Interview with Michael Salmela

#1 Please introduce yourself

My name is Michael Salmela and I was born and raised in Washington State, USA. I’m a longtime resident of Seattle and a keen amateur photographer working in the style of minimal monochrome landscape/waterscapes.

#2 How did you get interested in photography?

Back in high school I had a 35mm film camera and would mostly take snapshots with it and the occasional sunset attempts, but I really didn’t take it seriously. After high school I moved up to a local ski resort to have the opportunity to snowboard everyday. I purchased a video camera to film my friends and I would then edit them to make snowboard videos every off season. Although it wasn’t photography per se, I feel that the techniques used there played a key roll many years down the road when a good friend talked me into purchasing a DSLR. It turned into a passion very quickly and I’ve been working diligently to hone my skills ever since.


#3 Do you have an artistic/photographic background?

Not at all, I’m self taught in all aspects of photography and don’t have any other artistic background. It’s actually photography that has allowed me to appreciate all other art forms. I now look at paintings, drawings, sculptures, etc. through different eyes and admiration. I can’t help but think about the artists’ creative process and what it must have taken to create their work.

#4 Which artist/photographer inspired your art?

It may be cliché at this point to name Michael Kenna as an inspiration for those who choose to work in the minimal black and white genre but it’s definitely true for me. There are so many wonderful photographers working in this field today but there’s something about Kenna’s images that take a hold of me. It’s difficult to explain how an image can possess “soul”, but in my opinion his has lots of it. There’s nothing like seeing his work live and in person, an image on the computer screen just doesn’t do it justice. I’m also active on a number of photography friendly social media web sites and admire the works of my contacts whose photographs, and their interaction, give me a dose of daily inspiration.


#5 How much preparation do you put into taking a photograph?

My work schedule is such that I have split days off during the week so it’s difficult to get too far out of my immediate surroundings much. I often look for new locations via Google maps in satellite view while scouring the shorelines of the greater Seattle area. Once I find a good subject I often visit multiple times for the conditions to be the way that I like them. Many times I end up stumbling upon something that I didn’t plan for and that’s always a nice feeling. I always go out with a certain subject or location in mind but hope to find something that I wasn’t looking for. Serendipity usually plays a large role in any decent images that I’m able to create. Also, I enjoy shooting mostly at dawn for the soft quality of light and lack of people in the location. This yields very early wake up times in the spring/summer where sunrise can begin at 5:00 am so if it’s a long drive I’m getting up a few hours before that.


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#6 Which places have been your favourite shooting sites so far and why?

This is a tough question for me because I really haven’t been able to travel to many exotic locations to shoot. I would say the area between Astoria, Oregon and Cannon Beach, Oregon. There are many different subjects for waterscapes along that route such as sea stacks, bridges, rocks, posts, beaches and the like. I’m drawn to the water it seems so the majority of my images tend to be waterscapes but lately have been trying to branch out a little more and discover other possibilities.


#7 We can see your photographs only in black and white, why have you chosen to present them in this form?

Black and white images represent the essence of the subject for me where color tends to be a bit distracting. Monochrome forces me to pay particular attention to composition, shapes, lines, light, shadows, and tonal ranges. It also tends to be more malleable where I can create an almost otherworldly appearance. There are many photographers who work beautifully in color, and I enjoy their images very much, but I personally prefer to work in black and white. I enjoy producing photographs that can be serene but also have added drama to them while utilizing minimalistic compositions much of the time.


#8 Could you please tell us something about your technique and creating process?

The majority of my images thus far have been made with an entry level DSLR and B+W neutral density filters. I did, however, sell all of my digital gear recently and purchased a medium format film camera and working with black and white film exclusively. I self develop the film then scan the negatives into Lightroom where the majority of my post processing takes place. I’ll utilize Photoshop CS5 on the rare occasion if I need a specific tool. For prints I prefer to use Hahnemuhle Photo Rag paper printed with an Epson 3880 that my good friend is kind enough to let me use. I’m currently printing the majority of my images at 10×10 inch squares. I enjoy a bit smaller of an image and not convinced that my work would look good printed large. Not that I won’t ever give it a try but for now I’d rather invite the viewer in than take up a large amount of real estate on a wall.


#9 What do you do in your life besides photography?

I work in a hospital as a critical care Registered Dietitian so I try to keep up in the field by reading journal articles and other nutrition related sources. Cooking and fitness used to be a big part of my daily routine but it seems that photography is taking up much of that time. Now it’s a quick workout, grab a bowl of cereal for dinner, then onto working on photography. A dietitian probably shouldn’t disclose such information. I have a wonderful wife who is a crazy cat lady so I enjoy spending time with them as much as possible.

#10 What future plans do you have? What projects would you like to accomplish?

The change from digital to the film process has been a challenge but wonderfully satisfying. I want to continue to focus on honing my skills at this every moment that I get. I would also like to explore night photography more using extremely long exposures. I tend to enjoy “bad” weather photography so during the upcoming summer months when it’s sunny most days, I plan on pulling some all nighters by moonlight instead.

Michael Salmela portfolio:

9 Responses to “Michael Salmela”

  1. Stephen Cairns

    Great to see you interviewed here Michael.

  2. Sandra Parlow

    loved reading this, Michael! So great to have a bit more information about you and how you work. Inspirational, you are!!


    Great article and outstanding images. Something to aspire to.

  4. Pavel Javor

    Interesting article Michael. I really appreciate your images. I wish you many beautiful scenes and always good light.

  5. David Frutos Egea

    Great interview and great words, Michael!

  6. Dennis Ramos

    A great article indeed! Beautiful images, Michael!

  7. Nat.images

    Really great article Michael,wonderful images and work!

  8. Thomas Leong

    Fantastic read and article Michael. Great insight of the man behind the sensor creating wonderful images.
    A pleasure to view your work my friend! Congratulations!

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