will hit on their turn and wait for the blaring whistle of the race official to mark their approach. My guessing game is always met with some apprehension since I won’t get a second chance. “What is that contraption?” Queries a curious spectator, staring at my prized gear. Before I can finish explaining, the whistle blows and it’s time to face the music. Fortunately, my estimation is right on target. Now all I need is a cool tall drink, and a spot of shade.