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Marc Adamus Interview

Further, Higher, Colder ...

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Tim Parkin

Tim Parkin

Amateur Photographer who plays with big cameras and film when in between digital photographs.

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Marc Adamus is a photographer who has taken adventure landscape photography to extremes. His hero is Galen Rowell and he shares a lot in common with his lust for further, higher, colder, (insert hyperbolae here) and I would say if Galen were still around today and active his work wouldn't be too far removed from what we're seeing from Marc himself. Although he's based in Oregon, he has travelled and photographed much of North America. We contacted Marc after he released a batch of stunning images taken during 2012 and he answered a few questions for us and talked about a few images. We've transcribed the interview but have also included the recording (at the bottom of the transcription) if you wish to listen to it as a podcast.

Tim: Okay, well I’ve put a few questions down, so I’ll just dig into those if you like? I noticed in your other interviews, because I had a look around online and I listened to a couple of podcasts, that Galen Rowell is a big inspiration. Galen started his vocation by climbing and not photograph, how did you begin your photography? Was it photography first or the outback back-packing first?

Marc: Oh well, part of photography for me is just the product of a lifelong interest in every type of outdoor adventure, I just always really, really enjoyed getting outdoors. I got out of high school at 16 and I spent the time just scraping together whatever funds I could find through whatever means to pursue an interest in backpacking through the high country and getting out there in winter, doing some mountaineering and a little bit of amateur climbing as well, and I actually found Galen Rowell’s work through his climbing. I knew him as a climber through his many exploits around the world - he was regarded as one of the very handful of top climbers of his era. The climbing world was extremely familiar with him, and I at that time had a budding interest in photography but mainly just for the purposes of documenting my own trips and bringing those memories back for people. And when I saw what he was able to do with a camera as well, I think over time that really influenced me to take my photography more seriously.

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  • Joe Rainbow

    I really like the way an interview lends a different perspective to someones work, and in this case i feel more of an affection for Marc’s work than before. His obvious enthusiasm for the adventure comes across strongly. I have always thought of his images as ‘American’ in style with the saturation and processing technique, but that is not such a bad thing really when you are so successful! An enjoyable read and compelling shots. Like many others, I can’t wait for some Himalaya action :)

  • Jon Tainton

    A fabulous set of high quality, inspirational images, from a very talented individual. Congrats on the body of work to date and good luck with your future endeavours.

  • Thanks Marc and Tim – I really enjoyed this, and Marc, I’m glad you haven’t died of exposure, yet!! I hope you don’t mind me saying this, but one or two of your recent images look (to me) even better than normal (for example, ‘minus fifty’)- I’m not sure how to put this – more natural, or perhaps less processed to get to a similar result – maybe a reflection of the improvements via the D800? Or perhaps my poor eyesight! I agree that Tristan Campbell has some beautiful images – one striking difference to his images versus yours – on the web at least – is their softness (or relatively less sharpening) which I love, because when we look at landscapes, we don’t see ‘sharpness’ as such. Would you consider using a perspective control lens? Personally I find the control of perspective via rise/fall as much of a benefit as tilt. It can fundamentally change an image. Good luck with your future work, regards, Michael.

  • ice9001

    I was hoping you would have an interview with Marc soon and was inthralled through out the interview (Great questions Tim ). Marc really does push the boat out for these images and it shows . I think this guy will go down as one of the all time greats , a very innovative and driven individual indeed . I liked your closing statement a lot Tim , my only reservation about his work is the is the slight over saturation of the images at first but I have grown to like it and see it as a part of his stile and who knows maybe the colours were that good I like to believe they were lol

  • robertwol

    Beautiful images and a great interview. Very interesting to glimpse a wider range to his work as well.

  • Hans Strand

    I think his photography is very impressive, but I have problems with the HDR feeling and too much saturation. He could easily make his work more subtle and even more impressive by tuning it down a few clicks.

  • robertwol

    Interesting points on the saturation of images. Personally I feel there is a place for both less and more saturated images, and sometimes in my own work this will reflect my mood as much as the subject. But what I wanted to say was, sometimes when I’ve either planned / been lucky enough to catch a really magic moment, when colours really are highly saturated, and I’ve worked towards a totally ‘straight’ image in post, I’ve felt I had to tone down the saturation to make it look more realistic. I think sometimes, because we aren’t used to seeing how colours are at night, or at 4 am on a summer morning, or on a really remarkable and hard-sought subject, maybe we find it hard to accept that as real?

  • Hans Strand

    It is sometimes frustrating to decide the right level of saturation. From experience I have learned that it is far better to be on the lower side, than being over the top. Intensely blue shadows and too red stone, look naive in my opinion. I also have problems with artificial glow in the highlights, which is often seen in Mark´s work. I think as he evolves as photographer, he will regret these elements of his post production. His unique photography of remote locations is strong enough by itself. I know there is a significant difference in style between european style and american in terms of colour saturation. Maybe his style is a result of that?
    In the majority of internet photography sites there seems to be no limits at all. The stronger the colours are, the more the viewers are applauding. The colours of nature are reproduced like they are in cartoons. Who would come up with an idea to over saturate a human face? Less is more.

    • I can see the argument both ways here.. There is obviously a big zeitgeist in the US at the moment towards large amounts of saturation. Personally I’m not a big fan but I think Marc handles the levels of saturation quite well.

      Personally my taste is towards less saturation – getting even lower as I learn more about photograph. I’ll probably end up doing black and white when I retire :-)

      I asked about prints specifically for this reason because I have a feeling that Marc’s prints won’t be as saturated (well – they can’t be given the lack of back lighting) because prints are aimed at a slightly different audience.

      Perhaps Marc’s revenue stream is predicated on a large audience whose understanding of saturation and wilderness photography requires this representation.

      There is the slight possibility that Marc likes the saturated look – if you refer to history of US photography – Muench, Fatali, Rowell, etc – there is a particular look, the Velvia look if you will, that has been inhereted via Outdoor Photographer.

      Personally I think most images benefit from 10-15 pts of saturation reduction without losing any of the visual impact.

      Let’s face it though – if he did this he’d just appear even more annoyingly good ;-)

      • Hans Strand

        I agree that there is a heritage, but during the analog era there were no such possiblilities as HDR or Orton effects ( added softness glow in the highlights ). Therefore their work look more realistic. In the latest work by Mark however I think he is more on the subtle side than before. The image with the ice and air bubbles in the foreground and the rugged mountains in the background, is one of the strongest and dramatic landscape images I have seen and not at all over the top.

      • ice9001

        Yes Tim I got a book a while back called “The Ultimate Guide To Digital nature photography ” because it contained some of Marc’s images to see how they looked in print and was surprised by how less saturated and more subtle they appeared too look in print . They looked rediculously good infact . The book also contained another fine photographer named Ian Plant he’s my favorite American photographer at the minute I would love to see an interview with him in the magazine in future .

        • Hans Strand

          Wow, I agree the work by Ian Plant is really stunning. Thanks!

  • Hans Strand

    I need to add that I am truly impressed by the work of Mark Adamus. I just feel that it could be even a few stops better with more subtle post production.

  • robertwol

    Consider this a third vote for an Ian Plant interview.

    Cheers and well done Tim et al.

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