.Max Rive is perhaps the most famous landscape photographer working today. I discovered his work on 500px back in 2014. His images always give me a wow feeling, and I find his work very inspiring. Ever since our paths crossed, Max has come across to me as down to earth, kind and generous.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I am a landscape photographer from the Netherlands, and I have been shooting for over ten years now. I’ve always been someone who has been in search for a creative outlet in combination with sports. That is probably the reason why landscape photography is such a good match for me. I started with small compact cameras because I wanted to stay lightweight. I also didn’t have the feeling I was missing out on something in the technical department. I wanted to see new countries, mountains, and glaciers — and more pixels, dynamic range, or corner sharpness weren’t something I bothered too much about. This also required me to be a bit more creative because my first compacts didn’t have a manual mode, not even exposure compensation. So to not overexpose my jpegs I aimed a bit higher with my camera (towards the sky), held the shutter button for focus (on the sky, so that wasn’t great) to get a shorter exposure and pressed the shutter when I aimed my camera back at the landscape. Because I didn’t have a very wide-angle lens at the time, I had to improvise with my compact as well by taking multiple shots with overlap and merge them. First, in Paint manually and later in Photoshop.
What made you start with landscape photography?
There was never a particular moment that I started with landscape photography. It was something that grew on me when taking photos during my travels and hikes. I’m not sure if you can call me a landscape photographer when just trying to document a trip with a compact camera. It grew on me, and I started posting photos on the internet, and from there, my interest progressed even more.
What do you want to communicate through your photos?
There is not a specific message, but it is more a feeling I automatically translate into my photos, which is the feeling of excitement, adrenaline, and freedom when being high up in the mountains. The images also show how big nature is and how insignificant we are.
What has photography done for you?
I managed to turn a hobby into my daily work and a lifestyle. More importantly, photography gave me a purpose in life. Compared to all my past and current hobbies, it feels like the most meaningful. There was a time when I was uncertain about my future in terms of work. The idea of having to work five days a week doing something that isn’t your own big thing didn’t make me feel very happy. We all tend to take things for granted pretty quickly, so I sometimes have to remind myself how grateful I should be with being able to do what I love every day.
How would you describe your work, and how has it evolved since you started?
Dramatic, creative, and often with lots of depth and colors. I first did many wide-angle shots in the horizontal format. I managed to become more all-round to also come up with vertical compositions and shots with both wide-angle and telephoto lenses.
I suppose most of us have periods when we seem to lose the fun of photography. Have you developed any strategies to keep the fire burning?
I think it is indeed vital to make sure you don’t fall into a routine too much. I remember that for the first five years, I was so excited to go on the next trip I was already ready for it when the one before wasn’t even started. The fact that I was still studying and free time was scarce had probably also something to do with me being so excited. So with that in mind having other hobbies can give you more balance and will allow you to charge yourself better for your photography. If you put all focus on photography, you might feel lost once in a while — you are not interested in shooting at all. Another way to keep it more interesting is to add new elements to your photography like, for instance, making in the field tutorials, film making, time-lapses, or even try a new genre of photography.
Have you ever been severely criticized for your work? In that case, how did you handle it?
Yes, almost every time I upload something, but it is part of being on social media and having a big following. I think it is also important to see it in perspective. There might be a few negative comments, some are constructive while others are insulting, but the majority are still positive. When there is constructive feedback, I sometimes agree, and other times I don’t, so they can be very valuable when you want to improve your work.
Have you any hobbies besides photography, or is photography both your occupation and hobby?
Photography is undoubtedly my hobby and occupation. Other hobbies are racing my car on track days, cycling, both mountain, and racing bicycles, racing a car, and well… let’s say most other forms of sports. You can also say that photography is just one aspect of what I’m doing. The trip planning with Google Earth, the hiking, exploring, and of course, post-processing are all things I love doing. And don’t forget the eating… lots of it!
It must have been an enormous leap of faith going professional. Have you any words of advice to those who are considering becoming professional landscape photographers?
Don’t make becoming a professional landscape photographer an objective. Instead, I would advise people to enjoy landscape photography without thinking about results or comparing themselves with others too much. Give yourself the time to fully develop yourself. For me, this took six years, and it was only after five years. I started to consider doing it full time. I see too many people who try to make a profession out of landscape photography almost at the start, and as a result, they enjoy their hobbyless.
What do you find most challenging in your line of work?
Landscape photography is something creative, something that is very appealing because it has so much diversity, and you can put all your creativity into it. When it begins to feel repetitive after a time, you must find new ways to get the same connection again as you had at the start. That is, for me, the most challenging.
In which direction do you believe landscape photography is heading?
There are more subcategories now, thanks to social media, which is a good thing. Especially aerial photography has improved, which isn’t a surprise with the availability of drones. There are also more derivative categories, such as the storytelling images you see on Instagram. I believe the landscape photography itself will always stay within its framework, but more subcategories will arise instead, mostly influenced and originated from social media.
What is the most amazing place you have visited? Is it possible for you to articulate why it made such a significant impression on you?
I’m sorry, but I can’t name one particular place. There are favorites in terms of photography results, though. Patagonia is my favorite followed by Peru. In terms of feelings, all places in nature give me a unique feeling, which I find difficult to describe. Happiness, freedom, and challenged are a few broad terms that come to mind. Though each place is and feels different, and that’s what makes nature so appealing.
What inspires you?
Unique people, who create rather than duplicate. People who follow their thoughts and passions rather than the ones of others. People who try to get the most out of themselves and take nothing for granted. Nature, which doesn’t need any further explanation, that is where we come from.
Do you have a piece of advice for young aspiring landscape photographers?
Stop reading and watching your screen but get out there, the mountains are calling! 😉