Travel and Landscape Photography is Deeply Therapeutic to Me

My name is Ethan Chin. I’m a 17 year old landscape and travel photographer from Toronto, Canada. I started shooting landscapes seriously a little over a year ago. I got into landscapes photography specifically because I love the slow-pace of it, and the peace that comes with being alone in the great outdoors.

I got into photography because of my cousin. She shot a lot of photos of her trips, and I noticed her images looked vastly better than my those from my smartphone at the time, and I wanted something better. That first camera I bought turned into an absolute obsession and soon enough, I found myself reading countless blogs (including the Phoblographer), participating in forums and watching tutorials in order to hone my skills. At it’s core, I got into photography simply for the desire for something better.

I’ve been heavily influenced by the travel photographer Elia Locardi. I found his story of going completely bankrupt and using that as an opportunity to completely recreate his life to pursue what he loves deeply inspirational. I was bitten by the travel bug early on in life because my father loved traveling a lot, and he instilled that love of travel in me, and Elia’s digital nomad lifestyle resonates deeply with my love of travel.

Photography is important to me because, for a long time, I had nothing to live for. My dad passed away from cancer when I was young and I got really depressed. I basically drifted through life with no passion or dream. Photography is deeply therapeutic for me, and it’s the only thing I really enjoy doing alone. I grew up in a family of 4 children, and my brother was autistic while my sister was younger than me, so my mom was pretty busy most of the time. I had a lot of alone time when I was young, and I hated it. With photography, I find that I don’t hate my alone time, anymore.

With my photography, I think that I am more of a documenter. At its core, I think that landscape photography is documenting mother nature’s work, plain and simple. No matter how I post process my images, no matter how much I plan for a shoot, there are things way out of my control, things like light, the weather, presence of wildlife, etc… that ultimately decide whether I take home an image on any given day. No matter how in control I think I am, mother nature is the true artist here.

When I create an image, I like to have a focal point. In my landscapes, I like having a point in the frame that the eye can instantly focus in on. Everything else in a scene just serves to direct the eye to the focal point. In any given scene, I look for things like leading lines, framing and colors. I also like to favor long exposures. With water, it creates either silky smooth surfaces or dramatic rushes, and with cityscapes, it blurs out people that can be distracting. Mechanically wise, I am always thinking of the perfect balance between a long and short exposure, whether it be using ND filters or changing the aperture on my camera.

My post processing technique begins with a focus on the cloud cover. I like to bring out the details in the clouds, because I think they are what make my images dramatic. I target the clouds specifically with edits to their clarity, contrast and exposure to ensure they look dramatic. I then turn my focus to the rest of the image, which usually means bringing up shadows and bringing down the highlight as I shoot during golden hour a lot. I like to maintain an even exposure, with no blown out or crushed highlights or shadows. That said, I also like high contrast images, so the tone curve comes into play. My last steps are always color, then sharpening. I target color channels specifically to edit them the way I see fit. Sometimes, I may feel an image has too much or too little blue, for example, and I will adjust accordingly. I end off by sharpening, and exporting.

The specific project that I want to pitch is the story behind my very first website portfolio. Over the last year, while I was focusing my efforts on landscape photography, I decided I wanted to photograph some of Canada’s most gorgeous landscapes – the Canadian Rockies. However, at 17 years old, I was neither old enough to have a full driving license nor could I rent a car. I didn’t want to let that stop me from pursuing what I love doing, so I rode my bicycle from the town of Banff to the town of Jasper, over 300km. Essentially, the project I’m pitching is one where I bike-pack through the Canadian Rockies in order to build my first portfolio.

I got into landscape photography especially for that love of travel. Where I grew up, there were never many interesting landscapes to shoot, so I never really realized how much fun it could be. After moving to Toronto a year ago, my sister brought me on a road trip through Canada’s Maritimes provinces and I got a whole month to see some extremely gorgeous locations. I realized then how interesting landscape photography was, and I decided I would make it my area of focus.

Going back to the basic, I am motivated by my constant desire for something better. I am constantly pushing the boundaries of what I am capable of with my photography because I believe complacency is banal to improvement. I constantly desire something better, be it in my art or in my life. That is my motivation.

I think my project is really cool because I want to show people what they can be capable of if they put their minds to something. I never believed that something as trivial as my age or ability to drive could keep me from visiting the Canadian Rockies. I never allowed trivial problems to keep me from pursuing what I am passionate about. For this reason, I think people will want to read about my project because I think I can inspire them to look past the small problems in life to see the big picture.

You can check out more from Ethan Chin at his website or his blog.