Interview with a photographer featuring Stephen Matera

September 30, 2021

Interview with a photographer featuring Stephen Matera

Cotton Carrier: Where do you call home?

Stephen Matera: Seattle, Washington.

CC: How long have you taken photographs for unprofessionally and professionally?

SM: I’ve been shooting full-time professionally for about 17 years, and probably about 5 years on the side before that.

CC: How would you define your style as a photographer?

SM:I call myself and outdoor sports, lifestyle and landscape photographer. That’s a pretty diverse range of shooting. I try to keep a consistent style across this diverse range of subjects, especially on the sports & lifestyle side. I tend to shoot a lot of backlit subjects with clean, graphic compositions. My landscape imagery is trending more simplified and clean over time.

CC: Have you ever gone to photography school?

SM: No photo school but I have been to a couple of field workshops that were incredibly helpful.

CC: Where is your favorite place or thing to shoot?

SM: That’s like asking a parent who their favorite kid is (it’s always the daughter!). But if I have to pick one, it’s definitely Mt. Rainier…or the North Cascades…or New Zealand.

CC: What Camera(s) / Lenses do you use?

SM: I shoot Sony (switched from Canon about five years ago). My primary camera now is the a1 for stills and video with the a9 as my backup for stills. I shoot a variety of sony lenses including the 16-35 2.8, 24-105, 70-200 2.8, 100-400, and 200-600 for wildlife. I also love the 35 1.8 and 85 1.8 for lifestyle work.

CC: What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done to get “The Shot”?

SM: I can’t discuss that because I signed an NDA. Just kidding, but I’ve had more than my share of close calls almost getting hit by skiers and snowboarders in mid-air. Luckily I’ve had no injuries…yet.

CC: Who has inspired you as a photographer?

SM: I have many influences who have inspired me as I developed as a photographer, both for sports/lifestyle and landscape images. For outdoor sports and lifestyle images, I was tremendously influenced and inspired by Galen Rowell. Viewing his work in the early 90s was eye opening as to what could be done creatively in an adventure setting. For my landscape work, I was most influenced early on by two photographers. Pat O’Hara, a pacific Northwest photographer who shot with a 4x5 camera for most of his work inspired my style and recognition of light. Sierras based photographer William Neil was also a 4x5 film photographer and his compositional eye inspired me to look at the landscape much more graphically. I also shot with a 4x5 film camera for a while before switching to medium format film early in my photo career.

CC: What advice would you tell an aspiring photographer?

SM :I think there are so many good answers to this question but the one I keep coming back to is find out what inspires you and shoot as much of it as possible. It will help you develop your creative vision and style. Build a strong portfolio and reach out to photographers for their honest feedback. It is very hard to judge our own work and an independent, honest opinion will help tremendously. Pat O’Hara did that for me when I was getting started and am thankful to him for doing that. 10. Can you share a photographic resource you personally use? I find www.fstoppers.com to be a good source of information. And as a gearhead (aren’t all photographers gearheads?), I like keeping up on the latest rumors at www.sonyalpharumors.com.

CC: How has photography shaped your day to day?

SM: I’ve been told many times by people that I have their dream job. The sentiment is appreciated but I think there is an image of being a photographer means being out shooting five days a week and constant travel. While there are busy times with lots of shooting, there is also a lot of time in front of the computer editing and basic office work (like answering interview questions) and just day to day grunt work of running a business. Shooting days are loooong. I did a three-day shoot for a client a couple of weeks ago. It was three 16 hour days in a row and exhausting but really satisfying at the end of each day to have created something new.

CC: Where has photography taken you, and made you experience?

SM: I’ve traveled to many places I never would have visited if I wasn’t a photographer, including some amazing international locations. As a mountain photographer, I’ve traveled all over the western U.S., Alaska and Hawaii, as well as Mexico, Iceland, Canada, and New Zealand to shoot. I am fortunate to be able to travel to such incredible destinations for my work.

CC: Any exciting photographic events in coming up you’d like to share?

SM: I’m working on workshop plans for 2022. Check my landscape website, www.stephenmatera.com for updates.

CC: Anything else you’d like to add?

SM: One thing I neglected early in my photo career was to network with other photographers. I thought photographers were all self-centered and full of themselves. Turns out that’s only me and most are great people just trying to navigate the challenges of freelance work. I wish I had met these other photographers much sooner.

Websites and Instagram account: www.materaphoto.com (sports and lifestyle commercial photography), www.stephenmatera.com (landscape photography); Instagram @stephen_matera