Analog Inspiration: Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher

Short Nights of the Shadow CatcherLately, I’ve been spending a lot of time reading the histories of people and places that resonate with me, including biographies of great photographers. Photography is a brilliant art form in its inherent individuality, and each photographer’s journey is a perfectly unique; often equal parts epic triumph and heartbreaking tragedy.

Such is the story of Edward Curtis – Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher. Told in vivid detail by master storyteller, journalist and novelist, Timothy Egan, this book evokes the entire gamut of emotions and left me with a far deeper understanding of what it means to devote your life to your craft.

Edward Curtis is famous for his iconic portraits of Native Americans in the early part of the 20th century, and has in recent years been the target of criticism that he was a profiteer, more interested in creating an illusion on film than faithfully documenting a way of life.

The truth is far more complex, and the story is infinitely more nuanced. It is every bit worth the 300+ pages it takes to gain a more complete understanding. What is clear is that beyond the photography, which is doubtlessly breathtaking, Edward Curtis devoted his entire life to trying to understand and document every Native American tribe in the country, as ‘progress’ literally erased his subjects as he was attempting to study, document, integrate with and photograph them.

This is the epic and tragic tale of a true artist, an explorer and a hero facing insurmountable odds and charging forward nonetheless. Highly recommended. Or, in other words, read this book.

If you’ve got other titles that you’ve found captivating or inspiring, I’d love to hear about them. Drop a note in the comments below!

Q&A – Best Micro 4/3 Lenses

Olympus Micro 4/3 KitI get a lot of questions about my techniques and equipment, and try my best to respond when I have time. Generally these dialogues stay hidden in emails, Facebook messages and Twitter DMs. Yesterday as I was responding to a question my friend John sent me  about my choice of lenses for my Olympus Micro 4/3 system (my light and fast kit for long human-powered missions), I figured that there might be more people who would be interested in the discussion. Therefore, I introduce the Q&A concept on my blog, where I share questions and answers about my approach to photography. Without further ado, here’s the skinny on my lens selections for my Olympus E-M1 Micro 4/3 system.

Q: Hey Scott, How’s it going? Hope all is well. Hey I wanted to ask you something about the Olympus gear you have. I am looking at getting my wife one of the the Olympus mirrorless cameras (well maybe myself too and sell my D600) and wanted to ask want lenses you have, use or have used for yours and any opinions on them. I am looking at a few of them and have read all the reviews and what not but nice to get some input from someone who uses them. The ones I am looking at the the 9-18, the 12-50, the 12-40 2.8 and the 14-150. Thoughts? Others I should consider? Thanks. John


A: Hi John, Here’s my Olympus Lens kit:

Olympus 9-18 – Super small and lightweight, a little bit of a pain to extend the lens to shoot, not the sharpest, but not bad. It’s fast enough, small enough and useful enough that I bring it everywhere I bring my Olympus camera.
Olympus 12-40 2.8 – Badass. Tough, sharp, fast, weather sealed. The best zoom lens they have by far. This lens stays attached to the camera and is my go-to.
Panasonic 35-100 2.8 – Very sharp and quick to focus, but for some reason, the camera motor drives slower with the Panasonic lens. I’ll replace this with the Olympus 40-150 2.8 lens when it’s released early next year. I almost always carry this lens with the kit.
Olympus 14-150 – This used to be my go-to lens before they released the 12-40. It’s an incredible tool if you want to keep one lens on your camera 90% of the time, which has a huge speed benefit. It’s not as sharp as the 12-40, nor as fast to focus, but for what it is, the utility is amazing. It mostly stays in my gear locker, but when I need to go super light, I bring it out.
Olympus 75-300 – With the 2x crop factor you get on a Micro 4/3 camera, this lens is the 35mm equivalent of a 150-600 and is smaller than my Nikon 24-70. Again, not the fastest or the sharpest lens in the world, but a 600mm lens that you can toss in a jacket pocket is a beautiful thing. Mostly reserved for special outings because even though it’s small for a 600, it’s big for a micro 4/3 kit.

I’ve published photos in commercial and art environments with all of these lenses, so you needn’t be excessively concerned about issues with sharpness, etc.
For the best bang for the buck, you may well be very happy with the 9-18 and 14-150. I was for years.

