Published excerpts from interviews with Fatali over the years.
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2001: What is your spiritual or religious background?
“My family did not raise me in any organized religion. Yet, I was always a believer! I have always felt the presence of the spirit and being drawn to it for guidance and inspiration. Starting at a young age, I was exposed to the outdoors, and turned to the motherhood of nature for my personal and spiritual growth. The years started for me with getting out in wilderness to find myself after my mother died when I was a teenager. This relationship with the natural world was then and still is today, my lifeblood. I am drawn to places of mystery where I feel a beckoning calling with a sense of peace from the Earth’s spirit. I feel blessed to use my photography as a voice for the gospel of nature. It is my goal and my mission to communicate the mysterious connections we share with this land. I will continue to practice ways that bring us a little closer to the spirit of nature’
2002: Being a great fan of your works and actually being inspired by them quite often I couldn’t miss a chance to ask you; how do you find such amazing places to photograph and to chose only natural light?
“I have dedicated my entire adult life to exploring and capturing on film subjects and the light that push the envelope of the believable. It is this beauty of the natural world that connects me with the spirit of the land and the source of my inspiration. I have experimented with using lighting, other then from the natural sources of our sun, and find it not as pleasing. Photographing natural events of light from God’s creation requires the practice of great patience. Waiting for hours, days, or sometimes-even years for the right light is what it takes to communicate its wonder. I feel one can be blessed when the heart’s eye is open to Nature’s light.”
2003: Who inspired you the most during your maturation as one of the world-renowned landscape photographers of our time?
“When I was about 10 years old, I started collecting scenic postcards of the Desert Southwest landscapes and, while viewing them; I would daydream of someday traveling to those amazing places of beauty. Those images were captured by some of the first pioneers of the Southwestern landscape photography. Such as: Ray Manley, Dick Dietrich, Phillip Hyde, Joseph Muench, and Ed Cooper. The works of such wonderful photographers certainly provided me with inspiration, but the real credit goes to my mentor, the Creator, and its glorious creation that teaches and inspires. Nature has so many rites of passages to be discovered and to learn from. I believe it is the spirit of place, which has been my inspiration, and the nurturing relationship, which keeps maturing my vision”
2004: The Cibachrome printing process from the large format 8″ x 10″ negative that you employ produces color and light so deep and rich, yet the process is fast becoming obsolete, primarily because of the rise of digital imagery. Do you feel that your prints will become even more rare and precious as collector’s fine art photography?
“I have been blessed that my images are collected worldwide and that they have appreciated in value over the years. The Cibachrome process is becoming more and more difficult to obtain overseas, and the material-chemical costs are rapidly inflating. I do believe that the images will become obsolete in time, not only due to the challenges as stated above but, because they are uniquely handmade in an era of mass production and instant gratification. Even more importantly then there investment value, I believe the images will have importance for future generations. I find that not only is the fragility of the landscape worthy of protection, but also the spirit of place and the relationship we need with it that gets the acknowledgement and praise”
2011: Many photographers and/or nature enthusiasts would love to go to these magnificent places with you. Do you have plans for any workshops or treks into these sacred places?
“We have been working on releasing a schedule this year of Earthscapes Safaris, that is invitational only for our gallery patrons, and to allow us to experience together the adventure and spirit of filing in extraordinary world wonders” Stay tuned, the best is yet to come! “
2009: Congratulations on your latest and most beautiful gallery yet, located in Park City, Utah!
“Thank-you! After many months of remodeling and designing the new gallery space, it is now open to the public. I think the wait was worth the result! It is the whole package that we aim for exposing your senses to the spirit of nature. We want you to experience it all! The new gallery is located on Main Street in the historic district, with many wonderful activities and fine shops. I first opened my gallery in southern Utah, at the entrance to Zion National Park, about twenty years ago, and ever since then, I had my sights on adding a companion location in northern Utah. We are now celebrating a twelve-five year collections of images in our galleries. We hope to see you there, on your next visit to Utah”
1992: What for you is landscape photography?
