All photos by Scott Mead. Used with permission.
Scott Mead is a photographer based in Maui, Hawaii that developed the photo bug when his grandfather handed him a Kodak Instamatic camera at the age of 7. What was a little bit of fun would turn into trudging deep into bamboo forests, climbing lava formations and hanging out of helicopters to capture some of Hawaii’s most dramatic landscapes.
Scott started his photographic career at the age of 16, capturing cars, plants, landscapes, and wildlife on film, often donating his images to local clubs and charities. He spent several years as an automotive photographer and journalist for Edmunds and Motor Trend Magazine before switching focus to landscape and nature photography in 2003.
And today, Scott’s work is what puts food on the table. We had a chance to chat with Mr. Mead over email; and here are some tips from him.
Be sure to follow Scott on Facebook, Google + and Twitter.
Phoblographer: You shoot loads of landscapes, seascapes, and sunsets. How did you first get into it?
Scott: I have to give credit to my grandfather: Back in 1975, I went to visit my grandparents on Maui for the summer, where they had a couple of condos on the West Side. He gave me a Kodak Instamatic camera, and a bunch of film cartridges, and encouraged me to take pictures and have fun. We’d tour around the island, and he’d shoot with his Pentax SLR (I think it was an ME) and I had this little Kodak. I don’t think it ever crossed his mind that something so innocuous would completely shape my life.
Phoblographer: Finding these locations can’t be easy. How much of your time is divided between scouting, shooting, editing, and marketing?
Scott: I wish I could tell you that I allocate a set amount of time scouting/shooting/editing/marketing my work. My process is pretty freeform, but scouting definitely takes up the bulk of time. If I’m not familiar with the location, I’ll do some research on the Internet, and consult with tide charts and The Photographer’s Ephemeris for lighting, but most of my time is spent hiking the area to find the right scene.
I’ll setup a few hours ahead, get a feel for how fast the atmospheric conditions are changing, and tune into what’s happening with the light and water conditions. Shooting usually takes up the next largest chunk of time, as I tend to start capturing a bit before the “Golden Hour,” and fill memory cards until its dark.
I like to take a minimalist approach to editing: I’ll download everything into Adobe Lightroom, and typically have the wheat separated from the chaff in three to four passes, leaving me with 12-25 images. If it’s a week-long shoot, it could be upwards of a few hundred keepers (on my last 10-day trip to the Big Island, I came back with over 17,000 images to sort through). I’ll rename and process the RAW files, then drop them into the appropriate folders on the server.
Marketing is an ongoing process – there are always inquiries coming in and orders to fill; emails to answer or Skype meetings to attend. I’d like to think that I don’t spend a whole lot of time on the “business” side, but it adds up quickly.
Phoblographer: In your personal opinion and thought process, what do you think makes for a great landscape and seascape photo?
Scott: For me, it’s a balance of “technical correctness,” amazing light, and emotion within the scene. A great image literally needs to grab ahold of the viewer, and take their eyes on a journey that they never want to leave, and make them feel as though they could step right into the scene. Their first thought should be, “Wow, I want to be there.”
Phoblographer: Tell us about what’s in your gear bag these days to capture the scenes?
Scott: All my gear is housed in a LowePro Photo Trekker 400 AW, and I usually carry a Canon 5D MARK III body, coupled to a Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 lens for my big seascapes. I also carry a Canon 24-105mm f/4, a Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 zoom and a Canon 15mm f/2.8 fisheye for fun. I just started a new time lapse series, and my Cam Ranger has become an indispensable tool. There’s also the one piece of gear that I just don’t leave the studio without: a Gitzo GT2531EX carbon fiber Explorer tripod with an Acratech VG2 Ball/Gimbal head with leveling base.
Phoblographer: Many photographers often travel to the same spot over and over again to get the right photograph. On average, how many times do you travel to the same location to get the perfect photo?
Scott: More than I care to remember in some cases! Sometimes you get lucky, and you stumble upon an amazing scene, where the light, weather and water do amazing things, and you come home with an indelible image. More often than not, it takes two, three or four outings until everything lines up, and you capture that one incredible moment in time. My wife will tell you that I’m never satisfied, and always looking for better light, extra emotion in the sky and more mana (spiritual power) from the ocean. And she’s right, I’m always searching for that next evolution (does a perfect image exist anyway?). It’s all about patience, persistence and a dose of luck.
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