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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Two Shots, One Place

Location! Location! Location! Scouting for nature and sports scenics, multifaceted photographer Stephen Matera sees a landscape as an opportunity for a variety of distinctly different images

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Stephen Matera is the quintessential outdoor photographer. He shoots action sports—like kayaking, skiing and mountain biking—and he’s also an accomplished landscape photographer, capturing both big, beautiful scenic vistas and intimate views of the land in which he spends so much time. He’s obviously a versatile and talented photographer, but what’s perhaps most intriguing is the variety of images he’s able to make in a single location. Matera shoots landscapes and sports, sometimes simultaneously, because he has to. He loves both ways of shooting.

Camping below Fjallsjokull, Skaftafell National Park, Iceland.

Sandstone buttes, cloud and sagebrush at sunset, Arches National Park, Utah.

Mountain biking through the spring balsamroot on Buck Mountain, Methow Valley, Washington State.

“There’s a satisfaction I get from each one that the other can’t provide,” Matera says. “The sports—I enjoy participating in them so I like shooting them. The thing about landscapes that I really like is that it’s a different kind of process. It’s a much slower process, a much more thoughtful process in the sense that you’re staying in one location for hours on end. Sitting in one place like that is a Zen thing. But also there’s a satisfaction that comes from a landscape photo that I can’t get from a sports photo—it’s all me as part of the creative process. The sports stuff is a collaborative process; there’s a certain amount of it that’s out of my control, that’s dependent on the athlete or the model. Whereas the landscape work is entirely me. The success or failure of the photo is [dependent] on my creativity and thought process, so when something works, there’s more personal satisfaction because I can take full responsibility, or blame, for it.”

Efficient though it may be, photographing sports and landscapes at one location isn’t as easy as it sounds. On occasion, Matera is able to “double-dip” and make great landscapes while he’s out shooting action, and the reverse also is occasionally true. Often, though, he uses one as a way to improve the other—treating a sports shoot as location scouting for landscapes, and vice versa.


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