Although local photographer Warren Capps calls central Texas home, that certainly doesn't speak to his wanderlust and love for travel photography. Capps has taken photos of different cultures, landscapes and wildlife around the world, from the frigid snow caps of Antarctica to the scorching plains of Tanzania. Despite his numerous global endeavors in photography, he is heavily involved in the photography community around Austin, once serving as president of the Photographers of Dripping Springs and submitting work for multiple local art galleries.
I was able to learn more about Capp's photographic adventures via email.
You’ve been taking photos since you were a senior in high school! That makes for many years honing in your craft. How did you get started in photography? What was your first camera?
Warren Capps: The first camera I used was my dad's Voigtländer 35mm with a fixed lens. The first one I bought in 1979 was the Olympus OM-1N, a legendary camera. I still have it and occasionally run a roll of film through it. I got it because I was in the Navy and deploying to the Mediterranean. I think that is when I discovered my love of photographing other countries/cultures. Plus, it was the cheapest souvenir I could bring home!
You’ve traveled extensively throughout the United States and around the globe. Do you have a favorite travel story or series of photos you’ve taken while abroad?
WC: I have so many I don't know where to begin. Probably a favorite was when we had hired a boat to take us across Lake Atitlán in Guatemala to another village. At the time, we didn't realize that the boatman was drunk as a skunk at 10 a.m. When we got out to the middle of the lake, he was threatening to jump overboard and drown himself. Interesting day.
I understand that Guatemala is one of your favorite places to take photos. What about this country interests you and how are these photos unique from your other work?
WC: Several things. 1. The country is one of the most colorful I have ever been to. 2. 40% of the inhabitants are native Mayan and still live the same way they did centuries ago. The influence of the Spanish invasion and the mixture of the Spanish and Mayan cultures is fascinating to me. 3. The people I meet are extraordinarily open and kind despite the poverty.
How do you normally prepare for an upcoming photography trip? What factors contribute to locations, content and gear decisions?
WC: Many times, I travel as part of a photo workshop tour so the planning is left to others. The location drives the gear. On a recent trip to Alaska, I had to pack very lightweight, but with long lenses for wildlife. If I am doing a more cultural tour, I pack shorter and faster lenses for more street type photography. As far as choosing locations, I will go anywhere once (well, maybe not Afghanistan right now, although I have a friend in Tajikistan on tour). Some locations were due to work, some were pure vacation, some on the bucket list (Antarctica, Galapagos). We have an RV so we can travel the US extensively on our own, which was particularly helpful during the pandemic. Then I can take all my gear!
What are your most trusted pieces of equipment that you'd feel lost without?
WC: My Olympus E-M1 MKIII camera and 12-100mm lens. I can shoot 85% of what I want with those two pieces of gear.
Since travel photography is your main form of photography, did COVID have a large impact on your work and schedule? How did you adapt?
WC: We had five overseas trips cancelled as a result of COVID. Three have been rescheduled, and I finally got to go to Alaska this year. The pandemic was a big year of loss within my family (not COVID related), so we had to make three trips with our RV to Pennsylvania. Always took the time to see some of the country on the way up and back. Also, I finally achieved one of my retirement bucket list goals— scan all 12,000 slides I have! Really fun to see work from years past.
Congrats on the feature in both the July and August issue of Revue Magazine, an English tourist magazine in Guatemala! Do you submit your work to magazines frequently? Could you share any advice on getting your work featured in print?
WC: I actually don't submit that often and am really at the stage of my life where I am not trying to do work for money. The magazine started a monthly photo contest for a feature story and since I have lots of photos from Guatemala, I started submitting. I am more interested in submitting my work to various photo contests and shows. Getting a photo selected is a validation for me that my photos have improved.
You served as the President of the Photographers of Dripping Springs from 2018 to 2019 and your work has been featured in several local galleries such as the Amanda Smith Gallery in Johnson City and Mercer St. Art Gallery in Dripping Springs. Do you think it’s important for photographers to have a sense of community and involvement with other local photographers/galleries?
WC: Absolutely. Galleries will do portfolio reviews for you. Photo clubs provide a group of like-minded folks to share your photography with. Submitting work to club shows and galleries helps you understand the quality of work from the eyes of others. One of my favorite events to shoot is the Dripping Springs Songwriter Festival. I provide all my photos to the songwriters free to download and use. Most are struggling in their profession and are grateful to get new material. I have made lifelong friends through that work and through the people I have met via our club.
What drew you to wildlife photography? What challenges do you encounter when photographing wildlife? Do you have any tips for getting into this kind of work?
WC: I kind of fell into wildlife photography. My biggest challenge is that I have not been very good at it. I found birds in flight to be particularly challenging. Recent advances in photo gear have greatly helped my keeper rate. I know this shows my bias, but I recommend shooting with micro four-thirds gear like Olympus and Panasonic. The weight reduction is a major factor in being able to be nimble when out and about. I rarely need a tripod anymore for my wildlife photography.
What’s your favorite animal to photograph and why?
WC: I love photographing the Sandhill Cranes and Snow Geese at the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico. The Bosque is one of my happy places that I have been to at least a dozen times.
Do you have any upcoming projects or trips planned that you feel excited about?
WC: I would like to put together a book on my experiences in Guatemala and want to make another trip down there soon for some research. As a family, we have recently finished visiting all 50 states, so we are starting on the Canadian provinces. Really looking forward to a trip to Newfoundland next year.