Interview with Brian Koperski

Brian Koperski is one of Rome Photography Workshop’s tour leaders. His love of photography is contagious – and his students at the American University of Rome as well as on tours benefit from his ease with all kinds of equipment. His specialties are Monuments and Architecture;Food Photography; Morning Light and City Night workshops.  Read more about him here.

Brian Koperski.

How long have you lived in Rome?

I’m originally from Cody (Wyoming), moved to Phoenix, then lived in London, and I feel like I’ve lived in Rome forever, but actually it’s just coming up on my 10 year anniversary. I visited Rome the first time in 1999, met a girl I kept in touch with over a year, and now she’s my wife. There’s obviously a longer story to this, but I’ll save it for later.

Where are the top places you traveled and photographed in the world?

Looking at the world map hanging on my wall marked with pins where I’ve been, I still rate Australia and Italy as my favourite places in the world, but in terms of photography, I really fell in love with Beijing, China, as well as Indonesia. There were so many contrasts, colours, spaces, and places to photograph that are inherently different from what I see day to day.

I’ve travelled all over Europe (mainly for work) so there wasn’t much time to really go photograph it like I would have liked to, but I do have some treasured cities that I really went above and beyond to capture in the best light. As a fan of architecture, I pretty much can be happy shooting anywhere I land, but also being equally attuned to capturing landscapes, I love to shoot anything next to the sea.  Some of my favourite shots come from Cozumel, Caribbean islands, Scotland, Cornwall, Costa Rica, Greece, as well as capturing the abundant seascapes here in Italy.

Who was your top influence / teacher of photography?

I actually have more years of experience shooting film/video, but about 15 years ago I was working in America doing marketing and I was able to work with a local photographer in Phoenix, who was our product photographer. I learned more on set with him than I did anywhere else about lighting, composing/framing still life shots, and digital image processing.He was a pseudo mentor, a client, and a photo friend that got me interested in shooting a single frame instead of 24 frames per second. Thanks Rick Gayle!

What is the trickiest part about doing photography in Rome?

The trickiest part is choosing which lens to use, and where to use it. There are so many things and places to photograph in Rome that it can be overwhelming, even for a professional. The hardest thing is using your eyes to compose a shot using the right lens to capture the essence of Rome. It’s far too easy to go for the standard “postcard shot,” or something that you see endlessly on social media from tourists. To be a true photographer here, you have to move around each and every monument, every time of the day, using every lens you have, and maybe then you’ll find something that says “shoot me.”

Beyond that, I really like to capture the chaos of Rome…without the chaos, so timing is everything! Tourists are here year long, and locals are always walking or driving through a well framed shot. So it’s really all about finding a unique perspective, framing the scene, and hoping that what I capture is relatively people free.   

What is your favorite thing to shoot in Rome?  

My favourite thing to shoot in Rome would have to be pretty much everything. It’s too hard to choose just one thing, as everything here is overwhelmingly fun to photograph. If I have to maybe narrow it down a bit, I would say the Colosseum, Piazza Navona, Castel Sant Angelo, St. Peter’s Basilica, and the intimate side streets of the city are my favourite playgrounds. At last glance, I have at least 2 terabytes of photos dedicated to these areas.

Who are favourite photographers?

Everyone has the potential to be a great photographer, it’s all about using your eyes and translating it to the camera to capture it. I truly don’t have a favourite photographer, as I think every photographer has wonderful photos, and it’s up to us how we use our eyes to see them. What I might like, you might think is shite, and so on. I could also take the easy route and name the icons of photography in their respective genres, but that’s not my style. My view is this: we become better photographers by viewing every photographer’s work. Some are more memorable than others, but if you’re out there shooting photographs to replicate the style of X photographer, you’re not seeing things with your eyes, you’re just copying the look.

What are your go-to cameras ?

I started using Canon for video, and I continued it into photography. I shoot with a Canon 7D and have a Canon 350 that I use as a spare, and currently looking to transition it into an Infra-red only camera. When I can’t get what I want from my standard gear, I like to take out my GoPro for some wide angle fun, as well as my new LG 360 cam to start playing with this tiny world of Rome. When in doubt, and I don’t have my gear with me, my more than capable mobile take snaps that are worth framing.

What time of day do you prefer to shoot?

I love shooting Rome in the morning and watching (and hearing) it come alive. Taking the first shot of the day in front of the Colosseum early when there is no one there, but the sun is just peaking up and streaking through the clouds is fantastic. Then 3 hours later it’s a zoo of people queuing up to get inside. I like to take the same shot at these times of day to show the difference, and I’m working on a time-lapse that shows the influx of people to this cornerstone of Rome.

The golden hour in the evening is also a favourite time of mine. Rome really comes to life with the setting sun, and the buildings shine or fall into shadow perfectly, no matter what time of year. Watching the sunset behind St. Peter’s is an event to witness, and if you’re lucky to capture some striking clouds in the background, matched with a stunning splash of colours, you’ve got a very beautiful photo in the making.

Watching Rome fall into dark is fun, but there is also just as much beauty hiding in the night hours of Rome. I love long exposures and Rome is a night photographers playground.

Come to think of it, the only hours I haven’t really photographed Rome, are the hours from 2:00 A.M. – 4:30 A.M.

Are there any places or monuments in Rome that are harder than others to get good shots?

Trevi Fountain is a nightmare unless you carry a ladder to get above the people, and the same goes for Piazza di Spagna. These are wonderful locations, but I find them just too full of people for the shots that I like to create. Maybe I should try and shoot there between 2:00 – 4:30?

What should someone visiting Italy simply not miss?

This list could go on forever, but I’ll keep it simple. Just come see Italy, you won’t be let down. There is so much to see in every corner of this country. Don’t miss the opportunity to come see Italy, use that passport NOW. If you don’t do it now, you’ll be one year older when you decide to do it!

Please share your personal favorite shot of Rome and 1 line about how you captured it.

Luce Divino. © Brian Koperski

This is my go to shot for Rome when capturing the beauty of the sunsets we have here. This is called “Luce Divino,” and it has won numerous International photo competitions over the past 7 years . I love working with HDR photography, and this photo (when shot) really didn’t need much processing to it. The light was right from the start, but adding a stop below and above to bring in some light/shadow really made the difference. This was truly a sunset to remember, and one I have yet to recreate with such brilliance.

Where can one see your photography?

I do have a website as part of a small studio I created years ago, but I’ve got way too much on my plate now to keep it organized and updated as I would like to have it. If you want to find me and my latest photos, you can find me on Facebook, or www.surfwalkerstudios.com

Finally, where is your favorite place for gelato in Rome?

Tricky question. There are numerous places in Rome that have fantastic gelato, but it depends on the day and the flavour I want. I normally don’t eat any sweets in general, so I tend to be a bit picky when it comes to satisfying a sweet tooth. My go to place is just down the street from where I live, but that’s not in the center, so let’s cancel that. In the center of Rome I stick to Fassi (Via Principe Eugenio) or Tre Tartufi (Piazza Navona.)