If you’d like to keep the conversation going or are looking for more info on this equipment, drop a note in the comments below. Also, let me know if you’d like me to keep sharing this type of content.

If you like my work, please follow me online at: FacebookInstagramGoogle+500px and Twitter.  More importantly, share it with a friend and give me a hi-5 when you see me next; let’s keep things in the real world here.  Thanks!

Happy 50th Birthday, Wilderness Act!

North Cascades Sunrise

“If future generations are to remember us with gratitude rather than contempt, we must leave them a glimpse of the world as it was in the beginning, not just after we got through with it.” – President Lyndon Johnson upon signing the Wilderness Act 50 years ago today.

To those of us who frequent the Wilderness, this act of legislation is at the pinnacle of governance. It exists within a realm that values permanence, sustainability and legacy over business and expedience. It recognizes that time tested fact that freedom cannot be purchased, but can be experienced by anyone who spends a night under an unpolluted summer sky.

By protecting the wilderness areas against development, we have created sanctuaries from our overbearing human footprint. In these beautifully balanced systems, we find an equilibrium wherein humans can coexist with our animal siblings, where the air and land are self-maintained. Where we quickly find that we are not outside or above the natural order, and thrill in every step we take that moves us closer to seamless integration.

This way of life must always be maintained. And the pursuit cannot just stop at the wilderness borders. The lessons learned in the wilderness apply in all places. We must seek to lessen our impact, to coexist with nature and to build ways of thinking and operating that serve not to benefit us, but to benefit the world for all generations to come.

Thank you to the pioneers who blazed this path 50 years ago, and may it continue to inspire our achievements both within the wild places, and beyond.

Best Boxer Briefs for Outdoor Sports – A Totally Unscientific Review

Boxer Brief ReviewAnd now for my most ridiculous blog post yet. Laugh it up now, but you’ll thank me later.

For years I’ve had a go-to in the performance underwear department. I’m embarrassed to say, I’ve put a LOT of miles on a particular pair. So earlier this summer when I was packing for a couple of weeks on an Alaskan glacier, I decided I’d bolster my collection.

I purchased a pair identical to the aforementioned heavily utilized garment, but then decided that I may as well give a few others a chance as well. I picked up a pair of the REI Boxer Briefs, the ExOfficio Give-N-Go Boxer Briefs, the Patagonia Cap 1 Stretch Boxer Briefs, and online I ordered a set of MyPackage Weekday Boxer Briefs.

I have now had a chance to put each and every one of these pairs of undies through the ringer, and there is a clear winner. But first, the criteria:

Smooth Fabric: how nice is the fabric against the skin?
Wedgie Proof: does the boxer brief stay in place, in the leg and rear-end areas?
Crotch Comfort: how nice is the banana hammock?
Quick Dry: if I get inspired to swim, do they dry quickly?
Supportive: is my equipment supported when it’s time to run or jump?
Easy Access: when it’s time for a trailside pee-break, how quick is the front panel access?

The Results:

Boxer Brief Review Chart

Yes, friends, this is one of the moments we all dream of. When the cheapest option turns out to be the best one. The REI Boxer Briefs are fantastic to the touch, wedgie proof, provide crotch comfort, dry quickly, support the junk and offer easy access – all for the very reasonable price of $22.50. Get ‘em here, and enjoy years of comfort in your nether regions.

*Disclosure – While REI is a client of mine, they had no part in this review, and I’ve received no compensation or oversight on this product comparison. This is purely my unsolicited opinion after some sweaty days in the backcountry.

Why I’m still a Weekend Warrior *mostly.

Weekend Warriors down by the river.It’s Friday! Three day weekend! And why do I, self-employed landscape and adventure photographer, care? Because deep down, despite the fact that it’s been years since I’ve had to answer to a boss, I’m still a weekend warrior. Which begs the question, why?

