on landscape The online magazine for landscape photographers

Jesse Brown Nelson – Portrait of a Photographer

Showcasing the beauty of South Dakota

Matt Payne

Matt Payne

Matt Payne is a landscape photographer and mountain climber from Durango, Colorado. He’s the host of the weekly landscape photography podcast, “F-Stop Collaborate and Listen,” co-founder of the Nature First Photography Alliance, and co-founder of the Natural Landscape Photography Awards. He lives with his wife, Angela, his son Quinn, and his four cats, Juju, Chara, Arrow, and Vestal.


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In a recent conversation I had with a fellow landscape photographer, he used an evocative analogy to describe the difference between grand scenic landscapes and intimate landscapes; if photographs of a place are equivalent to what makes up human existence, then grand scenic images are the flesh and bones of a place, while intimate landscapes are the soul of the place. If our goal is to tell the whole story of a place, we, as landscape photographers, may deem it necessary to produce work showcasing both grand and intimate landscapes. In my experience examining the work of thousands of photographers, I’ve found that very few photographers can do both exceptionally.

This isn’t to say that a photographer must photograph a place’s grand landscape and smaller details to be considered a skilled practitioner of this craft. Instead, I believe it is pretty uncommon to find many photographers able to do so. The subject of this article, Jesse Brown Nelson, is one such photographer I have admired from afar. In addition to his skills as a photographer able to see both wide and near, Jesse’s story may inspire readers while instilling some ideas on becoming a better photographer.

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