"I’m not a person who spends a lot of time with a subject,” Randy Ziegler says. “It’s there, it comes out at me, and that’s the way it has to be.”
He keep things simple—in his compositions, his gear and his advice: “I tell people, if you want to be a better shooter, get a longer lens and tighten your compositions and framing to reduce the extraneous and isolate the essential.” He says he’s not much on inclusion. “I think of myself as a rejecter: I don’t want this, I don’t want that. I like to think that painters select, photographers reject.”
When Randy started out as a news photographer, it was through fixed focal length lenses of 24mm, 35mm, 85mm and 200mm that he saw and framed the world. “I knew ahead of time—there’s a 24mm shot, that’s an 85mm, this one’s a 200mm,” he says, and today when he shoots with zoom lenses he’s still thinking of the specific focal length that’s right for the image. He’s not a big fan of “the frozen zoomers” who stand in one spot and let the lens do the work. “All they’re doing is framing. They’re not changing perspective, not refining the composition. I want to tell them, ‘Move your feet!’ Zooms give you tools, but use them intelligently.”
Though his aim is always simplicity—”to present the strongest statement in the simplest terms”—the first point he makes to students is that they have to have passion for the work. “If they’re excited by what they’re doing, they’ll start to see,” he says. “It’s their adventure, but I want to show them the possibilities. I tell them to look at the work of the great painters and study how they used color, counterpoint and negative space; how they framed the image, and the rhythm of it. You can learn to appreciate composition, and seeing will eventually become believing: you can do this.
“Once you realize what you want to say and how you want to say it, be sure you know your gear and your techniques so well that they’re second nature. I tell photographers, ‘You’ve got two seconds to take a good shot, one second to take a great one.’”
I tell people, if you want to be a better shooter, get a longer lens and tighten your compositions and framing to reduce the extraneous and isolate the essential.