I was born in New Hampshire, but my dad was in the Coast Guard so we moved around a lot until I was 3 when my parents settled in the Seattle area. They then divorced soon after that so my life since that has been like a split personality moving from home to home. While growing up I didn’t have a very big fascination with photography, but I was interested in human nature. I had only a couple of friends since I always felt like I might be moving soon so why invest in something that wouldn’t be there soon. During high school I developed a strong interest in becoming an FBI profiler, but I never followed through with that.
Once I graduated high school I got a job at Fred Meyer (local store like WalMart) in the Home Electronics department. From there I moved to Circuit City where I became one of the youngest managers in their company’s history at 20 years old. Then I moved to Office Depot and became a manager and even came up with an idea that saves them an estimated $8-$16 million a year. After an out of work car accident, I had to quit and moved on to Verizon Wireless where I became one of the youngest district managing employees they ever had at 28, but it meant I had to move to Michigan in 2005.
While living in Okemos, Michigan I started to visit sports stadiums and driving all over the USA. I only took a few photographs at each stadium I went to, but I started experiencing new places and discovering new things about each stadium that caught my eye. In February of 2006 I was on one of these trips which took me to Pittsburgh, DC, Charlotte and Atlanta. While in south eastern Georgia I was visiting my grandmother and uncle before I was going to leave for home. My plan was that on my way home to Okemos, MI, I was going to stop and go to my first NASCAR event in Bristol, TN. But I was watching TV and saw that it was 7 months since Katrina had hit New Orleans, so I decided to take all the money i was going to spend in Bristol and drove to New Orleans and handed out water and supplies in the 9th Ward. It was such an emotional event in my life and it was the first time I felt guilty for taking pictures of some of the things I saw. After a year with Verizon Wireless in Michigan, I moved back to the Seattle area. At this point I had been to 42 stadiums in 14 months and my love for sports grew even more, but I had spent almost all of my money so I had to slow down.
On 8/1/06 I was in a local bar with my friend Troy who I had known since 1990 when I moved to Shoreline, WA. We were approached by a cute girl who asked us if we had ever played Texas Hold’em before because she was trying to get a free poker game going and they needed just 2 more players. Troy had played a few times but I had only seen it played on TV. We agreed to play and I got 4th place out of 9. That got me hooked on poker and for the next 5 years I played and grew to a very competitive level. In fact, in just 5 months time I won a seat in the World Series of Poker. Less than 10 months after I started playing the game I was in Las Vegas playing in a tournament with some of the best players in the world. In 2009 I got 1st place in an annual poker tournament which had 320 players in it and I won over $5000.
With my winnings I decided to take my first ever trip abroad. However, I did not have a good camera so my dad lent me his Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ20. While this is not an amazing camera by any means, I did think it would be fun to take a couple snap shots of my experiences. I traveled to 10 countries in 27 days all by myself. I went to London, Sofia (Bulgaria), Thessaloniki (Greece), Skopje (Macedonia), Belgrade (Serbia), Ljubljana (Slovenia), Rome, Vatican City (technically its own country), Marrakech (Morocco), Lisbon (Portugal) and Barcelona (Spain). While planning my trip I made an arrangement with 6 friends I only knew on Facebook to meet them in their country and they would show me around their city. It turned out to be the trip of a lifetime and I definitely fell in love with taking photos while on that adventure. Because of the help of 5 of the friends on that trip I saved over $1700 on expenses so 4 months later I flew to Puerto Rico and took some more photos and I met another online friend there who showed me around.
In 2010 I once again played in the same annual poker tournament, this time with over 350 players and I came out in 1st place again! 🙂 In 2011 with my winnings I decided to travel to some WSOP locations and see if that was the direction I wanted to go with my life, playing poker for a living. I went to Tunica, MS and West Palm Beach, FL and San Diego, CA while playing circuit events. I took more photos than I thought I would, but I did enjoy playing in those tournaments and traveling to a few new places I had never been before. While I was in West Palm Beach I got knocked out of that tourney much earlier than I thought I would so I rented a car and drove down thru the Florida Keys but failed to get to Key West. But I digress… 🙂
Last year I had some poker winnings that I decided to use to take a trip to Ireland and Iceland, but I only took a point and click along with my Panasonic video camera that also took photos. I look back at that trip now and wish I had my camera I have now, but I enjoyed the time and the food so much!
On 3/30/12, a group of roller derby ladies came in to the radio station I work at to volunteer in our pledge room. The radio station is an affiliate and a founding member of NPR. So while they were answering phones for us they asked if I would be willing to come help them set up their banked track at an arena north of Seattle the next day. I thought it sounded like a fun time and I love to volunteer for things so I went and helped. Once it was put together the owner of the league asked if I wanted to come watch the bouts and even could get me in as a photographer. I felt my Lumix would be far too insufficient to use at one of those events, so I went right out and bought my Sony a65. Mind you, I knew nothing about photography really other than the sports stadiums I took photos at and my trips to other countries, so this was a huge investment for me and a large leap forward in technology as well. It was a fun time, even though to sports photography standards the photos weren’t all that great. They were more like artistic shots. When I posted some of the photos I got a wonderful response and it made me feel like I should do some more shooting to see if it was my luck to have just gotten a few cool shots or if I actually had an eye for photography.
Skip ahead to the present date. I have now taken over 170,000 photos and been to lots of sports events in both the US and Canada. I’m getting lots of requests from sports teams and non-profits, but I also have recently been getting requests from privately funded organizations from all over the world. It may sound like I have had very little experience with photography as compared to the decades of work that some have told me it took them to get to where they are. From reading about my past experiences in my work life, I give 125% to anything I do. While I feel I have lots to learn, I feel very honored to be receiving such recognition and rising popularity for my work so far.
I currently shoot with my Sony a65 and I mostly shoot sports events. I am very interested in shooting more landscapes and starting to shoot models. I have been blessed with some pretty cool opportunities in the past 16 months and I hope to share some of them with you, as well as future projects as they happen. Not many people shoot with Sony cameras so I want to share my experiences wtih this brand of camera and hopefully more lenses and accessories as I grow my collection.
Thanks for reading my novel of an introduction. I really just wanted to share more about me and what motivates my photography. Hope you all have a great weekend and shoot some photos. 🙂
Name: Geoff Vlcek
Home: Lynnwood, WA
Camera: Sony a65
Lenses: Sony G-Series 70-200mm f/2.8
Sony 16-50mm f/2.8
Sony 50mm f/1.8
Tamron 70-300mm f/4-5.6
I am mainly a sports photographer who also does some landscapes and lots of long exposure night photography. While I am just starting to shoot more professionally, I have had lots of fun opportunities to shoot cool events.
I hope to continue to learn and share my experiences with others as well as teach the next generation of photographers.