The Consummate Professional – Q&A with Jose Leon Castillo III

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I’ve bumped into Jose Castillo at almost every single event I’ve ever attended (but don’t worry, I didn’t interfere with his shots).  He can be seen everywhere inNew Mexico and his work testifies to the fact that he really is everywhere.  He is well known for being one of the most professional and talented people you will meet.  He takes great shots and works hard to make friends and meet deadlines.  I’ve never heard an ill word come out of Jose’s mouth and count ourselves lucky to be able to share his work, from time to time, with our readers.  Jose graciously took a few minutes to answer our questions.  Here’s what he had to say:

How did you get your start in photography & why did you choose to get into combat sports photography and how long have you been a photographer?

   When I was a kid my architect uncle was a photographer but it all really started 22 years ago when I attended a forensic training program while working for the Sheriff’s Department. I was hooked since then. I went on to be a private investigator documenting thousands of hours of long distance low light surveillances. Combat sports photography is similar for me, so tracking fast moving subjects in low light situations comes naturally.

The term “photographer” is such an ambiguous over rated term, any yokel with an iPhone & Photoshop seems to be a photographer these days. 22 years now, I’ve been freelancing for for about a year and a half.


What was your first equipment purchase?

   A Nikon FM2 with kit lenses in 1989.


If money wasn’t an issue, what equipment would you own?

   I currently use Nikon D3/700 bodies with fast pro glass ranging from 14mm – 200mm for fight sports. But if I could, I would use my current studio Canon 1Ds Mark III to supplement a Hasselblad H4D-60 with prime glass, & a dual Profoto Pro-8a 2400 Air 6 point lighting system for studio projects (if money wasn’t an issue, of course).


Where/How did you learn the art?

   Two parts to consider: I learned the technical aspect through years of documentary surveillance. I learned the artistic side by interning several years with wedding photographer Kevin Dooley of Kevin’s Photography. In the transition every one mocked me. They said: “Jose, for the last fifteen years you’ve been a divorce photographer, & now you want to be a wedding photographer? What gives?” Several great friends like Jesse Hesch who is an art major and brilliant photographer inspires me with honest critiques on my art work and project direction. The rest I picked up along the way from observing great photographers, attending workshops and reading.


What keeps you coming back to the events and taking shots?

   Sometimes I wonder… Mainly the positive feedback from Am to Pro fighters. The historical value of photo reportage is paramount; hopefully a single image can inspire young hopefuls to be high achievers.


What is your favorite aspect of shooting action photography?

   The action of course! There is a moment when everything aligns, the action and camera shutter become one and I am in my zone.


What is your least favorite aspect?

   Politics and the slew of sloppy amateur “photographers” who bump elbows and get in your line of view flaking up your shots.


Whose work do you admire/try to emulate when you shoot?

   Action photographers: Ed Mulholland, Chris Cozzone & Chris Farina

   Everyone else: George Hurrell, Zack Arias, Dustin Snipes, John Harrington & David Hobby


Do you have a favorite photo or experience?

   The next one, but it’s all relative isn’t it?


Anything else?

   Fighters and promoters: I respect the fact that you have worked hard and invested your time sweat and tears to develop your craft. But please, reciprocate the respect to those photographers who take the images that get used. If a license purchase isn’t possible, at least credit the photographer with a byline before swiping and using the images frivolously. We photographers work hard to perfect our craft too, we invest money and time on proper equipment and training to keep us sharp and for most of us, this is how we make a living.

   Up and coming photographers: You have to have a love for this type of work because there is little recognition or money in this field to start. Your photos will be used, chopped, illustrated and reused without your permission. But I think it is a rite of succession to making a name for your self as a photographer. Besides if we didn’t do it, who would?

   Thanks Heath for this recognition, that’s my two cents…

How can people contact you?