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In Memoriam: PCU Instructor Andrew Fritz

In Memoriam: PCU Instructor Andrew Fritz

Posted by Luis H. Malagon on 28th Jan 2020

Editors Note: Since the original publication of this article, Andrew Fritz and his wife, Adrian, tragically died in a boat fire near Los Angeles, California that killed 32 other people on Sept. 2, 2019. His boundless enthusiasm for photography and photography education is missed by all that he impacted. The remainder of this article will appear as originally published.


Andrew is a self taught experiential learner who is addicted to the possibilities that new (to him) gear opens up. He loves to teach other people skills and techniques he has puzzled through. He finds that hands-on learning makes the new concepts easier to master. Andrew started out doing landscape, nature and night photography but has since branched out to portraits, weddings and wildlife photography.  


Tell us a bit about yourself, your work, your clients, etc.

I've always been a bit of a black sheep from an early age and a pretty extreme introvert. I love to make things and I pride myself on my self sufficiency. I'm a jack of all trades. I'm the type of guy who's first thought is how to make it myself rather than where to buy it (see my DIY teardrop camper: https://amadtrip.com/category/making/teardrop/).

I'm also an "all in" sort of guy. I don't really do anything half way. For example, I learned to scuba dive in college. It wasn't long before I held (and use) certifications such as "Full Technical Diver" and "Technical Cave Diver". That is far from the only example (see: race cars, wood working, sewing, cooking, swing dancing, and not least of all, photography).

Clients? At this point, I see my clients as my students. There is nothing better than giving someone a good experience during a workshop, or having someone have an "AH-HA" moment during a 1:1. I make photos for money some, but Josh handles most of that part of the business right now due to my wife's career taking us to Sacramento. I plan to establish a practice there once the move is finished.

I'm married to a Ph.D. marine biologist named Adrian who spent 4 to 6 weeks of the first 8 years of our marriage in or around Antarctica (see https://adrian.fritztech.com/). I'm jealous. She just started a new job as the head science advisor for the State of California's MPA program (thus the move to CA).

We both have a bit of wunderlust and I consider both of us experienced world travelers, although, she's been to all 7 continents and I haven't yet. We love to camp, hike and explore. We met swing dancing in Houston and we still dance today.



 

What sparked your initial interest in photography?

Around the time I got married I was still a startup software dev but was burned out. I started watching Art Wolfe's "Travels to the Edge" and that pretty much hooked me. I'm not a moderate person (see question 1). I go all in on things. I bought a "big camera" (a Nikon D5000) right before we got married and that started it all.

My first loves in photography were landscape photography and astro photography. Literally some of the first photos I took were at night in Quebec. My then fiance Adrian was in a conference until late each night. I had a micro tripod and the D5000. I was hooked.

Long story short, it wasn't very long and I was working to make money as a photographer.


What are some of your biggest inspiration of your work?

Art Wolfe was one of the first, and here are others: Joe McNally, Dan Winters, Gregory Heisller, Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, Dorthea Lange, Jimmy Chin and a bunch of the other current NatGeo peeps just to name a few. There are 100s.

But, beyond that, I love to look at other art forms. I'm a huge fan of great cinema. I don't watch many movies (great movies are not that common), but when I do, it's because they have something visual to offer and aren't just entertainment. I look for elements that seem like they might not translate to still photography (things like motion and cuts, and such) and try to find a way to incorporate them. I'm not sure I've succeeded in most cases, but I try.

Since I mentioned movies, I'll throw a few of my favorites (from a visual point of view) out and why I like them.

  • Mad Max: Fury Road - Everything... but specifically, it is a master class in how to structure a complicated sequence of events (a HUGE road chase) in a way that is both STUNNING and easy to follow.
  • Hugo - Color pallet, man is it beautiful.
  • 2001: A Space Odyessy - Seriously, pause it at any point, print the still and hang it on a wall. So much geometry and exceptional composition (the same applies to most of Kubrick's work).
  • Alien (and Aliens) - I like dark, moody, and contrasty. Hard to beat the first 2 Alien movies for those.
  • Blade Runner and Blade Runner 2049 - World building and stunning visuals.
  • Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon - Color/Texture/Choreography/Motion, all serving the story.

I could name more, but those are top of mind. When I'm feeling stuck in the mud in terms of inspiration, I usually throw on one of those (or another from my list) and find something to inspire me. And of course, I can always grab one of the photo books from my collection too.


What was one of your weirdest moment as a photographer?

