Award winning artists are addictive to be around. These are the people who are at the pinnacle of dedication and passion and are producing inspiring and evocative creations. I have had the honor of knowing this particular photographer since his early days when we played paintball together. His artwork is tattooed on my skin and the banner image on this website. To say he has been an inspiration is an understatement. On November 15th, his hard work and dedication to his art was rewarded by the local RAW: Natural Born Artists group when they announced that both the judges and the people agreed he was the2012 RAW Reno Photographer of the Year.
Even in the face of this sought after accolade and rush of new attention, he kept humble and took the time to sit down for coffee and an interview with me this past Saturday. On a rainy grey Reno morning we chatted about the award, his art, and what comes next. The following is the transcript from that conversation._______________________
P: For the recording I am Patrick Smith and this is
M: Matthew McIver.
P: And Matt is the photographer for
M: RAWards Reno Photographer of the Year and Matthew McIver Photo and Design. Freelancer, used to be branded under fstop13 and I recently just kinda evolved into using my name. Fstop13 was a photo term that not too many people understood what it was and it was catchy to the people in the industry.
P: So first of all, what did you win? What category?
M: Photographer of the year in Reno, NV.
M: Thank you. It was a great time. I’m so blown away. I’m still in a cloud with the whole thing. It is very humbling. So amazing.
P: Have you been getting a lot of attention from the award?
M: Yeah definitely. A lot of exposure and my friends and family have been really supportive in coming out. It has been an awesome experience so far. It’s a small stepping stone to future things.
P: So you do photography and digital art. Why?
M: Why? It’s just in me. It’s in my blood. I just love to create and … uh… I breathe it. It moves me. To be able to showcase my art and have people appreciate it. It just means so much to be that… that um… why do I do it?… Can you ask the question again?
P: What is the first thing that comes to mind when I ask you why you do photography and digital art?
M: Adventure. Adventure. I love just adventure and getting out and seeing new things and meeting new people. Observing cultures and the environment and how we interact with everything. Photography is a way that I can communicate that vision to other people and how I perceive them. I am able to … I don’t know… it’s just… how you can capture a moment with photography is mind blowing. That very second is recorded on one frame. Or actually multiple seconds, it’s a time lapse, that is actually what I am interested in creating lately.
P: You are using High Dynamic Range in your work right?
M: Kind of. It is a technique a lot like HDR but it’s something I kind of developed on my own. My own style. Definitely a lot of tonal contrast. Love that edgy dramatic look. The cinematic lighting.
Garden of the Gods, Colorado Springs, CO
P: Yeah. It is beautiful. You get a lot of color and color saturation. There is a huge range. Like your Garden of the Gods picture. It seems like a majority of the tones are the greens of the foliage and blue of the sky. It makes the burnt orange of the rocks just pop out. I like it.
P: So how did you get started?
M: I have always had a passion with cameras. My cousins and my grand fathers would always give me some point and shoots. For some reason when I was little, I didn’t really observe this till recently, but when I was little I was always playing around with polaroids and film cameras. I was always really excited to see how they developed when I got them back from the film centers.
Another thing that inspired me was my grandmother Beverly. Her and her boyfriend have always travelled for the past 15 plus years together. They would always come home when I was little and they would have slideshows. They would bring back slides of all their travel and their adventures. It really opened my mind up to the different places you could go and people you could meet. Those lights flashing on the wall projecting that really just changed how I wanted to experience life.
I didn’t get into taking photos seriously until after high school. I was really into graphic design and that element of my career has really tied into my photography and my composition. Got into photography pretty seriously about six years ago at the age of 18. Bored in Gardnerville, nothing to do. Paintball. A lot of documenting road trips with my great friends and family. As you know, you were along for most of it. It was great times. Capturing that moment is a great part of it.
Later on in college, I went for graphic design initially. I had chosen the path of adventure more so then sitting in a cubicle all day. I decided to go into the commercial photography program. So I picked up a camera and learned how to use it more so as a tool and how to communicate my vision instead of a computer with type layout and presses and all that. I fell in love with it. I fell in love with capturing light and how it interacts with objects.. people… time… It’s really cool.
P: It shows in your work. It shows how much time you put into it and how beautiful the product you produce is.
M: Thank you.
P: What kind of work do you do right now? What kind of jobs do you hire out for right now?
Brittney Branagan Dune Daze
M: Recently I have done some work for non-profits such as the Tahoe Diver’s Conservancy. I was able to go out to Truckee and document the aquatic invasive species cleanup act out there. They have a great group of volunteers. They invited my assistant Brittney and I out there and we got to shoot all day. That was something I was passionate about cause it’s how our environment is affected and how we can take a step to clean it up and reintroduce natural habitat. I’m really interested in documenting that type of stuff.
I have done some work for Harrah’s recently doing architectural interior shots. I love the environment within architecture. Interiors and exteriors and the shapes it creates and how the light and people interact within them.
A lot of lifestyle stuff. I have done some work with clothing lines and fashion.
P: A lot of your work has been with with bicycle lifestyle. Was it your birthday last year that you rode all the way down to Mono lake? Tell me about that trip.