“Landscape photography for me is a way of life! This way of life is my mission of sharing the beauty and ancient healing energies of God’s light, land, and spirit. By seeing the world through my camera, I feel blessed to have found a creative voice that expresses my emotional connections, at that very moment with the Earth. My passion is not photography, it is for the inspiration I feel from the natural world. This inspiration is the drive that evokes me to continue to learn, explore, connect, and create. I like to refer to my photography, as a practice of making “light recordings” that become the visual structure of composition, and the emotional connection between the divine subject, and the viewer”
1989: What kind of camera or equipment do you use to be able to capture such amazing images?
For my entire gallery collection, I have exclusively used a very large and heavy film plate camera. The large sizes of the film and high- resolution lenses have helped me to capture an enormous amount of detail and colors. Even though I have a great deal of gear to chose from, I prefer to select my equipment, as a painter would from his/her paint pallets and brushes. I feel strongly, that the equipment that an artist chooses is only as important as the technique that he/she wishes to derive in the end result originating from ones creative vision. Choosing the right equipment for making an image, is indeed an important tool, but is just that, a tool. Creativity comes from within. I think of an artist’s tools as the instrument that shares their inner- interpretations that are self-expressed. It would be funny to think of writings of the great poets, and to know it was because they had great typewriters! “
2005: Light dominates in your photos. You’re known for an overwhelmingly passionate hunt for a light of your life, if we can say so. And indeed in your photos light seems to be of a divine nature. Would you allow us to peek into your light philosophy a little bit?
“Remember, without light you have no subject. I can remember many times viewing images of interesting landscapes, but captured in light that does not do it justice. I’m sure that many photographers understand this. I also have found it to be true, that some landscapes, of not of such interest, until they are showcased in Nature’s magical light. Of which, these landscapes can transform into a whole new dimension and feel for making a great photograph. It’s all about the light!”
2008: Please describe briefly how one of your landscape photographs is born. With the type of heavy cameras you’re working with spontaneity must be out of the question, so you have to be scouting locations in advance?
“When making photographs, I spend more of my time scouting, exploring, and waiting for the light, then I do simply making them. My pack generally contains gear that often weighs a hundred pounds. Other then when I was in my twenties, I usually will scout locations first, with no camera gear weighing me down, then going back at the scene to set up to wait for the light! Sometimes, I have been blessed when arriving to a location with the event of light spontaneously unfolding itself. Rarely does this happen. I will often wait for many hours, days, and sometimes weeks for that one perfect moment when the Earth will speak to me. The image “Earth Spirit Rising” is an example of the best of my work from waiting two weeks in hopes for such perfect light, and is the result from only four seconds of the opportunity. A typical day with me is to hurry up, and wait days for the light!”
2008: On the other hand wouldn’t you love to be more spontaneous, free of restrictions imposed by your equipment, thus responding to your instant emotional impressions from the subject in front of you more effectively?
“Well, yes for the sake of simply snapping photographs. But, the more time I spend with my subject, the more I get to know it, and to experience from it. So what would be the point with missing out on that? Making images is about building a relationship with my subject. I find the experiences to be very personal and to have become a pathway to my spiritual journey. Therefore, by spending more time to connect with it, the subject, in Nature, then I will generally express it more powerfully. I honestly just feel so blessed to be out there, camera in hand or not. Multi-day trekking is how I get to most of the locations that I photograph and film for motion picture. If I have the opportunity to explore an area more then for the first time, I will make it a scouting trip. I’m mostly drawn to the places of mysterious beauty that is hidden deep into wilderness, where I feel free, and most creative. And if that means, in order to record the light with the best possible image quality by lugging around a beast of a camera with tripod to remote locations, then so it will be, huffing and puffing, onward and upward! For fun, I often do a drill of how fast I can set up to make an image, for the hopes that I will not miss the perfect light on my next opportunity. My son Mykel, once asked me, “hey Dad, why are we always hurrying up to wait for the light?” For the most part, my images captured are from subjects that are not moving very fast, and allows me ample time for camera setting ups. There is no doubt, that their are much more suitable cameras to fire multiple frames like a machine gun. I find the large format camera, to be more like a bow and arrow. I really don’t like rushing the process anyway. The more time I get to be a spectator, and marvel at God’s creations, the more enjoyment I receive”
2010: For the moment I’d love to talk to you tech stuff to reveal some of that large-format film mystery to our readers. If you don’t mind… What kind of camera have you found to be the most suitable for the type of landscapes you’ve been doing during the course of all those years and why? Please explain it from two sides: technical advantages and fine-tuning the instrument with the rhythm of the melodies of your soul.
