I’ve always been an artist, some of my earliest memories is setting up a studio to paint horses, snakes, landscapes and scenes. I always took art classes in middle school and high-school when possible.

Meet ViewBug Community member iwangroot and enjoy our conversation with him.

I was the first to do so all years of high school, had very supportive parents that helped me creatively, with supplies and amazing art teachers. What inspired me or inspires me has changed with time. The first time I gunned a camera was when I “stole” my mom’s point-and-shoot while in the Netherlands and tried to get images I was proud of and surprised my mom with 300 photos taken within one day. The next time I started getting into photography was my senior year of high-school. I grew up in Ivory Coast and Senegal in West Africa and this was my last semester to take photos of things I loved from the place. It was in photography class i started with photography again and learnt the basics of exposure. (I always use manual except for a few rare occasions) At that stage I was just trying to make beautiful images from life. Everything excited me in this new art form. This continued through my year in England and lasted till I came to Norway. During this time my main focus was portraits as I enjoyed giving nice pictures to my friends and through my time in England I was got booked for 4 weddings the following year. I moved to Norway photography became a past-time, a way to show my friends around the world the beautiful country I lived in and gave me a reason to go outdoors. Now it’s the passion for making art that drives and inspires me.

What was your first camera and what do you shoot with today?
The first camera I owned was the Canon EOS 1100D, but I ditched it for the Canon EOS 550D to be able to handle a little more work. But when I was getting into wedding photography I added a second one to my kit to be able to “gun it” at weddings and have a back up when one of them got worn out. Now I’m back to using one. I hope in the future to have a 70d and 7dii from Canon. I’m one of the few people that doesn’t want to have a full frame camera. Maybe as a back-up or as an extra but not as my primary as a crop factor benefits me more. If I were to win one or given one I would be more likely to sell a full frame for another crop-factor though.

When someone looks at your photos, what do you want them to take away from it, what are you trying to communicate?
When it comes to my nature photography it usually comes down to, I want to share the wonder, inspire people to go out and enjoy nature. I’m scared about climate change. Im annoyed by capitalism, trash, and all the stuff we are doing that ruins nature. So we need to enjoy it now. It saddens me that my kids won’t ever be able to see a polar bear. They might never get to see a glacier.

So I want to promote nature and bring awareness to its majesty and build appreciation for it. Even the more subtle beauties that might be just around the house as a lot of my photography is relatively close by. When it comes to the portraits and conceptual photography it stands alone. Most of my conceptual portraits are in some aspect fantastical, a older or futuristic fashion. But also shifting to beauty, glamour. Which speaks for itself to showcase beauty.

What is it that you love about photography?
I like how you make realistic art pieces according to your mind's eye and decide to limit yourself to the effect that tells your story. Whether you are a purist, surrealist, abstract, editorial or scientific. The way the physical world in a concrete way turns into art. There is so much I love about it, but I will expound on that later

What has photography done for you?
Photography has helped me see beauty, go on adventures, work together with people for bigger projects, get to know new people and places, given me a pastime, get outside, explore, create art. I’ve always been fascinated by nature, and I am a very artistic and social person, so photography has helped me keep my cool, get me through hard times. I never managed to make painting a social activity so being able to work on photoshoots with models, assistants, make up artists, trip and camping buddies has really helped combine my two biggest passions: Photography and socializing. Though often still doing projects alone, whether it be in nature or a self portrait. Photography has also been therapeutic for me as it brings me outside into fresh air, gets me away from the troubles of life, makes me appreciate what is around. And convey emotions and ideas I have locked up inside me for other photoshoots. On the down time where there isn’t an idea or a place calling out to me I edit and retouch images to my heart’s desire and share my vision.

Do you try to be conceptual or do you prefer to show the feeling behind a photo?
When it comes to my nature I guess I’m striving for a feeling. I previously mentioned how in my nature photography I try to communicate awe and bring awareness and appreciation for nature and hope to inspire people to go out in nature and protect it. I like to share beauty, beauty is captivating so I try to show it in the best way I can.

