All photos by Adrian Klein. Used with permission
Adrian Klein is a photographer hailing from the Pacific Northwest of the USA. His love affair with nature spurred on a love of photography early on when he first shot an image with a Kodak 1MP camera. Now he is not only a landscape photographer, but also a portrait/wedding shooter. He first started out in P (for professional) mode and then moved into working with all of the more advanced modes.
But like everyone that wants to progress, he eventually turned his photography into something more.
201933745 from f-stop || Gear on Vimeo.
Phoblographer: What made you get into photography?
Klein: Simply stated it’s my love for the outdoors. During my early adventures I brought along small point & shoot cameras. My first being a Kodak 1 MP camera (not a typo, 1 megapixel). Slowly over the next half dozen years I upgraded to various cameras and around 2006 decided I wanted to go beyond the snap shots I was taking which progressed to where I am today.
Phoblographer: As a photographer progresses in their hobby or career, they often overcome problems that make them think, “Jeez, why didn’t I think of this solution earlier?” What are some of those problems that you faced?
Klein: One for me was not taking the time to understand photo equipment I was buying early on. This was mainly because I was an outdoor enthusiast first and photographer second. I bought a camera, spent a few minutes looking at the manual and then put it on P mode (P for Professional of course) and clicked the shutter. A noteworthy example was buying my first DSLR and keeping my worthless big box store tripod. You know the kind you get free when you buy a camera. When I spent $1,000 on my first high end tripod legs and ball-head I quickly realized how it was worth every penny and long overdue.
Phoblographer: Sometimes when shooting nature landscapes, you often have to go back to the locations for days and weeks to get just the right image. This can demotivate a lot of people. What helps you stay inspired and motivated?
Klein: There are a couple things I have to say about this topic which is certainly an important one. First and foremost I always try to remind myself how fortunate I am to be out doing what I am doing when I am enjoying the outdoors. Much of my photography involves hiking or backpacking yet many folks can’t get out on adventures that are physically demanding. I would like to come home with many keeper images every trip yet that’s not the case thus appreciating the experience becomes paramount. Additionally many getting serious into photography at one point or another lose sight of what brings them outdoors with blinders on to bring home the trophy. Try to avoid that trap.
Second I avoid going to the same spot many times over in a short amount of time with the same mission. This certainly can be a recipe for discouragement. There are many beautiful places out there. If you don’t get what you are after add it to your list to return down the road. I keep a list of places I want to get back and photograph to help me plan when I have time for a trip.
Phoblographer: You combine fine art with landscape shooting. Over the past couple of years, how have you marketed that to get to the position that you’re in right now? The many different genres of photography are very siloed, but it seems like you’ve been able to cross the boundaries with ease.
Klein: It certainly was not a straight path to get where I am now. I already talked about a number of years ago starting to get into photography while going on outdoor adventures. Yet deciding to make landscape photography into a business was not where my photography business started. Probably to the surprise of some I actually ended up getting into portrait and wedding photography to the point we had a studio in the house that became full time for me in 2008. It kept me and my wife very busy.
What changed for me was being invited to speak at a photography conference on landscape photography and backpacking. I realized how much I missed the outdoor link. From there I slowly unloaded my portrait and wedding clients to my peers and moved into landscape photography. Over the last few years what has helped is diversification (image licensing, print sales and leading workshops). Another piece I also believe in is collaboration which I learned from a humanitarian photographer friend of mine. I hatched the idea of what eventually became Photo Cascadia. The primary goal is a resource for photography information with a focus on nature photography. It has had the added benefit to the business working with my Photo Cascadia peers from workshops to image licensing deals. Not to mention we have all become good friends. I see many landscape photographers want to do it all on their own since in a way it’s a solo activity yet building bridges and working together can have very positive outcomes.
Phoblographer: Tell us about some of your favorite places to shoot. What are your top five and why?
Klein: Only the top five! Well that is a tough one yet here it goes.
Three Sisters Wilderness in central Oregon. What more can you ask for when you have backpacking gems with mountains, clear lakes and flowers all in high desert country during summer. It’s one of the first places I started backpacking over a decade ago and have been back many times. Not only have I been fortunate to come home with some wall worthy photos yet coming back to my comment about experiences I have many stories from this area. One includes camping on top of South Sister mountain with my wife and almost getting blown off in the middle of the night. It has become increasingly popular over the last decade yet nonetheless it still rings high on my list of places I get to at least once a year. Winter brings dry light snow and all modes of snow transport to get around and enjoy the area.