M: Yeah. It was a wild ride and a great experience. My brother in-law decided to jump in on the trip with me at the last minute. 150 miles over two and half days. Reno to Mono Lake is an adventure of a lifetime. I will never forget it. How you can interact with the landscape and how you can move, human powered, across the landscape, it was just awesome.
P: If I can remember right, your first RAW showcase was in July and for your online portfolio cover image, you used a picture from that trip, correct?
M: Yeah, that was Conway Summit. It was like a field of gold to the right. That was day 2 of the trip. We had just started our day out of Bridgeport. We had that huge climb. I think it was like a twelve mile climb. Bridgeport was flat and then we had that huge climb. It was all just uphill. Once we got to the summit those colors just popped out. We were exhausted by this point. We had gotten there and I said, I need to pull over here and I might as well take this picture. I was so tired I could barely take the picture but it turned out awesome. It turned out great.
P: What got you into doing RAW?
M: I had heard of it through Kelly Peyton. One of my friends and the director of RAW. I had seen her work and what they were doing. I was invited out kinda last minute to check out the show. It kinda popped up out of nowhere. It was really underground. That is something that has always been interesting about Reno is everything is kinda just underground, but RAW has been able to kind of surface that. The work that Kelly Paton and the team at RAW in marketing and promotion of the artists is really great. It has been a really great network and I really appreciate what they have done and would recommend it to anybody. The exposure, organization, and quality of the events. It has been a great experience.
P: What happens between now and Los Angeles RAW?
M: By the end of November 18th all the regions will announce their winners. Those winners will be reviewed by the RAW board of judges who are profound people in the industry. On December 3rd, they will announce the winners. A couple from each category throughout the nation will be chosen to go to Los Angeles to do the showcase as a reward for their work. The showcase will be the 13th of January and I will be going down regardless.
P: Outside of RAW what kind of projects do you have coming up?
M: Couple of snow camping trips. Couple of landscapes of the west in the Sierra Nevadas that I am excited to do. Working on a couple of image manipulations for the Reno Rodeo and the Cattle drive for a vehicle wrap. I want to get more conceptual with my work. More of a production. Plan more. Get more cinematic. There are a couple of artists I am really inspired by through the art nouveau period. I want to kinda recreate their work in photography and using the lighting and shaping the lighting. Definitely want to get into more of the lighting and painting with lighting and time lapses. Get more into video. I always have the family portraits I do on the weekends.
P: What setup are you using? Camera, Digital tools, etc..?
M: I shoot with a Nikon D700. That is my camera of choice for the quality, tonal range and quickness of the processors. That is my goto camera. But I will shoot with anything from the Nikon all the way to my iPhone camera. Whatever is at hand.
P: Did you take the Phoenix haboob picture with your iPhone?
M: That was with the Nikon. I had it in my carry on with on the plane. We were rolling into phoenix as the sun was setting and I looked over and I thought it was a big fire. The guy sitting next to me was an off duty pilot and he said “no these are huge dust storms called haboobs.” We ended up having to make an emergency landing really quick into phoenix so they could get the plane shut down before the sand hit. The plane filled up with sand so we were evacuated to the terminal. There was sand everywhere. Then the terminal started to fill up. I have never experienced anything like it. The airport was shut down for like six hours. A big rainstorm came through. I actually called friends in phoenix but ended up just waiting the whole thing out in the airport. Definitely one of my iconic images.
P: What about digital manipulations?
M: My goto software is Apple Aperture. I have been using it for about four years now. Ever since I started shooting RAW. It processes RAW images very well and works with my workflow. As far as digital manipulations go, definitely Photoshop. Can’t go wrong there. As far as other tools, I use Nik Software plugins for photoshop and aperture. It is probably the greatest tool in the industry so far. That is how I get a lot of my color out of my images.
P: Outside of photography and digital art, what do you like to do?
M: Definitely ride my bike. It is a big passion of mine. The fact that you can cover so much ground in so little time and the fitness level and happiness. It brings me so much happiness.
P: You dropped a lot of weight over the last couple years when you shifted to riding the bike. If you don’t mind me asking, how much did you lose?
M: Seventy pounds. It was definitely a combination of diet and exercise and a general healthier shift in lifestyles, but yeah the biking had a lot to do with it. You have to be a in good shape if you want to see all this country. The evolution basin trip covered about 42 miles in three days. Crossed the glacier twice and went over a 13 thousand foot peak.
P: Is there anyone you would like to shout out to?\
Morning Meadow, Just below Darwin Lakes, Evolution Basin, CA
M: Definitely Jeff Lock. He has been a huge mentor and definitely made the evolution basin trip happen. All my family and friends. My mom flew out from Denver and surprised me for the RAW show. It was really cool having her here. My friends here are like my family. Definitely the RAW crew. All the guys at 420 Valley Street. The entire community here. I have grown to love Reno. My beautiful assistant Brittney Brannagan.
To see more of Matthew’s work as well as to contact him for hire you can check out his online portfolio at http://prints.fstop13.com/
Matthew’s Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/fstop13
You can also view his work currently on display at Buenos Grill at the Mayberry Landing shopping center in Reno.
I would like to thank Matthew for taking the time for the interview and congratulate him one last time on the award. Matthew’s work is only getting better and, with the exposure through RAW, this is one of the many artists of Reno that are keeping Reno on the national map.