When it comes to my portraits I usually am trying to communicate a story or concept so the clothing, make up, pose and editing style will all come into play to share a concept. But it comes down to that specific image and what I’m trying to tell with that image since my portraits usually stand alone as a project. But usually has focus on beauty, the fantastical or environmental.

How do you describe your style?
When it comes to nature I try to edit it to share the beauty I saw and not to exaggerate in order to do nature justice. Sometimes that requires lots and lots of editing with subtle changes and sometimes it requires next to nothing. So in the field I also take various types of exposures so I have lots to work with. And when it comes to portraits I would say it boils down to that project and what im trying to convey. There is usually some level of retouching there as well as I try to share the charm of that person. But in both circumstances I like paying attention to detail and is one of the reasons i like crop factors that have more in focus. But when it comes to editing I guess one thing I try to stay away from is going extreme or using harsh edits.

If you had to choose one lens which one would it be and why?
Hehe already have. I have only had one lens in my bag for a year and a half. It is my trusted Sigma art 18-35mm f1.8. I rarely use the auto focus anymore but I blame my old camera and not the lens, because I remember it reacting faster and more reliable than my canon f1.4 USM I love it in so many ways but two things I wish that it included would be less flare, and weather resistance. It is sharp, good control of color, aberrations, good range for aperture for my creative uses. A field of view I’m very comfortable with and good balance for panoramas and an intimate lens for portraits. But if I were to choose a lens to add to my bag it would be the Sigma sport 120-300mm f2.8 as that would be a great field of view for some of my future projects, wildlife, beauty and glamour types of portraits. It is an extreme lens for some of my extreme ideas and am trying to save up for this lens.

What are your 3 tips for others who want to become better photographers? 

1) Shoot.

Develop your style and skill set. In this stage take lots and lots of photos of anything and everything that tempts you. And in this stage don’t start a photography website, Facebook page or anything official for your photography. Your friends don't really want to like your startup page. Share with your friends and get input and connect with others that are also interested in photography in general or your field so that you can develop your skills.

2) Learn.

Once you have found a style or type of photography you like practice and practice. Follow photography blogs and get involved in social networks. This still might be too early to start a page as you might not want the pressure to always have to post, and share with every corner of the internet. Social media is great, but can also add pressure to something that hasn’t fully developed. You might want to spend more time developing your skills, and take things at your own pace so you don’t burn out. Make sure you are enjoying what you are doing. Take projects and clients to see what it is like.
3) Have Fun.

Take the next step whatever that is but take it at the speed you are comfortable with and allow time for personal projects. Try contests, exhibitions, bigger projects, start a page if you haven't, try to find ways of funding the next big thing. But focus on quality rather than quantity. That brings more customers, more inspiration, more fun than quantity.
The quality of your work and your continuation of making artwork is dependent on you being able to enjoy the craft. Sure it might become your job after a while, but if you aren’t having fun or making time for having fun in the craft it becomes pointless and the artwork suffers as well. And there are plenty guides to becoming successful, but successful people burn out and loose their creativity if they don't make time for their personal projects either.

Have you received negative feedback from your work? What did you do about it?
Yeah, Usually that I edit too much, but that died down when I started explaining what I did and why in the descriptions. Otherwise I don't remember anything.

Where did you learn to take photos?
I received a semester in photography class before I finished high school that helped me start, the basics in photoshop, shooting in manual, understanding the options and limits and some composition methods for photography. But since then it has been mostly self taught through following Fstoppers, Phoblographer, Viewbug, Petapixel, DigitalRev TV, SLR lounge and picking up ideas from Photographers I follow and also just through shooting and practicing. Even in my starting out I gave professionals ideas of how to try some new techniques I've developed that I thought would be helpful for them. As far as my own journey through be self taught. I shot everything and anything and if there wasn't something id tried before I tried it. And that helped me grow a basis and learn many aspects and the more photos you take the more you know what you actually want. I would say I went through a phase that it was portraits and weddings as I had a lot of fun with that and learnt so much and could share my skills with others but very soon found it boring and not creative enough. Through nature photography I found creativity again by working with light and planning the shots and trying out compositions. And when I felt I mastered it for the most part I felt I could take the challenge of fine art portraiture. I believe all that want to develop their skills as a photographer should at least try nature and portraiture as there is so much you can learn from them and also bring into other genres. When you start thinking “i want to take a portrait of that mountain” You think about the light and what weather will emphasize it for example.

