Florida Concert Photographer Robert Millward: Interview and Photos

I’ve known Robert Millward since 1984.  We became instant friends at Camp Wewa in Apopka, Florida.  Over the years, we still ran into each other.  About two years ago, I searched him up on Facebook.  Little did I know about his excellent skills in concert photography.  I didn’t know about it until he started posting concert pics of KISS and Motley Crue on Facebook.

Recently, I decided to interview my talented friend.

Can you explain your history with photography? 

I have been dabbling in photography since my Dad gave me a camera when I was 10.  Later in life, I made a brief attempt at getting into wedding photography and video, but soon discovered it did not satisfy my creative side at all.  I gained a lot of enjoyment creating videos via NLE video editing, but not much else.  From here I dove into underwater photography and video.  With a small camcorder in Ikelight housing, and my Nikonos V still camera, I was quite successful shooting dives for group and individuals in various Florida dive destinations.  The challenge of underwater photography was the most rewarding part of it, and you never knew what you would see on any dive.  As a dive master, I was able to offer my services for several years. However, real life caught up and my ability to dive every weekend soon disappeared along with my modest business.  I have always loved art of all kinds, and music has always been something very important to me.  I cannot honestly say how I got back into shooting, and specifically concerts.  I think my love of music simply pushed me in that direction. Once friends saw several shows I shot, I had the fever to be creative again.

About your camera equipment, you used a NEX camera, didn’t you?  Can you explain what that is and why you chose to use it? 

I use two cameras.  My pocket concert camera is a Sony NEX-7 with the standard 18 to 55mm lens.  I also have an 85mm F1.8 Prime lens that just takes amazing shots.  My main camera, and the camera I use for shows I have been invited to shoot is the Canon 5D Mark III.  My decision on the Sony was simple; it’s a fantastic camera that fits nicely into cargo shorts, making it highly convenient.  The 5D lured me in with its full frame sensor and 22mp resolution.  The amount of available features combined with low noise at high ISO made it the perfect choice for me.

You use a Canon now, right? 

Correct.  I shoot concerts around town for a promoter locally with the 5D.  The Sony NEX-7 I refer to as my “fan” camera since I am attending those shows as a paying member of the audience.

You’re another photographer I know that avoids flash during low light.  Why is that?

For me personally, I thrive on the challenge of getting a decent exposure and creating an amazing shot without the flash.  I think as well that forcing myself to shoot without flash, especially in places like The Haven, will ultimately give me a greater working knowledge of exposure control. And produce shots that more accurately tell the story of the concert as it is seen.  Most bands and fans alike do not want to be at a concert getting blinded every time a photo is taken.  I don’t personally even use the AF assist light so I don’t risk making either the artist or the fans feel that I have tainted the performance or experience.

Who are your influences?

I have a few people I really enjoy their work, but mostly I just like what is pleasing to my eye no matter who took the picture.  I love Ansel Adams; he is truly the master of exposure.  I like Michael van Gelder, who is a current professional concert photographer and someone I am studying under currently.  I also enjoy the work of David Doubilet.  He has some absolutely amazing underwater work!

What are your views on the current photography scene?

This is a tricky question.  I don’t know if I can answer in a completely positive manner.  The deeper I get into the local scene, the more resistance I feel from others willing to share ideas and discoveries.  There seems to be a tremendous amount of local photographers in Orlando who really believe they are the greatest thing since sliced bread.  It’s a little discouraging as an artist to feel the community is elitist.  Luckily not everyone is like that.

Living in Central Florida, what are your views on the Orlando art scene?

I love the Orlando art scene right now.  I think it is the best it has ever been.  So much talent in the area now. And more importantly, has been given so many avenues to display and profit from their work!  For me, a work of art just has to be pleasing to me.  I don’t care if it was created by someone famous or a 10 year old.  If I like it, that’s all that matters to me.

Some photographers still use film.  What are your views on that?

I think film is still the best form of photography, but we are getting close to that no longer being the case.  DSLR’s have given us the ability to “doodle” with photos and not worry about the cost of film.  The ability to immediately review your shots to make adjustments and check for composition is just amazing.  Although I love the look of real film, I wish I had shot digital underwater stills instead of film.

Does equipment really matters when it comes to photography?

Yes and no.  I have seen some of the most amazing photos shot with the cheapest cameras imaginable. However, I do feel strongly the glass is the key to great digital photography outside of the photographer’s creative instincts and knowledge.

You told me some funny stories about “pro” photographers.  Tell me and the readers about the two stories you recently told me.

I hate being negative, but these were mind boggling to me.  I was told by a pro that I am not an artist because I do not love ALL types of photography.  Sorry man…I have seen the sun set in the ocean all my life; I don’t need to take a picture of it.  I also had a seasoned professional tell me “good luck” using a 50mm f1.8 Prime lens at a small concert venue.  I have to assume he was trying to derail me.  The band I shot literally freaked out they liked the photos so much.  The lens was absolutely perfect for the low light and small space.  Another reason why the only critic I need is myself and the customer.

Robert’s website is Red Metal Photography

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