Interview #17
Greg Mayse
by Daryle Dickens

“If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.” Henry David Thoreau said that. The truth of that statement is evident in the work of Gregory Mayse. For the past 23 years or so Greg has spent his life pursing images of nature and wildlife across the nation. His portfolio is deep, impressive and always evolving. These days he keeps his camera pointed at Colorado’s Rocky mountains. I sat down with Greg outside his gallery and asked him a few questions.

ZAF622: So how long have you been shooting?

I did my first wedding in 1982. I started doing it part-time as I managed a photo lab. I did that for 10 years until I got to the point I was busy enough to make the jump to do it full-time. In 1994 I opened up a big studio in Ohio that photographed senior portraits, families and commercial products, it was about 3000 square feet. I did that until 2001 when we decided to move out here. I am carrying on doing the same thing but without the big studio.

ZAF: What do you primarily shoot with?

Right now it is all digital. I've been digital for the past couple years. The Nikon I use I really like and works well.

ZAF: When did you change from film to digital?

It was about 2 1/2 years ago. I was shooting both 35mm and medium format. So I had to deal with a lab bill. Now with digital, I just have to spend a little more time on the computer. Photoshop is a great program. You can use it to just tweak and adjust them as needed and I've gotten used to the instant feedback of digital imaging.

ZAF: Do you find it a challenge to keep up with the new technology in photography?

It does move pretty fast, like with Photoshop there are add-on filters and things you can do with it. But I prefer to use my images pretty much as I shot them, and as far as the camera goes the operations on it are still pretty much the same. Just check your histogram and make sure you've got the image in a working range.

ZAF: How do you handle the art photography versus the business photography?

It is a balance between the portrait work and the wildlife and nature work. When I moved out here, I had shot over 300 weddings. I decided to retire from that and trade the weddings for the wildlife. But now I've had people ask me about doing weddings, so I may be getting back into the wedding scene.

ZAF: What draws you to nature photography?

I've always been an outdoors kind of guy. In Ohio I enjoyed hiking their trails, kayaking on Lake Erie or canoeing some of the rivers. My wife and I would also go to Canada, Minnesota and other places in the Midwest and on the East Coast. I grew up camping with my parents a lot. I knew when I moved to Colorado that spending plenty of time outdoors was  something I really wanted to do.

ZAF: I imagine there's a lot of patience involved with wildlife photography.

Yes, there is. There are times, like last month I went down to Great Sand Dunes National Park I went camping for a couple days to photograph the dunes at sunrise and sunset. I also photographed the sand hill cranes at Monte Vista National Wildlife Preserve, that was amazing. There are times when you have to sit and wait for nature to come and visit you and sometimes you just happened to be driving by or hike in a little bit until you come upon something that catches your eye. I've never really been disappointed whenever I've gone out. Sometimes if the lighting isn't right or the wildlife isn't around I just start looking for the small details in the water, plants and trees.

ZAF: When you go out do you have something in mind you want to capture?

If I go to a particular location I try to visualize the scene and I hope I'm able to get that at the end of the day. Especially if you go out at sunrise, you hope you get the beautiful sky, but that doesn't always happen. Like last year at Cameron Pass, I didn't get the sunrise or moose that I had hoped for, but I got these really amazing cloud formations over the mountains. You take what nature gives you and go with it.

ZAF: Do you use a large zoom lens with your wildlife photography?

It is not always about zooming in and get a close-up of the eye. It's getting a little more of the environment that's what I like to do. I have different lenses for different uses.

ZAF: What equipment do you bring out with you when you shoot?

I have a carbon fiber tripod that I carry with me. It is light, and I always shoot on a tripod. I have my cameras and a variety of lenses. I've got a macro lens, a short zoom, telephoto zoom, and then a longer telephoto lens, with those lenses I can cover just about everything.

ZAF: When did you start showing photography in galleries?

About a year and a half ago, I haven't been doing this too long, but now I am in four galleries and sell my greeting cards at a few shops around Fort Collins. I've had my images used in a variety of publications, websites and calendars. This summer I'll have a tent full of my work at art festivals in Fort Collins, Loveland and Estes Park.

ZAF: Was it hard for you at first?

Yes, the first times are hard because you're not sure what to do. But there is such a great art community here that is very welcoming to fellow artists. They will tell you to go here or there, where you can get things framed, where you can buy frames, which galleries or businesses where you should try to show your work. I've made many friends through the art community here. Yes, it was hard, but it gets easier.

ZAF: So what is your number two behind wildlife photography?

I photographed a lot of concerts over the years. I am heavy into blues music. That has allowed me to photograph some of the blues legends. A chance to meet people like BB King, Robert Junior Lockwood and Buddy Guy and that was pretty exciting. They've used some of my images on their websites. That's my other passion, my music.

ZAF: What you enjoy on the business end of photography?

I do family portraits, high school seniors, kids, business and artist portraits, commercial products, different promotional portraits for church groups, portraits of many different kinds. Of all that one of my favorite things is the high school senior portraits. I love working with the high school kids who are looking for some very original portraits. It's fun to combine ideas and create unique looking images.

ZAF: Have you always know you wanted to be a photographer?

Actually, I wanted to be a painter and majored in art in high school. I went to college for art and design. I took a photography class and it changed my direction a little bit. After college, I took in some illustration and painting work. I started doing more photography, buying one lens and another lens and a then a better camera. People asked me to do more work for them. It kind of became a hobby gone wild. I have always worked in creative fields. I used to write business features and do photography for a paper, worked doing illustration and advertising design. I even did a little bit of playing guitar in a blues band. It has just been my path.

ZAF: What was your first camera?

The Minolta SRT 200, I had to buy it for the photography class for college. It came with one lens, and I used black-and-white film back then, that was the first one.

ZAF: Do you still have it?

It is sitting on the shelf in my office.

ZAF: Do you still shoot any medium format?

I shot some portraits about two years ago with my medium format, and that was the last time I used it. I have a lot of equipment that is just sitting there. I still have all my studio equipment, all the light boxes and backgrounds. If a client needs a large group of 20 or 30 people photographed, I have the backgrounds and the lighting to go on location. All the portrait work I do is at an outside location or in their home or business.

ZAF: Do you have any photographers to look up to?

I've always admired the work of Ansel Adams and Galen Rowell.
Although not photographers, I truly admire the adventurous spirit of Lewis & Clark as well as John Muir. They were willing to see what was on the other side of the mountain or around the next bend in the river. You'll find my favorite quote by John Muir on my business card. I feel that this sums up my feelings for the great outdoor in twelve simple words…"In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks".
ZAF: Do you shoot every day or a couple times a week?

Usually I try to get out a couple times a week around here, unless I'm going somewhere special for a few days. The part of my nature photography business that many people don't know is that I'm only out shooting 15% of the time. The other 85% is working on the computer, marketing, framing, talking to clients and galleries, anything to get my images seen.

Greg’s website can be found here.

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