Outdoor Photography Guide is pleased to welcome a new member to the team of contributors: Ron Coscorrosa. Ron photographs nature and landscapes throughout the US, traveling the country in a 25-foot Airstream trailer. We sat down with Ron to learn more about his work and travels, 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?
Ron Coscorrosa: My story is fairly typical for nature photographers in that I enjoyed being out in nature, and wanted to document my experiences more than a limited point and shoot camera would allow. After upgrading my gear, it took a while before I actually started using it consistently, but once the momentum grew it has yet to diminish over time, and here I am more than a decade later still enjoying photography as much, if not more, than ever before. .
As for the leap into doing photography professionally, that happened completely by accident. Sarah Marino (my wife and fellow photographer) and I visited Iceland just before it was on the radar of most landscape photographers and thought the amount of information, especially information relevant to photographers, was lacking. After a few trips we decided we had more than enough information to write a location guide for Iceland, and started to sell it on our website. Soon after we released another guide on Death Valley (for the same reasons, existing resources were non-existent or underwhelming), and after that, a book on photographing smaller scenes in nature. All three books were started as passion projects, and all three took way more time and effort to complete than we anticipated, but all three of them have been very well received. They gave us credibility and subsequently have resulted in more professional opportunities (such as image licensing and photo workshops).
OPG: Do you have any formal training in photography?
RC: I don’t have any formal training in photography. I initially learned mostly from experience and making mistakes – actually, that’s how I still learn!
OPG: You’ve traveled to some amazing places – do you have a favorite location?
RC: Yes, the western United States! I realize that is a fairly large “location,” but I can’t really narrow it down further. I enjoy the deserts (from the colorful and shapely sandstone and canyons of the Colorado Plateau; the playas, mountains, and dunes of the Great Basin and Mojave; and the green and lush Sonoran Desert), the dramatic mountains (the Rockies of Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana; the Cascades in the Pacific Northwest), the forests (the temperate rain forests, evergreen forests, streams and waterfalls of the Pacific Northwest; the towering Redwood forests in California), and the ocean all along the west coast. There is more than a lifetime of wonderful and relatively accessible scenery in the western US and I will never get tired of it.
OPG: Where are you planning to go next?
RC: The Tetons, Yellowstone, and Glacier National Park this summer and Iceland, Colorado, and Utah this fall. We will invariably end up in the desert in the winter but do not know exactly where yet. 2017 will hopefully include some other international travel as well.
OPG: What subjects do you enjoy shooting most?
RC: I enjoy all types of natural subjects (as indicated above), so the season generally dictates where I photograph: non-summer for the coast, winter and spring in the desert, spring for streams and forests, summer for mountain wildflowers and monsoon storms in the southwest deserts, and fall pretty much anywhere there is foliage color, including the desert, mountains, and forests.
OPG: What’s in your camera bag?
RC: Currently a Canon 6D, and a variety of Canon lenses (16-35mm f/4 lens, 24-105mm f/4, 70-200mm f/4, and 100mm macro f/2.8) and a Canon 1.4x extender for the 70-200. I also use an Induro tripod with RRS ballheads and clamps.
OPG: What’s your favorite lens and why?
RC: In terms of versatility (wide focal range and variety of way things can be photographed) in addition to quality (sharpness, colors), my favorite is the 70-200mm f/4.
OPG: How important is post-processing to your photography?
RC: Post processing is very important. All photographs I produce have some amount of post-processing (contrast, dodging and burning, saturation, and color temperature adjustments being the most common). That said, I would say my post-processing style is relatively modest compared to current trends in landscape photography, especially the online world of landscape photography. Composition, light, and subject matter are more important to me than post-processing.
OPG: What is it about photography that drew you to it as a creative medium?
RC: Using photography as a means to travel and experience nature is what first hooked me. Only after time and experience did I start to use photography as a creative outlet. Spending a lot of time in the field has enhanced my observational skills. I notice small details and patterns that I would have previously overlooked, or how a scene is affected by light, or how a particular location changes with the seasons and year to year. I also like how nature photography forces you to work with limitations (in the subject matter and light that is present). I think those limitations are what make it challenging but also rewarding, and can lead to creative discoveries if you are willing to embrace them rather than see them as limitations.
OPG: What is the goal of your work? What do you aim to convey with your images?
RC: My goal is to create work that I find personally fulfilling, that reflects my values and sensibilities, and that is (hopefully) creative and unique. I want my photographs to work on an emotional level (evoking an emotional response in the viewer) as well as an intellectual level (having pleasing compositions and remaining interesting after repeated viewings). Not every photo of mine passes that standard (I have photographed – and enjoyed photographing – the same icons as everyone else), but I hope that my body of work as a whole is representative of those values. I cannot really control how others view my work, so my primary goal is to produce photographs that are satisfying to me, and hope that as a side-effect they are also pleasing to others with similar sensibilities.
OPG: Why nature photography?
RC: Nature came first, and photography came second, but now the two are tightly intertwined and being a photographer has allowed me to observe and appreciate nature to a finer degree. I can certainly value, as a viewer, other disciplines of photography (portrait, street, architecture, etc.) but am personally more passionate about nature and think that reflects in my work. I could see branching into other types of photography for the creative challenge, but I do not think I would ever be as invested as I am with nature photography.
OPG: If you could describe your photographic style in one sentence, what would that be?
RC: Observant, diverse, thoughtful, deliberate, colorful.
OPG: What motivates you to teach others about photography?
RC: Photography has been such a gift and a rewarding activity for me that I want others to be able to experience that as well. I also feel that others may benefit from what I have l learned, and use it to inform but not direct their own creative path through photography.
OPG: What advice would you give to someone just starting out in photography, or just starting to develop their eye?
RC: The best teacher is experience. Photograph constantly and repeatedly; learn from your mistakes and successes. Be critical of your own work. Listen to the thoughtful critique of others, but ultimately do not let their voices drown out your own.
You can learn more about Ron and follow his travels on the road here: Nature Photo Guides
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