MITCH - MPG PHOTOGRAPHY
Interview by - Katherine Nielsen: www.katnielsen.com
Mitch is an award-winning landscape and seascape photographer from Sydney. With an amazing blog that offers tutorials in landscape photography and long exposure techniques. I immediately fell in love with Mitch’s work and wanted to know more about his photography journey.
Firstly, can you start with a little bit about yourself?
(Things people don’t know about you)
I am a Sydney-based landscape and seascape photographer. I was born in Sydney but grew up in Hobart, Tasmania. Growing up in a beautiful place like Tasmania has undoubtedly influenced my photography. It is a place that is known for its vast and rugged wilderness. We lived at the base of Mount Wellington and our home backed on to bushland. As a kid I would spend hours playing in the bush, building camps, pretending to run away or thinking I was Indiana Jones. I developed an appreciation of the beauty of Tasmania from a young age and found myself naturally drawn to landscape photography. It wasn’t until later in life that this interest in nature translated and developed into a passion for landscape photography.
When did you first start your photography journey?
In 2007, I went to Canada for five months to work as a camp counsellor looking after kids between the ages of 6 and 11. It was during this trip that I was inspired to purchase my very first Digital SLR - the Canon 400D. I took photos of everything in the natural environment - mountains, lakes, wildlife, flowers, trees, insects, and basically anything. I had no knowledge about composition or the fundamentals of photography, but I just loved the process of taking photos. The camp was located in Kananaskis Country which is in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. It is an incredibly stunning place. During this time, I lived in a cabin during Spring and a tipi during Summer. I’d take the kids hiking, canoeing, and horse riding. This experience was a massive influence with regards to my focus on landscape photography. It was such a simple way of living that allowed for complete connection with the environment.
After an incredible five months in Canada, I returned to Tasmania with a newfound appreciation of the natural beauty it has to offer that I had taken for granted during my adolescent years. When I returned, I began to absorb as much as I could about landscape photography. I started to collect Peter Dombrovskis books, and these were an endless source of inspiration. I photographed weddings and also did some portraiture, but I found I was particularly drawn to landscape photography and specifically long exposure photography.
What equipment do you use and why did you select it?
My camera bag contains - the Canon 5D Mark IV, Canon 16-35mm f/2.8L III, Canon 24-105mm f/4L II, Canon 70-200mm f/4L, Nisi 6 stop ND filter, Nisi 10 stop ND filter, Nisi ND grad filter, and Nisi Natural Night filter. I have a DJI Mavic Pro drone, and I recently purchased an Aquatech underwater housing with various ports. If I could love an inanimate object, it would be my Canon 5D Mark IV. I won this sensational camera as part of a Canon Australia photography competition. In regards to filters, I have used B+W, Lee and I am now using Nisi exclusively. I love the quality, optics and design of the Nisi filter system.
What would you say is your favourite lens and Why?
My favourite lens is my Canon 16-35mm f/2.8L III. It is tack sharp and a sensational piece of glass for landscape photography. The build quality and optics are phenomenal.
When you travel what must have equipment do you take?
When I travel, I will take all of my usual kit as it fits nicely in my Peak Design backpack, however, with the recent addition of my Aquatech gear I might look at having to book extra luggage! Depending on where I am travelling, I will sometimes take a smaller and lighter tripod and reduce my lenses to just my wide angle and my 70-200mm.
What are your most frequently used settings?
My most frequently used settings for landscape and seascape photography is manual mode, ISO between 100-400, an aperture of f/11 and I adjust my shutter speed accordingly depending on what I am shooting and the kind of image I want to create. My settings for wave shots vary depending on if I am shooting from land or in the water. In the water, I have mainly been shooting in shutter priority mode which allows me to set a range for auto ISO and then let the camera determine the appropriate aperture.
What time of day do you prefer to shoot?
My favourite time of day to shoot is sunrise. In my opinion, it is the best way to start the day. Despite having to get up at the crack of dawn or earlier, I feel recharged and rejuvenated after shooting a sunrise.
What inspires your creative vision?
A large amount of my inspiration is simply drawn from the natural environment itself. Whether it is the Northern Lights dancing in the night sky overhead, a raging swell being illuminated by the morning sun, or deep valleys and high mountains that make you feel small - I continually want to create images that showcase such natural beauty.
What methods do you use for editing? Can you explain your workflow?
For editing, I predominantly use Adobe Lightroom and to a lesser extent Adobe Photoshop. I try to minimise the amount of time I spend editing an image. I like to keep it between 3 and 5 minutes per image. I do the bulk of my processing in Lightroom and then use Photoshop for a curves or levels adjustment and colour correction. I primarily use the same editing process for most of my images to have consistency in my images.
Among all your work what is the most memorable moment you have captured?
