Cody Schultz: I Was Going to Be a Landscape Photographer

All images and text by Cody Schultz. Used with permission.

I am Cody Schultz, a landscape photographer who specializes in creating beautiful works of art in tones of gray. While I had originally began my journey into the realm of photography by creating portrait and fashion work, I found myself burnt out. My stress levels were higher than ever and having been in only 10th grade at the time, I could not handle it any longer. In the summer of 2016, I found Thomas Heaton’s YouTube channel and was immediately hooked: I was going to be a landscape photographer. And as if that was not difficult enough of a field to stick out in, I decided as a New Year’s Resolution for 2017 that my portfolio would be strictly black and white, at least for that year. Now, I am simply hoping to make a name for myself in a world full of nobodies.

In terms of my gear, I try to keep everything as simple as possible. When shooting digital, I have been working with a Nikon D7200, paired with the 35mm 1.8G and 85mm 1.8G lenses. My Mamiyaflex C2 serves me well when I decide to expose some Ilford HP5 Plus film. Other equipment I use ranges from a circular polarizer and ND filter from Formatt Hitech, a remote shutter release, and a Manfrotto tripod for the extra stabilization.

My creative vision has slowly been evolving throughout this year as I learn more about not only photography but also myself. As I had mentioned, I chose to challenge myself by working solely in black and white. While this may seem an odd choice since color is so popular, I wanted to do something that would make me stand out; something that would make me more unique of a photographer than everyone else out there.

Currently I am in college so my photography adventures have (sadly) come to a halt, save for the odd weekend when I have plenty of free time to myself. However, I hope to pick my camera back up again soon, shifting my focus towards a more minimalistic style. I want to focus more on mood and emotion in my images and less on technical perfection or those awe-inspiring moments that so many other photographers seem to rely on.

Why did you get into photography?

To say that freshman year of high school was tough for me would be an understatement: it was a living hell. But I managed to get through it and came out of that year in desperate need of a creative outlet.

Photography was something that had always interested me so I decided to buy a Nikon D3200 with my own money and – three years later – here I am.

Which photographers are your biggest influences?

Ansel Adams is a huge influence on me, something that a lot of other landscape photographers consistently say I am sure. However, Thomas Heaton was the man who turned me on to the joys of landscape photography so most the credit must go towards him. Besides those two, Peter Coulson, Ben Horne, Ted Gore, and many, many others inspire me every day.

How long have you been shooting?

I have been shooting since 2014.

Why is photography and shooting so important to you?

Photography helped me realize who I am and what I can be. Without it, I would not know what to do with my life. If I do not have a camera in my hand, I can be found either writing, playing video games, or sleeping. It is simply a huge part of my life now and is not at all something I would even consider giving up.

Do you feel that you’re more of a creator or a documenter? Why?

The answer to this question could go multiple ways for me. When I first began my journey down landscape photography, I would have considered myself more of a creator as I used Photoshop a lot and would do much more merging of images. I learned a lot from Ted Gore’s processing videos and implemented a lot of his techniques into my own photography. Recently, however, I have been doing what I can to get my ideal image in-camera, tweaking a few sliders here and there in Lightroom, and calling it a day. So to answer the question, I suppose I would consider myself more of a documenter as I enjoy showing the beauty of the natural world rather than trying to create something beautiful.

What’s typically going through your mind when you create images? Tell us about your processes both mentally and mechanically?

Besides the constant thoughts of “Is this image any good,” and “Will this photograph do well on Instagram,” there is not a lot of conscious thinking going on when I am creating images. Maybe this makes me the odd photographer – since everyone else seems to have a million and one thoughts going through their heads while photographing – but I like to keep things simple. If I stumble upon a scene that I like, I will setup my camera, and take the shot. Most of the time I am thinking more about enjoying my time in nature than the technical aspects of photography. Of course, I will consider my composition, move around a bit to see if there is a better vantage point, etc. but I refuse to dwell on the technicalities. As long as there is mood to the image, something to catch my eye, then I will be happy with the shot. And if I am not, then I will go back and try again.

Want to walk us through your processing techniques?

My processing techniques are minimal to say the least. Essentially, I will cull my images in Lightroom, wait a few days, then come back and edit a few of my “favorites,” the ones that stuck out to me from the start. Most of the editing is done in the Basic panel of Lightroom where I will move some sliders around until the image becomes what I want it to be. The only consistencies are my clarity slider being at +10, my lens correction boxes being ticked, and my image profile being that of black and white.

Tell us about the project that you’re pitching, or your portfolio.

This is where I have a million and one ideas begging for attention in my head. There are so many different coffee table books that I wish to create in the near future: I simply need to get the motivation to do it. I believe my first one will be a series of minimalistic images of trees, with each one having a story to it.

What made you want to get into your genre?

Two words, one name: Thomas Heaton. I cannot thank him enough for showing me the joy of landscape photography and the happiness that a successful day out can bring.

Tell us a bit about the gear that you use and how you feel it helps you achieve your creative vision.

Truthfully, I hate talking about gear. I feel as though we photographers dwell on the “next best camera” and how sharp our lenses are. Truly, I believe that I could take a point and shoot camera and come away with an image that is just as good and meaningful as one shot on the new Nikon D850. My gear does not help me achieve anything more than harnessing the image until it is on my laptop at the end of the day.

What motivates you to shoot?

I want to help show society just how beautiful nature really is, despite all the imperfections we tend to see. If I can convince a single person that this world is beautiful, that nature is worth preserving, then I have completed my goal in life. That is what motivates me to keep creating.

Learn more about Cody Schultz and his work on his website.