Majeed Badizadegan has been a photographer who I’ve admired for many years, so it’s with great excitement that I present him as this month’s featured photographer. In this in-depth and entertaining interview, Majeed talks about his journey through photography, his views on some of the hot topics in landscape photography and much more.
Thank you for taking the time, Majeed. Can you start by telling us a little about who you are and how you got started with photography?
First of all, thanks to Christian for this opportunity. Not only are you a great photographer, but you run one of the best websites/resources out there, and you do a lot for this community. When you messaged me, I thought there was some mistake. You must have had me confused for another Majeed who was a better photographer! But there are not a ton Majeed’s running around who look like a tall Irish dude.
So to answer your question, it was a bizarre way that I got into photography. I loved to mess around in Photoshop and manipulate images. Before I even started to like photography, I was a Photoshop nerd. My parents would return from these vacations, and I’d say “Mom, give me some pictures from your trip!” She was just back from Europe and had snapped some fresh pictures of a domed cathedral. The only problem? It had a big blue, dreary sky above it – but it looked so cool. So you know what the next step was: Sky Replacement! I was doing it before it was cool, ladies and gentleman. But, no, really, it was fun. I remember being fascinated with how far you could stretch an image or change a scene, just with some patience and work in Photoshop.
So I decided it was time for me to start taking pictures around the time my daughter was born. And I was terrible in the beginning. I fell into the “HDR hole”. I still don’t think I’m that good, but I do believe I suck slightly less. I probably took 30,000 pictures a year for the first few years to try to accelerate my learning. Now I’ve grown lazy in my old age and take far fewer photos.
How has being based in the scenic Pacific Northwest influenced your photography?
I always tell people living in the Pacific Northwest as a landscape photographer is like doing this thing on “cheat mode.” We have mountains, lakes, rivers, and coast all within a short drive. It has allowed me to experiment and push my photography. For example, when I inevitably take a crappy picture, I can go back and try again. And again. This crappy picture re-do cycle is integral to my workflow.
I am very fortunate to get the opportunity to document some of the beautiful parts of the northwest. There’s no shortage of something beautiful to point a camera at here.
Can you tell us a little about your photographic style? Is there something in particular you’re looking for in a scene?
Oh man, this is a tough one. I need to take off my monocle and crack open the thesaurus, so I can sound like I know what I’m talking about. I’d say like The Chainsmokers are to music, I am to landscape photography. I’m pretty mainstream, but a little overplayed. You’re tired of seeing me, but I keep putting out the same type of photos, and you’re too lazy to change the station. Maybe once in a blue moon, I’ll crack the Billboard 100. But mostly I’m sort of unoriginal.
I mean, I use Orton effect on many of my photos because I’m aiming for a painterly quality. With my work, I am aiming for something in between a photograph and painting — sort of an ethereal quality. I’m not a photo-journalist, by any stretch of the imagination. I approach a scene, and my goal is to accentuate and sometimes egregiously exaggerate the most beautiful parts. That’s my favorite part of photography actually, is getting to convey the beauty I see in nature in my own way.
Your portfolio covers both rainforest and coastal scenes. How do you approach the different scenes?
Rainforests are typically a tough challenge for my photography. What I mean by this, is they are extremely beautiful to me as I walk through them, but it’s tough to organize the scene into anything that might be remotely pleasing to a viewer. I apply some core principles of composition, and try to focus on what the light is doing. Rainforests are like legendary mode in a video game, you’ll probably die a hundred times, but if you keep trying, eventually you’ll get lucky and get a good photo.
For coastal scenes, which make up a large portion of my portfolio, I often like to be out in the water. I tell people I take pictures of rocks in the ocean. That’s essentially what it is. Except they are massive rocks and deadly waves are usually crashing on them. When I first started landscape photography, I remember getting pummeled by a huge winter ocean wave at Thor’s Well in full hip waders. I’ve decided now I want to continue to stay alive, so I don’t take as many risks.
In my heart of hearts, photographing waves are my true passion. There’s nothing like capturing shape, form, and light of a wave.
It seems like there’s a big photography community in the Oregon region. How has this impacted your photography?
It’s cool because the community has always been friendly and supportive. There are a lot of us around here, but everyone likes to share ideas. Not everyone thinks the same or does things the same way. But there are a lot of talented photographers in this area who enjoy sharing the story of nature, like me. They’re just significantly better at this thing, and I despise most of them for it.
Following up on the previous question, are there also challenges with having that amount of photographers in the same region?
For me, nature photography is supposed to be an escape. So if there are twenty people trying to get a picture of the same thing at the same time, I’m no longer escaping, I’m just standing in a line at Disney Land. Now, I love Disney Land, but there’s no such thing as a Fast Pass in landscape photography. Basically, I just try to avoid the most congested areas. Sometimes, it’s not possible. Usually, it isn’t a problem. But I have a huge tripod and I have been known to start swinging it.
What are your thoughts on trends in landscape photography?
This is a cool question, because I think about this a lot. Five years ago, I think this whole thing was a lot more “new” and people were really pushing and experimenting. There are a lot more highly experienced photographers today than there was even five years ago. In general, I think the consumer of high-level landscape photography has become more informed and experienced. I’d say with the saturation of landscape photography on social media, even the general public has a more trained eye.
What this means to me, is I see tastefully and expertly done landscape photography making its way to the top. The old “tricks” don’t work as well anymore. You can’t just tone map the hell out of an image of a rusty old car and get 8,000 likes.
I think I see in totality a more a general appreciation for light, nature, composition, location and the how the artist conveys all of it.
I tend to lean more natural in my work, so these are my biases. But a lot of the photographers I follow are creating outstanding work.
Finding time to photograph is a common frustration amongst our readers. What advice do you have to deal with this?
Maximize your weekends! And watch the weather. If you work full time like me, and you also enjoy the occasional-often drink, it can be challenging to make time. It’s always better to go out and try. My favorite saying from an old bass fishing video game on the Sega Dreamcast, “You can’t catch a fish if you don’t keep the bait wet.” This principle applies in especially in photography. You can’t get that wall-hanger if you’re in your basement eating Cheetos. You’ve got to go out there and put yourself in a position to succeed. There’s no substitution for being there.
What’s your top 3 advice for someone just getting started with landscape photography?
- Take thousands of photographs. Literally. This isn’t the film days. There’s no consequence for blasting the shutter besides being rude to your shutter. Learn your camera. Be your camera. And practice.
- Reverse engineer art that you like. Follow people you like. Try to emulate what they do. Understanding how they achieve a look gives you the tools to create your own.
- Get out there. Put yourself in a situation to succeed. You might stand in the rain 10 times, but the 11th time you’ll be alone and get a spectacular sunset no one else was willing to sacrifice for. Also, your pants will dry, but a photo lasts a lifetime.
What’s one piece of equipment you never travel without.
I really love my Anker Portable charger. I use my phone a lot for maps, weather, looking at Instagram and being jealous of other’s photography, etc. It really drains the phone. Always having it with me makes it convenient (and quick) to get charge.