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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Off The Beaten Path


Third-generation landscape photographer Marc Muench talks about his career, his latest book and what drives him

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Sunset at Gaviota Coast, Santa Barbara County, California. Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III, Canon TS-E 17mm ƒ/4 L, Really Right Stuff tripod with BH-40 ballhead
The second part of the book is divided into eight lessons designed to help readers understand how Marc creates images that are so technically strong and emotionally appealing. Basics such as lighting and digital workflow are covered along with details on panoramic images and HDR. The lessons are laid out in logical, step-by-step fashion. They’re easy to follow, understand and apply. For Marc, the most challenging part of postproduction work may be how quickly software changes these days and the effort to stay on top of it. Just since the book came out, he has switched from using Bridge for his editing work to Lightroom. He says the databases in Lightroom make it easier to find and access images.

Marc’s reasons for doing the book stemmed from the many friends and workshop attendees who kept hounding him to write down all of his wisdom and experiences. How-to books are challenging to do well, but many top photographers, including the late Ansel Adams, do them because they feel strongly about sharing what they know about taking great photographs with others. In the digital age, the task is even tougher because technology changes so quickly, and that, in turn, alters how images are produced from capture to print.

As far as influences outside of his family, Marc credits Galen Rowell and his work in the Himalayas as inspiring him to shoot mountaineering, Chris Noble’s skiing and snowboarding work, and Ansel Adams for the amount of time he took to create exceptional imagery. A few portrait photographers have influenced him, as well. With landscape photography, it often seems like everywhere worth shooting has been, and repeatedly. But this doesn’t mean there’s nowhere left to document.

“If you fly over just one part of this continent, you realize how much land there is and how many little places are out there yet to be discovered,” says Marc. “Once you get outside of Yosemite and Monument Valley, there’s a plethora of places. And it can be as simple as getting out, turning a corner, and all of a sudden you’re staring at some amazing rock formation. Fly from Seattle to Alaska, and there’s nothing but island after island, fjord after fjord.”

These days, making a living in this industry is a challenge, to say the least. But Marc encourages anyone with the drive and the willingness to fully commit to get out there and do it. He says that becoming successful as a landscape photographer comes down to sheer volume.

“It’s really a numbers game,” says Marc. “If you take a great landscape, it could win a landscape photo contest and you’d get fame and acknowledgement. But there aren’t companies that are going to do that for you because it’s landscape. You have to go and photograph thousands of those. One is not enough. Ten is not enough. Hundreds are not enough. You have to be very productive. It all comes down to how much you love it. It really is like golf. This gets forgotten. How much time do you practice? Landscape photography, as a business, requires you to be out there a lot.”

Marc Muench has been a professional landscape and sports photographer for more than 20 years. His photographs have appeared in TIME, National Geographic, Ski, Skiing, Sunset, Outside and Sierra Magazine, among other publications, and like his grandfather, in Arizona Highways. See more of Muench’s work at www.muenchphotography.com.

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