Friday, August 1, 2008
A New Look At The Landscape
Reimagining the traditional landscape image
The digital revolution not only changed the way many photographers work, it also opened up the medium to a whole new kind of landscape photographer—those who had never considered picking up a camera before. Shane McDermott is one of this new breed, and he makes no bones about digital’s direct spark to his newfound creative passion.
McDermott’s first experience was in 2001, but it wasn’t until 2004 that he again picked up a camera. Life got in the way of what he now sees as his true calling, and he says that in the intervening years, he read OP to continue fueling his fascination. By the summer of 2004, he knew two things: He needed to photograph again, and he needed a new camera. So McDermott invested in a Nikon D-SLR and headed back to Africa, where, this time, he realized that he could utilize his natural photographic talent for a higher purpose.
Says McDermott, “It all started to come together. I was learning photography, participating in something really useful and having a blast. The whole of my interior life has prepared me to see the exterior world in a completely integrated way. I absolutely need to be in nature, in isolation, daily—even if for only a few minutes. It feeds my body, my mind and my soul’s inspirations.”
Listening to McDermott describe his photographic passions, it’s easy to see how his yogic lifestyle—meditative and contemplative yoga, not exercise yoga—has influenced his photographic pursuits. He applies a Zen-like approach to accepting whatever a particular location may provide, and he eagerly uses meditation to help bond with the landscape he’s photographing.
“If I go, wanting to shoot only a waterfall,” McDermott continues, “and there happens to be one there, that’s all I’ll see. If there wasn’t a waterfall, then I’d consider the whole trip a failure. So when I go exploring, it’s a form of meditation and actual yogic practice: Stay completely present and unattached, and what’s really there will reveal itself. Then the remaining challenges are reduced to technical execution.”
Technically, McDermott prefers to keep things simple. He has studied intensely, however, to learn the ins and outs of his technique. From capture to processing to printing, he feels the hands-on approach is crucial to his creative process, and digital makes being hands-on possible.
“My decision to shoot digital was, in large part, based upon my perception that film seemed like so much work,” he says. “And digital seemed so cool and convenient to me. To be completely honest, I wouldn’t even know how to put a roll of film into a camera! I chose to self-learn all the technical skill associated and involved with photography: ƒ-stops, shutter speeds, depth of field, lens selection, flash, etc. It took me at least a year to start feeling somewhat confident with the technical aspects alone. Of course, that’s still being refined daily.”
Originally from Canada and now living in the desert Southwest, McDermott’s creative visions are largely influenced by the locale he now calls home. His success, though, is attributable mostly to the amount of work he has put into photography.
“Photography is something that has taken a huge commitment of time and conscious intention to develop,” he explains. “For the last four years, I’ve shot a whole lot—around 150,000 images. I just now feel I’m starting to scratch through the surface layers of well-known Southwest landscapes. I have almost no desire to shoot at the iconic locations anymore; I really look forward to the adventure and challenge of getting to the unknown or secret locations, of which there are so many. I live in the hub of some of the greatest landscape photography on the planet.”
Regardless of the intended purpose, I never add or remove anything from my images that wasn’t present at the time of capture. To achieve this, I use whatever means are the most powerful, easiest and efficient. If this involves layers, masks or plug-ins, so be it.”
McDermott is full of passion. He hopes to continue his exponential growth in the coming years, both creatively and professionally—if for no other reason than because he can’t seem to put down his camera.
“To say it has been fun would be the understatement of my life,” he says. “I clearly recognize I’m in the infancy of my photography. I’ve mastered no single aspect of it and probably never will. My photographic journey has unfolded swiftly, yet profoundly. I feel I’m being pulled as much as I push. The only thing I feel strongly about is that I’ll still be photographing far into the future. Beyond that, all else is burned in the heat of the present passion I have for nature photography.”
To see more of Shane McDermott’s photography, visit www.wildearthilluminations.com.
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