#170 – Erik Stensland

Erik Stensland

Erik Stensland is an award winning photographer and author.  His photography is concentrated in the Rocky Mountain National Park which is literally in his back yard.  Erik has managed to blend his love for hiking and photography into a successful business.
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Erik Stensland

(go here for his About Me page,  selected info below.)

Erik Stensland was born in 1968 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He soon moved to Montana where he developed a deep love for the mountains. From a very early age he was hiking and exploring the streams and forests around his mountain home.

In 1978 Erik’s family returned to Minnesota where he completed his early education. In 1991 after finishing college, he moved to Europe where he met his wife Joanna. They married and moved to the Balkans living in Bulgaria, Albania and Kosovo, where they spent 12 years assisting local churches and development agencies. In January 2004, they returned to the States for personal restoration and so that Erik could complete his MA in Organizational Development. They settled near Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado which enabled Erik to pursue his love of nature through photography.

Show Notes:

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  • Intro Questions:
      • How did you get into photography and why landscape photography?

        • After working for years and becoming “burnt out” I thought about what I liked the most…mountains.  I thought about what would help me earn a living, a ranger, a guide…a photographer.  After getting negative feedback from people I decided to become a landscape photographer. 

        • Limited to seven days of camping per year…May to October.  The remainder of the hear it too cold / snowy.

        • During the winter the trips are “day trips”

      • Do you make a living from landscape photography?

        • Taken many years and it is a hard way to earn a living.  Now doing well, have employees and pay the bills…not getting rich but enjoying what I do.

      • How much time taking photos versus the business?

        • Majority of the time is at spent working versus photography

        • Love big prints…love to print

      • Tell us about your book – “Wild Light

        • Spent 10 years working on getting the images to do justice to Rocky Mountain National Park

        • Currently writing several other books…should be coming out soon with another around Christmas and another in the Spring in regards to National Parks

      • What gear do you take with you?

      • Backpack

      • Love that Casio Pre Trek watch, do you actually use it?

        • Hiking in the deserts of Utah and received a call in regards to the watch…wanted to focus on me as a photographer

        • The contact led to a video

      • What do you look for in a tripod?

        • Feisol – very large tripod but very sturdy.  Carbon Fiber with legs that screw to secure.  No center column to get really low. Model CT3472LV

        • Ball Head – Acratech GV2 – wonderful and very durable

      • Software?

        • Pretty much everything in Lightroom

    • Interview

      • What gets you up in the morning, which for the landscape photographer is REALLY early?

        • To get morning shots in Rocky Mountain National Park I sometimes get there at 10PM to 2AM

        • Depends how far I need to hike in

      • Encounter with a moose

        • Walking in a meadow and encountered a moose…eyes wide open, nose flared and started to charge

      • Any worries about being in the wilderness alone?

        • In the early days I was worried and now I am more comfortable

        • Utilize a satellite tracking device that allows me to stay in contact with family and in an emergency contact for help

      • Shot selection

        • Plan out the images and head out when the weather is anticipate to be appropriate for the specific photo

        • Have a backup plan because the sun may be covered by clouds

      • How do you select the photos you want?

        • Know the  park very well and know when the sun will strike a mountain correctly, when the leaves will change, the snow will fall.  All based on prior historical experiences.

      • Do it come to the point when you realize you shot everything…now what/

        • The public areas are very well documented…the back locations that are waiting to be captured.  There are the areas that nobody ever makes it to.

      • Have Federal Budget cuts limited access to the park?

        • Not me but friends working for the park service

        • Entrance fee, however, that doesn’t directly to the park.

      • Images per year in Gallery for purchase?

        • 15 per year…maybe up to 20

        • After shoots place photographs on Facebook to gauge the reactions from everyone

      • Do you ever use HDR?

        • Most are single image, however, some extreme settings have been done with Lightroom and Photomerge

      • Pollution, how does it impact the landscape photographer and how do you deal with it?

        • Most of the time there is no haze…crystal clear skies.  Except if there is a Forest Fire nearby…Washington State, Wyoming. 

        • Not pollution free but very little…nitrogen levels are increasing though

      • After all the time you have spent in Rocky Mountain National Park, do you think you are running out of new locations?

        • Try and plan a few trips per year

          • Autumn – Desert Southwest, New Mexico

          • Spring – Pacific Northwest

          • Summer – Iceland for a week

      • How far from Utah

        • Moab – 7 hour drive

        • Zion – a day drive

      • When do you use B&W?

        • Very few B&W.  Color photographs move me emotionally.  There are some photos that will lend themselves to B&W…but less than 10%

      • Sunrise or sunset?

        • If I had my choice…sunset, however, where i live the mountains are to the east and have the better light in the morning.

      • Do you use an app or something else to help you know when and where to shoot?

      • Favorite location to shoot?

        • Remote back country in Rocky Mountain National Park at the treeline where the trees open up to the tundra.

    • Wrap Up:

      • What’s in your Camera Bag?

        • Camera – Nikon D810 with 24-70 f/2.8 lens as starting point – no filters, maybe a polarizer for wet foliage

        • Lens – 14-24 f/28 and 70-200 f/2.8

        • Red Bag – First Aid bag rope, knife, batteries, sack to hold heat

        • Yellow Bag – camera spare parts, battery, cable release, polarizer, tools for tripod, card case with spare cards,

        • Orange Bag – hiking essentials, heat pack, filter for water bottle, SteriPEN (cleans water with UV light), compass, earplugs (for highwinds)

        • Rain Jacket

        • Top of bag, mesh sack – inside is the Spot messenger satellite tracker

        • Shovel

        • Blue Bag – Toilet Paper

        • Park Regulations – Laws for still photography in the park

        • Head Lamp

        • Food Bag – Granola Bars, Fig bars, Endurance Gel

        • Duct tape…usually ends up on heals to prevent blisters


Pro Trek Video

Discuss the show in our forums! – Forum Post

Album for this episodes can be found here – Erik Stensland

Albums from previous episodes can be found here – Podcast Images



Erik Stensland




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About geephotant

geephotant (Geek-Photographer-Accountant) (aka. Mike Howard) is the creator of Nov Studios and the jpeg2RAW podcast. Mike is an accountant by day as the Controller for a large US based corporation. By night, he is a geek and has appeared on the Home Server Show Podcast & the BYOB podcast ( both found at www.homeservershow.com). He has also appeared on the Home Tech Show podcast (www.theaverageguytv.com) and is now a regular guest on that show. Mike's true passion is photography and shoots when ever he can find time. As an amateur photographer, he is always looking to learn more about the craft.

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