Mike Pellinni is an amazing landscape photographer and graphic designer from TransCarpatia region in Ukraine, who makes some of the most breathtaking landscape shots and composites we’ve seen. I have finally had the chance to speak with him and discuss his process and techniques. And I am glad I can now share it with our readers.
Tell us a little bit about yourself?
I’m a part time freelance photographer shooting food and landscapes/cityscapes. My regular job is a creative designer and photographer for two local brands. One of which is garden tools and equipment company and the other is LED lightening. Also I’m making different types of print ads and shooting products.
How did you become interested in photography?
I had to. In 2003 I’ve decided to leave programming and make a career as a graphic designer and got a job in a small weekly newspaper as a designer. In 2005 I moved to a print shop and worked on a PrePress, also we had many DTP projects, especially books. All this time a huge amount of photographs had passed through my eyes as I was trying to make them look better and I realized that I can make my work easier if I do photos for books myself. I bought my first camera in 2006. It was just a tool for my main job. In 2007 one of our clients offered me to make a series of postcards, that’s how I found myself interested in photography.
Where are you based from and do you travel for work?
I’m from Uzhgorod, a small town in TransCarpatia region in Ukraine. TransCarpatia is called “little Switzerland” – that’s where 90% of my photos are shot, so I don’t need to travel more than 400km from one side to another.
Do you scout locations before shoots?
It’s a whole system of cycles that I use. Every cycle has 4 trips: 4th trip is scouting for new places. 2nd is for scouting around known places. 1st and 3rd are for making shots at old places. Also I’m trying to analyze my shots made with long lens and compare them with maps to predict what can I find if I deviated from the route next time I visit that place (on the 2nd trip of my cycle).
Do you have a specific criteria for choosing shoot locations or do you just take photos when the scenery looks good?
There is some dualism in my work. Mostly I take photos when location is O.K. because my inner voice is always telling me “You can fix that” or they will be used as donors for composites. But there are places which have some philosophical aspects and I try to put it all together and find the right composition and catch light.
While you shoot other seasons it looks like you avoid shooting in the winter, is there a specific reason for that?
I’m lazy… but I do have some winter shots. For me they are harder to get. For example in summer I get up at 3am, ride to mountain area and come back home at 10pm. In summer you are fast, mobile and have more light. In winter such trip will last 2-3 days, it’s harder to predict weather and you have to plan everything more carefully. By the way mountains in winter are simply much more dangerous.
You create a lot of night scenery images from daytime photos but do you actually ever shoot at night?
Of course, but mostly cityscapes.
Do you usually shoot alone or do you like having somebody with you for company?
I don’t care, it depends on location, if its area covers less than 12km I’ll shoot alone, but 200km away from home it’s nice to have someone for company. Also from 2007 I am a NSPAU member and there are lots of people to cooperate for shooting. For the last 3 years I have had 2 students which I teach photography and take them with me on 2nd and 3rd trips.
What cameras do you use?
I’m very loyal to Fuji and Pentax. For my regular job and in my friend’s studio I use Nikon. I feel comfortable with all of them, but Canon is more like my second nature and is my personal choice.
Besides your camera, what is a must-have at each session?
Good mood I suppose.
If you had to choose one lens which one would it be and why?
Any lens – because if you have one you’ll find a way to use it, but preferably a standard zoom (the damn 18-55mm or holy 24-70mm) – it is more useful focal distance. In 2007-2009 I was disappointed with Sigma and Tokina lenses and shot with the only Canon lens I had at the time – EFs 18-55mm. Believe it or not a few of my best photos where made with Canon EOS 350D and EFs 18-55 and EX580 Speedlite.
Can you describe your workflow once you take a photo?
My workflow is not linear and does not depend on taking photos. I upload them to a hard drive and leave alone for few days, and then I’ll choose the best ones and add it to my working library. My working library is a set of a few hundred photos which I select from all of my databases every month.
Do you use Mac or PC?
I am a PC user, started in times of MS DOS. I’ve tried Linux and MacOS, but due to my use of specific software – Windows is my power horse.
What software do you use for editing?
I’ve tried almost every piece of software appropriate for graphic design and photography. There can be some dispute CorelDraw vs Adobe Illustrator, Lightroom vs Aftershot vs DigiKam vs DPP but I think there is no adequate alternative to Adobe Photoshop and InDesign.
You have a lot of stunning day to night landscape manipulation images; can you share your post-processing techniques?
It’s not a special technique; I’ve found them on the internet a long time ago and modified them a little bit for my needs, http://www.photoshopessentials.com/photo-effects/starry-sky/ and http://www.basmanov.photoshopsecrets.ru/sozdaem-solnce-s-nulya-v-fotoshop/ now they’re multi layered smart objects and they look like this:
also i have a collection of skies and moon shoot with EFs 55-250 IS II lens.
Do you plan on buying any new equipment and if so what do you have your eyes on?
EFs 10-18 STM and a lightweight tripod Vanguard Alta+ 203 or SLIK Sprint PRO II.
How many images do you average per trip and how many do you usually end up using?
It’s more than 1000 images on scouting trips and 400 on planed ones. I leave around 100-200 images “as is” with no hard post processing, but the others are used for composites. Around 30% of images, which are out of focus, blurry or over/underexposed more than 2 stop, are deleted.
What do you feel is the most challenging thing about your work?
To find really interesting views in common places or to create non existing places.
Is there somebody in the photo industry that you look up to?
I don’t think so, I rather follow ideas and trends.
How do you market your business, and what works best?
About 80% of my work is for photo stock agencies and 20% is from social networks (G+, Pinterest, twitter, linkedin).
What do you think are the main traits of a successful landscape photographer?
Once I become a successful landscape photographer you’ll be the first one to know. As for right now, I know only one truth – be patient and push the button.
Is there anything you don’t like as a landscape photographer?
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you started?
Understanding what you are doing and why. I believe this is the main problem for all beginners; reading manuals and tech spec of cameras don’t give answer this.
What are some of the locations you would like to visit and take images of?
Every possible location. But for next 2 years I have a short term plan to make photo series of North and South Carpathian mountains (Slovakia and Romania).
What superpower would you like to have?
I’m a tech guy at heart and would rather prefer Google glasses with a 180MP medium format sensor
What are you still learning?
Everything I have time for. The first 5 years of trying to be a photographer I was learning mostly technical stuff, nowadays I’m more interested in creative aspects and photographic trends.
What do you love most about being a photographer?
For me it is the feeling of adventure and a little bit of freedom, but I think being a photographer isn’t any better than being an engineer or farmer.
Where do you see yourself 5 years from now?
I can’t tell you for sure right now, I’ve planned to plan my next 5 years plan in 2016 😉 But I’ll try to keep up and grow, to move from microstock(50%) agencies to macrostock(30%) and personal projects(20%).
What is your favorite photo you have shot recently? Can you describe the process behind it (location, equipment and setting used), as well as your thoughts about creating the image and what it means to you?
For Last 2 years my favorite place for shooting is on the river Tereblya near Synevir Lake in TransCarpathian mountains (48°33’35.1″N 23°39’10.0″E 48.559755, 23.652788).
It was shoot from half scouting trip on 2014.10.12 with Canon EOS 650D with EFs 18-55 IS II lens ISO200 f13 1/30.