Meet the Photographer: Dean Sauskojus

dean-sauskojusDean Sauskojus is a professional nature and landscape photographer with a passion for capturing the beauty of the great outdoors, particularly Yellowstone National Park and surrounding areas. Dean is also a new contributor to Outdoor Photography Guide. We sat down with Dean to learn more about his work and his approach to photography. Read on.

Outdoor Photography Guide: How did you get started in photography? Specifically how did you make the leap into doing it for a living?

Dean Sauskojus: Ever since I can remember I loved being outdoors. When I was a toddler my father took me fly fishing on the Boulder River in Montana. As I grew older I became more and more serious about fishing. High mountain lakes were one of my favorite places to fish. I started carrying an Olympus 35mm camera with me while on these trips to capture the surrounding beauty. I also wanted a camera to record images of my newborn son. Things progressed from there.

All the professional photographers that I had studied were using 4×5 cameras for image clarity. The view camera produces images that are four inch by five inch in size. The big calendar companies wanted the bigger transparencies. I purchased a wooden Wista DX 4×5 field camera and packed it into the mountains with me. I was hooked after looking at the large 4×5 inch transparencies on a light box. From then on my fishing took a back seat to my photo endeavors.

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OPG: Do you have any formal training in photography?

DS: I am a self-taught photographer. The 4×5 view camera really honed my skills as a photographer. When you are looking through the ground glass under a hood at your image it is upside down and backwards. The view camera is a very slow medium but it really causes you to focus and slow down. Since my film days the learning curve has gone up year after year because of the technological advances in digital photography. I was hesitant to move from large format film photography to digital but at some point I knew I would have to embrace it. I actually wish digital was available a lot sooner. It’s very hard on the body to carry a 4×5 view camera and all the gear required way into the wilderness.

OPG: You’ve traveled to some amazing places – do you have a favorite location?

DS: My favorite place in the world is Yellowstone and the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. It’s because it is so close to my home. I can drive there and be back in three or four hours. When you spend a huge amount of time in one place like I do it becomes like a seasoned friend. It’s a place that has become very dear to me and I hope it shows in my work.

OPG: Where are you planning to go next?

DS: Wind River Range in Wyoming. An incredible mountain range of peaks, streams and lakes.

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OPG: What subjects do you enjoy shooting most?

DS: I love to photograph mountains, mountain lakes, and all that is contained in those areas. It’s challenging to get to these places and come home with great shots. The weather at 10,000 feet can be volatile. It takes a lot of preparation to find the right places and get there at the best times.

OPG: If you could describe your photographic style in one sentence, what would that be?

DS: Strong central subjects, leading lines, and spectacular light that draws you in.

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OPG: What’s in your camera bag?

DS: Right now I shoot with a Canon 5d 11. Lenses include a Canon 17-40mm f4L lens, Canon 70-200mm IS f4L lens, Canon 50mm f1.8 11 lens, and Nikon 14-24mm lens, and I recently purchased the new16-35mm Canon f4L lens. Various filters include a B&W polarizer, Hoya ND8 neutral density filter, Hi-Tech three stop soft graduated neutral density filter, and a two stop hard Singh-Ray graduated neutral density filter. I also carry a small bulb blower, a bubble level, reading glasses, bear spray, shutter release, filter holders, step up rings, compact flash cards, extra battery, and battery charger.

OPG: What’s your favorite lens and why?

DS: The 17-40mm Canon lens was my go-to lens but now I use the new Canon 16-35mm f4L lens most of the time. It’s a much better lens and it has image stabilization. The other reason I purchased the new 16-35mm Canon lens is because it accepts 77mm filters which I had for my 17-40mm Canon lens and step up rings for my other lens.

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OPG: How important is post-processing to your photography?

DS: Post processing is essential in getting what you want in an image. It has produced a whole new art form for photographers. The exposure latitude with film is very limited whereas with digital you have so many options to work with. It’s a dream come true. I would have to say though that digital processing can be overdone. I try to do everything I can to get the best image in camera before it hits the computer screen. To paraphrase what Ansel Adams once said and to put it into today’s words, “The digital image is the composer’s score and the final output is the performance.”

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OPG: What advice would you give to someone just starting out in photography, or just starting to develop their eye?

DS: Just do it! I have boxes and boxes filled with images on film that I consider useless. Someday I will throw them out, but it reminds me of where I have come from. Don’t be afraid to fail, just keep working at it. There is so much information on the internet including this website. Use it to your advantage. Try to find a mentor in your own area that could critique your work or a photography forum online. Join a camera club. Read the interviews like this from the pros. If you can’t afford a workshop, download their eBooks. Examine their images and even try to emulate them. Don’t compare yourself with other photographers who have had years and years of experience. Be patient, you will eventually develop your own style.

To develop your eye, find a piece of black cardboard about eight by ten inches in size or smaller. Cut a rectangle out of the middle of it. Leave your camera in the bag for now. Use the cutout in the field to frame your subjects and arrange them within the rectangle. Really try to focus on what your main subject is and build around it with other supporting elements.

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OPG: What motivates you to teach others about photography?

DS: My goal is to help other photographers gain an advantage to finding and taking great images. Through my own experiences I share photo tips with others to help them succeed in a shorter period of time if possible. I want to help others become more successful in their own pursuits of photography. I love to cheer on the younger guys coming up.

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OPG: What is it about photography that drew you to it as a creative medium?

DS: I love to arrange things in a rectangle that is pleasing to look at. I am not a people photographer but I challenged myself to take images of groups of people this past year. It’s interesting that some of my landscape photography skills also applied to people photography. In order to be really good at landscape photography you have to do a lot of exploring. That’s what draws me to it. I love the journey. I love the adventure of seeking out potential photo opportunities. It’s like searching for and finding a treasure, only you don’t have a map.

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OPG: Why nature photography?

DS: That’s a good question. If I could put my finger on it I would say I love the fresh air, the smells, the quietness, the weather, the challenge of getting there, and just being in an awesome place. I feel a real connection to nature and I want to record it so I can revisit it over and over again. Simply put, I’m awestruck by nature.

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OPG: What is the goal of your work? What do you aim to convey with your images?

DS: There is so much negative in the world we live in. It surrounds us every day. If I can lift a person’s spirit by showing them a photograph, for me that is what it is all about. It certainly feels good when you know you have taken a good photograph, but it doesn’t end there. You have this gift that God has given you and it is your responsibility to share it with others. I think that is true of any art form. We are so blessed to live in and photograph such beautiful places. I hope my photographs inspire parents to teach their kids to respect the land and take care of it.

Visit Dean’s website to see more of his work and to view his collection of eBooks: Dean Sauskojus Photography

Have something to add to the story? Leave a comment or email editor@outdoorphotographyguide.com.

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