When you catch the travel bug, it can be hard to shake off. This is exactly what happened to Italian landscape photographer, Marco Grassi, following a taste of the nomadic lifestyle on an early trip abroad.
Since then, this self-taught photographer has developed a passion for travelling and capturing the world in imagery – something that he strives to fulfil through endless adventures. This month, we had a chat with Marco about how he came to be where he is today, as well as his thoughts on photographing lesser-known locations and how he educates others to be more responsible when shooting in-field.
Marco Grassi is a photographer from Italy who has a passion for travel. Photo by: 'Marco Grassi'.
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Hello Marco! Tell us a bit about your journey from the early beginnings to where you are now in photography. How did you develop an interest in the art and what were your initial plans for it when you first got started?
Hi Serena and everyone! From the very beginning? Wow, that’s a while ago! It seems yesterday that I started, but what a long journey it has been.
It all started back in New Zealand, I was there on a working holiday visa for an entire year. As the end of my trip was getting closer, I realised that I had to go back home and I really started to worry. After experiencing a nomadic lifestyle, it was impossible for me to even think to go back to my old life.
I started thinking and what I needed was a way to keep travelling. I already had my return ticket and on the way back to Italy I spent all my savings to buy a professional camera and lenses. My idea was clear, I just didn’t know how to turn it into reality or that I was going to be a landscape photographer.
From there, my passion for nature and obsession to turn this hobby into a job were my driving forces. From the very beginning I didn’t just want to make money, I wanted to make money doing what I liked. So travelling and being in nature, possibly remote places.
Marco enjoys exploring remote places. Photo by: 'Marco Grassi'.
Do you have any formal training in photography?
No, I don’t. When I started out I had another job, I was working during the day and reading about photography and practicing at night. As for now I’m learning everyday, as long as I have time I’m always hungry to learn a new technique or try a new software.
Marco's photography is self-taught. Photo by: 'Marco Grassi'.
With so many genres to choose from, how did you first make the foray into landscape photography? Can you tell us more about your connection with nature itself?
Well, that was easy! I was raised in the Alps, where I’ve spent 8 years living in a very small village, so small that, counting me, we were only 5 kids. So as a kid, I was always hiking a lot and running up and down the mountains.
In my teenage years, I moved back to my hometown and I thought that my connection with nature was kind of lost. But when I was in New Zealand, it all came back to me and my innate passion prevailed. I was once and for all hooked!
How would you describe your approach to landscape photography and how do you differentiate yourself from other landscape photographers?
My goal is not to be different or to differentiate myself from others, but more to do what I like and to follow my instinct. Somehow this approach has probably shaped my style, but it’s hard to tell for me. So…you tell me! For sure my strong Italian accent helps differentiating myself from most of the photographers out there!
Marco does what he likes and follows his instinct. Photo by: 'Marco Grassi'.
If you were to pay homage to any landscape photographer, who would it be?
I’m always inspired by the work of other photographers, no matter the genre. Naming one is really tough so I won’t name anyone in particular, but for sure circling yourself with inspiring people it’s a good way to stay always motivated.
What technology or camera gear do you currently use?
I’m currently shooting with the Sony A7R3, together with 16-35mm, 24-105mm and 100-400mm lenses. I also have a drone, the Mavic 2 Pro.
What kind of software do you use for post-processing?
I use a combination of Lightroom, Photoshop and Luminar 4.
Post processing is made easier with Luminar 4. Photo by: 'Marco Grassi'.
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How important do you think post-processing is in photography today? Can someone succeed without processing their images?
I think post processing is a crucial part of landscape photography, especially if you are shooting big landscape scenes. On the other hand, I do not think that it’s essential if you want to succeed in other photography genres.
Post-processing is also a tool, once you master it, to define your own style and vision.
Post processing is a crucial part of landscape photography though Marco does not believe it is essential in other genres. Photo by: 'Marco Grassi'.
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What are your thoughts on photographing lesser-known and unique locations, such as in the Faroe Islands? With so much saturation in social media, is there anywhere left to be explored?
I feel like, unfortunately, landscape photographers are quite lazy. So luckily for the ones looking for something different there is always the possibility to come home with a fresh perspective of something that has been shot infinite times.
In the Faroe Islands there is definitely more to explore despite the small size of the country. This shot here, for example, is the proof.
There is a lot to explore in the Faroe Islands. Photo by: 'Marco Grassi'.
I was hiking and looking for something new from this famous place and instead of staying lower I went up with the idea of finding a cave. And there it was. Just like that, a fresh view of a popular place.
Besides the Faroe Islands, I feel that there is plenty to be explored. So for you guys looking for something like that, forget about searching for photos on social medias. Open a map and find a country you’ve never heard of, google “country name” landscape. The photos aren’t great? That’s okay as it may mean that there is so much left to be done! Now you have to find some interesting locations and go.
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How do you minimise your footprint when you are out and about in nature? What steps do you take to prioritise the wellbeing of the environment over getting the perfect shot? Can you give us an example of how you have managed this during a photography workshop?
I love nature therefore I try to take as much care as I can and pass this same message on to the people I bring with me. Since my workshops are mostly the hiking-camping-adventurous type, the groups I guide are not made of just photographers but nature lovers as well, who know the importance of respecting the environment. It might happen that someone is less used to or hasn’t, for example, been camping before so I always explain the precautions to take in order to leave no trace. I honestly consider my groups very responsible on this matter.
As for me, I don’t share GPS coordinates or location names of places that are still pristine or in danger and try to avoid the not-so-responsible tourism to go there and ruin the area.
Leave no trace when practicing landscape photography. Photo by: 'Marco Grassi'.
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What do you do to educate yourself and others about the places you are going to photograph?
Before bringing other people somewhere I make sure to know the area really well, I read about it and literally spend months photographing and finding new locations. By the end of my trip, I know every corner, stone, water source and I’m ready to bring people with me.
If I’m, rarely, bringing someone in places where I haven’t been myself before, I collaborate with local companies/guides with deep knowledge on the location.
How do you manage to juggle the demand on your time for photography and home life? What keeps you grounded?
Home life… Haven’t had that in a while! But I’m pretty lucky that my girlfriend Jessica also likes to travel and to guide tours. So we travel together almost anywhere and we also organise and guide tours together. Our home time it’s usually just for the holidays and, sometimes, in between workshops.
Marco travels a lot with his girlfriend, Jessica. Photo by: 'Marco Grassi'.
For someone just finding they have a passion for photography, what would you say is the best thing for them to focus on from the very beginning?
First thing: shoot something you like to shoot. It’s the best way to stay motivated and inspired. Secondly, master your gear and understand the basics: ISO, shutter-speed and aperture. There’s nothing worst than thinking about the technical stuff when out shooting, so make sure that part comes natural!
What is one very valuable lesson that you think every landscape photographer needs to learn?
Don’t forget to enjoy the moment!
Take the time to look around you and go beyond the picture to make valuable memories as well.
Don't forget to enjoy the moment when you are out photographing. Photo by: 'Marco Grassi'.
The world is full of amazing places and photo opportunities – what are some of the countries or regions you would like to visit and photograph in the coming years?
My bucket list is getting thinner every year, with my work I was able to travel to most of the places I wanted to visit.
For 2020, apart from the workshops I’m guiding, I will be also taking some personal trips to Peru, Namibia, Switzerland and China. I also have four places that I’m dying to see that are totally off the grid… But you’ll have to follow me to find out! :)
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