Who is Michael Kelley? For those of us who are not familiar with me or my work, if you're not, I don't blame you at all. Here we go. So, at the time, when I got into architectural photography, I was living in Lake Tahoe, attempting to be a professional snowboarder. I had this half-baked idea in my mind. I'd always been like a snowboard, skateboard, surfing, one of those punk kids. And, so after college I decided to move out to Lake Tahoe, and make a go of it. And what was happening was, I kept getting hurt over and over and over again. Like I would herniate a disk, or torn AC ligament, or break a bone or something, and it was constant injury. And so, what happened was, I ended up in the emergency room in Reno one night, with maybe 15 or so stitches in my head. And I got to talking with someone who was in there who later became a great friend of mine. And she said, "Hey, I know a friend "who's working on this great project, "and she needs an architectural photographer, "and you just men...
tioned to me "that you were into photography and art, "and maybe you could do it." And I was like, I jumped at her, I was like, that's so cool! Like, you know, I've owned a camera forever. But I haven't really done anything with it. And, you know, I'm into art, and I've got a little back on it, so I'll try it out and see how it goes. So, a week or two later, I get a phone call, "Hey Mike, we got your name from so-and-so at the hospital, "and do you wanna come shoot this project for us?" And I was like, "Absolutely!" So I started doing some research on architectural photography, and I figured that it's gonna be pretty easy, it's a house it doesn't move, right? I'm completely wrong about that. It's one of the most complicated things that I think you can shoot. There's so much that goes on. And so I took a week and learned everything I could about it, and the gig came, and I had no idea what I was doing, honestly. I tried to make small talk, and like be cool about it, until my client would feel comfortable with the decision to hire me. So I'm hanging out by the skin of the teeth, shoot this whole job. Somehow the pictures come out halfway decent, I look back, and I think they're terrible, of course. But the client loved them, and they were like, "We wanna hire you for all of our work." So I instantly went from washed-up, somewhat pseudo-professional snowboarder, to working architectural photographer. And it was just, you know, I had the willingness to kind of say yes to that crazy job. And, again, I didn't know what I was getting into. I was like, cool, it's a way to pay the bills. I can quit my retail job for 7.25 an hour, and do photography. While I still snowboard on the side. But as time passed, I realized I really, really enjoyed it. And so, what happened was, I ended up marketing myself to other designers, other architects, other real-estate agents, all these different people up in the Lake Tahoe area, and that slowly took over the whole snowboarding thing. And I was recovering from injuries. And I thought that was a great way to keep myself occupied, while not doing the whole snowboarding thing. About two years after that, I kinda hit a ceiling. Lake Tahoe's a very small, seasonal community, and I said, I want to doing bigger things with this. So I kind of flipped a coin between San Francisco and Los Angeles. I ended up going to Los Angeles. I didn't really know anyone down there, had no connections. And what I did was, I moved. I packed up all my stuff, and I made a bit of flyers. I went door to door, and just told people who I was. It's kind of nerve-racking. I don't know, if you've been to L.A., and you go into someone's store, and you're like, hey, hi amigo! Like, who are you again? You know, like, this is L.A., get out of here. So I did that for a while. And eventually it started to get some traction, and that's when I started doing this whole thing. So it's been since 2010, and like I said, before I was doing this, I had a big background in art, so I think that helped a lot with picking out the composiitons, and picking out the colors and knowing what would work. Kinda like an intrinsic thing. Like I studied it in high school and college, painting and sculpture, and that sorta thing. So that really kinda helped accelerate the learning curve there. What else? I've always been a huge design geek, art lover, and computer nerd. I remember growing up I'd build computers, and play video games until four in the morning. I'd drive my parents insane. But that helped with the photoshop side of things. So it was like this perfect storm of, you know, things coming together to kind of get me ready to be and architectural photographer, if you will. I had the computer know-how, I built computers. I had art background. And then all of a sudden, bam I had this camera, and these clients, and I just said, Okay, here we go, we're gonna do it. And I've always specialized in architecture. I never really had other any paying photography jobs before this or after this. People try to like, "Oh, you're a photographer. "Can you do my portarait?" No,no,no,no,no,no, no, I just do houses. So it's always been architecture. I mean, I'm very interested in it. Like, I've watched Peter Verlise talk, and I'm like, just enraptured in what he says. It's the coolest thing, but, not really my specialty, so it's, I guess it's always been architecture. And in addition to architectural photography, lately, I've kind of been branching out, and dipped my toe in other things. I've been doing a lot of aviation and aerial stuff. I do a lot of photographing architecture from a helicopter, which translated into doing just landscapes from above, which I really ended up loving. So that's kind of what I've been up to and how I got here, if you're not familiar. So it's kind of a crazy store. Hope it made some sense. All that being said, I wanna show you the work. So, in case you haven't seen, and you just think I'm up here talking, I'll show you what I do. So, I'm kinda known for this whole twilight thing. I really try to shoot at twilight as much as I can. And I tell people it's like I'm painting with time and light. I'll set up a camera for two or three hours, and I'll record it. Everything that happens within that time span. The setting sun, last light of the day. I'll add light. I will play with the sky, and do different exposures. And then, back in photoshop, I'll put it all together. So what you get is a picture that encompasses a few hours worth of time. And, of course, I also have to work during the day, and I try to, you know, again, this looks like a realtively straightforward photo. There's not any obvious lighting, but what you don't see is, you know, the hour that it took to light it, and then the other two hours that it took to put it together in photoshop. So it's a lot of computer geekery, and that kind of thing, as I referenced to earlier. Here's a shot that I'm actually gonna dissect in the second half of this chat. I'm gonna walk you through everything, step by step, how I shot it, how I lit it, how I photoshopped it together. But, again, it's the same method, but all indoors. And then, again, here's another twilight shot. This is, again, shot over probably the course of two and a half or three hours from before sunset to after sunset, so you get a whole range of colors and tones and moods that you would otherwise not get. Then, again, I do all kinds of work, like all over the country. I was just in Napa. This is an early morning shot. Again, there's a whole lot of photoshop going on. It may not be apparent first, but if I were to deconstruct it, you'd kinda get an idea for what goes on. And, like I said, I travel, this is in Iceland, for an architect, and again, you see the light of the sunset reflected in the windows, with the light behind it, and the added additional light. So all these photos are really, you know, photoshop heavy. Again, Beverly Hills, we see three hour worth of time composited into one photo. This is, during the daylight, I try to do the same thing. I'll set up a tripod for an hour. This is in Tel Aviv, Israel, and I'll capture the scene in front of a certain building, and then I'll put it together, to try to condense hours and hours of happenings into one photograph. And again, Iceland, I had to wait for the sheep to get to where they had to go, wait for the clouds to be right, and eventually the photo materialized. And so, in addition to that, like I said, I do a lot of aerial photography. And as you can see, it kind of has an architectural look to it. Like, I love symmetry, I love, you know, compositions that are very powerful and strong. So I try to shoot things straight on. I find that it reveals a ton about the subject and the shape. And, lastly, here's my home city of L.A. from helicopter. This is kind of the landscapey thing I've been getting into, so that's kind of all about me and my work, and without further ado, we get into the juicy stuff.