1. Professional Accountability. It’s easy to think that as a self-employed artist, I can make my own schedule, wander the earth, vanish from contact for weeks on end. In reality, most of us who are finding some success in this craft are doing so by maintaining a lot of relationships and keeping many irons in the fire. This means phone calls and emails to keep projects flowing. It means being present and available when my clients and colleagues are. Yup, we’re talking about Monday-Friday 9-5ish (at very least). Burn too many of those hours on chasing powder, and you become one of the flaky ones. Slippery slope, and one that I’m not particularly interested in sliding down.

2. Work/Play Balance. While it’s important to make sure you’re doing enough ‘clocking in’ as an independent artist. It’s equally important to make sure to do enough ‘clocking out’. There’s always work to do, and a million ways I can improve my business and brand by investing a little bit more time here or there, but I’m acutely aware that time away from the desk or the camera is as important to my business as time spent working. So many business owners get overworked and burned-out by bowing to the pressures of the job and working endlessly. The mind needs to rest, the body needs to run. Five days of hard work every week is plenty, the other two are best spent finding your bliss, whether it’s atop a mountain or at home with family.

3. Friends. I’m fortunate to get to work with a lot of amazing athletes and models. We get outside, we ski, climb, ride, camp, road trip. We get the shots. It’s awesome. But as much as I value this time with these amazing people, it happens on the clock. It means there are specific objectives, deliverables, creative briefs, and shot lists. I’m telling models what I need them to do for the camera, or I’m working with athletes in order to get in position to document an amazing moment. Yes, we have fun, but yes it’s work. When the weekend comes around, I’ve got a different crew of friends that I call, friends who have also been on the clock all week and are itching to go out and play. We get outside, we ski, climb, ride, camp, road trip. We don’t get the shots. It’s awesome. Although, I’ve gotta come clean here. Even on these weekend jaunts, I can’t help but carry a camera, and I’ve created some of my favorite images while out playing on the weekend. I guess nobody’s perfect.

Now, turn off your computer and have a Happy Labor day weekend!

Is the Sony RX100 III the Best ‘Pocket’ Camera Ever?

The Sony RX100 III - Best Pocket Camera Ever?I’m a strong proponent of the idea that ‘it’s not about the camera‘. I really am. To the extent that I hesitate to write about specific pieces of equipment because it moves the conversation away from the why/where/when an image was made, and puts the focus on what combination of glass, metal and plastic was responsible for recording the light striking the film plane. Fundamentally, you can create great photography with bad cameras, but a great camera is a useless hunk of expensive engineering without a creative being driving the process. Photography first, cameras second.

So, ranting disclaimer aside, I do love cameras. Admittedly I’ve amassed a small collection, and it seems to be expanding on a regular basis. The primary tools of my trade are the Nikon D4s, the Nikon D610, the Olympus OM-D E-M1, and the iPhone. The essential idea is to get the best quality possible in size XL, L, M and S. To have a kit to accommodate anything from high production commercial work to deep wilderness expeditions. I couldn’t be happier with the quality of the Nikon and Olympus gear, but the iPhone is, as anyone who as relied on a phone camera knows, a bit lacking. But, for all that it lacks, it’s got two key advantages: always there, and easy to share.

As Instagram has become an ever larger part of my photo sharing, I’ve started posting work that doesn’t just include snaps from my iPhone, but photos from my larger collection. This has caused me view image quality of the iPhone vs. the photos from my ‘real’ cameras side-by-side. You won’t be surprised to hear that I’m falling out of love with the phone cam. Which leaves the question: what is available that is always there, easy to share, and takes kick ass pictures?

Enter the Sony RX100 III. Read the reviews here, here, here, and here. It’s widely been declared the finest digital point and shoot ever built. Sony has packed so much image quality and speed into such a small package, it’s astounding. It’s been out on one of my missions thus far, and I’m strongly digging it, and moving toward love. I want to use the camera a bit more before I declare it a game changer, but here are the primary criteria by which I’ll be judging the camera:

1. Speed – Can I pull it out, turn it on and capture a photo as fast as I can with the iPhone? Will the frame rate and focusing handle fast moving subjects as I attempt to capture outdoor adventure of every stripe?

2. Quality – Can the image quality stand up to professional applications, including commercial advertising and the creation of art prints up to 30″ wide?

3. Sharing – Will the built in wifi interface let me quickly and reliably get photos off the camera and onto Instagram without going through the time consuming process of download and editing entire cards on my computer?

