David Muench - Legendary Landscape Photographer

I’m alive most when I’m out photographing either deep in canyons of mother earth or up on the tops of peaks.

>>> Click image above to see David's interview.

My first camera was an Ikoflex. I started in black and white. Then, it developed into color, of course, and then I went to a Linhof 4x5 large format. My earliest photo was taken in 1953. It’s a black and white from up on Hunt’s Mesa in Monument Valley.

Early influences

Coming out of art center school of design in Los Angles, I was really touched by many of the stars like Brett Weston, Ernst Haas in color, Cartier Bresson with 35mm, and of course Ansel set the pace for photography.

Drama

What’s most exciting for me is working the edges between seasons—running winter snow well into spring with flowers below. Working the Autumn coloring, and beautiful trees.

Going into the winter season, these changes and the edges have been the most fascinating. And of course, the brooding moods, the great moods and the drama. Most all the time is always in pursuit of that next drama.

Light

It always comes around to light. The real finishing touch is working with the light. I love sidelight, backlight. The one I really enjoy the most is ambient light now—quieter light, wet light.

When it rains for instance, or you’re in a fog. I just love fog work. Working in the fog everything changes. You get mystery. Magic comes to it, and that’s where the ambient light is.

Its not contrasty, and I love the subtlety. You can work with details. You get form, which you have to place and work with light and shade, so that it’s agreeable or enjoyable at least. You get a harmony in the image.

I’m always chasing rainbows—always chasing. I won’t quit until I drop.

Favorite places

One of my favorites is Big Bend National Park in Texas—its rock, deserts, plant life, animal life. It’s very wild, and you get a sense of wildness. It’s beautiful. I love to get the feeling of harmony in there.

There are the bristlecone locations. I love the airy quality between sky and earth with the trees reaching up in between, they really touch on both of them. I mean, even the earth around the root systems is exposed.

The root systems are exposed, and yet the top of the tree is alive and reaching into the sky.

Affect on life

It really has brought us all together. It has occupied much of our lives. With Marc for instance, they went on trips with me, just like I did with my dad and mom. By osmosis, ya know, he picked it up and has become very good.

"Embrace" Great Basin National Park

"Embrace" Great Basin National Park

Favorite image

I have one entitled, 'Embrace.' It's of two bristlecone trunks up on Great Basin National Park. That one just brings tears to my eyes, because the trees talk to me.

You can feel the weather. Not just weather. It's much stronger than that. The elements are just battering these trees, and then the backside is alive. This to me is just unparalleled.

Advice

Pay attention to what you respond to personally.

'What am I seeing? What am I thinking about? What is the value of why I am doing it?' And see what you can come up with.

Let light be a guide.

Why?

It’s part of me. It is my connection to something I love, and has been part of me from inheritance. I’m a complete addict.

It's been a life way, totally. It still is and will be for quite a while. As long as I can hold up!

Leave a comment for David below. For more of David Muench, see DavidMuenchPhotography.com 

Watch the complete interview in the video at the top.

Look for David's "Best Of" teaching coming to the ALIVE Photo online classroom in 2016.

Ron Rosenstock - I see in light reflectance values

First camera

The Brownie Target 620. It was roll film. You know, a little box you looked down into, and you could see straight ahead.

[My passion] grew over time. I kept on having fairly profound experiences

Profound experience

I didn’t know who Edward Weston was. I went to the museum. I just walked around a corner and saw Edward Weston’s photograph of a cabbage leaf on a wall. Without even thinking, I swear this leaf took a breath. It seemed to expand... like a lung.

I was frozen to the spot. It was one of those conscious moments. There was something that came from Edward Weston, to his image, to me.

It changed the course of my life.

ALIVE

It’s been over 50 years of being seriously involved in photography. I eat, sleep, everything. I mean, I have dreams about it.

Affect on life

I can see light reflectance values. I see contrast where people see subject matter. Honestly, I see subject matter second. First I see the density of the shadows cast by light.

I see differently.

Advice

If someone loves photography, they should know in their heart that they can do it. Never to question, “Can I do it?” Photography is not a competitive sport. There are a lot of organizations where they sort of compete. That is not my thing, at all.

It’s a path for personal growth. That’s what photography is. It’s discovering who you really are.

Leave a comment for Ron below. Experience more of his work at RonRosenstock.com

Learn directly from Ron at home via his newly released course HERE on ALIVE Photo.

Watch the complete interview in the video at the top.

Roy Toft - My approach is what got him out of the water!

As I approached the water hole, we have WET footprints coming out of the water hole. It’s 120-degrees, you know… blow dryer to your face. Wet footprints don’t last long! My approach is what got him out of the water… (see video for full story)

BACKGROUND

I was working at the Wild Animal Park here in San Diego. I spent seven years doing educational bird shows. Any chance I got a break, I’d be running around the zoo with my camera trying to make images that were compelling and interesting, even though they were captive animals.

