Home > Focus on the User > Focus on the User: William Palank

Focus on the User: William Palank

William Palank blames his insatiable lust for travel on being born on a US Air Force Base in France. Soon after his birth, his father’s work schedule necessitated he obtain his first passport at the early age of two weeks. “From the way my father describes it (a US Fighter Pilot and Officer testing military Fighter Aircraft throughout Europe), my father, mother and myself would bum a ride to his next working location in the holds of Cargo Planes often being dropped off at the ends of runways where my father would have to flag down a military vehicle to take us to base housing.”

For William, showing up in exotic locations armed with his trusty Leica M9 and array of Leica Summilux lenses is beginning to feel as natural as driving to the supermarket for a carton of milk for this frequent traveler. “I would say my most recent big goof when traveling abroad came when I just arrived at Bangkok International Airport from Burma. I decided to book online a trip to Saigon, Vietnam through Kayak.com for five days. After waiting several hours for my flight, it was only when checking in my baggage that I realized you couldn’t get a tourist Visa at the airport in Vietnam. The very kind Air Asia employee said I could exchange the ticket for any other of their flights. I told him that if I remembered correctly, Phnom Penh, Cambodia would process the Visa in airport. He confirmed and booked me on a flight leaving in an hour. I didn’t even have time to book a hotel. It ended up being a great trip!”

IP: William, please tell us about the work you do when traveling abroad.

William Palank: I would say that “environmental portraiture” is my hallmark. Due to my past profession as an endodontist (root canal specialist), I’m not afraid to cozy up to strangers, and when they allow me to do so I try to get them to laugh and to tell me a little bit about their family history. I’ve found that people in foreign countries are quite proud and comfortable talking about their family lineage. It’s a great ice breaker. When finally invited or allowed to photograph my subjects, I feel that my choice of equipment, the Leica M system, grants me access to get closer due to it’s smaller size as opposed to my Canon DSLR and 70-200 lens. Many photographers don’t seem to realize that indigenous people in the bush and streets aren’t used to getting a large camera system pushed near their face. I also treat all my subjects with utmost respect whether they are a village chief or tribesman trying to eek out a living like the rest of us.

While capturing images in the field I always base my exposure and composition with my final output in mind which is a Fine Art Print. Since beginning to use ImagePrint about five years ago, I’m consistently amazed at how exact the final print matches what I’m seeing on my monitor. Now that I’m working with Baryta papers about 95% of the time, the print never ceases to surprise me with the level of detail it brings forward whether I’m working with Black and White or Color images. It still leaves me breathless to this day. The tonal gradations are smooth and I get a neutral print immediately out of the gate 100% of the time.

My current printer is an Epson 7900 which, with the newer HDR ink technology partnered with the ImagePrint RIP, gives me a color gamut and black point that were never before possible. ImagePrint makes it quicker and easier to achieve a Museum quality Inkjet Print. It will always be a part of my workflow.

If you’re interested in learning more about William’s work (or just want to learn how to pack your luggage and camera gear “lighter and tighter” to meet the demands of international travel), you can visit his Blog at http://blog.williampalankphoto.com/

William was recently featured on the Leica Blog for his exceptional environmental portrait work in Ethiopia. You can find the Leica blog entry here: http://blog.leica-camera.com/interviews/william-palank-ethiopian-portraits/ 

And, if you are interested in working with him on an upcoming “Leica Weekend” in his hometown of San Francisco, you can get the details here: http://www.cvent.com/d/3dqygj


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