And just to let you know we’re dealing with a serious contender, here are a few photos from a weekend of alpine climbing where ounces counted, big cameras were a non-starter and this little dynamo came out swinging.

So far, so very good. Stay tuned for more results from this exciting bit of tech.

As always, custom fine art prints of all of my images are available. If you like my work, please follow me online at: FacebookInstagramGoogle+500px and Twitter.  More importantly, share it with a friend and give me a hi-5 when you see me next; let’s keep things in the real world here.  Thanks!

Welcome to the new WWW.SCOTTRINCK.COM !

Welcome to the new and improved home of Scott Rinckenberger Photography, Thanks for visiting!

The new website of Scott Rinckenberger Photography, featuring fine art, landscape, adventure, and commercial photography

Here’s a quick breakdown of the changes you’ll find on the new site:

  2. Art Projects Gallery – This area is for sharing collections of images that are shot for the sake of art, and are generally longer-term objectives. The art projects galleries are either collections which have already become art exhibitions or editioned fine-art prints, such as ‘An Elevated State‘ and ‘Photos for the Philippines‘, or projects in development for future execution such as ‘Panoramic‘ and ‘Snowscapes‘. The first image in each of these galleries gives a brief explanation of the project and/or the artistic motivation.
  3. Portfolios Gallery – The galleries in this area includes images created on assignments or adventures, and which celebrate the presence of people in the world’s beautiful places. The Adventure gallery features outdoor sports like skiing, climbing, mountain biking, running and surfing from around the world. The Commercial gallery includes work created on location and utilized by clients including REI, MSR, evo, Intel, Backcountry and Patagonia. The Portraits gallery is a new body of work which reflects my attempt to connect photographically with the people who add so much to my adventures and collaborations.
  4. About – You’ll now find a quick blurb about my background and approach as well as information about art exhibitions and honors that I’ve been fortunate to have received in my career.
  5. Prints – I’ve included a bit of information about my printing process. Drop a line to for information about ordering and pricing.
  6. Blog- The new site has a fantastic WordPress integration, so that the blog matches the site and will stay in sync seamlessly.
  7. Press – A collection of blurbs and links that feature nice people saying nice things about my work.
  8. Mailing List – Feed your love for photography and adventure. Stay up to date on the latest work from some of the world’s most spectacular locations. Be the first to know about new projects and art exhibitions, and get special pricing on prints and other Scott Rinckenberger merchandise. Join the Scott Rinckenberger Photography mailing list! I will not share your info with any outside parties, and will only contact you periodically with the most engaging news from the world of Scott Rinckenberger Photography.
  9. Social Links – Click them all, follow along, let’s stay in touch!

And now a few nuts and bolts:

  1. The site is built on the Photoshelter platform. They are an amazing resource for photographers, providing templates for sites like this one (called Element), hosting and e-commerce for stock photography, and a wealth of information for working professionals or aspiring photographers. Give them a look!
  2. The blog is on WordPress using the TwentyEleven theme with some tweaks to make it match the main site, thanks to Dartanyon Race for the coding help on the blog.
  3. The photos were edited and prepped using a combination of Lightroom and Photoshop from Adobe.
  4. Photos on the site were created with the following cameras: Nikon D4s, Nikon D610, Olympus OM-D E-M1, Olympus OM-D E-M5, Sony A99 and Sony A77. My current go-to system is a combination of the D4s, D610 and E-M1.

Your turn! I’ve purpously created a site that is very flexible and easily modified. I’m very interested to hear what you think! Too much of one thing? Too little of another? Just right? I’m considering this a soft-launch and will be refining over the near future. Leave your feedback in the comments below, and I’ll most definitely take your ideas into consideration. Thanks again for visiting the new site, I hope you enjoy the work half as much as I’ve enjoyed creating it!

