Damien Tremblay: What do you find in the Yukon landscape that stirs your inspiration? What triggers your creativity? What are your favorite subjects?
Mark Prins: The Yukon landscape is ever-changing yet static. I can shoot the same place over and over and each time I find a different way of seeing. The light is what is often the inspiration, from the slate gray flat light that enhances the delicacy of the hoar frost to the stunning colors of the northern lights coloring the landscape. The light is always extreme here, and that in itself is inspiration.
The Gold Rush brought people from all over the world to work in the mining camps. Some of the early camps and cabins still survive and they call me. From the town site of Grand Forks to the creeks in the middle of the largest gold rush that is happening in the Yukon today.
As an artist there is an implied obligation to the land and people, an obligation to help share our common story. From recording the faces of the elders to recording history, the body of work I create will help tell the stories of our land.
I am also passionate about “things that fly” which is reflected in my images of Ravens and all the aircraft I have stitched over the years.
DT: I like the fact that you are trying to embrace vastness in your artwork. The panoramic format seems to help you for that matter. What are your thoughts on this format?
MP: I returned to photography at the same time as the Canada Games Centre was under construction. I was unable to fit the whole frame and maintain detail with the gear I had at the time. This lead my art to stitching, which immediately inspired me.
Stitching I find is an art form in itself. Composition changes, making the frame more dynamic in scope. Over time my eye has learned what makes me happy in the final print. Panoramic work lends itself to a range of styles from macro stacked stitches to HDR panoramas that match your memory of the texture and tone.
The next step for me in my stitching will be to move to a 4x5 view camera and use a digital back to capture four or six frames of the image circle and stitch that. But that is just dreaming for now.
DT: A web display certainly does not do justice to your photographs. You produce very large format prints that have to be seen to be appreciated. The image quality and resolution are stunning. Can you tell us a little bit about your technique? Please comment for us on a few of your images.
MP: One of my favorite lenses is the 105mm f4 Micro-Nikkor. This lens on any Nikon body allows me to push perspective and the focus point in the frame.
Nikon D 200, 105mm Micro Nikkor, f8, auto shutter, raw. Processed Capture NX, stitched with PtGui, cleaned in photoshop, printed with Qimage.
In the image above almost every point in the frame is in focus. The blending took some work due to matrix metering but shooting Raw gave some latitude in image adjustment.
I have migrated to medium format gear with a Contax 645 system and a Phase One digital back. I have had this gear nearly a year and I am beginning to feel comfortable handling it. I would note the first camera I ever purchased was a Contax RTS.
Contax-Phase One, 45mm @ f8, auto shutter, Capture One, Ptgui, Photoshop, Qimage.
This is one of the locations I have been returning too is the remains of Grand Forks. I hid the sun behind the cabin while keeping the sightline to the pond.
Nikon d-200, 17mm, f8, auto shutter, raw. Processed Capture NX, stitched with PtGui, cleaned in photoshop, printed with Qimage.
This location is one of my favorite places to shoot. The Tombstone Range in the background and the Yukon River in the center leading to the foreground.
My last type of Panorama is a time domain image. Since stitched images can be shot over time there is an opportunity to produce images that I call photo-tunes.
On this image I built the background frame and then photographed the jumpers as they left the aircraft and landed. I selected the best images of the jumpers and inserted them into the stitch.
DT: Many landscape and nature photographers view industrial development (especially mining in the Yukon) as a negative thing for the land. I believe you have a different opinion on the matter.
MP: Industry is part of our civilization. My whole art form needs technology and I have been formally trained as a mining engineer. There has to be a balance. Industrial imagery has always fascinated me, I enjoy capturing the engineering marvels that man has created. This has lead my cameras onto the ice of the Beaufort Sea and to the underground operations around the Yukon.
DT: Any issues about landscape photography you would like to mention?
MP: Shooting the land takes time. I wish I could take my full studio with me into the field so I can see my final prints in the field but that can never happen. So I have to envision my final print as I shoot which I then remember when I start to build the print.
Creating the final print of a multi tiered image can take a lot of time. Exposure errors create noise while composition is a constant learning process. The click of the shutter is only the beginning of a workflow that will finish with multiple archives of your work and a body of print work.
Many photographers in the digital world forget to hard copy their work in the final print. In my way of thinking, learning how to hardcopy a image through your own print system is a crucial step in self analysis of your work.
DT: Where can we see your artwork?
MP: I am working to finish my gallery space in time for the Yukon Quest dog race. The gallery opening will feature some of the work of Harry Kern, Vince Fedoroff and myself. The gallery is small but will feature photographic images. Most will be printed to canvas and gallery wrapped, ready to hang artwork.
The Gallery is located at 3169 Third Ave in Whitehorse. Mark can be reached at: 867-334-4189