Everyone needs to read Marks advice for going pro. I was actually considering writing about it next week but I think Mark summed pretty well. Enjoy, comment and share 🙂
Tell us a little about yourself?
My name is Mark Metternich and I am a Professional Landscape Photographer based out of Las Vegas, Nevada and Portland, Oregon, USA. I spend most of my time (about 250+ days this year) on the road photographing, scouting, teaching and leading a diverse array of epic scenic landscape tours and workshops all across the western US, as well as other exotic locations. I am a Master Gallery Print maker and Imaging Specialist, who enjoys teaching as much as I enjoy producing fine art. My limited edition, fine art landscape prints are sold to individuals, fine art galleries, businesses and organizations around the US and abroad. My primary motive is a profound awe and respect for the beauty of creation; and a deep sense of gratitude to be able to witness it, experience it, and photograph it.
What made you get into photography?
My father was and is a world class alpine mountaineer who literally took me all over the wild throughout my childhood; including numerous climbs to the peaks of several mountains. As a serious climber and hobbyist nature photographer, he was always taking pictures, and taught me a respect for the craft at a very early age. When I was around 9 or 10 years old, and in the hospital recovering from having my tonsils removed, my dad gave me a small pocket camera and some black and white film. The first time I was able to cut loose and use it I was immediately hooked! In my early 30’s, during a time of soul searching, as I was giving up a potential career in music, I took to the camera again just for fun. I began shooting landscapes in my local area and soon was shooting landscape on a much more serious basis. At that same time I got into a car accident, and although it was unfortunate it seemed all the pieces for me to begin venturing more and more into photography were coming into place, as by coincidence, at the same time, I was given Photoshop from my father-in-law. With a small check for funds and living in what some consider the mecca of landscape, I took to the state photographing with a fervor. One thing led to another and before long I felt a peace about the possibility of this becoming a new career path. I have never turned back.
How did you get started?
My wife and I chose to live less excessively (we don’t have kids – except the kids we help support in Africa) and I worked for about 4 years as a school bus driver (and taught photography/Photoshop skills on the side). This allowed me to save my pennies, and because the school bus job was only 30 hours a week I had extra time and it allowed me spring break, my entire summers off and every fall and winter holiday off. I spent every waking moment outside of the job either practicing my shooting or working on my Photoshop skills. With Oregon, there is an unbelievable amount of true world class locations to pick and choose from all over the state, everything almost always within 30 minutes to a few hours away. My wife’s incredible encouragement and support must be mentioned. Without her additional strength I would not have made it. Lastly I’d like to mention Ken Duncan, Australia’s premier panorama Landscape Photographer. I caught a great break and became friends with him via email communications, and eventually was invited to Australia for a short time to accompany him on one of his tours. He was a great mentor to me and my future business endeavors. Many things he taught me have remained prominent in my mind and are still helping me today. Everyone needs a mentor!
What sort of photography do you mainly do?
I am completely dedicated to landscape. I gravitate toward the surreal, the epic and dramatic, or scenes that bring a sense of mystery or peace. I try to capture images that point beyond us and hopefully help some people think more about the bigger picture. I believe nature communicates to all of us something way beyond ourselves, if people will listen. My humble desire is to be able to capture some of that, maybe hint at it, but not interpret it too much. Let people discover for themselves the truth and the mystery that I believe is being communicated to us daily. I also like long exposure work, where the images look more like paintings than your typical hard snapshots. In a word, I thrive on seeking out what I like to call “wild light.”
What gear are you using?