“I have learned to really love working with the oversized large-format camera, for the obvious reasons, that the large film plate can capture a unsurpassed amount of image detail and color saturation with the use of perspective and focusing controls. I like the look and feel that only I have found film to render. I also have found that the discipline associated with working with such a large primitive like tool, prepares me to just slow down, and really see the world all around me before making images. It’s the whole romance of being one with Nature, and your camera creating intimate recordings of light. Today, I still only use large-format films and without the use of digital for image capture. My latest camera of choice, is being custom made into an ultra-large format film size of 20 inches x 24 inches. I’m also making changes to my Cibachrome darkroom to accommodate hand-printing images using only optical and chemical processing up to 10 ft. in a mural. I’m very excited and hopeful, that the next phase of my work using this format, will slip the viewer deeper into the multi-dimensional image of an earthscapes and the feeling it will convey”
2011: What do you think about panoramic format? What type of scenes is it most suitable for and what about the advantages of the format from the point of human perception of the scene?
“Working with my new camera formats produces an aspect ratio of 2.2 to 1. This gives an appealing panoramic format to compose in the borders of my frame. I have recently come to find this aspect ratio as my favorite format, in both still, and my new motion picture endeavors. Although, I will still carry a more rectangular film format, for when it’s a better choice for composing my subject. There is no one perfect camera, film, lens, that can be used at all times when it comes to capturing the varied lighting conditions found for every scene”
1999: What about film? Is there a particular transparency you specially love for color response, hues reproduction, finest tonal nuances and how do you meter the scene – middle grey and onwards, classical Adam’s style?
“For my color work, I exclusively use a positive film base, such as Fuji Velvia or Kodak’s Extachrome emulsions. I find these two films to react very similar in the image contrast, but each film has a different balance in its color. To print with using Cibachrome, it restricts my choice to only a transparent film. However, I feel the most advantage by using these films, is that it gives me a better sense for the relationship, between the light of my subject, and the film of my choice. I can see exactly what I have seen in my subject and how the film responded through the photographic process. Examples of color, contrast, exposure values, etc. have become more familiar to me by making ongoing evaluations and critiques of my work. This still helps me improve and to make better decisions when in the moment of recording the light. Using your pre-visualization skills from your mind’s eye is to select the best choices of you gear, composition, and exposure before you decide to click your shutter. I have learned about exposure values from using a one-degree spot metering system. I use it to pre-visualize an exposure-Zone system, by turning the meter’s readings into a pallet of densities and color values. The narrow reflective light readings, gives me the ability to read the light from specific areas within my scene, and to have a better understanding of the challenges that may be associated with the film’s limiting range of latitude. I have for years, and still do to this day, write detailed field notes of how and what I did to make an image. This is so I can learn from my mistakes and my successes. This has been one of the most important disciplines of image making and the experiences to gain from a limiting comprehension of the infinite languages of light. It is in my opinion, that if the light is not what you have perceived or hoped it to be, then I don’t expect you can just fix it later in your analog or digital darkroom. It just simply will not look or feel right”
1999: When you have at least 1-1,5 stop difference between middle grey and the brightest highlight in the scene do you find it necessary to use ND grad?
“Yes, I do find graduated Neutral Density glass to be a very useful tool in landscape photography. I do however; feel it is important to use one cautiously for not to over doing the changes of density that may be selected in an area of exposure. I prefer the soft edge graduation to blend in better”
1999: Is it easy to focus with a large format camera? Well certainly for you. But say if you predominantly work with subjects focused on infinity or hyper-focal distance, how difficult it would be to focus in that case?
