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Photographer Spotlight: Peter Essick

Credit: Peter Essick 
Hamid Amirani - 3.01.19

This is the first in a regular series profiling a few of the esteemed photographers whose work showcased here is on the Cecilia website, asking what they carry on a photo shoot, their approach to their craft, and what advice they can offer to anyone wishing to pursue photography.

This week, we're looking at Peter Essick, named by Outdoor Photography magazine as one of the 40 most influential nature photographers in the world. Educated at the University of Southern California and the University of Missouri, Peter is a highly accomplished photojournalist, having authored two books (Our Beautiful Fragile World and The Ansel Adams Wilderness) and has been a regular contributor to National Geographic for a quarter century.

Like one of his greatest influencers, the legendary Ansel Adams, Peter is passionate about the environment and has written and photographed stories for NatGeo on subjects such as freshwater, climate change and nuclear waste.

When it comes to his equipment, he describes his camera gear as "very basic." His current setup comprises a Sony mirrorless body with three lenses: 16-35mm, 55mm 1.8, and 70-200mm. "I also always have a tripod with a heavy duty ballhead. The camera equipment can fit in a small backpack."

The choice of lenses is determined by the nature of the assignment. "I usually use the wide angle lens for landscapes and the normal lens for portraits. I also use the 70-200mm lens for more distant subjects."

The black and white landscape photos by Adams have been a source of inspiration to Peter. Indeed, he captured this stunning photo in the Ansel Adams Wilderness.

Ansel Adams Wilderness 
Credit: Peter Essick

Peter explains how he got the image he wanted. 

"This photo was taken at sunrise as the moon was setting. I timed my trip into the Ansel Adams Wilderness for the full moon. With a compass, it is possible to predict where the moon will rise and set. I found this spot at around tree line where I could look up to the cliffs and just see the bare granite rocks."

The beautiful composition could almost be the terrain of an alien planet or cosmic satellite. "I did get that feeling when I was hiking above tree line that it is almost like a moonscape."

Recently, Peter has been experimenting with multiple image photographs that produce dazzling results like this.

Kaaterskill Falls 
Credit: Peter Essick

"This one was taken in the Kaaterskill Falls area last fall," he says.

Regarding his future endeavors, Peter says, "I have been working in recent years to progress as an artist rather than as an editorial photographer. My goal is to find new ways of seeing that haven't been done before. That is about as lofty of a goal as one can have and I may never reach it, but I enjoy trying."

And his advice for aspiring photographers? He acknowledges that it's easier now for someone to master the technical aspects, so the emphasis has to be "on finding a unique voice." While it's important to study other photographers and artists, "in the end you have to go out and find what really motivates you to photograph. This is not an easy task, but it is only the beginning. After that, one has to master the art of self-marketing to find a way to earn a living."

To learn more about Peter's work, visit his website:

Peter resides in Stone Mountain, Georgia and is represented by Lumiere gallery in Atlanta, Georgia and by Cavan Images. 

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