Pretty much whatever tool works best for the situation. I’m mainly a Canon DSLR shooter (Canon 5DMark2) but have used almost everything from 35mm film to medium format digital backs (recently the Hasselblad h4D 60, 50 and 40) and even some large format film. But, to tell you the truth, my somewhat radical approach to shooting in bad weather and extreme conditions, like wading in rivers, in the danger zone of crashing surf, in dust storms or hanging off cliffs really makes the DSLR my favorite tool. It is lightning fast and conducive to higher ISO, long exposures, low light twilight or night shots. Typically you might see me with the Canon 5D Mark2, the Canon 24-105L2 and a wide angle lens like the Canon 14mmL2 or the Canon 16-35L2. I always use the 16-35L2 around water because of the ability to polarize (removing glare from the water) or to do long solid ND filter exposures. Otherwise the 14mmL2 is crazy wide and very sharp, but there are no filters for it so it is my wide lens when not around water. I never use color filters but mainly prefer more natural renderings, more honest to the image taken. Lastly, I might use the Canon 70-200 on a rare occasion. I’m not the type to carry a huge bag of equipment. One camera and one or two lenses will usually do it for me. BTW I absolutely love Really Right Stuff ball heads! I wore out a few ball head set ups before going with Really Right Stuff and I just think the most of the precision and durability of their equipment! Expensive, but worth it!
Whats your favourite lens and why?
That is a really hard question! If I could only have one the rest of my life it might be the Canon 24-105L for its versatility. But what my favorite is, is very hard to say. I think it would be both the Canon 16-35L2 and the Canon 14mmL2 depending on if I am around water . I love the bold sort of “in your face” feel like you can walk right into the photo, effect of wide angle. So, one of those two would likely be my pick.
How are you marketing yourself?
Good question! My great mentor Ken Duncan told me these wise words: “Never shoot for photographers!” I so much love that statement! Photographers are never going to buy your work and what the public views as great, is completely different and often the direct opposite as what impresses photographers! So many photographers get into the big competition of outdoing each other, or being overly concerned about what the photo community thinks of their work. So, to be honest, when it comes to my limited edition fine art gallery print work; which is working its way into a variety of quality galleries, including Extreme Exposure – Hilo Hawaii, and will be in my own upcoming gallery before too long, I don’t care even the slightest about what photographers think. This is an awesome privilege and service and I care more about the public. Helping them to put something in their home’s that they will love and hopefully will touch their lives in different capacities. Having said that, the other half of my business, which I enjoy just as much, is taking photographers out on epic scenic photography tours and workshops. Helping them get world class shots as well. The only way you keep requests for the tours coming in, is by really impressing the photo community and building a following. So, I shoot for both markets! The good news is that I love both and by shooting for both I am being genuine to my own artistic passion and pursuit. So, in a sentence: limited edition, master quality, fine art gallery landscape prints and photo tours and workshops. There are other streams of income coming in from teaching materials or services but mostly it is the two aforementioned markets.
Whats your favourite photo you have taken?
Again, that is a really hard question. I have a lot of favorites! Having said that, there is a moment that I cannot forget surrounding an image that I think best captures the surreal, heavenly and otherworldly mystery like no other photo I have ever taken. At least to my eye. This image is often overlooked but I think the careful observer may see what I’m talking about. Recently I had a top, fine art, Rhode Island School of Design guy go through my entire marketed print library of several hundred images. When he got to this image he stopped, paused and looked up at me and said, “I believe this shot best captures what you are striving for”. It was a nice confirmation since I always thought the same. The image is not photoshopped photo art and is a single shot in one of the most mysterious lighting conditions I have ever witnessed. It is called “The Presence” and the full story about the somewhat spiritual moment can be found on my website: WildForLight.com in the “Coast Verticals” Gallery. It was shot on the southern Oregon Coast at Boardman State Park.
Advice for new photographers looking to go pro?
Actually I get a lot of people hiring me for the private tours and workshops that are seeking the same type of advice. The first thing I tell them is this absolutely better be their passion in life, maybe even their calling! It is a very, very long and very hard road, and if it is not your absolute passion then it would be better served to do something easier and keep photography as a hobby. Lastly, it is not nearly enough to be a great artist today (there are countless great artists out there). You have to be willing to have an enormous work ethic and always be learning and growing as a business person as well. It will take everything you have, and there will be no end of people trying to discourage you by telling you one simply can’t do it. There may even be the occasional deranged person who makes every attempt to damage your reputation or try to stop you. If you have this type of “no surrender” relentless passion and work ethic within you, like the Spartans of 300, then go for it! And good luck with what you do. Just make sure not forget the little people and those who help you along the way, as you strive to climb your own mountaintop.