A biologist who worked in the Wild Animal Park was going on expedition in Borneo. He asked for me to come along on the expedition. And that was the impetus for me to say, “I have to quit this 9-5 and give it a shot.”

AFFECT ON FAMILY

You’ve really got to appreciate those people in your life who will let you do your passion. My parents weren’t into wildlife when I was a kid...

[More recently] My mom was getting sick… She’s been kind of housebound for the last couple of years. I wanted to give her something to get excited about.

I put up a barn owl box at her house. With a video camera. Three days after I put the box up, she had the first owl in there. She started journaling. It wasn’t just watching the owls. She would document EVERYTHING the owls did. Nine days after that first owl showed up, it got a mate. And two weeks after that, they’re laying eggs.

It just gives us something to bond us. We can talk about something. And it’s getting harder to talk to her.

PASSION FOR THE OSA PENINSULA

It pretty quickly turned into an obsession. I stopped going everywhere else in Costa Rica, and I’d just go straight to the Osa. About 10 years ago, I was approached by some people in the Osa who said, “Man, you’ve been coming down here so long, and doing such good work, why don’t you do a book?”

Six years later, I came out with the Osa book. It’s something I’m really proud of. But more important than me being proud of it, the people who have lived in the Osa their whole life are proud of it.

TURNING POINT

It was the mid-90’s. 

I wrote Nick Nichols a letter two years after I had assisted him on a "New Zoos" story for National Geographic while I was working at the Wild Animal Park. 

It just happened that I was at the right place at the right time, because he had just proposed to Nat Geo to do a wild tigers story. (see video at the top for full story)

Nick’s drive is legendary. 4am everyday until it’s dark. Seven days a week. This is how it’s done. 

ADVICE

Find something in your backyard that you can really spend quality time with. Get in depth imagery. Anything where you can get volume, and all aspects of that animal or habitat... That’s a story!

Please leave a comment for Roy below. Experience more of Roy's work at ToftPhoto.com or learn directly from Roy in Botswana via his newly released course HERE on ALIVE Photo.

Watch the complete interview in the video at the top.

Ian Shive - ALIVE in America's National Parks

I’ve been very fortunate to work on America’s National Parks very closely for 8 or 9 years.

More recently, I love photographing in the Channel Islands [National Park], because it’s so close to home. I live in Los Angeles now. To have a National Park only 30 miles off the coastline is incredible. It provides the best of two worlds—both underwater as well as on land. It’s great, because it’s so rugged and remote.

Childhood

I grew up as the son of a photographer. I worked as my father’s assistant many times, back in the film days. I learned the appreciation of the quality of light—waiting for the light of the building to match the brightness of the sky. There are a lot of little details like that, when I think back on it, that had to play some role in my future as a photographer and working in the photo industry.

The Spark

It wasn’t really until I left New Jersey, and I went to college in Montana—briefly I’ll add—that I got my first 35mm camera. It was a film camera. You know, that’s the stuff with the little squares and celluloid [laughs].

I remember being awestruck with how different the place was from where I grew up in New Jersey. I went to school 90 miles North of Yellowstone National Park. It was a very dynamic time. Wolves had just been reintroduced. I remember wanting to capture that and share it with my friends and family back home.

The photos did not initially do [the experience] the justice I wanted them to. I felt like they captured the scene in a very literal sense, but they didn’t really capture the feeling, or the experience that I was having as an individual.

In that moment, I think the correct path of photography was generated. Not just to go out and capture something because you think this is a pretty spot or other people have done it before. But rather, to share an experience.

I set out to try and get my photos to capture what it was that I wanted to convey. And that is the journey that I’m still on to this day.

Genesis

It was around 1999 or 2000 that I registered my first domain name. I started to get feedback and comments from people I didn’t know. That was really the genesis, I think, of [my professional] photographic journey.

Affect on life

I’ve been to over three dozen countries, all 50 states, and I don’t just go to places people would think of going. When I go to Louisiana, I don’t go to New Orleans; I get to go to Northern Louisiana where nobody really goes and see what life is like.

Aside from the images, what I don’t think people realize is there’s an entire story behind the photographer and their experience. I often refer to my photographs as not being simply photographs but really journal entries, thoughts or feelings or places that struck me.

Advice

When you start out, don’t think so much about the sharing or the business, but develop the craft, give yourself time, and be brutally honest. Compare yourself to those you admire and those whom you look up to. Try to figure out who you are as a photographer.

Please leave a comment for Ian below. Experience more of Ian's work at IanShive.com

Watch the complete interview in the video at the top.