Eric Bennett is a landscape photographer and filmmaker based in Utah. His portfolio is filled with beautiful images from around the world (Eric has been to more than 30 countries).
Recently I had the opportunity to interview Eric about himself and his work. You’ll see his responses, as well as a sampling of his photos, below.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got started in photography.
I’ll try to keep this short. Throughout my life I have had both very supportive parents and access to cameras. I traveled to Europe, Hawaii, and around the US with my parents when I was younger and I always had a cheap film camera or disposable cameras to take pictures with. Later on, my parents gave me a professional mini DV video camera, a Sony VX1000, so I could film my friends that I skateboarded with. Filming skateboarding became a profitable career for me from the age of 16 and I stuck with it for a few years. When I was 20 I moved to South America and lived there for 2 years to get a change of scenery and try to learn some more about myself and the world around me. After living in Panama, I had a desire to travel all over the world and see the natural beauty that still remains. I purchased a DSLR to film the places I traveled to so I could share my experiences with others, and since I was using a DSLR as my video recording device, I began to mess around with photography again. After a couple of years, photography became more interesting than videography so I began to dedicate myself more to that. Now I have been a full time landscape photographer for the past 3 years and I still do some personal and paid video work from time to time.
What draws you to landscapes rather than other types of photography or subjects?
I didn’t get into landscape photography because of a love for photography, rather photography came from my love for landscapes. I love hiking, camping, and exploring the wilderness and I think our natural world is vital for human beings’ physical well being as well as our mental and emotional health. I would hate to see a world without nature, not that one could ever exist. Overtime I feel our species is becoming more and more disconnected from the real world as we spend more of our time in the cyberworld of internet and electronics. The people that still spend time in nature are few and the way our wilderness keeps disappearing overtime shows that. I hope that through photography I can move people to fall in love with our natural planet and give them a desire to protect it and preserve it.
How would you describe your photographic style?
I wouldn’t ever say that I try to achieve any kind of a style so I’m not sure I am aware of my own style if I have one. I always try to step out of my own creative box and attempt new things. I never try to go for the same “look” or create a formula for my images. I always just do whatever I am moved to do while shooting in the field and processing. I enjoy seeing variety in my own portfolio instead of just trying to shoot the same subjects, lighting, and compositions all of the time. I guess if I had to say there is any “look” or “style” that I try for, it would be to never go too crazy with anything. I believe that less is more, and I always try to just bring out the natural beauty that is already there without giving it a complete face lift.
Do you have any formal photography training?
I took a photography class in high school. Other than that I never went to college and I have never paid anyone to teach me. However I have learned a great deal from some of the guys I shoot with like David Thompson, Alex Noriega, and Mark Handy to name a few. Those guys have become mentors for me and a great deal of what I know has been shared with me by them.
What gear do you use for filmmaking?
I chose to make the switch to Sony cameras once they started releasing their mirrorless systems, partially because of the awesome photo image quality but mainly for their video capability. Nikon cameras are awesome but they don’t have the kind of quality and options as Sony for filmmaking. I see the Sony cameras as a multipurpose type of tool. I shoot video mainly with my a7s and then backup or extra angles with my a7r. I use Canon lenses with a metabones adapter. The 24-105 f/4L is my favorite for video because I can have such a wide range in focal length without having to constantly swap out lenses. I also love using my DJI Phantom 4 PRO for unique angles that show lots of motion and different perspectives. I use RODE shotgun and lav mics for audio, and I edit everything with Adobe Premiere Pro and After Effects.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received from another photographer?
David Thompson always tells me that family comes first. A lot of times I find myself planning all of these trips and trying to fill my time up with photography, which is cool, but then I hear his voice in my head that helps me take a step back and work harder to balance it all. I could live without photography, but not without my family. I think it also helps your photography when you make yourself take breaks and do things completely unrelated to photography so you can always be coming back to it with a fresh and clear mind. I also think great photography comes from being a great person and my family definitely helps me be better in every way.
Many of the photos in your portfolio showcase the fine details of a landscape. What advice do you have for effectively taking these types of photos?
I assume you are referring to the more intimate scenes of my portfolio. All of these scenes are unplanned and usually very, very spontaneous. I used to always plan, scout, and visualize my compositions ahead of time and that I would try to go out and shoot and this would make me tunnel visioned and cause me to pass up all of these other awesome things. Too much previsualization or being too attached to our expectations can really blind us to other things along the way that can actually end up being a lot more meaningful. I think if you want to find these kinds of scenes you just always need to have your eyes and heart open and be connected with the landscape around you. Always be looking around, up, down, to the side, and explore a bit more.
Do you have a dream location that you have not been to yet?
Honestly I think I checked off all of the specific places I felt I needed to see before I died a long time ago. Now everything just feels like a bonus. Like I said in my previous answer, I am more into just wandering around in the wilderness and seeing what happens rather than have a specific photo mission in mind when I travel, so I don’t really have any specific places I hope to see. However, I would love to see as much of the world as possible before this life is over so I am always trying to get out as often as I can.
As someone who has been in photography for a while, how do you challenge yourself or make sure that you continue to improve?
I never get too attached to my own work. I have some images that I love, but not because I took them. I always try to see my work objectively, as if it was anyone else’s, and not get married to it. I am very honest with myself and very harsh when I critique my own work, so I am always seeing plenty of mistakes and things I can do better the next time I go out. I look at a lot of other guys’ work as well that I feel is just so much more artistically minded than my own and I see a lot of ways that I can grow from that.
Aside from photography, what hobbies do you have, or what do you like to do for fun?
If the weather is nice I will go out and skateboard a bit. I am always out hiking regardless if the conditions are “good” for photography or not, and here in Utah we have tons of trails really close to the house that are really great to escape the noise and busyness of civilization. I am a pretty avid reader so I am fine with relaxing for a few hours and reading a book, I am always trying to learn about everything I can. I like to read about philosophy, science, art, and biographies. I also enjoy writing a lot and sometimes I feel I can express myself better that way than through photography.
Connect with Eric
If you’d like to see more of Eric’s work or get in touch with him, please use the links below.
All photos in this post are © Eric Bennett, used with permission.