Ian Plant - Dreamscapes

"I sleep, and then there’s photography; that’s about it."

My $100,000 mistake

I bought a Pentax K1000 about twenty years ago. At the time I was in my first year of law school. After I got the camera I realized then that I had just made a huge $100,000 mistake. Not on the camera, mind you, on my legal education.

I was hooked right away, and it very quickly morphed into a hobby. Then, before I knew it, it was a passion, and then once I worked about eight years as a lawyer to pay off my law school debt, it became a career.

Now I just call it a lifestyle. I really can't say that it’s something that I do; it is what I am.


I sleep, and then there’s photography; that’s about it.

There are a lot of times when I’m in the back country, when I’m by myself, and I’m in the wilderness photographing that I really feel alive. I feel connected with the landscape, with nature, with my surroundings, and with my subject matter.

Sharing the experience

I think a lot of people who consume photography are looking for a vicarious experience. They are looking to put themselves in the photographer's shoes.

The picture can bring them a fair portion of the way there, but I think that words can bring them all the way. Words really bring that experience to them.

Visual flow

There are different ways of seeing and explaining how art composition works, but there are no rules.

The rule of thirds is a perfect example. It’s something that I think Kodak basically invented. It’s a nice simplification of other principals, and that’s what makes it so attractive to photographers; it’s easy to use.

You can just look at a scene and mentally divide it into thirds. It’s pretty simple. But there is no magic to it, and it may work every now and then, but it’s not going to work for everything. So, I decided I really wanted to delve deep into the subject and try to uncover some core principles of design, that were informing these rules that people are repeating over and over again, and trying to give people a deeper understanding of what's going on.

>> Visual Flow: Mastering the Art of Composition

Favorite places

In October 2014, I went to Alaska to photograph polar bears. That was incredible. You get out there and you would see as many as 25 or 30 polar bears at a time. It was just amazing.

You get out there on the water, and basically the bears are on this spit of land that sticks out, and the boats can get right up to the bears as they walk along the shore. There was one point I was about ten feet away from a mother and her two cubs, in the boat. It was really incredible being that close to an animal that, if it wanted to, could do a lot of damage to me.

Image over your mantle

One of the images I have [hanging at my house] is one of a mountain gorilla. I photographed the mountain gorilla through a screen of leaves, so I got really close to a bush, and I found a small gap in the leaves. Shooting with wide open aperture and a small telephoto lens, the leaves all blurred out. So I like the image because it’s kind of a mysterious presentation. I wanted to show how mysterious and magical the experience is with these gorillas.

Affect on life

When you put a camera lens in front of your face, when you are creative with exposure and composition, you’re really distorting people’s vision of reality. You’re distorting the real world around you, and you’re showing, hopefully a distortion that’s gonna be artistic and compelling.

To me that is the unique beauty of photography as an art form. It is this ability to take reality and every so slightly twist it to the artist’s whim, and present something that people haven’t seen before.


Push your boundaries. Don’t just shoot what you want to shoot. 

Personally, I try to shoot things that I normally wouldn’t shoot. Even though I’ve primarily been a landscape and wildlife photographer, I now try to push the boundary and do some street photography and travel photography here and there.

I try things that I haven’t done before, because it’s a really great way just to practice your creativity, to hone your creative vision. So I tell people, "Just get behind the camera as much as possible." Whenever you have free time, fuel your passion for photography. Get out there and shoot.

Leave a comment for Ian below. For more of Ian Plant, see IanPlant.com

Watch the complete interview in the video at the top.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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)


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.”


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.


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.


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. 


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.