Outdoor Photography Guide is pleased to welcome a new photographer to our team of talented contributors: Zac Mills. A former economist, it was a passion for travel and a long-standing interest in photography that drew Zac to pursue a career in photography. We sat down with Zac to learn more about his work and travels. 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?
Zac Mills: Well, let’s just say I did not follow a typical path. I bought my first point and shoot back in 2004 right after digital cameras just arrived on the market. It was 3.2 MP and it cost upwards of $500! Nonetheless, it served me well on a learning trip to Cuba that was organized by my university. Having grown up in rural Canada, this experience kick started my love of travel and my interest in photography.
In 2007, I bought my first digital SLR (the Canon 400D or Xti) and since then it’s been a steady progression of developing as a photographer while I pursued a parallel career as an economist at the World Bank. It then reached the stage where I decided to fully embrace photography and I haven’t looked back.
OPG: Do you have any formal training in photography?
ZM: No, I am self-taught through learning by doing and experimentation. When I first started photography, I read as much as I could, both in books and from others online, and spent a lot of time trying to understand why a photo did not turn out as expected. In recent years, I have pushed myself to try new approaches to capture unique moments, especially in low light settings. Sometimes it doesn’t work out, but at other times, all the elements come together. The learning process never stops.
OPG: You’ve traveled to some amazing places – do you have a favorite location?
ZM: I’ve been asked this question many times, but it is not an easy one to answer. I’ve now been to more than 70 countries and each one has been memorable. Having said that, there a few places that pull me back. The big cats in Masai Mara National Reserve (Kenya), the orangutans in Gunung Leuser National Park (Indonesia), the uniqueness of the Galapagos, the Mountain Gorillas in Rwanda, the sulfur miners of the Ijen Volcano (Indonesia), and the Tuscany and Venice regions in Italy are among my favorites. While the photography is incredible in these destinations, it’s also the relationships that I have with the guides and other friends that make these places feel like a home away from home.
OPG: Where are you planning to go next?
ZM: I have so many places on my list, but in the next few months I’ll be heading back to Masai Mara to photograph the big cats, to Bagan in Myanmar for the ancient temples, and to the west coast of Canada.
OPG: What’s in your camera bag?
ZM: When I was growing up we had a Canon printer. So when it came time to buy a digital camera, I gravitated to this brand. Right now, I have the Canon 1DX Mark ii, the Canon 5D Mark iii, and the following lenses: Canon 11-22mm f/4 lens, Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 ii lens, Canon 70-200 f/2.8 ii lens, Canon 200-400mm f/4 lens, and the Zeiss 50mm f/2 lens. I have a system where I can fit all of it into two carryon bags!
OPG: How important is post-processing to your photography?
ZM: Honesty and integrity are of fundamental importance to my photography. While post-processing is a normal part of my workflow, I always strive to reflect what my eyes actually saw for any post-processing work. Having said that, I would say that the moment of capture is exponentially more important as no amount of post-processing can improve what the camera did not capture.
You can see more of Zac’s work here: Zac Mills Photography
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So far, You and Ian Plant are my favorite photographers. I too am an outdoor photographer and I plan on doing more photography since I’ve recently retired from the U.S. Post Office. I am like you in that I like to learn more from magazines and books. I’ll look more for your work in Outdoor Photography.
Talk to you soon,