Q & A With Nature Photographer Sarah Marino

We were very impressed when we found Sarah's work. Her precision framing and ability to create a cool, calm feeling really jumped out at us. She has some wonderful advice for those looking to get into photography as well as some inspirational photogs to look at. We think you will really enjoy what she has to share! 

What type of photography do you prefer and why?

I love nature photography.  I focus mostly on grand landscapes but also enjoy photographing a wide range of natural subjects including natural abstracts, smaller scenes, macro subjects, and the very occasional animal.  I really enjoy hiking and backpacking, so landscape photography was a natural extension of those interests.  Photography helps deepen my experiences in wild and scenic places and I find the act of photographing to be quite meditative, in addition to just being a lot of fun.  And, after working in the nonprofit sector for more than ten years now, it is nice to spend time on something that is just for me and less emotionally intense than my paying work. 

What tip(s) would you give someone just starting out in photography?

For someone who is just starting out with landscape photography, I would give the following tips:

  1. Spend a lot of time practicing photography, both in learning the technical craft of photography and in building your creativity.
  2.  Seek feedback over praise. I see the internet culture of mindless back-patting as being mostly detrimental to helping newer photographers develop their art and craft. The pull to produce work that is popular and receives praise leads to photography that all looks the same – same places, same time of year, same compositions, and the same processing. I personally think that resisting the pull of this culture can lead to more creative and interesting work, even if it receives less attention. (It is worth noting that I could follow my own advice on this point more consistently).
  3.  Read about the art and craft of photography.  Many excellent blogs, e-books, and traditional books are available about nature photography and I would advise new photographers to voraciously read and reflect on a wide variety of resources.  Some good places to start include the archive on the Nature Photographers Network website, Craft & Vision, e-books and blog posts by Guy Tal and Ian Plant, and books by Art Wolfe and Tim Fitzharris. 

Where is your favorite place to travel and to photograph?

I have all kinds of favorite places, but three are at the top: Iceland, Death Valley National Park, and the San Juan Mountains of Colorado.  Iceland is just an epic and wonderful place.  I have been in both spring/summer and in the winter and have a deep affection for the country and its landscape.   The diversity of the scenery is almost unbelievable, the soft and colorful light can last for what seems like forever, and the experience of seeing a place like the Jokulsarlon ice beach in winter or the aurora borealis is simply awe-inspiring.  Death Valley’s surreal landscape just keeps pulling me in.  Death Valley changes in character so much during the edges of the day and there are all kinds of interesting things to be found if you are willing to explore a little.  The San Juan Mountains are the place that I consider to be my home mountains.  I have spent a lot of time there and am always in awe of the beauty of that area – incredibly rugged peaks, lush wildflowers in the summer, and easy access to alpine environments.  Seeing the hillsides of fiery aspens and experiencing the smell of fall in those mountains is something that keeps pulling me in. 

Who is a photographer you have looked to for inspiration?

It is impossible to name just a single person because many photographers have inspired me at different points along the way.  My biggest initial inspiration was Marc Adamus.  When I first took up photography, I took one of his photo tours and it played a huge role in changing the way I viewed landscape photography.  After that experience, I started exploring more, made flexibility a much more important part of my travel, and I started being more aggressive in developing a portfolio. 

Now, I find bits and pieces of inspiration from a really wide range of landscape photographers rather than one or two individuals.  I’ll include a short list of a few of my favorite photographers just to give a sense of whose work and approach to photography I enjoy or admire: Guy Tal and Charles Cramer for their very thoughtful and meditative intimate landscape photographs and Guy for his thought-provoking writing; Floris van Breugel for his creative and always fresh approach; Alex Mody, who in his early twenties, has a really strong portfolio of work and shows an admirable commitment to developing his art; and Cole Thompson and Chuck Kimmerle for their somewhat minimalist and less traditional approach to black and white landscape photography.  This list leaves out so many people whose work I really admire.  I could easily name thirty or forty people in answering this question. 

I also get a great deal of inspiration and motivation from my partner, Ron Coscorrosa, who has been taking a sabbatical from work for the last few years to extensively travel and photograph.  My photography has dramatically improved since we started spending time together.  Ron has definitely helped me see things a bit differently and helped me remove some blinders, which has been so incredibly helpful. 

What made you decide to get into photography?

At the time I took up photography, I was working a very stressful consulting job and was also in graduate school – both full-time.  My Type-A personality finally caught up to me and I needed a creative, relaxing hobby.  I casually took up photography and then it quickly became consuming.  In turn, I started seeking more flexibility in my life so I could spend more time on photography and started with quitting my job.  I then started my own consulting practice, which allowed me to significantly scale back my work in 2012 and 2013 so I could travel extensively and spend some dedicated time building a photography portfolio.  While I do hope to make a small portion of my income from photography in the future, my motivation is a true love for this pursuit and all of the wonderful things it has brought my way.

Anything else?

Ron and I just published our first e-book, Forever Light: The Landscape Photographer’s Guide to Iceland.  When we planned our first trip to Iceland, we could not find any good, comprehensive resources on photography so we wrote the guide that we wish we had for that first trip. Learn more at www.naturephotoguides.com

Check out some of Sarah's work: