Following in the footsteps of the great landscape photographers, Cheyne Walls creates phenomenal panoramic photographs of North America’s big outdoors.
Unbelievably all the locations that Walls photographs are real and can be discovered just a short ride away from LA. “Many of these places are an easy trip from Los Angeles,” says the Californian native. “We have some of the most diverse landscapes within a relatively short distance. From beaches to mountains to deserts, there is so much to explore. The best reward for me is if my photography inspires someone to head outside and discover nature.”
Ahead of his forthcoming show at The G2 Gallery in Los Angeles this August, Culture Trip caught up with Walls to talk about what inspired him to start photographing the American landscape and how he creates his awe-inspiring shots.
Culture Trip: What inspired you to become a photographer?
Cheyne Walls: After a high school sports injury, I was temporarily confined to a wheel chair. During that time, I picked up my father’s camera and began photographing in the backyard. I had always been interested in the outdoors as a child and after I taught myself how to use a camera, it was the only reasonable next step for me to take it outdoors into nature.
CT: What drew you to landscape photography in particular?
CW: I was drawn to landscape photography because I’ve always loved the outdoors. As a young child, my parents brought me camping and instilled in me a love and appreciation for nature. After a career in automotive advertising photography, I was able to explore outside of U.S. and fell in love with the diverse landscapes of the world.
CT: How do you decide where to shoot?
CW: The location of my next photograph is determined by the different seasons and the weather. I always keep my eye on the weather report, and if a storm is going to hit, I’ll try to put myself in front of the approaching squall to capture the beautiful skies and light it creates.
CT: What type of camera do you use? Medium format?
CW: On my most recent photographs, I use an ALPA 12tc A-series with a Phase One medium format digital back.
CW: Your photographs seem so unreal in their vividness; do you digitally manipulate them in anyway? Or do you use any particular techniques?
CW: I use long exposure, lens filters and the correct lighting to re-create the vivid landscapes as the human eye would witness them in that moment. My images do go through minor Photoshop editing for optimal printing.
CT: Are you inspired by other great landscape photographers like Ansel Adams and Carleton Watkins? It feels as if you’re bringing the tradition into the 21st century.
CW: A lot of my inspiration comes from Ansel Adams and my mentor, Vic Huber. Vic took me under his wing and together we traveled around the U.S. photographing cars. He taught me the lessons of being prepared, organized and ready to take the shot when the lighting and moment are perfect.
CT: Can you tell us a little about some of the locations? Where were Heart of the Warrior, Nirvana and Lost shot?
CW: Heart of the Warrior was captured in the slot canyons of Arizona. It is one of the most epic places in the world. There is a behind-the-scenes video on my website that best describes capturing this moment.
Nirvana also has a video. The shot was taken on the California and Oregon border in February when I felt the beauty of the area was at its peak. Snow dotted the landscape; the rivers and waterfalls were full, and there was perfect low overcast-fog, giving the ideal lighting to photograph waterfalls.
Lost was captured in Death Valley National Park. This whole area amazes me. You go from the highest mountain in the continental U.S. to below sea level in about 100 miles. This photograph captures the magnificent sight of dry lake beds with snow-covered mountains.
CT: The titles of your works seem to allude to a state of happiness and celebration, are these your personal responses to the particular locations?
CW: Most of the titles of my photographs are how I’m feeling when I capture the shot. Sometimes it’s just a moment of inspiration, other times it can be influenced by what is going on in my personal life. I just know being out in nature is where I’m happiest and I try to project that into my photographs, and in a way, my titles.
CT: How long do you go out photographing for? A day or weeks for one project?
CW: It really depends on the weather and location. If it’s a quick storm, I could be at a location for a few hours, but if it’s fall foliage, I might need to be in the area for weeks to capture the trees at their peak colors.
I shoot mostly digital photographs, but I treat it like film and use sparingly. If the image isn’t coming together perfectly, I usually won’t click the shutter. I really enjoy setting up my camera and just waiting for everything to come together for that “perfect” shot, even if it’s over a few hours, days or even weeks. During that time, I love just taking it all in and realizing how lucky I am to be able to do this.
Some of my photo trips are less than 24 hours. There have been many moments when I had a small window of time and I would drive all night to photograph the first snow of the year, a wildflower bloom, stormy skies in Yosemite, or Zion at sunrise. After capturing an image, I’ll grab a coffee and start the drive home. I like being on the open road and the possibility of adventure it gives you.