There are answers here to as many popular questions as possible. If your question isn't listed here, please feel free to Contact Me – if many people ask, I'll add it to the list.
These are questions that are often asked by beginning photographers and students, about my work and my approach to photography.
Can I interview you for a class project?
Sure! I'm always happy to help with class work, and it's an honour to be the subject of an interview. Please review this page and my About page to make sure I haven't answered some of your questions already.
What is your educational background?
I don't have any education in photography. I studied Geomatics Engineering at BCIT (British Columbia Institute of Technology) and U of C (University of Calgary) for a total of 6 years. Right now, I'm studying to become a professional land surveyor.
How did you get started in photography?
In high school, a friend and I began taking photos for the school yearbook on a whim. The supervising instructor was very open-minded, and let us have the run of the available cameras and the darkroom. However, once I graduated, I didn't have access to photography equipment anymore.
A few years later, I sold an old car to an auto wrecker. I got a few hundred dollars for it, and I used the money to buy my first real camera. It took awhile to learn to use it, but I quickly realized that photography was something I wanted to do seriously. I dabbled in sports and stock photography, but it was fine art and abstract photography that really held my interest.
What subjects do you photograph and how do you find them?
I tend to photograph inconspicuous, out-of-the way subjects. I like finding unintentional abstract patterns and shapes that I can make interesting photographs with. I'm always trying to find new perspectives on the familiar things I walk by every day.
I usually head to natural areas or dilapidated areas urban areas to make pictures. In the past, corroded metal, ice, water, plants and rock formations have all been favourite subjects.
What category does your photography fall into?
I usually produce what I class as abstract photography – that is, photography that relies heavily on shapes, colours and patterns for expression. I work with found objects in ambient light, and try to present them in a way that allows the viewer to dialogue with the photograph.
Usually, people apply labels to objects they find in a piece of art. By presenting familiar objects in new ways, abstract photography can strip these labels away, creating a moment for the viewer to genuinely interact with something they may normally ignore.
Do you produce conceptual work?
Not really. Sometimes, I go out to make photographs with a fairly clear idea of a subject or pattern I'd like to find. However, I don't stage subjects for photography, and I don't keep a studio or do any conceptual digital processing. The majority of my work depends on communication through aesthetic elements instead of symbols and metaphor, and would probably be described as perceptual, not conceptual.
What are you working on now?
I spend what free time I have working on furthering my photography, be it making new work, updating my website, or learning and writing about new concepts in photography. I spend a lot of time making photographs, but I spend even more thinking and writing about art.
If you want to see what I've been up to recently, check out my News & Info page, or sign up for my RSS Feed.
Do you feel that you have made an impact on photography?
I hope so! I like to think that I'm creating work that could influence the course of photography and art. I do my best to contribute to the art community though my work, tutorials, photo tips, and personal coaching. I'm sure any impact so far has been very small, but I hope that I have made a difference.
Many people compliment my photographs, but the finest compliment I can receive is that I have inspired someone to create photography of their own. Making a positive impact on a budding artist is a contribution that can truly last forever!
Do you have any tips for beginning photographers?
One of the most important things a beginning photographer can do is to avoid using any kind of formula to create a photograph. Always try to create a photograph from scratch, not from a conceptual template. The results may be less impressive at first, but the style you develop over time will be all your own.
I encourage photographers to appreciate other art forms as well. Many of my favourite artists are painters, musicians or sculptures, not photographers. These disciplines spend more time on a piece, and so spend more time thinking about its style and expressive elements.
I have written some articles, tips and tutorials on a range of subjects relating to photography. To read them, please visit my Photography Tutorials page. Subscribe to my Daily Photo Tips RSS Feed to receive a brief photo tip every day.
Photography as an art form gives rise to some minor ethical debates. These are questions about where I stand.
Do you enhance your photographs with Photoshop?
No. Nothing has been added, removed, or enhanced in any of my photographs. They are all full frame (uncropped) "straight" shots.
Like most photographers, I use Photoshop to post-process my image files. Scanners and cameras capture a maximal amount of image information, resulting in a very drab, low-contrast image. After capture, I change colour balance, contrast and tonality of the raw file to make it represent the subject more accurately.
For black and white photographs, I use Photoshop like a traditional photographer uses a darkroom, subjectively adjusting tonality and contrast. As with the rest of my work, no objects are ever added or removed.
My photographs are not digitally enhanced, but that does not mean they are an accurate portrayal of reality. This is the art of photography – I routinely use various shutter speeds, apertures, lenses, and camera positions to change the appearance of a subject.
Can I download your photos onto my computer?
Absolutely! I encourage you to download photographs and documents from my website. I encourage you to share this material with anyone, as long as you tell them where you got it.
I don't want you to alter or take credit for any of the material on my website. Don't crop, resize, or change any of my photographs. Make sure that any forwarded text is taken in its original context and is properly credited. If you are displaying any of my material on your website or blog, a link back to MarkRaymondMason.com would be appreciated.
