Type of photography: landscape, mountain
Personal website: http://www.widerange.org
Camera type: Tachihara 4x5 large format film camera
Please introduce yourself. How old are you, where do you live and what is your job?
I am Jack Brauer, I'm 31 years old, and I live in the little town of Ouray, in the rugged heart of the San Juan Mountains in southwest Colorado. I work from home; photography is 1/2 of my business (mostly selling prints through my website) and the other half is building gallery websites for other photographers.
How long have you been taking photos and what brought you to photography?
I have been taking photos for about 10 years. I was a fine art printmaking major in college at the University of Colorado in Boulder, and I started using a digital camera to take pictures of textures which I could use in my intaglio and lithograph plates. I also got into backpacking with my friends in college, and I started bringing the camera along on backpacking trips. Though I wasn't too serious about photography at first, I really enjoyed photographing the amazing scenery that you can find in the wilderness, and eventually I became more dedicated to landscape photography.
What photographic equipment do you use?
I use a Tachihara 4x5 large format film camera, with Schneider and Nikkor prime lenses. On more strenuous trips I use an Olympus E-620 dSLR setup. I like the light weight and compactness of the Olympus, as well as their excellent zoom lenses.
Why do you prefer using film to digital photography?
I love BIG prints. So my favorite aspect of shooting large format film is the sheer resolution it offers. When I look at the film through a loupe on a lightbox, I almost feel as if I'm there in person at the scene again; the film shows basically every detail that my eye could see if I was there. I get the film drum scanned to a 600 MB file, and can then make huge, highly detailed prints. I also appreciate the camera movements of the field camera, which can be used to maximize the sharpness of the scene from foreground to background.
However, during the last year I have realized that I no longer desire to carry the 20+ lbs of large format gear with me when I'm backpacking in the mountains. The weight is unhealthy for my body, especially my knees. So I've been taking the Olympus setup with me more often instead. At less than 5 lbs, it is refreshingly lightweight and has brought back a lot of the joy of hiking in the mountains.
Do you edit your photographs in Photoshop? How long does it take you to edit one photograph?
Yes I edit all my photos in Photoshop. Nothing fake, just mainly contrast and color balance adjustments. With digital I do a lot of dual-exposure manual blends to control the exposure range, in the same manner I would with graduated neutral density filters on the film camera. I'm pretty quick with my editing; I can usually edit a photo in about five minutes. Sometimes it takes longer.
You have been taking pictures all around the world, which place impressed you the most?
The Dolomites in Italy have to be the most impressive mountains I've seen. The mountains there are like giant rock sculptures jutting out of idyllic grassy meadows. Each peak has it's own unique shape and so much character. Plus they have all the via ferrata climbing routes in the peaks there, so a non-skilled climber like myself can have a blast safely climbing up some pretty gnarly peaks.
Patagonia is also extremely impressive. The mountains there are so sheer and enormous it is mind-boggling.
What season do you like to photograph most and why?
Summertime is my favorite season for photography in the mountains, because that's the most enjoyable time to do long backpacking trips and really get immersed in the wilderness. During the summer months in the mountains you can really get a sense of paradise on Earth, especially here in Colorado with the rolling green tundra, vast fields of wildflowers, and emerald alpine lakes. Also I love the dynamic summertime weather here in Colorado, with the afternoon rains and thunderstorms.
You mostly photograph mountains. Are you concurrently a climber or do you choose places with easy access for tourists. Do you visit mountains on your own?
I don't do any climbing with ropes. But I do enjoy scrambling up peaks and climbing up snowpacked couloirs with crampons, ice axe, and snowboard... stuff like that. Most of my favorite places to shoot are not easily accessible; they often require off trail routefinding and bushwhacking. In fact most of the fun of my photography is just getting to the places where I shoot.
I do a lot of solo hiking and backpacking. This isn't necessarily by choice; it's just hard to find friends to join me on long trips. It was much easier in the past before we all had careers and whatnot. Fortunately for me though, running my own business from home allows me to make my own schedule and take large chunks of time off to travel or get out into the mountains. This has always been a big priority for me, and I'm truly grateful to have the freedom I do.
But I do savor the solitude of solo backpacking. When I'm out there in the mountains on a long trip by myself I can really get into a groove - I can get pretty "zenned out" so to speak. It's a good feeling.
Your last photographs are from Norway. You also have pictures of Italian Dolomites in your portfolio. Is there a big difference for you between USA and European landscape?
Yes the big difference between European and American mountains are the amount of people and infrastructure. Europeans have been living in their mountains for many hundreds of years, so there are lots of little alpine towns, and lots of huts, trams, ski areas, and such. In America there's more true wilderness. Here you have to carry a tent and all your camping gear, but you can get way out into the middle of nowhere where you can really feel the wild sense of nature.
Many thanks for the interview. I wish you even more beautiful photographs.
Thank you Michal!