We recently ran a contest on our Instagram page and are very excited to share the exclusive interview with zmelhus, the contest winner. I started my journey with photography as a student in a YWAM program called Voice for the Voiceless. I came in solely as a videographer and Christian missionary, but through the program realized how powerful of a means of communication photography could be. As a kid, I thought of photography as a way for people who weren’t involved in social things to feel included but I quickly realized that it is such a powerful way to share a message with people across languages, cultures, beliefs, and experiences.

My first camera was my mom’s Nikon D7000 that she let me borrow while I traveled. I now shoot with a Canon 70D. A big thing I would love for people to take from my photos is appreciating the beauty in moments. We so often drool over photos we see online and wish that our lives looked like what we see – but I think each of us observes so much beauty in our own lives, we just become blind to it over time. I want to step back and adore the art in what I see, and hopefully inspire others to the same.

If there was one thing I love about photography, it’s collaborating with nature. Some people say photography is strictly about documenting, or strictly about creating, but I really view it as a collaboration between my subject and I. I love using angles, perspectives, and colour tones to interpret natural beauty in my own way. Photography has introduced me to so many new places and people. One of the things I love about my camera is the situations it brings me into. I’ve met people that I wouldn’t have encountered otherwise. From photographing children in rural villages of Uganda to meeting fellow visual artists during road trips, to aspiring photographers reaching out to me online, my camera introduces me to so many awesome people that I would never otherwise have the pleasure of meeting. I’m thankful for that.

When shooting nature feelings will always come through. Whether I’m intentionally trying to create a mood or just snapping a quick shot, nature photos always evoke a response on an emotional level – to me at least! It’s tough to describe my own style, but according to my friends my style takes a dramatic and clean approach to documenting natural beauty and capturing the spirit of adventure. If I had to choose one lens to use for everything it would be Canon’s 16-35mm f/2.8 L USM lens. As a crop sensor shooter, the wide angle allows me to capture big landscapes, and zooming in to 35mm at f/2.8 allows for some decent portraits and detail photos. It’s a nice mix of quality and versatility.

If I could offer three tips to photographers wanting to improve, I would first of all encourage them to be humble. When I stopped trying to impress people and instead started really appreciating their work and valuing their feedback, I realized I was learning a lot more and forming better relationships in the process. Secondly I’d encourage them to photograph what they love. When you’re passionate about something, you want to represent it well, and your photo quality will reflect that. Lastly, I’d say research! The internet has a wealth of resources, and classes and workshops are readily available in most communities. If there’s something you wish you could do, find out how to do it!

I’ve actually never had anyone be harder on me than I am. I’m lucky enough to be surrounded by a very gracious and encouraging community both at home and online. I’ll often ask for tips or critiques, but so far I’ve never had someone confront me about my work with negativity. I’m sure there are people who dislike my work but don’t tell me about it, and that’s okay.

I learned to take photos as I traveled in Uganda. I was lucky enough to be traveling with experienced photographers of various styles. I tried to pick up skills and habits from each of them, and they were so kind in teaching me. I remember sheepishly admitting I had no idea was “ISO” was and nobody made me feel stupid for that. This was a little under two years ago.

I shoot RAW because it just makes sense to me to use the largest file size possible and keep my options open in terms of editing. Besides the obvious answer of “my camera”, my camera bag is home to extra SD cards and batteries (you can never be too safe!) as well as protein bars. I am not a good photographer when I’m hungry. I admire the work of Forrest Mankins. Every image of his that I’ve seen tells a story. He really has the gift of creating images that capture the viewer and ignite their imagination. A really common mistake that I made a ton (and I see others make as well) is getting too fixated on a classic view and missing out other photo worthy moments or sights.

Obviously seeing Half Dome from Glacier Point is breathtaking, but the view of the valley down to the left is incredibly beautiful as well. As nice as a mountain peak may be, how cool is the contrast of your hiking partner’s shoes against the trail? There are so many impactful images that never get captured when we suffer from tunnel vision directed to “the shot”. I’ve always wanted to shoot a music video at the base of Skogafoss in Iceland. Generally I take photos based on where I am. I enjoy the outdoors a lot, and when I stumble into a moment that I don’t want to forget or want others to vicariously experience – that’s when I know it’s time to shoot.

 

To be honest I don’t have any immediate trips planned. I’ll definitely shoot during the odd day trip here and there across South West British Columbia. I’d love to shoot in Jasper National Park in the next few months. I have a ton of ideas long term for potential projects and collaborations, but we’ll have to wait and see what actually comes to fruition. My goal with my photography is to have fun and inspire people. I really believe that each person was created with value and potential and I have a passion to see people step into that. Everyone’s gifts are different, I’m not trying to convince everyone to hike all day and take photos, but rather to pursue what makes them come alive. This life can be a very beautiful thing if you take the time to appreciate the little things, and photography is my way of doing that.

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