Brian Kelly, Software Manager on Photography

My name is Brian Kelly, and I manage software engineers. Currently, I’m the Head of Conjur Engineering for the cybersecurity firm CyberArk. I started programming at the age of 12 on my uncle’s Mac SE, went to college to learn computing, and then moved into software professionally. Luckily, I had a great mentor and manager in my early career who gave me the opportunity to become an engineering manager, and I’ve kept going in that direction for the last 15 years.

Digital photography is the thing that gets me excited most of all. My interest in photography began quite early when I was about 8 or 9. I read a book from the library on photography and learned all about f-stops and ISO before I even held a camera. I pestered my parents into submission and they bought me a Zorki camera for Christmas. I then invited my friends to a lecture at my house (yes, I really called it a “lecture”!) on things like pinhole cameras, Joseph Niépce, and light metering. They didn’t agree to come back for more.

I love the work of portrait photographers like Annie Leibovitz. I’m usually in awe of what they are able to imagine and create. Also, Vivian Maier’s discovered catalogue was simply incredible. Dorothea Lange’s Migrant Mother is justifiably iconic. As for sites, well, I hate to admit it, but the photography site I frequent most is canonrumors.com.

My main camera is a Canon 6D, which I love because it has far fewer buttons than other similar DSLRs. That means I can use muscle memory to hit the right button even if I’m in pitch black darkness. It also works superbly in dim light. But it’s really all about the lens, and (sadly, for my wallet’s sake) I’ve learned that lenses make the most difference in the clarity and type of image you can capture. Each lens has its own character and “voice”, and I go shooting with the one that I think will work right for the circumstances at hand. I prefer to shoot landscapes and animals by far. I love the meditative, zen-like aspect of camping out in a bird blind and waiting for the right moment to shoot or getting up before sunrise to walk along a still lake and get ready for the morning light.

I absolutely love to travel to take photos! If we’re travelling as a family, I usually just sneak out of our hotel at 5 a.m. to go take sunrise photos. That way, nobody else has to have their vacation disrupted for me to indulge in my hobby, and it helps that the light at that time can be the best of the whole day.

I edit most of my shots in Lightroom, and I don’t even remember the last time I left a photo alone in its original form. I see the post-processing phase as just another creative phase. But like mixing or mastering an album, you can go too far with it. I prefer to create photos that are realistic windows into other times and places in the world. I don’t want to invent artificial realities. If you can see an amazing scene with your eyes, creating a memorable photo is much easier than if you have to manipulate it later in post-production.

I would love to be a photographer or audio engineer full-time. Perhaps someday I’ll go that route. Photography stimulates the brain and allows creative thoughts to flow. My advice would be to create as often as you can. “Trial and error” requires lots of trials and many errors, but in the end, your persistence will show in your work.

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