Landscape Photography Mentoring

Landscape photographer Scott Reither stood with NFL player Brandin Cooks by a waterfall.
Hawaii-based fine art landscape photographer, Scott Reither, shares his experience of mentoring NFL player Brandin Cooks in fine art landscape photography. This article was first featured in Issue 42 of Light & Landscape.

LL - Describe your photography career to date.

SR - My landscape photography career began first with the realization, “This is what I want to do with my life!” That came on the heels of a 6-month long journey through Asia and the adventure of a lifetime! I had found my calling and I began to rearrange my life to put photography at its center. That was 20 years ago.

Since then, I went from first exhibiting and selling matted prints for $75 to tourists at local art fairs on weekends; to working for famous photographers in high-end fine art galleries selling $10k a day as an art consultant; to eventually debuting my own artwork as a “professional” alongside landscape legends and holding my own; to numerous international awards, exhibits and so on. For the past 10 years, I have exhibited my works as an Artist-in-Residence at the prestigious Four Seasons Resort Wailea here on Maui where I am blessed to be able to gain collectors like Brandin Cooks.

NFL player Brandin Cooks practicing landscape photography by a stream in a forest.

LL - Tell us about Brandin Cooks and how he came into your life?

SR - Brandin Cooks is one of the fiercest players in the NFL - and only one of four in the league’s history to record at least 3 seasons of 1000 receiving yards and 7 touchdowns before his 25th birthday. He played last year in the Super Bowl for the Patriots. This year, he’s helping the Los Angeles Rams to a 10-1 start. He’s a superstar! But, I didn’t know any of that when we first met! He was just a cool guy that I met while I was exhibiting my work. He resonated with my photography and my message and the dialogue began.

He purchased a couple of pieces and became a collector. I figured that might be it. But as time passed, we kept an exchange going and would text each other here and there. Then I saw on Instagram that he was getting into landscape photography - he had purchased a Leica, was getting out and shooting at times and places non-photographers don’t. I could see he was getting the bug. At some point, I suggested he come back out to Maui and work with me and I’d teach him and get him going in the right direction.

Landscape photography mentoree, Brandin Cooks wading through a stream with his tripod and camera backpack.

LL - Tell us about the mentoring experience for both you and Brandin.

SR - He came back out to Maui and we worked together for a couple of days. I have been teaching workshops one-on-one with participants since 2013 and have worked with over 250 photographers, so I had a good “process” of teaching worked out and I guided him through it. First working through a detailed presentation/discussion period, then later in-the-field work. I was so impressed with how quickly he picked it all up and remember thinking it must be part of what makes him an elite athlete - quickly being able to digest new information (like plays) and apply them effectively.

After a couple of days together, Brandin went on to photograph in New Zealand. It was his first time international and he was so excited for the trip and for the opportunity to photograph on his travels. I was flashing back to my first trip and when it all began for me and I felt even more connected to him, fully understanding the excitement he was feeling and how the camera enhances the experience.

Throughout our conversations, Brandin mentioned “mentors” and credited them for much of his success as an athlete, and as a man. This really had an impact on me in a couple of ways. On one level, it made me recognize that I never really had someone I’d call a mentor and looking back through my life, I’m sure could have used them! Internally, I half-joked with myself and pictured a mentor saying to my younger self: Don’t do that. No, don’t do that either. Nope, don’t do that. Lol.

Anyways, I acknowledged what a great strength it is of Brandin’s to be open and available to mentoring. On another level, I had been contemplating a “mentoring series” workshop where participants and I delve much deeper into the photographic process than is available in one or two days. A sort of deep dive into the process over an extended period.

In short, I discussed this all with Brandin and began to create a “Mentoring Workshop” around our experience together. A month later, I fly to Oregon to work with him for a few more days, and the exchange continues today a year later. Since this time, I have made manifest this vision, have Mentoring Series Workshops available to participants, and am working with others in a year-long format that provides a more personalized level of instruction.

NFL player and landscape photography mentoree, Brandin Cooks behind his camera and tripod.

LL - How has mentoring Brandin affected you both personally and as a professional photographer and educator?

SR - Sometimes it is clear to see that events in our lives unfold and happen and the timing of it is impeccable, and optimally suited for our life at that time. In many ways, this was the case with Brandin coming into my life. I had lost someone very special a year earlier and was still in a deep state of grief and having a lot of trouble moving forward. I was in a deep funk.

As a sports fan, the excitement of gaining a superstar elite athlete as a collector of my work was a thrill. But by itself, that thrill would have been short-lived. Having the opportunity to then form a relationship and get to know Brandin and spend time with him and see the aspects to his personality and behaviour that makes him one of the best athletes in the world - it’s eye-opening. And, very motivating. He’s an impressive guy with infectious positive energy.

Brandin coming into my world when he did, as a guy that’s grounded, centered, and full of positivity and enthusiasm, has had a profound effect on me. It helped me to move forward out of the funk and get my ass in gear again. It’s been a blessing to become friends with him and I am grateful that landscape photography continues to have this power connecting me with the world.

NFL player, Brandin Cooks shooting landscape photography on some rocks by a stream.

LL - What could a potential mentoree expect from a One Year Mentorship with Scott Reither?

SR - To answer this as fully as I would like, I would ask you to visit my website to read about the Mentoring Workshops there, where I am able to go into much more detail and depth and offer a true sense of what the experience will be like. But, in short, the program begins with a several day private workshop and continues with a yearlong exchange - all of which is customizable to each participant - with the goal for participants to gain a clearer, more insightful understanding of how to master their own photographic language.

Landscape photography mentoree, Brandin Cooks climbing some rocks by a stream.

LL - What other future plans are in the pipeline for Scott Reither?

SR - I will continue to travel and photograph and refine my collection of works. I will delve deeper into the process, into the discovery, into the message. I will learn and grow and evolve and understand this life and self more for having participated in this practice. I will share this voice with the world through my art and assist other landscape photographers in finding their own personal voice and discovering how best to express it. That’s it for now!

A bio photo of landscape photographer Scott Reither.
Award winning photographer creates high end large format photographs for designers and collector’s luxury homes and a leading educator of photo workshops.