Early in my career while working in Washington DC I volunteered to photograph a wounded warrior fishing tournament. It was a great and touching experience... But, a lot of the vets liked to party hard and that night one of the vets (and if I'm honest, many of them) were pretty drunk (that was sort of the point, no one had to drive so it was just a good time for all, at least until the hangover).

But, that is when something got weird. One of them decided to get naked and ride the mechanical bull that was there... Never to be deterred, I photographed it, including the reaction of some of the other non-vets there... I've chosen not to share those photos, but, well, it go weird (in a we are all going to laugh about it tomorrow sort of way)!

 

… and coolest?

Tough one... Whatever I come up with, I end up thinking of something else, and round and round I go. Photography has been a gateway to a lot of amazing things for me. I photograph a lot of different genres at this point: wedding, portraits, landscapes, wildlife, sporting events, and conceptual work in the studio. How is one to choose?!?!?


 

What have you learned about photography that came as a surprise the more you became invested in it?

The more you learn, the simpler it all gets. I don't mean I understand complex things better. I mean, I realize that they really are simple.

Things start to factor out into the same simple set of principals. That shouldn't be surprising. The same thing happens in advanced math, physics, music, or any systematic pursuit. To a master, everything is simple. Mastery becomes using simple principals to create new and amazing results.

That is part of what makes it hard for masters to teach without a lot of effort I think. It's all so simple and straight forward that it's hard to remember how it looks to someone just starting out: lots of special case rules and decision trees about modes, and settings. Portraits, wildlife, landscapes, etc are totally different to new people, with their own sets of knowledge. To a master, they are all the same rules, just applied with different intention and results.

As someone who is NOT a master yet, but who is further down that path than many, it's very rewarding to try to give people a peek into that understanding, to help them find the "Ah-Ha" moment where it clicks and all the complexity falls away and whatever they've been struggling with becomes simple to them.


If you could give one important piece of advice to a novice – what would that be?

Ooh! :) I love giving 1:1 to new people because I get to answer this question a lot.

The short answer is: the answer depends on the person. Seriously. Everyone starts somewhere different. They all need different things to get them moving in the right direction.

So that is a bit of a cop out, so here are two of the more common ones:

  • Technique servers art. To make art, you must have good technique, you must master it, including understanding your equipment and picking the right gear. Learn the fundamentals (exposure triangle, lens/perspective choice, etc ). The further down this road I go, the more basic the things I think about are. Everything reduces to basic techniques regardless of genre (see my answer to the most surprising thing question).
  • Intention is everything. If you don't know where you are going, you very likely won't ever get there. For those that have mastered technique easily (technical folks often do) it is very important to remember, technique by itself makes you a technician and nothing else. Art happens when you can envision an outcome (something you synthesize from your experience and imagination) and then employ technique to realize your vision. Art is an intentional act of synthesis.

What is your favorite thing you have purchased from Precision Camera?

Nikon 105 f/1.4 or 28 f/1.4. Hard to choose between them. Both are exceptional for what they are useful for and I use both all the time.

 

Okay – desert island lens: What is it?

All of them. When I talk to people about choosing gear for trips (my workshops, or their own) they invariably ask "what are/would you bringing" and I have to give my "I'm dumb, don't copy me" speech. I routinely hike with most or all of my lens. It's not unusual for my camera pack to weight over 20lb.

If you FORCED me to pick just one lens? Wow, probably either my old Nikon 50mm f/1.4 (the old all metal manual one) or my 28mm f/1.4. Both are beautiful and would be useful on a presumably deserted island for various things. Of course, I'd exchange either of those for a satellite phone or EPIRB. I'm nothing if not pragmatic.

 

What is your dream piece of equipment that doesn’t exist?

The mythical ultra light and compact 14mm-600mm f/1.4. Seriously though, photography is very mature. I'm an inventive guy and there is almost nothing I can come up with that isn't already available from multiple companies in some form. Most of the "missing items" are very niche and special use. Mostly, the gear I have is great and almost perfect. It could be a little closer to perfect: lighter, cheaper, more indestructible, but that wouldn't change my photography much. I'm the limiting factor there.


 

Where do you see your photography going in the future?

I started as a landscape photographer (as I call it "Photography for people that don't like people") which was natural as an introvert. However, the longer I shoot, the more I've started to love portraits, especially when I have the time and freedom to work with my subject. I'm actively working to make more portraits in my personal work, and I'm starting to incorporate my making into my photography, building props and sets for shoots such as my wife's Ph.D graduation photos (See: https://www.azuloxworkshops.com/educational/antarctica-senior-photos/).

In the future I want to create more conceptual portrait shoots that are very intentional, highly styled and very focused.


Andrew Fritz: Oct. 6, 1978 to Sept. 2, 2019