INTERVIEW WITH MICK GOW @micktographer
Can you tell me about yourself ?
Sure. I grew up on the coastline near Sydney, Australia surrounded by the ocean. After relocating to the US about 10 years ago, I’ve settled down somewhere that feels very close to home in Southern California - again surrounded by the ocean. I spend a lot of time capturing what I define as “the light and colors of the ocean”.
Recently I’ve been trying to travel as much as possible to expand my seascape photography to places like Bora Bora, where I can capture everything a tropical ocean has to offer.
How would you describe your current photographic style?
A few years ago I slapped myself across the face and told myself to focus (pun intended) on what I do best and do it great. I believe the only way to stand out is to do a few things amazingly rather than do everything just okay. My style is based on the concept of capturing light and color. I like to push the fine line between photography and fine art by very subtly exaggerating light, shadows, and color. I want to retain the essence of a scene but enhance the emotion I felt at the time.
What inspires your vision?
I study a scene intensely. Find out what is working well and what is not, then try to imagine if I could twist Mother Nature, how would I frame, enhance, and capture my version of what I see. Usually then when I start editing, I already have a vision in my mind of the final outcome. My storytelling starts from the moment I’m on location, until the moment I’m done editing. My visions are usually about “a moment at a scene” - I try to capture moment, and tell stories of them. Aside from my own vision, I’m inspired by photos I discover where people do “a new twist” on a location that nobody else has.
Can you give a breakdown of the equipment you use to create your images?
My gear is pretty simple. Canon 6D for amazing low light and shadow recovery. I get by 80% of the time with a 16-35mm f4 and my super wide 12mm Laowa - which is a beast at naturally exaggerating an enormously wide field of view. I primarily use ND and ND-grad filters by Lee and Breakthrough Photography. I’ve been through many many tripods shooting in salt water and sand - but loving my Sirui W2204 waterproof CF tripod.
What would be your favourite lens and why?
Canon 16-35mm it never fails me for capturing in any light. It’s been beat around and dropped and gotten very wet and keeps on working. It also does great at shooting into the sun without too much lens flare which is super important for the type of lighting I shoot in.
What are your go to settings when you shoot?
I usually prefer longer focal lengths and slower shutter speeds to capture water in motion. Generally ISO100, f18-22, 1 sec. I then tweak depending on the motion I want to capture and the light I have to work with.
Where is your favourite destination for photography?
Anywhere by interesting rock formations by a beach. I mostly shooting in the beaches near Laguna Beach, CA. My all time favorite travel destination is Bora Bora which is usually pretty clear from my online gallery.
Among all your work what is your most memorable capture?
There was one sunset while in Bora Bora where the clouds were casting off amazing light show and the water around me was reflecting colors from every direction. I’ve never captured so much color in one scene - and over a period of about 30 minutes I captured some of the best photos I’ve shot.
What methods do you use for editing? Can you explain your workflow?
I’m 90% lightroom. I don’t use presets because every image I edit differently. I sometimes put my image on an iPad and start scribbling over it with lines and do a game plan of where I’m going to adjust light or color. I then start by doing quick exposure adjustments then spend a lot of time adjusting each colour slider, then I use selection tools to adjust color in various places often pushing saturation but also adjusting shadow/highlight temperatures. I then selectively enhance areas of shadow and highlight to try and isolate areas of interest I want the eye to focus on the most.
How do you educate yourself to become a better photographer?
My number one tool is studying my own photos. Taking a lot of different exposures of the same scene with my gear and getting to know what my lenses and camera can handle well.
Who would you say are your greatest influencers and inspirations?
Usually photographers that share their entire photography journey. I’m inspired by the moment people have, the places they travel and the experiences they have. These include Nick Page, Travis Burke, Alex Strohl but also a small network of local SoCal photographers that are so awesome for being so open and inspirational and collaborative.
Lastly, what advice would give someone starting out in photography?
Find your own photography passion and do it really well. There is so much repetitive shooting with social media today that it’s so easy to want to shoot all the same places, all the same styles and end up with a portfolio that doesn’t stand out. Being unique today is really really difficult and something I’m really trying to solve. Make your goal about telling your own stories through your own eyes, not the same story everyone else tells through their eyes.
To see more of Mick's work have a look at his Instagram