My photography articles are free to copy and distribute. If you enjoy them, please consider making a small donation to an environmental or social charity, such as the World Wildlife Fund (www.wwf.org) or the Red Cross (www.redcross.org).
For more information, please visit my Copyright Information page.
Do you arrange a scene before you photograph it?
No. All of the photographs on my website are of undisturbed subjects. That isn't to say that all of the scenes occurred naturally, but none of them were created or altered for the purposes of photography.
I like to photograph accidentally occurring shapes and patterns. I dislike making photographs of things that have been created to look attractive – it feels like I'm plagiarizing someone else's art. Similarly, I don't like setting up scenes for photography – inflicting my influence on a subject would take away some of the imperfection that I'm trying to capture.
This is not to say that I disagree with posing a scene when it's done honestly. Still life or portrait photography usually involves posed subjects, and the pose is an extremely important part of the work. However, I find posing a normally "found" object (spraying a flower with water to make it look "dewy" for example), to be dishonest and distasteful.
Why don't you review products on your website?
From the beginning, I wanted this website to be an advertising-free zone. Advertising, and the resulting pressure to consume products, has become a huge part of our daily lives. It is not welcome here.
Product reviews are useful, but they're too close to advertising for my personal comfort. Ultimately, the best camera for you is the one you can afford and are comfortable using.
Because I don't make money from ads or product reviews, people sometimes ask if I accept donations. I don't – instead, please donate to an environmental or social charity of your choice, such as the World Wildlife Fund (www.wwf.org) or the Red Cross (www.redcross.org). If you would like to support this site, please sign the Guestbook and leave your thoughts for future visitors.
These questions are included to clear up some finer details about Lightjet prints and my personal approach to printing.
Why does my print have a thin black line around the edges?
I leave the edges of my film photographs untrimmed after scanning in order to save as much of the image as possible. The edges of a 35mm transparency are not perfectly crisp, and the scanned image corners are not perfectly square – this means some images will have a very thin (1-2mm), slightly uneven black border.
Cropping the border would create a clean edge, but would erase some information and remove some of the "character" of the print. If you like, you can cover this black border during matting.
Digitally captured photographs don't have a black line around the edges.
How detailed are your prints?
My prints are very detailed. Even my large (2 foot by 3 foot) prints are sharp, and hold enough detail to satisfy close inspection.
During every step of the imaging process, I take pains to ensure that my final prints will be as sharp and colourful as I can make them. This usually requires a lot of time for each photograph. It also requires me to reject all but the best photographs – out of many thousands of photographs in my archives, I only choose to print the few that meet high technical standards.
For more information about prints, please visit my Print Information page.
What's so special about a Lightjet print?
At first glance, a Lightjet print looks similar to other fine photographic prints. On closer inspection, however, a Lightjet print will reveal finer details, better colour accuracy, and more highlight and shadow detail.
To create an image, the Lightjet printer uses coloured lasers to expose archival photographic paper. Since the process exposes the paper's emulsions instead of printing with dyes, the print will resist fading better than many digital photo prints.
A Lightjet print is one of the most accurate, vivid and archival available. To see sizes and prices of Lightjet prints, please visit my Print Information page.
How do you make your black and white prints?
Somewhat counter-intuitively, I start with a very high quality colour photograph. Using a colour image allows better handling of tone and contrast than capturing a black and white photograph in the field.
I selectively filter the image using techniques similar to traditional black and white photography, brightening tones from some colours while darkening tones from others. This allows me to exercise more control over the photograph than if I were to record black and white images directly in the field.
Like colour prints, my black and white prints are made using the Lightjet process.
Will my print require a custom sized mat / frame?
Some of my photographs have a 2:3 side ratio, and others have a 3:4 side ratio. When I print an image, I maintain these ratios. Depending on the size, this can produce a print that will not fit in standard picture frames.
Most prints require custom matting. Some standard frames will fit well – for instance, an 18" x 24" frame looks very natural around a matted 11" x 16.5" print. Alternatively, dry-mounting a print sidesteps the matting problem and produces a very sleek, modern-looking work.
These are technical support and equipment related questions to do with this website and photography in general.
Why do your photos look strange on my computer?
I prepare my photographs for web viewing on a typical flat-screen monitor. However, computer monitors vary a great deal in the way they display colour, detail, and tonal depth. My photographs may look quite different on your computer than they do on mine.
The good news is that this website will look similar on most newer monitors if you go through a simple calibration routine. To roughly calibrate your monitor, visit my Monitor Setup page.
Why do you still use film? Isn't digital better?
I'm using a digital camera now, but much of my work until early 2010 was captured on film. When used carefully, film is capable of retaining as much detail as the best digital camera bodies. It was more difficult, frustrating and time-consuming to work with, but the results were excellent.
I moved into digital photography for a change of pace and to make my photography more spontaneous and creative. To my eye the photographs have a slightly different character, but the results are still superb.
What kind of camera do you use?
I like to use small digital cameras with interchangeable lenses because they're portable, lightweight, and capable of excellent results if used carefully. However, these photographs could have been made with using many different types of equipment from many different manufacturers.