Painted Hills which is part of John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. This is another place I have visited quite a few times. It’s not large (can drive though it in minutes) and there are no big hikes yet it’s fascinating because of its uniqueness. The main section does look like it came from another planet. I still continue to come home with somewhat different images than prior trips each time I visit. Additionally I like it because in all my trips, which even included a holiday weekend, the numbers of visitors are small. This is in part because there are very limited lodging options near by. Like many places I travel I go outside the park and call my car home for the night.
Alvord Desert in Southeastern Oregon almost at the border of Nevada. One of the reasons I like this place is how open it is. Living in the area I do everything within hours is pretty much forest and mountains. Getting out onto the desert playa that is miles long of open, empty and flat ground is really refreshing for a change of pace. You might think you have seen one desert crack you have seen them all. I took a friend down here recently for his first trip and he was surprised how different it was for photography depending on where you were on the playa. This place is many many miles form anything that resembles a town. Plan for any weather here especially high winds.
Hawaii or more specially Kauai. I like this for photography because it resembles the Northwest except in a warm tropical version. You have lush rain forests, big canyons and rocky beaches with the main difference being I can head out in my Teva’s, shorts and a t-shirt in the middle of winter. I typically prefer cold weather over warm yet I enjoy the change when visiting. I will be there for a couple weeks this coming January and look forward to what I will bring home from this next trip.
Columbia River Gorge is a short drive from Portland, Oregon. I can’t always get out for multi-day trips yet I can get to most trailheads in The Gorge in about an hour from my house. People come from across the globe to visit this location yet it’s “in my backyard”. Filled with dense forests, winding streams, endless waterfalls, spring wildflowers and fall colors there is something for everyone. I have hiked many locations on and off trail and I still enjoy it as my close by staple when I cannot go very far. Not to mention in winter I can be gone all day through sunset and be home in time for dinner with the family.
Phoblographer: What gear do you use to get your vision accomplished?
Klein: Listing all my gear here would be pretty comprehensive. I will focus on the core pieces. That said I am not someone that goes on a trip with an army of lenses and a couple dozen filters. Being an avid hiker and backpacker you learn to limit your gear.
The following are all Canon covering my main body and lenses: 5D MK II camera body, 70-200L 4.0, 24-70L and 16-35L II.
Filters includes the following: Hoya Pro1 polarizer, B+W 10 stop ND, several different Singh-Ray GND’s (use only occasionally these days).
Tripod setup is Gitzo mountaineer series with an Acratech ballhead.
My day hiking bag of choice is F-stop because it feels like a regular backpack but is built for carrying gear. I use the ICU to fill with camera gear and put into my larger Kelty backpack for backpacking trips.
When I get home I process my work with Adobe Bridge, Camera Raw and Photoshop (Creative Cloud version as of this interview).
Phoblographer: Being a professional photographer requires you to be a creative, a marketer, a salesman and a copyright lawyer. How do you find the time to do all of these things and maintain a life balance?
Klein: The key is to understand you cannot maintain balance. In all seriousness it’s a lot to do. I am not a photography enterprise with employees to take care of things. I am big on prioritizing and making lists of what I need to do and when. I always say if it’s not on my calendar or my to do list app it will be an accident if it gets done.
Another crucial piece is having a supportive spouse. My amazing wife, Molly, helps out in a big way from bookkeeping to supporting the need for me to get out and capture new work. Fortunately she loves the outdoors and we try to make trips as a family when possible that can allow for family time and photography. On this note we have two fun energetic young girls so balancing out my time with photography and family can be challenging yet it can be done and I know will be easier as they grow since they both love being outdoors (at least so far).
Lastly I purposely try to avoid taking on more than I know I can do. I have seen many bight creative minds start or commit to all sorts of things yet don’t always complete them. There is always more I would like to do but I won’t commit to it if I cannot follow through. Knowing my intent to avoid over committing and having background in the business world has helped me understand the importance not always being gone on trips shooting and the need to spend time in my home office working on social media, newsletters, blog posts, processing images, website updates, reading the latest photo news and more to help grow the business and further my photography.
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