“ I feel there are many advantages from focusing and composing from the ground glass of a large format camera. For one, viewing the image upside down and reverse keeps me more focused on the overall pattern of the visual design in the image. I find it easier to see the relationship of light and shadow when composing the image in this manner. It is said, that the masters of light, back in the day of Rembrandt, Van Gogh, and others, would also study their compositions upside down to see if the visual elements are equally as good as when viewed right side up. I don’t really like the idea of guessing were my areas of focus are. So, I use a focusing loupe to check my depth of field and critical focus points before the making from each camera set up”
2003: How many exposures do you normally make when on the spot? You’re not bracketing, sure…
“I usually carry only about four large film plates in my backpack. Because of the limited amount of space and the factor of the weight, I approach my subject methodically and use my film very sparingly for when I know the moment has arrived. However, if I have the opportunity on a really great image, I will expose two sheets of film identically. Then, I will process the A) film plate and make evaluations of exposure. If I find there is a need for an adjustment in making a better exposure, I will push or push the development for my second B) film plate to compensate for the difference. I don’t want to leave out the most important person in my life, the love of my life, best friend, exploring companion, business partner, and wife Morgan, who often assists with carrying extra film. Let me also share, that this extra film, weighs around fifty pounds. She is a strong beauty”
2010: How do you scan your transparencies and what type of digital corrections do you make to them (levels, curves)?
“At this point, I have chosen not to scan my transparencies for image printing. In fact, the process of hand-printing Cibachrome uses only the original film plate, along with the masking-films I make, to allow for control of image contrast. This enables me to reveal more image detail, both in highlights and in the shadows. When I have made other types of photographic prints, such as our Illumachromes Limited Edition Releases, I have made high-resolution drum scans directly from the original Cibachrome photograph, instead of the transparency. This has saved a great deal of time with Photoshop work needed, as I have already done significant adjustments to the image during stages in my analog-wet darkroom. Even-though, I find the Cibachrome (non-digital) image to be superior in image quality over an Illumachorme, I found the results of each, to be surprising good. This has allowed us to release images from my gallery when our Cibachrome inventory is sold out”
2011: Now printing must be a vital process in that chain where a landscape image is born. Do you enhance light qualities in the process of printing?
“Fifty-percent of my creative process of making images is from the darkroom. The effort it takes to capture the image in the field, deserves the same devotion and creativity for the creation in the making of the photographic print. I believe it would be fair to say, that Ansel Adams, was not just a master photographer, but he was also a genius in the darkroom. I was inspired by his approach early in my career to use many of the same techniques in my own darkroom; Such as, burning and dodging exposure, and controlling image contrast. Many master printers have been using these techniques since the beginning of photographic processes. I find it an advantage to use pre-visualization, both in the field, and in the darkroom to achieve my results. Whatever I have captured on the original film plate, I want to make sure that it reveals all the same information translating to the print. You have to have the information to begin with. My printing objective is whatever information was capturing on the original film plate; I want to transfer into a print. This is the challenge and the art of the darkroom. In most situations, details in the image highlights and shadows as an example do not transfer into the print without a great deal of effort apply technique in the darkroom. I’m sure many readers can understand, that not always does the information captured on film translate the same results as displayed on the print. It is my goal, that the end result showcasing my images, are as beautifully as they can be throughout the whole process, from the film, to the print, and finally to how they are displayed for viewing”
2011: How extensively do you produce truly body of work in recent years? Do you still photograph with the same persistence, passion, perseverance and belief as you did, say, 10 or 15 years ago?
“I have newer images that are often only displayed in my gallery. On average, I generally only release about 4-5 new images per year. I have not used the Internet to its advantages of showcasing them for the past decade. We have not made any significant changes to our website for many years. However, we are working on this and should have a new site up with many new works to be showcased with in the next year. I still believe that the most powerful way to experience my images is from within one of my galleries. Internet does not do them justice. I have lived by my philosophies, that less is more when it is the best of what you do. I spend as much time as I can in the field, usually for periods of a few months. The rest of the year, I spend in my darkroom building new recipes and printing inventory. However, for the last several years now, my primary focus and creative energy has expanding in cinematography and my future productions. I have recently founded an independent large-format motion picture company entitled, Earthscapes, specializing in bringing the spirit of nature into focus. I am working on a long-term project with plans of releasing a new giant film format for Imax in the future near 2020. This is a very exciting time for me and for finding another creative outlet that captures fleeting moments of light through natural wonders of creation. I am using this new medium with the same discipline and passion I would with making still images. I have hopes that this will broaden the perspective of my vision and the mission to raise more awareness of reconnecting humanities way of life with the natural world today and tomorrow. We plan to release demo-reels of film footage on future websites. To following my film projects and treks into the light, join our mailing list for frequent updates.