Featured Member: Ulla Wolk
Ulla Wolk’s portraits have a wonderful ability to convey emotion, mood, sensuality, and story. Sometimes all at the same time. Her style is distinct and eye catching without being showy or relying on gimmicks. For someone who has been serious about her photography for a relatively short amount of time, her images have a depth and soul that many of us “old hand” photographers should be envious of. -J
Ulla Wolk: Portrait Photography
Who are you and where do you live?
My name is Urska Zupancic, I am a contemporary portrait and boudoir photographer and I work under the name of Ulla Wolk. I live in a small picturesque village under the mountains named Cerklje na Gorenjskem in a small country of Slovenia on the south part of central Europe.
How (and when) did you get started in photography? In short, tell us the story of your photographic journey.
I started photography quite late in my life, about 5 years ago. We bought a camera for my husband, a Canon 40D about 10 years ago and it was just sitting there. So I picked it up one day and just started taking photos of everything around me. It soon became an obsession and I was enjoying it more and more. I dived into Photoshop and started learning it each night after work. We were living in Belgium at the time, so when we returned to our home country about a year and a half ago, the passion overcome the reason (the enormous support of my husband also really helped) – I made the big step and started my own photography business. We bought Canon 5D mark II and a Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens and I started working.
Who (or what) have been your main photographic influences and inspirations?
Your Photo.net portfolio has many portrait images, many of which seem to strive to convey a story or emotion. How did you get started with this type of photography?
There are so many great photographers, some known, some not so much, but the biggest influence on me, when I was starting, was Sue Bryce. I still love her glamour portraits and her soft tones and images full of expressions and emotions, it seems like they are talking to me.
Emotions, stories. the truth is I was having a really stressful time, everything was changing and crumbling around me and I just conveyed those feelings into the photos of my little niece. It helped, so I kept going. That’s why her photos are reflections of my life, my soul and my feelings and every one has a story to go with it. When I started photographing my models, I was always looking for a story behind the photo, for the sensation it gave me. I’m an emotional photographer I want more from my model than just a pose or a smile. I am also choosing photos on the bases of my feelings when I do the screening, so not all my photos are technically perfect, but they all make you feel something.
Explain how you see your body of work and what draws you to do the photography that you do?
So much time and effort has gone into my photography, but I have a feeling I’m still at the beginning, still looking for that little niche I fit in. It’s developing nicely and I already have a specific style that can be recognized and I am really proud I developed it. The most difficult thing, in this world of millions of great photographers, is to stand out with something of your own.
About photo.net body of work, I deliberately kept all the bad images from the beginning of my photography career. They should serve as a proof that if you work and enjoy what you do, you progress in time and you get better and more recognizable.
What draws me. I love beauty and I love making things and people beautiful. I see beauty in everyone and I love that I can show everyone in my photography, how they look to me through my lense. I can help people through my photography to gain confidence and self respect, to stop hiding and show to the world how beautiful they are.
Second thing is, a part of me loves sensual, gentle, soft, creamy, romantic art that makes you feel so warm and happy and makes you blood flow faster. I also have a dark part of my soul and there is where the mystical, scared and closed photos come from. And I can express all of that through my models and my photos, just pour it out into the world. I can set my imagination wild and just create what is inside at the time. It is the best feeling in the world.
Have you ever worked as a professional photographer? If “no”, why not? Is it something you would like to do? If “yes”, do you wish you could do more of that work? What does it bring or take away from your photography?
I work as a professional photographer at the moment. As soon as you start your own photography business everything changes. You are busy with millions of other things that burden you and you notice that photography is on the fifth or sixth place after your marketing, mail, web pages, social media, accountancy. But it is true that this makes you push even harder, it makes you try things you are afraid of, spend every moment learning, trying, developing. I do a personal project at least every month and I just love them. The more you create, the more ideas you have, the drive is stronger.
What do you enjoy most about photography?
I am not really an outgoing person, so photography gives me the opportunity to show my life and my feelings without talking about them. I also love working with clients and see their faces when they come to a reveal evening, how they light up and the surprise and the happiness when they see their photos.
But I think the most enjoyable thing is when you have a photo in your head and your heart for a long time and then you do the shoot and everything clicks and you know you have exactly what you wanted. A perfect photo and it gives you a feeling of an achievement and gratefulness that you are able to do what you really love. Oh and a praise from others also helps ;).
What was the most recent photographic technique that you learned or mastered? And what is the next photographic technique that you would like to learn?
