How did you become interested in landscape photography?
I have always loved the outdoors. With all the time I spent outside, it made sense to get a camera to better document my outdoor adventures. Once I started using my DSLR, I pushed myself to get better photos out of it, and then I sort of became obsessed.
How much research and planning is involved in your photography?
It depends. Sometimes I just have time for a quick drive or hike and have to take advantage of what I stumble upon. That's oftentimes the most fun. But if I have the time, I plan fairly thoroughly, especially if I am travelling a good way to take photos. I note things like the weather, the terrain, and how both of those will affect the light I am working with. I also like to have an idea of which settings may work, which equipment I will need, contingencies in the area in case what I want to shoot isn't working out for whatever reason, and more. It still never quite feels like enough.
What equipment do you typically use when taking pictures?
I try to bring as little gear as possible. I have a Nikon camera, some Nikkor lenses, and one Tamron lens. Other than that all I have is a tripod and a neutral density filter.
What is your approach to editing photos?
I am always striving to reduce the amount of editing I do. My goal is to have an image on the camera I am very satisfied with, and then make small adjustments later. If I spend more than a few minutes on a photo in Lightroom, I seriously reconsider whether it is any good or not.
What are your favorite places to photograph?
I really enjoy the American West. From the mountains in Colorado to the deserts in Arizona and New Mexico, there is so much to see and capture. The National Park Service does a great job keeping many sites out there protected and enjoyable.
What advice would you give to budding photographers?
Focus your attention on your craft and style. There will always be bigger, better, faster, and sharper equipment released after you buy whatever you convince yourself will help you take great photos. If you've mastered composition and light (I haven’t), the gear becomes less important. And don't fall into artistic depression while scrolling through other photographers' work. Look at your own work from a year ago, you'll see improvement.
What in particular do you try to achieve artistically through your pictures?
I try to produce an image that is something I haven’t seen before and stirs some sort of feeling in the viewer. This sounds cliché, but the great photographers do it consistently.
What in particular do you look for when arriving at a location you wish to photograph?
Light. Where it is, what kind it is, and how it is going to change during my time shooting. Then I look for interesting details like a lone tree, an animal, a winding dirt path, etc. I try to be creative and aggressive while not forcing shots that aren’t there. Using the light and conditions given to you is key.
What are your future goals as a photographer?
I want to both push myself to get better, yet not take it all so seriously. This is supposed to be fun! I would like to enter more contests, get published more, etc. But that is secondary to personal improvement and satisfaction.
What are the greatest challenges you face as a photographer?
The hardest thing is balance. I don’t make a full-time income from photography, but I try and judge myself as if I do. At the same time, photography is an escape from some of life’s stressors. Letting it become a stressor is toxic.
Michael became interested in photography about 1.5 years ago. He frequently travels the U.S. and enjoys shooting many styles of photography to include landscape, adventure, wildlife, aviation, and travel. Most of his photography is inspired by his love of the outdoors. He prefers Nikon gear but will use whatever gets the job done. He has no formal photography training.