PrintedArt.com Interview: Brad Mitchell
Art & Design
When and how did you start practicing photography? I have used cameras since I was a little kid, but bought my first SLR, a Konica FT-1, when I was 14. My father showed me how to roll my own film canisters and I learned basic photography and darkroom techniques at school.
I enjoyed photographing my adventures in Washington’s Cascade Mountains and just generally playing around with photography. Then, in 1996, my wife and I went on a 13-day backpacking trip through the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.
I was totally blown away by the beauty of the place. Big open landscapes, wildlife everywhere, vast fields of wildflowers and hours of magic light as the sun ran low on the northern horizon.I became totally inspired to take up photography more seriously, to find ways of capturing such moments and experiences.
By then, the Konica camera line had ceased production as they merged with Minolta. So I started purchasing Canon equipment and started to really study the art and science of photography through books, workshops, community college courses and practice in the field.
What type of camera do you use and why? I’m using a Canon 5D Mark II. I love this camera for its low-noise images and full-frame sensor, particularly since I shoot a lot of wide angle landscapes. I’ve picked up quite a few lenses over the years, but my standard kit includes the Canon 16-35mm f/2.8L, 24-105mm f/4L IS and 70-200mm f/4L IS. I also just bought the Canon 17mm f/4 TS-E tilt-shift lens, which I anticipate will become a favorite for landscape work. I actually look forward to manual focus along with depth of field focusing marks printed right on the lens for my landscape work.
How would you define your style? Do you focus on particular subject matters? I absolutely love exploring the outdoors. Living in Washington State, I have rugged coast, thick old growth forests, two mountain ranges and desert environments all within 2 hours of home. I am most naturally myself when exploring the outdoors and the back roads. And my photography aims to capture the moments I experience out there in a clean and easy to read style, but also with each image telling part of a greater story about the bigger subject or place. So while I am looking for the big landscape views, I am also looking for action and the intimate details that fill out the bigger story.
What or who are your inspirations? I’m primarily motivated by the vast diversity to be discovered in the natural world, as well as the act of discovery itself. Natural forces have created a world so rich in diversity, it just astounds me. I am constantly driven to go to new places and to see what can be found around the next corner. I have also been inspired by the landscape photography of David Muench, the mountain adventures of Galen Rowell and Gordon Wiltsie, the natural history artistry of Arte Wolfe and Frans Lanting and the story-telling travel photography of Nevada Wier and Bob Krist. I study these masters through their books, blogs, websites and workshops.
Do you have a dream subject or location that you would love to shoot?I have so many subjects and locations that I would love to shoot … unfortunately, more than I can ever shoot in a lifetime. At the top of my list would be the Bhutan’s Snowman Trek, life on the steppes of Mongolia and a return to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. I am totally drawn to these big open landscapes.
Where can the majority of your work be seen? Beyond the limited edition prints available here at PrintedArt, you can see more of my work online at www.bradmitchellphoto.com and get a peek behind the scenes via my new blog at www.bradmitchellphoto.com/blog.
Some of your photographs of water, such as Multnomah Falls, have a very painterly quality. What is your technique for photographing water as it appears in nature? The painterly effect is achieved by using long shutter speeds, often on the order of one to ten seconds, combined with soft overcast light. I’m often shooting at ISO 100 and through a polarizing filter under overcast skies, so the effect is pretty easy to achieve by adjusting the aperture until I get the multi-second exposure that I am looking for to blur the water.
Living in Washington, you have access to some amazing places of natural beauty. Do you find yourself going back to some places over and over again, or do you tend to explore? Both. Washington State is an awesome place to photograph and I am lucky to have lived here my whole life. Yes, I make repeat trips to the same places. This allows me to keep working on a subject in various weather and lighting conditions. Variation in weather and light creates entirely different moods. I go to Mount Rainier National Park at least once, if not three or four times every year, for example. There is always variation in weather, wildlife and wildflower distribution and I can always find new and interesting compositions. I usually visit the Skagit Valley a few times every spring to shoot the daffodil, tulip and iris fields. But I also explore new places in Washington State all the time as well. There is a lifetime of discovery here, and I simply can’t help but to delve into new places.
There are some great photos in the PrintedArt collection that you took in Amsterdam. What is it like to step away from nature and landscape photography and work in an urban environment? It is still all adventure and discovery to me. I love walking around, using my eyes and discovering what there is to see, whether it is in the mountains or in the urban jungle. I think that really sums up my approach: go to places with great visual potential, move around, pay attention to what my eye is drawn to, try to consciously figure out why my eye is drawn there, and capture that with the camera. This approach works in the city just as well as it does in the more natural world.
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