We played with body sculpturing with one light in our studio (well our bedroom tbh). The wet look with little droplets on the skin that fade into black. We – is my husband, who is helping me with the lights, my model and my MUAH and I.
There are so many techniques I would love to learn, but I think I’ll play a little more with lights and I want to master the natural light first.
What was the most recent piece of truly useful photographic equipment that you purchased? What is the next piece of equipment that you are looking to acquire?
I’m still building the necessary equipment, but the last thing I bought were two Elinchrom strip boxes and a boom. I need so many things but the most wished item is a new camera, probably a Canon 5D mark IV (hopefully), just because of the focus points and ISO settings (and pixels help too). And a fixed 85mm Canon 1.2 or Sigma art 1.4 lens for portraits. So nothing big 😀 But the first thing I have to buy is a color checker.
What is in your camera bag on a typical day?
My camera bag holds my camera body Canon 5D mark II with a battery grip, Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens, Canon 50mm 1.8 fixed lens, charger, remote for the lights, remote trigger, usually a tripod (which I don’t use), some wet wipes, some clean cloth for the lenses and a USB cable for downloading images. And several cards of course.
If I am able to use tethering (which I love to use), there is a tethering cable and a laptop.
What is your typical downloading/storage/sorting/processing procedure? Where do you store/backup your images? What programs do you use for post-processing?
I always shoot RAW. I download images in PS Bridge and store them on my computer and cool through them. Then I make backup of the chosen images to an external hard drive WD My book disk 4TB. I don’t use cloud.
In an average session I make about 200 to 250 photos. I screen images in 3 to 4 goes. First I remove the test images and the bad ones that are not sharp enough or are out of focus, the model or the client has her eyes closed. and put them in a folder Rejected. Then I go through the rest again and mark them with one or two stars. After I check them again and mark the with 3 or 4 stars. I go through the 4 stars and pick the winners. I also use my husband and my MUA to do the same.
All my images are professionally retouched. I start with Camera RAW, but I’m just in a process of learning to do the first touches with Capture One instead of Camera RAW (it has much better skin color handling and tweaking). Then I finish my retouch in Photoshop CC 2015 (and yes I have troubles with the new healing tool too). I don’t use Lightroom at all.
What words of advice or encouragement do you have for anyone just starting on their photographic journey?
I’ve noticed that a lot of people don’t have the patience and expect too much too fast. Everything takes time so don’t give up, be persistent and put yourself out there. Let others see your work, it is the only way to grow. You can’t please everyone, but the ones who love your work will find you. Don’t be discouraged and don’t stop dreaming.
Do not try copy images from other artists, find an inspiration in them and make your own image, your own vision. Each person is unique and so is his vision, so be yourself.
Also be professional, even if it is just a hobby. Do that extra step, retouch the image again, remove the image, if it is not perfect to your eyes, repeat the shoot if you are not happy with it. Don’t settle for mediocrity. Passion has to be there, but you have to do the work too, passion is essential, but it is not enough.
A favorite image…
This image was captured about a month ago while working with my favorite model Maja Kavcic (as you can see in my portfolio). We were trying new things and we were already working for 3 hours and wanted to stop. And as usual I did a few close up portraits of her at the end when we were all relaxed. The photo was taken in the evening (dark outside) on the bed that was covered with black cloth and we had two big black V flats as a background behind the bed. There was a strip box on minimum setting hanging over her on a boom and my MUA Lea Behek was holding a silver reflector under her face on the left side of the
camera for the equally distributed light around her face. All my photos are hand held (I know…).
Canon 5D make II
EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens
ISO 200 (I love creamy images and higher ISO makes them possible)
focal lenght 50mm
The image was captured RAW and processed in camera RAW and PS CC 2015.
Why I love the image:
Her expression is priceless, she looks vulnerable, sensual, inviting and young, romantic and gentle, the feeling I get with this photo is warm with a little spark of naughty and a tinny bit of lust. Her hand placement is brilliant and the corner of her mouth that we can see is just sexy. The make up is perfect for her and I just adore the soft glow of her blond hair on the black background, which is really hard to get right. The eye is like dark secret with a small bright light and is an invitation to whatever you desire and I love the fact that the other eye is covered with hair. I love messy hair.
A Current Project…
I am preparing my first exhibition in Kranj in April. The title is Duality and it is divided in two parts, the white shoot with gentle photos of the model in white nest and the dark shoot with the model in chains struggling to get free, ending with the same pose in the black nest as the white shoot begun.
All the information about the exhibition will be available on my web
Warmly invited :).
Images ©2016 Ulla Wolk.