Meet an amazing photographer Rodrigo Peña Part 1

Rigo used a Nikon D1H, with an 80-200 zoom lens on a tripod. The lens was set at 120mm. The exposure was 6 seconds @ f/9 ISO 200 and the photo was shot at 6:22 am. The camera was covered with a plastic Ralphs shopping bag to keep off the rain water.

I’d like to share with you all the work and a recent conversation I had with my friend photographer Rodrigo Peña who works in the Palm Springs and Coachella Valley area. Enjoy!

How old were you when you picked up your first camera?

I was 12 years old when my Dad, who was a studio photographer, placed a camera in my hands. I used to help him in the dark room at the age of 4. My first assignment at the age of 12 was to photograph the National Date Festival Parade in Indio back in 1978.

Who had the biggest influence in helping you decide to be a photographer?

My father was always talking about the great Renaissance artists like Michelangelo, Leonardo Da Vinci, Peter Paul Rubens, Titian and also the French Impressionists. I remember sitting on his lap at a young age and we would look at art books.

He would explain the beauty of light in art. This is what developed my eye and my ability to see and appreciate the light that the masters used in their paintings.

Galina Rogacheva, left, and Surfer Joe entertain the crowd with their sea lions while dancing in a conga line at the 63rd Riverside County Fair and National Date Festival in Indio on Friday, February 13, 2009.

And how did you decide on news photography?

In high school I took a photography class. My teacher approached me at the end of the school year and asked if I’d be interested in joining the high school year book staff.

I joined and was fortunate to document several really cool events like winning CIF championships in both girls basketball and girls volleyball.

I traveled out of town and was there to capture everything including all of the emotion involved with winning such coveted titles.

My photography teacher, Don Hay, paved the way for my career by not only suggesting that I get involved with the year book, but also recommending me to the local newspaper who was looking for a part-time photographer.

I worked at the Indio Daily News newspaper for two years while going to junior college.

Megan Moore, 12, a Girl Scout from Hemet, scales a 10-foot-wall with the help of all the people in her group. Some Girl Scouts in the Idyllwild area are working with Boojum Institute to foster teamwork, decision making and leadership skills on Monday, August 11, 2008 at the Idyllwild Pine Camp.

How many years did you work at the Desert Sun? The San Bernardino Sun? The Press-Enterprise?

I worked 8.5 years at the Desert Sun in Palm Springs. I worked 5 years at the San Bernardino Sun after the Desert Sun and finally 6 .5 years at The Press-Enterprise. I also enjoyed 2 years part-time at the Indio Daily News and an internship at the Claremont Courier after I attended UCR.

What genre of news photography did you enjoy the most?

I really enjoy black and white documentary photography. I love the mood that only black and white can convey.

Do you feel photojournalism contests always accurately depict what happened at an event?

Mary Chatigny, 18, a waterpolo player at Palm Springs High School was captured using a Nikon1DH. 1/180 sec @ f3.5 30mm lens.

Some contests are drawn to heavily photoshopped images.

Some photographers are rewarded by staging photos even though they claim the photos are not staged.

But the contests that have a deep meaning and care more about the message than the aesthetic appeal are the ones that I respect the most.

Some contests that look for the different photo don’t always accurately depict what happened at the event.


They might concentrate on a fleeting moment in time where the photographer used their skill to create a unique photo more than document what happened.

Next: Contests, Memorable moments & Other Worldly Advice

Please make Rigo feel welcome by asking your questions under comments everyone. Thanks
Peter Phun Photography

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2 thoughts on “Meet an amazing photographer Rodrigo Peña Part 1”

  1. Phil,
    That picture you mentioned is by Rodrigo Peña, my former colleague. If my guess is correct, he took the picture while under the employ of the Press-Enterprise. You would have to contact the paper for rights to use the picture. Expect to pay since it is copyrighted.

    As far as pictures I’ve taken in Idyllwild, I wish I could help but the ones I have were taken while I was working for the newspaper and they own the rights to the pictures. Feel free to post back or email me if you need more help.

  2. Peter,

    I’m looking for pictures around Idyllwild to use in our web site for the upcoming film festival in January 2012. Love your pic on this page of the girl scout climbing with help behind, as decor for our page asking for festival volunteers.
    Would it be ok with you if we used this image?

    Feel free to point me to any other Idyllwild photos you have. Looking for a great representation of the city to attract audience.

    Thanks so much,

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