“I’m biased,” he admits, “but I think this is the most beautiful place on earth, especially for a landscape photographer.”
- A Guide to Photographing the Canadian Landscape
- Alberta – a pictorial for the centennial of the province in 2005
- Canada – a scenic pictorial gift book of the country
The 25-year professional landscape photography veteran took time to answer my interview and his answers paint a common theme I’ve found throughout these interviews: A great product is required but only hard work, determination, and persistence will make it pay off.
12 Questions with Canadian Landscape Photographer Daryl Benson:
1. I’d like to start out with that “ah” moment when you realized your life would be tied to a camera instead of a more tangible career. How did it happen?
DB: As romantic as it would be to have such a moment it never really happened that way. It was more like a string of events that happened with me mostly unaware until I was past them.
2. You’ve been shooting professionally for 25 years. What single project, shoot, or book stands out as either your defining moment or favorite?
DB: I have a strong personal connection to an image of a dragonfly perched on a stock of hay at dawn near Sherwood Park, Alberta.
3. You claim to make the majority of your income from Getty and Masterfile. Can you give me some details about working time, income, and locations?
A) What percentage of your time is spent on Shooting? Editing? Marketing?
DB: It varies quite a bit from year to year but if I spend two weeks shooting, It’ll take me two weeks to edit that material.
B) What percentage of your income comes from editorial clients? Commercial clients? Stock? Other Sources?
DB: My main source of income is stock, then in order, self-publishing, assignments, lectures/presentations and workshops, print sales, writing and finally working in my daughters scrapbook store here in Edmonton (Treasured Memories, stop by and say hi)!
C) How many days do you spend on the road each year?
DB: Again it’s variable. If I was to average the last ten years, four months of each year is spent travelling.
4. How did you get involved with Getty and what advice would you give to a younger shooter looking to collaborate with a major stock agency?
DB: I kept knocking on the door until they let me in. I believe part of the vetting process for Getty is to initially decline pretty much everyone who approaches them. That eliminates about seventy percent of the applicants as most stop there. By shooting new material and continuing to submit (making reference to your previous applications), you’ll finally get their attention. Of course the work has to be very good, but that’s just the price of admission these days.
5. Successful photographers often balance two roles: creative professional and business man. What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned in both roles?
DB: To stay creative don’t get too impressed by anything you do. In business don’t get too comfortable. Stay hungry in both.
6. Your portfolio shot of Torres Del Paine on your website is taken from the same spot as every classic Paine shot but your image is different. It’s soft and surreal. How is your approach different and can you explain your vision in words?
DB: It’s a thirty-minute exposure using a ten-stop neutral density filter. Vision comes from experience.
7. You’ve self-published three books. Tell me about the risk and reward of working alone instead of with a publisher. What was the biggest hurdle? The biggest benefit?
DB: If I could of worked with a published I would have. I was unable to interest anyone in the projects. In retrospect it worked out well for me but I can see now I had no idea what I was doing. I’ve lived, so far, with the belief that it’s better to make a decision and go with it than become paralyzed by indecision. Make a decision and act on it, then if necessary find strategies to outwit the stupid decision you’ve made.
8. You’ve done a fair bit of traveling as a photographer both within Canada and around the world. As a stock shooter, I assume much of the initial cost falls on your own budget and the income comes later, so there is some risk involved. What five aspects do you consider when deciding to travel to a new location to shoot?
DB: In no particular order – Do I think the images/location will be marketable? How long can I go, how much will it cost? When would be the best time to go (weather, light, events, etc)? Does the location hold any interest for me?
9. What’s in your backpack when you go out for a landscape shoot at home? Abroad?
DB: As little as possible. Each trip is different, but at least one body (currently Canon 5D), 16-35mm, 24-70mm, 100-400mm, regular polarising filter, gold-n-blue colour polarising filter, solid neutral density filter, mini-tripod, lots of memory cards.
10. Are you happy with your current work – both its style and quality – and how do you see it evolving in the next 2-5 years?
DB: I’m satisfied with my current job. I have no idea where the next 2-5 years will lead.
11. What three people – be it friends, family, photographers, athletes or anyone else – provide your greatest source of inspiration?
DB: My Mother, my two daughters.
12. Any final thoughts you’d like to add?
DB: No, I’m still trying to figure things out myself.
As always, these interviews wouldn’t be possible without willing interviewees. Thank you Daryl for taking the time to satisfy my curiosity.
These interviews are a regular series on my blog, so make sure to leave me a comment with the types of questions you want answered by today’s top pros and I’ll do my best to include them. Check back every Monday for a new interview.