Behind the Lens: Dan Sparagna

“In this second edition of Confusion magazine’s online exclusive skate photographer check out “Behind the Lens” we check in with Dan Sparagna, a skate photographer from San Diego, California who started shooting skate photos in the 70s and early 80s, and after a 25 year break – he’s back!”

Bennett Harada, frontside grind, Pink Motel

Bennett Harada, frontside grind, Pink Motel

Age, where are you from and where do you live?

50 years old, originally from Saratoga, CA, now reside in San Diego, CA since ’87.

Bucky Lasek, air to fakie around the corner, Lasekland

Bucky Lasek, air to fakie around the corner, Lasekland

How many years shooting photos and how many shooting skate photos?

I have been shooting skate photos since the late 70’s and early 80’s. I took my last film shots in ’85 at the Mile High Massacre and started again in 2010 with digital.

Austin Poynter, indy air, Encinitas YMCA

Austin Poynter, indy air, Encinitas YMCA

Jeff Hedges – smithvert, Weirdo Bowl, Hayward, CA

Jeff Hedges – smithvert, Weirdo Bowl, Hayward, CA

What camera set up do you have (camera and accessories)?

I used to shoot with a Canon AE-1 Program in the 80’s  that had a motor drive that shot 2.5 frames per second and I shot mostly slide film. Back then no one really shot with a flash, but I think Grant and Goodrich were experimenting with it. Today I shoot with a SONY NEX-3 Digital and 2 Metz flashes.

Christiano Goulart, frontside nose grind, Clairemont YMCA

Christiano Goulart, frontside nose grind, Clairemont YMCA

What’s your secret fstop and shutter speed without flash? with flash?

I don’t have any secret settings, it is usually determined by the location I’m shooting at and the time of day.

Darren Navarette, indy air, Tony Hawk's ramp

Darren Navarette, indy air, Tony Hawk’s ramp

Do you shoot other styles of photography except skateboarding?

I also shoot sunsets beside skate photos, living close to the beach you can capture some great stuff.

When Dan isn't shooting skating, he can be found at the water's edge as the sun dips into the sea. Scripps pier. La Jolla, CA

When Dan isn’t shooting skating, he can be found at the water’s edge as the sun dips into the sea. Scripps pier. La Jolla, CA

Which skate (and non skate) photographers inspire you?

My favorite skate photographer today is Ray Zimmerman, a few of my favorites from back in the day are Grant Brittan, Glen Friedman, William Sharp, James Cassimus and Jim Goodrich because they have captured so much skate history. I don’t have any non skate favorites, there are so many good ones out there in all disciplines, you just have to admire their work

Ryland Mancilla - grind, Encinitas YMCA

Ryland Mancilla – grind, Encinitas YMCA

Bucky Lasek, judo air, Lasekland

Bucky Lasek, judo air, Lasekland

Have you had your photos published in a magazine

I have had photos published in The Skateboarders Journal 3rd issue, Concrete Wave photo annual last year, Lowcard last year, and Heelside magazine from Australia, two centerfold pullouts last year, Pacific SD magazine a non skate magazine, which did an article about upcoming kids and some action sports magazine over in Dubai who still owes me money !

I also shot ads for S-1 Helmets, Khiro bushings, Black Leather Racing, Green Issue Skateboards, stuff for Duane Peters website, numerous skate company website shots and I am the staff photographer for World Cup of Skateboarding, for their website.

Daniel Cuervo, lien air, Encinitas YMCA

Daniel Cuervo, lien air, Encinitas YMCA

What’s your favorite place to travel for shooting skating? non skating?

I haven’t traveled much except for a trip to Bondi, Australia last year, everything else has been in California. There is so much to choose from here and the wealth of good skaters and good locations here, especially in San Diego really helps. I would love to go back to Australia and would like to try to make it to Sweden also. All of my non skating shots have been here in California.

Lance Mountain, frontside invert, Pro-Tec pool party

Lance Mountain, frontside invert, Pro-Tec pool party

Did you go to Photography school or did you just learn by doing?

I have never been to any photography schools, I am self taught. Being an actual skater really helps in learning angles and timing and then you just need to learn about lighting and settings from there. I did take a photoshop class last fall at the community college to learn how to use photoshop, I am still a beginner at it, I need a lot more practice.

Christian Sereika, ollie into the pool, Orange county mountains

Christian Sereika, ollie into the pool, Orange county mountains

Charlie Blair, blunt, Orange county mountains

Charlie Blair, blunt, Orange county mountains

What do you like better, digital or analog, and why?

Part of me being and old schooler likes film, but there are so many advantages to shooting digital. Back in the old days (80’s) I could shoot a whole roll of film (24 shots) and the settings may not have been right and all the photos would suck. I still have tons of shoe boxes full of slides that I will keep for the rest of my life. With today’s technology you can shoot a couple test shots and be ready to go and have great results every time. Plus digital is so much cheaper to shoot, no waiting and then paying to get your shots developed. It’s instant gratification I have shot close to 30,000 photos in the last 2 and half years. That would have cost me a small fortune to get developed.

Malakai Montes, backsmith, Portrero SF

Malakai Montes, backsmith, Portrero SF

Any advice to aspiring skate photographers as to how to stand out from the crowd?

If I could give any advice to aspiring photogs, be respectful of other photographers who are working, try for shots that haven’t been seen before. Work with your subjects and ask them what they want to shoot.  Be courteous to the skaters you are shooting, don’t force them to do stuff that they are uncomfortable doing, get a feel for how they are feeling that day. Use your imagination, almost every angle has already been shot. Think outside the box, see things in your mind first before you shoot them. Always try to get your subject’s face in the picture, enough of the butt shots. If you can’t see the subject’s face the picture is not worth seeing. Don’t post up fake or obvious bail shots, make sure your subject can make the trick you are shooting. I always like to see experimentation with shutter speeds to show action, when done right those shots can’t be beat… I’m still working on that one myself…

Jeff Hedges, gymnast palnt, Lake Cunningham skate park San Jose

Jeff Hedges, gymnast plant, Lake Cunningham skate park San Jose

Kalani David, stalefish, Lake Cunningham skate park San Jose

Kalani David, stalefish, Lake Cunningham skate park San Jose

Ian Walker, frontside grind, Buena Vista, Santa Cruz

Ian Walker, frontside grind, Buena Vista, Santa Cruz

Dan Sparagna. Not behind the lens. Clairemont, California. Photo: Garret Naka

Dan Sparagna. Not behind the lens. Clairemont, California. Photo: Garret Naka

Interview by Jonathan Hay
All photos by Dan Sparagna

2 thoughts on “Behind the Lens: Dan Sparagna

  1. shitty article, its stupid that horrible photos like this always make it to the top, a photographer that is so full of himself.

  2. Pingback: 2013 Tim Brauch Memorial Bowl Contest – Confusion Magazine: International Skateboarding Magazi

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