Darren White is a landscape photographer based in Colorado. He grew up on the Oregon Coast, so between Oregon and Colorado he’s been surrounded by amazing landscapes his whole life. Darren has been published in several magazines and also leads night photography workshops in addition to selling prints of his photos.
I recently had the opportunity to interview Darren about his work. You’ll find his responses below, along with some nice samples of his work.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got started in photography.
I got into photography when I was 12. My mom got a free Vivitar 35mm point and shoot camera from a some magazine subscriptions and I used it to photograph my friends while we were skateboarding. So you could say sports was my first subject that I really photographed. As soon as I started using the camera and getting the film developed I knew this was something I wanted to do for a long time. I loved taking film into get developed and the anticipation of getting back the prints. Yes, I was a very serious about photography before going pro. Based on the term “Pro” I was Pro at 18 working freelance doing all kinds of photography. I did weddings, sports, people, animals. Basically anything people would pay me to photograph I accepted.
How would you describe your photographic style?
I honestly don’t think my work has a unique style. Others say it does but for me it’s basically about creating good, sharp images of our landscapes. Most of my work is fairly straightforward while some is built on visions in my head. 90 percent of my images are basic shoot and process. 10 percent I would call creative visions meaning that I am creating scenes that don’t exist in the real world and are just my visions. I learned photography with film so it had to be right when I shot it. Back then I did not have computers to manipulate my art.
What draws you to landscapes and nature?
Being outdoors, getting away from daily life. There is so much peace and solitude when I’m out hiking or at a secluded spot along the Oregon coast. Being outside, not in a city, can really do wonders for your mental state of mind. The beauty of our planet Earth. Earth is an amazing place with a mind of it’s own. Capturing these fleeting moments is all part of the fun. It’s also a challenge because at any moment the scene you have in front of your camera can change for better or worse.
What is one important lesson that you have learned through your own photography?
Never give up. Be persistent in what you want. If it doesn’t work out the first time, go back, do it again, wait. They say no 2 photographs are the same and I will back that statement up. At the same time, Any scene you put in front of your camera will only look like that one time. Every day is different, slightly different light, clouds, wind, I like to pre visualize my shots when I go out to a specific location. Sometimes it works, other times it does not. There are many places I have been to many many times trying to get just the right shot.
What are the biggest challenges you face in your work as a landscape photographer?
I think the biggest challenge these days is finding new places to shoot or new ways to photograph a place that has been shot a million times. Photography is different now that we have so many channels to share our work. People are exposed to millions of images a day and the ones that stand out are the ones that are different.
Another challenge can be weather. Because we can’t predict the weather we pretty much have to deal with what we are given. A long time ago I made a vow to myself that as long as the weather was not a torrential downpour, I would shoot and make the best of the conditions. I have shot in wind, snow, lightning storms, hail and temps as high as 114.
One of the biggest challenges I face when I am out shooting is other people, specially at night. At night I like to use a special kind of LED light to illuminate my foreground subjects if I am shooting the sky over it. If other people show up and start waving their flashlights or red lights then all the sudden my images are ruined and often times I have to explain to them what I am doing and then they can set up and use the same lighting for their shots. The amount of people is getting to be a very big challenge. It seems that more and more people are going outdoors and discovering these beautiful places too. I have been lined up at Maroon Bells with over 500 other people. It’s a mess and the only reason I did it was because I was meeting some friends before taking off into the mountains for a few days. I have been at Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park with over 200 people. I think we as people can, at times, be our own biggest challenge.
Also time is a challenge. As a full time working photographer who is also a family man, it can be challenging to find time to get out and shoot, especially if those shoots are out of town for several days. We are not a large family with lots of relatives that can help out when I am gone so planning must be done very carefully to make sure my daughter is cared for while I am not home.
Another challenge I find for myself is spending too much time in front of the computer. All the processing of images must be done on a big computer. I do this for quality purposes and while I have a good laptop for travel I still want to make sure I am seeing my images in extreme detail on a 27″ screen rather than a 15″. Pro Photographers are constantly posting on their social media channels to promote their work, gain interest from their followers ect.. and I feel that while it’s needed, screen time can, at times, consume you. The days when I am hiking without cell service are days I long for because it forces me to disconnect.
Can you tell us about a few of your favorite locations in Colorado?
So many good locations in Colorado. To name a few, Rocky Mountain National Park is a target rich environment with it’s mountain views, alpine lakes, wildflowers and elk. RMNP really has something for everyone of any age.
I love the small mountain towns like Crested Butte and Kebler Pass (fall colors, mountains and wildflowers) Telluride, Durango, Ouray (majestic scenic mountains and fall colors) The Gore Range is gorgeous.
My go to spot since I live right next to it is Chatfield Lake State Park in Littleton. If I need a quick photo fix, I can be over sitting at one of the ponds in about 5 min. The ponds are mostly protected from the winds so often times they make for great reflection shots.
And how about a few of your favorite spots along the Oregon Coast?
Oregon! My home. Just list every spot along the coast from Brookings to Astoria. I was born and raised on the Oregon Coast. I love the 75″ inches of rain we get. I love the dark grey clouds out over the ocean, I love when a storm breaks up and that epic light peeks through right before the sun sets. I love the drama of the Oregon Coast.
Seriously though, Bandon, Samuel Boardman Scenic Area (Natural Bridges), Cape Perpetua Scenic Area (Thor’s Well) Brookings, Yachats and it’s rugged rocky shoreline.
What are some common mistakes that you see new photographers making?
This is a really hard question to answer without fully knowing what they are doing with their art. Photography is so personal and everyone has their own style and or creative process so what may not look good to me may be exactly what they wanted.
If I had to pinpoint one thing it would be they don’t take enough time. Patience is key to good photography. Slow it down, look around to make sure your composition is good and there are no distractions in your image. Many new photographers have never shot film before so they are simply used to having the instant feedback from their camera. They feel like they can make more mistakes in the field because they can fix it in Photoshop. While this is very true, there is still something to be said for taking your time, enjoy your surroundings, wait for the right light and then click the image to create that masterpiece.
What’s in your camera bag?
Currently I am using a Nikon D810 Digital Camera, Nikon F4s Pro 35mm Film camera as well as a Mamiya C330 Twin Lens Reflex medium format film camera.
All my lenses are by Sigma Corp. In my lineup currently are the Sigma 14mm ART, 20mm ART, 24-105mm ART, 50mm ART, 85mm ART and the 150-600mm Contemporary .
I use an Induro CT314 Carbon Fiber Tripod, 9 different Nitecore Flashlight lights. I do a lot of hiking and work in the dark.
I have 1 simple camera operated cable release and a Tiffen Double Fog Filter.
Aside from photography, what hobbies do you have, or what do you like to do for fun?
Almost everything I do outside is photography related in one way or another. I love hiking, biking, stargazing (I spend a lot of time in Moab, Utah teaching night photography workshops) The one things I love that is in no way related to photography is racquetball. I have been playing racquetball for almost 30 years now and I love it. I enjoy a nice balance between fitness and food. I love good craft beers and am always willing to try new places when they pop up.
Connect with Darren
If you’d like to get in touch with Darren or see more of his work, please use the links below: