Martin Rak's passion for photography really started in 2009. He loves to create dreamy and ethereal mood images. He mainly shoots during sunrise or sunset to get the best light, but also in extreme conditions such as snowstorms, rain or thick fog to capture the scene in the most dramatic and extraordinary conditions possible. Martin succeeded very well in his target but still wants to get better and better. In this interview, he reveals a lot about the person photographs. Join us to make this wonderful journey through his magnificent body of work.
Briefly tell us about yourself, your hobbies and other jobs.
I live in Prague, Czech Republic with my wife Tereza and little son Tom. Photography is not my only job, I also work as an area manager in the outdoor industry. Since childhood I have always liked travelling to different countries, hiking in the mountains and woods, simply being outside. I also enjoy various outdoor sports, listening to good music and playing the guitar.
What first attracted you to photography?
I got my first camera from my grandfather when I was six years old. He was a real photography enthusiast and taught me all the basics of photography. So I was taking pictures already as a young kid, but they were just tourist snapshots without any decent light or striking composition. The real passion for photography started in 2009 when I got my first DSLR and became interested in beautiful colourful landscape images in photography books and on websites. I wanted to take such images myself. Since then I have been shooting mainly during sunrise and sunset to get the best light into the image, or in extreme conditions such as snowstorms, rain or thick fog to capture the scene in the most dramatic and extraordinary conditions possible.
Describe your overall photographic vision.
I always try to capture the scene in some extraordinary conditions, be it beautiful clouds, low fog, inversion clouds, snowfall – anything that adds something extra to the image. I’ve been also attracted to B&W photography, where I go for simple minimalistic scenes often emphasized by long exposures which create dreamy and ethereal mood.
Why are you so drawn by landscape photography?
I have always liked travelling and spending my free time outdoors, so it has been obvious since the beginning that landscape would be my favourite genre. I enjoy being outside and concentrating on just one thing – taking the picture. It is my way of relaxing and escaping from the ordinary world. Landscape is fascinating me because it is ever changing. I can keep coming back to one exact spot and it is always different because of the time of the day, year or weather conditions. I feel like a spectator in a huge theatre of nature.
What is more important to you, the mood,/story behind your images or the technical perfection?
This is a very good question! I think the mood and story (also light and composition) are the most important part of an image, however, when the technical quality isn’t perfect I’m not satisfied with it. Hope it is a valid answer.
What generally is your relationship to your subject matter beyond being an observer? Do you prepare carefully the locations where you are intending to photograph?
It depends. There are locations which I am familiar with because I have been there numerous times, so I know exactly which little tree I’m going to shoot there in the summer and what is the best angle in winter. However, sometimes I just go to a new location unprepared and I enjoy finding new views, subjects and compositions and it can be very liberating.
What gear do you use (camera, lenses, bag)?
Camera body – Canon 5DSR
Lenses – Canon EF 16-35 f/4L IS USM, Canon EF 70-300 f/4-5.6L IS USM, , Canon EF 50 f/1.8 STM, Samyang 14 f/2.8
Filters – NiSi and Lee grad and ND filters, VF Foto polarizer
Tripod – Gitzo 2543L + RRS ballhead BH-40
Pack – Shimoda Explore 40 backpack
What software do you use to process your images?
I do all the basic adjustments (WB, tonal adjustments, lens corrections, grad and radial filters…) in Lightroom and then I export the file to Photoshop where I do some more refined adjustments such as blending, luminosity masking and retouching. I edit BW images in NIK Silver Efex Pro.
What is your most important advice to a beginner in landscape photography and how do you get started?
Try to get out and shoot as much as possible and don’t worry about the gear. Be patient and humble.
Who are your favourite photographers and more importantly, how has your appreciation of their work affected how you approach your own photography?
There are many photographers I follow, but Michael Kenna is probably my all time favourite. His vision amazes me and I really like how he can simplify the scene. His images definitely affected especially my minimalistic black and white work.
Is there any specific photo taken by another photographer that has inspired you a lot and why?
It’s not a specific photo, but I really enjoy Michael Kenna’s work from Hokkaido. It inspired some of my snowscape images.
Are there any specific directions that you would like to take your photography in the future or any specific goals that you wish to achieve?
Well, I’d like to keep on doing what I like and get better at it. I think I am constantly evolving as a photographer and I am never 100% satisfied with my work so there is always room for improvement.
Describe your favourite photograph taken by you and why it is special to you?
I really like this winter shot of a branch which still has orange leaves with the cold silhouettes of trees in the background. I was wandering through a misty forest and I couldn’t really find anything interesting until I saw this wonderful single branch. I tried several compositions with different focal length, but this one with a telephoto was by far the best. I think the simplicity and colour contrast between the orange leaves and the blueish background really makes this shot stand out.