Rising Light is an article series highlighting promising photography students from all over the world. This month we introduce Carlos Eric Lopez, a Los Angeles based photographer who graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts at the world famous Brooks Institute of Photography.
After a 70-year run, Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara was shutdown by their mother company Green Planet last year. Upending the lives and career paths of a number of young aspiring photographers and filmmakers. With a scant 4-days notice, the entire student body had to pack up and ship out all while trying figure out their next moves.
What could have been a disastrous situation was miraculously flipped into a win-win situation when Mount Saint Mary’s University, a well-established film school, agreed to allow Brooks students to finish their degrees at Mount Saint Mary’s University and graduate with a Brooks Institute degree.
To make the transition somewhat easier Mount Saint Mary’s University hired some of the professors from the Brooks photography faculty and adopted the Brooks existing photography curriculum. Already respected as a film school, thanks to the efforts of MSMU's Kelby Thwaits and Charles Bunce, Mount Saint Mary’s University was now also going to be a respected still imaging school.
One of the students who made the near-seamless transition from Brooks to MSMU is Carlos Eric Lopez, who originally came to Brooks with the goal of sharpening his photographic skills following a 5-year stint as a modeling agent and 4-years as a West Coast Editor of Teen Vogue.
If you live in LA and are even remotely involved in the world of modeling and fashion, cameras and pictures are part of the social landscape. Lopez was more than comfortable shooting available light and joked about using the LED lights and night club lighting while attending LA’s hotspots. Putting the modeling/fashion world on hold, Lopez chose to tighten his photographic skills at Brooks in order to take better control of his artistic vision.
“Lighting is everything” according to Carlos, and if he’s accomplished anything during his tenure at Brooks/MSMU it would have to be that he finally understands what he describes as “the principles behind the magic”.
For him the best part is that he now has the know-how to combine his previously gained business acumen with his newly acquired skills with cameras, lenses, and most importantly, light. He also finds he has a much higher level of confidence when it comes to taking charge of – and responsibility for the projects he’s working on.
Carlos has reached the point where he has the ability to not only pose and light his subjects to achieve the look and mood of the photographs he wants to capture, but can combine it with his understanding on how to choose the best hair/makeup, wardrobe, and location scouting for any given assignment.
Having had ample opportunity to work with lighting systems from a number of manufacturers, Carlos Eric Lopez ultimately went with Profoto as his lighting system of choice because as he put it “the Profoto talked to me unlike the others – they’re intuitive to use, powerful, and dead-on accurate”
As for light modifiers, Lopez “loves’ his Profoto Softbox RFi Octas and makes good use of all three sizes (3’, 4’, & 5’ Octa). He’s also partial to the Profoto Softbox RFi 1x1, 3’, Profoto Softbox RFi 1,3x2, many of Profoto’s Hard Reflectors, and when he’s truly pressed for time, Profoto Umbrellas. One of his favorite ‘run-and-gun’ lighting modifiers is a Softbox RFi Octa mounted on a C-stand or handheld by an assistant, which he finds ideal for editorial-style capture.
For capturing his photographs, Carlos Eric Lopez uses a Canon EOS 5D Mk III with 50mm f/1.2, 35mm f/1.4, 85mm f/1.2, and 24-70mm f/2.8 Canon EF L-series lenses.
Some people that Lopez looks to for inspiration include an interesting assortment of visual icons such as photographer Helmut Newton, best known for his starkly Teutonic, and sexually-charged fashion photography, Alfred Hitchcock (“Screenshots from his movies look like fashion shoots for Vanity Fair against amazing backdrops!”), film director Baz Luhrmann (“His visuals are captivating”), and his personal hero on a number of levels – Mario Testino (He’s the life of the party, his website is a good example of a strong business model, and he gives back to the photographic community – he’s someone you want to emulate”).
When Brooks Institute closed shop Carlos was 4 classes shy of graduating and he couldn’t have been happier when MSMU opened their doors for all of the Brooks refugees. In regards to walking at his graduation in May, Lopez says, “having that piece of paper” in his hand will be the indication of a self-discovery adventure – a sign of personal success. On another level, becoming a card-carrying ‘Brookie’ represents a goal satisfied and a challenge met.
Never one for a standard 9 to 5 desk job, Carlos Lopez now has the confidence he’s long felt the need to achieve if he wants to succeed as a professional photographer.
As for the future, in addition to being a Profoto Ambassador (hint, hint...), Lopez would like to satisfy a childhood fantasy of being a National Geographic photographer, but more in the spirit of a Peter Beard safari-style fashion expedition – sponsored by Profoto of course.
To see more of Carlos Eric Lopez’ work go to his website: www.carlosericlopez.com