Dead Sea Shore, Israel, 2008

melford2

Photographer Profile: Michael Melford

Michael Melford originally wanted to be an engineer. But after taking an art history course at the University of Syracuse, New York, he found his way to photography, which combined what he calls “the mechanical-chemical aspect of engineering with instant art.” Since then, he has won numerous awards from The International Center of Photography and World Press Images, among others. He is a regular contributor to National Geographic. He lives in Mystic, Connecticut.

Q & A

You’ve just completed your 18th story for National Geographic. What does it mean to work for “The Big Yellow”?

It’s everyone’s dream, and it did not disappoint. I came to National Geographic through National Geographic Kids magazine, from that to the Books division, then to National Geographic Traveler magazine, where I worked for 15 years without cracking the door at “Big Yellow.” Then, about twelve years ago, out of the blue, I got the phone call. Two other photographers had turned down an assignment to go to Acadia National Park. I jumped on it and began working nonstop for National Geographic.

One of your inspirations is Ansel Adams. What excites you about his work?

Ansel was not only an artist, he was a technician. He pre-visualized his images. He was, to me, the landscape photography master artist, technician, and craftsman, and he remains so today. Digital photography makes it easy by giving you the tools to make a picture look any way you want. I think Ansel would be all over digital. He was the predecessor of it all. Not only did he have a vision of landscape and the American West, he understood light and the technical aspects of it.

Is there a larger mission behind your photos, Michael?

National Geographic’s goal is to get people to care about the planet. That says it all for me, too. I want to try and capture how beautiful the world is. I am not a journalist. I’m a landscape photographer and want to share with people what I see and how beautiful it is, in the hope of preserving it and making people appreciate it.

National Geographic Image Collection Interview With Michael Melford By Simon Worrall

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About the Photographer

Michael Melford

Michael Melford originally wanted to be an engineer. But after taking an art history course at the University of Syracuse, New York, he found his way to photography, which combined what he calls “the mechanical-chemical aspect of engineering with instant art.” Since then, he has won numerous awards from The International Center of Photography and World Press Images, among others. He is a regular contributor to National Geographic. He lives in Mystic, Connecticut.

Q & A

You've just completed your 18th story for National Geographic. What does it mean to work for “The Big Yellow”?

It’s everyone’s dream, and it did not disappoint. I came to National Geographic through National Geographic Kids magazine, from that to the Books division, then to National Geographic Traveler magazine, where I worked for 15 years without cracking the door at “Big Yellow.” Then, about twelve years ago, out of the blue, I got the phone call. Two other photographers had turned down an assignment to go to Acadia National Park. I jumped on it and began working nonstop for National Geographic.

One of your inspirations is Ansel Adams. What excites you about his work?

Ansel was not only an artist, he was a technician. He pre-visualized his images. He was, to me, the landscape photography master artist, technician, and craftsman, and he remains so today. Digital photography makes it easy by giving you the tools to make a picture look any way you want. I think Ansel would be all over digital. He was the predecessor of it all. Not only did he have a vision of landscape and the American West, he understood light and the technical aspects of it.

Is there a larger mission behind your photos, Michael?

National Geographic’s goal is to get people to care about the planet. That says it all for me, too. I want to try and capture how beautiful the world is. I am not a journalist. I’m a landscape photographer and want to share with people what I see and how beautiful it is, in the hope of preserving it and making people appreciate it.

National Geographic Image Collection Interview With Michael Melford By Simon Worrall

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    “I was on an unusual assignment for National Geographic, a piece on Herod the Great, so it wasn’t necessarily a landscape story. It was landscape with artifacts and ruins and people. Herod’s summer residence was at Masada, not far from the shores of the Dead Sea. He traveled by the Dead Sea to get to Masada. It seemed pertinent, as a landscape guy, to take a picture.

    I found these salt-encrusted rocks that were quite beautiful, so I set up the tripod and did long exposures with the water coming and going over the rocks. The beautiful thing with digital is that you can see what you are getting. You take an exposure at half a second and you’re not getting enough motion in the water, so you do another at two seconds or maybe five seconds. Each one creates a different look. It’s a matter of playing with it until you get a look you want.

    While I was shooting, the sun hit the shore on the other side of the sea. The light only lasted 5 minutes. I was lucky enough to be there, be ready, and push the shutter button when everything came together.”

    Location: Dead Sea, Israel
    Photograph Date: 2008
    Medium: Chromogenic Print
    Edition: 200