Photos for the Philippines

El Nido Philippines - © JGAERLAN via Creative Commons Flickr

El Nido Philippines - © JGAERLAN via Creative Commons Flickr

It’s been a while since the images coming from the Philippines looked like this. Since the landfall of Typhoon Haiyan on November 8, 2013, the stories and photos on the news have largely depicted scenes of utter devastation. The statistics are overwhelming; thousands killed, hundreds of thousands homeless and without basic necessities. Problems like these do not heal themselves overnight, and though I salute the valiant efforts of the media and relief organizations who responded to the immediate crisis in the hours and days after the disaster, I am always curious about the story that continues once the news cycles have run their course.

The current situation is a story of slow recovery with the local communities largely self-rescuing and involves a staggering statistic: 90 percent of displaced people have resettled on the same plots, and are living in such shelters as they can devise with the existing very limited resources. This leaves these parts of the population even more exposed to future disasters than they were before the storm.

Gut wrenching images traveled the globe as documentary photographers and media outlets rushed to the scene of the storm, but these images of flattened villages and ships tossed ashore need to stand in contrast to something or they are too easily filed away as an abstract problem in an abstract place.

In my study of the Philippines in the wake of the typhoon, I grew aware of the storm and its effects to the country, but also had my eyes opened to an incredibly diverse country of over 7000 islands and a vibrant, happy and energetic culture. A world-class destination for sailing, diving, surfing, hiking, fishing and more, the more I learned about the Philippines, the more I felt the need to see it for myself.

My photography has never lent itself to the conveyance of news or tragedy, my explorations and subsequent captures are part of an ongoing search for the simple, the beautiful, the exotic, the adventurous. And yet, by applying this approach to travels in a land in need of desperate ongoing international support, I hope to inspire a new cycle of giving. Sublime beauty and devastating wreckage are two sides of the same coin, and each can illicit powerful responses.

As I travel through the Philippines for the next 15 days, I’ll have my eyes and mind open to what experiences and sights await, but my photographic goal will be to capture the beauty and soul of an amazing part of the world, and to share this beauty with everyone I can reach.

Upon my return, I’ll release a series of the best images for sale as fine-art prints. The proceeds from the sales of these pieces will be donated to the Philippines Red Cross, the leading relief organization in the ongoing relief and rebuilding in the affected areas of the Philippines. In the mean time, I’ll be sharing photos from the trip via Instagram (#photosforthephilippines) and Facebook as connectivity allows. The more people that take interest in this project, the higher the impact. Please share with your friends and communities, and help me bring visibility to the next phase of Philippines relief.

Doing it Right – ‘The Eight’ Snowboard Photography Project

You want to know where it’s at? The combination of passion and creativity. Art and Love. That’s why when photographer Gonzalo Manera dropped me an email to introduce me to his latest project, The Eight, I was totally on board. What is it? A beautiful 133 page volume of photography from eight of the most artistically gifted snowboard photographers in the world (BTW, the work of Thomas Stockli is beyond good).

The Eight - A Snowboard Photography Project

The curation, design, layout and production quality is all top tier. The idea is brilliant. I’ll let Gonzalo explain:

“With The Eight I wanted to give photographers the opportunity to show the world photo stories as they envisioned them, not modified by an Art Director or any commercial interests of a given sponsoring brand. The photographers are the ones deciding what material they submit. The final goal is to show amazing photography, no matter who the rider is or how old the photo is.”

No advertising and super high-end production value means that this pretty piece of work has a bit of a price tag, 25 Euro to be exact. But before you decide you’ll find your perfect mix of art and action elsewhere, let me share the final piece of this beautiful puzzle: you can download a FREE PDF version of The Eight from the website. If you love it as much as I do, help keep the project thriving by donating what you like online, or even better, order a printed version to keep on the table and impress your guests. It’s that good.

Freshies – A Few More from the Road

If you ever get the chance to hop in your car for a few weeks and check out the American west, do me a favor: take that trip. I’ve been back from my fall road trip for a little over a week, and have finally finished running through all of the photos I took. At this moment, these are my favorites from the second half of the trip. But back to the first point, please get out and see these places for yourself, there’s nothing like spending a month with a gaping jaw and an extreme case of overuse of the word ‘wow’.

As always, custom fine art prints of all of my images are available. If you like my work, please follow me online at: FacebookInstagramGoogle+500px and Twitter.  More importantly, share it with a friend and give me a hi-5 when you see me next; let’s keep things in the real world here.  Thanks!