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About Graham Clark

Graham Clark is an award-winning photographer based in San Francisco, California. His work features subjects from around the world. In 2009, Graham completed a journey from Alaska to Argentina by land, pursuing the art of photography. In 2012 he completed a trip throughout Asia and India, producing hundreds of photographs along the way. In 2013 he photographed over thirty national parks in North America.

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Graham combined his study of psychology with his IT experience at technology companies and startups in Silicon Valley to explore the intersections of design, creativity and technology. A strong proponent of straight photography and capturing the photograph in-camera as opposed to relying on heavy post-processing, Graham is self taught and heavily influenced by Galen Rowell and Ansel Adams.

Graham is also the founder of LandscapePhotographySF.com and Breakthrough Photography.

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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What is your goal?

Bringing back experiences in the form of images has been my ambitious aim; and to say that I have not achieved it, but only hinted at it, would be praise enough, considering the really great difficulties in the way of full achievement.

Why landscape photography?

What I find so appealing about working in the landscape, compared to other areas of photography, is that it contains such a diverse range of geography, each with it’s own unique characteristics. When photographing two completely separate environments, for example mountains or coastlines, similar fundamental photographic principles apply to both, but each has it’s own individual qualities that requires a special line of approach.

Where are you currently located?

San Francisco, California.

What cameras did you use to capture these images?

Nikon D2X, Nikon D3, Nikon D700, Canon EOS-3, Canon EOS 5D and Canon EOS 6D

Do you use Photoshop?

People sometimes ask me how much photoshop is involved with my images, and the answer is generally very little to none. I am very much inspired by the power of straight photography and getting it right in-camera.

What are ND Grads?

Graduated neutral-density filters are designed to improve the dynamic range of an image contrast between light & dark parts of a scene. They’re half gray and half clear, with a gradual transition between the two sections.

Do you use artificial light?

I don’t! All my images are the result of natural light. Although difficult to predict and control, I feel that natural light has a magic quality to it.

Do you carry a camera bag?

No. I find camera-specific bags bulky and tend to signal attention while traveling. Instead, I prefer to use OP-TECH camera wraps on all my gear and throw it all in a small (20L) climbing backpack.

What does your post-processing workflow look like?

My workflow generally consists of three stages:

1. Import & selection process I prefer to organize my images by location on import, i.e; South America > Colombia > Ciudad Perdida. I use keywords to add additional detail and to occasionally indicate primary colors included, but I find that such granularity is not always necessary during the import stage simply due to how time-intensive it can be. Once successfully imported, I backup and then begin rating and selecting full-screen. I prefer to assign one star for rejects, two stars for images that show potential, and three stars for an image I will come back and review for processing. Once the rating process is complete, I go back to just the three-star images and begin double-checking my finals. With I have strong 3-star images, I begin taking the best images and working through them analyzing composition and image quality. I usually reserve 5-star ratings for images that I consider is of print quality.

2. Processing  I prefer to adjust images with what I call “straight processing”, which involves a similar adjustment approach to that of the traditional darkroom: crop, contrast, dodge & burn, straighten. About 90% of my post-processing work is accomplished in Aperture 3, and when it’s time to finalize the RAW files for printing I export them as TIFF16BIT files to Photoshop CS6, where I examine images at 100% for chromatic aberration, other potential optical issues and sensor dust.

3. Sharpening is the last stage of my post-processing workflow and I typically only sharpen images for print, if necessary. Because sharpening can introduce artifacts onto the image, I export the images out of Aperture and keep the master image separate.

What does your ultralight setup consist of?

My ultralight kit includes:

  • Canon EOS 6D (755g)
  • EF Canon 17-40mm F/4 L (475g)
  • EF Canon 70-200 F/4 IS L (760g)
  • Singh-Ray and B+W filters
  • Tripod

What is your preferred lens?

My most preferred lens is the Canon EF 17-40mm F/4 L. Not only is the Canon 17-40mm F/4 Canon’s lightest L lens (1.1 lbs / 475g) but it’s also the smallest L zoom lens. The one-stop advantage with the 16-35mm has almost no impact for me as I tend to shoot between F/8 and F/22. The Canon EF 50mm 1.8 is another one of my favorites , which is on equal plane with the new Canon 40mm F/2.8 making it Canon’s lightest lens and and it has a very unimposing appearance, which is great for busy areas where a larger, more expensive lens invariably draws attention. Along with a Canon 70-200mm F/4 IS L, these three lenses comprise my ‘ultralight’ travel kit.

When did you get into photography?

When I was a kid I remember the excitement around the house when Grandpa called; he was being patched through a ham operator from the Indian ocean. He was sailing around the world in an attempt to secure the world-record to become the oldest solo circumnavigator. Just mere seconds to say “Hello Grandpa! Over!” was where the inspiration of travel started for me.

Nearly two decades later I found myself inspired by the incredible work of Ansel Adams and I bought my first digital SLR, a Canon EOS 5D. It wasn’t until I traveled across the US photographing national parks that my passion for photography truly ignited. This experience served as motivation for me, and as a musician might want to drop everything and focus on music all day everyday, I too wanted to shoot and practice technique with the same ambition. Working a day job however didn’t afford me the option or time to pursue photography in such a way, so I set a goal of saving enough money to afford myself the opportunity to travel with the ultimate goal of understanding the medium and it on a more intimate and intuitive level. After two years of saving money, and at the same time consuming every book I could find about photography, I set out on a trip from Alaska to Argentina by land, pursuing the art of photography.