Widgets Magazine

Jon Schusteritsch, North Fork Photographer and Martha Clara Artist in Residence

GoNorthFork thanks Jon for his generous donation of photographs for the new issue of The Guide, which will be digitally available next week and in print everywhere May 26. Q: What do you photograph?

A: Well, for paid photography, I do a lot of weddings, portraits, families. The landscape photography is really for me as a personal project. It’s my escape, just me and nature, peaceful and relaxing. Some people do yoga or meditate, I take landscape photos. I mean, I sell those too as I exhibit, but they’re not commercial work in the way my other photographs are since I create them for myself first and foremost.

Q: How do you choose your landscape subjects?

A: Living out the North Fork I pass through these sites every day. I’m always cataloging them in my mind, planning when the light will be right. The morning, the evening; sometimes I have to revisit a place a few times to get it right.

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The time of year plays a part in my photographs as well, sometimes the same subject or location will look completely different from season to season so often times I try to capture it numerous times.

I like capturing what we see every day living here, but in the right light and the right time to being out the beauty of these otherwise ordinary scenes.

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Q: How did you get to the North Fork? Why do you stay?

A: My wife grew up on the North Fork and I grew up in Nassau; we met in college. Eventually we got married and moved back here. We have two wonderful kids, six and three, and we feel the North Fork is just such a great place to raise kids.

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I fell in love with the beauty of the North Fork from the moment I first visited, from the farms, beaches, and the abundance of nature, to the sense of community that is so prevalent. We love to bring the kids to the beaches, look for shells and rocks and anything else we can find, while getting our feet wet and enjoying our surroundings. I love how the North Fork is undisturbed relative to the rest of the island.

Q: You’re on exhibit now at Martha Clara Vineyards. Is it a solo show?

A: Yes. Martha Clara is calling it an “artist in residence”, it’s their way of promoting local artists. I have many works, in various sizes and mediums, on display in their main tasting room for the entire month of May. It has been very well received thus far. Their hospitality manager, Gina, discovered my work while I had a few pieces on display in the Mattituck Starbucks earlier this year.  We had our “artist’s reception” this past weekend, and I had the chance to meet many people that attended. It was a great day.

Q: That’s very North Fork, one local business giving another local an opportunity; businesses here are very community-minded. When did you take up photography?

A: Ever since I was a kid I always had a camera with me. I learned it from my Grandpa. He always took pictures as a hobby and took me to the local camera shops as a kid to get film developed and just to talk shop with them. As I grew older I constantly took pictures as well. Unfortunately, I didn’t really know what I was doing. Eight or nine years ago I decided to sit down and really figure it out.

Jon Schusteritsch-I read many books and started to experiment in every way I could think of until I really understood the mechanics and concepts behind making great photos. Not long after that I began shooting photographs for friends and family, and then I branched out and began shooting photos professionally.

Q: Did you have any favorite subjects before you started landscapes?

A: I used to do a lot of automotive photography. I was really into European cars: VW, Audi, Mini Cooper, I’ve always loved those styles. On the flipside, I also love hot rods.  I’ve always really been a car guy ever since I was a kid. Every car I’ve ever had I’ve had to tinker with and modify, it was part of a lifestyle I was into. In that time I met a lot of great friends who helped me with my photography. Aside from cars, I used to shoot anything that was around me, from cats and dogs to flowers. Once my daughter was born I instantly had my most beloved subject and I have yet to get tired of taking her picture.

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Q: Is there any photograph you particularly remember taking? An important photograph to you?

A: There’s one I took when I was visiting my friend’s summer house in Hampton Bays. I went down to the water—the Peconic Bay—and I took a photograph of the water just after the sun had gone down so it was a little darker with a lot of color in the sky still. I did a long exposure, which smoothed out the water and made it look almost like a mirror. It was one of the first times I was able to get results from a more advanced technique, so that one really stands out to me.

Q: We live in a digital era in which it’s very easy to manipulate images. Do you?

A: All digital photos are processed to a certain degree, whether you let your camera do the editing, or you do it yourself, there’s always something done to an image. I try not to over edit my images; I like to be conservative and try to make the final image as true to what I saw as possible.

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Most of my editing happens when I take the photo; I use special filters on the lens to cut glares, to darken parts of a scene, or to darken the whole scene to allow a longer exposure. I shoot in RAW format (as opposed to jpg which lets the camera do the editing) but I don’t do much heavy editing after I take the picture; I try to keep it simple, normally just color, contrast, sharpness, and some dodging and burning, all techniques that were used in dark rooms. I avoid using the HDR (High Dynamic Range) techniques since that style doesn’t appeal much to me.

Q: What’s HDR?

A: People will take three or four, or more, photos of the same thing at slightly different exposures and blend them together. That enables them to highlight different colors, pull out details from shadows or highlights, or enhance focus. It’s nice in moderation but many times it goes too far and just becomes more art at that point rather than a photograph.

I try to stay true to the scene as much as possible, to document it the way I see it.

Q: Artists rave about the North Fork’s light. Do you see a difference?

A: I think what really makes a difference is the settings we have, the way they interact with the light. The bay, the farm fields, the Sound, it all affects the light and how it looks and how we see it. Even if the light is technically the same elsewhere it just doesn’t feel the same, there’s something more beautiful to it out here.

Q: Do you have a favorite lens?

A: I love my 16-35mm f/4 wide angle zoom for landscapes.  I feel like shooting wide allows me to capture a lot the scene; you’re painting a larger picture.  For portraits I love my trusty 85mm f/1.4 since it is crisp and really allows me to separate the subject from the background, I’ve had it for ages but it’s still one of my favorites. I shoot with Nikon full frame cameras but I believe they’re just one of the great manufacturers out there. Nikon has never treated me wrong, but I think nowadays the technology is so advanced across the board; everyone makes great cameras. It really comes down to what you’re comfortable with and can get the most out of, for me that is Nikon.