Snowshoeing in Paradise Valley, Mt. Rainier National Park, Washington State.
“In any given location, I’ll see things, and say, ‘Oh, I think that will make a good landscape photo,’” Matera says. “If I’m shooting a sports shot, maybe I don’t have time to shoot that now, but I put a little note in the back of my head to go back to that location specifically to shoot a landscape photo and have something in mind.”
Reflecting on the diversity in the Northwest landscape, coupled with the changing weather and varied terrain, Matera reconsiders his idea that landscape photography is a truly solitary pursuit. In fact, he says, it also requires a kind of cooperation akin to his work with models and athletes.
“Both the landscape and the sports stuff is a collaboration,” he says. “The collaboration in the landscape is between me and the landscape. And if the landscape is contributing something new and dynamic, that sparks creativity in me. Something in your head pops. There’s a thread: Let me pull that and see where it goes.”
Travel Footprint Stephen Matera on shooting close to home
I shoot a lot near my home whenever possible. One of the things I grapple with on a personal level is that this kind of photography does require travel. As somebody who tries to live in an environmental way, travel is one of the hardest things for the environment. It’s one of the reasons I like to shoot close to home. It’s something I struggle with—to run my business in an environmental way, to minimize my impact.
I think it’s something photographers don’t spend enough time thinking about, especially landscape photographers. One of the reasons we do what we do is because we’re drawn to these locations, and we love them, we’re passionate about them; and yet the simple act of going to photograph them has an impact on these places that’s making it harder for future generations to do the same thing. We’re changing our world in unintended ways, and I think it’s something we need to be aware of. I’m not trying to judge people, just to raise awareness.
I don’t have the answer. On a personal level, I drive a hybrid car whenever I can and I take that to locations, and that’s a big step. But that’s a small part of it. My hope is just to further the conversation.
Above: Balsam root and ponderosa pine in spring, Buck Mountain, Methow Valley, Washington State.
Matera usually doesn’t use the same equipment for sports-action as he does for his landscape work. For fast action, he finds a Canon EOS-1D Mark III necessary for the focusing and processing speed. For landscapes and slower-moving action—like climbing or hiking—his EOS 5D Mark II is plenty fast, and it provides higher resolution than he ever would have achieved in his 35mm-film days.