I think my most memorable moment would have to be the first time I shot the Northern Lights in Iceland. It was the very first night, and I was with one of my oldest friends from school. We were driving along in our camper looking for a place to camp for the night and then we were treated to one of the most incredible displays of natural beauty I’ve ever witnessed. I couldn’t sleep properly that night, and I ended up getting out of bed at 2:00 am to continue to shoot the Northern Lights. This would have to be one of the most memorable moments I’ve captured primarily due to the story and the experiences behind it.
How do you continue to educate yourself to become a better photographer?
I am completely self-taught, and I think in this day and age (that makes me sound old haha) the internet and platforms like Youtube provide so much information and content to assist with becoming a better photographer. Another useful process is to look at the photographs of other photographers that you connect with and ask yourself what it is that makes you connect with it? Is it the subject? Is it something the photographer has done technically? Analysing the images makes you engage with them more and assists with the process of determining what it that you want to achieve with your imagery. I have found that engaging with other photographers on Instagram has also helped me to educate myself by assisting others. This year I have been getting a lot more messages via Instagram asking technical questions, and this enables me to consolidate what I know but also recognise any gaps I have in my knowledge that I can then address. More than anything getting out there and shooting, whether it be solo or with other photographers, is the best way to keep developing your eye and refining your style.
Who are your greatest photography inspirations?
My very first photographic inspiration was Peter Dombrovskis. I was collecting his books while I was at university and they were an endless source of inspiration. If you look at any of his images, he expresses a profoundly emotive connection to the land and environment. He traversed some of the most isolated and remote parts of the Tasmanian wilderness. It was this dedication to bringing the beauty of these locations to the world that helped spread the message of preservation and conservation. I also draw inspiration from incredibly talented individuals I have met on my photography journey. Whether it is at local ocean pools in the middle of winter, while travelling overseas, on social media, or photography events, these encounters have influenced my love of photography.
What is the most memorable country you have visited?
This is going to sound cliche; however, the most memorable country I have visited would have to be Iceland. The landscape is beyond dramatic, and ever-changing. Photographing the Northern Lights was on the top of my list for Iceland, and I was lucky enough to witness them on the very first night and for another four nights after. It is a country like no other that has some of the most incredible landscapes you can imagine. From cloud-filled valleys with volcanoes in the distance, to lava fields to glaciers and even stunning coastal vistas, that place is truly spectacular.
What country are you dying to shoot in but haven’t had the chance?
The country I am dying to shoot is the Faroe Islands. I became aware of the Faroe Islands thanks to the awesome duo from @dkphotographyau, Dale and Karlie. The images that Dale and Karlie have shared on Instagram are truly spectacular. I can’t wait to travel there one day.
What continues to motivate you to produce your work?
I think motivation and inspiration are somewhat interrelated. To be honest, my motivation is somewhat selfish haha. For me, landscape photography is more than just a genre or style of photography it is a creative process that is good for the soul. I shoot a lot of long exposures, and I find this technique (and landscape photography generally) is like a form of meditation. The technique of creating long exposures allows me to slow down, stop and take in the scene around me. The natural elements take on different characteristics when all that is introduced to the equation is time. Water becomes a soft mist like substance that is silky smooth with no hardness or sense of direction. If the conditions are right, the movement of the clouds creates depth and conveys a sense of motion. While taking a long exposure photograph, you can record the way that light has moved across a scene over a period of time. There is an inherent peace and serenity that accompanies long exposure photography. When I depress the shutter and wait for my image to be created, I get to absorb myself in that moment. I can watch the light change, the clouds move and the swell shift.
You recently purchased a water housing for your camera how different is it shooting in the ocean?
It is like learning to walk all over again. Haha. Honestly, it reminds me of what photography was like when I first started learning the craft of landscape photography. Even if I don’t come away from an ocean session with any keepers, I still love the process of learning and just being in the ocean. It is a new creative outlet and process that I am very excited to learn and explore.
Lastly, what is one piece of advice you would give someone starting out in photography?
Excellent question. I will apologise in advance that this is more than one piece of advice. Sorry! Firstly, I think I will answer this in the context of social media as it is something that permeates our lives for better or for worse. One of the best things I did for my photography was to stop focussing on the statistics and the numbers and to focus on my craft and engaging with others. Don’t be worried or concerned about how many followers you have or how many likes and comments you get. If you are starting out in photography, then your time and energy are best focused on learning the fundamentals of photography and becoming a better photographer. In addition, get out there and shoot as much as you can because it is the best way to keep developing your eye and creating and discovering your style. Remember to enjoy the process and shoot what you are passionate about not what you think other people will like. Lastly, a form of mantra which was shared with me by an incredibly talented, award-winning, iconic and highly regarded professional photographer is - look, see, listen, capture, interpret and express. Each of these will mean something different for each person, but by following these steps, you begin making conscious decisions about your photography.
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