David M. Cobb is a photographer based in Oregon who focuses on landscape, travel, and wildlife photography, as well as flowers and gardens. His books include Visionary Landscapes, America: Wild Landscapes, and Quiet Beauty: Japanese Gardens of North America. Long distance hiking is a favorite activity for David, and he has hiked the Pacific Crest Trail, the Continental Divide, and across Iceland.
I recently had the opportunity to interview David about his photography, and I am sure you’ll enjoy reading the interview below.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got started in photography.
I started out wanting to be a painter, and studied art, art history, and composition. When I saw what Edward Weston could do with a pepper in his “Pepper no. 30” photo, that’s when I got sucked into photography. I constantly borrowed my parent’s camera and that got me going. Later, when I started to take long backpacking trips across the U.S., Canada, and Iceland I taught myself more about light, color, form, and expression; and my photography started to evolve into a more serious vocation.
What draws you to landscapes rather than other types of photography or subjects?
I do shoot a lot of macro and travel images too, but I’m taken with landscapes because I get mesmerized by how the light and the land have this symbiotic relationship in creating beauty on such a large scale. I never tire of that.
How would you describe your photographic style?
Since I’ve shot in film for many years and also embraced digital, my style has more of a feel for realism. It’s a bit of a bridge between the landscape photographs of the film era and the dreamier art landscape images of the digital era.
As a long distance hiker you obviously face certain challenges that you wouldn’t face simply photographing from places that are easy to reach. Can you tell us a little about the planning and preparation that is needed?
First off, when I take a long-distance walk of 2,000-3,000 miles it’s not about photography. I walk an average 20+ miles a day, so I don’t have time to capture sunrises or sunsets. I take a trusty point-and-shoot along to record the trip, but other than that I concentrate on walking. For meal preparation I cook and dehydrate much of my food, so I get enough calories and eat healthy along the way. Physically, things are always tough at the beginning, but then you get used to the pace of the day and life gets easier. Mostly the challenges are mental. There are a million reasons to quit and go home, especially when the weather is crappy day after day. Staying on the trail during those mental lows is what helps me complete those long-distance walks.
Tell us about a few of your favorite places to hike.
I like walking close to home in my stomping grounds of the Columbia River Gorge. I’m currently walking sections of the Chinook Trail which circumambulates the entire Columbia Gorge National Scenic area. I’ve hiked the 42 mile trail around Mount Hood in Oregon about a dozen times, and I usually do that in a couple of days. Other than that, I’m returning to places I’ve loved during my long-distance walks to spend more time there with my camera and to just enjoy the scenery.
Do you have any upcoming trips planned?
In 2018 I plan on travelling more in Canada, and I’ll also be in Holland, Belgium, Montenegro, Bosnia, South Korea, and China. I’m hoping to get into the backcountry of the White Cloud Mountains in Idaho too.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received from another photographer?
Don’t take another step backward. Seriously though, Jack Dykinga told me you must tell a story about yourself or about your images, and I still think about that today.
What software do you use for post processing?
I’m probably one of the few out there still using Adobe Camera Raw over Lightroom, so that’s where I do my initial processing, then I do my fine tuning in Photoshop.
What are some common mistakes that you see new photographers making?
A lot of new photographers spend too much time on sites like 500px (and others like it) to mimic, comp stomp, or copy other images. That’s fine at the beginning when you’re starting out, but at some point you need to concentrate on your own work and break away to develop your own style.
Aside from photography, what hobbies do you have, or what do you like to do for fun?
As you know, I get out into the backcountry when it’s possible. I also swim most days that I’m in town, and I read a lot. I’m also a film buff and a Minnesota Vikings football fan. I’ve recently completed my second book with Tuttle Publishing too titled Visionary Landscapes, depicting gardens of the five top Japanese garden designers in the U.S.
Connect with David:
If you’d like to get in touch with David or learn more about his work, please use the links below.
All photos used in this post are © David M. Cobb, used with permission.