Raw vs jpg and why?
They have both their charms. But I never have my camera on only jpg. Sometimes RAW & jpg, but most often Just on RAW. For me jpg means that I’m alright with the camera choosing how to edit my images instead of taking the time to bring my full vision to the image. Raw just provides me with so much flexibility, flexibility that I usually need to share my vision. Some cameras produce more appealing Jpgs, but I myself like being in control of the process which I can get with Raw. I guess it also comes back to that I like the old and tested method generally. I always think of processing a raw file is like developing film. It took time to produce the right copy of the negative. I don't have a lot of experience with that but really enjoy that process. In a society with everything about producing an image as fast as possible and get, get, get asap I like taking the proper time with things and not rushing a process unnecessarily. And Now even in photoshoots, for my own projects or paid I emphasize my focus is to achieve one great image and if there are others that is awesome. And also retouching the image takes time. So I make sure those I work with find that alright and if not there are plenty of photographers willing to do things faster for the money. I’m a bit hipster, chill and patient so my workflow also reflects that.

What do you carry in your camera bag?
Camera body (canon 550d), Sigma Art 18-35mm f1.8, Zeiss cleaning kit, 3 Yongnuo flashes, some type of lighter or matches, steel wool, batteries, backup SD cards, backup battery and charger, whisp, headlight or flashlight.

I’ve previously also owned a canon EF-s 10-22mm f3.5-4.5, Canon EF-S 55-250mm f4-5.6, canon EF 50mm f1.4 but as I progressed the Sigma art was the only one I felt should stay and I sold the others in hopes to upgrade but haven’t been able to do so yet.

If you could have the gift of a great photographer who would it be and why?
Alberto Ghizza Panizza, Marc Adamus, Daniel Kordan, Max Rive, Benjamin Vong Wong, Lincoln Harrison, Stian Klo, Ryan Dyar, Michael Shainblumm Dani Diamond, Robert cornelius, Scott mcCook, Chris Burkard, Jimmy McIntyre, Adrian Sommeling, Paul Zizka, Renee Robyn, Nichlas Roemmelt, Michael Woloszynowicz. These are the Names that have inspired me the most and affected my photography and vision in at least some aspect. So picking one is so hard for me to be on top of the list. But after some reflection the one I admire the most is Alberto Ghizza Panizza. Like me started with a humble camera and proved people it is the photographer not the equipment that makes a great photograph. He was a forerunner in the digital age at least pressing the limits and showing people what can be done with it and still is. One thing that impresses me so much with him is how much excels despite not specializing like photographers and artists are always told to do. But he produces breathtaking images in all sorts of genres, portraits, wildlife, macro, urban exploration, infrared, nature, architecture, You name it and he has a breathtaking image in that genre a skill few can master in multiple genres. So the gift I would like from him is inspiration and diversity. But another photographer that inspires me greatly would be Benjamin Von Wong. He also inspires and pushes the envelope constantly with thought provoking imagery and on set creativity which i hope to be able to achieve in my portraits and also bring awareness and change to climate change.
a gift i wish i had that isn’t necessarily specific to one photographer is the business side and being organized to someday run a successful business. Sorry for cheating and not only picking one.

What is the most common mistake you see people making when shooting these days?
Cranking images. Go extreme is easy as an amateur, and we’ve all been there. The excitement of how drastically one can change an image through editing can get the best of us. Everybody knows the problems with saturation and vibrance but I’m thinking more dynamic range and HDR. Is a tendency I also saw in myself couple years back. Just because I could get the details back from the highlights from dragging it all down I didn’t see the resulting haloing, the bad effects of white clipping and the noise in shadows. Dragging both the highlights and shadows to the extreme just didn’t look natural. Same goes for HDR where you blend exposures people love hearing that HDR shows all the tones and range that you see with your eyes and and can’t get with a single exposure. That's true but there is still contrast and variations in the shadows or highlights. and doing too much of either makes an image sometimes too busy, too flat, lacking a pleasing contrast. This can be brought down to artists taste, but what I’m getting at is many don’t realise the negative effects of it on an image and how it isn’t used correctly or meaningful enough.

