Not too long ago, I came across Kevin Meynier’s work online and was instantly blown away by his atmospheric, dreamy and raw style. I’m someone who loves mountains and seeing Kevin’s images instantly inspired me to get back out exploring more.
In this interview, you’ll get to know more about Kevin’s work, how he got into mountain photography, some of his daring adventures as well as some valuable advice about photographing in mountains.
Start by telling us a little about yourself and how you got started with photography.
Self-taught professional mountain photographer, based in France, I travel the summits, here and elsewhere, whatever the season, the weather, or the altitude.
After many years in extreme sports (Mountain and ocean), it was in 2015 that I really started landscape photography. In constant search of tormented atmospheres, I gradually develop a troubled, dark and dreamy style with minimalist features well recognizable in nature and landscape photography.
Meticulous and eternal unsatisfied, I am in perpetual search for specific places to compose the aerial summits with creative lights.
When I started landscape photography in 2015, it was after a first hike that an inexplicable link was created with mountain landscapes, I then started mountaineering, which allowed me to ‘go and capture higher and higher peaks.
Most of your portfolio consists of images featuring mountains. What is it about these scenes that draws you to them?
I like to capture the mountains because they are majestic, intimidating and fascinating. When the light changes, which is very fast at altitude, they reveal portraits of themselves in an intimate way. I very often feel like in front of a dance ballet, where clouds mix in rhythm with the vertiginous rocks under the spotlights of the sunlight.
How would you describe your work and what do you want others to take away from it?
My work is often called a mental and dreamy journey, and it is not wrong; I like being able to bring an intimate vision of our mountains, an oniric vision, giving free rein to the imagination of the viewer.
I shape the mountains in all these aspects, sometimes joyful and warm, but also at times very cold and hostile.
Can you share some of your approach to exploring and photographing new locations?
When I am looking for new places, I will spend many days looking for images, often of hikers who are not photographers, on the internet or specialized sites, finding interesting elements in these photos. Then, I’m going to frame on Google Earth the area where I located an interesting angle of view, photogenic peaks, and I will start my pointing work to reach my spot.
How important is it for you to brave the elements and go into the mountains in rough weather? Do you have any advice for others who’d like to start exploring the mountains too?
It is true that I go out very often when the weather is unstable or stormy because it is with these conditions that I will have a better chance of capturing such special lights. You should know that the weather in the mountains is not an exact science and that it can change very quickly, for better or worse.
It happens regularly that I have to wait several hours in the rain, wind, hail or snow, so it’s important to always have the right equipment to deal with multiple situations. The mountain will always win if you underestimate it, that’s why you have to equip yourself properly, you have to study the routes you will take and leave your route to a loved one, in case you have an accident.
What are some of your most memorable (both positive and negative) experiences in the field?
Among my many memorable stays, I slept under hail, in the heart of a thunderstorm or by -35 ° C at 4000m.
One summer, I went several days at altitude to photograph emblematic needles of the Pyrenees, the day was very hot and blue. A thunderstorm was expected nearby but not over the area I was. It was without counting the wind which diverted this famous storm, bursting on myself. The tent rose from the ground, the lightning dazzled the view almost every second. I went out to see the evolution, and how it was, and it turned out that I found myself in the heart of the electric clouds. I was not proud at the time, the stress was there but you had to hold the equipment, the tent and stay patient!
Fortunately, it did not last long and no breakages to report!
Light seems to be an important factor in your photography. How much of this is the result of planning and how much is pure ‘luck’?
Like I said, the weather in the mountains changes very quickly. I try to plan my outings to maximize my chances of capturing the light that I covet but I do not control the elements. This is why I consider myself lucky when I manage to capture very special lights, despite having planned an outing with adequate weather conditions!
So I would say I put 40% planning and the rest is just luck!
What are some essential equipment that you always have in your backpack?
In my bag, I always have warm and dry underwear, a filtering straw and tubes of energy paste. This is my base, then I adapt the rest of the material to the different outings.
What are your top 3 tips for someone just getting started with landscape photography?
During my workshops, I always say and insist a lot on it: landscape photography has no strict code, it isn’t only done with an ultra wide-angle, we don’t necessarily include many elements and before using the camera, observe and read the light with your eyes.
Each detail of a landscape can be a photo, an isolated summit, a single tree or the texture of the landscape. You have to learn to see in a broad way but also in a precise and long way.
What’s next for Kevin Meynier?
Thank you Christian for the honor, today I am still out and about, looking for unique places, points of view here and there. Besides that I continue to produce different works in partnership with Nikon, and I also continue to transmit my knowledge in my workshops, it is important for me.
Tomorrow I might be in the middle of a deserted valley or on a mountain ridge at 3000m, who knows.
Thanks again, Kevin, for taking the time to answer these questions. Make sure to visit his website or Instagram to enjoy more of his stunning photography.