"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.
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.
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.
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Watch the complete interview in the video at the top.