One in a series of profiles on our good customers here at Camera West who are passionate about photography.
Matt Granz is a Bay Area photographer, who happens to chase storms. The bigger, the better. Matt has been roaming the US with his Nikons on assignment for Yahoo! – part of their Project Weather tour. His images are breathtaking.
When Matt is not chasing tornadoes in the midwest, he’s shooting beautiful landscape, seascapes, and cityscapes – many right here in the bay area. He also has a passion for night photography and light painting and it shows in his work.
Matt is also an instructor at the Aperture Academy.
1. What got you started shooting?
That’s sort of a loaded question! I have always been into visual art and have been acting as an artist, but didn’t get into photography until the birth of my oldest daughter thirteen years ago, and then it was only with a Nikon P4 point and click camera. A friend soon afterwards found himself stuck in Fresno after hiking down the wrong side of Mt. Whitney after getting altitude sickness, and called me, asking for a ride to the Whitney Portal. I hadn’t been back to Yosemite since almost 15 years prior and never had been to the East Side of the Sierras. Needless to say my mind was blown. I was glad I brought my camera along! The images I came away with set me on fire. Not long afterwards I found myself getting published and my wife let me upgrade to a Nikon D90. The fascination and addiction just keeps growing every day.
2. How long have you been shooting?
I actually started much earlier with my Uncle’s Canon SLR camera when I was 15. He was five years older and taught me the ins and outs of getting motion blur, creating bokeh, getting star trails, and a couple of other useful tricks that didn’t stick with me since I didn’t have a camera of my own. So in essence I started then, but didn’t actually really start till much later.
3. Why do you shoot?
Presently I enjoy catching intensity in imagery. I like how it gets me out of the house and into nature as well. It encompasses most every aspect of my daily life now. I also greatly enjoy teaching the skill-sets I have learned as an instructor with the Aperture Academy.
4. What do you do with your photos?
I freely display them on the web and sell my prints online to individuals and corporations alike. I have a bunch of images printed from my first gallery show that hang in my house, and I should be doing more gallery work, and will again someday, but have been very busy for the moment. I enjoy features in magazines, and have had a couple so far.
5. Who is your favorite photographer and why?
There are so many! Where to start??? For storm photography it is hands down Mike Hollingshead. For surrealistic imagery it is Jerry Ulesmann. For seascape photography it would be Jim Patterson. For story telling and massive set-ups it would have to be O. Winston Link’s end of the steam train era images or Gregory Crewdson’s stuff. Too many to list actually!
6. What’s in your bag?
I have been shooting with Nikon gear since I started up. I currently have a Nikon D7100. My lenses are all Nikon now as well. I have the 10-24mm, a 24-85mm VRII, a 70-300mm VRII, as well as my two primes, a 28mm 1.8 and a 50mm 1.8.
I have four B+W ND filters and CPF. A cheap gradient filter, two IR remotes, and a heavy duty aluminum Manfrotto tripod that withstands the high winds I sometimes find myself in.
Lastly I use Think Tank Bags. I have a Shape Shifter for when I’m out in nature, and a Speed Freak for when I’m in a more urban environment.
7. What challenges does your shooting/style present?
I shoot almost anything, and that requires a lot of knowledge of the various aspects of shooting, whether it be hand held low light concert photography, to tripod based night landscape imagery, day time landscape, people, and event photography, architecture and cityscape, or my favorite which is storm photography. Each requires a special skill set, and I am continually learning my craft and claim to be no expert in any of the styles I mentioned, but fascinated by all.
8. What’s on your bucket list of places, people or things to shoot?
Being a storm chaser, every new season is part of my bucket list. It is something that constantly changes since it deals with the sky. Other than that, I’d really love to get back to Japan with a camera. I was there twenty five years ago and got to explore the mountain based religious culture of the Shinto Priests of Nikko. The place is an amazing part of the earth visually. I just got off of a tour with Yahoo!, going across the US as their weather photographer and though I have traveled across the nation three times now, feel like I’ve only just scratched the surface. I am in love with the desert regions, and try to get back as often as I can to remote wilderness areas. Getting to shoot the he Northern Lights
I would also like to start getting into projects that include people and tell stories and involve a massive amount of setting up, and use of lighting and models… sort of in a twisted Norman Rockwell sort of way. It would be great fun!
9. What’s the best shot you didn’t get?
My first tornado. I caught it but I didn’t. I raced at over 110 mph down a deserted highway on the panhandle of Oklahoma and made it in time to see the last of three twisters the storm put down. It was beautiful, and over an open field… everything you would want from a violent storm! It was only traveling at about 5 mph and I ran out into a field about a mile an a half away from the twister and started shooting. After getting a boatload of images, I realized I forgot my zoom lens. I raced back to my car, and as I reached it, the local Sheriff said “son, you just missed a tremendous rope out” and I looked behind me and the twister was gone. I should have brought all my lenses with me. I do now. I could have had some massively nice close ups of the tornado, but only have wide angle images of it.
10. What advice do you have for other photographers?
I’ll say here what I say to my classes. I tell them to never stop shooting. To take their gear everywhere with them. To always keep their eyes open for imagery. This is the key to getting better at the craft. Wear down your shutter! Click it often and even unwisely! Just keep on shooting and learn from both your successes and mistakes. I also encourage them to read a lot. I was actually tempted to answer this question with some whacked out advice such as never take photos while massively drunk… but decided better.