Please introduce yourself to our readers
I am a professional mountain landscape and adventure photographer based in Banff, Alberta. Specializing in photographing in difficult conditions and hard-to-reach places, I have a passion for shooting alpine sports and backcountry experiences, capturing the spirit of adventurers and finding unusual angles of common mountain subjects. As a landscape photographer, I particularly enjoy the challenge of capturing nature’s beauty at night and the unique features that come with a dark sky – stars, Northern Lights and dramatic silhouettes.
How did you start with Nature & Adventure photography?
Photography for me starting as a way of simply documenting the places I was visiting and chronicling the mountain experience. With time, however, I became increasingly fascinated with the interplay of light, weather and the landscape. Photography allowed me to observe nature more closely and make me more aware of my surroundings. Soon this magnified way of observing the natural environment became indistinguishable from living life as I had known it. I purchased my first DSLR in 2007, and thus the journey began. Three years later I ventured into full-time professional photography.
How different is it to photograph mountains and tropical beaches? What do you prefer?
I have tremendous interest in anything wild, cold, remote, exotic. The main difference between the two being temperature, however both bring their challenges. It’s hard to say which I prefer as any landscape inspires me, however being in the mountains is what first inspired me to pick up a camera and really speaks to me!
Tell us about the moment when you decided to make this hobby your full time profession.
Photography is something that’s hard to do on the side. It’s hard to have one foot in the 9:00 to 5:00 with your day job and then one foot in the semi-pro photographer world. I don’t think there was a specific moment, but for me I wanted to know what could be and where my photography could take me. You have to just take the leap and go for it. Just ditch everything else in your life and fully focus on that one passion.
What is that place you want to go again and again and do photography?
I have a love story with cold places. I love the north – I’ve had some of my most memorable photographic experiences in Greenland and Baffin Island.
I also love wild, remote and obscure places – they don’t even have to be cold. Niue, a tiny island in the middle of the South Pacific, French Polynesia and even the tiny lost islands in the middle of nowhere have always appealed to me.
Who is your favorite Photographer? What’s your, all time, favorite picture by him/her and why?
I draw inspiration from so many places, artists and explorers alike. However if I had to pick one it would have to be Vittorio Sella. The particular shot which stands out for me is the second shot found here.
Which is the most beautiful country you have clicked till now? Which is that country you have always wanted to click?
It’s tough to pick one country but if I had to I’d say Greenland. The incredible wilderness, massive landscape, ice as far as the eye can see and breath-taking aurora borealis displays most nights. It’s a photographer’s paradise!
As for the country I’d like to shoot, it would have to be the rarely documented Tajikistan. The rugged, mountainous landscape just looks phenomenal!
Tell us about the risks you come across while shooting.
There are always risks involved when shooting in the wilderness, but most are easily avoidable by being educated on the area and well prepared. I haven’t ever been in a situation where I’ve felt my life is at risk. Having warm clothes, emergency supplies, bear spray and a satellite contact are a must in the remote areas.
How, as a nature photographer, do you bring awareness about the environment and take care of it?
It has become increasingly apparent to me that humans have become disconnected from the natural environment, from where we originated eons ago. I liked the idea of including a human in the frame to give a sense of perspective and reinforce our connection with the landscape as humans. From this emerges a new sense of purpose for me: the possibility to invite people to go back to the wilderness through my images, and to be reminded of what the natural world adds to one’s life.
What makes your pictures stand out of the average?
My “selfies” have been some of my most poplar work and I believe by including a person in a landscape image can convey a sense of vulnerability or belonging, or make the image more relatable. My goal is to make people want to experience these landscapes for themselves—to bring them back to nature in general and see what wilderness can do for them. I also love how the nighttime can turn familiar places into completely different experiences. All the elements of magic associated with astrophotography – aurora, stars, moonlight – always leaves me blown away by all the beauty that the camera reveals, but the naked eye cannot see.
What camera gear do you use?
I’ve recently started shooting with the new Canon 5D Mark IV and love it.
My go to lenses would be the Canon 16-35mm f/2.8L and Canon 24mm, f/1.4L lens for night time. I have a Manfrotto tripod and use an aquatech housing for my underwater shots. (Full list at zizka.ca/gear).
How difficult is it to shoot under stars in low light as compared to that in natural day light? What do you prefer?
Shooting in the dark certainly has it’s challenges and takes a lot of practise to get right. Elements of photography which you are usually comfortable with, such as focusing, composition and exposure settings, can be near impossible when you first head out at night. I enjoy the challenge of capturing the night’s beauty and showing the magic that most of us miss when we’re asleep. The aurora borealis especially has always captivated me and I would say is one of my favourite things to photograph.
What are your future goals?
I’m most excited about a new venture that I’m a part of called Offbeat. I find that people could use more of two things: more time in the wilderness and being more creative. The goal of Offbeat is to tackle both of these at the same time – put people in touch with their creativity in wild environments.
I’m also looking forward to heading off to some exciting new parts of the world in the coming years including Antarctic in January, the Faroe Islands next April and Namibia in 2017 while always planning new remote and exciting parts of the world to document.
Any final piece of advice to our readers and establishing photographers?
Put creativity ahead of everything else. It’s the only thing that will keep you excited in a sustainable way.
Have fun and shoot what you like. Don’t worry too much what other people think. Don’t become too attached to the reactions that you get, keep creating.
And take the time to get out and shoot with other photographers. Be open to what they have to teach you because we’re always learning. It’s an ongoing journey; there’s so much more to know!
Have a look at amazing work of Paul below.
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