What is your dream location to shoot?
There is so many but the ones I want to shoot are the fleeting locations, animals facing extinction. So Arctic and antarctic islands and regions are on the top list due to how fast ice is melting. Svalbard will probably be my first due to it being part of norway and the easiest for me to plan a trip to. But some others such as greenland and Franz Josef Land, Jan Maylen, Bouvetøya. I also dream of visiting locations from my childhood where I have so many memories and unique locations. as well as the animals in danger from there facing extinction and deforestation. But I'm afraid that by the time I get a chance for some of these trips it will be too late. Because of my diversity in Photography passion there will always be something out there tempting me and there are so many places I want to visit. I Have many other places I want to visit, serengeti, patagonia, australian outback, new zealand, US and Canada roadtrip, andes, Micha Pachu, amazon, scotland and Ireland, faroe Islands, siberia, Baikal Lake, various places in china, Komodo Island, japan, India, Himalayas, Morocco, Egypt, Dubai. We will see how many I can cross off that list in my lifetime.

How do you decide on where to shoot a photo?
There are a number of factors, Sometimes there is a location I’ve already visited that I want to spend more time at since I noticed some jewels I didn’t manage to capture. Something that could be caught in a better light or I just really inspired by the place and hoping to enjoy it once more. Such a place is the island of Haramsøya as well as the island Bjørnøya both right outside of my town. Both make the majority of my portfolio.
Another factor might be the weather, where is there weather fitting for the trip I want to take, what is safe.
Time how much time do I got, is it going to be a quick shot or do I have time to go camping.
What am I going to be shooting, if the stars or northern lights are my focus where will I get the right light combination or the lack of it. or with portraits if I want something in the background for example the sun where do I get a nice view with the sun in the background during that season of the year. Or to get north in my shot for northern lights or do I need to face south, east, west to capture the milky way in that season.
Again with Portraits There is a location I absolutely love and think would be so cool for a portrait photoshoot so I revisit that place with the right conditions for a good session.

If Im going for a star trail I might need the north star in it, if so I need a composition point up since it is almost right above us here in norway. If I want the milky way in it where are some compositions I know I like with the milky way in the background at that season I’m in. or what season do I need to wait for it.
That is from the known but if a location is unknown, I look at google maps, and try to find out what photos are of the place already, to get a feel of the location before I arrive and can try to plan something different. Maybe get a local to show me some spots or point some out, As I’m still a late bird when it comes to getting a car. most of my locations so far have to be accessible with the combination of ferries, busses, bicycle or hiking.

What is next for you? Any planned adventures with your camera?
I’m currently in Indonesia, Bali for some studies for close to 3 months. Though photography is not the purpose of the trip I’m planning getting some nice pictures of the milky way, beaches, jungles, tropical life and beach portraits while here, But this is one journey I’m going to see along the way and take it as it comes since I shouldn’t spend too much time on that while I’m there. I’m also hoping to visit the island of Komodo to photograph the amazing beasts Komodo Dragons. They are some of my favourite animals and have had monitor lizards as pets as well petted a komodo dragon at a resort in Ivory coast.
My next Photography trip will most likely be to Svalbard during the fall, winter or spring, so I can get a bit variation in light while up there, see some polar bears, real ice, snow, glaciers and an arctic climate before it disappears.

I would love to visit Senegal during the summer if possible to photograph the Baobab trees, desert scenes, and the coast. Capture some of the places from my teenage years. Otherwise I have lots of photos planned for here in Norway, both nature and portraits and hope to continually take my photography to a higher level.

What is your goal with your photography?
For a lot of my time in photography I was thinking ambitiously and hoping to make a profession of it and earn enough money to eventually life off of, at least part-time. But I’ve come to the point I don’t care about earning money from it. I want to make great artwork and if I can sell artwork that is great. Getting clients that want to do my creative ideas isn’t easy so I’m going to focus more on my own projects and continue my creative track. maybe I’ll do some commercial work for some side money, but art is my passion, so where that passion takes me I don’t know, and I’m satisfied as long as I can make art.