Tell us a little about yourself (who you are, where you are based, what you shoot, etc.)
My name is Michael Strickland; I’m based out of western Kansas and I’m primarily a large format photographer (mostly 8x10 with some 4x5 thrown in). I travel extensively around the world and when I can’t lug my large format equipment, I travel with some medium format equipment.
How and why did you get into landscape photography?
I had always been interested and appreciated the art of photography but never pursued practicing it myself.
At the time, I was an avid jazz musician, but in college I purchased a camera before I went on vacation with some friends. While on the trip, I enjoyed photographing the landscape and after returning home to Kansas, I devoted a fair amount of time studying the Kansas landscape.
What message do you wish to send with your imagery? How do you make sure your images convey this properly?
I don’t know if I necessarily have a message, as much as I want to portray a mood or emotion.
My goal is to portray the mood I feel when I create the photograph.
I want the viewer to feel something when they’re viewing my images, particularly in print. For the most part, I’d like to think I am creating peaceful imagery, but I think that’s up to the discretion of the viewer.
What does photography mean to you?
I’m going to change the question a bit and rather than to me, I’ll answer what it means for me.
For me, photography is my meditation. When I can pursue a personal project and create a photograph, it’s almost a spiritual experience for me and it’s necessary to keep the day-to-day grind of life going.
Have you had any formal training in photography?
Never anything formal, no.
I took one landscape photography workshop in college and that kind of sparked the creative flow and understanding of how landscape photography works, but nothing really more than that.
Where do you find inspiration to keep going, even when things get tough?
Generally, I find inspiration from other mediums. I very much enjoy impressionist painters and try to keep away from seeing other photographer’s work when I’m in a creative rut.
In your opinion, will photography become overly populated to the point where professionals can no longer get jobs/make a living?
I don’t think so. I think there will always be room for creative individuals to make meaningful work. It just involves being unique and a ton of work to make it happen.
Do you believe there is a way for photographers to help the world become a better place? How so?
Absolutely! I think we’ve seen from many of our predecessors, such as Ansel Adams, Philip Hyde, John Fielder, etc. that photography has played an essential role in establishing and protecting wilderness areas.
And what a better place this world would be with more wilderness!
Do you have any advice for photographers in terms of licensing their images?
I really have never made much effort to license my images. Occasionally it’ll happen, but unless you have a huge body of work that someone really wants, it’s a tough ball game to play anymore. Unfortunately, I don’t have much advice because I just don’t pursue that line of work.
What draws you to a scene which leads to a photograph?
I feel like I used to overthink this too much. Now I feel like I go with my gut a bit more.
If I see something that sparks my interest or catches my eye, I think “why?” and then see if I can find a composition. If it’s interesting to me in the field, generally it’ll be interesting to me on film.
It’s just all about how the subject, the light, and the film I have in my pack all line up.
Tell us about your photography techniques and the post processing of your photos.
Well, I use mostly large format (some medium format) and shoot both color negative and color transparency film with the occasional black and white negative.
Most of my photographs involve some form of perspective control (rise/fall/shift) or focus technique including tilt/swing.
I also own a Heidelberg Tango drum scanner and use it to scan all of my own work, as well as outsourcing my scanning services to others.
The post processing is generally pretty basic on transparency film - mostly a few curves layers, some sharpening, maybe some color correction.
Negative film, I tend to use more advanced techniques for color correction such as luminosity masking, etc. to get color spot on.
How do you recommend getting over G.A.S.? (Gear Acquisition Syndrome)
Well, I fall victim to this all the time.
I travel the world teaching for Muench Workshops and rarely do I take a large format camera with me on those trips because I try to keep the large format gear to my own personal projects.
But on those trips, I love to carry a film camera with me, and I love toys. I enjoy the occasional splurge on toys for my travels and I greatly enjoy the different quirks a camera can have on my image making. The pace of a camera setup/teardown/metering techniques, etc. can positively or negatively affect the image, and I find it fascinating.
With that being said, has a camera ever sparked my creativity, made my compositions better, or made me a better photographer? Absolutely not.
My advice to anyone seeking equipment is to seek it in the correct way.
If you’re looking for a camera to make you a better photographer - good luck. Look for a camera or equipment that will serve you a purpose.
Do you need a lighter camera for backpacking? Do you want something small and light? Do you need a wider lens for a specific shot you have in mind? All great reasons.
What’s your favorite camera/lens setup? Why?
That’s tough. I have different cameras for different purposes, like I mentioned above.
I’d have to say that my favorite pace of photography is that with an 8x10.
With that being said, my favorite camera/lens setup is probably my Arca-Swiss F-Metric 8x10 with my Nikkor-W 300mm f/5.6 lens. That’s my go-to field of view across all formats I shoot - normal.
Why I mentioned pace rather than system, is because I think every format I shoot has a completely different style and the images follow suit.
Hasselblad 501 is a fast system, 35mm is even faster and the images generally have a different style than my large format kits.
4x5 is my large format kit for on the move with air travel, sometimes backpacking (I do have an 8x10 backpacking kit), but 8x10 is a painstakingly slow process where I feel my best work is made.
What is more important: social media presence or in-person interactions?
Well, both have their place, but I’m all about in-person interactions.
If you could only take one more picture, what do you think it would be of? How would you begin to make that decision?
Probably my wife! I don’t think there is ever anything in nature I could justify being my “final subject.”